20-F 1 iclk-20f_20191231.htm 20-F iclk-20f_20191231.htm

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

FORM 20-F

 

 

(Mark One)

REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

OR

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019.

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                       to

OR

SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

Date of event requiring this shell company report

 

 

Commission file number:  001-38313

 

iClick Interactive Asia Group Limited

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

N/A

(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)

Cayman Islands

(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

15/F

Prosperity Millennia Plaza 663 King’s Road, Quarry Bay

Hong Kong S.A.R., People’s Republic of China Tel: +852 3700 9000

(Address of principal executive offices) Terence Li, Chief Financial Officer

15/F

Prosperity Millennia Plaza

663 King’s Road, Quarry Bay

Hong Kong S.A.R., People’s Republic of China Tel: +852 3700 9000

E-mail: terence.li@i-click.com

(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

 

Trading Symbol

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

American Depositary Shares, two representing one Class A ordinary share, par value US$0.001 per share*

*Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on the Nasdaq Global Market of American depositary shares.

 

ICLK

 

NASDAQ Global Market

 

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

None

(Title of Class)

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

None

(Title of Class)

 

 

Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the Issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.

As of December 31, 2019, there were 30,395,051 ordinary shares outstanding, par value $0.001 per share, being the sum of 25,574,443 Class A ordinary shares†  and 4,820,608 Class B ordinary shares.

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

  Yes   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.

  Yes   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.

Yes    No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted 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 such files).

Yes    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.

 

Accelerated filer

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

Emerging growth company 

 

If an emerging growth company that prepare its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards†† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.   

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.   

 

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

 

U.S. GAAP

 

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

 

Other

 

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.

  Item 17   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).

  Yes   No

(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.

Yes    No

 

 

Of the 25,574,443 Class A ordinary shares as of December 31, 2019, (i) 1,472,480 were held by Arda Holdings Limited underlying the options granted but not yet exercised (whether or not they are vested) and the options reserved for issuance under our 2018 Share Incentive Plan, and (ii) 231,936 were held by JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A., our depositary, underlying the unvested restricted share units under our Post-IPO Plan.

†† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.

 

 



 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART I

 

 

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

42

ITEM 4A

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

69

ITEM 5.

OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

69

ITEM 6.

DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES

103

ITEM 7.

MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

113

ITEM 8.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

114

ITEM 9.

THE OFFER AND LISTING

115

ITEM 10.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

116

ITEM 11.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

125

ITEM 12.

DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES

126

PART II

 

 

ITEM 13.

DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES

128

ITEM 14.

MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS

128

ITEM 15.

CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

128

ITEM 16A.

AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT

129

ITEM 16B.

CODE OF ETHICS

129

ITEM 16C.

PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES

129

ITEM 16D.

EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES

130

ITEM 16E.

PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS

130

ITEM 16F.

CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT

131

ITEM 16G.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

131

ITEM 16H.

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE

131

PART III

 

 

ITEM 17.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

132

ITEM 18.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

132

ITEM 19.

EXHIBITS

132

 

 

 

 


 

CONVENTIONS THAT APPLY TO THIS ANNUAL REPORT

Unless otherwise indicated and except where the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report to:

 

“active profiled user” refers to a profiled user whom we are able to detect that he/she has online activities during a specific measurement period. A “profiled user” refers to a user whom we have collected sufficient information from his/her online activities to establish a descriptive understanding of the person;

 

“ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares. Two ADSs represent one Class A ordinary share;

 

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

 

“direct marketer clients” refers to marketers that have direct contractual relationship with us;

 

“end marketers,” or “marketers” refers to marketers that we serve, either directly or through marketing agencies, regardless if they have direct contractual relationship with us;

 

“HK$” or “Hong Kong dollars” refers to the legal currency of Hong Kong;

 

“independent online marketing technology platforms” refers to online marketing technology platforms (i) which are not owned by any group which owns online publishing resources, or (ii) which do not own any online publishing resources;

 

“marketing solutions” refers to mobile marketing solutions and other marketing solutions;

 

mobile apps or websites “covered” refers to the mobile apps or websites from which we are able to receive data to build user profiles;

 

“multinational companies” refer to companies that own or control production of goods or provision of services in one or more countries other than their home countries;

 

“online marketing technology platforms” refers to online marketing platforms which, through a combination of marketing strategies and technologies, assist marketers in optimizing their marketing resources;

 

“ordinary shares” refer to our Class A and Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.001 per share;

 

“our clients” refers to entities which enter into sales contracts with us and incur spending during the relevant period;

 

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

 

“we,” “us,” “our company” and “our” refer to iClick Interactive Asia Group Limited; and

 

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

Our financial statements are expressed in the U.S. dollar, which is our reporting currency. Certain of our financial data in this annual report on Form 20-F are translated into U.S. dollars solely for the reader’s convenience. Unless otherwise noted, all convenience translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars, and from Hong Kong dollars to U.S. dollars, in this annual report on Form 20-F were made at a rate of RMB6.9618 to US$1.00, and HKD7.7894 to US$1.00, respectively, which were the exchange rates set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on December 31, 2019. We make no representation that any Renminbi/ Hong Kong dollar or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi/ Hong Kong dollar, as the case may be, at any particular rate, at the respective rate stated above, or at all. Any discrepancies in any table between the amounts identified as total amounts and the sum of the amounts listed therein are due to rounding.

