* Says markets becoming marginally tougher
* H1 pretax down 21 pct, in line with expectations
* Shares down 0.2 pct
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, Aug 13 The head of British recruitment
group Michael Page International Plc said on Monday he
saw no sign of improvement in the job market after weak economic
conditions sent earnings sharply lower in the first half.
Adjusted pretax profit fell 21 percent to 36.1 million
pounds ($56.6 million), broadly as expected. Shares in the
group, which have lost a quarter of their value since March,
were trading 0.2 percent lower at 378 pence by 0838 GMT.
The recruitment sector has slowed in the past 12 months as a
deteriorating outlook for the global economy and weakness in the
banking sector led to companies delaying hiring and workers
being more cautious about changing jobs.
"Things don't seem to be getting any better," chief
executive Steve Ingham said in an interview. "I suppose (the
market is getting) marginally tougher, but only gradually
"Our strongest region continues to be Asia-Pacific - we
ended the first half with record performances in Singapore,
China and Japan - but it clearly remains tough here (in
Britain), and clearly tough in the euro zone."
The tough conditions saw first-half pretax profit at rival
Robert Walters fall by more than half earlier this
month, while Hays posted quarterly net fees growth at
the bottom end of expectations in July.
Broker Peel Hunt, which has a "sell" recommendation on
Michael Page stock, said the group's pretax profit was in line
with expectations, but the outlook was tough and it anticipated
consensus forecasts coming down for 2012 and 2013.
"The long-term story for Michael Page remains intact, but we
consider the current rating reflects a recovery in the short
term that is unlikely to materialise," analyst Henry Carver
Michael Page, which specialises in professional recruitment,
said it expected full-year operating profit from trading
activities to be broadly in line with consensus.
Analysts expect an outcome of 71.5 million pounds, down from
86 million pounds a year ago, according to a Thomson Reuters
The company had already reported broadly flat gross profit
of 274 million pounds for the first half in July.