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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Transfer of businesses - reference documents

2009 Pilot Action "Mentoring Business Transfer"

For a successful business transfer external advice and mentoring for the new business owner can often be the crucial success factor. Following up on an initiative by the European Parliament the European Commission therefore conducted a Pilot Action on transfer of expertise through mentoring in SMEs. The project ended in 2009 with mentoring services delivered to over 900 mentees all over Europe. It allowed testing on a large scale a new support scheme helping buyers of enterprises to overcome post-takeover difficulties and assessing the quality and the impact of the mentoring provided. The final report identifies the major topics of interest for the mentee and gives information on business transfers on a national basis.

2006 Expert Group report on markets for business transfers

An increasing number of retiring business owners hand over their enterprises to people outside their family, sometimes to employees but often also to young entrepreneurs who want to set up their own business or to other investors.
In order to match supply and demand of and for business transfers in some countries public or quasi-public institutions have created special databases ("marketplaces"). In 2005/2006 a group of national experts analysed such marketplaces, identified success factors and drafted recommendations for their organisation.

  • Final report of the Expert Group on markets for business transfers pdf - 453 KB [453 KB] čeština (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti keel (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) français (fr) italiano (it) latviešu valoda (lv) lietuvių kalba (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv)

2006 Communication from the Commission: Continuity through a new beginning

Thousands of economically sound businesses, mainly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), disappear every year because they fail to overcome the difficulties involved in the transfer of ownership. It has been estimated that up to 690,000 businesses providing 2.8 million jobs are facing the problem of transfer to a new owner each year. In its Communication "Implementing the Lisbon Community Programme for Growth and Jobs: Transfer of Businesses - Continuity through a new beginning" the Commission calls upon Member States to improve framework conditions for business transfers by ensuring that tax systems are transfer-friendly, by providing adequate financial conditions, by raising awareness for the need of a timely preparation and by organising transparent markets for business transfers.

Good Practice Guide 2003

The aim of this brochure is to provide policy-makers, business support organisations and other interested readers with examples of practical support for business transfers. These good practices highlight some of the cases described in the final report of the 2001 'Best procedure' project on the transfer of businesses, or presented at the European seminar on the transfer of businesses which was held in Vienna from 23 to 24 September 2002 (see below).

European Seminar on the transfer of businesses, 23-24 September 2002, Vienna

The Enterprise DG and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour jointly organised a seminar on the transfer of businesses on 23 - 24 September. The aim of the seminar was to raise awareness of this important issue, to exchange good practice in this area and to learn from each others' successes. The seminar was addressed to representatives of public authorities and agencies, business organisations, professional organisations, consultants, entrepreneurs and institutions involved in this field.

The 2002 project on business transfers

In 2002 the Enterprise Directorate-General followed up on its Best-Procedure project of 2001 (see below). A group of experts nominated by their national administrations set benchmarks for key areas of business transfer support and policy where it would be the most important to make progress. The experts described the actions already taken or planned by the different countries and by the European Commission to improve the implementation of the Commission Recommendation and to respond to the recommendations made by the Best project expert group of the previous year.

The Best Procedure project 2001

In 2000, the Commission set up an expert group on transfer of business to monitor the implementation of the 1994 Recommendation (see below). The tasks of the group included identification of new legal, tax and support measures, assessment of the measures taken, analysis of the provision of support measures and proposals for further action.

According to the final report of the expert group barely half of the 21 tax and legal measures that small businesses need to survive changes of ownership are in place, eight years after they were set out in the 1994 Commission Recommendation. Yet the same experts estimate that roughly one-third of all EU companies will change hands over the next 10 years (from 25-40%, depending on the Member State). This means an average of 610,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will change hands each year, potentially affecting 2.4 million jobs (Data for EU 15).

The Communication of 1998 and the Lille Forum

In 1998 a communication reported on the measures that Member States had taken (by 31 December 1996) in response to the 1994 recommendations.

The communication was partly based on the results of the European Forum on the Transfer of Business that took place on 3 and 4 February 1997 in Lille where progress in the support of business transfers was discussed.

Conclusions of the Lille Forum pdf - 47 KB [47 KB] Deutsch (de) français (fr)

Speeches and presentations given at the Lille Forum pdf - 363 KB [363 KB]

The Recommendation of 1994

In December 1994 the Commission published concrete recommendation on how to improve framework conditions in the EU member states for the transfer of businesses. The recommendation addressed questions from numerous areas affecting business transfers such as taxation, reform of a company's legal statute, awareness raising measures and access to finance.

The 1994 Recommendation was accompanied by a detailed explanatory Communication (Communication on the Commission recommendation of 7 December 1994 on the transfer of small and medium-sized enterprises, OJ C 400, 31.12.1994, pp. 1 - 9.)

The 1994 Recommendation was based on the preparatory work of a symposium organised by the Commission on 29 and 30 January 1993 in Brussels the results of which were published in a communication (Communication from the Commission on the transfer of businesses. Actions in favour of SMEs, OJ C 204, 23.7.1994, pp 1 - 23.)

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