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UPDATE 1-PageGroup reports fall in quarterly profit, sees signs of hiring pick-up

(Adds details on cost, CEO quote and background)

Oct 14 (Reuters) - Global recruitment firm PageGroup reported a 31.9% fall in third-quarter profit on Wednesday as companies refrained from hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic, while adding that markets in Mainland China and Japan were either flat or returning to growth.

Its peer Robert Walters last week had also flagged early signs of a turnaround in Asia-Pacific - the region which first emerged from lockdown.

“Having seen conditions improve through Q3, we now look forward to driving improved activity and gross profit in Q4,” PageGroup Chief Executive Officer Steve Ingham said.

Shares of PageGroup were up 3% in early trade.

The company, which operates in 36 countries and helps hire executives, professionals and clerical staff, said it has reduced its headcount by a further 202 in the quarter, adding to the 581 it had let go by the end of June.

PageGroup also said its costs were down 15% compared to March, better than its own expectations, and added it now expects monthly average costs through fourth-quarter to be in line with Sept.

Most global recruiters have been hit by a hiring slowdown since the outbreak of the coronavirus, forcing them to manage costs to withstand the blow.

Gross profit in the quarter ending Sept. 30 was 143.5 million pounds ($185.30 million) compared with 216.8 million pounds a year earlier.

The company, however, added that financial guidance for current and future years remains suspended.

($1 = 0.7744 pounds)

Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri

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