Knowing the Italian economy from the roots up
The Business Register is key to accessing official data on all Italian businesses: a guide on how best to do this
A unique economic structure: “the power of the many”
One of the characteristics of the Italian business structure is the average size of businesses. At the end of 2021, according to data from the Chambers of Commerce Business Register, Italian businesses numbered 6,067,466, essentially one every ten inhabitants.
Of these, 99.9% fall under the European definition of small or medium businesses. More specifically, 93.3% can be defined as “micro” businesses (with less than 10 staff), 5.8% as small (between 10 and 50 staff) and 0.7% as medium (between 50 and 249 staff), leaving just 0.1% (just under 5 thousand businesses) over the large business threshold.
In spite of - or perhaps thanks to - this business “pulverisation” and the fact that it does not have large amounts of raw materials available, Italy has managed to become on of the foremost manufacturing and transformation economies in the world, developing a widespread production model all over the country that centres around clusters of small, medium and medium-large businesses characterised by flexibility, creativity, innovation.
According to Unctad (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in 2021 only six Countries in the world recorded a foreign trade surplus - excluding energy sources - in excess of 100 billion dollars. Italy is among them, confirming the competitive nature of its products and the validity of its widespread economic model.
On this page you will find:
- an up-to-date picture of the Italian business system structure
- in which sectors the six million existing businesses are distributed
- what size they are
- in what form they are established and organised
- where in the country their headquarters are located
- what their governance is and who has power of representation
Which are the most representative industries in Italy?
At the end of December 2021, the most significant portion of Italian businesses (24.3% of the total, corresponding to approximately 1.5 million activities) worked in the commercial sector. Approximately ten percent lower (14.6 and 13.8%) we find the business services (approximately 880 thousand activities) and construction sectors (840 thousand). Taken together, these first three macro-sectors of activity represent just over half (52.7%) of the entire Italian business panorama.
However the Italian economy is made up of a mix of specialisations distributed over various sectors, which are frequently integrated - along complex manufacturing supply chains - thanks to the driving force of history and culture in the areas where the businesses are based.
An example of this is the supply chain for agri-food products. Italy is, in fact, the Country with absolutely the largest number of quality branded products recognised at European level. Another example is the fashion supply chain, in which manufacturing skills combine with craftsmanship and the design industry, making use of the enormous historic, artistic and cultural heritage that enriches Italian cities and regions.
To these manufacturing excellences, rooted in Italian tradition and history, can be added others in sectors with high levels of innovation, such as car components or shipbuilding, and those investing in research and development such as pharmaceuticals.
This means that the Italian business panorama is rich with opportunity in more than one sector and that this is not only thanks to a few, large, globally recognised businesses, but also and above all thanks to medium-small organisations that are strongly integrated into international markets and deeply rooted to the territories from which they come.
In recent years this fabric has been enriched by connections and new evolutions thanks to the development of two phenomena: on the one hand that of innovative start-ups (of which there are approximately 17 thousand today), young, dynamic businesses that, thanks also to public support, have activated innovative processes above all in digital services aimed at business.
On the other hand, there has been considerable growth in the businesses (now over 43 thousand) using the network contract formula - a genuine collaboration agreement that guarantees advantages in terms of economy of scale and optimisation of processes along the manufacturing supply chains - to increase competitiveness without renouncing their individuality.
The geographical area richest in businesses is that around the Capital: there are approximately 453 thousand businesses located in Rome, 7.5% of the national total. This is immediately followed by the other large urban areas of Milan (379 thousand businesses), Naples (314 thousand) and Turin (223 thousand). When also considering the other metropolitan areas with over 100 thousand businesses (Bari, Salerno, Brescia, Florence, Catania and Palermo) it can be said that 34% of all Italian businesses are concentrated in ten manufacturing areas.
Of all the businesses registered in Italy (approximately 1.8 million activities), 30% take the form of stock companies. Just over half (3.1 million) is made up of sole traders, with 15% being partnerships and the remaining 3.5% being consortia and co-operatives.
