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Johnson Matthey PLC

Johnson Matthey PLC

2-4 Cockspur Street
Trafalgar Square
London SW1Y 5BQ
United Kingdom
Telephone: (44) 20-7269-8400
Fax: (44) 20-7269-8433
Web site: http://www.matthey.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1891 as Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited
Employees: 6,637
Sales: $8.36 billion (2001)
Stock Exchanges: OTC London
Ticker Symbols: JMPLY (OTC); JMAT (London)
NAIC: 325188 All Other Basic Inorganic Chemical Manufacturing (pt); 325411 Pharmaceutical Preparation Manufacturing (pt); 325510 Paint and Coating Manufacturing; 325131 Inorganic Dye and Pigment Manufacturing; 325132 Synthetic Organic Dye and Pigment Manufacturing; 331491 Nonferrous Metal (Except Copper and Aluminum) Rolling, Drawing, and Extruding (pt); 331492 Secondary Smelting, Refining, and Alloying of Nonferrous Metal (Except Copper and Aluminum) (pt); 333999 All Other Miscellaneous General Purpose Machinery Manufacturing (pt); 334413 Semiconductor and Related Device Manufacturing; 335999 All Other Miscellaneous Electrical Equipment and Component Manufacturing; 336399 All Other Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing: 334419 Other Electronic Component Manufacturing; 421940 Jewelry, Watch, Precious Stone, and Precious Metal Wholesalers; 422950 Paint, Varnish, and Supplies Wholesalers

Johnson Matthey PLC has been involved in the processing and marketing of precious metals since its founding in 1817. Although it is most widely known for its activities in platinumit is a world leader in the refining, marketing, and technological development of the metalJohnson Matthey has been increasingly positioning itself as a leader in advanced materials technology, including catalysts and pollution control systems, electronic materials, specialty chemicals, and pharmaceutical compounds. Johnson Matthey also manufactures decorative and specialized materials for the ceramics, plastics, paint, ink, and construction industries. In 2001 the company acquired British pharmaceutical firm Meconic, becoming the only company in the United Kingdom legally authorized to sell medical heroin and cocaine. Johnson Matthey has an extensive international presence, with operations in 34 countries.

Building a Precious Metals Firm in the 19th Century

The founder of Johnson Matthey was Percival Johnson, who in 1817 set himself up at 79 Hatton Garden in Holborn, London, as an Assayer and Practical Mineralogist. As such, he valued gold by applying chemical and physical tests to determine the exact quantity of gold in a bar. Johnsons business rapidly gained distinction when he began offering to buy back the bars of gold that he assayed, thereby becoming the first London assayer to issue a guarantee of quality. In the early 1830s a small gold refinery was built at the Hatton Garden premises for the refining and assaying of gold bars that were then coming into London from Brazil. These were complex gold bars, containing impurities that were not easy to remove. Having successfully extracted platinum group metals from the bars and proven his technical prowess, Johnson established the firm at the forefront of the London bullion market. The firm took full advantage of the gold rushes of California, from 1848, and of Australia, from 1851, while supplies of silver arrived throughout the 1850s and 1860s in the form of demonetized silver coinagecoinage that had gone out of circulationfrom European states. A large-scale silver refinery was built at adjacent premises in Hatton Garden.

Johnsons interest in metallurgy had already brought him into contact with platinum, which had been the subject of considerable scientific interest throughout the early 19th century because of its strength and resistance to corrosive acids. He set up a small-scale refinery for the metal at Hatton Garden, with limited supplies coming from Colombia.

In 1838 George Matthey joined the company as an apprentice. Mattheys scientific talents, coupled with a shrewd business sense, were the driving force behind the companys development in the platinum industry during the second half of the 19th century. When the Great Exhibition was first proposed, Matthey persuaded Johnson to exhibit a number of platinum articles, together with specimens of other platinum group metals: palladium, iridium, and rhodium. The display was a success, and Matthey became determined to make the company preeminent in the platinum business. He succeeded in gaining a more assured supply of the metal through direct arrangements with owners of a mine in the Ural mountains in Russia, then a newly discovered source. In the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris, the company displayed a wide variety of platinum-manufactured goods on a scale never seen before. The exhibit was awarded a gold medal for perfection and improvement in the working of platinum. Under Mattheys direction, platinum refining and fabricating grew from about 15,000 ounces in 1860 to about 75,000 ounces a year in the 1880s. The manufacturing of sulfuric acid boilers was the largest single use of platinum until the early 1900s.

The diversity of the company had actually been established from the beginning by Johnson. From the chemical refining of gold, Johnson produced a range of vitreous colors for the glass and pottery industries. He became the first refiner of nickel in Britain, with nickel silver, popular as a silver plate. In 1833 production of silver nitrate began, its use being primarily for medical purposes in the form of lunar caustic. Over the following decades the development of photography generated considerable demand for silver nitrate.

By 1860, the year of Johnsons retirement, many of the companys present-day activities had been established: assaying and refining of bullion, platinum refining and marketing, the production of vitreous colors for glass and pottery manufacturers, and a constant experimentation and development of niche markets for other rare and precious metals. Hatton Garden remained the rather compact home of the refining, assaying, and experimental work so vital to the firms future. There was, in addition, a small workshop in Clerkenwell, used for the manufacture of platinum dishes, crucibles, and other laboratory instruments. A total of 25 people were employed in 1860, with a trio of partners who dominated the firms development over the next four decades: George Matthey, his younger brother Edward Matthey, and John SellonPercival Johnsons nephew. It was this trio, and their descendants, who were to dominate the companys development until the mid-20th century.

Over the next 50 years, technological and marketing progress coincided with a securing of supplies. Gold-refining facilities were improved and expanded at Hatton Garden in response to the arrival of African gold, and the silver refinery received constant supplies of demonetized coin from across Europe. The reputation of the assaying and chemical laboratories grew, and in the mid-1880s Johnson Matthey succeeded in establishing itself as the ultimate referee of assayers and, as a certifier of ore quality, of South African Rand gold. Platinum supplies were secured from Russia through the cooperation of the metals houses of Quennessen of France and Heraeus of Germany; together the three European companies dominated the world platinum trade through control of this source, and ignored demands from the tzar for a refinery to be built within Russia. In 1894 the cartel was formalized through the creation of an association named The Allied Houses. In 1911 Johnson Matthey signed an agreement with the Nicolai Pavdinsky Company in the Urals, which gave Johnson Matthey the rights to mine a substantial body of platinum-bearing ore in return for Johnson Matthey building a local refinery. Despite World War I, and the chaos caused by the overthrow of the tzar, the plant was in full operation by 1918. No platinum ever reached London, however. During this period Johnson Matthey promoted the use of platinum as a corrosive-resistant electric conductor, and when platinum prices rose above gold for the first time in the 1900s the company encouraged the interest of jewelers. When the market for sulfuric acid boilers died at the turn of the century, fresh demand had been built up in other sectors.

In 1898 the company expanded its service to jewelers by purchasing new rolling mills in nearby Hop Gardens; here silver and gold alloys were formed into sheet, wire, and tube semimanufactured goods. The companys interest in colors had been boosted in the late 1870s when it gained the British and Empire marketing rights to a variety of industrial glazes, stains, and enamels, including so-called rolled gold, from the Roessler company of Frankfurt. Roessler soon was renamed Degussa; the two companies had a history of close association dating back to the 1860s. After initial skepticism, the Staffordshire potters took to the advanced colors and Johnson Matthey became an established supplier in that area. Meanwhile, the companys interest in the rare and often novel metals was given a strong commercial footing with the 1870 acquisition of the Manchester-based Magnesium Metal Company. During the 40 years that followed, the Magnesium Metal Companys plant at Patricroft produced magnesium for flash photography and laboratory work, antimony for hardening bullet heads, vanadium for black dye and ink, and electrolytically-produced aluminum. It is thought that the statue of Eros in Londons Piccadilly Circusdedicated to the philanthropist seventh Earl of Shaftesburywas made of aluminum from the Patricroft works.

Company Perspectives

Johnson Matthey has expertise in abundance, adding real value and advanced technology to precious metals and specialised materials. Our unrivalled skills, which embrace refining, fabrication, marketing and research, have been maintained through constant change and adaptation to market conditions, and a relentless commitment to remain at the leading edge of our core technologies.

The application of this expertise rests on a close partnership with our customers, an approach that is fundamental to our ability to meet and exceed their exacting requirements. Johnson Mattheys high technology materials find applications in many advanced products of today and of the future, in important technology-based industries including automotive and pharmaceuticals.

In 1891 the company became Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited, a private limited company, and during the 1890s and 1910s an increasing amount of departmentalism took place as the sons and nephews of the ruling trio took over the responsibilities and increasingly delegated power to trusted clerks and technical experts. It was at this point that a corporate policy was adopted that remains at the heart of the company still: only to take part in activities in which the company could dominate. When a products development fell out of the control of the company, Johnson Mattheys interests in it would be sold off.

