Chairman's 
Message

Barnaby

Swire
Chairman
Swire's motto is 'Esse Quam Videri' meaning 'To be, rather than to seem to be'.

In 2016, the Swire group is celebrating its 200th Anniversary. By any standard, this is an extraordinary milestone and it is one of which we are extremely proud.

As the group enters its third century, however, new challenges will inevitably arise: alongside an abiding focus on nurturing and developing their own staff, on practical innovation and of course on commercial viability, our existing businesses must adapt to a world in which, quite rightly, everything that they do will be judged by its impact upon the environment and the community. Such an atmosphere will lead to change. Beyond such change, however, we are also committed to invest in new industries which are themselves part of the coming environmental revolution — indeed, we have already taken our first few steps along this path.

Of course, none of this would be possible were it not for the dedication and professionalism of the Swire group's staff, and it is on account of them that the group can face the future with such optimism.

Swire's motto is 'Esse Quam Videri' meaning 'To be, rather than to seem to be'.

In 2016, the Swire group is celebrating its 200th Anniversary. By any standard, this is an extraordinary milestone and it is one of which we are extremely proud.

As the group enters its third century, however, new challenges will inevitably arise: alongside an abiding focus on nurturing and developing their own staff, on practical innovation and of course on commercial viability, our existing businesses must adapt to a world in which, quite rightly, everything that they do will be judged by its impact upon the environment and the community. Such an

atmosphere will lead to change. Beyond such change, however, we are also committed to invest in new industries which are themselves part of the coming environmental revolution — indeed, we have already taken our first few steps along this path.

Of course, none of this would be possible were it not for the dedication and professionalism of the Swire group's staff, and it is on account of them that the group can face the future with such optimism.

Our 
Story
The year 2016 marks two significant milestones for Swire: it is the group’s 200th anniversary and it is also 150 years since Swire first opened an office in China. There are older firms around the world, but few perhaps have built such a diverse portfolio of business interests from scratch. Very few indeed have had such an enduring association with a single family: the current Chairman and CEO, Barnaby and Merlin Swire, are great-great-great-grandsons of the founder, John Swire – the Liverpool merchant who started it all back in 1816.
The Port of Liverpool as John Swire (1793 – 1847) would have known it.

John Swire of Liverpool (1793-1847) was in fact originally from Yorkshire. His family had farmed near Skipton for a number of generations before John’s grandfather – also John Swire – went into the textile trade; his son Samuel followed him into this business. However, both father and son came unstuck financially and their ventures ended in bankruptcy. Family insolvency may well have been the spur that drove young John Swire, eldest of Sam’s ten children, to try his luck in Liverpool.

“John Swire, merchant”’s first recorded imports were from America: quercitron
bark (used in dyeing textiles) and raw cotton – which was to become a significant commodity in the firm’s import trades. He gradually built a successful business based almost exclusively on imports from North America (flour, animal hides, turpentine, tar) and the West Indies (coffee, spices, sugar and rum).

John Swire died young from cancer in 1847 and the business passed jointly to his two sons, John Samuel and William Hudson Swire, who were then 21 and 17 years of age; when William came of age in 1851, the company took the name “John Swire & Sons”. From the outset, John Samuel Swire (1825-1898) was the entrepreneurial driving force behind the development of the business, while William – dogged by ill-health – played a less active role, eventually selling his share to his elder brother.

The firm began to invest in sailing ships: firstly, in 1850, with a 22% shareholding in the barque Theodore, and then in 1853
with a majority 31% of the new Liverpool-built iron clipper ship, Evangeline. Both of these ships operated in the New Orleans trade – which primarily involved raw cotton – and sailed under the colours of the Liverpool shipping company, Clint & Co.

By 1854, John Samuel Swire had decided to expand to Australia, where the discovery of gold in Victoria and rapid growth of the new colony offered unprecedented business opportunities. In Melbourne, he established “Swire Bros.” and was soon importing a wide variety of goods, ranging from iron bars, arsenic and “blasting powder”, to barrels of pork, boots, blankets and bottled beer. After four years, he returned to Liverpool. John Swire & Sons’ export business to Australia continued to flourish, but the lasting importance of the Melbourne branch was to switch Swire’s trading focus away from the New Orleans cotton trade, which was severely curtailed by the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.
By the early 1860s, John Swire & Sons had begun to ship woollen goods and cotton shirting material to China, after the Treaty of Tientsin opened the door to foreign trade. In Shanghai, goods were consigned to the firm of Preston, Bruell & Co, but John Swire became increasingly frustrated by the poor performance of this agent.

In 1865, he was approached by the brothers Alfred and Philip Holt to buy shares in their projected new steamer service to China. Alfred Holt had designed a series of steamers with innovative compound engines that made them very low on coal consumption. Up to this point, the trades to the Far East and beyond had been dominated by sailing ships, but Holt’s new vessels – to be built on the Clyde by the firm of Scott’s Shipbuilding – opened up the possibility of making long sea voyages under steam commercially viable. At a stroke, they revolutionised the shipping industry.
John Swire duly became a shareholder in the Ocean Steam Ship Company and Agamemnon – the first ship of the line that was to become universally known as Blue Funnel – sailed for Shanghai in April 1866. Preston, Bruell & Co. was appointed ship’s agent; however, when it became clear firm was in financial difficulties, John Swire resolved to open his own China house and take over the Holts agency. To guarantee a stream of goods, he formed a partnership with a woollen manufacturer, Richard Butterfield, and then set sail for Shanghai. Arriving on 27th November, he immediately bought out Preston, Bruell and on 3rd December 1866, established his new House under the name of Butterfield & Swire.

“B&S” began exporting tea and silk to the UK and rapidly acquired agencies for shipping lines, banks and insurance companies, before the end of the century handling Shanghai’s biggest fire insurance business and a sizeable marine and
accident portfolio; insurance was a core business for Swire for 130 years. Of primary importance was the Blue Funnel agency – entailing management of all aspects of the line’s affairs in the East – and Swire would retain this role for more than 120 years.

Within 18 months, however, Butterfield had been ousted from the partnership: ‘He was grasping and he bothered me’ wrote John Swire. It would be more than 100 years before the firm finally shed his name; but in common with all foreign traders, John Swire quickly adopted a Chinese name for his “hong” and so it was as Taikoo (太古), meaning “Great and Ancient” that B&S soon came to be better known.

By 1870, Swire had branch offices at Yokohama, Hong Kong, New York and Manchester and the firm’s headquarters had transferred from Liverpool to London.
John Swire was soon struck by the potential for steam shipping on the Yangtze: the river provided the only access for foreigners to China’s hinterland and was vital to the movement of people and goods. In 1872, he formed The China Navigation Company (“CNCo”) and ordered three paddle-steamers for the new company, but before these vessels arrived in China, he snapped up a newly bankrupted line, Union Steam Navigation, with assets that included extensive waterfront property at Shanghai and
elsewhere. The Union company’s Tunsin thus became the first vessel to sail under CNCo colours in April 1873.

