* FY op profit seen at 141 mln stg, top of forecast range
* Q3 net fees up over 10 pct in 22 out of 33 countries
* Net fees in UK/Ireland up 14 pct, fastest in over 6 years
* Shares up 8 pence or 5.7 pct, hit highest since Sept 2007
(Add CFO and analyst comments)
By Li-mei Hoang
LONDON, April 10 British recruiting company Hays
Plc forecast earnings at the top end of the range of
forecasts and saw four more years of strong growth, reflecting
rising staff demand as economies pick up and sending its shares
to a near seven-year high.
The jobs market is highly sensitive to economic prospects
and comments from agencies like Hays have grown increasingly
positive this year as key markets gain pace.
The trend in Britain was highlighted earlier this week when
figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which
represents companies in the sector, said British employers are
raising the salaries they offer to new permanent staff at the
fastest rate in nearly seven years as they struggle to fill
"It's momentum ... the world feels a much better place than
it did three to six months ago, certainly better than it did 12
months ago and it feels like it's got some way to go," Chief
Financial Officer Paul Venables told Reuters in a phone
interview on Thursday.
Hays shares were up 8.2 pence or 5.7 percent by 1012 GMT,
after rising as high as 157.5p, their highest since September
Hays, which places skilled staff in areas such as finance,
IT and property and whose rivals include Michael Page
International Plc and Robert Walters Plc, said
in a statement it had seen a rapid acceleration of growth in its
third quarter through March in its key markets.
It said 22 out of 33 countries reported a rise of more than
10 percent in net fees, driven by an upturn in people becoming
confident enough to look to move jobs and a pick-up in smaller
companies wanting to increase their headcount.
Venables said even countries like Spain and Portugal, which
have suffered deep recessions in recent years, reported net fee
growth of 72 percent collectively.
Net fees in Britain and Ireland grew 14 percent in the third
quarter, the fastest pace in more than six years, Hays said,
driven by a rise in permanent job placements which were up 25
percent for the second consecutive quarter.
Hays said it also saw strong growth in Germany where net
fees rose to 12 percent from 5 percent in the previous quarter.
The company said it expected operating profit in the year
through June 2014 to reach 141 million pounds ($236 million),
which it said was the top end of the range of analyst forecasts,
and said it expects to see a further four years of strong growth
across its markets.
"The sort of growth that we have seen in this quarter is
about 8 percent, I'd expect to be delivering several more
quarterly performances which are going to be that sort of growth
level," Venables said.
"I think we have got four years of strong growth to come,"
One negative point was a 12 percent drop in net fees in
Australia, which has suffered from a slowdown in the mining
sector, but Hays said it saw broad-based stability in activity
levels in the quarter.
The group's own consultant headcount was also up 1 percent
during its third quarter and increased by 2 percent
Analyst Paul Jones at brokerage Panmure raised his share
price target to 151p from 124p following the statement, noting
the company's impressive UK growth and further evidence of a
pick-up in activity levels and profitability.
"We believe recruitment stocks could now deliver increasing
levels of profitability as activity and productivity levels
improve, and with increasing client confidence the outlook
remains positive," Jones added.
(Editing by Paul Sandle and David Holmes)