Definition of Partnership Agreement

A partnership agreement is a written contract that expresses an understanding between two or more parties wishing to do business together. This document covers the business’s nature, each partner’s financial contribution, profit sharing, roles, responsibilities, decision-making, dispute resolution, and exit strategy.

“A partnership agreement is a guiding light, leading to a successful business collaboration. It brings clarity, defines responsibilities, and prevents misunderstandings that could harm the partnership.” 

Forming a partnership agreement can drive growth for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startup owners in Malaysia. However, it’s crucial to carefully consider and clearly document all key aspects. In this article, we will explore the practical dos and don’ts when entering such an agreement to help your business thrive in Malaysia’s business landscape.

Partnership Agreements in Malaysia

In Malaysia, partnership agreements are governed by the Partnership Act 1961. This Act stipulates that a partnership can be formed by two or more persons who agree to carry on a business in common with a view to profit. It’s important to note that the agreement does not need to be in writing. It can be oral or even implied from the conduct of the parties.

Importance of a Written Partnership Agreement

While there’s no legal requirement for a written partnership agreement in Malaysia, having one is highly recommended. This is because a written agreement outlines the rights, duties, and obligations of each partner, preventing potential disputes in the future. Additionally, parties should draw a conclusive and comprehensive partnership agreement for the following reasons:

Smooth Business Operation

A partnership agreement is a fundamental document that governs the operations of a business partnership. It’s very important because it sets out the partnership’s terms and conditions, showing each partner’s roles and responsibilities. This clear information helps avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, making the business run more smoothly.

Legal Framework and Dispute Resolution

From a legal perspective, a partnership agreement provides a framework for resolving disputes. In the absence of an agreement, partners may have to rely on default rules set by the Partnership Act 1961 in Malaysia, which may not necessarily be in the best interest of the business or the partners. A bespoke agreement allows the partners to decide on a dispute resolution mechanism that suits their business needs.

Financial Clarity

Financial matters are another critical area where a partnership agreement plays a vital role. It explains how partners will share profits and losses, how much money each partner will put in, and what will occur if a partner decides to leave the business. This clear financial plan can avoid conflicts and keep the business running smoothly.

Management and Decision-Making Processes

A partnership agreement also provides guidance on the management and decision-making processes within the business. It can stipulate who has the authority to make decisions and the process for making major business decisions. This can help prevent power struggles and ensure the business operates efficiently.

Business Continuity

Finally, a partnership agreement is important for the continuity of the business. It can outline what happens if a partner dies or becomes incapacitated, ensuring the business can continue operating in such circumstances. Without an agreement, the partnership may automatically dissolve, which could lead to significant disruption and potential financial loss.

Legal Requirements and Considerations

Partnership Registration

The partnership must be registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM). Failure to register the partnership can result in penalties.

Legal Liabilities

Partners are jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations of the firm. Each partner can be held personally liable for the full amount of any debts incurred by the partnership.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Partnership Agreements

One common mistake SMEs and startups make when entering into partnership agreements in Malaysia is not clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each partner. In the partnership agreement, it’s crucial to outline who is responsible for what, from day-to-day operations to strategic decisions. This is to prevent confusion and disputes down the line.

Other common pitfalls include:

Neglecting to establish a dispute resolution mechanism

Disputes are inevitable in any business partnership, and having a transparent, agreed-upon process for resolving them can prevent minor disagreements from escalating into major conflicts

Failure to consider the partner’s departure from the partnership

Many SMEs and startups also fail to consider the implications of a partner leaving the business. A well-drafted partnership agreement should include clauses for what happens if a partner wants to exit the partnership, whether due to retirement, death, or any other reason. The remaining partners could face significant legal and financial challenges without such provisions.

Underestimating the importance of legal advice

Neglecting legal advice is a mistake many small businesses and startups make. They might think they’re saving money by creating their own partnership agreement without a lawyer’s help. But doing so could lead to an agreement that doesn’t fully safeguard the partners’ interests.

Neglecting to regularly review and amend the partnership agreement

Finally, many SMEs and startups neglect to review and update their partnership agreement regularly. The business environment and the partners’ circumstances can change over time, and the partnership agreement should reflect these changes. Failing to update the agreement can lead to it becoming outdated and ineffective.

Key Elements to Include in a Partnership Agreement

Parties’ information and details

The first key element to include in a partnership agreement in Malaysia is the identification of the parties involved. This should include the full names and addresses of all partners, as well as the name of the partnership business.

Duration of Partnership

The second element is the duration of the partnership. This could be for a fixed term or until a certain event occurs. If no duration is specified, the partnership is considered “at will’, meaning it can be dissolved at any time by any partner.

Purpose of Partnership

The agreement should specify the purpose of the partnership. This should be defined to avoid any future disputes. It’s also important to state the place of business, as this can have legal implications.

Capital Contribution

Another key element is the capital contribution of each partner. This includes the amount of money, property, or services each partner is contributing to the partnership. The agreement should also specify how profits and losses will be shared among the partners

Roles and Responsibilities

The agreement should also outline the roles and responsibilities of each partner. This includes management duties, decision-making processes, and what happens in the event of a deadlock.

Dispute Resolution

The agreement should also include provisions for dispute resolution. This could involve mediation, arbitration, or litigation. It’s also important to specify the law that will govern the agreement.

Dissolution of Partnership

Finally, the agreement should include clauses for the dissolution of the partnership. This could be due to the death or bankruptcy of a partner or the sale of the partnership. The agreement should specify how the assets will be distributed upon dissolution.

Resources for SMEs and Startups in Malaysia

In Malaysia, SMEs and startups have access to a variety of resources to help them navigate partnership agreements.

Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM)

One of the most significant is the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM), which provides comprehensive guides and resources on business regulations and procedures, including partnership agreements.

Malaysian Bar Council

The Malaysian Bar Council is another valuable resource. It offers legal advice and assistance to SMEs and startups. They can guide the legal aspects of partnership agreements, helping businesses understand their rights and obligations.

SME Association of Malaysia

Another resource is the SME Association of Malaysia. This organization offers a wealth of information and support for small and medium-sized enterprises, including advice on partnership agreements. They also organize events and workshops that can provide practical insights.

Legal Firms Specialising in Business Law

Legal firms specialising in business law are also available to assist SMEs and startups. These firms can provide expert advice and help draft partnership agreements that comply with Malaysian law and protect the interests of the business.

Government Initiatives

Government initiatives such as SME Corp and MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation) offer support and resources for SMEs and startups. They provide a range of services, including advice on legal matters such as partnership agreements.


In conclusion, creating a strong and legally solid business partnership agreement in Malaysia is crucial for a prosperous and smooth venture. To do so, you must find clear guidance, mutual understanding, and full transparency among all parties. Seeking expert legal help can safeguard against misunderstandings or legal issues. By following these steps, SMEs and startups can manage partnership agreements effectively, promoting a cooperative atmosphere that supports growth, stability, and benefits for all partners.

This content was written and reviewed by a lawyer but it does not constitute legal advice. We always recommend engaging a lawyer before taking any legal action.