As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 5, 2023
Registration No. 333-
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
THE SECURITIES ACT OF 1933
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
(State or Other Jurisdiction of
(Primary Standard Industrial
18th floor, Wuzhong Building,
618 Wuzhong Road, Minhang District,
Shanghai, People’s Republic of
China (+86) 021-64059928
(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of Registrant’s principal executive offices)
Cogency Global Inc.
122 East 42nd Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10168
(Name, address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of agent for service)
Li He, Esq.
Allen Wang, Esq.
Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public:
As soon as practicable after the effective date of this Registration Statement.
If any of the securities being registered on this Form are to be offered on a delayed or continuous basis pursuant to Rule 415 under the Securities Act of 1933, check the following box. ☐
If this Form is filed to register additional securities for an offering pursuant to Rule 462(b) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering. ☐
If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(c) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering. ☐
If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(d) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is an emerging growth company as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act of 1933. Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act.
The Registrant hereby amends this Registration Statement on such date or dates as may be necessary to delay its effective date until the Registrant shall file a further amendment which specifically states that this Registration Statement shall thereafter become effective in accordance with Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or until the Registration Statement shall become effective on such date as the Securities and Exchange Commission, acting pursuant to such Section 8(a), may determine.
The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
The information in this preliminary prospectus is not complete and may be changed. We and the Selling Shareholder may not sell the securities until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is effective. This preliminary prospectus is not an offer to sell these securities and we are not soliciting any offer to buy these securities in any jurisdiction where such offer or sale is not permitted.
Subject to Completion, Dated June 5, 2023
4,800,000 American Depositary Shares
Atour Lifestyle Holdings Limited
Representing 14,400,000 Class A Ordinary Shares
This is a public offering of 4,800,000 American depositary shares, or ADSs, representing 14,400,000 Class A ordinary shares of Atour Lifestyle Holdings Limited by Shanghai Yi Nan Enterprise Management Partnership and Shanghai Yin Nai Enterprise Management Partnership (both of which are ultimately controlled by Legend Capital Management Co., Ltd. and are collectively referred to as the “Selling Shareholder”). Each ADS represents three Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share. We are not selling any Class A ordinary shares represented by ADSs so we will not receive any proceeds from the sale of ADSs by the Selling Shareholder.
The ADSs are listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “ATAT.” On June 2, 2023, the closing trading price for the ADSs, as reported on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, was US$ 17.88 per ADS.
We are an “emerging growth company” as defined under applicable U.S. securities laws and, as such, we are eligible for reduced public company reporting requirements.
Investing in the ADSs involves risks. See “Risk Factors” beginning on page 23.
Investors in the ADSs are not purchasing equity securities of our subsidiaries that have substantive business operations in China but instead are purchasing equity securities of a Cayman Islands holding company. Atour Lifestyle Holdings Limited is a Cayman Islands holding company that conducts all of its operations and operates its business in China through its PRC subsidiaries, in particular, Shanghai Atour Business Management Group Co., Ltd. (“Atour Shanghai”), Shanghai Rongduo Business Management Co., Ltd. (“Shanghai Rongduo”), and their respective subsidiaries.
We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties related to being based in and having all of our operations in China. The PRC government has significant authority to exert influence on the ability of a China-based company, such as us, to conduct its business, accept foreign investments or list on an U.S. or other foreign exchanges. For example, we face risks associated with regulatory approvals of offshore offerings, anti-monopoly regulatory actions, oversight on cybersecurity and data privacy. Such risks could result in a material change in our operations and/or the value of the ADSs representing our Class A ordinary shares or could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer our Class A ordinary shares represented by ADSs and/or other securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless. For a detailed description of risks related to doing business in China, see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Doing Business in China” from page 46 to 55 of this prospectus.
In addition, our auditor is headquartered in mainland China, a jurisdiction where the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (the “PCAOB”) was unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities. Trading in our securities on U.S. markets, including Nasdaq, may be prohibited under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (the “HFCAA”) if the PCAOB determines that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely our auditor for two consecutive years. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued the HFCAA Determination Report to notify the SEC of its determinations that the PCAOB was unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong (the “2021 Determinations”), including our auditor. On December 15, 2022, the PCAOB announced that it was able to conduct inspections and investigations of PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2022. The PCAOB vacated its previous 2021 Determinations accordingly. As a result, we do not expect to be identified as a “Commission-Identified Issuer” under the HFCAA. However, whether the PCAOB will continue to be able to satisfactorily conduct inspections and investigations of PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong is subject to uncertainty and depends on a number of factors out of our, and our auditor’s, control, including positions taken by authorities of the PRC. The PCAOB is expected to continue to demand complete access to inspections and investigations against accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong in the future and states that it has already made plans to resume regular inspections in early 2023 and beyond. The PCAOB is required under the HFCAA to make its determination on an annual basis with regards to its ability to inspect and investigate completely accounting firms based in the mainland China and Hong Kong. The possibility of being a “Commission- Identified Issuer” and risk of delisting could continue to adversely affect the trading price of our securities. If the PCAOB determines in the future that it no longer has full access to inspect and investigate accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong and we continue to use such accounting firm to conduct audit work, we would be identified as a “Commission-Identified Issuer” under the HFCAA following the filing of the annual report for the relevant fiscal year, and if we were so identified for two consecutive years, trading in our securities on U.S. markets would be prohibited under the HFCAA. For more details, see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Doing Business in China — Trading in our securities may be prohibited under the HFCAA if the PCAOB determines that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely our auditor, and as a result, U.S. national securities exchanges, such as Nasdaq, may determine to delist the ADSs” on page 48 of this prospectus.
The PRC government has significant oversight and discretion over the conduct of our business and may intervene with or influence our operations as the government deems appropriate to further regulatory, political and societal goals. The PRC government has recently published new policies that significantly affected certain industries certain industries with respect to matters such as cybersecurity, data privacy, antitrust and competition, foreign investments, and overseas listings, and we cannot rule out the possibility that it will in the future release regulations or policies regarding our industry that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, the PRC regulatory authorities have recently issued new laws and regulations to exert more oversight and control over overseas securities offerings and other capital markets activities and foreign investment in China-based companies like us. Any such action, once taken by the PRC regulatory authorities, could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or in extreme cases, become worthless. For additional information, see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Doing Business in China — Uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws, and changes in laws and regulations in China could adversely affect us and limit the legal protections available to you and us” on page 47 of this prospectus.
Cash is transferred among the Company, our Hong Kong subsidiary, Atour Hotel (HK) Holdings Limited, or Atour Hong Kong, Atour Shanghai and its PRC subsidiaries, in the following manner: (i) funds are transferred to Atour Shanghai from the Company as needed through Atour Hong Kong in the form of capital contributions or shareholder loans, as the case may be; and (ii) dividends or other distributions may be paid by Atour Shanghai to the Company through Atour Hong Kong. Other than the restructuring for our initial public offering, none of our PRC subsidiaries have issued any dividends or distributions to their respective holding companies, including the Company, or any investors as of the date of this prospectus. Our subsidiaries in the PRC generate and retain cash generated from operating activities and re-invest it in our business. In the future, the Company’s ability to pay dividends, if any, to its shareholders and ADS holders and to service any debt it may incur will depend upon dividends paid by our PRC subsidiaries. Atour Shanghai has also received equity financing from its shareholders to fund the business operations of our PRC subsidiaries. In 2020, 2021 and 2022 and the three months ended March 31, 2023, we did not transfer any cash proceeds to any of our PRC subsidiaries except for the cash transfers within our Group in connection with the restructuring for our initial public offering. In the future, cash proceeds raised from overseas financing activities, including this secondary offering, may be transferred by us through our Atour Hong Kong to Atour Shanghai via capital contribution and shareholder loans, as the case may be. Atour Shanghai then will transfer funds to its subsidiaries to meet the capital needs of our business operations. For details about the applicable PRC regulations and rules relating to such cash transfers through our Group and the associated risks, see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Doing Business in China — We may rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our PRC subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to make payments to us could have a material and adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business” on page 50 of this prospectus, and “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Doing
Business in China — PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of currency conversion may restrict or delay us from using the proceeds of this secondary offering to make loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries, which could adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business” on page 51 of this prospectus.
Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or passed upon the adequacy or accuracy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.
Price US$ Per ADS
Underwriting discounts and commissions(1)
Proceeds, before expenses, to the Selling Shareholder
|(1)||For a description of compensation payable to the underwriters, see “Underwriting.”|
The Selling Shareholder has granted the underwriters the right to purchase up to 720,000 additional ADSs at the offering price, less the underwriting discounts and commissions, within 30 days after the date of this prospectus.
The underwriters expect to deliver the ADSs against payment in U.S. Dollars in New York, New York, to purchasers on or about , 2023.
BofA Securities CMBI
The date of this prospectus is , 2023
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
We and the Selling Shareholder have not authorized anyone to provide any information other than that contained in this prospectus or in any free writing prospectus prepared by or on behalf of us or to which we may have referred you. We and the Selling Shareholder take no responsibility for, and can provide no assurance as to the reliability of, any other information that others may give you. We and the underwriters have not authorized any other person to provide you with different or additional information. The Selling Shareholder is offering to sell, and seeking offers to buy the ADSs, only in jurisdictions where offers and sales are permitted. The information contained in this prospectus is accurate only as of the date of this prospectus, regardless of the time of delivery of this prospectus or any sale of the ADSs.
Unless otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all references in this prospectus to “Atour,” “we,” “us,” “our,” “ours,” “our company,” the “Company,” or similar terms refer to Atour Lifestyle Holdings Limited, together with its subsidiaries.
No dealer, salesperson or other person is authorized to give any information or to represent anything not contained in this prospectus or in any free writing prospectus we may authorize to be delivered or made available to you. You must not rely on any unauthorized information or representations. This prospectus is an offer to sell only the ADSs offered hereby, and only under circumstances and in jurisdictions where it is lawful to do so. The information contained in this prospectus is current only as of its date.
Neither we nor any of the underwriters has done anything that would permit this secondary offering or possession or distribution of this prospectus or any filed free writing prospectus in any jurisdiction where action for that purpose is required, other than in the United States. Persons outside the United States who come into possession of this prospectus or any free writing prospectus must inform themselves about, and observe any restrictions relating to, the offering of the ADSs and the distribution of this prospectus or any free writing prospectus outside of the United States. This secondary offering is being made in the United States and elsewhere solely on the basis of the information contained in this prospectus. You should assume that the information appearing in this prospectus is accurate only as of the date on the front cover of this prospectus, regardless of the time of delivery of this prospectus or any sale of the ADSs representing our Class A ordinary shares. Our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may have changed since the date on the front cover of this prospectus.
Until , 2023 (the 25th day after the date of this prospectus), all dealers that buy, sell or trade the ADSs, whether or not participating in this secondary offering, may be required to deliver a prospectus. This is in addition to the obligation of dealers to deliver a prospectus when acting as underwriters and with respect to their unsold subscriptions.
You are not purchasing equity securities of our subsidiaries that have substantive business operations in China but instead are purchasing equity securities of a Cayman Islands holding company. Atour Lifestyle Holdings Limited is a Cayman Islands holding company that conducts all of its operations and operates its business in China through its PRC subsidiaries, in particular, Atour Shanghai, Shanghai Rongduo and their respective subsidiaries. Such structure involves unique risks to investors in the ADSs. You should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below and the other information in this prospectus before making an investment in the ADSs. Our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially and adversely affected if any of these risks occurs, and as a result, the market price of the ADSs could decline and you could lose all or part of your investment. In particular, as we are a China-based company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, you should pay special attention to the subsection headed “Risks Related to Doing Business in China” below. This prospectus also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. See “Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.” Our actual results could differ materially and adversely from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, including the risks and uncertainties described below and elsewhere in this prospectus.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Our operating results are subject to conditions typically affecting the hospitality industry in China, any of which could reduce our revenues and limit opportunities for growth.
Our operating results are subject to conditions typically affecting the hospitality industry in China, including, among others:
|●||changes in national, regional or local economic conditions;|
|●||contraction in the global economy or low levels of economic growth;|
|●||competition from other hotels and vacation rental online marketplace companies;|
|●||the attractiveness of our hotels to our guests;|
|●||local market conditions such as an oversupply of, or a reduction in demand for, hotel rooms;|
|●||adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or serious contagious diseases, such as COVID-19;|
|●||the ability of third-party internet and other travel intermediaries who sell our hotel rooms to guests to attract and retain customers;|
|●||the availability and cost of capital necessary for us and third-party hotel owners to fund investments, capital expenditures and service debt obligations;|
|●||delays in or cancellations of planned or future development or refurbishment projects;|
|●||seasonal and cyclical volatility in the hospitality industry;|
|●||changes in desirability of geographic regions of the hotels in our business, geographic concentration of our operations and customers and shortages of desirable locations for development;|
|●||the performance of managerial and other employees of our hotels; and|
|●||increases in operating costs and expenses, particularly rents, due to inflation and other factors.|
Changes in any of these conditions could adversely affect our occupancy rates, ADR and RevPAR, or otherwise adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
If we are unable to compete successfully, our financial condition and results of operations may be harmed.
The hospitality industry in China is highly competitive. Competition for guests and customers is primarily focused on hotel room rates, quality of accommodations, brand recognition, convenience of location, geographic coverage, quality and range of services, other lifestyle offerings, and guest amenities. We mainly compete with other branded and independent hotel operating companies, national and international hotel brands and ownership companies. In addition, we may face competition from new entrants in the hospitality industry in China or increased competition from competitors who are expanding rapidly. Such competitors include vacation rental online marketplace companies. New and existing competitors may offer more competitive rates, greater convenience, superior services or amenities, or superior facilities, possibly attracting guests away from our hotels and resulting in lower occupancy rate and ADR for our hotels.
Competitors may also outbid us in the selection of sites for new leased hotel conversion, negotiate better management terms for potential manachised hotels or offer better terms to our existing manachised hotel owners, thereby slowing our anticipated pace of expansion. Furthermore, our typical guests may change their travel, spending and consumption patterns and choose to stay in other types of hotels. Any of these factors may have an adverse effect on our competitive position, results of operations and financial condition.
We may not be able to manage our expected growth, which could adversely affect our operating results.
We have experienced substantial growth in the past. Over the past few years, we increased the number of our hotels in China to 968 as of March 31, 2023, and we intend to continue to convert, operate and manage additional hotels in markets where we have a presence and in additional cities in China. Our expansion has placed, and will continue to place, substantial demands on our managerial, financial, operational, IT, and other resources. In order to manage and support our growth, we must continue to improve our existing managerial, operational and IT systems, including our financial and management controls, and recruit, train and retain qualified hotel management and other personnel. Our planned expansion will also require us to maintain consistent and high-quality accommodations and services to ensure that our brand does not suffer as a result of any deviations, whether actual or perceived, in our quality standards. We cannot assure you that we will be able to effectively and efficiently manage the growth of our operations or maintain our quality standards. If we are unable to do so, our results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
Our expansion within existing markets and into new markets may present increased risk.
Our expansion within markets where we already have a presence may adversely affect the financial performance of our hotels in operation in those markets and, as a result, negatively affect our overall results of operations. Furthermore, expansion into new markets may present operating and marketing challenges that are different from those that we currently encounter in our existing markets. Guests and franchisees in any new market may not be familiar with our brands and we may need more time to build brand awareness in that market through greater investments in advertising and promotional activities than we anticipated. We may find it more difficult in new markets to hire, motivate and keep qualified employees who share our vision, passion and culture. Expansion into new markets may also cause certain of our non-financial key performance indicators to decline, such as our ADR, occupancy rate and RevPAR, as new markets may have lower average hotel room rates than markets in which we currently have a presence and our new hotels tend to have a lower occupancy rate than our more mature hotels. Our inability to anticipate the changing demands that expanding operations will impose on our managerial, operational, IT, and other resources, or our failure to quickly adapt our systems and procedures to the demands of new markets, could result in lost revenues and increased expenses and otherwise harm our results of operations and financial condition.
We may not be able to successfully identify, secure or operate additional hotel properties.
We plan to open more hotels in markets where we have a presence and new cities in China to further grow our business. We may not be successful in identifying, leasing, managing and operating additional hotel properties at desirable locations and on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. In more developed cities, it may be difficult to increase the number of hotels because we or our competitors may already have operations in such cities, rental prices may increase, or our competitors may be able to gain leases of properties before we can do so. In some cases, our competitors may be willing to enter into less favorable lease or hotel management arrangements in order to prevent us from securing a particular property. Alternatively, in less developed cities, demand for our hotels may not increase as rapidly as we may expect. In addition, even if we are able to successfully identify and lease or manage new hotel properties, new hotels may not generate the returns we expect. Furthermore, we may incur costs in connection with evaluating properties and negotiating with property owners, lessors and manachised hotel owners, including properties that we are
subsequently unable to lease or manage. If we fail to successfully identify or compete for additional hotel properties, our ability to execute our growth strategy could be impaired and our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
Our limited operating history makes it difficult to evaluate our future prospects and results of operations.
