CNBC claims broker has made an approach to larger rival

Willis has made an approach to bitter rival Marsh & McLennan (MMC) with the intention of initiating takeover talks, according to reports on CNBC television.

Shares in MMC rose by over three percent to $27.28 following the news.

It is not the first time Willis has been linked with the troubled company. In October 2006, The Sunday Times reported that Willis had made an "informal bid" for MMC, which was rejected. Both parties refused to comment at the time.

It is widely believed that potential investors in MMC would look to split the group's various divisions following a sale.

Billionaire Nelson Peltz recently received approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to take a stake in the group. In August, it sold its Putnam asset management unit to Canada's Great-West Lifeco Inc for $3.9 billion.

Marsh's US business been dogged by financial difficulties after the broker was fined $850m for accepting contingent commissions in 2004, following an investigation headed by then New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer.

Last month the group removed chief executive Michael Cherkasky after the company failed to meet analysts projections in successive quarters. At the time, the board said it would look into options for boosting shareholder value.

In September, Marsh axed Brian Storms, its global chief executive. He was replaced by AIG European chief, Daniel Glaser, last month. A strategic review of the company's global operations has since been initiated, while a slew of senior staff have departed in recent weeks.

Marsh has market value of over £14bn, while Willis has a market value of around $5.2 billion, according to estimates by Reuters.

Marsh and Willis were unavailable for comment.