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Bear of the Day

Willis Group Holdings (WSH) reported fourth quarter adjusted earnings per share of $0.46, a penny lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate and 19.3% lower than the year-ago earnings. The lower numbers resulted from lower commissions and fees and investment income coupled with higher expenses. The top line also lagged expectations and the year-ago result.

Willis Group completed its operational review in 2011 and expects an incremental cost savings of approximately $55 million in 2012, reaching annualized savings of approximately $135 million. However, the weakness in the US economy will remain a headwind and restrict any significant top-line growth in the company.

We retain our Underperform rating on Willis Group. Our six-month target price of $31.00 equates to about 10.3x our earnings estimate for 2012. This target price along with an annual dividend of $1.04 implies an expected negative return of about 8.7% over that period.

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