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S.A. or Société anonyme (English: Anonymous society) (and variants) designates a type of corporation in countries that mostly employ civil law. Depending on language, it means anonymous company, anonymous partnership, share company, or joint-stock company, roughly equivalent to public limited company in common law jurisdictions. It is different from partnerships and private limited companies.
Originally, shareholders could be literally anonymous and collect dividends by surrendering coupons attached to their share certificates. Dividends were therefore paid to whomever held the certificate. Share certificates could be transferred privately, and therefore the management of the company would not necessarily know who owned its shares.
Like bearer bonds, anonymous, illegal unregistered share ownership and dividend collection enabled money laundering, tax evasion, and concealed business transactions in general, so governments passed laws to audit the practice. Nowadays, shareholders of S.A.s are not anonymous, though shares can still be held by holding companies in order to obscure the beneficiary.
In different countries
S.A. can be an abbreviation of:
- Sociedade Anónima in Galician and European Portuguese (used in Portugal, Angola, Timor Leste, Macao, Mozambique, and other Portuguese-speaking countries)
- Sociedá Anónima in Asturian and Leonese
- Sociedade Anônima in Brazilian Portuguese (used in Brazil)
- Societat Anònima in Catalan
- Société anonyme (SA) in French (as used in French-speaking countries such as France (including French Polynesia, and New Caledonia) and Monaco; also in partially Francophone countries and/or nations with French as one of their official languages like Belgium, Luxembourg, Haiti, Switzerland, as well as Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Algeria and other African countries)
- Società Anonima in Italian (since 1942 Società per Azioni, S.p.A.)
- Sociedad Anónima or Sociedad por Acciones in Spanish
- Mexican law also takes into account the variability of the corporate stock, resulting in most S.A. turning into Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variable (S.A. de C.V.), or Sociedad Anónima Bursátil de Capital Variable (S.A.B. de C.V.) for publicly traded companies.
- Mexico also has Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada de Capital Variable (S.R.L. de C.V.), which is analogous to the limited liability company.
- Spółka Akcyjna in Polish
- Societate pe Acțiuni in Romanian
It is equivalent in literal meaning and function to:
- Naamloze vennootschap (N.V.) in Dutch
- Ανώνυμη Εταιρεία, Anonymi Etaireia (A.E.) in Greek
- Perseroan Terbatas Terbuka (P.T. Tbk.) in Indonesia
- Berhad (Bhd.) in Malaysia
- Anonim Şirket (A.Ş.) in Turkish
- Corporación anónima (C.A.) in Venezuela
It is equivalent in function to:
- Shoqëri Aksionare (Sh.a.) in Albanian
- شركة مساهة عامة ذات مسؤولية محدودة ش.ذ.م.م, Sharikah musāhamah ʿāmmah dhāt mas'ūliyyah maḥdūdah (literally, "Public share company with limited liability") in Arabic
- Dioničko društvo (d.d.) in Croatian and Bosnian
- Акционерно дружество, Aktsionerno druzhestvo (АД) in Bulgarian
- Акционерско друштво, Aktsionersko drushtvo (АД) in Macedonian
- Akciová společnost (a.s.) in Czech
- Aktieselskab (A/S) in Danish
- Société anonyme égyptienne (S.A.E.) or (شركة مساهمة مصرية (ش.م.م (Sherka mosahama Maṣreyya) (literally, "Egyptian share company") in Egypt
- Osakeyhtiö (Oy) in Finnish
- Aktsiaselts (AS) in Estonian
- Aktiengesellschaft (AG) in German
- Részvénytársaság (Rt) in Hungarian
- Hlutafélag (Hf) in Icelandic
- Public Limited (LTD.) in India
- Public limited company (plc) in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and several Commonwealth countries
- Kabushiki Gaisha (K.K.) or 株式会社 in Japan
- Jusighoesa (J) or 주식회사 in Korea
- Société anonyme laotienne (S.A.L.) in Laos
- Akcinė bendrovė (AB) in Lithuanian
- Akciju Sabiedrība (AS) in Latvian
- Aksjeselskap (AS) in Norwegian
- Акционерное общество, Aktsionernoye obshchestvo (AO) in Russian
- Деоничарско друштво, Deoničarsko društvo (d.d.), or Акционарско друштво, Akcionarsko društvo (a.d.) in Serbian
- Akciová spoločnosť (a.s.) in Slovak
- Delniška družba (d.d.) in Slovene
- Aktiebolag (AB) in Swedish
- Акціонерне товариство, Aktsionerne tovarystvo (AT) in Ukrainian
- Publicly traded company or Incorporated (Inc.) in the United States, though the former term does not appear in the names of business entities
- Compañía Anónima (C.A.) in Andorra
- ក.អ(ក្រុមហ៊ុនអនាមិក) or Société anonyme cambodgienne (S.A.C.) (literally, "Cambodian share company") in Cambodia
- "26 CFR 301.7701-2 - Business entities; definitions. | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute". www.law.cornell.edu.
(v)Multilingual countries. Different linguistic renderings of the name of an entity listed in paragraph (b)(8)(i) of this section shall be disregarded. For example, an entity formed under the laws of Switzerland as a Societe Anonyme will be a corporation and treated in the same manner as an Aktiengesellschaft.