7 Major Differences Between Public and Private Companies in Australia

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the major differences between public and private companies in Australia, shedding light on their respective characteristics, benefits, and limitations.


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    difference between a public and private company in australia


    Differentiating between public and private enterprises in the Australian corporate environment is essential for investors, entrepreneurs, and anybody else working in the business sector. This distinction has important legal, financial, and governance ramifications in addition to having an impact on how these corporations operate. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the major differences between public and private companies in Australia, shedding light on their respective characteristics, benefits, and limitations. Additionally, we’ll wrap up with a conclusion and address frequently asked questions about these types of companies.

    What are the Differences Between Public and Private Companies in Australia?

    In this section, we will be covering the numerous differences between public and private companies in Australia:

    1. Definition and Ownership Structure

    A public company, also known as a publicly traded company, is an entity whose shares are available for the public to buy and sell on a stock exchange. The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is a typical platform where these transactions occur. 

    In contrast, a private company is owned privately by its members or a small group of investors, and its shares are not available on public stock exchanges.

    2. Shareholder Limits

    In Australia, a private company, often designated as ‘Pty Ltd’, is restricted to a maximum of 50 non-employee shareholders. 

    Public companies, on the other hand, can have an unlimited number of shareholders, broadening their potential for capital raising.

    3. Financial Disclosure and Reporting Requirements

    Australia’s public firms must comply with strict disclosure and reporting guidelines. For the sake of the public and shareholders, they must routinely release financial statements, company decisions, and other important information. 

    Private businesses, on the other hand, have less stringent reporting requirements and can maintain a certain level of privacy when it comes to their financial and operational affairs.

    4. Raising Capital

    One of the most significant differences lies in capital raising. Public companies have the advantage of raising funds through the public issuance of shares. This ability to access capital markets often provides them with greater opportunities for expansion and growth. 

    Private companies, however, primarily rely on limited sources like private investors, banks, or personal networks for funding.

    5. Governance and Regulatory Oversight

    Australian public firms are subject to more stringent restrictions and must go by the guidelines established by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). This entails upholding corporate governance guidelines and keeping an eye on their business practices. 

    Private companies, while still regulated by ASIC, face less stringent governance requirements.

    6. Transferability of Shares

    The shares of a public company are typically easily transferable, providing liquidity for shareholders. This is because their shares are traded openly in the stock market. 

    In contrast, transferring shares in a private company often requires adherence to specific conditions set out in the company’s constitution or shareholders’ agreement, making it a more complex process.

    7. Cost and Complexity of Setup and Maintenance

    A public company’s establishment and upkeep are more expensive and difficult since they must adhere to multiple regulatory obligations, such as audits, ongoing disclosures, and corporate governance norms. 

    Setting up a private company is generally simpler and more cost-effective, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).


    Although both public and private businesses are vital to Australia’s economy, their goals and demands are distinct. Public businesses have more alternatives for acquiring capital and are more liquid, but they also face more regulatory constraints and public scrutiny. Private companies offer more privacy and flexibility but face limitations in capital raising and shareholder expansion. Understanding the differences between public and private companies in Australia is crucial for entrepreneurs, investors, and business professionals when making strategic decisions.


    Certainly, a private company can transition to a public company, usually through a process called an Initial Public Offering (IPO), in which it begins to sell its shares to the general public and listings on a stock market such as the ASX.

    Yes, directors of public companies generally have more responsibilities and face greater scrutiny, especially regarding financial reporting, disclosures, and adherence to corporate governance standards.

    Yes, foreign corporations are allowed to engage in both kinds of businesses, but they must go by distinct legal frameworks and norms regarding foreign investment, especially when it comes to public enterprises.