20-F 1 a12-7169_120f.htm 20-F

Table of Contents

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 20-F

 

(Mark One)

 

o

Registration Statement pursuant to Section 12(b) or (g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

 

 

OR

 

 

x

Annual Report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011

 

 

OR

 

 

o

Transition Report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

 

 

OR

 

 

o

Shell Company Report pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

 

Date of the event requiring this shell company report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

Commission file number: 001-34824

 

AMBOW EDUCATION HOLDING LTD.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Not Applicable

(Translation of Registrant’s Name into English)

 

Cayman Islands

(Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)

 

18th Floor, Building A, Chengjian Plaza, No. 18,

BeiTaiPingZhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing

100088

People’s Republic of China

(Address of Principal executive offices)

 

Gareth Kung, Chief Financial Officer

18th Floor, Building A, Chengjian Plaza, No. 18,

BeiTaiPingZhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing

100088

People’s Republic of China

Telephone: +86 (10) 6206-8007

Facsimile: +86 (10) 6206-8100

(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile Number and Address of Company Contact Person)

 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Each Class

 

Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered

 

 

 

Class A Ordinary Shares

 

New York Stock Exchange*

 

*                 Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on New York Stock Exchange of American depository shares representing the Class A ordinary shares. Each American depositary share represents two Class A ordinary shares.

 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

 

None

 



Table of Contents

 

Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:

 

None

 

Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital stock as of the close of the period covered by this report.

 

49,088,096 Class A Ordinary Shares and 95,392,968  Class B Ordinary Shares, par value $0.0001 per share, as of December 31, 2011.

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

o Yes   x No

 

If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

o Yes   x No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

o Yes   x No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).

o Yes   o No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a non-accelerated filer. See definition of “accelerated filer and large accelerated filer” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large Accelerated Filer o

 

Accelerated Filer x

 

Non-accelerated Filer o

 

Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:

 

U.S. GAAP x

 

International Financial Reporting Standards as issued
by the International Accounting Standards Board
o

 

Other o

 

If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.

o Item 17   o Item 18

 

If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).

o Yes   x No

 



Table of Contents

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

Page

 

 

 

PART I

 

3

 

 

 

Item 1.

Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers

3

 

 

 

Item 2.

Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable

3

 

 

 

Item 3.

Key Information

3

 

 

 

Item 4.

Information on the Company

29

 

 

 

Item 4A.

Unresolved Staff Comments

52

 

 

 

Item 5.

Operating and Financial Review and Prospects

52

 

 

 

Item 6.

Directors, Senior Management and Employees

75

 

 

 

Item 7.

Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions

85

 

 

 

Item 8.

Financial Information

87

 

 

 

Item 9.

The Offer and Listing

88

 

 

 

Item 10.

Additional Information

89

 

 

 

Item 11.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

94

 

 

 

Item 12.

Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities

95

 

 

 

PART II

 

97

 

 

 

Item 13.

Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies

97

 

 

 

Item 14.

Material Modifications to the Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds

97

 

 

 

Item 15.

Controls and Procedures

97

 

 

 

Item 16A.

Audit Committee Financial Expert

100

 

 

 

Item 16B.

Code of Ethics

100

 

 

 

Item  16C.

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

100

 

 

 

Item 16D.

Exemptions from the Listing Standards for Audit Committees

100

 

 

 

Item 16E.

Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers

100

 

 

 

Item 16F.

Change in Registrant’s Certifying Accountant

101

 

 

 

Item 16G.

Corporate Governance

101

 

 

 

Item 16H.

Mine Safety Disclosure

101

 

 

 

PART III

 

102

 

 

 

Item 17.

Financial Statements

102

 

 

 

Item 18.

Financial Statements

102

 

 

 

Item 19.

Exhibits

102

 



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CONVENTIONS THAT APPLY IN THIS ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 20-F

 

Except where the context requires otherwise and for purposes of this annual report only:

 

·                  ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares, each of which represents two Class A ordinary shares, and “ADRs” refers to the American depositary receipts that evidence our ADSs.

 

·                  Ambow,” “we,” “us” or “our” refer to Ambow Education Holding Ltd. and its subsidiaries and, in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial data, also include our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries.

 

·                  China” or “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purpose of this annual report, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

 

·                  GaoKao” refers to university entrance exams administered in China.

 

·                  IPO” refers to the initial public offering of our ADSs.

 

·                  RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of China.

 

·                  U.S. GAAP” refers to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States.

 

·                  VIEs” refers to our variable interest entities, which are certain domestic PRC companies in which we do not have direct or controlling equity interests but whose historical financial results have been consolidated in our financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

·                  ZhongKao” refers to senior high school entrance exams administered in China.

 

·                  $”, “US$” or “U.S. dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States.

 

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FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

 

This annual report on Form 20-F includes forward-looking statements that relate to future events or our future financial performance and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to differ materially from any future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Words such as, but not limited to, “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “likely,” “will,” “would,” “could,” and similar expressions or phrases identify forward-looking statements. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operation, business strategy and financial needs. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

·                  Anticipated trends and challenges in our business and the markets in which we operate;

 

·                  Our ability to anticipate market needs or develop new or enhanced services and products to meet those needs;

 

·                  Our ability to compete in our industry and innovation by our competitors;

 

·                  Our ability to protect our confidential information and intellectual property rights;

 

·                  Risks associated with opening new learning centers and other strategic plans;

 

·                  Our need to obtain additional funding and our ability to obtain funding in the future on acceptable terms;

 

·                  The impact on our business and results of operations arising from the defects in our real properties;

 

·                  Our planned capital expenditures in 2012;

 

·                  Our plan to make significant expenditures to create and maintain our positive brand awareness and brand loyalty;

 

·                  Our ability to manage growth; and

 

·                  Economic and business conditions in China.

 

All forward-looking statements involve risks, assumptions and uncertainties. You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictors of future events. The occurrence of the events described, and the achievement of the expected results, depend on many events, some or all of which are not predictable or within our control. Actual results may differ materially from expected results. See the information under “Item 3.D Key Information—Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this annual report for a more complete discussion of these risks, assumptions and uncertainties and for other risks and uncertainties. These risks, assumptions and uncertainties are not necessarily all of the important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in any of our forward-looking statements. Other unknown or unpredictable factors also could harm our results. We undertake no obligation, and specifically decline any obligation, to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the forward-looking events discussed in this annual report might not occur.

 

2



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PART I

 

Item 1.           Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 2.           Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 3.           Key Information

 

A.                                    Selected Financial Data

 

The selected consolidated financial data presented below for the three years ended December 31, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and as of December 31, 2010 and 2011 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report, which were prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP.  The selected consolidated financial data presented below for the years ended December 31, 2007 and 2008, and as of December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 is derived from our unaudited consolidated financial statements for those years that are not included in this annual report (which are unaudited as they have been revised from previously issued audited financial statements to reflect the classification of discontinued operations as a separate line item in the income statement), which were prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

We have completed a number of acquisitions since January 1, 2008, including 7 acquisitions in 2011.  We also disposed of several companies in December 2011 as well as initiated the disposal process for a college and K-12 school in December 2011. This has affected period-to-period comparisons of our selected consolidated financial data. The results presented in our financial statements reflect all of our continuing operations since January 1, 2007 or the subsequent date of acquisition. Any entities disposed of or in the process of being disposed of in December 2011 have been classified as discontinued operations, where applicable, and their financial results, together with any gain/loss arising on disposal, are reflected as a single line item below Income from Continuing Operations, for all periods presented, except for Beijing 21st Century International School, whose financial results were included as part of continuing operations because the Company will have significant continuing involvement with the school following the completion of the planned disposal.

 

 

 

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2007

 

2008

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

2011

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except share, per share and per ADS information)

 

Consolidated Statement of Operations Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NET REVENUES:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Educational programs and services

 

317,854

 

451,115

 

613,611

 

1,002,458

 

1,321,141

 

209,908

 

Software products

 

1,077

 

38,826

 

123,104

 

214,663

 

348,071

 

55,303

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total net revenues

 

318,931

 

489,941

 

736,715

 

1,217,121

 

1,669,212

 

265,211

 

Cost of revenues

 

(205,619

)

(319,536

)

(356,842

)

(526,804

)

(715,332

)

(113,655

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GROSS PROFIT

 

113,312

 

170,405

 

379,873

 

690,317

 

953,880

 

151,556

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selling and marketing (1)

 

(19,600

)

(39,649

)

(127,688

)

(235,683

)

(353,425

)

(56,154

)

General and administrative (1)

 

(33,828

)

(52,747

)

(136,466

)

(220,602

)

(329,913

)

(52,418

)

Research and development (1)

 

(3,754

)

(11,696

)

(16,968

)

(27,553

)

(39,541

)

(6,282

)

Impairment loss from continuing operations (1)

 

 

 

 

 

(25,336

)

(4,025

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

 

(57,182

)

(104,092

)

(281,122

)

(483,838

)

(748,215

)

(118,879

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPERATING INCOME

 

56,130

 

66,313

 

98,751

 

206,479

 

205,665

 

32,677

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER INCOME (EXPENSE)

 

(11,315

)

5,577

 

(4,130

)

(12,140

)

(27,634

)

(4,391

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INCOME BEFORE INCOME TAX, NON-CONTROLLING INTEREST, AND DISCONTINUED OPERATIONS

 

44,815

 

71,890

 

94,621

 

194,339

 

178,031

 

28,286

 

Income tax expense

 

(10,578

)

(7,629

)

(2,772

)

(37,635

)

(42,231

)

(6,710

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INCOME FROM CONTINUING OPERATIONS

 

34,237

 

64,261

 

91,849

 

156,704

 

135,800

 

21,576

 

Income(loss) from and (loss) on sale of discontinued operations, net of income tax

 

 

3,099

 

46,172

 

54,995

 

(119,581

)

(19,000

)

 

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For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2007

 

2008

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

2011

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except share, per share and per ADS information)

 

NET INCOME

 

34,237

 

67,360

 

138,021

 

211,699

 

16,219

 

2,576

 

Non-controlling interest

 

 

 

 

215

 

4,333

 

4,966

 

789

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NET INCOME ATTRIBUTABLE TO AMBOW EDUCATION HOLDING LTD.

 

34,237

 

67,360

 

138,236

 

216,032

 

21,185

 

3,365

 

Preferred shares redemption value accretion

 

(1,407

)

(67,768

)

(157,877

)

(94,209

)

 

 

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders

 

(20,837

)

(53,949

)

(93,611

)

(55,534

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NET INCOME (LOSS) ATTRIBUTABLE TO ORDINARY SHAREHOLDERS

 

11,993

 

(54,357

)

(113,252

)

66,289

 

21,185

 

3,365

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net income (loss) from continuing operations per ordinary share: (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

0.75

 

(2.49

)

(4.07

)

0.13

 

0.98

 

0.16

 

Diluted

 

0.33

 

(2.49

)

(4.07

)

0.14

 

0.94

 

0.15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net income (loss) from discontinued operations per ordinary share: (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

0.00

 

0.13

 

1.18

 

0.64

 

(0.84

)

(0.13

)

Diluted

 

0.00

 

0.13

 

1.18

 

0.49

 

(0.79

)

(0.13

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net income (loss) from continuing operations per ADS: (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

1.50

 

(4.99

)

(8.14

)

0.26

 

1.96

 

0.32

 

Diluted

 

0.66

 

(4.99

)

(8.14

)

0.28

 

1.88

 

0.30

 

Net income (loss) from discontinued operations per ADS: (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

0.00

 

0.27

 

2.36

 

1.29

 

(1.67

)

(0.27

)

Diluted

 

0.00

 

0.27

 

2.36

 

0.98

 

(1.59

)

(0.25

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weighted average shares used in calculating net income (loss) per share (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

16,031,507

 

23,038,853

 

39,193,092

 

85,551,412

 

142,939,038

 

142,939,038

 

Diluted

 

37,622,476

 

23,038,853

 

39,193,092

 

112,122,045

 

150,432,812

 

150,432,812

 

 

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(1)          Share-based compensation expense included in:

 

 

 

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2007

 

2008

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

2011

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except share, per share and per ADS information)

 

Selling and marketing

 

623

 

1,194

 

4,411

 

7,204

 

7,286

 

1,158

 

General and administrative

 

4,175

 

8,370

 

8,640

 

26,029

 

25,220

 

4,007

 

Research and development

 

353

 

426

 

480

 

981

 

842

 

134

 

 

(2)          Basic and diluted net income from continuing operations per ordinary share is computed by dividing net income from continuing operations adjusted for the impact of any accretion/allocation of income relating to preferred shareholders by the weighted average number of shares outstanding for the period. Basic and diluted net income (loss) from discontinued operations per ordinary share is computed by dividing net income/(loss) from discontinued operations by the weighted average number of shares outstanding for the period. The potentially dilutive warrants, preferred shares and options were excluded from the calculation of diluted net income (loss) from continuing/discontinued operations per share in those periods where their inclusion would be anti-dilutive.

 

 

 

 

As of December 31,

 

 

 

2007

 

2008

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

2011

 

 

 

(in thousands)

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

416,094

 

778,824

 

409,926

 

869,300

 

470,682

 

74,784

 

Total current assets

 

1,006,011

 

1,578,712

 

1,133,515

 

1,663,782

 

1,669,505

 

265,258

 

Total assets

 

1,012,335

 

1,993,884

 

3,672,394

 

4,238,497

 

4,720,627

 

750,032

 

Total current liabilities

 

475,104

 

502,738

 

1,131,901

 

1,071,402

 

1,449,737

 

230,339

 

Total liabilities

 

475,104

 

525,626

 

1,582,625

 

1,505,504

 

1,954,164

 

310,485

 

Mezzanine equity

 

387,757

 

1,131,408

 

1,288,147

 

 

 

 

Total shareholders’ equity

 

149,474

 

336,850

 

801,622

 

2,732,993

 

2,766,463

 

439,547

 

 

 

 

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2007

 

2008

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

2011

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands)

 

Consolidated Statement of Cash Flow Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net cash provided by/(used in) operating activities

 

88,613

 

(63,630

)

523,094

 

456,914

 

296,705

 

47,142

 

Net cash used in investing activities

 

(118,430

)

(261,831

)

(802,365

)

(392,364

)

(494,558

)

(78,577

)

Net cash provided by/(used in) financing activities

 

388,754

 

700,041

 

(86,500

)

406,598

 

(46,216

)

(7,343

)

Cash and cash equivalents included in assets held for sale

 

 

 

 

 

(139,099

)

(22,101

)

 

Exchange Rates

 

Our business is primarily conducted in China and substantially all of our revenues are denominated in RMB. This annual report contains translations of certain RMB amounts into U.S. dollars at specified rates solely for the convenience of the reader. All translations from RMB to U.S. dollars were made at the noon buying rate as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. Unless otherwise stated, the translation of RMB into U.S. dollars has been made at the noon buying rate on December 30, 2011, which was RMB 6.2939 to US$1.00. We make no representation that the RMB or U.S. dollar amounts referred to in this annual report could have been converted into U.S. dollars or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all. The PRC government imposes control over its foreign currency reserves in part through direct regulation of the conversion of RMB into foreign

 

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exchange and through restrictions on foreign trade. On May 18, 2012, the daily exchange rate reported by the Federal Reserve Board was RMB6.3245 to US$1.00.

 

The following table sets forth information concerning exchange rates between the RMB and the U.S. dollar for the periods indicated. These rates are provided solely for your convenience and are not necessarily the exchange rates that we used in this annual report or will use in the preparation of our periodic reports or any other information to be provided to you. The source of these rates is the Federal Reserve Board.

 

 

 

Exchange Rate

 

Period

 

Period End

 

Average (1)

 

Low (2)

 

High (2)

 

2007

 

7.2946

 

7.5806

 

7.2946

 

7.8127

 

2008

 

6.8225

 

6.9193

 

6.7800

 

7.2946

 

2009

 

6.8259

 

6.8295

 

6.8176

 

6.8470

 

2010

 

6.6000

 

6.7653

 

6.6000

 

6.8330

 

2011

 

6.2939

 

6.4475

 

6.2939

 

6.6364

 

October

 

6.3547

 

6.3710

 

6.3534

 

6.3825

 

November

 

6.3765

 

6.3564

 

6.3400

 

6.3839

 

December

 

6.2939

 

6.3482

 

6.2939

 

6.3733

 

2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January

 

6.3080

 

6.3119

 

6.2940

 

6.3330

 

February

 

6.2935

 

6.2997

 

6.2935

 

6.3120

 

March

 

6.2975

 

6.3125

 

6.2975

 

6.3315

 

April

 

6.2790

 

6.3043

 

6.2790

 

6.3150

 

May (through May 18, 2012)

 

6.3245

 

6.3133

 

6.3052

 

6.3247

 

 


(1)          Annual averages are calculated from month-end noon buying rates in the city of New York as published by the Federal Reserve Bank. Monthly averages are calculated using the daily noon buying rates in the city of New York as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board during the relevant periods.

 

(2)          Annual and monthly lows and highs are calculated from daily noon buying rates in the city of New York as published by the Federal Reserve Bank.

 

B.                                    Capitalization and Indebtedness

 

Not applicable.

 

C.                                    Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds

 

Not applicable.

 

D.                                    Risk Factors

 

Risks related to our business and industry

 

If we are not able to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs, our net revenues may decline and we may not be able to maintain profitability.

 

The success of our business largely depends on the number of student enrollments in our programs and the amount of course fees that our students are willing to pay. Therefore, our ability to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs without a significant decrease in course fees is critical to the continued success and growth of our business. This will depend on several factors, including our ability to develop new programs and enhance existing programs to respond to changes in market trends and student demands, expand our geographic reach, manage our growth while maintaining the consistency of our teaching quality, effectively market our programs to a broader base of prospective students, develop and license additional high-quality educational content and respond to competitive pressures. Our college is subject to the government imposed annual enrollment quota limit. If we were to violate requirements to which we are subject the Chinese Ministry of Education, or the MOE, could reduce the annual enrollment quota at our college or restrict the programs we offer at our college or the methods by which we recruit new students. If we are unable to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs without a significant decrease in course fees, our net revenues may decline and we may not be able to maintain profitability, either of which could result in a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

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If we are not able to continue to attract and retain qualified education professionals, we may not be able to maintain consistent teaching quality throughout our school and learning center network and our brand, business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

 

Our education professionals are critical to maintaining the quality of our services, software products and programs, and maintaining our brand and reputation, as they interact with our students on a regular basis. We must continue to attract qualified education professionals who have a strong command of the subject areas to be taught and meet our qualifications. There are a limited number of education professionals in China with the necessary experience to satisfy our qualifications, and we must provide competitive compensation packages to attract and retain qualified teachers and tutors. Some of our education professionals are teachers of public schools that are working at our tutoring centers on a part-time basis. Paid tutoring by teachers of public schools has received more regulatory scrutiny recently. Some of the provinces and cities where we have substantial business operations, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Chengdu, Jiangsu, Hunan and Hubei have promulgated local regulations prohibiting teachers of public schools from teaching, on a part-time basis, at private schools during the work week or at any time. We believe that some of our teachers also work in public schools. If these education professionals choose to leave, or are forced to leave, our learning centers to comply with relevant local regulations, we will need to seek new teachers to replace them which we cannot assure you that we will be able to do at a reasonable cost or at all. If these regulations become the trend and are adopted in more provinces and cities or become more restrictive, we may need to seek additional new teachers in more places, which will further increase the difficulty of our recruiting efforts. While none of the existing local regulations impose any penalty on private schools like ours for hiring teachers who also teach at public schools, we cannot assure you that such regulations will not be adopted in the future. In addition, we may not be able to hire and retain enough qualified education professionals to keep pace with our anticipated growth or at acceptable costs while maintaining consistent teaching quality across many different schools, learning centers and programs in different geographic locations. Shortages of qualified education professionals, or decreases in the quality of our instruction, whether actual or perceived in one or more of our markets, or an increase in hiring costs, may have a material and adverse effect on our business and our reputation. Further, our inability to retain our education professionals may hurt the brands we are trying to develop, and retaining qualified teachers at additional costs may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

Failure to effectively and efficiently manage the expansion of our service network may materially and adversely affect our ability to capitalize on new business opportunities.

 

We plan to expand our operations primarily through organic growth, which may result in substantial demands on our management personnel as well as our financial, operational, administrative, technological and other resources. Opening new tutoring and career enhancement centers requires us to incur substantial pre-opening costs and we may incur losses during the initial ramp-up stage since we incur rent, salary and other operating expenses for new learning centers regardless of any revenues we may generate.  We expect that the fixed costs and other increased operating expenses that would result from opening new centers would exceed the revenue generated from those new centers during their initial establishment period. Consequently, if we open a significant number of new tutoring and career enhancement centers, our profit margins will decline substantially, at least in the near term, until such time as the new centers generate sufficient revenue to offset their fixed costs and other increased operating expenses.  Furthermore, the expansion of our programs, services and geographic locations may not succeed due to competition, failure to efficiently market our new centers and maintain their quality and consistency, or other factors.  We cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully integrate new learning centers into our operations. Any failure to effectively and efficiently manage our expansion may materially and adversely affect our ability to capitalize on new business opportunities, which in turn may have a material adverse effect on our future financial condition and results of operations.  However, if we fail to expand our business in a timely fashion, we may lose market share and revenue and our future growth could be limited.

 

Our business depends on the strength of our brands in the marketplace. We may not be able to retain existing students or attract new students if we cannot continue to use, protect and enhance our brands successfully in the marketplace.

 

Our operational and financial performance and the successful growth of our business are highly dependent on market awareness of our “Ambow” brand and the regional brands that we have acquired. We believe that maintaining and enhancing the “Ambow” brand is critical to maintaining and enhancing our competitive advantage and growing our business. In order to retain existing students and attract new students, we plan to continue to make significant expenditures to create and maintain our positive brand awareness and brand loyalty. The diverse set of services and products that we offer to K-12 students, college students and other adults throughout many provinces in China places significant demands on us to maintain the consistency and quality of our services and products to ensure that our brands do not suffer from any actual or perceived decrease in the quality of our services and products. As we continue to grow in size, expand our services and products and extend our geographical reach, maintaining the quality and consistency of our services and products may be more difficult. Any negative publicity about our services, products, schools or learning centers, regardless of its veracity, could harm our brand image and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

We face significant competition in each major program we offer and each geographic market in which we operate, and if we fail to compete effectively, we may lose our market share and our profitability may be adversely affected.

 

The private education sector in China is rapidly evolving, highly fragmented and competitive, and we expect competition in this sector to persist and intensify. In addition, our K-12 schools compete with public schools in China, which are generally viewed to be superior to private schools within the Chinese market. We face competition in each major program we offer and each geographic

 

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market in which we operate. Moreover, competition is particularly intense in some of the key geographic markets in which we operate, such as Beijing and Shanghai.

 

We also face competition from many different companies that focus on one area of our business and are able to devote all of their resources to that business line, and these companies may be able to more quickly adapt to changing technology, student preferences and market conditions in these markets than we can. These companies may, therefore, have a competitive advantage over us with respect to these business areas.

 

The increasing use of the Internet and advances in Internet- and computer-related technologies are eliminating geographic and cost-entry barriers to providing private educational services. As a result, many international companies that offer online test preparation and language training courses may decide to expand their presence in China or to try to penetrate the China market. Many of these international companies have strong education brands, and students and parents in China may be attracted to the offerings based in the country that the student wishes to study in or in which the selected language is widely spoken. In addition, many Chinese and smaller companies are able to use the Internet to quickly and cost-effectively offer their services and products to a large number of students with less capital expenditure than previously required.

 

Competition could result in loss of market share and revenues, lower profit margins and limit our future growth. A number of our current and potential future competitors may have greater financial and other resources than we have. These competitors may be able to devote greater resources than we can to the development, promotion and sale of their services and products, and respond more quickly than we can to changes in student needs, testing materials, admissions standards, market needs or new technologies.

 

Our student enrollments may decrease due to intense competition, and we may be required to reduce course fees or increase spending in response to competition in order to retain or attract students or pursue new market opportunities. As a result, our net revenues and profitability may decrease. We cannot assure you that we will be able to compete successfully against current or future competitors. If we are unable to maintain our competitive position or otherwise respond to competitive pressures effectively, we may lose our market share and our profitability may be materially adversely affected.

 

We have completed a number of acquisitions, which involve risks and uncertainties, and if we don’t manage those risks well, it may harm our business.

 

We have completed a number of acquisitions, and we intend to continue to make strategic acquisitions and investments as part of our growth strategy. In the future, we may also establish and maintain joint ventures and strategic relationships with third parties. Strategic acquisitions, investments and relationships with third parties involve substantial risks and uncertainties, including:

 

·                  Our ability to identify and acquire targets in a cost-effective manner;

 

·                  Our ability to obtain approval from relevant governmental authorities for the acquisitions and comply with applicable rules and regulations for such acquisitions;

 

·                  Potential ongoing financial obligations in connection with acquisitions;

 

·                  Potential unforeseen or hidden liabilities, including litigation claims or tax liabilities, associated with acquired companies or schools;

 

·                  The diversion of resources and management attention from our existing businesses;

 

·                  Failure to achieve the intended objectives, benefits or revenue-enhancing opportunities expected from the acquisitions;

 

·                  Our ability to generate sufficient revenues to offset the costs and expenses of strategic acquisitions, investments, joint venture formations, or other strategic relationships; and

 

·                  Potential loss of, or harm to, employee or customer relationships as a result of ownership changes.

 

In particular, while we have performed due diligence on each entity that we acquired before the acquisition, some of the acquired entities did not maintain their historical documents and records properly and a substantial amount of such documents and records were unavailable for our review. As such, there may be hidden liabilities and risks relating to the business and operation of such acquired entities that we failed to identify before the acquisition and of which we are still unaware. If any such hidden liability is found or any such risk materializes in the future, we may not have any remedy against the sellers and may have to assume the liabilities and losses as a result.

 

If any one or more of these risks or uncertainties were to occur or if any of the strategic objectives we contemplated is not achieved, our ability to manage our business could be impaired. It could result in our failure to derive the intended benefits of these strategic acquisitions, investments, joint ventures or strategic relationships, or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if we fail to successfully pursue our future acquisition strategy, our plans for further market penetration, revenue growth and improved results of operations could be harmed.

 

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We may not be able to successfully integrate businesses that we acquire, which may cause us to lose anticipated benefits from such acquisitions and to incur significant additional expenses.

 

It is challenging to integrate business operations, infrastructure and management philosophies of acquired schools and companies. The benefits of our past and future acquisitions depend in significant part on our ability to integrate technology, operations and personnel. The integration of acquired schools and companies is a complex, time-consuming and expensive process that, without proper planning and implementation, could significantly disrupt our business and operations. The main challenges involved in integrating acquired entities include the following:

 

·                  Ensuring and demonstrating to our students that the acquisitions will not result in adverse changes in service standards or business focus;

 

·                  Consolidating and rationalizing corporate IT and administrative infrastructures;

 

·                  Retaining qualified education professionals of our acquired entities;

 

·                  Consolidating service and product offerings;

 

·                  Coordinating and rationalizing research and development activities to enhance introduction of new products and technologies with reduced cost;

 

·                  Preserving strategic, marketing or other important relationships of the acquired entity and resolving potential conflicts that may arise with our key relationships; and

 

·                  Minimizing the diversion of management attention from ongoing business concerns.

