ANDERSEN Consulting has set up a Global Communications Industry Group to better serve the booming business sector. The company expects revenue from consulting work in the communications sector to reach US$500 million this year, and there is no sign of the current 50 per cent per year growth rate tapering off, according to the communication group's worldwide managing partner, Larry Levitan. 'It is the fastest growing area in our practise,' he said. Five of Andersen's communications specialists from around the world met in Hong Kong on Saturday to discuss strategies for helping regional communications companies prosper in the dynamic environment. Andersen's business in Asia Pacific will have more than doubled by the end of the year and the group expects the region to continue to outstrip the rest of the world. 'The new group is focussed on working with communications companies to help them navigate through this period of intense change,' said Alan Burgess, the group's managing partner, business solutions. Andersen hopes the new structure will enable a more efficient allocation of its global resources to suit clients' needs. 'The global market in the communications industry is changing at a pace and extent greater than we have seen in virtually any other industry,' Mr Levitan said. Those changes related to the underlying technologies, delivery of new services, deregulation, consequent competition and globalisation. China would be a main focus of the group, said Andersen Consulting's regional manager, Greater China for the communications industry, Daniel Taylor. 'China's expansion plans are the equivalent of adding a regional Bell group per year for the next five years and it will be looking for expertise to help them manage it.' The long-standing bar to foreign companies having an equity interest in mainland telecommunications projects was beginning to soften, Mr Taylor said. For example, in an as yet unconfirmed deal, Bell Atlantic will help the Liantong group develop the Shanghai cellular market in return for a 65 per cent profit share. Mr Levitan said the advent of the information superhighway around the globe would lead to basic changes in how businesses operated. As it developed its communications infrastructure, China would be able to leapfrog some stages other countries were forced to pass through, said Stephen Snyder, Andersen's director, utility industry for greater China. In banking, for example, it could move directly to electronic banking from a fully manual system, eliminating the paper cheque stage. John (Jack) Kelly has just been appointed managing partner, Asia Pacific for the new global communications group and will soon relocate from his current base in New York to an as yet undecided Asian centre. Andersen's consulting business around the world turns over US$4 billion per year and employs about 3,500 professionals. In communications, it works for virtually all of the world's biggest players, according to Mr Levitan. 'To help our clients change The company's motto is: to become more successful'. Andersen says the industry is facing a tidal wave of change which will transfrom the economic, social and political landscapes and lead to the demise of some industry players.