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June 3, 2008

Polish mid-tier rivals join forces to cement BDO’s position

As the ink dries on a merger between BDO Numerica and Grant Thornton’s former Polish member firm, one of the proponents of the combination would like to see further mergers between the two rival networks in order to provide better competition to the Big Four.

BDO Numerica managing partner Kristoff Zorde told the International Accounting Bulletin the merger of two high profile accountancy networks with strong international links will raise the profile of Poland’s fifth largest firm, which now has 350 professionals and combined fee income of PLN67.3 million ($31 million).

“I think it would be the best thing that could happen for everybody because the international business community is looking for the next large firm to emerge,” Zorde said. “[A] global merger of BDO and Grant Thornton would be welcomed by the businesses community, by law makers and also by the Big Four, because they would like to see versatility in the market and this would deny the claims that they are having an oligopoly. I want this very much and this is what I often repeat to my colleagues in BDO ‘the best thing that would happen would be that Grant Thornton and BDO globally merged’.”

sZorde said his feelings are purely personal and not a sign of any other merger murmurs between BDO and Grant Thornton firms. He stressed that consolidation of firms in Poland and other parts of the world is a trend that is likely to continue.

“We are only two small firms on the outskirts of the mainstream but you see other tendencies with the firms, such as the members of the Ernst & Young network and you see the same with KPMG UK and Germany merging together. Everybody is talking about merging and consolidating [in Poland] but nobody is doing it.”

BDO Numerica was the largest accounting firm outside the Big Four in the International Accounting Bulletin’s inaugural survey of the Polish profession this year. The merger added 65 staff, offices in Warsaw and Poznan and PLN13.5 million in revenue. The firm will continue to operate as BDO Numerica and be managed by the three founding partners: Zorde, Andre Helin and Andrzej Kinast.

Zorde said the two parties entered into negotiations several months before a deal was struck. He added that it is difficult to find merger partners in Poland due to firms lacking international capabilities, something which made Grant Thornton attractive.

Grant Thornton International told the International Accounting Bulletin the network has been looking at ways to expand its Polish footprint for some time.

The network stated: “Consistent with our global strategy to strengthen our presence in key markets, we have spent several months investigating ways of developing our member firm in Poland. As a result, the Polish member firm has parted company with Grant Thornton International. We will shortly announce arrangements regarding our new member firm in Poland.”

The Polish merger is not the first time discussions have been held between Grant Thornton and BDO firms. In April 2007, Grant Thornton Canada and BDO Dunwoody were optimistic about combining forces but negotiations broke down a month later. Globally, if the two networks combined it would form an entity with a combined fee income of $8.2 billion, about half the size of the fourth largest accountancy network KPMG.

Arvind Hickman

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