Hays sees solid overall growth

Recruitment group Hays reports solid overall growth of 3% in the three months to the end of September led by further strong performances in its international businesses, which now represent 73% of group net fees.

Hays said net fees increased 17% on a headline basis and 3% on a like-for-like basis against the prior year, its fourteenth consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth.

The difference between actual and like-for-like growth was primarily the result of the significant appreciation of the euro and the Australian dollar against sterling.

It said: "The impact of these material movements in foreign exchange rates means that if we retranslate the Group's FY16 operating profit of £181.0 million at current exchange rates (AUD1.6015 and €1.1112 as at 14 October 2016), the actual reported result would increase by c.£35 million to c.£216 million."

The exit rate of Group net fee growth was in line with the quarter as a whole, with no significant differences by region.

In the second quarter, there are three fewer working days in Germany versus the prior year due primarily to the timing of public holidays. Hays expects this to have a c.4% negative impact on net fees in Germany, most notably in its Temp and Contractor business.

The Temp business, which accounted for 58% of Group net fees in the quarter, increased by 5% and the underlying temp margin was broadly stable. Net fees in the Perm business increased by 2%.

Consultant headcount was up 2% year-on-year and grew 4% in the quarter as a result of the normal seasonal graduate intake and its continued approach of investing selectively across the Group where market conditions and outlook were supportive, notably in Europe and Australia. As a result, it expects that increases in Q2 will be below those of Q1.

Chief executive Alistair Cox said: "We have started our new financial year well, with continued strength in our International businesses, including all-time records in Germany and France and an acceleration of growth in Australia. Our performance was again consistent and broad-based, as 28 of our 33 countries delivered year-on-year growth(1), 19 of which grew by over 10%.

"In the UK, following a step-down in Perm recruitment activity immediately after the Referendum, the business stabilised, and followed the normal seasonal pattern through the remainder of the quarter.

"Looking ahead, Europe continues to deliver strong, broad-based growth and market conditions remain supportive in Australia and the Americas, where we continue to invest.

"In the UK we have a strong, market-leading and diverse business, led by a world-class management team who are highly experienced in managing through fast-changing and uncertain times. As ever, our focus remains on driving profitable growth in our business, capitalising on long-term opportunities, while maximising earnings and cash along the way."