Hays heralds a return to profit for its UK arm

Marion Dakers

RECRUITMENT firm Hays has turned a profit in Britain for the first time in five years, in what chief executive Alistair Cox said reflects a return to growth in most parts of the UK jobs market.

“We are on the front foot in terms of growth now, we expect the UK to continue to grow,” Cox told City A.M.

“It’s early days but it’s quite widespread across industries and regions. Construction has even started to pick up.”

Banking jobs remain thin on the ground, Cox added, though the sector has showed signs of stabilising.

Net fees in the UK and Ireland fell one per cent to £222m over the year to the end of June, but cost cutting helped swing the business to an operating profit of £5.6m, compared to a loss of £6.5m a year ago.

Globally, net fees fell two per cent to £719m, with strong growth in Germany and parts of Asia offset by a 16 per cent slump in Australia, which is reeling from the recent fall in demand for commodities.

Hays’ pre-tax profits fell three per cent to £118.5m for the year.

“Looking ahead to 2014 we expect overall market conditions to remain mixed,” Cox said.

“While some markets are likely to remain challenging, there are also clear opportunities for growth.”

The firm’s headcount remained steady at 5,037 during the year. Cox said Hays had added “a modest number of extra people into the UK business” and expected to do the same in the coming year. “I feel that we are back in growth mode and investment mode now,” he said.