April 27, 2013 12:00 am

PwC eyes bid for Roland Berger

PricewaterhouseCoopers offices at 300 Madison Avenue in New York©Bloomberg

PwC has emerged as a potential bidder for Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, the management consultancy that flirted with a takeover by Deloitte in 2010.

Two people close to the situation said that PwC, the world’s biggest auditor and consultant by fee income, was eyeing the Munich-headquartered group.

Its interest comes amid broader talk that big auditors could be primed for a fresh burst of expansion in the consulting market, which has offered them stronger growth than their traditional businesses in recent years.

One of the people said PwC had also expressed an interest in buying all or part of Booz & Company, another management consultant.

Roland Berger had attracted interest from other suitors too, another person close to the situation said.

It was far from clear on Friday whether either management consultancy would end up being bought.

Booz said it had a policy of not commenting on “rumours and speculation”. PwC said it did not comment on “market rumours”. Roland Berger also declined to comment.

The collapse of the 2010 talks between Deloitte and Roland Berger illustrated how difficult it can be to do deals in management consultancy. The advanced discussions fell apart after partners at Roland Berger decided to continue going it alone.

Merger talks between Booz and AT Kearney, another management consultant, also failed to come to fruition in 2010.

Successful mergers and acquisition activity in the sector is not unheard of. Earlier this year Deloitte bought Monitor – the strategy house co-founded by Harvard management guru Michael Porter – out of bankruptcy.

Roland Berger was founded in 1967 and employs about 2,700 in 51 offices. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported last month that Roland Berger was in talks with an auditor – said to be Deloitte – about a possible sale.

Deloitte was not able to comment immediately on Friday night.

Booz was founded in the US in 1914 and now employs more than 3,000 people in 58 offices around the world. It hived off its US government consulting business, Booz Allen Hamilton, in 2008. It bought Management Engineers, a smaller consultancy earlier this year.

PwC’s interest in the consulting sector comes at a sensitive time for auditing. Regulators around the world have put the audit profession under harsh scrutiny in the wake of its failure to warn investors of bank failures during the financial crisis.

Regulators are concerned about the potential conflicts of interest when an auditor also has a consulting arm.

The European Commission had gone so far as to propose a crackdown that had raised the prospect of a break-up of one or more of the “Big Four” accountants: PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. This is now unlikely to happen after EU lawmakers rejected it earlier this week.

Additional reporting by Richard Milne

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