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Easing curbs help recruiter PageGroup forecast higher 2021 profit

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(Reuters) -Global recruitment firm PageGroup on Friday forecast 2021 profit to increase year-on-year as hiring picks up in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Southeast Asia amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The company now expects annual operating profit to be in the range of 90 million pounds ($123.38 million) to 100 million pounds, which is still below pre-pandemic levels.

The owner of Michael Page and Page Personnel had reported an operating profit of 17 million pounds in 2020 and 146.7 million pounds in 2019.

"At this stage of the recovery, it is not easy to determine whether the improved performance is the result of pent-up supply and demand, or the beginning of a sustainable trend," Chief Executive Officer Steve Ingham said.

While a hiring freeze during the coronavirus shutdowns took a heavy toll on recruiters last year, a ramp-up in vaccination programmes and re-opening of economies have pushed many companies to resume recruiting.

The recruiter also posted a 2% rise in its first-quarter gross profit, helped by a 31% growth in March alone.

After the encouraging performance in the month, the company said it added 122 fee earners in the first-quarter but the headcount is still down 12.6% compared with pre-pandemic levels.

($1 = 0.7294 pounds)

(Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)