World War I Through World War II Era

During World War I Johnson Matthey established itself as an innovative developer of strategic materials, despite significant supply disruptions affecting most of the metals with which the company dealt. The company was able to satisfy the Allied demand for products such as platinum catalysts, used to make sulfuric acid for explosives manufacturing, and magnesium powder, used to make incendiary bombs for dropping on German airships. In 1916 the company was brought under the direct control of the government, and platinum catalysts and electrical and magneto contacts for cars, airplanes, and tanks were manufactured in a modernized platinum workshop. The company expanded its production of silver nitrate to meet the demands of the photographic industry, and in 1916 began manufacturing its own liquid gold. In 1918 the colors division was given a firm production base through acquisition of the Sneyd color works at Burslem. A Birmingham branch of Johnson Matthey was established in the same year to supply the citys jewelry trade, and the Sheffield silversmith E.W. Oakes & Co. Ltd. was purchased. Despite difficulties in obtaining supplies, demands of industry were met and at the end of the war the air ministry gave an official message of thanks to the company for its supplies of high-precision equipment.

In 1918 John Sellon died. In order to secure a closer working relationship with the two South African mining houses that were of most significance to the companys gold activities, his shares in the company were offered in equal parts to Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa Ltd. and to the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company. This is the origin of the controlling stake held by the Anglo American Corporation today.

During the early 1920s the company faced considerable problems due to continued disruptions in the supply of precious metals. From 1922 the South Africans refined their own gold, while regular supplies of platinum from the Urals had failed to resume after the war despite the ingenious attempts of Arthur Coussmaker. Coussmaker was a platinum expert with Johnson Matthey whose attempts to gain a secure supply of Russian platinum had involved deals with White Russian military forces and impromptu meetings with Soviet officials in western European cities. The difficulties of supply led to the early 1920s being a low point in the fortunes of Johnson Matthey. In 1924, however, Dr. Hans Merensky discovered the huge platinum-laden reef in the South African Transvaal that bears his name today. Coussmaker, by then a board member, made an immediate trip to the Transvaal where he identified the Rustenburg area as the most promising part of the reef. Consolidated Goldfields of South Africa and Johannesburg Consolidated Investments had mines in the Rustenburg district, and after an initial platinum mine boom in the mid-1920s those were the only mines operating in the slump that followed. Coussmaker persuaded the two mining houses to merge their platinum interests, and in 1931 the Rustenburg Platinum Company was formed. Johnson Matthey became a refiner and distributor for what was, and remains, the worlds largest platinum mine. A smelting works and an electrolytic refinery were built at Brimsdown, in Essex, to extract the platinum metals according to a refining method established by Ernest Deering and Alan Powell of the Hatton Garden staff.

In 1919 Johnson Matthey joined N.M. Rothschilds bank and four other leading bullion brokers to form the London Gold Market, where a daily price-fixing still sets the price of gold. When gold supplies from South Africa ended, the sulfuric acid refinery at Hatton Garden was kept in operation through a constant stream of demonetized silver from central and Eastern Europe. Much of this came via the Silberfeld brothers, initially based in Riga, who throughout the interwar period supplied Johnson Matthey with Russian Imperial coins and gold rubles, and with silver Maria Theresa coins from an office in Vienna. The company established branches in Warsaw and Prague and came to own 75 percent of the Bank Powszechny Depozytowy in Poland.

Johnson Mattheys manufacturing capacity in this period was boosted by the acquisition in the early 1920s of the metal fabricating firm of R. Buckland & Son Ltd. In 1925 Johnson and Sons Smelting Works Ltd. of Brimsdown, Middlesex, was acquired. This was a sweeps, scrap, and residue refinery business that had been set up originally in the mid-19th century by a brother of Percival Johnson. During the 1930s the bullion refining and smelting operations were rationalized, the colors section was strengthened by a full-time research department, and a team of enterprising salesmen crossed Europe in motor cars.

Key Dates

1817:
Percival Johnson begins work as a mineralogist in London.
1838:
George Matthey joins Johnsons office as an apprentice.
1860:
Percival Johnson retires.
1870:
Johnson Matthey acquires the Magnesium Metal Company.
1891:
Johnson Matthey is incorporated as Johnson, Matthey & Co. Ltd.
1919:
London Gold Market is founded.
1931:
Rustenburg Platinum Company is formed.
1969:
Johnson Matthey enters into joint venture with Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo KK of Japan to form Tanaka Matthey KK.
1981:
Johnson Matthey & Co. Ltd. becomes Johnson Matthey Public Limited Company.
1994:
Johnson Matthey joins Cookson Group PLC to form Cookson Matthey Ceramics plc.
1998:
Johnson Matthey acquires Cooksons stake in Cookson Matthey Ceramics.
2001:
Johnson Matthey acquires Meconic.

At the outbreak of World War II Johnson Matthey was appointed government agent for the control and handling of platinum stocks, and manufactured items of the material grew in response to the rising demand. Products included electrical fine wires, electrodes, aircraft spark plugs, laboratory crucibles, and wire gauze catalysts for the preparation of nitric acid. Demand for platinum with a high iridium content led to Coussmakers establishment of a refinery in Pennsylvania, where concentrates from Alaskan deposits were turned into contact tips for automagnets.

While bullion trade was severely limited by Bank of England supervision, and jewelry sales were almost forbidden, industrial demandespecially from photographic related industrieswas strong for silver-based products. Some special uses of silver compounds included the manufacture of silver ball bearings for airplane engines, and desalination packs that enabled ditched airmen, or shipwrecked sailors, to survive on sea water. Bomb damage during the blitz of autumn 1940 resulted in the Brimsdown smelting works being put out of action temporarily, and the entire contents of the company museum and archive collection were destroyed.

Postwar Expansion

With the end of the war came a period of rapid overseas growth for the company, much of it having been prepared from the early 1940s in expectation of a postwar boom. Representatives were sent around the world to study competitors, examine suppliers, and to establish new markets. Operations in North America, South Africa, Australia, and India were expanded as a result, with growth in Europe taking place later with the establishment of subsidiaries in France and The Netherlands in 1956, Italy in 1959, Sweden in 1960, Belgium in 1961, and Austria in 1962. Developments at home moved at an equally rapid pace: two colors factories in Staffordshire were opened immediately after the war, and in 1951 the colors section acquired Universal Transfers Co. Ltd. Johnson Matthey was now a market leader in the manufacture of color pigments and screen-printed transfers for the pottery and glass industries. In 1953 Harlow Metal Co. Ltd. was formed to merge the companys mechanical production interests, and in 1957 a new platinum refinery was built at Royston that brought together the companys refining operations. In 1954 Universal Matthey Products Ltd. was formed, to produce platinum catalysts for U.S. manufacturers of high-octane petrol. Enthusiasm by the North American auto industry for catalytic converters encouraged Johnson Matthey to conduct extensive research on the auto catalyst during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962 L.B. Hunt was appointed director of research at new purpose-built laboratories at Wembley.

In 1963 Blythe Colours, based in Stoke-on-Trent, was acquired. This brought to Johnson Matthey an extended range of industrial colors, a worldwide network of agents, and a strong north European section based in The Netherlands. A consolidation of bullion activity took place during the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in the formation of Johnson Matthey Bankers Ltd. (JMB). Representing Johnson Matthey on the London gold market, JMB traded in the gold, silver, and precious metals produced by Johnson Matthey subsidiaries around the world.

A major reorganization of the company took place in 1966 and 1967, with the establishment of four divisions within which all of the companys activities and subsidiaries were placed. These were the Jewelry and Allied Traders Division (JAT); the Chemical Division; the Industrial Division; and the Ceramic Division. A mechanical production unit was established to cater to the production needs of the four divisions. In 1969 expansion into Asia culminated with the establishment of Tanaka Matthey KK, a joint venture company with Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo KK of Japan. Japan was a major consumer of platinum jewelry, and the joint venture enabled Johnson Matthey to dominate the market there.

1970s and 1980s

The 1970s were a decade of organic growth, with few acquisitions taking place. In 1980, however, a significant move into the U.S. jewelry tradea business that was unfamiliar to the companyled to losses estimated at more than £60 million and in 1981 the board looked to JMB to help make up the loss. JMB had done well from the spectacular rise in bullion activity that had accompanied the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, and pressure was placed on the subsidiary to expand out of bullion-related loans and into high-risk lending in areas with which it was unfamiliar. The banks loan book expanded, from £50 million at the end of 1981 to some £500 million by March 1984, with its contribution to group profits going from just under 25 percent in 1981 to more than 60 percent in 1983. By late 1983, however, the Bank of England had begun to suspect the quality of some of the loans. In the summer of 1984 their suspicions extended to cover the accounting practices of Arthur Young. In September 1984 the full extent of the bad loans taken on by JMB became apparent, and the Bank of England organized a bailout by JMBs creditors, shareholders, and U.K. clearing and merchant banks. The Bank of England purchased JMB for a token £1. The collapse of JMB was a disaster: in the words of the Economist, October 6, 1984, The Johnson Matthey Parent Company lost its shirt, [and] its shareholders a lot of money. Meanwhile, in 1981 Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited officially changed its name to Johnson Matthey Public Limited Company.

