As a consequence of being granted limited liability, UK companies have a legal obligation to make certain details publicly available. This includes shareholder information, which every company must record in its register of members and disclose to Companies House.
Anyone can view details of shareholders on the public register at Companies House. This online search service is free to access and provides information about UK companies and the people who own and control them.
In this post, we outline the shareholder information that is made publicly available and explain the steps required to find these details online. We also discuss ways that you can protect your privacy, if you own shares in a limited company.
What shareholder information is available to the public?
When a person takes shares in a company, either during or after incorporation, they become a shareholder (aka ‘member’) of that company. Consequently, certain details about the person must be made public.
UK companies are required to send their shareholder information to Companies House in one of two ways:
- On the incorporation application – if a person becomes a shareholder during the company formation process
- As part of the annual confirmation statement – if a person becomes a shareholder after incorporation, or if there are any changes to an existing shareholder’s registered details
The following information must be provided for every person who holds shares in a company:
- The shareholder’s full name
- The shareholder’s service address (official correspondence address) – only required if the person becomes a shareholder of a private company during the company formation process, or if they hold shares in a public company
- Details of their shareholdings – class, quantity, currency, and nominal value of shares taken, and the amount that they have paid (or agreed to pay) for those shares
All of these details are disclosed on the Companies House register, which anyone can access free of charge online. However, there is no requirement for any person who becomes a shareholder of a private company after its incorporation to provide their service address to Companies House.
Companies must also keep shareholder information in their own register of members. This is one of several statutory registers that every company is required to maintain and make available for public inspection at its registered office address or a Single Alternative Inspection Location (SAIL address).
The register of members must contain the following details of every shareholder:
- Full name
- Service address (regardless of when they became a shareholder)
- The date the person became a member
- The date any person ceased to be a member
By law, this register should be kept up to date at all times. Therefore, if any of these details change, the company must update its register of members as soon as possible.
Changes to shareholder information must also be reported to Companies House on the next annual confirmation statement. The public register will then be updated accordingly.
If a shareholder is also a person with significant control (PSC)
Often, shareholders are also people with significant control (PSCs). A PSC is someone who has a certain degree of ownership or control of a company.
A shareholder is classed as a PSC if they hold:
- more than 25% of the shares in the company
- more than 25% of the voting rights in the company
- the right to appoint or remove the majority of the board of directors
Any shareholder who is also a person with significant control must provide the following information for Companies House:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Nationality and country of residence
- Service address (regardless of when they take shares in the company)
- Home address (not publicly disclosed)
- The date they became a PSC of the company
- Their nature of control over the company
Depending on when a person becomes a PSC, their details must be sent to Companies House as part of the incorporation application, or on form PSC01: Notice of individual person with significant control (PSC).
With the exception of the PSC’s home address details and the day part of their DOB, all of this information is made publicly available on the Companies House register.
Additionally, the company itself must record this information in its own PSC register. This register must be kept available for public inspection at the company’s registered office or SAIL address, along with the other statutory company registers.
If there are any changes relating to a company’s PSCs, the register should be updated as soon as possible. The company must also notify Companies House within 14 days of the change.
How to find shareholder information online
You can find shareholder information (and PSC details) relating to any UK company by searching the Companies House register. This public register is open and available to anyone who wishes to view it.
Whether you are a limited company owner or a member of the public, you can search the register free of charge online by following these steps:
- Visit the Companies House search service
- Enter the company name, company registration number, or shareholder name in the search bar (searching by company name or number is easier if you have that information)
- Scroll through the search results and select the relevant company name or individual’s name
- Within the company’s record, select the ‘Filing history’ tab
- Filter by category – select the ‘Confirmation statement / Annual returns’ box
- Select ‘View PDF’ next to the most recent confirmation statement ‘with updates’
- If it does not contain ‘Full details of Shareholders’, view each previous confirmation statement with updates until you find one that includes this information.
