Recruiter SThree returns to pre-COVID levels on U.S., German boost

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(Reuters) - Recruiter SThree said on Monday its first-quarter performance had returned to pre-pandemic levels, with growth in top market Germany, a recovery in the U.S. business and pharmaceutical hiring helping it exceed expectations.

While the pandemic led to job cuts in several sectors, including leisure and hospitality, new roles also emerged as pharmaceutical companies pumped cash into drug and vaccine development.

SThree's net fees for the quarter stood at 75.5 million pounds ($105.05 million), compared with 74.7 million pounds a year ago, it said.

Net fees in SThree's life sciences services jumped 14%, with growth in its German market also driving an improvement in the London-listed company's order book from the end of 2020.

"While further volatility is likely as our markets emerge from the pandemic in different ways, our strategy and purpose means we are very well-placed," Chief Executive Officer Mark Dorman said.

SThree also said its financial position remains strong, and it has not used the UK government's coronavirus aid so far and does not intend to do so.

In January, the company had said it would resume dividend payments.

Analysts at Liberum, who raised their price target on SThree to 500 pence from 475 pence, said the company's growth prospects were "excellent" and that it remains one of the brokerage's top picks.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)