PricewaterhouseCoopers has regained its cherished position as the world's biggest accountancy and consulting firm, as companies splashed out on the latter despite fears of glum times to come in the world's economy.

The firm reported a 10 per cent rise in gross revenues to US$29.2 billion ($38.7 billion) for its worldwide network of firms for the year ended June 30. That put the firm once again in front of rival Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, by US$400 million. Last year the latter held the edge, but only by US$9 million.

The revenue growth produced by PwC, formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the best by its network since 2008. But with businesses seeking advice, particularly on cost cutting at a time of global uncertainty but also on deals and new technology, all of the big four accountancy firms have had a good year.

Fellow "big four" member Ernst & Young also hailed 2011 as more than pleasing yesterday when it reported global revenues of US$22.9 billion, up 8 per cent. Its head count has surged by 11,000 to 152,000.

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PwC, with 169,000 members of staff, said it planned to hire a record 20,000 graduates worldwide next year and offer training internships to 10,000 students.

With concern mounting over the paucity of opportunities for young people in Britain, E&Y says it plans to offer a new scheme aimed at school leavers, enabling them to bypass university and earn while training for qualifications.

- Independent