UPDATE 1-Robert Walters reinstates dividend on slight improvement in Asia-Pacific ops

(Adds details on dividend, background, CEO quote, shares)

Oct 8 (Reuters) – British recruiting firm Robert Walters Plc reinstated its interim dividend on Thursday, encouraged by early signs of a turnaround in its Asia-Pacific and technology driven operations, sending its shares 6.8% higher in early trade.

The recruiter, which had scrapped it dividend earlier in this year as a contingency measure for the hiring downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said an interim dividend of 4.5 pence per share will be paid to shareholders on Nov. 6.

“With some key forward-looking indicators either stabilising or showing signs of improvement, we believe now is the right time to end the voluntary reduced working hours scheme for all employees globally and to reinstate the interim dividend,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Walters said in the statement.

Recruiters around the globe were hammered by hiring freezes at the start of the health crisis, forcing major global recruiters to come up with cost plans to weather the blow and the company said market conditions still remained challenging.

It added that net fees income in Asia Pacific, the region which went into a lockdown first and also came out of it before others, was down 32% for three months ended Sept. 30, improving from a 35% drop it reported in the previous quarter.

The small-cap firm, which operates in over 30 countries, said net fee income for the reported quarter was 72.8 million pounds ($94.18 million), compared with 105.6 million pounds a year earlier. ($1 = 0.7730 pounds) (Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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