Brexit effect hits profits at recruitment firm Hays
Profits at recruitment firm Hays took a Brexit hit in the first half of the year as British firms slowed down their hiring.
The company said operating profit at its UK and Ireland business fell 29% to £18.2 million in the six months to December after the private sector saw a "marked step-down in activity after the EU referendum".
Net fees in the UK fell 10% to £126.1 million , with the public sector also remaining "challenging" throughout the half.
Hays said private sector activity has since stabilised and the end of the period showed "early signs of improvement".
Chief executive Alistair Cox told the Press Association: "UK activity has been slowing for the past 12 months, since December 2015, and then particularly as we got closer to the EU referendum.
"Immediately after the Brexit vote, we saw a big step-down, but this then stabilised and continued to remain stable in the first half.
"The private sector is looking a little bit better, especially since Christmas and the new year. As a result, we expect to see modest declines or a flat performance over the year in the UK.
"Some of the sectors that have been hit are banking and construction, for example on new project work. But SMEs are feeling that life is going on, and tech and IT are also doing well."
Across the group, a strong performance in Europe and Australia helped total net fees rise to £465.5 million, up from £396.9 million in the same period a year earlier. Group operating profit came in at £100.1 million.
Its German arm notched up record first-half operating profit of £39 million, where net fees grew 10%.