Challenge Corporation Ltd. had its origins in the Rural Sector with Levin & Co, a drapery business which was founded in Wellington in 1841. This company grew and spread to service rural communities as a stock and station agency. The stock and station agents co-ordinated buying and selling, exporting grain and other produce and importing commodities not manufactured in New Zealand.
Wright Stephenson & Co Ltd. was established in 1861, and National Mortgage & Agency Co of NZ (NMA) in 1864. Both companies had offices in London and were heavily involved in exporting, manufacturing and marketing of agricultural products.
In 1920 Wright Stephenson & Co opened fertiliser works in Auckland, making it one of the pioneers in the use of fertilisers. Another new business was begun in 1922 with the establishment of a stud stock and blood stock department, followed in 1927 by the beginning of trade in motor cars, the first diversification away from purely stock and station business. The retailing of electrical appliances was added to the range of company activities in 1937. Further additions were land development in 1945 and department stores in 1959, with the purchase of Wairarapa Farmers Co-op Association.
The company's Chairman and Managing Director from 1970 until 1981 was Ronald Trotter
(now Sir Ronald Trotter) and he was preceded by Sir Clifford Plimmer
from 1953 to 1970. By 1971 Wright Stephenson had branches around New Zealand and was involved in a wide range of activities in addition to the stock and station business.
In January 1972, Wright Stephenson & Co and NMA Company of New Zealand Limited merged to form Challenge Corporation Ltd.
NMA Company also had a long history in the stock and station industry, beginning as Russell Ritchie & Co in Dunedin in 1864. Like Wright Stephenson, NMA had grown steadily through acquisition and expansion and gradually diversified. In the 1920's the first of an extensive fishing fleet and freezers were established and the company pioneered the export of crayfish tails and became a leader in the industry. Meat exporting was another activity developed by the company.
A period of considerable growth in the 1950’s saw NMA expand from a predominantly South Island company to full New Zealand coverage. The wide range of machinery activities in the company was consolidated under the control of MacEwans Machinery Limited and the manufacture of canvas goods and protective clothing was developed in two factories in Dunedin and Auckland.
In 1961 the NMA merged with Levin & Co and in 1972 Challenge Corporation Ltd was established as a result of the merger of Wright Stephenson Co Ltd and NMA Company of NZ Ltd
Fletcher Holdings Ltd.
had its beginnings in 1908, when James Fletcher
, a young carpenter, arrived in Dunedin from Scotland with twelve pounds in capital. In 1909 he and a partner won a contract to construct a house outside Dunedin. Two brothers then joined James, and with persistence and determination they developed a construction company and The Fletcher Construction Company
was established. The company built many of New Zealand’s public and private buildings railway stations, universities, hospitals, banks and office blocks. The company expanded and bought businesses that supplied building materials, such as timber, marble, brick and concrete works, and employed hundreds of people in associated trades.
In 1940 Fletcher Holdings Ltd was established with Fletcher Construction Co Ltd a fully owned subsidiary. Other major companies in the group were the Residential Construction Company Ltd (responsible for state housing contracts); The Fletcher Trust and Investment Co Ltd, Te Puke Sawmills, Atiamuri Timber Co Ltd, Vulcan Steel Construction Company Ltd and Wellington Structural and Reinforcing Steel Co Ltd. Pabco Products (NZ) Ltd had been formed to manufacture doors, but was not yet in production, nor was NZ Plywood Ltd. The Dominion Sales Corporation was formed to handle business generated by other Fletcher companies.
In 1942, James C. Fletcher (now Sir James Fletcher) became Managing Director of Fletcher Holdings.
The company was involved in many new industries in New Zealand, including particle board, readymix concrete, linseed and rapeseed oil extraction, long-run roofing, wire-drawing and galvanizing. Fletcher Holdings was involved in the establishment of New Zealand's first major steel mill, Pacific Steel, which was opened in 1962 and in the Tasman Pulp & Paper Company
The story of the Tasman Pulp and Paper Company Limited begins during the early 1920s when the vast Kaingaroa Forest was planted in central North Island. By the mid 1930s Kaingaroa was the largest man-made forest in the world and in 1952 the Tasman Pulp and Paper Company Limited was formed to make good use of this growing resource. Shares were held by the Crown, Fletcher Trust and Investment Limited and the public.
The mill was commissioned three years later, producing newsprint and market craft pulp for sale in New Zealand and overseas. A series of major expansions during the next two decades saw the company become the largest exporters of manufactured goods.
In 1979 the Government decided to sell its shares in the company and by 1980, Fletcher Holdings owned 56.46 percent and Challenge Corporation 28.23 percent of Tasman Pulp and Paper.
From its establishment in 1981 the Fletcher Challenge Group grew substantially and developed its international presence.
Fletcher Challenge's involvement in Energy Sector included oil and gas exploration in New Zealand, and interests in Canada and Asia. Also investments in electricity and cogeneration supply companies in addition to a third share of Natural gas Corporation.
The Building Sector included construction delivering a broad range of commercial, civil and marine engineering and industrial projects around the Pacific Rim. Building materials included wood, concrete, steel, aggregates and gypsum-based products.
The Pulp & Paper Sector was a world scale manufacturer with strong regional positions in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Chile and Brazil. Four mills produced market kraft pulp and 12 mills made a full range of communication paper grades, from newsprint to high quantity art papers. The production of pulp and paper used only pulp logs and residuals from the processing of solid wood products, such as lumber and panel products, which were sold on the international markets including Asia.
Resources for the pulp & paper production was provided by the Forests Division whose interests included radiata pine plantation's in New Zealand and Chile, British Columbia, Canada and also grew and harvested forests in the United States, Australia and Brazil.
In November 1993 each Fletcher Challenge share was split into two targeted shares - the Ordinary Division and Forests Division, designed to reflect the performance of two distinct parts of the Group's business. The Forests Division consisted of solid wood plantation forestry activities of Fletcher Challenge whilst the Ordinary Division encompassed the operations of the Group in pulp and paper, energy and building.
In March 1996 the Ordinary Division was reorganised creating three new targeted shares reflecting the performance of individual industry groupings - Fletcher Challenge Paper, Fletcher Challenge Building and Fletcher Challenge Energy along with the existing share of Fletcher Challenge Forests.
In December 1999 the Board of Directors of Fletcher Challenge limited resolved to dismantle the Fletcher Challenge Group's targeted share structure and establish separate companies.
On July 30 2000 the Paper Division was divested to the Norwegian paper company Norske Skogindustrier.
On March 23 2001 Building Division was separated as a stand-alone publicly listed entity named Fletcher Building.
The Forests Division: was established as a stand-alone publicly listed entity named Fletcher Challenge Forests.
The Energy Division was sold to Shell Oil Company and Apache Corporation.
The new company Rubicon was established to commercialise selected emerging technologies.