We decided to take a closer look at each of the businesses they flagged.
But first a note on how they did it. The researchers first trawled the internet to find tell of each country’s oldest company.
They then took steps to verify that each company was still operational.
When there was doubt over this, the company in question got excluded from the results.
Somewhat contentiously, the researchers included national mints – reasoning that these state-run companies historically served independent merchants and overseas powers, as well as their government.
Another contentious point was the naming of countries. They opted to use today’s map to position the businesses.
These are the top ten countries the researchers identified, listed in order of the oldest still-functioning company:
Japan (Kongō Gumi, established in the year 578)
Austria (St. Peter Stifts Kulinarium, established in the year 803)
Germany (Staffelter Hof Winery, established in the year 862)
France (Monnaie de Paris, established in the year 864)
England (The Royal Mint, established in the year 886)
Ireland (Sean’s Bar, established in the year 900)
Italy (Marinelli Bell Foundry, established in the year 1040)
Belgium (Affligem Brewery, established in the year 1074)
Denmark (Munke Mølle, established in the year 1135)
China (Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House, established in the year 1153)
The longest surviving companies in Europe
The earliest surviving business in Europe is St. Peter Stifts Kulinarium at St Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, Austria. It opened in the year 803. There is not much known about the restaurant’s origins, but it was first written of in the Carmina anthology by Alcuin of York, an English scholar. The inn is said to have enjoyed Christopher Columbus, Johann Georg Faust, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart among its guests.
In Germany, the Staffelter Hof Winery got established in 862. It is some kind of miracle that the winery has lasted so long in a country with such a turbulent history, but it helps that the premises are ‘cushioned’ by seven hectares of vines.
In the year 864, the Monnaie de Paris – the national mint – opened in France. The mint has adapted to the winds of change to survive, producing Francs, Euros, and even coins under the order of Germany during WWII.
England’s Royal Mint got established in 886. It has moved premises several times over its long history.
In Ireland, the oldest surviving business is a bar that opened in the year 900. Luain Mac Luighdeach (Luain son of Lewy) was a guide at the Ford of Great Antiquity on the Shannon. The owners of Sean’s Bar, the oldest pub in the world, found their claim by the 10th-century wattle and wicker building materials and ancient coins discovered on-site during a 1970s renovation – and the Guinness Book of Records accepts their claims.
Italy’s oldest company is Marinelli Bell Foundry (1040). The foundry still uses the same techniques as 1,000 years ago, although the Marinelli family only took over the business in 1339. The Marinelli’s are still in charge today.
In Belgium, the oldest surviving business is Affligem Brewery, which got founded by monks in 1074. These six former knights started an abbey and brewed beer as a healthy alternative to water, which was not good to drink at the time. The original monks and one thousand years of replacement monks all had a sense of purpose and craft. They were able to concentrate on their work without shutting out the world entirely – the enjoyment of beer is social, and the abbey also offers a place to be heard and for those in need to eat or sleep.
Munke Mølle is the oldest company in Denmark. Based in Odense, it began life as a water mill, again founded by monks. It fell under the ownership and protection of the king during the Protestant Reformation and was later expanded and modernized by entrepreneurs. Today, Munke Mølle produces bread and cake mixes. It has survived by moving with the times.
Spain’s oldest company, Casa de Ganaderos, was formed in the year 1218. It is a kind of union devised to protect the rights of cattle-owners and shepherds. It has stayed in operation by compromising when necessary to adapt to the changing demands of sometimes unreasonable governments.
Gasthof Sternen in Switzerland got established in 1230. It was initially built as an inn within Wettingen Abbey to cater to the visiting female relatives of the monks. Like many of the world’s oldest businesses, Gasthof Sternen has survived by being passed around from the church to the state and private entrepreneurs.
Poland’s oldest business is Bochnia Salt Mine (1248). Salt has been mined in the region since 320 BC. Despite some tricky moments due to war and economic decline, the mine has survived. People always need salt, and the deposits here are rich and plentiful. Today, Bochnia Salt Mine’s continuing survival is buoyed by history-tourism to the site.
Ukraine also has a salt mine for its oldest business. Drohobych salt plant got established in 1250. Drohobych was one of the Carpathian region’s wealthiest cities, and also a point through which affluent travellers passed, assuring the plant’s good fortunes. Some profits were even directed towards funding a hospital.