 

 

1


 

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that relate to our current expectations and views of future events. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigations Reform Act of 1995.

You can identify some of these forward-looking statements by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “is/are likely to,” “potential,” “continue” or other similar expressions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include statements relating to:

 

our goals and strategies;

 

our ability to maintain and enhance our mobile capabilities;

 

our future business development, financial condition and results of operations;

 

the expected growth of online marketing industry, including online marketing technology industry in China;

 

our expectations regarding demand for and market acceptance of our products and services, including online marketing technology and enterprise solutions;

 

our expectations regarding our clients and other marketers and marketing agencies;

 

our ability to integrate and realize synergies from acquisitions and investments;

 

our plans to invest in our platform, solutions, data analytics capabilities, technology and technology infrastructure;

 

our relationships with our content distribution channel partners;

 

competition in our industry;

 

general economic and business condition in China and elsewhere;

 

relevant government policies and regulations relating to our industry; and

 

the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak and its potential impact on our business and financial performance.

You should read this annual report and the documents that we refer to in this annual report and have filed as exhibits to this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. Other sections of this annual report discuss factors which could adversely impact our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors emerge from time to time and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.

You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this annual report. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

 

 

2


 

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

Our Selected Consolidated Financial Data

The following selected consolidated statements of comprehensive loss data for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019, selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2018 and 2019 and selected consolidated cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive loss data for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2016, selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and the selected consolidated cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2016 have been derived from our consolidated financial statements that are not included in this annual report. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP.

 

3


 

You should read the selected consolidated financial information in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” included elsewhere in this annual report. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of our results expected for future periods.

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

 

(US$ in thousands, except for per share and share data)

 

Selected Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Loss:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net revenues(1)

 

 

65,242

 

 

 

95,357

 

 

 

125,258

 

 

 

160,017

 

 

 

199,408

 

Cost of revenues(1)

 

 

(34,531

)

 

 

(61,048

)

 

 

(95,733

)

 

 

(120,897

)

 

 

(142,703

)

Gross profit

 

 

30,711

 

 

 

34,309

 

 

 

29,525

 

 

 

39,120

 

 

 

56,705

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and development expenses

 

 

(8,106

)

 

 

(8,584

)

 

 

(5,778

)

 

 

(10,737

)

 

 

(5,574

)

Sales and marketing expenses

 

 

(31,385

)

 

 

(28,266

)

 

 

(25,935

)

 

 

(32,080

)

 

 

(42,968

)

General and administrative expenses

 

 

(12,745

)

 

 

(26,767

)

 

 

(12,983

)

 

 

(23,757

)

 

 

(20,304

)

Total operating expenses

 

 

(52,236

)

 

 

(63,617

)

 

 

(44,696

)

 

 

(66,574

)

 

 

(68,846

)

Operating loss

 

 

(21,525

)

 

 

(29,308

)

 

 

(15,171

)

 

 

(27,454

)

 

 

(12,141

)

Interest income

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

421

 

 

 

537

 

Interest expense

 

 

(107

)

 

 

(713

)

 

 

(551

)

 

 

(773

)

 

 

(1,915

)

Other gains/(losses), net

 

 

791

 

 

 

(1,082

)

 

 

1,841

 

 

 

687

 

 

 

2,992

 

Fair value (losses)/gains on derivative liabilities

 

 

(19,390

)

 

 

3,995

 

 

 

(10,190

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fair value (losses)/gains on convertible notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(4,837

)

 

 

133

 

Loss before income tax expense

 

 

(40,231

)

 

 

(27,108

)

 

 

(24,071

)

 

 

(31,956

)

 

 

(10,394

)

Income tax benefit/(expenses)

 

 

555

 

 

 

(222

)

 

 

(548

)

 

 

(655

)

 

 

(47

)

Share of losses from an equity investee

 

 

(38

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(408

)

Net loss

 

 

(39,714

)

 

 

(27,330

)

 

 

(24,619

)

 

 

(32,611

)

 

 

(10,849

)

Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

202

 

 

 

1,246

 

Net loss attributable to iClick Interactive Asia

   Group Limited

 

 

(39,714

)

 

 

(27,330

)

 

 

(24,619

)

 

 

(32,409

)

 

 

(9,603

)

Accretion to convertible redeemable preferred shares

   redemption value

 

 

(2,692

)

 

 

(773

)

 

 

(1,662

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accretion to redeemable ordinary shares redemption

   value

 

 

(1,982

)

 

 

(1,556

)

 

 

(3,650

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deemed contribution from Series B-1 preferred

   shareholders

 

 

2,591

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net loss attributable to iClick Interactive Asia Group

   Limited’s ordinary shareholders

 

 

(41,797

)

 

 

(29,659

)

 

 

(29,931

)

 

 

(32,409

)

 

 

(9,603

)

Net loss

 

 

(39,714

)

 

 

(27,330

)

 

 

(24,619

)

 

 

(32,611

)

 

 

(10,849

)

