Merger gets Euro thumbs up

Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand plan to be fully merged by 1 July after the European Commission effectively gave the green light to their merger plans this week.

The firms’ dream to create the largest professional services firm in the world, with fee income last year of $13bn (#8bn), became a virtual certainty on Monday after the commission shelved plans to issue a statement of objections.

Two formal stages remain – approval by an advisory committee consisting of individual states’ competition representatives, and rubber-stamping by the commissioners. The process should take six weeks, but is regarded as routine.

Once it is over the two firms will launch a detailed merger enactment plan to bring the two accountancy giants together seamlessly.

The commission’s U-turn follows merger approval by the US Department of Justice last Friday and Ernst & Young and KPMG’s decision to abandon their merger.

Coopers and PW insisted no concessions were made in order to win European backing, despite commission concern about their dominance in financial sector audits.

A PW spokesman said the firms supplied information to the commission which satisfied it. Peter Smith, Coopers’ UK chairman and his PW counterpart Ian Brindle, said: ‘The commission has understood the dynamics and believe, as we do, there is no need for a statement of objections.’

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