The big four


HKEX to woo biotech listings

Hong Kong’s stock exchange aims to supplant the Nasdaq as the preferred index for Chinese biotechnology companies within five years, Li Xiaojia, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, told the press this month at the bourse’s inaugural biotech summit. He was speaking a day before a proposal to allow biotech companies to list even before they turn a profit was due to close its consultation exercise. China is second to the United States as the world’s largest pharmaceuticals market, and is predicted to overtake and become a HK$200 billion pharma market by 2020, with innovation encouraged by significant regulatory reforms.

Google, Facebook could face EU turnover tax

American tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Airbnb could facer higher tax bills for the money they earn inside the European Union if a draft proposal by the European Commission is backed by EU lawmakers. In the document seen by Reuters, large firms with worldwide revenues above €750 million and taxable revenues above €50million in the EU annually would be liable to a 3 percent tax on their turnover. The proposals come amid accusations from some EU countries that U.S. companies are not paying their fair share of tax within the union, by diverting income to member states with lower tax regimes.

British firms widen pay gap figures

The Big Four’s British units revised their reports on their gender pay gaps this month. The new figures included high-earning equity partners, and significantly widened the overall pay gap between male and female staff. Deloitte revealed that female staff are on average paid 43 percent less that their male counterparts. Excluding partners, the gap was 18 percent. EY pays its male employees, excluding partners, an average of 20 percent more than female staff, with that gap widening to 38 percent when partners are included. The United Kingdom introduced legislation that requires organizations with more than 250 employees to report on their gender pay gap by 30 March or 4 April, and annually thereafter.

U.K.’s FRC urges probe breaking up Big Four

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in the United Kingdom called for Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate whether the Big Four firms should be broken up to create “audit-only” firms in a bid to enhance competition and stamp out conflicts of interest in the industry, the Financial Times reported. “There is a loss of confidence in audit… In some circles, there is a crisis of confidence,” said Stephen Haddrill, FRC Chief Executive. Haddrill has held three meetings with the CMA about the matter, and further talks are scheduled. In response, head of audit at KPMG in the U.K. said the firm believed “multi-disciplinary firms deliver more benefits for investors and society.”

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