There’s room at the top for BDO

No, when PartyGaming plc launches on the London Stock Exchange this summer,
probably raising between £5bn and £6bn, the spoils will go to BDO Stoy Hayward –
a firm outside the top flight, but no less ambitious for that. They will also
stay on as auditor, the first firm outside the Big Four to audit a FTSE100
company since Baker Tilly serviced Securicor in 1998.

Only a few weeks ago, the larger mid-tier firms were arguing over who had
done most work for listings on the Alternative Investment Market but, as dynamic
as that market is, BDO’s arrival among the 100 biggest companies in the UK
surely eclipses all that.

That said, the more curious among the tight knit group of accountants who
work in corporate finance will be asking what this means. Does it mean a massive
challenge to the dominance of the Big Four? Is the way now open for other
mid-tier firms to work on such big flotations? Indeed, are big flotations on the
way back?

All in all, it’s probably a little too early to get excited over the prospect
of BDO or Grant Thornton taking their place among the big firms.

There’s clearly a lot of work being generated by recent regulatory changes
and huge concern over conflicts of interest. Predictions that they might soon
occupy seats at the top table are probably a little premature.

That said though, it’s absolutely good for accountancy and business that
another firm should start doing business at the highest level.

As we’ve all known since the demise of Andersen, the issue of competition
among the top four firms has been a sensitive one. They themselves must be
relieved to see another firm muscling in on their turf, if only because it shows
legislators and rulemakers that the profession can deal with its own issues
without interference.

But there’s a long way to go on that score. This is just one client, though
high profile. It would take a lot more than that to really demonstrate things
have changed.

Gavin Hinks is deputy editor of Accountancy Age

Related reading