GLOBAL - Hewitt Associates' net consulting revenues rose 22% in the 2003 fiscal year, driven by the acquisition of Bacon & Woodrow in 2002.

Hewitt said that consulting net revenues rose 22% to 734.4 million dollars in from 600.7 million dollars in fiscal 2002.

In the fourth quarter, consulting revenues were up two percent at 189.3 million dollars.

But it said that excluding the impact of acquisitions and favourable currency effects, consulting revenue growth was flat in the year and down three percent in the fourth quarter.

"Increases in retirement and health benefit plan consulting were offset by decreased demand for more discretionary consulting services due to the continued effect of the soft economy," Hewitt said.

Consulting income slipped to 136.4 million dollars in the year, from 161.8 million dollars in 2002. Consulting margin rose to 18.6% from 17.5% - "primarily due to higher margins in the European region as a result of the acquisition of Bacon & Woodrow".

Consulting income in the fourth quarter was 33.8 million dollars, up from 27.2 million dollars a year ago.

Hewitt's total revenues for the year rose 15% to 1.98 billion dollars. "We performed well in fiscal 2003, given market conditions, but not as well as we aspire to perform," said chairman and chief executive Dale Gifford.

"While fiscal 2003 marked our 42nd consecutive year of revenue growth, it was only the fourth year of single-digit organic growth."

"We continue to feel confident about our longer-term growth opportunities as we have significant market opportunity and believe that we are well positioned to capitalize on that opportunity."

It expects four to eight percent growth in consulting revenues in fiscal 2004.