 

We may not successfully integrate our operations and the operations of entities we acquire in a timely manner, or at all, and we may not realize the anticipated benefits or synergies of the acquisitions to the extent, or in the timeframe, anticipated, which would have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.  In the last quarter of 2011, we disposed four tutoring and career enhancement subdivisions and initiated the disposal of Beijing Century College and its 100% owned Beijing Siwa Century Facility Management Co. and Beijing 21st Century International School.  In connection with these disposals, the Company recorded a total impairment loss of RMB152.6 million (US$24.2 million). This is done to sharpen our focus on the organic growth and business portfolio with stronger performance, greater capital efficiency and better asset turnover.

 

Our results of operations may fluctuate, which makes our financial results difficult to forecast, and could cause our results to fall short of expectations.

 

Our results of operations may fluctuate as a result of a number of factors, many of which are outside of our control. Our net revenues grew from RMB736.7 million in 2009 to RMB1,217.1 million in 2010 to RMB1,669.2 million (US$265.2 million) in 2011. Such growth may not be sustainable or indicative of our future results.  In addition, comparing our results of operations on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful, and you should not rely on our past results as an indication of our future performance. Our quarterly and annual net revenues and costs and expenses as a percentage of net revenues may be significantly different from our historical or projected rates. Our quarterly and annual net revenues and gross margins may fluctuate due to a number of factors, including:

 

·                  The mix of our net revenues across our operating segments;

 

·                  The increase of costs associated with our strategic expansion plans;

 

·                  The revenue and gross margin profiles of our acquisitions in a given period;

 

·                  Our ability to successfully integrate our acquisitions and the timing of our post-integration activities;

 

·                  Our ability to reduce our costs as a percentage of our net revenues;

 

·                  Increased competition; and

 

·                  Our ability to manage our financial resources, including administration of bank loans and bank accounts.

 

As a result of these and other factors, we may not sustain our past growth rates in future periods, and we may not sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis in the future.

 

Our business depends on the continuing efforts of our senior management team and other key personnel and our business may be harmed if we lose their services.

 

Our future success depends heavily upon the continuing services of the members of our senior management team and, in particular, upon our retaining the services of our founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Jin Huang. If one or more of our senior executives or other key personnel are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to replace them easily or at all, our business may be disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, if any member of our senior management team or any of our other key personnel joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose teachers, students, key professionals and staff members. Competition for experienced management personnel in the private education sector is intense, the pool of qualified candidates is very limited, and we may not be

 

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able to retain the services of our senior executives or key personnel, or attract and retain high-quality senior executives or key personnel in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

Changes in our management may cause uncertainty in, or be disruptive to, our business.

 

We experienced certain changes in our senior management during 2011. Our Chief Financial Officer was appointed in December 2011, and we appointed a Chief Strategy Officer in November 2011. Although we will endeavor to implement management transition in as non-disruptive a manner as possible, any such transition might impact our business, and give rise to uncertainty among our customers, investors, vendors, employees and others concerning our future direction and performance. This could affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, and our ability to execute our business model could be impaired.

 

The growth of our business is in part dependent on our relationships with our distributors and corporate partners. If we were to lose these relationships, or the benefits we derive from these relationships were to diminish, our growth rates and our business would be harmed.

 

We rely on our distributors and corporate partners to help drive our net revenues and profitability growth rates. We sell to distributors who then distribute our educational services and software products throughout China to additional schools and students and to expand our geographic reach to areas where we do not have a direct presence. Some of our distributors are small companies with limited resources and track records and there can be no assurance that they will be able to continue their operations or succeed in selling our products. If these distributors are unable to continue their operations or sell our products, we may be required to identify new distributors which may divert management resources from other matters and otherwise interrupt our sales cycle. We also have partnerships, both directly and through our distributors, with a number of K-12 schools and universities throughout China. We sell our services and software products to the students in these schools and universities and also teach students in our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers who are enrolled in these schools and universities. We have developed a number of strategic partnerships with significant national and multinational corporations who are expanding the business they do in China, including Cisco Systems, Inc., The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Oracle (China) Software Systems Co. Ltd, Microsoft (China) Company Limited, Lenovo and Adobe Creative University. We derive both direct benefits, such as expanding and improving the curriculum in our career enhancement centers and helping to attract additional students to these centers, and indirect benefits, such as strengthening the Ambow brand, from these partnerships. If our relationships with any of these partners and distributors were to be damaged or lost, or the benefits we derive from these relationships were to be diminished, whether by our own actions, actions of one or more governmental entities or actions of our competitors, our growth rates and our business would be harmed.

 

If we are not able to continually enhance our online programs, services and products and adapt them to rapid technological changes and student needs, we may lose market share and our business could be adversely affected.

 

Our online programs, services and products are vital to the success of our business. The market for such programs, services and products is characterized by rapid technological changes and innovation, unpredictable product life cycles and user preferences. We must quickly modify our online programs, services and products to adapt to changing student needs and preferences, technological advances and evolving Internet practices. Ongoing enhancement of our online offerings and related technologies may entail significant expense and technical risk. We may use new technologies ineffectively or fail to adapt our online services or products and related technologies on a timely and cost-effective basis. If our improvements to our online offerings and the related technology are delayed, result in systems interruptions or are not aligned with market expectations or preferences, we may lose market share and our business could be materially adversely affected.

 

If we fail to successfully develop and introduce new services and products in time, our competitive position and ability to generate revenues could be harmed.

 

Our future success depends partly on our ability to develop new services and products. The planned timing or introduction of new services and products is subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual timing may differ materially from original plans. Unexpected technical, operational or other problems could delay or prevent the introduction of one or more of our new services or products. Moreover, we cannot assure you that any of our new services and products will achieve widespread market acceptance or generate incremental revenue. If our efforts to develop, market and sell new services and products to the market are not successful, our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could be materially adversely affected.

 

Failure to adequately and promptly respond to changes in curriculum, testing materials and standards could cause our services and products to be less attractive to our students.

 

There are continuous changes in the focus of the subjects and questions tested on ZhongKao and GaoKao in China, and the format of the tests and the manner in which the standardized tests are administered. These changes require us to continually update and enhance our curriculum, test preparation materials and our teaching methods. Any inability to track and respond to these changes in a timely and cost-effective manner would make our services and products less attractive to students, which may materially and adversely affect our reputation and ability to continue to attract students without a significant decrease in course fees. Further, we understand the MOE has been discussing reforms to curriculum of K-12 schools. Therefore, school curriculum will likely undergo changes and our tutoring and test preparation programs and materials will need to adapt to such changes. Failure to timely respond to such changes will adversely impact our tutoring services.

 

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Failure to respond to changes to the current assessment and testing systems and admission standards in China could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

A substantial majority of the net revenues generated in our tutoring segment in the year ended December 31, 2011 were generated from tutoring services focused on preparing for ZhongKao and GaoKao. There have been changes in some areas in the way ZhongKao is administered. For example, beginning in 2010, Yunnan Province stopped administering ZhongKao. Instead, high schools will admit students based on a combination of a comprehensive evaluation of the students’ aptitude (provided by their middle schools) and the students’ middle school academic performance. To ensure the success of the educational reform and cultivate students’ comprehensive abilities, Yunnan Province also prohibits subject competitions in elementary and middle schools, including Olympic math competitions, and standardizes admission policies regarding adding points to middle school test scores based on a student’s extracurricular activities. As for GaoKao, some top universities such as Peking University have been allowed to recruit students through independently administered tests and admission procedures in recent years. The candidates still need to take GaoKao and their scores in GaoKao may not be lower than certain thresholds, but such GaoKao scores will not be the sole determining factor in the admission process. Students admitted in this manner generally should not exceed 5% of the annual enrollment quotas of these universities as approved by the MOE. In 2009, 76 universities and colleges were allowed to recruit students through independently administered tests and admission procedures according to a notice promulgated by the MOE on December 12, 2008. The number of such universities and colleges increased to 80 in 2011 and may increase further in the future. To the extent ZhongKao, or even GaoKao, becomes less prevalent throughout China, our business and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.

 

If we are unable to renew our existing loan facilities, or obtain new loans, at all or on terms that are acceptable to us, our growth pace will be impacted.

 

As of December 31, 2011, our total bank borrowings amounted to RMB180.6 million and our short-term bank loans outstanding totaled RMB118.1 million.  We may seek to obtain additional bank loans in the future. We cannot assure you that we will be able to roll over our existing bank facilities, or obtain new loans or credit facilities, at all or on terms that are acceptable to us. Our ability to obtain financing may be affected by our financial position and leverage, our credit rating and investor perception of the education industry, as well as by prevailing economic conditions and the cost of financing in general. In addition, factors beyond our control, such as recent global market and economic conditions and the tightening of credit markets may result in a diminished availability of financing and increased volatility in credit and equity markets, which may materially adversely affect our ability to secure financing at reasonable costs or at all.  As of the date of this annual report, all of our bank borrowing is from domestic banks in China.  During 2011, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) significantly tightened liquidity among Chinese banks.  Although on December 5, 2011, the PBOC reduced the reserve requirement ratio for Chinese banks to 21 percent from a record high of 21.5 percent, we cannot assure you that the PBOC will not in the future take actions that may result in a tightening of the credit market in China.  Our ability to obtain bank loans from domestic Chinese banks will be significantly impacted by the PBOC’s policies, over which we have no control.  If we are unable to roll over our existing bank facilities or to obtain financing in the future on terms acceptable to us, our business operations and our growth plans would be materially harmed.

 

Our business is subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may cause our operating results to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. This may result in volatility and adversely affect the price of our ADSs.

 

We have experienced, and expect to continue to experience, seasonal fluctuations in our revenues and results of operations, primarily due to seasonal changes in service days and student enrollments. Historically, the number of days on which our students attend our courses is lower in the first and third quarters due to school closures for the celebration of the Chinese New Year and summer vacation. Because we recognize revenue in our K-12 schools and college segments based on the number of service days in the quarter, we expect our revenue in the first and third quarters to be negatively impacted. Our costs and expenses, however, vary significantly and do not necessarily correspond with changes in our student enrollments, service days and net revenues. We make investments in marketing and promotion, teacher recruitment and training, and product development throughout the year. We expect quarterly fluctuations in our revenues and results of operations to continue. These fluctuations could result in volatility and adversely affect the price of our ADSs. As our revenues grow in our K-12 schools and college segments, these seasonal fluctuations may become more pronounced.

 

We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could cause us to be less competitive.

 

Our trademarks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights are important to our success. Unauthorized use of any of our intellectual property may adversely affect our business and reputation. We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and trade secrets laws and confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants and others, including our partner schools, to protect our intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, it may be possible for third parties to obtain and use our intellectual property without authorization. The unauthorized use of intellectual property is widespread in China, and enforcement of intellectual property rights by Chinese regulatory agencies is inconsistent. Moreover, litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce our intellectual property rights. Future litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of our management’s attention and resources and could disrupt our business. If we are unable to enforce our intellectual property rights, it could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Given the relative unpredictability of China’s legal system and potential difficulties enforcing a court judgment in China, we may be unable to halt the unauthorized use of our intellectual property

 

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through litigation. Failure to adequately protect our intellectual property could materially adversely affect our competitive position, our ability to attract students and our results of operations.

 

We may be exposed to infringement and misappropriation claims by third parties, which, if successful, could cause us to pay significant damage awards.

 

Third parties may initiate litigation against us alleging infringement upon their intellectual property rights. On May 13, 2009, the Intermediate Court in Beijing accepted a filing of an infringement claim by the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, regarding alleged copyright infringement arising from the unauthorized use of GMAT materials by Beijing Century Bosen Consulting Co., Ltd., or Beijing Century Tutoring, one of our tutoring centers. In November 2009, GMAC and Beijing Century Tutoring entered into a settlement agreement that provides, among other things, that Beijing Century Tutoring shall remove certain specified GMAT materials and hyperlinks from Beijing Century Tutoring’s website, and RMB0.5 million was paid by Beijing Century Tutoring to GMAC for damages and losses incurred by the alleged infringing acts.

 

In August 2010, Beijing Kaidi Morning Light Education and Technology Development Co., Ltd., or Kaidi, initiated an action against Ambow Shida and Ambow Online in the Haidian District Court in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China, alleging copyright infringement related to our Core Ebopo English and Ebopo English products. Kaidi applied to the court for an order that would require the defendants to stop the infringement, apologize publicly and pay the plaintiff damages in the amount of RMB 11,000,000.  Ambow Shida and Ambow Online replied to the accusation, and Kaidi voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit after the first hearing for the preliminary evidence. In December 2010, Kaidi re-filed its claim for copyright infringement in the Haidian District Court in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China, against Ambow Shida and Ambow Online. Ambow Shida and Ambow Online replied to the accusation.  The court held a hearing to review the preliminary evidence in March 2011 and adjourned the case.

 

In March 2011, Mintel Learning Technology, Inc. (“Mintel”) filed a complaint against Ambow Education Holding Ltd. (“Ambow”) and Ambow’s President and CEO, Dr. Jin Huang, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging a claim of trade secret misappropriation.  On January 6, 2012, the Court granted Ambow’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.  In an amended complaint filed on January 12, 2012, Mintel dropped its claim against Dr. Huang.  Mintel maintained its claim against Ambow for trade secret misappropriation.  In an order dated March 8, 2012, the Court denied Ambow’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint.  On March 22, 2012, Ambow filed an answer to the complaint, denying Mintel’s claim.  The parties are currently engaged in the early stages of discovery.  Fact discovery will close on October 19, 2012, and expert discovery will close on December 14, 2012.  The last day for the parties to file dispositive motions is January 11, 2013.  The Court has set a preliminary pretrial conference for February 1, 2013.

 

Although we believe that these claims are not meritorious and intend to defend ourselves vigorously, in the event of a future successful claim of infringement or misappropriation and our failure or inability to develop non-infringing technology or license the infringed or misappropriated or similar technology on a timely basis, our business could be harmed. In addition, even if we are able to license the infringed or misappropriated or similar technology, license fees could be substantial and may adversely affect our results of operations.

 

We rely heavily on our information systems, and if we fail to further develop our technologies, or if our systems, software, applications, database or source code contain “bugs” or other undetected errors, our operations may be seriously disrupted.

 

The successful development and maintenance of our systems, software, applications and database, such as our school management software and system, learning engine and student database, is critical to the attractiveness of our online and offline programs and the management of our business operations. In order to achieve our strategic objectives and to remain competitive, we must continue to develop and enhance our technology. This may require us to acquire additional equipment and software and to develop new applications. In addition, our technology platform upon which our management systems and online programs operate, and our other databases, products, systems and source codes could contain undetected errors or “bugs” that could adversely affect their performance.

 

To date, our information systems have not encountered material errors or technical issues that have adversely affected or disrupted our operations. If we encounter errors or other service quality or reliability issues, or if we are unable to design, develop, implement and utilize information systems and the data derived from these systems, our ability to realize our strategic objectives and our profitability could be adversely affected, and this may cause us to lose market share, harm our reputation and brand names, and materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

Unexpected network interruptions, security breaches or computer virus attacks and system failures could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Any failure to maintain satisfactory performance, reliability, security or availability of our network infrastructure may cause significant damage to our reputation and our ability to attract and maintain students. Major risks involving our network structure include:

 

·                  Breakdowns or system failures resulting in a prolonged shutdown of our servers, including failures attributable to power shutdowns, or attempts to gain unauthorized access to our systems, which may cause loss or corruption of data, including customer data, or malfunctions of software or hardware;

 

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·                  Disruption or failure in the national backbone network, which would make it impossible for visitors and students to log on to our websites;

 

·                  Damage from fire, flood, power loss and telecommunications failures; and

 

·                  Any infection by or spread of computer viruses.

 

Any network interruption or inadequacy that causes interruptions in the availability of our websites or deterioration in the quality of access to our websites could reduce customer satisfaction and result in a reduction in the number of students using our services. If sustained or repeated, these performance issues could reduce the attractiveness of our online and offline programs. In addition, we may be subject to a security breach caused by a computer hacker, which could involve attempts to gain unauthorized access to our systems or personal information stored in our systems, or to cause intentional malfunctions or loss or corruption of data, software, hardware or other computer equipment. A user who circumvents our security measures could misappropriate proprietary information or cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations. As a result, we may be required to expend significant resources to protect against the threat of these security breaches or to alleviate problems caused by these breaches.

 

Furthermore, increases in the volume of traffic on our websites could also strain the capacity of our existing computer systems, which could lead to slower response times or system failures. This would cause a disruption or suspension in our online course programs, which would hurt our brand and reputation, and thus negatively affect our net revenue growth. We may need to incur additional costs to upgrade our computer systems in order to accommodate increased demand if we anticipate that our systems cannot handle higher volumes of traffic in the future.

 

All of our servers and routers, including backup servers, are currently hosted by third-party service providers within China. We do not currently maintain any backup servers outside of China. To improve the performance and to prevent the disruption of our services, we may have to make substantial investments to deploy additional servers or one or more copies of our websites to mirror our online resources.

 

Our legal right to lease certain properties could be challenged by property owners or other third parties, which may cause interruptions to business operations of the affected schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers and adversely affect our financial results.

 

We lease most of the premises used for the operation of our schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers. As a result, we are dependent on the property rights of these properties held by their owners to enable us to use the premises. We cannot assure you that all lessors of our leased business premises have the relevant land use right certificates or building ownership certificates of the premises they lease to us or otherwise have the right to lease the premises to us.

 

As of December 31, 2011, we were unable to acquire copies of title certificates of buildings from lessors or registration or approval from competent authorities for properties to be obtained by lessors accounting for approximately 318,573 square meters, or approximately 42.2 % of the premises we lease based on the aggregate of 754,221 square meters of space we lease for our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college as of such date. These leased buildings with defects, which represent 32.7% of all of the buildings we lease and own, generally are used for classrooms and dormitories for our students. Of the buildings we lease with defects, buildings covering approximately 94,212 square meters for schools or learning center space are leased from public schools and such buildings are prohibited from being leased to private schools.

 

In 2011, our net revenues were RMB1,669.2 million (US$265.2 million). If we are forced to vacate the premises at the properties that have defects where we lease buildings that house our classrooms and dormitories, it could impact schools and learning centers that generate approximately 23.6% of our net revenues, of which there was approximately 20.9% of our net revenues in 2011 that were generated by sales of software products and were not reliant on our physical properties. We believe, however, that it is highly unlikely that we would be impacted by all or most of these defects at the same time across numerous locations in various jurisdictions where these properties are located, and we believe that we would be able to find alternative locations quickly without incurring significant additional expenses for most of these locations; therefore, we believe that any impact from these defects on our net revenues would be significantly smaller than 23.6%.

 

As of December 31, 2011, certain land leased separately from the buildings discussed above covering 366,625 square meters, which represented approximately 78.0% of all our land leased as of that date and approximately 31.1% of all of our leased and owned land as of that date, are restricted to industrial and other uses, rather than for educational use, including one plot of land owned by villages and rural organizations, or collectively-owned land, which is not permitted to be leased for a non-agricultural use under PRC law. This portion of our leased land is used for recreational areas at certain of our tutoring centers, K-12 schools and college. As a result, if we were forced to vacate this portion of leased land, which is leased separately from our buildings, we do not believe it would have a direct impact on our net revenues. However, if we are regarded by a competent authority as using this leased land for a purpose other than the use approved by the government, we may be ordered to vacate the relevant land and subject to fines at a rate that we believe, based on our review of the applicable regulations, would be up to RMB30.0 (US$4.8) per square meter, and the total amount of the fines might be up to RMB11.1 million (US$1.8 million).

 

We are not aware of any actions, claims or investigations being contemplated by the competent governmental entities with respect to the defects in our leased real properties. However, if we are unable to use the existing properties, enter new leases or renew

 

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our current leases in a timely basis and on terms favorable to us, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.

 

We do not possess the relevant land use right certificates or building ownership certificates for some of the properties owned by us, and certain of the properties that we own have potential defects or issues that may not be easily remedied, which could cause us to incur significant additional expenses or could disrupt certain aspects of our business.

 

Some of the real properties that we own have defects or potential issues such as missing title certificates. As of December 31, 2011, we own and occupy land covering an aggregate of 681,634 square meters, of which one parcel of land covering 56,667 square meters, accounting for 8.3% of the land we own as of that date and 4.9% of the land we lease and own as of that date, do not have land use right certificates.  As of December 31, 2011, we own an aggregate of 220,974 square meters of buildings. We have not acquired the building ownership certificates for buildings covering 83,069 square meters, accounting for 37.6% of the square meters of the buildings we own, including certain properties covering 54,864 square meters that have some of the required permits.

 

To the extent competent governmental entities were to detect these defects and we were found not to be in compliance with the applicable regulations, we may be subject to fines or incur significant additional expenses, our legal title to some of our properties may be challenged, and certain of the land we use to operate our business may be confiscated. If we are required to find alternative locations for our schools and learning centers, we may be required to pay increased rent for the new locations and the new locations, especially for our K-12 schools and college, may be less convenient and accessible to our students and teachers, which may materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

We are in the process of applying for the land use right for one parcel of land covering 56,667 square meters and building ownership certificates for buildings covering 53,726 square meters for which we do not yet hold effective title certificates, and are trying to remedy the defects and issues that prevent us from obtaining such certificates. We expect to complete the application process and obtain the certificates in a reasonable period of time, but do not have an exact time frame. However, we cannot assure you that these applications will be approved in a timely fashion or at all. If we are not able to remedy these defects in a timely manner, we may be required to find alternative locations for our schools and learning centers or may be subject to fines or penalties, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business or results of operations.

 

We were aware of defects in the leased or owned real properties at target entities at the time we made acquisitions. As we continue to expand our business and acquire additional schools and learning centers, certain defects might exist in the leased or owned properties of the schools and learning centers we acquire in the future.

 

The defects in certain of the properties of our directly-operated schools and learning centers existed at the time we acquired these entities. Our mergers and acquisitions team has followed an internal procedure to identify and assess risks in connection with acquisitions. We were aware of the defects in the leased or owned properties of the acquired schools during our due diligence review, and a final business decision was made after our analysis of the likely impact of such real property defects. As we continue to expand our business and make acquisitions of additional schools and learning centers, we cannot assure you that all properties leased or owned by our acquisition targets will be fully in compliance with the relevant real property regulations. If the target schools fail to remedy the defects and issues in the leased or owned real properties prior to the time at which we complete the acquisitions, the schools or learning centers may be subject to fines or other penalties, which may adversely affect our operation of these schools and our operating results.

 

Failure by our college to comply with regulatory requirements on land use rights and capital commitment may subject our colleges to penalties and adversely affect our business operations.

 

The Rules Relating to the Establishment and Regulation of Independent Colleges, or Independent College Rules, promulgated by the MOE on February 22, 2008 and effective as of April 1, 2008, provide that an independent college established thereafter shall hold the land use right certificate or construction planning permit for land covering at least 500 mu (333,334 square meters), and independent colleges established prior to April 1, 2008 are required to meet this land requirement within a grace period of five years, namely prior to March 31, 2013. Our college, the Applied Technology College, was established prior to April 1, 2008 and is subject to such minimum land requirements and does not currently comply. To satisfy such requirements would require us to incur significant expenses that we are not able to quantify, and we cannot assure you that we can satisfy these requirements in time. In addition, the Independent College Rules require that the capital commitment to an independent college established before the Rules came into effect shall be paid within one year after its effectiveness. As of the date of this annual report, the capital commitment to the Applied Technology College is fully paid in cash, but we still need to contribute land use rights. For the year ended December 31, 2011, net revenues from our independent college accounted for 7.0% of our net revenues. Our failure to comply with the land requirements before the deadline or the capital commitment requirement may subject us to penalties, including fines of an unknown amount, and the college’s ability to recruit additional students may be limited or suspended, any of which may result in a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and results of operations.

 

We may need to record a significant charge to earnings if our goodwill or intangible assets arising from acquisitions become impaired, which would adversely affect our net income.

 

In accordance with U.S. GAAP, we account for our acquisitions using the purchase method of accounting, and such acquisitions have resulted in significant goodwill and intangible assets. These assets may become impaired in the future, which could

 

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have a material adverse effect on our results of operations following such acquisitions. We are required under U.S. GAAP to review our amortizable intangible assets for impairment when events or changes in circumstances indicate the carrying value may not be recoverable. Goodwill is required to be tested for impairment annually, or more frequently, if facts and circumstances warrant a review. Factors that may be considered a change in circumstances indicating that the carrying value of our amortizable intangible assets may not be recoverable include a decline in stock price and market capitalization and slower or declining growth rates in our industry. During 2011, we recorded an impairment loss of RMB152.6 million (US$24.2 million) in respect of continuing and discontinued operations. In the future, we may be required to record a significant charge to earnings in our financial statements during the period in which any impairment of our goodwill or amortizable intangible assets is determined, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

 

Our grant of employee share options, restricted shares or other share-based compensation and any future grants could have an adverse effect on our net income.

 

We adopted a stock option plan in 2005, or 2005 Stock Plan, as well as an equity incentive plan in 2010, or 2010 Equity Incentive Plan. We have granted options and restricted shares under these plans to our employees and consultants. U.S. GAAP prescribes how we account for share-based compensation, and may have an adverse or negative impact on our results of operations or the price of our ADSs. U.S. GAAP requires us to recognize share-based compensation as compensation expense in the statement of operations based on the fair value of equity awards on the date of the grant, with the compensation expense recognized over the period in which the recipient is required to provide service in exchange for the equity award. These statements also require us to adopt a fair value-based method for measuring the compensation expense related to share-based compensation. As of December 31, 2011, we had RMB 54.0  million (US$8.6 million) of unrecognized share-based compensation costs, adjusted for estimated forfeitures, related to unvested stock option awards granted prior to such date, which are expected to be recognized over a weighted-average period of 1.68 years. The expenses associated with share-based compensation may reduce the attractiveness of issuing share options or restricted shares under our equity incentive plan. However, if we do not grant share options or restricted shares, or reduce the number of share options or restricted shares that we grant, we may not be able to attract and retain key personnel. If we grant more share options or restricted shares to attract and retain key personnel, the expenses associated with share-based compensation may adversely affect our net income.

