Under the current legal framework, there are various ways by which a company may cease to exist: voluntary winding-up, compulsory winding-up, winding-up under court supervision, striking off. The process and consequences of each of these methods are briefly analysed below.
Voluntary winding up by members
A voluntary winding up procedure is initiated by the Company’s members and presupposes that the Company is capable of paying all its debts within a period of 12 months from the commencement of winding up. For this purpose, a Declaration of Solvency is prepared by the Directors confirming the above, which is essentially a statement in the form of an affidavit, signed by the majority of the Directors before the court registrar, accompanied by a statement evidencing the Company’s assets and liabilities. In view of this, the auditors of the company need to prepare up-to-date financial statements. The Declaration of Solvency must be made within 5 weeks immediately preceding the passing of the resolution for winding up and be delivered to the Registrar of Companies (“RoC”) for registration before that date.
A voluntary winding up is deemed to commence at the time of passing of a resolution by the members for the company’s winding up. The members also appoint the liquidator, whose appointment is advertised in the Official Gazette within 14 days and relevant forms are filed with the RoC. Upon the appointment of the liquidator, the directors’ powers cease to exist and the liquidator proceeds with liquidation of the company’s assets, repayment/settlement of the company’s financial obligations including tax liabilities and payment of any dividends/surplus to the company’s members. The liquidator presents a statement of the actions performed during liquidation at the final general meeting, notice for which is published in the Official Gazette at least 1 month before the date of the meeting. Within a week following the final meeting, the liquidator files copy of the reports and accounts with the RoC. The company is deemed dissolved after 3 months from such filing.
Voluntary winding up by creditors
If at any stage during a voluntary liquidation by members it appears that the company is unable to pay its debts, then a voluntary liquidation by members is by operation of law transformed to a voluntary liquidation by creditors. Under such circumstances, the company convenes a creditors’ meeting in which a liquidator is nominated for the purposes of winding up the affairs of the company and distributing its assets. If there is a disagreement between the liquidator proposed by the creditors and that of the members, the proposal made by the creditors prevails. Furthermore, in the event that creditors deem appropriate, they may decide to appoint an Inspection Committee consisting of up to 5 persons. Apart from the involvement of creditors, and the liquidator’s duty to convene creditors’ meetings to present an account of the winding up process, the process otherwise resembles voluntary winding up by members. Within a week following the final meeting, the liquidator files copy of the reports and accounts with the RoC. The company is deemed dissolved after 3 months from such filing.
Winding up with the Supervision of Court
At any time after a resolution authorising the voluntary winding up has been passed by the Company, and upon the application of the company’s creditors, contributors or any other person, the Court may issue an order allowing the continuance of the winding up under Court’s Supervision. The court may also order the appointment of an additional liquidator, who may exercise all his powers without the sanction or intervention of the Court, subject to any restrictions imposed by the Court in the same manner as if the company were being wound voluntarily.
A compulsory winding-up may be ordered by the Court upon filing of a relevant petition by the Company, any creditor, or contributor, on the following grounds:
- The company has passed a special resolution for winding up by the court;
- The company has omitted to complete its statutory obligations and/or commitments;
- The company has not commenced operations within one year from its incorporation or its business has been halted for a whole year;
- In case of a public company, the number of members is reduced below seven;
- The company is unable to pay its debts;
- If in the opinion of the court, it is just and equitable that the company be wound up.
A compulsory winding up is deemed to have commenced at the time of filing of the petition for the winding up (or passing of the special resolution, if applicable).
Upon issuance of a winding-up court order, a copy of the said order, must be delivered to the RoC within 3 working days. The RoC thereafter proceeds with the registration of the order and its publication on the official website of the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver.
An alternative way for a company to be dissolved, is by the way of its striking-off from the Register of Companies. This is typically a simpler and faster process than liquidation and it may be voluntary or involuntary.
This route is available for non-active or non-operating companies (dormant companies) and/or companies the businesses and/or operations of which have ceased and which have no longer any assets or liabilities and do not intend to carry on any business in the future. Furthermore, companies which have failed to pay annual government fees and/or make statutory filings may be struck off the register by the RoC after the expiration of three (3) months from relevant publication in the Official Gazette.
A dormant company may voluntarily apply for strike off by submitting a relevant request to the RoC. The company in its capacity as the applicant must ensure that it has complied with all of its statutory and ancillary obligations, as provided by the Companies Law and has settled all its affairs including its obligations to corporation taxes, VAT, Social Insurance, creditors and that there is no prohibiting court order against the Company. Once the registrar is satisfied that the company has honoured its relevant obligations, it proceeds with strike-off as requested.
A company which has been struck off from the register either voluntarily or involuntarily may be reinstated and be regarded as never struck off.
Any interested party (e.g. member/shareholder of the company, creditor or whoever deems that they have been damaged by the actions of the company before its strike off) may request by way of an application to the court for the reinstatement of the company. This application can be made within the period of 20 years from the date of strike-off. If the court is satisfied that the company at the time of its strike off had been conducting business or was still in operation or if it is deemed fair for the company to be reinstated then the court may order the reinstatement of the company.
Provided that the RoC is satisfied that all the requirements of the law are complied with, it proceeds to the reinstatement of the company, the update of the register of the RoC, and to the publication of its reinstatement in the Official Gazette. Upon reinstatement of its name to the register the company is regarded as existing and never struck off before.
Administrative reinstatement of a company
In case that a company is struck off from the register of companies for non-compliance with the Companies Law (i.e. for failure to submit any document required by the law or for failure to pay the annual government fee or in case a company is struck off from the register because the RoC has reasons to believe that the company is not operating), the said company may be reinstated through the procedure of the administrative reinstatement. In contrast with the procedure described above, in which a court order is required, the procedure of administrative reinstatement does not require the acquisition of a court order and upon company’s reinstatement, the company is deemed to have continued its existence as if it had never been struck off.
Reinstatement can take place with the submission of the relevant statutory form to the RoC together with all ancillary documents within 2 years of the date of strike off.
Submission of the form can be effected by a company director or company member.
If the RoC is satisfied that all legal requirements have been met, they will re-instate the company and issue a certificate of reinstatement with the date it has been re-instated and update the companies register. The re-instatement will be published in the Official Government Gazette.