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DISCLAIMER

The information provided below is intended to be only an aid to understanding the legislation reviewed in this section.  The contents do not in any way constitute legal advice to any person for payment or otherwise and Lennox Paton Corporate Services Limited and the Partners of the firm of Lennox Paton do not and will not in any way accept responsibility or liability for any loss or damage caused by or arising from reliance on the information contained herein.

Persons reading this publication are reminded that where a decision is to be made which depends for its correctness on the effect of the legislative regime discussed herein or on any other legislation or Common Law rules, professional advice should be sought from the firm of Lennox Paton or any other firm of qualified legal professionals.

FOREWORD

The following information is not intended to provide a technical legal analysis of the provisions of the British Virgin Islands Business Company Act, 2004 (the "the BVI Business Companies Act")

We have focused only on the main provisions of the the BVI Business Companies Act and have intentionally omitted explanations of various sections of the legislation which we believe are not of primary concern to the financial services industry of The British Virgin Islands ("BVI").

All references to ?$? are to US$.

The law is stated as at 31st July 2007.

OVERVIEW

The BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 repealed the BVI International Business Companies Ordinance as of December 31 2006.

permissible activities for A BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS BUSINESS COMPANY

A BVI Business Company (?BVI Company? or ?British Virgin Islands company?) is a legal entity in its own right separate from its members and continues in existence until dissolved. Subject to the BVI Business Companies Act, any other enactment and its memorandum and articles a company has irrespective of corporate benefit full capacity to carry on or undertake any business or activity, do any act or enter into any transaction; and for these purposes full rights, powers and privileges.

A BVI company also has the power subject to its memorandum and articles to issue and cancel shares and hold treasury shares, grant options over unissued shares in the company and treasury shares, issues securities that are convertible into shares and give financial assistance to any person in connection with the acquisition of its own shares; issue debt obligation and grant options, warrants and rights to acquire debt obligation; guarantee a liability or obligation of any person and secure any of its obligation by mortgage, pledge or other charge of any of its assets for the purpose; and protect the assets of the company for the benefit of the company, its creditors and its members and  at the discretion of he directors, for any person having a direct or indirect interest in the company.

The BVI Business Companies Act provides for the incorporation of several different types of BVI companies: companies limited by shares, companies limited by guarantee not authorised to issue shares, companies limited by guarantee authorised to issue shares, unlimited companies authorised to issue shares, unlimited companies not authorised to issue shares, restricted purposes companies and segregated portfolio companies.

Additionally there is no prohibition under the BVI Business Companies Act which prevents a BVI company carrying on business with persons in the BVI

APPLICATION FOR INCORPORATION OF A BVI BUSINESS COMPANY

In order to incorporate a company as a BVI Business Company an application must be made to the Registrar of Corporate Affairs by filing:

a)      A Memorandum of Association (?Memorandum?) that is signed by the proposed registered agent, as incorporator;
b)      Articles of Association (?Articles?) that are signed by the proposed registered agent, as incorporator (except in the case of an unlimited company that is not authorised to issue shares);
c)      A document in the approved form signed by the proposed registered agent signifying his consent to act as registered agent;
d)      The written approval of the Financial Services Commission if the company is to be incorporated as a segregated portfolio company; and
e)      Such other documents as may be prescribed.

The Memorandum must contain the name and type of company, its registered office, the name and address of its first registered agent. A BVI Company authorised to issue shares must state the maximum number of shares that can be issued or that the company is authorised to issue an unlimited number of shares. BVI Companies limited by guarantee must specify the amount which a guarantee member must contribute to the assets on liquidation. Restricted purposes BVI companies must state that they are such companies and segregated portfolio companies must state that they are segregated portfolio companies. All BVI companies except for restricted purposes companies are not required to state its objects or purposes.

An application for the incorporation of a BVI company can only be made by the proposed registered agent and the Registrar will not accept an application for the incorporation of a company filed by any other person.

SHARES

BVI companies that are authorised to issue shares must state in their Memorandum the maximum number of shares that they are authorised to issue or that they are authorised to issue an unlimited number of shares and the classes of shares that the company is authorised to issue and if the company is authorised to issue two or more class of shares, the rights, privileges, restrictions and conditions attaching to each class of shares.

