Founded in the early 1830s, the Jardine Matheson Group has been one of Asia's most dynamic trading companies for nearly two centuries, adapting and reinventing itself in the face of both challenges and opportunities in order to survive and prosper. The Group has developed a market-leading portfolio of businesses and has grown and evolved with the communities in which it operates.
These historical chapters chronicle a selection of key milestones, major developments and achievements of a very unique company.
Jardine, Matheson & Co (JM & Co) was founded in Canton in July 1832 by Scots William Jardine and James Matheson. Following the end of the East India Company’s trading monopoly with China, Jardine Matheson sent its first private shipments of tea to England in 1834.
JM & Co saw the development potential of Hong Kong as a trading base and moved its operations temporarily from Macao to Hong Kong.
JM & Co purchased the first plots of land at East Point for £565. The Firm's Chinese name 'Ewo' – 'the state of happy harmony' – was adopted the following year.
JM & Co completed the move of its main office to Hong Kong and opened its office in Shanghai when it purchased Lot No. 1 in 1844. More offices were subsequently opened in Canton, Amoy and Foochow.
JM & Co inaugurated the steamer cargo line from Calcutta to the Far East. The Firm became the first foreign trading house to establish in Japan by acquiring Lot No. 1 in the first Yokohama land sale. Offices were later opened in Kobe, Nagasaki and other ports.
In the 1860s, JM & Co’s trading activities were enhanced by the expansion of its shipping, banking and insurance interests. The Firm moved its main office from East Point to Central Hong Kong in 1864.
Sir Paul Chater, in partnership with JM & Co, formed Hongkong Land.
JM & Co became a limited company. British & Chinese Corporation (BCC), formed by JM & Co and HSBC, signed a contract for the construction of the Kowloon-Canton railway the following year. In 1908 BCC signed a contract for the construction of the Shanghai-Nanking Railway.
Jardine Engineering Company (JEC) was formed in Shanghai, playing a major role in providing machinery, equipment and services for the growing infrastructure developments in Hong Kong and Chinese mainland. In the same year, the sale of part of east Point was completed and the Tokyo earthquake demolished JM & Co’s Yokohama office.
By 1930, JM & Co’s main offices were in Hong Kong and Shanghai. In this year, JEC installed the first lift in Tianjin, China, while in the following year the first Schindler lift was installed in Hong Kong. JEC also pioneered ammonia-type air-conditioners and led in the areas of heating and sanitation during this time.
The entry of Japan into the World War II forced the closure of JM & Co’s offices in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, although a presence was maintained in Chongqing.
JM & Co was one of the first companies to resume operations in Hong Kong and Shanghai after the War. The Firm’s business in Japan was re-established and its shipping activities were also revived. In the same year, Jardine Airways was formed with one of the first clients being the forerunner of British Airways.
JM & Co closed its offices in China. Nevertheless, the Firm maintained its links with the Mainland.
During the period from the 1950s to the 1980s, the Group went through another period of transformation. Jardines’ head office returned to Hong Kong in 1957 and the old Jardine House on Pedder Street was replaced by the new one (now Wheelock House).
JM & Co became a public company, with the initial offer oversubscribed by some 56 times.
Hongkong Land opened the Mandarin Hotel, while JM Australia began operations in Sydney.
Dairy Farm acquired the Wellcome grocery chain in Hong Kong.
JM & Co pioneered merchant banking in Hong Kong and the region with the establishment of Jardine Fleming in a joint venture partnership with Robert Fleming. A representative office was opened in Jakarta in 1971.
The Excelsior hotel in Hong Kong was opened in 1972 at the site of Jardines’ original land purchase. This was followed by the acquisition of The Oriental, Bangkok in 1973 and hotels in Manila and Jakarta in 1976 and 1978.
JM & Co moved its head office to Connaught Centre (renamed Jardine House in 1989). The Group opened a branch office in Seoul, South Korea.
The Firm acquired Gammon Construction, Hong Kong’s leading construction company, now a 50-50 joint venture with Balfour Beauty. It also acquired a majority stake in Zung Fu, Hong Kong’s Mercedes-Benz distributor, which became the core business of Jardine Motors.
Jardines was one of the first companies to re-establish relations with Chinese mainland with the opening of a representative office in Beijing in 1979, followed by offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou.
The first industrial joint venture in Chinese mainland was formed by Jardine Schindler, while Maxim's Caterers made history by entering the first joint venture providing air catering services in the Chinese mainland. In the same year, the Group acquired a 40% interest in Hongkong Land Co, cementing a closer relationship between the two companies.
The Group opened the first 7-Eleven convenience store in Hong Kong. A major insurance broking operation was acquired in San Francisco and the Group’s motor business was extended to the UK.
Jardines celebrated its 150th anniversary and established the Jardine Foundation offering scholarships to students from the region attend Oxford and Cambridge universities. The Jardine Ambassadors Programme was also launched, with the objective of providing young Jardines executives in Hong Kong with the opportunity to serve the community.
Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited (JMH) was formed as the Group’s holding company incorporated in Bermuda. The Group withdrew from ship-owning activities.
