Tough Australian job market sparks Page warning

Suzie Neuwirth
RECRUITER Michael Page yesterday said third-quarter profits in its Australia and New Zealand business fell by 20 per cent, hit by a slowdown in the region’s mining sector.

The FTSE 250-listed firm also announced that its finance chief would be leaving after just 18 months in the role. No reason was given for the surprise departure of Andrew Bracey, who joined from online grocer Ocado.

The group’s finance controller Kelvin Stagg has been appointed acting chief financial officer.

Michael Page warned that the fourth quarter would be “challenging” and nudged its full-year profit guidance down to £68m, below market consensus of £70.5m. Shares slid almost six per cent in early trading yesterday and closed at 470p.

However, profit in the UK and the Americas rose five per cent and 13 per cent respectively, with broker Numis calling the update “a mixed third-quarter performance”.

Australia is home to a number of globally revered mining giants such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, but the slump in the commodities cycle has led them to implement drastic cost-cutting strategies. This has included staff redundancies and in turn made workers more cautious about changing jobs, with a knock-on effect for recruiters.

Michael Page’s profit in the Asia Pacific region – which accounts for 22 per cent of the group’s business – fell 4.3 per cent on a constant basis, with growth in Asia not enough to offset the Australian decline.