What is a Foreign Subsidiary: Definition, Examples, and Benefits

Foreign Subsidiary

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    Are you considering expanding your business globally but unsure where to start? Did you know that establishing a foreign subsidiary could be an effective solution? This article provides valuable insights on what a foreign subsidiary is, some real-world examples, and the numerous benefits it offers.

    Prepare to dive into the exciting world of international business expansion!

    Key Takeaways

    • A foreign subsidiary is a company controlled by another company through ownership of a majority of its shares.
    • Examples of foreign subsidiaries include multinational technology companies establishing subsidiaries in growing markets like China, fast-food chains expanding into countries like India or Brazil, and energy companies setting up subsidiaries in countries rich in natural resources.
    • Establishing a foreign subsidiary provides benefits such as access to new markets and talent, local tax benefits, reduced risk for the parent company, workload diversification, investment potential, and the opportunity to build trust in new markets.

    Defining a Foreign Subsidiary

    A foreign subsidiary is a company that is controlled by another company, known as the parent company, through ownership of a majority of its shares.

    Difference between subsidiary and branch

    A subsidiary and a branch are not the same. A larger firm controls a subsidiary. This smaller firm is its own legal body. It does its own tasks and can make money on its own. On the other hand, a branch is part of the bigger company, not separate from it.

    It carries out work in another place or country but under the control of the main company always. So, if you have to shut down a business, it’s easier with branches than subsidiaries!

    Types of foreign subsidiaries (ex: permanent establishment)

    Foreign subsidiaries can take different forms, one of which is known as a permanent establishment. A permanent establishment refers to a fixed place of business that the parent company establishes in another country.

    This could be an office, factory, or any physical location where business activities are conducted. The purpose of establishing a permanent establishment is to have a long-term presence in the foreign market and serve customers directly.

    It allows the parent company to have more control over operations and make strategic decisions tailored to the local market. By having a permanent establishment, companies can better cater to customer needs, build stronger relationships with stakeholders, and establish their brand presence in foreign markets.

    Examples of Foreign Subsidiaries

    Foreign subsidiaries can take various forms and operate in different industries. For example, a multinational technology company may have a foreign subsidiary in China to tap into the growing market for consumer electronics.

    This subsidiary would be responsible for manufacturing, marketing, and selling the company’s products in China.

    Similarly, a global fast-food chain may establish foreign subsidiaries in countries like India or Brazil to expand its reach and cater to local tastes. These subsidiaries would manage operations, supply chains, and marketing strategies specific to their respective markets.

    Another example is an energy company setting up a foreign subsidiary in a country rich in natural resources like oil or gas. The subsidiary would handle exploration, extraction, production, and distribution activities in that region on behalf of the parent company.

    These examples highlight how establishing foreign subsidiaries allows companies to tailor their operations according to local needs while benefiting from increased market presence and business opportunities worldwide.

    Benefits of Establishing a Foreign Subsidiary

    Establishing a foreign subsidiary provides access to new markets and talent, local tax benefits, reduced risk for the parent company, workload diversification, investment potential, and helps build trust in a new market.

    Access to new markets and talent

    A foreign subsidiary can provide a parent company with access to new markets and talent. By establishing a presence in a foreign country, the parent company can tap into local customer bases and expand its business internationally.

    This allows the company to reach a larger audience and increase its market share. Additionally, having a foreign subsidiary provides access to local talent, which can bring unique skills and perspectives to the organization.

    It allows for the recruitment of skilled employees who have knowledge of the local market and culture, contributing to the success of the subsidiary’s operations. This access to new markets and talent is one of the key benefits of establishing a foreign subsidiary.

    Local tax benefits

    Foreign subsidiaries can enjoy local tax benefits when operating in a foreign country. These benefits can include lower corporate tax ratestax incentives or exemptions, and access to double taxation agreements.

    By taking advantage of these local tax benefits, the parent company can reduce its overall tax burden and increase profitability. Additionally, it allows the subsidiary to reinvest more funds into its operations or expansion efforts.

    This financial advantage is an attractive incentive for companies looking to establish a foreign subsidiary and expand their global market presence while minimizing their tax liabilities.

    Reduced risk for the parent company

    Having a foreign subsidiary can help reduce the risk for the parent company. By expanding into different markets through a subsidiary, the parent company is able to diversify its operations and spread out potential risks.

    This means that if there are challenges or economic downturns in one market, the parent company’s overall business will not be as heavily impacted since it has other subsidiaries operating in different countries.

    This strategy helps to safeguard the parent company’s financial stability and protect it from relying too heavily on any single market.

    Workload diversification

    Workload diversification is another benefit of establishing a foreign subsidiary. By having operations in multiple markets, the parent company can distribute its workload across different locations.

    This allows for a more efficient allocation of resources and reduces the dependence on any single market or location. Workload diversification also helps to mitigate risks associated with economic downturns or political instability in one particular market.

    Additionally, it provides opportunities for the parent company to tap into local talent and expertise, leading to increased innovation and competitiveness in each market. Overall, workload diversification through foreign subsidiaries can enhance the resilience and long-term success of the parent company’s global business strategy.

    Investment potential

    Investing in a foreign subsidiary has great potential for companies looking to expand their global reach. By establishing a presence in a new market, the parent company can tap into new investment opportunities and increase its overall revenue.

    Foreign subsidiaries also offer the potential for growth and increased market share. With access to new markets, companies can attract more customers and generate higher profits. Furthermore, investing in a foreign subsidiary allows businesses to diversify their investments and reduce risk by spreading their operations across different regions or countries.

    This not only helps protect against economic downturns but also provides opportunities for future expansion and success.

