Large corporations

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The largest companies in the world by sales, 2012

Large company (also large company ) is the name for companies that exceed certain company sizes in terms of number of employees , sales revenues or total assets . Smaller companies are called small and medium-sized enterprises (KMU / KMB). Colloquially, large companies are sometimes referred to as a group .


Commercial law

The commercial law definition primarily serves to determine the accounting requirements . The distinction between the size classes is important here for the disclosure requirement with regard to the scope and level of detail in which the content of the annual financial statements is to be disclosed. In addition to large companies, due to their publication obligation, stock corporations in the regulated market are also considered large corporations without necessarily being considered large companies themselves.

a) A corporation applies according to European law (s. § 267 HGB , § 221 Commercial Code ) as large corporation , when the balance sheet dates of two consecutive fiscal years, two of the three following characteristics has exceeded at least:

  • 20,000,000 euros balance sheet total after deducting a deficit shown on the assets side of the balance sheet
  • 40,000,000 euros in sales in the twelve months before the balance sheet date
  • 250 employees on an annual average; the employees employed for their vocational training are not taken into account.

b) Corporations are always considered to be large corporations if they use an organized market for securities issued by them or have applied for admission to trading on an organized market ( Section 264d HGB).

Other definitions

In addition to the commercial law definition, there are other definitions of terms.

According to EU recommendation 2003/361 / EG , companies with more than 250 employees or an annual turnover of over 50 million euros combined with a balance sheet total of 43 million euros are considered large companies.

The Institut für Mittelstandsforschung Bonn (IfM) defines a company as a large company if it has 500 or more employees or an annual turnover of over 50 million euros.

In the US, the Small Business Administration (SBA) creates a separate upper limit for small and medium-sized businesses for each industry.

Business aspects

Large companies have some peculiarities compared to small and medium-sized companies . This includes in particular questions of organization , cost reductions through the law of mass production and economies of scale . From an organizational point of view, large companies can be characterized by long decision-making paths , deficiencies in comprehensive control or a slow ability to adapt . The farm size effect can also be explained by the fact that large farms are potentially able to produce more cheaply overall than small and medium-sized enterprises. According to the law of mass production, the proportion of fixed costs decreases with increasing capacity utilization per unit, resulting in economies of scale . If the increase in capacity leads to a reduction in costs, one speaks of economies of scale (static economies of scale). Due to increasing capacity utilization, mass degression leads to a reduction in fixed unit costs because the fixed costs can be distributed over a larger production volume (fixed cost degression). High fixed costs thus require production in large quantities, which is more likely in large firms. The degression in size of costs (economies of scale) is not only expressed in the degression of fixed costs, but also in the effect of company size. However, large farms can also be exposed to the risk of negative economies of scale, namely if the costs increase disproportionately to the increase in the output volume. Large corporations often gain greater market share and market power so that they can take price leadership in some markets .

Large corporations by state


Large international companies are among the most complex forms of organization. Their financial strength tends to make them less dependent on traditional bank intermediation. By eliminating the banks (“disintermediaton”), they create their own liquidity and currency pools and also ensure a liquid secondary market for the financial instruments concerned . The currency trading is already off the banks directly between international corporations. In-house banking departments also have expertise in banking and increase the independence of banks. Their financial strength and mostly good ratings make them emittable and ensure cost-effective access to the capital market . Large companies that are the subject of reporting and analysis by the press and rating agencies , unlike small companies, do not require any publicity transformation by banks. You have reached a company size that enables more extensive research and development with competence centers distributed around the world. In the course of globalization, they can relocate or expand to other countries. Leading worldwide by market value are Apple , Exxon Mobil , Berkshire Hathaway , Google , Microsoft , PetroChina , Wells Fargo , Johnson & Johnson , Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Novartis .


Large German companies include at least the listed companies Volkswagen AG , Allianz SE , Daimler AG , Deutsche Bank , Siemens , E.ON , Deutsche Post AG , Deutsche Telekom and BASF that are represented in the DAX . In the case of credit institutions , the institutions with a certain company size (measured by the volume of business ) are called large banks .


In Austria only 0.4% of all companies belong to the large companies, but with 36.5% most of all employees work in them.


According to an OECD study, Switzerland had an even lower proportion of large companies (0.3%) than Germany (0.4%) in terms of the total number of companies. In Switzerland, large companies can be found primarily in the chemical industry, telecommunications and banks.

United States

By 2003, the business magazine Forbes Magazine published the Forbes 500 list of the 500 largest companies in the United States.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. EU definition of small and medium-sized enterprises (PDF)
  2. Definition of KMU IfM ( Memento of the original dated November 30, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Holger Reinemann: Mittelstandsmanagement. Introduction to theory and practice . Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag (2011), p. 3
  4. Table of the SBA for the definition of small and medium-sized enterprises
  5. Werner Pepels, Product and Price Management in Corporate Banking , 2006, p. 194
  6. Michael Kutschker / Stefan Schmid, Internationales Management , 2010, p. 435
  7. Birga Döring / Tim Döring / Wolfgang Harmgardt / Axel Lange / Kai Michaelsen, Allgemeine BWL , 2007, p. 13
  8. ^ Society Swiss Monthly Hefts, Swiss Monthly Hefts , Volumes 87-88, 2008, p. 20
  9. ^ Andreas Wald, Network Structures and Effects in Organizations , 2003, p. 1
  10. Michael D. Roden, Forex Funding Free of Banks , in: Euromoney, May 1989, pp. 102-103
  11. Eugen Löffler, The Group as a Financial Intermediary , 1991, p. 73