S&P raised its counterparty credit rating on Willis Group Holdings Ltd. (Willis) to “BB+” from “BB” due to the company’s continued debt reduction and improved operating fundamentals. It also said it raised related ratings and revised the outlook to stable from negative.
An S&P analyst noted positively the company’s willingness to pay down debt ahead of schedule, its maintenance of good interest coverage, and its leveraging of a well-established global market presence. Cited as a negative was “the company’s increasing concentration in insurance brokerage operations, which increases the company’s exposure to the vagaries of the insurance underwriting cycle.”
Willis has met and exceeded S&P’s expectations to date and is expected to continue to further decrease leverage given record net income of $68 million in the first quarter of 2002 versus $39 million as of first quarter 2001. S&P expects the company to prudently manage capital as measured by a debt-to-capital ratio of below 60 percent in 2002 and 2003. GAAP interest coverage is expected to remain in line with the rating level.