Willis Posts Q4, Full Year Gains

February 4, 2010

Willis Group Holdings has reported gains in most segments of its business in the fourth quarter and for the year ended December 31, 2009.

Willis listed the following Q4 highlights:
— Reported earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $0.47; adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $0.47
— 4 percent reported growth in commissions and fees compared with fourth quarter of 2008
— 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees compared with fourth quarter of 2008
— North America segment organic growth in commissions and fees of 1 percent, sequential improvement from third quarter of 2009
— North America segment operating margin expansion of 670 basis points over year ago period; integration of HRH substantially completed
— Completed the reorganization of the capital of Gras Savoye

Highlights for the year ended December 31, 2009 included:
— Reported earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $2.58; adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $2.67
— 17 percent reported growth in commissions and fees compared with 2008
— 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees compared with 2008
— Reported operating margin of 21 percent; adjusted operating margin of 22 percent
— North America segment operating margin expansion of 830 basis points over prior year
— Delivered North America merger integration synergies and other cost savings of $205 million
— Delivered Shaping our Future net benefits of approximately $60 million
— Repaid remaining $750 million on bridge financing
— Outlook raised to Stable by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s
— Issued $300 million of senior unsecured notes due 2019 at 7.0 percent; repurchased $160 million of 5.125 percent senior notes due July 2010
— Total debt outstanding reduced to $2.4 billion

“2009 was a momentous year,” commented Chairman and CEO Joe Plumeri. “We began in the midst of integrating our transformational HRH acquisition, facing a difficult global economy and soft insurance market. We responded with 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees, disciplined expense management, successful merger integration, completion of the Gras Savoye transaction and a much stronger balance sheet.”

In the fourth quarter Willis posted net income from continuing operations of $79 million, or $0.47 per diluted share, compared with $61 million, or $0.37 per diluted share, in the same period a year ago. Total reported revenues for the fourth quarter of 2009 were $824 million compared with $792 million for the same period of 2008, an increase of 4 percent.

For the full year Willis reported net income from continuing operations of $436 million, or $2.58 per diluted share, compared with $302 million, or $2.04 per diluted share, in 2008. Total reported revenues for 2009 were $3.3 billion compared with $2.8 billion for 2008, an increase of 15 percent. “The increase was primarily due to the HRH acquisition, while the effect of foreign currency translation decreased reported revenues by 4 percent,” said the bulletin.

Willis also noted that during the fourth quarter it had completed its deal with “Astorg partners, a private equity fund, to reorganize the capital of Gras Savoye. With the closing of the transaction, Willis now owns a 31.8 percent stake in the new holding company and has 33.3 percent of the voting rights on the new holding company board.”

The Group also completed its project to change its place of incorporation from Bermuda to Ireland.

“We are proud of the results we delivered for 2009 and especially proud of our associates around the globe and thank them for their hard work in delivering these results,” Plumeri stated. “We will continue to run the company with discipline and foresight, managing our expense base and strengthening the balance sheet, while investing in areas that will drive current and future growth.”

The full report and details on accessing the earnings conference call held this morning, February 3, may be obtained on the Group’s web site at: www.willis.com.

Source: Willis Group Holdings

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