A group of companies is an economic entity formed of a set of companies which are either companies controlled by the same company, or the controlling company itself. Controlling a company means having the power to appoint the majority of its directors. The control of company A by company B may be direct (company B directly holds the majority of voting rights on the management board of company A) or indirect (B controls intermediate companies C, D or E, etc, which it can ask to vote the same way on the management board of A, thereby obtaining a majority of rights).
The French statistical definition currently in force uses the absolute majority of voting rights as its control criterion to define the group contours.
- the restricted contour, or "core", of the group as all the companies more than 50% owned, directly or indirectly, by a parent company heading the group; the parent company is not more than 50% owned either directly or indirectly by another company. In this definition, groups form pairwise disjoint sets;
- the enlarged contour of a group as all the companies in which the group holds shares, irrespective of the holding percentage; thus the enlarged contours of the groups do not form a division and a company can belong to the enlarged contour of several groups.
The economic area in which the groups and their subsidiaries are based goes beyond the national territory. However, the surveys or administrative data include the economic data of the companies concerned on the French territory. Rather than "group contour" and "statistics on groups and their companies", we should speak of the contour of and statistics on the French part of groups.