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State-Owned Enterprise (SOE)


A State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) is a legal entity created by a government to participate in commercial activities on its behalf. These businesses, also known as government-owned corporations, can be fully or partially owned by the government. They operate across various sectors such as utilities, transportation, telecommunications, and health services, with their primary goal being public service, although some may operate with a commercial focus.


State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) is pronounced as “steyt-ohnd ent-er-prahyz (ess-oh-ee)”.

Key Takeaways

  1. Public Owned: State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) are businesses that are owned and operated by the government, whether that’s at the local, state, or national level. This ownership allows the government to have direct control over these entities and their functions.
  2. Social Objectives: Typically, SOEs play a significant role in sectors that are considered essential for the overall welfare of the public. Examples include utilities, transportation, and healthcare. Therefore, SOEs often serve broader social objectives rather than merely financial ones.
  3. Potential Efficiency Concerns: While SOEs can bring benefits in terms of advancing public interest goals, they can sometimes be less efficient than private businesses. This inefficiency can arise due to bureaucratic constraints, less competitive pressure, or a focus on social objectives potentially at the expense of profitability and fiscal efficiency.


The term “State-Owned Enterprise (SOE)” is significant in business/finance because it refers to a legal entity created by a government to undertake commercial activities on its behalf. These enterprises can have critical economic implications because they often represent large-scale, publicly-mandated operations and, as such, they can exert a considerable impact on the national economy. Their performance, therefore, can directly influence the health of an entire economy, including factors like job creation, economic growth, and market stability. Moreover, SOE’s frequently operate in strategic sectors such as energy, transportation, and telecommunications, their operations and management can affect issues of national interest, public accessibility to essential services, and national security. This underscores SOEs’ importance and why their governance and management are commonly topics of public debate and policy.


State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are commercial entities whose primary purpose is to undertake commercial activities on behalf of the government. These businesses are significant players in the economic scenario of many countries. They are established with a dual purpose, namely to function commercially while also seeking to achieve certain policy objectives set by the state that owns and governs them. For instance, the state may aim to provide specific essential services, promote regional development, or drive infrastructure projects.SOEs are deployed across various sectors, including utilities, telecommunications, healthcare, and transportation. They often operate in areas where the private sector might find it unprofitable or too risky to embark upon. In these instances, the government, through SOEs, steps in to execute these projects, thereby ensuring that the citizens receive essential services. Additionally, these enterprises may be used as key instruments in areas of strategic importance to national security, where the state deems it necessary to maintain control. Thus, SOEs serve as a significant tool in the pursuit of both economic and social objectives.


1. PetroChina: This is a Chinese company that’s among the world’s largest and most powerful oil and gas companies. It’s a state-owned enterprise that the Chinese government has full control over. PetroChina holds a monopoly in the country’s oil and gas production and sales.2. Deutsche Bahn: This is Germany’s state-owned railway company. Deutsche Bahn provides the majority of rail services in Germany, from regional and long-distance trains to freight services. The federal government owns all its shares.3. Saudi Aramco: This is Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, and it’s one of the biggest oil companies worldwide. The Saudi Arabian government has full control over it. Its significant influence on the global oil market has made it a major player in international business and finance.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE)?

A State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) is a legal entity that is created by the government in order to partake in commercial activities on the government’s behalf. SOEs can be either wholly or partially owned by the government.

What are some examples of SOEs?

SOEs exist in various sectors such as oil and gas, banking, and transportation. Examples of SOEs include Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company), Gazprom (Russia’s state-controlled gas company), and the Indian Railways (owned by the government of India).

How are SOEs managed?

The management structure of SOEs varies from country to country. Generally, the government appoints a board of directors to run the SOE, however, in some cases, the government may directly manage the SOE.

What is the primary purpose of SOEs?

While some SOEs are created to generate profits, others are set up to execute a specific government policy, provide employment or deliver essential services. The goals set for SOEs often combine both operational efficiency and socioeconomic objectives.

How do SOEs affect an economy?

SOEs can have major impacts on an economy. When managed efficiently, SOEs can contribute positively to economic growth by delivering essential services and generating profit. However, if mismanaged, SOEs can create fiscal risks and undermine market competition.

Are SOEs subject to regulations?

Yes, SOEs are typically subject to government regulations. They may also be required to meet additional transparency and accountability standards, particularly if they are partially owned by private sector investors or if their shares are publicly traded.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of SOEs?

The advantages of SOEs include the capability to undertake large-scale infrastructure projects, provision of public goods, and executing government policies. However, disadvantages can include lower efficiency compared to private firms, political interference, corruption, and fiscal risks.

Can a SOE be privatized?

Yes, the process of privatization involves the government selling off all or part of a SOE to private owners. The goal of this is often to increase efficiency, competitiveness, and to generate revenue for the government.

How do SOEs differ from private companies?

The main difference is ownership. While private companies are owned by private individuals or investors, SOEs are owned by the government. In addition, SOEs often have broader objectives than private companies, which are typically focused on making profits.

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