Within a year, John Swire had purchased two coasters for a complementary operation which he called the Coast Boats Ownery. By the time the CBO came under the umbrella of China Navigation in 1883, its charter network extended throughout Southeast Asia and regular services had commenced to Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
One of China Navigation’s original paddle-steamers, Pekin, which entered the Yangtze trade in 1873; here seen alongside the French Bund at Shanghai c.1900.
The growing diversity of shipping trades encouraged Swire to expand into new businesses. The first of these initiatives was the formation of Taikoo Sugar in 1881. A sugar refinery was built at Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island and quickly began to fill the holds of CNCo’s ships with raw cane sugar inbound from Java, the Philippines and Taiwan, and refined product destined for markets in China, Japan and Australia. In its day, Taikoo operated the largest and most sophisticated plant in the Asia-Pacific region.

It became increasingly clear that the now sizeable China Navigation fleet needed a reliable in-house repair facility. In 1900, construction work began on Taikoo Dockyard, on land adjoining the sugar refinery. This massive project was carried out under the leadership of James Henry Scott (1845-1912), who succeeded John Samuel Swire as Senior Partner of the firm, on the latter’s death in 1898.
Jim Scott, a member of the shipbuilding family, had joined Butterfield & Swire soon after its foundation in 1866 and was John Swire’s trusted righthand. Taikoo Dockyard was one of Hong Kong’s biggest and most progressive employers, providing housing, hospital and a school – which exists to this day.

In 1914, John Swire & Sons became a limited company on the expiration of its original partnership agreement, with John Samuel Swire’s elder son John “Jack” (1861-1933) as its first Chairman. The next two decades saw considerable
expansion on the shipping side, under the successive Chairmanships of Jack and of his younger half-brother (George) Warren Swire (1883-1949), who took over the reins in 1927. By this date, CNCo had extended its Yangtze services west to Chongqing, through the turbulent waters of the Three Gorges, and the need to maintain its growing fleet of vessels encouraged a new diversification into paint manufacturing, with the establishment in Shanghai of Orient Paint in 1934.

World War II brought Swire to its knees. More than 30 of vessels were lost to
enemy action; the Taikoo Dockyard and Taikoo Sugar Refinery were badly damaged by American bombing. Property throughout China was damaged or destroyed and in London, head office was gutted during the blitz. Following the Communist revolution of 1949, China began to close its doors to the West and Swire was forced to wind up its interests on the Mainland and consolidate its businesses on Hong Kong.

The firm was by now under the Chairmanship of Jack Swire’s son, John “Jock” Kidston Swire (1893-1983), and it is largely thanks to J.K. Swire that its
Taikoo Dockyard was one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by Swire.
Rebuilt after almost total destruction during World War II, Taikoo Sugar was back in production by 1950.
operations were rebuilt: it took enormous courage to start again at a time when few would have predicted Hong Kong’s future success. By 1950, Taikoo Sugar was back in production and Taikoo Dockyard had launched its first post-war liner for China Navigation.

CNCo turned its attention south to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, establishing the pattern for the liner services the company operates today. In 1952, as a basis for these
shipping interests, Swire opened an office in Sydney and in 1956, as part of a strategy to look for new ventures in Australia, purchased a freezer trucking company known as Frigmobile. It was to be the first of a number of investments in cold storage and specialist road transport, which are Central to Swire’s current Australian portfolio.

Recognising that air transport was the key to the future, Jock Swire was determined to get the firm into aviation – in 1947, channelling part of Taikoo Dockyard’s
Betsy
rehabilitation energies into developing an aircraft engineering facility. This company, Pacific Air Maintenance & Supply, merged three years later with Jardine Air Maintenance to form Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (“HAECO”).

In 1948, Jock Swire persuaded the board to expend yet more of the firm's greatly depleted capital on a majority stake in Cathay Pacific Airways. Formed in 1946 by American-Australian partners, Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow with a single US Army surplus DC3 – Betsy – in two years they had enlarged their fleet to six DC-3s and a Catalina flying boat. Under Swire management, Cathay Pacific prospered: by 1959, the airline had acquired its first turboprop aircraft, the Lockheed Electra, and in the same year, gained northbound traffic rights to new markets in Taiwan and Japan; now a truly regional carrier, the airline entered the jet-age with the arrival of its first Convair-880M in 1962.
In 1965, Swire purchased Hongkong Bottlers Federal, an American-owned business that held the franchise to bottle Coca-Cola. Hongkong Bottlers offered significant synergy with Swire, since Taikoo Sugar could provide the major ingredients for a soft-drink production business: sugar and water from its reservoirs.

The 1970s were a decade of immense change for Swire. Unable to compete with cheaper producers around the region, Taikoo Sugar closed its refinery in 1972 to concentrate on packaging and distribution. Taikoo Dockyard’s Hong Kong Island site had meanwhile been outgrown by the advent of large container shipping. In 1973, Taikoo merged with former rival Hongkong & Whampoa Dock, as Hongkong United Dockyards (“HUD”), moving to new headquarters at Hong Kong’s container port.

The question of what to do with the vast acreage of the dockyard and refinery sites
led to the creation of Swire Properties and the residential estate, Taikoo Shing, and retail/ office complex Cityplaza were the first of a number of prestigious developments that redefined the commercial focus of Hong Kong. In 1974, the shell company left behind by the closure of Taikoo Dockyard became Swire Pacific Limited – a ready-made public holding company for the group’s principal Hong Kong-based assets – while Butterfield’s long-forgotten interest in the firm was finally laid to rest and replaced by a wider use of “John Swire & Sons”, in line with the parent company.
Swire Properties’ Taikoo Shing and Taikoo Place, built on land where Swire originally refined sugar, built ships, manufactured paint and bottled Coca-Cola.
The 1970s saw Swire take a stake in the burgeoning offshore oil and gas industry through the formation of Swire Pacific Offshore in 1975 and the acquisition in 1979 of specialist supplier of offshore equipment, EPD (now Swire Oilfield Services). Shareholdings were also acquired in the Papua New Guinea conglomerate Steamships Trading Company, and in tea trader, James Finlay.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific acquired its first long-range Boeing 707 aircraft and then its first widebodied aircraft, the Lockheed TriStar, enabling expansion of its route network outside Asia. In 1976, the airline began flying to Bahrain and in 1980 – following the acquisition of its first Boeing 747-200 – to London. Coming at the end of a long and acrimonious battle for traffic rights, it was seminal moment for Cathay, turning it at long last into a fully-fledged international airline.
Elsewhere, this period heralded Swire’s first investments in the USA, where Swire Properties acquired substantial real estate for development in Miami, Swire Coca-Cola obtained its first bottling franchise at Salt Lake City, and, in 1982, freezer warehousing company United States Cold Storage became a wholly owned subsidiary.

