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OUR JOURNEY

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Inside Story

John Swire of Liverpool established an import-export business in 1816 and his son John Samuel Swire opened the doors of his first China office in 1866. Take a journey through our interactive timeline to learn more about how Swire has grown and diversified from a small import-export business to a multi-disciplined conglomerate.

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1816-1860
Early Years

1816

Where it all began

1816 Where it all began

1847

The sons take
the reins

1847 The sons take |the reins

1854

Australia-bound

John Samuel Swire sailed to Australia and established Swire Bros. in Melbourne to import a range of goods, from fencing wire and cement to olive oil and Guinness. He returned to Liverpool in 1858.

1861-1870
The China Trade

1861

Entering the China trade

John Samuel Swire began to trade with China after the outbreak of the American Civil War started to disrupt imports of raw cotton from the Southern States – a mainstay of his trade at this time.

1866

Formation of
Butterfield & Swire

1866 Formation of |Butterfield & Swire

1867

Butterfield & Swire
opens a branch
office in Yokohama

1867 Butterfield & Swire |opens a branch |office in Yokohama

1868

London headquarters

John Swire & Sons transferred its head office to London and John Samuel Swire dissolved his partnership with R.S. Butterfield. Nevertheless, Swire’s Asian offices kept the name Butterfield & Swire into the 1970s.

1870

Butterfield & Swire
opens a branch
office in Hong Kong

1870 Butterfield & Swire |opens a branch |office in Hong Kong

1871-1940
New Fields of Enterprise

1872

Paddle Steamers on the Yangtze

1872 Paddle Steamers on the Yangtze

1882

Swire Banknotes

1882 Swire Banknotes

1882

Breaking ground on
a new sugar refinery

1882 Breaking ground on |a new sugar refinery

1898

James Henry Scott becomes
Senior Partner

1898 James Henry Scott becomes |Senior Partner

1907

Opening of Taikoo Dockyard

1907 Opening of Taikoo Dockyard

1910-40

Marine expansion

1910-40 Marine expansion

1941-1945
Fortunes of War

1941-45

Costs of war

1941-45 Costs of war

1946-1973
New Directions

1946

Rebuilding post-war

1946 Rebuilding post-war

1946

A return to trading

1946 A return to trading

1947

An aviation opportunity

1947 An aviation opportunity

1948

Taking to the skies

1948 Taking to the skies

1948

A Hong Kong
paint business

1948 A Hong Kong |paint business

1950

HAECO is born

1950 HAECO is born

1952-58

Diversifying in Australia

1952-58 Diversifying in Australia

1959

Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Co. goes public

1959 Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Co. goes public

1959

A regional airline

1959 A regional airline

1965

Ventures in bottling

1965 Ventures in bottling

1965

HAECO is floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange

1965 HAECO is floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange

1966

John Anthony Swire becomes Chairman

1966 John Anthony Swire becomes Chairman

1972

Rationalisation

1972 Rationalisation

1972

Building blocks

1972 Building blocks

1974-1979
Going Global

1974

The birth of
Swire Pacific

1974 The birth of |Swire Pacific

1975

Offshore oil and gas

1975 Offshore oil and gas

1976

Investing in agribusiness

1976 Investing in agribusiness

1977

Expansion in
Papua New Guinea

1977 Expansion in |Papua New Guinea

1978

Diversification in
America

1978 Diversification in |America

1979

Supplying the
global energy
sector

1979 Supplying the |global energy |sector

1980-1988
Sprinting Ahead in Hong Kong

1980

Cathay flies to London

1980 Cathay flies to London

1982

Cold Storage in the USA

1982 Cold Storage in the USA

1983

Expansion into retail

1983 Expansion into retail

1985-86

Pacific Place
takes shape

1985-86 Pacific Place |takes shape

1986

Cathay Pacific
goes public

1986 Cathay Pacific |goes public

1987

Adrian Swire
becomes Chairman

1987 Adrian Swire |becomes Chairman

1989-1999
Return to China

1989

A partnership with
The Coca-Cola Company

1989 A partnership with |The Coca-Cola Company

1990

Reinvesting in China

1990 Reinvesting in China

1993

A new business hub
on Hong Kong Island

1993 A new business hub |on Hong Kong Island

1994

Cathay Pacific
acquires majority
holding in
Air Hong Kong

1994 Cathay Pacific |acquires majority |holding in |Air Hong Kong

1994

Expanding logistics
interests in Australia

1994 Expanding logistics |interests in Australia

1996

Strategic share restructuring

1996 Strategic share restructuring

1996

HAECO expands to
Mainland China

1996 HAECO expands to |Mainland China

1998

Edward Scott
becomes Chairman

1998 Edward Scott |becomes Chairman

1999

Exclusive
automotive dealerships

1999 Exclusive |automotive dealerships

2000-present
Swire in the
New Century

2002

Sir Adrian Swire re-appointed Chairman

Following the untimely death of Edward Scott CMG,
Sir Adrian Swire resumed his role as Chairman of the
Swire group until 2005.

2002

Guangzhou
landmark

2002 Guangzhou |landmark

2004

Nationwide in Australia

2004 Nationwide in Australia

2005

James Hughes-Hallett
becomes Chairman

2005 James Hughes-Hallett |becomes Chairman

2006

A strategic partnership

2006 A strategic partnership

2006

Shanghai
development

2006 Shanghai |development

2006

Profit from waste

2006 Profit from waste

2008

New property ventures

2008 New property ventures

2010

Swire Pacific Cold Storage
is formed

2010 Swire Pacific Cold Storage |is formed

2011

Renewing the fleet

2011 Renewing the fleet

2011

Importing cars to
Hong Kong

2011 Importing cars to |Hong Kong

2012

Swire Properties lists on
Hong Kong Stock Exchange

2012 Swire Properties lists on |Hong Kong Stock Exchange

2012

One-stop-shop
offshore service provider

2012 One-stop-shop |offshore service provider

2012-15

Extracts

2012-15 Extracts

2013

Green investments

2013 Green investments

2013

Upholding Hong Kong's
air cargo hub status

2013 Upholding Hong Kong's |air cargo hub status

2013

A sweet partnership

2013 A sweet partnership

2014

Investing in
bio-jet fuel

2014 Investing in |bio-jet fuel

2014

HAECO goes global

2014 HAECO goes global

2014

A cold storage
leader in China

2014 A cold storage |leader in China

2014

A new food business

2014 A new food business

2015

Barnaby Swire
becomes Chairman

2015 Barnaby Swire |becomes Chairman

2015

New landmark in Chengdu

2015 New landmark in Chengdu

2016

Five generations of service

Despite the Swire group’s diverse and international focus, it is still very much a family concern, with a number of Swire family members actively involved in the business. The group’s current Chairman, Barnaby Swire, and Deputy Chairman and CEO, Merlin Swire, are the great-great-great grandsons of John Swire of Liverpool, who founded the business 200 years ago, as is Merlin’s brother Sam, who is a Director of John Swire & Sons Limited; their father,
Sir Adrian Swire, is Honorary President of the Swire group. Barnaby's father, the late Sir John Swire CBE, was former Chairman of the Swire group (1966-1987) and Life President (1997-2016).