Subject to its Memorandum and Articles a BVI company may issue bonus shares, partly paid shares and nil paid shares. Additionally a share may be issued with or without a par value and a share with par value may be issued in any currency.

Shares may be issued for consideration in any form, including money, a promissory note, or other written obligation to contribute money or property, real property, personal property (including goodwill and know how), services rendered or a contract for future services. The consideration for a share with par value shall not be less than the par value of the share.

PROHIBITION OF THE ISSUANCE OF SHARES TO BEARER

A BVI company is not permitted to issue shares to bearer (?bearer shares?), convert a registered share to a bearer share or exchange a registered share for a bearer share unless expressly authorised to do so by its Memorandum.

All bearer shares issued under the provisions of the IBC Ordinance shall on or before 31 December 2010, be deposited with a custodian who has agreed to hold the share or be converted to or exchanged for a registered share.

Any existing bearer share in a BVI company is deemed not to have been deposited with a custodian until the registered agent of the company has received, in the case of a bearer share deposited with an authorised custodian, notification of the deposit from the authorised custodian or in the case of a bearer share deposited with a recognized custodian, the proof of the deposit of the share and the notice required to be sent.

A bearer share in a BVI company is disabled for any period during which it is held by a person other than a custodian unless it is held by the registered agent of the company or held by a person who received the share at a time when he was a custodian but who ceased to be a custodian, or the bearer share is to be or has been converted to, or exchanged for a registered share, redeemed purchased or otherwise acquired by the company or cancelled and forfeited and the company does not hold the bearer share for or on behalf of any other person.

During any period in which a bearer share is disabled the share does not carry any of the entitlements which it would otherwise carry and any transfer or purported transfer of an interest in the bearer share is void and of no effect. These entitlements include an entitlement to vote, distribution and to a share in the assets of the BVI company on its winding up or on its dissolution.

Filing of Amendments to MemoraNdum and Articles of Association and Other Documents

A BVI company may amend its Memorandum and Articles by a resolution of its members or directors. The directors of a BVI company however cannot amend the company?s memorandum or articles to restrict the rights or powers of the members to amend the memorandum or articles; to change the percentage of member required to pass a resolution to amend the memorandum or articles or in circumstances where the memorandum or articles cannot be amended by the members.

Where a BVI company passes resolution to amend its Memorandum or Articles it shall file for registration a notice of amendment in the approved form or a restated Memorandum or Articles incorporating the amendment made. An amendment to the Memorandum or Articles has effect from the date that the notice of amendment, or restated Memorandum or Articles incorporating the amendment, is registered by the Registrar.

REGISTERED OFFICE/REGISTERED AGENT

BVI Companies must at all times maintain a Registered Agent and Registered Office in the British Virgin Islands. The name and address of the Registered Agent and the address of the Registered Office must be submitted to the Registrar with the application for registration of the BVI Company. Failure to maintain a registered agent can result in the BVI company being struck off the register.

The BVI company may by resolution change the location of its Registered Office or change a its Registered Agent notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in the Memorandum or Articles by the members of the company or if authorised by the Memorandum or Articles by the directors of the company. A BVI company that wishes to change its Registered Office or Registered Agent shall file a notice in the approved form.

A notice of change of Registered Agent shall be endorsed by the new Registered Agent with his agreement to act as Registered Agent. A notice of change of Registered Office or registered agent may be filed only by the registered agent of the BVI company; or a legal practitioner in the British Virgin Islands acting on behalf of the company for the purposes of filing the notice.

RESIGNATION OF REGISTERED AGENT

A person wishing to resign as the Registered Agent of a BVI company shall give not less than ninety days written notice of his intention to resign as registered agent of the company on the date specified in the notice to a director of the company or to the person from whom the Registered Agent last received instruction concerning the company together with the written notice, provide a list of all approved Registered Agents in the British Virgin Islands with their names and addresses and file a copy of the notice and the list of Registered Agents.

Unless the BVI company has previously changed its Registered Agent, the resignation of a

Registered Agent is effective the day after the notice of resignation is registered by the Registrar.

