The latest trading updates from staffing firms Robert Walters (RWA) and Pagegroup (PAGE) painted a drab picture of the global economy in the three months to the end of June but offered hope of an upturn in the next few quarters.

Recruitment firms have been in the eye of the storm as companies have either frozen hiring or worse, made staff redundant in an effort to cut costs during lockdown.

EVEN SPREAD

Robert Walters fared slightly better than its rival Page, with a 33% fall in net fee income to £71.1 million compared with a 47% fall to £224.7 million at the latter. The shares rose 1.5% to 402p.

The fall in fee income was uniform across geographic regions for Robert Walters, with no obvious areas of weakness, although new lockdowns in Australia and the US won’t help these countries to recover in the third quarter.

As in previous quarters, the Middle East proved resilient while in terms of job type demand for healthcare and fintech staff remained strong.

The firm finished the quarter with £119 million of cash, up from £110 million at the end of March, leaving it well placed financially for an economic recovery.

‘We’re in as strong a position as we could be, we’re experienced at riding out downturns and we’re ready to gain market share when hiring picks up again’ said founder and chief executive Robert Walters.

BUILDING UP CASH

Pagegroup had a more mixed quarter with fee income in its two biggest markets, EMEA and Asia Pacific, down over 40% while the Americas and the UK registered falls of 57% and 61% respectively.

However, thanks to a 21% reduction in its cost base during the quarter, the firm managed to generate strong cash flow taking its net cash position to £156 million at the end of June compared with £83 million at the end of March.

Steve Ingham, chief executive, flagged a recent pick-up in short term key performance indicators (KPIs) such as the number of candidates sent to clients, interviews and offers, and remained confident about the long term.

‘We know the future remains unpredictable, but we believe now is the right time to start reinvesting in our flexible and highly diversified business model. Having weathered a particularly challenging second quarter, we now look forward to driving improved activity and gross profit through the second half.’ Pagegroup shares added 0.8% to 382p.

READ MORE ABOUT ROBERT WALTERS HERE AND PAGEGROUP HERE

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Issue Date: 09 Jul 2020