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Home // UK Corporate Joint Ventures: Protecting Minority Shareholders

In corporate joint ventures, minority shareholders are often vulnerable because they have limited influence on decision-making compared to majority shareholders. To safeguard the interests, minority shareholders will often seek various contractual protections under the joint venture agreement (JVA) and the new joint venture company’s (JVC) articles of association. Understanding these protective measures is crucial for minority shareholders navigating the complex landscape of corporate joint ventures in the UK. Nath Solicitors in London provides comprehensive guidance on all aspects of JVAs. This includes giving bespoke advice to groups of minority shareholders concerned about safeguarding their interests when a JVA is on the cards. Here we list some of the tools that can be used to bolster the position of minority shareholders.

Board Level Protections

Because of the decision-making role of the board of directors, it’s important for minority shareholders to have some kind of influence there.  To guarantee their representation on the board, minority shareholders may bargain for the authority to select and remove directors. Quorum provisions are also crucial because they can guarantee that, even in cases where the majority shareholder has a sizable amount of influence, board meetings cannot take place without the participation of representatives from minority shareholders, usually a director appointed by the group.

Veto Rights and Reserved Matters

Minority shareholders frequently negotiate for veto rights or reserved matters to ensure that important decisions are not made without their approval. Reserved matters, whether at the board or shareholder level, require unanimous or majority consent, ensuring that certain fundamental actions cannot be taken without the approval of all shareholders, including minority shareholders. Veto rights and reserved matters might typically apply to changes to the JVC’s articles, changes to the capital structure, and decisions to wind up the company.

Tag Along Rights

Tag along rights act as a protective measure for minority shareholders when the majority shareholder intends to sell its shares. These rights require the majority shareholder to include the minority’s shareholding in any sale to a third party on similar terms. This ensures that minority shareholders are not left without an exit route, especially in situations where the majority shareholder exercises drag along rights (where the minority shareholders are forced to join the majority in a sale of the company).

Lock-In Periods

When forming a joint venture, minority shareholders may advocate for lock-in periods that prohibit share transfers. This ensures that all shareholders are committed to the new business’s growth and prevents premature exits, which could jeopardise the joint venture’s stability and success.

Pre-emption Rights

Commonly included in JVAs, pre-emption rights give minority shareholders the first opportunity to purchase shares if a majority shareholder decides to sell. This allows minority shareholders to maintain or increase their stake and avoid unwanted third-party involvement in the joint venture.

Put Option on Deadlock and Events of Default

In situations of deadlock – where parties are unable to resolve a dispute – or following specific events of default, minority shareholders may seek a put option. This contractual provision obliges the majority shareholder to buy the minority shareholder’s shares, providing an exit strategy for the minority shareholder while preventing them from being ‘locked in’ against their will.

Additional Contractual Protections

Aside from core protections under the general law and the JVA, minority shareholders may advocate for additional safeguards. These can include provisions for quorum at shareholder meetings, which ensure minority participation in decision-making. Access to information rights is critical for enabling minority shareholders to effectively monitor the venture. Quasi-fiduciary duties may be imposed by the JVA, and liability caps can limit minority shareholders’ financial exposure.

Class Rights and Weighted Voting

Class rights and weighted voting mechanisms embedded in the JVC’s articles are tools to counteract potential alterations to core company priorities and decision-making processes by the majority shareholder. Weighted voting can provide minority shareholders with enhanced voting power on specific resolutions, making it challenging for the majority to make unilateral changes.

Entrenched Provisions

Minority shareholders might consider entrenching specific provisions in the JVC’s articles, making them more difficult than other provisions to change. This provides an additional layer of protection against arbitrary alterations by the majority shareholder and is permissible under section 22 of the Companies Act, 2006.

Statutory Protections

In the absence of contractual safeguards, UK law offers statutory protections to minority shareholders. Section 994 of the Companies Act 2006 allows minority shareholders to file a claim if the JVC’s affairs are unfairly prejudicial to their interests. The court may order remedies such as a buyout.

Derivative Claims

Minority shareholders can bring derivative claims on behalf of the JVC against directors who act improperly, breaching their duties. While directors owe duties to the company, minority shareholders can use derivative claims to address breaches that harm the company’s overall interests.

Just and Equitable Winding-Up

Minority shareholders can, as a last resort, file a petition under the Insolvency Act of 1986 to wind up the JVC on just and equitable grounds. This statutory remedy is used when other options, such as unfair prejudice claims, are either unavailable or unlikely to succeed.


To summarise, navigating the complexities of corporate joint ventures as a minority shareholder necessitates a thorough understanding of the safeguards available under UK law as well as an appreciation of other bespoke measures that can be introduced to the JVA.  By strategically negotiating and incorporating these safeguards into JVAs and articles of association, minority shareholders can ensure a more equitable and secure position within the joint venture, promoting the company’s overall success and sustainability.

Contact Us

At Nath Solicitors, we specialise in providing expert legal counsel on all aspects of corporate joint ventures, ensuring that the rights and interests of minority shareholders are diligently protected. Our team of legal professionals possesses in-depth knowledge of UK corporate law and a wealth of experience in structuring robust joint venture agreements that safeguard the position of minority stakeholders. If you need advice on how to protect minority shareholders’ rights, contact us on 0203 983 8278 or get in touch with us online. We are committed to delivering tailored solutions and ensuring the success and equitable treatment of all parties involved in joint ventures.





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