DEFINITION of 'Société Anonyme '

A French term for a public limited company, abbreviated S.A. A société anonyme is the equivalent of a corporation in the United States, a public limited company (plc) in the United Kingdom or an Aktiengesellschaft (AG) in Germany. This type of business structure establishes a company as a legal person that can own and transfer property, enter contracts and be held liable for crimes. One of its key benefits is that is limits the owner’s personal liability for the company’s actions.

BREAKING DOWN 'Société Anonyme '

The société anonyme is a popular business structure with equivalents in many other languages and countries. For example, in Spanish, it is called a sociedad anónima, in Italian, it is referred to as a società anonima and in Portuguese it is called a sociedade anônima. In all cases, a company designated S.A. protects its owners’ personal assets against claims by creditors, which makes many individuals more willing to start companies since it limits their risk. The S.A. structure also makes it easier to meet a growing business’s capital needs since numerous investors can contribute large or small amounts of money as shareholders if the company opts for public ownership. The S.A. is thus a key component of a robust capitalist economy.

An S.A. is subject to different tax regulations than a sole proprietorship or partnership, and, in the case of a public S.A., different accounting and auditing requirements. In addition, all S.A.s must meet certain basic legal requirements. To be valid, a société anonyme must have articles of incorporation, a board of directors and a unique name. Other regulatory requirements vary by country. In Belgium, for example, an S.A. must be funded with at least €61,500 (as of 2014) and have at least two partners. In Costa Rica, nonresidents can start an S.A. without a Costa Rican partner. There are typically fees, which vary by location, for completing the various legal steps for forming an S.A.

Well-known companies that are established as S.A.s include Nestle, Anheuser-Busch InBev and L’Oreal.

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