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Transferable shares often earned positive returns on equity, which is evidenced by investment in companies like the British East India Company, which used the financing model to manage trade in India.
However, in general, incorporation was possible by royal charter or private act, and it was limited because of the government's jealous protection of the privileges and advantages thereby granted.In modern-day corporate law, the existence of a joint-stock company is often synonymous with incorporation (possession of legal personality separate from shareholders) and limited liability (shareholders are liable for the company's debts only to the value of the money they invested in the company).Therefore, joint-stock companies are commonly known as corporations or limited companies.The earliest records of joint stock company can be found in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279).Around 1250 in France at Toulouse, 96 shares of the Société des Moulins du Bazacle, or Bazacle Milling Company were traded at a value that depended on the profitability of the mills the society owned, making it probably the first company of its kind in history.The company is managed on behalf of the shareholders by a board of directors, elected at an annual general meeting.
The shareholders also vote to accept or reject an annual report and audited set of accounts.
An individual's share of the profit is thus the dividend multiplied by the number of shares owned.
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (or Beurs van Hendrick de Keyser in Dutch), the world's first formal stock exchange.
Muscovy Company, which had a monopoly on trade between Moscow and London, was chartered soon after in 1555.
The much more famous, wealthy and powerful English (later British) East India Company was granted an English Royal Charter by Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600, with the intention of favouring trade privileges in India.
Some jurisdictions still provide the possibility of registering joint-stock companies without limited liability.