UPDATE 1-Security giant G4S says will avoid soccer World Cup
* CEO says concerned over organisation
* Says South Africa is most difficult market in the world
* World Cup organisers say confident of security
* G4S to focus on ports, oil and aviation sectors (adds reaction from World Cup organisers)
By John Bowker
LONDON, May 20 (Reuters) - G4S, the world's biggest security firm, will not operate at next summer's soccer World Cup in South Africa because of concerns over the tournament's organisation, the group's chief executive told Reuters.
"We are not going to be involved because we don't think the security is going to be that good -- they are not that well organised yet," Nick Buckles said in an interview.
But Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 organising committee, rejected the concerns, saying he was confident the tournament would be safe. He referred to criticism from "individual companies with vested interests."
Jordaan said his country had hosted many major international and sporting events, including the current Indian Premier League Cricket competition, which was moved to South Africa at short notice because of security concerns during India's general election.
"Our country has hosted at least 146 events ... safely and securely and we are confident this will again be the case for the 2010 FIFA World Cup," Jordaan said in a statement.
Buckles said that for G4S, South Africa was the most dangerous country in the world to work in -- ahead of Iraq and Afghanistan -- with around two staff fatalities every month.
"South Africa ... is a tough, tough place to do business. The whole society is different from anywhere else in the world. We do what we can in terms of protecting the crew, but they get attacked by 16, 17 people at a time sometimes," he said.
He said the situation was compounded by customers looking for the cheapest option for security, rather than the best service, but he did expect things to improve. "People don't really think security is that key and it should be. It will get better ... It's about us educating the market," he said.
South Africa suffers from one of the world's highest crime rates, with around 50 people murdered every day.
G4S has nearly 600,000 staff in over 100 countries. Its most vulnerable business in South Africa is the protection and transportation of cash, although it protects a wide range of products and industries.
G4S missed out on the Olympic Games in Beijing last year as the Chinese government took security in-house, but it hopes to be a major presence at the games in London 2012.
"We're clearly expecting to do something in London ... hopefully we'll get the event itself," he said, adding that the firm had already picked up a several million pounds a year contract to protect the building programme.
OIL, PORTS AND AVIATION
G4S was formed from the 2004 merger between Denmark's Group 4 and Britain's Securicor. Its shares have jumped over 15 percent this month, and 6.5 percent in the year to date, after surprising the market with a margin boost earlier in May.
The firm has shown little impact from the recession, partly because 30 percent of its revenues come from long-term government contracts.
Buckles said the group's growth strategy was to offer a more comprehensive service than just security, focusing on the ports, aviation and oil & gas sectors.
"We are appointing three new sector heads to work on product development. We have to choose sectors where security and safety are key drivers," he said.
He added that whereas the firm would have previously supplied manpower to protect an oil pipeline in Nigeria, under the new strategy it would offer a more comprehensive service, such as keeping the local community away, and introducing better technology as well as protection.
G4S is expecting a major jump in oil & gas work in Iraq to replace a drop in business as troops are withdrawn.
(Additional reporting by Serena Chaudhry in Johannesburg; Editing by Erica Billingham and Barry Moody)
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