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Robert Walters restores dividend, sees signs of hiring pick up

FILE PHOTO: A man with a protective face mask takes a nap during lunch breaks at the financial Central district, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong, China March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

(Reuters) - Recruitment firm Robert Walters RWA.L said on Thursday it would restore its dividend as it flagged strong hiring in ecommerce, cybersecurity and fintech, lifting its shares by almost 8%

Recruiters around the globe were hammered by hiring freezes at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing them to cut costs to weather the storm.

Robert Walters said market conditions remained challenging with hiring in the UK and other markets slow to pick up, although it was encouraged by early signs of a turnaround in the Asia-Pacific region.

While net fee income declined 31% for the quarter ended Sept. 30, the firm said net cash had jumped 70% from a year ago to 138.9 million pounds, mostly as a result of reducing its payroll by almost 500 people since the end of June.

“With some key forward-looking indicators either stabilising or showing signs of improvement, we believe now is the right time to end the voluntary reduced working hours scheme for all employees globally and to reinstate the interim dividend,” Robert Walters, chief executive of the eponymous company, said in a statement.

Its shares, which have lost nearly a third of their value this year, were up 7.9% at 381 pence by 1039 GMT.

The recruiter said that net fee income in Asia Pacific, the region which first emerged from lockdown, was down 32% in the quarter, compared with a 35% drop in the April-June period.

After scrapping its dividend earlier this year as a contingency measure, the company said it would now make an interim payment of 4.5 pence per share on Nov. 6.

Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Kirsten Donovan

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