Big Six Mergers

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has received more than 60 responses from FTSE-100 finance directors to its questionnaire seeking their views on the planned mergers between Coopers & Lybrand/Price Waterhouse and KPMG/Ernst & Young.

An OFT spokesman said the views would be used in the office’s submission to the European Commission, which is examining the regulatory and competition implications of the merger proposals.

The OFT is concerned about lack of choice in the audit market currently faced by FTSE-100 companies, which rely almost exclusively on the Big Six to provide audit and consultancy services.

The competition watchdog sought the views of the leading FDs last year after the 100 Group of Finance Directors, representing the UK’s leading businesses, warned the mergers would lead ‘to a dramatic diminution of competition’. KPMG and E&Y filed their merger proposals with the EC’s competition authorities just before Christmas.

A survey of 100 finance managers by recruitment consultants Robert Half, published this week, found that 77% believed the mergers should not go ahead, on the grounds that they would restrict competition and create a near monopoly situation.

Meanwhile, BDO Stoy Hayward, the UK’s eighth largest accountancy firm, which placed full-page advertisements in Accountancy Age in October urging staff at the four firms to defect, said it had received more than 50 responses. The firm has also taken on two directors from the merger firms.

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