Asia-Pacific growth puts weight behind profits increase at Michael Page

recruiter Michael Page posted a 30 per cent jump in first-quarter gross profit, boosted by growth in the Asia-Pacific region, and said it was well placed to exceed last year’s profit.

The FTSE-250 company, which finds jobs for people in the financial, accounting and legal services sectors, said its operating profit to the end of March, 2011 was £127.3m compared with £97.9m for the same period in 2010.

“Within a recruitment sector that we like anyway, we regard Michael Page as a very well-managed business with strong recovery prospects and reiterate our ‘buy’ recommendation,” Investec analysts wrote in a note.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Asia-Pacific and Latin America, where permanent placings make up the majority of its business, continued to lead the growth charge, rising 62 per cent year-on-year. The Europe, Middle East and Africa region, which represents 44 per cent of group profit, was up 26 per cent. In the UK, profit was up nine per cent, with private sector growth countered by a fall in the public sector.

The company has offices in Leeds and Sheffield.

Chief executive Steve Ingham said: “We’ve followed the pattern of last year of everything growing, including Holland which was perhaps our one Achilles heel last year.”

The company, which more than trebled its profit for 2010, added that the group’s growth was largely driven by permanent placements, a trend that could see the firm return to peak earnings in 2012.

“Consensus is around £110m for this year, next year it is around peak earnings, so that’s the plan,” Mr Ingham said.

The company said the outlook in Asia and Latin America remained positive and Europe continued to improve, adding that it was well positioned to exceed 2010 profit performance.

In disaster-hit Japan, which represents about two per cent of the group, Mr Ingham said it had “probably lost half a million pounds in revenue” in the first quarter.

Last week, rivals Hays and Robert Walters reported results, with Hays posting a 16 per cent rise in third quarter net fees and Robert Walters announcing a 23 per cent rise in first quarter gross profit.