Buying a business in Spain: guide for foreign entrepreneurs
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Buying a business in Spain: guide for foreign entrepreneurs

Buying an established business or company in Spain: legal advice

Venturing into the business world in Spain can seem a daunting task for a foreign entrepreneur. This guide will walk you through the critical steps of buying a business or company in Spain. We will provide you with valuable advice, address common queries, and guide you through the intricacies of Spanish business law to buy a business in Spain.

handshake between two people over buying a business in spain

Buying a business in Spain

To buy a business in Spain implies a journey of extensive planning, diligence, and execution. It involves a multitude of factors such as analyzing business accounts, understanding the tax position, examining the market, and much more. Spain has become a prime choice for many foreign investors, especially within the thriving tourism sector. From charming bars to unique accommodations and bed-and-breakfast establishments, buying a business in Spain means catching a desirable opportunity. However, irrespective of the industry you choose to invest in, conducting thorough due diligence before entering any agreement is a critical component. This can save you from potential pitfalls and maximize your chances of success of buying a company in Spanish business landscape.

Why should you buy a business in Spain?

The reasons for buying a business in Spain are numerous. Spain’s dynamic business environment offers a variety of compelling reasons for entrepreneurs to invest. Firstly, Spain is the 4th largest economy in the Eurozone, presenting vast commercial possibilities. The country’s strategic geographical location, acting as a bridge between Europe, Africa, and the Americas, enhances its international business appeal. Secondly, Spain’s high-quality infrastructure, particularly in transportation and logistics, facilitates smooth business operations. Thirdly, the thriving tourism industry opens up an array of opportunities for enterprises in the hospitality and service sectors. Finally, beyond business considerations, Spain’s rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and excellent quality of life make it an attractive destination for settling. Therefore, buying a business in Spain could be a rewarding decision both professionally and personally.

The business market in Spain

The business market in Spain is diverse, with numerous blooming sectors that make buying a business in Spain a very exciting opportunity:

  • Tourism: Spain is the world’s second-most visited country, with its beautiful coastlines, historic cities, and vibrant culture attracting millions of tourists each year. Businesses related to travel, accommodation, catering, and cultural experiences stand to gain significantly from this sector.
  • Real Estate: The property market in Spain has been on a consistent upswing, driven by the strong demand for residential and commercial properties. Investing in real estate, whether for resale or rental purposes, can yield substantial returns.
  • Technology and Innovation: Spain is home to several burgeoning technology hubs and start-up ecosystems, particularly in cities like Madrid and Barcelona. This sector offers significant potential for investments in tech start-ups and innovative solutions.
  • Renewable Energy: Spain is a global leader in renewable energy, particularly wind and solar power. As the country continues its push towards a green economy, opportunities abound in this sector.
  • Agriculture and Food Production: Spain has a strong tradition in agriculture and is a major exporter of food and wine. Investment in this sector can tap into a robust local and international market.

To invest and buy a business in Spain in this sector means to capitalize on the country’s strong economic fundamentals, skilled workforce, and favourable business climate.

What are the aspects to consider when buying a business in Spain?

When considering the acquisition of a business in Spain, there are several important factors to take into account. The process can be complex, and it is highly advisable to engage the services of a reputable law firm such as Lawants to guide you through the intricacies. Here are some key steps and considerations:

  • Search Businesses for Sale: Explore various platforms and networks that advertise businesses for sale. Look for businesses that align with your expertise, interests, and investment capabilities.
  • Analyze the Business’ Accounts: Conduct a thorough review of the business’s financial records. Understand the profitability, cash flows, assets, liabilities, and any outstanding debts.
  • Market Analysis: Study the market in which the business operates. Understand the competition, customer demographics, industry trends, and growth prospects.
  • Business Structure: Determine the most suitable business structure, be it sole proprietorship, partnership, or a limited company (Sociedad Limitada). This decision will have implications on taxes, liabilities, and regulatory compliance.
  • Residential Status and Tax Position: Check the implications of your residential status on the business operations. Understand the tax obligations at local, regional, and national levels.
  • Due Diligence: Conduct a comprehensive due diligence that includes checking business licenses, permits, agreements, and employment contracts.
  • Negotiate Purchase Price and Terms: Once you’ve gathered all necessary information, negotiate the purchase price and contract terms.

Remember, each step of buying a business in Spain requires careful attention, and expert legal advice can be invaluable in ensuring a smooth and successful acquisition.

