Recruiter Robert Walters said on Tuesday that 2021 was its “most profitable year ever” as it posted a surge in profit.
In the year to the end of December, pre-tax profit jumped 315% to £50.2m, while operating profit rose 265% to an all-time high of £54.1m, on revenue of £970.7m, up 3%. The company highlighted “fierce competition” for talent and significant wage inflation across all geographies and specialist disciplines.
Net fee income, or gross profit, was up 17% on the year at £353.6m, with 81% of it now derived from the international businesses, versus 78% in 2020.
UK net fee income ticked up 3% in the year to £68.7m, while Asia Pacific saw a 32% increase to £164.2m. In Europe, net fee income rose 11% to £95.3m, while other international – which includes the Americas, South Africa and the Middle East – saw a 1% reduction to £25.4m.
The company said permanent and interim recruitment activity were the strongest drivers of growth as organisations more confidently hired for the long term. Permanent recruitment now represents 68% of group net fee income, up from 62% in 2020.
The recruiter said clients and candidates were relatively cautious in the first few months of the year due to Covid uncertainty. However, this early caution quickly gave way to confidence, resulting in “one of the hottest job markets in recent times”.
“The emergence of the Omicron variant during the fourth quarter did mean a return to Work from Home guidance or reduced office capacities in many locations, however, recruitment activity levels were not adversely affected as clients, candidates and our consultants were again able to seamlessly adapt with no material impact on productivity,” it said.
Chief executive Robert Walters said: “The jobs market is strong, wage inflation is increasing everywhere and candidate and client confidence is high. Together with the group’s strong brand, global international footprint covering both well-established and emerging recruitment markets and blend of permanent, interim, contract and recruitment process outsourcing revenue streams it serves to create clear opportunities across the recruitment market.
“We are however mindful of the macro-economic and political uncertainties that do exist. To date, early 2022 trading is in line with board expectations.”
Robert Walters proposed a final dividend of 15p per share, up from 11p a year earlier.
At 0940 GMT, the shares were up 6.1% at 575p.