G4S faces down investors and protesters at annual meeting


The boss of G4S, the world’s largest security company, has admitted that last year’s abortive £5.2bn takeover of Danish rival ISS has forced the company to change its acquisition strategy, making big deals a thing of the past.

The fiasco, which sparked a sell-off in the shares and eventually cost chairman Alf Duch-Pedersen his job, also damaged relations with shareholders, which the board is still trying to repair.

Nick Buckles, chief executive of G4S, said that big deals were off the agenda and the company would revert to pursuing smaller acquisitions, worth £200m to £300m. He wants to expand in Brazil, China and India, as well as the UK.

The British-Danish security group held its annual meeting at the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday, which attracted dozens of protesters from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Global Women’s Strike and the All African Women’s Group to Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral. Their chanting could be heard inside the stock exchange; the banners on display ranged from “G4S Securing Apartheid” to “End the Siege on Gaza” and “Justice for Jimmy Mubenga“, the Angolan asylum seeker who died while being deported from the UK by G4S in 2010.

G4S – the world’s second-largest commercial employer after American retailer Walmart – runs six prisons as well as detention centres for asylum seekers in Britain, looks after security in several UK hospitals, runs anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, and provides security services and equipment to Israeli prisons and settlements.

Campaigners said they handed shareholders an “alternative annual report” that criticised the conduct of the security company in its dealings with the UK and Israeli governments. G4S and three of its guards are being investigated over the death of Mubenga, who collapsed after being heavily restrained on a commercial flight from Heathrow, according to passengers. G4S lost the multimillion-pound government contract to deport foreign nationals shortly after, but its rival Reliance had already been identified as the lead bidder prior to Mubenga’s death. A decision over whether to charge the guards is imminent, the director of public prosecutions said in March.

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