Charter Consolidated, effectively the holding company for Anglo Americans interests in Johnson Matthey, found itself with a 38.3 percent stake in the group as a result of its assistance in the bailout of JMB, and sent in its own man, Neil Clarke, to become Johnson Mattheys chairman. In June 1985 Clarke appointed Gene Anderson as chief executive. Over the next five years the company was transformed, with £70 million of disposals made over the next two years, including an interest acquired in Wembley Stadium. The workforce was cut significantly while profits doubled to £64 million between 1986 and 1989. A total of 74 semiautonomous companies, loosely grouped into divisions, but many legally distinct and with their own boards, were reorganized into four operating divisions. These were the Catalytic Systems Division, which includes automotive exhaust and industrial air pollution control systems; the Materials Technology Division, which combines the groups rare-earth, pharmaceutical, and special materials interests; the Precious Metals Division, which acts as the sole marketing agency for Rustenburg Platinum and controls the groups gold and silver marketing and refining businesses; and the Colour and Print Division that ties together the groups industrial colors and printing businesses. Investment in new plant and research was expanded, and in 1990 a new autocatalyst production plant was opened in Belgium to meet anticipated European demand. Research into the medical possibilities of platinum-based drugs was boosted, with cancer and HIV-fighting drugs developed.

In December 1989 Anderson resigned after failing to persuade the board to expand into nonplatinum areas. The proposed move would have diluted Anglo Americans shareholding in Johnson Matthey through a share issue, and moved Johnson Matthey away from an increasing reliance on the Rustenburg mine. In testing the resolve of the South Africans, Anderson confirmed their control over the group. A1most immediately after Anderson resigned, Clarke also resigned. David J. Davies, Charters deputy chairman, was transferred to become Johnson Mattheys chairman.

1990s and Beyond

Johnson Mattheys operating results in the early 1990s were generally positive, as the company began to see results from its late 1980s restructuring. Sales increased steadily from £1.73 billion in 1991 to £1.96 billion in 1994. Before-tax profits also increased steadily to a record £73.8 million in 1993 before declining in 1994 to £65.3 million thanks in part to the loss of a catalytic converter contract with General Motors toward the end of the year. Throughout this period, the company continued to restructure its operations, in particular in its Materials Technology Division. On the down side, the Precious Metals Division continued to provide more than 60 percent of Johnson Mattheys sales, while contributing only about one-quarter of the operating profit.

There were signs, however, that the company would be able to lessen the impact that precious metals had on its overall performance. The clearest signal came in 1993 when Charter Consolidated sold its 38.3 percent stake in Johnson Matthey for £342 million ($492 million). About 20 percent would remain in the indirect control of Anglo American since it was sold to Garrick Investment Holdings Ltd., a firm jointly held by Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Co. and Minorco of South Africa, both of which in turn were in the indirect control of Anglo American. The other 18.3 percent was sold to two British brokerage firms, Barclays de Zoete Wedd Ltd. and UBS Phillips & Drew Ltd, who were to sell the shares to investors, thus somewhat diluting Anglo Americans control.

Anglo American remained in charge of Johnson Matthey through Chairman Davies, but the next few years would see the company make its most aggressive expansion moves in years, all of which fell outside the precious metals area. In March 1994, Johnson Matthey and Cookson Group PLC, a U.K.-based metals fabrication firm, combined their respective ceramics businesses into a 50-50 joint venture called Cookson Matthey Ceramics plc. This venture absorbed Johnson Mattheys Colour and Print Division, leaving the firm with the remaining three divisions and its share of the Cookson joint venture. Later in 1994, Johnson Matthey and Cookson entered into merger talks that would have created a global precious metals/industrial materials giant, but discussions were discontinued in November after the two sides could not come to an agreement on terms. The joint venture was not affected, however, and it subsequently posted positive results during its first two years in existence.

The Materials Technology Division was the next area to be targeted for growth with the 1995 acquisition of Advance Circuits Inc. (ACI) for £106.4 million ($170.2 million). ACI was a U.S.-based electronics industry supplier of multilayer printed circuit boards and plastic laminate packaging for semiconductors, the latter an emerging industry. The deal extended Johnson Mattheys range of products within the area of electronic materials, so much so that following the acquisition the companys divisions were restructured once more. The Materials Technology Division had two componentselectronic materials and chemicals. The former, including the newly acquired ACI, would become a new Electronic Materials Division, a move that highlighted the importance of this area to the companys future. The latter was merged into an enlarged Precious Metals Division, which then consisted of platinum marketing and fabrication businesses, precious metal chemicals and platinum refining businesses, and worldwide gold and silver businesses. The new Electronic Materials Division soon was bolstered further through the early 1996 purchase from Cray Research Inc. of printed circuit board manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin. The company also planned to invest $200 million in capital expenditures from 1996 through 1998 in its newest division.

A New Focus for the 21st Century

Johnson Matthey had its best year ever in 1995, with total sales of £2.27 billion and before-tax profits of £95.4 million. However, the company began to experience a bit of a slump in 1996, particularly in its precious metals and ceramics divisions. Profits for both businesses saw little growth over the course of the year, due primarily to decreased demand for ceramic tiles in Europe, as well as a significant price drop for platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Although the company expected both of these segments to recover eventually, it also began to explore ways to increase sales over the short term. One solution to the slowdown in the ceramics business was further expansion overseas, particularly in South America and Asia.

At the same time, promising developments in Johnson Mattheys other segments, which included electronics materials and catalytic systems, helped offset the lackluster results in precious metals and ceramics. By mid-1997 two of the companys biggest customers, Volkswagen and Chrysler, were increasing their orders for catalytic converters, lifting profits in the division to £34.1 million for the year. The company also was exceeding expectations with its semiconductor packaging operations in the United States, where production levels stood at one million units a month by November 1997 and had the potential to increase to 1.6 million by March 1998. The boost was due in large part to increased sales of the Intel Pentium II computer chip, which provided Johnson Matthey with its principal source of business.

During this period the company also saw promising results in its pharmaceutical materials segment. Profits grew by 51 percent over the course of 1997, giving Johnson Matthey reason to believe that it could seize a 25 percent share of the U.S. market for methylphenidate, a compound used in treating attention deficit disorder, before the end of the decade. The company also continued to enjoy high margins from sales of Carboplatin, an anti-cancer treatment derived from platinum, which the company marketed in the United States through a joint venture with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Adverse developments in two of Johnson Mattheys other segments the following year, however, led to dramatic changes in the companys portfolio. Continued poor results in the ceramics division, due primarily to declining prices for zircon, a key whitening agent, led to the collapse of Cookson Matthey Ceramics. The company purchased Cooksons stake in the joint venture for £65 million in January 1998, allowing it to consolidate its ceramics holdings and cut operating costs by £4 million, mainly through consolidation. At the same time, decline in demand for Intel processors had a major impact on the companys electronics material business, prompting the company to consider selling the division. The announcement of this proposal received strong approval from shareholders, who were generally wary of the relative weakness of the divisions overall market share. The company finally found a buyer in mid-1999, giving it more than £500 million to spend on expanding its other core businesses.

By the year 2000 the company had decided to focus more intently on expanding its pharmaceutical and catalytic segments. In June 2001 Johnson Matthey purchased Meconic, a British pharmaceuticals firm and the largest opiates supplier in the world, for £147.1 million. With the acquisition Johnson Matthey became the only company in the United Kingdom with the right to legally distribute medical heroin and cocaine; considering the fact that the painkiller market was growing at a rate of 6 percent a year by 2001, the deal had great potential for the company. Meanwhile, progressively stricter emissions laws in the worlds most substantial automobile markets produced continued demand for the companys catalytic converters. With an eye toward environmental concerns heading into the 21st century, the company also was beginning to invest in the development of fuel cell technology, establishing a separate division for the new business in June 2001. Although precious metal prices were still flat by 2002, and the companys ceramics business continued to flounder, Johnson Matthey clearly had strengthened its holdings in other key sectors and was poised to maintain its leading market share in key businesses for the foreseeable future.

