France

France has been slower than many of its EU counterparts to embrace a truly liberal business culture. At the same time, it has aggressively sought to attract foreign investment – and with considerable success. One result is that it is now very simple and straightforward to open a company in France, although local advice is essential in order to ensure compliance with legal and financial regulations. There is no fixed pattern.

Options range from opening a small representative office – a bureau de liaison – through to acquiring an existing company or setting up a new business from scratch.
There are three main kinds of business entity in France:

  • business corporation – Societe Anonyme (SA)
  • limited company – SARL
  • simplified stock corporation – SAS

What are the requirements for an SA company?

  • the minimum share capital is €37,000, of which at least half must be    paid up
  • the company must have at least seven shareholders
  • shareholders are liable up to the limit of their capital contribution
  • accounts must be audited in line with statutory requirements
  • top managers are treated as employees for tax and social security purposes

What are the requirements for a SARL company?

  • the minimum share capital was recently reduced to €1.00
  • the minimum number of shareholders is one
  • shareholders are liable up to the limit of their capital contribution
  • accounts must be audited in line with statutory requirements
  • top managers have more onerous tax and security rules than SA managers

What are the requirements for an SAS company?

  • the minimum share capital is €37,000 of which half must be paid up
  • the company must have at least two shareholders and a chairman
  • shareholders are liable up to the limit of their capital contribution
  • there is no need for a board of directors