Ipswich-based Willis reports progress on revenues and savings

The Willis Building in Ipswich.

The Willis Building in Ipswich.

International risk adviser and insurance broker Willis has reported continued growth in revenues for the first nine months of 2014, but with margins coming under pressure.

Willis, which is listed on the New York stock exchange but has a substantial presence in the UK, including Ipswich, reported commissions and fees of 2.828billion US dollars for the nine months to September 30, up from 2.722bn US dollars in the same period last year, with organic growth over the period of 3.8%.

Reported commissions and fees for the third quarter were 2.1% ahead of the same period a year earlier, at 808million US dollars, compared with 791m US dollars, with organic growth of 2.5%.

Total reported revenues for the first nine months, including interest and other income, grew to 2.844bn US dollars, from 2.736bn US dollars, with the figure for the third quarter improving to 812m US dollars from 795m US dollars.

However, underlying earnings before tax and interest for the nine-month period totalled 636million US dollars, against 646m Us dollars a year earlier, and reported net income was 286m US dollars, compared with 297m US dollars last time.

The third quarter saw a net loss of 7m US dollars, although this compared with a net loss of 27m US dollars for the equivalent period last year.

Group chief executive Dominic Casserley said the organic growth during the third quarter reflected “good growth” at Willis International, led by emerging markets, and a “solid” performance in Willis North America.

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However, he added: “Within our Willis Global businesses, Reinsurance continued to grow despite very difficult market headwinds while the UK Insurance business was down, primarily due to a difficult comparison in the construction specialties division.

On expenses, in the quarter we started to see the moderation in growth relative to the previous quarters that we expected.

“Additionally, we continued to make very good progress on our Operational Improvement Program. I am pleased that our current expectations for savings from actions we expect to take in 2014 and 2015 are ahead of initial estimates – this bodes well for the program.”

Reported expenses in the third quarter, which included 17m US dollars of restructuring expenses related to the Operational Improvement Program and 7m US dollars of unfavorable foreign currency movements, grew 7.3% in the third quarter 2014. Excluding these items, underlying expense growth was 4.1%.

Willis has more than 18,000 employees based in 400 offices around the world. It operation in Ipswich, a member of the EADT/EDP Top100 listing of the 100 largest companies in Suffolk and Norfolk and housed in the iconic black glass-clad Willis Building, designed by Norman (now Lord) Foster in the 1970s, is part of the group’s Global Service Centres business.