* Revenue growth slows to 4-5 pct in Jan/Feb 2017
* Group says recognises uncertainty in global economic
* Proposes unchanged dividend, 300 mln euro buyback
(Adds CEO comments, market reaction)
By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
ZURICH, March 2 Swiss staffing group Adecco
has seen a major slowdown in permanent hiring by
British firms as financial groups wait to see what will happen
once the country triggers it exit from the European Union, Chief
Executive Alain Dehaze said on Thursday.
Revenue from placing workers in permanent jobs in Britain
fell 15 percent in the last three months of 2016, accelerating
from a 5 percent decline in the previous quarter. The fall was
most pronounced in London's financial industry, Dehaze said.
"We see companies waiting to make decisions on new hiring in
Britain as they expect Article 50 to be triggered in the coming
months," Dehaze told Reuters after the company announced
fourth-quarter results. The British government hopes to start
divorce talks with the EU before the end of March.
Adecco revenues rose to 5.87 billion euros ($6.18 billion)
in the last three months of 2016, a forecast-beating 6 percent
increase as hiring strengthened across mainland Europe.
But the Zurich-based company said revenue growth slowed in
January and February, months in which firms are typically more
cautious on hiring.
The performance of staffing providers such as Adecco is
watched as an indicator for the health of the broader economy,
with companies taking on temporary workers at the beginning of
an upswing before switching to permanent workers.
Adecco warned it would keep a tight lid on costs amid global
economic uncertainty, with open questions ranging from Brexit to
French elections and the direction of the U.S. economy.
"We're all waiting for more clarity," Dehaze said of
investments under U.S. President Donald Trump.
Shares were down 3.2 percent by 1210 GMT as analysts and
traders expressed concerns over a squeeze on margins, as well as
the group's subdued outlook.
"While the fourth quarter showed solid growth, the trend has
not accelerated further with January and February up 4 -5
percent," Vontobel analyst Michael Foeth wrote in a note.
Rival temp company Randstad last month reported an
improving hiring situation at the end of 2016 and a brighter
outlook for 2017, while U.S. staffing company
Manpower said revenue increased by 3 percent during its
Adecco proposed an unchanged dividend of 2.40 Swiss francs
($2.38) per share, as well as a share buyback worth up to 300
($1 = 0.9500 euros)
($1 = 1.0104 Swiss francs)
(Additional reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael