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Aon 4Q profit up as Hewitt deal pays off

Aon Corp. forecast continued margin improvement and posted a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street estimates, as the world’s largest insurance broker began to reap the benefits of its 2009 acquisition of Hewitt Associates.

Aon said restructuring related to the Hewitt integration was expected to help drive margin expansion. Get the full story »

Aon to bid $86 million for South Africa’s Glenrand

Aon Corp. will bid as much as $86 million to buy South African insurance firm Glenrand MIB Ltd., giving the world’s largest insurance broker a bigger presence in Africa’s top economy. Get the full story »

Aon says COO Appel to leave firm at year end

Aon Corp.’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Appel will step down at the end of the year, the world’s largest insurance brokerage said. Get the full story »

Aon shows growth; posts 28% gain in 3Q earnings

Aon Corp. reported a 28 percent gain in third-quarter earnings from continuing operations, attributing part of it to a 4 percent revenue increase in its consulting unit, but its earnings missed estimates.

The company’s net income attributable to shareholders totaled $144 million, or 51 cents a share, compared with $120 million, or 41 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Total revenue of $1.8 billion was flat with the year-ago quarter. Get the full story »

Aon to cut up to 1,800; HQ being ‘worked out’

Aon Corp., a Chicago-based insurance brokerage and consulting firm, said it will cut 1,500 to 1,800 jobs globally over the next three years as part of its merger with Lincolnshire-based personnel consulting company Hewitt Associates.

It also said the headquarters decision for Aon Hewitt — the consulting arm — is “being worked out.” Aon is currently headquartered in one of the tallest buildings in Chicago.

The restructuring of the combined workforce and of the merged firm’s real estate holdings will cost $325 million, of which $180 million will be due to employee severance costs. Get the full story »

Most Hewitt holders want Aon stock in buyout

From BusinessWeek | Most of the stockholders of Hewitt Associates Inc. have decided to receive shares of Aon Corp. as part of the $4.9 billion sale of the human resources specialist.

Aon, Hewitt deal wins EU regulatory approval

U.S. insurance brokerage Aon Corp. won European Union regulatory approval on Tuesday to purchase Hewitt Associates, creating the world’s largest human resources services company. Aon, the world’s largest insurance brokerage, launched the $4.9 billion bid for Hewitt in July. The transaction was referred to the European Commission, the EU’s competition authority, in August. Get the full story »

Shareholders OK Aon, Hewitt deal

The $4.9 billion sale of human resources specialist Hewitt Associates to Aon was approved by the shareholders of both companies Monday.

The buyout is still subject to regulatory approval. Get the full story »

PriceWaterhouseCoopers grabs Chicago’s Diamond

Clarification: An earlier version of this story reported that a “disgruntled employee” had posed a question to Diamond management during a conference call. The moderator and a transcript of the call had identified the caller as an employee. The company said he was an investor in the company, not employed by Diamond.

In Chicago’s second big consulting industry transaction this summer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers has agreed to acquire Diamond Management & Technology Consultants Inc. for $378 million.

The deal sent Diamond shares soaring Tuesday as the market reacted to news that investors in the Chicago-based firm will receive $12.50 per share in cash, a 31 percent premium to the company’s Monday close of $9.54 a share.

The companies said Diamond’s more than 600 employees worldwide will be folded into PWC’s advisory practice as the New York-based accounting giant seeks to rebuild a consulting business after selling its former consulting unit to International Business Machines Corp. several years ago.

Diamond, which was founded in 1994 by Andersen Consulting veteran Mel Bergstein, will give PWC a board-level strategic consulting practice with a lucrative client base across a variety of industries.

“There’s a clear strategic fit between PWC’s assets and aspirations and Diamond’s positioning,” said Diamond Chief Executive Adam Gutstein during a conference call with investors.

The deal would hand Diamond management, directors and employees around $113 million for their 30 percent stake in the firm. Bergstein would clear $14.2 million for his 4.1 percent stake. Gutstein, who owns around 2 percent of the outstanding shares, would get about $7 million.