Principal Subsidiaries

HEA (Hydrogen Engineering Applications) Ltd.; Johnson Matthey Ceramica Lda (Portugal); Matthey-Beyrand & Cie SA (France); Johnson Matthey Poland; Johnson Matthey Limited (Australia); Johnson Matthey (New Zealand) Limited; Johnson Matthey Ceramics (Thailand) Ltd; Johnson Matthey BV (Netherlands); The Argent Insurance Co Ltd (Bermudas); Johnson Matthey Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Sdn Bld (Malaysia); Johnson Matthey BV (France); Australian Bullion Company; Johnson Matthey Limited (Canada); Johnson Matthey & Brandenberger AG (Switzerland); Johnson Matthey Italia Spa; SA Johnson Matthey NV (Belgium); Johnson Matthey Moscow Office (Russia); Johnson Matthey Services Ltd (India); Johnson Matthey Argentina SA; Arora Matthey Limited (India; 40%);

Johnson Matthey S.A. (France); Johnson Matthey Pharmaceutical Materials Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey (Czech Republic); Johnson Matthey de Mexico SA de C.V.; Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells; Johnson Matthey Ceramics SA (Spain); J.M. Select; Johnson Matthey Medical Products (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey A/S (Denmark); Shape Memory Applications Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Brazil Ltda; Johnson Matthey Vehicle Testing & Dev. LLC (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Ceramics Sdn Bhd (Malaysia); Johnson Matthey Ceramics (Asia) Pte Ltd (China); Johnson Matthey Ltd (Ireland); Johnson Matthey (Shanghai) Chemical Ltd. (China); Johnson Matthey Ltd. (China); Johnson Matthey Macfarlan Smith (Scotland); Johnson Matthey Ceramica Ltda (Brazil); Johnson Matthey (Singapore) Pte Ltd; Johnson Matthey (Pty) Ltd (South Africa); Svenska Emissionsteknik AB (Sweden); Johnson Matthey GmbH (Germany); Johnson Matthey (Sweden); Johnson Matthey India Private Ltd (CSD); Johnson Matthey Ceramics India Ltd; Johnson Matthey Hong Kong Ltd; Johnson Matthey Japan Inc; Johnson Matthey Structural Ceramics (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Ceramics South Africa (Pty); Almiberia SA (Spain); Johnson Matthey GmbH Alfa Products (Germany).

Principal Divisions

Catalysts & Chemicals Division; Pharmaceutical Materials Division; Precious Metals Division; Colours & Coatings Division.

Further Reading

Andrews, Walter, Johnson Matthey Planning Three Acquisitions, Electronic News, July 4, 1994, p. 50.

Batchelor, Charles, Johnson Matthey Captures Meconic, Financial Times (London), June 22, 2001, p. 23.

Cookson, Johnson Matthey Discontinue Merger Talks, Wall Street Journal, November 23, 1994, p. A9.

Dawkins, William, Principles of a Profitable Alliance, Financial Times, November 6, 1995, p. 14.

Gooding, Kenneth, Ceramics Superstars Aim High, Financial Times, August 18, 1995, p. 16.

How Johnson Matthey Kept Bankers Up from Dusk to Dawn, Economist, October 6, 1984.

Hunt, L.B., George Matthey and the Building of the Platinum Industry, Platinum Metals Review, April 1979.

Johnson Matthey, Investors Chronicle, December 2, 1994, p. 70.

McDonald, Donald, The Rise of Johnson, Matthey & Co. Ltd., in A History of Platinum, London: Johnson Matthey, 1961.

Minton, Anna, Johnson Matthey Shifts to Catalysts and Drugs, Financial Times (London), December 3, 1999, p. 22.

Pretznik, Charles, Johnson Matthey May Spin Off Division, Financial Times (London), November 26, 1998, p. 24.

Tom C.B. Elliott

updates: David E. Salamie, Steve Meyer

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Johnson Matthey PLC

Johnson Matthey PLC

2-4 Cockspur Street
Trafalgar Square
London SW1Y 5BQ
United Kingdom
(0171) 269-8400
Fax: (0171) 269-8433

Public Company
Incorporated:
1891 as Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited
Employees: 5,912
Sales: £2.27 billion (1995)
Stock Exchanges: London
SICs: 2752 Commercial Printing, Lithographic; 2819 Industrial Inorganic Chemicals, Not Elsewhere Classified; 2834 Pharmaceutical Preparations; 2851 Paints, Varnishes, Lacquers, Enamels & Allied Products; 2865 Cyclic Organic Crudes & Intermediates, Organic Dyes & Pigments; 3341 Secondary Smelting & Refining of Nonferrous Metals; 3356 Rolling, Drawing & Extruding of Nonferrous Metals, Except Copper & Aluminum; 3357 Drawing & Insulating of Nonferrous Wire; 3569 General Industrial Machinery & Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3679 Electronic Components, Not Elsewhere Classified; 5094 Jewelry, Watches, Precious Stones & Precious Metals, Wholesale

Johnson Matthey PLC has been involved in the processing and marketing of precious metals since its founding in 1817. Although it is most widely known for its activities in platinumit is a world leader in the refining, marketing, and technological development of the metalJohnson Matthey has been increasingly positioning itself as a leader in advanced materials technology, including catalysts and pollution control systems, electronic materials, specialty chemicals, and pharmaceutical compounds. Through a joint venture with Cookson Group PLC, Johnson Matthey also manufactures decorative and specialized materials for the ceramics, plastics, paint, ink, and construction industries. The company has operations in 28 countries.

Early History

The founder of Johnson Matthey was Percival Johnson, who in 1817 set himself up at 79 Hatton Garden in Holborn, London, as an Assayer and Practical Mineralogist. As such, he valued gold by applying chemical and physical tests to determine the exact quantity of gold in a bar. Johnsons business rapidly gained distinction when he began to offer to buy back the bars of gold that he assayed, thereby becoming the first London assayer to offer a guarantee of quality. In the early 1830s a small gold refinery was built at the Hatton Garden premises for the refining and assaying of gold bars that were then coming into London from Brazil. These were complex gold bars, containing impurities that were not easy to remove. Having successfully extracted platinum group metals from the bars, Johnsons technical prowess established the firm at the forefront of the London bullion market. The firm took full advantage of the gold rushes of California, from 1848, and of Australia, from 1851, while supplies of silver arrived throughout the 1850s and 1860s in the form of demonetized silver coinagecoinage that had gone out of circulationfrom European states. A large-scale silver refinery was built at adjacent premises in Hatton Garden.

Johnsons interest in metallurgy had already brought him into contact with platinum, which had been the subject of considerable scientific interest throughout the early 19th century due to its strength and resistance to corrosive acids. He set up a small-scale refinery for the metal at Hatton Garden, with limited supplies coming from Colombia.

In 1838 George Matthey joined the company as an apprentice. Mattheys scientific talents, coupled with a shrewd business sense, was the driving force behind the companys development in the platinum industry during the second half of the 19th century. When the Great Exhibition was first proposed, Matthey persuaded Johnson to exhibit a number of platinum articles, together with specimens of other platinum-group metals: palladium, indirim, and rhodium. The display was a success, and Matthey became determined to make the company preeminent in the platinum business. He succeeded in gaining a more assured supply of the metal through direct arrangements with owners of a mine in the Ural mountains in Russia, then a newly discovered source. In the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris, the company exhibited a wide variety of platinum-manufactured goods on a scale never seen before. The exhibit was awarded a gold medal for perfection and improvement in the working of platinum. Under Mattheys direction, platinum refining and fabricating grew from about 15,000 ounces in 1860 to about 75,000 ounces a year in the 1880s. The manufacturing of sulfuric acid boilers was the largest single use of platinum until the early 1900s.

The diversity of the company had actually been established from the beginning by Johnson. From the chemical refining of gold, Johnson produced a range of vitreous colors for the glass and pottery industries. He became the first refiner of nickel in Britain, with nickel silver, popular as a silver plate. In 1833 production of silver nitrate began, its use being primarily for medical purposes in the form of lunar caustic. Over the following decades the development of photography generated considerable demand for silver nitrate.

By 1860, the year of Johnsons retirement, many of the companys present-day activities had been established: assaying and refining of bullion, platinum refining and marketing, the production of vitreous colors for glass and pottery manufacturers, and a constant experimentation and development of niche markets for other rare and precious metals. Hatton Garden remained the rather compact home of the refining, assaying, and experimental work so vital to the firms future. There was, in addition, a small workshop in Clerkenwell, used for the manufacture of platinum dishes, crucibles, and other laboratory instruments. Twenty-five people were employed in 1860, with a trio of partners who dominated the firms development over the next four decades: George Matthey, his younger brother Edward Matthey, and John SellonPercival Johnsons nephew. It was this trio, and their descendants, who were to dominate the companys development until the mid-20th century.

Over the next 50 years, technological and marketing progress coincided with a securing of supplies. Gold-refining facilities were improved and expanded at Hatton Garden in response to the arrival of African gold, and the silver refinery received constant supplies of demonetized coin from across Europe. The reputation of the assaying and chemical laboratories grew, and in the mid-1880s Johnson Matthey succeeded in establishing itself as the ultimate referee of assayers and, as a certifier of ore quality, of South African Rand gold. Platinum supplies were secured from Russia through the co-operation of the metals houses of Quennessen of France and Heraeus of Germany; together the three European companies dominated the world platinum trade through control of this source, and ignored demands from the tzar for a refinery to be built within Russia. In 1894 the cartel was formalized through the creation of an association named The Allied Houses. In 1911 Johnson Matthey signed an agreement with the Nicolai Pavdinsky Company in the Urals, which gave Johnson Matthey the rights to mine a substantial body of platinum-bearing ore in return for Johnson Matthey building a local refinery. Despite World War I, and the chaos caused by the overthrow of the tzar, the plant was in full operation by 1918. However, no platinum ever reached London. During this period Johnson Matthey promoted the use of platinum as a corrosive-resistant electric conductor, and when platinum prices rose above gold for the first time in the 1900s the company encouraged the interest of jewelers. When the market for sulfuric acid boilers died at the turn of the century, fresh demand had been built up in other sectors.

