Recruitment group Hays reports an excellent performance for the year to the end of June with both earnings and cash ahead of market expectations.
Operating profits rose by 13% on a like-for-like basis to £181.0m with net fees up 7% at £810.3m. Pre-tax profits were 11% up at £173.0m and the dividend of 2.90p per share is up 5%.
Chief executive Alistair Cox said: "This is an excellent financial performance, with both earnings and cash ahead of market expectations. We delivered strong, broad-based net fee growth in our international businesses, with 22 countries growing by 10% or more, and an excellent UK profit performance.
"After three years, we remain in line with our five-year aspiration to broadly double the Group's operating profits. We also achieved the significant milestone of eliminating the Group's net debt.
"Following our headcount investment in Germany, growth accelerated and we saw strong, broad-based growth across many other European markets and much of the Americas, including the USA. Our Australia business continued to grow, driven by excellent public sector performance.
"In the UK, net fees were flat, as increased concern over the economic outlook negatively impacted client and candidate confidence, especially in the second half. However, despite this we delivered excellent 14% profit growth, a testament to the strength of our business.
"We enter our new year in a position of strength, with a diverse, balanced and resilient global business, the strongest balance sheet we have had for many years and supportive conditions in many of our markets. Following the EU referendum, there is increased uncertainty in the UK market, but we have seen no evidence of any impact elsewhere.
"It is too early to tell what the longer term impact may be and as ever, we will monitor activity levels closely. In our international businesses, we will continue to invest to meet growing demand and further diversify our business by geography, sector and contract form.
"Our focus remains on capitalising on long-term growth opportunities while maximising earnings and cash along the way."