France: Where can you go to find information about a company in France?
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In this article, we will focus on company information that is publicly available for companies registered in France.
What is the national business register in France called?
In France, company information is held by different organizations.
Infogreffe holds information about companies registered in the Trade and Companies Register with the Registry of Commercial Courts. You can access the Infogreffe website via the following link: https://www.infogreffe.com/
The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) holds information concerning companies registered in the Trade and Companies Register with other jurisdictions (high courts with commercial jurisdiction, mixed commercial courts in the departments and territories of overseas). You can access the INPI website via the following link: https://www.inpi.fr/fr
The INPI website is only available in French and is mainly focused on intellectual property, the promotion of innovation and the protection of innovative ideas.
The Infogreffe site provides centralized access to information from the trade and companies register. It is available in French and English and is therefore your best starting point when looking for information on a French company.
What does Infogreffe cover in France?
Infogreffe was created in 1986 and its role is to provide access to data concerning companies on the Internet.
According to the Infogreffe site, the files of more than 3.2 million French companies are available on the Infogreffe site. You can search the Infogreffe site for a company if you know the name of the company or its SIREN number (its identification number).
Infogreffe makes the following information on companies freely available to the public:
- Summary sheets for companies, this includes the address of the company’s registered office, the commercial court with which the company is registered, the legal form of the company (see below), the date of the first registration of the company and its registration number. You will also see a summary of the main activities of the company and find out the number of official documents that have been filed for the company (but to view them you will have to pay a fee);
- Key business figures, this includes historical data relating to turnover, profit/loss and headcount (but you will have to pay a fee to view the annual accounts themselves);
- Implementation of the follow-up of a named company. You can use Infogreffe to set up a tracker for a company and be alerted automatically when an event occurs (this may be the closing of the annual accounts, the opening of collective proceedings or a modification of the registration in the Trade and Companies Register). You will have to pay a fee if you choose to consult or order the documents mentioned in the alert; and
- Lists of Articles of Association and Deeds available for a fee.
Infogreffe also allows companies in France to register their company online and maintains various guides to formalities and downloadable forms and templates.
What other information is available?
Other information, held by Infogreffe, is available upon payment of a fee as follows:
- company incorporation certificates;
- information on the company’s securities which makes it possible to understand the level of indebtedness and the financial health of the company;
- detailed annual accounts including the company’s balance sheet, profit and loss account, accounts receivable and accounts payable;
- articles of association and deeds of the company;
- the list, in chronological order, of significant events occurring in the life of the company; and
- information on bankruptcy, compulsory liquidation or administration proceedings concerning the company.
What are the different types of companies in France?
The main trading companies in France adopt one of the following structures:
- a SAS is a simplified joint-stock company, i.e. a simplified joint-stock company generally used by small and medium-sized businesses;
- a SARL is a limited liability company, which again means a limited liability company generally used by small and medium-sized businesses; and
- a HER is a public limited company, i.e. a classic joint-stock company generally used by large companies.
These three structures offer their shareholders limited liability protection up to the amount of their participation.
It is also possible to save a SE(European Company), i.e. a public limited company registered in accordance with the company law of the European Union. However, this is very rare in France and a current example is Christian Dior.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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