Types of Companies in Germany

Types of Companies in Germany

When moving to Germany in order to work here, it might be helpful to know a little about the types of companies you might encounter. That’s why we thought we’d provide you with a short overview.

When we speak of company types, we refer to the legal form. In Germany, we differentiate between individual companies or enterprises (Einzelunternehmen), private companies or partnerships (Personengesellschaften), and (stock) corporations (Kapitalgesellschaften). Let’s start with the individual enterprises.

Individual Companies

There is actually only one form of individual enterprise, which is surprisingly called: individual enterprise. This type of company is mostly interesting for free-lancers and single entrepreneurs such as artists or craftsmen. The advantage of this legal form is that you have full control over your business. But you are also completely and personally liable for it.


The Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts is the equivalent of a simple business partnership, basically at least two entrepreneurs working together. The bureaucratic challenges are limited when founding and running a GbR and you don’t need starting capital. The downside of the relative legal freedom is that every partner remains fully liable. The GbR is very popular among start-ups and founders.


The Partnergesellschaft is not seen as often as the GbR for example. It is specifically interesting for freelancers from different trades partnering up. The PartG is more complicated in terms of bureaucracy but offers advantages as well. The company can be registered and the company’s capital is liable before any personal responsibilities.


The Offene Handelsgesellschaft has a high esteem among credit institutions and business partners. The reason is that members of an OHG are personally liable for their businesses actions. Unlike the GbR, the OHG is entered into the commercial register.


The Kommanditgesellschaft is made up of the general partner, who is leading the business, and the limited partners. The latter hold shares in the company but are only liable to the extent of those shares. Only the general partner is fully liable.

Types of Companies in Germany

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The “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, short GmbH, is probably the best-known type of company in Germany. It’s British or American equivalent would be the limited company. If you want to found a GmbH you need starting capital and are facing a number of bureaucratic hurdles, but are afterward not personally liable to the extent of the company’s capital.

GmbH & Co. KG

Similar to the KG, the Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung & Companie Kommanditgesellschaft is a company for entrepreneurs who need extended capital. The limited partners provide the minimum capital for the GmbH (25.000 €), which is the liable body of the company.


The Unternehmergesellschaft is a version of the GmbH. This legal form is suitable for small companies especially. You need only a minimal starting capital (1 €). The company is liable to the extent of its assets, but to be granted a credit you often need private securities to back your application up.


The Aktiengesellschaft is a stock company. Apart from the large corporations, the AG can be a feasible alternative for medium-sized-companies. In this case, the company is not a member in a stock exchange and the shareholders usually are employees or clients of the company. There have to be an executive board, as well as a supervisory board and to found an AG you need a starting capital of at least 50.000.


The eingetragene Genossenschaft (registered cooperative) serves as a legal form for teams of company founders and for a means of cooperation for small and medium-sized companies. It has numerous similarities to the registered association.

Exploring the Largest German Companies

From automotive giants to financial stalwarts, the country boasts a diverse array of companies that have shaped the world’s markets. Let’s delve into the German companies with the highest revenue, exploring their market presence and strategic endeavors. If you’re looking to work in Germany, one of these companies might be a good pick.

1. Volkswagen (VW) AG: Driving Innovation in the Automotive Industry

At the forefront of Germany’s economic might is Volkswagen AG, the largest company in the country. Renowned globally for its automotive prowess, the VW group is home to iconic brands such as Audi, Porsche, and Bentley. (Porsche AG has been part of Volkswagen as a subgroup, but remains an independent brand). With a 2021 revenue of €250.2 billion, the Volkswagen group is strategically focusing on electrification, committing a staggering $48 billion to car battery supplies and emphasizing electric vehicle production.

2. Mercedes-Benz AG: Pioneering Green Initiatives in Luxury Cars

Following closely is Mercedes-Benz AG, the second-largest business in Germany and a stalwart in the automotive industry. With a 2021 revenue of €168 billion, Mercedes-Benz is not just a luxury car manufacturer but also a trailblazer in sustainability. The company is investing heavily in green incentives, including the use of converted polycarbonates from CO2 in its designs, aiming for a fully carbon-neutral fleet.

3. Uniper SE: Navigating Energy Challenges Amid Global Turmoil

Uniper SE, a relatively new player founded in 2016, focuses on energy and is a significant contributor to the German economy. With a revenue of €163 billion in 2021, Uniper faces challenges amid the energy crisis and geopolitical conflicts. Its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 project and compliance with Russian demands adds complexity to its operations.

