Michael Page battles challenging markets

International recruiter Michael Page said full year profits were down and the first quarter of the new year would be another challenging period.

International recruiter Michael Page said full year profits were down and the first quarter of the new year would be another challenging period.

In a trading statement the firm said full year 2012 operating profit would be in line with current analysts' expectations, in the region of £65m, down from £86m the year before.

Full year gross profit fell 1.5% in constant currency to £526.8m as its finance and accounting division, which made up 42% of profits in the fourth quarter, was impacted across all markets.

Profits from that division fell 5.9% to £53.6m in the final three months of the financial year.

The strongest growth rate was in the legal, technology, HR, secretarial and healthcare group, which rose 2%, driven by particularly strong performances in the Americas and Asia Pacific.

The only geographic area that reported growth in 2012 was Asia Pacific, where gross profits were up 9.8% at constant currency.

The company said its businesses in Japan and Greater China performed strongly, with newer businesses in Malaysia and India also progressing well.

The UK was the biggest faller with profits down 6.6% to £121.3m, with the company reporting it had cut headcount by 2.2%.

Chief Executive Steve Ingham said economic conditions and market confidence remained poor and trading continued to be challenging across all the firm's regions.

"The geographic balance of our businesses helped insulate the group from these challenges, particularly within Europe," he said.

"We expect our full year 2012 operating profit to be in line with current analysts' expectations.

"Activity levels remained robust through the quarter, however, we do anticipate the first quarter to be another challenging quarter," he added.

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