Haw Par Brothers International Limited was incorporated and listed in 1969. It was named after the Aw brothers – Boon Haw and Boon Par who created Tiger Balm in the early 1900s, the flagship business of Haw Par. 'Haw' and 'Par' mean "tiger" and "leopard" in the Chinese dialect. The Company's name was changed to Haw Par Corporation Limited in 1997.
Pre - 1969
Legend from a Jar - The Story of Haw ParOur story goes back to the 19th century.
The history of the legendary brothers Haw (胡文虎) and Par (胡文豹) and the origins of their genius traced back to Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar), where it all began.
Their father, Aw Chu Kin (胡子钦), the young son of a herbalist in Xiamen, Fujian Province, left for Rangoon in the 1800s to seek his fortune. In Rangoon, he set up his own physician practice and apothecary shop and founded Eng Aun Tong(永安堂), or the Hall of Everlasting Peace, and started a family.
Boon Haw, the "gentle tiger" and Boon Par, the "gentle leopard"
Boon Haw, the "gentle tiger", born in 1882, was educated in China, and Boon Par, the "gentle" leopard", born in 1888, studied in an English language school in British colonial Burma.
In 1908, Chu Kin died, leaving the family practice to Boon Par. The gentle leopard, finding the responsibility too much to bear, later asked for his older brother's return from China to carry on the family business in Rangoon.
"I will learn all I can about Western medicine, you can prescribe Chinese medicine. Together we won't lose a single patient. He can choose between east and west and the fee will stay with us," Boon Par said to Boon Haw.
On this astute promise, the brothers Haw and Par built an empire and a legendary fortune out of a formula for a cure-all ointment sold in a little jar.
Origins of the Tiger Balm formula
The origins of that formula can be traced back to the times of the Chinese emperors who sought relief for aches and pains from the stresses of court hearings. The balm would have died with the dynasties had it not been for Aw Chu Kin, who breathed new life into the ancient recipe.
To perfect their late father's recipe, the sons took over their mother's kitchen. Boon Par, the quiet leopard, toiled whilst Boon Haw, the gregarious tiger, organised. Together they produced "Ban Kim Ewe" (万金油), Ten Thousand Golden Oils, a panacea for all ills. No customer left the Aw apothecary without a little bottle of this golden ointment. True to the Tiger's predatory instincts, Boon Haw sought out every Chinese shop in town and talked them into stocking his salve.
Boon Haw ventured south to Malaya and Singapore
Boon Haw's next logical step was a trademark: what else but his own name, and Tiger Balm was born. By 1920 Aw Boon Haw, not yet 40, was the richest Chinese in Rangoon. Ever the risk taker, Boon Haw ventured south to Malaya and Singapore. The sights and sounds of bustling commerce in the Malayan towns and Singapore's port made his heart beat fast and his head race. Studying the Singapore currency he saw the image of a snarling tiger in the watermark. That clinched it.
The Tiger tycoon moved into Singapore in 1926 and Eng Aun Tong found a spanking new home in the busiest port in the region. A new and larger factory was built along Neil Road where production was ten times more than that of Rangoon. Aw Boon Haw plied small towns in Malaya in his custom-made car which had a head fabricated like a tiger and a honk that roared. When the kampong folks crowded around, he would distribute samples of Tiger Balm and its sister products and win still more customers.
The Passing of an Era
A new mansion, Haw Par Villa, was built on a hill in Pasir Panjang surrounded by unique gardens depicting Chinese mythology for the younger, quieter Boon Par in 1937. Also known as Tiger Balm Gardens, it was open to the public.1
With factories and distributorships firmly established in Malaya, Hong Kong, Batavia (Jakarta), cities in China and Thailand, and with wealth and status long achieved, Boon Haw next channelled his energy into diversification, which would include publishing (Sin Poh, publisher of the Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh) and banking(Chung Khiaw Bank).
Boon Par died in Burma in 1944 while Boon Haw died in 1954 at the age of 72 from a heart attack on his way to Hong Kong following a major operation in Boston. Boon Par's son, Aw Cheng Chye, assumed control of the family business. In 1969, most of the family businesses went into a company that was listed on the stock exchanges of Singapore and Malaya as Haw Par Brothers International Limited.21 In 1988, the Singapore Tourism Board took over the running of the Tiger Balm Gardens and renamed it Haw Par Villa.
