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European company - legal form

Updated 09/2014

The European company (also known by its Latin name Societas Europaea  or SE) is a type of public, limited-liability company regulated under EU law.

There are several reasons why you should consider setting up a European Company:

  • A simpler and cheaper way to run business across more than one EU country. For example, you can regroup your activities under a single European label;
  • Greater mobility on the single market. For instance, you can transfer your registered office to another EU country without having to dissolve the company;
  • A framework for cross-border operations. For example your can involve staff employed in more than one country and run your business without setting up a network of subsidiaries.

How to form a European company?

There are 4 possibilities, depending on your situation:

  • merger - for public limited companies from at least 2 different EU countries;
  • forming a holding company - for public and private limited companies with registered offices in different EU countries or which have had subsidiaries/branches in EU countries other than the country where they are registered for at least 2 years;
  • joint subsidiary - same conditions as for the holding company (see above);
  • simple conversion from a public limited company - if it has a registered office in one EU country and has had a subsidiary in a different EU country for at least 2 years.

To find out more about forming and running a European company please visit this FAQ section .

Features of European companies

  • Legal form: public limited-liability company;
  • A European company has legal personality;
  • Capital - minimum €120,000 - must be divided into shares;
  • Its registered and head office must be in the same country. Winding-up, liquidation, insolvency are governed by the laws of that country.

Requirements may vary between countries . Some countries may have higher capital requirements, others require head office and the registered office to be in the same place.

You can transfer your registered office from one EU country to another without dissolving your existing company and creating a new one. But if you want to transfer your registered office outside the EU, you must wind up your company.

How to transfer your registered office

You will need to write a transfer proposal and publish it in the Official Journal of the EU. The country from which you want to transfer your registered and head office then has 2 months to oppose your proposal (for a limited number of reasons), so your transfer can't take effect until after that period.

The law of the EU country from which you moved will continue to apply to all actions your company took before the transfer.

Employee involvement - prerequisite for registration

To register your European company, you must reach agreement with your employees on how they will be involved in supervising your company’s activities. Employee involvement can take several forms:

  • employees can be represented in the management board
  • they can be represented by a separate body
  • you can agree with your employees on a different model.

You must provide the representatives of your employees with office space and financial support so they can perform their tasks.

If your European company is the result of a merger, you can still register it, even if your negotiations with employees do not end in an agreement. This also applies when the employees of the merging companies had no right of participation before the merger.

 

 

 

Dig deeper, country by country:

Help & advice

Help & advice

Check the financial health of your business

This screening questionnaire can help you spot early signs of trouble and tells you where to get help & advice in each EU country.

Points of single contact

Online points of single contact in every EU country can help you with every step of the procedure to set up your services business abroad.

Your Europe Advice

Your Europe Advice is a source of expert advice for any issues you encounter in another EU country that involve EU law.

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

Choose your country and town and enter your enquiry below.

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