Sole proprietorships, joint liability, limited partnerships and cooperatives are rarely established by foreign investors in Georgia. Therefore, the following focuses on the legal requirements for Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and Joint Stock Companies (JSCs), which are the most popular forms of incorporation used by foreign investors in Georgia.
The Law on Entrepreneurs does not set limitations on the domicile of partners. A partner in a legal enterprise can be a citizen or resident of any country. Foreign companies can be established as fully foreign-owned enterprises or in partnership with Georgian companies or physical persons. In accordance with the Law on the Promotion and Guarantees of Investment Activities of November 12, 1996, companies with foreign investments enjoy national treatment and the same rights as Georgian companies.
Provisions of the Law on Entrepreneurs for Limited Liability Companies (LLC):
· An LLC can have a maximum of 50 shareholders. The minimum equity capital requirement is 2,000 GEL. The share of the equity capital to be covered by each of the partners may be determined freely, but it must be divisible by 10;
· At least 50 percent of the equity capital must be paid up at the time of incorporation, with the remaining 50 percent due within one year;
· The Law stipulates that a partners’ meeting be held at least annually. Special meetings may be called at the request of partners or directors of the firm;
· Partners’ meetings are required to consider issues such as amendments to regulations, reorganization or liquidation of the company, appointment of directors, and so on;
· Day-to-day management of the company is carried out by one or more directors who are appointed and dismissed by the general meeting or the supervisory board, when such a board is established at the discretion of the general partners meeting;
· A partner may sell his shares without seeking consent of other partners, unless otherwise stated in the charter of the company;
· Partners who posses 5 percent and more of the equity capital are authorized to call a general meeting.
Provisions of the Law on Entrepreneurs for Joint Stock Companies (JSC):
· An entity with more than 50 partners is required to have a legal form of a Joint Stock Company (JSC);
· Minimum equity capital for JSC is 15,000 GEL;
· A JSC with more than 100 shareholders is required to maintain its share registry through an independent registrar (In 2003 amendments were adopted into the law requiring that a JSC with more than 50 shareholders is required to maintain its share registry through an independent registrar);
· A general shareholders' meeting must be held in two months time form publishing annual financial accounts;
· A general shareholders' meeting is entitled to elect the supervisory board members, make amendments into the charter of the company, approve the annual report presented by the company directors, elect auditors and so on;
· Creation of a supervisory board is mandatory for a JSC. Supervisory boards must have between 3 and 21 members, but the number must be divisible by 3. The Law provides for representation of company staff on the supervisory board (up to 1/3 of the members);
· Supervisory board is elected for the period of 4 years. The company directors may not be the members of the supervisory board;
· Supervisory board meeting must be held al least once in a quarter;
· Day-to-day management of the company is carried out by one or more directors who are appointed and dismissed by the supervisory board;
· Supervisory board oversees the activities carried out by the company directors, checks the annual financial accounts, appoints and dismisses the company directors, etc.;
· The consent of the supervisory board is needed to conduct the following activities: purchasing or selling more than 50% share of entities, purchasing or selling the assets of the company, setting up or liquidating the branches of the company, etc.;
The law envisages a cumulative voting for electing the members of a supervisory board to protect minority shareholders, but this is not a mandatory requirement.
Representative Offices and Branches. A foreign company may operate a branch or a representative office in Georgia. A branch is not a separate legal entity and it is allowed to engage in commercial activities that would constitute all or part of the activities of foreign head office. For purposes of registration, representative offices are treated as branches and are obliged to fulfil the same requirements.
All actions on behalf of a company can be performed by the head of the company (executive body) or by any person authorized to perform such actions by a power of attorney of the relevant body of the company. Foreign legal entities bear full liability for the activities of branches or representative offices.
Analysis - Law on Entrepreneurs (LoE). As the main company law for Georgia, the Law on Entrepreneurs provides a good basis for corporate governance for all the private companies including those with traded securities. However, based on the experience of other central and eastern European countries, there are several provisions in the Law on Entrepreneurs that could be amended to further strengthen the corporate governance provisions. They are: (1) although the LoE envisages a cumulative voting for electing the members of a supervisory board to protect minority shareholders, it should be made a mandatory requirement. As a result, there will be a mandatory cumulative voting for members of supervisory boards as a means of allowing shareholders with small shareholdings to vote at least one member of the supervisory board; (2) requirement that the shareholders’ meeting approve the auditing company’s contract (covering the scope of work and annual auditing fees) so that shareholders interested in a highly quality audit, requiring more time from the auditing company, can obtain such an audit, and (3) There is a need to establish a minimum quorum below which no shareholders’ meeting may be considered valid; (4) although the LoE requires the financial statements of JSCs to be prepared on the basis of the International Accounting Standards (IAS), it does not specifically require that audits are conducted in accordance with the International Standards on Auditing (ISA), which needs to be amended; and (5) the LoE does not provide takeover rules to protect the interests of minority shareholders.
More specifically, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted the Assessment of the Implementation of the Corporate Governance Principles of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Georgia. It is interesting to note that the assessment identified a number of the shortcomings in the corporate governance practice existing in Georgia. Namely, according to the study: (i) There are uncertainties in knowing if shareholders are sharing in company’s profits; (ii) It is not uncommon practice of failing to hold the required shareholders’ meetings; (iii) Markets for corporate control are limited; (iv) Court system has not yet made any decisions on the cases concerning corporate disputes; (v) Minor role is played by supervisory boards in the strategic guidance of companies; (vi) There is a less than complete disclosure by most reporting companies, particularly of financial and operating results; (vii) There are weak auditing practices;
More detailed results of the assessment are summarised in Table 22.214.171.124 below:
Table 126.96.36.199. Georgia: Assessment of the Implementation of the OECD Principles
of Corporate Governance
OECD Principles of Corporate Governance
Principle 1 - Basic shareholder rights. The corporate governance framework should protect shareholders’ rights. Basic shareholder rights include the right to: (i) secure methods of ownership registration; (ii) convey or transfer shares; (iii) obtain relevant information on the corporation on a timely and regular basis; (iv) participate and vote in general shareholder meetings; (v) elect members of the (supervisory) board; and (vi) share in the profits of the corporation.
Difficult to access the records of the court enterprise registers and uncertainties in knowing if shareholders are sharing in company’s profits
Principle 2 - Fundamental corporate changes. Shareholders have the right to participate in, and to be sufficiently informed on, decisions concerning fundamental corporate changes, such as: (i) amendments to the governing documents of the company; (ii) the authorization of additional shares; and (iii) extraordinary transactions that in effect result in the sale of the company.
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