Marsh & McLennan Cos. isn't discussing market speculation that its mutual fund subsidiary, Putnam Investments, is pressing for independence. But observers say the idea of a spinoff isn't new and isn't farfetched.

"The valuations money management firms are getting is quite robust," said Geoffrey Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R.I. "Corporate executives can't sit idly by."

Mr. Bobroff noted that fund companies are fetching 18 to 20 times earnings, while insurance concerns like Marsh & McLennan are getting only 10 to 12 times earnings.

A report that investors want Marsh & McLennan to unlock Putnam's value by spinning it off was the subject of a Wall Street Journal "Heard on the Street" column Friday.

"We are very pleased with the growth and success of Putnam, and we're not going to make any comment beyond that," said a Marsh & McLennan spokesman.

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