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Willis Group Reports First-Quarter '09 Growth

Posted on 30 Apr 2009

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Global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings Limited on Thursday reported results for the quarter ended March 31, 2009. The London-based broker reported double-digit top- and bottom-line growth for the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008. Total revenues increased 17% to an acquisition-fueled $930 million in the quarter, while profits were up 14.9% to $201 million.

Overall organic growth in commissions and fees was 2% in the first quarter, buoyed by Willis’ international and global business segments, which reported 5% organic growth each, it said. Willis' North America segment, on the other hand, saw a 5% decline in organic growth in the quarter, which Willis attributed to soft insurance market conditions, the ongoing focus on the integration of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. and increased weakness in the United States economy.

“We continue to deliver solid financial results in the face of global economic and financial headwinds, despite an ongoing soft insurance market,” said Joe Plumeri, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Willis Group Holdings. “Our revenue growth reflects the strength of our geographic and business line diversity and our earnings and operating margin demonstrate our ability to manage the expense base through these difficult times.

“We remain focused on top line growth while relentlessly managing costs through our Right Sizing Willis initiative and the integration of HRH,” Plumeri added. “We have overcome various headwinds to our adjusted operating margin, including lower investment income, higher pension expense, dilution from the HRH acquisition, higher severance expense and unfavorable foreign currency impact in the quarter. These factors combined had an unfavorable impact of over 900 basis points, yet we were still able to deliver an adjusted operating margin of close to 30 percent in the first quarter of 2009.”