Andersen float could net partners pounds 1m each

A flotation of Andersen Consulting, the information technology services supplier and consultancy, could net the 389 UK-based partners of Andersen Worldwide at least pounds 1m each.

For the more senior partners, the windfall could be as much as pounds 5m, if they vote to split Andersen Consulting from its sister accountancy firm, Arthur Andersen, at a meeting of the partners in September.

Analysts believe that a listing for Andersen Consulting could free it to go on the acquisition trail and raise much-needed capital for its growing - but capital-intensive - business of running IT systems for its clients. "One can see the logic of it," says Richard Holway, independent analyst and author of the annual Holway Report on the IT consultancy industry. "IT services are flavour of the decade, and they can attract not inconsiderable p/e ratios."

Andersen Consulting is the fastest-growing division of Andersen Worldwide, and had global revenues of $4bn (pounds 2.6bn) for the year to October 1995, a 21 per cent rise on 1994. Its UK operations, which include IT contracts for Sears and the Department of Social Security, accounted for pounds 284m.

Based on the industry average price/earnings ratio of 27, a publicly quoted Andersen Consulting would have a market capitalisation of about pounds 6bn. If fee income continues to grow at its current rate, however, the company could be worth over pounds 7bn.

Andersen Worldwide, the parent of both Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting, denied reports that it was going to spin off the consulting side and said that it is considering a number of options to redefine its business structure, which might include separating the two but equally might mean bringing them closer together. Andersen Consulting's most recent contracts have included a larger proportion of accountancy work, which can be easily farmed out to the sister accountancy firm.

However, Andersen Consulting partners are thought to be unhappy with the current partnership structure, which involves their group subsidising the accountancy side to the tune of $200m a year, according to the US trade journal Consulting News. Tensions are also thought to have surfaced in the UK between Andersen Consulting partners and the management consultancy division started by Arthur Andersen after its merger with Binder Hamlyn, the accountancy firm, in October 1994.

With the flotation of EDS from General Motors, Andersen Consulting is now the only company among the top 10 IT consultancies in the world not to have a stock market listing.

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