Section 758: Enforcement of prohibition: orders available to the court after contravention
1059. This section applies where a private company breaches the prohibition on offering securities to the public. It introduces a new enforcement procedure for breaches; it replaces the criminal offence currently imposed in section 81 of the 1985 Act with a civil enforcement procedure.
1060. If a company breaches the prohibition, certain members, certain creditors or the Secretary of State may apply to the court. In order to have standing to bring the application, the member or creditor must have been a member or a creditor at the time the offer was made in contravention of the public offer prohibition; in addition anyone who became a member as a result of the offer to the public may bring an application.
1061. On such an application, if the court decides the company has acted in contravention of the public offer prohibition then it must order the re-registration of the company as a public company, unless it appears to the court that the company does not meet the requirements for re-registration as a public company (see Part 7 of the Act), and it is impracticable or undesirable to require it to take steps to do so. If the court is unable to order re-registration for these reasons, it may instead make a remedial order or an order for the compulsory winding up of the company (see Chapter 6 of Part 4 of the Insolvency Act 1986). The court has discretion as to whether or not to make these orders. This might be appropriate for example where the company has breached the prohibition but has not allotted shares, and has withdrawn the offer and undertaken not to do it again.
Section 759: Enforcement of prohibition: remedial order
1062. A remedial order is an order for the purpose of putting anyone affected by the breach of the public offer prohibition back in the position they would have been in if the breach had not occurred. It may require any person knowingly concerned in the contravention, whether or not an officer of the company, to offer to purchase the shares or debentures that were the subject of the offer on such terms as the court thinks fit. The remedial order will override the terms of the company’s constitution, but no one holding the securities will be obliged to accept the offer made to purchase them. It may be made whether or not the holder of the securities subject to the order is the person to whom the company allotted or agreed to allot them.
Section 760: Validity of allotment etc not affected
1063. This section makes clear that any allotment or sale of securities or any agreement to allot or sell securities is not made void simply because there has been a breach of the prohibition on offers to the public. Equivalent provision was made in section 81(3) of the 1985 Act.
1064. Under the 1985 Act, a public company which is incorporated as such may not do business without first obtaining a trading certificate from the registrar. There is a minimum allotted share capital requirement, known as the “authorised minimum”, which is currently set at £50,000 and which must be denominated in sterling. The same minimum share capital requirement applies where a private company re-registers as a public company under Part 7 of the Act.
1065. If a public company reduces its share capital below the authorised minimum it will no longer meet the minimum share capital requirement for a public company and must reregister as a private company.
1066. The requirement for public companies to have a minimum share capital is derived from EU law. Article 6 of the Second Company Law Directive (77/91/EEC) provides that: “The laws of member states shall require that in order that a company may be incorporated or obtain authorisation to commence business, a minimum share capital shall be subscribed the amount of which shall not be less than 25,000 euros.”
1067. The Department’s interpretation of this Directive is that it permits the authorised minimum to be denominated in euros, or the national currency of the Member State, but not in other currencies (so for example, the authorised minimum could not be satisfied in dollars).
1068. When this requirement was implemented in the Companies Act 1980 the amount of the authorised minimum was set at £50,000 (a figure considerably higher than the minimum required under the Directive). The CLR considered whether the authorised minimum should be maintained, increased or reduced. Their recommendation was to maintain it at £50,000.
Section 761: Public company: requirement as to minimum share capital
1069. This section replaces section 117(2) of the 1985 Act and restates section 117(1), (4) and (6) of that Act. Like the provisions of the 1985 Act, it only applies to public companies that are formed as such on their original incorporation (as opposed to companies that reregister from private limited to public under the provisions of Part 7 of the Act).
1070. The current requirement for a statutory declaration to be filed with an application for a trading certificate, contained in section 117(2) of the 1985 Act, has not been carried forward. This is replaced by a requirement for a statement of compliance (see section 762 and the note on section 13).
1071. As now, the registrar will only issue a trading certificate if she is satisfied that certain conditions are met: in particular the company must satisfy the minimum share capital requirement for public companies – known as the “authorised minimum” (see subsection (2)).
1072. A trading certificate has effect from the date that it is issued and is conclusive evidence that the company is entitled to do business as a public company.
Section 762: Procedure for obtaining certificate
1073. This section replaces section 117(3) of the 1985 Act. It prescribes the contents of the application for a trading certificate (see subsection (1)), which, amongst other things, must include a statement that the nominal value of the company’s share capital is not less than the authorised minimum.
1074. The current requirement for a statutory declaration (or “electronic statement”) when an application is made for a trading certificate is replaced by a requirement to make a statement of compliance. This statement does not need to be witnessed and may be made in paper or electronic form. It will be for the registrar’s rules to specify who may make this statement (and the form of it).
Section 763: The authorised minimum
1075. This section replaces section 118(1) of the 1985 Act. Under section 118 the authorised minimum is £50,000. This implements Article 6 of the Second Company Law Directive which requires that in order that a public company may be incorporated or obtain authorisation to commence business, a minimum capital shall be subscribed (see above). As recommended by the CLR (Completing the Structure, paragraph 7.6), this section retains the authorised minimum at £50,000. In contrast to the 1985 Act provisions, the section also enables the minimum share capital requirement for public companies to be satisfied in sterling or the prescribed euro equivalent (see subsection (1)).
1076. Once a company has obtained a trading certificate under section 762 or section 117 of the 1985 Act (in the case of companies that obtain a trading certificate before these provisions of the Act come into force), there is no requirement for the authorised minimum to remain denominated in sterling or euro, and if it wishes a public company may subsequently redenominate all of its share capital (including the authorised minimum) under the provisions of Chapter 8 of Part 17 of the Act (which contains new provisions which permit companies easily to redenominate or convert their share capital from one currency to another).
1077. Subsection (2) of section 763 contains a new power which enables the Secretary of State, in regulations made under the Act, to prescribe the amount in euros that is for the time being to be treated as equivalent to the sterling amount of the authorised minimum. This is required in order to achieve parity between the prescribed sterling and euro amounts (which may become necessary due to exchange rate fluctuations). The amount prescribed will be determined by applying an appropriate spot rate of exchange to the prescribed sterling amount and rounding to the nearest 100 euros (see subsection (4)).
1078. The power to alter the authorised minimum, contained in section 118 of the 1985 Act, is carried forward in section 764.