Understanding the Wholly Owned Subsidiary Company


In the intricate world of business, various corporate structures and strategies exist, each tailored to meet specific objectives and goals. Among these structures, the concept of a “wholly owned subsidiary company” stands as a compelling example, representing a unique approach to corporate ownership and expansion.

What Is a Wholly Owned Subsidiary Company?

A wholly owned subsidiary company, often referred to simply as a wholly owned subsidiary, is a distinct corporate entity where one business entity, known as the parent company, possesses the complete ownership of the subsidiary’s common stock. In simpler terms, it’s a situation where a parent company owns 100% of the shares of another company, making the latter a subsidiary in every sense.

Key Takeaways:

1. A wholly owned subsidiary is a corporation whose common stock is entirely owned by another company.

2. The parent company exercises complete control over the subsidiary, despite the legal separation.

3. Management control over day-to-day operations and processes remains with the wholly owned subsidiary.

4. Both the parent and subsidiary are required to file taxes separately, although they share several tax benefits.

Features of a Wholly Owned Subsidiary Company

To gain a comprehensive understanding of wholly owned subsidiary companies, it’s crucial to explore their defining features, each of which contributes to their unique role and functionality in the corporate landscape:

1. Parent Company’s Control: One of the hallmark features of a wholly owned subsidiary is that the parent company maintains unwavering control over the subsidiary’s operations, strategic decisions, and management. This control extends from overarching corporate strategy down to granular operational details. Even though the subsidiary exists as a legally distinct entity, the parent company’s authority and influence remain pervasive. This level of control enable the parent company to ensure that the subsidiary aligns with its broader corporate vision and goals, fostering cohesion within the corporate structure.

2. Independent Management: While the parent company exerts significant control, a wholly owned subsidiary maintains its own management team. This distinct management autonomy empowers the subsidiary to make day-to-day decisions, formulate localized strategies, and respond swiftly to market dynamics. This independence at the operational level is vital for addressing unique challenges and opportunities in different regions or industries. It also encourages innovation and adaptability within the subsidiary, as it can tailor its approaches to suit specific market conditions.

3. Geographical Separation: Wholly owned subsidiaries can be strategically located in different states, countries, or even continents compared to their parent companies. This geographical dispersion serves various purposes, such as tapping into diverse markets, accessing local resources, or complying with regional regulations. It also provides a buffer against regional economic fluctuations, ensuring that the parent company’s overall stability is less reliant on a single geographical area.

4. Distinct Legal Identity: Despite being part of the same corporate family, wholly owned subsidiaries maintain a distinct legal identity. This separation is critical for delineating liabilities, protecting assets, and complying with legal requirements specific to each jurisdiction where they operate. Moreover, the shares of both the parent and subsidiary can be traded on the stock market independently. This not only allows investors to participate in the success of both entities but also enhances their overall market value, making them attractive investment options.

5. Shared Risks and Rewards: Wholly owned subsidiary companies thrive on a synergy of shared risks and rewards. While they maintain distinct operational structures, both the parent and subsidiary companies are interconnected in their pursuit of common objectives. They jointly shoulder the risks associated with their business endeavors and, conversely, reap the rewards of their collective achievements. This interdependence encourages cooperation, collaboration, and mutual support, fostering a dynamic and responsive corporate ecosystem that is well-equipped to adapt to changing market dynamics and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Examples of Wholly Owned Subsidiary Companies

Understanding the concept of wholly owned subsidiary companies becomes more tangible when exploring real-life examples. Two prominent cases exemplify how this corporate structure can yield remarkable outcomes:

1. Starbucks Japan: In its early days, Starbucks Japan was not a wholly owned subsidiary. Established in 1996, it began as a joint venture between Starbucks Coffee Japan and Sazaby League. However, Starbucks later made a strategic decision that transformed its presence in the Japanese market. In 2006, it acquired Sazaby League’s shares, making Starbucks the sole owner of Starbucks Coffee Japan. This acquisition allowed Starbucks to have a stronger foothold in Japan, a market known for its unique coffee culture. By becoming a wholly owned subsidiary, Starbucks Japan could align its strategies more closely with its global parent and benefit from the full array of resources and expertise within the Starbucks Group.

2. The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Entertainment: In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, transforming it into a wholly owned subsidiary. This acquisition enabled Disney to leverage the vast portfolio of Marvel characters and stories, leading to significant growth and success.

