Recruiter Robert Walters (RWA) delivered strong performance in its UK business as recruitment in the financial services sector showed signs of stabilising.

Walters’ UK business was the only major geography in its global footprint to grow more quickly in the third quarter than the second.

Founder and chief executive Robert Walters said much of the 9% growth achieved in the UK was a result of outsourcing contracts won earlier in the year. But there are some signs of improving confidence in financial services.

‘We had a small increase in financial services and that’s an observation not a prediction it will continue,’ said founder and chief executive Robert Walters.

'I wouldn’t want to hang too much on two or three months’ worth of improvement – but at least it’s going the right way.’

Walters earns around 18% of its net fee income (NFI) from recruitment placements to financial services companies said chief financial officer Alan Bannatyne.

More than two-thirds of Walters’ business, as measured by NFI, is outside the UK.

Quarter-on-quarter growth slowed in its two key regions of Asia-Pacific and Europe, excluding the UK. Growth in Asia-Pacific at constant currencies slowed from 7% to 4%.

‘I’ve just returned from Australia and our other offices in Asia-Pacific and there is a lot of confidence in the region which is surprising to some extent but it is nice to see,’ said Walters.

‘Japan is a strong market for us; it is a candidate-short market and we are leaders in that market. Overall, China is muted in its growth but it is still humming and that’s still a growth market.’

Robert Walters share price performance

Walters added that while NFI growth slowed when reported at constant exchange rates, the depreciation of sterling means Asia-Pacific grew 31% at actual rates to £32m.

European NFI gained 8% at constant currencies in the third quarter, down from 26% in the second quarter.

‘Europe is as before, we are still seeing growth out of Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland,’ said Walters.

‘France is 50% of our European business, excluding the UK, and that is a strong market which faced some tough comparatives in the last three months.’

Robert Walters - Key metrics (£m)
2015 2016e 2017e
Net fee income 234 276 311
Pre-tax profit 22 26 29
Earnings per share 20.6p 22.6p 25.2p
Dividend per share 7.1p 8.4p 9.2p
Source: Panmure Gordon (Year-end: 31 Dec)

Walters has repurchased £20m of shares year-to-date and a cash balance £18.6m at the year-end is likely to mean buybacks continue, added finance officer Bannatyne.

Shares in Robert Walters trade 1% higher at 345p in a falling general market.

Issue Date: 17 Oct 2016