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Robert Walters looks to Asia for expansion

Robert Walters, the recruitment consultancy which came to the market last year, said yesterday it was looking for acquisitions in the Asia- Pacific region to boost its international business. The company opened a Hong Kong office this year and hopes to open one in Singapore by Christmas. Robert Walters, chief executive, said: "We are looking overseas but have nothing planned at the moment."

He was speaking as the company reported doubled pre-tax profits of pounds 3.3m in the six months to 30 June. The shares, which were priced at 105p when the group came to the market last July, soared 39p to a new high of 295p.

Robert Walters, which specialises in permanent and contract jobs in the finance and information technology markets, said it was seeing buoyant growth in contract recruitment and IT jobs. It hopes to benefit from the surge in demand for computer-related expertise to work on "millennium problem" consultancy projects. Ben Anderson, director, said the plan was to increase IT positions from 6 per cent of net fee income to around 50 per cent.

Mr Anderson said the company was drafting in professionals from Australia, New Zealand, India and other markets to fill a growing demand for skilled IT and compliance professionals in UK banks and other financial institutions.

Mr Walters said yesterday that trading in July remained strong. He denied that the cyclical nature of the recruitment market would make the business vulnerable to a downturn: "Only 20 per cent of our business is in commerce/ permanent jobs which is the area that tends to be hit."

Yesterday the company announced plans to rebrand its business units. This will break the technology business, which was established a year ago, and the outsourcing division, which takes over the recruitment requirements of particular clients, into separate divisions.