An extraordinary journey through history
For almost two centuries, the Boustead name has featured prominently within the global business landscape.
Go on a journey through time to learn more about our history and origins.
The birth of Edward Boustead
Mr Edward Boustead was born in Yorkshire, England.
The birth of Boustead & Company
Mr Boustead arrived in Singapore on 13 March 1828 on board the British ship, Hindustan. Shortly after his arrival, he established Boustead & Company along the bustling Singapore River.
A great trading house of the East
Boustead & Company was known as one of the great trading houses of the East. Trading tropical commodities such as spices, flavours, seeds, nuts, saps, resins, medicinal herbs and oils, Boustead & Company was a key player in the commodity trade between the Far East and Europe.
To store vast amounts of commodities, Mr Boustead commissioned the leading architect of Singapore, Mr George Drumgoole Coleman to design the famous Boustead & Company headquarters known as “the house of seven and twenty pillars”, located at the mouth of the Singapore River and eventually replaced by the current Empress Place Building.
So reputable, creditworthy and trustworthy was Boustead & Company that in a record in the Bank of England’s letter books in 1844, it was noted that Sykes, Schwabe & Company of Liverpool, in partnership with Boustead & Company were “doing a very respectable business” in the East.
Boustead & Company was active as an “accepting house” for trade bills and even became the first agent for Hongkong and Shanghai Bank in Singapore, offering banking facilities, accepting and discounting bills, giving loans and accepting deposits.
Edward Boustead – a Singapore leader
Mr Boustead’s contributions to Singapore were many. He led Boustead & Company to become a key investor in important businesses such as the Straits Trading Company, which was Singapore’s first tin foundry, and 20% owner of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company, which developed the wharves, docks and godowns of Keppel Harbour that eventually became the Port of Singapore Authority.
Mr Boustead was also the editor and co-founder of the Singapore Free Press and a founding member of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (the oldest chamber of commerce in South East Asia, and chief promoter of Singapore’s national interests in the face of the dominance of India’s colonial administration over Singapore’s colonial affairs).
Mr Boustead founded Singapore’s first club called the Billiards Club. The first meeting of the club was held at his home on 1 October 1829.
Singapore Free Press
Mr Boustead was the editor and co-founder of the Singapore Free Press. He started the newspaper together with his architect, Mr Coleman and lawyer, Mr William Napier. The Singapore Free Press was the beginning of Singapore’s newspaper industry and the forerunner of The Straits Times.
Singapore International Chamber of Commerce
Mr Boustead was a founding member of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber was founded in response to a plea by Mr Boustead to fight an attempt by the British colonial government in India to impose port duties on Singapore. He initiated his plea because he wanted to protect the three “Freedoms” set out by Sir Stamford Raffles – Freedom of Trade, Freedom of Port and Freedom of Immigration. The Chamber went on to be the leading force in Singapore’s economy and trade.
A home on the Esplanade
Mr Boustead bought a house on the Esplanade, which had been designed by Mr Coleman. In 1850, upon his return to England, Mr Boustead sold the house which subsequently became the London Hotel. It was rebuilt as The Grand Hotel de l’Europe, one of the finest hotels in Singapore during its day. In 1935, The Grand Hotel de l’Europe was demolished and the site was given to construct the old Supreme Court at the Padang.
Mr Boustead was a philanthropist, giving generously to the construction of churches, hospitals and schools in Singapore. His contributions and support helped to construct St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, St. Andrew’s Hall, Raffles Institution and St. Joseph’s Institution, among other great institutions that still exist today.
Returning to England
Mr Boustead left Singapore and returned to England, where he established Edward Boustead & Company in London.
Mr Boustead’s return to England was necessary as London had become the centre of global trade. In London, Mr Boustead led Boustead & Company to become an influential founding member of the London Metal Exchange, the London Commodity Exchange, the Oil & Tallow Trades Association, the Rubber-Grower’s Association and the London Copra Association. In each case, he was able to place Boustead & Company in a central position in important commodity markets.
Tanjong Pagar Dock Company
The Tanjong Pagar Dock Company was founded in 1864.
Boustead & Company was a founding shareholder, with a 20 per cent stake in the business. The Tanjong Pagar Dock Company was eventually expropriated by the British colonial government and became the Port of Singapore Authority.
During the late 1880’s, Boustead & Company introduced rubber trees into Malaysia using seeds germinated by Sir Henry Wickham at London’s Botanical Gardens at Kew. Boustead & Company went on to be a leading rubber plantation manager and owner in Malaysia.
