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LONDON -- Sedgwick Group P.L.C. has taken the unusual step of issuing a statement saying it has not held merger talks with Aon Group Inc. for the past year and that no such talks are in progress.

London-based Sedgwick was prompted into breaking its traditional silence on market rumors after the broker's share price began rising early last week after a weekend press report that Aon was poised to unveil a L1 billion ($1.65 billion) agreed bid for Sedgwick.

The recent rumors of an Aon/Sedgwick deal began after Patrick G. Ryan, chairman and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Aon, made a 24-hour trip to London earlier this month.

Mr. Ryan was attending a retirement party for Alan Colls, chairman of Aon Group Ltd., who is leaving the company at year end.

Aon would not comment on the rumors.

Sedgwick shares opened 16 pence higher last Monday at 164 pence ($2.68) after a press report that had appeared the previous day. However, most of the gains were lost immediately after the company issued its statement.

Earlier this year, Sedgwick and Willis Corroon Group P.L.C., London's other major independent broker, denied they were in merger talks, and Sedgwick also has refused to comment in the past on rumors that it had been the subject of a due diligence review by Aon.