Public Limited Company

Dive into the comprehensive study of Public Limited Companies; their definition, origins, and key elements that make up their framework. This guide explores the advantages and disadvantages, providing you insight into the pros and cons incurred by these companies. Not stopping there, you'll also discover the distinctive features of public limited companies and scrutinise them through specific UK examples. Lastly, you'll delve into the legal boundaries surrounding these companies, and compare them to private limited companies. It's a must-read for anyone aiming to broaden their understanding of the corporate landscape.

Get started Sign up for free
Public Limited Company Public Limited Company

Create learning materials about Public Limited Company with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Table of contents

    Understanding the Concept: Definition of a Public Limited Company

    A Public Limited Company (PLC) refers to a type of business entity allowed by some laws to offer its shares for sale to the public. These companies are typically large, with a high degree of transparency and are subject to stricter regulations than private limited organisations. Unlike private limited companies, a PLC can offer its shares through an initial public offering (IPO) and can have them listed on a stock exchange.

    In financial terminology, the word 'public' implies that the company's shares can be bought and held by the general public. As such, a PLC often has a large number of shareholders - a feature that enables it to raise substantial capital. The legal stipulations required for the formation and functioning of such companies might vary based on specific jurisdiction, further highlighting the complexity of this corporate structure.

    Origins and History of Public Limited Companies

    The concept of Public Limited Companies arose from economic necessities during the industrial revolution. The model provided a means for the gathering of capital through public investments, driving growth and innovation.

    • The first known PLC was the Dutch East India Company, established in the early 17th century. It issued shares to the public and paved the way for the development of modern capitalist economies.
    • The Joint Stock Companies Act of 1856 in the United Kingdom legally recognized Public Limited Companies for the first time – ushering in a new era in the corporate world.
    • The Companies Act of 1985 revised the legislative framework for PLCs in the UK, providing a blueprint for similar laws across the world.

    Understanding Key Elements of a Public Limited Company

    A Public Limited Company, by its nature, possesses complex structures and features. But to simplify the concept, you can consider the following key elements:

    Investor Ownership:PLCs are mostly owned by shareholders who purchase their publicly available stocks.
    Limited Liability:In a PLC, the liability of shareholders is limited to their investment in the company's shares. This means that personal assets of members are not at risk.
    Share Transfer:Shares in a PLC are readily transferable, with few restrictions compared to private companies.
    Raising Capital:A PLC can raise capital from the public, a feature that facilitates large-scale business operations and expansion.

    Consider ABC Tech Ltd., a Public Limited Company listed on the London Stock Exchange. Its shares are widely held by various categories of investors – from individuals to institutional investors such as mutual funds. The shareholders' liability is limited to their investments in the company. So, if the firm falls into financial trouble, they will not lose more than the amount they've invested in ABC Tech's shares. Moreover, the shareholders are free to sell their shares to anyone, promoting investment liquidity. The public status of ABC Tech Ltd. enables it to raise significant capital, fuelling its growth and expansion possibilities.

    Pros and Cons: Advantages and Disadvantages of a Public Limited Company

    Like any business structure, a public limited company offers both potential advantages and drawbacks. In this part we'll briefly explore these issues to help you gain a better understanding of this corporate setup.

    Exploring the Benefits of a Public Limited Company

    The primary advantages of a Public Limited Company often derive from their capacity to generate capital, legal standing, and public perception. These benefits coalesce to bolster the company's position in the market and to attract potential investors.

    • Limited Liability - Shareholders of a Public Limited Company have their liability limited to the capital they have personally invested. This means they are not personally responsible for the company's debts and their personal assets are safeguarded.
    • Strong Capital Base - By issuing shares to the public, a Public Limited Company can raise substantial funds, facilitating their business operations and enabling them to undertake significant projects.
    • Transferability of Shares - Shares in a PLC are freely transferable, which provides liquidity for investors. This is a significant advantage for shareholders who can sell their stocks if they need to liquidate their assets.

    Take the example of XYZ Motors, a Public Limited Company. XYZ Motors can raise significant amounts of capital by offering shares to the public. The shareholders of XYZ Motors are only liable to the extent of their share value, therefore, their personal assets are not at risk if the company gets into debts. Shareholders are also able to freely sell their shares in the market if they wish to withdraw their investments. This kind of financial flexibility and security is largely why Public Limited Companies can attract large, diverse groups of shareholders.

