Earnings down for Aon, but Willis reports record growth

Global broking giants Aon and Willis both reported financial results that were distorted by unusual events last year.

Aon's earnings were down in the fourth quarter of last year by 9%.

Its fortunes were dented partly by the World Trade Centre tragedy that killed more than 100 Aon staff.

The attack destroyed Aon's largest retail brokerage office, a division already in transition to a new business plan.

Aon's net income of $83m (£58m) in the fourth quarter was equivalent to 30 cents a share, but disregarding the 11 September attack and new accounting rules, it made 33 cents a share.

Most analysts had forecast 31 cents a share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial/First Call. Net income for the whole of 2001 was 73 cents a share compared to $1.79 for 2000.

The world's third largest broking group, Willis, reported record growth in revenue and operating earnings.

Willis' net income rose five-fold in the fourth quarter on the back of booming rates in commercial lines.

Its net income for the quarter rose to $27m (£18.8m), or 16 cents a share, from $5m (£3.5m) or 4 cents a share a year earlier.

Operating cash earnings, which exclude non-cash and one-off items, rose to 30 cents a share from 15 cents a share a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had forecast a range of 21 cents to 27 cents, with an average of 25 cents a share.

Over the whole of 2001, operating cash earnings rose to $147m (£102.6m), or 99 cents a share, from $54m (£37.7m) or 45 cents a share in 2000.

Net income for the year as a whole was $2m (£1.3m), down from $9m (£6.2m) in 2000 despite revenue rising from $1,305m (£900m) in 2000 to $1,424m (£977m) in 2001 and a cut in general and administrative costs.

The group's UK-based specialty lines, which include aerospace, marine and reinsurance, contributed to a total global revenue of $186m (£130m).

Aon's share price reacted well to the news. It rose 2.33% by midday in New York to trade at $33.87. Willis was up 0.69% at the same time, trading at $27.7. Its shares sold for $13.50 when the company was floated in June last year