We believe that our future success depends on our ability to achieve sustainable and profitable growth. We have a limited operating history since we commenced our business operations in China in 2013. Our limited operating history and significant growth make it difficult to evaluate our historical performance or prospects. In addition, fluctuations in results could make period to period comparisons difficult. You should consider our future prospects in light of the risks and challenges encountered by a company with a limited operating history. These risks and challenges include, among others:
|●||the uncertainties associated with our ability to continue our growth and maintain profitability;|
|●||preserving our competitive position in the upper midscale hotel segment of the hospitality industry in China;|
|●||offering consistent and high-quality accommodations and services to retain and attract guests;|
|●||implementing our strategy and modifying it from time to time to respond effectively to competition and changes in customer preferences;|
|●||our ability to introduce new hotel and other lifestyle offerings to achieve our goal to become a leading lifestyle brand;|
|●||increasing awareness of our Atour brand and continuing to develop customer loyalty; and|
|●||recruiting, training and retaining qualified managerial and other personnel.|
If we are unsuccessful in addressing any of these risks or challenges, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected, and may continue to adversely affect, our financial and operating performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the global economy. Our business experienced challenges throughout 2022 due to the pandemic. As a result, the occupancy rate of our hotels decreased from 67.7% in 2021 to 63.0% in 2022. Similarly, the ADR of our hotels decreased from RMB415.2 in 2021 to RMB391.2 in 2022. Our RevPAR, as a result, decreased from RMB294.9 in 2021 to RMB260.7 in 2022.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and up to December 31, 2022, the Chinese governmental authorities had accumulatively requisitioned a total of 482 of our hotels (including approximately 7.1 million room-nights) in various locations and during different periods for the accommodation of medical support workers and for quarantine purposes. All other than ten of these hotels were manachised hotels. For most of the time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not generate any revenue relating to sales based on continuing franchise fees from our manachised hotels used for quarantine purposes as the franchisees of such hotels were not required to pay us any continuing franchise fees during the quarantine periods.
The continuing COVID-19 pandemic also increased the probability that franchisees will be unable to fund working capital and to repay or refinance indebtedness, which may cause our franchisees to declare bankruptcy. Such bankruptcies may result in termination of our franchise and management agreements and eliminate our anticipated income and cash flows. Moreover, bankrupted franchisees may not have sufficient assets to pay termination fees, other unpaid fees, reimbursements or unpaid loans owed to us. The spread of COVID-19 had also adversely affected our suppliers and other business partners. If any of our suppliers and other business partners experiences financial distress, suffers business disruptions, goes out of business or files for bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 outbreak, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected. In addition, if any of our employees or customers is suspected of having contracted or has contracted COVID- 19 while he or she has worked or stayed in our hotels, we may under certain circumstances be required to quarantine our employees that are affected and the affected areas of our premises.
Starting from November 2022, the PRC government has been gradually lifting its precautionary measures, and the social and economic activities in China have returned to normal levels since then. As of the date of this prospectus, none of our hotels is
requisitioned by governmental authorities. However, the ultimate impact of the pandemic is highly uncertain and the actual effects will depend on many factors beyond our control. As a result, we do not yet know the extent of the impacts on our business, our operations or the global economy as a whole. To the extent COVID-19 adversely affects our business, financial condition and results of operations, it may also heighten some of the other risks described in this section.
If our brand reputation is harmed, it could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We believe our “Atour” and “Yaduo” brands are integral to our success, including the success of our sales and marketing efforts and our efforts to grow through hotel management arrangements. Our continued success in maintaining and enhancing our brand depends, to a large extent, on our ability to provide consistent and high-quality accommodations and services across our hotel chain, and design and introduce new accommodations and services to meet customer demands, as well as our ability to respond to competitive pressures. In addition, we must maintain our hotels’ good condition and attractive appearance which requires ongoing renovations and other leasehold improvements, including periodic repair and replacement of furniture, fixtures and equipment. Our future lifestyle brand offerings, if any, also depend on successful execution of our brand strategy and customer perception of us as a leading and pioneering lifestyle brand. If we are unable to maintain and enhance our brand reputation or fail to execute our brand strategy, our occupancy and room rates may decline and our new lifestyle brand offerings may not be widely accepted by customers, which would adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We may be adversely affected by any negative publicity concerning us and our business, shareholders, affiliates, directors, officers, other employees, business partners, other third parties as well as the industry in which we operate, regardless of its accuracy, that could harm our reputation and business.
Our ability to attract and retain customers is highly dependent upon the external perceptions of our services, trustworthiness and business practices. Negative perceptions or publicity about us and our business, shareholders, affiliates, directors, officers, employees, business partners, other third parties as well as the industry in which we operate, even if related to isolated incidents, could erode trust and confidence and damage our reputation among existing and potential customers. In turn, this could decrease the demand for our products and services, increase regulatory scrutiny and detrimentally effect our business. In addition to traditional media, there has been an increasing use of social media platforms and similar devices in China, including instant messaging applications, social media websites and other forms of internet-based communications that provide individuals with access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. Negative publicity concerning these parties could be related to a wide variety of matters, including, but are not limited to:
|●||alleged misconduct or other improper activities committed by our directors, officers, and employees, our franchisees and their personnel, as well as our business partners;|
|●||false or malicious allegations or rumors about us or our directors, shareholders, affiliates, officers, employees and franchisees;|
|●||complaints by our customers about our products and services;|
|●||security breaches of private customer or transaction data;|
|●||employment-related claims relating to alleged employment discrimination, wage and hour violations; and|
|●||governmental and regulatory investigations or penalties resulting from our failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations.|
The availability of information on instant messaging applications and social media platforms is virtually immediate as is its impact without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate information, is seemingly limitless and readily available. Information concerning our company, shareholders, directors, officers and employees may be posted on such platforms at any time. The risks associated with any such negative publicity or incorrect information cannot be completely eliminated or mitigated and may materially harm our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Furthermore, our brand name and our business may be harmed by aggressive marketing and communication strategies by competitors and third parties. We may be subject to government or regulatory investigation or third-party claims as a result and we
may be required to spend significant time and incur substantial costs to react to and address these consequences. There is no assurance that we will be able to effectively refute each of the allegations within a reasonable period of time, or at all. Additionally, public allegations, directly or indirectly, against us or our business partners, may be posted online by anyone on an anonymous basis. The availability of information on social media platforms is virtually immediate, as is its impact. Social media platforms may not necessarily filter or check the accuracy of information before publishing them and we are often afforded little or no time to respond. As a result, our reputation may be materially and adversely affected and our ability to attract and retain customers and maintain our market share and our financial conditions may suffer.
We may not be successful in developing and achieving expected returns from our diversified hotel brand portfolio, which could adversely affect our financial performance and condition.
We primarily derive our revenues from (i) franchise and management fees from our manachised hotels and sales of hotel supplies to manachised hotels, (ii) operations of our leased hotels, and (iii) sales of our retail products in connection with our scenario-based retail business. We generated net revenues of Atour Light, Atour X, Atour, ZHOTEL, Atour S, and A.T. House. However, any new brands that we have launched or may launch in the future may not achieve anticipated returns. The development of a new brand requires significant upfront market research and accurate prediction of customer preferences, followed by hotel development process that takes a considerable amount of time. We may not possess enough knowledge or experience in expanding into these new market segments and we may face more competition in such new market segments. We cannot assure you that our efforts in developing new hotel will be successful. If a new hotel brand is not well received by our customers, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to offset related costs and expenses, and our overall financial performance and condition may be adversely affected.
Our growth depends on our ability to increase revenues generated by our existing and future hotels and from our existing and future members.
While sales growth will depend in part on our plans for new hotel openings, deeper penetration into existing and new geographic markets and increased sales at our existing hotels will also affect our sales growth and will continue to be critical factors affecting our revenue and profit. Our ability to increase the revenues generated by our hotels depends in part on our ability to successfully implement our growth strategy and related initiatives. Our ability to penetrate further into the existing geographic markets where we already have a presence depends in part on our ability to successfully market ourselves and to maintain and increase sales to our existing members and attract more members to our A-Card membership program. We may not be able to achieve our targeted sales growth at our existing and future hotels, and sales at such hotels could decrease. In addition, we may not be able to achieve our targeted level of expansion within existing and new geographic markets. The occurrence of any of such events may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our costs and expenses may remain constant or increase even if our revenues decline.
A significant portion of our operating costs for a particular period, including rent, is fixed. Accordingly, a decrease in our revenues could result in a disproportionately higher decrease in our earnings because our operating costs and expenses may not decrease proportionately. For example, during January and February, the months during which the Chinese New Year falls, our occupancy rates tend to decline and our revenues fall, but our expenses do not vary significantly since we continue to pay rent and salary, make regular repairs, conduct maintenance and renovations, and invest in other capital improvements on a continuous basis to maintain the attractiveness of our hotels. In addition, our conversion costs may increase as a result of increasing costs of materials and our labor costs may increase over time. However, we have a limited ability to pass increased costs on to guests through hotel room rate increases. For example, our total operating costs and expenses increased by 2.4% from RMB1,490.3 million in 2019 to RMB1,526.7 million in 2020, while our net revenue decreased slightly from RMB1,567.1 million in 2019 to RMB1,566.6 million in 2020, primarily due to decreases in occupancy rate and ADR of our hotels as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, our costs and expenses may remain constant or increase even if our revenues decline, which would adversely affect our net margins and results of operations.
Some of our existing development pipeline may not be developed into new hotels, which could materially and adversely affect our growth prospects.
As of March 31, 2023, we had 413 manachised hotels with a total of 44,686 hotel rooms in our development pipeline, which we define as hotels under construction or approved for development under our hotel brands. The commitments of owners and developers with whom we have contracts are subject to numerous conditions, and the eventual development and construction of our development pipeline not currently under construction is subject to numerous risks, including, in certain cases, the owner’s or developer’s ability to
obtain adequate financing and obtaining governmental or regulatory approvals. As a result, not every hotel in our development pipeline may develop into a new hotel that enters our system.
We are subject to various operational risks inherent in the manachise business model.
Our success could be adversely affected by the performance of our manachised hotels, which are subject to a variety of risks inherent in our manachise business model. Under the manachise business model, we manage hotels through the on-site hotel managers and HR representatives we appoint to each hotel and collect fees from franchisees. We plan to continue to increase the number of manachised hotels in the future. Our franchisees may not be able to develop hotel properties on a timely basis, which could adversely affect our growth strategy and may impact our ability to collect fees from them on a timely basis.
We oversee and manage the operations of our manachised hotels pursuant to various franchise and management agreements. However, we are not able to control the actions of our franchisees. Under those franchise and management agreements, our franchisees are typically responsible for developing hotel properties on a timely basis, bearing the costs and expenses of developing and operating the hotels, including costs of renovating the hotels to our standards and recruiting and employing hotel staff. However, if our franchisees have difficulties in accessing capital or are reluctant to make investments for the management or renovation of the hotels, we may not be able to force them to secure the required capital and the quality of our manachised hotels’ operations may be thereby diminished. The risk can be magnified where such franchisees own multiple hotels under our brand.
Besides, as the hospitality industry in China is subject to various hospitality industry, health and safety, construction, fire prevention and environmental laws and regulations, we cannot ensure that all of our franchisees or manachised hotels comply with these laws and regulations. We normally require our franchisees to secure relevant governmental approvals and permits for operating the hotels in our standard franchise and management agreements and require that our franchisees provide us with some basic approvals and permits, including, among others, business license, special industry license and fire prevention safety inspection certificates. However, some of our franchisees may fail to obtain or renew such approvals or permits in a timely manner, or at all. Any failure to obtain or renew such approvals or permits or to comply with the laws and regulations will negatively affect the operation of our manachised hotels, which will in turn have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
As many factors affecting the operations of those hotels are beyond our control, we cannot assure you that the quality of the services in our manachised hotels are consistent with our standards and requirements. Although we send for routine inspection purposes regional managers and members of our quality control team to manachised hotels on a regular basis, we may not be able to identify problems in their operations and make responses on a timely basis. Our manachised hotels are also operated under our brand names. As a result, our image and reputation may suffer due to misuse of our brands by any of our franchisees, which may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations. In addition, like any operators in service-oriented industries, we are subject to customer complaints and we may face complaints from unsatisfied customers who are unhappy with the standard of service offered by our franchisees. Any complaints, regardless of their nature and validity, may affect our reputation, thereby adversely affecting our results of operations. We may also have to incur additional costs in placating any customers or salvaging our reputation. We have closed a limited number of manachised hotels that did not comply with our brand and operating standards in the past. If any of our franchisees defaults or commits wrongdoing, such franchisee may not be in a position to sufficiently compensate us for losses which we have suffered as a result of such defaults or wrongdoings. While we ultimately can take action to terminate our franchisees that do not comply with the terms of our franchise and management agreements or commit wrongdoing, we may not be able to identify problems and make timely responses and, as a result, our image and reputation may suffer, which may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
In addition to quality standards, safety incidents such as fire accidents may occur at our manachised hotels despite our supervision. Any such occurrence may result in substantial reputational harm to us and our brands. In addition, if such safety incidents occur at any of the manachised hotels that do not possess the relevant licenses, permits or inspection certificate, there could be substantial negative publicity, thereby triggering government actions that could impact our entire hotel network, which in turn will have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Although our proprietary information system can collect operational and financial data of each hotel, we may not be able to avoid fraud or manipulation of such data by some franchisees, which may adversely affect the ability to effectively respond to potential issues. Moreover, the term of lease for some of the properties of our franchisees is shorter than the typical term of our franchise and management agreements. We cannot assure you that upon expiration, these franchisees will be able to renew their leases in order to perform their franchise and management agreements with us.
We may not be able to successfully attract new franchisees and compete for franchise and management agreements and, as a result, we may not be able to achieve our planned growth.
Our growth strategy largely depends on our ability to further expand our presence through entering into franchise and management agreements with our franchisees. We believe that our ability to attract new franchisees and compete for franchise and management agreements with them depends primarily on our brand recognition and reputation, the results of our overall operations in general and the success of our current manachised hotels. Other competitive factors for franchise and management agreements include marketing support, membership program, efficiency of our central reservation system (“CRS”) and IT infrastructure, our ability to provide systems and support to assist franchisees to operate their hotels cost- effectively.
The terms of any new franchise and management agreements that we obtain also depend on the terms that our competitors offer for those agreements. In addition, if the availability of suitable locations for new properties decreases, or governmental planning or other local regulations change, the supply of suitable properties for additional manachised hotels could diminish. If the performance of our manachised hotels is less successful than that of our competitors’ hotels or if we are unable to offer terms as favorable as those offered by our competitors, we may not be able to compete effectively for new franchise and management agreements and we may not be able to attract as many new franchisees as we expect. As a result, we may not be able to achieve our planned growth and our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Our franchise and management agreements could be terminated early and we may not be able to renew our existing franchise and management agreements or renegotiate new franchise and management agreements when they expire.
We franchise our brands to third parties pursuant to franchise and management agreements or other similar agreements. These franchise and management agreements may be renegotiated or may expire. The versions of franchise and management agreements we have used during recent years typically have a fixed term of 8 to 15 years. We plan to renew our existing franchise and management agreements upon expiration or renegotiate with our franchisees for new franchise and management agreements. However, we may be unable to retain our franchisees on satisfactory terms, or at all. In addition, our franchise and management agreements could also be terminated early due to a number of reasons, including property disputes or defects, franchisees’ financial difficulties, regulatory non-compliance, and others, many of which are beyond our control. If a significant number of our existing franchise and management agreements expire and new franchisees do not cover those expired franchisees or a significant number of our franchisees terminate the franchise and management agreements with us early, our revenue and profit may decrease in the future, and our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, disputes could arise between us and our franchisees under our franchise and management agreements. We or our franchisees may take legal actions against each other in connection with such disputes. No assurance can be given as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Even if we and our related parties are successful in our attempt to defend ourselves in legal and administrative actions or to assert our rights under various laws, enforcing our rights against the various parties involved may be expensive, time-consuming and ultimately futile. These actions could expose us to negative publicity and to substantial monetary damages and legal defense costs, injunctive relief, and criminal and civil liabilities and/or penalties.
