Section 635: Copy of court order to be forwarded to the registrar
943. Section 635 sets out the procedural requirements as to notice where the court has made an order on an application under section 633 or 634. Where the court has made an order on application under these sections, the company must forward a copy of that order to the registrar within 15 days of the date on which the order is made. Where a company fails to comply with the provisions of this section, the company, and every officer of the company who is in default, commits an offence (see subsections (2) and (3)).
Section 636 to 640: Matters to be notified to the registrar
944. These sections replace various provisions in sections 128 and 129 of the 1985 Act which are concerned with notification to the registrar of the creation of, and variations to, rights attached to a class of a company’s shares (section 128 of the 1985 Act) or class rights of members (section 129 of that Act).
945. Under the Act, where a limited company creates a new class of shares, it will be required to provide details of the rights attached to the shares in the return of allotment and statement of capital required under section 555. There is a similar requirement in section 556 where an unlimited company allots a new class of share. Those provisions replace section 128(1) and (2) of the 1985 Act.
946. In addition, where a company varies the rights attached to any of its shares (or assigns a name or other designation, or a new name or other designation to any class or description of its shares) it will in future be required to register particulars of the rights affected under section 637 (or 636) irrespective of how the variation in rights was achieved. Currently companies are not required to provide this information if the rights attached to a particular share or class of shares are varied by an amendment to the company’s memorandum or articles or by special resolution or agreement of the company’s members which is required to be filed under section 380 of the 1985 Act. Sections 638 to 640 make similar changes to the disclosure requirements which apply to companies limited by guarantee not having a share capital and unlimited companies not having a share capital which may, nevertheless, have different classes of members.
947. It should be noted, that, in contrast to other alterations to a company’s share capital, there is no requirement in section 637 for a statement of capital (see note on section 619). Such a requirement would be superfluous, as a variation of class rights will not result in a change to the aggregate amount of a company’s subscribed capital.
948. Section 135 of the 1985 Act lays down a statutory procedure under which a limited company may, if authorised by its articles, reduce its share capital. This requires a special resolution of the company’s members and the reduction must be confirmed by the court. Companies limited by shares may also reduce their share capital under section 171 (private company redemption or purchase of own shares out of capital) and sections 146 to 147 of the 1985 Act (which require a public company which acquires shares in any of the specified ways, for example, through forfeiture for failure to pay up, to cancel those shares within a specified period), the provisions of both of which are carried forward by the Act. A reduction of capital may also occur as a result of the court making an order for the purchase by a company of its members’ shares.
949. A company may wish to reduce its share capital for a variety of reasons, for example, where its capital is in excess of the company’s wants or where the value of the company’s net assets has fallen below the amount of its capital (as stated in the company’s accounts) and the position is likely to be permanent.
Section 641: Circumstances in which a company may reduce its share capital
950. This section replaces section 135(1) and (2) of the 1985 Act. It sets out the circumstances and manner in which a company limited by shares may reduce its share capital. As recommended by the CLR (Final Report, paragraph 10.6), in future a private company limited by shares will be able to reduce its share capital using a new solvency statement procedure for capital reductions (see section 642).
951. A company may only reduce its share capital under section 135 of the 1985 Act if it is authorised to do so by its articles. In line with the recommendations of the CLR (Completing the Structure, paragraph 2.15), the requirement for prior authorisation in the articles has not been retained but, if it wishes, a company may restrict or prohibit a reduction of capital by making provision to this effect in its articles (see subsection (6)).
952. Subsection (1)(a) contains a signpost to a new provision, which will enable a private company limited by shares to reduce its share capital using the new solvency statement procedure (see above). In addition, private companies and public companies alike will continue to be able to use the current court approved procedure for capital reductions – which is retained in subsection (1)(b).
953. In the case of a private company limited by shares which is proposing to use the new solvency statement procedure to effect a reduction of capital, the company may only reduce its share capital under subsection (1)(a) if it will have at least one member remaining after the proposed reduction (see subsection (2)). That member need only hold one share in the company but that share must not be a redeemable share. The principle behind this requirement is that a private company limited by shares should not be capable of reducing its share capital to zero unless the reduction of capital is sanctioned by the court. This mirrors the existing equivalent provision in section 162(3) of the 1985 Act – which applies to a purchase of own shares.
954. Both the solvency statement procedure for capital reductions and the court-approved procedure require a special resolution of the company’s members. Under subsection (5) a special resolution to reduce a company’s share capital may not provide for the proposed reduction to take effect on a date later than the date on which the resolution to reduce capital takes effect. Under the solvency statement procedure a resolution to reduce capital will take effect when the documents referred to in section 644 have been registered by the registrar (see section 644(4)). This would operate to prevent a company passing a resolution on, say, 1st January stating that the reduction is to take effect on 1st October. Under the court approved procedure, the resolution will take effect on the registration of the court order and statement of capital or, in the context of a reduction forming part of a compromise or arrangement under Part 26, on delivery of those documents to the registrar (unless the court orders otherwise) (see section 649).