Accenture throws its hat into the IPO market

Technology and management consulting firm Accenture Inc. filed for an initial public offering (IPO) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday.

Accenture, formerly known as Anderson Consulting Inc., did not disclose how many shares it will put up for sale or the offering price at which those shares will be sold. In its SEC filing, Accenture said the offering could raise a maximum of US$1 billion, but a company spokesman said Thursday that figure "should not be seen as a ceiling" for the amount raised from the public markets.

Investment banks Goldman Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. are the co-lead underwriters in the planned IPO.

Accenture reported revenue of $10.8 billion for the 12-month period ended Feb. 28, according to regulatory fillings. Revenue from the final six months of that period accounted for $5.7 billion, a 22 percent gain in revenue compared to the first six months. One of the "Big Five" in the consulting space, Accenture said it has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 17.9 percent for the last 10 years. It employs more than 70,000 people around the world.

No date was noted for an IPO, though Accenture said it plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ACN."

After some delay in announcing its IPO, Accenture will enter the market as it continues to show signs of a downturn. For instance, KPMG Consulting Inc. attempted a similar IPO in February, raising $2 billion. The company sold its shares (KCIN) initially for $18 a piece. Midday Thursday, KPMG was trading up $2.14, or 16 percent to $15.55, but its share price is down nearly 40 percent from its high of $24.25.

Adding to the risks, a number of major consulting firms have announced a downsizing in the past several months due to a slowing global market for technology consulting. Rival PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said on April 10 it would lay off 750 to 1,000 employees, or 6 percent to 8 percent of its U.S. consulting staff. Smaller startups including MarchFirst Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection last week, have seen an even worse fate as the market for technology consulting narrows.

In its filing Thursday, Accenture noted that its business is dependent on "continued growth in the use of technology in business," and "if the growth in the use of technology does not continue, demand for (Accenture's) services may decrease."

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