The Oldest Companies In the World By Country

A company needs staying power to survive in the cutthroat world of business, as keeping a commercial operation open is not easy: 75 percent of new businesses survive the first year; 69 percent of new businesses are still serving customers after the first two years; and 50 percent of new businesses stay in operation through five years, according to the Bureau of Labor of the United States

The Oldest Companies In the World By Country

…and the odds of successfully keeping a business open to customers these days are reduced due to the unique circumstances of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — and yet, companies do exist around the world which have survived through wars, natural disasters, economic devastation, changing trends, vacillating demand by customers, and health crises. Which companies withstood the test of time and stayed in continuous operation for centuries — never mind years or decades?

To help celebrate the concept of business and its contributions to our evolution as a society, a series of maps by both geography and industry has been created; and this article from BusinessFinancing.co.uk contains the arguably definitive list of the oldest companies in almost every country in the world which are still currently in operation — as well as some fascinating stories which illuminate the histories of each continent. I have been given express written permission to use the images and the verbatim text from the aforementioned article in this article.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

The map shown above is classified by country; while the map shown below is classified by industry. All of the maps in this article follow this format.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

The average lifespan of a company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was approximately 60 years back in the 1960s. That number is currently closer to 20 years, reports Fortune — yet some firms have managed to thrive for centuries and even millennia. Take a look at 10 of the world’s oldest companies that are still operating today — and note that some of them are also among the oldest restaurants in the world.

YEAR COUNTRY COMPANY NAME INDUSTRY
578 Japan Kongō Gumi Construction company
803 Austria St. Peter Stifts Kulinarium Restaurant
862 Germany Staffelter Hof Winery
864 France Monnaie de Paris Mint
886 England The Royal Mint Mint
900 Ireland Sean’s Bar Pub
1040 Italy Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli Bell foundry
1074 Belgium Affligem Brewery Brewery
1135 Denmark Munke Mølle Mill
1153 China Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House Restaurant

Europe

Located in the walls of St Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, St. Peter Stifts Kulinarium opened in 803 and remains the oldest restaurant in Europe that you can still eat in. The inn is rumoured to have served Christopher Columbus, Johann Georg Faust, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A short leap forward in time and over the border to neighboring Germany, you’ll find Staffelter Hof Winery, a winery established in 862.

It‘s not all food and drink though: money is another perennial concern! Slovakia’s Kremnica Mint commenced trading in 1328, when the land was under the rule of the Kingdom of Hungary. France’s longest-running business is also a mint: Monnaie de Paris, established in 864. Monnaie de Paris has moved with the times, producing Francs and then Euros — and even producing German currency during the Nazi occupation.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

North America

North America is home to businesses dating back to the 16th century. The oldest company still in business is La Casa de Moneda de México, a mint established in 1534 in Mexico. Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza founded the national mint of Mexico by decree from the Spanish Crown, and it became the first mint in the Americas. The mint’s coins circulated widely and became the basis of many modern currencies, including the United States dollar, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan.

Edward Hill raised a farm on Shirley Plantation beginning in 1638, and his descendants still occupy and manage the land and business today. The plantation itself dates back to 1613, making it the oldest in Virginia. The ranch still operates as a plantation but is also open to the public, and features the only Queen Anne-style architectural details to still exist in North America.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

South America

The Casa de Moneda de Colombia (Spanish for Colombian mint) is a Colombian currency museum based in the city of Bogotá. It was founded in 1621 and remains South America’s oldest company to still be in business. In 1694, The Casa da Moneda do Brasil, was founded to provide Brazil with its own coinage — until then, most of the coins in circulation had been brought in by foreigners.

