MNC in Singapore: Registering a Singapore Business

6 min read|Last Updated: January 22, 2024|

Multinational corporation/ company (MNC) is commonplace in a globalised country like Singapore. To register for a business in Singapore, whether a MNC, SME or start-up, there are certain requirements that one needs to know.

What is a Multinational Corporation?

A multinational corporation/ company (MNC) with operations in several countries. They are large companies that are managed by professionals who do not own the company.

Advantages of Multinational Companies

MNCs are very important as they have a lot of influence & can provide many advantages. The advantages that they provide include:

1. Creation of jobs

Being a large corporation, they will require human resources. This creates more jobs for the country they operate in.

2 . Ensure standards are kept

The success of a MNC is due to consumers’ preferences to buy goods and services that they can relate to.

If you’re visiting a McDonald’s overseas, it gives a sense of familiarity – this is done to ensure standards are kept.

3. Rise in foreign investments

MNCs engage in foreign direct investments (FDIs). This helps to create capital flows to poorer, or even developing nations.

4. Business for SMEs

MNCs are usually new to a country and often engage SME companies in the location to support their operations. This creates business growth for SMEs and overall economy growth for the country.

5. Scale of investment for host country

When an MNC invests in any country, their scale of the investment is likely to be in a significant figure. Governments will often offer incentives to firms in the form of grants, subsidies and tax breaks to attract investment to come in big. This foreign direct investment (FDI) will have advantages for the host country.

Disadvantages of Multinational Companies

While there are advantages to MNCs, we also need to understand the disadvantages of MNCs.

  • Profit-driven – most MNCs are interested in profits at the expense of employees or consumers.

  • Taxation – MNCs try to avoid through funnelling profit through countries with the lowest corporate tax rates.

  • Cash reserves – most MNCs has cash reserves in overseas accounts, bringing deadweight welfare loss as it is not used for investment.

  • Market dominance – makes it difficult for local small firms to succeed.

  • Pollution – MNCs often contribute to pollution in pursuit of profits.

  • Outsourcing of jobs – MNCs will opt for cheap labour-cost economies through outsourcing causing loss of jobs in more developed countries.

Registering A Business in Singapore

Whether you’re a MNC or a SME, there are 4 ways to expand and establish a business in Singapore. The types of business structures are listed below:

1. Branch

The first way to register a business in Singapore is through the incorporation of a branch. A branch is an extension of the foreign head office company engaging in core activities.

2. Subsidiary

The next business structure used for business registration in Singapore is a subsidiary. A subsidiary is a private limited company whose majority shareholder is a foreign company.

3. Representative Office

The third type of business registration in Singapore is a representative office. A representative office is a temporary set-up with no legal status and cannot engage in any operations that generate profits.

4. Related Company

The last and most common type of structure when it comes to Singapore business registration is related company. A related company is the shareholder can be the same for a local and overseas entity (under a separate legal entity).

Reasons Why MNCs and SMEs are Setting Up a Business in Singapore

Singapore is Ranked second in the East of Doing Business Report 2020 by the World Bank, and hosts the largest number of headquarters in the Asian region. The country is home to about 46% of regional headquarters in Asia, in addition to hosting the regional headquarters of 59% of global technology MNCs. The country has over 37,000 international companies, including 7,000 MNCs with their regional headquarters in the country.

Singapore has been a hotspot for many businesses and entrepreneurs. Here are the top 3 reasons why they set up a business in Singapore:

1. Strong, competitive economy

With its ever-growing economy, and being the financial hub for the Asia Pacific region, Singapore has positioned itself in a pivotal role as a business epicenter within the heart of Asia.

That is one of the major reasons why MNCs continue to favor Singapore as a preferred business destination for incorporating a Singapore company. Most MNCs stand to benefit from Singapore’s open business and business-friendly policies.

2. Company setup incentives

To encourage MNCs to come to Singapore and set up a base of operations, Singapore’s Economic Development Board offers these companies International Headquarters Incentives (IHQ) and Regional Headquarters Incentives (RHQ).