Other comprehensive loss:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign currency translation adjustment, net

   of US$nil tax

 

 

(129

)

 

 

(139

)

 

 

(79

)

 

 

(2,547

)

 

 

(1,700

)

Comprehensive loss

 

 

(39,843

)

 

 

(27,469

)

 

 

(24,698

)

 

 

(35,158

)

 

 

(12,549

)

Comprehensive loss attributable to noncontrolling

   interests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

202

 

 

 

1,334

 

Comprehensive loss attributable to iClick

   Interactive Asia Group Limited

 

 

(39,843

)

 

 

(27,469

)

 

 

(24,698

)

 

 

(34,956

)

 

 

(11,215

)

Net loss per share attributable to iClick Interactive

   Asia Group Limited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

 

(3.58

)

 

 

(2.26

)

 

 

(2.15

)

 

 

(1.23

)

 

 

(0.34

)

Diluted

 

 

(3.58

)

 

 

(2.26

)

 

 

(2.15

)

 

 

(1.23

)

 

 

(0.34

)

Weighted average number of ordinary shares used in

   per share calculation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic

 

 

11,661,049

 

 

 

13,151,063

 

 

 

13,931,503

 

 

 

26,452,409

 

 

 

28,583,548

 

Diluted

 

 

11,661,049

 

 

 

13,151,063

 

 

 

13,931,503

 

 

 

26,452,409

 

 

 

28,583,548

 

 

4


 

 

 

 

As of December 31,

 

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

 

(US$ in thousands)

 

Selected Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current assets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

 

10,395

 

 

 

27,280

 

 

 

19,401

 

 

 

39,828

 

 

 

36,854

 

Time deposit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

410

 

Restricted cash

 

 

1,000

 

 

 

5,234

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23,852

 

Short-term investment

 

 

1,552

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17,427

 

 

 

 

Accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful

   receivables of US$1,733, US$1,693, US$1,478,

   US$1,507 and US$3,469 as of December 31,

   2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively

 

 

28,423

 

 

 

30,694

 

 

 

40,798

 

 

 

65,627

 

 

 

143,971

 

Rebates receivable

 

 

3,642

 

 

 

2,250

 

 

 

1,334

 

 

 

4,067

 

 

 

5,603

 

Prepaid media cost

 

 

24,793

 

 

 

34,409

 

 

 

37,784

 

 

 

19,107

 

 

 

25,565

 

Non-current assets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intangible assets, net

 

 

19,095

 

 

 

14,804

 

 

 

10,600

 

 

 

7,247

 

 

 

4,418

 

Goodwill(5)

 

 

48,496

 

 

 

48,496

 

 

 

48,496

 

 

 

48,496

 

 

 

65,710

 

Total assets(2) (5)

 

 

146,110

 

 

 

169,640

 

 

 

188,822

 

 

 

207,258

 

 

 

321,516

 

Liabilities, mezzanine equity and shareholders’

   deficit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current liabilities(2)/(3)

 

 

114,063

 

 

 

126,572

 

 

 

65,679

 

 

 

97,151

 

 

 

203,940

 

Non-current liabilities(2)/(3)

 

 

4,766

 

 

 

2,997

 

 

 

3,159

 

 

 

3,467

 

 

 

3,020

 

Total liabilities

 

 

118,829

 

 

 

129,569

 

 

 

68,838

 

 

 

100,618

 

 

 

206,960

 

Total mezzanine equity

 

 

83,210

 

 

 

104,383

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ordinary shares (13,104,300, 13,609,208, 26,059,433,

   27,986,700 and 28,690,635 shares issued and

   outstanding as of December 31, 2015, 2016, 2017,

   2018  and 2019, respectively)

 

 

13

 

 

 

14

 

 

 

26

 

 

 

28

 

 

 

29

 

Total (deficit)/equity(5)

 

 

(55,929

)

 

 

(64,312

)

 

 

119,984

 

 

 

106,640

 

 

 

114,556

 

Total liabilities, mezzanine equity and shareholders’

   deficit/equity(5)

 

 

146,110

 

 

 

169,640

 

 

 

188,822

 

 

 

207,258

 

 

 

321,516

 

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

 

(US$ in thousands)

 

Selected Consolidated Cash Flow Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net cash used in operating activities

 

 

(9,797

)

 

 

(3,907

)

 

 

(13,881

)

 

 

(15,416

)

 

 

(30,294

)

Net cash (used in)/provided by investing activities

 

 

(18,787

)

 

 

524

 

 

 

(25,165

)

 

 

8,395

 

 

 

6,762

 

Net cash (used in)/provided by financing activities

 

 

(2,612

)

 

 

24,564

 

 

 

25,546

 

 

 

27,775

 

 

 

44,804

 

Effect on exchange rate changes on cash and cash

   equivalents and restricted cash

 

(232)

 

 

(62)

 

 

387

 

 

(327)

 

 

(394)

 

Net (decrease)/increase in cash and cash equivalents

   and restricted cash

 

(31,196)

 

 

21,181

 

 

(13,500)

 

 

20,754

 

 

21,272

 

Cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash at the

   beginning of year(4)

 

42,823

 

 

11,395

 

 

32,514

 

 

19,401

 

 

39,828

 

Cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash at the

   end of the year(4)

 

 

11,395

 

 

 

32,514

 

 

 

19,401

 

 

 

39,828

 

 

 

60,706

 

 

 

(1)

On January 1, 2018, we adopted ASC 606 “Revenue from Contracts with Customers” using the modified retrospective method. The adoption did not have any impact to the accumulated deficit as of January 1, 2018. As a result of the adoption, certain rebates to marketers are presented net of revenues, as opposed to being included in cost of revenues in prior periods.