The Group undertook a series of corporate moves in which Dairy Farm and Mandarin Oriental were listed in Hong Kong, and Jardine Strategic Holdings Limited (JSH) was formed to hold stakes in a number of Group companies.
Jardines took on the Pizza Hut franchise in Hong Kong. The Group continued its expansion in consumer marketing with acquisition of the IKEA franchise in Hong Kong and a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz in Southern China.
Jardine Matheson, Hongkong Land, Dairy Farm and Mandarin Oriental established their primary listings on the London Stock Exchange and Jardine Strategic was listed the following year, while the main Asian share trading activity moved to Singapore. During the 1990s Dairy Farm acquired supermarket operations in Spain, New Zealand and Singapore to increase its business scale in the sector.
The Group acquired a 16% interest in Singapore-listed blue chip Cycle & Carriage with interests in motor vehicles and property.
The Group increased its interests in Cycle & Carriage, Dairy Farm, Hongkong Land and Mandarin Oriental.
Hongkong Land strengthened its presence in the Mainland with the acquisition of a 40% interest in a residential estate in Beijing and completed its second office development in Vietnam.
Hongkong Land began the redevelopment of a major Hong Kong property, while undertaking developments in Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Dairy Farm acquired a significant stake in the leading supermarket group Hero in Indonesia, and expanded its retail business in Malaysia and Singapore.
Dairy Farm acquired 90% of Giant Malaysia.
The Group began its long-term successful investment in leading Indonesian conglomerate, Astra. This occurred against the backdrop of the fall-out from 1997 Asian Financial Crisis when the rest of the world was still nervous about developments in Southeast Asia.
Maxim's and Starbucks Coffee International formed a joint venture to open retail operations, and has since extended its Starbucks interests to Cambodia, Macau, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Group increased its investment in Cycle & Carriage, which became a subsidiary following a successful partial offering to increase the Group's interest from 30% to 50%, and subsequently changed its name to Jardine Cycle & Carriage.
Hongkong Land entered the Chongqing property market.
Hongkong Land acquired a 77% stake in MCL Land, a Singapore-listed residential property developer. It is now wholly-owned.
Jardine Cycle & Carriage acquired interest in Truong Hai Automotive Corporation, a leading automotive company in Vietnam
Hongkong Land became a Group subsidiary.
The Group ventured into new markets such as Cambodia. Jardine Strategic purchased a 12.25% stake in ACLEDA Bank Plc, Cambodia's second largest bank, which was held for a number of years. Hongkong Land invested in the Cambodian property market.
Jardine Restaurant Group acquired the Pizza Hut franchise and the KFC franchise in Vietnam. Gammon completed the design-and-build of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s office complex.
Dairy Farm entered the Cambodian and the Philippines markets with the acquisition of the Lucky supermarket business and Rustan's supermarket chain, respectively.
The Group extended its reach to Myanmar with a representative office in Yangon. Jardine Schindler opened a new office there to consolidate its presence in the country. Jardine Restaurant Group acquired the KFC franchise in Hong Kong and Macau.
Jardine Strategic invested US$731 million in Hong Kong-listed Zhongsheng Group Holdings Limited, one of the Mainland's leading motor dealership groups. Dairy Farm acquired a 49% interest in Rose Pharmacy in the Philippines.
Dairy Farm acquired a 19.99% interest in Shanghai-listed supermarket and hypermarket operator Yonghui Superstores Co., Ltd. Jardine Cycle & Carriage invested in a 24.9% interest in Siam City Cement in Thailand.
Jardine Strategic acquired a 22% shareholding in Hong Kong-listed Greatview Aseptic Packaging Company Limited, the second-largest supplier of aseptic carton packaging in China and the third-largest globally, in June.
Jardine Cycle & Carriage acquired a 10% stake in Vinamilk, the leading dairy producer in Vietnam, for US$1.15 billion in November.
Astra launched a joint venture with Gojek, Southeast Asia’s leading on-demand multi-service tech platform, and invested an additional US$100 million in March 2019 after its first investment of US$150 million in 2018.
livi, a virtual bank backed by the Group, Bank of China (Hong Kong) and JD Digits, was officially launched.
WF CENTRAL, Hongkong Land’s US$1.2 billion first flagship retail-led project in Beijing was opened in October. Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing, Beijing, the group's first hotel in China's capital, was also opened in March.
Hongkong Land secured a prime 23.1 hectare mixed-use site on the West Bund of Shanghai. The West Bund Financial Hub represents a unique opportunity for Hongkong Land to develop and operate a commercial complex of scale in a prime river-front location in Shanghai, the predominant commercial hub of the Chinese mainland.
Dairy Farm launched yuu, Hong Kong’s biggest customer rewards club, in July.
In March, Jardine Matheson formed a strategic cooperation with leading private equity firm Hillhouse Capital to focus on investment and business development opportunities in Greater China and South-East Asia, in particular in the areas of consumer technology and digital enablement.
In April, the Group’s parent company structure was simplified by way of a scheme of amalgamation which led to the removal of Jardine Strategic as a holding company and left Jardine Matheson as the sole holding company for the Group. The new structure increased the Group’s operational efficiency and financial flexibility.