TOP 50: Acquisitions and changes for the mid-tier

Accountancy consolidator Vantis has been born out of introductory company Jobtel, and was created following the combination of the non-audit practices of four separate accountancy practices: the Morgan, Brown & Spofforth Group, Morton Thornton, the Walkers Group and the Bradney Group.

It stuck its flag on the mid-tier world after floating on the alternative investment market earlier this year, raising close to £3.3m. It also completed its first acquisition, albeit a modest one, when it acquired the non-audit business of Gregory Mitford & Snowball, a four-partner firm in Darlington, for an initial sum of £198,316.

Chief executive Paul Jackson says further acquisitions are expected to follow in the near future, and the firm will certainly be one to watch.

Troubled rival consolidator Tenon, has suffered following the issue of a profits warning last Christmas and ‘disappointing’ full year results showing a profit before goodwill amortisation of £678,000 on a £55m turnover.

Chief executive Ian Buckley has remained upbeat and says he expects the firm to meet City predictions of a £14.5m profit and growth in turnover to £100m. One can only assume Buckley has at least one or two tricks up his sleeve in order to complete what would be a remarkable financial turn around.

Buckley has started this year brightly for the group. However he has had to endure a share price crash to a value as low as 57.5p, almost half the original share valuation at the time of the company’s listing.

At the same time, Tenon has lost its finance director Jonathan Freedman, who resigned in March. This year is expected to be one of consolidating its internal structures and software after buying 16 practices in a short space of time. However, the group did meet its target of becoming a top ten player when it purchased the non-audit business of the Independent Partnership, Livingstone Guarantee, Dhand Hatchard Davies and Statham Gill Davies Partnership for £67.4m.

It also launched its corporate finance arm, to specialise in deals worth between £3m and £100m.

Meanwhile, rival consolidator Numerica, led by Levy Gee, launched last July after pulling off its first acquisition; that of London-based firm Jayson Newman, closely followed by NMGW.

It has also begun trading on AIM after raising £30m, with more funds likely to be raised for future acquisitions. Its aim is to achieve a turnover of £70m by 2003.

The merger of HLB Kidsons with Baker Tilly completely changed the landscape of the top ten firms in the UK. The creation of the new firm saw Horwath Clarke Whitehill squeezed out of the top ten, while the new entity has been promoted to seventh largest in terms of fee income.

Continuing under the Baker Tilly brand, the new firm sees the end of the Kidsons name, which had been in use since 1875.

Senior figures insist the adoption of the Baker Tilly brand and the loss of the Kidsons name was an easy decision made early on in the negotiations.

Laurence Longe of Baker Tilly, continues as national managing partner of the new firm, while Ray Greatorex, former national managing partner of Kidsons, takes up the new post of executive chairman.

The merger appeared to be a triumph for Greatorex who had worked hard to transform Kidsons in the wake of the failed attempt to merge with Grant Thornton 12 months earlier.

Horwath Clark Whitehill – on paper at least – appeared to have suffered an annus horribilus. It has seen its fee income almost halve from £77.3m to £44.4m, dropping out of the top ten to number 14.

However, all is not as it may appear. The firm this year decided to only include Horwath branded firms in its results for the first time and not member firms operating under an independent brand.

The move has come about, following strategy reviews undertaken in the UK and internationally by Horwath International. If you actually compare like for like though, the firm has grown 5.7%, despite selling its corporate recovery arm to Tenon.

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