donderdag 14 juni 2012

Rules governing incorporation of a limited company in the Netherlands simplified from 1 October 2012

Entrepreneurs who want to do business in the Netherlands often opt for a limited company, officially called a private limited liability company or in Dutch "besloten vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, abbreviated to "B.V.”. The fact that the company involves limited liability for the shareholders is one of the main reasons why this type of legal entity is popular. However, the rules governing the incorporation and the ongoing business were always very strict. There were several barriers which had to be overcome before a company could be incorporated. Besides that EU legislation made it possible to use foreign enitities, which were set up in another EU country, to do business in the Netherlands whereby the Dutch incorporation rules could be avoided.

On 15 December 2009, the bill for the Act on the Simplification and Flexibilisation of the B.V. (the "Wet vereenvoudiging en flexibilisering van het bv-recht”, also referred to as the "Flex Act") was passed by the lower chamber of the Dutch Parliament. The bill, which was first submitted on 31 May 2007, has (finally) been approved by the upper chamber on 31 June 2012. The Flex Act will enter into force on 1 October 2012.

Easier incorporation

The requirement of a minimum share capital of € 18.000,- will be abolished. This means that any capital amount is possible, even 1 Eurocent. The mandatory capital contribution statements drawn up by the bank (cash contributions) will disappear as well. This will speed up the establishment of the company since it is no longer required that a bank account is opened before the limited company can be set up. The same applies to the mandatory audit in case of a contribution in kind. It will also become possible for the B.V. to offer financial assistance to third parties for the purchase of shares in the company’s own capital.

Better protection of creditors

An important reason to abolish the € 18,000 minimum capital is that this amount is, in many cases, not related to the size of the company’s business in terms of its turnover and balance sheets, and often bears no relevance when it comes to creditor protection. The focus will therefore be changed to the payment of dividend to shareholders. In order to protect creditors, the B.V. will not be entitled to pay dividends if it is clear that the B.V. will not be able to continue paying its debts after the dividend has been paid. Directors and shareholders that have acted negligently can be held liable in person. This will be monitored for a period of a year after payment of the dividend.

More freedom of organization and decision-making

Companies will be given more freedom with regard to the organization of their structure. There are much more possibilities to derogate from the law in the articles of associations. It will for example be possible to issue shares without voting rights or shares that do not entitle the holder to any profit. The articles can also determine that each shareholder may appoint a director. It will be easier to pass resolutions without a meeting being held and it will be possible to hold shareholder meetings outside The Netherlands.

Abolishment of restriction of share transfers

The current law governing B.V.'s provides for mandatory restrictions on the transfer of shares in a B.V. These restrictions safeguard the private character of the B.V. One of these rules is that a shareholder who intends to sell his shares first has to offer his shares to the other shareholders. Under the Flex Act, the share transfer restrictions will no longer be mandatory. The transferability of shares may be free or can for example be entirely excluded in the articles of association for a specific period of time.
Conclusion - questions
The overall point of view is that the legislative changes form a solid basis for a more flexible BV and, as a result, the BV shall have no difficulty competing with any comparable foreign flexible entity. Above the most important changes have been mentioned, but there are more changes which can benefit you or your company too. If you have any questions about (the incorporation of) a B.V. in The Netherlands, do not hesitate to contact us. We can also review your current articles of association and inform you where changes can be made with respect to the new rules.

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