Securitas says labour shortage hampers business conditions in Europe
STOCKHOLM, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Securitas (SECUb.ST), the world's biggest listed security services group, posted on Tuesday slightly bigger fourth-quarter core earnings than expected but said labour shortages meant business conditions in Europe remained challenging.
Operating profit before amortisation (EBITA) at the Swedish group, which in July last year bought Stanley Black & Decker's (SWK.N) electronic security division, was 2.49 billion crowns ($234 million) against a year-earlier 1.65 billion.
Analysts had on average forecast a 2.41 billion crown profit, according to a poll on Securitas's website.
"Business conditions in Europe remain challenging as a result of the labour shortage," Chief Executive Magnus Ahlqvist said in a statement, noting also that there was overall macroeconomic uncertainty.
Securitas, whose biggest cost is wages for its guards, said margins in Europe were squeezed by increased costs related to the labour shortage, such as higher costs for subcontracting and reduced capacity to take on higher-margin extra sales.
"We continue with disciplined pricing in the guarding business and have continued to protect a positive price and wage balance in a high inflationary environment," Ahlqvist said.
Shares in Securitas, whose biggest competitor is privately held U.S. group Allied Universal, were down 2% at 1300 GMT taking a year-to-date rise to 15%.
Securitas proposed a dividend of 3.45 crowns per share for 2022, down from a year-earlier 3.66 crowns.
($1 = 10.6391 Swedish crowns)
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