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TheStreet Open House

Willis Group Reports Fourth Quarter 2012 Results

Stocks in this article: WSH

Operations in Europe were up mid-single digits in the quarter with solid growth in Western Europe, largely due to Denmark, Italy and Sweden, while Eastern Europe was up low-single digits. Operations in the UK delivered solid mid-single digit growth in the quarter. Operations in Latin America recorded strong double-digit growth, with most countries in the region delivering double-digit growth. Operations in Asia were up low single digits, including a strong quarter in Japan.

Willis Global Segment

The Global segment reported 11.3% growth in commissions and fees in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the fourth quarter of 2011, reflecting a negative 0.3% impact from foreign currency movements and 11.6% organic growth.

Each business in the Global segment delivered positive organic growth. Reinsurance recorded high-single digit growth in a seasonally small quarter, with strong performances from North America and Specialty Reinsurance. Global Specialties grew mid-single digits, led by growth in Construction, Financial & Executive Risks, Financial Solutions and Marine. Willis Faber & Dumas recorded double-digit growth, largely driven by new business. Willis Capital Markets & Advisory had a strong quarter, recording $12 million of commissions and fees compared to $2 million in the year ago quarter. The increase was largely driven by the closing of a number of capital market transactions, several of which had been delayed during 2012.

Expenses

Reported salaries and benefits for Willis Group were $967 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with $510 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 89.6%. Fourth quarter 2012 salaries and benefits were negatively impacted by the previously noted one-time charges totaling $452 million, which are discussed in more detail below. Fourth quarter 2012 salaries and benefits were not impacted by foreign currency movements.

As previously disclosed in a Form 8-K filed with the Securities Exchange Commission on December 19, 2012, the Company changed its cash retention awards during the fourth quarter of 2012 to eliminate the repayment requirement from past annual cash retention awards. In addition, the Company replaced its annual cash retention award with an annual cash bonus that does not include a repayment requirement. As a result of these changes, fourth quarter 2012 salaries and benefits included $200 million related to the write-off of unamortized retention awards, and $252 million related to the accrual of 2012 bonuses. Excluding the two items described above, salaries and benefits in the fourth quarter of 2012 were $515 million, or 59.1% of revenues.

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