Broking giant hit by credit crunch.

Willis became the latest victim of the financial turmoil after its profit plunged 46% in the third quarter.

Willis Group Holdings said its quarterly net income fell to $36m (£23m), or 25 cents per share, for the three months to 30 September.

The broking giant’s net income was $67m, or 46 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Joe Plumeri, the Willis chairman and chief executive, defended the company’s results, saying they were impressive compared to the industry.

Revenues for the quarter were $579m compared with $574m for the same period last year - an increase of 1%.

Organic growth in commissions and fees was 2 percent in the third quarter 2008 compared with third quarter 2007.

Total reported revenues for the first nine months of the year were $2,035 million compared with $1,939 million for the same period last year - an increase of 5 percent.

“Willis continues to deliver impressive growth relative to the industry despite very soft market conditions,” he said.

“We are gaining momentum by shaping our future strategy for profitable growth, especially in the areas of marketing and client profitability.”

He added that the group would continue to execute disciplined expense management to help navigate the difficult economic conditions, while generating the resources to invest in future growth.

Willis, which has 20,000 employees and offices in 120 countries including the UK, said the impact of foreign currency exchange rates decreased third-quarter earnings per diluted share by 9 cents, compared to the same period in 2007.

The results also included the impact of Willis’s $10m, or 5 cents per share, integration costs for the $2.1bn buyout of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Company (HRH), the eighth largest insurance and risk management intermediary in the US.

Willis has taken on $400m of HRH debt as part of the deal.

Willis said the economic uncertainty made it difficult to predict what the impact would be on its balance sheets for next year and 2010.

The company has already reported a 2% decrease in fees and commissions for North America and the same drop for its global specialities and reinsurance side, as it battles a soft insurance market.

Plumeri said: “These are unprecedented times, and we are responding with an appropriate sense of urgency. We will continue to execute shaping our future strategies for profitable growth and have already begun the integration of the HRH acquisition.

“We are striving to meet the stated financial goals for 2009 and 2010, yet we need time to assess the potential impact of the current global economic uncertainty on the current outlook.

“Therefore, we will update those goals when we announce year-end results.”