The European Commission Recommendation 2003/361 sets out the main factors for determining whether a company is an small and medium-sized enterprise (SME). These include the total number of employees and either turnover or the size of the balance sheet. In June 2017, the European Commission announced it was considering reviewing the 2003 definition, although no proposal has since been introduced.
Under the current EU SME definition, only companies that do not receive a majority or controlling investment from a venture capital firm are able qualify for SME status. For a private equity-backed portfolio company, SME status is important as it allows the firm to be eligible for government support programmes or state aid. Moreover, the regulator is typically trying to make it easier for SMEs to operate by either providing them with regulatory exemptions or by placing fewer requirements on the investors that back them. For example, the AIFMD provides an exemption for SMEs from certain disclosure and asset stripping requirements.
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