State-owned enterprise  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A state-owned enterprise (SOE) is a legal entity that undertakes commercial activities on behalf of the state, its owner. The legal status of SOEs varies from being a part of the government to being stock companies with the state as a regular stockholder. The defining characteristics of SOEs are that they have a distinct legal form and are established to operate in commercial affairs and commercial activities. While they may also have public policy objectives (e.g., a state railway company may aim to make transportation more accessible), SOEs should be differentiated from other forms of government agencies or state entities established to pursue purely nonfinancial objectives.

Government-owned corporations are common with natural monopolies and infrastructure, such as railways and telecommunications, strategic goods and services (mail, weapons), natural resources and energy, politically sensitive business, broadcasting, banking, demerit goods (e.g. alcoholic beverages), and merit goods (healthcare).

Contents

Terminology

SOEs are also called state-owned company, state-owned entity, state enterprise, publicly owned corporation, government business enterprise, crown corporation, government-owned corporation, government-sponsored enterprises, commercial government agency, state-privatised industry public sector undertaking, or parastatal.

Definitions

SOEs can be fully owned or partially owned by government. As a definitional issue, it is difficult to determine categorically what level of state ownership would qualify an entity to be considered as state-owned since governments can also own regular stock, without implying any special interference. As an example, the China Investment Corporation agreed in 2007 to acquire a 10% interest in the global investment bank Morgan Stanley, but it is unlikely that it would qualify the latter as a government-owned corporation. Government-owned or state-run enterprises are often the result of corporatization, a process in which government agencies and departments are re-organized as semiautonomous corporate entities, sometimes with partial shares listed on stock exchanges.

The term 'government-linked company' (GLC) is sometimes used to refer to corporate entities that may be private or public (listed on a stock exchange) where an existing government owns a stake using a holding company. There are two main definitions of GLCs are dependent on the proportion of the corporate entity a government owns. One definition purports that a company is classified as a GLC if a government owns an effective controlling interest (more than 50%), while the second definition suggests that any corporate entity that has a government as a shareholder is a GLC.

In the Commonwealth realms, particularly Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, country-wide SOEs often use the style "Crown corporation", or "Crown entities". Examples of Crown corporations include the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Air Canada before the latter underwent privatization. Cabinet ministers (ministers of the Crown) often control the shares in such public corporations.

At the level of local government, territorial or other authorities may set up similar enterprises which are sometimes referred to as "local authority trading enterprises" (LATEs). Many local authorities establish services, such as water supply as separate corporations or as a business unit of the authority.

Economic sectors

SOEs often operate in sectors in which there is a natural monopoly, or the government has a strategic interest. However, government ownership of industry corporations is common.

Nationalization also forcibly converts a private corporation into a state-owned enterprise.

In most OPEC countries, the governments own the oil companies operating on their soil. A notable example is the Saudi national oil company, Saudi Aramco, which the Saudi government bought in 1988, changing its name from Arabian American Oil Company to Saudi Arabian Oil Company. The Saudi government also owns and operates Saudi Arabian Airlines, and owns 70% of SABIC as well as many other companies. They are, however, being privatized gradually.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "State-owned enterprise" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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