Diamond currently occupies the 30th floor and most of the 28th and 29th floors in the John Hancock Center on Michigan Avenue. What will happen to that office, which is largely administrative, has “yet to be determined,” according to Diamond spokesman David Moon. Gutstein said there is some administrative overlap with PWC, but took pains on the call Tuesday to emphasize that the merger is a “growth play” and will ultimately provide greater opportunity for Diamond employees.

The firm employs about 200 people who live in the Chicago area, Moon said, and has offices in New York, Hartford, CT, Washington D.C., London and Mumbai. Consultants make up 527 of the firm’s total employment of around 643, documents show.

The move highlights the economic pressures consulting firms have been facing in recent years. The deal follows Aon Corp.’s $4.9 billion acquisition of Hewitt Associates in July as those companies sought to bolster their strength in the health benefits consulting. Gutstein said a similar strength-through-consolidation logic informed this deal. PWC will give Diamond more global reach, scale and investment resources, he said.

Investor Steve Salopek, the co-portfolio manager of the ING Small Company Fund, pointed out that while Diamond’s business of providing strategic advice to boards of directors has thrown off considerable free cash flow over the years, its stock price has suffered from the firm’s lack of scale.

Diamond had revenue of $177.2 million in its fiscal year ended in March, a 16 percent increase from the year before and has projected another 25 percent increase this year. But its earnings have tended to be volatile, Salopek said, because the firm is small enough to that fluctuations in client billings can have a big impact quarter to quarter.

In the late 1990s, Diamond’s stock soared to around $100 a share as investors flocked to a firm viewed as an Internet play because of its many assignments advising board on how to meet the digital future. But the stock crashed in the post-bubble period and has never come close to recovering those lofty heights. Salopek said investors have penalized it for erratic profits and during the worst of the economic downturn last year, the stock dipped close to $2 a share.

Indeed, the first question on Diamond’s conference call came from a disgruntled investor who said he bought into his position in the company when the stock was at $80 and accused management of “destroying my investment.” Salopek, however, noted that Diamond’s stock price back then was inflated by the market bubble and never should have been that high.

Diamond has been on an upswing recently. Pretax earnings of $15.8 million in fiscal 2010 compared to $3.7 million in 2009. Operating cash flow sprang to $17.4 million from an adjusted level of $4.8 million the year before. Diamond’s client base shrank to 88 in fiscal 2010 from 99 the year before as the number of new clients dropped to 27 from 43. But revenue per professional inched up to $367,000 from $315,000.

Aon’s acquisition of Hewitt clears waiting period

Insurance broker Aon Corp. said Tuesday a required waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. has expired for its $4.9 billion acquisition of human resources specialist Hewitt Associates Inc. Get the full story »

Aon ties up $2.5 billion for Hewitt deal

Aon Corp. said it entered into credit agreements for up to $2.5 billion to fund its recent acquisition of Hewitt Associates.

The world’s largest insurance brokerage said it entered into a three-year unsecured term loan facility of up to $1 billion and also for an unsecured bridge loan of up to $1.5 billion. Get the full story »

Hewitt sets date for vote on Aon merger

Hewitt Associates Inc. on Wednesday established a special meeting date of Sept. 20 for its shareholders to consider its almost $5 billion merger with Aon Corp. and Alps Merger Corp., its wholly owned subsidiary. Get the full story »

Hewitt Associates 3Q earnings up 14%

Hewitt Associates Inc.’s fiscal third-quarter earnings rose 14 percent on an income-tax gain, but adjusted results dropped amid lower margins. The human-resource services company’s performance has improved modestly of late, though charges have weighed on results. It cut costs as unemployment pressured revenue during the recession. Get the full story »

Aon 2Q profit up on insurance, consulting strength

Aon Corp.’s second-quarter earnings rose 2.7 percent as its insurance brokerage and consulting units each saw higher profit amid rising margins.

The insurance broker has seen commissions and fee revenue rise recently, though its risk and insurance-brokerage services — its biggest unit — saw its profit decline amid higher expenses. Price competition has weighed on the industry’s profits as insurers price policies low enough to attract customers less worried about risk. Get the full story »

Hewitt Associates sued over Aon acquisition

Lincolnshire-based Hewitt Associates Inc. was sued in an Illinois state court by investors who claimed that the $4.9 billion acquisition of the company by Aon Corp. is “inadequate.”