Ansell Ltd. History

Level 3, 678 Victoria Street
Richmond, Victoria 3121

Telephone: (03) 9270-7270
Fax: (03) 9270-7300

Public Company
Incorporated: 1920 as Dunlop Rubber Company of Australia Ltd.
Employees: 12,013
Sales: A$1.29 billion ($880 million)(2003)
Stock Exchanges: Australia New Zealand London
Ticker Symbol: ANN
NAIC: 313320 Fabric Coating Mills; 315299 All Other Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing; 315999 Other Apparel Accessories and Other Apparel; 339113 Surgical Appliance and Supplies Manufacturing; 326999 All Other Rubber Product Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

Ansell's vision is to be a global leader in broad-based healthcare protection, providing exceptional solutions, products, and values to our customers.

Key Dates:

John Dunlop applies for a patent for pneumatic tires.
Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company of Australasia Ltd. goes public.
The company changes its name to the Dunlop Rubber Company of Australasia Ltd.
Dunlop merges with the Perdriau Rubber Company and adopts the name Dunlop Perdriau Ltd.
As part of its diversification effort, the firm changes its name to Dunlop Australia Ltd.
Ansell Rubber Company is acquired.
Dunlop renames itself Dunlop Olympic Ltd. after its purchase of Olympic Consolidated Industries Ltd.
The company becomes Pacific Dunlop Ltd., thus reflecting its region-wide aspirations.
As part of a major restructuring effort, the firm divests its automotive distribution and Pacific Brands clothing businesses.
Dunlop changes its name to Ansell Ltd.

Company History:

Ansell Ltd. operates as a multinational company that manufactures, distributes, and markets protective products and services related to professional, occupational, and consumer healthcare. The firm's product line includes surgical and examination gloves, industrial hand protection, household gloves, and condoms. Ansell underwent a major reorganization in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, selling off a host of businesses unrelated to its healthcare-related product group. The firm adopted its current corporate moniker in April 2002, changing its name from Pacific Dunlop Ltd.

Early Roots: Late 1800s

The roots of Pacific Dunlop reach back to Belfast, Ireland. It was there that John Boyd Dunlop based his prosperous veterinary practice. In the course of his work, Dunlop traveled throughout the countryside on often bumpy roads. In order to suffer the "unsprung weight" of his bicycle less and thus ease his travels, Dunlop attached pneumatic tires to his tricycle in 1889. In July of that year, he applied for a patent. Dunlop was soon approached by two businessmen who expressed an interest in forming a company. They purchased the rights to Dunlop's patent and asked William Harvey Du Cros, the president of the Irish Cyclists Association, to serve as president of the new company. He agreed, providing that he could "assume complete control, appoint the directors, write the prospectus, and make the issue to the public."

In November 1889, the Pneumatic Tyre Company and Booth Cycle Agency of Dublin was created with £25,000. Dunlop was allotted 3,000 shares and £500 and was named to the board of directors. Uncertain of the venture's future, however, Dunlop soon returned 1,500 shares.

To the surprise of the newly formed company, Dunlop's patent application was refused--the principal of a pneumatic tire had been patented in 1845, although it remained unused. The name of the company was changed to the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company Ltd. of Dublin, but the business soon moved from Dublin to Coventry, England, and eventually to Birmingham, England. By 1892, the company had offices in Europe and North America.

In 1893, a branch office and factory of the Dunlop business was established in Melbourne, Australia. Semi-assembled tires were sent to the factory, where they were completed. The manager of the factory was 18 years old, and Dunlop's general manager for Australasia was 19 years old. In 1896, the Melbourne factory gained a contract for making hand-assembled pneumatic tires for the Thomson steam car. The offices in England did not see any future in making tires for automobiles, however.