2 Haw Par Brothers International Limited was later renamed Haw Par Corporation Limited in 1997.
The Incorporation and Listing of Haw Par Brothers International Limited
On 18 July 1969, Haw Par Brothers International Limited* was incorporated by the second generation Aw family who founded Tiger Balm. Trading in Haw Par shares started in November 1969 on the Stock Exchange of Malaysia and Singapore. Amongst the businesses included in the Haw Par Brothers International public-listed company were: Tiger Balm, as well as substantial stakes in Sin Poh (Star News) – publisher of the Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh, the well-networked Chung Khiaw Bank Limited, and a portfolio of quoted investments and properties. Thirty-three million shares were issued at $1 per share.
*The Company's name was changed to Haw Par Corporation Limited in 1997
The Slater Walker Saga – A Company in CrisisIn June 1971, Slater Walker, a British investment group, gained control of Haw Par. This marked the start of five years of high-profile corporate manoeuvres which made Haw Par the fifth largest company on the local stock exchange. In England, Slater Walker was known for its asset stripping activities. Coupled with its agenda to buy and sell assets and quoted companies for profit, one of its first actions was to divest Haw Par's major operating businesses, including Sin Poh (Star News) and Chung Khiaw Bank. It was also during this time that Tiger Balm in main Asia markets was out-licensed to Jack Chia Group for a period of 20 years, for a modest annual income of S$2 million plus a share of the profit. Kwan Loong, acquired in 1972, was similarly out-licensed for 20 years.
The Near CollapseFinanced by proceeds from its asset-stripping activities and fuelled by a bullish stock market, Haw Par executed a number of acquisitions, including Scott and English and Drug Houses of Australia. By 1974, Haw Par had emerged as a major conglomerate in Asia, with interests in pharmaceuticals, trading, insurance, property, tin mining, oil palm, marine and investment banking. It had substantial holdings in companies listed on the stock exchanges of Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and England. The heady days of the early 1970s would come to an end with the stock market crash in 1973. Haw Par shares went on a rollercoaster ride. This finally culminated in the uncovering of massive accounts irregularities during the Slater Walker period by the authorities and the near-collapse of Haw Par in 1975. Former Haw Par chairman, Richard Tarling, was sentenced to jail.
Putting the House in OrderIn 1975, as Haw Par emerged from the Slater Walker saga in tatters, the Government of Singapore had to intervene. A new board, headed by Michael Fam and including industry leaders such as UOB Chairman Wee Cho Yaw, was formed to put the house in order. The new Board carried out the painful process of selling off loss-making businesses. No dividends were paid between 1975 and 1978.
In 1978, Wee Cho Yaw was appointed as Chairman. He put in place a new leadership team and consolidated the business.
New Management, New DirectionsNot one to allow the grass to grow under his feet, Chairman Wee Cho Yaw injected new businesses into the Company. To build up new sources of recurrent earnings, Haw Par acquired Setron Limited in 1979 to produce television sets and held a majority stake in a joint venture with Sony Corporation of Japan to market its full range of products in Singapore and Malaysia. Haw Par returned to profitability in 1979 and a dividend of 7% was declared for the first time in four years. As the Company entered the 1980s, investor confidence in Haw Par returned.
In 1981, an important move was made. With rapid recovery and improved profitability, Haw Par had become an attractive asset, leading to a bid for control of the Company. UOB headed by Wee Cho Yaw emerged victorious in a three way corporate battle amongst UOB, Hong Leong Group and Jack Chia Group. Haw Par became an associate company of UOB. The new stewards were determined to rebuild the Company.
Growing from Strength to StrengthThe 1980s through 1990s were important years for Haw Par. Under Wee Cho Yaw's leadership, Haw Par had become a well-managed company that grew from strength to strength. In many ways, Haw Par Group's journey during this period closely mirrored that of Singapore's progress and economic development. Haw Par ventured into new businesses and partnerships, launched innovative new products, and drove sales of existing products. Together these laid the foundations for the Company's growth and transformation into a professionally-managed conglomerate with a diversified portfolio of global businesses, encompassing financial services and investments, property, pharmaceuticals, consumer electronics and information technology, industrial and engineering, shipping, textiles, travel, sports and leisure. A strong commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation, market leadership and pragmatism underpins the Group's significant milestones and achievements over the decades.
Investment & Financial ServicesHaw Par owned substantial investment assets and invested in a portfolio of financial services, including merchant banking; insurance, through Malayan Motor and General Underwriters and United Insurance Corporation; and, Haw Par Trading & Haw Par Countertrade, covering commodities, textiles, technical and building materials.
