Recruiter PageGroup says EMEA labour market recovering

Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:21am EST

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LONDON Jan 14 (Reuters) - British recruitment firm PageGroup said conditions for the global labour market were showing signs of recovery after its Europe, Middle East and Africa division posted the first rise in reported quarterly growth since 2012.

The region, which is its largest division making up around 40 percent of the group, said profit was up 1.1 percent on a reported basis in the fourth quarter, helped by a marked improvement in Germany and France.

Gross profit for the group was down 1.2 percent due to weakness in Asia Pacific, but up 0.3 percent on a constant currency basis.

"Our two biggest businesses which are France and Germany both radically improved in the quarter to now only just being negative, which is a good step forward," Chief Executive Steve Ingham told Reuters in a phone interview.

The firm, formerly Michael Page International, said it had also seen improving performances in Spain, which grew 20 percent in the last quarter, as well as Russia and Turkey.

The U.S. posted the most significant growth, where the market grew at 35 percent throughout 2013, while Japan and Malaysia also traded strongly.

"Over the last four quarters, our overall figures have been gradually improving ... and that has been very reassuring," said Ingham.

"We had improved performances from over half of the 34 countries which we operate ... I have to say I am feeling far more positive going into 2014 than I was 2013," he added.

PageGroup, which specialises in professional areas such as accounting and finance, said it expected operating profit to be around 68 million pounds ($111.40 million).

Analysts said the statement showed PageGroup trading in line with peers, but shares in the group were down 3 percent in mid-morning trading, after a strong run before the results.

"Recruitment markets are clearly recovering, though we remain sceptical that the pace of this recovery will be rapid enough to justify current ratings," Panmure said. "We leave our forecasts and recommendation unchanged."

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