By the 1950’s, Malaysia’s rubber industry was thriving as the country supplied half of the world’s rubber, while Singapore became the world’s largest rubber processing centre, handling 40% of the world’s supply.
By the 1960’s, Boustead & Company and its subsidiary, Boustead-Buttery Estates Agency Ltd (later merging with Barlow & Company to form Barlow Boustead Estates) acted as secretaries, registrars and agents for 49 plantations with a total planted area of 141,629 acres.
The Straits Trading Company was founded in 1887.
By 1899, Singapore had become the world’s main exporter of tin and boasted of the world’s largest and most advanced tin smelting facility on Pulau Brani, constructed by the Straits Trading Company, in which Boustead & Company played a leading role as promoter and investor. From that point onwards, trading of Straits Tin became one of the leading businesses of Boustead & Company.
With its position as a founding member of the London Metal Exchange, Boustead & Company was to become a leading trader of tin and other metals globally.
The death of Edward Boustead
Mr Boustead passed away in London, England, at the age of 88. His affinity to the number “8” is uncanny.
Along with all his previous philanthropic contributions, Mr Boustead put aside a tidy sum of money to have the Boustead Institute constructed after his death. The Boustead Institute became a place of free lodging for destitute, sick and homeless sailors.
Mr Boustead was always grateful and compassionate towards the sailors who helped to build Singapore’s strong trade.
A tradition of mercantile assistants
During Mr Boustead’s time, he trained young mercantile assistants to run the businesses in the East. The able and successful mercantile assistants rose quickly to become partners. Senior partners would be allowed to return home to London where they would manage the global trade.
After Mr Boustead’s death, Boustead & Company was handed over to his business partners – initially Jasper Young – who in turn trained young mercantile assistants to eventually take over the running of the businesses. This tradition continued for almost a century.
In 1892, Boustead & Company handled its first shipment of bulk oil to Penang.
Shortly after, the Shell Trading and Transport Company was formed. Isaac Henderson – the brother-in-law of Jasper Young and a Boustead partner – was one of the founding directors of the new company, now known simply as Shell.
Boustead & Company represented Shell in its products including kerosene, motor spirit and fuel oil for shipping in Singapore and Penang, along with fabricating many installations for Shell’s facility on Pulau Bukom.
Rubber gets a further boost in Singapore
With help from Boustead & Company, the Singapore Rubber Exchange was opened.
Singapore – the port of call
By 1928, the equivalent of half of the world’s shipping would pass through Singapore. Boustead & Company played no small part in the rise of Singapore as the world’s largest port, with a booming business in cargo, freight handling, insurance and ship services.
By the 1960s, Boustead & Company’s Shipping Division had 1,000 vessels in port, representing 60 owners and handling half a million tonnes of sea cargo annually. Boustead & Company represented over 20 major shipping lines and numerous insurance agencies including the renowned Lloyd’s, which Boustead represented for more than a century.
Surviving a second World War
World War II
The Japanese occupation of Singapore lasted from 1942-1945.
During World War II, many Boustead men fought bravely as part of the forces opposing the Japanese in South East Asia, losing their lives or being captured as prisoners of war in the process. Boustead & Company’s assets such as ships were also used to transport supplies and evacuate thousands of people from Singapore – before the invasion of Singapore.
Following the end of World War II, Boustead & Company worked closely with the British Military Administration to rebuild Singapore by administering the logistics and distribution of key building materials such as cement and steel for the reconstruction of infrastructure.
Building famous brands
Over the decades, the excellent reputation of Boustead & Company allowed it to attract some of the world’s most famous brands to give it agency rights in Singapore and around the region. Among the brands that Boustead & Company helped to introduce into the daily lives of consumers in Singapore are Cadbury’s, Del Monte, Gillette, Johnnie Walker, Moet & Chandon, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble and Ovaltine, among other great names.
Unfortunately, the days of agency arrangements were not to last. With the success of introducing these brands into the region, it would be inevitable that these brands would one day start their own local offices to take over the networks that Boustead & Company helped to build.
The first split
Boustead & Company was split into Boustead plc in London and Boustead Holdings Bhd, which held the Singapore and Malaysia assets. This was a move to address the national independence of Malaysia.
Merger with Malaysia
An extraordinary moment in time when two nations – Singapore and Malaysia – merge.
Following the failure of the merger between Singapore and Malaysia, Singapore declared independence on 9 August 1965.
The second split
Boustead Holdings Bhd was split into Boustead Holdings Bhd, which held the Malaysia assets, and interim holding company, Taiping Singapore Pte Ltd, which held the Singapore, Hong Kong and Brunei assets. This was a move to address the New Economic Policy of Malaysia during the 1970s.