By 1899, the parent company's financial speculation as well as the decline of bicycling popularity led the parent company to sell off its interests in North America and Australasia. In August of that year, the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company of Australasia Ltd. went public on capital of £170,000; 80,000 shares priced at one pound each were offered to the general public. Only 23,000 shares were sold, however, and the unsold stock was purchased by one of the company's backers. The company was registered on August 31, 1899, and was listed on the stock exchanges at Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide.

Growth in the Early 1900s

The company grew as the popularity of the automobile grew, and Dunlop expanded its production facilities. In 1906, the company changed its name to the Dunlop Rubber Company of Australasia Ltd. With the coming of World War I, there was a new demand for Dunlop products.

On August 20, 1920, the company was incorporated in Victoria, Australia. By 1927, Dunlop U.K. took a 25 percent equity in its Australasian relative when it purchased 500,000 shares and was given a position on the board of directors. (The equity was reduced over time, however, and the relationship was completely severed in 1984.) Dunlop continued to expand. In 1929, it merged with the Perdriau Rubber Company, a manufacturer of general rubber products that was based in Sydney. That company was founded in 1888 after Henry Perdriau was contracted to supply rubber parts to the railroads of New South Wales. Because of an incorrect invoice, he was sent five times the amount of rubber he had ordered. Perdriau quickly opened a retail store to sell the surplus, and in 1904 he took the business public with £40,000 in capital. By the time it merged with Dunlop, the Perdriau Rubber Company had expanded into a large venture valued at A$3 million. The newly formed company was named Dunlop Perdriau Ltd.

Dunlop Perdriau quickly acquired a controlling interest in Barnet Glass Rubber Company Ltd. Barnet, founded in 1876, originally manufactured waterproof clothing. It expanded to produce other rubber products, and in 1910 it began to make automobile tires. In 1941, Barnet Glass became a wholly owned subsidiary of Dunlop, which again changed its name to Dunlop Rubber Australia Ltd.

Postwar Expansion

After World War II, the company expanded its range of consumer goods in an effort to profit from increased postwar demand; for example, in 1948 Dunlop opened a factory to produce footwear. During the 1960s, the company initiated a continuing effort to diversify, and in 1967 it was renamed Dunlop Australia Ltd. By the end of the decade, it had branched into the manufacture of clothing, textiles, footwear, bedding, and other rubber products. Like many other manufacturers, Dunlop began to move some of its operations offshore. Its first such venture was the Dunlop Papua New Guinea Pty. Ltd., which was established in 1969.

Also in 1969, Dunlop made an acquisition that would later prove to be of central importance to its operations when it purchased the Ansell Rubber Company. Ansell had been founded in Richmond, Australia, in 1905 by a former Dunlop employee, and its first products were balloons and condoms. In 1925, Ansell started to make household rubber gloves, and by 1945 Ansell had created an automated process that could turn out 300 dozen pairs of gloves every eight hours. Ansell actively sought clients in North America and Europe. The advent of disposable surgical gloves in 1964 proved to be a boon for Ansell, and the company's profits soared. Ansell won an export award in 1967 from the Australian Department of Trade and Industry.

During the 1970s, the company consolidated many of its burgeoning operations and streamlined its corporate structure. These moves readied it for another major expansion program that took place throughout the 1980s. In 1980, Dunlop Australia Ltd. renamed itself Dunlop Olympic Ltd. after it acquired Olympic Consolidated Industries Ltd. for A$92.5 million. Olympic, like Dunlop, was a major tire manufacturer in Australia with its own chain of tire stores; the company also made other industrial products. Founded in 1922 and incorporated in 1933 (as the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Pty. Ltd.), Olympic started producing tires in 1934 and had expanded to other industrial products by 1949. By the time of its merger with Dunlop, Olympic held 169 tire-store outlets and its post-tax profit had reached A$10.2 million. The tire stores would later come together under the name Beaurepaires for Tyres.

Along with Olympic Consolidated Industries came a 50 percent interest in Olex Cables Ltd.; Dunlop Olympic acquired the remaining 50 percent in 1981 for A$56.8 million. Olex had been founded in 1940 in an effort to meet the wartime demand for insulated cable.