4. Allianz: Financial Stalwart Amid Regulatory Scrutiny

Allianz, a multinational financial services company headquartered in Munich, takes center stage in the sector of insurance and asset management. Ranking as the third-largest insurance company globally, the Allianz group faced regulatory challenges in 2021, with fraud-related probes and settlements amounting to €6 billion. Despite these challenges, the company reported an impressive revenue of €148.5 billion.

5. Aldi Group: Quiet Retail Powerhouse with Global Reach

The Aldi Group, comprising Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, is a privately-owned retail giant with over 10,000 discount stores in 20 countries. Operating in a family-owned structure, the group reported a combined revenue of €128 billion in 2021. Steady growth and expansion into new markets, including Lithuania, position Aldi as a formidable player in the global retail landscape.

6. Schwarz Group: European Retail Dominance

Lidl and Kaufland, under the Schwarz Group umbrella, form the largest European retailer. With approximately 13,000 stores in 39 countries, Schwarz Group reported a revenue of €125.3 billion in 2021. Positioned as the third-largest retailer globally, the company’s steady growth indicates resilience in the face of global market dynamics.

7. BMW Group: Iconic Automaker with Global Presence

Bayerische Motoren Werke, commonly known as BMW, is a Munich-based multinational corporation. With brands like Rolls-Royce and Mini under its umbrella, BMW reported a revenue of €111.2 billion in 2021. Unlike some peers, BMW has not put much investments in green incentives.

8. Deutsche Telekom: Connectivity Leader in Europe

The largest telecommunications company in Europe, Deutsche Telekom, plays a pivotal role in providing connectivity services. With a 2021 revenue of €108.8 billion, the company operates under the T-Mobile brand globally. Despite being publicly traded, the German government holds a significant stake, highlighting its strategic importance.

9. Deutsche Post DHL Group: Parcel Delivery Giant

Based in Bonn, Deutsche Post DHL Group is a multinational package and delivery company, ranking as the largest mail and parcel delivery service in Europe. With a 2021 revenue of €81.7 billion, the Deutsche Post brand experienced significant growth during the pandemic, reflecting the increased reliance on package delivery services.

10. Bosch Group: Engineering and Technology Innovator

The privately-owned Bosch Group, headquartered in Gerlingen, Germany, is a multinational company excelling in engineering and technology. With a 2021 revenue of €78.7 billion, Bosch has been in the spotlight for strategic acquisitions, hinting at a potential diversification strategy.

11. Siemens AG: Driving Innovation in Industry, Energy, and Healthcare

Siemens AG, headquartered in Munich, stands as one of the largest industrial manufacturers in Europe, operating across diverse sectors such as industry, energy, healthcare, mechanical engineering, and infrastructure. Renowned for its contributions to medical diagnostics equipment, Siemens’ healthcare division accounts for approximately 12 percent of the corporation’s total sales, making it the second-most profitable unit after industrial automation. Notably, the company took a decisive step by completely severing business ties with Russian operations in February 2022, reflecting a commitment to ethical considerations and geopolitical circumstances.

12. Audi AG: Luxury Vehicles Spearheading Growth

Audi AG, commonly known as Audi, is a prominent German automotive manufacturer, emphasizing luxury vehicles. While it operates as a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, it holds a distinct position as the most profitable asset within the conglomerate. In the context of individual companies, Audi secures its place among the top 20.

Audi’s strategic vision involves an expansion into the Chinese market, a move indicative of its commitment to global growth. With a FY2021 revenue of €53 billion, Audi’s pursuit of market share in China positions it for upward mobility in future rankings.


These German established companies showcase the resilience and innovation embedded in the country’s economic landscape. As they navigate global challenges in recent years, from energy crises to regulatory scrutiny, their strategic initiatives and market dominance position them as key players in shaping the future of industries worldwide. The German business landscape continues to evolve, and these companies remain at the forefront, steering towards growth and sustainability in an ever-changing world.

German Economy – A Forecast

In 2023, there is an expectation of a 0.3% contraction in Germany’s economic activity. Contributing factors include heightened inflation, leading to a decrease in purchasing power, and more stringent financing conditions, resulting in reduced levels of consumption and investment. Additionally, the performance of foreign demand has fallen short of initial expectations, leading to a less optimistic outlook for trade.