 

(2)

We adopted the new leasing guidance (ASU 2016-02) started from January 1, 2019, which requires that a lessee recognize the assets and liabilities that arise from operating leases. We recognized a right-of-use asset and a liability relating to lease payments (the Lease Liability) in the consolidated balance sheets for lease contracts having terms beyond 12 months period. The consolidated financial information related to periods prior to January 1, 2019 was not restated, and continues to be reported under ASC Topic 840—Leases.

 

5


 

 

(3)

The balance as of December 31, 2015 and 2016 reflects the impact of the retrospective adjustment for the reclassification of current deferred tax liabilities to non-current liabilities following the adoption of ASU No. 2015-17 on January 1, 2017.

 

(4)

The amounts for the years ended December 31, 2015, 2016 and 2017 reflect the impact of the retrospective adjustment for the presentation of restricted cash with cash and cash equivalents when reconciling the beginning-of-period and end-of-period total amounts in the consolidated statements of cash flows following the adoption of ASU No. 2016-18 on January 1, 2018.

 

(5)

The balance sheet amounts reflect an entry that was made to increase goodwill and non-controlling interests as of December 31, 2019 in the amount of US$10.6 million to measure non-controlling interests at fair value upon initial recognition on January 1, 2019, being the acquisition date of our subsidiary, Changyi (Shanghai) Information Technology Ltd. The entry was made after we issued our press release to announce 2019 results as furnished Form 6-K on March 31, 2020. The same entry is applicable to the amounts of goodwill and non-controlling interests as of March 31, 2019, June 30, 2019 and September 30, 2019, respectively, as previously disclosed in our press releases to announce 2019 quarterly results as furnished on the Form 6-K on May 29, 2019, August 26, 2019 and November 26, 2019, respectively.

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

We have experienced fluctuations in growth in recent periods, and our historical growth rates may not be indicative of our future growth.

We have experienced fluctuations in growth in recent periods. We may not be able to sustain our historical growth rates, or at all. You should not consider our historical growth in gross billing and net revenues as indicative of our future performance. Our recent growth was driven by an increase in gross billing from mobile marketing solutions as a result of our strategic focus shifting to capture more market demand in mobile marketing solutions, as well as our newly launched enterprise solutions. In future periods, our gross billing and net revenues could decline or grow more slowly than we expect and the client base optimization may not achieve the benefits as we expected. We believe our business, prospects and results of operations depend on a number of factors, some of which are described in more detail in this section, including our ability to:

 

successfully execute our mobile strategy in the increasingly competitive mobile online marketing segment;

 

successfully integrate our core marketing solutions with our newly launched enterprise solutions;

 

retain existing clients while continuing to optimize our client base;

 

attract new clients and further diversify our client base, including more clients to use our solutions on a self-serve basis and marketers from new industries and geographic regions;

 

maintain the breadth and depth of our cooperation with content distribution channels, including publishers, ad exchanges, and ad networks, and attract new ones in order to increase the volume and breadth of content distribution opportunities available to us;

 

adapt our solutions and service offerings to meet evolving business needs, including to address market trends such as the migration of consumers from PCs to mobile devices;

 

leverage our data assets and experience and expertise in online marketing to extend our solutions beyond online marketing and achieve market acceptance;

 

maintain the proper functioning of our technology architecture as our business continues to grow;

 

maintain and grow our data assets in order to help marketers identify, engage and convert their audience;

 

maintain a high level of customer satisfaction;

 

adapt to a changing regulatory landscape governing privacy matters;

 

6


 

 

acquire or invest in businesses, products and technologies and to integrate and realize synergies from acquisitions and strategic investments;

 

increase awareness of our brand among marketers on a global basis in a cost-effective manner; and

 

attract and retain employees.

We cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully accomplish any of these objectives.

We face intense competition for our mobile marketing solutions, and if we fail to maintain and enhance our mobile capabilities, our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

Our recent growth was primarily driven by our expansion since 2014 into mobile channels to identify, engage and convert mobile marketing. We have experienced and expect to continue to face intense competition in respect of our mobile marketing solutions. To deliver, maintain and enhance our mobile capabilities, it is important that we further integrate with a wider range of mobile technologies, systems, networks and standards that we do not control. We may not be successful in developing solutions that operate effectively with these technologies, systems, networks or standards. Any of these could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects and results of operations.

