Dutch firms post hopeful profit results

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A number of the Netherlands' largest firms have issued surprisingly upbeat profit reports on Thursday, reflecting a general recovery across the eurozone following months of debt turmoil and fear for the currency.

Dutch employment and recruitment agency Randstad - second largest in the world in its field - reported a 16 percent increase in turnover in the second quarter of 2010 compared with the same period a year ago. Recording an income of 3468 billion euros, Randstad managed to exceed turnover targets by 159 billion euros.

The net profit of 55.9 million euros was five times more than the second quarter of 2009, three million euros more than analysts' predictions. CEO Ben Noteboom attributed the favourable results to increased demand in the US, Germany and France. In the Netherlands, the turnover actually decreased by five percent. Mr Noteboom added he was optimistic about the payment of dividends at the end of 2010.

Royal Dutch Shell posted soaring profits and defended deep-water oil production, with its CEO Peter Voser arguing it has an "important role" to play despite the Gulf of Mexico disaster that rocked rival BP. The oil giant's profits have almost double after the firm completed a year-long corporate restructuring programme, which yielded 3.5 billion euros in savings. Shell said that as a result of the cost-saving programme, some 7000 employees would leave the company 18 months earlier than planned.

When adjusted for the value of inventories of oil and gas, Shell said its net profits were 4.2 billion dollars, up 1.1 billion on last year's performance in the same quarter and above expectations of 4.02 billion dollars in a Dow Jones poll of 12 analysts. Unlike rival BP, Shell will pay out a dividend in the second quarter.

Dutch energy firm Nuon, part of Swedish concern Vattenfall, has also posted a rise in profits compared to 2009. In the first half of 2010, its net profits rose to 269 million euros - an increase of 19 percent - despite a ten percent drop in turnover as a result of more competitive pricing. The company attributed its strong net performance to increased gas sales because of the cold winter, as well as the implementation of a cost-saving programme. Nuon managed to increase its market share in Belgium by 12 percent, which offset unfavourable profit margins on the sale of electricity due to the economic crisis.

Economists have cautioned that the swing towards a more positive economic mood - after global focus on debt default dangers in Greece, Ireland and other southern European economies badly bruised by the 2008-2009 recession - did not change the fact that Europe's economy is likely to heal only slowly with harsh government austerity measures poised to bite in the months ahead.    

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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