In 1985 Swire Properties began development of Pacific Place, its flagship Hong Kong property, helping to formulate the company's ongoing strategy, replicated in Mainland China and the US, of creating strategically located, mixed-use developments connected to major transportation hubs. Swire Pacific meanwhile grew its trading businesses, with the acquisition of the Marathon Sports chain in 1983; retailing and wholesaling of sports and leisure shoes, apparel and equipment, as well as automotive trading, became key elements of its trading division.
The 1990s saw major investment in Mainland China, where in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and the Chinese Government’s foreign investment arm, CITIC, Swire Beverages began to develop soft-drink production facilities, after gaining franchises in seven provinces. Swire’s aeronautical engineering arm, HAECO, also expanded its operations into Mainland China, as a means of offering more competitively-priced services to its customers, forming Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Company (“TAECO”) in 1993. In partnership with ICI, (which later sold its interest to the AzkoNobel group), Swire also began to manufacture Dulux paint on the Mainland.

Swire increased its stake in the regional aviation market through the 1990s, with shareholdings in Hong Kong airlines Dragonair and all-cargo carrier Air Hong Kong and in 1996, the group realigned Cathay Pacific’s shareholding structure to
increase the stake in the airline held by CITIC. This deal was seen as vital to securing Swire’s place in Hong Kong’s aviation industry beyond the 1997 Handover to China.

In Australia, meanwhile, John Swire Sons added to its growing expertise in road transport with the purchase of Victorian bulk haulage operator Kalari in 1994, subsequently expanding the business to offer specialist storage and distribution services nationwide. In the late 1990s, JS&S built on its longstanding presence in Papua New Guinea, to become majority shareholder in national conglomerate, Steamships Trading Company.

In the Year 2000, JS&S increased to 100% its shareholding in long-term associate, James Finlay – a major tea grower and trader with ancillary interests in growing flowers and vegetables for the UK markets. The group subsequently turned
Finlays into a leading supplier to the global food and beverage industry of tea, coffee and herbal extracts.

In 2002, Swire Properties signed a joint venture agreement to develop a major commercial and cultural complex in Guangzhou; the next few years would see Swire Properties invest in a succession of ‘anchor’ commercial projects in some of China’s major cities. The company also established Swire Hotels to create and manage a chain of boutique and business hotels in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

In 2006, a further shareholder restructuring saw Cathay Pacific become a strategic partner to China’s flag-carrier, Air China, with a shareholding of just under 20%. Dragonair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, operating under its own brand, but with Cathay management; Air China meanwhile acquired shares in Cathay Pacific from both Swire Pacific and CITIC.
The first decade of the new century also saw Swire grow its international cold storage interests. In America, United States Cold Storage continued to expand and in Australia, the group merged its interests in the sector under the national umbrella of Swire Cold Storage in 2004. Swire Pacific Cold Storage was formed in 2010 to develop the Mainland China market and was soon constructing the first of 13 large cold stores to be built by 2020, as the basis of a nationwide network.

Wind farm installation vessel, Pacific Osprey, launched in 2013.
The last ten years have seen increasing investment in companies with a “green” focus. These diverse businesses include Alex Fraser, Australia’s pioneering construction and demolition waste recycler, and Swire Pacific Offshore subsidiary, Swire Blue Ocean, which installs offshore wind turbines. John Swire & Sons is now a major shareholder in Argent Energy, a UK company which produces biodiesel from waste cooking fat and oil, while Cathay Pacific has a strategic shareholding in a company that has pioneered the conversion of solid waste to bio-jet fuel.

A lab technician at Argent Energy runs tests on a biodiesel sample.
The group has also continued to invest in Mainland China. In addition to its property and aviation interests, Taikoo Sugar has returned to refining there, after a break of over 40 years. China Navigation has just completed a massive fleet renewal programme, with some 40 multipurpose and bulk vessels constructed at Mainland yards, and Swire has increased its stake in China’s food chain, with food distribution businesses and a bakery chain.

Swire today employs more than 136,000 people worldwide. With its diverse international portfolio, the group is a far cry from the trading business that began it all 200 years ago. Nevertheless, with the sixth generation of the Swire family at the helm of John Swire & Sons, it is still very much a family concern.

The Port of Liverpool as John Swire (1793 – 1847) would have known it.

John Swire of Liverpool (1793-1847) was in fact originally from Yorkshire. His family had farmed near Skipton for a number of generations before John’s grandfather – also John Swire – went into the textile trade; his son Samuel followed him into this business. However, both father and son came unstuck financially and their ventures ended in bankruptcy. Family insolvency may well have been the spur that drove young John Swire, eldest of Sam’s ten children, to try his luck in Liverpool.

“John Swire, merchant”’s first recorded imports were from America: quercitron bark (used in dyeing textiles) and raw cotton – which was to become a significant commodity in the firm’s import trades. He gradually built a successful business based almost exclusively on imports from North America (flour, animal hides, turpentine, tar) and the West Indies (coffee, spices, sugar and rum).

John Swire died young from cancer in 1847 and the business passed jointly to his two sons, John Samuel and William Hudson Swire, who were then 21 and 17 years of age; when William came of age in 1851, the company took the name “John Swire & Sons”. From the outset, John Samuel Swire (1825-1898) was the entrepreneurial driving force behind the development of the business, while William – dogged by ill-health – played a less active role, eventually selling his share to his elder brother.

The firm began to invest in sailing ships: firstly, in 1850, with a 22% shareholding in the barque Theodore, and then in 1853 with a majority 31% of the new Liverpool-built iron clipper ship, Evangeline. Both of these ships operated in the New Orleans trade – which primarily involved raw cotton – and sailed under the colours of the Liverpool shipping company, Clint & Co.

By 1854, John Samuel Swire had decided to expand to Australia, where the discovery of gold in Victoria and rapid growth of the new colony offered unprecedented business opportunities. In Melbourne, he established “Swire Bros.” and was soon importing a wide variety of goods, ranging from iron bars, arsenic and “blasting powder”, to barrels of pork, boots, blankets and bottled beer. After four years, he returned to Liverpool. John Swire & Sons’ export business to Australia continued to flourish, but the lasting importance of the Melbourne branch was to switch Swire’s trading focus away from the New Orleans cotton trade, which was severely curtailed by the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. By the early 1860s, John Swire & Sons had begun to ship woollen goods and cotton shirting material to China, after the Treaty of Tientsin opened the door to foreign trade. In Shanghai, goods were consigned to the firm of Preston, Bruell & Co, but John Swire became increasingly frustrated by the poor performance of this agent.

