July 28 (Reuters) - Willis Group Holdings Plc, the world's oldest insurance broker, reported a 21 percent jump in second-quarter profit, helped by a lower tax rate, higher fees from South America and China, and acquisitions.
Willis, which has been on the acquisition trail this year, said last month that it would merge with human resources consultancy Towers Watson & Co, joining other brokers looking to tap the lucrative benefits market through deals with human resources consultancies.
The company's underlying profit, which excludes acquisition costs and the impact of foreign exchange rates, rose to 58 cents per share in the three months ended June 30 from 48 cents per share a year earlier.
Willis' commissions and fees rose 5.3 percent on an underlying basis and 1.6 percent organically, boosted by double digit growth in China and South America.
Underlying commissions and fees from markets outside North America and Britain rose about 28 percent, helped by Willis's acquisitions of Max Matthiessen, Charles Monat and pension and financial advisory firm IFG Ireland.
The company's underlying tax rate fell to about 22 percent in the quarter from 35 percent a year earlier, when it was changing the way it taxed its profit.
Willis's rich history since it was founded in 1828 includes brokering insurance for the Titanic, the reconstruction of the World Trade Center after 9/11 and reinsurance for the Hindenburg.
The company's shares closed up 0.3 percent at $46.19 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. They were unchanged in trading after the bell. (Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)