Cultural challenges suggested as
stumbling block in KPMG Europe merger

Critics of a proposal for the Dutch member firm of KPMG to
merge with member firms in Germany, the UK and Switzerland have
voiced concerns in the Dutch media about perceived cultural
differences that may arise between the corporate cultures of the
European partners and their British counterparts.

TA understands such reservations are not at all
directed towards the UK member firm of KPMG, which works closely
with its Dutch counterpart. Rather, there is a general wariness
within the wider business community that has been shaped by bad
experiences in the past of Dutch companies that have merged with UK
companies. One example, regularly cited in the Dutch press, was the
largely troubled 1999 Dutch-Anglo combination between British Steel
and Dutch company Hoogovens.

KPMG partners in the Netherlands recently narrowly voted against
joining the European firm. At a vote of 206 partners held this
month, 135 voted in favour of the proposed merger, 68 voted against
and three abstained. This means the vote was just one partner short
of the two-thirds majority required by law.

KPMG Netherlands president Ben van der Veer commented: “Although we
are not ready at this moment for full integration of the Dutch firm
into KPMG Europe all of the intensive co-operation in commercial
and operational [matters] will be continued without any
restriction… Because our integrated service to our international
operating clients demands such cross border co-operation.”

At the same meeting, the firm revealed its strategic plan, which
will focus on investment in people, markets and quality. The firm
also unveiled to partners several key leadership positions. Board
member Herman Dijkhuizen will take over as KPMG Netherlands
president from October 2008 when van der Veer is due to step down.
Jurgen van Breukelen is to become the firm’s international activism
merger adviser, responsible for all advisory activities. CFO Jaap
van Everdingen has been reaffirmed for another four years.

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By GlobalData

The board will soon meet to discuss the direction of the firm,
including any future plans to join the KPMG Europe firm.