800 more jobs to go at Willis

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The Independent Online

Willis Corroon, the insurance broker, saw full-year profits devastated by a £49m exceptional provision to cover a cost-cutting exercise that will see 800 staff worldwide made redundant.

The group, which has met sharply increasing competition in the insurance market, said savings of nearly £20m had been secured through 500 of the job cuts achieved up to now.

Two-thirds of these have been in the United States.

The exceptional hit meant Willis made pre-tax profits of £5.6m last year against £76.2m in 1993. Before the one-off the group made profits of £54.7m last year.

There were no earnings per share compared with 11.3p in 1993.

Roger Elliott, executive chairman, said: "Although 1994 was a disappointing year for the group, we have made considerable progress in implementing the changes identified in the strategic review [launched last year]."

The cost-cutting programme is geared to produce savings of £26m this year and £39m every year after. It also involves office closures and staff relocation.

Mr Elliott admitted that since Willis Faber's merger with Corroon and Black in 1990 the new group "had attempted to do too much, in too many locations, too quickly, thereby diluting the profitability of the many successful parts of the group".

Excessive overheads, he said, had been built up by Willis Corroon through investing £120m in 60 new operations since the merger.

It was hoped the streamlining of the administrative and processing functions, largely the back office rather than the revenue earning arms, would eventually improve profit margins and sharpen the focus on clients.