What company information is public? What’s on Companies House?

Companies in the UK are registered with Companies House. If you want to know what companies exist, go to Companies House. You can search companies at the company register search.

There are lots of companies! A search for “Google” shows four pages of results. I don’t think many are related to the Google we know. For example, a “Google Limited” existed in Essex from 2008 to 2011. The real Google in the UK is GOOGLE UK LIMITED. Let’s explore that company.

Every company has a company number and incorporation date. Company numbers are eight digits: 06100000 is distinct from 6100000. Company numbers are assigned by auto-increment on incorporation. The most recent company is MAHEATON LIMITED, with number 10726481. There are almost 11 million registered companies in the UK!

All companies have a registered address. GOOGLE UK LIMITED is registered in London.

Companies have previous names. GOOGLE UK LIMITED was previously known as LAW 2138 LIMITED. Weird name.

Companies have a “company status”. GOOGLE UK LIMITED is “active”. Companies start off as active. This article says that “active” means the company is able to trade. The company can also be “dormant”, meaning it happens to not be trading. Apparently, a company can be both “active” and “dormant”. And this is not the same as HMRC’s definition of “active” ..?

Companies have “officers”. GOOGLE UK LIMITED has 3 current officers, and 14 previous officers (who have since resigned). “Officer” includes “Director”, “Nominee Director”, and “Secretary”. GOOGLE UK LIMITED currently has two directors and one secretary. The directors are people, whereas the secretary is another company: TJG SECRETARIES LIMITED. Brin and Page are both listed as directors, but both resigned in 2004. Interesting.

Companies have a “nature of business”. This uses “Standard Industrial Classification” (SIC) codes. Here’s a list of SIC codes. GOOGLE UK LIMITED is listed as what must be the vaguest code on there: “Other business support service activities not elsewhere classified”. Anything, basically.

Then there’s a long list of “filing history”, which is basically the entire official history of the company. Every change to the company officers is a new filing. Every filing has a PDF, even though it looks like they’re all submitted electronically.

One kind of filing is the company “full accounts”. GOOGLE UK LIMITED submits this once per year. The latest GOOGLE UK LIMITED full accounts were submitted this month for the year ending 30 June 2016. The PDF calls it a “report and financial statements”. Some of it is interesting reading. The company is repeatedly described as providing “marketing services”. It mentions its plans to build a large new HQ in Kings Cross - it has acquired a 999-year lease on the land for it. I’m reminded of the Guinness 9,000-year lease on their brewery in Dublin.

A separate kind of filing is the “annual return”. This lists the secretary and directors (which seems redundant, since this is available elsewhere and updated with separate docs). More interestingly it lists shares and shareholders - information which doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere.

The shares for GOOGLE UK LIMITED are structured oddly. There are only 1001 “ordinary” shares, and all of these shares are owned by one shareholder: “GOOGLE INTERNATIONAL LLC”. 1,000 of these shares were bought at £1/share, and the remaining share was bought for £50 million. I wonder why.