Looking forward, optimism arises concerning a recovery in domestic demand, propelled by an increase in real wages. This, coupled with a resurgence in foreign demand, is anticipated to contribute to a rebound in GDP growth, reaching 0.8% in 2024 and 1.2% in 2025.

The trajectory of the country’s public finances is moving towards fiscal consolidation, marked by a gradual reduction in government deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios. This positive trend is bolstered by measures to mitigate the impact of high energy prices, which have proven to be less expensive than originally foreseen.

Sustainability and Renewable Energy

A notable trend is the increasing emphasis on sustainability and renewable energy. Companies like BayWa and Nordex, specializing in renewable energy sources, have gained prominence. This aligns with Germany’s national goals for sustainability and reflects a broader shift in the business landscape towards eco-friendly initiatives.

The Labor Market

Between January and August of 2023, employment experienced a 0.8% increase compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. An all-time high of 83.9% of the population aged 20-64 is actively participating in the labor market, showing an uptick from 83.3% recorded a year earlier.

The unemployment rate has remained generally stable, hovering around 3%, and is projected to see a modest increase to 3.2% in the forecast period. Meanwhile, the job vacancy rate has been diminishing, though it stays at elevated levels. Despite a slight easing, the labor market is expected to remain tight due to the ongoing impact of aging on labor supply.

In the first half of 2023, wages recorded a 6.1% increase compared to the previous year, resulting in real wage losses. However, with higher wage outcomes, real wage growth is anticipated to have resumed in the second half of 2023 and is expected to persist in 2024 and 2025. So, right now might be a great time to start your move to Germany – just be ready for all the paperwork!


Inflation is anticipated to ease further in the coming months. The annual Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) inflation has consistently slowed down over the past year, registering at 4.3% in September 2023, a significant decline from its peak of 11.6% in October 2022. This reduction is primarily attributed to the decrease in wholesale energy prices and the implementation of energy-related measures.

Projections for the entire year of 2023 estimate HICP inflation to be around 6.2%. Looking ahead, the deceleration of inflation is expected to persist, albeit at a slower pace, with a projected decline to 3.1% in 2024 and further down to 2.2% in 2025.

The ongoing growth in wages is likely to temporarily support inflation, particularly in the services sector. Simultaneously, the role of energy price growth is anticipated to be relatively minor, contributing positively to overall HICP inflation only in 2024 when the VAT rate on natural gas is reinstated to its original level.

FAQs about types of companies in Germany

Here are some of the questions people ask about the largest German companies.

What is the German equivalent of an LLC?

The German equivalent of an LLC is known as a “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung” (GmbH), which translates to a “company with limited liability.” It is a common business structure in Germany, offering limited liability to its owners.

What major companies are from Germany?

Germany is home to several major companies across various industries. Some notable examples include the Volkswagen brand, BMW, Mercedes Benz cars, Siemens, Bosch, Adidas, and Bayer. These companies are renowned globally for their contributions to automotive, engineering, consumer goods, and pharmaceutical sectors.

What US companies operate in Germany?

Numerous U.S. companies operate in Germany across diverse sectors. Examples include multinational corporations like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon. The presence of these companies reflects the strong economic ties between the United States and Germany.

What is the biggest German brand?

Volkswagen is often considered one of the largest companies in the country and most iconic German brands. As a leading automotive manufacturer, Volkswagen has a global presence and is recognized for its innovative technology and diverse range of vehicles.

What is the market capitalization of a company?

Market capitalization, often referred to as market cap, is the total value of a company’s outstanding shares of stock in the open market. It is calculated by multiplying the current market price per share by the total number of outstanding shares.

Market capitalization is a key metric used by investors and analysts to assess the size and relative value of a company in the stock market. It provides an indication of a company’s scale and is widely used for comparisons among companies within the same industry or across different sectors.

Summing Up: Types of Companies in Germany

As we navigate the intricacies of Germany’s business ecosystem, it’s evident that the nation’s economic strength is propelled by a robust array of companies. The labor market’s dynamics, with a tightening yet evolving landscape, and forecasts for economic contractions and subsequent rebounds underscore the adaptability of Germany’s business landscape. Additionally, a focus on sustainability, renewable energy, and wage growth reflects a broader global shift towards responsible business practices.

Germany’s economic trajectory remains dynamic, with the largest companies steering toward growth and most companies focused on sustainability, poised to shape local and other industries. If you’d like to know more about German culture and their economy, why not come check us out over at SmarterGerman?