The Carpenters Group of companies was at the forefront of pioneering merchants and entrepreneurs in Fiji and island nations of the South Pacific. From its beginnings as a commodity trader, Carpenters diversified into a range of activities which gave it a central role in the economic development of the islands. The role continues today.
The Group's history goes back to 1862 when American Civil War Captain John Bolton Carpenter decided to leave his home in Connecticut to seek new opportunities in East Indies and the Pacific. He married in the Straits Settlement and later moved to Sydney. One of his five sons, Walter Randolph, became a pearl seller and trader on Thursday Island at the age of 22. It became evident that young Walter was a natural businessman.
A turning point came in Walter's early career when he moved to Fiji and became manager of Robbie Kaad and Co Ltd. On September 9, 1914, he founded W.R. Carpenter and Co Ltd in Sydney, with a capital of 1,000 pounds.
From this fledgling operations grew the Carpenter Group, which was to become prominent in Australia and throughout the South Pacific. Its achievements included establishment of plantations, stores, trading stations, shipping services, airlines and other businesses. Major growth in Fiji followed including acquisition of controlling interest in Brown and Joske Ltd in Suva in 1936. Twenty years later Carpenters undertook one of the largest business transactions in the Pacific Islands when it bought Morris Hedstrom Ltd. The addition of this substantial South Pacific trader to its interests, set the stage for further diversification and growth.
The next milestone in corporate development was in 1983 when the Carpenter family relinquished their interests.
The ownership of the Group passed on to London based Carpenters Holdings International and in 1994 the Group was acquired by MBf Holdings Group a Malaysian conglomerate. Currently, whilst the ultimate ownership remains with MBf Holdings Berhad in Malaysia, the immediate parent company of the Carpenters Fiji Group is MBf Carpenters Limited, a company incorporated in Australia.
In Fiji the Group has preserved its position as a commercial leader through its ability to adapt during periods of political, economic and social transition and upheavals. As change swept the country, Carpenters changed too, shedding its image as a colonial style Island trader. The Group responded to the new environment by diversifying and reorganizing. Today its formula for success draws on the strength and credibility it has built up over a long association with the country and the region - combined with the dynamic approach of a modern corporation concentrating on core activities.
The South Pacific Group has wide interests in Fiji, PNG, Vanuatu and Australia. In retailing, the automotive trade, ship repairs and many other areas, Carpenters sets standards for quality and performance. The Group has an annual turnover of over $500 million and provides over 3,000 jobs.
Carpenters play an important role in the country's economy contributing significantly to Government revenue through payment of value added tax, income tax and duties. It earns foreign exchange through the export of goods and services to Japan, Australia, NZ and regional island countries through its shipping agency and freight forwarding businesses.
The Group devotes substantial resources to self-improvement and on-going training programs for employees in many professions and trades. The result is a skilled and well-educated workforce. In fact it is widely cited that Carpenters is the training ground for skilled employees in the commercial sector.
The Carpenter Group maintains a high level of occupational health and safety standards in all its premises with a dedicated senior manager overseeing the implementation of policies.
In its role as a model corporate citizen the Group gives substantial support each year to many deserving community projects.