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UK NFI down 23% in Q4 2019 for Robert Walters

Robert Walters has released a trading update for the fourth quarter ended 31st December 2019.

Group net fee income for the fourth quarter was down 7% (down 8% actual) to £94.2m (Q4 2018: £102.3m) against a backdrop of significant political and economic uncertainty, particularly in the UK. 78% (2018: 74%) of the Group's net fee income is now derived from overseas businesses.  

In the UK, net fee income was down 23% to £20.7m (Q4 2018: £26.8m). During the quarter, client and candidate confidence deteriorated, across both recruitment and recruitment process, due to the political uncertainty related to Brexit and the General Election.

Asia Pacific net fee income was down 4% (down 4% actual) to £38.5m (Q4 2018: £40.0m). In Asia Pacific, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the Philippines delivered the strongest rates of net fee income growth. Market conditions in Hong Kong were extremely challenging given the ongoing protests. Resource Solutions was impacted by the hiring slowdown across a number of financial services clients. The company saw a robust performance in Australia with Sydney, Chatswood and Brisbane the strongest performers.  

Europe net fee income was up 4% (1% actual) to £27.7m (Q4 2018: £27.6m). The Netherlands and Spain delivered record results. Robert Walters saw a robust performance in France, the region's largest business, with net fee income growing 6%.  Trading conditions in Germany and Switzerland were more challenging.

Other international (the Americas, Middle East and South Africa) net fee income was down 7% (down 7% actual) to £7.3m (Q4 2018: £7.9m).

The company reported a strong balance sheet with net cash of £78.9m as at 31st December 2019 (31 December 2018: £74.3m).

Robert Walters, chief executive, commented, "Trading conditions in the fourth quarter proved challenging with client and candidate confidence impacted by political turbulence around Brexit, the UK General Election, Hong Kong protests and the US/China trade standoff.

"Whilst group net fee income for the fourth quarter was down 7% (8% actual), net fee income for the full year was up 2% (3% actual) year-on-year. We expect profit for the full year to be in line with market expectations."

The Group will publish its full year results for the year ended 31st December 2019 on 3rd March 2020. 

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