While marketing via non-mobile online channels has been established for several years, marketing via mobile channels, in particular via mobile apps, is a relatively new phenomenon. In light of the rising demand for marketing via mobile apps, mobile app publishers, especially popular mobile app publishers tend to command stronger bargaining power compared to their non-mobile app publisher counterparts. All of these have resulted in a downward pricing pressure on, and increased media costs for, our mobile marketing solutions. Net revenues from our mobile marketing solutions increased significantly, which amounted to US$101.4 million, US$140.4 million and US$171.1 million in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. However, gross margin for our mobile marketing solutions remained relatively low and was 10.4%, 14.6% and 18.7% in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. In addition, the gross margin for our mobile marketing solutions may fluctuate in future. As we continue to prioritize the execution of our mobile strategy and face increasing competition and pricing pressure for our mobile marketing solutions, our profit margin could be materially and adversely affected.

We have incurred net losses in the past and may not achieve profitability in the future.

We incurred net losses of US$24.6 million in 2017, US$32.6 million in 2018 and US$10.8 million in 2019. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of US$191.0 million. We will need to generate increased revenue levels in future periods to become profitable, and, even if we do, we may not be able to improve our profitability as we intend to continue to expend significant funds to grow our marketing and sales operations, develop and enhance our data analytic capabilities, scale our data center infrastructure and services capabilities and expand into new market segments. Our efforts to grow our business may be more costly than we expect, and we may not be able to increase our revenue enough to offset our operating expenses. We may incur significant losses in the future for a number of reasons, including the other risks described in this annual report, and unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications and delays and other unknown events. If we are unable to achieve or sustain profitability, the market price of our ADSs may significantly decrease.

Our newly launched business, including our enterprise solutions, may not be successful, and we may not successfully integrate our new solutions with existing solutions.

We have been leveraging our data assets and experience and expertise to extend our solutions beyond our core online marketing business. For example, in May 2018, we started to offer enterprise solutions and in January 2019, we made a controlling investment in Changyi (Shanghai) Information Technology Co., Ltd., or Changyi, which further enhances our enterprise solution capabilities. We may not be successful in our newly launched business lines, including enterprise solutions. For example, our data assets and experience and expertise in online marketing may not prove successful for enterprise solutions, and there can be no assurance that we will successfully integrate, utilize and leverage Changyi’s enterprise solution capabilities. In addition, in February 2020, we agreed to make a controlling investment in Optimal Power Limited, a subsidiary wholly owned by Creative Big Limited. As of the date of this annual report, we are still in the process of negotiating and finalizing the terms of a definitive agreement for this investment, and we expect to complete the investment in the second quarter of 2020. As part of the transaction, Creative Big Limited will inject certain premium media licensing assets into Optimal Power Limited covering a number of jurisdictions in Asia-Pacific. While we believe this investment will broaden our content distribution channels and enrich offerings of our online marketing solutions, we cannot assure you that this strategy will be successful or that our online marketing solutions’ financial performance would be improved. If we are unable to successfully, fully integrate any business, product or technology we acquire, our business, financial condition and results of operations may suffer.

 

7


 

Our enterprise solutions are currently primarily established on our cooperation with Tencent Holdings Limited, or Tencent. For example, we help our clients put in place data-management platforms which are currently built primarily on Tencent Cloud and Enterprise WeChat Work. As a result, we rely on the functionality and stability of Tencent’s cloud and Wechat’s infrastructure in providing our enterprise solutions. In addition, we rely on Tencent’s proprietary API connections to gather and analyze customer data and create consumer profiles. Any disruption or termination of this cooperative relationship could deteriorate our ability to operate our newly launched enterprise solutions, which could negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In addition, we may face increased competition as we expand into the enterprise solution market. We may face competitions from local companies that are working on enterprise solutions, new cloud computing and artificial intelligence. We may also face potential competition from international SaaS companies, which have longer operating histories, greater financial, technical, marketing, distribution, professional services or other resources and greater name recognition. If we fail to upgrade our technologies and differentiate our enterprise solutions to effectively identify and address clients’ needs, our business, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

We have been making efforts to promote our newly launched enterprise solutions to clients in industries including new retail, online education, real estate and other sectors, including through cross-selling or upselling to existing clients and referral from existing clients. We cannot assure you that these promotion and marketing efforts will be successful. As a result, the success of our enterprise solutions depends on the continued growth of these sectors. In addition, to the extent businesses do not find our enterprise solutions an effective or efficient way of customer management and to the extent there are any potential new developments in their sectors, our enterprise solutions may be less attractive to clients, and our results of operations and business growth prospects may be adversely affected.

We may also face unexpected new risks as we continue to launch new businesses. As a result, we cannot assure you that we will be successful in this new business. If we cannot successfully address new challenges and compete effectively, we may not be able to develop a sufficient client base, recover costs incurred for developing and marketing our new business, and eventually achieve profitability from our new business, and, consequently, our future results of operations and growth prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

Our sales cycle may become more time-consuming and expensive under enterprise solutions, we may encounter pricing pressure and implementation and configuration challenges, and we may have to delay revenue recognition for some complex transactions, all of which could harm our business and operating results.

