Aon to combine with Willis Towers Watson to accelerate innovation on behalf of clients
LONDON — Aon plc (NYSE:AON) and Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) announced a definitive agreement to combine in an all-stock transaction with an implied combined equity value of approximately $80 billion.
“The combination of Willis Towers Watson and Aon is a natural next step in our journey to better serve our clients in the areas of people, risk and capital,” said Willis Towers Watson CEO John Haley. “This transaction accelerates that journey by providing our combined teams the opportunity to drive innovation more quickly and deliver more value.”
“This combination will create a more innovative platform capable of delivering better outcomes for all stakeholders, including clients, colleagues, partners and investors,” said Aon CEO Greg Case. “Our world-class expertise across risk, retirement and health will accelerate the creation of new solutions that more efficiently match capital with unmet client needs in high-growth areas like cyber, delegated investments, intellectual property, climate risk and health solutions.”
The combined company, to be named Aon, will be the premier, technology-enabled global professional services firm focused on the areas of risk, retirement and health.
Aon will maintain operating headquarters in London, United Kingdom. John Haley will take on the role of Executive Chairman with a focus on growth and innovation strategy. The combined firm will be led by Greg Case and Aon Chief Financial Officer Christa Davies, along with a highly experienced and proven leadership team that reflects the complementary strengths and capabilities of both organizations. The Board of Directors will comprise proportional members from Aon and Willis Towers Watson’s current directors.
Under the terms of the agreement unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, each Willis Towers Watson shareholder will receive 1.08 Aon ordinary shares for each Willis Towers Watson ordinary share, and Aon shareholders will continue to own the same number of ordinary shares in the combined company as they do immediately prior to the closing. Upon completion of the combination, existing Aon shareholders will own approximately 63% and existing Willis Towers Watson shareholders will own approximately 37% of the combined company on a fully diluted basis.
Aon anticipates that the transaction will provide annual pre-tax synergies and other cost reductions of $800 million by the third full year of combination, thereby allowing the firm to continue significant investment in innovation and growth. Potential revenue synergies due to complementary capabilities are expected but not included in the synergy estimates. The principal sources of potential synergies and other cost reductions are as follows:
· Approximately 73% from the consolidation of business and central support functions, including leveraging the capabilities of the Aon Business Services operational platform across the combined group; and
· Approximately 27% from the consolidation of infrastructure related to technology, real estate and third-party contracts.
The transaction is expected to be accretive to Aon adjusted EPS in the first full year of the combination with peak adjusted EPS accretion in the high teens after full realization of $800 million of pre-tax synergies. Willis Towers Watson and Aon anticipate savings of $267 million in the first full year of the combination, reaching $600 million in the second full year, with the full $800 million achieved in the third full year. Free cash flow accretion is expected to breakeven in the second full year of combination with free cash flow accretion of more than 10% after full realization of synergies. The transaction is expected to generate over $10 billion of shareholder value creation from the capitalized value of the expected pre-tax synergies, based on the blended 2020 price to earnings ratio of Willis Towers Watson and Aon UK on 6 March 2020, net of $2.0 billion in one-time transaction, retention and integration costs.
The combined firm is committed to maintaining long-term financial goals of mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth and double-digit free cash flow growth; and is expected to maintain Aon’s current credit rating.
It is intended that the combination will be implemented by means of a court-sanctioned scheme of arrangement of Willis Towers Watson and Willis Towers Watson Shareholders under Chapter 1, Part 9 of the Irish Companies Act of 2014.
It is expected that the Reorganization of the Aon Group described in the Reorganization Proxy Statement will be completed prior to the completion of the combination, such that prior to completion of the combination, Aon Ireland will be the publicly traded parent company of the Aon Group. The Reorganization remains conditional on, among other things, the sanction of the UK scheme of arrangement forming part of the Reorganization by the UK Court, as more particularly described in the Reorganization Proxy Statement. Upon completion of the Reorganization, it is expected that the Aon Ireland Directors will be the same as the current Aon UK Directors.
The transaction is subject to the approval of the shareholders of both Aon Ireland and Willis Towers Watson, as well as other customary closing conditions, including required regulatory approvals. The parties expect the transaction to close in the first half of 2021, subject to satisfaction of these conditions.