PropertyHaw Par owned and managed industrial, commercial and residential properties in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
PharmaceuticalsHaw Par manufactured and marketed products under its own brands – Tiger Balm and Kwan Loong – in territories not covered by the 1971 out-license agreement with Jack Chia Group and generic pharmaceuticals by its subsidiary Drug Houses of Australia (Asia) (DHA) in Southeast Asia.
In 1988, Haw Par's pharmaceutical business was transferred to a new subsidiary, *Tiger Balm Ltd, and listed on the Stock Exchange of Singapore. Haw Par continued to hold a 75% stake in the subsidiary. The purpose of this move was to give this major division a higher public profile in the market place, both locally and internationally, and provide it with greater flexibility to expand its operations.
Sports BrandsHaw Par entered the sports and leisure industry with the acquisition of the sports group, Robertson Wilson, and began to market and distribute sports equipment, sportswear and accessories. It was the distributor for major brands including Nike and Head. Haw Par also operated a golf pro shop retail chain and a sports consultancy focused on construction of sports facilities.
IndustrialHaw Par established its presence in the engineering and industrial sectors through its associated company, Scott & English. The Group provided core services, equipment and technical support for Cummins Engines, which were utilised by hospitals and waterworks for power generation. It also distributed equipment from brands such as Marathon, Smith Meters, Kubota, and Thorn, for lighting for airports and shipyards, and was in the die-casting business.
Computer Products & ServicesResponding to Asia's demand for IT services, Haw Par's Asian Computer Services (ACS) operated a data processing bureau utilising IBM mainframes to support clients in Southeast Asia. It provided hardware and software products and services, such as the McCormack & Dodge financial accounting systems, IBM personal computers and NEC printers, and ran the ACS-Deltak Training Centre.
Consumer ElectronicsHaw Par assembled and distributed television sets and other appliances under its own brand – Setron – in Asia, and represented brands like Sony in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei; and Sanyo in Indonesia.
TravelTravel services – including car hires and tours – were offered through Haw Par Travel, an IATA licensed travel agency; Haw Par Holidays; and Budget Rent a Car. Haw Par also provided services as the appointed General Sales Agent for Delta Airlines.
TextilesHaw Par's textile operations in Hong Kong included Ying Tai, which manufactured high quality garments under buyers' labels for export to North America; Mandarin, which designed and exported fashion collections to Europe; and Dynasty Salons, which retailed high fashion garments in Hong Kong and Singapore.
ShippingHaw Par owned, chartered and operated a fleet of mini-bulk carriers and small crafts.
Growing from Strength to StrengthThe 1980s through 1990s were important years for Haw Par. Under Wee Cho Yaw's leadership, Haw Par had become a well-managed company that grew from strength to strength. In many ways, Haw Par Group’s journey during this period closely mirrored that of Singapore’s progress and economic development. Haw Par ventured into new businesses and partnerships, launched innovative new products, and drove sales of existing products. Together these laid the foundations for the Company’s growth and transformation into a professionally-managed conglomerate with a diversified portfolio of global businesses, encompassing financial services and investments, property, pharmaceuticals, consumer electronics and information technology, industrial and engineering, shipping, textiles, travel, sports and leisure. A strong commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation, market leadership and pragmatism underpins the Group’s significant milestones and achievements over the decades.
Investment & Financial ServicesHaw Par managed its own investment in securities and extended its portfolio by offering merchant banking and commodity trading services.
PropertyHaw Par owned and managed commercial and industrial properties in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia.
PharmaceuticalsIn 1992, the 20-year out-license agreement with Jack Chia Group for Tiger Balm and Kwan Loong in the Asian markets expired, and Haw Par regained worldwide control of its two brands across all markets. Haw Par embarked on the rebranding of Tiger Balm to appeal to new and younger consumers, and began to expand its product range.
Distribution coverage of generic pharmaceuticals under Drug Houses of Australia (Asia) (DHA) was extended to across Asia.
Sports & LeisureThe breadth of Haw Par's sports business grew with new investments in the leisure industry: oceanariums (Underwater World Singapore, Dolphin Lagoon, L'Aquarium in Barcelona), bowling centres (joint venture with Brunswick Bowling & Billiards – Golden Bowl in Malaysia and China), and, PGF Golf Driving Range and School in Singapore. It also acquired the PGF Australia/New Zealand brands and distributor rights for Adidas, Prince and Wimbledon amongst others.