In 1865, he was approached by the brothers Alfred and Philip Holt to buy shares in their projected new steamer service to China. Alfred Holt had designed a series of steamers with innovative compound engines that made them very low on coal consumption. Up to this point, the trades to the Far East and beyond had been dominated by sailing ships, but Holt’s new vessels – to be built on the Clyde by the firm of Scott’s Shipbuilding – opened up the possibility of making long sea voyages under steam commercially viable. At a stroke, they revolutionised the shipping industry. John Swire duly became a shareholder in the Ocean Steam Ship Company and Agamemnon – the first ship of the line that was to become universally known as Blue Funnel – sailed for Shanghai in April 1866. Preston, Bruell & Co. was appointed ship’s agent; however, when it became clear firm was in financial difficulties, John Swire resolved to open his own China house and take over the Holts agency. To guarantee a stream of goods, he formed a partnership with a woollen manufacturer, Richard Butterfield, and then set sail for Shanghai. Arriving on 27th November, he immediately bought out Preston, Bruell and on 3rd December 1866, established his new House under the name of Butterfield & Swire.

“B&S” began exporting tea and silk to the UK and rapidly acquired agencies for shipping lines, banks and insurance companies, before the end of the century handling Shanghai’s biggest fire insurance business and a sizeable marine and accident portfolio; insurance was a core business for Swire for 130 years. Of primary importance was the Blue Funnel agency – entailing management of all aspects of the line’s affairs in the East – and Swire would retain this role for more than 120 years.

Within 18 months, however, Butterfield had been ousted from the partnership: ‘He was grasping and he bothered me’ wrote John Swire. It would be more than 100 years before the firm finally shed his name; but in common with all foreign traders, John Swire quickly adopted a Chinese name for his “hong” and so it was as Taikoo (太古), meaning “Great and Ancient” that B&S soon came to be better known.

By 1870, Swire had branch offices at Yokohama, Hong Kong, New York and Manchester and the firm’s headquarters had transferred from Liverpool to London. John Swire was soon struck by the potential for steam shipping on the Yangtze: the river provided the only access for foreigners to China’s hinterland and was vital to the movement of people and goods. In 1872, he formed The China Navigation Company (“CNCo”) and ordered three paddle-steamers for the new company, but before these vessels arrived in China, he snapped up a newly bankrupted line, Union Steam Navigation, with assets that included extensive waterfront property at Shanghai and elsewhere. The Union company’s Tunsin thus became the first vessel to sail under CNCo colours in April 1873.

Within a year, John Swire had purchased two coasters for a complementary operation which he called the Coast Boats Ownery. By the time the CBO came under the umbrella of China Navigation in 1883, its charter network extended throughout Southeast Asia and regular services had commenced to Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

One of China Navigation’s original paddle-steamers, Pekin, which entered the Yangtze trade in 1873; here seen alongside the French Bund at Shanghai c.1900.

The growing diversity of shipping trades encouraged Swire to expand into new businesses. The first of these initiatives was the formation of Taikoo Sugar in 1881. A sugar refinery was built at Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island and quickly began to fill the holds of CNCo’s ships with raw cane sugar inbound from Java, the Philippines and Taiwan, and refined product destined for markets in China, Japan and Australia. In its day, Taikoo operated the largest and most sophisticated plant in the Asia-Pacific region.

It became increasingly clear that the now sizeable China Navigation fleet needed a reliable in-house repair facility. In 1900, construction work began on Taikoo Dockyard, on land adjoining the sugar refinery. This massive project was carried out under the leadership of James Henry Scott (1845-1912), who succeeded John Samuel Swire as Senior Partner of the firm, on the latter’s death in 1898. Jim Scott, a member of the shipbuilding family, had joined Butterfield & Swire soon after its foundation in 1866 and was John Swire’s trusted righthand. Taikoo Dockyard was one of Hong Kong’s biggest and most progressive employers, providing housing, hospital and a school – which exists to this day.

In 1914, John Swire & Sons became a limited company on the expiration of its original partnership agreement, with John Samuel Swire’s elder son John “Jack” (1861-1933) as its first Chairman. The next two decades saw considerable expansion on the shipping side, under the successive Chairmanships of Jack and of his younger half-brother (George) Warren Swire (1883-1949), who took over the reins in 1927. By this date, CNCo had extended its Yangtze services west to Chongqing, through the turbulent waters of the Three Gorges, and the need to maintain its growing fleet of vessels encouraged a new diversification into paint manufacturing, with the establishment in Shanghai of Orient Paint in 1934.

World War II brought Swire to its knees. More than 30 of vessels were lost to enemy action; the Taikoo Dockyard and Taikoo Sugar Refinery were badly damaged by American bombing. Property throughout China was damaged or destroyed and in London, head office was gutted during the blitz. Following the Communist revolution of 1949, China began to close its doors to the West and Swire was forced to wind up its interests on the Mainland and consolidate its businesses on Hong Kong.

The firm was by now under the Chairmanship of Jack Swire’s son, John “Jock” Kidston Swire (1893-1983), and it is largely thanks to J.K. Swire that its

Taikoo Dockyard was one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by Swire.
Rebuilt after almost total destruction during World War II, Taikoo Sugar was back in production by 1950.
operations were rebuilt: it took enormous courage to start again at a time when few would have predicted Hong Kong’s future success. By 1950, Taikoo Sugar was back in production and Taikoo Dockyard had launched its first post-war liner for China Navigation.

CNCo turned its attention south to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, establishing the pattern for the liner services the company operates today. In 1952, as a basis for these shipping interests, Swire opened an office in Sydney and in 1956, as part of a strategy to look for new ventures in Australia, purchased a freezer trucking company known as Frigmobile. It was to be the first of a number of investments in cold storage and specialist road transport, which are Central to Swire’s current Australian portfolio.

Recognising that air transport was the key to the future, Jock Swire was determined to get the firm into aviation – in 1947, channelling part of Taikoo Dockyard’s

Betsy
rehabilitation energies into developing an aircraft engineering facility. This company, Pacific Air Maintenance & Supply, merged three years later with Jardine Air Maintenance to form Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (“HAECO”).

