In business and finance, a golden share is a nominal share which is able to outvote all other shares in certain specified circumstances, often held by a government organization, in a government company undergoing the process of privatization and transformation into a stock-company.


This share gives the government organization, or other shareholder, the right of decisive vote, thus to vote all other shares, in a shareholder meeting. Usually this will be implemented through clauses in a company's articles of association, and will be designed to prevent stakebuilding above a certain percentage ownership level, or to give a government, or other shareholder, veto powers over any major corporate action, such as the sale of a major asset or subsidiary or of the company as a whole.

In the context of government-owned golden shares, this share is often retained only for some defined period of time to allow a newly privatised company to become accustomed to operating in a public environment, unless ownership of the organisation concerned is deemed to be of ongoing importance to national interests, for example for reasons of national security.

NATS Holdings, the UK's main air navigation service provider, is an example of a company with a golden share.[1]


The term arose in the 1980s when the British government retained golden shares in companies it privatised, an approach later taken in many other European countries, as well as the former Soviet Union.[citation needed] It was introduced in Russia by law on November 16, 1992.[citation needed]

In 2021, The Economist and Reuters described the Chinese government's stake in ByteDance as a golden share investment.[2][3]

Legal challenges

The British government's golden share in BAA, the UK airports authority, was ruled illegal by European courts in 2003, when it was deemed contradictory to the principle of free circulation of capital within the European Union.[4] The European Court of Justice also held that Portugal's holding of golden shares in Energias de Portugal is contrary to European Union law since it presented an unjustified restriction on free movement of capital.[5]

Other golden shares ruled illegal include the Spanish government's golden shares in Telefonica, Repsol YPF, Endesa, Argentaria and Tabacalera.

The golden share structure of Volkswagen AG and the travails of the German Land (federal state) of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) are discussed by Johannes Adolff[6] as well by as Peer Zumbansen and Daniel Saam.[7]


  1. ^ "Our Ownership". NATS Holdings. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  2. ^ "China's communist authorities are tightening their grip on the private sector". The Economist. 2021-11-18. ISSN 0013-0613. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  3. ^ "Fretting about data security, China's government expands its use of 'golden shares'". Reuters. 2021-12-15. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 2022-02-24.
  4. ^ "Business | BAA 'golden share' ruled illegal". BBC News. 2003-05-13. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  5. ^ "Portugal's holding of golden shares in Energias de Portugal is contrary to European Union law" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  6. ^ Adolff, Johannes (1 August 2002). "Turn of the Tide? The 'Golden Share' Judgments of the European Court of Justice and Liberalization of the European Capital Markets". German Law Journal. 3 (8). doi:10.1017/S2071832200015273. Archived from the original on December 12, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
  7. ^ Zumbansen, Peer C; Saam, Daniel (November 15, 2007). "The ECJ, Volkswagen and European Corporate Law: Reshaping the European Varieties of Capitalism". German Law Journal. 7 (11): 1027–1051. doi:10.1017/S2071832200006167. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2008.