US – Washington-based Watson Wyatt & Co. says it foresees less than expected new pension plan design work in the 2005 fiscal year.

“Although projects related to health care and executive compensation consulting remain strong, new project work related to pension plan design will likely occur at lower levels than previously expected,” said the firm, which is allied to UK-based Watson Wyatt LLP. The two firms run Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

It added: “For fiscal year 2005, revenues are expected to grow two percent to four percent, which is slightly lower than the three to five percent guidance provided previously.”

Benefits group revenues, which represent 60% of total first-quarter revenues, rose one percent to 104.9 million dollars over the prior-year quarter.

It said: “Results were lower than expected due to lower than anticipated levels of special project work and delays in the transition of new retirement clients.

“The retirement practice achieved a net gain of four new target market clients in the quarter.”

Total first-quarter income from continuing operations rose to 13.8 million dollars from 12.5 million dollars a year ago – while revenues rose to 175.4 million dollars from 171 million dollars.

"We kicked off the new fiscal year with strong profits and improving margins," said John Haley, president and chief executive. "We saw revenue growth in many of our segments, but our overall growth remained modest, largely due to limited special project work in our retirement practice.”

Total staff numbers have fallen by more than a hundred in the past year, down from 3,975 at September 30 2003 to 3,850 currently.