Broking group returns to full-year profit and posts 4.9% organic growth

Willis’s UK fees and commissions fell for the third consecutive quarter in Q4, according to the broking group’s full-year results.

However, the group as a whole returned to profitability for the full 2013 year. It reported a profit of $365m, compared with 2012’s loss of $446m.

The group also reported organic growth of 4.9% for the year, beating larger rivals Aon and Marsh.

UK slump

Willis does not report separate figures for its UK business, but said that revenues fell by “low single digits”.

This follows a “mid single digit” drop in the third quarter and a “low single digit” decline in the second quarter.

Willis has been taking steps to turn around UK performance. It exited small commercial business last year to focus on complex large and mid-market business.

Willis has also merged its UK retail business with its global speciality division.

Group performance

Willis’s return to profitability for the full 2013 year was driven by a 5% increase in total revenues to $3.7bn (2012: $3.5bn) and a 19.4% drop in expenses to $3bn (2012: $3.7bn).

The company also announced a $200m share buy-back to offset the increase in outstanding shares caused by employees exercising their Willis stock options.

Chief executive Dominic Casserley said: “Willis closed 2013 with another quarter of solid organic revenue growth, and each of our businesses achieved our goal of mid-single digit organic growth for the full year.

“In addition, we delivered strong earnings per share growth and grew cash flow from operations during the year.”

He added: “As the new year begins, we are committed across the firm to our goals of growing revenues with positive operating leverage to improve cash flow and create strong shareholder returns.”