US staffing group Manpower has reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit before charges, saying demand was "exceptional" in Europe and had increased for technology workers, an area where it recently expanded with a large acquisition.
Excluding items, the global staffing services company earned 66 cents per share, 5 cents ahead of Wall Street analyst forecasts.
But a large restructuring charge pushed Manpower to a net loss of $350.4m (£217.9m), or $4.29 a share, from a year-earlier profit of $29.1m or 37 cents a share.
Sales rose 18 per cent to $5.21bn, slightly ahead of Wall Street forecasts for $5.17bn.
Wisconsin-based Manpower, which gets most of its sales and profits outside the United States, said it expected first-quarter earnings of 26 cents to 34 cents a share, compared with estimates of 33 cents.
Manpower, which competes with Swiss-based Adecco SA and the Dutch company <a href="http://www.randstad.co.uk" target="_blank">Randstad</a>, said operating profits more than doubled in France, its biggest market.
"Europe performed exceptionally, as did our IT staffing," Manpower CEO Jeff Joerres said. Exactly a year ago, Manpower announced the $431m acquisition of techonlogy staffing company Comsys IT Partners, a deal that closed in April.
Shares of temporary staffing companies like Manpower, TrueBlue, Robert Half International and SFN Group are trading near their best levels since 2007 as hiring of temporary workers has rebounded at a faster clip than in previous economic recoveries.
Demand has been helped by an uncertain economy in large markets like the United States and countries in Western Europe, with some analysts calling the current climate a "sweet spot" for providers of temporary workers.
Employers, reluctant to commit capital to full-time hiring before an economic recovery gains traction, have taken on contingent workers as a way of staying flexible.
City A.M. Reporter