As the hospitality industry in China is highly competitive, the terms of our franchise and management agreements are influenced by contract terms offered by our competitors. We cannot assure you that the terms of franchise and management agreements for new manachised hotels entered into or renewed in the future will be as favorable as the terms under our existing franchise and management agreements. If such agreements cannot be renewed on satisfactory terms upon expiration, our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Our failure to comply with franchise regulations may result in penalties to us and could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In China, any entity engaging in franchise activities are subject to the supervision and administration of the Ministry of Commerce, or the MOC, and its local counterparts. Under the relevant regulations, franchisors are required to file their franchise agreements with the MOC or its local counterparts, and are required to report to the MOC regarding the franchise agreements that they executed, canceled, renewed or amended in the previous year within the first quarter of every year. Fifteen days after a franchisor first enters into a franchise agreement, the franchisor is required to make appropriate filing with the MOC or its local counterparts. We cannot guarantee that we will obtain all applicable approvals and make all appropriated filings pursuant to laws and regulations, and such non-compliance could subject us to fines and other penalties that may negatively affect our operation, which could result in a
material adverse effect on our business. Besides, given the uncertainties in the interpretation of relevant laws and regulations, our management agreements or trademark license agreements may be determined to be franchise agreements by the relevant authorities, in which case we may be required to obtain approvals or make filings for such activities, and failure to do so may also subject us to fines and other penalties.
Besides, the franchise activities are subject to various laws and regulations. For example, before entering into franchise agreements, the franchisor is required to correctly, accurately and fully disclose and provide specified written information to the franchisee regarding the franchised businesses, which includes certain proprietary information. If we violate the disclosure requirements related to franchise activities, our franchisees may choose to terminate their franchise agreements with us, and we could be subject to fines and other penalties that may negatively affect our operation, which could result in a material adverse effect on our business. Apart from that, all franchise agreements are required to include certain provisions, such as termination rights and payment obligations. If we are required to revise our agreements pursuant to applicable laws and regulations, such revised terms may be less favorable to us, which could materially diminish the economic value of our agreements.
We may not be able to convert leased hotels on a timely or cost-efficient basis, which may adversely affect our growth strategy and business prospects.
We fund and oversee the conversion of our leased hotels. Our involvement in the conversion of leased properties presents a number of risks, including conversion delays or cost overruns, which may result in increased project costs or lost revenues. We may be unable to recover conversion costs we incur for projects that are not pursued to completion. In addition, properties that we convert could become less attractive due to market saturation or oversupply, meaning we may be unable to recover conversion costs at the expected rate, or at all. Furthermore, we may not have available cash to complete projects that we have commenced, or we may be unable to obtain financing for conversion of future properties on favorable terms, if at all. If we are unable to successfully manage our hotel conversion activities to minimize these risks, our growth strategy and business prospects may be adversely affected.
Our new leased hotels typically incurred significant pre-opening expenses during their development stages and generated relatively low revenues during their ramp-up stages, which may have a significant negative impact on our results of operations.
During the development stages of each new leased hotel, significant pre-opening expenses will typically be incurred. During the ramp-up stage immediately after the opening of each new leased hotel, its occupancy rate increases gradually and its revenues may be insufficient to cover its operating costs, which are relatively fixed in nature. As a result, most newly opened leased hotels may not achieve profitability until they reach a mature level of operations. We may also be unable to recover development costs we incur for projects that are not completed. Any expansion of our leased hotel portfolio would incur significant pre-opening expenses during the development stage and relatively low revenues during the ramp-up stage of such newly opened leased hotels, whose expenses may have a significant negative impact on our results of operations.
Properties that we develop could become less attractive due to market saturation, oversupply or changes in market demand, with the result that we may not be able to recover development costs as we expect, or at all.
Our legal right to lease certain properties to operate our leased hotels could be challenged by property owners or other third parties, which could prevent us from continuing to operate our leased hotels or increase the costs associated with operating these hotels.
We rely on leases with third parties who either own or lease the properties from the ultimate property owners to operate our leased hotels. The land use rights and other property rights with respect to properties we currently lease for our existing hotels could be challenged. As of the date of this prospectus, our lessors failed to provide us with the valid property ownership certificates and/or the land use rights certificates for approximately 7.7% of all of our leased hotels in terms of gross floor area. While we have performed due diligence to verify the rights of our lessors to lease such properties, including inspecting documentation issued by competent government authorities evidencing these lessors’ land use rights and other property rights with respect to these properties, the lessees’ rights under those leases could be challenged by other parties including government authorities in China. If the properties are deemed to be illegal constructions or the landlords do not have the rights to lease the properties to the lessees for hotel operations purposes, the lessors (instead of the lessees) may be subject to monetary penalties and the lease agreements may be invalidated. We may therefore be required to relocate our relevant hotels. In addition, some of our properties where our leased hotels are located are owned by governmental and other third-party organizations, and such leases are subject to present and future policies in China related to government-owned properties or other similar types of properties. In the event that we could no longer operate on such sites, we may suffer financial losses.
We also cannot assure you that we can always keep good title of the properties we lease currently or will lease in the future, free and clear of all liens, encumbrances and defects. If the ultimate owner of the property changes after the original owner of such property mortgages such property to any third party, lessees’ legal rights under the lease agreement may be affected adversely and we may not rank senior in the right of continuing occupying the property. In addition to the above risks, we also face potential disputes with property owners, primary lease holders or third parties. Such disputes, whether or not resolved in our favor, may divert management attention, involve significant cost, harm our reputation and otherwise disrupt our business.
Failure to comply with lease registration under PRC law may subject both parties to such leases to fines or other penalties that may negatively affect our ability to operate our leased hotels.
Under PRC law, all lease agreements of commodity housing tenancy are required to be registered with the local housing bureau, including those relating to the leased properties underlying our leased hotels. While the majority of our standard lease agreements require the lessors to make such registrations, most of our leases entered into in connection with our leased hotels as of the date of this prospectus have not been registered as required by PRC law, which may expose both lessors and lessees to potential monetary fines ranging from RMB1,000 to RMB10,000 for each non-registration. Some of our rights under the unregistered leases may also be subordinated to the rights of other interested third parties.
In addition, in some instances where the lessors or lessees are not the ultimate owners of hotel properties, no consents or permits have been obtained from the property owners, the primary lease holders or competent government authorities, as applicable, for the subleases of the hotel properties to certain of our hotels, which could potentially invalidate the leases for our hotel properties or lead to the renegotiation of such leases that result in terms less favorable to us or even relocation of our relevant hotels. Some of the properties leased from third parties were also subject to mortgages at the time the leases were signed. Moreover, the property ownership or leasehold in connection with our manachised hotels could be subject to similar third-party claims.
Failure to comply with land- and property-related requirements under PRC law may subject lessors to fines or other penalties that may negatively affect our ability to operate our leased hotels.
Lessors of our hotel properties are required to comply with various land- and property-related laws and regulations to enable them to lease effective titles of their properties for our hotel use. For example, before any properties located on state-owned land in China with allocated or leased land use rights or on land owned by collective organizations may be leased to third parties, lessors should obtain appropriate approvals from competent government authorities. In addition, properties used for hotel operations and the underlying land should be approved for hospitality use or appropriate commercial use purposes by competent government authorities. Some of the lessors of our hotel properties have not obtained the required governmental approvals, including approvals of the properties for hospitality use purposes. As of the date of this prospectus, for approximately 24.4% of our leased hotels in terms of gross floor area, the lessors have not obtained the required governmental approvals for the properties to be used for hospitality use purposes. Failure to comply with the land- and property-related laws and regulations may subject the lessors to monetary fines or other penalties and may lead to the invalidation or termination of the leases and relocation of our relevant leased hotels, and therefore may adversely affect our results of operations. While some lessors have agreed to indemnify lessees against the losses resulting from the
lessors’ failure to obtain the required approvals, there is no assurance that the lessees will be able to successfully enforce such indemnification obligations against the lessors or that such indemnification can cover losses from all the property defects. As a result, we may suffer significant losses resulting from the lessors’ failure to obtain required approvals to the extent that the lessees are not fully indemnified by the lessors.
The lease agreements for our leased hotels could be terminated early, the existing leases may not be renewed on commercially reasonable terms and the rents paid by us could increase substantially, which could materially and adversely affect our operations.
The terms of leases for leased hotels typically provide, among other things, that the lease could be terminated under certain legal or factual conditions. If any such lease were terminated early, operations of the related hotel property may be interrupted or discontinued and costs may be incurred by us to relocate to another location. Furthermore, we may be liable to our lessors, guests and other vendors and may be required to pay losses and damages due to our default under relevant contracts. As a result, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Although we intend to renew existing leases of certain of our leased hotels, there can be no assurance that we will be able to renew such leases and maintain current hotel operations on satisfactory terms, or at all. In particular, we may experience increased rent payments and increased operating cost in connection with renegotiating leases. If we fail to maintain current hotel operations on satisfactory terms upon expiration of the leases, the respective operating costs of our company may increase and overall profits generated from hotel operations may decrease. If we are unable to pass on increased costs to our guests through room rate increases, the operating margins and earnings of our company could decrease and our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Our leases typically allow us to terminate the lease early under limited circumstances, and in some instances, our leases contain a term which requires us to pay the contingent rent for our wrongful early termination of such agreements. If disputes between us and our landlords occur in the future, and resolved in favor of our landlords, we may need to pay losses and damages to the landlords and as a result, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Default in payment by franchisees and/or corporate account clients that have large account receivable balances could adversely impact our cash flows, working capital, results of operations and financial condition.
Our accounts receivable include amounts due from our franchisees and corporate clients whose employees are guests in our leased hotels. Our corporate clients may choose to settle with us directly, and we typically require our franchisees to pay various fees pursuant to their franchise and management agreements with us on a monthly basis. Our net accounts receivable balance was RMB100.0 million, RMB132.7 million and RMB114.5 million (US$16.7 million) as of December 31, 2021 and 2022 and March 31, 2023, respectively.
We are subject to the risk that we may be unable to collect accounts receivable in a timely manner, or at all. An extended period of hotel room vacancy or decrease in room rates, which may be the result of a variety of factors such as unfavorable economic conditions in China and globally, may adversely affect our ability to collect accounts receivable in a timely manner, or at all. Such risk was higher as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 resulting in financial difficulties of certain of our franchisees. We extended credit terms to certain franchisees during the pandemic as part of our support for franchisees. As a result, our franchisees and/or corporate account clients may not be able to pay us in a timely fashion and our accounts receivable and allowance for doubtful accounts may accordingly increase. Our liquidity and cash flows from operations may be adversely affected if our accounts receivable cycles or collections periods lengthen or if we encounter a material increase in defaults of payment of our account receivable.
In order to mitigate such risks, we conduct rigorous due diligence checks on prospective franchisees and regularly assess the creditworthiness of corporate account clients. However, these mitigating efforts cannot ensure that we will be able to collect accounts receivable. If the accounts receivable cannot be collected in time, or at all, a significant amount of bad debt expense will occur, and our business, financial condition and results of operation will likely be materially and adversely affected.
Interruption or failure of our technology platform or IT system could impair our ability to effectively provide accommodations and services, which could damage our reputation.
Our ability to provide consistent and high-quality services across our hotel chain depends on the continued operation of our technology platform and IT system. Any damage to, or failure of, our technology platform or IT system could interrupt our service. Our technology platform and IT system are vulnerable to damage or interruption as a result of power loss, telecommunications
failures, computer viruses, hackers, fires, floods, earthquakes, or other attempts or incidents to harm our systems, and similar events. We rely on cloud servers maintained by third-party service providers to store most of our data. Problems with our cloud service provider or the telecommunications network providers with whom it contract could adversely affect the experience of our guests. Our cloud service provider could decide to cease providing us with services without adequate prior notice. Any change in service levels at our cloud servers or any errors, defects, disruptions, or other performance problems with our platform could harm our brand and may damage the data of our guests. In addition, our servers may also be vulnerable to break-ins, sabotage and vandalism. Some of our systems are not fully redundant and our disaster recovery planning does not account for all possible scenarios. In addition, our technology platform, IT system and related technologies may become outdated and we may not be able to replace or introduce upgrades as quickly as our competitors or within budgeted costs for such upgrades. If we experience frequent, prolonged or persistent technology platform or IT system failures, the quality of our services and our reputation could be harmed. The steps we need to take to increase the reliability and redundancy of our technology platform and IT system may be costly, which could reduce our operating margin, and may not be successful in reducing the frequency or duration of any failures or service interruptions.
Moreover, our business also relies upon the overall performance of the internet infrastructure and telecommunications networks in China. Almost all access to the internet is maintained through state-owned telecommunications operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Moreover, we have entered into contracts with various subsidiaries of a limited number of telecommunications service providers at provincial level and rely on them to provide us with data communications capacity through local telecommunications lines. We have limited access to alternative networks or services in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems with China’s internet infrastructure or the telecommunications networks provided by telecommunications service providers. Our platform regularly serves a large number of guests, franchisees and suppliers. With the expansion of our business, we may be required to upgrade our technology and infrastructure to keep up with the increasing traffic on our platform. However, we have no control over the costs of the services provided by telecommunications service providers. If the prices we pay for telecommunications and internet services rise significantly, our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
If our IT capabilities and infrastructure fail to keep up with our growing business needs, industry trends or technological developments, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
We have experienced substantial growth in the past and plan to further expand our business in the future. Our expansion has placed, and will continue to place, substantial demands on our IT capabilities and infrastructure. In order to manage and support our growth, we must continue to improve our IT systems, including investments in IT infrastructure and recruitment and training of IT personnel. We cannot assure you that the development of our IT capabilities and infrastructure will keep up with our growing business needs. If we fail to do so, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
Furthermore, the hospitality industry is rapidly evolving and subject to continuous technological changes. Our success will depend on our ability to keep up with the changes in technology and user behavior resulting from new developments and innovations. For example, as we provide our product and service offerings across a variety of mobile systems and devices, we are dependent on the interoperability of our services with popular mobile devices and mobile operating systems that we do not control, such as Android and iOS. If any changes in such mobile operating systems or devices degrade the functionality of our services or give preferential treatment to competitive services, the usage of our services could be adversely affected. In addition, we have invested in developing our data analytics and other technologies to improve our customer services and operational efficiency, but there is no guarantee that such investments may result in our anticipated outcomes or returns.
Technological innovations may also require substantial capital expenditures in product or service development as well as in modification of products, services or infrastructure. We cannot assure you that we can obtain financing to cover such expenditure. See “— We require significant capital to fund our operations, growth and technological investments. If we cannot obtain sufficient capital on acceptable terms, our business, financial condition and prospects may suffer.” If we fail to adapt our products and services to such changes in an effective and timely manner, we may suffer from decreased user traffic and user base, which, in turn, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The growth of third-party websites and other hotel reservation intermediaries and travel consolidators may adversely affect our margins and profitability.
Some of our hotel rooms are reserved through third-party websites and other hotel reservation intermediaries and travel consolidators to whom we pay commissions for such services. We believe that such intermediaries and consolidators aim to have consumers develop loyalties to their reservation systems rather than to hotel brands such as ours. In addition, as the competitive
landscape of the third-party hotel reservation intermediary business evolves, if one or more of these intermediaries and consolidators become a more significant channel through which our guests make reservations, they may be able to negotiate higher commissions, reduced room rates, or other significant concessions from us, which could adversely affect our margins and profitability. These intermediaries and consolidators also may favor other hotel brands with more promotional resources, leading to a decrease in our bookings. Although our contracts with many hospitality intermediaries offer preferential commission rates to hotels, we may not be able to renegotiate these contracts upon their expiration with terms as favorable as existing terms of these contracts.
We face risks associated with the misconduct of our employees, business partners and their employees and other related personnel.
We rely on our employees to maintain and operate our business and have implemented an internal code of conduct to guide the actions of our employees. However, we do not have control over the actions of our employees, our business partners and their employees, and any misbehavior of our employees could materially and adversely affect our reputation and business. Despite the security measures we have implemented, we may be vulnerable to misconduct committed by our employees, our business partners and their employees and other related personnel. If an actual or perceived misconduct occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our services could be harmed, we may lose current and potential customers, and we may be exposed to legal and financial risks, including those from legal claims, regulatory fines and penalties, which in turn could adversely affect our business, reputation and results of operations.
If we fail to maintain our relationships with our members and corporate account clients, our business and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Historically, we have derived a portion of our revenues from our loyalty program members and from our cooperation arrangements with certain corporate account clients. In 2022, over 80% of our room-nights were sold to our A-Card members and corporate account clients through our direct sales channels. We expect that these members and corporate account clients will contribute to the growth of our business in the near future.