 

Changes to accounting pronouncements or taxation rules or practices or greater than anticipated tax liabilities may adversely affect our reported results of operations or how we conduct our business

 

A change in accounting pronouncements or taxation rules or practices can have a significant effect on our reported results and may even affect our reporting of transactions completed before the change is effective. New accounting pronouncements or taxation rules, such as FASB Interpretation No. 48 “Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes,” or FIN 48 (now codified as ASC 740), the Corporate Income Tax Law in China which was effective January 1, 2008, or the CIT Law, and various interpretations of accounting pronouncements or taxation practice have been adopted and may be adopted in the future. These accounting standard and tax regulation changes, future changes and the uncertainties surrounding current practices and implementation procedures may adversely affect our reported financial results or the way we conduct our business. We are subject to income tax, business tax and other taxes in many provinces and cities in China and our tax structure is subject to review by various local tax authorities. The determination of our provision for income tax and other tax liabilities requires significant judgment and, in the ordinary course of our business, there are many transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. Although we believe our estimates are reasonable, the ultimate decisions by the relevant tax authorities may differ from the amounts recorded in our financial statements and may materially affect our financial results in the period or periods for which such determination is made. Moreover, we may lose the tax benefits we are currently receiving or we may be forced to disgorge prior tax benefits we have enjoyed and pay additional taxes and possibly penalties for prior tax years, any of which would harm our results of operations.

 

For the years ended December 31, 2009, 2010 and 2011, we received the following preferential tax treatments: (i) Ambow Online was recognized as a “Software Enterprise” and was exempted from income tax on its profits for 2009, and is entitled to a 50% reduction in income tax rate from 2010 to 2012; and (ii) Tianjin Ambow Yuhua Software Co., Ltd., or Ambow Yuhua, was recognized as a “Software Enterprise”  and is entitled to be exempted from income tax on its profits for 2011 and 2012, and is entitled to a 50% reduction in income tax rate from 2013 to 2015. In order to maintain the “Software Enterprise” status, each of these entities is required to obtain a Certificate of Software Enterprise issued by the provincial IT industry administration authorities through meeting the following conditions: (a) its primary business includes computer software development and production, system integration, application services and other related technical services because an enterprise which only engages in software trading is not qualified, (b) it has developed one or more software products or has intellectual property rights to such products, or provides such services as certified computer information system integration, (c) it has the technical equipment and business location required to engage in software development and related technical services, (d) it has the means and ability to control the quality of its software products and technical services, (e) its technicians engaging in product development and technical services make up no less than 50% of the staff, (f) its research and development expenses for software technology and products make up more than 6% of its software revenues, and (g) its annual software sales make up more than 35% of its total annual revenue and the sales of self-produced software make up more than 50% of the software sales. Pursuant to the Criteria for Recognition and Administrative Measures of Software Enterprises, Software Enterprises are subject to annual inspections by the local software industry associations or other relevant associations authorized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT. Software Enterprises which fail such annual inspections may not, for the current year, enjoy the relevant incentive policies including the preferential tax treatment. Each of Ambow Online and Ambow Yuhua has obtained the Certificate of Software Enterprise. For the years ended December 31, 2009, 2010 and 2011, if our corporate

 

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subsidiaries in the PRC had not been awarded tax holidays or received preferential tax treatment, the increase in our tax expense would have been RMB25,523,000, RMB28,285,000 and RMB59,580,000, respectively.

 

For private schools or college operated for reasonable returns they were normally subject to income taxes at 33% prior to 2008 and 25% after January 1, 2008 but were, under certain circumstances, subject to deemed amounts or rates of income tax to be determined by the relevant tax authorities. According to the Implementing Rules of the Law for Promoting Private Education and other relevant tax rules, prior to January 1, 2008, had our schools and colleges been registered as not requiring reasonable returns, they would generally have been exempt from income taxes. To date, no separate regulations or guidelines have been released on how to define reasonable return for the purposes of assessing a school’s tax status prior to January 1, 2008. Moreover, the CIT Law includes specific criteria that need to be met by an entity to qualify as a not-for-profit organization in order to be exempt from corporate income tax. An official circular was issued in November 2009 to set out further clarification of the requirements for not-for-profit organizations, and the circular stipulated that only not-for-profit organizations certified jointly by finance and taxation authorities are entitled to tax exemption and the circular shall go into effect retrospectively as of January 1, 2008. While we currently do not believe it is likely that our schools and college would qualify as not-for-profit organizations and therefore be exempt from corporate income tax under the CIT Law, the detailed implementation guidance has not been provided to local tax authorities on how to apply these changes to schools and colleges. We intend to engage an external tax consultant to conduct comprehensive tax planning once further guidance from the tax authorities is released. This consultant may be expensive and the results of the guidance may not be favorable on our tax rates in the future. If we lose the benefit of the preferential tax treatments some of our schools and companies are currently enjoying, we could be required to pay additional taxes, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

 

If the slowdown in China’s economy continues or worsens, it may adversely impact our business.

 

The growth rate of China’s domestic product in 2011 was 9.2%, compared to a growth rate of 10.3% in 2010. A number of factors contributed to this slowdown in China’s economy, including appreciation of the RMB, which adversely affected China’s exports, and tightening macroeconomic measures and monetary policies adopted by the PRC government aimed at preventing overheating of China’s economy and controlling China’s high level of inflation. Since we derive substantially all of our revenues from students in China, any prolonged slowdown in the Chinese economy may have a negative impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition in a number of ways. For example, our students may decrease or delay spending with us, while we may have difficulty expanding our customer base fast enough, or at all, to offset the impact of decreased spending by our existing students. The adverse economic conditions, if they continue or worsen, will affect consumer spending generally, which could result in decreased demand for our services and products within our target markets.

 

If we fail to implement and maintain an effective system of internal controls, we may be unable to accurately report our results of operations or prevent fraud, and investor confidence and the market price of our ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.

 

As a public company in the United States, we are subject to the reporting obligations under the U.S. securities laws. The Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, as required under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, has adopted rules requiring every public company to include a report of management on the effectiveness of such company’s internal control over financial reporting in its annual report. In addition, an independent registered public accounting firm must issue an attestation report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. Our management and independent registered public accounting firm, as part of their audit of our consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2011, have performed an evaluation of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2011 and reported to our board of directors the material weaknesses as of December 31, 2011. The material weaknesses identified in our internal control over financial reporting are related to both the inadequate oversight over complex transactions and insufficient personnel with appropriate levels of accounting knowledge and experience to address the high volume of U.S. GAAP accounting issues and to prepare and review financial statements and related disclosures under U.S. GAAP. See “Item 15. Controls and Procedures.”

 

In response to the material weaknesses described above, we have taken several measures designed to remediate the material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, and we plan to continue to implement additional remedial measures. The measures we intend to take in the future may not be sufficient to remediate the material weaknesses noted by our management and our independent registered public accounting firm and to avoid potential future material weaknesses. See “Item 15. Controls and Procedures.”

 

We may require more resources and incur more costs than currently expected to remediate our identified material weaknesses or any additional significant deficiencies or material weaknesses that may be identified, which may adversely affect our results of operations.

 

If either of the material weaknesses is not remedied or recurs, or if we identify additional weaknesses or fail to timely and successfully implement new or improved controls, our ability to assure timely and accurate financial reporting may be adversely affected, and we could suffer a loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements, which in turn could negatively impact the trading price of our ADSs, result in lawsuits being filed against us by our shareholders, or otherwise harm our reputation.

 

Risks related to regulation of our business and our corporate structure

 

All aspects of our business are subject to extensive regulation in China, we may not be in full compliance with these regulations and our ability to conduct business is highly dependent on our compliance with this regulatory framework. If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our business do not comply with applicable PRC laws and regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties.

 

The Chinese government regulates all aspects of our business and operations, including licensing of parties to perform various services, pricing of tuition and other fees, curriculum content, standards for the operations of schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers and foreign investments in the education industry. The laws and regulations applicable to the education sector are subject to frequent change, and new laws and regulations may be adopted, some of which may have a negative effect on our business, either retroactively or prospectively.

 

PRC laws and regulations currently prohibit foreign ownership of elementary and middle schools for students in grades one to nine and foreign ownership of businesses that provide content over the Internet is restricted in the PRC. Accordingly, our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China, which are considered foreign-invested, are currently ineligible to apply for such education licenses and Internet content provider permits in China.

 

We conduct our K-12 school business and provide online services in China primarily through contractual arrangements between Ambow Online, our principal operating subsidiary in China, and our VIEs, and their respective shareholders. Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries hold the required licenses and permits necessary to conduct our education business in China and to operate our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers. We have been and expect to continue to be dependent on our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries to operate our business.

 

If our ownership structure and contractual arrangements are found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations or we fail to obtain any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities including the MOE, the Ministry of Commerce, or MOFCOM, and the MIIT, which regulate the education industry, foreign investment in China and Internet business, respectively, would have broad discretion in dealing with such violations, including:

 

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·                  Revoking the business and operating licenses of our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities;

 

·                  Discontinuing or restricting the operations of any related-party transactions among our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities;

 

·                  Imposing fines or other requirements with which we or our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities may not be able to comply;

 

·                  Revoking the preferential tax treatment enjoyed by our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities;

 

·                  Requiring us or our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities to restructure the relevant ownership structure or operations; or

 

·                  Restricting or prohibiting our use of the proceeds of our IPO to finance our business and operations in China, especially expansion of our business through strategic acquisitions.

 

As of the date of this annual report, similar ownership structure and contractual arrangements have been used by many China-based companies listed overseas, including in the United States. To our knowledge, none of the penalties listed above has been imposed on any of those public companies, including companies in the education industry. However, we cannot assure you that such penalties will not be imposed on any other companies or us in the future. If any of the above penalties is imposed on us, our business operations and expansion, financial condition and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.

 

We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective shareholders for a substantial portion of our China operations, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership.

 

We have relied and expect to continue to rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective shareholders to operate a substantial portion of our education business. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4.C — Information on the Company — Organizational Structure” and “Item 7.B — Related Party Transactions—Contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries and shareholders.” These contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing us with control over our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries as direct ownership. If we had direct ownership of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to effect changes in the board of directors of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, which could effect changes, subject to any applicable fiduciary duties, at the management level. As a legal matter, if our VIEs or any of their respective shareholders fails to perform its or his or her respective obligations under these contractual arrangements, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend significant resources to enforce such arrangements. We may also rely on legal remedies under PRC law, including seeking specific performance or injunctive relief, and claiming damages, but these remedies may not be effective. For example, if the shareholders of any of our VIEs were to refuse to transfer their equity interest in such VIEs to us or our designee when we exercise the call option pursuant to these contractual arrangements, or if they were otherwise to act in bad faith toward us, then we may have to take legal action to compel them to fulfill their contractual obligations. In addition, we may not be able to renew these contracts with our VIEs and/or their respective shareholders.

 

In addition, these contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in the PRC. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The legal environment in the PRC may not be as developed as in some other jurisdictions, such as the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. In the event we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our affiliated entities, and our ability to conduct our business would be materially adversely affected.

 

The shareholders of our VIEs may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may harm our business and financial condition.

 

The shareholders of our VIEs are also employees of our company, and one of them, Xuejun Xie, is a director of certain of our VIEs as well as our company. Conflicts of interest between their dual roles may arise. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these individuals will act in the best interests of our company or that conflicts of interest will be resolved in our favor. In addition, these individuals may breach or cause our VIEs or their respective subsidiaries to breach or refuse to renew the existing contractual arrangements that allow us to effectively control our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries and to receive economic benefits from them. Currently, we do not have existing arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these individuals and our company. We rely on these individuals to abide by the laws of the Cayman Islands and China, both of which provide that directors owe a fiduciary duty to the company, which requires them to act in good faith and in the best interests of the company and not to use their positions for personal gain. If we cannot resolve any conflicts of interest or disputes between us and the beneficial owners of our VIEs, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.

 

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Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries may be subject to significant limitations on their ability to operate private schools or make payments to related parties or otherwise be materially and adversely affected by changes in PRC laws and regulations.

 

The principal regulations governing private education in China are The Law for Promoting Private Education (2003) and The Implementing Rules for the Law for Promoting Private Education (2004), or 2004 Implementing Rules. Under these laws and regulations, a private school may elect to be a school that does not require reasonable returns or a school that requires reasonable returns. At the end of each fiscal year, every private school is required to allocate a certain amount to its development fund for the construction or maintenance of the school or procurement or upgrading of educational equipment. In the case of a private school that requires reasonable returns, this amount shall be no less than 25% of the annual net income of the schools, while in the case of a private school that does not require reasonable returns, this amount shall be equivalent to no less than 25% of the annual increase of net assets of the school (as determined under generally accepted accounting principles in the PRC). All of the private schools operated by our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries currently comply with the existing laws and regulations regarding the allocation of their development funds. A private school that requires reasonable returns must publicly disclose such election and additional information required under the regulations. A private school shall consider factors such as the school’s tuition fees, ratio of the funds used for education-related activities to the course fees collected, admission standards and educational quality when determining the percentage of the school’s net income that would be distributed to the investors as reasonable returns. However, none of the current PRC laws and regulations provides a formula or guidelines for determining “reasonable returns.” In addition, none of the current PRC laws and regulations sets forth different requirements or restrictions on a private school’s ability to operate its education business based on such school’s status as a school that requires reasonable returns or a school that does not require reasonable returns. New laws or regulations might be adopted to:

 

·                  Impose significant limitations on the ability of our schools to operate their business, charge course fees or make payments to related parties, such as Ambow Online, for services received; or

 

·                  Specify the formula for calculating “reasonable returns.”

 

We cannot predict the timing and effects of any such amendments or new laws and regulations. Changes in PRC laws and regulations governing private education or otherwise affecting our VIEs’, and their respective subsidiaries’, operations could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects and results of operations.

 

Regulatory agencies may commence investigations of the tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college controlled and operated by our VIEs. If the results of the investigations are unfavorable to us, we may be subject to fines, penalties, injunctions or other censure that could have an adverse impact on our reputation and results of operations.

 

Our VIEs control and operate tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and one college. As the provision of these services is heavily regulated in China, especially primary or secondary schools, these schools and companies that our VIEs or their respective subsidiaries currently own or operate or may acquire or establish in the future may be subject from time to time to inspections and investigations, claims of non-compliance or lawsuits by governmental agencies, which may allege statutory violations, regulatory infractions or other causes of action. For example, if an independent college is found unable to satisfy one or more conditions for running a college set by the MOE in such inspection or investigation, the MOE may impose limitation on the annual enrollment quota or even suspend the recruitment of the college. In 2006, the MOE, based on the result of an investigation into independent colleges, posted a notice of non-compliance on its website criticizing some independent colleges, including the two colleges that we subsequently acquired, for failure of their respective sponsors to transfer committed assets to the colleges. As of the date of this annual report, we have only one college and its sponsors have not had any fines imposed upon them or otherwise incurred a penalty from the MOE for the failure to pay committed capital, and its enrollment capacity has not been adversely affected for failure to satisfy conditions set by the MOE. If the results of any such investigations or lawsuits are unfavorable to us, we may be subject to fines, penalties, injunctions or other censure that could have an adverse impact on our reputation and results of operations. Even if we adequately address the issues raised by a government investigation, we may have to devote significant financial and management resources to resolve these issues, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

Contractual arrangements we have entered into among our subsidiaries and our VIEs and their respective shareholders may result in adverse tax consequences to us; such arrangements may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and a finding that we or our VIEs and their respective shareholders owe additional taxes could substantially reduce our consolidated net income and the value of your investment.

 

Under PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties should be priced on an arm’s length basis and may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. We could face material adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements between Ambow Online and our VIEs and their respective shareholders do not represent an arm’s-length price and adjust our VIEs’ or any of their respective subsidiaries’ income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in, for PRC tax purposes, increased tax liabilities for our VIEs or any of their respective subsidiaries. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may require us to disgorge our prior tax benefits, and require us to pay additional taxes for prior tax years and impose late payment fees and other penalties on our affiliated entities for underpayment of prior taxes. To date, similar contractual arrangements have been used by many other public companies and, to our knowledge, the PRC tax authorities have not imposed any material penalties on those companies. However, we cannot assure you that such penalties will not be imposed on any other companies or us in the future. Our consolidated net income may be

 

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harmed if our affiliated entities’ tax liabilities increase or if they are found to be subject to additional taxes, late payment fees or other penalties.

 

The tuition, accommodation and other fees charged by our degree programs and our K-12 schools and student enrollment at these schools are subject to regulation by the Chinese government, and our revenue is highly dependent on the level of these fees and our student enrollment.

 

Chinese regulators have broad powers to regulate the tuition, accommodation and other fees charged by primary, secondary and other schools and student enrollment levels at these schools. As a result, new regulations could adversely impact the fees we receive from the schools to which we provide course materials and software products and the student enrollments at our directly- operated schools and at our partner schools, as well as the returns from the K-12 schools operated by our Chinese affiliated entities. The tuition, accommodation and other fees charged by our degree programs and our K-12 schools are subject to various price controls administered by local price-control authorities and our student enrollment in our independent college is subject to annual enrollment quotas established by the MOE. In light of the substantial increase in tuitions and other education-related fees in China in recent years, China’s price-control authorities may impose stricter price control on tuition changes in the future. As of the date of this annual report, there is no indication from the MOE or the relevant authorities that the government would significantly change the tuition charges or student annual enrollment quotas. If the tuition charges were to be decreased or if they were not allowed to increase in line with increases in our costs because of the actions of China’s administrative price controls or if student enrollments at private schools were restricted, our net revenue and profitability would be materially adversely affected.

 

The discontinuation of any preferential tax treatments or deemed tax treatments currently available to us or the disgorgement of any benefits we enjoyed in the past could result in a decrease of our net income and harm our results of operations.

 

According to the 2004 Implementing Rules, private schools that do not require reasonable returns enjoy the same preferential tax treatment as public schools. While it is indicated in the 2004 Implementing Rules that the relevant authorities under the State Council may consider formulating separate preferential tax treatment policies applicable to private schools requiring reasonable returns, no such tax preferential policy has been promulgated yet. In March 2007, the Chinese government enacted the CIT Law, and promulgated the Implementing Regulations for the PRC Corporate Income Tax Law in December 2007, both of which came into effect on January 1, 2008. On February 22, 2008, the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration issued a subsequent notice, or the 2008 Tax Notice, that effectively abolished our preferential tax treatment under the 2004 Implementing Rules. The CIT Law and 2008 Tax Notice, among other things, impose a unified income tax rate of 25% for all private schools regardless of whether they require a reasonable return or not unless the school qualifies as a not-for-profit organization as defined in the PRC tax regime effective January 1, 2008. If a school qualifies as a not-for-profit organization in accordance with the tax law, it will be exempt from corporate income tax for certain of its income qualified for exemption under the relevant laws and rules. In November 2009, the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration further issued rules providing the criteria for a not-for-profit organization to qualify for exemption of corporate income tax. These rules are relatively new and contain many ambiguities. In practice, tax treatments for private schools vary across different cities in China. In some cities, private schools are subject to a 25% standard corporate income tax, while in other cities, private schools are subject to a 1.75% to 4.0% tax on gross receipts received by the schools or a deemed fixed tax amount or may be exempted from corporate income tax. These deemed tax rates and deemed fixed tax amount treatments granted to our schools by local tax authorities are subject to review and may be adjusted or revoked at any time. In addition, education services provided to students receiving degree-oriented education by private schools are also exempted from business tax in China so long as those schools are accredited to issue diplomas or degree certificates recognized by the MOE. The discontinuation of any of these tax treatments currently available to us or the determination of the tax authority that any of the preferential tax treatment we have enjoyed is not in compliance with the PRC laws, especially those schools in major cities, would cause our effective tax rate to increase, which would increase our income tax expenses and in turn decrease our net income or even subject us to supplementary payment of tax balance.

 

Under PRC laws and regulations, an enterprise that qualifies as a new and high-technology enterprise or a software enterprise may enjoy preferential tax benefits. An enterprise qualified as both a “new and high-technology enterprise” and as a “software enterprise” may choose one of the more preferential tax treatments. For example, Ambow Online is a certified “new and high-technology enterprise” and a “software enterprise” and has chosen to enjoy preferential tax treatments as a “software enterprise.” As a result, Ambow Online is entitled to a two-year exemption from the first year it generates taxable income and a 12.5% corporate income tax rate for another three years, which might be followed by a 15% tax rate so long as Ambow Online continues to qualify as a “new or high-technology enterprise”. If Ambow Online fails to maintain the status of a “software enterprise” or a “new and high-technology enterprise”, it will cease to enjoy the reduced tax rate and its tax rate will increase to 25% or the then current rate. Ambow Yuhua was also recognized as a “software enterprise”, and is entitled to a tax exemption from income tax on its profits for 2011. As a result, Ambow Yuhua will enjoy a two-year income tax exemption from 2011 and will be subject to 12.5% corporate income tax for another three years. If Ambow Yuhua ceases to qualify for the current preferential corporate income tax rate, it will cease to enjoy the reduced tax rate and its tax rate will increase to 25% or the then current rate. If PRC laws and regulations were to phase out preferential tax benefits currently granted to “software enterprises” or “new and high-technology enterprises”, each of Ambow Online and Ambow Yuhua would be subject to the standard corporate income tax rate, which currently is 25%. Loss of these preferential tax treatments could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

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The regulation of Internet website operators in China is subject to interpretation, and our operation of online education programs could be harmed if we are deemed to have violated applicable laws and regulations.

 

The interpretation and application of existing Chinese laws and regulations, the stated positions of the main governing authority, the MIIT, and the possibility of adopting new laws or regulations have created significant uncertainties regarding the legality of the businesses and activities of Chinese companies with Internet operations. In particular, according to the Internet Information Services Administrative Measures promulgated by the State Council on September 25, 2000, the activities of Internet content providers are regulated by various Chinese governmental authorities, including, the MOE, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the General Administration of Press and Publication, or GAPP, and the Ministry of Culture, or MOC, depending on the specific activities conducted by the Internet content provider. In addition, MIIT promulgated a notice titled “Notice on Strengthening Management of Foreign Investment in Operating Value-Added Telecom Services” on July 13, 2006, which prohibits PRC Internet content providers from leasing, transferring or selling their ICP licenses or providing facilities or other resources to illegal foreign investors. The notice states that PRC Internet content providers (or their shareholders) should directly own the trademarks and domain names for websites operated by them, as well as servers and other infrastructure used to support these websites and a PRC Internet content provider’s failure to comply with the notice by November 1, 2006 may result in revocation of its ICP license.

 

Ambow Shida holds an ICP license issued by Beijing Communications Administration, the local counterpart of the MIIT. According to this ICP license, Ambow Shida is approved to provide internet information services, excluding services of press, publication, education, medicine and medical apparatus and instruments. Due to the uncertainties of implementation of relevant regulations by different authorities, we cannot assure you that Ambow Shida has satisfied or will be able to satisfy all the requirements for a PRC Internet content provider and the ICP license held by Ambow Shida will be deemed to be adequate for all of the online services that we provide. For example, Ambow Shida’s ICP license does not cover educational content while most materials provided on our websites may be deemed educational content, including content related to our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers. According to our experience and our knowledge of other education providers in our industry, and as advised by our PRC counsel, based on their consultation with the competent authorities that the content provided by us does not exceed the scope of Ambow Shida’s ICP License, we believe the content on, and use of, our website are in compliance with the requirement imposed by Chinese Internet Regulations on ICP Licenses. We cannot assure you, however, that the competent authorities will not adopt a different interpretation of this issue.

 

In 2011, we generated net revenues from our tutoring and career enhancement segments of RMB 778.0 million (US$123.6 million) and RMB 505.2 million (US$80.3 million), respectively. A portion of these net revenues were related to providing educational materials online. If the provision of these online services is deemed to have exceeded the scope of Ambow Shida’s license, we may be required to cease providing these online materials, which would harm our net revenues and results of operations. As we are a foreign enterprise in China, Ambow Shida may also be deemed to have illegally leased its ICP license or provided facilities or other resources to foreign investors. If we are deemed to have violated applicable Chinese Internet regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties, including confiscation of illegal gains, fines ranging from three to five times the illegal gains, suspension of certain types of service or orders to shut down the relevant websites.

 

Risks related to doing business in China

 

PRC economic, political and social conditions, as well as changes in any government policies, laws and regulations, could adversely affect the overall economy in China or the education or career enhancement market, which could harm our business.

 

Substantially all of our operations are conducted in China, and substantially all of our net revenues are derived from China. Accordingly, our business, financial condition, results of operations, prospects and certain transactions we may undertake are subject, to a significant extent, to economic, political and legal developments in China.

 

The PRC economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past two to three decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy. Demand for our services and products depends, in large part, on economic conditions in China. Any slowdown in China’s economic growth may cause our potential customers to delay or cancel their plans to purchase our services and products, which in turn could reduce our net revenues.

 

Although the PRC economy has been transitioning from a planned economy to a more market-oriented economy since the late 1970s, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through allocating resources, controlling the incurrence and payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. Changes in any of these policies, laws and regulations could adversely affect the economy in China or the education or career enhancement market, which could harm our business.

 

The PRC government has implemented various measures to encourage foreign investment and sustainable economic growth and to guide the allocation of financial and other resources, which have for the most part had a positive effect on our business and growth. However, we cannot assure you that the PRC government will not repeal or alter these measures or introduce new

 

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measures that will have a negative effect on us. China’s social and political conditions may also not be as stable as those of the United States and other developed countries. Any sudden changes to China’s political system or the occurrence of widespread social unrest could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

Uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system could harm us.

 

Our operations in China are governed by PRC laws and regulations. The PRC legal system is a civil law system based on written statutes. Unlike common law systems, prior court decisions have limited precedential value. Ambow Online and our other wholly-owned subsidiaries in China are generally subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign investments in China and, in particular, laws applicable to wholly foreign-owned enterprises.

 

Since 1979, PRC legislation and regulations have significantly enhanced the protections afforded to various forms of foreign investments in China. However, China has not developed a fully integrated legal system and recently-enacted laws and regulations may not sufficiently cover all aspects of economic activities in China. In particular, because these laws and regulations are relatively new, and because of the limited volume of published decisions and their nonbinding nature, the interpretation and enforcement of these laws and regulations involve uncertainties. In addition, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules (some of which are not published on a timely basis or at all) that may have a retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Moreover, some regulatory requirements issued by certain PRC government authorities may not be consistently applied by other government authorities, including local government authorities, thus making strict compliance with all regulatory requirements impractical, or in some circumstances, impossible. In addition, any litigation in China may be protracted and result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention.

 

If the chops of our subsidiaries and VIEs in China are not kept safely, are stolen or are used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized purposes, the corporate governance of those entities could be severely and adversely compromised.

 

In China, a company chop or seal serves as the legal representation of the company towards third parties even when unaccompanied by a signature. Each legally registered company in China is required to have a company chop, which must be registered with the local Public Security Bureau.  Our company chops, or chops, are kept securely at our President Office under the direction of Chief Executive Officer at the headquarters level or held securely by personnel designated and approved by the General Manager or Headmaster at subsidiaries or VIEs level.  Use of chops requires proper approvals in accordance with our internal control procedures. The custodian at the President Office also maintains a log to keep detailed record of each use of the chops.  Moreover, the President Office is always locked after office hours and only authorized persons have the access to the keys.

 

The Company believes it has sufficient controls in place over access to and use of the chops.  We however cannot assure you that unauthorized access to or use of those chops can be totally precluded. To the extent those chops are stolen or are used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized purposes, the corporate governance of these entities could be severely and adversely compromised and the operations of these entities could be significantly and adversely impacted.

