On Friday UK Companies House published the first data from its new ‘Persons of Significant Control’ (PSC) register (colloquially known as Beneficial Ownership). This is a pretty big deal, for a number of reasons:
- It’s the world’s first public national beneficial ownership register
- It’s the first structured beneficial ownership data to be releases publicly
- It’s being released as freely available data, with a permissive licence, for anyone to use and reuse
Now, just a few days later, we’re pleased to announce that the information is already in OpenCorporates (we think we’re possibly the first in the world), enriched with other connections and data, confirming the importance of the UK releasing the data. This has been no small matter, as not only has there been no real-world data until Friday, the sample data was changing frequently up to that point.
We’ll be blogging a lot more in the next few weeks about the data itself, including how we’ve modelled it, data quality problems we’ve identified, and how you can access not just the data through the API, but here are a few highlights:
- At time of writing there are a total of 11,663 entries (10,173 persons of significant control and 1490 ‘statements’ of why there is no PSC listed). This is increasing by 3,000-4000 a day.
- That matches to 10,115 companies (some companies have more than one PSC) – you can explore them using this filtered search in OpenCorporates
- Of the surprisingly high number of companies making statements that they have no beneficial owners, or have been unable to confirm the beneficial owners, a significant proportion come from nonprofits as you can see from this filtered search (although just because it’s a non-profit, doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no PSC).
- However, others come from either companies that would appear to have misunderstood the requirement to disclose. For example, we believe ROWAN (UK) RESOLUTE LIMITED is controlled by another ROWAN COMPANIES PLC, and we believe this should be declared under the regulations – instead it states that there is “No Individual Or Entity With Significant Control”. At the other end of the spectrum, this small company states that it “knows or has reasonable cause to believe that there is a registrable person in relation to the company but it has not identified the registrable person” – despite the fact that it is a small company with a single shareholder, and a single director, who appear to be the same person.
- The largest nationality is British, but because there are no restrictions on this field, nor on the country of residence field there are some interesting findings. For country of residence, England (5800 entries) is considerably higher than the ‘United Kingdom’ (2416 entries) and Scotland (469) or Wales (212), with ‘Great Britain’ on only 61 entries. China is the largest non-domestic country, with 62 entries, ahead of Germany (37), Italy (35) and France (33).
- Already we can see potential not just for anti-corruption purposes, but critically, understanding corporate structures, as companies need to report their parent companies, enabling to see, for example some quite lengthy chains of control.
Scroll to the bottom of this page, for example, and we you can see that Guinness Ltd is controlled by Diageo PLC – this is not news of course, but astonishingly it’s the first time it’s been available as open, structured data. You can also see longer chains, for example for this company, which is part of a chain of companies, leading back to Malta and beyond.
We may also potentially be able to see companies controlled by government (both the UK and beyond), as shown with UK ASSET RESOLUTION LIMITED, which is controlled by “Her Majesty’S Treasury” (the typo is in the underlying data).
While there are some significant data quality problems that we’ll be coming back to over the coming weeks, many of them are teething problems, which can be solved fairly easily. Companies House are to be strongly congratulated for the work they’ve done here. As an organisation that has done pioneering work on company relationships,OpenCorporates knows how tricky this can be, and not only have Companies House taken a significant first step, they’ve done in public – while this can be more painful in the short-term, it has multiple benefits in the medium and long-term, both for data quality, and for the wider society.