In 1898 the company expanded its service to jewelers by purchasing new rolling mills in nearby Hop Gardens; here silver and gold alloys were formed into sheet, wire, and tube semimanufactured goods. The companys interest in colors had been boosted in the late 1870s when it gained the British and Empire marketing rights to a variety of industrial glazes, stains, and enamels, including so-called rolled gold, from the Roessler company of Frankfurt. Roessler was shortly renamed Degussa; the two companies had a history of close association dating back to the 1860s. After initial skepticism, the Staffordshire potters took to the advanced colors and Johnson Matthey became an established supplier in that area. Meanwhile the companys interest in the rare and often novel metals was given a strong commercial footing with the 1870 acquisition of the Manchester-based Magnesium Metal Company. During the 40 years that followed, the Magnesium Metal Companys plant at Patricroft produced magnesium for flash photography and laboratory work, antimony for hardening bullet heads, vanadium for black dye and ink, and electrolytically-produced aluminum. It is thought that the statue of Eros in Londons Piccadilly Circus dedicated to the philanthropist seventh Earl of Shaftesbury was made of aluminum from the Patricroft works.

In 1891 the company became Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited, a private limited company, and during the 1890s and 1910s an increasing amount of departmentalism took place as the sons and nephews of the ruling trio took over the responsibilities, and increasingly delegated power to trusted clerks and technical experts. It was at this point that a corporate policy was adopted that remains at the heart of the company still: only to take part in activities in which the company could dominate. When a products development fell out of the control of the company, Johnson Mattheys interests in it would be sold off.

Company Perspectives

Johnson Matthey is a company with considerable pedigree. We have been supplying advanced materials for over 175 years. The real importance of this proud history is that it demonstrates the companys ability to maintain world leadership by adapting constantly to rapidly changing customer needs. Johnson Matthey has only maintained this position by remaining loyal to the values and beliefs which we contend are crucial to our business.

World War I through World War II Era

During World War I Johnson Matthey established itself as an innovative developer of strategic materials, despite significant supply disruptions affecting most of the metals that the company dealt with. The company was able to satisfy the Allied demand for products such as platinum catalysts, used to make sulfuric acid for explosives manufacturing, and magnesium powder, used to make incendiary bombs for dropping on German airships. In 1916 the company was brought under the direct control of the government, and platinum catalysts and electrical and magneto contacts for cars, airplanes, and tanks were manufactured in a modernized platinum workshop. The company expanded its production of silver nitrate to meet the demands of the photographic industry, and in 1916 began manufacturing its own liquid gold. In 1918 the colors division was given a firm production base through acquisition of the Sneyd color works at Burslem. A Birmingham branch of Johnson Matthey was established in the same year to supply the citys jewelry trade, and the Sheffield silversmith E.W. Oakes & Co. Ltd. was purchased. Despite difficulties in obtaining supplies, demands of industry were met and at the end of the war the air ministry gave an official message of thanks to the company for its supplies of high-precision equipment.

In 1918 John Sellon died. In order to secure a closer working relationship with the two South African mining houses that were of most significance to the companys gold activities, his shares in the company were offered in equal parts to Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa Ltd. and to the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company. This is the origin of the controlling stake held by the Anglo American Corporation today.

During the early 1920s the company faced considerable problems due to continued disruptions in the supply of precious metals. From 1922 the South Africans refined their own gold, while regular supplies of platinum from the Urals had failed to resume after the war despite the ingenious attempts of Arthur Coussmaker. Coussmaker was a platinum expert with Johnson Matthey whose attempts to gain a secure supply of Russian platinum had involved deals with White Russian military forces and impromptu meetings with Soviet officials in western European cities. The difficulties of supply led to the early 1920s being a low point in the fortunes of Johnson Matthey. In 1924, however, Dr. Hans Merensky discovered the huge platinum-laden reef in the South African Transvaal that bears his name today. Coussmaker, by then a board member, made an immediate trip to the Transvaal where he identified the Rustenburg area as the most promising part of the reef. Consolidated Goldfields of South Africa and Johannesburg Consolidated Investments had mines in the Rustenburg district, and after an initial platinum mine boom in the mid-1920s those were the only mines operating in the slump that followed. Coussmaker persuaded the two mining houses to merge their platinum interests, and in 1931 the Rustenburg Platinum Company was formed. Johnson Matthey became a refiner and distributor for what was, and remains, the worlds largest platinum mine. A smelting works and an electrolytic refinery were built at Brimsdown, in Essex, to extract the platinum metals according to a refining method established by Ernest Deering and Alan Powell of the Hatton Garden staff.

In 1919 Johnson Matthey joined N. M. Rothschilds bank and four other leading bullion brokers to form the London Gold Market, where a daily price-fixing still sets the price of gold. When gold supplies from South Africa ended, the sulfuric acid refinery at Hatton Garden was kept in operation through a constant stream of demonetized silver from central and eastern Europe. Much of this came via the Silberfeld brothers, initially based in Riga, who throughout the interwar period supplied Johnson Matthey with Russian Imperial coins and gold rubles, and with silver Maria Theresa coins from an office in Vienna. The company established branches in Warsaw and Prague, and came to own 75 percent of the Bank Powszechny Depozytowy in Poland.

Johnson Mattheys manufacturing capacity in this period was boosted by the acquisition in the early 1920s of the metal fabricating firm of R. Buckland & Son Ltd. In 1925 Johnson and Sons Smelting Works Ltd. of Brimsdown, Middlesex, was acquired. This was a sweeps, scrap, and residue refinery business that had been set up originally in the mid-19th century by a brother of Percival Johnson. During the 1930s the bullion refining and smelting operations were rationalized, the colors section was strengthened by a full-time research department, and a team of enterprising salesmen crossed Europe in motor cars.

At the outbreak of World War II Johnson Matthey was appointed government agent for the control and handling of platinum stocks, and manufactured items of the material grew in response to the rising demand. Products included electrical fine wires, electrodes, aircraft spark plugs, laboratory crucibles, and wire gauze catalysts for the preparation of nitric acid. Demand for platinum with a high iridium content led to Coussmakers establishment of a refinery in Pennsylvania, where concentrates from Alaskan deposits were turned into contact tips for automagnets.

While bullion trade was severely limited by Bank of England supervision, and jewelry sales were almost forbidden, industrial demandespecially from photographic related industrieswas strong for silver-based products. Some special uses of silver compounds included the manufacture of silver ball bearings for airplane engines, and desalination packs that enabled ditched airmen, or shipwrecked sailors, to survive on sea water. Bomb damage during the blitz of autumn 1940 resulted in the Brimsdown smelting works being put out of action temporarily, and the entire contents of the company museum and archive collection were destroyed.

Postwar Expansion

With the end of the war came a period of rapid overseas growth for the company, much of it having been prepared from the early 1940s in expectation of a postwar boom. Representatives were sent around the world to study competitors, examine suppliers, and to establish new markets. Operations in North America, South Africa, Australia, and India were expanded as a result, with growth in Europe taking place later with the establishment of subsidiaries in France and the Netherlands in 1956, Italy in 1959, Sweden in 1960, Belgium in 1961, and Austria in 1962. Developments at home moved at an equally rapid pace: two colors factories in Staffordshire were opened immediately after the war, and in 1951 the colors section acquired Universal Transfers Co. Ltd. Johnson Matthey was now a market leader in the manufacture of color pigments and screen-printed transfers for the pottery and glass industries. In 1953 the Harlow Metal Co. Ltd. was formed to merge the companys mechanical production interests, and in 1957 a new platinum refinery was built at Royston which brought together the companys refining operations. In 1954 Universal Matthey Products Ltd. was formed, to produce platinum catalysts for U.S. manufacturers of high-octane petrol. Enthusiasm by the North American auto industry for catalytic converters encouraged Johnson Matthey to conduct extensive research on the auto catalyst during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962 L. B. Hunt was appointed director of research at new purpose-built laboratories at Wembley.

In 1963 Blythe Colours, based in Stoke-on-Trent, was acquired. This brought to Johnson Matthey an extended range of industrial colors, a worldwide network of agents, and a strong north European section based in the Netherlands. A consolidation of bullion activity took place during the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in the formation of Johnson Matthey Bankers Ltd. (JMB). Representing Johnson Matthey on the London gold market, JMB traded in the gold, silver, and precious metals produced by Johnson Matthey subsidiaries around the world.

A major reorganization of the company took place in 1966 and 1967, with the establishment of four divisions within which all the companys activities and subsidiaries were placed. These were the Jewelry and Allied Traders Division (JAT); the Chemical Division; the Industrial Division; and the Ceramic Division. A mechanical production unit was established to cater to the production needs of the four divisions. In 1969 expansion into Asia culminated with the establishment of Tanaka Matthey KK, a joint venture company with Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo KK of Japan. Japan is a major consumer of platinum jewelry, and the joint venture has enabled Johnson Matthey to dominate the market there.