 

Our subsidiaries and affiliated entities in China are subject to restrictions on making dividends and other payments to us or any other affiliated company.

 

We are a holding company and rely principally on dividends paid by our subsidiaries established in China for our cash needs, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders to the extent we choose to do so, to service any debt we may incur and to pay our operating expenses. Our PRC subsidiaries’ income in turn depends on the service and other fees paid by our VIEs. Current PRC regulations permit our subsidiaries in China to pay dividends to us only out of their accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, under the applicable requirements of PRC law, our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities incorporated as companies may only distribute dividends after they have made allowances to fund certain statutory reserves. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends.

 

In addition, under the CIT Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008, dividends paid to us by our PRC subsidiaries are subject to withholding tax. The withholding tax on dividends may be exempted or reduced by the PRC State Council. Currently, the withholding tax rate is 10% unless reduced or exempted by treaty between the PRC and the tax residence of the holder of the PRC subsidiary.

 

Furthermore, if our subsidiaries and affiliated entities in China 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. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may require us to adjust our taxable income under the contractual arrangements we currently have in place in a manner that would restrict our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends and make other distributions to us.

 

In addition, at the end of each fiscal year, each of our affiliated entities that are private schools in China is required to allocate a certain amount to its development fund for the construction or maintenance of the school or procurement or upgrade of educational equipment. In the case of a private school that requires reasonable returns, this amount shall be no less than 25% of the annual net income of the school, while in the case of a private school that does not require reasonable returns, this amount shall be equivalent to no less than 25% of the annual increase in the net assets of the school, if any.

 

As of December 31, 2011, we have across our four operating segments a total of 33 private schools of which three schools are registered as schools not requiring reasonable returns while other schools choose to be registered as schools requiring reasonable returns. Entities registered as schools not requiring reasonable returns are restricted from directly distributing to us any dividends or profits.

 

To date, our PRC subsidiaries have not paid dividends to us out of their accumulated profits. In the near future, we do not expect to receive dividends from our PRC subsidiaries because the accumulated profits of these PRC subsidiaries are expected to be used for their own business or expansions. If we are unable to extract the earnings and profits of some of our schools and learning centers, it could have a material adverse effect on our liquidity and financial condition.

 

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PRC regulation of loans and direct investment by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or prevent us from making loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC operating subsidiaries and affiliated entities, which could harm our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

 

As an offshore holding company of our PRC operating subsidiaries and affiliated entities, we may make loans to our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs or we may make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries. Any loans to our PRC subsidiaries or consolidated PRC affiliated entities are subject to PRC regulations. For example:

 

·                  Loans by us to our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China, each of which is a foreign-invested enterprise, to finance their activities cannot exceed statutory limits and must be registered with the PRC State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, or its local counterparts; and

 

·                  Loans by us to our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, which are domestic PRC entities, must be approved by the relevant government authorities and must also be registered with SAFE or its local counterparts.

 

We may also decide to finance our wholly-owned subsidiaries by means of capital contributions. These capital contributions must be approved by the PRC Ministry of Commerce or its local counterparts. We are not likely, however, to finance the activities of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries by means of capital contributions due to regulatory issues related to foreign investment in domestic PRC entities, as well as the licensing and other regulatory issues discussed in the “Regulation” section of this annual report. We cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain these government registrations or approvals on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans or capital contributions by us to our subsidiaries or our VIEs or any of their respective subsidiaries. If we fail to receive such registrations or approvals, our ability to capitalize our PRC operations may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

 

In addition, on August 29, 2008, SAFE promulgated Circular 142, a notice regulating the conversion by a foreign-invested company of its capital contribution in foreign currency into RMB. The notice requires that the capital of a foreign-invested company settled in RMB converted from foreign currencies shall be used only for purposes within the business scope as approved by the authorities in charge of foreign investment or by other competent authorities and as registered with the Administration for Industries and Commerce and, unless set forth in the business scope or in other regulations, may not be used for equity investments within the PRC. In addition, SAFE strengthened its oversight of the flow and use of the capital of a foreign-invested company settled in RMB converted from foreign currencies. The use of such RMB capital may not be changed without SAFE’s approval, and may not in any case be used to repay RMB loans if the proceeds of such loans have not been used. Violations of Circular 142 will result in severe penalties, including heavy fines. As a result, Circular 142 may significantly limit our ability to transfer capital to our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries through our subsidiaries in the PRC, which may adversely affect our ability to expand our business, and we may not be able to convert capital into RMB to invest in or acquire any other PRC companies, or establish other VIEs in the PRC.

 

Presently none of Ambow Online or our other wholly-owned subsidiaries are registered as an investment company. We do not intend to turn these entities into investment companies because to do so these subsidiaries would have to satisfy criteria promulgated by MOFCOM and be approved by MOFCOM or its provincial counterparts before registration with the administration for industries and commerce, which is difficult to accomplish and time consuming. As a result, if capital is injected into Ambow Online and our other subsidiaries as increased registered capital, we could not convert such proceeds into RMB to fund acquisitions of the VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, and our ability to expand our business may be adversely affected.

 

While we may not transfer capital through our wholly-owned subsidiaries for the purpose of domestic acquisitions, we may use our capitals to acquire PRC companies or schools that do not include compulsory education through Wenjian Gongying, an RMB fund established in Suzhou as a venture capital joint venture, subject to the PRC industrial policy for foreign investment. If we use our capital to make acquisitions through Wenjian Gongying in entities that are in restricted industries, like high schools, without receiving proper approvals or in entities that are in prohibited industries, like schools that provide compulsory education, we may be subject to significant fines of unknown amounts or other sanctions. See “Item 4.C — Information on the Company — Organizational Structure” for a further description of the legal structure, joint venture participants’ identities and such participants’ respective percentage ownership interest in Wenjian Gongying and for a further description of the PRC rules and regulations that will be applicable to our planned investments through Wenjian Gongying.

 

If we use our capital for the business of Ambow Online or our other wholly-owned subsidiaries, we are also required to apply to the authority of commerce for approval for an increase of their respective registered capital given that the original registered capital of these subsidiaries have been fully paid. We cannot assure you our capital that we can obtain such approvals in a timely manner or at all. If we are unable to use our capital to fund our PRC operating entities or their subsidiaries or to make strategic acquisitions, it could have a material adverse effect on our expansion plans and future growth.

 

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It is unclear whether we will be considered a PRC “resident enterprise” under the CIT Law and, depending on the determination of our PRC “resident enterprise” status, dividends paid to us by our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to PRC withholding tax, we may be subject to 25% PRC income tax on our worldwide income, and holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares may be subject to PRC withholding tax on dividends paid by us and gains realized on their transfer of our ADSs or ordinary shares.

 

The CIT Law and its Implementing Regulations, which became effective on January 1, 2008, provide that enterprises established outside of China whose “de facto management bodies” are located in China are considered “resident enterprises.” Although the Implementing Regulations of the PRC CIT Law define the term “de facto management bodies” as a body which substantially manages, or has control over the business, personnel, finance and assets of an enterprise, currently there are no further detailed rules or precedents applicable to us governing the procedures and specific criteria for determining “de facto management bodies” and it is still unclear if the PRC tax authorities would determine that we should be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise.”

 

If we are treated as a PRC “resident enterprise,” however, we will be subject to PRC income tax on our worldwide income at the 25% uniform tax rate, which could have an impact on our effective tax rate and an adverse effect on our net income and results of operations and our income tax expenses will increase and the amount of dividends, if any, we may pay to our shareholders and ADS holders may be decreased, although dividends distributed from our PRC subsidiaries to us could be exempt from the PRC dividend withholding tax, since such income is exempted under the CIT Law and its Implementing Regulations to a PRC resident recipient.

 

In addition, if we are considered a PRC “resident enterprise,” dividends we pay with respect to our ADSs or ordinary shares and the gains realized from the transfer of our ADSs or ordinary shares may be considered income derived from sources within the PRC for PRC tax purposes and be subject to PRC withholding tax.

 

Restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to receive and use our revenue effectively.

 

Because substantially all of our revenue is denominated in RMB, restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to use revenue generated in RMB to fund any business activities we may have outside China or to make dividend payments to our shareholders and ADS holders in U.S. dollars. The principal regulation governing foreign currency exchange in China is the Foreign Currency Administration Rules (1996), as amended. Under these rules, RMB is freely convertible for trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, but not for direct investment, loan or investment in securities outside China unless the prior approval of SAFE is obtained. Although the PRC government regulations now allow greater convertibility of RMB for current account transactions, significant restrictions still remain. For example, foreign exchange transactions under our subsidiaries capital accounts, including principal payments in respect of foreign currency-denominated obligations, remain subject to significant foreign exchange controls. These limitations could affect our ability to obtain foreign exchange for capital expenditures. We cannot be certain that the PRC regulatory authorities will not impose more stringent restrictions on the convertibility of RMB, especially with respect to foreign exchange transactions.

 

Fluctuations in the value of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on your investment.

 

The change in value of the RMB against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is affected by, among other things, changes in China’s political and economic conditions. On July 21, 2005, the PRC government changed its decade-old policy of pegging the value of the RMB to the U.S. dollar. Under the policy, the RMB is permitted to fluctuate within a narrow and managed band against a basket of certain foreign currencies.  Between July 21, 2005 and April 30, 2012, the RMB appreciated by approximately 31.8% against the U.S. dollar, although the pace of appreciation was uneven during this period.  It is difficult to predict how the RMB exchange rates may change in the future.  There remains significant international pressure on the PRC government to adopt a more flexible currency policy, which could result in a further and more significant adjustment of the RMB against the U.S. dollar.

 

Any significant revaluation of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on the value of, and any dividends payable on, our ADSs in foreign currency terms. More specifically, if we decide to convert our RMB into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our ordinary shares or ADSs or for 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. To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars denominated financial assets into RMB for our operations, appreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the RMB amount we would receive from the conversion. Consequently, appreciation or depreciation in the value of the RMB relative to the U.S. dollar could materially adversely affect our financial results reported in U.S. dollar terms without giving effect to any underlying change in our business or results of operations.

 

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Recent PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents and employee stock options granted by overseas-listed companies may increase our administrative burden, restrict our overseas and cross-border investment activity or otherwise adversely affect the implementation of our acquisition strategy. If our shareholders who are PRC residents, or our PRC employees who are granted or exercise stock options, fail to make any required registrations or filings under such regulations, we may be unable to distribute profits and may become subject to liability under PRC laws.

 

In 2005, SAFE promulgated regulations that require PRC residents and PRC corporate entities to register with local branches of SAFE in connection with their direct or indirect offshore investment activities. These regulations apply to our shareholders who are PRC residents and may apply to any offshore acquisitions that we make in the future.

 

Under the SAFE regulations, PRC residents who make, or have previously made, direct or indirect investments in offshore companies, will be required to register those investments. In addition, any PRC resident who is a direct or indirect shareholder of an offshore company is required to file or update the registration with the local branch of SAFE, with respect to that offshore company, any material change involving its round-trip investment, capital variation, such as an increase or decrease in capital, transfer or swap of shares, merger, division, long-term equity or debt investment or creation of any security interest. If any PRC shareholder fails to make the required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that offshore parent company may be prohibited from distributing their profits and the proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation, to their offshore parent company, and the offshore parent company may also be prohibited from injecting additional capital into their PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC laws for evasion of applicable foreign exchange restrictions.

 

We cannot provide any assurances that all of our shareholders who are PRC residents will make or obtain any applicable registrations or approvals required by these SAFE regulations. The failure or inability of our PRC resident shareholders to comply with the registration procedures set forth in the SAFE regulations may subject our PRC subsidiaries to fines and legal sanctions, restrict our cross-border investment activities, or limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to or obtain foreign-exchange denominated loans from our company.

 

As it is uncertain how the SAFE regulations will be interpreted or implemented, we cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operations or future strategy. For example, we may be subject to a more stringent review and approval process with respect to our foreign exchange activities, such as remittance of dividends and obtaining foreign currency denominated borrowings, which may harm our results of operations and financial condition. In addition, if we decide to acquire a PRC domestic company, we cannot assure you that we or the owners of such company, as the case may be, will be able to obtain the necessary approvals or complete the necessary filings and registrations required by the SAFE regulations. This may restrict our ability to implement our acquisition strategy and could adversely affect our business and prospects.

 

On February 15, 2012, SAFE promulgated the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Issues Related to Foreign Exchange Administration in Domestic Individuals’ Participation in Equity Incentive Plans of Companies Listed Abroad, or the No. 7 Notice, which supersedes the Operation Rules on Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Employee Stock Holding Plan or Stock Option Plan of Overseas-Listed Company, or the Stock Option Rule, in its entirety and immediately became effective upon circulation. According to the No. 7 Notice, domestic individuals, which include any directors, supervisors, senior managerial personnel or other employees of a domestic company who are Chinese citizens (including citizens of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) or foreign individuals who consecutively reside in the territory of the PRC for one year, who participate in the same equity incentive plan of an overseas-listed company shall, through the domestic companies they serve, collectively entrust a domestic agency to handle issues like foreign exchange registration, account opening, funds transfer and remittance, and entrust an overseas institution to handle issues like exercise of options, purchasing and sale of related stocks or equity, and funds transfer. As an overseas publicly listed company, we and our employees who have been granted stock options or any type of equity awards may be subject to the No. 7 Notice. If we or our employees who are subject to the No. 7 Notice fail to comply with these regulations, we may be subject to fines and legal sanctions. See “Item 4.B — Information on the Company — Business Overview — Regulation—SAFE regulations on employee share options.”

 

The M&A Rules establish more complex procedures for some acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisition in China.

 

The M&A Rules that became effective on September 8, 2006 established additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex, including requirements in some instances that the Ministry of Commerce be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. Complying with the requirements of the M&A Rules to complete such transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval from the Ministry of Commerce, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could materially adversely affect our ability to grow our business through acquisitions in China.

 

The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by an auditor who is not inspected by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and, as such, you are deprived of the benefits of such inspection.

 

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Auditors of companies that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and traded publicly in the United States, including our independent registered public accounting firm, must be registered with the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (the “PCAOB”) and are required by the laws of the United States to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB to assess their compliance with the laws of the United States and professional standards.  Because our auditors are located in the People’s Republic of China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB is currently unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditors are not currently inspected by the PCAOB.

 

This lack of PCAOB inspections in China prevents the PCAOB from regularly evaluating audits and quality control procedures of any auditors operating in China, including our auditors.   As a result, investors may be deprived of the benefits of PCAOB inspections.

 

The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our auditor’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to PCAOB inspections. Investors may lose confidence in our reported financial information and procedures and the quality of our financial statements.

 

We do not have business insurance coverage in China, which could harm our business.

 

We could be held liable for accidents that occur at our learning centers and other facilities. In the event of on-site food poisoning, personal injuries, fires or other accidents suffered by students or other people, we could face claims alleging that we were negligent, provided insufficient supervision or instruments or were otherwise liable for the injuries. Such accidents may adversely affect our reputation and financial results. The insurance industry in China is still at an early stage of development. Insurance companies in China offer limited business insurance products. As a result, we do not have any business liability or disruption insurance coverage for our operations. Any business disruption, litigation or natural disaster would result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources.

 

We face risks related to natural disasters and health epidemics in China, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

Our business could be severely disrupted and materially adversely affected by natural disasters or the outbreak of health epidemics in China. For example, in May 2008, Sichuan Province suffered a strong earthquake measuring approximately 8.0 on the Richter scale that caused widespread damage and casualties. In addition, in the last decade, the PRC has suffered health epidemics related to the outbreak of avian influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. In April 2009, an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, also commonly referred to as “swine flu,” occurred in Mexico and spread to other countries, including Hong Kong and mainland China. The Chinese government and certain regional governments within China, have enacted regulations to address the H1N1 virus specifically within the education services market, which may have an effect on our business. Any future natural disasters or health epidemics in the PRC could also severely disrupt our business operations and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

Labor laws in the PRC may adversely affect our results of operations.

 

On June 29, 2007, the PRC government promulgated a labor law, namely the Labor Contract Law of the PRC, or the Labor Contract Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008. The Labor Contract Law imposes greater liabilities on employers and significantly affects the cost of an employer’s decision to reduce its workforce. Further, it requires certain terminations be based upon seniority and not merit. In the event we decide to significantly change or decrease our workforce, the Labor Contract Law could adversely affect our ability to enact such changes in a manner that is most advantageous to our business or in a timely and cost-effective manner, thus materially adversely affecting our financial condition and results of operations.

 

Risks related to ownership of our ADSs and our trading market

 

The market price for our ADSs may be volatile.

 

The financial markets in the United States and other countries have experienced significant price and volume fluctuations in the last few years. Volatility in the price of our ADSs may be caused by factors outside of our control and may be unrelated or disproportionate to changes in our results of operations. In addition, although our ADSs are listed on the NYSE, an active public market for our ADSs may not be sustained, in which case the market price and liquidity of our ADSs will be materially adversely affected. Our ordinary shares are not listed on any exchange or quoted for trading on any over-the-counter system.

 

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our ADSs, the price of our ADSs and trading volume could decline.

 

The trading market for our ADSs depends in part on the research and reports that industry or securities analysts publish about us or our business. We do not have any control over these analysts. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade us, the price of our ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which could cause the price of our ADSs or trading volume to decline.

 

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Substantial future sales of our ADSs or the anticipation of future sales of our ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.

 

Sales of substantial amounts of our ADSs or ordinary shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our ADSs to decline. In addition, certain holders of our ordinary shares have the right to cause us to register the sale of their shares under the Securities Act under certain circumstances. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered securities in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline. If any existing shareholder or shareholders sell a substantial amount of ordinary shares, the market price of our ADSs could decline.

 

We may need additional capital, and the sale of additional ADSs or other equity securities would result in additional dilution to our shareholders.

 

We believe that our current cash and cash equivalents and anticipated cash flow from operations will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs for more than the next twelve months. We may, however, require additional cash resources due to changed business conditions or other future developments. If our resources are insufficient to satisfy our cash requirements, we may seek to sell additional equity or debt securities or obtain a credit facility. We plan to continue to make acquisitions depending on market conditions and our ability to identify and consummate such acquisitions. To consummate these transactions, we may issue additional shares in these acquisitions that will dilute our shareholders. The sale of additional equity securities could result in additional dilution to our shareholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased debt service obligations and could result in operating and financing covenants that would restrict our operations or our ability to pay dividends. Our ability to raise additional funds in the future is subject to a variety of uncertainties, including:

 

·                  Our future financial condition, results of operations and cash flows;

 

·                  General market conditions for capital raising activities; and

 

·                  Economic, political and other conditions in China and elsewhere.

 

We cannot assure you that if we need additional cash financing it will be available in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, or at all.

 

Insiders have substantial control over us, which could adversely affect the market price of our ADSs.

 

Under our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, our ordinary shares are divided into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B ordinary shares are entitled to ten votes per share. As of March 31, 2012, our executive officers and directors, and their respective affiliates, beneficially owned, in the aggregate, approximately 38.8% of the combined total outstanding ordinary shares, representing 59.1% of the total voting rights, in our company. Shareholdings of our executive officers and directors, and their respective affiliates, in particular with respect to the greater voting rights of the Class B ordinary shares they hold, give them the power to control any actions that require shareholder approval under Cayman Islands law, our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association and the NYSE requirements, including the election and removal of any member of our board of directors, mergers, consolidations and other business combinations, changes to our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the number of shares available for issuance under share incentive plans and the issuance of significant amounts of our ordinary shares in private placements. Due to the disparate voting rights attached to the two classes of our ordinary shares, our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates could have sufficient voting rights to determine the outcome of all matters requiring shareholder approval even though they may hold less than a majority of the combined total number of our outstanding Class A and Class B ordinary shares.

 

As a result of our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates’ ownership of Class B ordinary shares, their voting power may cause transactions to occur that might not be beneficial to you as a holder of ADSs and may prevent transactions that would be beneficial to you. For example, their voting power may prevent a transaction involving a change of control of us, including transactions in which you as a holder of our ADSs might otherwise receive a premium for your securities over the then-current market price. Similarly, our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates may approve a merger or consolidation of our company which may result in you receiving a stake (either in the form of shares, debt obligations or other securities) in the surviving or new consolidated company which may not operate our current business model and dissenters’ rights may not be available to you in such an event. This concentration of ownership could also adversely affect the market price of our ADSs or lessen any premium over market price that an acquirer might otherwise pay.

 

Compliance with rules and requirements applicable to public companies has increased our administrative costs, and any failure by us to comply with such rules and requirements could negatively affect investor confidence in us and cause the market price of our ADSs to decline.

 

As a public company, we have incurred and will continue to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company prior to our IPO. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules and regulations implemented by the SEC and the NYSE, have required significant additional corporate governance practices to be implemented by public

 

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companies. We expect these rules and regulations to continue to result in high legal, accounting and financial compliance costs and to make certain corporate activities more time consuming and costly. Complying with these rules and requirements may be especially difficult and costly for us because we may have difficulty hiring sufficient personnel in China with experience and expertise relating to U.S. GAAP and U.S. public company reporting requirements. If we cannot employ sufficient personnel to ensure compliance with these rules and regulations, we may need to rely more on outside legal, accounting and financial experts, which would be very costly. In addition, we will incur additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. We cannot predict or estimate the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs but expect that these additional costs could be up to a few million US$ annually. If we fail to comply with these rules and requirements, or are perceived to have weaknesses with respect to our compliance, we could become the subject of a governmental enforcement action, investor confidence in us could be negatively impacted and the market price of our ADSs could decline.

 

If we cease to qualify as a foreign private issuer, we would be required to comply fully with the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, and we would incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we would not incur as a foreign private issuer.

 

As a foreign private issuer, we are exempt from the rules under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, prescribing the furnishing and content of proxy statements, and our officers, directors and principal shareholders will be exempt from the reporting and short-swing profit recovery provisions contained in Section 16 of the Exchange Act. In addition, we are not required under the Exchange Act to file periodic reports and financial statements with the SEC as frequently or as promptly as U.S. domestic issuers, and we are not required to disclose in our periodic reports all of the information that U.S. domestic issuers are required to disclose. While we currently qualify as a foreign private issuer, we may cease to qualify as a foreign private issuer in the future. If we do not qualify as a foreign private issuer, we will be required to comply fully with the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, and we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we would not incur as a foreign private issuer.

 

Many of the corporate governance rules promulgated by the NYSE will not apply to us so long as we qualify as a foreign private issuer, and there may be significant differences between our corporate governance practices and the corporate governance standards applicable to U.S. domestic companies listed on the NYSE.

 

As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to follow corporate governance practices in accordance with Cayman Islands law in lieu of most of the NYSE corporate governance rules in the NYSE Listed Company Manual, or the NYSE Standards. For example, the NYSE Standards require U.S. domestic issuers to have a nominating/corporate governance committee composed entirely of independent directors. We are not subject to this requirement, and we do not intend to establish a nominating/corporate governance committee. We believe that the composition of our board and its committees and their respective duties and responsibilities are otherwise generally responsive to the relevant NYSE Standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers. However, the charters for our audit and compensation committees may not address all aspects of the NYSE Standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers. For example, the NYSE Standards require compensation committees of U.S. domestic issuers to produce a compensation committee report annually and include such report in their annual proxy statements or annual reports on Form 10-K. We are not subject to this requirement, and we have not addressed this in our compensation committee charter. The NYSE Standards require shareholder approval for certain matters, such as requiring that shareholders must be given the opportunity to vote on all equity compensation plans and material revisions to those plans. We intend to comply with the requirements of Cayman Islands law in determining whether shareholder approval is required on such matters.

 

We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequence to U.S. holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares.

 

We believe we were not a “passive foreign investment company,” or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes for our taxable year ending December 31, 2011. However, a separate determination must be made each year as to whether we are a PFIC (after the close of each taxable year) and we cannot assure you that we will not be a PFIC for our current taxable year ending December 31, 2012 or any future taxable year. A non-United States corporation will be considered a PFIC for any taxable year if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income is passive income or (2) or least 50% of the value of its assets (generally based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets during a taxable year) is attributable to assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income. PFIC status depends on the composition of our assets and income and the value of our assets (including, among others, a pro rata portion of the income and assets of each subsidiary in which we own, directly or indirectly, at least 25% (by value) of the equity interest) from time to time. Because we currently hold, and expect to continue to hold, a substantial amount of cash or cash equivalents, which are generally treated as passive assets, and, because the calculation of the value of our assets may be based in part on the value of our ADSs, which is likely to fluctuate (and may fluctuate considerably given that market prices of technology companies historically have been especially volatile), we may be a PFIC for any taxable year. If we were treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which a United States holder held an ADS or an ordinary share, certain adverse United States federal income tax consequences could apply to such United States holder. See “Item 10.E—Taxation—United States federal income taxation—Passive foreign investment company.”

 

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Our dual-class ordinary share structure with different voting rights could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.

 

Our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association provide for a dual-class ordinary share structure. Our ordinary shares are divided into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B ordinary shares are entitled to ten votes per share. We issued Class A ordinary shares represented by our ADSs in our IPO. Our shareholders prior to our IPO may continue to hold Class B ordinary shares, each of which is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holder thereof. Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances. Due to the disparate voting rights attached to these two classes, our existing Class B shareholders will have significant voting rights over matters requiring shareholder approval, including the election and removal of directors and certain corporate transactions, such as mergers, consolidations and other business combinations. This concentrated control 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.

 

Anti-takeover provisions in our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control.

 

Some provisions of our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company or management that shareholders may consider favorable, including, among other things, the following:

 

·                  Provisions that authorize our board of directors to issue preferred shares in one or more series and to designate the price, rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions of such preferred shares without any further vote or action by our shareholders; and

 

·                  Provisions that restrict the ability of our shareholders to call meetings and to propose special matters for consideration at shareholder meetings.

 

The laws of the Cayman Islands may not provide our shareholders with benefits comparable to those provided to shareholders of corporations incorporated in the United States.

 

Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association, by the Companies Law (2011 Revision) of the Cayman Islands and by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against our directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law in the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands and from English common law. Decisions of the Privy Council (which is the final Court of Appeal for British overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands) are binding on a court in the Cayman Islands. Decisions of the English courts, and particularly the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal are generally of persuasive authority but are not binding in the courts of the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedents in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws relative to the United States. Therefore, our public shareholders may have more difficulty protecting their interests in the face of actions by our management, directors or controlling shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States. In addition, shareholders of Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action before the federal courts of the United States. The Cayman Island courts are also unlikely to impose liability against us, in original actions brought in the Cayman Islands, based on certain civil liabilities provisions of U.S. securities laws. See “Item 10.B—Additional Information—Memorandum and Articles of Association.”

 

It may be difficult for you to enforce any judgment obtained in the United States against our company, which may limit the remedies otherwise available to our shareholders.

