NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The partners of Andersen Consulting voted Thursday to approve a plan that could lead to a partial public offering of stock in the company that split from parent firm Andersen Worldwide earlier this year.|
Partners of the firm will meet again in mid-spring to vote on whether to launch an IPO, an Andersen Consulting spokeswoman said. Andersen is now proceeding with the analytical, legal, financial and regulatory work needed to consider the move.
Andersen Consulting, the largest global consulting firm, did not specify how many shares it would offer or a timeline for the offering. However, such an IPO could value the company at $25 billion to $30 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
At a meeting of 2,500 partners in Miami, Joe W. Forehand, managing partner & CEO, said, "We will investigate whether a partial public offering will help us accelerate our strategy while preserving the best qualities of our partnership and the vital entrepreneurial spirit that have made our firm successful."
In August, Andersen Consulting won its three-year battle to split from parent firm Andersen Worldwide, which also controls Arthur Andersen, the global accounting firm. As part of its separation, the consulting firm must shed the Andersen name and come up with a new corporate name by the end of the year.
Free to go public
Andersen Consulting had long discounted any plans to launch a public offering while under the control of parent Arthur Andersen. In September 1999, the consulting firm also lost its CEO, George Shaheen, who left to head online grocery merchant WebVan (WBVN: Research, Estimates) and is credited with spearheading Andersen Consulting's separation from the accounting firm.
"With our independence, this opens up a lot of different options for us," the spokeswoman said. "The arbitration victory now frees us to explore different constructs."
Andersen Consulting's announcement follows plans by KPMG Consulting Inc., a unit of global accounting firm KPMG LLP, to launch its own IPO. The $2.8 billion deal by KPMG Consulting is expected in early November. The consulting unit is offering 367 million shares at $6.75 to $8.75 via lead underwriter Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and is expected to trade under the Nasdaq symbol "KCIN."
In January, McLean, Va.-based KPMG Consulting announced it was splitting with parent KPMG LLP, one of the so-called Big 5 accounting firms, which include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche, Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young. In May, KPMG Consulting filed for an IPO, marking the first time a unit of the Big 5 has filed to go public.
Pressure from the Securities and Exchange Commission has prompted nearly all the Big 5 accounting firms to consider looking at other options for their consulting divisions. The SEC is scrutinizing the Big 5 firms for providing consulting services to firms they also audit, which raises possible conflicts of interest.
In September, Hewlett-Packard Co. confirmed it is in talks with PricewaterhouseCoopers to buy PwC's management consulting unit for approximately $18 billion in cash and stock.
In February, Ernst & Young sold nearly all its consulting unit to Cap Gemini, a French computer services and advisory firm, for nearly $11.3 billion.