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Willis Towers Watson sees little revenue change; events business hit


Willis Towers Watson PLC reported $2.01 billion in third-quarter revenue, up 1% over the same period last year, but organic revenue slipped 1% as the brokerage continues to face “headwinds” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm’s top executives said Thursday.

The brokerage’s wholesale unit saw revenue decline more than 10% in the 2020 quarter as its events insurance business saw lower demand due to the pandemic.

Overall, the brokerage achieved a solid financial performance in areas where it has a well-established market position, mature relationships and annuity or compulsory coverages, said John Haley, CEO of Willis Towers Watson, on a conference call with analysts Thursday.

“We faced some headwinds in areas where our revenue is more aligned to discretionary project spending,” he said.

Willis Towers Watson’s insurance brokerage unit reported $649 million in third-quarter revenue, down less than 1% from the same period last year. Organic revenue, which excludes the effect of foreign exchange fluctuations and the effect of acquisitions and divestitures, fell 1%.

The brokerage’s investment, risk and reinsurance unit reported $331 million in revenue, up 1.8% compared with the 2019 third quarter and up 3% on an organic basis.

“Reinsurance, with growth of 7%, continued to lead the segment’s growth with a combination of net new business and favorable renewals,” Mr. Haley said.

A 12% organic decline in wholesale business was due to pressure on all lines and lower investment returns, he said.

Willis Towers Watson continues “to evaluate strategic alternatives,” for London-based wholesale unit Miller Insurance Services LLP and the unit suffered due to reduced demand for coverage for sporting and other events during the pandemic, said Mike Burwell, chief financial officer of Willis Towers Watson. 

Its benefits and consulting unit reported $796 million in third-quarter revenue, down 1.4% compared with last year, or down 2% on an organic basis, largely due to a decrease in demand for its “talent and rewards” business during the pandemic, Mr. Haley said.

The brokerage reported $122 million in net income for the quarter, up 52.5% compared with the same quarter in 2019, driven in part by gains from the sale of Swedish broker Max Matthiessen AB.

Mr. Haley declined to comment on an analyst’s question related to possible disposals of businesses related to the proposed acquisition of Willis Towers Watson by Aon PLC, which was announced earlier this year. He said, though, that the broker continues to submit required antitrust filings and that the brokerage has not encountered anything “that has been any kind of a big surprise” in discussions with regulators.

“When we put the combination together we felt that there were some very good arguments as to why the combination made sense and why we should be able to go ahead without any restrictions, but it doesn’t matter what we think, it matters what the regulators think,” he said.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.












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