The first step towards this goal was taken in Lithuania in 2006. Through MRI, Rimess had a well-established partnership with the leading audit firm at the time, MRI Audit & Consulting. When its majority shareholder Danas Pauza heard about the interest of the Estonians in launching operations in Lithuania, he proposed selling the company to them. The sales agreement was signed on the magical date of 6 June 2006 and Rimess gained a subsidiary in Vilnius with around two dozen employees. Artur Suits was entrusted with the strategic management of both the new subsidiary and future expansion plans.
The search for other companies interested in merging started in early 2007. Suits explains: “We met with several of them, I outlined our vision and suggested that if it appealed to them, we could talk about a merger as the next step.” Although meetings were held with the representatives of a number of companies, only one of them responded to the proposal. This was Genadijus Makuševas, partner and head of the Vilnius-based audit firm Renovacija, with whom Rimess had recently come into contact. Makuševas recalls: “In 2006, the Lithuanian Association of Auditors celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first auditors being licensed. I was the President of the Auditors Association at the time and Mati Nõmmiste came to visit us as the Vice-Chairman of the Estonian Auditors Association. That meeting led to cooperation and our acquaintance turned into a lasting friendship.”
Having received a merger proposal from the Estonians, Makuševas included his long-standing partner Alma Ziziliauskienė, partner and CEO of Audito Reziume, a Kaunas-based audit firm, in the negotiations in the summer of 2007. Ziziliauskienė recalls: “Both my firm and Genadijus’ firm was small, and to be honest the development opportunities open to small businesses are just as small. Rimess, however, already stood out on the international scene because it had joined MRI, which gave it the opportunity to develop professionally and keep abreast of world trends. That’s why we decided to accept Rimess’s merger offer.”
The decision was formalised in Tallinn in October 2007 when the merger agreement between the Lithuanian subsidiary of Rimess, Renovacija UAB and Audito Reziume UAB was signed at the same time as Rimess was celebrating its 15th anniversary. As a result, Rimess now had offices in Vilnius and Kaunas in addition to Tallinn and Tartu.
There were 35 employees in Lithuania, including four local partners: in addition to Makuševas and Ziziliauskienė there was Arvydas Ziziliauskas and Birutė Stankevičienė. A office was also opened in Klaipeda in 2008, when Rimess was joined by an audit and accounting firm whose partner Laimė Jablonskienė was of Estonian descent on her mother’s side.
Makuševas confirms that the effect of the merger was immediately visible for all to see. “Synergy emerged,” he says. “At first, the Estonian company was much bigger than the Lithuanian one (in 2007 Rimess had about 80 employees in Estonia several times bigger than Lithuania in terms of turnover – Ed.), so we got new clients from Estonia. The majority of them were Finnish companies that had entered the Estonian market and wanted to move on to Lithuania.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania constitute a single region for foreign investors, so it’s good for them to find a service provider operating in all three countries. Rimess also started operating in Riga in 2008, so we were able to serve clients all over the Baltics.”
Rimess, which had entered the Lithuanian market with accounting services and thereafter expanded, added tax and financial advisory services to its portfolio as a result of the merger with Lithuanian companies, and the growth of accounting services also received a boost. In just over 15 years of operations in Lithuania, the company, now called Grant Thornton Baltic Lithuania, has seen its turnover increase tenfold to €4.3 million in 2022. Rimess, which ranked eighth in Lithuania in 2006/2007 in terms of market share, also moved up to fifth place within a few years and has remained there to this day.