KPMG in expansion mode, may take in new partners

By Erik de la Cruz, Business Mirror

Posted at Feb 27 2009 11:10 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2009 07:10 PM

Accounting firm KPMG International may hire more people and is keeping the door open to potential partners even from its competitors as it sees growth opportunities for its businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, key regional executives of the group said on Wednesday night.

“We have room for [additional] partners because some [of our] big clients are in acquisition mode. We must have qualified people to handle these incoming jobs,” said Roberto Manabat, chairman and chief executive officer of KPMG member-firm in the Philippines, Manabat Sanagustin & Co., CPAs.

John Harrison, deputy chairman of KPMG, said the group plans to expand its Philippine operations within the next two years, something which will require staff hirings for all business segments and also for partner and managerial positions.

“This is the fastest-growing region for KPMG,” said Harrison, who is in Manila this week for the KPMG Asia-Pacific board meeting.

KPMG needs additional people particularly for the tax advisory service, he said.

“We’ve got a tax practice, which is a very big advisory practice, so some of the people we will recruit may come from legal firms or from other consultancy firms,” Harrison said.

Manabat gave a “neither-confirm-nor-deny” response when asked about the possibility of some partners at rival SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. transferring to KPMG amid reports of a partners’ revolt at SGV, the country’s largest auditing firm.

KPMG chief operating officer for Asia Pacific Graeme Bailey said KPMG was “always interested in talking to good people from any organization, not just SGV.”

He said, “We are growing and we need more special skills.”

On Wednesday night, Manabat Sanagustin & Co’s new, bigger office along Ayala Avenue in Makati City was formally opened, with Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Amando Tetangco, some bankers and business executives gracing the affair.

According to KPMG officials, the firm’s move to a new office, which is three buildings away from the former office site at Philamlife Tower, signals the “aggressive move for growth” by the “revitalized” Manabat Sanagustin & Co.

“We see a lot of opportunities for accounting firms even during economic downturns,” Manabat said.

KPMG, which has 550 employees including partners and managers in the Philippines, expects to see a lot of opportunities in corporate recovery and merger and acquisition deals in the coming months.

KPMG’s Philippine operations delivered a 50-percent growth in terms of revenue during the past two years.

Asked if this pace of growth is sustainable, Manabat said, “Our projections have been affected somehow by this crisis, but we still project respectable growth for this year.”

KPMG operates in 145 countries, including 12 in the Asia-Pacific region, and has more than 123,000 employees worldwide.

Combined revenues for its member firms increased to $22.69 billion for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2008, from $19.81 billion for the prior fiscal year, reflecting double-digit growth across all service lines.

Revenues in the Asia-Pacific region last year were in excess of $3 billion, and Harrison expects top line figures to improve this year.

“Our services are focused on those issues like turnaround, corporate recovery, cash management, and cost optimization. For us it’s a case of making sure we’re delivering the right services in this kind of environment,” he said.