Page Group said, in a trading update, that FY gross profit was up 3.0% to £621.1m in what was a record year for the outfit. For Q4, gross profit was up 3.8% to £163.4m.
"The Group delivered Q4 constant currency gross profit growth of 3.8%, an improvement on our Q3 growth rate of 1.3%. In reported rates gross profit grew 20.3%. Full year gross profit was a record at £621m, up 3.0% on the prior year,"said CEO Steve Ingham.
"Continental Europe and Latin America, outside Brazil, continued to deliver strong performances, combined up 14%; these two regions represent almost half of the Group.
"There was a return to growth in Greater China, up 4%, and Australasia grew 8%, doubling its Q3 growth rate. In the UK, client and candidate confidence levels deteriorated further, with activity levels also reduced. Challenging market conditions also continued in several of our other larger markets, particularly Brazil and Financial Services, notably in New York.
"The Group continued to benefit from positive foreign exchange movements during the fourth quarter, which increased reported gross profit by 16.5 percentage points, or £22.4m,"
"For the full year, foreign exchange increased our reported gross profit by £48.3m and operating profit by about £10m.
"Our focus on investing in our large, high potential markets, as well as in businesses experiencing strong growth, resulted in fee earner headcount growth of 227 (+5.1%) for the year, with 50 added in Q4 (+1.1%), to now a record number of fee earners for the Group.
"We completed the roll-out of our new operating system, PRS, and also the European finance transition into our Shared Service Centre in Barcelona, both of which will improve future productivity and efficiency.
"Cash generation in the period was strong, with net cash of about £90m at the year end. Given the challenging market conditions experienced in Q4 in a number of our markets, we are pleased with the improvement in our quarterly gross profit growth rate and the record year for the Group.
"We expect 2016 operating profit to be towards the top end of the range of current market forecasts.
"There are a number of uncertainties as we enter 2017, including: in the UK as we initiate Brexit; in the US as new economic policies are announced; in Europe as several countries face elections; and also in China and Brazil.
"However, we will continue to focus on driving profitable growth, while being able to respond quickly to any changes in market conditions, as we did throughout 2016."