KPMG claiming the top spot for major audit work in the region

Accountancy giant KPMG is claiming number one spot for big ticket audit work in Yorkshire.

The Big Four firm said it has seized the largest share of business among the region's top quoted and top 500 companies from rival PwC.

Iain Moffatt, senior partner in Leeds, said he was proud of the achievement and the relationship his firm has with companies across Yorkshire.

He disputed claims that the Big Four firms, which also include Deloitte and Ernst & Young, have a stranglehold on the audit market, the subject of an ongoing House of Lords investigation.

Mr Moffatt said: "When you have the Big Four, that's a big enough number for there to be proper competition. If you look at Yorkshire and the spread of work across the Big Four and the other practices like Grant Thornton and BDO, there is plenty of competition in the market."

KPMG yesterday revealed its financial performance for the year ending September 30 2010, with revenues holding steady at 1.602bn and pre-tax profit climbing 10 per cent to 428m.

Revenues across the North rose 6.6 per cent to 209m, including 101m from KPMG's operations in Yorkshire and the North East, which were up from 94m the previous year. Mr Moffatt said: "I'm happy that achieving growth against a difficult economic backdrop is a strong result."

Audit work contributed 70m to revenues in the North division, while KPMG's tax practice brought in 66m after a tough 2009. The regional restructuring team won some big appointments, including the high-profile administrations of social housing firm Connaught and Powerfuel, the Yorkshire company developing the UK's first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage plant.

KPMG's corporate finance, transaction services and tax teams advised on many of the main deals of the year, including the 350m sale of Dean Hoyle's Card Factory retail business and the private equity injection into Andrew Page, the car parts distributor. The firm said its pipeline of transactional work was busy and is actively recruiting into this area.

Mr Moffatt said: "Our M&A teams are seeing deal activity across the region continuing to pick up, with private equity buyers steadily returning to the market."

KPMG's fledgling performance and technology practice grew revenues by 500 per cent to 11m.

Looking ahead, the 49-year-old said uncertainty would continue to prevail in 2011, which is hampering decision-making across companies, although he expects the economy to remain relatively stable. Those businesses that used the downturn to restructure will flourish in this environment, but others will struggle, he added.

Companies operating in niche areas are performing well, such as set-top box maker Pace and telehealth and telecare firm Tunstall, as are retailers such as Morrisons and those in the energy and natural resources sectors, but traditional businesses such as housebuilders would continue to find it hard going, he said.

KPMG has been advising some public sector organisations how to deal with slashed budgets. As local government, health and education sectors face difficult decisions, he said it is important they plan for more sustainable futures, rather than looking for short-term cost savings.

"That's the challenge the public sector has going forward," he said. "We await to see the impact of public sector cuts on businesses across the region. In terms of what this means for our own public sector business, while spend on external consultants will come under intense scrutiny, we believe public bodies will need advice on getting a grip on finances, reducing costs and transforming the way in which public services are delivered. The bulk of this advice will be provided by a small number of professional firms who are able to demonstrate a dramatic return on investment and we expect growth in this part of our business."

Banking conditions remain challenging, he said. "We anticipate a high volume of refinancing activity in the next 24 months as loans arranged pre credit crunch must be refinanced ahead of maturity. Meanwhile, the banks are faced with pressures to recapitalise their balance sheets and hold higher levels of reserves. As a result, the capital available to support loan renewals will be squeezed and the scales may again tip towards the lender."

KPMG advised the Leeds city region project, aimed at increasing economic cooperation between 11 local authorities. This project helped give birth to the Leeds local enterprise partnership, set up to stimulate private sector growth.

Thought leader in the market

KPMG set an objective to position itself as thought leader in the Yorkshire market. The strategy of giving opinions on general and specific issues to firms is paying off, said Iain Moffatt, senior partner in Leeds.

"We are proud of the many relationships with companies across Yorkshire that lie behind our audit market leadership, with the largest share of business among both the region's top quoted companies and top 500 ones," he added. KPMG employs 1,628 people across its five Northern offices, including 750 in Leeds.