Global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings plc said it achieved overall 4 percent growth in revenues with 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees for the third quarter compared to the same period last year, despite troubles with its loan protector business line.
The company said its organic growth reflected net new business growth driven by improved client retention and new business generation.
“We achieved steady 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees in a quarter complicated by a number of factors, including the impact from our operational review charge, further deterioration in the results of the Loan Protector business we talked about last quarter, and some favorable factors, including tax-related adjustments,” said Joe Plumeri, chairman and CEO, Willis Group Holdings. “Underlying all of this, however, organic growth within the Global and International segments came in strong – especially in light of the difficult markets. That growth was offset by negative 4 percent reported and organic growth in our North America segment driven by the disappointing Loan Protector results.”
Total reported revenues for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2011 were $762 million compared to $733 million for the same period last year, an increase of 4 percent. Total commissions and fees were $755 million, an increase of 4 percent from $723 million in the third quarter of 2010. Foreign currency movements increased reported commissions and fees by 2 percent compared with the year ago period. Investment income was $7 million, compared to $10 million in the third quarter of 2010.
Reported net income for the third quarter of 2011 was $60 million compared to $64 million in the same period a year ago. Reported net income for the third quarter of 2011 was negatively affected by a $15 million charge related to the 2011 operational review.
Reported operating margin was 11.8 percent compared to 14.5 percent for the same period last year.
North America Segment
In the North America segment, reported and organic commissions and fees declined 4 percent compared to the third quarter of 2010. The decline in commissions and fees was primarily due to lower revenue generated by Loan Protector. Excluding the Loan Protector results from both periods, organic commission and fee growth in the North America segment was flat compared with the third quarter of 2010.
Willis said the North America segment continues to face headwinds from ongoing softness in the overall insurance rate environment and a lack of sustained improvement in the U.S. economy. Operating margin was 19.5 percent compared to 21.3 percent in the third quarter of 2010, primarily due to lower commissions and fees as a result of the decline in the Loan Protector business, partially offset by cost savings, largely driven by the 2011 operational review.
The International segment reported 11 percent growth in commissions and fees compared to the same period in 2010, including a 6 percent favorable impact from foreign currency movements. Organic growth in commissions and fees was 5 percent, including double-digit expansion in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Continental Europe grew low-single digits, while the UK and Ireland retail market was down slightly. Operating margin was 1.9 percent compared to 4.3 percent in the third quarter of 2010. Higher amortization of retention awards and continued investment in future growth were the primary drivers of the margin decline, partially offset by the net effect of favorable foreign exchange movements.
The Global segment, which comprises the Reinsurance, Global Specialties, London Markets Wholesale, and Willis Capital Markets & Advisory business units, reported 12 percent growth in commissions and fees. Organic growth in commissions and fees was 9 percent. Each of the business units recorded positive growth, highlighted by reinsurance, which grew low double digits.
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