In this article we're going to be focusing on what company information is available to the public for companies which are registered in France.
What is the national registry of companies called in France?
In France, company information is held by different bodies.
Infogreffe holds information concerning companies entered on the Trade and Companies Register with Registries of the Commercial Courts. You can access the Infogreffe website using the following link: https://www.infogreffe.com/
The National Industrial Property Institute (INPI) holds information concerning companies entered on the Trade and Companies Register with other jurisdictions (district courts with commercial jurisdiction, mixed commercial courts in the overseas departments and territories). You can access the INPI website using the following link: https://www.inpi.fr/fr
The INPI website is only available in the French language and is primarily focused on intellectual property, promoting innovation and protecting innovative ideas.
The Infogreffe website provides centralised access to information in the business and companies register. It is available in both French and English language and is therefore your best starting point when looking for information about a French company.
What does Infogreffe in France cover?
Infogreffe was established in 1986 and its role is to give internet access to data concerning companies.
According to the Infogreffe website, the records of more than 3.2 million French companies are available on the Infogreffe website. You can search on the Infogreffe website for a business if you know the company's name or its SIREN number (its identification number).
Infogreffe makes the following information about companies available to the general public on a free of charge basis:
- Summary sheets for companies, this includes the registered office address for the company, the Commercial Court at which the company is registered, the legal form of the company (see more below), when the company was first registered and its registration number. You will also see a summary of the company's main activities and find out the number of official documents which have been filed for the company (but in order to view them you would need to pay a fee);
- Key company figures, this includes historic data relating to turnover, profit/loss and workforce numbers (but you would need to pay a fee to view the annual accounts themselves);
- Implementing tracking of a named company. You can use Infogreffe to set up a tracker for a company and to receive automatic alerts when an event occurs (this might be the filling of annual accounts, the start of insolvency proceedings or a modification to the entry held by the Trade and Companies Register). You will need to pay a fee if you choose to view or order the documents mentioned in the alert; and
- Lists of articles of association and company deeds available for a fee.
Infogreffe also enables companies in France to register their company online and maintains various guides to formalities and downloadable forms and templates.
What further information is available?
Other information, held by Infogreffe, is available on the payment of a fee as follows:
- company certificates of incorporation;
- information about the company's securities which gives an understanding of the debt level and financial health of the company;
- detailed annual accounts which includes the balance sheet, profit and loss statement, accounts receivable and payable for the company;
- company articles of association and deeds;
- the list, in chronological order, of the significant events that have occurred during the life of the company; and
- information about bankruptcy, judicial liquidation or administration procedures concerning the company.
What different types of companies are there in France?
The main trading companies in France take one of the following structures:
- a SAS is a société par actions simplifiée which means a simplified joint-stock company typically used by small and medium-sized businesses;
- a SARL is a société à responsabilité limitée which means a limited liability company again typically used by small and medium-sized businesses; and
- a SA is a société anonyme which means a classic joint-stock company typically used by large businesses.
All three of these structures provide their shareholders with limited liability protection up to the amount of their shareholding.
It is also possible to register a SE (Société Européenne), which means a public company registered in accordance with the corporate 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 to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.