Mid-tier superleague emerges.

Mid-tier firms that have undertaken mergers and acquisitions in the last two years are stealing a march on firms who seek to go it alone, writes Liz Loxton. What’s more, a first division, behind the notional premier league of Big Five firms, is likely to establish itself, according to Baker Tilly’s national managing partner Laurence Longe. Analysis of Accountancy Age’s Top 50 (see page 12-13) shows that growth rates among firms that have undergone recent consolidation are pulling ahead, with fee income growth rates of well over an average of 12.35%. Longe, whose firm reported growth of 17.3% this year and 20.3% in our 1999 Top 50, puts this progress down to both organic growth and growth through acquisition. ‘The reality is that you have to be doing both. When firms merge, the comment often is that they’ll turn inward because they have to turn their attention to integrating the firms. ‘The perception of a growing firm has to be reinforced in the marketplace.’ Longe believes that the opportunity for the mid-tier’s top five (Grant Thornton, BDO Stoy Hayward, Pannell Kerr Forster, Horwath Clark Whitehill and Baker Tilly) is likely to be aided by the Big Five’s independence problems.

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