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Poland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) exist mainly in the defense, energy, transport, banking, and insurance sectors. The main Warsaw stock index (WIG) is dominated by state-controlled companies. The government intends to keep majority share ownership and/or state-control of economically and strategically important firms and is expanding the role of the state in the economy, particularly in the banking, energy, foodstuffs, and media sectors. Some U.S. investors have expressed concern that the government favors SOEs by offering loans from the national budget as a capital injection and unfairly favoring SOEs in investment disputes. Since Poland’s EU accession, government activity favoring state-owned firms has received careful scrutiny from Brussels. Since the Law and Justice (PiS) government came to power in 2015, there has been a considerable increase in turnover in managerial positions of state-owned companies (although this has also occurred in previous changes of government, but to a lesser degree) and increased focus on building national champions in strategic industries to be able to compete internationally. There have also been cases of takeovers of foreign private companies by state-controlled companies the viability of which has raised doubts. SOEs are governed by a board of directors and most pay an annual dividend to the government, as well as prepare and disclose annual reports.

A list of companies classified as “important for the economy” is at this link: https://www.gov.pl/web/premier/wykaz-spolek 

Among them are companies of “strategic importance” whose shares cannot be sold, including: Grupa Azoty S.A., Grupa LOTOS S.A., KGHM Polska Miedz S.A., Energa S.A., and the Central Communication Port.

The government sees SOEs as drivers and leaders of its innovation policy agenda. For example, several energy SOEs established a company to develop electro mobility. The performance of SOEs has remained strong overall and broadly similar to that of private companies. International evidence suggests, however, that a dominant role of SOEs can pose fiscal, financial, and macro-stability risks.

As of June, 2021 there were 349 companies in partnership with state authorities. Among them there are companies under bankruptcy proceedings and in liquidation and in which the State Treasury held residual shares. According to the Minister of State Assets, companies controlled by the state create 15 percent of GDP. Here is a link to the list of companies, including under the control of which ministry they fall: http://nadzor.kprm.gov.pl/spolki-z-udzialem-skarbu-panstwa .

The Ministry of State Assets, established after the October 2019 post-election cabinet reshuffle, has control over almost 180 enterprises. Their aggregate value reaches several dozens of billions of Polish zlotys. Among these companies are the largest chemical, energy, and mining groups; firms in the banking and insurance sectors; and transport companies. This list does not include state-controlled public media, which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, or the State Securities Printing Company (PWPW) supervised by the Interior Ministry. Supervision over defense industry companies has been shifted from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of State Assets.

The same standards are generally applied to private and public companies with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies. Government officials occasionally exercise discretionary authority to assist SOEs. In general, SOEs are expected to pay their own way, finance their operations, and fund further expansion through profits generated from their own operations.

On February 21, 2019, an amendment to the Act on the Principles of Management of State-Owned Property was adopted, which provides for the establishment of a new public special-purpose fund – the Capital Investment Fund. The fund is a source of financing for the purchase and subscription of shares in companies. The fund is managed by the Prime Minister’s office and financed by dividends from state-controlled companies.

Starting October 12, 2022, the Act amending the Commercial Companies Code and certain other acts will enter into force. It introduces the so-called “holding law” developed by the Commission for Owner Oversight Reform with the Ministry of State Assets. It lays down the principles of how a parent company may instruct its subsidiaries and stipulates the parent company’s liability and the principles of creditor, officer, and minority shareholder protections.

This amendment constitutes an important change for many companies operating in Poland including foreign parent companies. The new regulations, which have encountered some controversy, will apply only to capital companies. The legislation distinguishes between the separate activities of holding companies and of groups of companies. Protections have been extended to minority shareholders and creditors of subsidiaries, identifying threats that may result from binding instructions of the parent company for these groups.

The PiS-led government has increased control over Poland’s banking and energy sectors.

Proposed legislation to “deconcentrate” and “repolonize” Poland’s media landscape, including through the possible forced sale of existing investments, has met with domestic and international protest. Critical observers allege that PiS and its allies are running a pressure campaign against foreign and independent media outlets aimed at destabilizing and undermining their businesses. These efforts include blocking mergers through antimonopoly decisions, changes to licensing requirements, and the proposed new advertising tax. Increasing government control over state regulatory bodies, advertising agencies and infrastructure such as printing presses and newsstands, are other possible avenues. Since 2015, state institutions and state-owned and controlled companies have ceased to subscribe to or place advertising in independent media, cutting off an important source of funding for those media companies. At the same time, public media has received generous support from the state budget.

In December 2020, state-controlled energy firm PKN Orlen, headed by PiS appointees, acquired control of Polska Press in a deal that gives the governing party indirect control over 20 of Poland’s 24 regional newspapers. Because this acquisition was achieved without legislative changes, it has not provoked diplomatic repercussions with other EU member states or a head-on collision with Brussels over the rule of law. Having successfully taken over a foreign-owned media company with this model, there are concerns PKN Orlen will continue to be used for capturing independent media not supportive of the government.

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