A:

In Germany, there are two types of companies: publicly traded and privately held.

The acronym 'GmbH', which is written after the name of the company, designates a company as private in Germany. The letters stand for Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung which, translated literally, means a 'company with limited liability'. GmbH companies are incorporated and, as such, are legal entities unto themselves. These companies must have a minimum of two partners and may be, but do not have to be, owned by a public company.

German companies that are publicly traded are designated as such by the letters 'AG' after the company name. 'AG' is an abbreviation for the German word Aktiengesellschaft, which literally translates to 'corporation' in English.

The laws of a country determine which types of companies are legally recognized within the country's borders. One of the most commonly used acronyms is 'PLC', which is used throughout the United Kingdom to indicate a Public Limited Company, or a company that is publicly traded with owners having limited liability. Throughout the world, 'S.A.' is used to indicate a privately held company, though its meaning varies depending on the country in which the company is registered. The words translate broadly as 'anonymous society' in English.

More information on company extensions can be found at http://www.corporateinformation.com/defext.asp.

Read The Requirements for Being a Public Limited Company and The Basics of Forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

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