I am currently making a company database of different Chinese firms and as it is I have to give the English versions of the names translated from traditional Chinese. So I have been wondering about the precise translation of those two 股份有限公司 and 有限公司. As far as I see it any one of those two can be translated as Co. Ltd but if that's so where does 股份 goes? I know the meaning of all of the characters and yet I can't place it all too well. Can you give me some clarification on the matter?
The difference is legal.
有限公司 is a limited liability company (LLC), usually a smaller company.
股份有限公司 is a public limited company/private company limited by shares (PLC), usually larger companies whose shares (股份) are traded on the stock exchange.
PS. I am not quite sure what are the equivalent of these two forms in your country (Common law, I suppose). In the Roman law based German and Central European law the first would be GmbH, latter would be AG.