Singapore Stock Exchange listing
Interim holding company, Taiping Singapore Pte Ltd was combined with Boustead Australia Pty Ltd to form Bousteadco Singapore Limited, which was subsequently listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange on 17 October 1975.
Boustead and Esri
1977 marked the beginnings of the Boustead-Esri relationship, which blossomed into Boustead becoming an exclusive distributor of Esri products in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brunei and Timor-Leste. Today, Boustead is one of the top three distributors in Esri’s global network and one of the fastest growing. As one of four divisions at Boustead, this is a key pillar of the group.
With the rapid loss of many agency businesses and a difficult trading environment, Bousteadco Singapore Limited was shrinking.
The first turnaround of Bousteadco Singapore Limited was under then-Chairman, Sir Thomas Macpherson. The highly decorated World War II hero tried to rebuild the company by investing in engineering and manufacturing businesses. These businesses showed temporary signs of success before fading away.
Boustead Controls & Electrics
Boustead Controls & Electrics is the oldest engineering business within Boustead’s engineering divisions. Today, Boustead Controls & Electrics remains one of the only Asian corporations to be pre-qualified to supply wellhead control systems to the world’s largest oil & gas corporation, Saudi Aramco.
The end of British ownership
The era of British ownership ended as Jack Chia-MPH Ltd took over Bousteadco Singapore Limited. The tenure of Jack Chia-MPH Ltd as the controlling shareholder would be short-lived.
The start of a new era of reinvention and transformation
Current Chairman & Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Wong Fong Fui took over Bousteadco Singapore Limited, purchasing the controlling shareholder stake from Jack Chia-MPH Ltd.
Mr Wong started on a path of reinventing and transforming the company utilising its greatest and most valuable asset: the Boustead brand name. In the subsequent years, the management team at Boustead would build engineering businesses of the future around the Boustead brand name.
The plan was to create sustainable long-term businesses and to divest the company of past businesses which were no longer relevant or viable in the current environment.
Boustead Projects was started utilising the great brand equity of the Boustead brand name and a team of just six employees.
Today, Boustead Projects is the leading industrial real estate solutions provider from the private sector in Singapore.
Boustead Projects is also a pioneer of design-and-build and design-build-and-lease arrangements for industrial facilities in Singapore, and the leader in building Green Mark Platinum-rated eco-sustainable industrial facilities.
Bousteadco Singapore Limited was renamed Boustead Singapore Limited, to return the company to the original Boustead brand name. The move strengthened the Boustead brand name.
Boustead International Heaters
Boustead International Heaters was started, again utilising the Boustead brand name. Today, Boustead International Heaters is a leading global specialist in designing, engineering and supplying direct-fired process heaters and waste heat recovery units to the downstream oil & gas/petrochemical industries.
Boustead International Heaters is one of the top five players in its competitive space.
Boustead celebrated its 180th anniversary in a strong position, having taken its tradition of adaptability, entrepreneurship and innovation, and turned it into a foundation for the future.
By this point, Boustead had successfully reinvented itself as a corporation built on sustainable long-term businesses in infrastructure engineering, which are critical to the economic and social development of nations. By 2008, Boustead operated in energy, water, industrial real estate, new townships and infrastructure management systems.
Economic turmoil and the results of reinvention
In late 2008, the widespread negative effects of the subprime crisis which began in the United States started to impact the global economy, resulting in the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
During this period, Boustead was recognised in the prestigious Forbes Asia 200 Best Under A Billion as one of Asia-Pacific’s 200 best public-listed corporations under US$1 billion in revenue.
The results of reinvention
Boustead recorded a seventh consecutive year of record-breaking revenue and net profit since its listing in 1975.
With hindsight, it appears that the plans put in place more than a decade ago were bearing fruit.
Boustead was recognised in the prestigious Forbes Asia 200 Best Under A Billion for the second consecutive year, as one of Asia-Pacific’s 200 best public-listed corporations under US$1 billion in revenue. Mr Wong also won the Best Chief Executive Officer Award (market capitalisation of S$300 million to S$1 billion) at the Singapore Corporate Awards.
A prominent B2B brand
Boustead featured in the inaugural edition of Business Superbrands Singapore in 2010, which pays tribute to the strongest and most valuable business-to-business brands in Singapore. Boustead has featured in every edition since then, repeating its performance in 2012 and 2014.
Brand with a rich history and heritage
Major Asian news network Channel NewsAsia started to broadcast a series titled “The Centennials”, showcasing a group of eight businesses in Singapore which are more than a hundred years old. As the longest continuing business entity in Singapore, Boustead headlined the series as the first episode to be featured.