Search businesses for sale

The first step in buying a business in Spain is to identify potential businesses for sale that align with your investment goals. There are various platforms, both online and offline, where businesses are listed for sale. These include business sale websites, business brokers, industry publications, and even social media platforms. It’s important to explore a range of sources to find the most suitable opportunities.
Consider the location, size, industry, and profitability of the business. Keep in mind your business acumen, experience, and the amount of involvement you’re willing to put into the business. It’s advisable to contact the sellers or their representatives for more detailed information and to express your interest. This stage involves a lot of research, so take your time, be thorough, and keep your options open.

Another option is to start a franchise in Spain, looking through the many successful franchise opportunities.

Analyze the business’ accounts

After identifying a potential business for purchase, before buying a critical step is to analyze the business’ accounts. This involves a comprehensive review of the business’s financial statements, including balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. You need to understand the financial health of the business, its profitability, liquidity, and the stability of its revenue streams.

Look for trends in revenues and expenses. Are sales growing? Are costs under control? What are the business’s major expenses? Understanding these dynamics will provide insights into the business’s operational efficiency and potential areas of improvement. Also, it’s crucial to evaluate the business’s assets and liabilities. Assets can include tangible items like property, machinery, inventory, and intangible assets like patents and trademarks. Liabilities, on the other hand, can be loans, accounts payable, and other obligations.

Finally, check for any outstanding debts that the business might have. Debts could impact the overall value of the business and may become your responsibility once you acquire the business. A thorough analysis of the business’ accounts is essential to ensure that you’re making a sound investment. It is highly recommended to involve a financial advisor or accountant in this process to ensure an accurate and comprehensive analysis.

Market analysis

Once you’ve gained a comprehensive understanding of the business’s financial health, before buying the business in Spain it’s time to conduct a market analysis. This step allows you to understand the environment in which the business operates and its future potential.

Start by identifying the target market of the business. Who are the customers? What are their needs and preferences? Understanding the customer demographics can help you gauge the demand for the business’s products or services.

Next, assess the competition. Who are the major competitors? What is their market share? How does the business differentiate itself from them? An understanding of the competitive landscape can highlight the business’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Also, examine industry trends and growth prospects. Is the industry growing or declining? What are the emerging trends that could impact the business? Future industry prospects can significantly impact the profitability of the business.

Finally, consider any external factors that could affect the business, such as economic conditions, technological advancements, and regulatory changes. A thorough market analysis can provide valuable insights into the business’s current market position and potential growth opportunities. It is recommended to involve a market research professional to ensure an in-depth and objective analysis.

Decide on the business structure

Determining the appropriate business structure is a pivotal step when purchasing a business in Spain. There are several types of company in Spain, and the structure you choose can have significant implications on matters such as liability, taxation, and the way you manage the business.
This stem is important wether you decide to start a business in Spain or to acquire one. The options available include sole proprietorship, where you operate the business as an individual, bearing all the responsibility; a partnership, where you share the responsibility and profits with one or more individuals; and various types of corporations, where the business is a separate legal entity, providing limited liability but with more complex regulatory requirements.

Each of these structures has its advantages and disadvantages. A sole proprietorship, for instance, offers simplicity and complete control, but it leaves you personally liable for any business debts. Corporations, while providing limited liability and potential tax benefits, come with greater regulation and transparency requirements.
It is crucial to carefully consider these options and their implications on your investment. Seek professional advice, if necessary, to understand the potential impacts on areas such as tax obligations, legal liability, and day-to-day management of the business. The business structure you choose should best suit your goals, resources, and risk tolerance.

Read also: Setting up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Spain – A Guide for 2024

Consider your residential status

This is an important step when buying a business in Spain: your residential status can significantly impact your business operations in Spain, particularly in terms of taxation and legal obligations. There are three primary categories:

  • residents;
  • non-residents who spend more than 183 days per year in Spain;
  • non-residents who spend less than 183 days per year in Spain.

If you’re a resident, you are subject to Spanish taxation on your worldwide income. Non-residents, on the other hand, are only taxed on income generated within Spain. Therefore, the length of your stay in Spain and your country of residence can considerably affect your tax obligations.

Additionally, certain types of businesses might have restrictions or additional requirements based on the owner’s residential status. For instance, non-residents might need to apply for specific licenses or permits.
It’s essential to understand these implications and plan your business accordingly. It is advisable to consult with a legal expert or an accountant familiar with Spanish law to understand the implications fully and ensure your compliance with all relevant regulations.

There are some preferential ways to obtain residency in Spain, such as the Spain entrepreneur Visa or the Golden Visa for Spain.

