John Holt

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John Holt is a publicly traded Nigerian conglomerate. The company emerged from small origins during the era of colonialism and gradually rose to become an ubiquitous trading firm in Nigeria. The firm's early rise was supported by the export of palm oil, ivory and rubber and the import of Gin, and a few other foreign goods. However, with time the company upgraded its import merchandise and became an agent for famous multinational brands such as Sanyo and Yahama. It built around the country stores to house and sell its locally and foreign produced merchandise. During the era of economic nationalism in the country large holdings were bought by Mathias Ugochukwu, a wealthy businessman. Prior to that, Lorno Africa, a mining firm based in London had acquired substantial holdings in the company.

In the 1990s, the company went through a tough period posting losses. But since 2004, the company has seen a few profitable annual reports to report. During the former period, Lorno, the firm's principal shareholder sold its interest for $2m and about $10m in debt.


The firm's history could be traced to its eponymous founder, John Holt of Linconshire, United Kingdom. He was born in 1841; his history with West African trade began in 1862, when he left his employment in Liverpool for Fernando po. He came to the West African coast as a secretary for the British consul Lynslager. A few years later, the consul died leaving Holt with some of his remaining holdings. Holt then started his own private enterprise in partnership with his brothers. The firm started out small purchasing an old schooner for 600 pounds. It established trading posts in Cameroon and dealt in rubber, wood, ivory, palm oil and importing spirits From there on the firm emerged as one of the principal Liverpool firms trading in the coast of West Africa. It established a branch in Lagos in 1899 and moved on along the West African coast. (1)

The company under the ownership of Lonrho, London expanded into various firms creating a diversified conglomerate. Among its sister companies were J. Allen and Co, Holt Engineering, Haco Ltd, West African Drug, P.S. Mandrides, Nigerian Enamelware, Kaduna Textile Mills, and a few other John Holt corporations.


John Holt today had undergone various restructuring according to the dictates of the local economy. The firm is deep in boat building and also engages in auto sales, real estate, and engineering services. The firm's chairman if Christopher Ezeh.


  • (1)Reviewed Work(s): The Diary of John Holt 1862-1872 by Cecil R. Holt; John Holt

African Affairs > Vol. 49, No. 197 (Oct., 1950), p. 347