1970s and 1980s

The 1970s were a decade of organic growth, with few acquisitions taking place. In 1980, however, a significant move into the U.S. jewelry tradea business that was unfamiliar to the companyled to losses estimated at over £60 million and in 1981 the board looked to JMB to help make up the loss. JMB had done well from the spectacular rise in bullion activity that had accompanied the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, and pressure was placed on the subsidiary to expand out of bullion-related loans and into high-risk lending in areas with which it was unfamiliar. The banks loan book expanded, from £50 million at the end of 1981 to some £500 million by March 1984, with its contribution to group profits going from just under 25 percent in 1981 to more than 60 percent in 1983. By late 1983, however, the Bank of England had begun to suspect the quality of some of the loans. In the summer of 1984 their suspicions extended to cover the accounting practices of Arthur Young. In September 1984 the full extent of the bad loans taken on by JMB became apparent, and the Bank of England organized a bailout by JMBs creditors, shareholders, and U.K. clearing and merchant banks. The Bank of England purchased JMB for a token £1. The collapse of JMB was a disaster: in the words of The Economist, October 6, 1984, The Johnson Matthey Parent Company lost its shirt, [and] its shareholders a lot of money. Meanwhile, in 1981 Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited officially changed its name to Johnson Matthey Public Limited Company.

Charter Consolidated, effectively the holding company for Anglo Americans interests in Johnson Matthey, found itself with a 38.3 percent stake in the group as a result of its assistance in the bailout of JMB, and sent in its own man, Neil Clarke, to become Johnson Mattheys chairman. In June 1985 Clarke appointed Gene Anderson as chief executive. Over the next five years the company was transformed, with £70 million of disposals made over the next two years, including an interest acquired in Wembley Stadium. The workforce was cut significantly while profits doubled to £64 million between 1986 and 1989. Seventy-four semiautonomous companies, loosely grouped into divisions, but many legally distinct and with their own boards, were reorganized into four operating divisions. These were the Catalytic Systems Division, which includes automotive exhaust and industrial air pollution control systems; the Materials Technology Division, which combines the groups rare-earth, pharmaceutical, and special materials interests; the Precious Metals Division, which acts as the sole marketing agency for Rustenburg Platinum and that controls the groups gold and silver marketing and refining businesses; and the Colour and Print Division that ties together the groups industrial colors and printing businesses. Investment in new plant and research was expanded, and in 1990 a new autocatalyst production plant was opened in Belgium to meet anticipated European demand. Research into the medical possibilities of platinum-based drugs was boosted, with cancer and HIV-fighting drugs developed.

In December 1989 Anderson resigned after failing to persuade the board to expand into nonplatinum areas. The proposed move would have diluted Anglo Americans shareholding in Johnson Matthey through a share issue, and moved Johnson Matthey away from an increasing reliance on the Rustenburg mine. In testing the resolve of the South Africans, Anderson confirmed their control over the group. Almost immediately after Anderson resigned, Clarke also resigned. David J. Davies, Charters deputy chairman, was transferred to become Johnson Mattheys chairman.

1990s and Beyond

Johnson Mattheys operating results in the early 1990s were generally positive, as the company began to see results from its late 1980s restructuring. Sales increased steadily from £1.73 billion in 1991 to £1.96 billion in 1994. Before-tax profits also increased steadily to a record £73.8 million in 1993 before declining in 1994 to £65.3 million thanks in part to the loss of a catalytic converter contract with General Motors toward the end of the year. Throughout this period, the company continued to restructure its operations, in particular in its Materials Technology Division. On the down side, the Precious Metals Division continued to provide more than 60 percent of Johnson Mattheys sales, while contributing only about one-quarter of the operating profit.

There were signs, however, that the company would be able to lessen the impact that precious metals had on its overall performance. The clearest signal came in 1993 when Charter Consolidated sold its 38.3 percent stake in Johnson Matthey for £342 million ($492 million). Although about 20 percent would remain in the indirect control of Anglo American since it was sold to Garrick Investment Holdings Ltd., a firm jointly held by Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Co. and Minorco of South Africa, both of which in turn were in the indirect control of Anglo American, the other 18.3 percent was sold to two British brokerage firms, Barclays de.Zoete Wedd Ltd. and UBS Phillips & Drew Ltd, who were to sell the shares to investors, thus somewhat diluting Anglo Americans control.

Anglo American remained in charge of Johnson Matthey through chairman Davies, but the next few years would see the company make its most aggressive expansion moves in years, all of which fell outside the precious metals area. In March 1994, Johnson Matthey and Cookson Group PLC, a U.K.-based metals-fabrication firm, combined their respective ceramics businesses into a 5050 joint venture called Cookson Matthey Ceramics pic. This venture absorbed Johnson Mattheys Colour and Print Division, leaving the firm with the remaining three divisions and its share of the Cookson joint venture. Later in 1994, Johnson Matthey and Cookson entered into merger talks that would have created a global precious metals/industrial materials giant, but discussions were discontinued in November after the two sides could not come to an agreement on terms. The joint venture was not affected, however, and it subsequently posted positive results during its first two years in existence.

The Materials Technology Division was the next area to be targeted for growth with the 1995 acquisition of Advance Circuits Inc. (ACI) for £106.4 million ($170.2 million). ACI was a U.S.-based electronics industry supplier of multilayer printed circuit boards and plastic laminate packaging for semiconductors, the latter an emerging industry. The deal extended Johnson Mattheys range of products within the area of electronic materials, so much so that following the acquisition the companys divisions were restructured once more. The Materials Technology Division had two componentselectronic materials and chemicals. The former, including the newly acquired ACI, would become a new Electronic Materials Division, a move that highlighted the importance of this area to the companys future. The latter was merged into an enlarged Precious Metals Division, which then consisted of platinum marketing and fabrication businesses, precious metal chemicals and platinum refining businesses, and worldwide gold and silver businesses. The new Electronic Materials Division was soon bolstered further through the early 1996 purchase from Cray Research Inc. of printed circuit board manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin. The company also planned to invest $200 million in capital expenditures from 1996 through 1998 in its newest division.

Johnson Matthey had its best year ever in 1995, with total sales of £2.27 billion and before-tax profits of £95.4 million. The initial success of its moves to lessen the importance of its Precious Metals Division bode well for the companys future as long as Anglo Americans influence could be deflected enough for such moves to continue.

Principal Subsidiaries

The Alta Group Inc. (U.S.A.); Arora-Matthey Limited (India; 40%); Cookson Matthey Ceramics pic (50%); Johnson Matthey & Brandenberger AG (Switzerland); Johnson Matthey (Aust) Limited (Australia); Johnson Matthey Catalog Company Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Electronics Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey GmbH (Germany); Johnson Matthey Hong Kong Limited; Johnson Matthey Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Investments Inc. (U.S.A.); Johnson Matthey Japan Limited; Johnson Matthey Korea Limited; Johnson Matthey Limited (Australia); Johnson Matthey Limited (Canada); Johnson Matthey (New Zealand) Limited; Johnson Matthey (Pty) Limited (South Africa); Johnson Matthey SA (France); Johnson Matthey (Singapore) Pte Limited; Matthey Rustenburg Refiners (Pty) Limited (South Africa; 49%); Ryoka Matthey Corporation (Japan; 50%); SA Johnson Matthey NV (Belgium); Svenska Emissionsteknik AB (Sweden).

Further Reading

Andrews, Walter, Johnson Matthey Planning Three Acquisitions, Electronic News, July 4, 1994, p. 50.

Cookson, Johnson Matthey Discontinue Merger Talks, Wall Street Journal, November 23, 1994, p. A11(W)/A9(E).

Dawkins, William, Principles of a Profitable Alliance, Financial Times, November 6, 1995, p. 14.

Gooding, Kenneth, Ceramics Superstars Aim High, Financial Times, August 18, 1995, p. 16.

How Johnson Matthey Kept Bankers Up from Dusk to Dawn, Economist, October 6, 1984.

Hunt, L. B., George Matthey and the Building of the Platinum Industry, Platinum Metals Review, April 1979.

Johnson Matthey, Investors Chronicle, December 2, 1994, p. 70.

Levine, Bernard, Johnson Matthey to Acquire Advance, Electronic News, August 21, 1995, p. 4.

McDonald, Donald, The Rise of Johnson, Matthey & Co. Ltd., in A History of Platinum, London: Johnson Matthey, 1961.

Tom C. B. Elliott

updated by David E. Salamie

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Johnson Matthey PLC

Johnson Matthey PLC

2-4 Cockspur Street
Trafalgar Square
London SW1Y 5BQ
United Kingdom
(071) 269-8400
Fax: (071) 269-8433

Public Company
Incorporated:
1891 as Johnson, Matthey & Co., Limited
Employees: 7,045
Sales: £1.73 billion (US$3.34 billion)
Stock Exchange: London

Johnson Matthey PLC has been involved in the processing and marketing of precious metals since its founding in 1817. It is most widely known for its activities in platinum, as a world leader in the refining, marketing, and technological development of the metal. Johnson Matthey is the leading manufacturer of auto-catalysts, which help break down noxious fumes from motor vehicle exhaust systems. The group also has diverse interests in the industrial and commercial use of other precious and rare-earth metals, with a significant presence in colors, dyes, and ceramics.

