Robert Walters says full year profits to be ahead of forecasts despite income decline in fourth quar

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Robert Walters PLC (LON:RWA) said its full year profits are “now likely to be ahead of current market expectations” despite a fall in net fee income fell (NFI) by around 25% in the fourth quarter of 2020.

In an update for the fourth quarter ended December 31, the recruitment firm reported NFI of £71.4mln, down 24% year-on-year, although this was an improvement on the 34% and 30% declines in NFI for the second and third quarters respectively.

Despite the fall in incomes and “challenging” market conditions, the company said there were signs of improvement in its forward looking indicators, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, its largest market. It added that demand has also remained “particularly robust” throughout the pandemic across specialist disciplines such as technology, digital, healthcare, supply chain and logistics.

The firm also attributed the upgraded forecasts to “sensible and targeted short-term cost reduction and control measures”, with its headcount having been reduced to 3,147 from 4,027 a year ago.

“Once again I would like to begin by thanking all of our people across the globe, whose wellbeing remains our number one priority, for the incredible durability and commitment they have shown during this most unprecedented and difficult of years. It’s their drive, passion for the business and singular focus on helping our clients and candidates that has enabled the Group to deliver such a resilient performance”, chief executive Robert Walters said in a statement.

However, the CEO added that forward visibility “remains limited” due to what he said was the “volatile nature of the pandemic”.

The upgraded forecasts sent the shares up 5% to 485p in early trading on Tuesday.

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