John Swire & Sons, a 200-year old conglomerate which is still largely owned by the Swire family, has a large portfolio of companies in various sectors including bakeries, offshore oil exploration and production, metals haulage and waste management, as well as the Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific.
It posted group revenues of £6.9bn for 2015, up from £6.6bn in 2014 according to documents filed with Companies House. However, pre-tax profits fell to £579m, 20 per cent down from the previous year’s figure of £730m.
In its 2015 Annual Report, group chairman Barnaby Swire blamed the low oil prices and losses on a number of hotel sales in Britain. He added that profits were expected to remain low during the current year.
“At the operating profit level, 2016 should at least match last year,” he wrote. “But the outcome for attainable profit may depend somewhat upon the need to take further impairments against assets exposed to the weakest commodity prices.”
The Swire group’s most profitable arm was its property division, particularly in the luxury rental sector in Hong Kong. In the aviation division, Cathay Pacific benefited from low fuel prices but faced pressure on low passenger yield and cargo demand.