We cannot assure you that our members will remain loyal patrons of our hotels and that our corporate account clients will agree to renew the relevant cooperation agreements upon their expiration, or enter into new agreements with us on substantially similar terms. Our negotiating position with corporate account clients also is limited given the competition in China’s hospitality industry. If we fail to enhance or maintain our relationships with our members, and the frequency of member stays at our hotels declines as a result, or if our corporate account clients decline to renew their cooperation agreements or propose new agreements with commercial terms less favorable to us, our business and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
The cessation, reduction or taxation of program benefits of our A-Card loyalty program could adversely affect our brand and guest loyalty.
We manage the A-Card loyalty program for our brand. Program members accumulate points based on eligible stays and hotel charges as well as purchase of our retail products and redeem the points for a range of benefits including free rooms and other items of value. The program is an important aspect of our business and of the affiliation value for hotel owners under franchise and management agreements. Currently, the program benefits are not taxed as income to members under PRC tax laws. If the program awards and benefits are materially altered, curtailed or taxed such that a material number of A-Card members choose to no longer participate in the program, this could adversely affect our business.
Scalpers may exploit our A-Card loyalty program by reserving rooms at member-only price and resell such room reservation to our prospective guests, which could adversely affect our guests’ hotel experience and harm our brand and business.
We offer our A-Card members certain discounts to room price as part of the membership benefits. Scalpers have tried to and may continue to exploit these A-Card room discounts by reserving rooms at a lower member-only price and resell to a non-member guest at a higher price. Such exploitation not only results in losses of our revenue but also adversely affects our guests’ hotel experience and harms our brand and business. To prevent such exploitation and ensure the quality of our guests’ hotel experience, we have taken various measures. Nevertheless, there can be no assurance that our efforts against such exploitation will be successful. If we fail to effectively prevent scalpers from exploiting our A-Card loyalty program, our guests’ hotel experience could be harmed and we will suffer loss of revenue, which could in turn adversely affect our brand, reputation and business.
We face various risks associated with our brand license agreements in connection with our themed hotels and our licensors which could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Our themed hotels are developed under license agreements which grant us the right to use certain intellectual property such as our business partners’ brand names, trademarks and logos. These license agreements typically have terms between one to 10 years, some of which are not automatically renewable, and give the licensor the right to terminate the license agreement due to certain reasons like material breach or non-performance of such license agreements. We may not be able to renew any or some of the existing license agreements. We believe our ability to retain our license agreements depends, in large part, on our relationships with our licensors. Any events or developments adversely affecting those relationships could adversely affect our ability to maintain and renew our license agreements on similar terms or at all. The termination or lack of renewal of one or more of our license agreements, or the renewal of a license agreement on less favorable terms, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. While we may enter into additional license agreements in the future, the terms of such license agreements may be less favorable than the terms of our existing license agreements. In addition, our collaboration with licensors are generally non-exclusive. Licensors may work with our competitors or new participants in the market. This lowers entry barrier for market players who plan to enter the themed hotel market and operate hotels based on the same non-exclusive licensed intellectual property rights, resulting in more competition and creating pricing pressure.
If we breach any obligations set forth in any of our license agreements, we could be subject to monetary and other penalties and our rights under such license agreements could be terminated, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The success of our themed hotels is also partially dependent on the reputation of our licensors and their intellectual property rights and the ability of our licensors to protect and maintain the intellectual property rights that we use in connection with our hotels, all of which may be harmed by factors outside our control, including unfavorable publicity or negative news regarding us or our licensors, which could adversely affect our reputation and our results of operations.
Any failure to protect our trademarks and other intellectual property rights could have a negative impact on our business.
We believe our brand, trade name, trademarks and other intellectual property are critical to our success. “Atour” and “Yaduo” represent a well-recognized brand in China’s hospitality industry and the success of our business depends in part upon our continued ability to use our brand, trade names and trademarks to increase brand awareness and to further develop our brand. Although we have registered “Yaduo”, “Atour” and other logos related to our business as trademarks in China, there is no assurance that any issued patents or registered trademarks will adequately protect our intellectual property, or that such patents and trademarks will not be challenged by third parties or found by a judicial authority to be invalid or unenforceable. Besides, our trade secrets may leak or otherwise become available to, or be independently discovered by, our competitors or other third parties. Some of our trademark applications may not be granted for various reasons, including existence of prior registrations, applications or rights, or rejection by the authorities in their discretion. If our trademark applications are not granted, we may have to use different marks for affected products or services, or seek other alternative arrangements, which might not be available on commercially reasonable terms, if at all.
In addition, we consider our technology platform and IT system to be key components of our competitive advantage and our growth strategy. There can be no assurance that our future computer software copyright applications will be granted. Monitoring and preventing the unauthorized use of our intellectual property is difficult. Any unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties may adversely affect our current and future revenues and our reputation. If there is a third party using similar brand or logos that attempt to cause confusion or diversion of customer demands away from us, preventing such behavior could be difficult, costly
and time-consuming and the steps we take may be inadequate to prevent the infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property. The unauthorized use of our trademarks or the use of confusingly similar brands could diminish the value of our brand and its market acceptance, competitive advantages and goodwill.
The measures we take to protect our brand, trade names, trademarks and other intellectual property rights may be costly, involve substantial management time and resources to enforce and may fail to prevent their unauthorized use by third parties. In the event that we resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, such litigation could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our managerial and financial resources, and could put our intellectual property at risk of being invalidated or narrowed in scope. There is no assurance that we will prevail in such litigation, and even if we do prevail, we may not obtain a meaningful recovery. Furthermore, the application of laws governing intellectual property rights in China is uncertain and evolving, and could involve substantial risks to us. If we are unable to adequately protect our brand, trade names, trademarks and other intellectual property rights, we may lose these rights and our business may suffer materially.
In addition, once our registered trademarks have expired, we will be able to renew our trademark registrations for another ten years upon paying a renewal fee. If we are unable to renew or maintain one or more trademark registrations, our ability to use such trademarks could be impaired, which could materially and adversely affect the performance of our existing franchise and management agreements, our ability to enter into future franchise and management agreements, and our business and results of operations.
We may be liable for intellectual property infringement relating to intellectual properties of third parties, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
We cannot assure you that other aspects of our operations do not or will not infringe upon or violate intellectual property rights (including but not limited to trademarks, patents, copyrights, know-how) or other rights (including but not limited to portraiture right) owned or held by third parties. We have been involved in claims against us alleging our infringement of third-party intellectual property rights on certain computer software. Any such intellectual property rights infringement claim could result in costly remedial measures and may adversely affect our business and financial condition. We have adopted systematic methods to reduce our exposure to the risks of intellectual property infringement claims. However, we cannot assure you those methods are sufficient to shield us from third party liabilities for intellectual property infringement, or our efforts will be considered favorably by a given court or relevant governmental authority. Liabilities for intellectual property infringement, or allegations of such infringement, may impose a burden on our management, cause penalties, lead to unfavorable media coverage and damage to our reputation, or even cause PRC authorities to impose sanctions on us, including, in serious cases, suspending our operation, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
Failure to retain our senior management team and other key employees could harm our business and operations.
Our future success significantly depends upon the continuing service of our senior management team, including, our founder, Chairman of Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Haijun Wang. If one or more members of our senior management team or other key employees are unable or unwilling to continue in their present position, we may not be able to replace them easily, or at all. As a result, our business could be severely disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. We do not carry key person insurance on any of our senior management team. In addition, our senior management team has limited experience in running public companies, which will require us to expend additional resources in hiring additional support staff and incur additional costs and expenses.
If we are not able to recruit, train and retain qualified managerial and other employees, our brand and our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Our ability to continue to conduct and expand our operations depends on our ability to attract and retain a large and growing number of qualified personnel in China. Our ability to meet our labor needs, including our ability to find qualified personnel to fill positions that become vacant, while controlling labor costs, is generally subject to numerous external factors, including the availability of a sufficient number of qualified persons in the work force of the markets in which we operate, unemployment levels within those markets, prevailing wage rates, changing demographics, health and other insurance costs and adoption of new or revised employment and labor laws and regulations. If we are unable to locate, attract or retain qualified personnel, or manage leadership transition successfully, the quality of service we provide to customers and franchisees may decrease and our financial performance may be adversely affected. In addition, if our costs of labor or related costs increase for other reasons or if new or revised labor laws, rules or regulations or healthcare laws are adopted or implemented that further increase our labor costs, our financial performance could be materially and adversely affected.
In particular, our hotel managers and HR representatives are responsible for managing our manachised hotels and interact with our guests on a daily basis and are critical to maintaining our consistent and high- quality accommodations and services, as well as our established brand and reputation. We aim to recruit, train and retain entrepreneurial, motivated and customer-oriented hotel managers and HR representatives with backgrounds and experience in hotel, service and other industries. We must recruit and train qualified hotel managers and HR representatives on a timely basis to keep pace with our rapid growth. There may be a limited supply of such qualified individuals in some of the metropolitan markets in China where we have operations and other cities into which we intend to expand. In addition, criteria such as dedication to work and commitment to high-quality of customer service are difficult to ascertain during the recruitment process. We also must provide continuous training to our hotel managers and HR representatives so that they can stay abreast of changes in our hotel operations and consumer preferences and demands, and meet and implement our quality standards. If we fail to recruit, train and retain qualified hotel managers and HR representatives, our quality standards may decrease in one or more of our hotels and our manachised hotels’ operation may be adversely affected, which in turn may have a material and adverse effect on our brand, our business, and our financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be successful in developing and achieving expected returns from our new products or services, including our innovative scenario-based retail services.
In addition to our hotel offerings, we are also currently engaged in other innovative business lines, including our scenario-based retail (including our expanding private label product offerings). There is no guarantee that we may further expand our product service offerings, attract more customers, and drive customer spending on such businesses.
In particular, our scenario-based retail services are subject to various potential liabilities and risks commonly associated with e-commerce or online retail, including, among others:
|●||product liability disputes and related liabilities;|
|●||food safety disputes and related liabilities;|
|●||intellectual property infringement disputes and related liabilities;|
|●||portrait right infringement disputes and liabilities associated with the marketing materials that we use to promote our products;|
|●||disputes and liabilities related to pricing, advertisements, consumer protection, privacy and data security;|
|●||non-compliance risks under various laws and regulations, including those laws and regulations relating to online platforms.|
|●||risks related to refund policy, storage and transportation of our products;|
|●||fluctuations in the price of raw materials;|
|●||reliance on third-party manufactures for our private label products and their ability to produce and supply products in compliance with our specifications;|
|●||lack of effective control over our franchisees, who act as distributors for our retail products; and|
|●||inventory impairment risks.|
Going forward, we plan to build lifestyle brands around hotel offerings and further diversify our non-hotel brand portfolio. However, any new products or services that we have launched or may launch in the future may not achieve anticipated returns. The development of a new product or service requires significant upfront market research and accurate prediction of customer preferences, followed by development process that takes a considerable amount of time as well as significant sales and marketing activities. We cannot assure you that our efforts in developing new products or services will be successful. If a new product or service is not well received by our customers, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to offset related costs and expenses, and our overall financial performance and condition may be adversely affected.
If we were to be sued for product liability, we could face substantial liabilities that exceed our resources.
The third-party and private label products that we sell through our scenario-based retail business could lead to the filing of product liability claims where someone may allege that the products that we sold failed to perform as designed or caused certain injuries or losses. We may be subject to product liability claims resulting from misuse of the products that we sold and we currently do not maintain any product liability insurance. A product liability claim could result in substantial damages and be costly and time-consuming for us to defend. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we will incur substantial liabilities and reputational harm. In addition, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, product liability claims may result in:
|●||costs of litigation;|
|●||distraction of management’s attention from our primary business;|
|●||the inability to market relevant products on our retail stores and online platforms;|
|●||decreased demand for such products;|
|●||damage to our business reputation;|
|●||substantial monetary awards to customers or other claimants;|
|●||loss of sales; or|
|●||termination of existing agreements by our partners and potential partners failing to partner with us.|
Any lack of requisite approvals, licenses or permits applicable to our online retail business may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our online retail business is subject to governmental supervision and regulation by the relevant PRC governmental authorities, including but not limited to the Ministry of Commerce and the MIIT. Together, these government authorities promulgate and enforce regulations that cover many aspects of the operation of the online retail industry, including entry into the industry, the scope of permissible business activities, licenses and permits for various business activities, and foreign investment. If the PRC government considers that we were operating without the proper approvals, licenses or permits, it has the power, among other things, to levy fines, confiscate our income, revoke our business licenses, and require us to discontinue our relevant business or impose restrictions on the affected portion of our business. Any of these actions by the PRC government may have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations. In addition, if we are unable to maintain and renew one or more of our licenses and certificates, or making appropriate reports or filings, we may be subject to sanctions and enforcement actions, which could adversely and materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we are unable to conduct sales and marketing activities cost-effectively, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We rely on our sales and marketing efforts to enlarge our customer base and drive the spending of our customers. In particular, effective sales and marketing activities are crucial to the expansion and success of our scenario-based retail business. Our sales and marketing activities may not be well received by the market and may not result in the levels of sales that we anticipate. We also may not be able to retain or recruit a sufficient number of experienced sales and marketing personnel, or to train newly hired sales and marketing personnel, which we believe is critical to implementing our sales and marketing strategies cost-effectively. Further, sales and marketing approaches and tools in China’s hospitality industry are evolving rapidly. This requires us to continually enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our sales and marketing activities and experiment with new methods to keep pace with industry developments and customer preferences. Failure to engage in sales and marketing activities in a cost-effective manner may reduce our market share, cause our sales to decline, slow down the growth of our scenario-based retail business, negatively impact our profitability, and materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be liable for improper collection, use or appropriation of personal information provided by our customers.
Our business involves collecting and retaining large volumes of internal and customer data, including personal information as our various information technology systems enter, process, summarize and report such data. We also maintain information about various aspects of our operations as well as regarding our employees. The integrity and protection of our customer, employee and company data are critical to our business. Our customers and employees expect that we will adequately protect their personal information. We are required by applicable laws to keep strictly confidential the personal information that we collect, and to take adequate security measures to safeguard such information.
The PRC Criminal Law, as amended by its Amendment 7 (effective on February 28, 2009) and Amendment 9 (effective on November 1, 2015), prohibits institutions, companies and their employees from selling or otherwise illegally disclosing a citizen’s personal information obtained during the course of performing duties or providing services or obtaining such information through theft or other illegal ways. On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress issued the Cybersecurity Law of the PRC, or Cybersecurity Law, which became effective on June 1, 2017. Pursuant to the Cybersecurity Law, network operators must not, without users’ consent, collect their personal information, and may only collect users’ personal information necessary to provide their services. Providers are also obliged to provide security maintenance for their products and services and shall comply with provisions regarding the protection of personal information as stipulated under the relevant laws and regulations. The Civil Code of the PRC (issued by the PRC National People’s Congress on May 28, 2020 and effective from January 1, 2021) provides main legal basis for privacy and personal information infringement claims under the Chinese civil laws. PRC regulators, including the Cyberspace Administration of China, MIIT, and the Ministry of Public Security have been increasingly focused on regulation in the areas of data security and data protection. The PRC regulatory requirements regarding cybersecurity are constantly evolving. For instance, various regulatory bodies in China, including the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR, have enforced data privacy and protection laws and regulations with varying and evolving standards and interpretations. On December 28, 2021, the Cyberspace Administration of China and 12 other relevant PRC government authorities published the amended Cybersecurity Review Measures, which came into effect on February 15, 2022. The final Cybersecurity Review Measures provide that a “network platform operator” that possesses personal information of more than one million users and seeks a listing in a foreign country must apply for a cybersecurity review. Further, the relevant PRC governmental authorities may initiate a cybersecurity review against any company if they determine certain network products, services, or data processing activities of such company affect or may affect national security. As a network platform operator who possesses personal information of more than one million users for purposes of the Cybersecurity Review Measures, we previously had applied for and completed a cybersecurity review with respect to the listing of the ADSs on Nasdaq in November 2022 pursuant to the Cybersecurity Review Measures. We have been advised by our PRC legal advisor that this secondary offering is not subject to the cybersecurity review requirements under the Cybersecurity Review Measures.
On June 10, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, or the SCNPC, promulgated the PRC Data Security Law, which came into effect in September 2021. The PRC Data Security Law imposes data security and privacy obligations on entities and individuals carrying out data activities, and introduces a data classification and hierarchical protection system based on the importance of data in economic and social development, as well as the degree of harm it will cause to national security, public interests, or legitimate rights and interests of individuals or organizations when such data is tampered with, destroyed, leaked, or illegally acquired or used. The PRC Data Security Law also provides for a national security review procedure for data activities that may affect national security and imposes export restrictions on certain data and information.