The founder of Johnson Matthey was Percival Johnson, who in 1817 set himself up at 79 Hatton Garden in Holborn, London, as an Assayer and Practical Mineralogist. As such, he valued gold by applying chemical and physical tests to determine the exact quantity of gold in a bar. Johnsons business rapidly gained distinction when be began to offer to buy back the bars of gold that he assayed, thereby becoming the first London assayer to offer a guarantee of quality. In the early 1830s a small gold refinery was built at the Hatton Garden premises for the refining and assaying of gold bars which were then coming into London from Brazil. These were complex gold bars, containing impurities which were not easy to remove. Having successfully extracted platinum group metals from the bars, Johnsons technical prowess established the firm at the forefront of the London bullion market. The firm took full advantage of the gold rushes of California, from 1848, and of Australia, from 1851, while supplies of silver arrived throughout the 1850s and 1860s in the form of demonetized silver coinagecoinage which had gone out of circulationfrom European states. A large-scale silver refinery was built at adjacent premises in Hatton Garden.

Johnsons interest in metallurgy had already brought him into contact with platinum, which had been the subject of considerable scientific interest throughout the early 19th century on account of its strength and resistance to corrosive acids. He set up a small-scale refinery for the metal at Hatton Garden, with limited supplies coming from Colombia.

In 1838 George Matthey joined the company as an apprentice. Mattheys scientific talents, coupled with a shrewd business sense, was the driving force behind the companys development in the platinum industry during the second half of the 19th century. When the Great Exhibition was first proposed, Matthey persuaded Johnson to exhibit a number of platinum articles, together with specimens of other platinum-group metals: palladium, iridium, and rhodium. The display was a success, and Matthey became determined to make the company pre-eminent in the platinum business. He succeeded in gaining a more assured supply of the metal through direct arrangements with owners of a mine in the Ural mountains in Russia, then a newly discovered source. In the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris, the company exhibited a wide variety of platinum-manufactured goods on a scale never seen before. The exhibit was awarded a gold medal for perfection and improvement in the working of platinum. Under Mattheys direction, platinum refining and fabricating grew from about 15,000 ounces in 1860 to about 75,000 ounces a year in the 1880s. The manufacturing of sulfuric acid boilers was the largest single use of platinum until the early 1900s. The diversity of the company was established from the beginning by Percival Johnson. From the chemical refining of gold, Johnson produced a range of vitreous colors for the glass and pottery industries. He became the first refiner of nickel in Britain, with nickel silver, popular as a silver plate. In 1833 production of silver nitrate began, its use being primarily for medical purposes in the form of lunar caustic. Over the following decades the development of photography generated considerable demand for silver nitrate.

By 1860 the year of Johnsons retirement, the companys present-day activities had been established: assaying and refining of bullion, platinum refining and marketing, the production of vitreous colors for glass and pottery manufacturers, and a constant experimentation and development of niche markets for other rare and precious metals. Hatton Garden remained the rather compact home of the refining, assaying, and experimental work so vital to the firms future. There was, in addition, a small workshop in Clerkenwell, used for the manufacture of platinum dishes, crucibles, and other laboratory instruments. Twenty-five people were employed in 1860, with a trio of partners who dominated the firms development over the next four decades: George Matthey, his younger brother Edward Matthey, and John SellonPercival Johnsons nephew. It was this trio, and their descendants, who were to dominate the companys development until the mid-20th century.

Over the next 50 years, technological and marketing progress coincided with a securing of supplies. Gold refining facilities were improved and expanded at Hatton Garden in response to the arrival of African gold, and the silver refinery received constant supplies of de-monetized coin from across Europe. The reputation of the assaying and chemical laboratories grew, and in the mid-1880s Johnson Matthey succeeded in establishing itself as the ultimate referee of assayers, and as a certifier of ore quality, of South African Rand gold. Platinum supplies were secured from Russia through the co-operation of the metals houses of Quennessen of France and Heraeus of Germany; together the three European companies dominated the world platinum trade through control of this source, and ignored demands from the tzar for a refinery to be built within Russia. In 1894 the cartel was formalized through the creation of an association named The Allied Houses. In 1911 Johnson Matthey signed an agreement with the Nicolai Pavdinsky Company in the Urals, which gave Johnson Matthey the rights to mine a substantial body of platinum-bearing ore in return for Johnson Matthey building a local refinery. Despite World War I, and the chaos caused by the overthrow of the tzar, the plant was in full operation by 1918. However, no platinum ever reached London. During this period Johnson Matthey promoted the use of platinum as a corrosive-resistant electric conductor, and when platinum prices rose above gold for the first time in the 1900s the company encouraged the interest of jewelers. When the market for sulfuric acid boilers died at the turn of the century, fresh demand had been built up in other sectors.

In 1898 the company expanded its service to jewelers by purchasing new rolling mills in nearby Hop Gardens; here silver and gold alloys were formed into sheet, wire, and tube semi-manufactured goods. The companys interest in colors had been boosted in the late 1870s when it gained the British and Empire marketing rights to a variety of industrial glazes, stains, and enamels, including so-called rolled gold, from the Roessler company of Frankfurt. Roessler was shortly renamed Degussa; the two companies have a history of close association that goes back to the 1860s. After initial skepticism, the Staffordshire potters took to the advanced colors and Johnson Matthey became an established supplier in that area. Meanwhile the companys interest in the rare and often novel metals was given a strong commercial footing with the 1870 acquisition of the Manchester-based Magnesium Metal Company. During the 40 years that followed, the Magnesium Metal Companys plant at Patricroft produced magnesium for flash photography and laboratory work, antimony for hardening bullet heads, vanadium for black dye and ink, and electrolytically-produced aluminum. It is thought that the statue of Eros in Londons Piccadilly Circusdedicated to the philanthropist seventh Earl of Shaftesburyis of aluminum made at the Patricroft works.

In 1891 the company became Johnson, Matthey & Co. Limited, a private limited company, and during the 1890s and 1910s an increasing amount of departmentalism took place as the sons and nephews of the ruling trio took over the responsibilities, and increasingly delegated power to trusted clerks and technical experts. It was at this point that a corporate policy was adopted that remains at the heart of the company still: only to take part in activities in which the company could dominate. When a products development fell out of the control of the company, Johnson Mattheys interests in it would be sold off.

During World War I Johnson Matthey established itself as an innovative developer of strategic materials, despite significant supply disruptions affecting most of the metals that the company dealt with. The company was able to satisfy the Allied demand for products such as platinum catalysts, with which to make sulfuric acid for explosives manufacturing, and magnesium powder, to make incendiary bombs for dropping on German airships. In 1916 the company was brought under the direct control of the government, and platinum catalysts and electrical and magneto contacts for cars, airplanes, and tanks were manufactured in a modernized platinum workshop. The company expanded its production of silver nitrate to meet the demands of the photographic industry, and in 1916 began manufacturing its own liquid gold. In 1918 the colors division was given a firm production base through acquisition of the Sneyd color works at Burslem. A Birmingham branch of Johnson Matthey was established in the same year to supply the citys jewelry trade, and the Sheffield silversmith E.W. Oakes & Co. Ltd. was purchased. Despite difficulties in obtaining supplies, demands of industry were met and at the end of the war the air ministry gave an official message of thanks to the company for its supplies of high precision equipment.

In 1918 John Sellon died. In order to secure a closer working relationship with the two South African mining houses that were of most significance to the companys gold activities, his shares in the company were offered in equal parts to Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa Ltd. and to the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company. This is the origin of the controlling stake held by the Anglo American Corporation today.

During the early 1920s the company faced considerable problems due to continued disruptions in the supply of precious metals. From 1922 the South Africans refined their own gold, while regular supplies of platinum from the Urals had failed to resume after the war despite the ingenious attempts of Arthur Coussmaker. Coussmaker was a platinum expert with Johnson Matthey, whose attempts to gain a secure supply of Russian platinum had involved deals with White Russian military forces and introducing himself at unexpected moments to Soviet officials in Western European cities. The difficulties of supply led to the early 1920s being a low point in the fortunes of Johnson Matthey. In 1924, however, Dr. Hans Merensky discovered the huge platinum-bearing reef in the South African Transvaal that bears his name today. Coussmaker, by then a board member, made an immediate trip to the Transvaal where he identified the Rustenburg area as the most promising part of the reef. Consolidated Goldfields of South Africa and Johannesburg Consolidated Investments had mines in the Rustenburg district, and after an initial platinum mine boom in the mid-1920s those were the only mines operating in the slump that followed. Coussmaker persuaded the two mining houses to merge their platinum interests, and in 1931 the Rustenburg Platinum Company was formed. Johnson Matthey became a refiner and distributor for what was, and remains, the worlds largest platinum mine. A smelting works and a electrolytic refinery were built at Brimsdown, in Essex, to extract the platinum metals according to a refining method established by Ernest Deering and Alan Powell of the Hatton Garden staff.

