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British Industrial History

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Burmah Oil Co

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of 175 West George Street, Glasgow (1908)

of Britannic House, Finsbury Circus, London, EC2 (1937)

Manufacturers and suppliers in Great Britain.

Carrying on business as producers, refiners, exporters and dealers in oil, paraffin wax, candles, and other oil products.

1876 David Sime Cargill, after visiting Burma, purchased the Glasgow-based Rangoon Oil Co Ltd, which had failed because the King of Upper Burma was using his monopoly power to overcharge for crude oil found in his territory.

Over the next ten years Cargill supported the loss-making refining and distribution activities from his own pocket, to the extent of £100,000.

1883 The Burmah Oil Company was registered to work concessions of oil-bearing lands in Burma and carry on business as refiners, exporters and dealers in oil products[1]

1886 After the Third Burmese War, the British authorities annexed Upper Burma, and granted Cargill prospecting licences in the oilfields there. Cargill introduced machine drilling and had the Rangoon refinery modernized to cope with the increased production.

1886 Cargill's Glasgow associates were highly sceptical about the company's prospects.

1888 Company floated by Cargill having raised a further £40,000.[2]

1900 The company gained a silver medal at the Paris Exhibition in the chemistry and pharmacy section[3]

1902 The company was registered on 15 May, to take over a company of the same name. [4]. It became a public company[5]

1904 The company demonstrated the value of Cargill's decisions by making £264,000 net profit and selling more than 2 million barrels of oil products, two-thirds of which comprised the cheap kerosene which kept Burmese and Indian lamps burning.

1905 John Cargill, David's son, contracted with the Admiralty to supply the Royal Navy with fuel oil from Rangoon. These dealings with Whitehall led to his company's being asked to support further exploration work by William D'Arcy's team in Persia.

Ultimately D'Arcy surrendered his interest in the whole venture, in return for 170,000 Burmah shares and the reimbursement of all his expenses.

1910 Burmah Oil staff with experience of refineries went to Abbadan Island to assist with the construction of the Anglo-Persian Oil Co's refinery[6]

1932 30th AGM was told that the Indian government was using the oil industry as a tax collector in the way that petroleum products were being taxed. Associated companies were the Assam Oil Co and the Tinplate Co of India as well as the Burmah-Shell Oil Storage and Distribution Co. Had made investments in the refinery. Holdings in Anglo-Persian Oil Co and Shell Transport and Trading continued to generate dividends[7].

1934 Opened refinery at Ellesmere Port[8].

1937 Producers and marketers of petroleum products. [9]

1942 The Japanese invaded Burma; the company's employees, on orders from Head Office, destroyed all of the productive assets in Burma, to deny them to the invading armies.

1952 Held some shares in Oil Well Engineering Co as a trading investment

1962 Acquired Lobitos Oilfields

By 1963 owned the Barton refinery, Manchester

1965 Discussions continued with the government about compensation for the assets in Burma lost during the war.

1966 Burmah Oil Co acquired Castrol Ltd [10].

1967 The name Burmah-Castrol was introduced for industrial products[11].

c.1968 Acquired Rawlplug, which became part of the Industrial Products division.

1969 Acquired Major and Co, maker of Solignum wood preservative[12]

1972 Took-over Quinton Hazell, which would be complementary to the existing businesses Castrol and Halfords suppliers of automotive products and goods[13]

1972 The company owned 22 percent of BP as well as substantial holdings in Shell and Woodside-Burmah, giving the company substantial interests in oil and gas exploration and production; arguably the value of the other businesses was not reflected in the share price[14]

1972 Closed the Barton, Manchester, refinery; the Ellesmere Port refinery continued to operate[15]

1973 Acquired J. H. Carruthers and Co of East Kilbride, maker of electric travelling cranes[16]

1975 As part of a rescue deal, partly caused by losses in the tanker business, the purchase of Signal Oil and the cost of N Sea investments, the government acquired most of the company's holding in BP shares; the company also sold some of its Shell shares[17]

1982 Burmah announced its intention to sell Quinton Hazell and acquire Croda International, the speciality chemicals group[18]

1985 Had sold some parts of Quinton Hazell[19]

1986 Sold several subsidiaries which were non-core: the chain of automotive cash and carry wholesalers to its management (Maccess Ltd); the oil and gas interests; Quinton Hazell, the Burma oil terminal and Rawlplug[20]

1990 The company was renamed Burmah-Castrol[21]

2000 Burmah-Castrol was acquired by BP Amoco.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Jul 24, 1903
  2. The Times, Jun 04, 1932
  3. The Times Aug 18, 1900
  4. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  5. The Times Jul 24, 1903
  6. The Times Jul 26, 1910
  7. The Times , Jun 04, 1932
  8. The Times, 19 November 1973
  9. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  10. The Times, 28 October 1966
  11. The Times, Jul 18, 1969
  12. The Times, Mar 21, 1969
  13. The Times, Jul 28, 1972
  14. The Times, Nov 30, 1972
  15. The Times, Mar 28, 1972
  16. The Times, May 26, 1973
  17. The Times, Jan 24, 1975
  18. The Times, Jan 15, 1982
  19. The Times, Sep 13, 1985
  20. The Times, August 12, 1986
  21. The Times, July 03, 1990
  • Biography of David Sime Cargill, ODNB