Dunlop Olympic continued to grow when in 1984 it acquired Dunlop New Zealand Ltd. (which manufactured tires, industrial products, and sporting goods) and Olex Canzac Cables, New Zealand's second largest cable manufacturer. By the end of the year, the company had severed its ties with Dunlop U.K. and the technical agreements that had been in effect since 1899 were halted.

A Name Change in 1986

In 1986 Dunlop Olympic Ltd changed its name to Pacific Dunlop Ltd., thus reflecting the company's region-wide aspirations. The company's stock began trading on the London Stock Exchange on December 31st of that year. Pacific Dunlop entered into a joint venture with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1986 that consolidated the two companies' tire manufacturing, marketing, and retail operations in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea under the name South Pacific Tyres. However, the brand names Dunlop, Olympic, and Goodyear were still used, and the tire services--Beaurepaires for Tyres and Goodyear Tyre, Brake, and Clutch Service--continued to be operated independently. In February 1987, shares of Pacific Dunlop Ltd began to be traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Also in 1987, the company acquired clothing and textile manufacturers and marketers Bonds Industries, which brought under the Dunlop wing many brand names well-known in Australia, including Chesty Bond, Grand Slam, and Gotcha. Pacific Dunlop then acquired a 60 percent interest in GNB Batteries, which was to become a division of the company. Dunlop had first manufactured batteries in 1949, and in 1985 it had acquired the Chloride Group PLC, which had operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as its own manufacturing facilities. With the purchase of GNB Batteries, Dunlop became one of the world's largest manufacturers of automotive, traction, and stationary batteries. In 1989, it acquired the U.S. battery manufacturers Standard Batteries and Southern Batteries.

Furthering its diversification program, the company in 1988 purchased Nucleus Ltd. and also Telectronic Holdings Ltd., a manufacturer of such health care products as pacemakers and hearing aids. The company went on to acquire a controlling or complete interest in a vast array of manufacturers, including Repco Automotive Parts, Repco Leisure Cycles, Red Robin Industries, Mates Healthcare Ltd., Derby Bicycles, and Slumbertime Bedding. Also in 1988, the company created a manufacturing facility in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to make gloves and condoms, and started construction of a balloon-manufacturing plant in Thailand--examples of the company's efforts to move production offshore.

In 1990, Pacific Dunlop and Goodyear entered into a second joint venture, forming Tecbelt Pacific to manufacture steel-cord conveyor belting. By 1991, Dunlop's Ansell division had become the world's largest producer of medical, industrial, and household gloves. Dunlop diversified further that year by entering the food-manufacturing business when it acquired Petersville Sleigh Ltd., a leading Australian food company, for A$374 million. Petersville Sleigh carried with it many well-known brand names, including Edgell-Birds Eye, Peters Ice Cream, Herbert Adams Bakeries, and Socomin International. Dunlop named its new food division the Pacific Brands Food Group. The following year the company restructured its food division to better position it in the international market--its strategy being to enter growing markets armed with strong brand names on high-profit items. The company also sold a string of Petersville assets. (For example, Pacific Dunlop sold off Eastman, the U.S. stationary and furniture concern, for $142 million in December 1992.)

Dunlop quickly added to its stable of food products. In July 1992, it purchased a 75 percent interest in Pasta House and took 100 percent ownership of International Se Products. In July 1993, Dunlop purchased the Plumrose food-products business in Australia for A$225 million. The agreement carried with it the rights to market several brand names, including Yoplait and Silhouette. At the same time the food division launched its arrival in the Japanese premium ice cream market when, in a partnership with a Japanese company, it sent a shipment of ice cream to Japan worth A$5 million. Dairy and pasta products were examples of upper-end items with high export value.

