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Transfer of businesses

Buying an existing company is an alternative way of starting a business. It is often more advantageous than starting from scratch. Every year, around 450,000 firms and over two million employees are transferred to new owners. However, up to one-third of these transfers may not be successful. The European Commission believes that it is just as important to support transfers as start-ups because they are equally important to the EU economy.

Barriers to business transfers

The main barriers to successful business transfers relate to planning and management. They include

  • awareness-raising for better planning and preparation
  • quality of support and advisory services
  • quality standards related to the functioning of online markets and their inter-connectivity
  • taxation (especially retirement tax relief, re-investment tax relief, sale to employees' tax relief, and double taxation of cross-border inheritances)
  • a lack of evidence and the need to harmonise data collection for better policy making

Commission’s actions in the area of business transfers

The Commission has worked on business transfers for over 25 years. Key milestones in EU initiatives include


Actions and support measures to facilitate the transfer of businesses at EU level include

  • access to finance - the COSME programme (worth €2.3 billion for the period 2014-2020) offers funds for those who want to acquire a business
  • actions to make the business environment more transfer-friendly - 2013 call for proposals to develop models and quality standards relating to advisory services, awareness raising programmes, and online platforms for business transfers
  • actions to improve the evidence base on business transfers in Europe

EU countries' actions

Barriers to successful business transfers mainly exist at the local, regional, and national levels. To help EU countries shape their policies and design support measures, the Commission takes stock of remaining barriers and promotes best practices.

At EU country level, national and regional governments can use EU structural funds to support actions that improve awareness raising programmes, online platforms, and advisory services related to transfers.

Examples of projects/initiatives focused on improving business transfers

Please note that these links lead to non-EU institution websites. The Commission’s support does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors who are responsible for the information.

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