In 1948, Jock Swire persuaded the board to expend yet more of the firm's greatly depleted capital on a majority stake in Cathay Pacific Airways. Formed in 1946 by American-Australian partners, Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow with a single US Army surplus DC3 – Betsy – in two years they had enlarged their fleet to six DC-3s and a Catalina flying boat. Under Swire management, Cathay Pacific prospered: by 1959, the airline had acquired its first turboprop aircraft, the Lockheed Electra, and in the same year, gained northbound traffic rights to new markets in Taiwan and Japan; now a truly regional carrier, the airline entered the jet-age with the arrival of its first Convair-880M in 1962. In 1965, Swire purchased Hongkong Bottlers Federal, an American-owned business that held the franchise to bottle Coca-Cola. Hongkong Bottlers offered significant synergy with Swire, since Taikoo Sugar could provide the major ingredients for a soft-drink production business: sugar and water from its reservoirs.

The 1970s were a decade of immense change for Swire. Unable to compete with cheaper producers around the region, Taikoo Sugar closed its refinery in 1972 to concentrate on packaging and distribution. Taikoo Dockyard’s Hong Kong Island site had meanwhile been outgrown by the advent of large container shipping. In 1973, Taikoo merged with former rival Hongkong & Whampoa Dock, as Hongkong United Dockyards (“HUD”), moving to new headquarters at Hong Kong’s container port.

The question of what to do with the vast acreage of the dockyard and refinery sites led to the creation of Swire Properties and the residential estate, Taikoo Shing, and retail/ office complex Cityplaza were the first of a number of prestigious developments that redefined the commercial focus of Hong Kong. In 1974, the shell company left behind by the closure of Taikoo Dockyard became Swire Pacific Limited – a ready-made public holding company for the group’s principal Hong Kong-based assets – while Butterfield’s long-forgotten interest in the firm was finally laid to rest and replaced by a wider use of “John Swire & Sons”, in line with the parent company.

Swire Properties’ Taikoo Shing and Taikoo Place, built on land where Swire originally refined sugar, built ships, manufactured paint and bottled Coca-Cola.
The 1970s saw Swire take a stake in the burgeoning offshore oil and gas industry through the formation of Swire Pacific Offshore in 1975 and the acquisition in 1979 of specialist supplier of offshore equipment, EPD (now Swire Oilfield Services). Shareholdings were also acquired in the Papua New Guinea conglomerate Steamships Trading Company, and in tea trader, James Finlay.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific acquired its first long-range Boeing 707 aircraft and then its first widebodied aircraft, the Lockheed TriStar, enabling expansion of its route network outside Asia. In 1976, the airline began flying to Bahrain and in 1980 – following the acquisition of its first Boeing 747-200 – to London. Coming at the end of a long and acrimonious battle for traffic rights, it was seminal moment for Cathay, turning it at long last into a fully-fledged international airline. Elsewhere, this period heralded Swire’s first investments in the USA, where Swire Properties acquired substantial real estate for development in Miami, Swire Coca-Cola obtained its first bottling franchise at Salt Lake City, and, in 1982, freezer warehousing company United States Cold Storage became a wholly owned subsidiary.

In 1985 Swire Properties began development of Pacific Place, its flagship Hong Kong property, helping to formulate the company's ongoing strategy, replicated in Mainland China and the US, of creating strategically located, mixed-use developments connected to major transportation hubs. Swire Pacific meanwhile grew its trading businesses, with the acquisition of the Marathon Sports chain in 1983; retailing and wholesaling of sports and leisure shoes, apparel and equipment, as well as automotive trading, became key elements of its trading division. The 1990s saw major investment in Mainland China, where in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and the Chinese Government’s foreign investment arm, CITIC, Swire Beverages began to develop soft-drink production facilities, after gaining franchises in seven provinces. Swire’s aeronautical engineering arm, HAECO, also expanded its operations into Mainland China, as a means of offering more competitively-priced services to its customers, forming Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Company (“TAECO”) in 1993. In partnership with ICI, (which later sold its interest to the AzkoNobel group), Swire also began to manufacture Dulux paint on the Mainland.

Swire increased its stake in the regional aviation market through the 1990s, with shareholdings in Hong Kong airlines Dragonair and all-cargo carrier Air Hong Kong and in 1996, the group realigned Cathay Pacific’s shareholding structure to increase the stake in the airline held by CITIC. This deal was seen as vital to securing Swire’s place in Hong Kong’s aviation industry beyond the 1997 Handover to China.

In Australia, meanwhile, John Swire Sons added to its growing expertise in road transport with the purchase of Victorian bulk haulage operator Kalari in 1994, subsequently expanding the business to offer specialist storage and distribution services nationwide. In the late 1990s, JS&S built on its longstanding presence in Papua New Guinea, to become majority shareholder in national conglomerate, Steamships Trading Company.

In the Year 2000, JS&S increased to 100% its shareholding in long-term associate, James Finlay – a major tea grower and trader with ancillary interests in growing flowers and vegetables for the UK markets. The group subsequently turned Finlays into a leading supplier to the global food and beverage industry of tea, coffee and herbal extracts.

In 2002, Swire Properties signed a joint venture agreement to develop a major commercial and cultural complex in Guangzhou; the next few years would see Swire Properties invest in a succession of ‘anchor’ commercial projects in some of China’s major cities. The company also established Swire Hotels to create and manage a chain of boutique and business hotels in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

In 2006, a further shareholder restructuring saw Cathay Pacific become a strategic partner to China’s flag-carrier, Air China, with a shareholding of just under 20%. Dragonair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, operating under its own brand, but with Cathay management; Air China meanwhile acquired shares in Cathay Pacific from both Swire Pacific and CITIC. The first decade of the new century also saw Swire grow its international cold storage interests. In America, United States Cold Storage continued to expand and in Australia, the group merged its interests in the sector under the national umbrella of Swire Cold Storage in 2004. Swire Pacific Cold Storage was formed in 2010 to develop the Mainland China market and was soon constructing the first of 13 large cold stores to be built by 2020, as the basis of a nationwide network.

Wind farm installation vessel, Pacific Osprey, launched in 2013.
The last ten years have seen increasing investment in companies with a “green” focus. These diverse businesses include Alex Fraser, Australia’s pioneering construction and demolition waste recycler, and Swire Pacific Offshore subsidiary, Swire Blue Ocean, which installs offshore wind turbines. John Swire & Sons is now a major shareholder in Argent Energy, a UK company which produces biodiesel from waste cooking fat and oil, while Cathay Pacific has a strategic shareholding in a company that has pioneered the conversion of solid waste to bio-jet fuel.

A lab technician at Argent Energy runs tests on a biodiesel sample.
The group has also continued to invest in Mainland China. In addition to its property and aviation interests, Taikoo Sugar has returned to refining there, after a break of over 40 years. China Navigation has just completed a massive fleet renewal programme, with some 40 multipurpose and bulk vessels constructed at Mainland yards, and Swire has increased its stake in China’s food chain, with food distribution businesses and a bakery chain.

