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Feb. 20, 2020, 3:17 a.m. EST

Hays profit slumps on tough recruitment markets

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By Joe Hoppe

Hays PLC said Thursday that its performance in the first half of fiscal 2020 was poor, as pretax profit and operating profit shrank, driven by a slump in its U.K. and Ireland, German, and Australian markets.

The recruitment company said that due to "tough market conditions" its pretax profit for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2019 shrank to 95.6 million pounds ($124 million) from GBP122.6 million in the comparable period a year earlier.

Operating profit also fell to GBP100.1 million over the period, compared with GBP124.1 million the year prior.

Net fees for the first half dropped to GBP553.1 million from GBP568 million for the same period in fiscal 2019.

The London-listed company blamed the fall in growth on a sharp slowdown in its largest market, Germany, along with general strikes in France, the Australian bushfires and political uncertainty in the U.K.

The board declared an interim dividend of 1.11 pence a share.

"While our focus will be on cost management, we also see growth opportunities, for example in the IT sector globally and in the U.S., and we will continue to invest in them," said Chief Executive Alistair Cox, adding that near-term conditions were expected to remain "difficult."

Write to Joe Hoppe at joseph.hoppe@wsj.com

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