Source - RNS
RNS Number : 6857V
PageGroup plc
10 April 2019
 

 

10 April 2019

PageGroup plc

FIRST QUARTER 2019 TRADING UPDATE

Growth across all of our regions

 

Q1 Highlights*

·    Group gross profit growth +11.7% (+11.2% in reported rates)

·    All four regions delivered growth, 12 countries grew over 20%

·    Large, High Potential markets (33% of Group) +19%

·    EMEA +11.4%; France +8%; Germany +23%

·    Asia Pacific +14.9%; Greater China +9%; South East Asia +11%; Australia +13%

·    UK +1.7%; Michael Page -1%; Page Personnel +10%

·    Americas +21.4%; North America +21%; Latin America +22%

·    Professional Services disciplines (25% of Group) fastest growing at +16.0%

·    Record headcount of 7,842; fee earner to operational support staff ratio maintained at 79:21

·    Strong balance sheet, net cash of c. £76m

·    Expect 2019 operating profit to be in line with consensus**

 

* In constant currencies except where stated otherwise

**Company compiled consensus for 2019 operating profit of £160.4m

 

 

 

Q1 GROSS PROFIT ANALYSIS

 



Reported (£m)

Constant

Year-on-year

% of Group

Q1 2019

Q1 2018

%

%

EMEA

50%

104.1

94.8

+9.9%

+11.4%

Asia Pacific

18%

38.2

 32.9

+16.0%

+14.9%

UK

17%

34.4

 33.8

+1.7%

+1.7%

Americas

15%

32.1

 26.3

+21.9%

+21.4%

Total

100%

208.8

 187.8

+11.2%

+11.7%







Permanent

76%

158.5

142.1

+11.5%

+11.8%

Temporary

24%

50.3

45.7

+10.2%

+11.4%

 

Kelvin Stagg, Chief Financial Officer, said:

"The Group grew gross profit 11.7% in constant currencies with all four regions delivering growth and 12 countries growing in excess of 20%.

"Our five Large, High Potential markets of Germany, Greater China, Latin America, South East Asia and the US continued to perform strongly, growing 19% collectively. Germany grew 23%, with our Interim business up 27%. In Asia Pacific, Greater China's growth slowed to 9% in Q1 from 12% in Q4 2018, due to confidence being affected by trade tariff uncertainty. South East Asia was up 11%, with Singapore up 13%. The US grew 24%, with strong growth in our regional offices. Latin America was up 22%, with Brazil up 20%, and the other five countries in Latin America up 22%, collectively.

"In our six Large, Proven markets, the UK delivered a third consecutive quarter of marginal growth, up 1.7%, despite continued Brexit related uncertainty. In France, growth slowed to 8% with the 'gilets jaunes' protests impacting candidate confidence and our investment in fee earners slowed as we focused on productivity and conversion. Italy and the Netherlands both continued to perform well, up 18% and 12%, respectively. Spain grew 9%, in line with its Q4 2018 growth rate. Australia delivered another strong quarter, up 13%.

"Outside these two categories, we saw good growth in the majority of our other markets, particularly in India and Japan, which grew 49% and 34%, respectively.

"Having added 619 fee earners in 2018, net additions in Q1 were 41, with increases in markets where we saw the strongest growth, offset by natural attrition elsewhere. Our flexible business model enables us to react quickly to changes in market conditions by adjusting our headcount, and following our recent COO office appointment, to have a greater focus on productivity and conversion. 

"We will continue to focus on driving profitable growth, while continuing our strategic investments towards our Vision of 10,000 headcount, £1bn of gross profit and £200m - £250m of operating profit. We are pleased with the Group's performance in Q1 and, at this early stage in the year, expect 2019 operating profit to be in line with consensus**."

**Company compiled consensus for 2019 operating profit of £160.4m.

 

Group Trading Update

PageGroup delivered first quarter gross profit of £208.8m, up 11.7% in constant currencies and 11.2% in reported rates. In constant currencies, Michael Page grew 9.9%, with Page Personnel growing faster, up 15.6% in the quarter.

