Posted on 02 Aug 2012 by Neilson
Willis Group Holdings PLC's second-quarter earnings rose 27% on fewer charges and a special gain, masking a decline in revenue.
Willis, one of the world's largest insurance brokers, posted weaker results in 2011 as high charges and expenses weighed on its bottom line. But earlier this year, results improved as the company saw fewer charges, and commissions and fees grew modestly.
In the latest quarter, commissions and fees fell 1.7%, declining 4% in North America, and 6% in the international segment. The global segment, which includes the reinsurance and global specialties unit, saw commissions and fees rise 5%.
"The last few quarters have tested our mettle, but we're clear-eyed about the challenges we face ahead, those we can control and those we can't," said Chief Executive Joe Plumeri. "We can't turn the global economy around, but we believe that our important initiatives in our sales and placement process will accelerate our momentum in coming months and bode well for the second half of the year."
Willis reported a profit of $108 million, or 61 cents a share, up from $85 million, or 48 cents a share, a year earlier. The latest period included a $5 million insurance recovery related to fraudulent activity, while the year-ago period included $29 million in charges related to an operational review and a regulatory settlement.
Excluding special items, earnings from continuing operations declined to 59 cents a share from 61 cents.
Revenue fell 2.2% to $842 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently predicted per-share earnings of 58 cents a share on revenue of $869 million.
Investment income, a much smaller contributor to revenue than commissions and fees, was down 38% to $5 million.
Operating margin widened to 21.3% from 18.1%, and expenses declined 6%.