European companies—an introduction
European companies—an introduction

The following Corporate guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • European companies—an introduction
  • What is a European company?
  • Applicable law
  • Formation of an SE
  • The structure of an SE
  • Share capital and shareholders
  • Employee participation
  • An SE's statutes
  • Statistics
  • European private company (SPE) and European single member company (SUP)

BREXIT IMPACT: The availability of the Societas Europaea (SE) in the UK will be affected by Brexit. For further details on the impact of Brexit, see Practice Note: Brexit—European entities.

What is a European company?

A European company, otherwise known as a Societas Europaea or SE, is a body corporate that may be formed within the Europe Union. Once formed, it has its own legal personality. An SE is registered in the member state in which it has its head office, but has European-wide recognition and status.

An SE is a public limited liability company governed by the law of the member state in which it has its registered office. It must have a share capital, and a minimum amount of that share capital must be subscribed for (see Share capital and shareholders below).

This Practice Note gives an introduction to the law applicable to European companies. For further details on SEs, see Practice Notes: European companies—formation, European companies—ongoing administration and transfer of registered office and European companies—winding up, liquidation, insolvency and conversion to PLC.

Applicable law

The European Commission submitted its first proposal for legislation on European public limited liability companies in 1970. Its intention was to promote the common market in Europe by allowing companies from different member states to carry on business on a European scale, free