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Incidence of employee share ownership in Germany and Europe – Development perspectives

Written by The Kelso Chair of European University Viadrina
The article was published in April 2020.


Commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

The study provides an overview of the models of employee share ownership (ESO) and their incidence in the EU Member States, with a focus on Germany. The emphasis here is on small and medium-sized enterprises on the one hand and start-ups in Germany on the other. 

In contrast to large companies, mezzanine investments and, in particular, silent partnerships dominate in German SMEs. Genuine equity participations under company law as employee share programs in unlisted companies are rare, ESO in limited liability companies (GmbH) even rarer.  

ESO via intermediary entities exists but is still the exception. In contrast to other European countries or the USA, start-ups primarily involve phantom stocks, which systematically represent merely an untypical profit-sharing arrangement but not a share in the capital.

Executive Summary of the report: in English | in German | in French

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