MAINTENANCE OF SHARE REGISTER OR REGISTER OF MEMBERS AND DIRECTORS

A BVI company shall keep the following documents at the office of its Registered Agent:

a)      the Memorandum and Articles of the company;
b)      the register of member or copy of the register of members;
c)      the register of directors maintained or a copy of the register of directors; and
d)      copies of all notices and other documents filed by the company in the previous ten years

Where a BVI company keeps a copy of the register of members or the register of directors at the office of its Registered Agent, it shall within fifteen days of any change in the register, notify the registered agent, in writing, of the change and provide the Registered Agent with a written record of the physical address of the place or places at which the original register of members or the original register of directors is kept.

Where the place at which the original register of members or the original register of directors is changed, the BVI company shall provide the registered agent with the physical address of the new location of the records within fourteen days of the change of location.

Where the place at which any records specified above is changed, the BVI company shall provide the registered agent with the physical address of the new location of the records within fourteen days of the change of location.

MEMBERS

BVI Companies shall at all times have one or more members. The BVI Business Companies Act recognizes three types of members; shareholders, guarantee members and unlimited members. Members have the right to one vote at a meeting of the members of the BVI company or any resolution of the members; the right to equal share in any dividend paid in accordance wit the BVI Business Companies Act; and the right to an equal share in the distribution of the surplus assets of the company. The rights can be negated, modified or added to where expressly authorised by the BVI company?s memorandum.

A member of a limited BVI company has no liability as a member for the liabilities of the company.

The liability of a shareholder to the BVI company as shareholder is limited to any amount unpaid on a share held by the shareholder; any liability expressly provided for in the memorandum or articles of the company; and any liability to repay a distribution.

The liability of a guarantee member is limited to the amount that the guarantee member is liable to contribute as specified in the BVI company?s memorandum and any other liability expressly provided for in the memorandum or articles of the company and any liability to repay a distribution.

An unlimited member has unlimited liability for the liabilities of the BVI company.

DIRECTORS

BVI Companies must at all have one or more directors. This requirement is not applicable during the period between the incorporation of the BVI company and the appointment of the first directors by the registered agent. The first registered agent of a BVI company shall, within six months of the date of incorporation of the company, appoint one or more persons as the first directors of the company. Subsequent directors of a BVI company may be appointed unless the Memorandum or Articles provide otherwise, by the members or where permitted by the Memorandum or Articles, by the directors.

Unless the Memorandum or Articles of a BVI company provide otherwise, the directors of a company may appoint one or more directors to fill a vacancy on the board. However the directors may not appoint a director for a term exceeding the term that remained when the person who has ceased to be a director left or otherwise ceased to hold office.

Where a BVI company has only one member who is an individual and that member is also the sole director of the company, notwithstanding anything contained in the Memorandum or Articles, that sole member/director may, by instrument in writing, nominate a person who is not disqualified from being a director of the company as a reserve director of the company to act in the place of the sole director in the event of his death.

The directors may designate one or more committees of directors, each consisting of one or more directors and delegate any one or more of their powers including the power to affix the common seal of the BVI company to the committee. The directors however have no power to delegate the power to a committee of directors to amend the memorandum or articles; to designate committees of directors; to delegate powers to a committee of directors; to appoint or remove directors; to approve to remove an agent; to approve or plan or merger, consolidation or arrangement; to male a declaration of solvency or to approve a liquidation plan or to make a determination that a BVI company will immediately after a proposed distribution satisfies the solvency test.

Directors are required to disclose to the board of the BVI company any interest in any transaction entered into by the company. Any transaction entered into by a BVI company in respect of which a director is interested is voidable by the company unless the director?s interest was disclosed to the board prior to the company entering into the transaction or it is not required to be disclosed.

INDEMNIFICATION OF DIRECTORS

Subject to the BVI Business Companies Act and its Memorandum or Articles, a BVI company may indemnify against all expenses, including legal fees, and against all judgments, fines and amounts paid in settlement and reasonably incurred in connection with legal, administrative or investigative proceedings any person who is or was a party or is threatened to be made a party to any threatened, pending or completed proceedings, whether civil, criminal, administrative or investigative, by reason of the fact that the person is or was a director of the company; or is or was, at the request of the company, serving as a director of, or in any other capacity is or was acting for, another body corporate or a partnership, joint venture, trust or other enterprise.

A BVI company may purchase and maintain insurance in relation to any person who is or was a director of the company, or who at the request of the company is or was serving as a director of, or in any other capacity is or was acting for, another body corporate or a partnership, joint venture, trust or other enterprise, against any liability asserted against the person and incurred by the person in that capacity, whether or not the company has or would have had the power to indemnify the person against the liability.