Record net profit
Boustead delivered a new record net profit of S$81.4 million, a short five years after the Global Financial Crisis.
S$1 billion market capitalisation
During 2014, the total market capitalisation of Boustead penetrated the S$1 billion-mark for the first time in its listed history.
Listing of Boustead Projects Limited on the SGX Mainboard
On 30 April 2015, Boustead listed Boustead Projects separately on the SGX Mainboard by way of introduction, and distributed 49% of Boustead Projects’ shares to entitled shareholders. Boustead Projects was one of only two companies to list on the SGX Mainboard in 2015.
Commemorating 50 years of Singapore’s independence
To commemorate 50 years of Singapore’s independence, the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority, DP Information Group and Singapore Business Federation presented the Singapore Golden Jubilee Business Awards, in recognition of the best 50 Singapore corporations who achieved and contributed to Singapore’s progress and success over the past 50 years since independence.
Boustead was a proud recipient of the Singapore Golden Jubilee Business Award and the oldest Singapore corporation to receive the award.
Further recognition for astute management
Boustead management was recognised at the prestigious Singapore Corporate Awards, receiving the Best Chief Financial Officer Award (market capitalisation of S$300 million to S$1 billion).
Boustead also received a Certificate for Excellence in Investor Relations from IR Magazine – the world’s foremost publication on investor relations – and was nominated as one of five SGX Mainboard-listed corporations for the investor relations award category, Best in Country: Singapore at the IR Magazine Awards & Conference South East Asia 2016.
Best of the best
Recognised as one of Asia’s best managed corporations, Boustead was named as the Best Small-Cap in Singapore and 3rd Best at Investor Relations in Singapore by FinanceAsia – a Hong Kong-based leading financial and capital markets publication owned by the Haymarket Group – in its annual Asia’s Best Companies Poll 2017.
Boustead Projects was awarded the Singapore Corporate Governance Award, Newly Listed Category at the SIAS Investors’ Choice Awards 2017.
Boustead Medical Healthcare (BMEC) Holdings
(previously known as WhiteRock Incorporation)
BMEC Holdings, a group of healthcare corporations operating in Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand, became part of the Boustead Group in 2018. This acquisition expanded the company’s reach to include innovative healthcare technologies aimed at supporting the medical sector to address the global challenge of ageing populations.
Endorsing our longevity
During 2018, Boustead and Boustead Projects issued inaugural Longevity Reports (Sustainability Reports), highlighting our role as responsible global corporate citizens; our environmental, social and governance practices and track record; and what capabilities we have to run our sustainability ultra-marathon for centuries to come. Both Longevity Reports were named as Asia’s Best First Time Sustainability Report Finalists at the prestigious Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards 2018 held in March 2019, an endorsement of our sustainability reporting efforts and practices. The Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards is Asia’s foremost sustainability reporting awards event.
Not long after, Boustead was awarded Best Liquidity & Investments Solution Regional at The Asset Triple A Treasury, Trade, Supply Chain & Risk Management Awards 2019. The Asset is one of Asia’s leading financial and capital markets publications on banking and M&A activities.
Capping off the year at the SIAS Investors’ Choice Awards 2019 – submitted by Singapore’s fraternity of financial research analysts, investors and mainstream media journalists – Boustead was awarded the Sustainability Award (Runner-Up) in the Mid Cap Category and Most Transparent Company (Winner) in the Industrials Category.
A people business for the people – another meaning to P2P
The Straits Times and global market research firm Statista released their inaugural Singapore's Best Employers 2020, presenting a ranking of the 150 most attractive employers in Singapore to work for.
More than 8,000 employees and 160,000 evaluations were conducted across 26 sectors for corporations employing at least 200 people, of which there are about 1,800 such corporations in Singapore including Fortune 500 corporations, large multinational corporations and homegrown corporations.
Respondents were asked to rate their willingness to recommend their own employer to a friend or family member and they were also asked if there are other employers in their respective industries that they would – or would not – recommend.
Demonstrating the strides made in providing the ideal environment for Boustead men and women to flourish in, Boustead ranked 38th in the Singapore’s Best Employer 2020 and ranked 2nd under the respective category of Business Services & Supplies (including Real Estate).
The world in the grip of a global pandemic
Tragically, 2020 will be remembered as the year that the deadly COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill. Even as this tragedy continues to unfold, Boustead men and women everywhere continue to focus their energy on the frontlines of the fight to defeat COVID-19, through providing critical technology and service support to government agencies in charge of healthcare mapping, disease surveillance, contact tracing, safe distancing, disinfection and protection.