Recruitment firm Michael Page (MPI) has posted a jump in quarterly profits despite a sluggish UK performance following a drop-off in new hirings in financial.
Michael Page, which has an office in Birmingham, posted group gross profits for the second quarter up 26 per cent to £152.4 million.
But the UK recorded a laggardly 1.2 per cent growth to £48.5 million.
The firm said UK business, which contributes nearly a third of group profits, was boosted by Easter falling in March, but that was offset by “continuing weakness in the banking and related sectors”.
Outside financial, Michael Page said other areas continued to experience good job and candidate flow, but there were signs of increasingly cautionary behaviour by candidates and clients.
But some sectors were bucking the trend – its Engineering & Manufacturing, Procurement & Supply Chain and Property & Construction Business grew at 37 per cent.
The group opened new offices in Newcastle, Canterbury and Cardiff in the first half of 2008 and now has a UK headcount of 1,863, up from 1,799 at the end of last year.
Growth in the UK, by far the worst performing region, contrasted with healthy growth in mainland Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
Michael Page said EMEA gross profit was up 45 per cent, Asia-Pacific gross profit was up 33.2 per cent and Americas 41.6 per cent.
EMEA is the group’s largest region and its largest EMEA business, France, saw second-quarter profit increase by 26.8 per cent.
Michael Page chief executive Steve Ingham said he was delighted with the firm’s performance in the second quarter against a backdrop of weakening conditions in some of its markets. “These record results reflect the success of our strategy to diversify the group, both geographically and by discipline,” he said.
“We have achieved growth in all our countries, including those where conditions would be considered tough and despite the significant reduction in activity in the financial services sector.”
He said that since the beginning of 2005, Michael Page had successfully launched in 12 new countries, opened 47 offices and rolled out 103 existing and new disciplines to existing and new countries.
At the end of June 2008, approximately a third of the firm’s fee earners work in these newer businesses.
“This significant increase in the diversity of the business ensures we remain very optimistic about the growth prospects for Michael Page,” said Mr Ingham.
The firm added its growth strategy was also focused on emerging and high growth markets.
“We believe these markets offer excellent additional opportunities for near-term growth, given their rapid pace of economic development coupled with the underdeveloped nature of the specialist recruitment industry in these countries,” the firm said.
Michael Page also said it would continue to invest in markets where it is experiencing growth but in other markets where there is a slowing, the group said its headcount is likely to reduce “through natural attrition”.
“Consequently, it is unlikely that our headcount will now reach 6,000 by the end of the year,” the group added.
Michael Page’s shares have dropped in value by nearly two-thirds over their price a year ago.
The slump has been fuelled by fears over job losses in the City.
The company was founded in 1976 by Michael Page and Bill McGregor and expanded abroad in 1985 with the opening of an office in Australia.
Mr Page retired from the business in 1995.