PwC Loses Top China M&A Partner

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Xie Tao, a long-time China partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has resigned from one of the world’s four biggest auditing and consultancy firms, sources familiar with the situation said on Monday. The resignation of Xie, based in Beijing for PwC as its corporate finance leader for the China market, was a surprise to many dealmakers in China as he has handled more than 100 mergers and acquisitions over the past decade there, the sources said.

“His job is more like an investment banker as he helps dealmakers get deals done rather than just audits these financial numbers,” said one source who worked with Xie on a China M&A deal.

“When you talk about PwC’s transaction service in China, Xie’s name will easily be the first one to come to your mind,” the source said, adding he was surprised by Xie’s sudden and unexpected departure.

Xie focused on acquisition support, system review and implementation, tax planning and negotiation, project facilitation and the financial review of deal targets for both global and domestic clients, according to PwC’s China site.

He has also managed several assignments connected with the listing of state-owned enterprises in China and abroad, said PwC on its website, without naming its clients.

There was no immediate replacement for Xie’s job at PwC and Xie has not made a decision on his next move, said the sources, with direct knowledge of the matter, but who declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Reuters could not confirm the precise reasons behind Xie’s departure. A PwC representative, when contacted by Reuters, declined to give immediate comment. Xie could not be reached through his PwC email and office telephone.

Xie, a government official-turned chartered accountant, is one of the most senior PwC partners in China, and he often worked with the firm’s major private equity clients in China closely to help them negotiate and implement transactions.

Resignations of senior partners at the Big Four firms are rare though junior staff often move for quick promotion and pay rises, usually to rivals in the financial industry.

It is normally required of senior accounting and consultancy executives who resign, that they not work for any rival company amid the Big Four for at least six months, to avoid conflict of interests related to clients, industry executives said.

Earlier this month, Xie submitted his resignation, which was approved by the firm and he will hand over some ongoing deal advisory projects to his colleagues in the next few weeks, according to sources close to Xie.

In China, PwC’s major rivals include Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche and KPMG, while it also faces growing challenges from smaller local firms as China’s Ministry of Finance is keen to strengthen the country’s own accounting industry.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)