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A boom in PwC’s Saudi-focused consultancy business in the Middle East has helped the Big Four’s British partner avoid a sharp drop in pay last year as rising costs sapped profits.

Partners at the British firm, which includes its Middle East business, were paid an average of £906,000 in the 12 months to June, £119,000 less than last year, when a windfall from the sale of the business unit pushed their average earnings to £906,000. up to more. Over £1 million.

Revenue from its Middle East business rose by around 40% to almost £1.5bn, dwarfing growth of almost 10% in the UK, the company said.

Kevin Ellis, UK and Middle East chairman and senior partner, attributes the rapid growth of the Middle East business, which accounts for a quarter of total revenue, to “the rise in oil divestment in places like Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. invest”. “.

Ellis said the Middle East unit is more focused on selling consulting services, including in the Saudi office, which primarily serves government and state-owned entities.

Asked whether he would be open to expanding PwC’s presence in Saudi Arabia given its human rights record, Ellis said: “As a country and as a business, you have to invest somewhere, and Geopolitics is complicated. If you take out every country that has a different perspective, we cut off opportunities.”

“We can recruit 350 people from Saudi universities, half of them women, and we give them the opportunity (and) independence, and if you ask them, they’re very positive about it.”

Ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible visit to Britain later this year, Ellis said he would be happy to attend a meeting between business leaders and the crown prince if it took place during the trip.

“We are a big business in the Middle East. As a country, the UK needs to find . . . he will retire from PwC in June after up to eight years as UK boss,” said Ellis.

PwC UK reported total revenue of £5.8bn, including the Middle East, up 18% year-on-year.

Profit at the company, which employs 26,000 people in the UK, fell to £1.3bn from £1.5bn but was almost flat after excluding the gain from the sale of the company’s global mobile business in the previous financial year.

The stagnation is the result of rising costs and a £100m investment in technology, including artificial intelligence tools and related training. The company also offered big pay rises and grants of up to £1,500 last summer to help staff on lower wages and soaring energy costs, unlike this year.

Consulting revenues rose 30% to £1.7bn, which Ellis said reflected how businesses were adapting in the face of technological change, supply chain upheaval and inflation. Companies spend money on consultants because failure to adapt could cause their business model to “become irrelevant,” he said.

The firm’s audit and tax practices boosted revenue by almost a fifth to £1.4bn and £1.2bn respectively.

Big firms have complained about the rising cost of the Big Four accounting firms signing off on their books, but PwC’s audit arm has retained the mandate of lucrative HSBC over the past year and was in NatWest’s tender. Beat EY, benefiting from rising corporate demand for guarantees. non-financial disclosures, Ellis said.

Revenue in the firm’s two smallest lines of business — trading and risk advisory — both grew at a below-inflation rate of 6%.

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