Overseas boost for recruitment company's profits

Recruitment firm Michael Page has posted a sharp rise in profits after benefiting from a strong performance in overseas markets.

One of the UK's largest recruitment firms, it reported a 42 per cent rise in half-year pre-tax profits, to 49.6m, following an 8 per cent rise in revenues, to 393.5m.

Operating profits in the UK increased 58.5 per cent, to 9.6m, but the biggest gain was seen in Asia Pacific and the Americas.

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In Asia, operating profits went up to 9.5m from 2m the previous year, while the Americas figure came in at 3.8m, compared with a loss of 1m last year.

In total, about 70 per cent of Michael Page's gross profit of 209.6m was generated outside the UK.

The Surrey-based firm said the UK business – which includes offices in Leeds and Sheffield – increased revenues by 3.6 per cent, to 142.8m,and had seen "growing evidence of gradual recovery".

The group added that its headcount in the UK "remained largely flat", standing at 1,218 at the end of June, compared with 1,220 at the same point last year.

The group warned that Chancellor George Osborne's emergency budget may threaten future business, and was more optimistic about its expanding overseas presence, where competition is less fierce.

Chief executive Steve Ingham said: "We delivered a strong performance in the first half of 2010, driven largely by greater permanent recruitment activity as confidence levels improved, leading to higher rates of job churn.

"While we are now entering the seasonally quieter holiday period, we have seen a continuation of these trends in the group's performance during July."

He went on: "We have market-leading positions in specialist recruitment in Asia and Latin America and are particularly optimistic about the opportunities available to us in these regions, where we will continue to invest in additional headcount.

"In the UK, Continental Europe and North America, we have experienced improvements in job flow in virtually all markets."

He added: "It is the nature of our business that visibility is short and the general level of business confidence and economic activity may be threatened by fiscal consolidation in the UK and Europe. However, we remain quick to react to changing market conditions."