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Marsh & McLennan Chances for Deals Rise in Recession, CEO Says

Posted on 05 Nov 2009

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Marsh & McLennan Cos., the second-biggest insurance broker, is capitalizing on the recession by buying companies that would have been out of reach in better times, Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault said.

"The economic situation actually helps us because it opens up more opportunities," Duperreault said in an interview yesterday after the New York-based company reported a third-quarter profit of $221 million. “More companies might be willing to join us than might have otherwise. It accelerates the process. It doesn’t hurt, it helps.”

Marsh & McLennan and its largest rivals, Aon Corp. and Willis Group Holdings Ltd., are adding to revenue in the recession by acquiring smaller brokers. The slowing economy has forced companies to cut back on insurance coverage, which has cut into the commissions the brokers earn for arranging the protection and forcing some of the middlemen to seek buyers, Advisen Ltd. said in a report last month.

“Consolidation will continue at a brisk pace,” John Molka, an analyst with Advisen, said in a research report last month. “Insurers, and especially brokers, will continue to be mauled by depressed premiums.”

Marsh & McLennan bought Rattner Mackenzie Ltd. from HCC Insurance Holdings Inc. last month to increase sales in the Lloyd’s of London market and purchased reinsurance intermediary John B. Collins Associates Inc. in April. The broker also acquired International Advisory Services Ltd., the largest independent manager of so-called captive insurance companies in Bermuda, in September.

‘No Matter What’

Marsh & McLennan would have sought acquisitions regardless of the economy’s state, Duperreault said. “It’s an important strategic initiative,” he said. “We would have done it no matter what.”

Marsh’s third-quarter net income of 41 cents a share compares with an $8 million loss, or 2 cents, in the same period a year earlier, the New York-based broker said yesterday in a statement. The insurer fell 46 cents, or 2 percent, to $22.91 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Willis completed the biggest industry takeover in at least nine years in October 2008 with its $1.7 billion purchase of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. of Glen Allen, Virginia. Aon bought reinsurance broker Benfield Group Ltd. for about $1.4 billion the following month and agreed to buy Carpenter Moore Insurance Services Inc. last month.