MEETINGS OF MEMBERS

Subject to a BVI company?s Memorandum and Articles, the directors of the company; or such person or persons as may be authorised by the Memorandum or Articles to call the meeting may convene a meeting of the members of the company at any time. A meeting of the members of the company may be held at such time and in such place, within or outside the British Virgin Islands, as the convener of the meeting considers appropriate. A member of the BVI company shall be deemed to be present at a meeting of members if he participates by telephone or other electronic means and all members participating in the meeting are able to hear each other.

Subject to a requirement in the Memorandum or Articles to give longer notice, a person or persons convening a meeting of the members of a BVI company shall give not less than seven days notice of the meeting to those persons whose names, on the date the notice is given, appear as members in the register of members and are entitled to vote at the meeting.

The quorum for a meeting of the members of a BVI company for the purposes of a resolution of members is that fixed by the Memorandum or Articles but, where no quorum is so fixed, a meeting of members is properly constituted for all purposes if at the commencement of the meeting there are present in person or by proxy, members entitled to exercise at least fifty percent of the votes.

MEETINGS OF DIRECTORS

Subject to the Memorandum or Articles of a BVI company, the directors of a company may meet at such times and in such manner and places within or outside the British Virgin Islands as they may determine to be necessary or desirable. Subject to the Memorandum and Articles, any one or more directors may convene a meeting of directors. A director shall be deemed to be present at a meeting of directors if he participates by telephone or other electronic means; and all directors participating in the meeting are able to hear each other. Subject to any requirements as to notice in the Memorandum or Articles, a director shall be given reasonable notice of a meeting of directors.

Notwithstanding this requirement however a meeting of directors held in contravention of the forgoing is valid if all of the directors, or such majority thereof as may be specified in the Memorandum or entitled to vote at the meeting, have waived the notice of the meeting; and, for this purpose, the presence of a director at the meeting shall be deemed to constitute waiver on his part. The inadvertent failure to give notice of a meeting to a director, or the fact that a director has not received the notice, does not invalidate the meeting.

The quorum for a meeting of directors is that fixed by the Memorandum or Articles but, where no quorum is so fixed, a meeting of directors is properly constituted for all purposes if at the commencement of the meeting one half of the total number of directors are present in person or by alternate.

Subject to the Memorandum or Articles of a BVI company, a director of the company may by a written instrument appoint an alternate who need not be a director. An alternate for a director appointed is entitled to attend meetings in the absence of the director who appointed him and to vote in the place of the director.

Any action that may be taken by the directors or a committee of directors at a meeting may also be taken by a resolution of directors or a committee of directors, consented to in writing or by telex, telegram, cable or other written electronic communication, without the need for any notice. A resolution under the foregoing may consist of several documents, including written electronic communications, in like form each signed or assented to by one or more directors.

APPOINTMENT AND REMOVAL OF DIRECTORS

The first registered agent of a BVI company shall, within six months of the date of incorporation of the company, appoint one or more persons as the first directors of the company. Subsequent directors of a BVI company may be appointed by the members unless the Memorandum or Articles provide otherwise or where permitted by the Memorandum or Articles, by the directors. A director is appointed for such term as may be specified in the resolution appointing him

Subject to the Memorandum or Articles of a BVI company, a director of the company may be removed from office by resolution of the members or of directors of the company. A director of a BVI company may resign his office by giving written notice of his resignation to the company and the resignation has effect from the date the notice is received by the company or from such later date as may be specified in the notice.

DISSOLUTION AND STRIKING-OFF

The Registrar may strike the name of a BVI company off the Register if :-

(a) the company fails to appoint a Registered Agent or fails to file any return, notice or document required to be filed under the BVI Business Companies Act; or
(b) he is satisfied that the company has ceased to carry on business, or the company is carrying on business for which a licence, permit or authority is required under the laws of the Virgin Islands without having such licence, permit or authority; or
(c) the company fails to pay its annual fee or any late payment penalty by the due date.

Before striking a BVI company off the Register, the Registrar shall send the company a notice stating that, unless the company shows cause to the contrary, it will be struck from the Register on a date specified in the notice which shall be no less than thirty days after the date of the notice; and publish a notice of his intention to strike the company off the Register in the Gazette. After the expiration of the time specified in the notice, unless the BVI company has shown cause to the contrary, the Registrar may strike the name of the company off the Register. The Registrar shall publish a notice of the striking off of a BVI company from the Register in the Gazette.

