August 10, 2017 / 6:43 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-PageGroup to pay special dividend after first-half profit rise

(Adds details, background)

Aug 10 (Reuters) - British recruitment company PageGroup will pay a special dividend of 12.73 pence per share after growth in some international markets and operational improvements helped drive a 20.9 percent rise in first-half profit.

The company, which mainly finds candidates to fill permanent positions, said on Thursday operating profit rose to 56.9 million pounds ($74 million) in the six months to June 30 from 47.1 million a year ago.

At constant currency, profit was up 9.2 percent.

Along with the special dividend costing 40 million pounds in total, its third consecutive special payout, PageGroup also announced an interim dividend of 3.90 pence, up 4 percent on a year ago.

Recruiters such as PageGroup, Hays Plc, Robert Walters Plc and SThree Plc are often seen as a gauge of the economy because people tend to switch jobs more frequently when confidence levels rise.

Although most British staffing companies have seen growth on the back of continued expansion in their international arms, their results have been held back by political and economic uncertainties in their domestic market.

In a trading update last month, PageGroup said weakness in the recruitment market in Britain could extend over the next two years as uncertainty around Brexit dampens sentiment.

The company said on Thursday it had experienced some improvements in Asia, continental Europe and Latin America, which drove growth over the first half, but some of its larger markets including Brazil, Singapore and the UK remained challenging.

“We are pleased with our first half performance, but remain mindful that a number of political and macro-economic uncertainties will continue through 2017,” Chief Executive Steve Ingham said in a statement. ($1 = 0.7707 pounds) (Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru; Editing by Jane Merriman and David Holmes)

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