3. Marvel Entertainment: Marvel, famous for its comic book creations since the 1930s, experienced financial challenges and nearly went bankrupt. However, in 2009, The Walt Disney Company made a significant move by acquiring Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. This acquisition was a game-changer for both Marvel and Disney. By becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney, Marvel gained access to Disney’s extensive resources, including its global distribution network, marketing prowess, and financial stability. Disney, in turn, expanded its content portfolio to include iconic Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the X-Men. This strategic acquisition revitalized Marvel Entertainment and contributed to Disney’s ongoing success in the entertainment industry.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wholly Owned Subsidiary Companies

Like any corporate structure, wholly owned subsidiary companies come with their set of advantages and disadvantages:

Financial Advantages:

  • Consolidated Financial Statements: A wholly owned subsidiary can consolidate its financial statements with the parent company, allowing for efficient allocation of resources and investments.
  • Tax Benefits: Both the parent and subsidiary can benefit from tax advantages, reducing overall tax liability.
  • One of the primary financial advantages of wholly owned subsidiary companies is the ability to consolidate financial statements. This consolidation enables a more efficient allocation of resources and investments across the parent and subsidiary. The profits generated by either company can be strategically invested in assets or expansion, and cost-saving measures can be implemented by leveraging the combined technological capabilities of both entities. However, it’s worth noting that with great financial control comes a significant responsibility. Even a minor accounting error in either the parent or subsidiary’s financial statements can have a substantial impact on their overall performance.

Operational Advantages:

  • Enhanced Bargaining Power: The combined size and resources of both companies can be used to negotiate favorable deals and achieve cost savings.
  • Strategic Collaboration: Collaboration between the parent and subsidiary teams can lead to improved administration and development.

In the realm of operational advantages, wholly owned subsidiaries offer several benefits. The parent company typically exercises a degree of control over the subsidiary’s management, fostering collaboration in resource allocation and negotiation of favorable deals. The integration of the teams from both entities can lead to more streamlined administration and development, making it easier to implement strategic decisions. However, this level of integration can sometimes limit operational flexibility, as the subsidiary’s success becomes increasingly dependent on the parent’s strategic implementation.

Strategic Advantages:

  • International Expansion: If the subsidiary is based overseas, the parent company can utilize its resources to enter international markets, reducing entry barriers and costs.
  • Cost-Effective Growth: Setting up a wholly owned subsidiary allows for cost-effective growth and diversification.

Strategic decision-making is another area where wholly owned subsidiary companies can thrive. For instance, if the subsidiary operates in a foreign market, the parent company can harness its resources to initiate international projects, helping establish a foothold in new markets. This approach is often cost-effective, allowing the parent company to tap into local expertise and infrastructure. However, potential challenges may arise due to cultural differences between the parent and subsidiary operations. Differing work cultures and practices can sometimes lead to friction or inefficiencies that require careful management.


  • Cultural Differences: Differences in work culture and practices can create challenges, especially when operating in diverse international markets.
  • Risk of Errors: A small mistake can have a substantial impact on the performance of both the parent and subsidiary companies.

How Is Accounting Done for Wholly Owned Subsidiary Companies?

Accounting for wholly owned subsidiary companies is a meticulous process, typically involving consolidated financial statements. In this method, the subsidiary’s financial statements are combined with those of the parent company. Several essential aspects must be addressed during this process:

Intercompany Loans and Investments: Recording intercompany loans from the subsidiary to the parent, as well as investments from the parent to the subsidiary, is a critical component of consolidated accounting. This ensures accurate financial reporting.

Overhead Costs and Payroll Expenses: Charges related to overhead costs and payroll expenses must be appropriately allocated between the parent and subsidiary, reflecting their respective contributions and obligations.

Tax Liabilities: If substantial profits have been generated, both the parent and subsidiary must fulfill their tax obligations. This includes proper documentation, reporting, and compliance with tax regulations in their respective jurisdictions.

Upon meticulous review, adjustment, and verification of all financial statements and transactions, the parent company can issue the consolidated financial statements, providing a comprehensive view of the financial performance of the entire corporate structure.

Tax Advantages of Wholly Owned Subsidiary Companies

The tax advantages associated with wholly owned subsidiary companies can vary depending on factors such as location and corporate structure:

Taxation of Income and Dividends: Income generated by a wholly owned subsidiary located in a foreign country may not be subject to taxation in the parent company’s home country. However, dividends distributed by the subsidiary to the parent company may be subject to taxation, depending on relevant tax treaties and regulations.

