Hogg hit by client belt-tightening

David RadcliffeCorporate travel specialist Hogg Robinson has admitted cautious spending among its clients triggered a slide in sales and profits.

The Basingstoke-based firm, which provides travel services to businesses worldwide, said client spend fell 8% in the six months to September 30 as customers opted for cheaper travel and accommodation and tightened travel policies.
Shares fell 5% as Hogg, whose customers include the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, revealed a 7% slide in bottom-line pre-tax profits to £15.3 million.

Hogg chief executive David Radcliffe said companies were "understandably cautious in their approach to travel" but the group had managed to hold on to customers.

Hogg, which also counts Unilever, Volkswagen and Rolls-Royce among its customers, reported a 10% slide in interim revenues to £168.9 million.

It said half-year revenues in Europe dropped 9% to £113.9 million, while US sales plunged 20% to £31.4 million and Asia-Pacific fell 5% to £14.8 million.

The company said current trading was still under pressure, with revenue down 4% in October. Hogg said clients were turning to the company's online self-booking tools as they look to make savings.

The group has taken action to cut costs in response to falling client spend, but said it had managed to uphold its customer retention rate and take on new business. New clients signed up in the first half included Cricket Australia, the governing body of professional cricket in Australia, tyre firm Pirelli and Unilever.

It also expanded contracts with existing clients such as Ernst & Young and the UK Government while banks BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds Banking Group renewed terms.

Andrew Fitchie, analyst at brokers Investec Securities, placed the group's full-year forecasts under review to reflect the "uncertainty over the trading outlook".
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