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A holding company is a company or firm that owns other companies' outstanding stock. The term usually refers to a company that does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies to form a corporate group. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow the ownership and control of a number of different companies.
In the United States, 80% or more of stock, in voting and value, must be owned before tax consolidation benefits such as tax-free dividends can be claimed. That is, if Company A owns 80% or more of the stock of Company B, Company A will not pay taxes on dividends paid by Company B to its stockholders, as the payment of dividends from B to A is essentially Company A switching cash from one of its pockets to another. Any other shareholders of Company B will pay the usual taxes on dividends, as they are legitimate and ordinary dividends to these stockholders.
Sometimes a company intended to be a pure holding company identifies itself as such by adding "Holdings" or "(Holdings)" to its name.
After the global financial crisis of 2008, many traditional U.S. investment banks converted to holding companies. According to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's (FFIEC) website, JPMorgan Chase & Co.., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Groups, Inc. were the five largest bank holdings companies in the finance sector, as of 31 December 2013, based on total assets.
The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 caused many energy companies to divest their subsidiary businesses. Between 1938 and 1958 the number of holding companies declined from 216 to 18. An energy law passed in 2005 removed the 1935 requirements, and has led to mergers and holding company formation among power marketing and power brokering companies.
In US broadcasting, many major media conglomerates have purchased smaller broadcasters outright, but have not changed the broadcast licenses to reflect this, resulting in stations that are (for example) still licensed to Jacor and Citicasters, effectively making them such as subsidiary companies of their owner Clear Channel Communications. This is sometimes done on a per-market basis. For example in Atlanta both WNNX and later WWWQ are licensed to "WNNX LiCo, Inc." (LiCo meaning "license company"), both owned by Susquehanna Radio (which was later sold to Cumulus Media). In determining caps to prevent excessive concentration of media ownership, all of these are attributed to the parent company, as are leased stations, as a matter of broadcast regulation.
A parent company is a company that owns enough voting stock in another firm (subsidiary) to control management and operations by influencing or electing its board of directors. A parent company could simply be a company that wholly owns another company. This would be known as a "wholly owned subsidiary".