Companies that successfully get conferred with the RHQ status will reap the benefits of a concessionary tax rate of 15% for up to 5-years for all qualifying income which is derived from activities and business operations conducted in Singapore. Whereas companies who obtain the IHQ status, on the other hand, enjoy tax rates of 0 to 10%.

3. Progressive tax system

Designed with entrepreneurship growth in mind, its attractive and low corporate and personal tax rates are a big reason why MNCs continue to choose Singapore over any other country.

Singapore boasts an extensive network of free trade agreements and double taxation agreements, crucial frameworks that facilitate and safeguard the interests of the country’s investors.

As Singapore continues to cement itself as one of the best places in Asia to incorporate a company, thanks to its strategic location, stable economy, tax relief, and equally stable political environment, and its top-notch infrastructures. Paul Hype Page & Co can predict there will only be more coming in the near future.

How Singapore Companies Can Establish Themselves as a Multinational Corporation?

Aside from bringing MNCs and foreign investors into Singapore, the government are also helping local companies to go global.

There are grants and schemes that are initiate to bring Singaporean companies overseas as the first step to establishing an MNC status.

1. Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant

Aimed at business expansion, the MRA grant is created for local Singapore companies to take the leap into other jurisdictions. The grant covers 3 key areas and is capped at S$100,000 per new market.

  • Overseas market promotion
  • Overseas business development
  • Overseas market set-up

2. Strategic Brand and Marketing Development Grant

The strategic brand and marketing development grant is to help local companies in enhancing their branding. Establishing a strong brand foundation is essential for businesses seeking access to new markets.

3. Market Access Grants

Under the market access support, local businesses can tap on 3 key grants:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A)
  • Pilot Project & Test Bedding

List of some of the MNCs that have set up a base in Singapore

3M Ernst & Young Kentucky Fried Chicken SATS
Accenture ExxonMobil KPMG Schneider Electric
AXA Far East Organization MapleTree Group Seagate
Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fraser & Neave Marina Bay Sands Sembcorp
BNP Paribas General Electric MayBank Shell
CapitaLand Great Eastern McDonald’s Siemens
Caterpillar GlaxoSmithKline Medtronic Singapore Airlines
Citibank Hewlett-Packard Micron Semiconductor Asia Singtel
Continental Automotive HSBC Novartis Standard Chartered Bank
Dairy Farm International IBM OCBC Bank Starhub
DBS InterContinental Hotels Group Panasonic Asia Pacific UOB
Deloitte Johnson & Johnson PricewaterhouseCoopers
Deutsche Bank JP MorganChase Procter & Gamble


Come to our office or get in touch virtually for a consultation on your company registration, employment pass assessment, and other corporate services today.


Is there any benefit to the Singaporean government when companies become Multinationals Corporations?2020-11-23T11:54:24+08:00

The Singaporean-based Multinationals in foreign countries gives the Singaporean government recognition and publicity among those foreign governments. Also, the companies are a source for Singaporean citizens who find employment with such companies. 

What are the Challenges encountered when running a multinational corporation in Singapore?2020-11-23T11:53:55+08:00
  • Getting electricity: it will take you close to a month to get an electric connection because of the process involved.
  • Culture: Singaporean culture emphasizes relationships. Therefore to do business, you need to first work tirelessly on building relationships and this could take time.
  • The process of implementing contracts and liquidation is longer compared to other countries.
Do foreign Multinational Corporations have unlimited incentives?2020-11-23T11:53:26+08:00

No. The incentives and tax concessions have a limit. This is because Singapore desires to have strong Singaporean companies establish headquarters in Singapore. 

Can Singaporean company owners become multinational corporations?2020-11-23T11:54:04+08:00

Yes. However, this is not so prominent among Singaporeans because the tax regime is more beneficial to those who sell successful brands or acquire such as opposed to development. Therefore once a Singaporean company sees itself successful, it opts to sell. An example is the Raffles Hotel or Tiger Beer. A company that buys a brand is entitled to tax amortization as opposed to one that develops a brand of its own. 

Having multinational corporations outside Singapore can help these businesses diversify common risks and lower production or service costs. 

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