    Recognising the Potential Downfalls of a Public Limited Company

    While the benefits of becoming a Public Limited Company can be appealing, it's crucial to consider the potential pitfalls associated with this business model. Transparency requirements, potential loss of control, susceptibility to takeovers, and high costs associated with compliance and reporting are notable drawbacks to consider.

    • Potential Loss of Control: Since a Public Limited Company's shares are publicly traded, there's a risk of hostile takeovers. The probability of losing control over the company increases with the dispersion of shareownership.
    • Transparency Requirements: PLCs are subject to stringent transparency and reporting requirements. They must regularly publish their financial reports and provide other critical updates to their shareholders and to the public. This can be an administrative burden and can also expose sensitive information to competitors.
    • Incurring Costs: Compliance with the regulatory requirements for a PLC often leads to significant costs. These can include audit expenses, corporate tax and VAT payments, legal costs, and more. Moreover, the process of launching an IPO and maintaining a listing on a stock exchange is typically a cost-intensive exercise.

    A Close Look: Characteristics of a Public Limited Company

    To thoroughly understand the structure and functioning of a Public Limited Company (PLC), it's vital to comprehend its key characteristics. These attributes not only shape the operations of a PLC, but also impact its relations with shareholders, regulatory authorities, and the public. Let's delve into these features to gain a robust understanding of a PLC.

    Assessing the Features of a Public Limited Company

    The fundamental characteristics of a PLC revolve around shareholding, the regulatory environment, governance, and financial considerations. Appreciating these features in detail enriches your knowledge and comprehension about this corporate model.

    • Public Ownership: The most defining feature of a Public Limited Company is its public ownership structure. PLCs issue shares to the public through an initial public offering (IPO), and these shares are then freely traded on one or more stock exchanges.
    • Limited Liability: The shareholders in a PLC enjoy limited liability, which means they are responsible for the company's debts only up to the amount they've invested. Their personal assets remain protected.
    • Shareholders' Rights: Shareholders of a PLC have rights to dividends, voting rights in company meetings, and a right to share in the surplus of assets on liquidation of the company – proportionate to their shareholding.
    • Transparent Reporting: A PLC is held to higher standards of transparency and accountability. It's obliged to publish its financial statements using specified accounting standards and disclose any information that could affect shareholders' decisions.

    For instance, take the case of Excellent Electronics PLC, a well-known Public Limited Company operating in the tech industry. The company's shares were issued to the public via an IPO and are now listed on a major stock exchange. As shareholders, you are liable for the company's debts only up to the amount invested. You also have voting rights at the annual general meeting, where crucial decisions about the company's future are made. Excellent Electronics PLC is also required to publish its financial statements, providing you with a clear picture of its financial health and operational performance.

    Examples of Some Famous Public Limited Companies in the UK

    PLCs form an integral part of the UK's economic landscape. Renowned for their size, influence, and ability to generate employment, these firms span across multiple sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals, banking, and energy. Here are a few examples of prominent PLCs in the UK that illustrate the scale and scope of such companies.

    • Burberry Group PLC: A global luxury fashion brand, Burberry is a great example of a successful PLC. Its shares are publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange and it has a wide array of shareholders.
    • GlaxoSmithKline PLC: One of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline is a PLC that has made significant contributions to the medical world. It has a vast shareholder base and maintains stringent standards of corporate governance and transparency.
    • Barclays PLC: A British multinational investment bank and financial services company, Barclays PLC showcases the critical role of Public Limited Companies in the financial sector. It provides an array of banking services to customers worldwide.

    These PLCs typically have a broad shareholder base and large scale operations, reaching customers globally. As PLCs, these companies maintain high levels of transparency, adhere to a strict regulatory framework, and possess a strong corporate governance structure. Their prowess in their respective industries further underscores the potential strength and influence of Public Limited Companies in the economic sphere.

    Legal Boundaries: Public Limited Company Legislation

    A significant portion of the functionality of a Public Limited Company (PLC) is defined by the legislation in place. Therefore, to gain an understanding of a PLC, it's crucial to acquaint oneself with the legal framework that guides its operation. Here, an overview of PLC legislation and insight into compliance and regulatory affairs of a PLC will be provided.

    Overview of Public Limited Company Law

    Public Limited Company Law refers to the set of legislative commands governing the constitution, governance, and operation of a PLC. It encompasses rules pertaining to the public issue of shares, obligations towards shareholders, disclosure requirements, and the accountability of management among other aspects.

