New acting finance chief for Michael Page as recruiter anticipates challenging fourth quarter

British-based recruitment company Michael Page has announced the appointment of a new acting chief financial officer, as it reports year-on-year profit up 0.4 per cent. However, the company expects a challenging fourth quarter.

Chief executive officer Steve Ingham says the firm has seen "another robust performance in the third quarter, against a backdrop of challenging, but gradually improving market conditions", with gross profit £127m. The company saw good performances in the US, Japan, Mexico, Spain Turkey and the Middle East.

Michael Page has continued to invest in headcount in the five high-potential markets of China, South East Asia, Latin America and the US. An overhaul of the US business resulted in gross profit increasing by 35 per cent year-on-year.

On the outlook for the fourth quarter, Steve Ingham said:

Although we have limited visibility, we expect Q4 to be another challenging quarter, with difficult conditions likely to continue in some markets, but with gradual improvements in others. After the impact of adverse movements in exchange rates (c. £1m) and increases in social charges on share plans as a result of the rise in our share price (c. £0.5m), at this point we expect full year operating profit to be around £68m.

The appointment of internal candidate Kelvin Stagg as chief financial officer comes after the incumbent Andrew Bracey handed in his notice on Friday. Stagg has been with the company - which is branded as PageGroup - since 2006. Before starting with the firm, he worked at Allied Domecq and Unilever. Ingham commented that Stagg "has played a significant role in increasing our focus on the consistency and efficiency of our operational support teams".

Mike van Dulken, head of Research at Accendo Markets, commented this morning:

The culprit for the undershoot is an only slight annual rise in Q3 gross profits, which the company bills as its toughest quarter of the year. Expectations of a challenging Q4 due to difficult conditions in some markets is not exactly an upbeat message, nor is a decline in profits in the larger Permanent segment, even if gains in Temporary offset it and it sees improving trends in certain other markets. An outlook of improving conditions in the majority of regions seems to be ignored this morning, offset by comments on limited visibility and of course the need for analysts to take their red pens to consensus estimates.

Shares fallen back from key 500p level. Support likely at 443p August low then 430p falling trendline.