Willis, the third largest worldwide insurance broker, behind Marsh and Aon, revealed plans to reenter the public equity markets with a listing of some of its privately held shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Willis was privatized in a buyout three years ago led by investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which owns 74 percent of Willis’ shares. The remaining equity interests are held by AXA, Royal & Sun Alliance, Chubb, Hartford and Travelers.
KKR has indicated that it’s not interested in disposing of its shares, although with markets hardening, and Willis profits looking up, their value has certainly increased over the $1.35 billion at the time of the buyout. This leaves the stake(s) belonging to the insurers as the ones to be sold. No details have yet been revealed as to the amounts to be offered, or the potential sellers.
Analysts estimate Willis could be worth as much as $2.32 billion, based on last years earnings figures which showed a 51 percent overall rise in revenues, and 12 percent in profits. This would value the insurers’ shares at over $600 million.
No official application has yet been filed either with the Securities Exchange Commission, or with the NYSE. Willis is currently in the process of reincorporating the basic holding company in Bermuda rather than the U.K.
Joseph Plumeri, former head of Citigroup’s retail bank branches and its Primareica financial services business, who took over the reins as CEO at Willis in September, is dedicated to growing the company’s business. A high-profile character with a reputation as a hands-on manager, Plumeri had said last February that returning to the public equity markets was for the future, but as things often move fast in the financial world, it looks like the future has arrived.
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