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Willis Jumps Most Since 2011 as Broker’s Sales Advance

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Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Willis Group Holdings Plc, the third-largest insurance broker, jumped the most since 2011 in New York trading after posting higher-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, fueled by growth outside of North America.

The broker climbed 4.5 percent to $37.48 at 10:44 a.m. London-based Willis has rallied 12 percent this year, beating the 8.6 percent gain in the 259-company Dow Jones U.S. Financials Index.

Commissions and fees increased 7 percent to $867 million from $810 million a year earlier, exceeding the $844 million estimate of Meyer Shields, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. So-called organic revenue, which excludes recently purchased businesses and currency fluctuations, climbed 7.5 percent in the quarter, the insurer said in a statement after the close of regular trading yesterday. Growth was about 12 percent in the global segment and 5 percent in North America.

The broker benefited from “very strong organic revenue growth,” Shields said in a note yesterday. “We expect the shares to trade up.” Shields has a hold rating on the company.

Willis posted a fourth-quarter net loss from continuing operations of $804 million, or $4.65 a share, on costs tied to a goodwill impairment, retention awards and taxes. Excluding those expenses, profit was 45 cents per share, beating by 1 cent the average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Bunn in New York at ebunn1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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