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UK and Ireland net fees down 7% at year-end 2017 for Hays

Hays has released its preliminary results for the year ended 30th June 2017.

Operating profit is up 17% to £211.5m, driven by international profit growth and exchange rate gains.

Net fees are up 18% to £954.6m for the year. In the UK & Ireland, net fees are down 7% and operating profit is down 21%. Hays reports that markets have been tough but broadly stable since November 2016. The private sector (74% of net fees) saw a marked step-down after the EU Referendum, but improved sequentially in H2 and exited the year with moderate year-on-year growth. Public sector remained challenging

Continental Europe & Rest of World delivered strong, broad-based net fee growth of 12%, with operating profit up 7%. There was a record net fee performance in Germany, up 14% and operating profit was up 9% to £80.5m. Net fees are up 11% across the rest of the division. France net fees are up 16%, driving £10.8m operating profit.

Asia Pacific delivered good overall net fee growth of 9%; operating profit growth was 10%. Net fee growth was accelerated through the year in Australia, driving strong 18% operating profit growth. Asia was subdued but stable overall, with flat net fees, as banking markets remained tough.

The group reported closing net cash of £111.6m, with strong 103% conversion of operating profit into operating cash flow.

Hays has proposed an increase in full-year core dividend of 11% to 3.22p per share and special dividend of £61.6m (4.25p per share), resulting in total dividend pay-out of £108.3m (2016: £41.7m)

Alistair Cox (pictured), chief executive, said, "This has been a milestone year for the Group. Our International businesses delivered record levels of fees and profit which, together with exchange rate gains, drove overall Group operating profit to over £200m for the first time since 2008. As a result of our strong financial and cash performance and a confident outlook, we have proposed the payment of the Group's first special dividend, of £61.6m. This supplements a proposed core dividend which has itself increased by 11% meaning the Group's total dividend pay-out has more than doubled year-on-year.

“We delivered strong, broad-based growth in Europe including a record financial performance in Germany, now our largest business in the world. Growth accelerated through the year in Australia across all states. In the UK, after a marked step-down immediately after the EU Referendum, activity levels quickly stabilised and we exited the year with modest private sector growth. Overall, with 20 countries growing by 10% or more, the transformation of Hays into a truly global, diversified business is evident in these results.

“As we enter our new year, conditions remain good in the vast majority of our markets and we see many clear opportunities to grow. Our diverse and balanced global business, together with our highly experienced management teams and our strong balance sheet means we are well positioned to capitalise on these growth opportunities while maximising earnings and cash along the way."

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