What you should know...

A public limited company (PLC) is a type of business structure in the UK.

Whilst PLCs are not the most popular company structure - that honour goes to private companies limited by shares - it’s a well-known one, as it's the only structure where its owners can offer shares to the public.

Advantages of a public limited company

  • Like a private company limited by shares, a public limited company provides its members with limited liability, with each member only being liable for the nominal value of shares that they hold in the company.
  • Being able to offer shares to the public makes it easier for a public limited company to raise capital when compared to other business structure options in the UK.
  • Any business that is registered at Companies House as a company is attractive to potential clients and investors, as it projects a professional, well-established image. Public limited companies have an extra level of prestige because they are usually larger corporations.
  • Two companies can’t share the same name on the Companies House register. By forming a public limited company, you are stopping anyone else from using your company name, or something similar to your name.
  • A public limited company (like the other company types) is a separate legal entity from the people behind it. This means the company can continue to operate whilst the individuals who run and own it change.

Forming a public limited company (PLC)

Completing the documentation required to form a public limited company can be done completely online and should take no longer than 15 minutes. Once the application has been sent to Companies House it will normally be processed within 3 to 6 working hours.

Here is the key information that you need to know about forming and then maintaining a public limited company:

  • A public limited company must be registered with Companies House, an executive agency of the UK government, responsible for the incorporation and dissolution of companies.
  • For a public limited company to be formed successfully, it must have a unique company name.
  • A public limited company requires a registered office address in the same location as its jurisdiction (this can be England & Wales, Wales only, Northern Ireland or Scotland). This is made publicly visible on the Companies House public register.
  • The company must consist of at least 2 directors, 1 suitably qualified company secretary (e.g. a chartered secretary, chartered accountant or solicitor) and 1 shareholder (also known as a member). Essentially, this means a PLC can be formed with a minimum of 2 people.
  • During the company formation process for a public limited company, the person tasked with taking care of the registration must choose at least 1 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code from the provided list (a maximum of 4 codes can be selected). These codes are used to define the industry or industries in which the company will be operating.
  • A public limited company must report on its people with significant control position. A person with significant control is any person (or other corporate entity) that has a controlling influence over the business. In most cases, this will be a shareholder.
  • A public limited company can’t trade until it has been issued a trading certificate. To qualify for a trading certificate, shares to the value of at least £50,000 must be allotted, with a minimum of £12,500 (25%) of this total being ‘paid up’ (paid for).
  • Public limited companies adopt articles of association during the company formation process. This document outlines the rules and regulations in which the company will operate internally. A memorandum of association is also issued. This document states the intention of the company’s first shareholder(s) to form a company.