Hurtling forward into the 19th century, 1811 to be exact, and we have FAMAE — Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército (“Factories and Workshops of the Army”). FAMAE is a Chilean state-owned firearms manufacturer, making weapons for use by the Chilean armed forces and the local police. Argentina’s longest-surviving business opened 11 years later. The Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires, or Banco Provincia, is a publicly-owned bank, the second-largest in the nation.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Asia

Asia is home to the oldest still-functioning business in the world: a construction company named Kongo Gumi. In 578 Buddhism was on the rise in Japan; but the Japanese had no experience in building temples. The royal family invited a renowned Korean temple builder, Shigemitsu Kongo, to construct the country’s first government temple. Shigemitsu stayed to maintain the building and passed his unprecedented knowledge of the art down the line, so that 14 centuries later temple-building still accounted for 80% of the Kongo Gumi’s US$60m business. With mounting debts, the company was absorbed into a bigger construction conglomerate in 2006 — but continues to pair traditional temple building techniques with the latest technology.

Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House opened in Kaifeng, China, in 1153AD — and today it is thought to be the oldest ‘restaurant’ in the world – although today it is primarily a takeaway joint. Over the course of nine centuries, the business has survived war, political turmoil, and even the might of KFC — whose 5,000 Chinese chicken joints make it China’s leading fast-food outlet (according to the Colonel, that is.)

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Africa

A huge continent needs a solid postal service, so it’s no surprise that half of the top 10 oldest businesses in Africa are postal companies. Oldest of them all is Mauritius Post, opening all the way back in 1772, when Mauritius was still under French rule. The new service started small with eight messengers and rural post offices were established in 1790. Fast forward to 1814 and Namibia also gets its own postal service. NamPost are still managing the post over 200 years later.

Food production and exports is also big business in Africa. Premier FMCG is a South African food manufacturer and their story begins all the way back in 1820, with the formation of a humble bakery. They now own many well-known South African food brands, including Blue Ribbon and Lil-lets.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Oceania

Australia’s oldest business has a colourful history, starting when Isaac Nichols, a former convict, was appointed Postmaster for New South Wales. He used his own home to sort mail and he opened the first Post Office soon after. Australia’s disparate post services were eventually merged to become Australia Post, now also known as AusPost.

On 29 July 1861, just over 50 years after Nichols’ opened his post office, an act to incorporate the proprietors of ‘The Bank of New Zealand’ was passed by Parliament. This allowed the new corporation to start carrying out the usual activities of a bank, and also to issue its own bank notes. The bank is still in business and is one of New Zealand’s big four banks.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: BusinessFinancing.co.uk.

So much can be learned about a country from the history of its industries, and even more is revealed in the stories of individual businesses. The further you go back, the more fascinating the stories become, and the more insight into the unique histories of each place you’ll find. Do you know the oldest place of business near you?

Methodology and Sources

To create these maps, various sources were reviewed via the Internet in order to locate the oldest company in each country. Once a list of businesses for each country was formed, each individual company was researched to discover if they are still operational. If the operational status of a company was considered uncertain or could not be discerned if it was still open, the company was not included in the maps. Both independent and state-run businesses were included in this list — including national mints, which produced coins for merchants and international customers as well as the state.

Countries where identifying the oldest business was not possible are indicated in grey on the map. Additionally, some countries have changed names or did not exist at the time the oldest company opened. In all cases, the current country names are used.

Broad industry categorizations were created which grouped similar businesses together. Every step has been taken to ensure that the information contained within the extensive research is as accurate as possible — although businesses which are still operating that predate the ones listed here are indeed possible.

Please click here for the full list of sources behind this series of maps.

Summary

Meridian Corporation may be the oldest company in Kosovo — but having been established in the year 1999, it appears to be the newest business concern on the list of oldest companies in the world.

Speaking of staying power, The Gate celebrates 14 years on Tuesday, August 18, 2020 — and I am indeed proud of that.

If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in these articles which have been posted here at The Gate over the years:

Beer and other products which are produced by Cēsu Alus — which was established in 1590 and is the oldest company in Latvia — are served at bars, pubs, and othe commercial establishments in central Riga, which is the capital city of Latvia. Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

One thought on “The Oldest Companies In the World By Country”

  1. derek says:

    It would be charming, even if not the oldest, if a law practice, medical practice, or architectural practice could say “we’ve been in business in the US since 1825” or “…since 1762”

    I have heard of a grandfather, father, and son being in the same profession and owning their own business, though legally, not the same incorporated name.

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