 

Substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States. Almost all of our current operations are conducted in China. A majority of our directors and officers reside outside the United States and a substantial portion of their assets are located outside of the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these directors and officers in the Cayman Islands or in China in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. There is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will in certain circumstances recognize and enforce a non-penal judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction without retrial on the merits. While there is no binding authority on this point, this is likely to include, in certain circumstances, a non-penal judgment of a United States court imposing a monetary award based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws. The Grand Court of the Cayman Islands may stay proceedings if concurrent proceedings are being brought elsewhere. Moreover, the PRC does not have treaties with the United States or many other countries providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgment of courts. As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests through actions against us or our officers, directors or major shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States.

 

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The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to vote the ordinary shares underlying your ADSs.

 

Holders of our ADSs will only be able to exercise the voting rights with respect to the underlying ordinary shares in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under the deposit agreement, you must vote by giving voting instructions to the depositary. Upon receipt of your voting instructions, the depositary will vote the underlying ordinary shares in accordance with these instructions. You will not be able to directly exercise your right to vote with respect to the underlying ordinary shares unless you withdraw the shares. Under our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the minimum notice period required for convening a shareholder meeting is ten days. When a shareholder meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient advance notice to withdraw the ordinary shares underlying your ADSs to allow you to vote with respect to any specific matter. If we ask for your instructions, the depositary will notify you of the upcoming vote and will arrange to deliver our voting materials to you. We cannot assure you that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote your shares. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for their manner of carrying out your voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to vote and you may have no legal remedy if the shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you requested.

 

Holders of our ADSs may not be able to participate in rights offerings and may experience dilution of your holdings as a result.

 

We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. Under the deposit agreement for the ADSs, the depositary will not offer those rights to ADS holders unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the Securities Act, or exempt from registration under the Securities Act with respect to all holders of ADSs. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or underlying securities or to endeavor to cause such a registration statement to be declared effective. In addition, we may not be able to take advantage of any exemptions from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, holders of our ADSs may be unable to participate in rights offerings we make and may experience dilution in their holdings as a result.

 

Holders of our ADSs may not receive distributions on our ordinary shares or any value for them if such distribution is illegal or if any required government approval cannot be obtained in order to make such distribution available to you.

 

The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on ordinary shares or other deposited securities underlying our ADSs, after deducting its fees and expenses. You will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of ordinary shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible if it decides that it is unlawful or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. For example, it would be unlawful to make a distribution to a holder of ADSs if it consists of securities that require registration under the Securities Act but that are not properly registered or distributed under an applicable exemption from registration. The depositary may also determine that it is not feasible to distribute certain property through the mail. Additionally, the value of certain distributions may be less than the cost of mailing them. In these cases, the depositary may determine not to distribute such property. We have no obligation to register under U.S. securities laws any ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or other securities received through such distributions. We also have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution of ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or anything else to holders of ADSs. This means that you may not receive distributions we make on our ordinary shares or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical for us to make them available to you. These restrictions may cause a material decline in the value of our ADSs.

 

You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.

 

Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its transfer books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. In addition, the depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of ADSs generally when our books or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary deem it advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.

 

Item 4.   Information on the Company

 

A.            History and Development of the Company

 

Our founder, Dr. Jin Huang, established Ambow Corporation, a California company, in 2000. From 2000 through January 2005, our business was conducted through (1) Beijing Ambow Online Software Co., Ltd., or Ambow Online, which was established as a wholly foreign owned enterprise under the laws of the PRC in 2000 by Ambow Corporation, and (2) Beijing Shida Ambow Education Technology Co., Ltd., or Ambow Shida, a limited liability company established under the laws of the PRC in 2004, which was initially operated as a joint venture among Ambow Technology Company Limited, or Ambow Technology, Jianguo Xue, Xiaogang Feng, Xuejun Xie and Beijing Normal University Tech-Zone Technology Development Co., Ltd.

 

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In May 2005, our prior holding company, Ambow Education Co., Ltd., or AECL, which was formed in January 2005 as an exempted company incorporated with limited liability under the laws of the Cayman Islands, acquired 100% of the outstanding equity interests in Ambow Online from Ambow Corporation. In April 2010, AECL transferred the 100% outstanding equity interest in Ambow Online to Ambow Education Management (Hong Kong) Limited.

 

Through a series of transfers in May 2005 and December 2008, Ambow Technology, Xiaogang Feng and Beijing Normal University Tech-Zone Technology Development Co., Ltd. transferred all their equity interest in Ambow Shida to Xuejun Xie so that Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue currently own 100% of the equity interest in Ambow Shida.

 

Our current holding company, Ambow Education Holding Ltd., or Ambow, an exempted company incorporated with limited liability under the laws of the Cayman Islands, was established in June 2007. On July 18, 2007, Ambow entered into a share exchange agreement with AECL and its shareholders. Pursuant to this share exchange agreement, (1) all shareholders of AECL exchanged their shares in AECL for shares in Ambow, and (2) AECL became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ambow.

 

Following the share exchange described above, we also established certain wholly-owned subsidiaries in Hong Kong, including Ambow Education Management (Hong Kong) Ltd. and Ambow Education (Hong Kong) Limited. In furtherance of our business development in China, a number of PRC domestic companies were also incorporated in a number of cities. From January 2005 until now, we have conducted our education business in China primarily through contractual arrangements among our subsidiaries in China and our VIEs.

 

We and certain selling shareholders of our company completed an initial public offering of 10,677,207 ADSs in August 2010. On August 5, 2010, we listed our ADSs on the New York Stock Exchange, or the NYSE, under the symbol “AMBO.”

 

From 2008 to 2011, we made a total of 30 separate acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights.

 

In the last quarter of 2011, we sold one career enhancement and three tutoring subdivisions. We also initiated the disposal of Beijing Century College and its 100% owned Beijing Siwa Century Facility Management Co. and Beijing 21st Century International School.

 

Our principal executive offices are located at 18th Floor, Building A, Chengjian Plaza, No.18, BeiTaiPingZhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100088, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 (10) 6206-8000. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at Maples Corporate Services Limited, P.O. Box 309, Ugland House, Grand Cayman KY1-1104, Cayman Islands. Our telephone number at this address is +1 (345) 949-8066. Our agent for service of process in the United States in connection with our registration statements on Form F-1 for our IPO is CT Corporation System, located at 111 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York 10011.

 

B.            Business Overview

 

We are a leading national provider of educational and career enhancement services in China. Our business addresses two critical demands in China’s education market, the desire for students to be admitted into top secondary and post-secondary schools, and the desire for graduates of those schools to obtain more attractive jobs. We offer high-quality, individualized services and products through our combined online and offline delivery model powered by our proprietary technologies and infrastructure. As of December 31, 2011, we had a total of 183 centers and schools (excluding one college which is in the process of being disposed of), comprised of 150 tutoring centers, five K-12 schools, 25 career enhancement centers, two career enhancement campuses and one college, which are located in 19 provinces and autonomous regions within China. We also have software companies and corporate training companies. In addition, we have partnerships with schools, through our distributors, and corporations, allowing us to provide our services and products to students in 30 out of the 31 provinces and autonomous regions within China.

 

Our educational services cover grades K-12, focusing on both tutoring services, including test preparation, and K-12 programs. We provide results-oriented services and products customized to regional curriculum requirements and individual student needs to help students enhance academic results, including those on ZhongKao and GaoKao admission tests, the results of which are of primary importance in determining which students will be admitted into top high school and university programs. We refer to these tutoring services and K-12 programs with standards-based curriculum that enable students to improve their academic results and educational opportunities as “Better Schools.” Our Better Schools services and products, offered in our service network, as well as delivered through our partners, are offered to customers in 30 out of the 31 provinces and autonomous regions within China.

 

Our career enhancement services target students at universities, colleges and community colleges, recent graduates of these institutions and employees and management in corporates. We refer to these career enhancement services programs that facilitate post-secondary students obtaining more attractive employment as well as our college programs as “Better Jobs.” Our Better Jobs programs are mainly offered through our career enhancement service network, which are strategically located in key economic centers across China where there is a high concentration of companies in high-growth industries. Our career enhancement service network is located in the Bohai Rim Area, the Central South Area (Changsha, Zhuzhou and Xiangtan) and the Yangtze River Delta. Within our career enhancement training centers, we partner with leading international vocational training content providers, corporations and universities to provide practical project-based training to enhance students’ overall competitiveness for better employment opportunities after graduation.

 

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We have established alliances with tutoring centers and career enhancement training providers in attractive markets we have identified to enter in the near future. We provide a total solution package to these A+ Alliance partners including teacher training, our IT infrastructure and our intelligent system, which combines our learning engine and robust content. The A+ Alliances typically have a term of three years. We monitor the operational, management and financial performances of the Alliance members and, if they meet our criteria, we may explore with certain of our A+ Alliance members the option to convert them to our own schools and learning centers through business combinations upon terms to be agreed. As of December 31, 2011, we had a total of 14 A+ Alliance members.

 

From our inception in 2000 through 2003, we focused on building our technology foundation by designing our proprietary software and technology solutions to provide educational and career enhancement services. From 2004 to 2007, we focused on building our nationwide services platform by deploying our services and products through sales agents, which enabled us to reach a large target customer base, build our Ambow brand and increase awareness of our products and services in a capital efficient way. As a result of the successful implementation of the aforementioned strategy we have built, users of our software products or services grew throughout this period: from approximately 400 in 2004 to approximately 170,000 in 2007. By the end of 2007, our student users had reached a critical mass, we had proven that our services and products built upon our proprietary technology were effective and well received by students and our brand and services became well known in the industry and among our target customers. At the beginning of 2008, we considered it to be the opportune time to establish physical service network to capture further business opportunities and provide our services and products through both offline classroom teaching and online delivery platform to our target customers in our directly-operated learning centers and schools. We established the strategic service network primarily by opening or acquiring top-tier tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college, which we believe enhances the Ambow brand as a premium educational and career enhancement service provider.

 

We currently deliver our wide range of educational and career enhancement services and products through integrated offline and online channels in an interactive learning environment, powered by our proprietary technology platform that has enabled us to provide individualized content and learning solutions tailored to each of our students’ needs, and to develop standards-based, individualized curricula with consistently high quality across our schools, tutoring centers, college, career enhancement centers and campuses. We also intend to pursue opportunities to provide our educational and career enhancement services outside of China.

 

Through our directly-operated tutoring centers, schools, career enhancement centers, campuses and college as well as our distributors, we have significantly grown our net revenue, net income and student enrollments. Our net revenues from continuing operations increased from RMB736.7 million in 2009 to RMB1,217.1 million in 2010 to RMB1,669.2 million (US$265.2 million) in 2011. Our growth from 2009 to 2011 was primarily driven by the expansion of our service network across both Better Schools and Better Jobs, through acquisitions and organic growth, as well as the increase in sales of education services and software to distributors.

 

We have two business divisions, “Better Schools” and “Better Jobs,” and four operating segments, tutoring, K-12 schools, career enhancement and college. Our tutoring and K-12 schools segments are within our Better Schools division and career enhancement and college segments are within our Better Jobs division. Revenues from continuing operations for our Better Schools division accounted for 60.3%, 69.6% and 62.8% of our total net revenues from continuing operations in the fiscal years of 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. Revenues from our Better Jobs division accounted for 39.7%, 30.4% and 37.2% of our total net revenues from continuing operations in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. We recorded net income from continuing operations of RMB138.0 million, RMB211.7 million, and RMB16.2 million (US$2.6 million) in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.  Our total student enrollments from continuing operations in our Better Schools division were approximately 782,400 and 881,000 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010 and 2011 respectively; and in our Better Jobs division were approximately 58,500 and 111,800 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010 and 2011 respectively.

 

Our services and products

 

We offer a variety of educational and career enhancement services and products to students, recent graduates and corporate employees and management in China. Our tutoring programs, which are offered in our tutoring centers, are our primary educational services and product offerings to help students enroll in better schools. We also operate K-12 schools to support our tutoring programs by providing strong local brand names and reputations, local education content expertise and potential student customer bases. Our career enhancement services that help students and graduates obtain better jobs are offered both in our dedicated career enhancement centers and campuses as well as through our online programs. Our corporate training services to improve employees and management softskills are normally offered in our outbound bases, the corporate clients offices or hotel conference centers. We also operate one college to support our career enhancement centers by providing facilities, research and teaching resources, and potential student customer bases. In addition, we extend our educational and career enhancement services and product offerings to students through our distributors and corporate partners in locations in which we do not have a direct presence. In addition, to support our educational and career enhancement services and products, we provide software products to accommodate our students’ individual learning habits and enrich their learning experience.

 

The following map sets forth the service coverage and the geographic coverage of our tutoring centers and K-12 schools (marked as Better Schools), and our career enhancement centers, career enhancement campuses and college (marked as Better Jobs) as of December 31, 2011:

 

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GRAPHIC

 

Better Schools

 

Our Better Schools division consists of 150 tutoring centers and five K-12 schools as of December 31, 2011, which are located in or around our 17 provinces across China.

 

Our tutoring centers are designed to help students perform better in school and prepare for important tests, specifically high school and university entrance exams. In addition to our classroom-based teaching services, we offer educational curriculum and software products through our web-based applications to allow our students access to our tutoring services from anywhere at any time. Combined with our proprietary “learning engine,” our software features such functions as online video classes, practice questions, discussion forums and prior actual tests. Our educational software products include eBoPo (meaning “energy and impact” in Chinese), which offers full subjects, online practice tests and instruction for K-12 level students. Our software products and web-based applications complement our in-person classes and offer individualized services and tailored content based on each student’s specific needs. Our tutoring centers offer the classroom instruction, small class and one-on-one tutoring. Total student enrollments of these tutoring centers were approximately 860,000 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011.

 

Our K-12 schools, which are accredited by the local equivalent of the MOE, provide full-subject national curriculum, including mathematics, language, history, sciences and arts. Our five K-12 schools have an aggregate capacity of up to 22,400 students in 2011. Before our students enter our K-12 schools, they need to take our admissions test. Before they graduate from our K-12 schools, they need to pass the exam required by the local MOE. When they pass this exam, they earn a certificate recognized by the local public school system. Our tutoring centers provide corresponding tutoring programs, along with ZhongKao and GaoKao preparation, GaoKao retake preparation and overseas exam preparation. Our strategy for our educational services is to establish service network that provide services in populated and economically-developed cities in China. We intend to continue to improve the education quality and brands of our schools, which we leverage to support our tutoring programs. We will also continue to develop or acquire tutoring centers that have the high ratings and quality teachers.

 

Better Jobs

 

Our Better Jobs division consists of 25 career enhancement centers, two career enhancement campuses and one college as of December 31, 2011, which are located in the Bohai Rim Area, Central South Area (Changsha, Zhuzhou and Xiangtan) and the

 

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Yangtze River Delta. Our career enhancement centers are designed to help university level students and graduates enhance their practical skills and improve their competitive positioning upon graduation as they look to start their career. We have located our service network in regional economic centers within China where there is a high concentration of companies in high-growth industries. We cooperate with universities to provide our career enhancement services to their students. Our directly-operated college and our university partners provide us with a large base of customers to whom we can offer our services and products. Classes taken at our career enhancement centers and campuses can also count as credits earned towards requirements of certain university degree programs. We have also established partnerships with domestic and international institutions, including Cisco Systems, Inc., and The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., to provide training content and direct and indirect job opportunities for our students. We have teamed up with Microsoft to set up a service outsourcing career enhancement base in Dandong.  In addition, we will provide an accreditation program for Lenovo Certified Service Engineers for both Lenovo and its affiliated companies’ customer service centers throughout the country. We have also joined with Adobe Creative University to launch Adobe certification programs and entered into a partnership with Oracle to provide the Workforce Development Program, a unique training program developed by Oracle to provide IT training to Ambow’s career enhancement students with the purpose of preparing these students for Oracle certification exams.

 

Our career enhancement centers currently focus on IT services and digital art training. Our career enhancement services curriculum emphasizes providing students with “hands-on training” for professional skills, including case studies, job environment simulation and specific technical skills needed to excel in jobs at our corporate partners, as well as “soft skills” training, including courses on time management, presentation, leadership and interview techniques. We design our career enhancement curriculum based on our understanding of the target industries and the actual recruiting needs of our corporate partners and corporations looking to hire our students. We also offer corporate training programs for our corporate partners’ employees that are designed jointly with certain of our corporate partners to specifically tailor the training for these employees. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, student enrollments in our career enhancement services were approximately 105,000.

 

We operate two career enhancement campuses, namely Kunshan Ambow Service Outsourcing Industrial Park, or Kunshan Park, and Dalian Ambow Service Outsourcing Industrial Park, or Dalian Park.  Kunshan Park and Dalian Park are located in the Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Economic Rim, respectively. These career enhancement campuses serve the needs of students and employers located throughout the Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Economic Rim. Our career enhancement campuses offer teaching facilities, laboratories, dormitories, grocery stores and other community infrastructure in order to accommodate students’ educational and recreational activities.  These facilities, which can hold up to an aggregate of 8,000 people for training at a given time, are currently operated by Ambow each for a period of 20 years. Both of these office park-type career enhancement campuses are built by local governments in China.  They focus on information technology outsourcing and business process outsourcing as the main objectives of the campuses’ training programs.

 

In October 2009, we began to collaborate with the MOE to establish a university student employment project to help university students obtain better jobs when they graduate. As part of this collaboration, we also collectively launched a Career Competency Enhancement Program (CCEP) in March 2011. This program was jointly developed with the MOE and offered in universities as a credit program which provides students with an advanced curriculum that focuses on soft skill trainings and integrated expert in-class teaching and online learning. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, this program had attracted around 57,000 students.

 

We acquired Genesis Career Enhancement in 2011 which provides outbound and in-house management trainings targeted for corporate clients.  In addition, we offered Corporate Business School (CBS) which is an online interactive management training course targeted for corporate clients.

 

Our college offers degree programs to incoming students. Students graduating from our degree programs receive bachelor’s degrees recognized by the MOE. Our degree programs are typically designed to be completed in either two or four years and are designed to provide our students with practical, career-oriented education, positioning them for attractive entry-level job opportunities. We had 12,200 university student enrollments in 2011, of which 5,400 student enrollments belong to the college of which we are in the process of disposal at 2011 year end. Our college operates for two semesters per academic year, one running from September to January, and the other running from February or March, depending on the date of the Chinese New Year, to July. We typically offer courses five days a week.

 

Student recruitment and retention

 

We employ a variety of marketing and recruiting methods to attract students and increase student enrollments at our learning centers and schools. We recruit students to our tutoring centers and K-12 schools from the local areas near these centers and schools. We recruit students to our career enhancement centers nationally. We recruit students to our college nationally through MOE designated channels by publishing our programs each year in college recruitment guides that are distributed to high schools throughout China. We believe prospective students are attracted to our learning centers and schools due to our strong brand name, innovative teaching and learning practices, and high-quality, individualized services. Our learning engine technology combined with offline teacher instruction ensures that students receive individualized orientation, instruction and progress assessment in a student-centered environment. By analyzing the accumulated data stored in each student’s learning record, our learning engine optimizes learning strategies and methods, and provides personalized educational content for each student. The longer and more often a student uses our services and products, the more effective and efficient services and content we are able to provide to him or her, thus enhancing the students’ tendency to continue to utilize our services throughout their learning cycle. Students in our tutoring centers and K-12 schools have significantly improved their results in ZhongKao and GaoKao exams, which we believe has enhanced our reputation in the markets in which we participate through word-of-mouth referrals. Our career enhancement centers and college help students to identify their career goals early in their life, and provide them with project-based training to improve their employment opportunities.

 

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Our technology infrastructure

 

We believe our proprietary technologies are one of our major strengths and we have devoted significant resources to the development of technologies for the delivery of our educational and career enhancement services. These include our educational services platform, operational management platform and development and deployment platform. The educational services platform is the backbone that supports our educational and career enhancement product and service offerings to our students. The operational management platform supports our internal management and administrative applications for tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college. The development and deployment platform supports our educational service platform and operational management platform, and standardizes the development of and communication between our IT products and applications.

 

 

Educational services platform

 

Our educational services platform is built around and driven by our core proprietary technology, the “Learning Engine.” Utilizing advanced Internet and multi-media technologies, the learning engine enables us to embed educational materials and cognitive theories, including memory curve and competency model theories, into our interactive learning products and services, such as the “eBoPo” series for educational services and “Career GPS System” for career enhancement services. Our learning engine creates an environment in which personalized courses and instructions can be generated and delivered based on a student’s own knowledge level, goals and learning needs. Our learning engine readily supports features that promote learning, such as video streaming, PowerPoint and interactive testing functions, via open interface and multi-language channels.

 

Continued tracking

 

As part of the learning engine, our learning tracking system comprehensively records a student’s progress and achievements throughout the learning experience. The system assesses a student’s knowledge and competency level when he or she starts, and continually monitors the interactions between the student and his or her computer, keeping on file the student’s learning process and progress. The system is able to capture and memorize the way a student learns and creates a unique learning profile, which we refer as each student’s “Learning Passport.” The system is also able to compare the student’s current performance with past achievements, both at an individual and at a peer group level, giving the student a clear understanding of his or her current learning status.

 

Individualized learning experience to students

 

Our interactive learning engine customizes each student’s learning experience and tracks and evaluates the learning performance as it happens. By leveraging our learning tracking system and analyzing the cumulated data stored in the Learning Passports, the learning engine can optimize learning strategies and methods and provide personalized education content, recursive exercise and study guidance for each student. The learning engine can set learning targets based on personal goals and requirements and adjust individual learning profiles and learning paths as it learns and perceives more about the student, delivering the appropriate learning materials to optimize the student’s education outcome.

 

High quality

 

Our personalized educational framework ensures that students receive high-quality educational experiences tailored to their individual needs. Our educational content and services are not linked to one teacher, but rather to many highly-qualified and experienced educational experts, who work closely with us to ensure that materials are of the high quality and relevance for students.

 

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This means that no matter where students are living—in urban centers or rural villages across China—they can be confident of receiving the same high standard of resources and support at all times.

 

Operational management platform

 

We have built up an operational management platform to integrate our key management and administrative functions. We are developing additional functionality within our operational management platform to allow us to track revenues and expenses across each of our schools and learning centers by sub-segments within our operating segments. This will allow us to have better period-to-period insights into the underlying drivers in our business within each of our four distinct operating segments.

 

Development and deployment platform

 

Our research, development and deployment efforts are greatly facilitated by our Enterprise Service Bus, or ESB. As a widely-used software architecture, an ESB acts as a message broker between different business applications, reducing the number of point-to-point connections required to allow applications to communicate, which makes it easier to adapt a system to changes in one or more of its components. Through our standards-based ESB, our technology platform allows for the rapid development and deployment of highly reliable, scalable and stable Internet-based cross-platform applications. We have also adopted the Model-View-Controller design pattern for our platform, which allows the layering of the data, presentation and control modules, thereby making the system more nimble, robust and manageable. The adaptor between the data and control layers easily allows for integration of our services and products with third-party systems.

 

Intellectual property

 

We have developed our proprietary technology over the past decade. Our trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights distinguish our services and products from those of our competitors, and contribute to our competitive advantage in our target markets. To protect our brand and other intellectual property, we rely on a combination of trademark, copyright and trade secret laws as well as confidentiality agreements with our employees, contractors and others.

 

“Ambow”, “ , “”, “”, “”, “ebopo ”, “”, “ ”, “ ” and “” are our registered trademarks in China.  We have also applied for additional trademarks and logos, including “”, “”, “ ”, “”, “  ” and “” with the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in China. Our main websites are located at www.ambow.com and www.ambow.com.cn. In addition, we have registered certain domain names, including www.ambow.net. In addition to building “Ambow” as a stand-alone brand, we intend to continue to co-brand “Ambow” with the brands of our acquired schools and programs for the foreseeable future in order to fully leverage their established local presence and reputation.

 

We cannot be certain that our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights will be adequate or that third parties will not infringe or misappropriate these rights. In addition, there can be no assurance that competitors will not independently develop similar intellectual property. If others are able to copy and use our programs and services, we may not be able to maintain our competitive position. Furthermore, the application of laws governing intellectual property rights in China and abroad is uncertain and evolving and could involve substantial risk to us. If litigation is necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights or determine the scope of the proprietary rights of others, we may have to incur substantial costs or divert other resources, which could harm our business.

 

Selling and marketing

 

To promote our brands in the fragmented domestic education market, we selectively and systematically market our products and build our brand names through a number of different marketing programs. By doing so, we intend to continue to create and implement a standard corporate identity across all Ambow schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers. Our marketing efforts, which include national marketing by our corporate headquarters and local marketing by individual schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers, focus primarily on:

 

·                  Sponsoring charity and social events and forums around key educational events to build up our corporate image as the most trustworthy, life-long education and career enhancement partner in China;

 

·                  Buying airtime on national and local media programs as well as advertising space in billboards and buses to raise the awareness of our educational and career enhancement services and programs;

 

·                  Hosting industry summits with key corporate partners;

 

·                  Partnering with local governments to provide positive support for local schools and the local job market; and

 

·                  We also rely on word-of-mouth referrals and verbal marketing about our services and programs.

 

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Our partners

 

In addition to selling our services and products directly to students in our directly-operated schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers, we sell our software products indirectly to schools, tutoring centers, career enhancement centers and our corporate partners through distributors. In our Better Schools division, we sell our eBoPo software products through our Better Schools distributors. In our Better Jobs division, we sell our training platform and corporate training software products through our Better Jobs distributors. For software products we sell indirectly, our distributors provide primary support to the end users, and, in rare instances, we provide limited secondary support in the event that our distributors cannot answer questions of the end users.

 

Partner schools

 

We have business relationships with K-12 schools and colleges and universities not directly owned or operated by us, both directly and through our distributors. Most of our current relationships with K-12 schools are indirect as they, or their students, are end-user customers of our distributors and are generally limited to such schools’ purchase of our software products through our distributors. Our direct partnerships are primarily with colleges and universities which send their students to our career enhancement centers and, to a lesser extent, K-12 schools. These colleges and universities with whom we have direct partnerships are under no contractual obligation to recommend our services or products.

 

Corporate partners

 

We have established business relationships with domestic and multinational corporations with business operations in China and, directly and indirectly through our distributors, with Chinese educational institutions. Our key corporate alliances are with companies who recognize our leadership in providing education and career enhancement services in China and want us to help train potential employees for them and design corporate training materials for their internal or key partners’ use. The following are descriptions of some of our most significant corporate partnerships:

 

·                  Cisco Systems, Inc.: Our partnership with Cisco began when they invested in us in 2006. Since their investment, we have entered into agreements and worked with Cisco China in two principal areas—training of their channel partners and development of information technology talent. Our innovative educational model helps Cisco manage the effectiveness of its channel partners by tracking their ability to sell and support Cisco products. We have worked collaboratively to define a competency model and offer combined online and offline training solutions together with Cisco. The development of information technology talent is accomplished through a workforce transformation program targeted at universities to increase the networking talent pool in China.

 

·                  The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.: In November 2009, we entered into an agreement with McGraw-Hill Education to develop enhanced, customized English Language Training courseware and training for IT engineers in our career enhancement centers. The innovative learning programs we are jointly developing, which are focused on business process outsourcing training, will be offered in a blended format that includes online and group activities focusing on career-specific English that engineers use in their jobs. McGraw-Hill and Ambow also provide training for the program’s instructors.

