PwC holds lion’s share of audits

PricewaterhouseCoopers may have captured more listed audit clients than any other UK firm but, when it comes to winning audit business from Britain’s fastest growing companies, PwC is being beaten by smaller Group A firms as well as Big Five rivals.

The latest snapshot of the auditing market in the Hemscott Company Guide shows that PwC counts among its audit clients only 6% of the listed companies which will dominate the stock market in the next century.

First choice for fast-growing listed companies is Deloitte and Touche, with 18.3% of the market, followed by BDO Stoy Hayward (14.3%), KPMG (11.4%), Robson Rhodes (10.5%) and Ernst and Young (7.6%).

Not only does PwC audit more UK listed companies than any other firm, its clients are also the most profitable, generating combined profits of #51bn a year.

With 560 listed clients, including SmithKline Beecham and Shell, PwC enjoys a commanding lead. Its nearest competitor, KPMG, which topped the table before the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, trails with 396, followed by Ernst & Young with 278. In terms of client profitability, PwC’s nearest rival is KPMG, with client profits of #25.6bn.

The report also notes that the PwC merger has slowed down what it terms the pre-merger ‘haemorrhage of clients’ which, it says, saw PW and Coopers lose ten clients in the previous quarter.

Putting all the criteria together, the report finds that listed companies’ first choice is KPMG with PwC in third place.

Robert Sandry, a UK marketing partner for PwC, criticised the report for giving a narrow view of the auditing market. ‘It doesn’t indicate any qualities of a good auditor because it’s purely a numbers game. There are also too many variables involved so it only gives a snapshot of a company,’ he said. Sandry added that with around 5,000 quoted companies on the stock market, its real strength lay at the top end of the market.

He also denied the report’s claim that there had been a ‘haemorrhage’ of clients preceding the merger: ‘If there was a haemorrhaging we would have recognised it.’

                                        #m   last year
 1    PricewaterhouseCoopers       51152.2           -
 2    KPMG Audit plc               25697.9           2
 3    Ernst & Young                13699.7           4
 4    Deloitte & Touche             5027.9           5
 5    Arthur Andersen               3991.5           6
 6    Binder Hamlyn                  270.4           7
 7    Grant Thornton                 241.1           8
 8    BDO Stoy Hayward               236.6           9
 9    Robson Rhodes                  103.3          10
 10   Pannell Kerr Forster            67.8           -

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