IndustrialHaw Par's business grew to include DHP Aviation, which provided maintenance services for fixed and rotary aircrafts and Boeing 737 (Asia), and was distributor for Petroleum Helicopters and Astra Jet. United Sembawang Enterprises and Sharikat National also came under the Group's wings to provide essential building materials and technical equipment.
IT ServicesHaw Par's expanded portfolio included the provision of PC network integration and enterprise resource planning applications; and, the sales and distribution of computer hardware and software, such as PAYMaster, StaffMaster, TRADEMaster and Newtech Business Systems.
TravelHaw Par Travel addressed new opportunities in the tourism and leisure sectors.
TextilesHaw Par designed, manufactured and exported high fashion garments through Ying Tai and Mandarin Collections.
Growing from Strength to StrengthThe 1980s through 1990s were important years for Haw Par. Under Wee Cho Yaw’s leadership, Haw Par had become a well-managed company that grew from strength to strength. In many ways, Haw Par Group’s journey during this period closely mirrored that of Singapore’s progress and economic development. Haw Par ventured into new businesses and partnerships, launched innovative new products, and drove sales of existing products. Together these laid the foundations for the Company’s growth and transformation into a professionally-managed conglomerate with a diversified portfolio of global businesses, encompassing financial services and investments, property, pharmaceuticals, consumer electronics and information technology, industrial and engineering, shipping, textiles, travel, sports and leisure. A strong commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation, market leadership and pragmatism underpins the Group’s significant milestones and achievements over the decades.
InvestmentHaw Par managed its own portfolio of securities.
PropertyHaw Par owned and managed commercial and industrial properties in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
HealthcareHaw Par continued to build its Healthcare business by investing in its established brands – Tiger Balm and Kwan Loong – and generic pharmaceuticals under Drug Houses of Australia (Asia) (DHA).
In 2003, Haw Par Healthcare Ltd was privatised to enable Haw Par to gain better efficiency in the utilisation of management resources. Operations were streamlined to achieve greater business efficiency and effectiveness.
LeisureWith a view to expanding its oceanarium business in Asia, Haw Par launched the Underwater World Pattaya in Thailand and the Chengdu Haw Par Oceanarium in China.
IndustrialScott & English focused on providing power generator sets and was the authorised Generator Set Original Equipment Manufacturer (GOEM) for engine manufacturers including Cummins (USA) and Deutz (Germany).
2010s and Beyond
TransformationFrom a Diversified Conglomerate into a Multinational Group with Focused Strategic Investments
Not many companies can survive the test of time. That Haw Par survived a near collapse in the 1970s and emerged unscathed from macro financial crises and economic downturns was due in large part to the strict financial discipline introduced by Chairman Wee Cho Yaw and the management team.
As Singapore's economy evolved, so did Haw Par. Over the years, the management continued to steer the Group to explore and invest in value-added sectors and new growth areas, while divesting businesses in industries that were no longer relevant. New businesses brought in not just new income streams, but also added new core competence to the existing stable of businesses.
If the 1980s was a decade of diversification, then the 1990s – 2000s was a period of focused expansion. From a conglomerate with diversified interests, Haw Par had sharpened its focus. In 2002, UOB divested Haw Par shares to less than 10% to comply with the new MAS regulation requiring local banks to limit their non-banking assets and distributed in specie Haw Par shares to all its shareholders. Being the largest shareholder of UOB, Wee Cho Yaw emerged as the key shareholder of Haw Par.
Today, Haw Par is a multinational public company with operating businesses in consumer healthcare and leisure sectors as well as investments in properties and securities. Leveraging on its financial strength and global business network, the Group is well placed in its strategic direction to further expand its portfolio of operating businesses and drive growth through alliances with multinational partners and acquisitions of complementary brands and compelling business platforms. Health and Wellness continues to be a priority area for Haw Par, spearheaded by Tiger Balm.
Investment & PropertyHaw Par holds significant investments in securities and properties.
HealthcareHaw Par manufactures and markets healthcare products under its consumer healthcare brands — Tiger Balm and Kwan Loong. Tiger Balm is the largest contributor to the healthcare business and continues to expand its product offerings in key markets.
LeisureHaw Par owns and operates Underwater World Pattaya in Thailand.
In 2016, Underwater World Singapore ended its operations due to the expiry of its lease on Sentosa Island.