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Aktiengesellschaft ( ; abbreviated AG) is a German term that refers to a corporation that is limited by share, i.e. owned by shareholders, and may be traded on a stock market. The term is used in Germanymarker, Austriamarker, and Switzerlandmarker.

Meaning of the word

The German word Aktiengesellschaft is a compound noun made up of two elements: Aktien meaning shares, and Gesellschaft meaning company. However to translate it as "share company" is misleading, since other types of German companies also have shares, although these shares are called Anteile rather than Aktien. A similar distinction exists in other languages; for example, in Polish the two types of share are called akcja and udział, or in Spanish, acción and cuota.

Legal basis

The legal basis of the AG is, in Germany and Austria, the respective Aktiengesetz (abbr. AktG), in Switzerland a part of the Obligationenrecht (OR). As the law requires all corporations to specify their legal form (which gives the limitation of liability) in the name, all German and Austrian stock corporations bear Aktiengesellschaft or AG as part (usually suffix) of their name.


German AGs have a "two-tiered board" structure consisting of a supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat) and a management board (Vorstand). The supervisory board is generally controlled by shareholders, although employees may have seats depending on the size of the company. The management board directly runs the company, but its members may be removed by the supervisory board. The supervisory board also determines the management board's compensation, although this is not always the case. Some German AGs have management boards which determine their own remuneration, although that situation is now relatively uncommon.

Similar forms

Several countries have similar forms of company: Italymarker (Società per Azioni, S.p.A.), Denmarkmarker (Aktieselskab, A/S), Norwaymarker (Aksjeselskap, AS), Swedenmarker (Aktiebolag, AB), Polandmarker (Spółka Akcyjna, S.A.), Slovakiamarker (akciová spoločnosť, a.s.), the Czech Republicmarker (Akciová společnost, a.s.), Sloveniamarker (delniška družba, d.d.), Serbiamarker (akcionarsko društvo, a.d.), Croatiamarker (dioničko društvo, d.d.), Romaniamarker (Societate pe Actiuni, s.a.), Bulgarian (Акционерно дружество, а.г.), Russiamarker (Открытое акционерное общество, Otkrytoye Aktsionernoye Obshestvo, OAO), and Finlandmarker (Osakeyhtiö, OY), among others. All have names that more or less literally translate to "Aktiengesellschaft" (for meaning see above), although their structures differ (for instance, an Italian S.p.A. is closer to a French S.A. than to a German AG).

The form is roughly equivalent to the public limited company (plc) in the United Kingdommarker and Republic of Irelandmarker, to the publicly-held/open corporation in the United Statesmarker, to the Naamloze Vennootschap in the Netherlandsmarker and Belgiummarker, to the S.A. in other civil-law jurisdictions, and to the Societas Europaea in the European Union.

See also

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