United Kingdom Encyclopedia of Law     Wiki Legal Encyclopedia (BETA)
What do you need to know about law? Search in more than 1.500.000 entries

Public Company in United Kingdom



Public companies, i.e. companies incorporated by special act of parliament for carrying on undertakings of public utility, form a class distinct from trading companies. The borrowing powers of these companies, the form of their debenture or debenture stock, and the rights of the debenture-holders or debenture-stockholders, depend on the conjoint operation of the companies’ own special act and the Companies Clauses Acts 1845, 1863 and 1869. The provisions of these acts as to borrowing, being express, exclude any implicit power of borrowing.

The first two of the above acts relate to mortgages and bonds, the last to debenture stock. The policy of the legislature in all these acts is the same, namely, to give the greatest facilities for borrowing, and at the same time to take care that undertakings of public utility which have received legislative sanction shall not be broken up or destroyed, as they would be if the mortgagees or debenture-holders were allowed the ordinary rights of mortgagees for realizing their security by seizure and sale. Hence the legislature has given them only “the fruit of the tree,” as Lord Cairns expressed it.

The debenture-holders or the debenture-stockholders may take the earnings of the company’s undertaking by obtaining the appointment of a receiver, but that is all they can do. They cannot sell the undertaking or disorganize it by levying execution, so long as the company is a going concern; but this protecting principle of public policy will not be a bar to a debenture-holder, in his character of creditor, presenting a petition to wind up the company, if it is no longer able to fulfil its statutory objects. Railway companies have further special legislation, which will be found in the Railway Companies Powers Act 1864, the Railways Construction Facilities Act 1864 and the Railway Securities Act 1866. (1)

Shares and Membership of a Company: The transfer of shares

Interests in shares of public companies

Find under this subsection information about Interests in shares of public companies in relation to Shares and Membership of a Company: The transfer of shares.


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)

See Also

Further Reading

E. Manson, Debentures and Debenture Stock (London, 2nd ed., 1908); Simonson, Debentures and Debenture Stock (London, 2nd ed., 1902); Palmer, Company Precedents (Debentures) (3rd ed., London, 1907).

Law is our Passion

This entry about Public Company has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0) licence, which permits unrestricted use and reproduction, provided the author or authors of the Public Company entry and the Encyclopedia of Law are in each case credited as the source of the Public Company entry. Please note this CC BY licence applies to some textual content of Public Company, and that some images and other textual or non-textual elements may be covered by special copyright arrangements. For guidance on citing Public Company (giving attribution as required by the CC BY licence), please see below our recommendation of "Cite this Entry".

Cite this entry

Legal Citations Generator

(2016, 07). Public Company lawi.org.uk Retrieved 09, 2021, from https://lawi.org.uk/public-company/

07 2016. 09 2021 <https://lawi.org.uk/public-company/>

"Public Company" lawi.org.uk. lawi.org.uk, 07 2016. Web. 09 2021. <https://lawi.org.uk/public-company/>

"Public Company" lawi.org.uk. 07, 2016. Accesed 09 2021. https://lawi.org.uk/public-company/

Emily Rowling, 'Public Company' (lawi.org.uk 2016) <https://lawi.org.uk/public-company/> accesed 2021 September 21

Usage Metrics

852 Views. 605 Visitors.

Google Scholar: Search for Public Company Related Content


Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Public Company
  • Author: Emily Rowling
  • Description: History Debentures Public companies, i.e. companies incorporated by special act of parliament for carrying on undertakings [...]

This entry was last updated: November 4, 2020

Company Law


Share Capital

Recent Comments