Specialist recruiter SThree (STHR) stands out from the crowd today as shares gain 5% to 273p on a positive fourth quarter trading update and news that full year earnings will be above the top end of forecasts.

The company, which focuses on the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), had a ‘strong finish to the year’ with gross profits up 12% for the quarter and the year.

By business line, full year fees from Information Technology hiring were up 12%, Life Sciences up 8%, Engineering up 16% and Energy up 30%.

By geography fees in Continental Europe, its biggest market, were up 20% while in its second biggest market the US fees were up 8%.

The UK is still the weak link with fees down 5% although they did perk up in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter.

CEO LEAVING THE BUSINESS IN GOOD SHAPE

Along with the trading update, the recruiter announced that chief executive Gary Elden will step down early next year after what will be six years in the role.

Although this is unexpected the split appears to be amicable and a search for his replacement is under way.

Elden leaves the business on a high with profits having doubled in his tenure and the business having increased significantly in scale and geography.

Sadly the same can’t be said of the shares, which were trading at two-year lows yesterday and a multiple of just 8 times next year’s earnings.


Issue Date: 14 Dec 2018