Recruiter Hays reports 'strong' Northern Ireland growth as UK profits slump

Recruitment firm Hays has announced a 14 per cent rise in profits within Northern Ireland, its seventh consecutive year of growth
Gareth McKeown

MULTI-NATIONAL recruitment firm Hays has announced a 14 per cent rise in profits within Northern Ireland, offsetting a UK-wide slump in the first half of the year.

The group, who have offices in Belfast, Derry and Portadown has announced its seventh consecutive year of growth in the north, with increases in job levels across construction, engineering, technology and finance for the year ending June 30, 2017.

The Portadown office has seen growth over the past three years from firms hiring across engineering, construction, finance and professional services, while infrastructure work in Derry has improved business confidence and job levels in the north west.

Managing director of Hays in Northern Ireland, John Moore said it had been a "strong year" for business, with further plans to add further staff in the near future.

"Our performance mirrors a significantly improving regional economy, particularly in the private sector, where clients remain positive about their recruitment plans. However, two big issues that we are facing are the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont and of course this is specially compounded with the uncertainties that Brexit may hold for our regional economy.

"In spite of the ongoing uncertainty it's evident that Northern Ireland firms are pressing ahead with their own businesses because our job registration levels are up. The increase spans construction, engineering, technology and finance. Given the heightened demand for qualified professionals we're also seeing frequent contract extensions across numerous sectors as companies opt to extend contracts due to the challenge of securing the right permanent hires."

"Our business is often considered to be a bellwether of the economy so employers should be looking at how equipped they are to take advantage of this positivity and ensure they have the right people in place to further their business growth," he added.

The positive growth in Hays' Northern Ireland arm is in direct contrast to profits at its British operations, which saw net fees fall 7 per cent to £252.9 million and operating profit dive 20 per cent to £41.5 million. The firm said the decline was due to a "marked step-down after the EU referendum".

Overall the group reported an 18 per cent increase in pre-tax profit to £204.6 million in the year to June 30, while like-for-like net fees came in 6 per cent higher at £954.6 million.

Results were driven by growth in Germany and France, which saw net fees rise 14 per cent and 16 per cent respectively, a reflection of the rising fortunes of the eurozone. Operating profit was up 28 per cent across continental Europe and the rest of the world to £100.7 million.

Hays chief executive Alistair Cox added:

"We delivered strong, broad-based growth in Europe including a record financial performance in Germany, now our largest business in the world.

"Growth accelerated through the year in Australia across all states. In the UK, after a marked step-down immediately after the EU referendum, activity levels quickly stabilised and we exited the year with modest private sector growth."

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