PwC Dives Into Andersen Bidding Pool

Big Five firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has kept a low profile with regard to displaying any interest in acquiring portions of Arthur Andersen LLP's U.S. practice. Until now. Reports have surfaced that PwC has offered to purchase Andersen's U.S. tax practice.

Andersen is entertaining a bid by Big Five firm Deloitte & Touche to acquire a portion of the U.S. tax practice and the firms recently signed a letter of agreement to that effect. Deloitte has expressed an interest in acquiring at least 200 of Andersen's 560 U.S. tax partners and as many as 2,000 of the U.S. tax staff.

PwC has offered to double the Deloitte offer, a situation that may put aside the heretofore exclusive bargaining enjoyed by Deloitte. Andersen's letter of agreement regarding the Deloitte offer provided Deloitte with exclusive negotiating rights with regard to the tax practice. The PwC offer could interfere with the sale to Deloitte, according to a report in today's Bloomberg Press.

"PwC has been hanging in the corners," said Allan Koltin, an industry consultant who previously worked for Andersen. "We've all been wondering where they were. They're the largest of the Big Four and have more depth and resources so it only makes sense."

Deloitte meanwhile says the firm plans to go forward with its intent to purchase a portion of the Andersen tax practice.

Previously investment firm Fox Paine floated an offer to purchase Andersen's entire U.S. tax practice, but the offer has been rejected. Andersen's tax partners reportedly feel that the Deloitte offer is "safer." "Tax people are by nature risk-averse," said Robert Willens, a tax and accounting analyst at Lehman Brothers Holdings.

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