Annegret Funke

Annegret Funke 

Posted Monday July 6, 2015
 

UK and Denmark open their books: Director and ownership information now available for free

UK and Denmark open their books: Director and ownership information now available for free

Two weeks ago, Companies House UK released a beta version of its new online service allowing access to all of the agency’s public data free of charge. This will provide immediate access to names of directors, secretaries and documents revealing shareholder information - data for which users in 2013/2014 had to spend a total £8.7m. Earlier last month, the central Danish business registry also published names of owners and shareholders for 245,000 companies. Both services have been integrated into Arachnys’ due diligence products and are accessible for all users.

Changes in Company House data provision

  Companies House WebCHeck New: Companies House BETA service
Basic company details Yes Yes
Current and resigned officers Can be ordered for free Immediate access to name, DOB, nationality
Document images 1 GBP per document free
Mortgage charges 1 GBP free
Search by officer names No Coming soon
Dissolved companies Yes Coming soon
Fuzzy matching applied No Yes*

*Rather than pointing users by default to the single-closest matching entry on an alphabetical index, the search now applies fuzzy matching to return more relevant results.

The new Companies House service is available as a beta version via an online portal but also via an application program interface (API). We have tested and integrated this new data stream, which will provide our users with real-time updates and a much clearer search experience for over 170 million company records.

UK CH1

On click-through on a matching record, users will find the complete company profile including basic company information as well as details of the directors or company secretaries. We noticed that in the first days after the service went online, the complete dates of birth were shown - however the days now seem to have been retracted in line with the government’s efforts to reduce fraud risk.

You can also access a company’s filing history and view submitted reports. Unfortunately, this data is currently only available in the form of scans and images. This means that many of the documents such as annual returns or allotments of shares - which will be primary sources of shareholder information - are not site-searchable. Users interested in names or keywords will still have to sift through documents or rely on an external Optical Character Recognition (OCR) service to extract text. The service also does not yet support queries involving wildcards (*, ?). Companies House lists a number of features that it plans to integrate, including searching by officer names as well as information on dissolved companies.

Shareholder information now available in Denmark

Denmark is repeatedly ranked as the least corrupt country, so it is not surprising that it is among the first to make ownership information on all of its 245,000 companies accessible to the public. Details of natural persons and legal entities are published for all shareholders above a 5% ownership threshold. The Public Register of Owner and Shareholders went online on 15 June after a six month registration period.

DK1

Before and after: Information on owners (‘Ejere’) for defence company Terma A/S available as of 14 June 2015 and now (see machine-translated version below)

DK2

The data is now available on each company profile in the Danish Central Business Register under the ‘Beneficiaries and drawing rule’ (‘Personenkreds og tegnisregel’) bucket.

DK3

While it may take some time until all updates go online for this initial roll-out phase, the data published so far already gives users a wealth of shareholder information:

  • Full name
  • Contact address
  • Shares held, in intervals
  • Voting rights, in intervals
  • Acquisition date
  • Capital class (for natural persons only)

The Danish register is in some ways ahead of its UK equivalent: the website allows users to search by individuals’ names and returns directors as well as shareholders. The full registry profile also contains a full list of active and discontinued commercial relationships.

Conclusion

Both the Danish and new UK corporate information portals are good examples of the trend of governments opening up their data: Denmark continues to be a champion in transparency and the new Companies House service is a great advancement in the UK government’s aim to establish a “truly open register of business information”. However, for the latter we are looking forward to see some of the planned functionalities and future improvements to make this data easier to use for end users.

The next wave of changes across EU corporate registries is to be expected with the implementation of the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive and establishment of registers of Ultimate Beneficial Owners. The British Department for Business Innovation & Skills recently published the draft regulations for ‘the register of people with significant control’, which will be made available to the public by April 2017.

Written by Annegret Funke, Researcher at Arachnys. Arachnys is a digital platform that consolidates and aggregates business information to make due diligence research quicker and more effective. If you want to hear more about our capabilities to access corporate registries worldwide, please get in touch and drop us a line at support@arachnys.com.

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