Shares in Hays were up on the FTSE 100 in afternoon trading after the recruitment company reported a surge in pre-tax profit in the half year ended 31 December 2010.

Net fees in the period increased 23 per cent to £326.1 million, while pre-tax profit jumped 1,329 per cent to £48.6 million. Before exceptional items pre-tax profit increased 60 per cent to £48.6 million.

Despite the strong rise in profits Hays said it would be holding its dividends at 1.85 pence per share.

Hays said that 62 per cent of its net fees were generated outside of Great Britain, with excellent performances in Asia Pacific, Australia & New Zealand and good growth in Europe.

Alistair Cox, Chief Executive of Hays, said, "Our performance this half has been very encouraging with profit up almost 50%. 18 countries around the world grew net fees by more than 25%*, showing the depth and breadth of momentum across the business.

"Our outlook remains positive across nearly all of the markets in which we operate. We continue to invest for growth and have increased our International consultant headcount by 13% this half, with further increases planned for the next six months. Our IT investment projects are now substantially complete and our focus has moved on to fully utilising these systems to drive productivity, efficiency and customer service. We opened businesses in Mexico and the United States in the second quarter, bringing the total number of country operations to 30. With almost two thirds of our net fees now generated outside the UK the business is well placed to capitalise on the excellent long term structural growth prospects ahead."

By 14:35 shares in Hays were up 3.00 per cent on the FTSE 100 to 123.60 pence per share.