Currency gains in the second half of 2016 helped professional services recruiter PageGroup (PAGE) deliver its best ever year of net fee income (NFI).

NFI, a key measure of industry performance, surged 20.3% to £163.4m in the final three months of 2016 driven by 20%-plus gains in its overseas units in Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

That helped full-year NFI hit £621m and means annual profit is expected at the top end of a range between £91m and £101m, according to chief executive Steve Ingham.

Shares in PageGroup gained 3.8% to 408p and have now recovered all their losses since a heavy sell-off after the UK's vote to leave the EU.

PageGroup share price

UNDERLYING GROWTH

Excluding currency movements, which provides a fairer reflection of PageGroup's underlying performance, NFI growth was 3.8%, up from 1.3% in the third quarter.

Constant currency NFI growth was strongest in Europe, where PageGroup delivered a 12.4% increase. Germany, Europe's largest jobs market, is now considered to be at full employmentwhich tends to lead to more job switching and higher fees for recruiters.

Growth in Europe at actual exchange rate was 35.7% because sterling weakened against the euro after the 23 June EU referendum result.

Asia-Pacific NFI growth at constant currencies was 1.7% while in the Americas NFI increased 0.9%.

TOUGH 2017 AHEAD

It was a different story in the UK, which represented only one-fifth of PageGroup's NFI in the three months to 31 December.

NFI declined 6.7% to £33.8m as weaker client and candidate confidence led to lower activity in the market.

PageGroup's record 2016 result will be hard to replicate in 2017, says Morgan Stanley analyst Toby Reeks.

'Looking into 2017, its less clear - the UK is weakened (Brexit will weigh on trading), elections in France, Germany, Italy could also lower activity and the Trump presidency could have an impact on its Chinese and LatAm businesses,' writes Reeks in a commentary today.

'There remains a reasonable amount of uncertainty ahead in our view.'


Issue Date: 11 Jan 2017