SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers plans to hire about 2,000 graduates in China in 2009, part of its long-term plan to expand in the country despite the global credit crunch, its top China head said on Monday.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s “Big Four” auditing firms, also plans to retain this pace of hiring for the next three to five years and will open new offices in the vast country “very soon” to support its rapid business growth, said Frank Lyn, Beijing-based China Markets Leader of PwC.
Lyn also noted that Chinese companies with ambitions to expand in the West through mergers and acquisitions could wait another six to nine months when deals are expected to be cheaper.
“The current economic crisis is something that everyone is very, very concerned about,” Lyn told Reuters in an interview in Shanghai, China’s financial hub.
“But if you take a longer-term view and the fact that we’re here to stay, we are not just hiring for now but ready to train our people for the next five to 10 years,” he said.
On average, it takes three to five years to groom a graduate to the level of a senior associate in PwC, Lyn added.
Last year, PwC hired 1,800 graduates and 800 experienced executives in China, Lyn said, adding it would be difficult to forecast how many experienced staff would be hired next year because the market environment will be different.
PwC has around 11,000 employees in China, Hong Kong and Macau where the firm operates a total of 13 offices.
Globally, PwC runs offices in 153 countries with more than 155,000 staff.
In China, PwC’s major rivals include Ernst & Young [ERNY.UL], Deloitte & Touche [DLTE.UL] and KPMG [KPMG.UL], while it is also facing growing challenges from smaller local firms as China’s Ministry of Finance is keen to strengthen the country’s own accounting industry.
LET VALUATIONS SETTLE
PwC became the official auditor for the listing of Bank of China (601988.SS: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) (3988.HK: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) in 2006, China’s top foreign exchange lender, which marked one of the world’s biggest initial public offering of shares that year.
Besides Bank of China, many Chinese clients of PwC are big state-owned enterprises such as PetroChina Co Ltd (601857.SS: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and China United Telecommunications Co Ltd (600050.SS: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).
Big Asian firms, especially from China and Japan, are widely expected by Wall Street to make investments in the near future in the United States, where companies such as General Electric Co (GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) or 3Com (COMS.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) are keen to lure foreign capital to support growth amid the credit crunch.
Chinese companies “should not stop doing so but should really pause and let the valuations settle,” said Lyn, referring to firms with ambition to expand abroad.
“We still believe we have to go out there and do the outbound investment for a variety of reasons — buying technology, expertise, market share and so on,” he said.
“You’ll see in six to nine months, the activities will pick up and that’s my personal view purely from the value perspective,” he added.
By George Chen
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)