Grant Thornton to merge with RSM Farrell Grant Sparks

Accountancy firms seek to challenge dominance of profession’s ‘big four’

Grant Thornton managing partner Paul McCann said that the merger will “serve to increase competition within the larger Irish firms, particularly in the areas of audit and taxation, as well as the growing market for corporate finance advisory services”. Photograph: Patrick O’Leary

Grant Thornton managing partner Paul McCann said that the merger will “serve to increase competition within the larger Irish firms, particularly in the areas of audit and taxation, as well as the growing market for corporate finance advisory services”. Photograph: Patrick O’Leary

 

Accountants Grant Thornton and RSM Farrell Grant Sparks are set to merge in a link-up that will see them threaten the profession’s dominant big four.

The amalgamation of the two practices, which must get regulators’ approval, will see Grant Thornton’s workforce grow to 750 staff and 51 partners, with offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Belfast, Longford and Kildare.

The deal will consolidate its position as Ireland’s fifth-biggest accountancy firm and move it closer to the so-called big four: Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Grant Thornton’s managing partner, Paul McCann, pointed out that if the deal gets approval, the enlarged firm will have 5 per cent of the total market for accountancy services in the Republic.

Mr McCann, who will continue to lead the enlarged firm, predicted that RSM Farrell Grant Sparks would fit well with Grant Thornton.

Competition

“This consolidation will serve to increase competition within the larger Irish firms, particularly in the areas of audit and taxation, as well as the growing market for corporate finance advisory services,” he said.

Grant Thornton reported fee income in excess of €100 million for 2014, while RSM Farrell Grant Sparks had turnover of €32.5 million, according to the Finance Dublin Accountancy Survey for last year.

With combined income of €134 million, the enlarged Grant Thornton will be considerably bigger than sixth-placed BDO (€55 million) and will move closer to threatening the dominance of the big four, behind fourth-placed EY, which reported fee income of €166 million in 2014.

Financial crisis

Grant Thornton has one of the Republic’s biggest insolvency practices and handled a number of high-profile cases that resulted from the financial crisis, including Quinn Insurance.

It is part of a British-headquartered accountancy and professional advisory group that has a presence in 130 countries and fee incomes of more than $4.7 billion a year. Grant Thornton’s sister firm in the UK has a strong corporate finance business. Farrell Grant Sparks will have to sever its ties with global partner, RSM.

The deal is subject to joint completion of regulatory approval procedures including from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.