Willis and Towers Watson have merged. Visit willistowerswatson.com

    Download PDF (80KB)

    Willis Group Reports Third Quarter 2009 Results

    New York, NY, October 26, 2009 - Willis Group Holdings Limited (NYSE: WSH), the global insurance broker, today reported results for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2009.

    Highlights of quarter ended September 30, 2009 include:

    • Reported earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $0.46; adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $0.53
    • 28 percent reported growth in commissions and fees compared with third quarter of 2008
    • 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees: Global and International segments with 4 percent and 3 percent growth, respectively; North America decline of 3 percent improved from second quarter of 2009
    • North America segment operating margin expansion of 1,140 basis points over a year ago
    • 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

    Highlights of the nine months ended September 30, 2009 include:

    • Reported earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $2.13; adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $2.21
    • 2 percent organic growth in commissions and fees over the comparable prior year; Global and International segments each with 5 percent growth
    • Reported operating margin of 21.4 percent; adjusted operating margin of 22.1 percent
    • North America segment operating margin expansion of 970 basis points over prior year

    “Willis continues to maintain its growth momentum in spite of the difficult global economy and soft market conditions - and that’s a tribute to the strength of our diverse global business,” said Joe Plumeri, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Willis Group Holdings. “We continue to get strong contributions from each segment, despite the marketplace challenges we face, which are especially pronounced in the US, UK and Ireland. We continue to run the company with discipline and foresight, implementing strict cost controls, right sizing for the current environment, and investing in areas that will drive current and future growth.”

    Third Quarter 2009 Financial Results

    Reported net income from continuing operations for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 was $78 million, or $0.46 per diluted share, compared with $36 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, in the same period a year ago. Reported net income for the third quarters of 2009 and 2008 was affected by certain items, including the acquisition of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Company (HRH).

    Excluding certain items, which are reviewed in detail in this release, adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations were $0.53 in the third quarter of 2009 compared with $0.32 in the third quarter of 2008. Foreign currency movements had a negative $0.05 impact on earnings per diluted share in the third quarter of 2009.

    Total reported revenues for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 were $725 million compared with $579 million for the same period last year, an increase of 25 percent. This increase was primarily due to the HRH acquisition. Foreign currency movements decreased reported revenues by 2 percent compared with a year ago.

    Organic growth in commissions and fees was 2 percent in the third quarter of 2009 compared with the third quarter of 2008. This growth reflected net new business won of 5 percent, offset by a negative 3 percent impact from declining premium rates and other market factors. Continued strong client retention levels and momentum from Shaping our Future growth initiatives, such as Global Placement and Client Profitability, also contributed to organic growth in commissions and fees.

    The International business segment contributed 3 percent organic growth in commissions and fees in the third quarter of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008. This growth came from strong new business and continued traction from Shaping our Future growth initiatives, which more than offset the soft rate environment and weakness in the UK and Ireland retail market. Outside of the UK and Ireland, the International business segment had high single-digit growth. There was strong growth across many regions, including Europe and Latin America.

    The North America segment reported an improvement from the second quarter of 2009 with a 3 percent decline in organic commissions and fees compared with the third quarter of 2008, reflecting soft insurance market conditions as well as continued weakness in the US economy. North America remains focused on the integration of HRH and ongoing expense management. As a result, its operating margin expanded 1,140 basis points to 21.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the prior year.

    The Global segment, which comprises the Global Specialties, Faber & Dumas and Reinsurance divisions, recorded 4 percent organic growth in commissions and fees in the third quarter of 2009 compared with the third quarter of 2008. Each division within the Global segment recorded positive growth, led by continued high single-digit growth in reinsurance, together with strong performance in the aerospace, marine and financial and executive risks specialties.

    Reported operating margin was 11.3 percent for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 compared with 11.4 percent for the same period last year. Excluding certain items, which are reviewed in detail in this release, adjusted operating margin was 13.1 percent for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 compared with 12.1 percent a year ago. Foreign currency had an unfavorable 150-basis-point impact on adjusted operating margin in the quarter.

    Nine Months 2009 Financial Results

    Reported net income from continuing operations for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 was $357 million, or $2.13 per diluted share, compared with $241 million, or $1.70 per diluted share, in the same period a year ago. Reported net income for the first nine months of 2009 and 2008 was affected by certain items, including the acquisition of HRH and 2008 expense review charges for severance and other costs.