As the development cycle on enterprise solutions is subject to the complexity of the clients’ needs and requirements, industries, scale of operation, etc., we may face greater costs, longer sales cycles and less predictability in completing some of our sales. In this market segment, clients’ decision to use our services may be an enterprise-wide decision and, if so, these types of sales would require us to provide greater levels of education regarding the use and benefits of our services, as well as education regarding privacy and data protection laws and regulations to prospective clients with international operations. As a result of these factors, these sales opportunities may require us to devote greater development, sales support and professional services resources to individual clients, driving up costs and time required to complete the transactions, while potentially requiring us to delay revenue recognition on some of these transactions until the technical or implementation requirements have been met.

Our net revenues, net revenues as a percentage of gross billing, gross profit margin and the comparability of our financial results may be affected by our revenue models.

We derive revenue primarily from four sources and report them on either a net or gross basis: (i) revenue from incentives earned from the website publishers for which we act as a sales agent for their content distribution opportunities, or the sales agency arrangement, which is reported on a net basis, (ii) revenue from performing cost-plus marketing campaigns, which is reported on a net basis; (iii) revenue from performing specified actions marketing campaigns (i.e., a CPM, CPC, CPA, CPS, CPL or ROI basis), which is reported on the gross basis, and (iv) revenue from SaaS products offering under our enterprise solutions business, which is reported on a gross basis and a net basis. Please see “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Results—Key Components of Results of Operations—Net Revenues” for more details. The gross profit margins for our sales agency arrangement and cost-plus marketing campaigns are higher than that for our specified action marketing campaigns as cost of revenues for our sales agency arrangement and cost-plus marketing campaigns does not include media cost.

Consequently, an increase in the percentage of gross billing recognized as net revenues from performing specified actions marketing campaigns will have a positive impact on our net revenues and a negative impact on our gross profit margin. On the other hand, an increase in the percentage of gross billing recognized as net revenues from our sales agency arrangement and from performing cost- plus marketing campaigns will have a negative impact on our net revenues and a positive impact on gross profit margin. As the relative percentage of gross billing from incentives earned from the website publisher under our sales agency arrangement and from performing cost-plus marketing campaigns, on the one hand, and from performing specified actions marketing campaigns on the other hand, changes from time to time, the relative proportions of gross billing recognized as net revenues on a gross basis and a net basis also fluctuate, which would consequently impact our net revenues and gross profit margin. Our mobile

 

8


 

marketing solutions on one hand, and other marketing solutions, on the other hand, each represent a mixture of revenue recognized on a gross basis and on a net basis and the proportion of each fluctuates from period to period. Therefore our net revenues, net revenues as a percentage of gross billing, gross profit margin and the comparability of our financial results in one period to another may be affected by the relative percentage of gross billing recognized as net revenues on the gross basis and net basis. The relative proportions of gross billing recognized as net revenues on a gross basis and a net basis, are affected by a variety of factors, in particular, the terms of the arrangements with our clients, including whether to conduct their marketing campaigns on a specified-action (i.e., gross) or cost-plus (i.e., net) basis in a particular period, which depends on clients’ needs and goals.

Failure to retain existing clients or attract new ones could adversely impact our business and results of operations.

We do not have long-term marketing campaign contracts with clients, and a majority of our marketing campaign contracts are for a term of one year or shorter. Our clients, referring to entities which enter into marketing campaign contracts with us and incur marketing spend during the relevant period and which include direct marketers and marketing agencies, are not obligated to use our platform on an exclusive basis and they generally use multiple providers to manage their marketing spend. Accordingly, we must convince our clients to use our platform, increase their usage and spend a larger share of their online marketing budgets with us, and do so on an on-going basis.

Our ability to achieve renewals or marketing campaign contracts and new sales depends on many factors, some of which are out of our control, including:

 

customer satisfaction with our solutions, including any new solutions that we may develop,

 

the competitiveness of our pricing and payment terms for our clients, which may, in turn, be constrained by our capital and financial resources,

 

customer satisfaction with our account managing services,

 

our ability to tailor our solution offerings and delivery and pricing models in accordance with the evolving needs of our clients and end marketers,

 

our ability to expand our data base and solutions to serve marketers in a wider range of industries and geographic regions,

 

our ability to integrate with a wider range of new mobile technologies, systems, networks and standards,

 

mergers, acquisitions or other consolidation among marketers and marketing agencies, and

 

the effects of global economic conditions on spending levels of marketers generally.

Therefore, we cannot assure you that clients that have generated marketing spend on our platform in the past will continue to spend at similar levels or that they will continue to use our platform at all. We may not be able to replace clients which reduce or cease their usage of our platform with new clients that spend similarly on our platform. We have relied on a limited number of clients to generate a significant portion of our revenues. For example, while we did not have any client that contributed to more than 10% of our net revenues in 2017 and 2019, we had one client from the entertainment industry that contributed to 14% of our net revenues in 2018.

In addition, we have started a comprehensive review of the client base especially for other marketing solutions since 2016 to focus on profitability and liquidity. For example, we terminated relationships with certain clients for our other marketing solutions as they had relatively long accounts receivable cycles and yielded relatively low operating profit margins to us. Some of these clients were large marketers and had individually accounted for more than 5% of our annual gross billing historically. As a result, gross billing from our other marketing solutions decreased by 6.6% from US$76.1 million in 2017 to US$71.0 million in 2018 and further by 8.9% to US$64.7 million in 2019. Relatedly, the total number of our marketers decreased by 3.2% from 2,561 in 2017 to 2,479 in 2018. The total number of our marketers increased by 40% from 2018 to 3,481 in 2019, primarily attributable to our increased ability to cater to the growing market demand. However, as we continue to engage in client optimization and review our client base for a more sustainable long-term growth, we cannot assure you that the increase in the total number of marketers will continue.

