Firm feels merger aftershocks

Wouldn’t this kind of arrangement be a misnomer of sorts; a kind of merger without a partner? Yet this is the kind of dilemma that faced the local office of British transnational Securicor in July 2004, when its parent company announced a global mega-merger with Dutch peer Group 4 Falck, to create the world’s second largest security firm. True, the Kenyan shop had the advantage of being part of an international group. It is certainly easy sometimes to just sit and wait for instructions from London. Also going for it was the fact that it had the advantage of watching how other subsidiaries were handling the new dispensation and learning from their experiences. Being in the unique position it found it also had other advantages. The fact that Group 4 Falck had no local presence meant that the new outfit ‘ Group 4 Securicor (G4S) Security Services Ltd ‘ did not have to grapple with the cultural wars that inevitably visit any corporate nuptials as employees from diverse legacies fight over spoils and develop a siege mentality. Also missing was the corporate bloodbath that normally attends such unions as companies try to wring savings by shedding off duplication of effort and attempt to make the most of the combined strengths. Yet even in its peculiar position, there was still urgent business that the firm had to dispense with: rebranding. This had to go beyond just mere change in livery and decor into a conscious cultural identification with the new brand and its values among employees, clients and other publics. And this is certainly not easy when talking about a new outfit whose character is also just evolving, even at the international level. “This process is crucial for any firm in a merger situation,” says Mr Ken Wood, G4S Kenya managing director. “While employees are concerned about the security of their jobs, for the business, unifying the strengths of the two firms and managing the transition is key to the success of any union." According to him, the biggest branding challenge for Group 4 Securicor Kenya is to live up to its heightened expectations of an enhanced global stature and expertise as a total security solutions boutique, in line with its new slogan, “a world of security solutions”. The company previously known as Securicor has been in Kenya for the past 37 years, making it almost synonymous with security services. It is indeed telling that some use the words “guard” and “Securicor” almost interchangeably. Now it faces the task of transferring this high level of name recognition and tangible brand equity to its new mouthful of a name ‘ G4S Security Services (Kenya) Ltd. It will be a tough call. It becomes more complicated when one considers that a company called Group 4 Security ‘ which incidentally is not affiliated to the former Group 4 Falck of Netherlands ‘ already existed in Kenya and has even been registered as such. Indeed a trademark and trade name dispute has already been sparked between the two entities, according to available correspondence. The crux of the dispute is whether Group 4 Security should have exclusive use of the figure and words “Group 4” and “Security.” G4S, for its part, denies any infringement and disputes exclusivity on the names: it only took on the name of its parent body. Even then, Group 4 Security insists its rights have been trampled upon through the adoption of the new name in Kenya, creating room for confusion among customers and the public. It is threatening to take its case to the courts. ‘ The Nation.

April 2006
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