City A.M. Reporter
ATTEMPTS to inject more competition into firms that audit UK company books have suffered a setback as figures released yesterday showed the “Big Four” accountants maintaining their stranglehold on the sector. <br /><br />The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) set up a market participants group three years ago which made recommendations to spread this business more evenly. It proposed remedies such as encouraging firms besides PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young to vie for contracts at blue chip companies, making changes to ownership and liability of auditors but progress has been non-existent or slow.<br /><br />The latest FRC figures show that the Big Four audited the accounts of 99 of the FTSE 100 in August, unchanged from February. Non-Big Four firm, BDO Stoy Hayward, audited one company in the blue chip index, sparking concerns about effect on listed companies if any of the major auditors got into trouble.<br /><br />“The FRC remains concerned about the significant uncertainty and cost which could arise in the event that one or more of the Big Four audit firms left the market,” said FRC chief executive Paul Boyle.<br /><br />The Big Four also dominate auditing of UK medium sized companies, with a market share of 94 per cent.