Swire today employs more than 136,000 people worldwide. With its diverse international portfolio, the group is a far cry from the trading business that began it all 200 years ago. Nevertheless, with the sixth generation of the Swire family at the helm of John Swire & Sons, it is still very much a family concern.
Our 
Evolution
Road to a property
business
A cold storage
enterprise
Growth of
an aviation group
A strategic
partner
Maritime
ventures
1872
John Samuel Swire established The China Navigation Company ("CNCo") to operate services on the Yangtze River. Over the next decade and more, CNCo extended its network to the China coast and around the region and by World War II was one of Asia's leading shipping companies.
1881
The Taikoo Sugar Refinery opened in Hong Kong. This new business dovetailed with CNCo's shipping trades between Hong Kong and Mainland China, the Philippines and Taiwan at a time when local and regional demand far outstripped production capacity.
Road to a property
business
A cold storage
enterprise
Growth of
an aviation group
A strategic
partner
Maritime
ventures
1872

John Samuel Swire establish The China Navigation Company ("CNCo") to operate services on the Yangtze River. Over the next decade and more, CNCo extended its network to the China coast and around the region and by World War II was one of Asia's leading shipping companies.
1872
1881
1907
1972
2016
John Samuel Swire established The China Navigation Company (“CNCo”) to operate services on the Yangtze River. Over the next decade and more, CNCo extended its network to the China coast and around the region and by World War II was one ofAsia’s leading shipping companies.
The Taikoo Sugar Refinery opened in Hong Kong. This new business dovetailed with CNCo’s shipping trades between Hong Kong and Mainland China, the Philippines and Taiwan at a time when local and regional demand far outstripped production capacity.
Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Company. While the original rationale was to provide a reliable local repair facility for the ‘in-house’ China Navigation and Blue Funnel fleets, the dockyard was the largest and most sophisticated shipbuilding yard in Asia – thanks to Swire’s relationship with shipbuilder and business partner Scotts of Greenock. Taikoo was listed as a public company in 1959, and in 1974 its name was changed to Swire Pacific, providing a ready-made holding company for Swire’s Hong Kong businesses.
Swire Properties was established as a direct consequence of the planned closure of Taikoo Sugar and Taikoo Dockyard, when Swire’s marine engineering business was transferred to the new Hong Kong container port. The event freed up a vast land bank for redevelopment on Hong Kong Island.
In addition to its principal Hong Kong portfolios, Swire Properties has leveraged its expertise in developing and managing major mixed-use developments with projects in leading Mainland Chinese cities and in Miami, Florida.
1956
1979
2004
2010
2016
As part of a strategy to look for new business opportunities in Australia, Swire purchased shares in a refrigerated transport business with cold stores in Tasmania and Sydney and in Frigmobile, an interstate refrigerated trucking business. By 1967, these businesses were wholly owned and over the next 50 years Swire expanded its cold storage interests to become the largest operator in Australia.
Building on its expertise, Swire acquired a 40% interest in United States Cold Storage ("USCS"), which became a wholly owned subsidiary in 1982; USCS expanded to become one of the top five public refrigerated warehouse operators in the States.
Swire Cold Storage was formed with the merger of Swire’s interests in this sector in Australia to provide a nationwide service offering.
Swire recognised increasing affluence, a growing appetite for frozen foodstuffs and heightened awareness of food safety issues in Mainland China offered an opportunity in an otherwise undeveloped market. Swire Pacific Cold Storage was formed.
Swire Pacific Cold Storage is developing a planned network of 13 large cold stores in Mainland China.
1940
1947
1948
1950
1967
1990s
2006
2013
2014
2016
Swire became agent in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Japan for Imperial Airways. Its marine businesses provided a blueprint for passenger and freight agency services and it was planned that Taikoo Dockyard would lend its engineering skills to aircraft maintenance in Hong Kong. In the event, World War II forced Swire to suspend these ambitions.
Swire established Pacific Air Maintenance & Supply Company (“PAMAS”) to provide engineering support at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airfield.
Swire acquired a 45% stake in Cathay Pacific Airways, formed in 1946 by an American Roy Farrell and an Australian Sydney de Kantzow.
PAMAS merged with Jardine Air Maintenance Company to form Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co. Ltd. (“HAECO”). By 1975, Swire was majority shareholder in this listed company.
Swire formed Air Caterers Ltd. in partnership with Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels.
Cathay Pacific acquired shareholdings in two new Hong Kong regional airlines: Dragonair, and all-cargo carrier Air Hong Kong. A later redistribution of shares in Cathay Pacific and Dragonair increased the stake held by Mainland Chinese interests, securing the future of Hong Kong’s aviation industry beyond the former British colony’s 1997 handover back to Mainland China. HAECO expanded its operations with the creation of major heavy maintenance facilities at Xiamen, taking advantage of the rapidly developing Mainland Chinese aviation market.
A further realignment of shareholdings ensured closer cooperation between the key players in the Hong Kong and Mainland aviation markets. As part of this reshuffle, Dragonair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific.
The Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal opened at Hong Kong International Airport. With almost 40 years’ experience in air cargo handling, Cathay Pacific’s facility is capable of handling up to 50% of Hong Kong’s annual capacity.
HAECO became a global maintenance, repair and overhaul group following the acquisition of TIMCO Aviation Services (now known as HAECO Americas) – adding North American airframe, line services, engine overhaul and cabin solutions to its portfolio.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, Cathay Pacific has grown from humble beginnings to a world-class international airline.
1965
1978
1989
2016
Swire acquired Hongkong Bottlers Federal, its first Coca-Cola franchise. Hongkong Bottlers was located on land purchased from Taikoo Sugar Refinery, which provided the major ingredients for the business: sugar and water from its reservoirs.
Swire entered the Coca-Cola market in the U.S. by acquiring a family-owned Coca-Cola bottling franchise in Utah.
The Coca-Cola Company invited Swire to be a partner in the return of the brand to Mainland China after a near 40-year absence. Franchises were granted in seven major provinces. The partnership also saw Swire enter the Taiwan market.
Swire Beverages has a franchise population in Greater China and an extensive part of the western USA of over 450 million people.
1952
1972
1975
1979
2016
After the loss of its traditional Yangtze River and China Coast trades, The China Navigation Company expanded its network to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.
The merger of Taikoo Dockyard with Hongkong & Whampoa Dock led to the formation of Hongkong United Dockyards (“HUD”), a major regional ship repair and engineering group and Hongkong Salvage & Towage, the port of Hong Kong’s leading service provider.
Building on more than a century of shipping and tug operations and a breadth of knowledge and experience of operating in difficult trades, Swire entered the offshore oil support market, with the formation of Swire Pacific Offshore.
