December 11, 2015 / 1:51 PM / 4 years ago

Towers Watson, Willis merger gets shareholder nod

The Franklin Street entrance to the newly named Willis Tower is seen in Chicago, Illinois July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Frank Polich

(Reuters) - Shareholders of financial services provider Towers Watson & Co (TW.O) and insurance broker Willis Group Holdings WSH.N voted to approve their merger, the companies said in a joint statement.

The support by Towers shareholders comes after an $18 billion merger agreement between the companies was amended to increase the one-time cash dividend to be paid to Towers stockholders to $10 per share from $4.87.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s vote and thank all of our shareholders for their support,” said John Haley, chief executive officer of Towers Watson.

At the first vote to approve the merger that took place in November, top Towers shareholders, including BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), refused to support the deal which proved to be a critical blow, and forced the company to adjourn the meeting until Friday.

A key goal of the merger is to have Willis, the world’s third-largest insurance broker, combine with Towers Watson to add consulting operations and help take on bigger rivals.

The raised dividend proved enough to swing top Towers shareholders to switch their vote in favor of the deal, leading to the approval at Friday’s meeting.

Towers Watson Chief Executive John Haley will lead the combined company, and James McCann of Willis will be the chairman.

Towers Watson shares were up 1.6 percent at $129.38, while Willis shares were up 0.3 percent at $45.12 in early trading.

Reporting by Michael Flaherty and Nikhil Subba; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Shounak Dasgupta

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