Database of Companies in Germany: Top Industries and Biggest Players

  • Published 22 February 2022
  • Language: English

There are more than 5.25M companies in Germany’s 16 states, almost half of which are proprietorships. Almost half of the total number of companies operates in the service sector. The highest number of businesses is located in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, and Baden-Württemberg. If we take a look at individual cities, the highest number of businesses are located in Berlin.

Data on German companies is part of the HitHorizons database. HitHorizons aggregates data on 80M+ businesses from 60 countries, including the whole of Europe. Data contains basic information about individual companies such as name, registered address, identification number, contact details, industry, SIC Code, sales performance, and number of employees. If you need to analyze the German market, HitHorizons Screener and HitHorizons API will help you.

Mostly proprietorships and especially in services

Less than half of all companies (49.46%) have a legal form of a proprietorship and 32.2% of companies are corporations. NGOs make up 9.35% of all companies in Germany. The remaining less than 10% are entities with an unknown legal form (government institutions or joint ventures).

Number of companies by legal form

Legal form Share
Proprietorship 49.46%
Corporation 32.2%
Non Profit Organization 9.35%
Partnership Of Unknown Type 5%
Unknown Type 1.78%
Cooperative 1.69%
Local Government Body 0.37%
Foreign Company 0.15%
Joint Venture 0.01%

The most represented industries among corporations are services (38.1%), finance / insurance / real estate (22.1%), and construction (8.8%). Among proprietorships, most companies operate in services (48.9%), while retail trade and construction represent 21.5% and 10.6% respectively.

Industries with the highest number of entities registered as corporations and proprietorships

Services 38.1% 48.9%
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate 22.1% 5.0%
Construction 8.8% 10.6%
Wholesale Trade 8.5% 2.7%
Manufacturing8.2% 3.0%
Retail Trade 7.4% 21.5%
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, and Sanitary Services 5.3% 3.2%
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing 1.3% 4.8%
Mining 0.1% 0.0%
Public Sector 0.1% 0.1%
Unknown industry 0.1% 0.2%

When it comes to SIC Codes, most corporations operate in management services (174,393), as real estate agent / manager (164,819), and as holding companies (149,200). Most proprietorships operate as eating places (145,677), health practitioner's offices ( 126,127), and business services (105,831).

SIC Codes with the highest number of companies registered as corporations and proprietorships

Management services 174,393
Real estate agent/manager 164,819
Holding company 149,200
Engineering services 53,056
Computer related services 45,711
Business services 45,170
Business consulting services 38,367
Custom computer programming 28,948
Eating place 27,280
Electric services 26,645
Eating place 145,677
Health practitioner's office 126,127
Business services 105,831
Medical doctor's office 103,623
Beauty shop 98,745
Insurance agent/broker 63,737
Services-misc 63,294
Engineering services 55,068
Legal services office 54,867
Carpentry contractor 48,536

In terms of individual industries across all legal forms, most entities work in services (51.21%), retail trade (13.75%), and finance / insurance / real estate (10.66%); 75.62% of all companies operate in these three sectors. Despite the fact that only 4.32% of companies operate in manufacturing, this industry accounts for the majority of sales of all companies in Germany (share of 27.51%). Second is finance, insurance and real estate with a share of 22.29% and third are services with a share of 16.52%.

Number of companies by industry

Industry Share
Services 51.21%
Retail Trade 13.75%
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate 10.66%
Construction 8.47%
Manufacturing 4.32%
Wholesale Trade 4.26%
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, and Sanitary Services 3.5%
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing 3.09%
Public Sector 0.54%
Unknown industry 0.15%
Mining 0.05%

In terms of specific economic activities (SIC Codes), most companies operate as real estate agents / managers (222,673) - this represents more than 4% of all companies. 3.65% of companies do business in civil / social association and 3.56% of companies in management services. A total of 31.43% of all German companies operate in the top 10 SIC Codes.

SIC codes with highest number of companies

SIC code Number of companies
Real estate agent/manager 222,673
Civic/social association 191,813
Management services 187,085
Eating place 181,052
Business services 172,433
Holding company 159,502
Membership organization 152,456
Health practitioners office 136,400
Medical doctors office 132,530
Engineering services 115,070
Beauty shop 105,776
Services-misc 81,680
Insurance agent/broker 78,412
Legal services office 72,116
Business consulting services 70,925
Computer related services 68,864
Sports club/manager/promoter 65,508
Carpentry contractor 64,145
Elementary/secondary school 57,930
Plumbing/heating/air conditioning contractor 57,252

The highest number of companies are based in the state of Nord-Westfalen. When it comes to cities, Berlin has the highest number of registered entities.

The highest number of companies are located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (almost 20% of all companies, which is more than a million companies in absolute terms). The state of Bavaria is second (18.41%; 966 thousand companies). The state of Baden-Württemberg is third (12.86%; 675 thousand companies). More than 68% of companies operate in the five states with the highest number of companies.

