Struggles of Robert Walters and PageGroup in the London Job Market

Robert Walters and PageGroup, two leading London-listed recruitment firms, are facing challenges amidst a tight job market.

PageGroup, a constituent of the FTSE 250, had previously cautioned that its full-year profits would fall below the earlier guidance range of £120 million to £125 million. The profit before tax for the year was £117.4 million, showing a significant 40% decrease compared to the previous year. Dividends remained in line with expectations at 32.24p per share.

Meanwhile, the smaller-cap recruiter Robert Walters met market expectations, reporting a profit before tax for the year that declined by 63% to £20.8 million, while the dividend remained steady at 23.5p. Net fee income had an 18% year-on-year decrease, with recruitment activity in London particularly affected, experiencing a 29% decline, primarily due to cutbacks in financial services and technology sectors.

Both companies addressed their significantly lower income by describing the situation as “challenging” in their comments.

Pagegroup’s CEO Nicholas Kirk said “macroeconomic uncertainty persists”. He added “highly diversified and adaptable business model, a strong balance sheet, and our cost base is under continuous review and can be adjusted rapidly to match market conditions”.

Robert Walters’ Group CEO Toby Fowlston said “During the first few weeks of 2024, trading conditions across the group’s markets have, consistent with the end of 2023, remained muted – albeit with some isolated pockets of growth.”

Morgan McKinley’s London Employment Monitor shows that the quantity of available jobs in the financial hub of the City plummeted by almost 40% compared to 2023, while the number of individuals seeking employment decreased by 16%. Approximately 60,000 jobs in financial services were cut in 2023, essentially reversing the efforts made in employment recovery post-Covid, rendering it one of the most severe years for redundancy since the global financial crisis.