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Robert Walters shares jump as its hikes dividend by 45% after record first half

Robert Walters achieved growth across all its markets, even in the UK where employers have been cautious about hiring amid Brexit uncertainty
Robert Walters
"We enter the second half of 2018 with confidence," says Robert Walters

Recruitment firm Robert Walters PLC (LON:RWA) hiked its interim dividend by 45% after delivering a record first-half performance.

Profit before tax rose 32% to £20.6mln in the six months ended June 30 from £15mln a year ago and revenue increased 11% to £625.9mln from £562.7mln.

Net fee income, a measure of gross profit used by recruiters, gained 15% to £188.6mln from £164.5mln last year.

Robert Walters bucks the trend in tough UK jobs market

The company achieved growth across all its markets, even in the UK where employers have been cautious about hiring due to an uncertain economic outlook amid Brexit negotiations.

The UK, which accounts for 28% of net fee income, grew 9% to £52.6mln thanks to strong demand for jobs in technology and commerce finance.

READ: Recruiter Robert Walters delivers growth across all regions in the second quarter

Europe net fee income increased 29% to £48.9mln with record performances across seven of its eight markets. The region makes up 26% of total net fee income.

Other international markets, which represent 7% of net fee income, gained 29% to £14mln.

Permanent recruitment represents 69% of the group's net fee income with temporary placements making up the rest. 

Dividend signals confidence in the outlook 

Robert Walters lifted the interim dividend to 4.0p from 2.75p.

"We enter the second half of 2018 with confidence and we have increased the interim dividend by 45%,” said chief executive Robert Walters.

“The group's platform for growth continues to be strong, across both emerging and well-established markets and disciplines, and we are well positioned to further capitalise on market opportunities as they arise."

Shares increased 2.3% to 780p in late morning trading. 

Liberum said the dividend was 15% ahead of its expectations and a signal of management’s confidence in the outlook for the business. Net fee income was also "marginally better than forecast", the broker said, leaving its 'buy' rating unchanged. 

"Although we do not expect consensus numbers to increase materially on the back of these results, we believe that the balance of risks to estimates lie clearly to the upside," Liberum said. 

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