Understand your tax position

Understanding your tax position is another pivotal aspect when buying a business in Spain. As an entrepreneur, you need to consider not only corporate taxes but also personal taxes, VAT, property taxes, and potentially others. The tax regime in Spain is different than that of other countries, and navigating it can be complex.
Your tax obligations will vary depending on your residential status and the nature of your business. For instance, residents are typically taxed on their worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed only on their Spanish-sourced income. It’s important to keep in mind that tax laws in Spain can change frequently, and penalties for non-compliance can be severe.

Engaging a knowledgeable legal advisor or accountant can provide you with valuable insight into your tax position and obligations, as well as enlightening you on the different taxation agreements existing in Spain, such as the Spain-US double taxation treaty. They can help ensure your compliance with Spanish tax laws and potentially help you take advantage of any available tax benefits. Your tax position can significantly affect the profitability of your business, so it’s worth investing the time and resources to understand it thoroughly.

Purchase of the property

The purchase of property, whether it’s the business premises or additional real estate associated with the business, can be a significant aspect of buying a business in Spain. You need to factor in the costs, location, size, and condition of the property.

Start by assessing the property’s location. Is it situated in a high-traffic area, and does it cater to the business’s target market? Also, consider the size and layout of the property, and whether it fits the operational needs of the business.

Examine the condition of the property. Take into account any needed repairs or renovations and the associated costs. These factors could have an impact on the final purchase price. If the property is leased, scrutinize the lease agreement. Understand the terms and conditions, including the lease duration, renewability, and rental costs. If the property is owned, a title search is necessary to confirm ownership and ensure there are no liens or encumbrances on the property.

It’s advisable to involve a real estate expert and a legal professional to guide you through the property purchase process. They can help you negotiate the best deal and ensure all legalities are properly addressed.

Question the current owners

When buying a business in Spain, engaging in a dialogue with the current owners of the business can provide valuable insights into the inner workings of the company that are not apparent from financial statements or external market research.

Ask about the company’s history, customer base, and relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders. The owners can provide context about the competitive landscape and reveal unique advantages or challenges the company faces in its market.

Inquire about the company’s operations. How does the business attract customers? What are the company’s main cost drivers? How are the employees managed, and what is the company culture like?

You should also ask why they are selling the business. Their answer might provide you with important information about potential future challenges that they foresee or current issues that they are unable to manage.
Also, ask about any past or ongoing legal issues. These could include disputes with suppliers or customers, labor issues, or regulatory non-compliance.

Remember that while the owners might provide useful insights, their information should be verified independently as part of your due diligence.

Conducting due diligence

Conducting due diligence is a crucial step in the process of buying a business in Spain. This process involves a thorough investigation of the business you plan to buy to confirm the information that has been presented to you and identify any potential issues that could impact the value of the business or your decision to buy it.

Legal due diligence includes checking the business’s compliance with laws and regulations, reviewing contractual agreements with suppliers and customers, and ensuring that the business has all the necessary permits and licenses to operate.

Financial due diligence involves verifying the financial information provided by the seller, including revenues, expenses, assets, and liabilities. You should also investigate the company’s tax history to ensure all obligations have been met.

Operational due diligence involves a review of the business’s operations, including its management structure, employee relations, customer relationships, supplier terms, and other business processes. Market due diligence involves an analysis of the business’s market position, its competitors, and the overall health and future prospects of the industry.

Due diligence can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is a critical step in buying a business. It’s advisable to engage a team of experts, including lawyers, accountants, and business advisors, to conduct this process to ensure a thorough and objective review.

Check the licenses and permits

Verifying the existence and validity of necessary licenses and permits is a fundamental part of due diligence when buying a business in Spain. The types of licenses and permits required will depend on the nature of the business, and failing to possess the necessary ones can lead to fines, penalties, or even closure of the business.
Examples of common licenses and permits include business operation licenses, health and safety permits, food and beverage licenses for restaurants, and specific industry licenses for activities such as construction or real estate brokerage.
Ensure that all licenses and permits are not only currently valid but also transferable to you as a new owner. If they are not, you will need to apply for them yourself, which can be time-consuming and require meeting certain conditions or qualifications.
You should also check for any conditions or restrictions attached to the licenses and permits, as these could impact how you operate the business.

Negotiate the purchase price and contract terms

Negotiating the purchase price and contract terms is a critical step when buying a business in Spain. It involves a discussion between the buyer and the seller to reach an agreement that benefits both parties.
The purchase price will largely depend on the valuation of the business, which should take into account various factors such as the company’s financial health, its assets and liabilities, and its market position. Remember, it’s not uncommon for buyers and sellers to have different perceptions of the business’s value, so negotiation is key.
Beyond the price, there are several other crucial elements to consider during negotiation. These include the payment terms (e.g., upfront payment or installments), the transition period (how long the current owner will stay on to help after the sale), non-compete agreements, and warranty and indemnity clauses.

