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Commercial Framework

Source: New Zealand Official Yearbook 2000. Please note, this information may now be out of date.

Companies and partnerships

Individuals wishing to join together to form a business have the choice of two principal forms of operation: an ordinary or special partnership under the Partnership Act 1908, or a registered company under the Companies Act 1993. If they wish to limit their individual liability for any losses the business may suffer, they can register a limited liability company under the Companies Act 1993. This is by far the most usual form of business operation in New Zealand.

New Zealand Companies Office:

graph, New company registrations, 1960-99

Company practices

In the process of liberalising the economy and reducing government regulation of markets, legislation has been introduced to prevent large companies and industries from dominating markets by, for example, buying out their competitors and creating a monopoly of the supply of goods and services.

Commerce Commission

The commission exists to bring about awareness, acceptance of, and compliance with, the Commerce, Fair Trading and Electricity Industry Reform Acts, so that consumers and producers benefit from healthy competition.

In 1999 the commission received 2,457 complaints about restrictive trade practices, and 11,007 complaints under the Fair Trading Act. It also completed 75 investigations into business acquisitions. The commission received government funds of $7.65 million in 1999.

Securities Commission

The Securities Commission fosters capital investment in New Zealand by:

  • Promoting the efficiency of the New Zealand securities markets.
  • Enhancing the integrity of these markets.
  • Promoting the cost-effective regulation of these markets.
  • Strengthening public and institutional confidence in these markets, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Serious Fraud Office (SFO): Te Tari Hara Täwere

The SFO undertakes the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious or complex fraud. The office's powers are prescribed in the Serious Fraud Office Act 1990.

The SFO generally considers:

  • All fraud involving over $500,000.
  • All fraud perpetrated by complex means.
  • Any public complaint of fraudulent offending that is, or is likely to be, of major public interest or concern.

During 1999, 120 cases were investigated and 18 resulted in prosecutions. The SFO received government funding of $4.472 million in the year to June 2000.

Serious Fraud Office:

Stock exchange

There are five broad categories of stock that are bought and sold on the New Zealand Stock Exchange – shares in companies, units in listed trusts, warrants, debentures and other loans to companies, and government stock. As on other stock exchanges around the world, company shares account for the bulk of trading.

New Zealand Stock Exchange

The exchange is responsible for listings, delistings, the contents of the Listing Rules, the collection and dissemination of all market information and the operation and supervision of the trading system. It is also responsible for the membership of the exchange.

Members (sharebrokers) assist companies to raise capital through issuing securities on the market, providing investment advice and acting as agents on behalf of their clients in the purchase and sale of securities. To become a member, a person must obtain a sharebrokers' licence and be approved by the board which is guided by qualifications, financial standing and experience.

New Zealand Stock Exchange -

graph, Share Price Index, 1987-1998



The term bankruptcy refers to the financial insolvency of individuals.

All proceedings in bankruptcy are commenced by a petition filed in the court by either the debtor or a creditor. Not less than $200 in total must be owed by the debtor to any creditor, or creditors, filing a petition.

Where a creditor is concerned that a bankrupt may realise the assets and depart, without regard for any financial obligations, a statutory officer who is an officer of the court can be appointed as a receiver/manager of the property prior to the hearing of the creditor's petition.

graph, Bankruptcies

Company liquidation

Liquidation (sometimes called 'winding up') is the legal process by which a company's life is ended. The company's assets are realised, its creditors paid out, any surplus is distributed to the shareholders, and the company is then dissolved.

Companies with heavy debt loads and cash-flow problems often have a receiver appointed over their assets, either by the court, or more commonly under an express clause in a mortgage or debenture.

Other information

The New Zealand Chambers of Commerce:

Quick Facts - Industries

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