Hays, Britain’s biggest recruiter by market capitalisation, posted double-digit profit growth in its latest half-year results, boosted by strong performances in its overseas division and “good cost controls” in its domestic market despite nagging Brexit uncertainty.

Pre-tax profit jumped 18 per cent to £113.9m in the six months to the end of December, compared with £96.2m over the same period in 2016.

Net fees across all regions reached £525.8m from £465.5m, a 12 per cent rise on a like-for-like basis, with 20 markets posting record fees.

But the white collar recruiter eked out only 1 per cent growth in UK and Ireland hiring fees in period, saying the region remained “subdued but stable”.

For Hays and rivals such as PageGroup, UK hiring has remained a bugbear since the UK referendum, with many employees avoiding job hunting and companies freezing capital investment plans until they have clarity what a UK-EU relationship will look like in future.

Nevertheless, operating profit in the region rose 24 per cent to £22.6m, attributed to “good cost control and certain IT assets becoming fully depreciated”.

More broadly, Hays said that investment in new technology was “increasingly paying off”, citing new partnerships with Google, LinkedIn and European social networking site Xing, as well as the developments of its own proprietary tools designed to help its staff find potential candidates quickly online.

It has also been investing in headcount, in particular in its fast-growing German region where it opened three new offices in the period.

Its interim dividend was bumped up 10 per cent to 1.06p.

Alistair Cox, Hays’ chief executive, said: “The outlook in the vast majority of our markets remains positive and we have made an encouraging start to our new five-year plan to broadly double our operating profits by 2022.”

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