Ipswich: Willis hails progress despite dip in profits

THE boss of global insurance broker Willis said yesterday the group was making “significant progress”, despite a dip in earnings for the third quarter of 2011.

New York-based Willis, whose UK operations include a major office in Ipswich, reported net income of 60million US dollars (about �37.6m) for the three months to September 30, down from 64m US dollars in the same period last year and including a further 15m US dollars (�9.4m) in charges relating to an operational review launched to reduce expenses.

Total reported revenues for the period were 762m US dollars (�478m), up 4% on last year’s third quarter. Commissions and fees grew by a similar margin to 755m US dollars, with foreign currency movements increasing the figure by 2%, while investment income fell from 10m to 7m USdollars.

“We achieved steady 2% organic growth in commissions and fees in a quarter complicated by a number of factors,” said Willis chairman and chief executive Joe Plumeri.

Besides the operational review charge there was also a further deterioration in results from the group’s Loan Protector division, although there were also some favourable factors including tax-related adjustments.

“Underlying all of this, however, organic growth within the Global and International segments came in strong, especially in light of the difficult markets,” he said. “That growth was offset by negative 4% reported and organic growth in our North American segment, driven by the disappointing Loan Protector results. Excluding the impact from that business, reported and organic growth in North America would have been flat.

“Importantly, we continue to execute against our plan to reduce expenses while implementing revenue initiatives and we believe we are well positioned for growth in 2012.”

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The third quarter figures mean that reported net income for the first nine months of 2011 totals 179m US dollars (�112m), against 357m US dollars at the same stage last year. But Mr Plumeri added: “Make no mistake, Willis is making significant progress towards the goals that we had set out earlier this year.”