Robert Walters reports higher profits, but uncertain future

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Profit before tax was up 6.7% to 6.2 million (€9.9 million) in the six months to June 30th. Net fee income rose 21%.

But the company said that in July and August this year net fee income was down 6.5% from the same months last year, because of weakness in its IT business and in Asia. It added that the outlook for the full year was uncertain.

&quotTrading conditions since June 30th have been more demanding,&quot it said.

The company's share price fell 8% during the day, closing at less than half the value at which it floated on the London Stock Exchange in July last year. Other recruitment companies have suffered similar declines since last year as employers have cut back on hiring.

Robert Walters warned in May that profits in the first half were likely to be flat, amid headcount freezes by banking and IT clients. In February the firm had reported a 63% rise in annual profits in 2000.

The firm said its UK contract business, its largest contributor to profits, held up well in the first half of this year, and that measures it had taken to control costs would take increasing effect over the rest of the year.

Robert Walters added that it had high hopes for Interim Leaders, a new business it launched this month focusing on senior interim managment roles. Interim Leaders is headed by Andrew Austin and Anthony Broadhead. They joined the firm from Heidrick & Struggles, one of the world's largest recruitment firms, which laid off 13% of its global workforce in June.

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