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S.A. (and variants) designates a type of corporation in countries that mostly employ civil law. Depending on language, it means anonymous company, anonymous partnership, or share 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. The shareholders were anonymous.
Like bearer bonds, anonymous, unregistered share ownership and dividend collection enabled money laundering, tax evasion, and concealed business transactions in general, so governments passed laws to eradicate 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 beneficial owner.
In different countries
S.A. can be an abbreviation of:
- Sociedad Anónima or Sociedad por Acciones in Spanish; variations include Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variable (S.A. de C.V.) and Sociedad Anónima Bursátil de Capital Variable (S.A.B. de C.V.) for publicly traded companies in Mexico
- Mexico also has Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada de Capital Variable (S. de R. L. de C.V.)
- Societat Anònima in Catalan
- Sociedade Anónima in Galician and Portuguese (used in Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Timor Leste, Macao, Mozambique and other Portuguese-speaking countries)
- Sociedá Anónima in Asturian and Leonese
- Società Anonima in Italian (since 1942 Società per Azioni, S.p.A.)
- Société Anonyme in French (as used in French-speaking countries such as France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Monaco; and in partially Francophone countries like Belgium, and Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania and other African countries)
- Spółka Akcyjna in Polish
- Societate pe Acțiuni in Romanian
It is equivalent in literal meaning and function to:
- Anonim Şirket (A.Ş.) in Turkish
- Ανώνυμη Εταιρεία, Anonymi Etaireia (A.E.) in Greek
- Naamloze vennootschap (N.V.) in Dutch
- Perseroan Terbatas Terbuka (P.T. Tbk.) in Indonesia
- Berhad (Bhd.) in Malaysia
It is equivalent in function to:
- Aktiengesellschaft (AG) in German
- Osakeyhtiö (Oy) in Finnish
- Aktiebolag (AB) in Swedish
- Részvénytársaság (Rt) in Hungarian
- Akcinė bendrovė (AB) in Lithuanian
- Akciju Sabiedrība (AS) in Latvian
- Aktieselskab (A/S) in Danish
- Aksjeselskap (AS) in Norwegian
- Akciová spoločnosť (a.s.) in Slovak
- Akciová společnost (a.s.) in Czech
- Акционерное общество, Aktsionernoye obshchestvo (AO) in Russian
- Акціонерне товариство, Aktsionerne tovarystvo (AT) in Ukrainian
- Акционерно дружество, Aktsionerno druzhestvo (АД) in Bulgarian
- Shoqëri Aksionare (Sh.a.) in Albanian
- Delniška družba (d.d.) in Slovene
- Dioničko društvo (d.d.) in Croatian and Bosnian
- Деоничарско друштво, Deoničarsko društvo (d.d.), or Акционарско друштво, Akcionarsko društvo (a.d.) in Serbian
- Public limited company (plc) in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and several Commonwealth countries
- Publicly traded company in the United States, though that term does not appear in the names of business entities
- (شركة مساهمة عامة ذات مسؤولية محدودة (ش.ذ.م.م in Arabic.
- Société anonyme égyptienne (SAE) or (شركة مساهمة مصرية (ش.م.م in Egypt.
- Kabushiki Gaisha (K.K.) or 株式会社 in Japan.