Headcount

Having added 619 fee earners in 2018, we added a further 41 in Q1. Fee earner additions were mainly into markets where we saw the strongest growth, while fee earner headcount in the UK declined by 35 through natural attrition. Our flexible business model enables us to react quickly to changes in market conditions by adjusting our headcount, and following our recent COO office appointment, to have a greater focus on productivity and conversion. Our operational support headcount increased by 29 in the quarter. These additions were mainly temporary in nature to support the implementation of our new Global Finance System, with roll-outs in Latin America and Europe during the first half of 2019. Our fee earner to operational support staff ratio was maintained at its record of 79:21. This represented 6,157 fee earners and a total headcount of 7,842.

Perm/Temp mix

Gross profit from permanent recruitment grew 11.5% in reported rates and 11.8% in constant currencies, to £158.5m (Q1 2018: £142.1m). Gross profit from temporary recruitment grew 10.2% in reported rates and 11.4% in constant currencies, to £50.3m (Q1 2018: £45.7m). This resulted in a ratio of permanent to temporary recruitment of 76:24.

Q1 Gross Profit - Discipline analysis

 



Reported (£m)

Constant

Year-on-year

% of

Group

Q1 2019

Q1 2018

%

%

Finance

Accounting and Financial Services

34%

71.9

64.4

+11.7%

+12.5%

Professional Services

Legal, Technology, HR, Secretarial, Healthcare

25%

51.7

44.7

+15.5%

+16.0%

Technical

Engineering, Property & Construction, Procurement & Supply Chain

25%

51.4

45.2

+13.6%

+13.5%

Marketing, Sales and Retail

16%

33.8

33.5

+1.0%

+1.9%

Total

100%

208.8

187.8

+11.2%

+11.7%

 

Geographical analysis (unless otherwise stated all growth rates are in constant currency)

 

EMEA

Gross Profit (£m)

Growth Rates

(50% of Group)



Reported

Constant

Q1 2019 vs. Q1 2018

104.1

94.8

+9.9%

+11.4%

Headcount at 31 March 2019: 3,320 (31 December 2018: 3,299)

·    France (16% of Group) +8%

·    Germany (8% of Group) +23%

 

EMEA Q1 gross profit grew 11.4% to £104.1m. Both Michael Page and Page Personnel continued to deliver strong performances, with growth of 10% and 12%, respectively. France, representing 16% of the Group, grew 8%, down from 10% in Q4 2018. The 'gilets jaunes' protests and political uncertainty have impacted confidence, leading to shortages in more senior candidates. This has resulted in a slower increase in our fee earner headcount, combined with an increased focus on productivity and conversion. Germany delivered a record quarter, up 23%, with our Interim business growing 27%. Italy grew 18% and Spain was up 9%, in line with its Q4 growth rate, with a marginal decline in Catalonia offset by strong growth elsewhere. Benelux grew 11%, with the Netherlands up 12% and Belgium delivering a record quarter. The Middle East and Africa grew 12%, with continued strong growth in the UAE, up 25%. Fee earner headcount across the region increased by 16 in the quarter, mainly into Germany and the Netherlands.

 

Asia Pacific

Gross Profit (£m)

Growth Rates

(18% of Group)



Reported

Constant

Q1 2019 vs. Q1 2018

38.2

32.9

+16.0%

+14.9%

Headcount at 31 March 2019: 1,784  (31 December 2018: 1,709)

·    Asia (14% of Group) +16%

·    Greater China (7% of Group and 53% of Asia) +9%

·    Australasia (4% of Group) +13%

 

In Asia Pacific, gross profit grew 14.9% to £38.2m. Greater China, one of our Large, High Potential markets grew 9%, marginally below its Q4 growth rate of 12%, due to the continuing impact of trade tariff uncertainty, particularly in Mainland China. This has also led to reduced confidence in Hong Kong. South East Asia, another of our Large, High Potential markets, grew 11%, with continued strong growth in Singapore, up 13%. Japan, where we continue to focus on both the Gaishikei and Nikkei markets, grew 34%. India delivered another record quarter, up 49%. Australia grew 13%, with a record performance from our Page Personnel brand. Overall fee earner headcount in the region grew 46 in the quarter, mainly in Australia and Japan, balanced by responding quickly to changing market conditions in Mainland China.

