Arthur Andersen merger denied by Lisbon firm

Leading Portuguese firm AM Pereira SAragga Leal Oliveira Martins has insisted that it has no plans to merge with Arthur Andersen but has admitted being in talks with the accountant's captive Spanish law firm, Garrigues Andersen.

The revelation follows Lisbon press reports that merger plans between AM Pereira and Andersens had fallen through after disagreements over the purchase price. But senior partner Luis SAragga Leal said that money was never discussed and that the firm was not for sale.

He said: “It is not the policy of this firm to enter into a merger with an auditing firm.” He added that such talks “could even constitute a breach of professional ethical rules currently in force in Portugal”.

However, he confirmed that Madrid firm Garrigues-Andersen had approached the firm to discuss co-operation. The practice was considering the proposal, he said, but “it was too soon to tell” if an association agreement would be concluded between the two.

At the start of November, Garrigues was left without a Portuguese link after it ended its involvement in Grupo Legal Portugues, the joint venture operated in Lisbon by itself, UK firm Simmons & Simmons, Brazilian firm Pinheiro Neto and local practice F Castelo Branco Nobra Guedes & P Rebelo de Sousa, following its decision to join the Arthur Andersen network.

SAragga Leal was unperturbed by Garrigues' connections with the accountancy firm, insisting that Garrigues was a law firm and not an auditing firm.

The rebuttal is a blow for Arthur Andersen which was understood to have been keen on a tie-up with the Portuguese firm and comes two weeks after the failure of the accountancy firm's merger talks with Simmons & Simmons, which started with an approach from Garrigues.