- If there are no confirmation statements with updates, deselect the filter category and scroll to the end of the company’s filing history
- Select ‘View PDF’ next to the Incorporation filing
- You will be presented with the company’s Certificate of Incorporation, where you will find shareholder information under the heading ‘Initial Shareholdings’
The information that is available online should be accurate and current. However, there is no guarantee of this. Companies are only required to report changes to shareholder information when they file their annual confirmation statement, though some may choose to send their statement early.
That being said, if the company is newly incorporated or has recently filed a confirmation statement, it would be reasonable to assume that the details are correct.
It may be possible to inspect the company’s register of members for the most up-to-date shareholder information, but any such request may only be granted if it is made for a ‘proper purpose’. The company may also charge a fee. However, if you are a shareholder of the company, you have the right to inspect the register at any time without charge.
How to find PSC information online
You can also view a company’s PSC information by following steps 1-3 above, then selecting the ‘People’ tab and clicking on ‘People with significant control’. The screen will display the details of every PSC in the company.
Depending on the nature of control listed underneath each person’s name, you should be able to determine which PSCs are shareholders.
Why do companies have to disclose information to the public?
Anyone who becomes a director, company secretary, shareholder, or person with significant control must accept that some of their details will be made available to the public.
Similarly, if you set up a company in the UK, you will be required to publicly disclose certain information about the business itself, including its activities, annual accounts, and registered office address.
The reporting and disclosure of such information are essential for maintaining high standards of corporate transparency and behaviour in the UK. These stringent requirements enable investors, lenders, regulators, and members of the public to confirm basic information about companies and carry out due diligence checks.
The UK’s corporate transparency regime provides people with greater clarity and confidence in the companies they choose to associate with, and it is one of the reasons why the UK is deemed an attractive location for global business.
Publicising this information strengthens the integrity of the Companies House register and helps to tackle fraudulent activity, money laundering, and other types of economic crime in the UK.
How to protect your privacy as a company shareholder
Before forming a limited company or taking on certain roles in an existing company, it’s important to understand what personal information you are required to provide and make available to the public.
Whilst you cannot hide your identity from Companies House, there are steps that you can take to protect your privacy on the public register. The options available depend on your particular circumstances.
Protecting your home address
As a shareholder, PSC, director, or company secretary, the service address you provide will appear on the public register, even if you change it or leave the company at some point in the future. For this reason, you should avoid using your home address as a service address. Use a non-residential service address instead.
Similarly, if you set up a company, your registered office address will also become part of the public record. To protect the privacy of your home, consider using a non-residential address as your registered office.
If you are also a PSC or director, you must provide your usual residential address and full date of birth to Companies House. However, these details will not be included on the public register (only the month and year of your birth will be published). This personal information will only be shared with credit reference agencies and specified public authorities, such as the Police.
Protecting your personal details
In exceptional circumstances, you can apply to Companies House to protect your personal details if your company’s activities put you (or someone who lives with you) at serious risk of violence or intimidation.
There are two types of protection available. You can apply to:
- protect your home address from credit reference agencies – if you are a PSC or director of the company
- protect all of your personal information – if you are a PSC of the company
You can make a combined application for both if you are a person with significant control. This means that none of the personal information you provide to Companies House as a PSC will be shown on the public register or shared with credit reference agencies.
Thanks for reading
Transparency is the price of limited liability. It is a fundamental component of good corporate governance, ensuring that key information about UK companies is freely available to the public. This includes their shareholder information, financial accounts, and business activities.
As we discussed, you can access all of this information free of charge by searching the Companies House register online. Companies must also record details of their shareholders in their own statutory register of members. You can request to inspect this register whether you are a shareholder of the company or a member of the public.
If you are planning to set up a company or take shares in an existing firm you can protect your privacy to a certain extent by using a non-residential address as your registered office and service address. This is strongly advised and will prevent your home address from becoming part of the public record.
If you have any questions about this post, please leave a comment below. Our company formation team is also on hand if you would like to find out more about our London Service Address or Registered Office Address Service.