Using the term ‘public’

Hi everyone

Just a quick note on this term that can cause some students quite a bit of trouble and confusion – public. How do we use this word in Business Studies? There are 3 main situations where you should be able to use the word and know exactly what you are dealing with:

1. The ‘public’ in general. Here we are talking basically about everyone in a country or region, e.g. the South African public is made up of many different markets and market segments.

2. Public limited companies. As you know – or will see when you learn about the forms of business organisation – a public limited company (PLC) is one that has ‘gone public’. In other words, its shares are listed on a stock exchange such as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) or the NYSE. A PLC has limited liability and a separate legal identity.

3. Public enterprises. This is where you need to be careful…many students confuse  this with public limited companies. NB: they are not the same!  A public limited company operates in the private sector; public enterprises are owned and controlled by the state, i.e. they operate in the public sector of the economy. PLCs are funded privately; public enterprises are government-funded (taxpayer money).

I hope this helps to clear up any confusion on this sometimes troubling word!

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