The latest round of job cuts in the City have continued to take their toll on Michael Page, which yesterday revealed that trading in its first quarter had further deteriorated.
The recruitment group, which relies on the financial sector for about two-thirds of its UK turnover, said revenue in the three months to end-March had slumped 14 per cent compared with a year earlier.
Terry Benson, the chief executive, said market conditions remained difficult, adding: "We continue to be cautious about the short term outlook." The fall was in line with guidance given in February, Mr Benson said.
Michael Page shares closed down 2.5p at 81.5p yesterday, within a whisker of a fresh low. They traded at 212p 12 months ago and were floated almost two years ago at 175p. Sales in the first quarter slipped to £42.8m from £49.5m in the same period a year ago, the company said. Revenues were 3 per cent lower than the £43.9m reported for the fourth quarter of 2002.
The company has halted a share buyback programme in an attempt to conserve cash. It had originally planned to repurchase a further £26m by August this year, on top of 11 million shares it has bought back over the past six months.
Mr Benson said the financial services sector remained the hardest hit, after the triple blow of an economic downturn, war in Iraq and Sars, the deadly flu-like virus that has crippled parts of Asia. The Centre for Economics & Business Research has predicted that financial services companies in London will shed 15,000 jobs this year.
Michael Page reported pre-tax profits for 2002, before special charges, of £32.6m against £59.9m in 2001. It had net cash of £21.4m at the start of this year.
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