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British Industrial History

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Jardine Matheson

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Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited often referred to as Jardines, is a multinational corporation incorporated in Bermuda and based in Hong Kong.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Singapore Exchange, the vast majority of Jardines shares are traded in Singapore.

Jardines is a Fortune Global 500 company[4] that consists of Jardine Pacific, Jardine Motors Group, Jardine Strategic, Dairy Farm, Hongkong Land, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Jardine Cycle & Carriage and Astra International. It also owns 42% of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group and has an investment (21%) in Rothschilds Continuation Holdings, the merchant banking house.

The firm of Jardine, Matheson and Co. began in Canton, China on 1 July 1832 by Scottish doctor William Jardine and Edinburgh University graduate James Matheson.

With the cession of Hong Kong under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the firm set up its headquarters on the island and grew rapidly. Initially trading in opium, tea and cotton, Jardines soon diversified into other areas including insurance, shipping and railways.

By the turn of the 19th century, the company had become the largest of the ‘’hongs’’ or foreign trading conglomerates with offices in all the important Chinese cities as well as Yokohama, Japan.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Jardines built cotton mills, a press packing plant and a brewery in Shanghai while expanding into Africa, America and Australia. When war came to China in 1937, the firm suffered heavily both in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

After the 1949 foundation of the People’s Republic of China, trading conditions for foreign companies under the new Communist regime became increasingly difficult.

After the firm's flotation in 1961, the landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel opened in Hong Kong in 1963 as the city's first five star hotel.

In 1970, Jardine Fleming, the first merchant bank in Asia, opened for business while a real estate company and sugar plantations in Hawaii and the Philippines were acquired.

A Hong Kong building boom in the mid 1970's saw Jardine's buy Gammon Construction, the largest construction and civil engineering group on the island.

A presence was re-established on the mainland in 1979 following China's reform and opening up and a year later the firm established the Beijing Air Catering Company Ltd., the first foreign joint venture in the country.

During the 1970s Jardines also expanded their insurance interests with acquisitions in the United Kingdom and the United States laying the groundwork for the foundation of Jardine Insurance Brokers.

By 1980 the firm had operations in southern Africa, Australia, China, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, as well as the United States, and employed 37,000 people.

After redomiciling to Bermuda in 1984 ahead of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, in 1990 Jardine Matheson Holdings and four other listed group companies arranged primary share listings on the London Stock Exchange in addition to their Hong Kong listings. Other significant developments during this decade included the merging of Jardine Insurance Brokers with Lloyd Thompson to form Jardine Lloyd Thompson, the acquisition of a 16% interest in Singapore blue-chip Cycle & Carriage and Dairy Farm’s purchase of a significant stake in Indonesia's leading supermarket group Hero. Mandarin Oriental also embarked on its strategy to double its available rooms and capitalize on its brand.

The first decade of the new millennium saw Jardine Cycle & Carriage acquire an initial 31% stake in Astra International, which has since been increased to just over 50% and a 20% shareholding in Rothschilds Continuation Holdings, which rekindled a relationship that began in 1838.

Hongkong Land became a Group subsidiary for the first time following a multi-year programme of steady open market purchases while Jardine Pacific raised its interest in Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited from 25% to 42%.

Jardines today comprises a group of companies with extensive operations across Asia, and through some of its businesses, the world. The firm’s business interests include Jardine Pacific, Jardine Motors, Hongkong Land, Dairy Farm, Mandarin Oriental, Jardine Cycle & Carriage, through which its interest in Astra is held, and Jardine Lloyd Thompson. The Group also has strategic interests in other entities, among them a 20% stake in global financial adviser, Rothschilds Continuation Holdings.

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