Page hit by 36m VAT repayment

MICHAEL Page said yesterday it has been hit with a &pound;37.4m bill from the Inland Revenue, which the taxman had originally handed over to the firm as a part settlement of an alleged overpaid VAT bill.<br /><br />The firm, which had &pound;138m in net cash at the end of September, said it would appeal against the tax ruling.<br /><br />&ldquo;It could be that we end up retaining it, it could be (we) end up paying it back or just part of it,&rdquo; said Michael Page&rsquo;s chief executive Steve Ingham.<br /><br />Analyst Henry Carver at KBC Peel Hunt said the possible repayment posed little difficulty as it did not constitute cash needed for operations.<br /><br />&ldquo;It almost credits the management to show that kind of figure can be dealt with at this kind of stage in the market,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The country&rsquo;s second-largest recruiter also reported a 45 per cent drop in third-quarter gross profit, but said it was beginning to see signs of stabilisation especially in Germany.<br /><br />The FTSE 250 company, which specialises in placing professional staff, reported a gross profit of &pound;82.2m in the period, down 42 per cent on last year or 45 per cent at constant currencies.<br /><br />Michael Page, which cut headcount by 4 per cent during the period, said it was not planning further job cuts in most markets and said hiring picked up in Britain in September.