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Difference Between Holding Company and Subsidiary Company


The Companies Act (2013) empowers businesses with a number of alternatives for building their own companies. This set of tools has a range of company structures that includes public limited companies, private limited companies and sole proprietorships. Among these countless options, two particular structures frequently generate confusion: holding companies and subsidiary firms. Despite being legal entities, they have very different functions and obligations. As a result, knowing these discrepancies is crucial for entrepreneurs to make sound business decisions.

The Holding Company

Consider a holding company to be the driving force behind a business network. Its primary job is to acquire and impose control over other companies, known as subsidiaries. This core hub serves a strategic function, pulling strings and affecting the operations of its subsidiaries.

Dominating Ownership: Control, Influence, and Strategic Advantages

A holding company’s authority originates from its majority ownership, which normally exceeds 50% of the shares in subsidiary companies. This commanding share gives them significant influence over subsidiary companies, but without direct participation in day-to-day operations. Holding entities frequently appoint board members and steer strategic decisions, ensuring coherence with their overarching vision.

This organizational structure has various advantages. Holding companies manage risk by diversifying their investments across industries through subsidiaries. They also benefit economies of scale by utilizing shared resources, such as human resources or legal departments, across all of their businesses. Furthermore, owning entities frequently have limited liability, shielding them from liabilities incurred by their subsidiaries.

The Subsidiary Company

A subsidiary company is an independent legal structure that is controlled by a different company, that is the holding company. Let us see what the subsidiary company is in detail:

Subsidiary Companies constitute distinct companies that provide financial information to a parent company, allowing the holding company a degree of authority over the subsidiary’s actions.  However, subsidiaries are not micromanaged. They have their own management staff and handle day-to-day operations autonomously. While the holding company may influence strategic decisions, subsidiaries have the ability to enter into contracts independently.

The plan benefits subsidiaries as well. They gain access to the holding company’s resources and skills, which will help them grow. Subsidiaries can sometimes benefit from the owning company’s established brand reputation, providing them a competitive advantage. Financial reporting reflects this framework. Subsidiaries create independent statements outlining their own performance, which are then combined with the parent company’s financials to present a comprehensive picture of the entire group.

Understanding Holding Companies: Definition and Role

India’s Companies Act (2013) defines a holding company as an entity where a majority stake lies with another company (the subsidiary). These companies typically control subsidiaries by owning over half their shares and influencing their management.  Holding companies are sometimes called parent companies, reflecting the subordinate role of the subsidiary.

Understanding Subsidiary Companies: Roles and Relationships

Subsidiary firms can be entirely or partially owned by a holding company, establishing a separate legal entity. However, the holding company has a substantial impact since it impacts the subsidiary’s decision-making process without directly regulating day-to-day activities. Both firms follow different regulations, with subsidiaries focused on internal management and not interfering with the holding company’s structure. In essence, influence goes in one direction: holding companies have a say in how subsidiaries operate and make strategic decisions.

Holding vs Subsidiary Companies

The world of corporations can be complex, and holding and subsidiary companies are key players in this ecosystem. Each has a distinct role, and understanding their differences is crucial. By dissecting their control structures, liability, financial reporting, and more, we can gain a clear picture of how they function and their impact on the overall business landscape. This breakdown will delve into aspects like control, liability, financial reporting, taxes, regulations, management styles, ownership structures, branding, and risk management, providing a comprehensive comparison of holding and subsidiary companies.

Holding companies serve as central entities overseeing and possessing their subsidiaries, which operate independently with their own management systems. While holding companies establish strategic direction and make significant decisions, subsidiaries manage their day-to-day operations autonomously. Holding companies have limited liability due to their structure, which protects them from their subsidiaries’ financial commitments. They also have various financial reporting responsibilities: owning corporations are required to generate and file financial reports for themselves and all subsidiaries, whereas subsidiaries keep their own financial records and submit separate reports. Holding companies enjoy tax benefits over subsidiaries, although they are also subject to dividend distribution tax on dividends received from subsidiaries. Both holding companies and subsidiaries must comply with regulatory requirements, with controlling corporations often having higher supervisory responsibilities and subsidiaries focusing on internal operations and compliance. Holding companies commonly own interests in their subsidiaries, allowing them to influence decision-making and diversify the organizational structure.

Summarizing the Differences with the Help of a Table:

Criteria Holding Company Subsidiary Company
Definition A corporation that possesses a controlling position (typically more than 50% of the shares) in one or more other businesses. A company that is entirely or partially owned by another corporation is known as the parent company.
Control and Ownership Controls the subsidiary company by owning a controlling stake (typically more than 50% of the shares) and making decisions. Operates somewhat independently but is ultimately owned and influenced by the holding company
Liability Generally enjoys limited liability, meaning its debts are not automatically the debts of the subsidiary companies it owns Has unlimited liability, which means its debts can be satisfied by the subsidiary company’s own assets.
Financial Reporting Prepares consolidated financial statements that combine the financial results of the holding company and its subsidiaries Prepares individual financial statements that reflect its own financial performance
Tax Implications May be subject to dividend distribution tax when profits are transferred from the subsidiary to the holding company May be subject to withholding tax when profits are transferred to the holding company in another country
Regulatory Requirements Must comply with laws and regulations governing holding companies Must comply with laws and regulations applicable to its industry, as well as any specific requirements for subsidiary companies
Management and Operations Provides a supervisory role, influencing major decisions made by the subsidiary Manages its day-to-day operations independently, but strategic decisions may be influenced by the holding company.
Shareholding Pattern Typically holds a majority stake in the subsidiary company Can have multiple shareholders, including the parent company and potentially minority shareholders
Branding and Identity May operate under different names for each subsidiary company or maintain a single brand identity across all subsidiaries Maintains its own independent brand identity, separate from the holding company
Risk Management Spreads investment risk across different subsidiaries, potentially mitigating the impact of a single company’s failure Can be exposed to the specific risks associated with its industry sector



While the concepts of holding and subsidiary companies might seem complex, this blog has unpacked the key differences. The crucial distinction lies in control – holding companies wield supervisory power and manage risk across subsidiaries, while subsidiaries operate with more autonomy under the parent company’s umbrella. This structure allows subsidiaries to maintain their unique identities while benefiting from the resources and guidance of the holding company.


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