Christian Salvesen PLC traces its origins to a partnership named Salvesen and Turnbull, set up in 1846. Christian Salvesen joined the partnership after he came over from Mandal, Norway in 1851. Later, in 1872, Christian left the partnership and set up Christian Salvesen & Co based in Leith near Edinburgh, Scotland. Initially the company operated as shipping and forwarding agents
, shipbrokers and timber merchants.
In the early 1900s, the company developed significant interests in whaling, initially in the Arctic, and then in the Antarctic. They operated from a base at Leith Harbour on the island of South Georgia, South West of the Falkland Islands. In the years 1950-1962 the whaling ships Southern Harvester and Southern Venturer belonged to the company. These ships where floating factories, and the core of a whaling expedition. Each expedition consisted of a floating factory, and about ten whale-catchers.
One of the company's whale-catchers, Southern Actor, now lies at the whaling museum in Sandefjord, Norway, and is preserved as a floating museum ship.
Salvesen exited the whaling industry in 1963 and reinvented itself as a major European transport and logistics company. In 1985, after many very successful enterepreneurial years, the company went public as a diversified industrial group, with interests in shipping, brick manufacture, housebuilding, cold storage and distribution and generator hire. As a public company the business focussed on european logistics, buying Swift Transport Services in 1993. The non-logistics businesses were sold during this period. In 2001 the company had 13,630 employees worldwide and annual sales of £830 million.
S alvesen have had a torrid time since the early 1990s. A potential take-over by Hays plc in 1996 which could have valued the shares in the 350-400p range did not result in a formal offer. This did however lead to the spin-off of the generator hire business, Aggreko plc in 1997 and the arrival of a new Chief Executive, Edward Roderick, a robust toward rude Scouser who lead the business until his sacking in 2004. During this period a Swedish investor Custos discussed buying the company, and yet again no formal offer was issued to shareholders.
In 2004 a merger was proposed with Tdg plc but this failed largely it seems to the pre-merger positioning of key executives from both companies. Today Salvesen is a financial shadow of its former self, a share price in the low 70p's level needing to pay proportionally large and unaffordable dividends to its shareholders. It does however remain one of the UK and Western Europe's major logistics companies with a reputation for sound operations and robust IT systems.