Publicly listed company: Characteristics, Types and Examples;– A public company, publicly traded company, publicly held company, publicly listed company, or public limited company is a company whose ownership is organized via shares of stock which are intended to be freely traded on a stock exchange or in over-the-counter markets. A public company can be listed on a stock exchange (listed company), which facilitates the trade of shares, or not (unlisted public company). In some jurisdictions, public companies over a certain size must be listed on an exchange. In most cases, public companies are private enterprises in the private sector, and “public” emphasizes their reporting and trading on the public markets.
Public companies are formed within the legal systems of particular states, and therefore have associations and formal designations which are distinct and separate in the polity in which they reside. In the United States, for example, a public company is usually a type of corporation (though a corporation need not be a public company), in the United Kingdom it is usually a public limited company (plc), in France a “société anonyme” (SA), and in Germany an Aktiengesellschaft (AG). While the general idea of a public company may be similar, differences are meaningful, and are at the core of international law disputes with regard to industry and trade.
Usually, the securities of a publicly traded company are owned by many investors while the shares of a privately held company are owned by relatively few shareholders. A company with many shareholders is not necessarily a publicly traded company. In the United States, in some instances, companies with over 500 shareholders may be required to report under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; companies that report under the 1934 Act are generally deemed public companies.
In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires that firms whose stock is traded publicly report their major shareholders each year. The reports identify all institutional shareholders (primarily, firms owning stock in other companies), all company officials who own shares in their firm, and any individual or institution owning more than 5% of the firm’s stock.
For many years, newly created companies were privately held but held initial public offering to become publicly traded company or to be acquired by another company if they became larger and more profitable or had promising prospects. More infrequently, some companies — such as investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and logistics services provider United Parcel Service (UPS) — chose to remain privately held for a long period of time after maturity into a profitable company.
However, from 1997 to 2012, the number of corporations publicly traded on American stock exchanges dropped 45%. According to one observer (Gerald F. Davis), “public corporations have become less concentrated, less integrated, less interconnected at the top, shorter lived, less remunerative for average investors, and less prevalent since the turn of the 21st century”. Davis argues that technological changes such as the decline in price and increasing power, quality and flexibility of computer numerical control machines and newer digitally enabled tools such as 3D printing will lead to smaller and more local organization of production.
In corporate privatization, more often called “going private”, a group of private investors or another company that is privately held can buy out the shareholders of a public company, taking the company off the public markets. This is typically done through a leveraged buyout and occurs when the buyers believe the securities have been undervalued by investors. In some cases, public companies that are in severe financial distress may also approach a private company or companies to take over ownership and management of the company. One way of doing this would be to make a rights issue designed to enable the new investor to acquire a supermajority. With a super-majority, the company could then be relisted, i.e. privatized.