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Recruiter Hays sees modestly profitable first half, shares fall

(Reuters) - Recruitment agency Hays Plc HAYS.L said on Thursday it now expects to squeeze out a "modest" profit for the first half of the year, down from 100 million pounds last year as the coronavirus-driven downturn in hiring slashed fee income by nearly a third.

The staffing company said that any material recovery in profitability in the second half of the year will require a significant sequential uplift in net fees, and no prolonged ‘second wave’ of lockdowns in its key markets.

“Temp (temporary) business remains stable and we have seen improvements in Perm (permanent), particularly in markets that had previously been hardest-hit by lockdowns,” Chief Executive Officer Alistair Cox said.

Shares of the FTSE-250 company, which have fallen over a third in value this year, was down 1.9% in early trade.

Most global recruiters have been hit by a hiring slowdown since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing them to manage costs to withstand the blow.

Its peers PageGroup PAGE.L and Robert Walters RWA.L, however, have flagged early signs of recovery in its Asia Pacific, Mainland China and Japan regions, which were among the first to come out of lockdown.

Hays, which is largely focused on hiring for white-collar roles, said group fees fell 29% for the quarter ended Sept. 30 from a year earlier.

The UK-based company, which had already shed 9% of its global workforce till June-end, added that the group consultant headcount was down by 5% in the quarter.

Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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