 

·                  Microsoft (China) Company Limited: In March 2011, we have teamed up with Microsoft to set up a service outsourcing career enhancement base in Dandong, a city in the north-eastern province of Liaoning. It is planning to train a total of 10,000 Microsoft-accredited service outsourcing personnel in the first four years.

 

·                  Lenovo Group Ltd.: In May 2011, we have finalized an agreement with Lenovo, the world renowned PC manufacturer, to be its authorized personnel Training Practice Base in China. We will provide an accreditation program for Lenovo Certified Service Engineers for both Lenovo and its affiliated companies’ customer service centers throughout the country.

 

·                  Adobe: In October 2011, we have joined with Adobe Creative University to launch Adobe certification programs localized for the Chinese learning and work environment.

 

·                  Oracle (China) Software Systems Co., Ltd.: In January 2012, we entered into a partnership with Oracle to provide the Workforce Development Program, a unique training program developed by Oracle to provide IT training to Ambow’s career enhancement students with the purpose of preparing these students for Oracle certification exams.

 

We work with these corporate partners, among others, to license their existing content and to collaborate on developing additional content to add to our training programs in order to improve our Better Jobs programs and better satisfy students’ needs.

 

In October 2009, we began to collaborate with the MOE to establish a university student employment project to help university students obtain better jobs when they graduate. As part of this collaboration, we also collectively launched a Career Competence Enhancement Program (CCEP) in March 2011. This program was jointly developed with the MOE and offered in universities as a credit program which provides students with an advanced curriculum that focuses on soft skill trainings and integrated expert in-class teaching

 

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and online learning. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, this program had attracted around 57,000 students.

 

Acquisitions and disposals

 

At the beginning of 2008, we considered it to be the opportune time to establish physical service network to capture further business opportunities and provide our services and products through both offline classroom teaching and online delivery platform to our target customers primarily by acquiring top-tier tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and colleges. To adhere to our goal of providing high-quality educational and career enhancement services to our students and to build a premium brand, we have adopted a disciplined and systematic approach towards acquisitions that complement our existing services and products, add scale and expand our footprint. Our systematic approach to identify, evaluate and conduct our acquisitions has enabled us to complete 30 separate acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights from 2008 to 2011. In 2008, we made an aggregate of ten acquisitions to acquire tutoring companies, K-12 schools, a tutorial software company and career enhancement training companies. We also acquired long-term operating rights to run the Zhenjiang K-12 School and to use the school’s buildings and facilities for 12 years. In 2009, we made an aggregate of 13 acquisitions to acquire tutoring companies, K-12 schools, career enhancement training companies and a career enhancement software company and colleges. In 2011, we completed an aggregate of seven acquisitions to acquire tutoring and career enhancement centers and one corporate training company group. Certain of our acquisitions involved multiple tutoring centers and career enhancement centers.  At the beginning of the third quarter of 2011, we reverted the operating right for the Junior High portion of Zhenjiang Ambow International School back to the original owner. In the last quarter of 2011, we disposed of four subdivisions, including three in the tutoring subdivision and one in the career enhancement subdivision, and initiated the disposal of Beijing Century College and its 100% owned Beijing Siwa Century Facility Management Co. and Beijing 21st Century International School.  These disposals were done to sharpen our focus on the organic growth and business portfolio with stronger performance, greater capital efficiency and better asset turnover.  Subsequent to December 31, 2011, we acquired 16 tutoring centers which were owned and operated by a third party.  Please refer to Note 9(ii) to the financial statements.

 

We plan to expand our operations primarily through organic growth.  At the same time, to complement our organic growth strategy, we may also explore with certain of our A+ Alliance partners the option to convert them to our own learning centers and schools through business combinations and, to a lesser extent, make acquisitions of other businesses that complement our operations when suitable opportunities arise.

 

Competition

 

The educational and career enhancement services market in China is rapidly evolving, highly fragmented and competitive, and we expect competition in this sector to persist and intensify. We face direct competition in each geographic market and each business segment in which we operate, though no single competitor operates in all of our business segments. Our competition in our tutoring programs is from other education companies, and in our K-12 schools is from both public and private schools. To date, we have not faced significant, direct competition in our career enhancement centers, but we expect this to change as companies have begun to enter this market. We believe that the principal competitive factors in our markets include the following:

 

·                  Alignment of individualized programs, services and products to specific needs of students, parents, educators and employers;

 

·                  Overall customer experience;

 

·                  Scope and quality of program, service and product offerings;

 

·                  Proximity of services to the customers;

 

·                  Brand recognition and reputation of service providers; and

 

·                  Ability to effectively market programs, services and products to a broad base of prospective students.

 

We believe that our primary competitive advantages are our well-known “Ambow” brand and our ability to deliver standards-based, individualized curriculum with consistent, high quality across our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. However, some of our existing and potential competitors may have more resources than we do. These competitors may be able to devote greater resources than we can to the development, promotion and sale of their programs, services and products and respond more quickly than we can to changes in customer demands, market needs or new technologies. In addition, we face competition from many different organizations that focus on some of our targeted markets, which may be able to respond more promptly to changes in student preferences in these markets.

 

In addition, the increasing use of the Internet and advances in Internet and computer-related technologies are eliminating geographic and cost-entry barriers to providing private educational and career enhancement services. Many smaller companies are able to use the Internet to quickly and cost-effectively offer their programs, services and products to a large number of students with less capital expenditure than was previously required.

 

Seasonality

 

Our business is subject to seasonal variations. Historically, service days consumed in our K-12 schools and colleges are lower during the first quarter due to school closures in January or February for Chinese New Year and winter vacation and during the third quarter due to summer vacation. Our tutoring and our career enhancement segments are affected by seasonal variations in the

 

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first quarter due to Chinese New Year and winter vacations, though this seasonal impact is to a lesser extent than the impact on our K-12 schools and college.

 

Regulations

 

We operate our business in China under a legal regime consisting of the State Council, which is the highest authority of the executive branch of the PRC central government, and several ministries and agencies under its authority, including the MOE, the MIIT, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, or SAIC, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, or MCA, the Ministry of Commerce, or MOFCOM, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, and their respective authorized local counterparts. This section summarizes the principal PRC regulations relating to our business.

 

Regulations on private education

 

The principal regulations governing private education in China consist of the Education Law of the PRC, the Law for Promoting Private Education (2003) and The Implementing Rules for the Law for Promoting Private Education (2004) and the Regulations on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Operating Schools. Below is a summary of relevant provisions of these regulations.

 

Education Law of the PRC

 

On March 18, 1995, the National People’s Congress enacted the Education Law of the PRC, or the Education Law. The Education Law sets forth provisions relating to the fundamental education systems of the PRC, including a school system of pre-school education, primary education, secondary education and higher education, a system of nine-year compulsory education and a system of education certificates. The Education Law stipulates that the government formulates plans for the development of education and establishes and operates schools and other institutions of education and, in principle, enterprises, social organizations and individuals are encouraged to operate schools and other types of education organizations in accordance with PRC laws and regulations. Meanwhile, no organization or individual may establish or operate a school or any other education institution for profit-making purposes. However, according to the Law for Promoting Private Education, private schools may be operated for “reasonable returns,” as described in more detail below.

 

The Law for Promoting Private Education and the Implementing Rules for the Law for Promoting Private Education

 

The Law for Promoting Private Education (2003) became effective on September 1, 2003, and the Implementing Rules for the Law for Promoting Private Education (2004) became effective on April 1, 2004. Under this law and these regulations, “private schools” are defined as schools established by social organizations or individuals using non-government funds. In addition, private schools providing certifications, pre-school education, education for self-study aid and other academic education shall be subject to approval by the education authorities, while private schools engaging in occupational qualification training and occupational skill training shall be subject to approvals from the authorities in charge of labor and social welfare. A duly approved private school will be granted a Private School Operation License by local or provincial-level counterparts of the MOE for operating a private school, and shall be registered with the local or provincial-level counterparts of the MCA as a privately run non-enterprise institution and be issued a Private Non-enterprise Organization Registration Certificate. The durations of our Private School Operation Licenses vary from two years to 30 years and the durations of our Private Non-enterprise Organization Registration Certificates vary from one year to five years, depending on the location of our private schools.

 

Under the law and regulations discussed above, private schools have the same status as public schools, though private schools are prohibited from providing military, police, political and other kinds of education which are of a special nature. Government-run schools that provide compulsory education are not permitted to be converted into private schools. In addition, the operation of a private school is highly regulated. For example, the items and criteria of fees charged by a private school on those students receiving degree education need to be approved by the governmental pricing authority and is required to be publicly disclosed.

 

Private schools are divided into three categories: private schools established with donated funds; private schools that require reasonable returns and private schools that do not require reasonable returns. While private education is treated as a public welfare undertaking under the regulations, in the case of private schools choosing to require “reasonable returns”, investors of these schools may choose to require “reasonable returns” from the annual net balance of the school after deduction of costs, donations received, government subsidies, if any, the reserved development fund and other expenses as required by the regulations.

 

The election to establish a private school requiring reasonable returns shall be provided in the articles of association of the school. The percentage of the school’s annual net balance that can be distributed as a reasonable return shall be determined by the school’s board of directors, taking into consideration the following factors: (i) items and criteria for the school’s fees, (ii) the ratio of the school’s expenses used for educational activities and improving the educational conditions to the total fees collected; and (iii) the admission standards and educational quality. The relevant information relating to the factors discussed above is required to be publicly disclosed before the school’s board determines the percentage of the school’s annual net balance that can be distributed as reasonable returns. Such information and the decision to distribute reasonable returns is also required to be filed with the approval authorities within 15 days from the decision made by the board. However, none of the current PRC laws and regulations provides a formula or guidelines for determining “reasonable returns.” In addition, none of the current PRC laws and regulations sets forth different requirements or restrictions on a private

 

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school’s ability to operate its education business based on such school’s status as a school that requires reasonable returns or a school that does not require reasonable returns.

 

At the end of each fiscal year, every private school is required to allocate a certain amount to its development fund for the construction or maintenance of the schools or procurement or upgrade of educational equipment. In the case of a private school that requires reasonable returns, this amount shall be no less than 25% of the annual net income of the school, while in the case of a private school that does not require reasonable returns, this amount shall be not less than 25% of the annual increase in the net assets of the school, if any. Private schools that do not require reasonable returns shall be entitled to the same preferential tax treatment as public schools, while the preferential tax treatment policies applicable to private schools requiring reasonable returns shall be formulated by the relevant PRC authorities. However, ever since then, no such regulations in respect of tax preferential policy for private schools established by investors requiring reasonable returns have been promulgated.

 

As of December 31, 2011, we had across our four operating segments a total of 33 schools that are registered as private schools as opposed to companies, of which three schools are registered as schools not requiring reasonable returns, while all other schools are registered as schools requiring reasonable returns.

 

Regulation of independent colleges

 

The principal regulations governing independent colleges in China consist of the Several Opinions on Standardizing and Strengthening the Regulation of the Pilot Operation of Independent Colleges by Universities Through Adopting New Mechanism and Model promulgated by MOE on April 23, 2003 and the Rules Relating to the Establishment and Regulation of Independent Colleges promulgated by MOE and effective as of April 1, 2008. Under these regulations, “independent colleges” are defined as colleges jointly established by universities engaging in degree-granting educational activities above undergraduate stage and social organizations or individuals using non-government funds to engage in degree-granting educational activities at undergraduate stage. Independent colleges fall within the private higher education sector and are deemed as a public welfare undertaking in China and, therefore, the education authorities in China generally regulate them in the same manner as the remaining private schools. MOE regulates independent colleges on a general basis including, but not limited to, the establishment of and material changes to independent colleges. MOE’s counterparts at the provincial level directly regulate the independent colleges’ daily operations.

 

For the due establishment of independent colleges, these regulations impose a series of requirements, including (i) the universities jointly establishing an independent college should be competent in teaching, management and educational conditions and, as a general rule, are eligible for granting doctors’ degrees, (ii) the social organizations jointly establishing an independent college with a university should be an independent legal person with a registered capital no less than RMB50.0 million, total assets no less than RMB300.0 million, net assets no less than RMB120.0 million and a ratio of total liabilities to total assets shall be less than 60%, (iii) the individuals jointly establishing an independent college with a university should own total assets worth no less than RMB300.0 million, among which their currency assets shall be worth no less than RMB120.0 million. The universities should principally make contributions to the independent colleges in the form of intangible assets, and social organizations or individuals should principally make contributions in kind, currency or land use rights. Furthermore, an independent college established after April 1, 2008 shall hold the land use right certificate or construction planning permit of land covering at least 333,334 square meters. Independent colleges established prior to April 1, 2008 are required to meet this land requirement within a grace period of five years, namely prior to March 31, 2013. Independent colleges are also required to recruit students in accordance with, and limited to, annual enrollment quotas prescribed by the government. Each year the MOE releases a list of independent colleges which are qualified to recruit students for degree education. Student recruitment of those independent colleges which do not satisfy MOE requirements and criteria may be restricted or suspended. The items and rate of tuition and fees are required to be determined according to relevant rules and disclosed in the recruitment brochures and advertisements, which are required to be filed with provincial-level education departments before being released.

 

We have an independent college, namely Applied Technology College that is subject to the requirements discussed above. Please see “Item 3.D —Key Information — Risk Factors—Risks related to our business and industry—Failure by our college to comply with regulatory requirements on land use rights and capital commitment may subject our college to penalties and adversely affect our business operations.”

 

Foreign investment in education service industry

 

According to the Foreign Investment Industries Guidance Catalog, or Foreign Investment Catalog, which was amended and promulgated by the National Development and Reform Commission, or NDRC, and the MOFCOM on December 24, 2011 and became effective on January 30, 2012, foreign investment is encouraged to participate in higher education and vocational training services. The foreign investment in higher education has to take the form of a Sino-foreign equity or cooperative joint venture. Senior high school education in grades 10-12 is a restricted industry. The foreign investment in senior high school education has to take the form of a cooperative joint venture. Foreign investment is banned from compulsory education, which means grades 1-9. Foreign investment is allowed to invest in after-school tutoring services which do not grant diplomas. As of December 31, 2011, we had a total of 183 centers and schools, comprised of 150 tutoring centers, five K-12 schools, 25 career enhancement centers, two career enhancement campuses and one college. We conduct our education business in China primarily through contractual arrangements among our subsidiaries in China and VIEs. Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, as PRC domestic entities, hold the requisite licenses and permits necessary to conduct

 

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our education business in China and operate our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and colleges.

 

Regulations on Chinese-foreign cooperation in operating schools

 

Chinese-foreign cooperation in operating schools or training programs is specifically governed by the Regulations on Operating Chinese-foreign Schools, promulgated by the State Council in 2003 and the Implementing Rules for the Regulations on Operating Chinese-foreign Schools, or the Implementing Rules, which were issued by the MOE in 2004.

 

The regulations on Operating Chinese-foreign Schools and its Implementing Rules encourage substantive cooperation between overseas educational organizations with relevant qualifications and experience in providing high-quality education and Chinese educational organizations to jointly operate various types of schools in the PRC, with such cooperation in the areas of higher education and occupational education being encouraged. Chinese-foreign cooperative schools are not permitted, however, to engage in compulsory education and military, police, political and other kinds of education that are of a special nature in the PRC.

 

Permits for Chinese-foreign Cooperation in Operating Schools or Chinese-foreign Cooperation Project shall be obtained from the relevant education authorities or from the authorities that regulate labor and social welfare in the PRC.

 

As of the date of this annual report, only Beijing 21st Century International School is conducting a Chinese-foreign cooperation project which has been approved by Beijing Municipal Commission of Education.

 

Regulations on online and distance education

 

Pursuant to the Administrative Regulations on Educational Websites and Online and Distance Education Schools issued by MOE in 2000, or the Online Education Regulations, educational websites and online education schools may provide education services in relation to higher education, elementary education, pre-school education, teacher education, occupational education, adult education and other educational services. Under the Online Education Regulations, “educational websites” refers to education websites providing education or education-related information services to website visitors by means of a database or an online education platform connected to the Internet or an educational television station through an Internet service provider, or ISP. Under the Online Education Regulations, “online education schools” refer to organizations providing academic education services or training services online and issuing various certificates.

 

Under the Online Education Regulations, setting up educational websites and online education schools is subject to approval from relevant education authorities, depending on the specific types of education provided. Under the Online Education Regulations, any educational website and online education school shall, upon receipt of approval, indicate on its website such approval information as well as the approval date and file number.

 

According to the Administrative License Law promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, or NPC, on August 27, 2003 and effective as of July 1, 2004, only laws promulgated by the NPC and regulations and decisions promulgated by the State Council may establish administrative license requirements. On June 29, 2004, the State Council promulgated the Decision on Cutting Down Administrative Licenses for the Administrative Examination and Approval Items Really Necessary to be Retained, in which the administrative license for “online education schools” was retained, while the administrative license for “educational websites” was not retained. Our online education business is mainly conducted by Ambow Shida, with Ambow Online providing technical support and marketing consulting services relating to online education and, therefore, falls into the “educational websites” category, as a result of which our online education business is not subject to regulatory approval pursuant to these laws and regulations.

 

Regulation of the software industry

 

Policies to Encourage the Development of Software

 

On June 24, 2000, the State Council issued Certain Policies to Encourage the Development of Software and Integrated Circuit Industries, or the Policies, to encourage the development of the software and integrated circuit industries in China and to enhance the competitiveness of the PRC information technology industry in the international market. The Policies encourage the development of the software and integrated circuit industries in China through various methods, including:

 

·                  Encouraging venture capital investment in the software industry and providing capital to software enterprises or assisting such software enterprises to raise capital overseas;

 

·                  Providing tax incentives, including an immediate tax rebate for taxpayers who sell self-developed software products, before 2010, of the amount of the statutory value-added tax that exceeds 3% and a number of exemptions and reduced corporate income tax rates;

 

·                  Providing government support, such as government funding in the development of software technology;

 

·                  Providing preferential treatments, such as credit facilities with low interest rates to enterprises that export software products;

 

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·                  Taking various strategies to ensure that the software industry has sufficient expertise; and

 

·                  Implementing measures to enhance intellectual property protection in China.

 

To qualify for preferential treatments, an enterprise must be recognized as a software enterprise by governmental authorities. A software enterprise is subject to annual inspection, failure of which in a given year will cause the enterprise to lose the relevant benefits. Ambow Online and Ambow Yuhua, our wholly-owned subsidiaries, have qualified as software enterprises and are entitled to enjoy these preferential treatments including tax incentives.

 

Software products administration

 

On October 27, 2000, the MIIT issued and enforced the Measures Concerning Software Products Administration to regulate and administer software products and promote the development of the software industry in China. Pursuant to the Measures Concerning Software Products Administration, all software products operated or sold in China must be duly registered with and recorded by the relevant authorities, and no entity or individual is allowed to sell or distribute any unregistered and unrecorded software products.

 

On March 5, 2009, the MIIT promulgated the new Measures Concerning Software Products Administration, or the New Measures, which became effective on April 10, 2009. Under the New Measures, software products operated or sold in China are not required to be registered or recorded by relevant authorities, and software products developed in China (including those developed in China on the basis of imported software) can enjoy certain favorable policies when they have been registered and recorded. Upon registration, the software products will be granted registration certificates. Each registration certificate is valid for five years from the issuance date and may be renewed upon expiry. Software developers or producers are allowed to sell their software products independently or through agents, or by way of licensing. The MIIT and other relevant authorities may carry out supervision and inspection over the development, production, operation and import/export of software products in and out of China.

 

Software copyright

 

The State Council promulgated the Regulations on the Protection of Computer Software, or the Software Protection Regulations, on December 20, 2001, which became effective on January 1, 2002. The Software Protection Regulations were promulgated, among other things, to protect the copyright of computer software in China. According to the Software Protection Regulations, computer software that is independently developed is attached to physical goods will be protected. However, such protection does not apply to any ideas, mathematical concepts, processing and operation methods used in the development of software solutions. Under the Software Protection Regulations, PRC citizens, legal persons and organizations will enjoy copyright protection for computer software that they have developed, regardless of whether the software has been published. Foreigners or any person without a nationality shall enjoy copyright protection over computer software that they have developed, as long as such computer software was first distributed in China. Software of foreigners or any person without a nationality will enjoy copyright protection in China under these regulations in accordance with a bilateral agreement, if any, executed by and between China and the country to which the developer is a citizen of or in which the developer habitually resides, or in accordance with an international treaty to which China is a party. Under the Software Protection Regulations, owners of software copyright will enjoy the rights of publication, authorship, modification, duplication, issuance, lease, transmission on the information network, translation, licensing and transfer. Software copyright protection takes effect on the day of completion of the software’s development. The protection period for software developed by legal persons and other organizations is 50 years and ends on December 31 of the fiftieth year from the date the software solution was first published. However, the Software Protection Regulations will not protect the software if it is not published within 50 years from the date of the completion of its development. Civil remedies available under the Software Protection Regulations against infringements of copyright include cessation of the infringement, elimination of the effects, apology and compensation for losses. The copyright administrative authorities will order the infringer of software copyright to stop all infringing acts, confiscate illegal gains, confiscate and destroy infringing copies, and may impose a fine on the offender under certain circumstances.

 

Software copyright registration

 

On February 20, 2002, the State Copyright Administration of the PRC promulgated and enforced the Measures Concerning Registration of Computer Software Copyright Procedures, or the Registration Procedures, to implement the Software Protection Regulations and to promote the development of China’s software industry. The Registration Procedures apply to the registration of software copyrights and software copyright exclusive licensing contracts and assignment contracts. The registrant of a software copyright will either be the copyright owner or another person (whether a natural person, legal person or an organization) in whom the software copyright becomes vested through succession, assignment or inheritance. Upon registration, the registrant shall be granted a registration certificate by the China Copyright Protection Center. As of December 31, 2011, we have been issued 67 registration certificates for computer software copyrights.

 

Regulations on Internet information services

 

Subsequent to the State Council’s promulgation of the Telecom Regulations and the Internet Information Services Administrative Measures on September 25, 2000, or the Internet Information Measures, the MIIT and other regulatory authorities formulated and implemented a number of Internet-related regulations, including but not limited to the Internet Electronic Bulletin Board Service Administrative Measures, or the BBS Measures.

 

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The Internet Information Measures require that commercial Internet content providers, or ICP providers, obtain a license for Internet information services, or ICP license, from the appropriate telecommunications regulatory authorities in order to provide any commercial Internet information services in the PRC. ICP providers are required to display their ICP license number in a conspicuous location on their home page. In addition, the Internet Information Measures also provide that ICP providers that operate in sensitive and strategic sectors, including news, publishing, education, health care, medicine and medical devices, must also obtain additional approvals from the relevant authorities in charge of those sectors. The BBS Measures provide that any ICP provider engaged in providing online bulletin board services, or BBS, is subject to a special approval and filing process with the relevant telecommunications regulatory authorities.

 

In July 2006, the MIIT posted on its website the “Notice on Strengthening Management of Foreign Investment in Operating Value-Added Telecom Services.” The notice prohibits PRC ICP providers from leasing, transferring or selling their ICP licenses or providing facilities or other resources to any illegal foreign investors. The notice states that PRC ICP providers or their shareholders should directly own the trademarks and domain names for websites operated by them, as well as servers and other infrastructure used to support these websites.

 

Regulations on broadcasting audio-video programs through the Internet or other information network

 

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or SARFT, promulgated the Rules for Administration of Broadcasting of Audio-Video Programs through the Internet and Other Information Networks, or the Broadcasting Rules, in 2004, which became effective on October 11, 2004. The Broadcasting Rules apply to the activities of broadcasting, integrating, transmitting and downloading of audio-video programs with computers, televisions or mobile phones and through various types of information networks. Pursuant to the Broadcasting Rules, a Permit for Broadcasting Audio-Video Programs via Information Network is required to engage in these Internet broadcasting activities. On April 13, 2005, the State Council announced a policy on private investments in businesses in China relating to cultural matters that prohibits private investments in businesses relating to the dissemination of audio-video programs through information networks.

 

On December 20, 2007, SARFT and MIIT issued the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, which became effective on January 31, 2008. Among other things, the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures stipulate that no entities or individuals may provide Internet audio-video program services without a License for Disseminating Audio-Video Programs through Information Network issued by SARFT or its local counterparts or completing the relevant registration with SARFT or its local counterparts; and only entities wholly owned or controlled by the PRC government may engage in the production, editing, integration or consolidation, and transfer to the public through the Internet, of audio-video programs, and the provision of audio-video program uploading and transmission services. On February 3, 2008, SARFT and MIIT jointly held a press conference in response to inquiries related to the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, during which SARFT and MIIT officials indicated that providers of audio-video program services established prior to the promulgation date of the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures that do not have any regulatory non-compliance records can re-register with the relevant government authorities to continue their current business operations. After the conference, the two authorities published a press release that confirms the above guidelines. There remain significant uncertainties relating to the interpretation and implementation of both the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures and the press release, in particularly with respect to the scope of “Internet Audio-Video Programs.”

 

Based on the advice of our PRC legal counsel, Commerce and Finance Law Offices, we do not believe that we are required to apply for a License for Disseminating Audio-Video Programs through Information Network as an enterprise providing online education and test preparation courses. As an online education services provider, we transmit our audio-video educational courses and programs through the Internet only to enrolled course participants, not to the general public. The limited scope of our audience distinguishes us from general online audio-video broadcasting companies, such as companies operating user-generated content websites. In addition, we do not provide audio-video program uploading and transmission services. As a result, we believe that we are not one of those providers of audio-video program services covered under the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures. In the event that we are deemed to be a provider of audio-video program services covered under the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, we believe that pursuant to the press release it is possible that we may be allowed to continue our current operations and re-register with SARFT or MIIT in accordance with the published guidelines, as we were established prior to the promulgation of the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures and have not had any regulatory non-compliance records. We and our PRC legal counsel are closely monitoring the regulatory developments relating to the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures and we will register with the relevant governmental authorities and obtain the necessary license if required. However, if the governmental authorities decide that our provision of online education services fall within the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures and we are unable to register or obtain the necessary license timely, or at all, due to reasons beyond our control, our equity ownership structure may require significant restructuring, or we may become subject to significant penalties, fines, legal sanctions or an order to suspend our use of audio-video content.

 

Regulations on information security

 

Internet content in China is regulated by the PRC government to protect state security. The NPC has enacted a law that may subject to criminal punishment in China any person who: (i) gains improper entry into a computer or system of strategic importance; (ii) disseminates politically disruptive information; (iii) leaks state secrets; (iv) spreads false commercial information; or (v) infringes intellectual property rights.

 

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The Ministry of Public Security has promulgated measures that prohibit use of the Internet in ways that, among other things, result in a leakage of state secrets or a spread of socially destabilizing content. The Ministry of Public Security has supervision and inspection rights in this regard, and we are subject to the jurisdiction of the local security bureaus. If an ICP license holder violates these measures, the PRC government may revoke its ICP license and shut down its websites. We believe we are in compliance with these regulations.