As uncertainties remain regarding the interpretation and implementation of these laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that we will comply with such regulations in all respects and we may be ordered to rectify or terminate any actions that are deemed illegal by regulatory authorities. We may also become subject to fines and/or other sanctions which may have material adverse effect on our business, operations and financial condition.
On August 20, 2021, the SCNPC promulgated the PRC Personal Information Protection Law, or the PIPL, which came into effect in November 2021. In addition to other rules and principles of personal information processing, the PIPL specifically provides rules for processing sensitive personal information. Sensitive personal information refers to personal information that, once leaked or illegally used, could easily lead to the infringement of human dignity or harm to the personal or property safety of an individual, including biometric recognition, religious belief, specific identity, medical and health, financial account, personal whereabouts and other information of an individual, as well as any personal information of a minor under the age of 14. Only where there is a specific purpose and sufficient necessity, and under circumstances where strict protection measures are taken, may personal information processors process sensitive personal information. A personal information processor shall inform the individual of the necessity of processing such sensitive personal information and the impact thereof on the individual’s rights and interests. We may collect
sensitive personal information such as ID card photos and personal photos from our customers for purpose of verifying their personal identities when they carry out online check-in or make online reservation with our hotels. As uncertainties remain regarding the interpretation and implementation of the PIPL, we cannot assure you that we will comply with the PIPL in all respects and regulatory authorities may order us to rectify or terminate our current practice of collecting and processing sensitive personal information. We may also become subject to fines and/or other penalties which may have material adverse effect on our business, operations and financial condition.
While we take various measures to comply with all applicable data privacy and protection laws and regulations, there is no guarantee that our current security measures and those of our third-party service providers may always be adequate for the protection of our customer, employee or company data; and like all companies, we have experienced data incidents from time to time. In addition, given the size of our customer base and the types and volume of personal data on our system, we may be a particularly attractive target for computer hackers, foreign governments or cyber terrorists. Unauthorized access to our proprietary internal and customer data may be obtained through break-ins, sabotage, breach of our secure network by an unauthorized party, computer viruses, computer denial-of-service attacks, employee theft or misuse, breach of the security of the networks of our third-party service providers, or other misconduct. Because the techniques used by computer programmers who may attempt to penetrate and sabotage our proprietary internal and customer data change frequently and may not be recognized until launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques. Unauthorized access to our proprietary internal and customer data may also be obtained through inadequate use of security controls. Any of such incidents may harm our reputation and adversely affect our business and results of operations. In addition, we may be subject to negative publicity about our security and privacy policies, systems, or measurements from time to time.
Any failure to prevent or mitigate security breaches, cyber-attacks or other unauthorized access to our systems or disclosure of our customers’ data, including their personal information, could result in loss or misuse of such data, interruptions to our service system, diminished customer experience, loss of customer confidence and trust, impairment of our technology infrastructure, and harm our reputation and business, resulting in significant legal and financial exposure and potential lawsuits.
We are subject to various hospitality industry, health and safety, construction, fire prevention and environmental laws and regulations that may subject us to liability.
Each hotel in our chain must hold a basic business license and a special industry license issued by the local public security bureau and must have hotel operation included in the business scope of their respective business license. In addition, each of our hotels must complete fire prevention safety inspection/commitment with the local public security bureau and obtain hygiene permits and environmental impact assessment approvals. We also need to obtain approvals and make filings for most of our hotel construction projects with fire prevention authorities and construction authorities. Our business also is subject to various health and safety and environmental laws and regulations that affect our operations and conversion activities in the jurisdictions in which we operate, including construction, building, zoning, environmental protection, food safety, public safety, health and sanitary requirements.
As of the date of this prospectus, a small number of our leased hotels have not obtained approvals from or made appropriate filings with applicable fire prevention authorities, construction authorities, environmental protection authorities, health administration or public security bureau, and a small number of our leased hotels selling or serving food have not obtained the relevant approvals from local counterparts of the SAMR for such activities. As a result of these non-compliance matters, we have been and may be subject to monetary damages, the suspension or disruption of our operations or conversion activities, or other administrative penalties or investigations, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We cannot assure you that we or our employees comply with or will comply with all present and future laws and regulations related to our business, including without limitation to hospitality industry, health, safety, construction, fire prevention and environmental laws and regulations. Such non-compliance may subject us to monetary damages, the imposition of fines or other administrative penalties or investigations against us, or the suspension of our operations or conversion activities, which in turn could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, if there are new laws, regulations, policies or guidelines introduced to impose additional regulatory approvals, licenses, permits and requirements, our business may be disrupted and our results of operations may suffer. For example, new regulations could require us to retrofit or modify our hotels or incur other significant expenses. Any failure by us to control the use of, or to adequately restrict the discharge of, hazardous substances in our conversion activities, or otherwise operate in compliance with environmental laws, could subject us to potentially significant monetary damages and fines or suspension of our business operations, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Owners of our manachised hotels are subject to these same permit and safety requirements. Although our manachised hotel arrangements require the hotel owners to obtain and maintain all required permits or licenses, we have limited control over the manachised hotel owners. Any failure to obtain and maintain the required permits or licenses may require us to delay opening of a manachised hotel or to forgo or terminate our manachised hotel arrangement, which could harm our brand, result in lost management revenues and subject us to potential indirect liability. Each of the foregoing could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Accidents, injuries or prohibited activities in our hotels may adversely affect our reputation and subject us to liability.
There are inherent risks of accidents, injuries or prohibited activities (such as illegal drug use, gambling, violence or prostitution by guests) taking place in hotels. The occurrence of one or more accidents, injuries or prohibited activities at any of our hotels could adversely affect our safety reputation among guests, harm our brand, decrease our overall occupancy rates, and increase our costs by requiring us to implement additional safety measures. In addition, if accidents, injuries or prohibited activities occur at any of our hotels, we may be held liable for costs or damages and fines. Our current property and liability insurance policies may not provide adequate or any coverage for such losses, and we may be unable to renew our insurance policies or obtain new insurance policies without increases in premiums and deductibles or decreases in coverage levels, or at all.
The restaurants operated by our hotels face risks related to instances of food-borne illnesses and other food safety accidents.
Some of our hotels directly operate the restaurant located in the hotels. The restaurant business is susceptible to food-borne illnesses and other food safety accidents. We cannot assure you that our internal controls and training will be effective in preventing all food-borne illnesses.
Furthermore, our reliance on third-party food suppliers and distributors increases the risk that food-borne illness incidents could be caused by third-party food suppliers and distributors outside of our control and the risk of multiple locations being affected rather than a single restaurant. New illnesses resistant to any precautions may develop in the future, or diseases with long incubation periods could arise that could give rise to claims or allegations on a retroactive basis. Reports in the media of instances of food-borne illnesses could result in fines and other penalties and, if highly publicized, negatively impact restaurant sales, forcing the closure of some restaurants and affect our customers’ confidence in our hotel business. Furthermore, other illnesses, such as hand, foot and mouth disease or avian influenza, could adversely affect the supply of some of the restaurants’ food products and significantly increase such restaurants’ costs, which may also adversely affect the results of operations of the relevant hotels.
Our financial and operating performance may be adversely affected by epidemics, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters and other catastrophes.
Losses caused by epidemics, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters and other catastrophes, earthquakes or typhoons, are either uninsurable or too expensive to justify insuring against. In the event an uninsured loss or a loss in excess of insured limits occurs, we could lose all or a portion of the capital we have invested in a hotel, as well as the anticipated future revenue from the hotel. In that event, we might nevertheless remain obligated for any financial obligations related to the hotel. Similarly, war (including the potential for war), terrorist activity (including threats of terrorist activity) and travel-related accidents, as well as geopolitical uncertainty and international conflict, may affect travel and may in turn have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations. In addition, we may not be adequately prepared in contingency planning or recovery capability in relation to a major incident or crisis, and as a result, our operational continuity may be adversely affected and our reputation may be harmed.
We have limited insurance coverage.
Our property insurance covers the assets that we own at our leased hotels and the buildings in which our leased hotels operate. We also require our manachised hotel owners to purchase customary insurance policies but they may fail to satisfy these requirements. If we are held liable for amounts and claims exceeding the limits of our insurance coverage or outside the scope of our insurance coverage, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected. Even if the amounts and claims are within the limits and scope of our insurance coverage, the insurance provider may not be able to make the compensation payment to us in a timely manner. Any business disruptions or natural disasters may result in us incurring substantial costs and diversion of our corporate and business resources.
We will continue to incur additional costs as a result of being a public company.
We are a public company and expect to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. These additional costs could negatively affect our financial results. In addition, changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure, including regulations implemented by Nasdaq, may increase legal and financial compliance costs and make some activities more time-consuming. These laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. We intend to invest resources to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards, and this investment may result in increased general and administrative expenses and a diversion of management’s time and attention from revenue-generating activities to compliance activities. If, notwithstanding our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards, we fail to comply, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud.
In connection with the audits of our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus, we and our independent registered public accounting firm identified certain material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting. As defined in the standards established by the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, a “material weakness” is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.
The material weaknesses identified include:
Neither we nor our independent registered public accounting firm undertook a comprehensive assessment of our internal control for purposes of identifying and reporting material weaknesses and other control deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. Had we performed a formal assessment of our internal control over financial reporting or had our independent registered public accounting firm performed an audit of our internal control over financial reporting, additional deficiencies may have been identified.
Following the identification of the material weaknesses and other control deficiencies, we have taken measures and plan to continue to take measures to remediate these deficiencies. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Internal Control Over Financial Reporting.” However, the implementation of these measures may not fully address such weaknesses and deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. Our failure to correct these deficiencies or our failure to discover and address any other deficiencies could result in inaccuracies in our financial statements and impair our ability to comply with applicable financial reporting requirements and related regulatory filings on a timely basis. Moreover, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could significantly hinder our ability to prevent fraud.
We are a public company in the United States that is subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or Section 404, requires that we include a report from management on our internal control over financial reporting in our annual report on Form 20-F beginning with our annual report for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2023. In addition, once we cease to be an “emerging growth company” as such term is defined in the JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. Our management may conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is not effective. Moreover, even if our management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm, after conducting its own independent testing, may issue a report that is qualified if it is not satisfied with our internal control over financial reporting or the level at which our controls are documented, designed, operated or reviewed, or if it interprets the relevant requirements differently from us. In addition,
our reporting obligations as a public company may place a significant strain on our management, operational and financial resources and systems for the foreseeable future. We may be unable to timely complete our evaluation testing and any required remediation.
During the course of documenting and testing our internal control procedures, in order to satisfy the requirements of Section 404, we may identify other or more material weaknesses or deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, as these standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404. If we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could in turn limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations and lead to a decline in the trading price of the ADSs. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions. We may also be required to restate our consolidated financial statements for prior periods.
Our net profit could be adversely affected by share-based compensation.
In 2017, our PRC subsidiary Atour Shanghai adopted the 2017 Share Incentive Plan, or the 2017 PRC Plan. In 2021, we adopted the Public Company Share Incentive Plan, or the Public Company Plan, at the Cayman Islands’ level in preparation for our initial public offering in November 2022, to replace the 2017 PRC Plan. The purpose of the Public Company Plan is to recognize and reward participants for their contribution to our company, to attract suitable personnel and to provide incentives to them to remain with and further contribute to us. See “Management — Public Company Plan.”
Under the Public Company Plan, the maximum aggregate number of Class A ordinary shares we are authorized to issue pursuant to equity awards granted thereunder, subject to certain adjustments pursuant to the terms thereof, is 51,029,546 Class A ordinary shares, which have been reserved for issuance pursuant to the Public Company Plan accordingly. As of May 16, 2023, a total of 25,580,014 share options corresponding to underlying 25,580,014 Class A ordinary shares had been granted to the participants under the Public Company Plan.
For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021, we did not recognize any share-based compensation expenses for the share options granted as such awards contain a performance condition such that the awards vest upon the completion of a Qualified IPO defined under our share incentive plans and is not considered probable until the event happens. Upon the completion of our initial public offering in November 2022, we immediately recognized share-based compensation expenses of RMB96.6 million with respect to the share options vested cumulatively. For the year ended December 31, 2022, we recognized RMB163.2 million of share-based compensation expenses. For the three months ended March 31, 2023, we recognized RMB141.6 million (US$20.6 million) of share-based compensation expenses.
We believe the granting of share-based awards is of significant importance to our ability to attract and retain key personnel and employees, and we expect to grant additional share-based awards to our employees in the future. As a result, our expenses associated with share-based awards may increase, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
Failure to comply with PRC laws and regulations related to labor and employee benefits may subject us to penalties or additional cost.
Companies operating in China are required to comply with various laws and regulations related to labor and employment benefits. For example, companies are required to participate in various government- sponsored employee benefit plans, including certain social insurance, housing provident funds and other welfare-oriented payment obligations, and contribute to the plans in amounts equal to certain percentages of salaries, including bonuses and allowances, of employees up to a maximum amount specified by the local government from time to time at locations where our employees are based. The requirement of employee benefit plans has not been implemented consistently by the local governments in China given the different levels of economic development in different locations. Apart from that, if a company intends to adopt flexible working hour arrangement and comprehensive working hour scheme, it shall fulfill the requirements in relevant regulations, and make filings with labor authorities, or the company will be subject to penalties and may be required to pay extra fees to its employees.
We cannot assure you that we have complied or will be able to comply with all labor-related law and regulations, including those relating to obligations to make social insurance payments, contribute to the housing provident funds, as well as make all filing for
comprehensive working hour scheme. Besides, to efficiently administrate the contribution of employment benefit plans of our employees in some cities, we engage third-party agents to make the contribution for our employees. Our failure to make contributions to various employee benefit plans and in complying with applicable PRC labor-related laws may subject us to fines, penalties, government investigations or labor disputes and we could be required to make up the contributions for these plans as well as to pay late fees and fines, which may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We have entered into, and may in the future enter into, strategic transactions to complement our organic growth which may not be successful.
We have entered into, and may in the future enter into, strategic transactions to complement our organic growth, including pursuing selective acquisitions, asset dispositions, joint venture and other types of alliances with business partners. Our potential acquisition and investment targets include high quality manachised hotels, boutique regional hotels and influential lifestyle brands. If we decide to pursue strategic transactions, we may not be successful in identifying suitable opportunities or completing such transactions or investments, and our competitors may be more effective in executing and closing strategic arrangements in competitive bid situations than us. Our ability to enter into and complete strategic transactions may be restricted by, or subject to, various approvals under PRC law or may not otherwise be possible, may result in a possible dilutive issuance of our securities, or may require us to seek additional financing. We also may experience difficulties integrating acquired operations, services, corporate cultures and personnel into our existing business and operations. Strategic transactions may also expose us to potential risks, including risks associated with unforeseen or hidden liabilities, the diversion of resources from our existing business, and the potential loss of, or harm to, relationships with our employees or guests as a result of our integration of new businesses. In addition, following completion of strategic transactions, our management and resources may be diverted from their core business activities due to the integration process, which may harm the effective management of our business. Furthermore, we may not achieve the expected level of any synergy benefits on integration and/or the actual cost of delivering such benefits may exceed the anticipated cost. Any of these factors may have an adverse effect on our competitive position, results of operations and financial condition.
We require significant capital to fund our operations, growth and technological investments. If we cannot obtain sufficient capital on acceptable terms, our business, financial condition and prospects may suffer.
We require significant capital and resources for our operations and continued growth. We expect to make significant investments in the expansion and operations of our hotel network and lifestyle brand portfolio, and the development of our technological capabilities, which may increase our net cash used in operating activities. Our sales and marketing expenses may also increase to retain existing customers and attract new customers.
Our ability to obtain additional capital in the future is subject to a number of uncertainties, including our future business development, financial condition and results of operations, general market conditions for financing activities by companies in our industry, and macro-economic and other conditions in China and globally. If we cannot obtain sufficient capital on acceptable terms to meet our capital needs, we may not execute our growth strategies, and our business, financial condition and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
If we are unable to access funds to maintain our hotels’ condition and appearance, or if our franchisees fail to make investments necessary to maintain or improve their properties, the attractiveness of our hotels and our reputation could suffer and our hotel occupancy rates may decline.
