LONDON -- SThree (ISE: STHR.L) advanced 1% to 275 pence in early trade this morning after the specialist staffing business issued a third-quarter trading update.
SThree, which was established in 1986 and currently sports a 328 million pound market cap, revealed that group gross profits had improved 6% to 51 million pounds during the three months to Aug. 26. Gross profit relating to contract workers jumped 10%, while profit relating to permanent workers advanced 2%.
SThree added that its contract division had experienced 12% growth in Europe, which offset a 2% decline in the U.K. In addition, the group said average permanent-placement fees for the quarter had grown "robustly" year on year. SThree cited the energy, resources, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries for the strong permanent performance.
Russell Clements, chief executive of SThree, said:
The Group has traded satisfactorily in the third quarter, given the difficult macro economic backdrop. ... Once again we performed robustly in terms of the value of the business written up, both in terms of average permanent fees and contract day rates. We were particularly pleased with the performance of our contract division which, as expected, performed more resiliently than permanent in the more uncertain economic environment.
Clements also noted: "Our balance sheet remains strong, and we are a cash generative, debt-free business. This strength allows us to continue to make selective investments for the future while remaining committed to maintaining our strong track record in terms of our dividend."
In fact, SThree's latest results showed a 31 million pound net cash position, while the dividend was raised from 9.3 pence to 14 pence per share between 2007 and 2011. Notably, a special 11 pence-per-share dividend was paid last year as well.
On the face of it, SThree's reliable payout history and the chief exec's "commitment" to further improvements, plus a trailing 5% income at 275 pence, could make the share of genuine interest to income seekers.
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