In 1919 Johnson Matthey joined N.M. Rothschilds bank and four other leading bullion brokers to form the London Gold Market, where a daily price-fixing still sets the price of gold. When gold supplies from South Africa ended, the sulfuric acid refinery at Hatton Garden was kept in operation through a constant stream of de-monetized silver from Central and Eastern Europe. Much of this came via the Silberfeld brothers, initially based in Riga, who throughout the inter-war period supplied Johnson Matthey with Russian Imperial coins and gold rubles, and with silver Maria Theresa coins from an office in Vienna. The company established branches in Warsaw and Prague, and came to own 75% of the Bank Powszechny Depozytowy in Poland.

Johnson Mattheys manufacturing capacity in this period was boosted by the acquisition in the early 1920s of the metal fabricating firm of R. Buckland & Son Ltd., and manufacturer of semi-manufactured products. In 1925 Johnson and Sons Smelting Works Ltd. of Brimsdown, Middlesex, was acquired. This was a sweeps, scrap and residue, refinery business that had been set up originally in the mid-19th century by a brother of Percival Johnson. During the 1930s the bullion refining and smelting operations were rationalized, the colors section was strengthened by a full-time research department, and a team of enterprising salesmen crossed Europe in motor cars.

At the outbreak of World War II Johnson Matthey was appointed government agent for the control and handling of platinum stocks, and manufactured items of the material grew in response to the rising demand. Products included electrical fine wires, electrodes, aircraft spark plugs, laboratory crucibles, and wire gauze catalysts for the preparation of nitric acid. Demand for platinum with a high iridium content led to Coussmakers establishment of a refinery in Pennsylvania, where concentrates from Alaskan deposits were turned into contact tips for auto-magnets.

While bullion trade was severely limited by Bank of England supervision, and jewelry sales were almost forbidden, industrial demandespecially from photographic related industrieswas strong for silver-based products. Some special uses of silver compounds included the manufacture of silver ball bearings for airplane engines, and desalination packs that enabled ditched airmen, or shipwrecked sailors, to survive on sea water. Bomb damage during the blitz of autumn 1940 resulted in the Brimsdown smelting works being put out of action temporarily, and the entire contents of the company museum and archive collection were destroyed.

With the end of the war came a period of rapid overseas growth for the company, much of it having been prepared from the early 1940s in expectation of a postwar boom. Representatives were sent around the world to study competitors, examine suppliers, and to establish new markets. Operations in North America, South Africa, Australia, and India were expanded as a result, with growth in Europe taking place later with the establishment of subsidiaries in France and the Netherlands in 1956, Italy in 1959, Sweden in 1960, Belgium in 1961, and Austria in 1962. Developments at home moved at an equally rapid pace: two colors factories in Staffordshire were opened immediately after the war, and in 1951 the colors section acquired Universal Transfers Co. Ltd. Johnson Matthey was now a market leader in the manufacture of color pigments and screen-printed transfers for the pottery and glass industries. In 1953 the Harlow Metal Co. Ltd. was formed to merge the companys mechanical production interests, and in 1957 a new platinum refinery was built at Royston which brought together the companys refining operations. In 1954 Universal Matthey Products Ltd. was formed, to produce platinum catalysts for U.S. manufacturers of high-octane petrol. Enthusiasm by the North American auto industry for catalytic converters encouraged Johnson Matthey to conduct extensive research on the auto catalyst during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962 L.B. Hunt was appointed director of research at new purpose-built laboratories at Wembley.

In 1963 Blythe Colours, based in Stoke-on-Trent, was acquired. This brought to Johnson Matthey an extended range of industrial colors, a worldwide network of agents, and a strong North European section based in the Netherlands. A consolidation of bullion activity took place during the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in the formation of Johnson Matthey Bankers Ltd. (JMB). Representing Johnson Matthey on the London gold market, JMB traded in the gold, silver, and precious metals produced by Johnson Matthey subsidiaries around the world.

A major reorganization of the company took place in 1966 and 1967, with the establishment of four divisions within which all the companys activities and subsidiaries were placed. These were the jewelry and allied traders division (J.A.T.); the chemical division; the industrial division; and the ceramic division. A mechanical production unit was established to cater to the production needs of the four divisions. In 1969 expansion into Asia culminated with the establishment of Tanaka Matthey KK, a joint venture company with Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo KK of Japan. Japan is a major consumer of platinum jewelry, and the joint venture has enabled Johnson Matthey to dominate the market there.

The 1970s were a decade of organic growth, with few acquisitions taking place. In 1980, however, a significant move into the U.S. jewelry tradea business that was unfamiliar to the companyled to losses estimated at over £60 million and in 1981 the board looked to JMB to help make up the loss. JMB had done well from the spectacular rise in bullion activity that had accompanied the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, and pressure was placed on the subsidiary to expand out of bullion-related loans and into high-risk lending in areas with which it was unfamiliar. The banks loan book expanded, from £50 million at the end of 1981 to some £500 million by March 1984, with its contribution to group profits going from just under 25% in 1981 to over 60% in 1983. However, by late 1983 the Bank of England had begun to suspect the quality of some of the loans. In the summer of 1984 their suspicions extended to cover the accounting practices of Arthur Young. In September 1984 the full extent of the bad loans taken on by JMB became apparent, and the Bank of England organized a bailout by JMBs creditors, shareholders, and U.K. clearing and merchant banks. The Bank of England purchased JMB for a token £1. The collapse of JMB was a disaster: in the words of The Economist, October 6, 1984, The Johnson Matthey Parent Company lost its shirt, [and] its shareholders a lot of money. In 1981 Johnson, Matthey & Co. Ltd. officially changed its name to Johnson Matthey PLC.

Charter Consolidated, effectively the holding company for Anglo Americans interests in Johnson Matthey, found itself with a 38% stake in the group as a result of its assistance in the bailout of JMB, and sent in its own man, Neil Clarke, to become Johnson Mattheys chairman. In June 1985 Clarke appointed Gene Anderson as chief executive. Over the next five years the company was transformed, with £70 million of disposals made over the next two years, including an interest acquired in Wembley Stadium. The work force was cut significantly while profits doubled to £64 million between 1986 and 1989. Seventy-four semi-autonomous companies, loosely grouped into divisions, but many legally distinct and with their own boards, were reorganized into four operating divisions. These are the catalytic systems division, which includes automotive exhaust and industrial air pollution control systems; the materials technology division, which combines the groups rare-earth, pharmaceutical, and special materials interests; the precious metals division, which acts as the sole marketing agency for Rustenburg Platinum and that controls the groups gold and silver marketing and refining businesses; and the color and print division that ties together the groups industrial colors and printing businesses. Investment in new plant and research was expanded, and in 1990 a new autocatalyst production plant was opened in Belgium to meet anticipated European demand. Research into the medical possibilities of platinum-based drugs was boosted, with cancer and HIV-fighting drugs developed.

In December 1989 Anderson resigned after failing to persuade the board to expand into nonplatinum areas. The proposed move would have diluted Anglo Americans shareholding in Johnson Matthey through a share issue, and moved Johnson Matthey away from an increasing reliance on the Rustenburg mine. In testing the resolve of the South Africans, Anderson confirmed their control over the group. Almost immediately after Anderson resigned, Clarke also resigned. David Davies, Charters deputy chairman, was transferred to become Johnson Mattheys chairman.

Johnson Matthey established itself in its principal activity of trading and marketing precious metals in the lifetime of its founder, Percival Johnson. The company has grown from being a bullion and precious metals assayer and refiner, to becoming a major producer of precious metal industrial materials. Together, George Matthey and Arthur Coussmaker dominate the history of the platinum business of the company, which today dominates the companys activities.

The broad range of its activities has traditionally been the key to the companys success. When supplies of, or demand for, a particular metal dried up, there was usually an alternative activity ready for expansion. Such opportunity sometimes led to an unjustified expansion into business the company knew little aboutwitness JMBbut technological and marketing skills have in the past allowed the company to be a leading player in several activities at any one time, allowing mistakes to be rectified quickly. However, the reliance on platinum-based business for three-quarters of its sales runs contrary to the tradition of diversity. While the medium-term outlook for platinum-based products is good, the company risks becoming a mere downstream unit of the Rustenburg Platinum Mine, if it fails to expand its other activities in line with platinum.

Principal Subsidiaries

Johnson Matthey Limited (Australia); SA Johnson Matthey NV (Belgium); Johnson Matthey Limited (Canada); Matthey Beyrand & Cie SA (France, 80%); Blythe Colours BV (Netherlands); Metalli Preziosi SpA (Italy); Johnson Matthey Inc. (U.S.A.)

Further Reading

McDonald, Donald, The Rise of Johnson, Matthey & Co. Ltd., in A History of Platinum, London, Johnson Matthey, 1961; Hunt, L.B., George Matthey and the Building of the Platinum Industry, Platinum Metals Review, April 1979; How Johnson Matthey kept bankers up from dusk to dawn, The Economist, October 6, 1984.

Tom C.B. Elliott

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