Hays took a further significant step towards transforming itself into a pure staff recruitment business yesterday with the two-stage sale of its haulage and logistics division for more than £200m.
News of the sale lifted Hays' shares 3 per cent to a two-year high of 130p, valuing the company at £2.26bn and putting it within reach of a place back in the FTSE 100 index.
Hays will initially raise £102m by selling part of the logistics business to the US venture capital group Platinum Equity. It expects to raise a further £100m through the separate sale of the division's depots and warehouses in the UK, France and Benelux, and its German logistics and US home delivery businesses.
Hays' chief executive, Colin Matthews, who had said he would leave once the logistics sale was complete, yesterday indicated that he may remain in the job longer to oversee the disposal of its private mail division - the one big business that remains to be sold.
Mr Matthews, who only joined Hays a year ago, said he could still be with the group this time next year. "Determining the timing of when things will be completed is difficult," he added. "I want to be associated with the successful transformation of the group."
The logistics sale will bring proceeds from the disposal programme to £440m. Earlier this year Hays raised £225m by selling its commercial arm, which specialises in document storage and outsourcing.
The management of the logistics business, led by Xavier Urbain, is not involved in the transaction with Platinum but will stay with the business under its new ownership.
The Los Angeles-based venture capital fund is run by the financier Tom Gores and is listed by Forbes magazine as the 34th-largest private company in the US. It owns 19 companies with revenues of more than $4bn (£2.35bn).
Hays' logistics and mail businesses were always seen as the more difficult parts of the empire to sell. Several rival haulage businesses decided not to bid from an early stage.