* Grant Thornton chalks up record revenues of $4.5 billion
* Invests in Europe to exploit new EU auditing rules
* Full alignment of global, U.S. accounting rules "dead"
By Huw Jones
LONDON, Dec 20 European Union rules agreed this
week to increase competition in accounting are already being
felt two years before they take effect, accountants Grant
Thornton International said.
The EU's new law from 2016 will force 35,000 companies
across the 28-country bloc to switch accountants about every ten
years to avoid overly cosy-relationships.
It aims to end the dominance of the "Big Four" accountants,
KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte, and make it easier for Grant
Thornton (GT), BDO, Mazars and other mid-tier firms to pick up
more blue-chip clients.
The new law will bar accountants from auditing and giving
tax advice to the same customers.
"The European reform is starting to have an impact as
companies are thinking about different providers, such as by
separating tax advice from auditing," Grant Thornton
International Chief Executive Ed Nusbaum told Reuters.
"Market forces see these changes coming and respond in
High profile changes in auditors so far in Britain and the
Netherlands have been between the Big Four.
GT's board has just agreed to invest tens of millions of
dollars in new systems to handle different sizes and types of
clients, particularly in Europe due to the changes coming.
On Friday it reported an 8.1 percent rise in global annual
revenues to a record $4.5 billion to September, which Nusbaum
said was the fastest increase among the top six firms.
Growth was fuelled by more customers in Britain, Brazil,
China and India, with 2014 looking good as economies recover,
GT, which employs 38,543 staff in 134 countries, and BDO are
the biggest of the mid-tier firms and have been snapping up
local accountants across the world.
Last month BDO predicted rapid consolidation to leave two or
three mid-tier players within a few years, but Nusbaum declined
to make any predictions saying there was always room for niche
December is the deadline set by the world's 20 leading
economies (G20) for U.S. and global standard setters to align
their rules to make comparing companies easier.
The deadline has been repeatedly pushed back as differences
over new rules hamper agreements.
"Full and complete convergence is dead," said Nusbaum, a
board member at the U.S. standard setter FASB's oversight body.