 

Regulations on Protection of the Right of Dissemination through Information Networks

 

On May 18, 2006, the State Council promulgated the Regulations on Protection of the Right of Dissemination through Information Networks, or the Dissemination Protection Regulations, which became effective on July 1, 2006. The Dissemination Protection Regulations require that every organization or individual who disseminates a third-party’s work, performance, audio or visual recording products to the public through information networks shall obtain permission from, and pay compensation to, the copyright owner of such products, unless otherwise provided under relevant laws and regulations. The copyright owner may take technical measures to protect his or her right of dissemination through information networks and any organization or individual shall not intentionally evade, circumvent or otherwise assist others in evading such protective measures unless permissible under law. The Dissemination Protection Regulations also provide that permission from the copyright owners and compensation for the copyright-protected works is not required in the event of limited dissemination to teaching or research staff for the purpose of school teaching or scientific research only. We hold copyrights for all of the course materials on our websites.

 

Regulation of domain names and website names

 

PRC law requires owners of Internet domain names to register their domain names with qualified domain name registration agencies approved by MIIT and obtain registration certificates from such registration agencies. A registered domain name owner has an exclusive use right over its domain name. Unregistered domain names may not receive proper legal protections and may be misappropriated by unauthorized third parties. As of December 31, 2011, we have registered 101 domain names relating to our websites, with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the China Internet Network Information Center.

 

PRC law requires entities operating commercial websites to register their website names with the SAIC or its local offices and obtain commercial website name registration certificates. If any entity operates a commercial website without obtaining such a certificate, it may be charged a fine or imposed other penalties by the SAIC or its local offices. On November 5, 2004, the MIIT amended the Measures for Administration of Domain Names for the Chinese Internet, or the Domain Name Measures. The Domain Name Measures regulate the registration of domain names, such as the first tier domain name “.cn”. In February 2006, China Internet Network Information Center, or CNNIC, issued the Implementing Rules for Domain Name Registration and the Measures on Domain Name Disputes Resolution, pursuant to which CNNIC can authorize a domain name dispute resolution institution to decide disputes. As of December 31, 2011, we have registered ten website names used in connection with our online education business with Beijing Municipal Bureau of Industry and Commerce and the registration of three other website names is now in progress.

 

Regulation of privacy protection

 

PRC law does not prohibit Internet content providers from collecting and analyzing personal information from their users. PRC law prohibits Internet content providers from disclosing to any third parties any personal information it collects via Internet or transmitted by users through their networks unless otherwise permitted by law. If an Internet content provider violates these regulations, MIIT or its local offices may impose penalties and the Internet content provider may be liable for damages caused to its users. We believe we are in compliance with these regulations.

 

Regulation of copyright and trademark protection

 

China has adopted legislation governing intellectual property rights, including copyrights and trademarks. China is a signatory to the main international conventions on intellectual property rights and became a member of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights upon its accession to the World Trade Organization in December 2001.

 

Copyright .    The National People’s Congress amended the Copyright Law in 2001 to widen the scope of works and rights that are eligible for copyright protection which extends copyright protection to Internet activities, products disseminated over the Internet and software products. In addition, there is a voluntary registration system administered by the China Copyright Protection Center. In February 2010, the National People’s Congress further amended the Copyright Law to regulate the registration of pledge of copyright, which became effective on April 1, 2010.

 

To address the problem of copyright infringement related to the content posted or transmitted over the Internet, the National Copyright Administration and MIIT jointly promulgated the Administrative Measures for Copyright Protection Related to the Internet on April 30, 2005. These measures became effective on May 30, 2005.

 

Trademark .    The PRC Trademark Law, adopted in 1982 and revised in 2001, protects the proprietary rights to registered trademarks. The Trademark Office under the SAIC handles trademark registrations and grants a term of ten years to registered trademarks and another ten years to trademarks as requested upon expiry of the prior term. Trademark license agreements must be filed with the Trademark Office for record. “Ambow”, “, “”, “”, “, “ebopo ”, “”, “”, “” and “” are our registered trademarks in China. We have also applied for additional trademarks and logos, including “,” “,” “”, “ ”, “ ” and “ with the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in China.

 

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Regulation of foreign exchange

 

The PRC government imposes restrictions on the convertibility of the RMB and on the collection and use of foreign currency by PRC entities. Under current regulations, the RMB is convertible for current account transactions, which include dividend distributions, and the import and export of goods and services. Conversion of RMB into foreign currency and foreign currency into RMB for capital account transactions, such as direct investment, portfolio investment and loans, however, is still generally subject to the prior approval of or registration with SAFE.

 

Under current PRC regulations, foreign-invested enterprises such as our PRC subsidiaries are required to apply to SAFE for a Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate for Foreign-Invested Enterprise. With such a certificate (which is subject to review and renewal by SAFE on an annual basis), a foreign-invested enterprise may open foreign exchange bank accounts at banks authorized to conduct foreign exchange business by SAFE and may buy, sell and remit foreign exchange through such banks, subject to documentation and approval requirements. Foreign-invested enterprises are required to open and maintain separate foreign exchange accounts for capital account transactions and current account transactions. In addition, there are restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that foreign-invested enterprises may retain in such accounts.

 

Regulation of foreign exchange in certain onshore and offshore transactions

 

In October 2005, SAFE issued the Notice on Issues Relating to the Administration of Foreign Exchange in Fund-Raising and Return Investment Activities of Domestic Residents Conducted via Offshore Special Purpose Companies, or SAFE Circular 75, which became effective as of November 1, 2005. According to SAFE Circular 75, prior to establishing or assuming control of an offshore company for the purpose of financing that offshore company with assets or equity interests in an onshore enterprise in the PRC, each PRC resident, whether a natural or legal person, must complete certain overseas investment foreign exchange registration procedures with the relevant local SAFE branch. An amendment to the registration with the local SAFE branch is required to be filed by any PRC resident that directly or indirectly holds interests in that offshore company upon either (i) the injection of equity interests or assets of an onshore enterprise to the offshore company or (ii) the completion of any overseas fund-raising by such offshore company. An amendment to the registration with the local SAFE branch is also required to be filed by such PRC resident when there is any material change involving a change in the capital of the offshore company, such as (i) an increase or decrease in its capital, (ii) a transfer or swap of shares, (iii) a merger or division, (iv) a long-term equity or debt investment or (v) the creation of any security interests.

 

SAFE Circular 75 applies retroactively. As a result, PRC residents who established or acquired control of offshore companies that made onshore investments in the PRC in the past were required to complete the relevant overseas investment foreign exchange registration procedures by March 31, 2006. Under SAFE Circular 75, failure to comply with the registration procedures may result in restrictions on the relevant onshore entity, including restrictions on the payment of dividends and other distributions to its offshore parent or affiliate and restrictions on the capital inflow from the offshore entity, and may also subject relevant PRC residents to penalties under the PRC foreign exchange administration regulations.

 

As a Cayman Islands company, we are considered a foreign entity in China. If we purchase the assets or equity interests of a PRC company owned by PRC residents in exchange for our equity interests, such PRC residents will be subject to the registration procedures described in SAFE Circular 75. Moreover, PRC residents who are beneficial holders of our shares are required to register with SAFE in connection with their investment in us.

 

We believe that, except for renewal of the registration under SAFE Circular 75, our beneficial owners who are known to us to be PRC residents are currently in compliance with SAFE Circular 75.

 

Regulations on dividend distribution

 

The principal regulations governing dividend distributions by wholly foreign-owned enterprises and Sino-foreign equity joint ventures include:

 

·                  Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise Law (1986), as amended;

 

·                  Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise Law Implementing Rules (1990), as amended;

 

·                  Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law (1979), as amended; and

 

·                  Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law Implementing Rules (1983), as amended.

 

Under these regulations, wholly foreign-owned enterprises and Sino-foreign equity joint ventures in the PRC may pay dividends only out of their accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations.

 

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Additionally, these foreign-invested enterprises are required to set aside certain amounts of their accumulated profits each year, if any, to fund certain reserve funds. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends.

 

Regulation of overseas listings

 

On August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies, including the CSRC, promulgated the Regulation on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Companies by Foreign Investors, which became effective on September 8, 2006 and was amended by the MOFCOM on June 22, 2009. This regulation, among other things, has certain provisions that require offshore special purpose vehicles, or SPVs, formed for the purpose of acquiring PRC domestic companies and controlled by PRC individuals, to obtain the approval of the CSRC prior to listing their securities on an overseas stock exchange. On September 21, 2006, the CSRC published on its official website a notice specifying the documents and materials that are required to be submitted for obtaining CSRC approval.

 

We believe, based on the opinion of our PRC legal counsel, Commerce and Finance Law Offices, that CSRC’s approval was not applicable to us in the context of our IPO because we established our PRC subsidiaries by means of direct investment rather than merger or acquisition of PRC domestic companies. There remains some uncertainty as to how this regulation will be interpreted or implemented in the context of an overseas offering. If the CSRC or another PRC regulatory agency subsequently determines that the CSRC’s approval was required for our IPO, we may face sanctions by the CSRC or another PRC regulatory agency. If this happens, these regulatory agencies may impose fines and penalties on our operations in the PRC, limit our operating privileges in the PRC, delay or restrict the repatriation of the proceeds from our IPO into the PRC, restrict or prohibit payment or remittance of dividends by our PRC subsidiaries to us or take other actions that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, reputation and prospects, as well as the trading price of our ordinary shares.

 

SAFE regulations on employee share options

 

On March 28, 2007, SAFE promulgated the Application Procedures of Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Employee Share Holding Plan or Share Option Plan of Overseas Listed Company, or the Share Option Rule. On February 15, 2012, SAFE promulgated the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Issues Related to Foreign Exchange Administration in Domestic Individuals’ Participation in Equity Incentive Plans of Companies Listed Abroad, or the No. 7 Notice, which supersedes the Share Option Rule in its entirety and immediately became effective upon circulation. According to the No. 7 Notice, domestic individuals, which include any directors, supervisors, senior managerial personnel or other employees of a domestic company who are Chinese citizens (including citizens of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) or foreign individuals who consecutively reside in the territory of PRC for one year,  who participate in the same equity incentive plan of an overseas listed company shall, through the domestic companies they serve, collectively entrust a domestic agency to handle issues like foreign exchange registration, account opening, funds transfer and remittance, and entrust an overseas institution to handle issues like exercise of options, purchasing and sale of related stocks or equity, and funds transfer. Where a domestic agency needs to remit funds out of China as required for individuals’ participation in an equity incentive plan, the domestic agency shall apply with the local office of the SAFE for a foreign exchange payment quota on a yearly basis. A domestic agency shall open a domestic special foreign exchange account in the bank. After repatriation of foreign currency income earned by individuals from participation in an equity incentive plan, the domestic agency shall request the bank to transfer the funds from its special foreign currency account to respective personal foreign currency deposit accounts. In the case of any significant change to the equity incentive plan of a company listed abroad (such as amendment to any major terms of the original plan, addition of a new plan, or other changes to the original plan due to merger, acquisition or reorganization of the overseas listed company or the domestic company or other major events), the domestic agency or the overseas trustee, the domestic agency shall, within three months of the occurrence of such changes, go through procedures for change of foreign exchange registration with the local office of the SAFE. The SAFE and its branches shall supervise, administer and inspect foreign exchange operations related to individuals’ participation in equity incentive plans of companies listed abroad, and may take regulatory measures and impose administrative sanctions on individuals, domestic companies, domestic agencies and banks violating the provisions of this Notice.

 

We and our employees who have been granted applicable equity awards shall be subject to the No.7 Notice. If we fail to comply with the No. 7 Notice, we and/or our employees who are subject to the No.7 Notice may face sanctions imposed by foreign exchange authority or any other PRC government authorities.

 

In addition, the State Administration of Taxation has recently issued a few circulars concerning employee share options. Under these circulars, our employees working in China who exercise share options will be subject to PRC individual income tax. Our PRC subsidiaries have obligations to file documents relating to employee share options with relevant tax authorities and withhold individual income taxes of those employees who exercise their share options. If our employees fail to pay and we fail to withhold their income taxes, we may face sanctions imposed by tax authorities or other PRC government authorities.

 

C.            Organizational Structure

 

The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure with respect to each of our significant subsidiaries and VIEs and the place of incorporation of each named entity as of December 31, 2011.

 

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GRAPHIC

 


Notes

(1)          We excluded certain entities from this diagram that do not conduct any significant business or own or control other entities that conduct significant business. These entities include: 24 British Virgin Islands companies wholly owned by Ambow, Ambow Education Group Limited, a Hong Kong company wholly owned by Ambow, 4 Hong Kong companies (Ambow Training Management Limited, Ambow School Management Limited, Ambow School Consultation Management Limited and Ambow College Consultation Management Limited) wholly owned by Ambow Education Management (Hong Kong) Ltd., Beijing Ambow Chuangying Education Technology Co., Ltd., a PRC company wholly owned by Ambow Education Management (Hong Kong) Ltd., and Beijing Ambow Shengying Education and Technology Co., Ltd., a PRC company wholly owned by Ambow Training Management Limited.

(2)          Shareholders of Ambow Shida are Xuejun Xie, one of our officers and directors, and Jianguo Xue, one of our officers, who own 90% and 10% of Ambow Shida, respectively.

(3)          Shareholders of Ambow Sihua are Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng, one of our employees, who own 57.4% and 42.6% of Ambow Sihua, respectively.

(4)          Individual shareholders of Ambow Shanghai are Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng, who own 64% and 16% of Ambow Shanghai, respectively. Wenjian Gongying owns the remaining 20% of Ambow Shanghai.

(5)          Shareholders of Suzhou Wenjian are Yisi Gu, one of our officers, Xuejun Xie, and Xiaogang Feng, who own 30%, 30% and 40% of Suzhou Wenjian, respectively.

 

Due to PRC regulatory restrictions on foreign investments in education for students in grades one to twelve and in Internet content businesses, since 2005, we have conducted our business in China primarily through contractual arrangements among Ambow Online, one of our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China, and the following domestic PRC companies, which are owned by certain PRC persons and entities as described in the notes to the above table:

 

·                  Ambow Shida, which holds our schools, including elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools and college;

 

·                  Ambow Sihua, which holds our tutoring centers; and

 

·                  Ambow Shanghai, which holds our career enhancement centers, a career enhancement software company and one corporate training company group.

 

Ambow Online and the acquired schools and learning centers are the principal operating entities for our business operations within China. Their functional currency is RMB. Ambow Education Holding Ltd., our investment holding company, is the principal operating entity for operations relating to non-Chinese partners, including Cisco Systems and McGraw-Hill. Its functional currency is US$.

 

Ambow Online has entered into a series of contractual arrangements with each of the above domestic PRC companies that enable us to:

 

·                  Exercise effective control over our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries by having such VIEs’ shareholders pledge their respective equity interests in these VIEs to Ambow Online and entrust all the rights to exercise their voting power over these VIEs to Ambow Online. There is no limitation on Ambow Online’s rights to exercise the voting

 

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power over the VIEs or to obtain and dispose of the pledged equity interests in the VIEs holding the tutoring centers and career enhancement centers by exercise of its call option or share pledge. Ambow Online’s rights to obtain and dispose of the pledged equity interests in the VIEs holding the K-12 schools and college by exercise of its call option or share pledge are subject to Ambow Online’s designating other PRC persons or entities to acquire the pledged equity interests in order not to violate PRC laws that prohibit or restrict foreign ownership in K-12 schools and college;

 

·                  Receive economic benefits from the pre-tax profits of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries in consideration for products sold and technical support, marketing and management consulting services provided by Ambow Online to our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries. Such economic benefits, being net revenues of RMB187.3 million, RMB162.3 million and RMB72.4 million (US$11.5 million) for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively (which have been eliminated upon consolidation) were earned by Ambow Online in consideration of the products sold and services provided to our VIEs’ subsidiaries; and

 

·                  Have an exclusive option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in our VIEs and all or part of the equity interest in its subsidiaries, as well as all or part of the assets of our VIEs, in each case when and to the extent permitted by applicable PRC law.

 

Accordingly, we treat these domestic PRC companies as variable interest entities and have consolidated their historical financial results in our financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. These domestic PRC companies and their subsidiaries hold the requisite licenses and permits necessary to conduct our education business in China and operate our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college.

 

Each of Ambow Shida, Ambow Shanghai, Ambow Sihua and Suzhou Wenjian has executed a series of control agreements with Ambow Online described in more detail below through which agreements Ambow Online exercises effective contractual control over Ambow Shida, Ambow Shanghai, Ambow Sihua and Suzhou Wenjian.

 

Ambow Shida, Ambow Sihua and Ambow Shanghai each is a controlling entity operating one of our business lines, including tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement service centers and campuses, as well as one college, and each owns certain interest in a number of schools and entities. Below is the detailed description of their interests as of December 31, 2011:

 

1.                                       Tutoring Centers

 

(1)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Tianjin Ambow Huaying Education Technology Co., Ltd., which owns the 100% equity interest in Tianjin Tutoring and Tianjin Ambow Huaying School which together operate an aggregate of 14 tutoring centers;

 

(2)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing YZ Tutoring, which operates six tutoring centers;

 

(3)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Shuyang Tutoring, which operates one tutoring center;

 

(4)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Jilin Clever Technology Consulting Co., Ltd., which owns the 100% equity interest in Jilin Tutoring, which in turn operates 12 tutoring centers;

 

(5)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Zhenjiang Ambow Education Training Centre, which operates three tutoring centers;

 

(6)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Zhengzhou Tutoring, which operates one tutoring center;

 

(7)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Changsha Tutoring, which operates six tutoring centers;

 

(8)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing Century Tutoring, which operates five tutoring centers;

 

(9)                                  Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Guangzhou DP Tutoring, which operates ten tutoring centers;

 

(10)                            Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing JY Tutoring, which operates 73 tutoring centers;

 

(11)                            Ambow Sihua owns the 90% equity interest in Shenyang Hanwen Educational Training School, which operates two tutoring centers;

 

(12)                            Ambow Shida owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing SIWA Future Education Enterprise Co., Ltd., which operates one tutoring center;

 

(13)                            Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing XGX Tutoring, which operates four tutoring centers;

 

(14)                            Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing JT Tutoring, which operates ten tutoring centers;

 

(15)                            Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing Aijia Kids English Training School, which operates one tutoring center; and

 

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(16)                            Ambow Sihua owns the 100% equity interest in Lanzhou Anning Ambow English Training School, which operates one tutoring center.

 

2.                                       Career Enhancement Centers and Campuses

 

(1)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Dalian Career Enhancement, which operates two career enhancement service centers;

 

(2)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Shanghai Hero Further Education Institute, which operates 11 career enhancement service centers;

 

(3)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Changsha Career Enhancement, which operates two career enhancement service centers;

 

(4)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing IT Career Enhancement, which operates two career enhancement service centers;

 

(5)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Kunshan Ambow Education Technology Co., Ltd., or Ambow Kunshan, which operates one career enhancement campus;

 

(6)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Jinan WR Career Enhancement, which operates one career enhancement service center;

 

(7)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Hebei YL Career Enhancement, which operates one career enhancement service center;

 

(8)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Chongqing XT Career Enhancement, which operates two career enhancement service centers;

 

(9)                                  Ambow Shanghai owns the 100% equity interest in Guangzhou ZS Career Enhancement, which operates one career enhancement service center;

 

(10)                            Ambow Kunshan owns the 100% equity interest in Dalian High Tech Zone Ambow Hope Training School, which operates one career enhancement service campus;

 

(11)                            Ambow Kunshan owns the 100% equity interest in Beijing Away Career Enhancement, which operates two career enhancement service centers; and

 

(12)                            Ambow Kunshan owns the 100% equity interest in Suzhou Career Enhancement, a career enhancement software company which owns the 100% equity interest in Suzhou High-Tech Zone Yisi Education Training Center.

 

In addition, Ambow Shanghai also owns 100% equity interest in Genesis Career Enhancement, a group of three companies which provide outbound and in-house management trainings tailored for employees and management teams through their 12 subsidiaries.

 

3.                                       Schools

 

(1)                                  K-12 Schools

 

·                  Ambow Shida owns the 100% equity interest in Zhenjiang Ambow International School;

 

·                  Ambow Shida owns the 100% equity interest in Shuyang K-12 School;

 

·                  Ambow Shida owns a 70% equity interest and Changsha Yaxing Property Development Company Limited, an entity unrelated to us, owns a 30% equity interest in Changsha K-12 Experimental School and Changsha Kindergarten (Ambow Shida will receive the remaining 30% equity interest in 2029 and Ambow Shida may either rent or purchase, at the then current fair market value, from Changsha Yaxing Property Development Company Limited, which owns the real properties at Changsha K-12 Experimental School and Changsha Kindergarten, such real properties for the continuing use of these properties by the two schools. Ambow Shida’s receipt of the remaining equity interest in 2029 is not conditional upon the rent or purchase of the schools’ real properties); and

 

·                  Ambow Shida owns a 90% equity interest and Shenyang Hanwen Classic Books Publishing Co., Ltd., an entity unrelated to us, owns a 10% equity interest in Shenyang K-12 school.

 

In addition, in March 2012 we have completed the disposal of Beijing 21st Century International School to Xihua Group, while at the same time obtained the 15-year operating rights of Beijing 21st Century International School.

 

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(2)           College

 

·                  Ambow Shida owns 70% equity interest and Shanghai Yunhai Industrial Joint Stock Company Limited and Shanghai Yundu Corporate Development Co., Ltd., entities not related to us, own 30% equity interest in Kunshan Zhouzhuang Taishidian Tourism Scenic Area Development Co., Ltd., or Taishidian Holding, which wholly owns one subsidiary, Kunshan Suda Facility Management Co., Ltd., Taishidian Holding also owns and operates one college, Applied Technology College.

 

In addition, we are in the process of disposing of Beijing Century College.

 

In addition to the operational entities described above, we have also formed an RMB fund, Wenjian Gongying, which is owned by us, our Hong Kong subsidiary, Ambow Education (Hong Kong) Ltd., and Suzhou Wenjian, a domestic PRC entity controlled by Ambow Online through contractual arrangements. We may use Wenjian Gongying in the future to provide funding to Ambow Sihua, Ambow Shanghai and other permitted affiliated entities in China, in which event our RMB fund would become a shareholder in such entities. The business purpose of Wenjian Gongying is to make equity investments, consult on venture investments and provide management consulting for companies it invests in. Wenjian Gongying facilitates our ability to convert US$ into RMB to make investments in the PRC. This allows us to make investments in other PRC companies and schools that do not include compulsory education. Such investment by Wenjian Gongying will be subject to the PRC industrial policies on foreign investment, which policies classify industries as “encouraged”, “permitted”, “restricted” and “prohibited” for foreign investment purposes. Wenjian Gongying, as a foreign-invested entity, is allowed by such policies to invest in colleges that are in an encouraged industry, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers that are in permitted industries and high schools that are in a restricted industry. While Wenjian Gongying’s investment in restricted industries, such as high schools, requires approval by the MOFCOM or its local counterparts, its investment in permitted industries or encouraged industries only needs to be filed with such agencies, provided that where an acquisition target is a school or a college, the approval of the MOE or its local counterparts shall also be obtained.

 

The foreign exchange Wenjian Gongying uses as consideration for an equity acquisition or capital contribution is allowed to be converted into RMB by the seller in an acquisition transaction or the entity receiving a capital contribution, as applicable, according to a SAFE notice issued on November 14, 2008. Since Wenjian Gongying is wholly-owned by us and our affiliates, we do not need to pay Wenjian Gongying any fees for any investment we may make through it. Our domestic entities may use our RMB operating profit to acquire PRC private schools that conduct compulsory education because they are not subject to investment restrictions applicable to foreign investment and, therefore, no MOFCOM or SAFE approval will be involved. Since we control Wenjian Gongying and our domestic entities through equity investments and VIE structure, respectively, our control will extend to those entities whose controlling ownership interest is purchased through Wenjian Gongying or our domestic entities.

 

Agreements that provide effective control over our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries

 

Agreements that provide effective control over Ambow Shida and its subsidiaries

 

We have entered into a series of agreements with Ambow Shida and its shareholders. These agreements provide us substantial ability to control Ambow Shida and its shareholders, and we have obtained an option to purchase all of the equity interests of Ambow Shida. These agreements include:

 

Share Pledge Agreement.    Pursuant to the share pledge agreement, dated January 31, 2005, among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, each a shareholder of Ambow Shida, as amended by the supplementary agreement dated January 4, 2009 entered into by and among AECL, Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, each of Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue pledged all of her or his equity interest in Ambow Shida to Ambow Online to secure the performance of Ambow Shida under an exclusive cooperation agreement, dated January 31, 2005, between Ambow Online and Ambow Shida as described below. Each of Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue also agreed not to transfer, dispose of or otherwise directly or indirectly create any encumbrance over her or his equity interest in Ambow Shida, or take any actions that may reduce the value of her or his equity interest in Ambow Shida without the prior written consent of Ambow Online.

 

Call Option Agreement.    Pursuant to the call option agreement, dated January 31, 2005, among AECL, Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, each a shareholder of Ambow Shida, as amended by the termination agreement dated April 26, 2007 and further amended by the supplementary agreement dated January 4, 2009 entered into by and among AECL, Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, AECL or its designee has an option to purchase from each of Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, to the extent permitted under PRC laws, all or part of his or her equity interest in Ambow Shida in one or more installments at an aggregate purchase price of RMB3.0 million unless the applicable laws state otherwise. AECL or its designee shall have sole discretion to decide when to exercise the option, whether in part or in full. Currently, we do not expect to exercise such option in the foreseeable future. Should we decide to exercise such option, we or our designee would affect such purchase through the cancellation of loans owed to us by Xuejun Xie and/or Jianguo Xue unless the then applicable laws require the purchase price to be determined by a valuation or otherwise provided, in which case the transfer price shall be the minimum amount provided by applicable law and we will effect such purchase through, to the extent necessary, a combination of cash and cancellation of loans owed to us by each of Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue.

 

Powers of Attorney.    Pursuant to the powers of attorney, each dated April 26, 2007, each of Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue irrevocably entrusted all the rights to exercise her or his voting power of Ambow Shida to Ambow Online for an indefinite period of time.

 

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Loan Agreements.    Pursuant to the loan agreements, each dated January 31, 2005, among AECL, Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, each a shareholder of Ambow Shida, respectively, amended by amendment agreements, dated April 26, 2007, among Ambow Online, AECL and Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, respectively, and further amended by the supplementary agreement dated January 4, 2009 entered into by and among AECL, Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue or renewed by a loan agreement between Ambow Online and Jianguo Xue dated February 1, 2008, as applicable, Ambow Online loaned RMB2.7 million and RMB0.3 million to Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, respectively, to fund the registered capital requirements of Ambow Shida. To the extent permitted by PRC laws, each loan shall be deemed to have been repaid upon the transfer of the equity interest in Ambow Shida held by Xuejun Xie and Jianguo Xue, as applicable, to Ambow Online or its designee.

