Tobacco has long been part of Australia's history.
W.D & H.O.Wills (Australia) Ltd began manufacturing tobacco products in 1913 at its Raleigh Park factory in Kensington, Sydney. At the time, the 35 acre site was considered to be quite rural but these days Kensington is regarded as one of the more central Sydney suburbs, located only 5 kilometres from the city centre. The site played host to a manufacturing facility for 72 years.
In 1945 an estate of 16 acres was purchased at East Bentleigh, Melbourne, with a further 22 acres purchased later and the Virginia Park manufacturing branch was established
The 1950s were to be one of the most successful decades in the company’s history and it enjoyed a peak of 83 per cent market share in 1954. But this was also a period of increased competition as Phillip Morris and Rothmans entered the Australian tobacco market.
By 1972, increased competition meant that the company’s market share had slipped to 39%. By the time tobacco advertising was banned on Australian radio and television in 1976, Wills' market share had fallen a further 6%.
In 1985 Wills combined the separate factory operations in Sydney and in Melbourne into one site at Pagewood, Sydney which took on the name Virginia Park. In 1989 W.D & H.O.Wills (Australia) became a subsidiary of the British American Tobacco Industries group of companies.
In 1999 the company faced its most historic event to date when majority shareholder British American Tobacco merged with global competitor Rothmans International. Rothmans in Australia and Wills merged to form the wholly-owned subsidiary British American Tobacco Australia. To satisfy regulatory requirements at the time, some 16 per cent market share was divested by way of a sale of trademarks to Imperial Tobacco Australia. The merger left British American Tobacco Australia, Phillip Morris and Imperial Tobacco Australia as the three major players in the Australian tobacco market.
Chief Executive Jack Bowles sets out BAT’s evolved strategy in March. At the heart of the strategy is our purpose to build A Better Tomorrow by reducing the health impact of our business through offering a greater choice of enjoyable and less risky products for our consumers.
Read more about the British American Tobacco Group's history .