PageGroup gross profit dips as hiring slows in China, UK, France

(Reuters) - Recruitment firm PageGroup Plc PAGE.L reported a small drop in fourth-quarter gross profit as it grappled with tough hiring conditions in China, the UK and France.

Global recruiters have been pummelled by widespread political and economic uncertainties around the globe, ranging from Brexit worries in the UK to protests in Hong Kong and poor sentiment surrounding the U.S.-China trade war.

“There are challenges in EMEA, including social unrest in France and heightened political tensions, notably in the Middle East,” Chief Executive Officer Steve Ingham said in a statement, adding that he expects tough trading to continue.

He also said hiring in Asia Pacific continued to be impacted by trade uncertainty in Mainland China, Hong Kong protests, as well as bushfires in Australia.

PageGroup, which helps hire executives, professionals and clerical staff in sectors including banking, financial services and energy, said its operating profit for the year is expected to be in line with its prior estimates of 140 million pounds to 150 million pounds.

The company delivered two profit warnings last year as employers held off hiring, while employees were cautious of changing jobs.

Among fourth-quarter bright spots was Germany, which recorded a 16% jump in gross profit despite weak economic data, with net fees in the technology sector growing 50%.

Gross profit in the quarter fell 0.4% to 205.6 million pounds ($266.70 million) on a constant currency basis. The company said swings in foreign exchange rates hit its gross profit by 4.6 million pounds.

Last week, rival Robert Walters Plc RWA.L reported a fall in fourth-quarter gross profit amid a difficult labour market, impacted by caution and uncertainty over Brexit.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva