Willis Group Holdings Plc ( WSH)

Q3 2010 Earnings Call

October 28, 2010 8:00 AM EST

Executives

Joe Plumeri – Chairman and CEO

Grahame Millwater – Group President

Michael Neborak – CFO

Don Bailey – CEO, Willis North America

Mark Sullivan – Deputy Chairman, Willis Group Holdings Plc, and Chairman and CEO, Willis Global Solutions

Analysts

Mark Hughes – SunTrust

Keith Alexander – JPMorgan

Adam Klauber – Macquarie

Dan Farrell – Sterne Agee

Meyer Shields – Stifel Nicolaus

Cliff Gallant – KBW

Presentation

Operator

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 turn the call over to Kerry Calaiaro. You may begin.

Kerry Calaiaro

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

A replay of the call will be available through November 28 th, 2010 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time by calling 888-385-2289 from within the US or 1-203-369-3262 from outside the US, with pass code. Alternatively, the webcast replay can be accessed through the Investor Relations 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 update the results of any update 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 Relations 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 will now turn the call over to Joe

Joe Plumeri

Thank you, Kelly, and hi, everybody, and welcome, and thank you for joining our call today.

On the call with me today are Grahame Millwater, our Group President; Don Bailey, CEO of North America; Michael Neborak, our CFO; and as usual other members, all of the members of our executive team and management team are also here, and will be happy to answer all of your questions.

Let me talk about the conditions that impact the third quarter 2010 and a little bit about the remainder of 2010. I am very happy with what we’ve delivered this quarter and in the year-to-date. We have reported exceptional organic growth in the face of a really tough external environment that is little changed from the last time we spoke.

In the US economic and unemployment remain anemic, a number of European economies also remained pressured. There are some bright spots, particularly among the emerging economies. And in addition, as I indicated the last quarter, the general rate environment remains soft and in the absence of a major loss activity, we see little term, little near-term sign of change.

Looking at earnings, we reported adjusted earnings per share of $0.37 for the quarter compared with $0.53 a year-ago with both years affected by tax items. If you look at adjusted earnings and apply the underlying effective rate of 26%, adjusted earnings per share would have been about the same in both periods.

Our culture of teamwork and discipline has served us well in this environment continues to serve us well with our commitment to growth and our focus on cost control. Our commitment to growth is reflected especially in another 4% organic growth in commissions and fees that we delivered in both the third quarter and in a year-to-date period, so that’s been pretty consistent and our ability to be able to deliver that I think shows the underlying sales cultures that I make reference to. This compares very well to the 2% organic growth that we delivered in the corresponding periods last year.

Each of our segments also delivered organic growth in both the quarter and year-to-date periods. This is especially something that we’re proud of, because all of our operating segments grew, again in a very difficult environment.

In the third quarter, North America grew 2%, where probably the rates are softest around the world and the economy is the worst. International grew 6% and global grew 4%. So across the board, our diversity, our ability to be able to distribute our product again shines through.

This Group continues to be driven in the main by new business generation across all segments. We spend a lot of time on it, it’s something that we’re good at it, and we can better at. Net growth of 13% for the quarter and a steady client retention, so you take the two – so clearly both of those are trending in the right direction, and there is no reason to believe that that trend wouldn’t continue.

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