Privately held company

A privately held company or private company is a company which does not offer or trade its company stock (shares) to the general public on the stock market exchanges, but rather the company's stock is offered, owned and traded or exchanged privately or over-the-counter. In the case of a close corporation, there are a relatively small number of shareholders or company members. Related terms are closely held corporation, unquoted company, and unlisted company.

Though less visible than their publicly traded counterparts, private companies have major importance in the world's economy. In 2008, the 441 largest private companies in the United States accounted for US$1,800,000,000,000 ($1.8 trillion) in revenues and employed 6.2 million people, according to Forbes. In 2005, using a substantially smaller pool size (22.7%) for comparison, the 339 companies on Forbes' survey of closely held U.S. businesses sold a trillion dollars' worth of goods and services (44%) and employed four million people. In 2004, the Forbes count of privately held U.S. businesses with at least $1 billion in revenue was 305.[1]

Separately, all non-government-owned companies are considered private enterprise. This sense includes both publicly-traded and privately-held companies, as their investors are individuals in the private sector.