Arguably, the most fascinating group of companies listed in Singapore are those from the sprawling Jardine Matheson Group (commonly known as Jardines), namely: Jardine Matheson Holdings (SGX: J36); Jardine Strategic Holdings (SGX: J37); Jardine Cycle & Carriage (SGX: C07) and Dairy Farm International Holdings (SGX:D01).
Set up in 1832, by Scots William Jardine and James Matheson, the British conglomerate began by trading spices and opium to China, whilst exporting tea, silk and cotton to the UK.
Today, Jardine Matheson stands as a diversified business group and Fortune Global 500 company, consisting of a number of interlinked companies in the fields of engineering and construction, transport services, insurance broking, property investment, retailing, restaurants, luxury hotels and motor vehicles, to name but a few. It operates from Hong Kong with offices throughout Asia and Europe and has over 240k employees.
Indeed, with a history dating back to Imperial China, Jardine Matheson has seen enough drama and intrigue to fill a book – which it sort of has, having been the inspiration for James Clavell’s “Tai-Pan” and “Noble House” novels.
But did you know…
- The famous Hong Kong Noonday gun, which is fired daily at midday, belongs to the Jardine Group. Originally set up in the 1860s, and fired by Jardines’ private militia to mark the arrival of the company’s Tai-Pan (supreme leader) by sea, it incurred the annoyance of a British naval officer. He ordered that, in penalty, the company must fire a gun at noon, every day, for perpetuity. Jardines continues this tradition to this day.
- Jardines’ tea exports proved very popular – and by the end of the 18th century Britain was importing over six million pounds of tea per year from Canton. But only the wealthy could afford to drink it – a pound of the least expensive of tea available would cost the average labourer about a month’s wages.
- Jardine’s Bazaar, Jardine’s Crescent, Jardine’s Bridge, Jardine’s Lookout, Matheson Street and Jardine House in Hong Kong were all named after the firm and its founders. And the company’s Chinese name “Ewo” is said to have influenced the naming of Yee Wo Street in East Point and Causeway Bay Districts.
- To impress upon visitors how busy he was, William Jardine kept only one chair in his Canton office – his own.
- It’s rumoured that mail sent to Jardines needs no address – just the name is enough to ensure delivery.
Trying to unravel the links between all of the Jardine Group companies would give anyone a serious headache – indeed, Jardine Matheson Holdings (SGX: J36) operates through Jardine Pacific, Jardine Motors Group, and Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group, and through Jardine Pacific it has interests in other Group companies. But it is no doubt complicated for good reason – to thwart any takeover attempts!
And while its dividend yield of 2.1% may not seem that exciting, Jardine Matheson Holdings is one of the few Singapore listed companies that can claim 10 years of unbroken dividend growth – having increased its dividend from US$0.5 in 2006 to US$1.35 per share.
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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Alison Hunt doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.