Hays sees earnings at top end of forecast range
* Company sees FY operating profit at top end of range
* Analysts had on average expected 119 mln stg
* Co boosted by UK improvement, stabilisation in Australia
* Shares up 3.8 percent
By Christine Murray
LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - British staff recruitment firm Hays Plc said it expected earnings this year at the top end of the range of analyst forecasts, after seeing growth in the UK for the first time in around two years.
Finance Director Paul Venables said modest sequential growth in the UK was driven by strong performances in construction in Yorkshire and Scotland, along with jobs such as accounting and finance in southern England.
"Whilst London is still difficult ... we are beginning to see some growth in what I would classify as the economic heartlands of the UK," Venables said.
"We're beginning to see people in the provincial areas that haven't changed jobs for four, five, six years now looking for change," he said, adding new hires were roughly evenly split between the public and private sector.
Shares in Hays were up 3.8 percent to 96.9 pence by 0745 GMT, and have risen 13.5 percent so far this year, against the broader FTSE All Share index which is up 4.3 percent.
The group gave no specific forecasts but said it expected operating profit this year to be at the top end of the range of market estimates, on the back of the improvement in Britain and a stabilisation in Australia.
Analysts had on average been forecasting operating profit of 119 million pounds ($182.4 million) for 2013, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
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