Parent company

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Parent company (also parent company ; English: parent company ) is the group law , a company that through group typical relations with one or more other companies ( subsidiaries ) is connected and can exercise this control over them.


The terms parent company and subsidiary are specific legal terms that are used in Section 271 (2) and Section 290 of the German Commercial Code . According to this, parent and subsidiary companies are affiliated companies that are to be included in the consolidated financial statements of the parent company as part of full consolidation (Section 290 (1) sentence 1 HGB). This regulation is based closely on IAS 27.13, according to which companies that are (can) be controlled by a parent company are to be included in the consolidated financial statements. The prerequisite is that the parent company can exercise direct or even indirect controlling influence. If it only exercises indirect influence, the parent company still has a sub-subsidiary . The parent company leads, the subsidiaries and grandchildren are managed. The parent company itself can be operationally active or limit itself to administrative, coordinating and controlling activities because of its participation. Then a holding company also fulfills the functions of a parent company.


There is a parent company and must prepare consolidated financial statements if

  • it holds a stake in the amount of the majority of the voting rights (Section 290 (2) No. 1 HGB; according to IAS 27.13a at least half of the voting rights) in another company or
  • it is a shareholder with any share and has the right to appoint or dismiss the bodies of another company (Section 290 (2) No. 2 HGB; according to IAS 27.13c the majority of the management bodies can determine) or
  • it can exercise a controlling influence on another company due to a domination agreement , profit transfer agreement or the articles of association (Section 290 (2) No. 3 HGB; according to IAS 27.13b it can determine the financial and business policy) or
  • there is a participation in accordance with Section 271 (1) HGB and uniform management (Section 290 (1) HGB).

After signing a domination agreement, the subsidiary operates in the interests of the parent company.

Corporate law

It does not matter whether the parent company actually exercises its rights, since the possibility of exercising them is sufficient. In the case of uniform management, however, this right must actually be exercised. Uniform management means that the parent company enforces its business policy at the subsidiary in at least one of the operational functions ( procurement , production , financing , sales ) or through interlinking of the management bodies. The parent company can have any legal form ; it is only bound by group law to the legal form of a corporation ( stock corporation (AG) , limited partnership for shares (KGaA) and GmbH ) domiciled in Germany, while no special legal form is prescribed for its subsidiary. A parent company can also be a partnership if it holds a majority of the voting rights in another company. In accordance with the extensive authority of the parent company in the contracting group, transactions can be concluded with the subsidiaries to which “an orderly and conscientious manager” of an independent company ( Section 317 (2 ) AktG ) would not have consented.

According to the so-called " Parent- Subsidiary Directive" ( Directive 90/435 / EEC ( Parent- Subsidiary Directive) ), a minimum stake of the parent company of 10% in the subsidiary's capital is sufficient for the common tax system of the parent and subsidiary companies ( until 2006: 20%; until 2008: 15%). In terms of the trade tax privilege , the national participation rate is 15%, for investments in EU corporations at least 10% of the capital.

Parent Company Liability

At AG and KGaA there are extensive mechanisms for the purpose of protecting creditors in the relationship between parent and subsidiary. The initial assets of the subsidiary are protected by § § 300 to § 303 AktG, in addition there is a special liability of the legal representatives (§ § 308 to § 310 AktG). The core is the statutory loss compensation claim of Section 302 AktG in the contract group. The parent company has to compensate for the losses of the controlled subsidiary (§ 302 AktG) and after termination of the domination or profit transfer agreement to provide security to the creditors of the subsidiary (§ 303 AktG). An annual deficit can therefore not arise at the subsidiary due to the loss compensation obligation of the parent company on the balance sheet date ( Section 277 (3) sentence 2 HGB). If the parent company receives the subsidiary's profits on the basis of a profit transfer agreement or is allowed to issue instructions to the subsidiary based on a domination agreement ( Section 308 AktG), it must also bear the risk of loss. In the de facto stock corporation, the parent company may not use the possibilities of influence to induce its subsidiary to take a disadvantageous action ( Section 311 AktG), since otherwise it will be liable for damages ( Section 317 AktG).

However, the parent company's liability for the subsidiary's debts is not limited to these few legal cases. Jurisprudence and literature deal with the legal question of whether and to what extent the parent company is liable for the debts of its subsidiary if the latter has the legal form of a corporation. As a rule, there is the principle of separation , according to which private assets and corporate assets are strictly separated from each other in corporations. According to Section 1 Paragraph 1 Clause 2 AktG and Section 13 Paragraph 2 GmbHG , the creditors of the AG and the GmbH are only liable for their corporate assets. If the subsidiary's company assets are not sufficient to repay the company's debts, the parent company is usually not liable.

The creditors of the subsidiary are entitled to their own claims against the parent company, which is liable for the liabilities of its subsidiary analogously to §§ 128, 129 HGB. If penetration liability is permitted, the parent company is exceptionally directly and unrestrictedly liable in accordance with Section 105 (1) and Section 128 of the German Commercial Code. The facts of capital maintenance (§ § 57 , § 62 AktG, § 30 , § 31 GmbHG) take precedence and replace, where they can intervene, the direct liability. A thin capitalization may not lead to direct liability without supervention other circumstances. It must be a material undercapitalization, because the legal form-related limitation of liability of the subsidiary is then inappropriate and thus leads to the liability of the parent company for the liabilities of its subsidiary. A false direct liability exists if the parent company has issued guarantees or letters of comfort as security for loans to the subsidiary in favor of its subsidiary .

Individual evidence

  1. Hartmut Bieg / Heinz Kussmaul, External Accounting , 2006, p. 375.
  2. Susanne Wimmer-Leonhardt , corporate liability law , 2004, p. 13 ff.
  3. Susanne Wimmer-Leonhardt, corporate liability law , 2004, p. 64.
  4. ^ Jan Wilhelm, Corporation Law , 2009, p. 189.
  5. BGH ZIP 1999, 878, 879