Behind these businesses there is an “army” of almost 10 million entrepreneurs and managers, half of which (47%) is aged between 50 and 69 while 35% is aged between 35 and 49, who enliven them, govern them and represent them at all levels: from governance proper to technical and managerial responsibility.
Getting to know these people and the businesses in which they work from close at hand, and studying their main characteristics through the official Business Register data, is an essential starting point when building winning projects together.
Why look for an Italian business?
For those who look at Italy not just as a land with thousands of years of cultural heritage or one with a series of natural wonders to enjoy, finding a reliable commercial partner may seem discouraging.
The eight thousand communes into which Italy is divided are scattered with manufacturing centres animated by hundreds of thousands of micro, small and medium businesses flying the flag of craftsmanship, blended with a creative mixture of tradition and innovation that is often unequalled in any other part of the world. Where do you start? The list of micro and small businesses flying the Italian flag on their websites is practically endless, and the risk of falling into the “sounding Italian” effect is high.
To start out on the right foot, the first thing to do is entrust yourself to the official source of data on Italian businesses, the Chambers of Commerce Business Register. Under Italian law, anybody operating as a business is required to sign up to this register and keep their details up to date over time. This means over 6 million businesses and almost 10 million people involved in their management, a million corporate financial statements filed every year. The register is fully computerised and communications take place exclusively on-line, guaranteeing the quality and updating of information, which can be accessed via the internet by anybody.
To facilitate access to the information from outside, InfoCamere - the Chambers of Commerce company that manages the Register - has created and made available Italianbusinessregister.it, a specific portal in English, to which have recently been added versions in German, Spanish and French.
How to check the information on an Italian business: the Business Register
Italianbusinessregister.it is the answer to your questions.
The IBR portal has been specifically designed and created for foreign users wishing to gain easy access to the Italian Business Register, the official computerised register kept by the Italian Chambers of Commerce, which contains 6 million companies, 10 million people and over 900,000 financial statements.
It is possible to browse the portal in four languages (English, French, German and Spanish), whereas the documents that can be downloaded and purchased are only in English.
Searching for the business of interest to you is free of charge, and can be carried out by company name (or portion of name) or by the economic activity declared or present in the name: the results obtained can also be filtered by stock companies and partnerships, or by sole traders only, or start-ups only.
Once you have identified the company of interest to you, it is possible to purchase the Chamber of Commerce survey and/or, if it exists for that type of business, the most recent financial statement filed, both of which are official documents present in the Business Register.
Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce survey you can build up a profile of the companies of interest, comprising a series of detailed information such as:
- the company name;
- the registered offices;
- any branches and secondary headquarters;
- the VAT registration number;
- the REA number;
- the type of activity and legal form;
- the governing bodies;
- the capital;
- the legal representatives;
- the powers and positions of representatives;
- the list of shareholders.
On the other hand, purchasing the latest financial statement filed by a business gives a full summary of its assets and liabilities, financial and economic situation. Divided into Asset and Liability Statement, Profit and Loss account and Explanatory Notes, the financial statements make known the business's assets and liabilities, net worth, costs and revenue, profit or loss for the year, the accounting criteria used and other specific information of various kinds.
Another option is to extract a list of businesses based on certain parameters that can be set by the user (type of business, legal form, location, activities carried out, capital class, ...): all the most important data for the businesses extracted will be provided, both personal, fiscal and economic.
In IBR a simple registration process (name/surname/email) or access using Sign-in (Google, Facebook, Linkedin) allows you to create and account for the initial and subsequent purchases. Purchase of documents, at the cost envisaged under ministerial duty rates, involves using a credit card and a typical e-commerce shopping cart.
Looking for detailed info on Italian companies?
Start from "Made in Italy"!
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- how to choose a reliable business partner in Italy
- how to dig into Italian market trends to take more insightful decisions about your business
- how to retrieve the official data of a specific company
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