Shares in specialist white-collar recruitment firm Robert Walters (RWA) rallied 2% to 825p after the company posted a better-than-expected 33% jump in fourth quarter net fee income and said earnings would beat forecasts.

The firm, which specializes in placing candidates in professional roles in sectors such as accounting, finance, IT, legal services and human resources, said it posted record monthly fees in December.

GLOBAL GROWTH

Demand was strong across all regions with 83% of fees generated by the international business. In Asia, the company’s biggest market as well as its most profitable, net fees were up 48% with Japan posting 63% growth at constant exchange rates.

Growth was even more impressive in some of the smaller Asian markets such as Hong Kong, where fees doubled, and Indonesia where they rose 136%. Despite talk of a slowdown in China, net fee income from the mainland still rose nearly 50% during the quarter.

In the UK, which still makes up an important part of group revenues, net fees rose 7% due to a shortage of candidates which is driving intense competition for candidates especially for legal, commercial finance and technology roles.

CONFIDENCE IS HIGH

At senior levels, the company said candidate confidence has generally improved greatly over the last year with more managers prepared to move firms, especially with the incentive of big pay rises.

By December the ratio of permanent hires to temporary hires hit a record of 71% to 29%, demonstrating the improvement in business confidence among employers during the course of the year.

In terms of other employment trends, the firm said it had seen more demand for flexible working among candidates in the US than in other markets.

INCREASED GUIDANCE

Chief executive Robert Walters commented: 'The fourth quarter was another very strong period for the group with net fee income increasing by 39% year-on-year. We are seeing candidate shortages across all locations and disciplines, a fierce competition for talent and wage inflation kicking in which together create huge opportunities across the recruitment market.'

Thanks to the strong fourth quarter, including a record December, profits are expected to be 'comfortably ahead of current expectations', he added.

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Issue Date: 11 Jan 2022