Willis Group Holdings Ltd Q2 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

Willis Group Holdings Ltd Q2 2010 Earnings Call Transcript
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Willis Group Holdings Ltd (WSH)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call

July 29, 2010 08:00 pm ET


Kerry Calaiaro - Director, IR

Joe Plumeri - Chairman and CEO

Grahame Millwater - President, Willis Group

Stephen Wood - Interim CFO

Don Bailey - Chairman and CEO, Willis North America

David Margrett - Willis Limited Chairman and CEO, and Chairman of Faber & Dumas


Keith Walsh - Citi

Jay Gelb - Barclays Capital

Thomas Mitchell - Miller Tabak

Mark Hughes - SunTrust

Keith Alexander - JPMorgan

Meyer Shields - Stifel Nicolaus

Adam Klauber - Macquarie Securities

Brian Meredith - UBS

Jay Gelb - Barclays Capital

Meyer Shields - Stifel Nicolaus

Cliff Gallant - KBW



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Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants will be in a listen-only mode until the question-answer session of the call. (Operator Instructions). Today's conference is being recorded, if you have any objections you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to introduce your host for today's call. Kerry Calaiaro, who is the Director of Investor Relations. You may begin.

Kerry Calaiaro

Thank you, and welcome to our second quarter 2010 earnings conference call and webcast. Our call today is hosted by Joe Plumeri, Willis Group Holdings' PLC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

A replay of the call will be available through August 29th, 2010 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time by calling 888-568-0518 from within the US or 1203-369-3480 from outside the US. No pass code is needed. Alternatively, the webcast replay can be accessed through the Investor Relation section of our website at www.willis.com. If you have any questions after the call, my direct line is 212-915-8084.

As we begin our call, let me remind you that we may make certain statements relating to future results, which are forward-looking statements as that term is defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results to differ materially from historical results or those estimated or anticipated.

Please note that these forward-looking statements reflect our opinions only as of the date of this presentation and we undertake no obligation to revise or publicly release the results of any revision to these forward-looking statements in light of new information or future events.

Please refer to our SEC filings; including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009 as well as our earnings press release for a more detailed discussion of the risk factors that may affect our results. Copies may also be obtained from the SEC or by visiting the Investor Relation section of our website.

Also, please note that certain financial measures we use on the call are expressed on a non-GAAP basis. Our GAAP results and GAAP to non-GAAP reconciliation can be found in our earnings press release.

I'll now turn the call over to Joe



Thanks, Kerry and good morning everybody. Welcome and thank you for joining us today on our call. On the call with me today are Grahame Millwater, the Group President; Stephen Wood, the Group Controller; Mike Neborak, as you know who we announced who will be our CFO, has been with us a couple of weeks. He had a long planned family vacation this week and since this is a family operation, we said go ahead and take care of your family. So he is on a vacation with his family. And as usual, the rest of the senior management team of Willis is here and we will be very glad to answer any questions that you might have.

I am very happy with the results that we have delivered today. Especially the outstanding growth that we continue to generate as a result of our strategy of investment, while still watching our expenses and getting out of those investments, the growth that you saw in the quarter.

The environment though remains very tough. In the US, we have not seen evidence of sustained recovery yet. Economies and a number of other countries where we do business also remain under considerable pressure.

And the rate environment is still as you all know, very soft and unlikely to change significantly through the remainder of 2010, in the absence of a major loss activity. With these headwinds, we still delivered though which is I'm really proud about.

Adjusted earnings per share from continuing operations was up 4% to $0.54 including $0.03 of favorable FX. 4% organic growth in commissions and fees in this environment is an outstanding achievement driven by international and global segments compares well with the 1% a year ago and 3% in the first quarter. So dramatic again results by growing organically internally.

We continue to generate strong growth through new business across all our segments, 16% for the quarter which is one of our better quarters in terms of growth through new business, which again is an indication that our investment and our internal growth strategies, pipelines are working plus very, very solid client retention.

Shaping our future, net benefits of $13 million in the quarter, Grahame's is going to talk about that, that's become a way of life in this company and we're going to continue to do that.

Adjusted operating margin of 21.4%, which is increase of 20 basis points. For the past several years, we have right-sized, we have integrated and taken quite a bit of expense out of our cost base and still delivered solid margins.

As we continue to watch expenses, we still need to make investments to fund growth which is what we've been doing, which is what this quarter I think is a manifestation of and you see that coming through organic growth.

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