Send a Letter of Intent

Sending a Letter of Intent (LOI) is a crucial step in the business purchase process in Spain. This document signifies your serious interest in purchasing the business and sets out the preliminary terms and conditions of the sale.
The LOI typically includes the proposed purchase price, the structure of the transaction (asset or share purchase), the proposed timeline, and any conditions that must be satisfied before the sale can be finalized. It may also stipulate a period of exclusivity, during which the seller cannot negotiate with other potential buyers.
While the LOI is typically non-binding, it is still a significant document that can shape the direction of the negotiation and due diligence process. Therefore, it is recommended to have your legal representative involved in drafting the LOI to ensure your interests are protected.
Upon acceptance of the LOI by both parties, you would generally move forward to the due diligence phase and the preparation of the definitive purchase agreement.

Closing the deal

Closing the deal, or the completion of the business purchase, is the final and arguably the most significant step in the process of buying a business in Spain. It’s at this point where ownership is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer.
To close the deal, both parties need to fulfill all the conditions outlined in the purchase agreement, which may include securing financing, obtaining required regulatory approvals, or satisfying any remaining due diligence queries.
The transaction is typically finalized at a closing meeting where both parties, along with their legal representatives, review and sign the final purchase documents. It’s at this meeting where the purchase price is formally paid to the seller, and all keys, codes, and other operational components are handed over to the new owner.
Post-closing, there may be certain transitional arrangements in place, such as the former owner staying on in an advisory role for a certain period to ensure a smooth handover. Remember, while closing the deal signifies the end of the purchase process, it also marks the beginning of your journey as the new business owner.
It is recommended to have your legal and financial advisors present throughout this process to ensure all documents and transactions are correctly executed.

close up on the hand of a man pointing with a pen at some documents for buying a business in spain

Can a foreigner start a business in Spain?

Yes, foreigners, both from the European Union (EU) and outside the EU, can start and thus acquire a business in Spain, but the process and requirements may differ.
For EU nationals, the process is more straightforward. There are no restrictions on the type or size of business you can start. You’re entitled to work in Spain without a work permit and can register a business in the same way as a Spanish citizen. You will need a Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE), a fiscal address in Spain, and to register with the Spanish Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria).
For non-EU nationals, the process is more complex. You must first obtain a visa that allows you to work in Spain, such as a self-employment visa. You will also need a business plan to demonstrate that your proposed business is viable and will create employment. Additional requirements include proof of sufficient financial resources and relevant professional qualifications or experience.

How to run your Spanish business

Once you’ve successfully acquired your business in Spain, the real work begins – running the business. It’s an exciting yet challenging phase that requires careful management, planning, and a deep understanding of the Spanish market.
Here are some key considerations:

  • Understanding Spanish Taxation: You must ensure that your business is compliant with Spain’s tax laws. This includes, but is not limited to, corporation tax, value-added tax (VAT), and local business taxes. Depending on the size and nature of your business, there may be other taxes to consider. It’s recommended to consult with a tax advisor who specializes in Spanish tax law.
  • Hiring Employees: If you’re planning on hiring local staff, familiarize yourself with Spain’s labor laws, which regulate areas such as contracts (read about employment contracts in Spain), minimum wages, spanish payroll and working hours. Also, understand the social security obligations for employers.
  • Adapting to the Market: Understanding the local market is crucial to success. This involves recognizing customer behaviors, needs, and preferences, and aligning your products or services accordingly.
  • Building Networks: Strong relationships are key to business success in Spain. Try to build a strong network of local contacts, including suppliers, customers, and other businesses, which can provide valuable support and advice.
  • Developing an Operations Manual: This document details your business’s processes and procedures and serves as a guide for your employees. It ensures consistency and quality in your business operations.

Remember, running a business requires continuous learning and adaptation. Stay informed about changes in local laws, market trends, and the competitive landscape to ensure your business continues to thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions on buying a business in Spain

Let’s now address some of the frequently asked questions related to buying a business in Spain. These answers provide additional insight into this process, allowing potential investors to make informed decisions.

Can I buy any type of business?

Yes, foreigners can buy any type of business in Spain, but it’s essential to conduct thorough due diligence to understand the particular industry and business you’re interested in.

What is a NIE, and why do I need it?

A NIE, or Número de Identificación de Extranjero, is a Foreigner’s Identity Number. It’s required for various transactions in Spain, including buying a business, opening a bank account, and paying taxes.

How can I finance the purchase of my business?

Financing options depend on numerous factors, including the type and size of the business, your financial position, and the current economic environment. Common options include personal savings, bank loans, and investment from venture capitalists or angel investors.

