* Q4 net profit 174 mln euros vs 126 mln forecast
* Aiming for high-single digit revenue growth this year
* Says will hit EBITA margin target of over 5.5 pct by 2015
* Proposes dividend of 2.00 Sfr/share, up 11 pct
* Shares biggest gainers in pan-European index
(Adds CEO, CFO quotes, details, analyst, shares)
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, March 12 A nascent economic recovery in
Europe helped Adecco, the world's largest staffing
agency by sales, beat fourth-quarter profit forecasts and
increase revenue for the first time in seven quarters.
Staffing companies benefit from moderate economic growth as
firms tend to hire temporary workers at the start of a recovery
when they are reluctant to commit to full-time hiring.
Chief Executive Patrick De Maeseneire said double-digit
growth in the manufacturing sector, especially in Germany and
Spain and now in Italy and France, made the company optimistic
that its growth rate would gradually improve during the year.
"We continue to be positive for the rest of the year and
possibly also into next year, because there is no reason why
this pick-up should suddenly stop," De Maeseneire said.
Shares in Adecco were trading up 4.3 percent at
78.55 francs by 1048 GMT, making them the biggest gainers on the
pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index.
Adecco's upbeat outlook contrasted with Dutch rival Randstad
, which last month said it expected only a gradual
improvement because of a patchy economic recovery.
Manpower in the United States, where economic
recovery is more advanced, also gave a guarded forecast for
first-quarter revenue growth.
Adjusted for trading days and currency fluctuations,
Adecco's revenue rose 5 percent in January and February, and the
company said it expected to achieve high single-digit growth
Vontobel analyst Michael Foeth, who has a "buy" rating on
the stock, said the acceleration in growth together with
Adecco's disciplined cost management will boost operating
A TALE OF DIFFERENT SECTORS
Recent indicators have painted a rosier outlook for Europe's
economy, which emerged from recession last year.
The European Commission has raised its growth outlook for
the euro zone, while manufacturing activity hit a 2-1/2 year
high in January, although a slight easing last month underscored
the fragility of the recovery.
Adecco said its industrial business continued to drive
demand in the first two months of the year, with growth coming
from the machine-building industry and manufacturers of goods
for heavy industry.
At the same time, some clients continued to shed staff
helping revenue in Adecco's outplacement business rise 12
percent in the fourth quarter.
Demand for its outplacement service, which companies use to
help people they have made redundant find new jobs, was mainly
coming from financial services, the pharmaceutical sector and
legacy technology companies, Chief Financial Officer Dominik de
The Zurich-based firm, which makes about 60 percent of its
revenue in Europe, reported double-digit percentage revenue
growth in Germany, Benelux and Iberia.
Revenue in its biggest market, France, was flat after many
quarters of declines. It expects the market to return to growth
in the first half of the year.
Excluding currency swings, fourth-quarter revenue rose 4
percent to 4.94 billion euros ($6.85 billion), the first time it
had grown since the first quarter of 2012.
Net profit rose to 174 million euros, well ahead of the 126
million forecast by analysts in a poll.
Adecco proposed a dividend of 2.00 Swiss francs per share
compared with 1.80 francs a year ago.
($1 = 0.7212 euros)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Erica Billingham)