Michael Page in boost from Asia

RECRUITER Michael Page yesterday reported a jump in pre-tax profits, fuelled by a buoyant jobs market in Asia, but warned the UK outlook remains grim.

The company saw international business overall outstrip the performance in the UK. Sales in Asia Pacific climbed 43 per cent to £76.7m, in the six months to 30 June.

Meanwhile total pre-tax profit rose 38 per cent to £45.5m, while revenue surged revenue 28 per cent to £393.5m. The gains fell short of analysts’ forecasts.

Chief executive Steve Ingham said: “While the recent turbulence in the financial markets has added an additional element of uncertainty, we expect market conditions in the UK to remain challenging.

“We expect to continue our progress and our outlook for Asia and Latin America remains strong.”

Michael Page is among a number of UK recruiters pinning their hopes for growth on overseas as the market at home dwindles.

Hays and Robert Walters are also expanding in Asia, with rising activity in sectors like financial services leading the growth.

Michael Page operates in 32 countries and its offices in the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions combined earn almost a third of the group’s total gross profit.

The company raised its half-year dividend by 12.8 per cent to 3.25p as the half yearly figures were released.

But Investec analyst Robert Morton, who had forecast pre-tax profit of £48.5m, said he would be reducing full-year forecasts.

“The group has seen further strong recovery in the first half of the year, albeit not quite up to our expectations. In addition, the recent turmoil in world financial markets will have some impact on global growth rates,” he wrote in a note.

The firm’s shares tumbled as much as 18 per cent during the day and closed down eight per cent.