The government is proposing to introduce a new public register of beneficial ownership information for any foreign company purchasing property in the UK.  The measure was announced by David Cameron at the Anti-Corruption Summit held in London this month and reflects the recent BIS consultation paper seeking views on enhancing transparency of beneficial ownership information of foreign companies that buy land or property in England and Wales or enter into public procurement contracts in England. The BIS consultation, which closed to responses on 1 April 2016, was the subject of a previous Equity Issues in March 2016.

In its press release, the government states that any foreign company that wishes to buy land or property in the UK or bid for central government contracts will have to join a new public register of beneficial ownership prior to any such purchase or bid. The register would require those foreign companies that own or wish to buy UK property to declare their beneficial owners. The register will be extended to include companies which already own property in the UK, as well as those seeking to buy, and will be launched in June 2016. 

According to the press release, this will be the first register of its kind and other major countries, including France, the Netherlands, Australia and Ireland are committed to either launching similar registers of their own or have agreed to take the initial steps towards making similar arrangements. Further, 40 jurisdictions, including some of the UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies, have agreed to automatically share their own registers of company ownership and this information will be accessible to the police.

The creation of the new register reflects the similar obligation imposed on UK companies to maintain a PSC Register, which came into effect on 6 April 2016. UK companies are now required to keep their own register of people with significant control (PSC), which will contain information on the company’s beneficial ownership and control (PSC Register). From 30 June 2016, this information will need to be supplied to Companies House alongside the annual confirmation statement of a company’s records. Thus, by June 2017, Companies House will hold PSC information for most UK incorporated companies, which will be available in a public register.