KPMG float barred

Big Five partners’ hopes of joining the ranks of Britain’s richest businessmen were dealt a potentially fatal blow this week when the trade department endorsed US listing rules that block audit firms from offering shares.

With plans for a partial $125m (#77m) flotation of the firm’s management consultancy, KPMG is leading firms’ hopes of following Goldman Sachs, which this week revealed plans to go from partnership to listed company.

The investment bank’s move will net partners up to $1.3bn each.

A DTI spokeswoman said it would follow the lead of the US Security and Exchange Commission in objecting to audit firms, or subsidiaries such as KPMG’s K Consulting, listing. ‘We would look unfavourably on such developments and would presume the profession’s bodies would outlaw it,’ said a spokesman.

A spokesman for KPMG said the DTI’s statement was ‘a bit hypothetical’, since the firm had no flotation UK plans, despite saying in December it was considering partial flotation of its consulting practice.

English ICA rules allow firms to comply with London Stock Exchange listing rules, but requirements for auditor independence would make it difficult for practicing accountants to match the wealth of leading business accountants.

According to The Sunday Times‘ Rich List, published this week, Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter is Britain’s richest qualified accountant and the 22nd richest person in the country. The listing of Britain’s wealthiest people shows the Arthur Andersen-trained Soutar has a fortune of #850m, shared with sister Ann Gloag.

Among at least 20 other accountants in the list are Thailand-based medical publisher David Bromilow, (valued at #800m): Robert Edmiston, former finance director of the Jensen sports car business, (#300m); and UK-trained Jasminder Singh (#200m).

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