As part of its strategy to invest in the energy sector, Swire purchased a Scottish container hire company to develop a niche providing cargo-carrying units to transport equipment to North Sea oil platforms. Swire Oilfield Services is today the world leader in its field.
When John Samuel Swire established a fragile enterprise on the Yangtze in 1872, he would not have envisaged the growth and diversity of Swire’s marine businesses. Today, these range from offshore support to subsea and windfarm construction, while China Navigation operates a global network of multipurpose liner, dry bulk and bulk logistics services.
Family 
Business 
for 200 Years
The Swire group has been led by six generations of the Swire family,
all direct descents of John Swire of Liverpool, supported by three generations of the
Scott family and one non-family Chairman.
The Swire Group has been led by six generations of the Swire family, all direct descents of John Swire of Liverpool, supported by three generations of the Scott family and one non-family Chairman.
John Swire
John Samuel Swire
(The Senior)
John Swire (Jack)
John Swire (Jock)
Sir John Swire
Barnaby Swire
William Swire
Warren Swire
Sir Adrian Swire
Merlin Swire
James Henry Scott (Jim)
John Scott
Edward Scott
James Hughes-Hallett
Sam Swire
(1793-1847)
(1825-1898)
(1861-1933)
(1893-1983)
(1927-2016)
(1964-)
(1830-1884)
(1883-1949)
(1932-)
(1973-)
(1845-1912)
(1901-1972)
(1939-2002)
(1949-)
(1979-)
Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, John Swire established a Liverpool import-export business in 1816. The company he founded is the parent company of the Swire group today.
John Samuel Swire transformed the small Liverpool business established by his father into a leading China coast ‘hong’ under the name of Butterfield & Swire. He diversified the business into shipping – forming The China Navigation Company and The Coast Boats Ownery – and also into sugar, building the largest refinery in the eastern hemisphere in Hong Kong.
Jack Swire oversaw a major shipbuilding programme during the 1920s, swelling the China Navigation fleet to its largest yet.
After World War II, Jock Swire guided the rebuilding of the firm’s shipping and industrial interests, as well as its painful exit from Mainland China. He led the firm’s diversification into aviation – Cathay Pacific Airways and HAECO – and into soft-drinks bottling, as well as cold storage ventures in Australia, and took a close interest in staff recruitment and development.
John Swire’s time as Chairman saw the birth of Swire Properties and of Swire Pacific Offshore and the rapid growth of Cathay Pacific Airways. He took a particular interest in the evolution and nurturing of the staff recruitment and development practices inaugurated by his father, Jock.
Barnaby Swire joined John Swire & Sons in Hong Kong in 1985 and transferred to London in 1994, becoming a Director in 2000.
Trusted deputy to his more commercially astute and driven elder brother, William managed the firm’s Liverpool head office during John’s prolonged absences overseas. Ill-health led to William’s early retirement at 46.
Chairman during a period of political turmoil, Warren Swire held the business together, forging closer links to Chinese businesses and pursuing a policy of localisation of management staff. His foresight, organisational abilities and dogged determination prepared the ground for the post-World War II reconstruction.
Adrian Swire contributed significantly to the development of the group’s aviation and shipping interests, to the re-establishment after 30 years of operating companies in Mainland China and to the smooth transition of the group’s Hong Kong businesses through the 1997 Handover.
Merlin Swire joined John Swire & Sons in Hong Kong in 1997 and was appointed a Director in London 11 years later.
Jim Scott’s outstanding contribution to the firm was the establishment of the Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Company, the site of which would later form the land bank upon which Swire Properties was built.
John Scott joined Butterfield & Swire in 1924 and was posted to a number of eastern ports. Appointed a Director in 1931, and with numerous responsibilities in London, his most invaluable role was that of intermediary between the strong-minded characters of Warren Swire and his nephew Jock.
Grandson of James Henry Scott, Edward Scott was based for 30 years in Sydney and led Swire’s investment in Papua New Guinea and the development of the group’s cold storage interests both in Australia and in the USA. James Finlay became a subsidiary while he was Chairman.
James Hughes-Hallett was the first Chairman drawn from the ranks neither of the Swire nor of the Scott families. During his chairmanship, Cathay Pacific Airways doubled its number of aircraft, the group’s marine businesses expanded their fleets dramatically and Swire Properties became firmly established in Mainland China.
Sam Swire joined John Swire & Sons in Hong Kong in 2003 and was appointed a Director in London in 2015.
Snippets 
from the 
Archives
Swire’s Chinese name, Taikoo (太古), can be loosely translated as “Great and Ancient”. The character Gu (古) represents “ancient”, while the prefix Tai (太) puts it into the superlative form,
so the full name, Tai Gu Yeung Hong (太古洋行), means something like
“Most Venerable Foreign Company”.
To Western eyes, the 太古characters bear a close resemblance to 大吉, the “Big Luck” characters widely seen around Chinese New Year and it has even been speculated this was the original choice for Swire’s Chinese name. Not so: the name Taikoo was chosen by Thomas Taylor Meadows – a British Consul in Shanghai when Swire opened an office there 150 years ago, in 1866. However, Meadows clearly did intend the name to be a clever visual “pun”. It was a stroke of genius, because he gave a doubly auspicious name to the company that carries it: Taikoo, the “Great and Ancient”, also suggests good luck.
Celebrating two centuries this year, Swire might be said to have grown into the label “venerable”. Those years represent decades of experience in many of the businesses in the group’s current portfolio – businesses that pride themselves on being amongst the most ground-breaking and innovative in their own fields. The China Navigation Company is over 140 years old; Cathay Pacific Airways celebrates its 70th birthday this year; the group has been involved in cold storage for 60 years, a Coca-Cola bottler for over 50 years, a leading property developer for more than 40 years....and so on....
To Western eyes, the 太古characters bear a close resemblance to 大吉, the “Big Luck” characters widely seen around Chinese New Year and it has even been speculated this was the original choice for Swire’s Chinese name. Not so: the name Taikoo was chosen by Thomas Taylor Meadows – a British Consul in Shanghai when Swire opened an office there 150 years ago, in 1866. However, Meadows clearly did intend the name to be a clever visual “pun”. It was a stroke of genius, because he gave a doubly auspicious name to the company that carries it: Taikoo, the “Great and Ancient”, also suggests good luck.

Celebrating two centuries this year, Swire might be said to have grown into the label “venerable”. Those years represent decades of experience in many of the businesses in the group’s current portfolio – businesses that pride themselves on being amongst the most ground-breaking and innovative in their own fields. The China Navigation Company is over 140 years old; Cathay Pacific Airways celebrates its 70th birthday this year; the group has been involved in cold storage for 60 years, a Coca-Cola bottler for over 50 years, a leading property developer for more than 40 years....and so on....

