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Willis Towers Watson revenue up 4%

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Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. on Thursday reported total 2017 third-quarter revenue of $1.85 billion, up 4% from the same period a year ago.

The broker reported a net loss of $54 million, compared with a net loss of $31 million for the prior-year third quarter. The results included $74 million of pre-tax transaction and integration expenses and $31 million of restructuring costs, a Willis Towers Watson statement said.

Commissions and fees were $1.83 billion, up 4% from a year ago.

The human capital and benefits segment reported commissions and fees of $736 million in the third quarter, up 2% from a year ago. The corporate risk and broking segment reported $581 million in commission and fees, up 5% from the same quarter in 2016.

The brokerage’s investment, risk and reinsurance segment reported commissions and fees $320 million, an increase of 3% from a year ago. Total revenue for the IRR segment increased 4.7% to $334 million compared with the prior-year third quarter, which included interest and other income.

CEO John Haley said he was pleased with the third-quarter results.

“The third quarter of 2017 is an unusual quarter for Willis Towers Watson in that there’s nothing unusual about it,” Mr. Haley said in a conference call with analysts. “This is the first time we don’t have some really big distorting event in either our current quarter or the quarter a year ago, or something like that. There’s always the little things around the margin, but, by and large, it’s a relatively clean quarter and we couldn’t be happier about that.”

Regarding stock buybacks and free cash, Mr. Haley said the broker is continuing to look at potential acquisitions, but “when we model it … we still find our stock to be an attractive use of our cash in buying it back.”

“I think unless something unusual were to come along, I wouldn’t expect to see any significant decline in buying back shares and I think we continue to use most of our free cash flow for that,” he said.

The conference call also featured the first appearance of new CFO Michael J. Burwell, who succeeded Roger Millay when he retired last month.

Mr. Haley said that Mr. Burwell “has extensive experience in accounting, finance, M&A and organizational transformation” and that Willis Towers Watson “couldn’t possibly have asked for a better fit” for the brokerage.