KPMG has agreed to sell its British and Dutch consultancy wings to Atos Origin, a European business consultancy group for around 657m euros in cash and shares.
The proposed sale to Atos will create a group with 30,000 employees generating annual revenues of 3.7 billion euros. But for KPMG, it represents a shift away from the strategy to build an independent global consultancy.
Selling off two of the largest member firms in its European consulting wing suggests that KPMG received an offer that was too good to refuse. The firm's long-stated intention was to integrate the European operations with the US KPMG Consulting operation, which was partially floated on the New York Stock Exchange last year.
That strategy appears to be one among many that has been complicated by the Andersen collapse. Just weeks ago, KPMG tabled a $284 million offer for Andersen consultancies in Europe, Asia and the US. However, in the UK, Andersen's business consultants are moving with the rest of the firm to Deloitte & Touche.
According to a UK spokeswoman, the global consultancy strategy has moved on, and the firm had been talking to a number of potential buyers.
"Things move on," she said. "We felt this deal was the best offer for the UK and the Netherlands and the best fit in geographical and business terms."
The KPMG-Atos sale is expected to be completed by July, and KPMG indicated that its German counterpart was also close to agreeing the sale of its consultancy wing.
In an official statement, KPMG International chairman Mike Rake commented: "Two years ago, we stated our clear intention to move the consulting business into public ownership, to ensure that it is in the best position to continue delivering the services clients require in a fast-moving environment.
"These deals make sense for all concerned. Our consulting businesses are linking with an organisation that brings real added value to their clients, and provides the critical mass to serve clients in Europe and globally.
"The agreements mean that KPMG now has a clear focus on its accounting and advisory work - with the goal of growing our network for our clients on a global basis. We wish our colleagues in Consulting every success."