Robert Walters learns to live with Brexit uncertainty as profits rise

(Reuters) - Recruitment company Robert Walters on Monday reported higher first-quarter profit and said confidence among businesses in Britain was reasonable despite Brexit uncertainty.

Earlier this year, the company, which places people in finance, engineering, legal and marketing jobs, had warned of a slowdown in hiring as Britain prepared to leave the European Union and that some jobs were moving from London to other parts of Europe.

But Chief Executive Officer Robert Walters said on Monday that the company was comfortable with its progress in the UK, with reasonable levels of confidence among companies.

He also told Reuters the group was not seeing many jobs move out of London and it was prepared if there was a pick up in momentum.

“I think a lot of the concerns are still there but we are learning to live with them,” Walters said.

“I mean, everyone’s getting extremely bored with Brexit and people are getting on with it,” he said.

The company, reported an 11 percent rise in gross profit to £98.6 million for the three months ended March, boosted by healthy hiring in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

To help to offset the cautious market in Britain the group has been growing its international operations.

Net fee income or gross profit from Europe rose 8 percent to 26.2 million pounds in the first quarter, while the UK had growth of 10 percent. Asia-Pacific gross profit rose 12 percent to 36.4 million pounds in the quarter.

The company’s stock was up 1.7 percent at 1045 GMT.

Despite a solid performance in Europe, the company highlighted problems in France due to the “yellow vest” protests, which began in November after public anger over higher fuel taxes.

Robert Walters said its performance in France, its largest market in Europe, was hit by the political turbulence there. The company, however, managed positive single-digit net fee income growth in the country.

Rival PageGroup Plc said last week that the “gilets jaunes” protests in France had hurt candidate confidence.

Reporting by Samantha Machado and Noor Zainab Hussain and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta/ Bernard Orr/ Jane Merriman