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Marsh & McLennan’s 4Q sees impact of recent problems

The effects of the recent regulatory issues that have plagued Marsh & McLennan have been revealed in financial form with the release of the company's fourth quarter and full year results. As a result of damaging investigations from US officials last year, the company suffered heavy loses in its final quarter which impacted significantly on full year performance.

In the fourth quarter, consolidated revenues declined 1% to $3 billion. After restructuring, regulatory settlements and related expenses, the company reported a net loss of $676 million in the fourth quarter, a loss of $1.28 per share.

Full-year consolidated revenues were $12.2 billion, up 5% over the prior year. However, the problems suffered in the second half of the year meant that net income for the full year was limited to just $180 million, or earnings per share of $0.34. As a result, the company’s board of directors has declared a first quarter 2005 dividend of $0.17, a 50% decline.

Marsh & McLennan, the world’s largest insurance brokerage firm, was embroiled last year in the fraud investigations conducted by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, which rocked the entire US insurance industry. The company was implemented in a number of Spitzer charges; as a result its final quarter finances have been negatively affected, due to a combination of a reduction in customer confidence, restructuring costs and the payment of settlements to the authorities.

While reporting its finances, the company additionally revealed more job cuts as part of its restructuring plans. In a move which Marsh & McLennan describes as improving efficiencies, and eliminate unprofitable accounts, 2,500 more jobs are likely to go, bringing the total number to leave since the company’s recent troubles began to 5,500.

Michael Cherkasky, president and chief executive officer of Marsh & McLennan, said: Clearly, 2004 was the most difficult year in MMC’s financial history. We confronted major regulatory issues at both Marsh and Putnam. The settlements we have announced are important steps forward for the company. As a result, we are ready to put these matters behind us and move ahead in 2005 to restore the trust our clients have placed in us and to rebuild shareholder value.

Cherkasky continued, We do not underestimate the task ahead. We have already introduced new leadership, instituted new compliance procedures, and initiated new ways of interacting with clients that will enable us to remain the leader in the businesses in which we participate.

We believe that in 2006, Marsh will be a stronger, more streamlined company, delivering profitable growth with an operating margin in the upper-teens, and with the opportunity for further margin expansion, Cherkasky concluded.