February 28, 2019 / 9:42 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 2-Staffing firm Adecco sees hiring slowdown in Germany and France

* Adecco reports Q4 net loss of 112 mln euros

* Company takes goodwill impairment in Germany

* CEO expects hiring slowdown to extend through 2019

* Shares fall as much as 6.7 percent (Adds CEO, analyst comments, shares)

By Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The world’s biggest staffing company Adecco Group reported on Thursday a further slowdown in hiring at the start of the year, particularly in Germany and France, adding to signs that Europe’s heavyweight economies may be stalling.

The company reported a surprise fourth quarter loss after taking a goodwill impairment charge in Germany, sending its shares down by as much as 6.7 percent. By 0900 GMT, they were trading down 4 percent. The stock is still up on the year.

Hiring trends have been closely watched for signs that the U.S.-Chinese trade war and Britain’s exit from the European Union are having a broader economic impact, as companies tend to take on fewer staff when they feel less confident about growth.

“The slowdown continues to be driven by European markets, and is partly a reflection of challenging year-on-year comparables ... particularly in France and Southern Europe,” the company said in a statement.

It said revenues in January fell 2 percent year-on-year and the trend in February also showed a deceleration.

Chief Executive Alain Dehaze told reporters that the “yellow vest” protests in France, new regulation in Germany and a slowing auto sector in both countries had weighed on performance and said this was expected to continue in 2019.

Dutch rival Randstad said this month a slide in European markets late last year stabilised at the start of 2019. But U.S. peer Manpower said it expected revenues to fall 12 percent in the first quarter.

Adecco posted a net loss of 112 million euros ($127 million) in the fourth quarter after a goodwill impairment of 270 million euros in the German unit. Analysts in an Infront Data poll had expected a net profit of 150 million euros.

The company proposed a dividend of 2.50 Swiss francs ($2.51) per share for 2018, also slightly below poll estimates.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 1 percent to 6.1 billion euros, but was down 1 percent when adjusted for trading days.

“With a further deterioration of the trend expected, we stick to our ‘hold’ rating,” Vontobel analyst Michael Foeth said.

The group said Mark De Smedt, regional head of northern Europe which includes Germany and Austria, was leaving the company and Christophe Catoir, now head of France, would expand responsibilities to northern Europe from April 1.

$1 = 0.9966 Swiss francs Additional reporting by John Revill Editing by Edmund Blair

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