In order to maintain our hotels’ condition and attractiveness, ongoing renovations and other leasehold improvements, including periodic replacement of furniture, fixtures and equipment, are required. In particular, we manachise properties leased or owned by franchisees under the terms of franchise and management agreements, substantially all of which require our franchisees to comply with standards that are essential to maintaining the relevant product integrity and our reputation. We depend on our franchisees to comply with these requirements by maintaining and improving properties through investments, including investments in furniture, fixtures, amenities and personnel. Such investments and expenditures require ongoing funding and, to the extent we or our franchisees cannot fund these expenditures from existing cash or cash flow generated from operations, we or our franchisees must borrow or raise capital through financing. We or our franchisees may not be able to access capital and our franchisees may be unwilling to spend available capital when necessary, even if required by the terms of our franchise and management agreements. If we or our franchisees fail to make investments necessary to maintain or improve the properties, our hotel’s attractiveness and reputation could suffer, we could lose market share to our competitors and our RevPAR may decline.
Increasing focus on environmental, social and governance matters may impose additional costs on us or expose us to additional risks. Failure to comply with the laws and regulations on environmental, social and governance matters may subject us to penalties and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operation.
The PRC government and public advocacy groups have been increasingly focused on environment, social and governance (“ESG”) issues in recent years, making our business more sensitive to ESG issues and changes in governmental policies and laws and regulations associated with environment protection and other ESG-related matters. Investor advocacy groups, certain institutional investors, investment funds, and other influential investors are also increasingly focused on ESG practices and in recent years have placed increasing importance on the implications and social cost of their investments. Regardless of the industry, increased focus from investors and the PRC government on ESG and similar matters may hinder access to capital, as investors may decide to reallocate capital or to not commit capital as a result of their assessment of a company’s ESG practices. Any ESG concern or issue could increase our regulatory compliance costs. If we do not adapt to or comply with the evolving expectations and standards on ESG matters from investors and the PRC government or are perceived to have not responded appropriately to the growing concern for ESG issues, regardless of whether there is a legal requirement to do so, we may suffer from reputational damage and the business, financial condition, and the price of the ADSs could be materially and adversely effected.
We may be involved in legal and administrative proceedings in the ordinary course of our business. Any adverse outcome of these legal proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We, our shareholders, directors, officers, employees or affiliates are or may be involved in various legal and administrative proceedings in the ordinary course of business from time to time, involving governmental authorities, competitors, business partners, customers and employees, among others. Claims arising out of actual or alleged violations of law could be asserted under a variety of laws, including but not limited to intellectual property laws, contract laws, tort laws, unfair competition laws, labor and employment laws, privacy laws, tax laws, foreign exchange laws, and property laws. No assurances can be given as to the outcome of any pending legal and administrative proceedings, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Even if we and our related parties are successful in our attempt to defend ourselves in legal and administrative actions or to assert our rights under various laws, enforcing our rights against the various parties involved may be expensive, time-consuming and ultimately futile. These actions could expose us to negative publicity and to substantial monetary damages and legal defense costs, injunctive relief, and criminal and civil liabilities and/or penalties.
We are subject to third-party payment processing-related risks.
We accept payments through major third-party online payment channels in China, as well as bank transfers and credit cards. We may also be susceptible to fraud, user data leakage and other illegal activities in connection with the various payment methods we offer. In addition, our business depends on the billing, payment and escrow systems of the third-party payment service providers to maintain accurate records of payments by customers and collect such payments. If the quality, utility, convenience or attractiveness of these payment processing and escrow services declines, or if we have to change the pattern of using these payment services for any reason, the attractiveness of our company could be materially and adversely affected. We are also subject to various rules, regulations and requirements, regulatory or otherwise, governing electronic funds transfers which could change or be reinterpreted to make it difficult or impossible for us to comply. If we fail to comply with these rules or requirements, we may be subject to fines and higher transaction fees and become unable to accept the current online payments solutions from our customers, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Business involving online payment services is subject to a number of risks that could materially and adversely affect third-party online payment service providers’ ability to provide payment processing and escrow services to us, including:
|●||dissatisfaction with these online payment services or decreased use of their services;|
|●||increasing competition, including from other established Chinese internet companies, payment service providers and companies engaged in other financial technology services;|
|●||changes to rules or practices applicable to payment systems that link to third-party online payment service providers;|
|●||breach of customers’ personal information and concerns over the use and security of information collected from our customers;|
|●||service outages, system failures or failures to effectively scale the system to handle large and growing transaction volumes;|
|●||increasing costs to third-party online payment service providers, including fees charged by banks to process transactions through online payment channels, which would also increase our costs of revenues; and|
|●||failure to manage funds accurately or loss of funds, whether due to employee fraud, security breaches, technical errors or otherwise.|
Seasonality of our business and national or regional special events may cause fluctuations in our results of operations and financial condition, and adversely affect our profitability.
The hospitality industry is subject to fluctuations in revenues due to seasonality. The periods during which our properties experience higher revenues vary from property to property, depending principally upon their location, type of property and competitive mix within the specific location. Generally, the first quarter, in which both the New Year and Spring Festival holidays fall, accounts for a lower percentage of our annual revenues than the other quarters of the year. In addition, certain special events, such as large-scale exhibition, concerts or sports events, may increase the demand for our hotels significantly as such special events may attract travelers into and within the regions in China where we operate hotels. Based on historical results, we generally expect our net revenues generated from our hotel offerings to be higher in the remaining three quarters of each year than in the first quarter due to general travel and consumption patterns in China.
Our advertising, promotional and branding content may subject us to penalties and other administrative actions.
Under PRC advertising laws and regulations, we are obligated to monitor our advertising, promotional and branding content to ensure that such content is true and accurate and in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Violation of these laws and regulations may subject us to penalties, including fines, confiscation of our advertising income, orders to cease dissemination of the advertisements and orders to publish an announcement correcting the misleading information. In circumstances involving serious violations by us, PRC government authorities may force us to terminate our advertising operations or revoke our licenses.
We cannot assure you that all the content contained in our advertisements or other branding content or materials is true and accurate as required by, and complies in all aspects with, the advertising laws and regulations, especially given the uncertainty in the interpretation of these PRC laws and regulations. We conduct certain advertising, promotional and branding activities through social media and other online channels, and relevant content may also be subject to these PRC advertising laws and regulations. If we are found to be in violation of applicable PRC advertising laws and regulations, we may be subject to penalties and our reputation may be harmed, which may negatively affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
Changes in China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We conduct all of our operations in China and all of our revenue is derived from our operations in China. Accordingly, our results of operations and prospects are, to a significant degree, subject to economic, political and legal developments in China. The economy of China differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including its level of development, its growth rate and its control over foreign exchange. In addition, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industrial development. It also has significant influence over China’s economic growth through the allocation of resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policies, restricting the inflow and outflow of foreign capital and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. The PRC government also has significant authority to exert influence on the ability of a China-based company, such as our company, to conduct its business.
The global macroeconomic environment faces significant challenges in the near-term future. For example, there is considerable uncertainty about the short and long-term economic impact of the monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and government authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including but not limited to the United States and China. There are also material concerns about the current and future relationship between the United States and China. Specifically, it is possible that relations between these two countries may deteriorate further. Deterioration in political conditions and abrupt changes in Sino-U.S. relations are difficult to predict and could adversely affect China’s overall economic and market conditions and consequently our business, operating results and financial condition. Moreover, any ongoing controversies between the United States and China, whether or not related to our business, could cause investors to be unwilling to hold or buy the ADSs representing our Class A ordinary shares and consequently cause the trading price of the ADSs to decline. The various economic and policy measures enacted
by the PRC government to forestall economic downturns or bolster China’s economic growth could materially affect our business. Any adverse change in the economic conditions in China, policies of the PRC government or laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China and, in turn, our business.
Uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws, and changes in laws and regulations in China could adversely affect us and limit the legal protections available to you and us.
Our operating subsidiaries are incorporated under and governed by the laws of the PRC. In 1979, the PRC government began to promulgate a comprehensive system of laws and regulations governing economic matters in general, such as foreign investment, corporate organization and governance, commerce, taxation and trade. As a significant part of our business is conducted in China, our operations are principally governed by PRC laws and regulations. The overall effect of legislation over the past three decades has significantly enhanced the protections afforded to various forms of foreign investments in China. In particular, the PRC legal system is a civil law system based on written statutes. Prior court decisions under the civil law system may be cited for reference, but have limited precedential value. However, since the PRC legal system continues to evolve rapidly, the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involve uncertainties, which may limit legal protections available to us. Uncertainties due to evolving laws and regulations could also impede the ability of a China-based company, such as our company, to obtain or maintain permits or licenses required to conduct business in China. In the absence of required permits or licenses, governmental authorities could impose material sanctions or penalties on us. In addition, some regulatory requirements issued by certain PRC government authorities may not be consistently applied by other PRC government authorities (including local government authorities), thus making strict compliance with all regulatory requirements impractical, or in some circumstances impossible. For example, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce the legal protection that we enjoy either by law or contract. However, since PRC administrative and court authorities have discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be difficult to predict the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy. Such uncertainties, including uncertainty over the scope and effect of our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights, could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.
Furthermore, if China adopts more stringent standards with respect to environmental protection or corporate social responsibilities, we may incur increased compliance costs or become subject to additional restrictions in our operations. Intellectual property rights and confidentiality protections in China may also not be as effective as in the United States or other countries. In addition, we cannot predict the effects of future developments in the PRC legal system on our business operations, including the promulgation of new laws, or changes to existing laws or the interpretation or enforcement thereof. These uncertainties could limit the legal protections available to us and our investors, including you. Moreover, any litigation in China may be protracted and result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources and management attention.
The PRC government has significant oversight over our business and may influence our operations as the government deems appropriate to further regulatory, political and societal goals. The PRC government has recently published new policies that significantly affected certain industries such as the education and internet industries, and we cannot rule out the possibility that it will in the future release regulations or policies regarding our industry that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, the PRC government has recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over securities offerings and other capital markets activities that are conducted overseas and foreign investment in China-based companies like us. Any such influence on our business operations or action to exert more oversight and control over securities offerings and other capital markets activities, once taken by the PRC government, could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and the value of our Class A ordinary shares or the ADSs, or significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or in extreme cases, become worthless.
Uncertainties exist with respect to the enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation of the laws and regulations with respect to our online platform business operation.
Our online platform business is subject to various internet-related laws and regulations. These internet-related laws and regulations are relatively new and evolving, and their enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation involve certain uncertainties.
For example, On February 7, 2021, the Anti-monopoly Commission of the State Council promulgated Guidelines to Anti-Monopoly in the Field of Platform Economy, or the Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for Platform Economy. The Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for Platform Economy provides operational standards and guidelines for identifying certain internet platforms’ abuse of
market dominant position which are prohibited to restrict unfair competition and safeguard users’ interests, including without limitation, prohibiting personalized pricing using big data and analytics, selling products below cost without reasonable causes, actions or arrangements seen as exclusivity arrangements, using technology means to block competitors’ interface, using bundle services to sell services or products. In addition, internet platforms’ compulsory collection of user data may be viewed as abuse of dominant market position that may have the effect to eliminate or promulgated restrict competition. In August 2021, the SCNPC officially promulgated the Personal Information Protection Law, which became effective in November 2021. The Personal Information Protection Law provides the basic regime for personal information protection, including without limitation, stipulating an expanded definition of personal information, providing a long-arm jurisdiction in cross-border scenarios, emphasizing individual rights, and prohibiting rampant infringement of personal information, such as stealing, selling, or secretly collecting personal information. In addition, on June 10, 2021, the SCNPC promulgated the PRC Data Security Law, which came into effect in September 2021. The Security Law, among others, provides for security review procedures for data activities that may affect national security.
On August 31, 2018, the SCNPC promulgated the E-commerce Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2019. The E-commerce Law imposes a series of requirements on e-commerce operators including e-commerce platform operators, merchants operating on the platform and the individuals and entities carrying out business online. The platform governance measures we adopt in response to the enhanced regulatory requirements may fail to meet these requirements and may lead to penalties or our loss of merchants to those platforms, or to complaints or claims made against us by customers on our platforms.
As there are uncertainties regarding the enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation of the existing and future internet-related laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that our business operations will comply with such regulations in all respects and we may be ordered to terminate certain of our business operations that are deemed illegal by the regulatory authorities and become subject to fines and/or other sanctions.
Trading in our securities may be prohibited under the HFCAA if the PCAOB determines that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely our auditor, and as a result, U.S. national securities exchanges, such as Nasdaq, may determine to delist the ADSs.
Our independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included in this prospectus, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the PCAOB, is required by the laws of the United States to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB to assess its compliance with the laws of the United States and professional standards. Our auditor is located in China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has historically been unable to conduct inspections and investigations of auditors completely, without the approval of the Chinese authorities. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China in the past has made it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our independent registered public accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China subject to the same requirements. As a result, certain investors have historically been deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections.
Recently, as part of a continued regulatory focus in the United States on access to audit and other information currently protected by national law, in particular China’s, the United States enacted the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCAA, in December 2020. One of the effects of this HFCAA is that trading in our securities on U.S. markets, including Nasdaq, may be prohibited if the PCAOB determines that it is unable to inspect or investigate our auditor to its satisfaction for two consecutive years. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued the HFCAA Determination Report to notify the SEC of its determinations that the PCAOB was unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong, one of which is our auditor. On December 15, 2022, the PCAOB announced that it had been able to conduct inspections and investigations completely of PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2022, vacating its previous 2021 Determinations accordingly. As a result, we do not expect to be identified as a “Commission-Identified Issuer” under the HFCAA for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022 after we file this registration statement of which this prospectus is a part, because of the fact our auditor is no longer in the category of audit firms the PCAOB is unable to inspect and investigate to its satisfaction.
However, whether the PCAOB will continue to conduct inspections and investigations completely to its satisfaction of PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong is subject to uncertainty and depends on a number of factors out of our, and our auditor’s, control, including positions taken by authorities of the PRC. The PCAOB is expected to continue to demand complete access to inspections and investigations against accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong in the future and states that it has already made plans to resume regular inspections in early 2023 and beyond.
On May 10, 2023, the PCAOB released inspection reports with respect to its inspections of audits performed by KPMG in mainland China and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Hong Kong and PCAOB inspectors found multiple deficiencies other than audits with an incorrect opinion on the financial statements and/or internal control over financial reporting. The PCAOB inspection reports do not make public criticisms or potential defects in, the accounting firms’ systems of quality control, to the extent any are identified. If the accounting firms do not address to the PCAOB’s satisfaction any criticism of, or potential defect in, the firms’ systems of quality control within 12 months after the issuance of the reports, the PCAOB will make public any such deficiency.
The PCAOB is required under the HFCAA to make its determination on an annual basis with regards to its ability to inspect and investigate completely accounting firms based in the mainland China and Hong Kong. The possibility of being a “Commission-Identified Issuer” and the consequential risk of necessitating delisting of our securities in the United States could continue to adversely affect the trading price of the ADSs.
If the PCAOB determines in the future that it no longer has full access to inspect and investigate accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong and we continue to use such accounting firm to conduct audit work, we would be identified as a “Commission-Identified Issuer” under the HFCAA following the filing of the annual report for the relevant fiscal year. If we were so identified for two consecutive years, trading in our securities on U.S. markets would be prohibited. Additionally, we may be unable to switch to a suitable and acceptable auditor within two years following an adverse determination by the PCAOB of its ability to inspect KPMG. Any of these circumstances would substantially impair your ability to sell or purchase the ADSs when you wish to do so. Furthermore, such trading prohibition would significantly affect our ability to raise capital on terms acceptable to us, or at all, which would have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and prospects
The PCAOB inspects the accounting firms over which it has jurisdiction from time to time. If PCAOB inspections were to lead to an investigation of an accounting firm that found violations of laws, professional standards or rules, the PCAOB could impose sanctions on such firm. These sanctions could include censures, monetary penalties, and limitations on such firm’s ability to audit public company financial statements. If an accounting firm were subject to such sanctions, any company whose financial statements are audited by such firm, including our company, could need to find an alternative auditor. Any change in auditor or inability to find a suitable replacement auditor could materially adversely affect the company’s share price, business, financial condition and prospects or subject the company to delisting risk.
Proceedings instituted by the SEC against Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In December 2012, the SEC instituted administrative proceedings against the “big four” PRC-based accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, alleging that these firms had violated U.S. securities laws and the SEC’s rules and regulations thereunder by failing to provide to the SEC the firms’ audit work papers with respect to certain PRC-based companies that are publicly traded in the United States.
On January 22, 2014, the administrative law judge, or the ALJ, presiding over the matter rendered an initial decision that each of the firms had violated the SEC’s rules of practice by failing to produce audit papers and other documents to the SEC. The initial decision censured each of the firms and barred them from practicing before the SEC for a period of six months.
