SThree, an international staffing business firm, has reported that its first quarter gross profit rose 15 per cent year on year to £47.7 million, up 12 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

For the quarter ended February 26, 2012, the company's permanent gross profits rose by 16 per cent to £24.1 million year on year and contract gross profit rose by 13 per cent to £23.6 million.

While commenting on the group's Q1 interim highlights, Russell Clements, Chief Executive said: "For seasonal reasons, the first quarter is the group's least significant in terms of the year as a whole. Nonetheless, it is pleasing to note that our gross profit growth year on year has improved in Q1 2012 compared to Q4 2011. We are also reassured by our permanent deal pipeline, with deals agreed but yet to start up by 11 per cent year on year. In addition, the normal seasonal recovery in contract runners is following a similar shape to 2011."

First quarter average placement fees increased strongly year on year, despite continuing uncertainty in the global banking and finance market, with mainly strong performances from energy and pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The group's Q1 average contractor gross profit per day rates also increased year on year.

SThree's sales headcount was broadly level versus the year-end, and rose 27 per cent year on year. UK sales headcount rose 8 percent year on year, but dropped 4 per cent quarter on quarter, and non-UK sales headcount increased 40 per cent year on year, and rose 2 per cent quarter on quarter. Average sales headcount in the quarter increased 29 per cent year on year.

"There remain significant differences within both geographies and sectors in the demand for the Group's services but, overall, market conditions remain in far better shape than we saw in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. We are a cash rich and agile business, with a twenty five year track record of profitability and a seasoned management team. As such, we are well placed to maximise the potential of whatever market conditions prevail in 2012," Russell added.

The group remains in a strong cash position with net cash of circa £30m.