Kremnica Mint in Slovakia got established in 1328 in what was then the Kingdom of Hungary. For seven centuries, the mint has produced not only high quality but a diversity of products. The company has survived thanks to its reputation and indispensability to the state – albeit a country that has changed many times over the years.
The Netherlands has The Brand Brewery (1340) as its oldest company. It was bought by the Brand family in 1871 and is today part of the Heineken empire.
In Sweden, the oldest company is Skyllbergs Bruk. It got established as iron manufacturing workshops in around 1346; the company was donated by King Magnus IV to the monks of Riseberga Abbey. The state snatched it back during the Reformation and later found its way into the hands of a series of business families. Ivan Svensson acquired the company in 1888, and his family still owns it today.
The Czech Republic’s oldest company is Pivovar Broumov (1348). This brewery began life at the hands of Benedictine monks. The company has survived despite the brewery itself frequently burning down – church authorities finally rebuilt it outside the monastery around 1712-1714 to try to stop it happening again. Today, the brewery produces the famous Olivetinsky Opat brand of beers.
Estonia’s oldest is The Raeapteek, a pharmacy. It has always been in the same, prime location, and is known to have existed at least as far back as 1422.
In Slovenia, Gostilna Gastuž is the oldest surviving company. This chateau-like guesthouse dates back to 1467. It was started by monks, and perhaps the building’s notably thick walls are responsible for its survival.
Mousel in Luxembourg got established in 1511. This brewery only creates one line of beer, in 50-litre kegs, keeping things simple.
CTT-Correios de Portugal SA is the postal service of Portugal. It got founded in 1520 as Correio Público (Public Post) and became a public limited company in 1991.
Çemberlitaş Hamamı is a bathhouse built by the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in 1584, under the commission of the head of Istanbul’s imperial harem. It survived the Turkish Republic’s demolition of similar bathhouses because it had become a lucrative tourist attraction, thanks to the architecture.
In Latvia, Cēsu Alus is the oldest company (1590). This brewery has survived being passed from state to private ownership, variously under the protection of the aristocracy and enjoying the benefits of stock market floatation.
Norway’s oldest is Posten Norge, the post service. It began as a private company in 1647 and got nationalized in 1719. The company has a monopoly on delivering post that weighs under 50g, ensuring its continued importance.
Finland has Fiskars for its oldest company. Fiskars got founded in 1649 as a furnace and forge operation, making nails, wheels, and such. Its flourishing was assured when copper was struck nearby in the 1700s. Today, it is a group company manufacturing consumer goods.
In Lithuania, it’s Gubernija. This brewery got founded in 1665.
The Bank of Scotland got founded in 1695. A year later, it became the first European bank to distribute paper cash successfully. The bank merged with Halifax bank to form HBOS plc. in 2001, which was itself gobbled up by Lloyds TSB in 2009.
The Kraljevica Shipyard is Croatia’s oldest company. It also claims to be the world’s longest continuously working shipyard.
Over the border in Serbia, Apatin Brewery is the oldest company. It got founded in 1756 as Imperial Brewery. It was privatized in 1991 and acquired by Molson Coors in 2012. It has always produced a vast amount of beer and is well-positioned to distribute around the region.
Íslandspóstur is Iceland’s national post office. It got established in 1776 and merged with the national telephone company in the 1930s, only to split again in 1998. It is one of Iceland’s largest employers.
The oldest surviving company in Greece is Traditional Kafenio (Cafe) Of Emmanouil Forlidas, which has passed along seven generations of the Forlidas family since its establishment in 1785.
In Hungary, Zwack (1790) is the oldest company. Dr József Zwack invented Unicum, a national drink with a secret recipe, and Zwack’s family later expanded the concern to become Hungary’s first liqueur manufacturer. Today, Zwack also distributes other companies’ liqueur.
Pošta Crne Gore in Montenegro opened in 1841 and has survived by virtue of being the nation’s postal service.
Bulgaria’s oldest arms supplier Arsenal AD is also its oldest company (1878). It has survived due to strategic relocations during times of conflict.
Romania’s Ursus Breweries were founded in 1878 and has survived by conglomerating with other breweries.
HSBC BankMalta got established in 1882 and has been subsumed by Barclays and later HSBC.
