Michael Page confident as global job market recovers

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The Independent Online

Michael Page International, the recruitment consultancy, said yesterday that global job markets were continuing to recover.

Terry Benson, its chief executive, announced a 24 per cent increase in revenues in the fourth quarter of 2004, and also vowed to expand aggressively in the US this year. The group, which specialises in filling accountancy and financial positions, has struggled amid a hiring freeze during the global economic downturn. It has since been experiencing a recovery as business confidence improves.

The positive news sent shares in Michael Page up 8p to close at 183.5p. Its shares have been as high as 199p during the past 12 months and have traded as low as 158p. Analysts were particularly impressed with the results from Continental Europe, where the job market has stagnated in a number of economies. Revenues were up 21.5 per cent in Europe in the fourth quarter, compared with 8.1 per cent growth in the third quarter. Growth here also outstripped the UK, which saw growth of 20.6 per cent.

Mr Benson said: "The most encouraging news was from Continental Europe, as that's where we have felt the most pain over the past three years. It has been very difficult, so it is great to see it improving, although how sustainable the upturn is, I can't forecast."

Michael Page's revenues rose to £56.6m in the three months to the end of December, putting full-year revenues 18 per cent higher than 2003 at £211m. Mr Benson also said the Asian job markets were "on fire", after it posted a 33.6 per cent growth in revenues.

But Mr Benson said the group's focus in 2005 would be to push expansion in the US, still the smallest division of the company. The Americas recorded a 57.4 per cent gain in revenues in the fourth quarter. "We now have five offices in the US, up from three in 2003, but that is still a very small number," Mr Benson said. "We are going to look very seriously at pushing further into the US, but we are going to do it through organic growth when we find the right people."