PhillyDeals: Two Center City accounting firms will now be one

Posted: October 26, 2012

Two Center City corporate accounting offices that admired each other from across the street are moving in together.

BDO USA L.L.P., a Chicago-based corporate accounting and business consulting firm, says it is acquiring Philadelphia accountants Asher & Co. Ltd. and taking on the firm's 10 partners and more than 100 staffers.

The move joins Asher, based at 1801 Market, to BDO's 60-employee branch at 1800 Market. "We want to all be under one roof," but haven't yet worked out which home will house the pair, Asher managing director Joseph Beach told me. He'll remain, under BDO; he said no one will lose a job in the deal. The firms won't talk about financial terms.

Philadelphia "is an office we're trying to rebuild," after a series of partners left what had been one of the firm's biggest offices here in the mid-2000s, BDO CEO-elect Wayne Berson told me.

BDO is trolling for corporate and midsize customers along the mid-Atlantic. Earlier this year, the firm purchased McLean, Va.-based Argy, Wiltse & Robinson, which is about twice the size of Asher; it bought Wilmington-based McBride Shopa in 2010.

Beach had planned to be a buyer, not a target, but found few potential partners as the industry has consolidated since he took the top job seven years ago. Beach said he found Berson and his team "likable guys" who made his partners "comfortable," with practices and an entrepreneurial culture that's "compatible" with BDO's local focus, global reach, and industry specialization.

Berson says he wants to boost sales to Philadelphia-area health care-related businesses and expand Asher's real estate practice, which accounts for nearly half of the firm's billings.

BDO is part of the multinational BDO International accounting-firm network, the fifth-largest worldwide, "but not enough of the large-cap or mid-market companies in Philadelphia know about our presence," said John McLaughlin, who runs BDO's U.S. risk advisory business from his Philadelphia office. He joined BDO with a group from the former LECG (previously Smart & Co.) two years ago.

"A lot of companies need oversight of business processes in other countries, and BDO is large enough to support that," McLaughlin added. "That's why I picked BDO."

BDO USA has 300 partners and about 3,000 staff in the United States; the BDO International global network claims 50,000 worldwide.

Global warming?

Ace Ltd., the big insurer nominally based in Switzerland but largely run through the former Insurance Co. of North America in Philadelphia and executive offices in New York, now says it expects that crop-insurance losses from the drought of 2012 will cost the company $195 million after taxes, less than its previous worst-case estimate of $268 million.

Will this year's dry-out lead to higher crop insurance charges and fears that global warming makes U.S. farming more risky?

Not according to Ace boss Evan Greenberg: He told investors the reinsurers who help finance crop-loss payouts "have made good money in that business in the U.S." by averaging losses over 10-year periods. Failed 2012 crop costs will be "rolled forward" and won't spike prices unless the drought keeps repeating.

Slowdown

Shares of SAP AG, the German business-software company that employs 2,500 at its U.S. headquarters in Newtown Square, rose yesterday after the company reported higher-than-expected profits and record software sales.

But the company has slowed its hiring plans as it prepares to absorb cloud-computing specialist Ariba Inc. and boost its Hana database program, chief financial officer Werner Brandt told investors in a morning conference call.

SAP hired 4,500 over the last year, plus added 2,300 through corporate acquisitions. But Brandt said the company added only 350, mostly sales and marketing people, in the three months ended Sept. 30, and said it had no plans to scale up hiring into next year. SAP employs around 61,000 worldwide.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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