The company signaled its intention to become a force in the Pacific region when it created the Pacific Rim Advisory Board--which was mandated to seek ways to take advantage of the burgeoning Pacific Rim economy--in 1991. By 1992, Dunlop had investments of more than A$400 million throughout the region, and its total exports were A$144 million.

A major element of Pacific Dunlop's strategy was to strengthen and expand its presence in Asia from A$500 million in 1992 to A$1 billion in the year 2000. A significant component of its Asian gambit was China, where in 1992 its investments totaled A$120 million. Olex Cables held two factories in China that produced cable for its own exploding market as well as for export. In May 1992, Olex Cables won a A$22 million contract to supply optical-fiber cable to link the cities of Chengdu, Xi'an, and Zhengzhou. The next year, it won a A$70 million contract to supply 3,150 kilometers of optical-fiber cable between the Chinese cities of Lanzhou and Yining in northwestern China. By 1993, its factory in the Shenzen economic area, which had started production in 1992, was manufacturing near capacity--nearly 2,500 kilometers of cable daily.

In May 1993, Pacific Dunlop registered a holding company in China--Pacific Dunlop Holdings (China). The Shanghai-based entity was at that time only the third foreign company that had earned the approval to do so. The holding company was created to oversee Pacific Dunlop's investments in that country, which then comprised nine factories. The company sought at least a controlling 51 percent interest in its Chinese ventures. It looked to its Chinese partners to secure the land to build its factories, staff them, and procure orders for them.

By the mid-1990s, Pacific Dunlop Ltd was one of the 20 largest companies in Australia. Its operations spanned more than 20 countries. In 1993, Pacific Dunlop reported sales of A$6.3 billion for the year ending June 30. The company's profits climbed to A$260.4 million, up from A$185.6 million.

During this time period, the company was comprised of eight divisions. The Pacific Brands division focused on consumer products such as footwear (with names such as Grosby, Candy, Pro-Sport, Dunlop, and Hollandia); sporting goods (Dunlop, Repco, Speedwell, Raleigh, and Slazenger); clothing (Chesty Bond, Red Robin, Baby Gro-Wear, Grand Slam, Berlei); and bicycles (Tuf, Adidas, Jockey, Dunlop, Speedwell, Raleigh, and Holeproof).

Pacific Brands Food Group, the food products division, manufactured and marketed products with brand names such as Edgell-Birds Eye, Plumrose, Big Sister, Four 'n Twenty, Leggo, Vitari, and Herbert Adams. Food products were distributed in Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific Rim nations.

The Distribution division distributed a wide range of electrical products (such as cables) and industrial goods (such as transmission and rubber products). The Medical Group--the health care division--produced pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and ultrasound equipment. Ansell International produced latex products such as condoms, balloons, and household and medical gloves.

South Pacific Tyres, the automotive division, manufactured and marketed tires under the names Dunlop, Goodyear, Kelley, and Olympic. Tires and other automotive parts were sold through Beaurepaires for Tyres and other outlets. GNB Batteries manufactured and marketed batteries under the brand names Chloride, Dunlop, Masse, Marshall, and Exide in Australia and New Zealand and the Champion, National, Stowaway, and Marshall brands in North America. Industrial Foam and Fibre, the division that manufactured products to be used in building and construction, made industrial rubber products as well as plastics, transmission hoses, foam and fiber products, and bedding (including the Sleepmaker, Serta, and Slumberland brands).

Dramatic Changes in the Late 1990s and Beyond

As a multinational conglomerate, Pacific Dunlop faced challenges in the late 1990s and into the 2000s due to burgeoning debt and faltering profits. While the company continued to bolster certain divisions into the late 1990s, it began to sell off businesses that were not related to its core operations in an attempt to remedy the aforementioned issues. The firm made a move to divest its food business in 1995, along with its RMax, Plastic Group, and Dunlop Flow Technology holdings. In 1996, the company sold its industrial footwear division, its Telectronics Pacing Systems, and its share of its adidas International joint venture.

