* Consulting leads PwC to record revenue in 2011
* PwC reclaims lead from Deloitte at top of Big Four
* PwC plans record hiring of 20,000 graduates (Adds comments from CEO, byline)
By Dena Aubin
Oct 3 (Reuters) - PwC [PWC.UL] regained its position as the world’s largest accounting and consulting firm from Deloitte [DLTE.UL], bolstered by a consulting business that helped to increase revenue by 10 percent in fiscal 2011.
PwC’s global network of firms reported record revenue of $29.2 billion for the year that ended on June 30, up from $26.6 billion in 2010 and the strongest growth since 2008.
PwC, formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, said on Monday that it also planned to hire a record 20,000 graduates worldwide in fiscal 2012 and offer training internships to 10,000 students. Its staff now numbers about 169,000.
PwC’s revenue was about $400 million ahead of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd, previously the No. 1 accounting and consulting firm. Deloitte had squeaked past PwC last year in total revenue by a margin of just $9 million.
“We never thought we lost the lead,” Dennis Nally, chairman of PwC International, said in an interview. “Being No. 1 in quality is equally important.”
Both firms have been on an acquisition spree, building up their consulting arms despite rumblings from authorities in Europe about curbing audit firms’ consulting work.
The two firms are part of the “Big Four,” which also includes KPMG [KPMG.UL] and Ernst & Young [ERNY.UL].
Demand for advice on cost-cutting, acquisitions and new technology by companies recovering from the 2009 recession has boosted consulting work, which is growing much faster than the traditional audit business for global audit firms. For details click on [ID:nS1E78D0F5].
Advice on outsourcing and other human resources strategies has also been in demand as companies take advantage of shifting global growth patterns, Nally said.
“Making sure that they have the right talent in the right places” is one of the top challenges businesses face as growth slows in developed markets and accelerates in other parts of the world, he said.
Nally said he expects PwC’s growth to remain healthy in fiscal year 2012.
Revenue from PwC’s consulting and advisory services rose 20 percent in fiscal 2011 to $7.5 billion. Audit and related services grew 7 percent to $14.1 billion, while tax services revenue rose 8 percent to $7.6 billion.
Nally also said PwC “welcomes a discussion” about auditor reforms included in a draft law prepared by European Union Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier.
The draft, leaked last weak, could require auditors to limit or abandon their consulting work, though it is expected to meet opposition from some EU states. For details click on [ID:nL5E7KR0XZ].
Nally said any reform proposals need to be clearly thought through to be sure they don’t have unintended consequences on the profession.
High-quality audits would be difficult to do without professionals experienced in tax and technology issues, he said.
“Making sure that a firm such as ours has access to those kinds of talents or competencies is really very critical,” he said. “That’s why we think the debate ought to focus on what does it take to really enhance audit quality.”
Nally said PwC expects the global economy to continue in a two-speed recovery pattern, with emerging markets growing at about triple the 1.1 percent to 1.5 percent rate anticipated in developed economies.
Europe and North America accounted for most of PwC’s revenue in fiscal 2011, though growth was slower in those regions than in other parts of the world.
The Australia and Pacific region posted the fastest growth at 38.4 percent. Revenue grew 22.8 percent in South and Central America and 19.9 percent in the Middle East and Africa.
North America and the Caribbean grew 10.4 percent while Asia grew 13.5 percent. Central and Eastern Europe increased 7.3 percent and Western Europe grew 4.1 percent. (Reporting by Dena Aubin; Editing by Howard Goller, Bernard Orr)