Do I need to know Spanish to run a business?

While it’s possible to run a business without knowing Spanish, it is highly recommended. Understanding the local language will help you interact with customers, employees, and suppliers, understand local laws and regulations, and generally make the process of running your business smoother.

Do I need a lawyer?

Yes, it’s advisable to engage a lawyer, especially one with expertise in Spanish business law. They can provide crucial guidance throughout the process, ensure legal compliance, and help protect your interests.

Is it easy to buy a business in Spain?

The process of buying a business in Spain, as in any country, involves multiple steps and requirements that can be complex. Understanding local laws, engaging in due diligence, negotiating terms, and navigating bureaucratic processes require time, patience, and a keen eye for detail. However, it is certainly possible, especially with the right guidance and preparation.

Can I live in Spain if I buy a business?

Yes, buying a business can be a pathway to residency in Spain. Spain offers several types of visas and residency permits for non-EU nationals who wish to live and work in the country, including the Self-Employment Work Permit and the Entrepreneur’s Visa. However, the process can be complex and requires careful planning and preparation. It’s highly recommended to seek legal advice to navigate the Spanish immigration system and understand all requirements and procedure.

Can a non-resident buy a business in Spain?

Yes, a non-resident can buy a business in Spain. There is no legal restriction preventing non-residents, whether they are from EU or non-EU countries, from owning a business in Spain. The Spanish government encourages foreign investment, and Spain has a robust economy that offers a favorable environment for entrepreneurs.

What are the risks of buying an existing business?

Buying an existing business has its unique set of challenges and risks. One of the main risks is the potential for inherited issues. These could be in the form of outstanding debts, unresolved legal disputes, tax liabilities, or employee-related issues. There may also be hidden problems that didn’t come up during due diligence, such as inaccurate financial reporting or undisclosed contracts. Understanding these risks underscores the importance of thorough due diligence and engaging the help of experienced professionals when buying an existing business. It’s crucial to assess every aspect of the business before making a commitment to ensure a smooth transition and successful operation.

How much money do I need to start a business in Spain?

The amount of money required to start a business in Spain can vary significantly depending on the type and scale of the business. For instance, opening a small boutique shop will require less capital than launching a large manufacturing operation. However, there are certain standard costs to consider. If you’re forming a ‘Sociedad Limitada’ (Limited Liability Company), the minimum share capital required is €3,000. Other costs include notary fees, commercial registry fees, legal fees, and potentially real estate costs if you’re purchasing property for your business.

What are the risks of doing business in Spain?

Just like in any country, doing business in Spain also comes with its share of risks. Firstly, there’s the risk associated with the economic climate. Spain has experienced periods of economic instability in the past, which can impact consumer spending, unemployment rates, and business growth. Secondly, legal and regulatory risks are present. Spain’s business laws and regulations can be complex and are subject to change, which can impact business operations. Thirdly, Spain has a relatively high level of bureaucracy, which could mean more red tape and longer timeframes for getting things done. Lastly, the cultural and language barrier could pose a risk.

Can I get a visa if I buy a business in Spain?

Yes, you can get a visa if you buy a business in Spain. This is typically known as a Self-Employed Work Visa, or ‘Autonomo’. This visa is specifically for those who wish to start a business or become self-employed in Spain.

Can you get Spanish residency if you buy a property?

Yes, you can obtain Spanish residency if you purchase a property, thanks to Spain’s ‘Golden Visa’ program. This program grants residency to non-EU nationals who make significant financial investments in Spain.
To qualify for the ‘Golden Visa’ through real estate investment, you need to purchase property or properties in Spain with a total value of €500,000 or more.

buildings of a company acquired in spain

Buy a business in Spain with Lawants

Navigating the legal and logistical aspects of buying a business in Spain can be complex, especially for foreigners who may not be familiar with Spanish law and business practices. That’s where Lawants comes in.

As experts in Spanish business law, we have the knowledge and experience to guide you through every step of the process. From the initial search for a business to the final closing of the deal, we can provide you with invaluable advice and assistance.

We can help you conduct due diligence, negotiate contract terms, and navigate Spanish tax laws. Additionally, we can assist you in ensuring you meet all necessary regulatory requirements, including obtaining the necessary licenses and permits.

We understand that every business and every transaction is unique, and we pride ourselves on providing personalized, tailored services to meet your specific needs. With Lawants, you can feel confident that every detail of your transaction is being handled with the utmost care and expertise.

Don’t leave your business purchase to chance. Engage a specialist, engage Lawants. We’re here to help make your dream of owning a business in Spain a reality.

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