Exemption for Tax-Exempt Organizations: Certain organizations, including nonprofit entities, religious institutions, and educational institutions, may qualify for tax exemptions when operating as wholly owned subsidiaries. This is often due to their contributions to the greater public good and the promotion of educational and charitable activities.

Statements of Consolidation: Companies can optimize their financial position and potentially reduce tax liabilities by consolidating their assets through acquisitions. In consolidated financial statements, both the parent and subsidiary can offset profits against losses, resulting in lower overall tax liability.

How to Set Up a Wholly Owned Subsidiary Company

The establishment of a wholly owned subsidiary involves a series of crucial steps:

Choose the Right Business Entity: The parent company must carefully consider the most appropriate business entity for the subsidiary. Factors such as business type and ownership structure play a pivotal role in this decision.

Registration: Depending on the jurisdiction and local regulations, the parent company must register the subsidiary’s name with the relevant state or local government agencies. This ensures legal compliance and protection of the business identity.

Obtain Licenses and Permits: Complying with local laws and regulations is paramount. Determine the permits and licenses necessary for legal operation and ensure timely acquisition.

Open a Business Bank Account: Establish a dedicated business bank account for the subsidiary to facilitate efficient financial transactions. Various account types, such as checking, savings, merchant, and money market accounts, offer flexibility based on financial needs.

Corporate Structure: Develop a clear organizational chart that outlines the roles and responsibilities of key personnel within the subsidiary. Appoint individuals to these roles, ensuring that the organizational structure aligns with the subsidiary’s objectives.


In the dynamic world of business, the concept of a wholly owned subsidiary company represents a powerful tool for corporate expansion and diversification. With complete ownership by a parent company, the subsidiary can leverage resources, benefit from tax advantages, and contribute to the achievement of broader corporate goals. While challenges exist, such as managing cultural differences, the benefits of wholly owned subsidiaries make them a compelling strategy for modern businesses.

In summary, understanding the dynamics of wholly owned subsidiary companies is essential for businesses seeking to expand their reach, optimize resources, and thrive in an ever-evolving marketplace.


What is a wholly owned subsidiary example?

A classic example of a wholly owned subsidiary is Starbucks Japan, which operates as a subsidiary of Starbucks Group. Initially established as a joint venture between Starbucks Coffee Japan and Sazaby League in 1996, Starbucks Group later acquired all the shares of Sazaby League, making Starbucks Japan a wholly owned subsidiary. This strategic move allowed Starbucks to gain full control over its operations in the Japanese market.

What is the difference between a subsidiary and a wholly owned company?

The primary difference between a subsidiary and a wholly owned company lies in ownership control. A subsidiary can be partially owned by a parent company, with ownership ranging from 51% to 99%. In contrast, a wholly owned company, as the name suggests, is entirely owned by the parent company, holding 100% of its equity. This means the parent company has absolute control over all aspects of the wholly owned company’s operations, whereas a subsidiary may have multiple owners with varying degrees of influence.

How do you tell if a subsidiary is wholly owned?

To determine if a subsidiary is wholly owned, you need to examine the percentage of equity ownership held by the parent company. If the parent company holds 100% of the subsidiary’s equity, it is considered a wholly owned subsidiary. You can typically find this information in the company’s financial statements or corporate governance documents, where the ownership structure is disclosed.

How do you establish a wholly owned subsidiary?

Establishing a wholly owned subsidiary involves several key steps:

1. Research and Planning: Determine the type of business entity that best suits your needs and aligns with your corporate strategy. Seek advice from legal and financial professionals.

2. Registration: Register your subsidiary with the relevant governmental authorities in the jurisdiction where it will operate. This may include registering the business name and obtaining any necessary permits or licenses.

3. Legal Formalities: Ensure your subsidiary complies with all legal requirements and formalities, including creating bylaws and appointing officers to establish its corporate structure.

4. Financial Setup: Open a dedicated business bank account for your subsidiary to manage its finances separately from the parent company.

5. Ownership Structure: Secure 100% ownership of the subsidiary’s equity, giving the parent company full control over its operations and management.

6. Operational Autonomy: While maintaining legal control, allow the subsidiary to maintain an independent management team to handle day-to-day operations effectively.

By following these steps and adhering to legal and financial regulations, you can successfully establish a wholly owned subsidiary that aligns with your business objectives and allows for streamlined management and control.


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