    Building trust in a new market

    A crucial benefit of establishing a foreign subsidiary is the opportunity to build trust in a new market. When a parent company enters a foreign market, it is often seen as an outsider or unfamiliar entity.

    However, by setting up a local subsidiary, the parent company can demonstrate its commitment to the market and establish relationships with local stakeholders. This helps in building trust and credibility among customers, suppliers, and government authorities.

    By having a physical presence and engaging with the local community, the parent company can show its dedication to understanding and meeting the needs of the target market. Additionally, having a local subsidiary allows for better communication and responsiveness to customer demands, further strengthening trust in the brand or products offered by the parent company.

    Drawbacks of Foreign Subsidiaries

    Foreign subsidiaries can require a significant cost and time investment, navigate cultural differences, and face complexity in closing down. However, these drawbacks shouldn’t discourage you from exploring the benefits of establishing a foreign subsidiary.

    Cost and time investment

    Establishing a foreign subsidiary requires a significant cost and time investment. There are expenses involved in setting up and maintaining the subsidiary, such as legal fees and operational costs.

    Additionally, it takes time to navigate through the complexities of international laws, regulations, and local business practices. However, companies often view this investment as worthwhile due to the potential benefits of expanding into new markets and accessing new talent.

    Cultural differences

    Cultural differences can be a challenge when establishing a foreign subsidiary. Different countries have their own unique customs, practices, and ways of doing business. These cultural nuances can impact communicationdecision-making processeswork ethics, and even the perception of time.

    For example, in some cultures, punctuality is highly valued while in others it may not be as important. Understanding and adapting to these cultural differences is crucial for building successful relationships with local employees and stakeholders.

    It requires being open-minded, flexible, and willing to learn about the local culture to ensure effective collaboration and smooth operations across borders.

    Complexity in closing down

    Closing down a foreign subsidiary can be a complex process. There are several factors that contribute to this complexity, including legal and regulatory requirements in the host country.

    Firstly, there may be specific laws and regulations that need to be followed when closing down a company in a foreign country. This could include notifying government authorities, settling any outstanding taxes or debts, and complying with labor laws regarding employee terminations.

    Additionally, there may be contractual obligations and agreements that need to be addressed before the closure of the subsidiary. This could involve terminating lease agreements, supplier contracts, or customer contracts.

    Alternatives to Establishing a Foreign Subsidiary

    – Engaging contractors to handle specific tasks or projects.

    – Partnering with an employer of record for local hiring and payroll services.

    – Considering global payroll and compliance solutions to streamline operations.

    Engaging contractors

    One alternative to establishing a foreign subsidiary is engaging contractors. Instead of setting up a separate legal entity in a foreign country, companies can hire independent contractors to work on specific tasks or projects.

    This allows the parent company to access specialized skills and expertise without the need for a long-term commitment or investment. Contractors can be hired on a project-by-project basis, providing flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

    It also reduces the complexity and administrative burden that comes with managing employees in another country. Engaging contractors can be a strategic option for companies looking to expand their global operations while minimizing risk and maximizing efficiency.

    Partnering with an employer of record

    Partnering with an employer of record is an alternative to establishing a foreign subsidiary. An employer of record helps companies navigate the complexities of hiring and managing employees in foreign countries.

    They take care of payroll, benefits, tax compliance, and other HR responsibilities. This allows companies to expand their operations globally without the need for setting up a separate legal entity.

    By partnering with an employer of record, businesses can leverage their expertise and local knowledge to ensure smooth operations in new markets while reducing time and costs associated with establishing a foreign subsidiary.

    Considering global payroll and compliance solutions

    Global payroll and compliance solutions are important considerations when establishing a foreign subsidiary. These solutions help ensure that the parent company complies with local labor lawstax regulations, and payroll requirements in the foreign country.

    By using global payroll services, companies can streamline their payroll processes and ensure accurate and timely payment of employees in different countries. In addition, compliance solutions help businesses navigate complex regulatory frameworks, reducing the risk of legal issues or penalties.

    Overall, adopting global payroll and compliance solutions is crucial for maintaining smooth operations and ensuring legal compliance when expanding internationally.


    In conclusion, a foreign subsidiary is an overseas company owned or controlled by a larger enterprise in another country. It allows for global expansion, access to new markets and talentreduced risk for the parent company, and workload diversification.

    However, there are also drawbacks such as cost and time investment, cultural differences, and complexity in closing down. Considering alternatives like engaging contractors or partnering with an employer of record can be beneficial.

    Overall, establishing a foreign subsidiary can offer numerous benefits for companies looking to grow internationally.


    1. What is a foreign subsidiary?

    A foreign subsidiary is a company that is owned by another, larger business located in another country. These large businesses are usually multinational corporations.

    2. How does my company start an overseas subsidiary?

    Starting your own overseas branch involves international expansion and requires foreign investment for global expansion into the new market.

    3. Can opening up an international subsidiary help with global expansion?

    Yes! With an international business operation such as a crossborder subsidiary, you can strengthen your presence in the international market and go on to become a multinational corporation.

    4. What benefits does having an offshore subsidiary bring?

    An offshore or overseas subsidiary provides access to foreign markets, allowing gradual entry into these markets and expanding global operations of your business.

    5. Are there any examples of successful multinational subsidiaries?

    There are many examples of successful multinational subsidiaries from big name companies whose crossborder operations have led them to be leading players in their sectors worldwide!

    6. Do I need large amounts of money for starting a foreign affiliate or international ownership?

    While it varies between industries and countries, setting up such entities often requires significant resources due to the costs associated with establishing cross-border legal structures and operational bases.

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