Difference Between Branch and Subsidiary

Deciding between establishing a branch and creating a subsidiary is like choosing between a bold adventure and a strategic outpost in the business realm. A branch is like a daring explorer, extending the company’s reach without a separate legal identity, sharing its parent’s fate. On the other hand, a subsidiary is akin to a wise diplomat, possessing autonomy while still being connected to the main entity.

It’s a decision that goes beyond spreadsheets, embodying the spirit of risk-taking or the shrewdness of diversification in the ever-evolving landscape of commerce.

Branch vs Subsidiary

Comparison Chart

DefinitionAn extension of a company established in a different location to carry out similar business activities.A separate legal entity with a controlling ownership interest (majority stake) held by another company (parent company).
Business OperationsConducts the same business activities as the parent company.May or may not conduct the same business activities as the parent company. Can operate independently with its own business strategy.
Ownership100% owned by the parent company.Owned by the parent company with a majority stake (>50%). Can have outside minority shareholders.
Legal StatusNo separate legal existence from the parent company.Separate legal entity from the parent company. Can sue and be sued in its own right.
LiabilityThe parent company bears full liability for the branch’s debts and obligations.Limited liability. The parent company is not automatically liable for the subsidiary’s debts, unless there’s a guarantee or piercing the corporate veil.
Financial RecordsMay or may not maintain separate financial records, consolidated with the parent company.Maintains separate financial records and submits separate tax filings.
ManagementManagement decisions are made by the parent company.Can have its own board of directors and management team, with varying degrees of autonomy.
EstablishmentRelatively simpler and quicker to set up.More complex and requires legal registration with government authorities.
RegulationSubject to the regulations of the country where the branch is located.Subject to the regulations of the country where the subsidiary is incorporated, and may be subject to additional regulations depending on the parent company’s location.
TaxationMay be taxed as a foreign branch in the host country.May be taxed as a resident company in the country of incorporation.

Similarities Between Branch and Subsidiary

Shared Identity and Control

One significant similarity is that branches and subsidiaries are both under the control of the parent company. In the case of branches, decisions are centralized, and the parent company maintains direct authority over operations. This centralized control ensures consistency in branding, policies, and overall management practices.

Common Branding and Operations

Branches and parent companies share a common brand identity. This is essential for maintaining a cohesive image and ensuring that customers recognize and trust the brand, regardless of the location. Operational procedures are also standardized across branches to maintain consistency and efficiency in business practices.

What is Branch?

A branch in the context of business refers to a secondary location of a company that operates independently, in a different geographical area. Establishing branches is a strategic business decision that can contribute to market expansion, increased customer reach, and overall business growth.

Company Branch

Types of Branches

1. Company-Owned Branches

In company-owned branches, the parent company retains full control and ownership. This type of branch is a direct extension of the main business and follows the same operational standards and policies. Company-owned branches provide the advantage of maintaining consistency in products, services, and customer experience across various locations.

2. Franchise Branches

Franchise branches operate under the brand name of the parent company but are owned and managed by independent entrepreneurs, known as franchisees. This allows for rapid expansion without significant capital investment by the parent company. However, maintaining brand consistency and quality control can be challenging.

3. Virtual/Branchless Banking

With technological advancements, the concept of branches has evolved to include virtual or branchless banking. Financial institutions, for example, may offer online services without a physical presence, enabling them to reach a wider audience and reduce operating costs.

Functions of Branches

1. Sales and Marketing

Branches play a crucial role in sales and marketing by promoting products or services locally. They adapt marketing strategies to cater to the specific needs and preferences of the target market, contributing to increased sales and brand awareness.

2. Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is a primary function of branches. Local branches can address customer inquiries, resolve issues, and build strong relationships, fostering customer loyalty.

3. Distribution and Supply Chain

In industries like retail, branches serve as distribution points, ensuring a steady supply chain. Efficient logistics and inventory management at each branch are essential for meeting customer demands and maintaining a competitive edge.

Challenges and Considerations

1. Operational Consistency

Maintaining consistent operations across branches can be challenging, especially in diverse markets. Companies must develop robust systems and procedures to ensure uniformity in product/service delivery and customer experience.

2. Communication and Coordination

Effective communication and coordination between the main office and branches are critical. Technology plays a key role in facilitating seamless collaboration, ensuring that all branches are aligned with the company’s goals and strategies.

3. Regulatory Compliance

Operating in different regions involves compliance with varying regulations. Companies with branches must stay updated on local laws, taxation policies, and industry-specific regulations to avoid legal issues and financial penalties.

Examples of Branches

  1. Bank Branch:
    • A local bank branch in a city or neighborhood.
    • It operates under the umbrella of the main bank but serves customers in a specific location.
  2. Retail Store Branch:
    • A branch of a retail chain in a different city or country.
    • It follows the brand and operational standards set by the main retail store.
  3. Telecom Branch:
    • A regional office of a telecommunications company.
    • It manages operations and customer service for a specific geographic area.
  4. Restaurant Branch:
    • A franchise location of a popular restaurant.
    • It adheres to the franchise guidelines while serving the local community.
  5. Insurance Branch:
    • An insurance company branch office in a specific region.
    • It handles insurance policies, claims, and customer inquiries locally.

What is Subsidiary?

A subsidiary in the business context refers to a company that is controlled by another entity, known as the parent company or holding company. The relationship between a parent company and its subsidiaries is characterized by ownership, wherein the parent company holds a majority stake, giving it control over the subsidiary’s operations and decision-making processes.


Formation and Legal Structure

Formation Process

The creation of a subsidiary involves the acquisition of a significant portion of the subsidiary’s shares by the parent company. This can be achieved through direct investment, purchase of existing shares, or establishment of a new business entity. The legal process may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but it requires compliance with local regulatory requirements.

