* Core quarterly earnings come in ahead of forecast
* Raises dividend by 13 percent
* Sees only limited acquisition activity this year (Adds details, CFO comments)
By Jochen Elegeert
Feb 14 (Reuters) - Randstad, the world’s second largest staffing agency, said on Tuesday its core earnings rose 9 percent in the fourth quarter, helped by strong growth in blue collar jobs in Europe.
Randstad’s growth was mainly boosted by big European markets, France and Germany, where revenue grew 10 percent. Italy, Switzerland and Poland also performed strongly.
“We see growth in the blue collar segment in Europe and that is a sign of an early cycle (in recovery)”, Chief Financial Officer Robert Jan van de Kraats told Reuters in an interview.
Van de Kraats said he had seen signs of growth in Europe since late 2013 onwards but it seemed to be picking up now.
RBC Capital analysts said the fourth quarter showed improving momentum and that France and Germany looked to be the main drivers of the outperformance.
Underlying earnings before interest, taxation and amortisation (EBITA) rose to 267.6 million euros ($283.9 million)in the Oct-Dec quarter, ahead of 256 million euros expected in a Reuters poll.
Revenue rose 11 percent to 5.53 billion euros, partly boosted by the acquisition of U.S. jobs website Monster Worldwide.
The company also proposed a cash dividend of 1.89 euros per share, up 13 percent compared with last year.
The shares reacted positively, gaining 3 percent to 57 euros by 0810 GMT.
Last year Randstad acquired U.S. jobs website Monster Worldwide, Dutch professional staffing company BMC and French tech consulting and engineering firm Ausy. The company expects acquisition activity to be limited in 2017.
Revenue from other European countries, which includes Italy, Poland, Switzerland, among others, jumped 67 percent to 703.9 million euros. In organic terms, the growth was 20 percent.
Randstad said in January, overall revenue grew by 5−6 percent and volumes in early February indicate a continuation of the trend.
Morgan Stanley said the current quarter revenue growth trend was above its estimates.
Industry leader, Switzerland’s Adecco is due to report its fourth quarter results on March 2, 2017. ($1 = 0.9426 euros) (Reporting by Jochen Elegeert in Gydnia; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath/Keith Weir)