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ROBERT WALTERS PLC has announced its half-yearly financial results

ROBERT WALTERS PLC has announced its half-yearly financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2010
Net fee income (gross profit) up 45% (39%*) to 72.3m (2009: 50.0m).
Operating profit of 5.2m (4.4m*) (2009: operating loss of 2.3m).
Profit before taxation of 5.1m (4.3m*) (2009: loss before taxation of 2.6m).
Basic earnings per share of 4.8p (2009: loss per share of 3.7p).
Interim dividend maintained at 1.40p per share (2009: 1.40p).
Net cash of 12.9m as at 30 June 2010 (30 June 2009: 22.5m).
Purchased 2.0m of own shares through share buy-back programme.
Group is now more internationally diverse than ever before with 70% of net fee income derived from outside the UK.
Strong recovery in permanent recruitment activity particularly within the financial services sector. Permanent recruitment now represents 70% of the Group's recruitment net fee income.
Outstanding performance in Asia Pacific with net fee income up 81% (64%*) to 34.4m (2009: 19.0m).
Trading conditions remained challenging across the UK and Continental Europe.
Opened an office in Sao Paulo, the Group's first in the fast developing South American recruitment market and a fourth office in Belgium. The Group now has 39 offices in 18 countries.
Significant investment in the business:
o Group headcount up 22% to 1,539 (2009: 1,260).
o Further investment in our IT, training and marketing infrastructure to underpin the Group's strategy for growth.
The diversity of our business means that whilst economic uncertainty currently exists across some of the markets in which we operate, we are very well positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities in the second half of the year.
We are continuing to expand in Asia, a region of huge potential in which we are the leading player, with the opening of our first office in South Korea and a third mainland China office in Beijing planned before the end of the year.
Robert Walters, Chief Executive, commented: "These are very strong results on the back of a very difficult year in 2009. Our strategy of maintaining our global network of offices and minimising headcount reductions has paid off and we are already benefiting from the improved economic environment in many of our key markets.
"Our forward strategy is clear keep a watchful eye on our cost base given economic conditions remain uncertain, but extend the Robert Walters footprint and brand in obvious growth markets such as Asia and South America. We believe this strategy will generate growth and offset any slowdown in other markets."
Comment from Ian Jermin, Senior Analyst, Merchant Securities Limited. Robert Walters produced strong interim results that were ahead of our forecasts. However all growth was generated from the Asia Pacific region with Europe and the Americas still reporting operating losses, albeit of a minor nature. The UK was also weak with an operating figure just in the black. The concern we have is that momentum has been driven solely from the Far East and primarily from the placement of permanent staff in the financial services sector. In other regions we get the impression that demand is still fragile and costs may have to be cut quickly if volumes do not improve in the seasonally stronger fourth quarter. With confidence levels very volatile at the moment and visibility low we are reticent to increase our numbers at this stage of the year. Consequently we are leaving our forecasts, which have a degree of caution already built in, unchanged and retain our Buy recommendation and price target of 300p.


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