    Excluding certain items, which are reviewed in detail in this release, adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations were $2.21 for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 compared with $2.24 in the comparable period of 2008, a decrease of 1 percent. Foreign currency movements reduced earnings per diluted share by $0.14 for the nine months ended September 30, 2009.

    Total reported revenues for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 were $2,439 million compared with $2,035 million for the same period last year, an increase of 20 percent. The increase was primarily due to the HRH acquisition, while the effect of foreign currency translation decreased reported revenues by 6 percent.

    Organic growth in commissions and fees was 2 percent in the first nine months of 2009 compared with the comparable period of 2008. This growth reflected net new business won of 5 percent, offset by a negative 3 percent impact from declining premium rates and other market factors.

    Reported operating margin was 21.4 percent for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 compared with 18.1 percent for the same period last year. Excluding certain items, which are reviewed in detail in this release, adjusted operating margin was 22.1 percent for the first nine months of 2009 compared with 22.9 percent a year ago.

    Tax

    The reported income tax credit for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 was $29 million compared to $2 million income tax expense for the comparable period a year ago.

    The third quarter 2009 tax credit included a provision of $27 million which had been recorded related to tax that would potentially be payable should the unremitted earnings of our foreign subsidiaries be repatriated. Following a change in UK tax law effective in the third quarter of 2009, these earnings could now be repatriated without additional tax cost and, consequently, the provision has been released. In addition, as in prior years, an $11 million credit has been recognized in the third quarter of 2009, compared with a $5 million credit in the year ago quarter, further to the closure of the statute of limitations on assessments relating to previously unrecognized tax benefits.

    The effective underlying tax rate for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2009 was approximately 26 percent, the same as the 2008 full-year rate.

    Discontinued Operations

    Income from discontinued operations, net of tax, was $1 million, or $0.01 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2009 and $2 million, or $0.01 per diluted share, for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, relating to disposals of Bliss & Glennon and Managing Agency Group, the Company’s US-based wholesale insurance operations. No net gain or loss was recognized relating to either transaction.

    Capital

    The Board of Directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend on the Company’s common stock of $0.26 per share, or an annual rate of $1.04 per share. The dividend is payable on January 15, 2010 to shareholders of record on December 30, 2009.

    As of September 30, 2009, cash and cash equivalents totaled $203 million and total debt was $2.6 billion. The Company issued $300 million of senior notes due 2019 at 7.0 percent, and repurchased $160 million of its 5.125 percent Senior Notes due July 2010 at a premium of $27.50 per $1,000 face value.

    Total stockholders’ equity as at September 30, 2009 was $2.2 billion.

    Gras Savoye

    In June 2009, the Company announced that it was in discussions regarding the potential sale of a portion of its interest in Gras Savoye. Since that time, the Company and other Gras Savoye shareholders have entered into an exclusive arrangement with Astorg Partners, a private equity fund, but as of the date hereof, we have not entered into any definitive sale agreement. Pending the finalization of the financing terms, we anticipate executing definitive agreements in the next few months. We would expect: (i) elimination of the put presently exercisable by the Gras Savoye shareholders; (ii) receipt of cash proceeds between $100-$150 million, and (iii) retention of a 33 percent interest following the sale as well as the ability to acquire a majority interest in Gras Savoye in 2015. As a result of the significant uncertainties underlying these forward-looking statements, our inclusion of this information is not a representation or guarantee by us that our objectives and plans will be achieved.

    Conclusion

    “I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish this quarter and over the first nine months of 2009. This is a strong, diverse business that is able to perform well even under the worst global economic conditions,” Plumeri said. “As always, we are rigorous about our expenses and keeping our company at the right size for the current environment. Importantly, we remain ahead of plan on achieving HRH integration synergies, and we continue to invest in Shaping our Future. Accelerating growth remains our number one priority.”

    Conference Call and Web Cast

    A conference call to discuss the third quarter 2009 results will be held on Tuesday, October 27, 2009, at 8:00 AM Eastern Time. To participate in the live teleconference, please dial (866) 803-2143 (domestic) or +1 (210) 795-1098 (international) with a pass code of “Willis”. The live audio web cast (which will be listen-only) may be accessed at www.willis.com. This call will be available by replay starting at approximately 10:00 AM Eastern Time, through November 27, 2009 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time, by calling (877) 611-5293 (domestic) or +1 (203) 369-4862 (international) with no pass code, or by accessing the website.

