Binder moves closer to merger

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BDO Binder Hamlyn, the UK's eighth-largest accountancy firm, is moving closer to a merger with Arthur Andersen.

Although detailed discussions are at an early stage, it appears that offices representing more than 80 per cent of Binder's total fee income of about pounds 110m are keen to accept the plan put forward last month by Jim Wadia, Andersen's UK managing partner. Senior partners at the firm, who met on Monday, have meanwhile agreed arrangements under which some offices, likely to include Scotland, Northern Ireland and East Anglia, will be able to withdraw from the federal organisation if they opt against the merger. Several other offices are understood to be still undecided.

The proposed link, after months of rumours concerning Binder and Andersen, which has fee income of about pounds 400m, comes against a background of increasing competition and litigation said to be particularly serious for middle-ranking firms like Binder.

Adrian Burn, Binder's managing partner, said yesterday: 'We're attracted to the idea and are pursuing it with great interest. I think it will be good for both firms.'

But he stressed that Binder wanted to retain a separate identity within the Andersen organisation, which, though ranked fourth in Britain, last year became the world's largest accounting firm.