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Burns, Philp & Company Limited : [18439]

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The origins of Burns, Philp and Company Limited can be traced to the partnership between James Burns and Robert Philp formed in 1876. The company was incorporated in Sydney on 21 April 1883 with Burns and Philp as joint Managing Directors until Philp resigned from the Board in 1892.

By the end of the 1880s the company had branches in Townsville, Normanton, Burketown, Thursday Island, Cairns, Charters Towers, Sydney, Brisbane and London. By this date the interests of the company included merchandising, shipping with its own vessels, and as an agent for the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSN), and insurance, with the establishment of the North Queensland Insurance Company as a subsidiary in 1886.

In 1886 Burns and Philp agreed to run a mail steamer from Thursday Island to Port Moresby where a branch was established in 1890.

In 1889 the company diversified into plantation ownership with the formation of the Australasian New Hebrides Company which purchased about 80,000 acres of land in the New Hebrides.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century the company extended its area of interest from Melanesia to the Central Pacific, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. In 1908 a branch was established in Java at Samarang and in 1915 a branch in Wellington. Burns Philp Company of San Francisco Inc was set up in June 1917.

To consolidate its interests in acquiring plantations, the company formed subsidiary companies to run and manage plantations. Hall Sound Co was formed in 1900, the Solomon Island Development Co in 1908, Shortland Island Plantations Ltd in 1910, Choiseul Plantations Ltd in 1911, New Britain Plantations Ltd and New Ireland Plantations Ltd were established in 1930, and Kulon Plantations Ltd and New Hanover Plantations Ltd in 1931.

The company set up subsidiaries to control geographic areas of operations, the largest being Burns Philp (South Sea) Company Limited which was incorporated in March 1920. In 1946 two other major subsidiaries were established, Burns Philp (New Hebrides) Ltd, and Burns Philp (New Guinea) Ltd. Burns Philp (Norfolk Island) Ltd was set up in 1973.

In the 1930s the company moved into urban retailing and established the company Penneys Ltd which was sold to Coles in 1956.

From the 1960s the company's shipping activities declined following the Commonwealth Government's decision to withdraw the shipping subsidy. The company moved into the manufacture of food and beverages, photographic and electrical goods, vehicle sales and rental, distribution of home building materials, hardware, liquor wholesaling and provision of financial investment and trustee services.

Takeovers have included A J Chown Holdings Limited (1973); Yencken Glass Industries Limited (1973); Ira Berk Limited (1976); Sun Electric Consolidated Limited (1976); Mauri Bros & Thomson Limited (1982); and Nock & Kirby Holdings Ltd (1983).

The company was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in December 2006 having been acquired by Rank Group Australia Pty Limited.

Updated:  19 May 2020/ Responsible Officer:  University Librarian/ Page Contact:  Library Systems & Web Coordinator