Legal Structure

Subsidiaries operate as separate legal entities, distinct from their parent companies. This legal separation provides a level of autonomy and protects the parent company from the liabilities of its subsidiaries. Common legal structures for subsidiaries include limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations, or other forms recognized by local business laws.

Control and Ownership

Majority Ownership

The defining characteristic of a subsidiary is the ownership relationship, with the parent company holding a majority of the subsidiary’s voting shares. This controlling interest gives the parent company the power to influence strategic decisions, appoint key executives, and exert control over the subsidiary’s financial and operational activities.

Governance Structure

While the parent company has the authority to set overarching strategies, subsidiaries may have their own boards of directors and management teams. The governance structure ensures that the subsidiary can operate independently within the boundaries set by the parent company.

Strategic and Operational Relationships

Strategic Alignment

Subsidiaries are established to diversify the parent company’s business activities or expand into new markets. The strategic alignment between the parent and subsidiary is crucial for leveraging synergies and maximizing overall corporate performance. This alignment may involve shared resources, technology transfer, or coordinated marketing efforts.

Operational Independence

While strategic alignment is essential, subsidiaries are also designed to operate with a degree of independence. This autonomy allows subsidiaries to adapt to local market conditions, respond to specific customer needs, and make operational decisions that are in the best interest of their business.

Financial Reporting and Consolidation

Financial Reporting

Subsidiaries prepare their own financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. These statements provide a clear picture of the subsidiary’s financial performance and position.


In the parent company’s financial reporting, the financial statements of its subsidiaries are consolidated. This process involves combining the financial results of the parent and its subsidiaries to present a comprehensive view of the entire corporate group.

Advantages and Challenges


  • Diversification: Subsidiaries allow the parent company to diversify its business activities, reducing risk exposure.
  • Local Expertise: Operating through subsidiaries provides access to local market knowledge and expertise.
  • Risk Isolation: The legal separation between parent and subsidiary helps shield the parent company from certain risks and liabilities.


  • Coordination Complexity: Managing a diverse portfolio of subsidiaries can be challenging, requiring effective coordination and communication.
  • Cultural Differences: Subsidiaries in different regions may face cultural differences, impacting operations and decision-making.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Complying with various local regulations adds complexity to the overall management of subsidiaries.

Examples of Subsidiary

  1. Automobile Subsidiary:
    • A car manufacturing company that is a subsidiary of a larger automotive corporation.
    • It may focus on specific types of vehicles or operate in distinct markets.
  2. Technology Subsidiary:
    • A tech company that is a subsidiary of a multinational conglomerate.
    • It develops and markets technology products while leveraging the resources of the parent company.
  3. Pharmaceutical Subsidiary:
    • A subsidiary of a pharmaceutical company specializing in research and development.
    • It may focus on specific therapeutic areas or drug types.
  4. Media Subsidiary:
    • A film production company that is a subsidiary of a major media conglomerate.
    • It produces movies and content within the larger framework of the parent company.
  5. Energy Subsidiary:
    • An energy company subsidiary focusing on renewable energy sources.
    • It operates independently but aligns with the overall goals of the parent company in the energy sector.

Difference Between Branch and Subsidiary

  1. Legal Entity:
    • Branch: A branch is not a separate legal entity from the parent company. It is considered an extension of the parent company and does not have its own legal standing.
    • Subsidiary: A subsidiary is a separate legal entity. It is a distinct company with its own legal status, assets, liabilities, and governance structure.
  2. Liability:
    • Branch: The parent company is fully responsible for the liabilities and debts of the branch. Any legal issues or financial obligations of the branch are borne by the parent company.
    • Subsidiary: The subsidiary is responsible for its own liabilities and debts. The parent company has limited liability and is not directly responsible for the subsidiary’s obligations.
  3. Autonomy:
    • Branch: The branch operates under the direct control and supervision of the parent company. It has less autonomy in decision-making and management.
    • Subsidiary: A subsidiary has more autonomy in its operations. It has its own management team and can make independent decisions within the framework defined by the parent company.
  4. Risk and Reward:
    • Branch: The risks and rewards of the branch are directly associated with the parent company. Profits and losses of the branch impact the overall financial performance of the parent company.
    • Subsidiary: The risks and rewards of a subsidiary are somewhat separate from those of the parent company. While the parent company may benefit from the subsidiary’s success, it is not as directly impacted by its failures.
  5. Taxation:
    • Branch: Taxation is consolidated at the parent company level. The branch’s income and expenses are included in the overall tax calculations of the parent company.
    • Subsidiary: Subsidiaries are subject to separate taxation. They have their own tax liabilities, and the parent company may be required to file consolidated financial statements for tax purposes.
  6. Expansion and Presence:
    • Branch: Establishing a branch is a quicker way to expand into new markets or locations as it involves fewer legal formalities.
    • Subsidiary: Creating a subsidiary may involve more complex legal processes and may take longer to establish, but it provides a more independent presence in the new market.
  7. Regulatory Compliance:
    • Branch: Compliance requirements are tied to the regulations of the parent company’s home country and the host country where the branch operates.
    • Subsidiary: A subsidiary needs to comply with the regulations of both the parent company’s home country and the host country where it is incorporated, potentially requiring a more complex regulatory framework.
  8. Exit Strategy:
    • Branch: Closing a branch is relatively simpler as it involves winding up operations without the need to deal with a separate legal entity.
    • Subsidiary: Closing a subsidiary may involve a more complex process, including liquidation and addressing the legal and financial implications of a separate entity.


  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-financial-and-quantitative-analysis/article/abs/decision-to-establish-a-foreign-bank-branch-or-subsidiary-an-application-of-binary-classification-procedures/76636CA5FC72ED868C677E4084FA18BF
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-19-2239-8_65