On February 6, 2015, the four China-based accounting firms each agreed to a censure and to pay a fine to the SEC to settle the dispute and avoid suspension of their ability to practice before the SEC and audit U.S.-listed companies. The settlement required the firms to follow detailed procedures and to seek to provide the SEC with access to Chinese firms’ audit documents via the CSRC. Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the four China-based accounting firms was deemed dismissed with prejudice four years after entry of the settlement. The four-year mark occurred on February 6, 2019. While we cannot predict if the SEC will further challenge the four China-based accounting firms’ compliance with U.S. law in connection with U.S. regulatory requests for audit work papers or if the results of such a challenge would result in the SEC imposing penalties such as suspensions, if the accounting firms are subject to additional remedial measures, our ability to file our financial statements in compliance with SEC requirements could be impacted. A determination that we have not timely filed financial statements in compliance with the SEC requirements could ultimately lead to the delisting of the ADSs from the Nasdaq or the termination of the registration of our Class A ordinary shares under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of the ADSs in the United States.
You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments or bringing actions in China against us or our management named in this prospectus based on foreign laws.
We are an exempted company with limited liability incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. We conduct all of our operations in China. In addition, all our senior executive officers reside within China for a significant portion of the time and all of them are PRC nationals. As a result, it may be difficult for our shareholders to effect service of process upon us or those persons inside China.
The recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are basically provided for under the PRC Civil Procedures Law. PRC courts may recognize and enforce foreign judgments in accordance with the requirements of the PRC Civil Procedures Law and other applicable laws and regulations based either on treaties between China and the country where the judgment is made or on principles of reciprocity between jurisdictions. China does not have treaties providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments of courts with the United States, the Cayman Islands or many other countries and regions. Therefore, recognition and enforcement in China of judgments of a court in any of these non-PRC jurisdictions in relation to any matter not subject to a binding arbitration provision may be difficult or impossible. In addition, according to the PRC Civil Procedures Law, the PRC courts will not enforce a foreign judgment if it is decided as having violated the basic principles of PRC laws or national sovereignty, security or public interest. As a result, it is uncertain whether and on what basis a PRC court would enforce a judgment rendered by a court in the United States or the Cayman Islands.
The SEC, U.S. Department of Justice and other U.S. authorities often have substantial difficulties in bringing and enforcing actions against non-U.S. companies and non-U.S. persons, including company directors and officers, in certain emerging markets, including China. Legal and other obstacles to obtaining information needed for investigations or litigation or to obtaining access to funds outside the United States, lack of support from local authorities, and other various factors make it difficult for the U.S. authorities to pursue actions against non-U.S. companies and individuals, who may have engaged in fraud or other wrongdoings. Additionally, public shareholders investing in the ADSs have limited rights and few practical remedies in emerging markets where we operate, as shareholder claims that are common in the United States, including class actions under securities law and fraud claims, generally are difficult or impossible to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in many emerging markets, including China. As a result of all of the above, you may have more difficulties in protecting your interests in your emerging market investments.
We may rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our PRC subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to make payments to us could have a material and adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business.
We are a Cayman Islands holding company and we rely principally on dividends and other distributions on equity from our PRC subsidiaries for our cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders and services of any debt we may incur. Our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends is based upon its distributable earnings. Current PRC regulations permit our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to their respective shareholders only out of their accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, each of our PRC subsidiaries is required to set aside at least 10% of its after-tax profits each year, if any, to fund a statutory reserve until such reserve reaches 50% of its registered capital. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends. If our PRC subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments to us.
To address the persistent capital outflow and the RMB’s depreciation against the U.S. dollar, the People’s Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, have implemented a series of capital control measures since 2016, including stricter vetting procedures for China-based companies to remit foreign currency for overseas acquisitions, dividend payments and shareholder loan repayments. For instance, the Circular on Further Promoting the Reform of Foreign Exchange Management and Improving Authenticity and Compliance Review, or the SAFE Circular 3, issued on January 26, 2017, provides that the banks shall, when dealing with dividend remittance transactions from domestic enterprise to its offshore shareholders of more than US$50,000, review the relevant board resolutions (or resolutions of partners), original tax filing form and audited financial statements of such domestic enterprise based on the principle of genuine transaction. The PRC government may strengthen its capital controls from time to time and our PRC subsidiaries’ dividends and other distributions may be subject to tightened scrutiny in the future. Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business.
In addition, the Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules provide that a withholding tax at a rate of 10% will be applicable to dividends payable by Chinese companies to non-PRC resident enterprises unless reduced under treaties or arrangements between the PRC central government and governments of other countries or regions where the non-PRC resident enterprises are tax resident.
The custodians or authorized users of our controlling non-tangible assets, including chops and seals, may fail to fulfill their responsibilities, or misappropriate or misuse these assets.
Under PRC law, legal documents for corporate transactions, including agreements and contracts, are executed using the chop or seal of the signing entity or with the signature of a legal representative whose designation is registered and filed with SAMR. A company chop or seal may serve as the legal representation of the company towards third parties even when unaccompanied by a signature.
In order to secure the use of our chops and seals, we have established internal control procedures and rules for using these chops and seals. In any event that the chops and seals are intended to be used, the responsible personnel will submit the application, which will then be verified and approved by authorized employees in accordance with our internal control procedures and rules. In addition, in order to maintain the physical security of our chops, we generally have them stored in secured locations accessible only to authorized employees.
Although we monitor such authorized employees, the procedures may not be sufficient to prevent all instances of abuse or negligence. There is a risk that our employees could abuse their authority, for example, by entering into a contract not approved by us or seeking to gain control of one of our subsidiaries. If any employee obtains, misuses or misappropriates our chops and seals or other controlling non-tangible assets for whatever reason, we could experience disruption to our normal business operations. We may have to take corporate or legal action, which could involve significant time and resources to resolve and divert management from our operations.
PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of currency conversion may restrict or delay us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering to make loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries, which could adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.
Any funds we transfer to our PRC subsidiaries, either as a shareholder loan or as an increase in registered capital, are subject to approval by or registration with relevant governmental authorities in China. According to the relevant PRC regulations on foreign-invested enterprises, or FIEs, in China, capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries are subject to registration with SAMR or its local counterpart and registration with a local bank authorized by SAFE. In addition, (i) any foreign loan procured by our PRC subsidiaries is required to be registered with SAFE or its local branches and (ii) any of our PRC subsidiaries may not procure loans which exceed the difference between its total investment amount and registered capital or, as an alternative, they may only procure loans subject to the calculation approach and limitation as provided by the People’s Bank of China.
On March 30, 2015, the SAFE promulgated the Circular on Reforming the Management Approach Regarding the Foreign Exchange Capital Settlement of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 19, which took effect as of June 1, 2015 and was amended on December 30, 2019. SAFE Circular 19 launched a nationwide reform of the administration of the settlement of the foreign exchange capitals of FIEs and allows FIEs to settle their foreign exchange capital at their discretion, but continues to prohibit FIEs from using the renminbi fund converted from their foreign exchange capital for expenditure beyond their business scopes, providing entrusted loans or repaying loans between nonfinancial enterprises. The SAFE issued the Circular on Reforming and Regulating Policies on the Control over Foreign Exchange Settlement of Capital Accounts, or SAFE Circular 16, effective on June 9, 2016. Pursuant to SAFE Circular 16, enterprises registered in China may also convert their foreign debts from foreign currency to renminbi on a self-discretionary basis. SAFE Circular 16 provides an integrated standard for conversion of foreign exchange under capital account items (including, but not limited, to foreign currency capital and foreign debts) on a self-discretionary basis which applies to all enterprises registered in China. SAFE Circular 16 reiterates the principle that renminbi converted from foreign currency-denominated capital of a company may not be directly or indirectly used for purposes beyond its business scope or prohibited by PRC laws or regulations, while such converted renminbi shall not be provided as loans to its non-affiliated entities. On October 23, 2019, SAFE further issued the Circular of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Further Promoting the Facilitation of Cross-Border Trade and Investment, or the Circular 28, which took effect on the same day. Circular 28 allows non-investment foreign-invested enterprises to use their capital funds to make equity investments in China as long as such investments do not violate then effective negative list for foreign investments and the target investment projects are genuine and in compliance with laws. In addition,
Circular 28 stipulates that qualified enterprises in certain pilot areas may use their capital income from registered capital, foreign debt and overseas listing, for the purpose of domestic payments without providing authenticity certifications to the relevant banks in advance for those domestic payments. As this circular is relatively new, there remains uncertainty as to its interpretation and application and any other future foreign exchange-related rules. Violations of these circulars could result in severe monetary or other penalties.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could have an adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
The value of the renminbi against the U.S. dollar and other currencies may fluctuate and is affected by, among other things, changes in political and economic conditions in China and by China’s foreign exchange policies. Since June 2010, the renminbi has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. Since October 1, 2016, renminbi has joined the International Monetary Fund’s basket of currencies that make up the Special Drawing Right (SDR) along with the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound. In the fourth quarter of 2016 the renminbi has depreciated significantly in the backdrop of a surging U.S. dollar and persistent capital outflows of China. With the development of the foreign exchange market and progress towards interest rate liberalization and renminbi internationalization, the PRC government may in the future announce further changes to the exchange rate system, and we cannot assure you that the renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future.
There remains significant international pressure on the Chinese government to adopt a flexible currency policy to allow the renminbi to appreciate against the U.S. dollar. Significant revaluation of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on your investment. All of our net revenues and costs are denominated in renminbi. Any significant revaluation of RMB may adversely affect our revenues, earnings and financial position, and the value of, and any dividends payable on, the ADSs in U.S. dollars. To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars into renminbi for capital expenditures and working capital and other business purposes, appreciation of renminbi against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the RMB amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, a significant depreciation of renminbi against the U.S. dollar may significantly reduce the U.S. dollar equivalent of our earnings, which in turn could adversely affect the price of the ADSs, and if we decide to convert RMB into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our Class A ordinary shares or ADSs, strategic acquisitions or investments or other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the RMB would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us.
Very limited hedging options are available in China to reduce our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. To date, we have not entered into any hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to foreign currency exchange risk. While we may enter into hedging transactions in the future, the availability and effectiveness of these hedges may be limited and we may not be able to adequately hedge our exposure or at all. In addition, our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert renminbi into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
Governmental control of currency conversion may limit our ability to utilize our revenues effectively and affect the value of your investment.
The PRC government imposes controls on the convertibility of the renminbi into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. We receive all of our revenues in renminbi. Under our current corporate structure, our Cayman Islands holding company primarily relies on dividend payments from our PRC subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have. Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payments of current account items, including profit distributions, interest payments and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior approval of SAFE by complying with certain procedural requirements. Specifically, under the existing exchange restrictions, without prior approval of SAFE, cash generated from the operations of our PRC subsidiaries in China may be used to pay dividends to our company. However, approval from or registration with appropriate government authorities is required where renminbi is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. As a result, we need to obtain SAFE approval to use cash generated from the operations of our PRC subsidiaries to pay off their respective debt in a currency other than renminbi owed to entities outside China, or to make other capital expenditure payments outside China in a currency other than renminbi. Access to foreign currencies for current account transactions may be further restricted in the future as the applicable laws, regulations and policies evolve. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currencies to satisfy our foreign currency demands, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of the ADSs.
Certain PRC regulations may make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions.
Among other things, the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, adopted by six PRC regulatory agencies in 2006 and amended in 2009, establish additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex. Such regulation requires, among other things, that the PRC Ministry of Commerce, or the MOFCOM, under certain circumstances, be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of an affiliated PRC domestic enterprise. Moreover, the Anti-Monopoly Law requires that the SAMR should be notified in advance of any concentration of undertaking if certain thresholds are triggered. Transactions which are deemed concentrations and involve parties with specified turnover thresholds must be cleared by the SAMR before they can be completed. In addition, the PRC national security reviews rules which became effective in September 2011 requiring mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors of PRC companies engaged in military-related or certain other industries that are crucial to national security be subject to security review before consummation of any such acquisition. We may pursue potential strategic acquisitions that are complementary to our business and operations. Complying with the requirements of these regulations to complete such transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval or clearance from the MOFCOM and the SAMR, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiaries to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiaries, limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.
The SAFE issued Circular on Several Issues concerning Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Residents to Engage in Financing and in Return Investments via Overseas Special Purpose Companies, or Circular 75, on October 21, 2005, which became effective on November 1, 2005. Under Circular 75, prior registration with the local SAFE branch is required for PRC residents to establish or to control an offshore company for the purposes of financing that offshore company with assets or equity interests in an onshore enterprise located in the PRC. In July 2014, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control on Domestic Residents’ Offshore Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment Through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, which replaced the Circular 75. SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents (including PRC individuals and PRC corporate entities) to register with SAFE or its local branches in connection with their establishment or control of an offshore entity established for the purpose of overseas investment or financing with such PRC residents’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests. SAFE Circular 37 is applicable to our shareholders who are PRC residents and may be applicable to any offshore acquisitions that we make in the future. See “Regulation — Regulations on Offshore Financing”.
We are committed to complying with and to ensuring that our shareholders and beneficial owners who are subject to these regulations will comply with the relevant SAFE rules and regulations. However, due to inherent uncertainty in the implementation of the regulatory requirements by the PRC authorities, such registration might not be always practically available in all circumstances as provided in those regulations.
We have requested shareholders or beneficial owners who directly or indirectly hold shares in our Cayman Islands holding company and are known to us as being PRC residents to complete their registration with or to obtain approval by the local SAFE, the National Development and Reform Commission, or the NDRC, or MOFCOM branches. However, we may not be informed of the identities of all the PRC individuals or entities holding direct or indirect interest in our company, nor can we compel our beneficial owners to comply with the SAFE registration requirements. As a result, we cannot assure you that all of our shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC residents have complied with, and will in the future make, obtain or update any applicable registrations or approvals required by SAFE, NDRC and MOFCOM regulations. Any failure or inability by such shareholders, beneficial owners or our subsidiaries to comply with SAFE, NDRC and MOFCOM regulations may subject us to fines or legal sanctions, such as restrictions on our cross-border investment activities or our PRC subsidiary’s ability to distribute dividends to, or obtain foreign exchange-denominated loans from, our company or prevent us from making distributions or paying dividends. As a result, our business operations and our ability to make distributions to you could be materially and adversely affected.
Any failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee stock incentive plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.
Pursuant to SAFE Circular 37, PRC residents who participate in share incentive plans in overseas non-publicly-listed companies may submit applications to SAFE or its local branches for the foreign exchange registration with respect to offshore special purpose
companies. In February 2012, SAFE promulgated the Notices on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plan of Overseas Publicly Listed Company, or the SAFE Circular 7. Pursuant to these rules, PRC citizens and non-PRC citizens who reside in China for a continuous period of not less than one year who participate in any stock incentive plan of an overseas publicly listed company, subject to a few exceptions, are required to register with SAFE through a domestic qualified agent, which could be the PRC subsidiaries of such overseas-listed company, and complete certain other procedures. In addition, an overseas-entrusted institution must be retained to handle matters in connection with the exercise or sale of stock options and the purchase or sale of shares and interests. We and our executive officers and other employees who are PRC citizens or who reside in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year and who have been granted options are subject to these regulations. Failure to complete the SAFE registrations may subject them to fines and legal sanctions, and there may be additional restrictions on the ability of them to exercise their stock options or remit proceeds gained from sale of their stock into the PRC. We also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional incentive plans for our directors, executive officers and employees under PRC law. See “Regulation — Regulations on Employee Share Option Plans.”
In addition, the State Administration of Taxation, or SAT, has issued circulars concerning employee share options or restricted shares. Under these circulars, employees working in the PRC who exercise share options, or whose restricted shares or restricted share units vest, will be subject to PRC individual income tax. Our PRC subsidiaries have obligations to file documents related to employee share options or restricted shares with relevant tax authorities and to withhold individual income taxes of those employees related to their share options, restricted shares or restricted share units. In addition, the sales of the ADSs or shares held by such PRC individual employees after their exercise of the options, or the vesting of the restricted shares or restricted share units, are also subject to PRC individual income tax. If the employees fail to pay, or the PRC subsidiaries fail to withhold, their income taxes according to relevant laws, rules and regulations, the PRC subsidiaries may face sanctions imposed by the tax authorities or other PRC government authorities. See “Regulation — Regulations on Employee Share Option Plans.”
If we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes, such classification could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our non-PRC shareholders and ADS holders.
Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules, an enterprise established outside of the PRC with its “de facto management body” within the PRC is considered a “resident enterprise” and will be subject to the enterprise income tax on its global income at the rate of 25%. The implementation rules define the term “de facto management body” as the body that exercises full and substantial control and overall management over the business, productions, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. In 2009, the SAT, issued a circular, known as SAT Circular 82, and was amended on 2017, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a PRC-controlled enterprise that is incorporated offshore is located in China. Although this circular only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise groups, not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners, the criteria set forth in the circular may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of all offshore enterprises. According to SAT Circular 82, an offshore incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its global income only if all of the following conditions are met: (i) the senior management and core management departments in charge of its daily operations function have their presence mainly in the PRC; (ii) its financial and human resources decisions are subject to determination or approval by persons or bodies in the PRC; (iii) its major assets, accounting books, company seals, and minutes and files of its board and shareholders’ meetings are located or kept in the PRC; and (iv) not less than half of the enterprise’s directors or senior management with voting rights habitually reside in the PRC.
We believe our company is not a PRC resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body.” If the PRC tax authorities determine that our company is a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, we will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on our worldwide income at the rate of 25%. Furthermore, we will be required to withhold a 10% withholding tax from dividends we pay to our shareholders (including holders of the ADSs) that are non-resident enterprises. In addition, non-resident enterprise shareholders (including holders of the ADSs) may be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 10% on gains realized on the sale or other disposition of ADSs or Class A ordinary shares, if such gain is treated as derived from a PRC source. Furthermore, if we are deemed a PRC resident enterprise, dividends paid to our non-PRC individual shareholders (including holders of the ADSs) and any gain realized on the sale or other disposition of ADSs or Class A ordinary shares by such shareholders (including holders of the ADSs) may be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 20% (which in the case of dividends may be withheld at source). These rates may be reduced by an applicable tax treaty, but it is unclear whether non-PRC shareholders (including holders of the ADSs) of our company would, in practice, be able to obtain the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax
residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise. Any such tax may reduce the returns on your investment in the ADSs or Class A ordinary shares.
We face uncertainty with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises by their non-PRC holding companies.
On February 3, 2015, the SAT issued the Public Notice Regarding Certain Corporate Income Tax Matters on Indirect Transfer of Properties by Non-Tax Resident Enterprises, or SAT Bulletin 7. SAT Bulletin 7 extends its tax jurisdiction to transactions involving the transfer of taxable assets through offshore transfer of a foreign intermediate holding company. In addition, SAT Bulletin 7 has introduced safe harbors for internal group restructurings and the purchase and sale of equity securities through a public securities market. SAT Bulletin 7 also brings challenges to both foreign transferor and transferee (or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer) of taxable assets.
On October 17, 2017, the SAT issued the Public Notice on Issues Relating to Withholding at Source of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises, or SAT Bulletin 37, which came into effect on December 1, 2017. The SAT Bulletin 37 further clarifies the practice and procedure of the withholding of non-resident enterprise income tax.
Where a non-resident enterprise transfers taxable assets indirectly by disposing of the equity interests of an overseas holding company, which is an Indirect Transfer, the non-resident enterprise as either transferor or transferee, or the PRC entity that directly owns the taxable assets, may report such Indirect Transfer to the relevant tax authority. Using a “substance over form” principle, the PRC tax authority may disregard the existence of the overseas holding company if it lacks a reasonable commercial purpose and was established for the purpose of reducing, avoiding or deferring PRC tax. As a result, gains derived from such Indirect Transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, and the transferee or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer is obligated to withhold the applicable taxes, currently at a rate of 10% for the transfer of equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise. Both the transferor and the transferee may be subject to penalties under PRC tax laws if the transferee fails to withhold the taxes and the transferor fails to pay the taxes.
We face uncertainties as to the reporting and other implications of certain past and future transactions where PRC taxable assets are involved, such as offshore restructuring, sale of the shares in our offshore subsidiaries and investments. Our company may be subject to filing obligations or taxed if our company is transferor in such transactions, and may be subject to withholding obligations if our company is transferee in such transactions, under SAT Bulletin 7 and/or SAT Bulletin 37. For transfer of shares in our company by investors who are non-PRC resident enterprises, our PRC subsidiaries may be requested to assist in the filing under SAT Bulletin 7 and/or SAT Bulletin 37. As a result, we may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with SAT Bulletin 7 and/or SAT Bulletin 37 or to request the relevant transferors from whom we purchase taxable assets to comply with these bulletins, or to establish that our company should not be taxed under these bulletins, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Regulation on information disseminated over the internet in China may adversely affect our business and reputation and subject us to liability for information displayed on our website.
The PRC government has adopted regulations governing the distribution of news and other information over the internet. Under these regulations, internet content providers and internet publishers are prohibited from posting or displaying over the internet content that, among other things, violates PRC laws and regulations, or is reactionary, obscene, superstitious, fraudulent or defamatory. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in the revocation of licenses to provide internet content and other licenses, and the closure of the concerned websites. The website operator may also be held liable for such information displayed on or linked to the websites. If our self-owned online store or content is found to be in violation of any such requirements, we may be penalized by relevant authorities, and our operations or reputation could be adversely affected.
Risks Related to The ADSs and This Secondary Offering
The trading price of the ADSs is likely to be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.
The trading price of the ADSs is likely to be volatile and could fluctuate widely due to factors beyond our control. This may happen because of broad market and industry factors, including the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States. In addition to market
and industry factors, the price and trading volume for the ADSs may be highly volatile for factors specific to our own operations, including the following:
|●||variations in our net revenues, earnings and cash flows;|
|●||announcements of new investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships or joint ventures by us or our competitors;|
|●||announcements of new offerings, solutions and expansions by us or our competitors;|
|●||changes in financial estimates by securities analysts;|
|●||detrimental adverse publicity about us, our services or our industry;|
|●||announcements of new regulations, rules or policies relevant to our business;|
|●||additions or departures of key personnel;|
|●||our controlling shareholder’s business performance and reputation; and|
|●||potential litigation or regulatory investigations.|
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and price at which the ADSs will trade.
In the past, shareholders of public companies have often brought securities class-action suits against those companies following periods of instability in the market price of their securities. If we were involved in a class-action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit, which could harm our results of operations. Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding the ADSs, the market price for the ADSs and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for the ADSs will be influenced by research or reports that industry or securities analysts publish about our business. If one or more analysts who cover us downgrade the ADSs, the market price for the ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause the market price or trading volume for the ADSs to decline.
Our dual-class voting structure will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs may view as beneficial.
Our authorized and issued ordinary shares are divided into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares will be entitled to one vote per share, while the holder of Class B ordinary shares will be entitled to ten votes per share. Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holders thereof, while Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances.
As of May 16, 2023, Mr. Haijun Wang beneficially owned 73,680,917 Class B ordinary shares and controlled the voting power of 44,215,930 Class A ordinary shares. Accordingly, Mr. Haijun Wang beneficially owns approximately 30.0% of our total issued and outstanding share capital and 73.9% of the aggregate voting power of our total issued and outstanding share capital as of the same date due to the disparate voting powers associated with our dual-class share structure. As a result of the dual-class share structure and the concentration of ownership, the holder of Class B ordinary shares will have considerable influence over matters such as decisions regarding mergers and consolidations, election of directors, and other significant corporate actions. Such holders may take actions that are not in the best interest of us or our other shareholders. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay, or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the effect of depriving our other shareholders of the opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of the ADSs. This concentrated control will limit your ability to
influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover, or other change of control transactions that holders of Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.
The dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may adversely affect the trading market for the ADSs.
Certain shareholder advisory firms have announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices, including the S&P 500, to exclude companies with multiple classes of shares and companies whose public shareholders hold no more than 5% of total voting power from being added to such indices. In addition, several shareholder advisory firms have announced their opposition to the use of multiple class structures. As a result, the dual class structure of our ordinary shares may prevent the inclusion of the ADSs representing Class A ordinary shares in such indices and may cause shareholder advisory firms to publish negative commentary about our corporate governance practices or otherwise seek to cause us to change our capital structure. Any such exclusion from indices could result in a less active trading market for the ADSs. Any actions or publications by shareholder advisory firms critical of our corporate governance practices or capital structure could also adversely affect the value of the ADSs.
Forum selection provisions in our memorandum and articles of association could limit the ability of holders of our Class A ordinary shares, ADSs, or other securities to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us, our directors and officers, the depositary bank, and potentially others.
Our memorandum and articles of association provide that the federal district courts of the United States are the exclusive forum within the United States for the resolution of any complaint asserting a cause of action arising out of or relating in any way to the federal securities laws of the United States, regardless of whether such legal suit, action, or proceeding also involves parties other than us. Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring any share or other securities in our company shall be deemed to have notice of and consented to the provisions of our articles of association. However, the enforceability of similar federal court choice of forum provisions has been challenged in legal proceedings in the United States, and it is possible that a court could find this type of provision to be inapplicable, unenforceable, or inconsistent with other documents that are relevant to the filing of such lawsuits. If a court were to find the federal choice of forum provision contained in our memorandum and articles of association to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions. If upheld, the forum selection clause in our memorandum and articles of association may limit a security-holder’s ability to bring a claim against us, our directors and officers, and potentially others in his or her preferred judicial forum, and this limitation may discourage such lawsuits. In addition, the Securities Act provides that both federal and state courts have jurisdiction over suits brought to enforce any duty or liability under the Securities Act or the rules and regulations thereunder. Accepting or consent to this forum selection provision does not constitute a waiver by you of compliance with federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder. You may not waive compliance with federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder. The exclusive forum provision in our memorandum and articles of association will not operate so as to deprive the courts of the Cayman Islands from having jurisdiction over matters relating to our internal affairs.
We are a “controlled company” as defined under the Nasdaq Stock Market corporate governance rules. As a result, we will qualify for, and intend to rely on, exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that would otherwise provide protection to shareholders of other companies.
We are a “controlled company” as defined under the Nasdaq corporate governance rules because Mr. Haijun Wang will own more than 50% of our total voting power. For so long as we remain a controlled company, we may rely on certain exemptions from the corporate governance rules, including the rule that we have to establish a nominating and corporate governance committee composed entirely of independent directors. As a result, you will not have the same protection afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to these corporate governance requirements. Even if we cease to be a controlled company, we may still rely on exemptions available to foreign private issuers, including being able to adopt home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters. See “— We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to U.S. domestic public companies” and “— As an exempted company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards. These practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we complied fully with the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards.”
The sale or availability for sale of substantial amounts of ADSs could adversely affect their market price.
Sales of substantial amounts of ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could adversely affect the market price of the ADSs and could materially impair our ability to raise capital through equity offerings in the future. The ADSs sold in this secondary offering will be freely tradable without restriction or further registration under the Securities Act, and shares held by our existing shareholders may also be sold in the public market in the future, subject to the restrictions in Rule 144 and Rule 701 under the Securities Act and the applicable lock-up agreements. In connection with this secondary offering, we, Mr. Haijun Wang, our founder, Chairman of Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, and the Selling Shareholder have agreed not to sell, transfer or dispose of any ordinary shares, ADSs or similar securities for 90 days after the date of this prospectus without the prior written consent of the underwriters, subject to certain exceptions. We cannot predict what effect, if any, market sales of securities held by our significant shareholders or any other shareholder or the availability of these securities for future sale will have on the market price of the ADSs.
Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of the ADSs.
Short selling is the practice of selling securities that the seller does not own but rather has borrowed from a third party with the intention of buying identical securities back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the value of the securities between the sale of the borrowed securities and the purchase of the replacement shares, as the short seller expects to pay less in that purchase than it received in the sale. As it is in the short seller’s interest for the price of the security to decline, many short sellers publish, or arrange for the publication of, negative opinions regarding the relevant issuer and its business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a security short. These short attacks have, in the past, led to selling of shares in the market.
Public companies that have substantially all of their operations in China have been the subject of short selling. Much of the scrutiny and negative publicity have centered on allegations of a lack of effective internal control over financial reporting resulting in financial and accounting irregularities and mistakes, inadequate corporate governance policies or a lack of adherence thereto and, in many cases, allegations of fraud. As a result, many of these companies are now conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations and, in the interim, are subject to shareholder lawsuits and/or SEC enforcement actions.
It is not clear what effect such negative publicity could have on us. If we were to become the subject of any unfavorable allegations, whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, we could have to expend a significant amount of resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend ourselves. While we would strongly defend against any such short seller attacks, we may be constrained in the manner in which we can proceed against the relevant short seller by principles of freedom of speech, applicable state law or issues of commercial confidentiality. Such a situation could be costly and time-consuming, and could distract our management from growing our business. Even if such allegations are ultimately proven to be groundless, allegations against us could severely impact our business operations, and any investment in the ADSs could be greatly reduced or even rendered worthless.
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on a price appreciation of the ADSs for a return on your investment.
We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should not rely on an investment in the ADSs as a source for any future dividend income.
Our board of directors has discretion as to whether to distribute dividends, subject to certain requirements of Cayman Islands law. In addition, our shareholders may by ordinary resolution declare a dividend, but no dividend may exceed the amount recommended by our directors. In either case, all dividends are subject to certain restrictions under Cayman Islands law, namely that our company may pay a dividend out of either profit or a share premium account, provided always that in no circumstances may a dividend be paid if this would result in us being unable to pay our debts as they fall due in the ordinary course of business.
Even if our board of directors decides to declare and pay dividends, the timing, amount and form of future dividends, if any, will depend on our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiaries, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in the ADSs will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of the ADSs. There is no guarantee that the ADSs will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs. You may not realize a return on your investment in the ADSs and you may even lose your entire investment in the ADSs.
The approval or filing of the China Securities Regulatory Commission or other PRC regulatory agencies may be required to maintain our listing status or conduct future offshore securities offerings.
The Regulations on Mergers of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, purport to require offshore special purpose vehicles that are controlled by PRC companies or individuals and that have been formed for the purpose of seeking a public listing on an overseas stock exchange through acquisitions of PRC domestic companies or assets to obtain CSRC approval prior to publicly listing their securities on an overseas stock exchange. The interpretation and application of the regulations remain unclear. If CSRC approval is required, it is uncertain whether we can or how long it will take us to obtain the approval and, even if we obtain such CSRC approval, the approval could be rescinded. Any failure to obtain or delay in obtaining CSRC approval for any of our offshore offerings, or a rescission of such approval we have obtained, would subject us to sanctions imposed by the CSRC or other PRC regulatory authorities, which could include fines and penalties on our operations in China, restrictions or limitations on our ability to pay dividends outside of China, and other forms of sanctions that may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Furthermore, numerous regulations, guidelines and other measures have been or are expected to be adopted under the umbrella of or in addition to the Cybersecurity Law, Data Security Law and Personal Information Protection Law, including (i) the Measures for the Security Assessment for Cross-border Transfer of Personal Information (Draft for Comments) published by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or CAC, in 2019, which may, upon enactment, require security review before transferring personal information out of China, (ii) the amended Cybersecurity Review Measures published on December 28, 2021, which came into effect on February 15, 2022, provide that a “network platform operator” that possesses personal information of more than one million users and seeks a listing in a foreign country must apply for a cybersecurity review, and (iii) the Measures for the Security Assessment of Cross-boarder Data Transfer, which came into effect on September 1, 2022, provide that certain types of data processors transferring important data or personal information collected and generated during operations within the territory of the PRC to an overseas recipient must apply for security assessment of cross-boarder data transfer. As a network platform operator who possesses personal information of more than one million users for purposes of the Cybersecurity Review Measures, we had applied for and completed a cybersecurity review with respect to the listing of the ADSs on Nasdaq in November 2022 pursuant to the Cybersecurity Review Measures. We have been advised by our PRC legal advisor that this secondary offering is not subject to the cybersecurity review requirements under the Cybersecurity Review Measures.
On February 17, 2023, the CSRC, as approved by the State Council, released the CSRC Filing Rules, which came into effect on March 31, 2023. Under the CSRC Filing Rules, a filing-based regulatory system shall be applied to “indirect overseas offerings and listings” of PRC domestic companies. Pursuant to the CSRC Filing Rules, if the issuer meets either of the following conditions, its securities offerings and listing will be deemed as an “indirect overseas offering and listing by a PRC domestic company” and is therefore subject to the filing requirements: (i) any of the revenues, profits, total assets or net assets of the issuer’s Chinese operating entities in the most recent financial year accounts for more than 50% of the corresponding data in the issuer’s audited consolidated financial statements for the same period; and (ii) the key link of its business operations are conducted in mainland China or its