Where BVI Companies have been struck off the Register, but not dissolved, the Registrar may, upon receipt of an application in the approved form and upon payment of the restoration fee and all outstanding fees and penalties, restore a company to the Register and issue a certificate of restoration to the Register.

FEES AND PENALTIES

If a BVI company fails to pay the annual fee on or before the date on which the annual fee is due, it shall, in addition to the annual fee, be liable to a penalty calculated as follows:

(a) If the fee is paid before the expiration of two months after the date when the fee is due, the penalty payable shall be equal to ten per cent of the annual fee due or
(b) If the fee is paid after the expiration of two months after the date when the fee is due, the penalty payable shall be equal to fifty per cent of the annual fee due.

The date when the annual fee payable by a BVI company is due shall be determined as follows:

(a) If the company was incorporated, continued or re-registered between the 1st January and 30th June in any year, the annual fee shall be due on the 31st May of each year, commencing in the year following its incorporation;
(b) If the company was incorporated, continued or re-registered between the 1st July and 31st December in any year, the annual fee shall be due on the 30th November of each year, commencing in the year following its incorporation

SEGREGATED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES

A BVI company limited by shares may, with the written approval of the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission (the "Commission") be incorporated as a segregated portfolio company or if it has already been incorporated, be registered by the Registrar as a segregated portfolio company.

The Commission may give its written approval to the incorporation of a BVI company, or the registration of an existing company, as a segregated portfolio company only if the company is, or on its incorporation will be, licensed as an insurer under the British Virgin Islands Insurance Act, 1994, is, or on its incorporation will be, recognized as a professional or private fund or registered as a public fund under the British Virgin Islands Mutual Funds Act, 1996 or is, or on its incorporation will be, of such class or description as may be prescribed by the Regulations.

The Registrar shall not incorporate or register a BVI company as a segregated portfolio company unless the Commission has given its written approval. An application for approval to incorporate or register a BVI company as a segregated portfolio company shall be made to the Commission in the approved form and shall be accompanied by such documentation as may be prescribed. The Commission may require an applicant to furnish it with such other documentation and information as it considers necessary to determine the application.

A BVI segregated portfolio company may create one or more segregated portfolios for the purpose of segregating the assets and liabilities of the BVI company held within or on behalf of a segregated portfolio from the assets and liabilities of the company held within or on behalf of any other segregated portfolio of the company or the assets and liabilities of the company which are not held within or on behalf of any segregated portfolio of the company.

CREATION AND REGISTRATION OF CHARGES

A BVI company may by instrument in writing create a charge over its property. The governing law of a charge created by a BVI company may be the law of such jurisdiction that may be agreed between the company and the chargee.

A BVI company must keep a register of all its charges at the registered office of the company or at the office of its registered agent. The BVI company or the chargee can apply to the Registrar of Corporate Affairs to register the charge. Registration is not mandatory and failure to register the charge does not affect its validity or enforceability.

Registration of a charge has priority over a relevenat charge on the property that is subsequently registered as well as priority over a relevenat charge on the property that is not registered in accordance with the BVI Business Companies Act.

FISCAL EXEMPTIONS

The provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance do not apply to:

a)      BVI Business Companies
b)      all dividends, interest, rents, royalties, compensations and other amounts paid by a company; or
c)      capital gains realized with respect to any shares, debt obligations or other securities of a company.

No estate, inheritance, succession or gift tax is payable with respect to any shares, debt obligation or other securities of a BVI company.

All instruments relating to transfers of property to or by a BVI company, all instruments relating to transactions in respect of the shares, debt obligations or other securities of a company and all instruments relating to other transactions relating to the business of a company are exempt from the payment of stamp duty. This exemption however does not apply to the transfer to or by a BVI company of an interest in land situate in the British Virgin Islands or transactions in respect of the shares, debt obligations or other securities of a land owning company.

The Provisions of the Registration and Records Act does not apply to the transfers of property to or by a BVI company, transactions in respect of shares, debt obligations or other securities of a company and other transactions relating to the business of a company.

For more information please contact: adavies@lennoxpaton.com