top of page

Launching a Business in Hong Kong: An Overview of Entity Structures

Updated: May 10

As one of the world’s premier hubs for international business, Hong Kong attracts entrepreneurs worldwide eager to tap into its low taxes, strategic location, and business-friendly legal system. But before reaping Hong Kong’s benefits, companies must determine the right structure for their operations.


This article provides an overview of the most common Hong Kong business entities to consider when expanding into this vibrant market.

Business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting.

Sole Proprietorships


The simplest structure is a sole proprietorship, where an individual owns the entire company directly. Setup is fast, and compliance is minimal – owners file a single tax return and have total control over decisions.


However, liability is unlimited, raising capital is impossible as you can’t transfer shares and are therefore restricted to the owner’s finances, and succession planning is difficult since the business is not a separate legal entity. Sole proprietorships work best for low-risk endeavours without the need for external investment. This structure is not suitable for non Hong Kong resident.


Partnerships


Forming a partnership allows two to twenty people to share ownership of a Hong Kong business. Partners can diversify expertise and raise funds more easily.


There are two partnership types – general and limited. General partnerships offer swift formation without rigorous compliance, but all partners have unlimited liability for debts and actions of co-partners. Limited partnerships have “limited” partners who enjoy liability restricted to their capital contributions, but cannot participate in operations.


The “general” partners still have unlimited liability but run the business. While partnerships are simpler than corporations, conflicting goals between partners may arise.


Private Limited Company


This is the most common Hong Kong business structure. A private limited company is considered a separate legal entity from shareholders, who have limited liability bounded by their capital contribution.


These companies can raise funds easily by selling existing shares or issuing new ones. Setup is slightly more complex and costly than sole proprietorships, but liability protections and perpetual succession outweigh ongoing compliance requirements. Private companies also receive tax incentives like the low 8.25% to 16.5% profit tax rate (Or even 0% in case of offshore tax exemption).


The flexibility and advantages lead most SMEs to choose this model. To learn more about opening a company in Hong Kong, read here.


Public Limited Company


Medium to large private companies can “go public” via an initial public offering (IPO) on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Public companies can raise substantial capital by issuing shares and debentures to the public.


However, they face stricter regulations and disclosure requirements. Public companies suit businesses wanting to list shares publicly, but are not suitable for smaller structures. There are minimum cashflow and market capitalization requirements.


Company Limited by Guarantee


This structure suits non-profits and NGOs. Rather than shareholders, members guarantee to contribute a predetermined amount if the company dissolves. Profits cannot be distributed, but members’ liability is limited. The model provides limited liability protection coupled with maintained control over governance.


Foreign Company Offices


Finally, overseas firms can establish branch, representative or subsidiary offices in Hong Kong. Branches can derive profits, while representative offices focus on non-commercial activities on behalf of the parent. Subsidiaries incorporate as limited companies to gain local legal status.


The model selected depends on the foreign firm’s objectives in entering Hong Kong. Most of the time, firms will directly opt for a private limited company structure when entering Hong Kong market.

Choosing the right structure for your Hong Kong company


In summary, Hong Kong offers versatile options for companies assessing the ideal structure for their objectives and stage of growth.


While the region’s business landscape is highly flexible and welcoming, partnering with experts on setup can steer enterprises towards the most strategic early decisions.


Commentaires


bottom of page