The Bank of Cyprus got founded in 1899 as “Nicosia Depository” («Ταμιευτήριο η Λευκωσία»), the first and only non-foreign-owned bank.
ALBtelecom got established in 1912 and survived a long time thanks to being Albania’s national telecommunications company, although it has since been privatized.
Andbank got founded in Andorra in 1930 and is owned by the Cerqueda and Ribas families.
Kosovo’s Meridian Corporation got founded in 1999, the year of United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, hence it is Kosovo’s oldest company.
The longest surviving companies in North America
The earliest surviving company the researchers identified in North America is Mexico’s La Casa de Moneda de México (1534). As the first mint in the Americas, it quickly became dominant and influential.
Next up was Shirley Plantation in the USA. It got founded in 1638 when Edward Hill I developed a farm on James River and has remained in family hands.
Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company opened in 1670. Its founders got in early; the fur trading company even acted as a de facto government in untamed parts of North America. Thanks to this power and business monopoly, HBC lasted long enough to become a high street name in the developed world.
In Barbados, Mount Gay Rum got founded in 1703. Smart management early on and the craft of filtering molasses through natural coral ensured the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery was here to stay.
Jamaica’s Rose Hall (1770) seems to have started as a plantation and has survived by diversifying into hospitality as a golf course and museum to the company’s slave history.
House of Angostura (1830) is a brewery and distiller in Trinidad and Tobago. A German doctor was hunting for a cure for stomach trouble and created “Amargo Aromatico” or aromatic bitters, which became a favourite among kings and soldiers alike.
Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt (1862) survived by staying as a family business but expanding significantly in the 1950s.
HSBC El Salvador can trace its company lineage back to the foundation of Banco Davivienda El Salvador in 1885. It was variously nationalized and re-privatized over the years until acquired by HSBC as part of Grupo Banistmo.
Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña (1890) is another rum producer. Exports and expansions have kept the company competitive over the years.
Belize Bank opened in 1902. It offers personal and corporate banking and has remained popular in part due to a generous scholarship scheme.
Florida Ice and Farm Company is a company founded in Costa Rica by Jamaican brothers Rupert Cecilio and Stanley Lindo Morales in 1908. They started as ice merchants, but quickly expanded by buying up a brewery and beverages business.
The Chronicle is Dominica’s national newspaper and oldest business founded in 1909. It was first bi-weekly but now comes out every Friday.
Corporación Multi Inversiones in Guatemala got founded as a family business by Juan Bautista Gutierrez in 1920 and has become a multinational agro-industrial corporation.
Cuba’s oldest opened in 1929. Cubana de Aviación is now the national airline and has survived changing times by passing from Pan American World Airways to Cuban investors to the government.
The 1st National Bank of St Lucia began as a cooperative in 1938. It has recently reformed to bolster the small- and medium-sized business sector.
In Guyana, the oldest company is Banks DIH, which got founded as a rum business in 1840. It has thrived through incorporating a cocoa and chocolate factory and the Schooner Shipping Agency, and later hotels and bars.
Banco Nacional de Bolivia opened in 1871 as a mint and solidified its position by providing financial assistance for local mining.
Uruguay’s Cafe Brasilero opened in Uruguay in 1877. It has survived by maintaining its heritage and traditional style and has been declared of cultural interest by the city of Montevideo.
The longest surviving companies in Asia
The earliest surviving company in the world is Japanese construction company named Kongo Gumi. It formed in 578 Buddhism and was finally bought up in 2006 due to rising debts.
China’s oldest is a relative newcomer: Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House opened in 1153AD, and the secret to their survival seems to be the sauce.
Peter the Great founded the Peterhof Lapidary Works in Russia in 1721, and today it survives as Petrodvorets Watch Factory. It thrived carving headstones for centuries before being destroyed in WWII when it was resurrected by Stalin to make timepieces.
India’s oldest is Wadia Group (1736). Parsi Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia founded it to build ships and docks for the British East India Company.
Pos Malaysia (1800) is a Malaysian post. It has exclusive rights to provide mail services in the country, and never publishes statistics about how much post it loses.
In Indonesia, Pindad is the state defence company. It got founded in 1808.
Singapore’s oldest company is its post service, Singapore Post (1819). This company has existed in some form since Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore and has expanded with the development of the island.
