City recruiter sees UK fees growth slow

 
Elizabeth Fournier
THE CITY jobs market is unlikely to improve this year, according to the chief executive of recruiter Robert Walters, which yesterday posted slowing growth in its UK business.

Despite net fee income growing just three per cent in the UK in 2011 compared to 36 per cent the previous year, a strong performance by the firm’s Asia Pacific and European operations – which deliver 74 per cent of its revenues – meant overall fee income rose 15 per cent.

Income in Asia increased by 23 per cent, and in Europe it was up 29 per cent. Revenue for the full year rose 21 per cent to £528.1m, and operating profit was up 14 per cent at £15.6m.

“The UK market at the moment is a bit like running up a downwards escalator,” chief executive Robert Walters told City A.M. yesterday. “You’re working hard to stay still.”

But he remained upbeat on the outlook for the UK business, saying the group was in a strong cash position and would be in a good position to take advantage of the market once it does return.

“At the moment people who are unhappy in their job just aren’t willing to take the risk of moving,” said Walters. “But once it starts there’s likely to be a domino effect as confidence is created.”

In the next 12 months the company plans to expand in emerging markets where it already has a presence, including opening an office in Rio, Brazil. It is also opening an office in San Francisco to focus on placing US candidates in Asia Pacific jurisdictions, and vice versa.

The company also announced it would increase its final dividend by five per cent to 3.68p per share. Its shares rose by almost four per cent yesterday, closing at 239p.