UK

Gross Profit (£m)

Growth Rate

(17% of Group)




Q1 2019 vs. Q1 2018

34.4

33.8

+1.7 %

Headcount at 31 March 2019: 1,396 (31 December 2018: 1,436)

 

The UK grew 1.7%, its third consecutive quarter of marginal growth, despite continued Brexit related uncertainty impacting candidate and client confidence. Page Personnel, which represents a quarter of the UK, grew 10%. Michael Page, which is focused on more senior opportunities and was impacted by the uncertainty to a greater extent, declined 1%. Fee earner headcount decreased by 35 through natural attrition in the quarter to 969.

 

Americas

Gross Profit (£m)

Growth Rates

(15% of Group)



Reported

Constant

Q1 2019 vs. Q1 2018

32.1

26.3

+21.9%

+21.4%

 

Headcount at 31 March 2019: 1,342 (31 December 2018: 1,328)

·    North America (9% of Group) +21%

·    Latin America (6% of Group) +22%

 

The Americas continued to be our fastest growing region and grew 21.4% to £32.1m. The US delivered a record quarter, up 24%. Growth was strong in our regional offices, with notable performances from Boston, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. Latin America grew 22%, another record quarter for the region. The Brazilian market continued to perform well, growing 20%, its sixth consecutive quarter of double digit growth. Mexico, the largest country in the region, grew 33%, a record quarter. Elsewhere, the other four countries in the region grew 15% collectively, with record performances from Argentina, Colombia and Peru. We added 14 fee earners across the Americas in the quarter, with an increased focus on productivity and conversion.

Financial Position

Save for the effects of Q1 trading detailed above, there have been no other significant changes in the financial position of the Group since the publication of the results for the quarter ended 31 December 2018. Net cash at 31 March 2019, was in the region of £76m (Q1 2018: c. £91m). The decrease in cash compared to Q1 2018 is largely due to a reduction in cash received from share option exercises, where £10.5m was received in Q1 last year, compared to only £250k in Q1 2019.

 

Shares

At 31 March 2019 there were 328,344,724 Ordinary shares in issue, of which 9,657,907 were held by the Employee Benefit Trust (EBT). The rights to receive dividends and to exercise voting rights have been waived by the EBT over 7,855,945 shares and consequently these shares should be excluded when calculating earnings per share. The total number of voting rights in the Company is 328,344,724.

Cautionary Statement

This First Quarter 2019 Trading Update has been prepared solely to provide additional information to shareholders to assess the Group's strategies and the potential for those strategies to succeed. The Trading Update should not be relied on by any other party or for any other purpose. This Trading Update contains certain forward-looking statements. These statements are made by the Directors in good faith based on the information available to them up to the time of their approval of this Trading Update and such statements should be treated with caution due to the inherent uncertainties, including both economic and business risk factors, underlying any such forward-looking information. This Trading Update has been prepared for the Group as a whole and therefore gives greater emphasis to those matters that are significant to PageGroup and its subsidiary undertakings when viewed as a whole.

Enquiries:

 

PageGroup

 

+44 (0)20 3077 8425

Kelvin Stagg, Chief Financial Officer


Jeremy Tatham, Group Financial Controller




FTI Consulting

+44 (0)20 3727 1340

Richard Mountain / Susanne Yule


 

The Company will host a conference call and presentation for analysts and investors at 8:30 am today. The live presentation can be viewed by following the link:

https://www.investis-live.com/pagegroup/5c866682ff46a80a002154dd/plfd

 

Please use the following dial-in numbers to join the conference:

 

United Kingdom (Local)

020 3936 2999

All other locations

+44 20 3936 2999

 

Please quote participant access code 63 96 21 to gain access to the call.

 

A presentation and recording to accompany the call will be posted on the Company's website during the course of the morning of 10 April 2019 at:

https://www.page.com/investors/investor-library.aspx

 

The Group will issue its Second Quarter Trading Update on 10 July 2019.


This information is provided by RNS, the news service of the London Stock Exchange. RNS is approved by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a Primary Information Provider in the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions relating to the use and distribution of this information may apply. For further information, please contact [email protected] or visit www.rns.com.
 
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