Speaking exclusively to Accountancy Age ahead of this morning’s shock announcement that Andersen in the UK would now merge with Deloitte & Touche, Brussels expressed concern about the implications if Andersen’s practices arepicked up piecemeal by local or international firms.
If parts of Andersen were sold off to other major accountancy firms on a local basis this ‘could justify an inquiry’ but each case would be judged on its own merits, the official said.
The Commission has already insisted that it has the right to intervene whena merged firm’s world-wide turnover exceeds ? ¬5bn, of which more than ? ¬250m is in the EU. Some deals involving Andersen, the subject of continued speculation, would fit this description.
A spokeswoman for the European competition commissioner Mario Monti saidthe Commission remained concerned about any reduction in the number of worldwide accountancy firms noting that in 1998 it effectively blocked a deal between KPMG and Ernst & Young that would have reduced the number of major players from five to four.
The Commission indicated privately last month that the proposedAndersen/KPMG merger would have been subject to a formal investigation bythe competition authorities in Brussels.