Hogg Robinson looks for a buy

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The Independent Online
HOGG ROBINSON, the corporate services group, yesterday said it was seeking further acquisitions in Europe and the Far East to strengthen its outsourcing business as it announced flat half-year profits.

The company said profits for the six months to September were pounds 14.06m, against pounds 14.13m for the the previous year. Profits in its Norwegian operations, hit by the slumping oil price, fell by a third.

David Radcliffe, chief executive, said the company, best known as a business travel group, was looking to build its presence in running payrolls and managing employee benefits for its business clients.

In the last six months, Hogg Robinson has spent pounds 36.7m to expand its outsourcing business as it seeks to move away from the volatile commission income associated with business travel. Acquitisions included the remaining 70 per cent of Paymaster, a pensions administration business that runs the civil service pension scheme. Since the purchase, Paymaster has already won a contract to handle pensions administration for CGU, the general insurer. The company also bought 51 per cent of Rider Travel in Canada, giving it a leading share of the Canadian business travel market.

Analysts said the company had performed reasonably since September, when it warned that business customers were now looking to buy economy class rather than business class, a trend which impacts on the group's commission income.

Shares in the company rose 3p to 208p yesterday, valuing Hogg Robinson at pounds 169.8m. Dividends rose 4.4 per cent to 4.25p per share.