Nexia International’s largest UK member
firm, Smith & Williamson, plans to merge with the network’s
Dublin representative, Oliver Freaney & Company (OFC).

The combined firm will have annual revenue of more than £175
million ($348.5 million) and 1,500 employees. This includes 75
staff, seven partners and annual revenue of about €10 million ($16
million) from the Irish partner. OFC will change its name in autumn
to Smith & Williamson Freaney.

Smith & Williamson managing director of tax and business
services Jeremy Boadle said the combination is the firm’s first
foray into an Irish firm. He also doesn’t expect operating across
two different jurisdictions will represent too much of a challenge
due to uniformity within the EU.

“What particularly attracted us to Oliver Freaney is that we
knew them well. They have been part of the Nexia International
network for longer then us,” he told the International
Accounting Bulletin

“They have a very complimentary client base and their clients
were starting to require a deeper depth of corporate advisory, tax
and finance services. From our perspective we have a number of
Irish clients and I think the merger will help us extend our
offerings to them.”

The Oliver Freaney combination is Smith & Williamson’s first
major merger since it combined with fellow Nexia International UK
member Solomon Hare in Bristol in 2005. However, Boadle said the
firm has taken on a number of individual teams from other firms
since then.

Mergers between member firms are encouraged by Nexia
International, but as many Big Four firms become more integrated,
Boadle said it is too early to see if this will become common
practice in the mid-tier. “I suspect people are waiting to see how
KPMG and Ernst & Young tackle the issues and what aspects arise
out of combining these international firms into a single firm. I do
think the litigation landscape will drive consolidation into single
national practices,” he said.

While Smith & Williamson is keeping a close watch on
opportunities to further build its client base internationally, it
is not actively pursuing it. Boadle said: “Over the last 18 months,
about 80 percent of our IPO work has originated from outside the
UK, a substantial part of that coming from the BRIC economies. So I
think the economic landscape will ensure that we maintain a strong
focus on those economies and direct investment in those economies
may be a result of that.”

Carolyn Canham and Arvind Hickman