Here are some interesting facts about Swire which you may or may not have heard before:
THE SWIRE FLAG
BUILT ON BEANCAKE
LEADING UK BOTTLER
WORKING FOR THE SWIRE $
TAIKOO’S CABLE CAR
PIRATE PERIL
EARLY INNOVATION
DELICATE CARGO
PREFERRED BRAND
PARKING WHERE SHIPS ONCE DOCKED
The Swire flag is a particularly recognisable one; perhaps it helps that the design is replicated on the “door-close” button in most elevators! The creation of a shipping company in 1872 first dictated the need for a house flag. When The China Navigation Company (“CNCo”) went into operation on the Yangtze River, the trade was dominated by the powerful, American-owned Shanghai Steam Navigation Company. Undeterred, Swire’s Senior Partner, John Samuel Swire, declared he intended to ‘run the river’ and the flag he designed threw down the gauntlet in no uncertain terms: Shanghai SNCo’s flag consisted of two blue triangles, apex to apex, on a white ground; CNCo’s was to be identical – but red instead of blue. Perhaps John Swire decided this was a step too far? At any rate, at a meeting to review the design, someone used a blue pencil to sketch a wide vertical stripe through the centre of the flag, where the two triangles met, and the hung bak lam (red, white, blue) Swire flag we know today was born.
Though China Navigation began life on the Yangtze River, the company cemented its success in the 1870s and 1880s on the China Coast, where it took a virtual monopoly of the trade in “beancake”. Produced in the north, in what was then Manchuria and shipped south to Xiamen and Shantou, “beancake” was the soya pulp residue from crushing soya beans to extract their oil. It was compressed into large, cartwheel-shaped “cakes”, which were simply rolled on and off the ships through the side-port cargo doors that were a feature of CNCo’s coasters. Beancake was in demand as a fertiliser in the fruit and vegetable growing areas of southern China; sometimes it was used as animal fodder – and when times were tough, fed humans too. Thanks to this trade, up until World War II, CNCo’s coastal cargo steamers were still referred to as “Beancakers”.
Swire Beverages is one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the world. Swire acquired its first Coca-Cola franchise, Hongkong Bottlers Federal, in 1965, but the group had a much earlier – and also highly successful – interest in beverage bottling. In 1869, Swire began to bottle and export beer to Australia from Liverpool under licence from major brewers, Guinness and Bass. The new business was managed by John Samuel Swire’s cousin, Jonathan Porter O’Brien, and consequently named J.P. O’Brien & Co. Starting with Australasia, J.P. O’Brien expanded its market to include all of Asia and the Americas and became Britain’s biggest export bottler – in 1882, exporting 29,000 cases of its most popular brand, Dagger Stout, to Melbourne alone. By the late 1880s, the Australian trade had declined, thanks to domestic competition, and Swire sold the business to the O’Brien family in 1894; the company continued to trade well into the 1990s.
Once upon a time, Swire printed its own money. Taikoo Tsng (“SwireBank”) notes went into circulation in Shantou and its environs in 1882 – the year Swire opened an office at the Guangdong port. Shantou was at the centre of the company’s coastal trade in beancake, but as the town did not have a bank, foreign trading hongs with interests there produced their own printed ‘cash’ – actually glorified ‘chits’, or promissory notes. Taikoo Tsng notes were available in denominations of $50, $25, $10 and $5. Issue and redemption were strictly regulated by the Shantou office, but in between, Taikoo Tsng banknotes passed from hand to hand just like regular cash. It is believed Swire was still honouring the notes into the 1930s.
From 1893-1932, Swire operated its own aerial cable car system at Quarry Bay in Hong Kong. Powered by a steam-driven winch, two open cars operating on a counterweight system carried passengers more than 2km uphill to Tai Fung Au (Big Wind Gap) – the high pass in the hills above. This was the site of the“Sanitarium”: a cool, high-altitude summer refuge for European (mainly Scottish) Taikoo Sugar Refinery and Taikoo Dockyard staff and their families during the sweltering, sticky months when bubonic plague regularly swept across southern China.
Before World War II, China was a notorious pirate hot-spot. Coastal and river steamers carried passengers on deck at very low rates, so it was all too easy for a pirate gang, with weapons strategically concealed, to simply buy tickets and mingle with the crowds. China Navigation vessels were pirated in Chinese waters 12 times between 1925 and 1939. As a result, iron bars and locked gates separated the main deck from the bridge area and saloon passenger accommodation on CNCo ships and squads of well-armed guards travelled on board. Standard issue for every CNCo officer were those cowboy favourites, a Winchester .44 repeater rifle and a Colt .45 revolver – with Smith & Wesson handcuffs to ‘clap in irons’ any captured pirates.
Necessity was the mother of invention for the pioneering engineers of Pacific Air Maintenance & Supply Co. (“PAMAS”)– the aeronautical engineering company started up by Swire in 1947 and which morphed into Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (“HAECO”) in 1950. An early innovation was this mobile engine test unit: a specially adapted truck with a rear gantry arm on which a propeller engine could be mounted. Instruments in the lorry’s cab monitored the engine’s performance as “PAMAS” technicians raced the throttle. It was a far cry from Hong Kong Aero Engine Services’ (“HAESL”) state-of-the-art test cell, capable of handling the largest turbo fan engines in commercial use today.
Cathay Pacific’s first outport office opened in Bangkok in 1953. Then, as now, live seafood was important airfreight from Thailand for the restaurants of Hong Kong; but in the early 1950s, to keep the tanks aerated, a man sat beside them on a stool, agitating the water with a stick. On one occasion, Cathay’s ‘Skymaster’ DC-4 even carried an elephant from Bangkok; its handler tied live chickens to its forelegs to dissuade the animal from stamping its feet inflight.
Automotive trading is a key business for Swire’s trading division. It all began back in the late 1970s, when Taikoo Motors forerunner, Cannon, acquired a franchise for Volvo in Taiwan. Initially, to reassure doubtful local customers that the cars carried the Swire guarantee of quality – and much to the vexation of the brand-conscious Swedes – vehicles were sold with a Taikoo flag on the boot!
Swire Properties was established in the early 1970s to undertake redevelopment of the more than 100 acres of real estate released by the closure of Taikoo Sugar Refinery and Taikoo Dockyard in Hong Kong. The area was redeveloped in phases as the residential estate Taikoo Shing, the business/retail centre, Cityplaza, and the office complex, Taikoo Place. Today, shoppers at Cityplaza will find little to remind them of the area’s industrial and maritime heritage, apart from a commemorative stone recording the building of the dockyard’s huge dry-dock – intended, when it opened in 1907, to accommodate the largest vessels then afloat. This stone can be found by the ground-floor entrance to the underground carpark – which is itself located within the former dry-dock.
Copyright © 2016 John Swire & Sons (H.K.) Ltd. All rights reserved.
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