Soren Lundsberg-Nielsen: Group 4 Securicor
11 September 2006
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Group 4 Securicor is the largest company to be listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), with 430,000 employees worldwide (including 100,000 in India) and a presence in 110 countries. But its legal team is small, lean and integral to the business it serves.
Group general counsel Soren Lundsberg-Nielsen leads a team of six lawyers, including company secretary Nigel Griffiths, with a small number of support staff. The legal department is based in the UK and is backed up by around 40 lawyers spread across Group 4's international network.
Lundsberg-Nielsen, who is Danish, was previously general counsel at security firm Group 4 Falck. In 2004 Group 4, the security side of the business (as opposed to Falck, which is the safety side), started merger talks with UK company Securicor - a process that Lundsberg-Nielsen was very close to. It was a complex merger.
"I think most of the law firms that we involved in that process said they'd never worked on anything as complicated as that one," says Lundsberg-Nielsen. The work was led by Herbert Smith for Securicor, while Group 4 instructed Danish giant Kromann Reumert. Lundsberg-Nielsen says the choice of Kromann Reumert was simple, although a small beauty contest was held.
"Kromann Reumert is the largest law firm in Denmark and by far the most experienced in these kind of transactions," he says.
A number of simultaneous transactions had to be carried out in order to complete the merger. Group 4 Falck was degrouped. Group 4 and Falck were listed separately in Copenhagen and London. A business called Global Solutions, based in London, was sold off. Group 4 and Securicor could then merge. But things are rarely that simple.
"Just to make it more complicated," Lundsberg-Nielsen explains, "each of the entities were on different financial reporting standards." Group 4 was using Danish generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Securicor was using UK GAAP and the new company had to conform to international GAAP.
Finally everything completed satisfactorily and Group 4 Securicor listed on the LSE and the Copenhagen Stock Exchange on 20 July 2004. Lundsberg-Nielsen became general counsel, based primarily in London, as well as a member of the company's management board.
Lundsberg-Nielsen and his team oversee the bulk of Group 4 Securicor's legal issues, apart from employment and litigation matters, which are dealt with on a local basis. The department is concerned primarily with contracts, risk management and insurance as the company expands into new jurisdictions, not all of which operate along Western lines.
As an example, Lundsberg-Nielsen describes Group 4 Securicor's recent foray into Lebanon. The company decided to set up in the country around 18 months ago, well before the recent war, and even then there were several hurdles to surmount.
"Lebanon is a very interesting country because they don't have any historical guidance on risk management," Lundsberg-Nielsen says. "They don't see risk in the same way as we do."
Businesses in Lebanon are not required to buy insurance in order to operate, but the high-level, high-risk security work which Group 4 Securicor's employees carry out needs cover. The team eventually found a way to satisfy the company's and the country's requirements, drawing up a one-page agreement to ensure service delivery. That meant Group 4 Securicor was well established when war broke out in July 2006, and was able to provide security services as the fighting raged.
Lundsberg-Nielsen explains that the key for the legal team is being able to adapt to local business and regulatory environments, adding that the company never lets a challenge prevent it from going into a new jurisdiction. "If there's a business opportunity that's attractive and has future possibilities, then in general terms we go for it," he says.
Accordingly Group 4 Securicor has a pipeline of small acquisitions around the world to grow its business. Despite being such a large organisation, the company has only 3 per cent of the global security business and is always looking to grow. The Congo is the next country on its agenda.
From Lundsberg-Nielsen's point of view, it is crucial that the legal team is always involved and remains close to the growth process. "I need to have a hands-on touch with what's happening," he says, concluding that for Group 4, "the potential is enormous".
Group General Counsel:
Group 4 Securicor
|Organisation:||Group 4 Securicor|
|Legal capability:||Six (UK and group); around 40 worldwide|
|Group general counsel:||Soren Lundsberg-Nielsen|
|Reporting to:||Chief executive officer Nick Buckles|
|Main law firms:||Herbert Smith, Norton Rose|
|Soren Lundsberg-Nielsen's CV:||Education: 1978 - graduated from University of Copenhagen School of Law |
Work history: 1978 - management consultant; 1982 - trainee, Kromann Reumert; 1984 - corporate counsel, Faxe Kalk; 1996 - corporate counsel and vice-president, Lhoist Group; 1998 - general counsel and vice-president, JM Huber; 2001 - general counsel, Group 4 Falck; 2004 - group general counsel, Group 4 Securicor