    Willis Group Holdings Limited is a leading global insurance broker, developing and delivering professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly 120 countries, with a global team of approximately 20,000 Associates serving clients in approximately 190 countries. Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.

    Forward-Looking Statements

    We have included in this document “forward-looking statements’’ within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which are intended to be covered by the safe harbors created by those laws. These forward-looking statements include information about possible or assumed future results of our operations. All statements, other than statements of historical facts that address activities, events or developments that we expect or anticipate may occur in the future, including such things as our redomestication from Bermuda to Ireland, the potential benefits of the HRH acquisition, discussions concerning the sale of a portion of our interest in Gras Savoye, our outlook, future capital expenditures, growth in commissions and fees, business strategies, competitive strengths, goals, the benefits of new initiatives, growth of our business and operations, plans and references to future successes are forward-looking statements. Also, when we use the words such as “anticipate’’, “believe’’, “estimate’’, “expect’’, “intend’’, “plan’’, “probably’’, or similar expressions, we are making forward-looking statements.

    There are important uncertainties, events and factors that could cause our actual results or performance to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements contained in this document, including the following:

    • the impact of any regional, national or global political, economic, business, competitive, market and regulatory conditions on our global business operations;
    • the impact of current financial market conditions and the current credit crisis on our results of operations and financial condition, including as a result of any insolvencies of or other difficulties experienced by our clients, insurance companies or financial institutions;
    • our ability to achieve the expected cost savings, synergies and other strategic benefits as a result of the HRH acquisition and how the integration of HRH may affect the timing of such cost savings, synergies and benefits;
    • our ability to continue to manage our significant indebtedness;
    • our ability to implement and realize anticipated benefits of the Shaping our Future initiative and any other new initiatives;
    • material changes in commercial property and casualty markets generally or the availability of insurance products or changes in premiums resulting from a catastrophic event, such as a hurricane, or otherwise;
    • the volatility or declines in other insurance markets and premiums on which our commissions are based, but which we do not control;
    • our ability to compete effectively in our industry;
    • our ability to retain key employees and clients and attract new business;
    • the timing or ability to carry out share repurchases or take other steps to manage our capital and the limitations in our long-term debt agreements that may restrict our ability to take these actions;
    • any fluctuations in exchange and interest rates that could affect expenses and revenue;
    • rating agency actions that could inhibit ability to borrow funds or the pricing thereof;
    • a significant decline in the value of investments that fund our pension plans or changes in our pension plan funding obligations;
    • the timing of any exercise of put and call arrangements with associated companies;
    • changes in the tax or accounting treatment of our operations, such as the recent proposals made by the Obama administration regarding international tax reform;
    • the potential costs and difficulties in complying with a wide variety of foreign laws and regulations and any related changes, given the global scope of our operations;
    • our involvements in and the results of any regulatory investigations, legal proceedings and other contingencies;
    • our exposure to potential liabilities arising from errors and omissions and other potential claims against us; and
    • the interruption or loss of our information processing systems or failure to maintain secure information systems.

    The foregoing list of factors is not exhaustive and new factors may emerge from time to time that could also affect actual performance and results. For additional factors see the section entitled “Risk Factors’’ included in Willis’ Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2008, and our subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Copies are available online at http://www.sec.gov or on request from the Company as set forth in Part I, Item 1 “Business-Available Information” in Willis’ Form 10-K.

    Although we believe that the assumptions underlying our forward-looking statements are reasonable, any of these assumptions, and therefore also the forward-looking statements based on these assumptions, could themselves prove to be inaccurate. In light of the significant uncertainties inherent in the forward-looking statements included in this document, our inclusion of this information is not a representation or guarantee by us that our objectives and plans will be achieved.

    Our forward-looking statements speak only as of the date made and we will not update these forward-looking statements unless the securities laws require us to do so. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the forward-looking events discussed in this document may not occur, and we caution you against unduly relying on these forward-looking statements.

    This press release contains references to non-GAAP financial measures as defined in Regulation G of SEC rules. Consistent with Regulation G, a reconciliation of this supplemental financial information to our generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) information is in the note disclosures that follow. We present such non-GAAP supplemental financial information, as we believe such information is of interest to the investment community because it provides additional meaningful methods of evaluating certain aspects of the Company’s operating performance from period to period on a basis that may not be otherwise apparent on a GAAP basis. This supplemental financial information should be viewed in addition to, not in lieu of, the Company’s condensed consolidated income statements for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2009 and balance sheet as at that date.

    • Copyright © 2017 Willis Towers Watson