Robust performances across the Asia Pacific have helped two of Britain’s largest recruitment firms record impressive recoveries in their second-quarter results.
Robert Walters saw its overall net fee income climb by 31 per cent to £89million on the back of sales in the region – its largest market – jumping by just under half to £40.9million.
The business said its income rose by over a quarter in all its Asia Pacific markets, but that the steepest growth rates occurred in Mainland China and Malaysia, where gross profits more than doubled.
Bounceback: Robert Walters and PageGroup saw strong recoveries in the Asia Pacific region
Substantial demand from China also helped PageGroup’s gross profits in the region shoot up by around 90 per cent to £46million, and its total profits to modestly surpass its pre-pandemic levels.
Both companies likewise observed ‘particularly strong’ trade in June and decent recoveries in their UK divisions, with net fee income at Robert Walters growing by £1.5million to £18million, but rising 136.9 per cent to £31.9million at PageGroup.
However, the former’s UK business is still trading over a quarter behind its 2019 volumes despite significant activity in finance, legal and technology in London.
Chief executive and founder Robert Walters said the confidence of both the firm’s clients and job candidates had carried on improving and that it would hire more staff in places where it is exhibiting the ‘strongest signs of sustained growth.’
He added that his company is approaching the second half of 2021 with ‘cautious optimism and confidence that we are very well positioned to continue to take advantage of market opportunities as they arise.’
PageGroup’s UK second-quarter gross profits also remain 9 per cent down on their pre-Covid levels, with its Page Personnel division 24 per cent lower. But its first-half gross profits are even worse, being 17 per cent below their 2019 amount.
Job troubles: PageGroup slashed more than 1,000 positions last year in response to the downturn in the job market caused by the pandemic and Brexit-related uncertainty
The firm slashed more than 1,000 positions last year in response to the downturn in the job market caused by the pandemic and Brexit-related uncertainty, while its profits sank by around 90 per cent to £15.5million as well.
All markets recorded bad results, but the recruiter’s UK division endured the sharpest decline in profits, falling by 40 per cent year-on-year to £80.9million.
By comparison, its net fee income dropped by around a quarter in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. In monetary terms, though, the EMEA had the largest absolute fall in gross profits with a £98.9million drop to £319.4million.
Chief executive Steve Ingham said today: ‘Looking ahead, there continues to be a high degree of global macro-economic uncertainty as Covid-19 remains a significant issue and restrictions remain in a number of the group’s markets.
Queuing up: As vaccination programmes enable economies across the world to gradually open up again, recruitment firms are experiencing more demand for their service
‘Additionally, at this stage of the recovery, it is not easy to determine whether the improved performance is still the result of pent-up supply and demand or a sustainable trend.
‘However, and notwithstanding the early stage in the year, the strength of our performance in (the first half of the year), and notably in June, has further increased confidence in our outlook for the year.’
As vaccination programmes enable economies across the world to gradually open up again, recruitment businesses are experiencing greater demand for their services.
In the UK, though, there is growing concern about worker shortages in multiple industries, including hospitality, and farming, which rely heavily on immigrant and low-skilled labour.
A recent report by jobs website Adzuna and the Institute for Employment Studies think tank estimated that there were over one million job vacancies in the UK and that there were 2.2 applicants for every position compared to 1.2 in March 2020.
Shares in Robert Walters Group closed trading 4.1 per cent higher at £7.56 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, PageGroup ended 2.95 per cent up at 592.5p.