    At its core:

    • In the United Kingdom, the Companies Act 2006 is the pivotal legislation that provides a comprehensive framework regarding Public Limited Companies. It sets out the rules for incorporation, administration, and the dissolution of a company.
    • Furthermore, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) provides regulations and guidelines for a PLC's conduct in the financial markets. This includes rules on the company's listing, corporate governance, and financial reporting.
    • European laws also substantially influence the regulatory landscape for PLCs in the UK. Even though the UK has left the EU, a number of rulings based on EU law continue to be applicable.

    Consider a hypothetical company, EnviroGreen PLC. This UK-based firm will have to comply with the stipulations of the Companies Act 2006 for matters like its formation, administration, and winding up. As EnviroGreen PLC decides to list its shares on the stock exchange, it will need to abide by specific regulations laid out by the FCA, essentially to ensure transparency, protect investors, and maintain market integrity. Additionally, prior to the UK's withdrawal from the EU, EnviroGreen PLC would have had to align with European Directives concerning company law.

    Compliance and Regulatory Affairs of a Public Limited Company

    Public Limited Companies operate in a highly regulated environment, making compliance and regulatory affairs a significant aspect of their business operations. These compliance requirements include regular financial disclosures, adherence to corporate governance guidelines, and timely fulfilment of all legal obligations stipulated by regulatory bodies.

    Here's a brief summary:

    • For a PLC, it's essential to maintain a high level of transparency in its operations. This involves frequent and comprehensive financial reporting, disclosure of critical business decisions, and openness about governance practices.
    • Corporate governance is another crucial area for a PLC – it should have a well-structured board, clear rules regarding the distribution of rights and responsibilities, and measures to protect shareholders’ interests.
    • Moreover, PLCs need to ensure full compliance with specific regulations related to their listing on a stock exchange, such as maintaining a minimum number of shareholders, fulfilling set quotas for share allotment, and adhering to trading rules.
    • Non-compliance with any regulations can lead to severe penalties, including hefty fines, censure, or in extreme cases, delisting from the stock exchange.

    Assume for instance, FastTrack Productions PLC, a media company listed on a UK stock exchange. FastTrack Productions must ensure regular disclosures about its financial position and performance to its shareholders and the public. This information aids stakeholders in making informed investment decisions. It must also ensure that its board is structured as per legal requirements and that it meets regularly to discuss and decide on company matters. As a listed company, it must adhere to stock exchange regulations which, among other things, require a certain level of liquidity in its shares. Non-compliance could lead to penalties and, at worst, the company's shares could be delisted from the exchange.

    Decoding: Public Limited Company vs Private Limited Company

    To gain deeper insights into the nature of a Public Limited Company, it's useful to contrast it with a Private Limited Company. Both are prevalent forms of business organisations, but they differ substantially in their structure, operations, and legal obligations. Let's break down these differences and provide you with a comparative understanding of the two types.

    Contrasting the Formation of a Public Limited Company and a Private Limited Company

    The formation process for both Public Limited Companies and Private Limited Companies involves several steps including registration, obtaining a certificate of incorporation, and setting out a memorandum and articles of association. However, distinct factors differentiate the two, offering a unique set of advantages and challenges.

    A Public Limited Company (PLC) is formed by offering shares to the general public. Formation demands a higher minimum share capital (\( £50000 \)), and requires the appointment of at least two directors and a qualified company secretary. It also involves additional steps to list the company on a stock exchange and comply with stringent transparency and disclosure standards.

    A Private Limited Company, on the other hand, is generally started by a smaller number of shareholders, commonly business founders or close friends and family. A lower minimum share capital is required, potentially as little as \( £1 \). The directors have a greater ability to control who can buy shares and thus maintain control. Moreover, legal requirements are less complex and reporting obligations are less frequent and stringent compared to PLCs.

    An example that illustrates the difference in formation can be found in Bright Ideas Ltd., a private limited tech start-up co-founded by two friends, Simon and Amelia. To form Bright Ideas Ltd., they pooled their resources, registered the business, and established the company documents. Simon and Amelia have full control over who can buy shares in their company.

    By contrast, Golden Horizons PLC, an established renewable energy company, was created by floating shares to the public. They attracted investment from various members of the public, listed themselves on a stock exchange, and conform to a rigorous standard of regulation and reporting to ensure investor protection.

    Considerations When Choosing Between Public Limited Company and Private Limited Company

    Deciding between a Public Limited Company (PLC) and Private Limited Company (LTD) is a strategic call that typically depends upon the founders' vision, financial targets, growth prospects, desired level of control and preference for privacy. Some certain factors and considerations drive this choice.

