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Aon moving headquarters to London

Aon moving headquarters to London

CHICAGO—Aon Corp. will move its corporate headquarters to London from Chicago, the brokerage said Friday.

Aon President and CEO Greg Case said the move, which must be approved by shareholders, is another step in the firm's strategic plan to grow Aon as a global platform. In particular, London will help Aon grow its business in emerging markets, he said.

“This is not just about London. It's about accessing the global community and markets around the world,” Mr. Case said.

Many Aon clients in emerging markets are seeking coverage for specialty risks, and the London market provides capacity and expertise in many specialty risk areas, he said.

Up to 20 Aon staff members will transfer to London as part of the move, including Mr. Case; Steve McGill, chairman and CEO of Aon Risk Solutions; Christa Davis, chief financial officer; and Peter Lieb, executive vp and general counsel.

Aon said the move will not lead to any staff reductions in Chicago. Rather, the firm plans to move 750 staffers to Chicago from elsewhere in the United States and plans to add 1,000 positions in the United States.

“We'll be adding jobs across the U.S. as our business continues to grow,” Mr. Case said.

Chicago will continue to serve as headquarters for the Americas for Aon.

Aon also expects to reap tax benefits from the move.

In the SEC filing, Aon said it expects to “drive significant value to shareholders” under the U.K. territorial tax system in three primary ways. Aon said it expects “greater financial flexibility of future free cash flow.” It also will have access to about $300 million of excess capital held internationally on the balance sheet upon the close of the transaction.

Thirdly, the brokerage expects to increase “future cash flows through a significant reduction in our global effective tax rate, due primarily to changes in the geographical distribution of income,” Aon said in its filing. “A reduction in our global tax rate over the long term, similar to the reduction achieved over the last five years, would allow Aon to remain competitive with certain global competitors.”

Aon also plans to change its incorporation from Delaware to England.

Shareholders will receive one share of the newly formed English public limited company for each share of common stock if they approve the change.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012.

Lloyd's of London welcomed Aon's intended move.

“This is very good news for the London insurance market and for Lloyd's,” said Lloyd's Chairman John Nelson in a statement. “It will help reinforce London's position in the global insurance marketplace.”

Aon’s shares closed down 39 cents, to $46.28, on Friday amid a generally declining market.

Senior Editor Roberto Ceniceros contributed to this report.

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