20 famous companies with very surprising sidelines
Famous firms with surprising sidelines
Companies like Dr. Oetker and Nestlé are best-known for producing some of our favourite foods, but these huge firms have plenty of business interests beyond what they’re most famous for. In fact, unrelated diversification is practised by scores of major companies. Wie take a look at 20 iconic conglomerates with other interests that may surprise you.
Think Dr. Oetker and frozen pizza or baking ingredients probably spring to mind, not finance or luxury hotels. Yet the German company has an enviable portfolio that encompasses private bank Bankhaus Lampe, an insurance firm, a publishing business, several breweries and a collection of high-end hotels, including Paris' Le Bristol and the swish Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France.
The Italian retailer is best-known for its knitwear and controversial ad campaigns, but Benetton's parent company Edizione boasts a diverse portfolio of interests. The holding company is Argentina's largest private landowner and controls tens of thousands of hectares of land in Patagonia that is also claimed by the indigenous Mapuche people. Edizione also owns a chunk of the company that operates Italy's motorways, several five-star hotels and 60% of roadside restaurant chain Autogrill.
Altria, which was formerly known as Philip Morris, is one of the world's leading producers of tobacco products, but not many people know that the firm has a major interest in booze too. The company, which changed its name to Altria in 2003 to avoid the negative connotations associated with the Philip Morris brand, owns Washington State winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of America's leading producers of premium wines.
Renowned for its quality home appliances and trains, Siemens is also one of the world's top producers of healthcare technology. Siemens Healthineers, the colossal German conglomerate's healthcare division, makes everything from state-of-the-art X-ray generators to MRI machines, and brought the world the first commercial PET-CT scanner.
Cars and motorcycles may be Toyota's bread and butter, but the Japanese multinational has its fingers in many other pots besides. Toyota's non-automotive interests include higher education institutions in Japan and the USA, a number of biotech startups, a thriving robotics division, not to mention a minority stake in aerospace firm Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation.
It may be news to you, but IKEA has been making serious forays into the hotel industry since 2013. The Swedish flat-pack furniture giant has partnered with Marriott to create the Moxy chain of affordable design hotels, which are aimed at style-conscious millennials on a budget. The chain already has 23 hotels in Europe, the USA and Japan, and is planning to open a further 39 by the end of next year. It also owns Ikano Bank, which offers financial products across Europe.
Sony is famed for its music label, movie studio and electronics, but the huge Japanese conglomerate has a massively successful financial services division to boot. In fact, Sony Financial Services, which comprises Japan-based Sony Bank, Sony Assurance and Sony Bank Securities, accounts for half of Sony's worldwide revenue, and is one of the conglomerate's most profitable businesses.
Soft drinks colossus PepsiCo diversified into snacks during the 1960s following its merger with Frito-Lay, Inc., but you may not be aware that the conglomerate owns iconic breakfast cereal firm Quaker – PepsiCo acquired the venerable American company in 2001. Quaker itself owns a number of drinks brands, including Tropicana and Milk Chillers.
Not to be confused with the defunct American and British chains, Woolworths Limited is one of the leading retailers Down Under and Australia's second-largest company by revenue. The firm's core business is retail but Woolworths Limited also holds a majority stake in hotel and slot machine company ALH Group, for which it has attracted criticism from anti-gambling organisations.
Ask anybody what Italian-controlled firm Fiat Chrysler produces and chances are they'll answer “cars”, rather than “iron”. Yet Fiat Chrysler owns Teksid, the world's largest iron foundry group. The firm, which makes iron and castings for the automotive industry, has a total of seven plants in Europe, Latin America and China with an annual production capacity of 600,000 tonnes.
The sixth-largest privately owned company in the USA, Mars is of course known in the most part for being a confectionery giant, and its chocolate bars are enjoyed the world over. The conglomerate doesn't just produce treats for humans however. Mars actually owns some of the planet's most recognised pet food brands, including Sheba, Pedigree and Whiskas.
While Swiss multinational Nestlé is still one of the world's leading producers of confectionery, the company has been on a mission since 2010 to transform itself into a health and wellness enterprise. Nestlé Health Science, the firm's health and wellness division, has been busily snapping up nutrition and healthcare-focused firms, including Pamlab, a company that makes medical foods to help relieve depression, memory loss and diabetes.
Tate & Lyle
You may think agribusiness company Tate & Lyle, which is based in the UK, is all about producing mounds of refined sugar for sweet-toothed consumers, but the enormous multinational is also a major player in the biomaterials industry. Since 2010, Tate & Lyle has partnered with chemical company DuPont to pioneer the development of bio-based substance 1,3-propanediol, which has applications in plastics, adhesives and more.
Gamers will associate Japan's Konami with the wildly popular video games series it has created, which include Silent Hill, Suikoden and Pro Evolution Soccer. They may not be aware that Konami operates a chain of health and fitness clubs across Japan. The company also designs, manufactures and sells fitness machines and health products.
Known for its ever-reliable printers, Epson has a far more exciting sideline that may not have hit your radar: robots. The Japanese corporation is a leader in factory automation solutions and manufacturers a wide range of industrial 'bots. Right now, around 30,000 Epson automatons are toiling away in factories around the world.
Like Nestlé, mobile telecoms firm Vodafone has been branching out into healthcare and wellness in recent years, capitalising on the growth of the mobile health industry. Vodafone's IoT division already provides a wealth of services to hospitals, clinics and the like, from cloud computing for enhanced record-keeping, to mobile and mobile-to-mobile technology for remote patient monitoring.
Hyundai Motor Group
South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group is primarily associated with cars, and quite rightly so, given it's the third-largest vehicle manufacturer in the world, but the firm has interests in plenty of other industries. These range from IT, advertising and finance to tourism – the company owns the Haevichi Hotel & Resort in Juju outright.
Staying in South Korea, LG is one of the country's biggest conglomerates. Although LG is most associated with consumer electronics in the West, the gigantic company has all sorts of unrelated interests. These include LG Solar Energy and LG Chem, a booming chemical and pharmaceutical firm.
Red Bull is known first and foremost for making energy drinks and bankrolling various sports teams, so it may come as a surprise to you to learn that the Austrian company has its very own magazine publishing house. Red Bull Media House publishes several titles for the Austrian market, including science and nature magazine Terra Mater and lifestyle title Servus.
Hitachi is most famous for manufacturing electronics, but the Japanese conglomerate actually operates 11 diverse business segments. These include a range of financial services from leasing to business finance, international management consulting firm Hitachi Consulting, and Hitachi Defense Systems Company.