    • Capital Need: If you need significant capital for growth and expansion, you might consider forming a PLC to attract a wider pool of investors. However, if your needs are modest and can be met by a close group of investors, an LTD might be a better option.
    • Privacy: If maintaining privacy regarding company finances and operations is a priority, forming an LTD makes sense as the disclosure requirements are less stringent.
    • Control: If retaining control over the company is paramount, an LTD can allow stricter control over share ownership, helping to ensure that the company stays in the hands of the founders or chosen shareholders.
    • Regulation: If avoiding stringent regulations and complex compliance procedures is a priority, forming an LTD might be favourable due to its lighter regulatory burden.

    It's important to note, however, that the decision to go public or remain private isn't a one-time choice for many companies. Private companies sometimes transition into public companies to access more capital, attract wider publicity, or establish a market value for the company. Conversely, PLCs might opt to go private to escape public scrutiny and gain more control.

    Imagine a company called SafeCloud, which offers innovative cloud security solutions. Suppose that SafeCloud's founders wish to ramp-up their operations substantially, requiring a large influx of capital. They also want to ride the wave of publicity that often comes with an IPO and are willing to comply with the associated regulations. In that case, forming a Public Limited Company would be a logical choice for SafeCloud.

    Now, consider a scenario where a seasoned baker wants to open a chain of bakeries. He manages to secure sufficient capital from his savings and a small group of friends. He wishes to keep control in his own hands and prefers privacy regarding his company's financial matters. In this case, setting up a Private Limited Company would be a more fitting decision.

    Public Limited Company - Key takeaways

    • Definition of a Public Limited Company: A company structure where shares are offered to the general public mainly through stock exchange. Liability of shareholders is limited to the amount invested in the shares.
    • Advantages of a Public Limited Company: Includes limited liability for shareholders, a strong capital base due to the ability to sell shares to the public, and transferability of shares promoting investment liquidity.
    • Disadvantages of a Public Limited Company: Potential loss of control through hostile takeovers, burden of stringent transparency and reporting requirements, susceptible to high costs in compliance, and maintaining a listing on a stock exchange which can be cost-intensive.
    • Characteristics of a Public Limited Company: Defined by public ownership structure, limited liability, shareholders' rights to dividends, voting rights and sharing surplus assets on company liquidation, and also held to higher transparency and accountability standards.
    • Public Limited Company Legislation: Governed mainly by the Companies Act 2006 in the United Kingdom, including rules for share issuance, obligations towards shareholders, disclosure requisites and management accountability. Also influenced by European laws and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations.
    • Public Limited Company vs. Private Limited Company: While both are forms of business organizations, the two differ substantially in structure, operations and legal obligations. A PLC is formed by offering shares to the public and requires a higher minimum share capital, while a Private Limited Company is started by a smaller number of shareholders, often the founders or friends.
    Public Limited Company Public Limited Company
    Learn with 15 Public Limited Company flashcards in the free StudySmarter app

    We have 14,000 flashcards about Dynamic Landscapes.

    Sign up with Email

    Already have an account? Log in

    Frequently Asked Questions about Public Limited Company
    What is the procedure for forming a Public Limited Company in the UK?
    To form a Public Limited Company in the UK, you need to register with Companies House, submit a 'memorandum of association' and 'articles of association', fill out forms with details about directors and secretaries, and a statement of capital holdings. You also have to pay a registration fee.
    What are the legal obligations for directors of a Public Limited Company in the UK?
    Directors of a Public Limited Company in the UK have a duty to act within their powers, promote the success of the company, exercise independent judgement, exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence, avoid conflicts of interest, not accept benefits from third parties, and declare any interest in proposed transactions or arrangements.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages of registering a business as a Public Limited Company in the UK?
    The main advantages include limited liability, increased capital, and heightened stature. Disadvantages involve increased regulation, potential loss of control, and more financial disclosure, which can lead to competitive disadvantage.
    How many shareholders are required to start a Public Limited Company in the UK?
    In the UK, a minimum of two shareholders is required to start a Public Limited Company.
    What are the reporting requirements for a Public Limited Company in the UK?
    A UK Public Limited Company must file an annual financial report, a director's report, and a strategic report at Companies House. They must also make their accounts publicly available, hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM), and report any significant changes in the company to Companies House.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What kind of liability do shareholders of a PLC enjoy and what are some of their rights?

    What does limited liability mean for the shareholders of a Public Limited Company?

    What is Public Limited Company Law and what does it refer to?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Law Teachers

    • 18 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner