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August 28, 2008

Swedish merger driven by impact of looming audit changes

By Nicholas Moody

Swedish firm Ranby Björklund has merged with Öhrlings PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), helping boost the Big Four firm’s audit offering ahead of a proposed increase in Sweden’s mandatory audit threshold.

The specialist Stockholm audit firm will help PwC build its audit practice in preparation for the proposed changes to Sweden’s audit environment prompted by the European Union’s Statutory Audit Directive, according to senior PwC partner Peter Clemedtson. Sweden’s government intends to remove mandatory audit for SMEs from 1 July 2010. This will apply to companies that do not exceed more than one of three requirements, including net sales of SEK83 million ($13 million), total assets of SEK41.5 million and 50 employees. The change will affect about 95 percent of Swedish companies.

Öhrlings PwC carried out between 50 to 60 mergers or acquisitions during the past two years. Ranby Björklund, a former RSM member, will add six partners and about 60 staff to PwC’s 3,500 strong workforce.

Ranby Björklund chief executive Ulf Hartell Borgstrand said: “We see it as an important strategic decision to become a part of PwC when we see that our customers have a need for the breadth of services they can offer. We are now getting a bigger platform, which feels like the right step in our development.”

Clemedtson said the mergers and acquisitions were the result of the proposed audit changes, adding: “We expect the market to shift from statutory audit to more market-driven services and that can still be audit, but there can also be other services like compilation reports or outsourcing of accountancy matters and outsourcing of bookkeeping services.”

He said the proposed increase of Sweden’s mandatory audit threshold will have a positive long-term effect on the country’s accounting profession, but may present short-term obstacles to firms unwilling to adapt.

“When this period of change is through and we stand there with a more market-oriented accounting business that will be good, because today it is more difficult to explain the value of the audit to clients when the triggering point is that the law says you must have an auditor. [We will have to] go from being used to getting assignments because the law said so to going out and convincing the market and clients that they need you,” he said.

Nicholas Moody

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