Hays sees solid overall growth

Recruitment group Hays reports solid overall growth of 2% (underlying growth of 3% adjusted for working days) in the second quarter to the end of December led by further good performances in its International businesses, which now represent 75% of net fees.

Highlights:

- Good broad-based growth of 8% in Continental Europe & Rest of World, with Germany up 7% (underlying growth of 11% adjusted for working days). France grew 14%(1), one of 11 countries to deliver growth of over 10%(1)

- Good Asia Pacific growth of 7%, as the group delivered further acceleration in Australia to 13%, including private sector growth of 14%. Net fees in Asia were down 5% as conditions remain tough

- Net fees in the UK & Ireland were down 10% year-on-year, and broadly sequentially stable through the quarter. Conditions in public sector markets remain tough and net fees decreased 13%. The private sector business was down 9% with early signs of improvement towards the end of the quarter

- Group consultant headcount was up 2% year-on-year and up 1% in the quarter

- First half cash performance has been strong, with net cash ending Q2 at £48 million (30 September 2016: £20.2 million)

Chief executive Alistair Cox said: "This has been another encouraging quarter of growth, our 15th in a row, led by the continued strength of our International businesses. Performance across Continental Europe was broad-based, as nine countries delivered double-digit growth(1) and we saw good performances in both Germany and France, our two largest businesses in Europe. In Australia market confidence in the private sector continued to improve and our growth accelerated significantly. In the UK, while conditions remained tough, we saw an improvement in private sector markets in December.

"As ever, activity levels at the start of the new year will be important to the Group's second half performance and we are monitoring these closely. As we ended the first half, conditions remained good in the vast majority of our markets, especially Europe, Australia and the Americas. In the UK, public sector markets remain tough, but we see early signs of improvement in the private sector market. At Hays, we are unique in the world in terms of the scale, balance and diversity of the business we have built and our focus remains on driving profitable, cash generative growth, capitalising on long-term opportunities, while maximising returns along the way. These strengths, combined with our world-class, highly experienced teams around the world, stand us in good stead and allow us to look to the future with confidence."