Headhunter pours cold water on recovery talk as profits fall

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The Independent Online

Shares in Michael Page fell more than 4 per cent yesterday as the recruitment firm's chief executive claimed Britain was not flourishing as strongly as economists claim, saying: "I don't think we're going to boom as fast as sentiment."

The jobs giant's pre-tax profit fell 11 per cent to £32m in the half-year to July, and that was boosted by strong demand for positions in North America, Japan, Mexico, Spain and the Middle East.

In the UK, both revenues, at £146.1m, and gross profit, at £61.4m, were broadly flat. The shares closed down 18.8p at 450.2p.

The chief executive, Steve Ingham, said: "We've had seven flat quarters in the UK, although the best of those has been the last one. It's only a tiny amount of growth, but that's a positive sign."

Mr Ingham said Michael Page was flourishing in technology, engineering and supply-chain procurement, but he added that uncertain economic conditions meant permanent job activity was slowing compared with temporary jobs. "I don't think we're going to boom as fast as sentiment," he said.

August, he added, was a "difficult time as people don't tend to focus on their job search."

Some former Michael Page staff might be, though; the company said it had axed 144 of its 5,099-strong workforce since the beginning of the year.

A place in the sun: the recruitment giant's pre-tax profit was boosted by rising demand for roles in Spain, while the UK market was becalmed rex