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Private equity investors turn their attention to Irish accountancy’s mid and top end markets Back
 
Recent investments by private-equity backed firms in two of Ireland’s Top 20 Accountancy firms looks set to shake-up Ireland’s mid market, as both of the newly-backed Irish accountancy firms, Azets Ireland and Moore Ireland, gear up for growth.

The moves could help drive consolidation in a similar way to the Irish insurance broker market where international players and PE firms have been central to an M&A blitz in recent years which has reshaped the sector. With accountancy firms operating in an increasingly complex tax and regulatory environment, smaller players may increasingly see M&A as a ready-made option to add new skill sets and expertise that allow them to cater to their clients evolving requirements.
Ambitious Irish SMEs like Farra Marine, a crew transfer vessel owner and operator that specialises in the offshore renewables sector (pictured is Farra Orla, the first of its planned 10 ship fleet) are part of Ireland's vibrant SME sector that has seen private Equity investment in professional services firms targetting the sector.



Moore Ireland, the Cork-headquartered accountancy firm, was acquired by fellow member of the Moore Global network Moore Kingston Smith (MKS), based in London in mid-July. The move followed an investment by Waterland Private Equity in the London firm at the end of June. Moore were the 12th largest accountancy firm in last years Finance Dublin Accountancy Survey, and managing partner Ned Murphy said the acquisition by MKS ‘is a transformational development’ adding that ‘the partnership will secure our growth strategy, and provide the funds we need to make investments in strategic acquisitions in the Irish marketplace’. Waterland have said the Irish firm plans a ‘buy-and-build’ strategy with the Irish Independent reporting Moore Ireland has a €50 million war chest. Murphy has said he has already received enquiries from interested firms adding ‘I see no reason why we can’t triple in size over the next two or three years.’ For its FY end June 2021 it reported fee income of €21.4 million.

Azets Ireland, the former Hughes Blake business that had been part of Baker Tilly until it was acquired by Azets earlier this year, says it is looking to grow ‘exponentially’ according to managing partner Neil Hughes. Azets is UK-headquartered, SME-focused accountancy and advisory firm and Hughes said Azets Ireland plans to more than triple its c.100 person work force in the next two to three years.

Azets Group is backed by private equity firm Hg and since its move into the Irish market another private equity firm, PAI Partners, has joined the business as an investor. Azets Ireland (as Baker Tilly) was 15th largest firm by fee income and the fastest growing firm in the Finance Dublin Accountancy Survey 2022. Hughes said “We have enjoyed strong organic growth over the past five years as we continue to deepen our areas of expertise and build a team of specialists to support the evolving and changing needs of our client base... With the investment from Azets and the connection to this growing international services company, Azets Ireland is well positioned to advise our clients and to take advantage of the growth opportunities that this presents for our firm.

Elsewhere, PE-backed efforts to revive EY’s abandoned plan to split the global firm have been rejected by the firm. EY was the subject of an approach in July by US PE firm TPG to buy a stake in its consulting arm with a view to resurrecting plans to spin this part of the business out in an IPO but the proposal has been rejected by EY.

Read more on the business of Irish accountancy in the upcoming Finance Dublin Accountancy Survey 2023, in the September issue of Finance Dublin.
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