M. Ispahani Limited (1820) in Bangladesh is a family-run conglomerate that has thrived through expansions, relocation, and restructuring for precisely 200 years.
Bank Audi is Lebanon’s oldest. It formed in 1830 and got incorporated as a bank in 1962. The bank merged with Banque Saradar in 2004, assuring its future for a little while yet.
The B. Grimm Group got founded as Siam Dispensary, a pharmacy, by German pharmacist Bernhard Grimm in 1878. Today it is Thailand’s oldest company. It thrived by becoming the official pharmacist to the royal family and making partnerships with companies such as Siemens.
BMMI (Bahrain Maritime & Mercantile International) is a food and beverages wholesaler. It began life as the Bahrain branch of Gray Paul, a British-owned merchant company, in 1883.
South Korea’s KT Corporation is the largest telecoms company in the land. It launched as Korea Telegrams Hansung Administration in 1885 and got privatized later on.
Bakdash opened in Syria in 1885. It has survived due to the deliciousness of its pistachio-covered, gum-textured Booza ice-cream.
Kuwait’s oldest is M.H. Alshaya Co. (1890). It started as a shipping company but later diversified into hotels and retail to gain new steam.
The Bank of Taiwan can trace its origins to 1897 when the country was under Japanese rule. The intention was to encourage trade with and by Japanese businesses.
The Bank of Georgia appeared in 1903. The communists later nationalized it, and it was re-privatized in 1994 and listed on the Georgian Stock Exchange in 2001. It merged with Tbiluniversalbank in 2004.
Kazakhstan’s oldest is Bogatyr Access Komir. Coal got discovered in the Ekibastuz basin in 1867 and the English company Kirgizian Mining JSC – whose shareholders included the later American president Herbert Hoover – took over in 1913. The mine became Bogatyr Access Komyr, LLP in 1996.
Andreus Abu Salem opened Café Abu Salem opened in Nazareth in Palestine in 1914 when he was fourteen years old. Today it is the oldest company in Israel – but some of the original customers still visit!
Afghanistan’s Spinzar Cotton Company got founded in 1930 and was one of the world’s biggest cotton providers until the US invaded the country in 2001.
The Arab Bank got founded in Palestine in 1930, and today it is the oldest company in Jordan. It was the Arab world’s first private-sector financial institution and grew through the middle of the 20th century.
Nepal Bank Limited got founded in 1937. It was the first time the country’s banking became centralized, and it took a while for confidence in the system to develop – but today the bank is going strong.
Petroleum Development Oman got founded as Petroleum Development of Oman and Dhofar in 1937. It is majority-owned by the Oman government and has thrived despite the regional upheaval.
Liwa Chemicals got founded in 1939. It is the oldest surviving company in UAE and has thrived thanks to local petroleum sources.
Kim Chong-t’ae Electric Locomotive Works is the oldest company in North Korea. It got founded in 1945 to manufacture much of the country’s rolling stock, and answers to the North Korean Ministry of Railways.
Late Dasho Ugen Dorji founded Bhutan’s Tashi Group in 1959 “with a vision to bring out the best of Bhutan.” Today it is a conglomerate that includes an airline and technology and financial interests.
Yemenia Airways got founded in Yemen in 1962 at the birth of the New Yemen Republic.
The longest surviving companies in Africa
The oldest surviving company in Africa is Mauritius Post, founded in 1772 under French rule.
NamPost is another postal service, founded in Namibia in 1814.
Premier FMCG is South Africa’s oldest, having opened as a bakery in 1820. Today it is a prominent manufacturer, owning brands such as Blue Ribbon and Lil-lets.
The oldest company in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is La Poste, which got founded in 1843 and got formalized as the first postal and telecommunications administration in 1945 – over a hundred years since the first organized post began to get delivered around the country.
Yet another postal service is the oldest company in Tunisia: La Poste Tunisienne, founded in 1847.
Cape Verde’s post-service is called Correios de Cabo Verde. It opened in 1849 as part of the Portuguese postal service company and survived the country’s break for independence in 1975.
Algeria’s Hamoud Boualem is a drinks company established in 1878. The company got an early boost with a gold medal win at the t the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889.
La Poste du Togo is Togo’s postal service, founded in 1883. It is a member of the West African Postal Conference.
