Stellar results from Hays rounded off a strong week for Britain’s leading recruitment companies as they bounce back from a post-Brexit lull.
Hays forecasted full-year profits at the top end of market expectations, reporting record fee growth of 21 per cent in the first quarter.
But while fees across its international businesses rose 34 per cent, they dropped 4 per cent in UK and Ireland, which account for around a quarter of total business.
But group finance director Paul Venables said the UK performance was a marked improvement on the second half of last year.
Following a late 12p price target upgrade by Morgan Stanley to 157p, shares finished up 1.3 per cent, or 2.1p, at 170.3p.
Jobs boom: Stellar results from Hays rounded off a strong week for Britain’s leading recruitment companies
Rival Page Group reported record first-quarter profits and noted a less-than-savoury performance in the UK, related to Brexit-related uncertainty.
But headhunter Robert Walters was far more bullish earlier in the week when it reported a 27 per cent increase in UK recruitment activity in its first quarter.
The firm saw a 50 per cent jump in demand from banks and other financial firms.
Both firms finished the short business week on a high note, with Robert Walters up 1.8 per cent, or 8p to 460p, while Page was 3.1 per cent, or 14.9p, to 490.3p after Numis raised its target price to 540p from 400p.
But the cheer was not shared by all, with engineering and tech headhunter Gattaca losing £7.9mililon of its value after cutting profit expectations for the year by 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
The company put the retreat down to a post-Brexit slowdown and several one-off back-office costs hanging over from its 2015 acquisition of fellow hiring firm Networkers.
Shares sank 8.5 per cent, or 25.38p, to 274p.
The FTSE fell 0.3 per cent, or 21.40 points, to 7327.59 with Mediclinic among the biggest risers, jumping 3.1 per cent, or 23p, to 759.5p.
The private healthcare provider said trading for the year ended 2017 has been in line with expectations across its entire business bar the Middle East.
Despite strong performance from its Dubai operations, regulatory issues in Abu Dhabi sent overall Middle East revenues down by 8 per cent.
Meanwhile, an upgrade to ‘buy’ from ‘hold’ by analysts at Jefferies lifted Primark-owner Associated British Foods to the very top of the index.
Analysts also raised the firm’s price target to 3100p from 2450p, noting strong sugar prices. That pushed ABF to its highest price since December and shares rose 3.6 per cent, or 94p, to 2709p.
But a Jefferies downgrade placed bill payments firm PayPoint among the biggest fallers in the FTSE 250. Analysts cut the firm’s price target by 50p to 1200p, despite a ‘buy’ rating. and shares dropped 2.7 per cent, or 29p, to 1059p.
It also cut homeware company Dunelm’s target price to 515p from 650p following middling results earlier this week. The firm fell 0.5 per cent, or 3p, to 599.5p.
A non-executive director upped his stake in cancer treatment firm Advanced Oncotherapy, to improve investor confidence.
It is developing cancer treatment which makes radiotherapy less toxic for patients.
Dr Enrico Vanni purchased 100,000 shares at 27.5p, bringing his total stake in the company to 1.4 per cent of its issued share capital.
Last week, he bought a further 25,000 shares at 29.3p and 75,000 shares at 28.7p. Despite his efforts, shares fell 3.6 per cent, or 1p, to 26.5p.
Steppe Cement came unstuck after a 35 per cent decline in its cement output in the first quarter from the same period last year. Shares sank 8.8 per cent, or 1.5p, to 15.5p.