As the company strengthened the position of its Ansell business unit through strategic acquisitions, Pacific Dunlop began a significant divestiture program that proved to dramatically change the company's structure. In 1998, the firm began to sell off its communications cables business. A leveraged buyout group purchased the company's Olex Cables division in 1999 for A$300 million. Pacific Dunlop also planned to unload its GNB Technologies Battery group that year--the group had been involved in costly litigation in the United States related to the Accufix pacing lead. The deal fell through, however, when Quexco Inc. failed to meet the requirements of the contract.

Pacific Dunlop entered the new century with additional restructuring on the horizon. The company found a buyer for its battery business and in 2000 sold it to Exide Corporation for $333 million. At the same time, management began to set plans in motion to separate its Ansell business--whose product line included surgical gloves, industrial and household protective gloves, and condoms--from its other businesses in an attempt to restore profits. In order to control costs, most of Ansell's manufacturing operations were moved from the United States to Mexico and Asia.

In 2001, the company posted a loss of A$139.4 million, due in part to the deteriorating value of the Australian dollar, problems in the tire industry related to an influx of low-cost imports, and slow growth in many of its business segments. The company's shareholders continued to push for additional changes, since by this time the company's market capitalization had fallen by nearly $4 billion from the mid-1990s.

As such, Pacific Dunlop made several important moves that would position it with one core business revolving around its Ansell Healthcare business unit. By the time the divestiture dust had settled, the company was rid of its Pacific Automotive division, its Pacific Brands unit, and its specialty hose division. The firm opted, however, to retain its investment in the South Pacific Tyres joint venture.

Signaling its commitment to its Ansell holdings, the company officially adopted Ansell Ltd. as its new corporate moniker in April 2002. Harry Boon was elected CEO of the company that year. Under his leadership, the firm implemented a strategic program entitled Operation Full Potential, a directive designed to bolster operations within its three business divisions: Professional Healthcare, Occupational Healthcare, and Consumer Healthcare.

During fiscal 2003, the company's restructuring showed signs of paying off. Ansell reported a profit of $29.3 million, a substantial improvement over the previous year's loss of $60.5 million. While the long-term effects of the firm's strategy remained to be seen, Ansell management was confident that its rebirth positioned it for profitable growth in the years to come.

Principal Divisions: Occupational Healthcare; Professional Healthcare; Consumer Healthcare.

Principal Competitors: MedPointe Inc.; Playex Products Inc.; SSL International plc.

Further Reading:

  • "Ansell Turns Loss into Profit in Major Turnaround," AsiaPulse News, August 14, 2003.
  • "Australia's Pacific Dunlop to Split Operations and Spin Off," Futures World News, May 17, 2001.
  • Foley, Brett, "Dividend Handouts Fits Shareholders Like a Glove," Australian Financial Review, August 15, 2003, p. 54.
  • Jacques, Bruce, "Pacific Dunlop Sells Eastman Stake to U.S.," Financial Times, December 8, 1992, p. 23.
  • "Major Australian Food Groups Map Plans for Stagnant Market," South China Morning Post, June 29, 1993, p. 9.
  • McNulty, Mike, "Shifting Gears; Ansell Emerges From Restructuring with Tight Focus," Rubber & Plastics News, December 16, 2002, p. 15.
  • "New Name and New Focus for Pacific Dunlop," European Rubber Journal, May 2002, p. 7.
  • "Pacific Dunlop Pushes up Profit," South China Morning Post, September 11, 1993, p. 2.
  • "Pacific Dunlop Renamed Ansell," BERNAMA, April 13, 2002.
  • Walker, Tony, "Firm Chinese Foothold for Pacific Dunlop," Financial Times, May 8, 1993, p. 24.
  • Wright, Chris, "Pacific Dunlop Prefers to Issue Little and Often," Corporate Finance, August 1999.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.60. St. James Press, 2004.