Aon Not Pursuing Willis Towers Watson Deal

Due to media speculation, Aon was forced to disclose it was in the preliminary stages of an all-share deal.
Aon Not Pursuing Willis Towers Watson Deal

Aon has called off plans for a potential acquisition of rival insurance brokerage Willis Towers Watson after a report in Bloomberg prompted a disclosure.

In a statement on Tuesday, Aon said media speculation prompted it to disclose it was in very early stages considering a possible all-share transaction for Willis Towers Watson that valued the company at $23.5 billion.

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Since Willis Towers Watson is an Irish company, Aon was required to publicly announce its intentions under Irish takeover regulations.

“Aon today confirms that it does not intend to pursue this business combination,” the company said.

The deal would have been the largest in the U.S. insurance industry. In a note to clients, Harry Fong, an analyst at MKM Partners, said the deal would have put together two very large global insurance brokerage companies that are also engaged in human resources and management consulting practices and could have allowed Aon to overtake Marsh & McLennan Companies as the world’s largest brokerage by revenue.

Willis Towers Watson shares fell 5% on the news. Aon shares rose 6%. Willis Towers shares had jumped more than 8% on Tuesday. Aon had fallen nearly 8%.

Wells Fargo analyst Elyse Greenspan said the deal would have faced regulatory headwinds.

Most of the insurance deals in the U.S. took place in the broker space in 2018, according to a report from Deloitte. Last year, Marsh & McLennan acquired Jardine Lloyd Thompson in a deal valued at $5.7 billion. Willis acquired Towers Watson in a deal announced in 2015.

“Consistent with Aon’s stated focus on return on invested capital the firm regularly evaluates a variety of potential opportunities within and adjacent to its industry,” Aon said in a statement. “Aon had considered such a possibility with regard to Willis Towers Watson.”

The company said it reserves the right within the next 12 months to set aside the announcement where so permitted.