If our existing clients do not continue to use or increase their use of our platform, or if we are unable to attract sufficient marketing spend on our platform from new clients, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

Loss of any marketing agency client may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

We engage third-party marketing agencies to help source and serve some of our marketers. In 2019, we had 3,481 marketers. Among these marketers, 1,793 were represented by our marketing agency clients, which contributed a significant portion of our gross billing and net revenues. We do not have exclusive business arrangement with these marketing agencies. If we lose any marketing agency, we risk losing business from end marketers represented by that agency. In addition, some marketing agencies have their own

 

9


 

business arrangements with content distribution channels and can directly connect marketers with such channels. Our business may suffer to the extent that marketing agencies and content distribution channels purchase and sell content distribution opportunities directly from one another or through intermediaries other than us. Loss of marketing agencies as our clients could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Furthermore, our contractual arrangements with marketing agency clients do not provide us with control or oversight over their day-to-day business activities. If any of our marketing agency clients engage in activities that violate laws and regulations, our reputation could be harmed and our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

Loss of any content distribution channel and changes in the contract terms with any content distribution channel may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Our consistent access to attractive content distribution opportunities is crucial to our business. We primarily rely on third-party content distribution channels to access content distribution opportunities. Our content distribution channels are concentrated and primarily include online and mobile publishers, major search engines and ad exchanges, including those owned or operated by Tencent, Baidu, Google and Alibaba. Media costs for content distribution opportunities on Tencent, Baidu, Google and Alibaba channels in aggregate accounted for 89.1%, 91.1% and 87.4% of our media costs in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Media costs for content distribution opportunities on our largest and second largest channel partners accounted for 80.8% and 6.6% of our media costs in 2019, respectively. In addition, our contracts with content distribution channels are generally for a period of one year and do not impose long-term obligations requiring them to make their content distribution opportunities available to us on reasonable terms or at all. The loss of access to content distribution opportunities from one of those companies would negatively impact our ability to help marketers reach their audience.

Our ability to source content distribution opportunities from content distribution channels depends in part on our ability to continuously generate sufficient marketing spend from our clients on these channels. If our content distribution channels terminate or choose not to renew their contracts with us, our business and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.

In addition, we may not be able to negotiate favorable or acceptable terms once the contracts expire. For example, the written contract with a content distribution channel under our sales agency arrangement expired on December 31, 2019 and as of the date hereof, we have not yet executed and are negotiating a new written contract with this content distribution channel. Net revenues from this content distribution channel under our sales agency arrangement were US$8.3 million, US$8.7 million and US$6.6 million in 2017, 2018 and 2019, representing 6.6%, 5.4%, and 3.3% of our total net revenues for the respective years. As the contract is still being negotiated, there is no assurance that we will be able to execute the contract with terms favorable or acceptable to us or at all, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.

Furthermore, our contracts with content distribution channels generally provide for certain rebates or incentives, generally calculated as a percentage of marketing spend, that we are entitled to should the market spending during the terms exceed the specified thresholds. Under some of our contracts, content distribution channels offer staggered levels of rebates or incentives to us depending on the amount of marketing spend we achieve during the period. We are subject to ongoing obligations and continued regulatory review. If we fail to maintain or renew the value-added telecommunication license, or fail to obtain any additional licenses and permits or make any records or filings required by new laws, regulations or executive orders in a timely manner or at all, we could be subject to liabilities or penalties, and we may have to change our business models, and our operations could be adversely affected. In addition, new laws and regulations may be adopted from time to time to address new issues that come to the authorities’ attention, which may require us to obtain new license and permits, or take certain actions that may adversely affect our business operations. We may not timely obtain or maintain all the required licenses or approvals or make all the necessary filings. Nor can we assure you that we will be able to timely address all the changes in policy, failure of which may subject us to liabilities or penalties, and our operations could be adversely affected.

 

We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics and other outbreaks, which could significantly disrupt our operations. In particular, we could be materially and adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

We are vulnerable to natural disasters and other calamities. Fire, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, power loss, telecommunications failures, break-ins, war, riots, terrorist attacks or similar events may give rise to server interruptions, breakdowns, system failures, technology platform failures or internet failures, which could cause the loss or corruption of data or malfunctions of software or hardware as well as adversely affect our ability to provide solutions and services on our platform. Our business could also be adversely affected by the effects of a novel strain of coronavirus, or COVID-19, Ebola virus disease, Zika virus disease, H1N1 flu, H7N9 flu, avian flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, or other epidemics.