Société nationale des Chemins de fer du Congo (The Congo Railroad Company) got founded in 1889. It did not operate during the civil war and was granted $1m by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for repairs to war damage. The World Bank later bailed out the railway company again.
Standard Chartered Zimbabwe (1892) is the country’s oldest financial institution. It got founded as Standard Bank and merged with Chartered Bank in 1969.
First Bank of Nigeria got founded under British rule as Bank of British West Africa in 1894. It got founded by shipping magnate Alfred Lewis Jones, who claimed the regional economy needs regulation.
Kenya’s KCB Group Limited is a financial sеrvicеs holding company. It got founded in 1896 as the Mombasa branch of the National Bank of India.
ZamPost is Zambia’s postal service. It got founded in 1896.
Ethio-Djibouti Railways is the oldest company in Djibouti. It ran its first commercial service in 1901. Before the railway, the journey from the coast to Addis Ababa would take six weeks, undertaken by camel and mule caravan. Hence, the success of the railway.
Attijariwafa Bank is Morocco’s oldest. It got founded in 1904 and enjoys the protection of being part of King Mohammed VI’s holding company.
National Bank of Ethiopia opened in 1906 as the Bank of Abyssinia. Emperor Haile Selassie reformed the banking system in 1931, which is when it became Bank of Ethiopia, fully-owned by the government.
In Uganda, the oldest company is Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited. It got founded in 1906 as part of National Bank of India in 1906 and has been renamed several times over the years.
Umma Bank is the oldest company in Libya. It got founded in 1907 as part of an agreement between the Italian government and the Government of the Turkish Sultan. In 1970, the Revolutionary Command returned all foreign bank shares to the ownership of the state.
The Bank of Khartoum is “Sudan‘s oldest and largest Islamic financial institution” and is “known to be a pioneer in the introduction and implementation of financial technology.” It got formed in 1913.
Sierra Leone’s Rokel Commercial Bank got founded by Barclays in 1917. It was re-named after the country’s longest river after a takeover in 1999.
Liberia’s National Port Authority got founded in 1921. In 1967, state legislation declared the NOA responsible for managing, planning, and developing all of Liberia’s ports.
Dakar–Niger Railway (1924) is the oldest company in Senegal. It used to be the most critical connection between the capital cities of the capitals of Senegal and Mali, but it has fallen into disrepair and lacks services and customers.
Asmara Brewery is the oldest company in Eritrea. It got founded in 1938 and privatized during the Eritrean War of Independence. Marketing whizzes, take note: the brewery has its own premier league football team.
Radio Mogadishu is the oldest company in Senegal. It got launched in 1943 and is run by the government.
In Guinea, the oldest company is Halco Mining (1962). Harvey Aluminium Company established the company to mine bauxite deposits in Boké. The company has exclusive mining rights across a 10,000 square kilometre area.
Air Madagascar is Madagascar’s national airline, founded in 1962. It has failed to leap into privatization and is currently making a loss, buoyed by the government.
Eswatini Railways (ESR) is the oldest in Swaziland (Eswatini). It used to be known as Swazi Rail and started life in its present form in 1963.
Malawi Broadcasting Corporation got founded in 1964 with a mandate from an Act of Parliament, and aims “to take a pivotal role in encouraging the growth of the flow of information among Malawians by providing, in the official and local languages, a wide range of programming that reflects objectivity, diversity and satisfaction in programming.”
The government of Botswana founded the Botswana Meat Commission in 1965. Its responsibility was to slaughter and market Botswana’s beef exports.
Air Burkina is the oldest surviving company of Burkina Faso. It began life as Air Volta on 17 March 1967. The company has struggled with debt problems and got privatized in an attempt to improve things.
Development Bank of the Central African States is the oldest company in Congo. It got established in 1975 by the heads of states of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, and Gabon, and the headquarters is in Brazzaville.
It was impossible to identify the oldest company in most states of Oceania. The oldest identified was
Australia’s postal service, often known as AusPost. In the year 1809, a former convict became Postmaster for New South Wales in the prison colony days and used his home as a makeshift post office. His and other post offices eventually merged to become Australia Post.
The Bank of New Zealand opened in 1861 thanks to an Act of Parliament. As well as banking, the company minted banknotes.
And European Trust Company is the oldest company in Vanuatu. It got founded in 1991 and provides company incorporation and management services.
Infographic of the oldest surviving companies in (almost) every country
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