PwC to boost headcount in China by 20,000 with $1.25bn investment

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PwC will create 20,000 jobs in China over the next five years as part of an Rmb8bn ($1.25bn) investment that will double the size of its presence in the country even as global businesses contend with increasing divisions between Beijing and the west.

The Big Four accounting firm laid out its expansion plans for China on Monday in a strategy it dubbed “The New Equation”. The unveiling coincided with the first day of the China International Import Expo, an annual business event in Shanghai aimed at touting the country’s role in global trade.

The strategy would double PwC’s China workforce, making it almost twice the size of the company’s UK operations, which employ about 22,000 people.

PwC’s new five-year plan comes as the global accounting industry has become increasingly caught up in geopolitical tensions between China and the US.

Washington regulators have threatened to delist Chinese companies from New York stock exchanges after auditors failed to hand over the audits of the companies’ financial statements for inspection. The Big Four accounting firms — PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY — audited 141 Chinese companies listed in the US with a total market value of $1.7tn as of June 30, according to the US audit watchdog.

PwC has separately come under scrutiny in recent months over its audits of Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer. Regulators in Hong Kong are investigating the firm after it gave a green light to Evergrande’s accounts for years before the real estate group warned in August that it could struggle to meet its financial obligations.

PwC is the most heavily reliant on its Asia-Pacific revenues among the Big Four accounting firms. The region has generated $8.9bn of fees for the company in 2021, almost 20 per cent of PwC’s global turnover. PwC does not provide specific revenue or profit figures for China.

“China continues to perform remarkably well despite ongoing global challenges,” said Raymund Chao, PwC’s Asia-Pacific and China chair. “We will continue to support and contribute to China’s major national strategies to drive towards an enduring outcome of continued growth and development for its economy.”

PwC, which has 28 offices in China, including in Hong Kong and Macau, said the $1.25bn investment would allow it to scale up services to clients such as environmental, social and governance standards and digital transformations.

In June, PwC announced plans to increase its global headcount by more than a third by 2026, adding 100,000 staff as part of a $12bn investment in recruitment training, technology and deals.

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