G4S boss: Healing rifts over ISS will take time

SECURITY group G4S is still trying to heal the rift with shareholders caused by its failed £5.2bn tie-up with ISS, its chief executive has admitted.

Nick Buckles said the mega-merger, abandoned in the teeth of opposition from major investors, had been a victim of the “shareholder autumn”.

Buckles faced questions at the firm’s annual general meeting, although a shareholder revolt failed to materialise after he decided to waive his bonus for last year.

Journalist were not allowed into the meeting but Buckles said afterwards that some shareholders had described the ISS merger as a “great deal that should have happened”. Others described it as a “waste of £50m”, he added, a reference to the fees bill racked up.

“Some were more upset than others over the deal,” Buckles said.

“These things take a long time to heal. We are 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the way there.”

Buckles walked away from a £750,000 bonus for performance in 2011 but appeared to defend the importance of incentives for executives amid media or political pressure, when he said: “There is always going to be a reason why a CEO should not get a bonus.”

Pre-tax profit fell 17 per cent to £279m for 2011, a turbulent year in which G4S was forced to scrap the ISS deal, which would have created a support services giant with more than one million staff.

G4S went on to post a 7.5 per cent rise in revenues for the first quarter of this year, however.

The firm’s wide-ranging interests include cash transportation for high street shops, security at Heathrow airport and a 15-year contract to run two prisons on behalf of the government. It also has a £200m contract to supply 10,000 personnel for the London Olympics.

Yesterday Buckles said G4S would continue to spend £200m to £300m a year on acquisitions, with a focus on businesses in developing markets and on facilities services companies in Britain.

Yesterday Alf Duch-Pedersen bowed out as chairman, as announced in January. He was widely seen as paying the price for the ISS deal. He has been replaced by John Connolly, chairman of engineering group AMEC, who previously served as global chairman of Deloitte.

Just under 99 per cent of votes cast by G4S shareholders supported the pay report.