Assa Abloy

Stockholm, Sweden

Bo Dankis, chief executive of lockmaker Assa Abloy, was tired of worrying about his home's security every time one of his two teenage daughters lost her key to the family apartment in central Stockholm. So he took his own advice and installed a new "cliq lock" in January.

The system registers each key's code and allows codes to be deleted if a key is lost. Launched in 2001, the super secure system enables users to track attempted entries. It also can be set to accept or deny entrance at specific times. This is the latest in a line of innovative products that have made Assa Abloy the world's No. 1 lock supplier, with a 10% global market share and operations in 40 countries.

Assa Abloy's success has been spurred by an aggressive acquisition strategy and growing demand for security products in the post-September 11 world. Sales last year reached $3.37 billion, according to analysts' estimates, nearly double 1999 levels, though restructuring charges will hold net profit down to around $58 million.

The ascent to the summit hasn't been painless. Dankis' predecessor, Karl-Henric Svanberg, who left in April to take the helm at telecom supplier Ericsson (ERICY ), gobbled up more than 100 companies during his nine-year tenure. Now, Dankis, 49, is struggling to rationalize a portfolio of around 90 lock brands. The company laid off 700 employees last year, and manufacturing is being shifted to low-cost locales such as China and Romania.

The next strategic step is to make electronic security systems commonplace in households. Dankis acknowledges it's a tough sell. "People don't tend to think about locks," he says. "If they do, they don't want something new; they want something that fits the hole already in the door."

To change their minds, the company has set up a showroom in Melbourne, Australia, where visitors can check out products and sign up for home-security audits. Another is planned for England. If Dankis succeeds in getting customers to upgrade to more expensive locks, he may lock up Assa Abloy's global dominance.

By Ariane Sains in Stockholm

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