 

Agreements that provide effective control over Ambow Shanghai and its subsidiaries

 

We have entered into a series of agreements with Ambow Shanghai and its shareholders. These agreements provide us substantial ability to control Ambow Shanghai and its shareholders, and we have obtained an exclusive option to purchase all of the equity interests of Ambow Shanghai. These agreements include:

 

Share Pledge Agreement.    Pursuant to the share pledge agreement, dated October 31, 2009, and amended by a supplementary agreement dated January 4, 2010, among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng, each a shareholder of Ambow Shanghai, each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng pledged all of her or his equity interest in Ambow Shanghai to Ambow Online to secure the performance of Ambow Shanghai or its subsidiaries’ obligations under a technology service agreement between Ambow Online and Ambow Shanghai dated October 31, 2009 as described below. Each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng also agreed not to transfer, dispose of or otherwise create any encumbrance over her or his equity interest in Ambow Shanghai, or distribute dividends of Ambow Shanghai without the prior written consent of Ambow Online.

 

Call Option Agreement.    Pursuant to the call option agreement, dated October 31, 2009, and amended by a supplementary agreement dated January 4, 2010, among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng, each a shareholder of Ambow Shanghai, each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng irrevocably granted Ambow Online or its designee an exclusive option to purchase, to the extent permitted under PRC laws, all or part of her or his equity interest in Ambow Shanghai. The exercise price of such option shall be all or part, as applicable, of the initial amount of the registered capital contributed by such shareholder to acquire such equity interest in Ambow Shanghai and may be paid by the cancellation of indebtedness owed by such shareholder to Ambow Online, or the minimum amount of consideration permitted by applicable PRC law at the time when such transfer occurs, in which case we will pay the exercise price through, to the extent necessary, a combination of cash and cancellation of indebtedness owed by such shareholder to Ambow Online. Ambow Online or its designee shall have sole discretion to decide when to exercise the option, whether in part or in full. Currently, we do not expect to exercise such option in the foreseeable future.

 

Powers of Attorney.    Pursuant to the powers of attorney, each dated October 31, 2009, each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng irrevocably entrusted all the rights to exercise her or his voting power to Ambow Online, including without limitation, the power to sell, transfer or pledge, in whole or in part, such shareholder’s equity interests in Ambow Shanghai and to nominate and appoint the legal representative, directors, supervisors, general managers and other senior management of Ambow Shanghai during the term of the share pledge.

 

Loan Agreement.    Pursuant to the loan agreement, dated October 31, 2009, and amended by a supplementary agreement dated January 4, 2010, among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng, Ambow Online loaned RMB0.8 million to Xuejun Xie and RMB0.2 million to Xiaogang Feng to fund the registered capital requirements of Ambow Shanghai. To the extent permitted by PRC laws, each loan shall be deemed to have been repaid upon the transfer of the equity interest in Ambow Shanghai held by each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng, as applicable, to Ambow Online or its designee.

 

Agreements that provide effective control over Ambow Sihua and its subsidiaries

 

We have entered into a series of agreements with Ambow Sihua and its shareholders. These agreements provide us substantial ability to control Ambow Sihua and its shareholders, and we have obtained an exclusive option to purchase all of the equity interests of Ambow Sihua. These agreements include:

 

Share Pledge Agreements.    Pursuant to the share pledge agreement, dated October 31, 2009 and further amended by a supplementary agreement dated March 4, 2010, between Ambow Online and Xuejun Xie, a shareholder of Ambow Sihua, and the share pledge agreement, dated March 4, 2010, between Ambow Online and Xiaogang Feng, a shareholder of Ambow Sihua, each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng pledged all of her or his equity interest in Ambow Sihua to Ambow Online to secure the performance of Ambow Sihua or its subsidiaries under a technology service agreement between Ambow Online and Ambow Sihua dated October 31, 2009 as described below. Each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng also agreed not to transfer, dispose of or otherwise create any encumbrance over her or his equity interest in Ambow Sihua, or distribute dividends of Ambow Sihua without the prior written consent of Ambow Online.

 

Call Option Agreements.    Pursuant to the call option agreement, dated October 31, 2009 and further amended by a supplementary agreement dated March 4, 2010, between Ambow Online and Xuejun Xie, a shareholder of Ambow Sihua, and the call option agreement, dated March 4, 2010, between Ambow Online and Xiaogang Feng, a shareholder of Ambow Sihua, each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng irrevocably granted Ambow Online or its designee an exclusive option to purchase, to the extent permitted under

 

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PRC laws, all or part of her or his equity interest in Ambow Sihua. The exercise price of such option shall be all or part, as applicable, of the initial amount of the registered capital contributed by such shareholder to acquire such equity interest in Ambow Sihua and may be paid by the cancellation of indebtedness owed by such shareholder to Ambow Online or the minimum amount of consideration permitted by applicable PRC law at the time when such transfer occurs, in which case we will pay the exercise price through, to the extent necessary, a combination of cash and cancellation of indebtedness owed by such shareholder to Ambow Online. Ambow Online or its designee shall have sole discretion to decide when to exercise the option, whether in part or in full. Currently, we do not expect to exercise such option in the foreseeable future.

 

Powers of Attorney.    Pursuant to the powers of attorney, dated October 31, 2009 and March 4, 2010, respectively, each of Xuejun Xie and Xiaogang Feng irrevocably entrusted all the rights to exercise her or his voting power to Ambow Online, including without limitation, the power to sell, transfer or pledge, in whole or in part, her or his equity interest in Ambow Sihua and nominate and appoint the legal representative, directors, supervisors, general managers and other senior management of Ambow Sihua during the term of the share pledge.

 

Loan Agreement.    Pursuant to the loan agreement between Ambow Online and Xiaogang Feng, dated March 4, 2010, Ambow Online loaned RMB40.0 million to Xiaogang Feng to fund the registered capital requirements of Ambow Sihua. To the extent permitted by PRC laws, such loan shall be deemed to have been repaid upon the transfer of the equity interest in Ambow Sihua held by Xiaogang Feng to Ambow Online or its designee.

 

Agreements that provide effective control over Suzhou Wenjian

 

We have entered into a series of agreements with Suzhou Wenjian and its shareholders. These agreements provide us with the ability to control Suzhou Wenjian and grant us the exclusive option to purchase all of the equity interests of Suzhou Wenjian. These agreements include:

 

Share Pledge Agreement.    Pursuant to the share pledge agreement, dated February 25, 2009, among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu, each a shareholder of Suzhou Wenjian, each of Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu pledged all of his or her equity interest in Suzhou Wenjian to Ambow Online to secure the performance of Suzhou Wenjian under a technology service agreement between Ambow Online and Suzhou Wenjian dated February 25, 2009. Each shareholder of Suzhou Wenjian also agreed that, without the prior written consent of Ambow Online, such shareholder shall not transfer, dispose of or otherwise create any encumbrance over his or her equity interest in Suzhou Wenjian. The share pledge will expire three years after all obligations related to the technology service agreement are fully performed.

 

Call Option Agreement.    Pursuant to the call option agreement, dated February 25, 2009, among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu, each a shareholder of Suzhou Wenjian, each of Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu irrevocably granted Ambow Online or its designee an exclusive option to purchase, to the extent permitted under PRC laws, all or part of his or her equity interest in Suzhou Wenjian. The exercise price of such option shall be all or part, as applicable, of the initial amount of the registered capital contributed by such shareholder to acquire such equity interest in Suzhou Wenjian and may be paid by the cancellation of indebtedness owed by such shareholder to Ambow Online, or the minimum amount of consideration permitted by applicable PRC law at the time when such transfer occurs, in which case we will pay the exercise price through, to the extent necessary, a combination of cash and cancellation of indebtedness owed by such shareholder to Ambow Online. Ambow Online or its designee shall have sole discretion to decide when to exercise the option, whether in part or in full. Currently, we do not expect to exercise such option in the foreseeable future.

 

Powers of Attorney.    Under powers of attorney, each dated February 25, 2009, each of Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu granted to Ambow Online the power to exercise all of his or her voting rights of Suzhou Wenjian during the term of the share pledge.

 

Loan Agreement.    Pursuant to the loan agreement among Ambow Online, Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu dated February 25, 2009, Ambow Online loaned RMB0.4 million to Xiaogang Feng, RMB0.3 million to Xuejun Xie and RMB0.3 million to Yisi Gu to fund the registered capital requirements of a domestic PRC company. Ambow later formed Suzhou Wenjian to serve as this domestic PRC company. To the extent permitted by PRC laws, each loan shall be deemed to have been repaid upon the transfer of the equity interest held by each of Xuejun Xie, Xiaogang Feng and Yisi Gu in Suzhou Wenjian to Ambow Online.

 

Agreements that transfer economic benefits to us

 

Agreements that transfer economic benefits to us from Ambow Shida and its subsidiaries

 

Exclusive Cooperation Agreement.    Pursuant to the exclusive cooperation agreement, dated January 31, 2005 and revised on May 13, 2010, by and between Ambow Online and Ambow Shida, Ambow Online has the exclusive right to provide to Ambow Shida technical support and marketing consulting services relating to online education for primary and middle school and other related services in exchange for certain service fees, which are equal to Ambow Shida’s pre-tax profit. The initial term of this agreement is twenty years and the term can be renewed upon expiration. The agreement can be terminated by mutual agreement, by written notice from the non-breaching party upon a breaching party’s failure to cure its breach, or by either party’s written notice upon non-performance of the agreement for 30 days as a result of any force majeure. We have not received any payment of service fees contemplated by this agreement.

 

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Ambow Online has the unilateral right to adjust the level of service fee to be charged to Ambow Shida under this exclusive cooperation agreement at any time. At the time this agreement was originally entered into on January 31, 2005, we set the service fee that could be charged at 65% of Ambow Shida’s profits in order to retain sufficient cash in Ambow Shida to fund its operating needs and manage liquidity. We subsequently determined that in the short to medium term we would not charge the service fee available to us in the agreement but on May 13, 2010 we updated the agreement to increase the service fee percentage that could be charged by Ambow Online to Ambow Shida to 100% of profits so as to provide us with more flexibility in the future.

 

We have not yet received any payment of service fees contemplated by this agreement but retain the flexibility to charge these service fees in the future. In addition to extracting the profits of Ambow Shida through the exclusive cooperation agreement, we also can extract profits from Ambow Shida through dividends to Ambow Online received indirectly through the shareholders of Ambow Shida or through donations directly from Ambow Shida to Ambow Online. The dividends and/or donations can be enacted through the agreements that provide us with effective control over Ambow Shida and its subsidiaries as set out in “Item 7.B — Related Party Transactions — Contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries”. These two alternative mechanisms are not currently subject to any legal restrictions or limitations.

 

As of the date of this report, no distributions have been made to the shareholders of Ambow Shida and so no subsequent distribution has been made to us or Ambow Online. As described above, at our discretion we have decided to retain all of Ambow Shida’s profits to date within Ambow Shida for the purpose of managing its liquidity.

 

Agreement that transfer economic benefits to us from Ambow Shanghai and its subsidiaries

 

Technology Service Agreement.    Pursuant to the technology service agreement, dated October 31, 2009, by and between Ambow Online and Ambow Shanghai, Ambow Online has the exclusive right to provide to Ambow Shanghai (i) education or training solutions; (ii) employee training and technical support; and (iii) management and consulting services related to Ambow Shanghai’s operations, in exchange for certain service fees to be agreed to by the parties from time to time. The term of this agreement is indefinite and the agreement may be terminated by Ambow Online upon either 15 days’ notice or Ambow Shanghai’s failure to cure its breach of the agreement or by mutual written agreement at any time. We have not received any payment of service fees contemplated by this agreement.

 

Agreement that transfer economic benefits to us from Ambow Sihua and its subsidiaries

 

Technology Service Agreement.    Pursuant to the technology service agreement, dated October 31, 2009, by and between Ambow Online and Ambow Sihua, Ambow Online has the exclusive right to provide to Ambow Sihua (i) education or training solutions; (ii) employee training and technical support; and (iii) management and consulting services related to Ambow Sihua’s operations, in exchange for certain service fees to be agreed to by the parties from time to time. The term of this agreement is indefinite and the agreement may be terminated by Ambow Online upon either 15 days’ notice or Ambow Sihua’s failure to cure its breach of the agreement or by mutual written agreement at any time. We have not received any payment of service fees contemplated by this agreement.

 

Agreement that transfer economic benefits to us from Suzhou Wenjian

 

Technology Service Agreement.    Pursuant to the technology service agreement, dated February 25, 2009, by and between Ambow Online and Suzhou Wenjian, Ambow Online has the exclusive right to provide to Suzhou Wenjian (i) educational and training solutions and related hardware and software development services, (ii) employee training and technical support, and (iii) management and consulting services related to Suzhou Wenjian’s operations, in exchange for certain service fees to be agreed to by the parties from time to time. The term of this agreement is indefinite and the agreement may be terminated by Ambow Online upon either 15 days’ notice or Suzhou Wenjian’s failure to cure its breach of the agreement or by mutual written agreement at any time. We have not received any payment of service fees contemplated by this agreement.

 

D.            Property, Plant and Equipment

 

Our headquarters are located in Beijing, China, where we lease approximately 2,923 square meters of office space. In addition, we lease an aggregate of approximately 754,221 square meters of space for our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college. We own an aggregate of approximately 222,938 square meters, including approximately 53,726 square meters at our K-12 school in Jiangsu Province, approximately 85,262 square meters at the Applied Technology College, approximately 36,944 square meters at our K-12 school in Beijing, and approximately 21,434 square meters at Changsha K-12 Experimental School.

 

Item 4A.  Unresolved Staff Comments

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 5.    Operating and Financial Review and Prospects

 

The following discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements for the periods specified including the notes thereto included elsewhere in this annual report on

 

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Form 20-F as well as “Item 3.A Key Information—Selected Consolidated Financial Data.” We undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements in this annual report on Form 20-F.

 

A.            Operating Results

 

Overview

 

We are a leading national provider of educational and career enhancement services in China. Our business addresses two critical demands in China’s education market, the desire for students to be admitted into top secondary and post-secondary schools, and the desire for graduates of those schools to obtain more attractive jobs. We offer high-quality, individualized services and products through our combined online and offline delivery model powered by our proprietary technologies and robust infrastructure. Our service network, comprised of 150 tutoring centers, five K-12 schools, 25 career enhancement centers, two career enhancement campuses and one college as of December 31, 2011, together with our software companies and corporate training companies, and combined with sales to distributors, enable us to provide our services and products to students in 30 out of the 31 provinces and autonomous regions within China.

 

Through our directly-operated tutoring centers, schools, career enhancement centers and campuses, college, and our distributors, we have significantly grown our net revenue, net income and student enrollment. Our net revenues from continuing operations increased from RMB736.7 million in 2009 to RMB1,217.1 million in 2010 to RMB1,669.2 million (US$265.2 million) in 2011. Our growth from 2009 to 2011 was primarily driven by the expansion of our service network across both Better Schools and Better Jobs, through acquisitions, organic growth, as well as the increase in sales of educational services and software products to distributors.

 

We recorded income from continuing operations of RMB91.8 million, RMB156.7 million and RMB135.8 million (US$21.6 million) in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.

 

Net revenues from our Better Schools division, which includes tutoring and K-12 schools, accounted for 60.3%, 69.6% and 62.8% of our total net revenues from continuing operations in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. Net revenues from our Better Jobs, which includes continuing operations of Career Enhancements and Colleges, accounted for 39.7%, 30.4% and 37.2% of our total net revenues from continuing operations in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. We expect the mix of our net revenues between our Better Schools and Better Jobs divisions to fluctuate as we continue to expand our business and as the expansion plans focus more heavily on one of our segments in a given period.

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, we had a total of 992,800 student enrollments from continuing operations for our Better Schools and Better Jobs divisions. When we refer to student enrollments in this annual report, we mean the total number of students enrolled in our K-12 schools and college and the total number of classes, tutoring sessions or training programs purchased by students under our tutoring and career enhancement services as well as the users of software products sold directly by us or through distributors for the respective period. For example, if one student enrolls in two separate tutoring classes or training programs, we count that as two student enrollments.

 

Due to certain restrictions and qualification requirements under PRC law that apply to foreign investment in China’s education industry, our education business is currently conducted through contractual arrangements among our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China and our consolidated variable interest entities, or VIEs, in China. Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries hold the licenses and permits necessary to conduct our educational and career enhancement services business in China and directly operate our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and college, develop and distribute educational content, software and other technologies, and operate our online education business. We have entered into Technology Service Agreements or Exclusive Cooperation Agreements with our VIEs pursuant to which we may receive economic benefits in the future. We have, however, entered into additional agreements to sell products and provide services to our VIEs’ subsidiaries. The terms of these sales agreements to our VIEs’ subsidiaries are the same as sales to third parties described further in this section of the annual report.

 

Factors affecting our results of operations

 

General factors affecting our results of operations

 

We have benefited significantly from the following recent trends in the China educational and career enhancement services market:

 

·                  Rapid growth in disposable household income;

 

·                  Intense competition in the education sector and the job market;

 

·                  Rapid economic growth;

 

·                  Increasing hiring needs of existing and new companies doing business in China; and

 

·                  The increased availability and utilization of advanced learning technologies to supplement the traditional education delivery model.

 

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The overall economic growth and the increase in the GDP per capita in China have led to a significant increase in spending on education in China. In addition, education is a welcomed and supported industry in China, which means that education service providers often get preferential treatment in terms of infrastructure support and tax rates. We anticipate that the demand for private education and career enhancement training in China will continue to increase as the economy in China continues to grow and as disposable income of urban households continues to rise. However, any adverse changes in the economic conditions or regulatory environment in China may have a material adverse effect on the education and career enhancement industries in China, which in turn may harm our business and results of operations. We are subject to a legal regime consisting of regulations governing various aspects of our business such as regulations on education, software, internet, audio-video broadcasting, tax, information security, privacy, copyright and trademark protection and foreign exchange. These regulations are evolving and are subject to frequent changes which may materially adversely affect our business in all aspects such as the operation of our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers and campuses through the VIE structure, the engagement of public school teachers and the organization of classes with large-size attendance in our tutoring centers, the establishment of new colleges and the offering of our online services. Though we do not possess the land use right certificates or building ownership certificates with respect to some of our owned real properties, and the lessors of some of our leased properties do not have effective ownership certificates, we do not believe that our ability to maintain and obtain or renew our licenses or permits for our business operations will be adversely affected by such issues, except that the failure of our college to possess the required amounts of land may impact its ability to conduct its business if we are not able to address this deficiency by the required compliance period in 2013.   To satisfy such land requirement at our college may require us to incur significant expenses that we are not able to quantify.

 

Specific factors affecting our results of operations

 

While our business is influenced by factors affecting the education and career enhancement industries in China generally and by conditions in each of the geographic markets we serve within China, we believe our business is more directly affected by company-specific factors, including, among others:

 

·                  The number of student enrollments.    The number of student enrollments is largely driven by the demand for the educational programs offered by our Better Schools and Better Jobs, the amount of fees we charge, the effectiveness of our marketing and brand promotion efforts, the locations and capacity of our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers and campuses, and college, our ability to maintain the consistency and quality of our teaching, and our ability to respond to competitive pressures, as well as seasonal factors. We plan to add new tutoring and career enhancement centers as well as expanding alliances and partners to further penetrate our existing markets and enter new geographies to attract new student enrollments of related services. We also plan to continue to add new offerings to better attract students of different needs and provide cross-selling opportunities. However, we intend to keep the current K-12 schools or college student enrollments, which are almost at its full capacity.

 

·                  The amount of fees we charge.    We determine course fees for our tutoring and career enhancement services primarily based on demand for our courses, the targeted market for our courses, the geographic location and capacity of the center, costs of delivering our services, and the course fees charged by our competitors for the same or similar courses.

 

Education services are an investment for the future, especially for children’s education, in China. Steady growth of the economy will likely result in the continuous growth of income and higher consumption levels for China’s citizens, who will have more capital for the education of their children, especially for after-school tutoring. However, we believe that the tuition fees of tutoring services and K-12 schools and college tuition fees are less impacted by the ups and downs of the overall economy as we believe that people in China generally cut back on other spending before they reduce their spending on their children’s education. We believe that fees charged for career enhancement services will be more impacted by the economy. If students anticipate a lower-wage job after they graduate, they may be willing to spend less for career enhancement services.

 

The maximum tuition fees that a school or a college can charge vary by locations, but usually the regulations governing these price controls take into consideration China’s economic growth in determining whether to approve a tuition increase and in setting the size of the tuition increase. Usually the local governments review and adjust tuition fees every two to three years as necessary to reflect inflation or new educational services that are provided. Price controls by local governments will affect the amount by which we are able to increase our fees charged to students in our K-12 schools and college.

 

·                  Our costs and expenses. We incur costs and expenses at both the headquarter level and at our tutoring centers, K-12 schools, career enhancement centers, campuses and college. Our most significant costs at our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, college and career enhancement centers are compensation paid to our teachers and for rent expense. A substantial majority of our operating expenses are selling and marketing and general and administrative expenses.

 

Sales  to our distributors

 

For the years ended December 31, 2009, 2010 and 2011, sales to distributors were RMB 135.6 million, RMB 188.1 million, and RMB 346.2 million, respectively. Sales to distributors were approximately 18.4% ,15.5% and 20.7%, respectively, of our net revenues from continuing operations. The increase in sales to our distributors in 2011 was mainly due to new product offering including CCEP and CBS as well as relationships developed with more schools and colleges via new acquisitions and distributors. We expect net revenues generated from sales to distributors as a percentage of total net revenues to fluctuate from period to period.

 

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The following are the key terms of sales to our distributors, the nature of support services provided by our distributors to their customers and our basis for estimating returned products from distributors.

 

Terms of sales

 

In 2009, we generally sold educational services and software products to our distributors on a prepaid basis. From 2010, we started to offer credit terms to certain distributors. We do not give refunds and only offer replacements to the extent of product defaults. We provide secondary support in rare instances when the distributors cannot answer end users’ questions.

 

How distributors provide customers with support services

 

In addition to the sales of educational services and software products to end users, our distributors may also provide support services to the end users including classroom tutoring, providing facilities for study and on-the-job coaching, where applicable. The distributors determine what other support services, if any, they are going to provide and bear the sole responsibility for these support services.

 

How we estimate amounts of returned products

 

We do not give refunds according to the sales agreements with our customers.

 

Effects of acquisitions, disposals and other strategic plans

 

In 2008, we made an aggregate of ten acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights pursuant to which we acquired 28 tutoring centers, two K-12 schools, and three career enhancement centers. In 2009, we made an aggregate of 13 acquisitions pursuant to which we acquired 66 tutoring centers, three K-12 schools, 12 career enhancement centers and two colleges. In 2011, we made an aggregate of seven acquisitions through business combinations. Our future results of operations will depend significantly upon our ability to increase student enrollments at existing schools and centers, open new tutoring and career enhancement centers, and further expand our partner school and center network throughout China. To complement our organic growth, we may continue to expand our operations going forward, including selectively converting our A+ Alliance partners to our own learning centers and schools through business combinations. Our planned continued expansion will also result in substantial demands on our management, operational, technological, financial and other resources. We will continue to implement additional measures and recruit qualified personnel in order to effectively manage and support our growth.

 

Following a strategic review of our business portfolios, in order to sharpen our focus on growth assets which consist of tutoring and career enhancement, and to adjust our business portfolio with better performance and greater capital efficiency, during the third quarter of 2011, the Company reverted the operating right for the Junior High Portion of Zhenjiang Ambow International School back to the original owner. During the last quarter of 2011, we sold one career enhancement and three tutoring subdivisions as a package, and we are in the process of disposing of Beijing Century College and its 100% owned Beijing Siwa Century Facility Management Co. back to its original owner as well as returning Beijing 21st Century International School to its original owner. For additional information, see Note 24(b) of Notes to the consolidated financial statements.

 

Key financial performance indicators

 

Our key financial performance indicators consist of our net revenues, cost of revenues, gross profit and operating expenses, which are discussed in greater detail below. The following table sets forth our net revenues from continuing operations, cost of revenues and gross profit, both in absolute amount and as a percentage of net revenues, for the periods indicated.

 

 

 

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

 

 

RMB

 

%

 

RMB

 

%

 

RMB

 

US$

 

%

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

 

-Educational program and services

 

613,611

 

83.3

 

1,002,458

 

82.4

 

1,321,141

 

209,908

 

79.1

 

-Software products

 

123,104

 

16.7

 

214,663

 

17.6

 

348,071

 

55,303

 

20.9

 

Net revenues

 

736,715

 

100.0

 

1,217,121

 

100.0

 

1,669,212

 

265,211

 

100.0

 

-Educational program and services

 

(346,092

)

(47.0

)

(513,083

)

(42.2

)

(684,638

)

(108,778

)

(41.0

)

-Software products

 

(10,750

)

(1.4

)

(13,721

)

(1.1

)

(30,694

)

(4,877

)

(1.8

)

Cost of revenues

 

(356,842

)

(48.4

)

(526,804

)

(43.3

)

(715,332

)

(113,655

)

(42.9

)

-Educational program and services

 

267,519

 

36.3

 

489,375

 

40.2

 

636,503

 

101,130

 

38.1

 

-Software products

 

112,354

 

15.3

 

200,942

 

16.5

 

317,377

 

50,426

 

19.0

 

Gross Profit

 

379,873

 

51.6

 

690,317

 

56.7

 

953,880

 

151,556

 

57.1

 

 

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Net revenues

 

In 2009, 2010 and 2011, we generated net revenues of RMB736.7 million, RMB1, 217.1 million and RMB1,669.2 million (US$265.2 million), respectively from continuing operations.

 

In 2011, following a strategic review, we sold one career enhancement center and three tutoring subdivisions. We also initiated the disposal of Beijing Century College and its 100% owned Beijing Siwa Century Facility Management Co. to Xihua Group, the original owner of Beijing Century College and its affiliates as well as the return of Beijing 21st Century International School to Xihua Group. Financial results of these disposed businesses and businesses that are in the disposal process  except for Beijing 21st Century International School for which we will maintain 15-year operating rights are excluded from the above key financial performance indicators and are shown separately in the discontinued operations.

 

Revenue increases from 2009 to 2011 was primarily driven through acquisitions and organic growth in each segment as well as the increase in sales of education services and software products to distributors.

 

Our total software product revenues were RMB 123.1 million, RMB214.7 million and RMB 348.1 million (US$55.3 million) in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively. These revenues as a percentage of our total net revenues from continuing operations were 16.7%, 17.6% and 20.9% in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. Our product sales include value added tax. The increase in software product sales was mainly because of the expanded product offering and relationship developed with more schools and colleges via new acquisitions and distributors.

 

We derived net revenues from our four operating segments in terms of percentages of our overall net revenues from continuing operations as follows in 2009, 2010 and 2011:

 

 

 

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2009

 

2010

 

2011

 

 

 

%

 

%

 

%

 

Better Schools:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tutoring

 

42.5

 

48.9

 

46.6

 

K-12 schools