British recruitment firm Hays said it would halve its interim dividend and spelled a tougher outlook for 2012, after turbulent economic conditions and weak client confidence continued to slow growth.

Hays, which specialises in placing workers such as accountants and IT workers, posted a 24 percent rise in pretax profit for the six months to end-December of 60.3 million pounds but like many of its rivals growth has slowed rapidly as confidence among clients to hire and candidates to consider moving jobs is dampened by economic uncertainty.

The group, which makes around 70 percent of its profit overseas, saw net fee growth -- or gross profit -- drop from 15 percent in its first quarter to 8 percent in its second.

The firm said slowing market conditions meant it would reduce its interim dividend by 55 percent to 83 pence.

The Board remains committed to paying a meaningful dividend, it said on Wednesday.

However, given the slowing of our profit growth in the half and our current view on the likely growth rate of group profitability in the current uncertain economic environment, we have decided to rebase the dividend to a level that is more appropriately covered by current earnings and cash flow.

Net fees, or gross profit, for the period rose by 16 percent in its Asia Pacific market on a like-for-like basis, led by its Australian mining regions.

Continental Europe and the rest of the world increased by 27 percent but the UK dropped 6 percent as banking markets in particular continued to struggle.

Shares in Hays closed at 81 pence on Tuesday, down 34 percent on a year ago, valuing the firm at around 1.1 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by Adveith Nair)