Michael Page surges by 75%

LUCY ROBERTS

Michael Page Group, the international recruitment specialist, turned in a record 75 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to pounds 7.6m for the six months to June on the back of strong trading in the UK and Australia.

Economic improvement in Europe saw business from the German and French and Benelux markets surge 77 per cent.

Earnings per share rose to 7.79p from 4.45p previously and the interim dividend improved to 1.1p from 0.8p.

The market greeted the news with enthusiasm, lifting the share price 12p to 152p as analysts moved to re-rate year-end pre-tax profits from the pounds 11m mark to pounds 14.5m.

Terry Benson, chief executive, said the company's specialist approach and refusal to diversify out of financial placement, coupled with the strategy to roll out to virgin territories, was behind the improvement, although he ruled out a permanent base in the United States.

The group reported an upswing in both the permanent and contract/temporary placement market.

Both Michael Page Finance and Michael Page City reported a 20 per cent increase in business, despite volatility in the front-of-office recruitment sector. The first six months' trading for Accountancy Additions impressed sufficiently for the opening of a further four offices to be pencilled in.

Michael Page France maintained its position as the leading executive selection cons- ultancy and its specialist businesses in finance, banking and taxation showed sizeable revenue increases on last year.

Page Interim, the Paris-based temporary staff recruitment business, also performed ahead of expectations.

In the Netherlands the business doubled its revenue for the period with the Amsterdam and Eindhoven offices contributing to the advance. Permanent and temporary revenue grew significantly with the latter producing a particularly strong result.

Michael Page Germany continued to grow steadily with an "encouraging" performance by the Frankfurt office, which is trading profitably within nine months of opening.

The group's Hong Kong office, opened in October 1994, reported brisk business from multinationals such as PepsiCo, Rank Xerox and tobacco group RJ Reynolds.

"Our specialist financial recruitment service has been well received and business is growing at a pace well ahead of our initial expectations," Mr Benson said.

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