Hanson plc is a British based international building materials company, headquartered in London. It is traded on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Before a series of demergers in the 1990s Hanson was a conglomerate with a diverse range of subsidiaries, and one of the largest British companies.
Their policy was to purchase underperforming assets and turn them around. Hanson and White were willing to make any measures necessary to reform a business, including mass redundancies, and therefore attracted some opposition and accusations that they were "asset strippers", but they also had a successful record as long term owners, who developed highly successful businesses. In the 1970s and 1980s Hanson plc purchased assets ranging from chemical factories in the United States to electricity suppliers in the United Kingdom to gold mines in Australia. It produced cigarettes and batteries, timber and toys, golf clubs and Jacuzzis, cod liver oil capsules and cranes.
Its most significant single purchase was probably its takeover of Imperial Tobacco Group in 1986. Hanson paid £2.5 billion for the group then undertook a major reorganisation; divestitures netted £2.3 billion, leaving Hanson with the hugely profitable tobacco business for "next to nothing."
An attempt in 1991 to purchase Imperial Chemical Industries, once seen by many in Britain as the nation's leading company but then in decline, was highly controversial and ended in failure.
In 1996 Hanson ended its time as a diversified conglomerate by breaking itself up into four separate listed companies:
The core building materials companies were kept with Hanson plc, the three other businesses were sold off. Lord Hanson stepped down as chairman in December 1997. After Lord Hanson's departure the remaining non building materials businesses were sold off, and additional building materials businesses were purchased. These included Pioneer International of Australia and several U.S. companies.
Hanson's two largest markets are the United Kingdom and the United States, and it is also active in many other countries. It is the world's leading producer of aggregates (particles of rock, gravel and sand), and a major producer of bricks and concrete pipes. In the year ended 31 December 2004 Hanson made a profit after tax of £193.6 million on turnover of £3.464 billion.