Recruiter Robert Walters goes shopping in China

Robert Walters, the recruitment consultants, will tomorrow announce an expansion into mainland China through an acquisition designed to increase its exposure to one of the world's fastest-growing job markets.

The company, which already has operations in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, has bought Talent Spotter, a specialist recruitment business headquartered in Shanghai, for around £1.4m.

Although the deal is relatively small - Talent Spotter has 49 staff and one other office in the prosperous nearby city of Suzhou - it reflects the growing importance that professional services companies are placing on China.

Despite the country's rapid economic growth over the past few decades, the recruitment sector is still in relative infancy. Nevertheless, the demand for such services is expected to rise as the country becomes more integrated into the global economy and Chinese businesses and organisations face calls for increasing professionalism.

Several recruitment companies have set up offices in China or established joint ventures, but Robert Walters' move is believed to be the first foreign takeover of a domestic firm and is the first it has made in more than 10 years.

The acquisition is expected to be a platform for growing the business throughout the country.
The acquisition comes as Robert Walters' full-year results are expected to show a 17 per cent increase in net fee income to around £127m and a 30 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to £24.5m, despite the economic turmoil.

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