Accenture throws its hat into the IPO market

Accenture throws its hat into the IPO market

Technology and management consulting firm Accenture filed for an initial public offering (IPO) with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

Accenture, formerly known as Andersen Consulting, did not disclose how many shares it will put up for sale or the offering price at which those shares will be sold. In its SEC filing, Accenture said the offering could raise a maximum of $US1 billion, but a company spokesman said on Thursday that figure "should not be seen as a ceiling" for the amount raised from the public markets.

Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter are the co-lead underwriters in the planned IPO.

Accenture reported revenue of $10.8 billion for the 12-month period ended February 28, according to regulatory fillings. Revenue from the final six months of that period accounted for $5.7 billion, a 22 per cent gain in revenue compared to the first six months. One of the "Big Five" in the consulting space, Accenture said it has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 17.9 per cent for the last 10 years. It employs more than 70,000 people around the world.

No date was noted for an IPO, though Accenture said it plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ACN."

After some delay in announcing its IPO, Accenture will enter the market as it continues to show signs of a downturn. For instance, KPMG Consulting attempted a similar IPO in February, raising $2 billion. The company sold its shares (KCIN) initially for $18 a piece. Midday on Thursday, KPMG was trading up $2.14, or 16 per cent to $15.55, but its share price is down nearly 40 per cent from its high of $24.25.

Adding to the risks, a number of major consulting firms have announced a downsizing in the past several months due to a slowing global market for technology consulting. Rival PricewaterhouseCoopers said on April 10 it would lay off 750 to 1,000 employees, or 6 per cent to 8 per cent of its US consulting staff. Smaller startups including MarchFirst, which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection last week, have seen an even worse fate as the market for technology consulting narrows.

In its filing on Thursday, Accenture noted that its business is dependent on "continued growth in the use of technology in business," and "if the growth in the use of technology does not continue, demand for (Accenture's) services may decrease."

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