5 million companies in the UK

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At the end of November this year, the official Register of UK Companies reached a new record high with over 5 million companies.

There are now 5,016,205 companies in the UK, a rise of 3.7% since the start of the year.

There are:

  • 4,426,701 in England
  • 273,532 in Scotland
  • 140,411 in Wales
  • 74,029 in Northern Ireland

During 2021, 716,587 new companies have been formed and 542,483 were dissolved.

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The register of UK companies

Companies House maintains the Register of Companies in the UK. New companies are added to the register (and allocated a unique company number) at the point they are incorporated and when companies have ceased trading or struck-off they are dissolved and removed from the register.

The register was established in 1844 by the Companies Act. The first company (number 00000001) was National Savings Bank Association Ltd. The oldest company that remains on the register is company number 00000086, Kentstone Properties Limited, incorporated as Maidstone Cottage Improvement Company in 1862. Partial records of the company’s Articles of Association at incorporation are available to view online. By 1885 the register had increased to 805 companies.

The number of companies in the UK has doubled since 2010

The number of companies in the UK has grown every year since 2010. Between 2011 and 2016, average annual growth was 6.6% but this rate of growth slowed to 4.8% in the last 5 years, despite a record high year in 2020 (366,418 more companies).

Growth in the number of companies in the UK over 10 years

Types of companies

93% of UK companies are private limited companies, 3% are private companies limited by guarantee and 2% are limited partnerships (LLPs and LPs).

28% of UK companies are based in London

In our Annual Review of Company Formations published each January, we maintain a league table of the areas of the UK where most companies are based. Since we started compiling the data in 2014, the top 5 areas have remained constant as London, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Essex and West Yorkshire. Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast have been in the top spots for their respective nations.

Companies in the UK by major counties / regions

Top Industry Sectors

Retail has seen the highest growth sector. At the end of November, there were over 47,000 more retail companies on the register than at the start of the year.

Property has 12% growth and is #1 in our table based on SIC division segmentation.

 

Sector (SIC Division) Number of Companies Growth since Jan 2021
Real estate activities 410,563 12.1%
Retail trade & except of motor vehicles and motorcycles 351,036 15.7%
Specialised construction activities 277,094 5.5%
Activities of head offices; management consultancy activities 264,892 -1.1%
Computer programming & consultancy and related activities 259,961 -1.5%
Office administrative & office support and other business support activities 255,341 -5.6%
Other personal service activities 205,788 -1.1%
Construction of buildings 203,775 6.0%
Food and beverage service activities 200,615 8.0%
Other professional & scientific and technical activities 184,381 -1.5%
Wholesale trade & except of motor vehicles and motorcycles 168,503 7.0%
Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies 137,756 -2.2%
Human health activities 136,944 3.8%
Financial service activities & except insurance and pension funding 134,995 10.4%
Land transport and transport via pipelines 110,309 6.0%
Undifferentiated goods- and services-producing activities of private households for own use 107,827 4.3%
Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles 92,726 7.1%
Education 89,681 4.0%
Architectural and engineering activities; technical testing and analysis 85,797 -1.9%
Legal and accounting activities 77,582 -0.2%

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2022 Review
of UK Company Formations

Read our comprehensive review of UK company formations in 2021, year-on-year growth rates and breakdown by county. This detailed insight is provided in the form of easy to understand infographics available for sharing through social media and on your own website