States with highest number of companies

State / Province Number of companies
Nordrhein-Westfalen 1,033,748
Bayern 966,738
Baden-Württemberg 675,197
Niedersachsen 472,859
Hessen 431,568
Berlin 260,535
Rheinland-Pfalz 256,799
Sachsen 224,384
Schleswig-Holstein 192,251
Hamburg 160,227
Brandenburg 153,175
Thüringen 120,587
Sachsen-Anhalt 116,839
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 89,750
Saarland 54,734
Bremen 41,788
Unknown 491

It is interesting to look at the states which used to be part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). More precisely, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg. Berlin was divided into 2 parts so we excluded it from this comparison. These 5 states have the lowest number of companies. This is similar to states like Bremen, Saarland, and Hamburg which used to be part of West Germany but are some of the smallest states in terms of the area they occupy. Statistics are similar when it comes to sales and number of employees within these 5 states. Companies registered in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Brandenburg generate just 5.6% of all sales and employ just 9.3% of all employees in the country.

State / Province Sales (mil. EUR) Number of employees
Nordrhein-Westfalen 2,902,241 12,627,520
Bayern 2,093,307 9,867,189
Baden-Württemberg 1,969,949 7,802,808
Niedersachsen 1,000,729 5,285,465
Hessen 1,144,869 5,245,109
Berlin 429,118 2,691,818
Rheinland-Pfalz 396,409 2,147,035
Sachsen 220,580 1,718,179
Schleswig-Holstein 237,822 1,487,520
Hamburg 669,183 1,986,185
Brandenburg 136,366 1,015,477
Thüringen 105,689 878,278
Sachsen-Anhalt 118,194 878,375
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 72,835 650,193
Saarland 87,231 523,769
Bremen 99,682 484,879
Unknown 560 5,446
Total € 11,684,764 55,295,245

In terms of the number of companies in individual cities, Berlin is first with 4.94% of all entities. Hamburg is second (3.05%) and Munich is third (2.54%). More than 17% of all companies are registered in the top ten cities.

City Number of companies
Berlin 259,377
Hamburg 160,216
München 133,561
Köln 71,148
Frankfurt am Main 64,477
Düsseldorf 57,627
Stuttgart 44,229
Bremen 36,008
Hannover 35,478
Nürnberg 33,933
Other 4,355,608

The largest companies in terms of sales operate in manufacturing and especially in car manufacturing. The list of top 15 German companies has four automakers and three manufacturing companies. There is also a parent telecommunications company and parent companies of grocery store chains. Volkswagen has the highest sales at EUR 222B a year. Annual sales generated by all of the 5.25M+ German companies are 11.6 trillion euros. Top 15 companies account for 11.28%.

Companies Sales
VOLKSWAGEN AG € 222,884,000,000
Daimler AG € 154,309,345,000
Schwarz Beteiligungs-KG € 114,302,000,000
Deutsche Telekom AG € 100,999,000,000
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG € 98,990,000,000
Robert Bosch Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung € 77,721,000,000
Uniper Global Commodities SE € 77,077,700,000
Deutsche Post AG € 66,806,000,000
E.ON SE € 60,944,000,000
INA-Holding Schaeffler GmbH & Co. KG € 59,981,000,000
BASF SE € 59,149,000,000
Siemens AG € 57,139,000,000
Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG € 56,867,000,000
AUDI AG € 55,680,000,000
REWE-ZENTRALFINANZ eG € 55,374,300,000
Top 15 largest companies € 1,318,223,345,000
Total € 11,684,763,594,753

Top 15 employers include 7 companies from manufacturing, the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn AG), a telecommunications company, and chains of grocery stores. The largest employer is Volkswagen with 665,000 people.

Companies Number of employees
INA-Holding Schaeffler GmbH & Co. KG 320,432
Deutsche Post AG 319,998
Fresenius Management SE 305,706
Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA 305,000
Siemens AG 299,000
Daimler AG 293,143
Deutsche Bahn AG 249,251
Continental AG 235,480
Deutsche Telekom AG 223,539
Robert Bosch Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung 218,377
Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG 193,683
Bundesland Niedersachsen 186,000
ZF Friedrichshafen AG 155,502
thyssenkrupp AG 149,889
Top 15 largest companies 4,120,445
All employees 55,295,246

If you would like to do a more detailed analysis of German companies or companies from other European countries you can use HitHorizons Screener. HitHorizons Screener allows users to pick from various filtering and sorting options and find relevant entities within the whole HitHorizons database. The resulting datasets can be exported in CSV for further processing in any software.

HitHorizons API allows to enrich any analytical tools, CRMs, ERPs, or other software with data available in the HitHorizons database.

HitHorizons aggregates data on 80M+ businesses from 60 countries, including the whole of Europe. Data contains basic information about individual companies such as name, registered address, identification number, contact information, industry, SIC Code, sales performance, and number of employees.

If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to contact us

Martin Lindak - Analyst
Martin Lindak Analyst

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