BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in:  Business
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Market Data 
Economy 
Companies 
E-Commerce 
Your Money 
Business Basics 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Friday, 15 February, 2002, 14:40 GMT
Surviving the jokes: Group 4 Falck
Yarl's Wood asylum seeker detention centre
Group 4's detention centre in Yarl's Wood
Inevitably when there is any mention of the security firm and prison operator, Group 4, the jokes quickly follow.

Despite its efforts to repair its reputation, the company is still remembered for a series of security blunders it made in the early 1990s when it began offering prison services.

The company's image was severely dented after incidents in which its guards lost prisoners and cash-filled security vans.

However, the company says that it has now reduced the number of escapes, to fewer than when prisoners were transported by police and the state prison sector.

It currently manages 600,000 prisoner movements a year in the UK.

Falck merger

Group 4 become officially known as Group 4 Falck in June 2000 after it merged with another security company, Denmark's Falck.

Yarl's Wood centre on fire
The fire has brought more publicity for Group 4
The merged company has been catapulted into the headlines again with a fire at its Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre in the UK.

Group 4 Falck was running the centre, which only opened last November, under contract to the Home Office.

The 900-bed facility is the largest in Europe and housed many refugees who had their applications to stay in the UK turned down.

European pedigree

Group 4 Falck, which has a turnover of about £1.5bn, is the world's second largest provider of security and related services.


I am very grateful for Group 4's help in providing an extensive range of security staff and equipment

Tony Blair
The company's shares are listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange and it has about 15,000 shareholders.

Group 4 first became an entity in 1968 when it was founded by Jørgen Philip-Sørensen, a member of the Swedish family that set up Securitas.

The newly named company brought together four different security businesses owned in the UK by the family.

By the 1980s, Group 4 had split off from Securitas, even though it still runs a guarding business under the name Group 4 Securitas.

Prison privatisation

In recent times, the newly merged Group 4 Falck has strived to position itself at the forefront of the movement to privatise prisons.

In the UK, it runs three of the prisons operated by the private sector, and also operates prisons in Australia and South Africa.

In addition to running prisons, the company provides security services for more than 100 embassies, the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament and NATO buildings.

This guarding side of the business is known as Group 4 Securitas, or the total security business.

Guarding contracts have also included protecting the European Finance Ministers Meeting (ECOFIN), Labour party conferences and a G8 World Economic Conference.

Political links

On its website, the company boasts a personal reference from Prime Minister Tony Blair, made it provided security for a meeting of Commonwealth heads in 1997.

Mr Blair said: "I am very grateful for Group 4's help in providing an extensive range of security staff and equipment."

The company appears to be fairly well-connected in political circles and has tried hard to become key provider for the government's public-private initiatives.

Its largest Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract to date in the UK is for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham.

With a number of consortium partners, Group 4 Falck won the contract to design and construct a new GCHQ building, roughly the size of Wembley Stadium.

Group 4 will also provide facilities management for 30 years.

Consolidation

Overall, the security service industry has been growing by about 6-8% a year, on the back of demand from corporate and private customers.

The fragmented nature of the industry has also sparked talk of more mergers to come.

Dutch bank ABN Amro sees Group 4 Falck as ripe for further consolidation this year and security services company Chubb has been named as its most likely merger partner.

Despite its early embarrassments, Group 4 Falck seems well-placed to expand its existing security empire.

See also:

15 Feb 02 | England
Picture gallery: Asylum fire
15 Feb 02 | England
State of the art centre
19 Feb 02 | England
Protest at detention centre
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories