Setting up a business in Australia

There are a number of important considerations for investors when deciding on how to enter the Australian market or when establishing a business in Australia.

Investors will generally need to choose between establishing a new company, registering as a foreign company or acquiring an existing company.

If establishing a new business, a variety of business structures are available, each with their own regulatory and tax considerations. Businesses may also need to establish their identity through a trade mark, online and/or physical presence.

The Australian Government provides a wealth of information online to allow investors to make the choices most appropriate to the nature of their business.

Deciding on a business structure

Australia has a set of common structures that investors can use when establishing a business. The four main types are: sole trader; partnerships; trusts; and companies.

Investors need to consider carefully which structure best suits their business needs. The business structure will determine the licences necessary to operate, as well as tax and legal implications.

For information on different business structures, see Decide on a business structure.

Establishing an Australian company

International investors interested in entering the Australian market may wish to establish a new Australian company or establish a new Australian subsidiary which also operates as an Australian company.

Australian companies are incorporated businesses that are also distinct legal entities.

Companies in Australia must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

For information on how to establish a company in Australia, see ASIC’s guide on Starting a Company.

Registering as a foreign company

Foreign entities may wish to carry on business in Australia as a foreign company. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) outlines the criteria which define foreign companies and the rights foreign companies hold in Australia.

As with Australian companies, foreign companies must be registered with ASIC. ASIC is also responsible for the ongoing regulation of foreign companies.

For information on registration and regulation, see ASIC’s guide on Foreign Companies.

Acquiring an Australian company

An alternative to establishing a new or subsidiary company may be to acquire an existing Australian company.

Companies in Australia are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). ASIC maintains a register of regulatory and guidance documents relating to the takeover of companies.

Investors interested in acquiring an Australian company should refer to ASIC’s takeovers and reconstructions.

Proposals by foreign investors to acquire Australian companies may require submission of a formal proposal. This is subject to approval by the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). FIRB examines proposals and advises the Australian Government on whether those proposals are suitable for approval under the Government's policy.

For more information, refer to the FIRB’s Investment information webpage.

Obtaining business premises in Australia

The purchase, lease and development of commercial property in Australia are facilitated by state and territory, and local governments. Approvals, assessments (including environmental assessment) and regulatory requirements will differ between jurisdictions.

For more information, please refer to the relevant state or territory.

Listing on the Australian Stock Exchange

Australia has a modern and active stock market, allowing access to the Asia-Pacific region and a time zone providing opportunities for trading on a round-the-clock basis.

The primary stock exchange in Australia is the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Both Australian and international companies may apply for listing on the ASX.

To obtain and maintain an ASX listing, companies need to meet the prescribed requirements set out in the stock exchange listing rules. This includes company disclosure and reporting requirements.

For further information, see the ASX guide to Listing on the ASX.

Registering a trade mark and domain name

Companies entering Australia will want to protect their rights and prevent others from using their name by registering a trade mark and domain name. Information on how to do this is available in this Guide under Australian Intellectual Property laws.