 

10


 

Most of our system hardware and back-up systems are hosted in leased facilities in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou province, and most of our directors, senior management and employees are based in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Therefore, if any of the above-mentioned natural disasters, health epidemics or other outbreaks were to occur in these regions, our operations may experience material disruptions, such as temporary closure of our offices and suspension of services, which may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations. Our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects could be materially and adversely affected directly, as well as to the extent that the coronavirus or any other epidemic harms the Chinese economy in general. For example, since December 2019, there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 in China and around the world. COVID-19 is considered to be highly contagious and poses a serious public health threat. In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 a pandemic, given its threat beyond a public health emergency of international concern that the organization had declared on January 30, 2020. The pandemic has resulted in quarantines, travel restrictions, home office policies, and the temporary closure of stores and facilities in China, Hong Kong and many other jurisdictions for the past few months. These measures have slowed down the development of the Chinese economy and adversely affected the global economic conditions and financial markets. Substantially all of our revenues and our workforce are based in China and Hong Kong. Our operations have been, and may continue to be, materially and adversely affected by potential delays in or reductions of business activities and commercial transactions and by general uncertainties surrounding the duration of the government’s extended business and travel restrictions. In addition, our business operations could be disrupted if any of our employees is suspected of contracting the coronavirus or any other epidemic disease, since it could require our employees to be quarantined and/or our offices to be disinfected.

The potential downturn brought by and the duration of COVID-19 are difficult to assess or predict now. Any potential impact on our results will depend on, to a large extent, future developments and new information that may emerge regarding the duration of COVID-19 and the actions taken by governmental authorities and other entities to contain COVID-19 or treat its impact, which are mostly beyond our control. As of the date of this annual report, we believe potential impact of COVID-19 on our results of operations includes, but is not limited to: (a) our clients in industries that are adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, including travel and hospitality sectors, among others, may reduce their budgets on advertising, adversely affecting our marketing solutions business; and (b) our clients may require additional time to pay us or fail to pay us at all, which could significantly increase our accounts receivable, requiring us to record additional allowances for doubtful accounts.

The independent online marketing technology market is highly fragmented and intensely competitive. Independent online marketing technology platforms also face competitive pressure from well-established internet companies, marketing agencies and traditional media. In addition, as we expand into the enterprise solution market, we also face increasingly intensified competition.

China’s independent online marketing technology market is highly competitive, fragmented and rapidly changing. With the introduction of new technologies and the influx of new entrants, we expect competition to continue and intensify, which could harm our ability to increase revenue and attain or sustain profitability. We believe the principal competitive factors in this industry include:

 

ability to deliver return on marketing expenditure at scale;

 

customer trust;

 

geographic reach;

 

breadth and depth of cooperation with publishers, ad exchanges, ad networks and other participants in the online marketing ecosystem;

 

comprehensiveness of solutions and service offerings;

 

pricing structure and competitiveness;

 

cross-channel capabilities;

 

accessibility and user-friendliness of solutions; and

 

brand awareness.

In addition, independent online marketing technology platforms face competitive pressure from large and well-established internet companies, such as Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Google, which have established stronger and broader presence across the online marketing ecosystem and have significantly more financial, technical, marketing and other resources, more extensive client base, and longer operating histories and greater brand recognition than we do. These companies have access to user information by virtue of their popular consumer-oriented websites and mobile apps, and have the technology designed for use in conjunction with the types of user information collected from their websites and mobile apps. These companies may also leverage their positions to make changes to their systems, platforms, exchanges, networks or other products or services that could be harmful to our business and results of operations. While we believe that we do not directly compete with these large and well-established internet companies as we

 

11


 

promote their content distribution opportunities or purchase their content distribution opportunities in the ordinary course of our business in connection with our execution of marketing campaigns, and these companies generally do not provide integrated online marketing solutions the way we do, we face indirect competition from these major players in the online marketing technology industry as they provide online marketing technology and offer services and offer solutions that help marketers achieve one or more aspects of their marketing goals in one or more phases of their online marketing cycle. These large and well-established companies control content distribution channels and may also directly compete with us to the extent we expand our solutions and footprints vertically along the online marketing technology value chain. Further, some of these companies are, or may also become, our content distribution channels and may enter into other types of strategic arrangements with us. For example, we generally enter into annual framework agreements with content distribution channel partners, including Baidu and Tencent, to purchase or promote their content distribution opportunities. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Content Distribution Channels”. Competitive pressure may incentivize them to cease their partnership with us. Online marketing technology platforms also face competition from marketing agencies, who may have their own relationships with content distribution channels and can directly connect marketers with such channels. Furthermore, online marketing technology platforms continue to compete with traditional media including direct marketing, television, radio, cable and print advertising companies.

New technologies and methods of online marketing present an evolving competitive challenge, as market participants upgrade or expand their service offerings to capture more marketing spend from marketers. In addition to existing competitors and their existing service offerings, we expect to face competition from new entrants to the online marketing technology industry and new service offerings from existing competitors. If existing or new companies develop, market or resell competitive high-value marketing technology solutions, acquire one of our competitors or strategic partners, form a strategic alliance or enter into exclusivity arrangement with one of our competitors or strategic partners, our ability to compete effectively could be significantly compromised and our business, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

In May 2018, we launched a strategic growth initiative beyond our core online marketing operation to provide SaaS-based enterprise solutions. Although we currently have few direct competitors in this relatively new and evolving area in China, we anticipate competition to increase based on businesses’ demands for this type of products. We may face competitions from local companies that are working on the enterprise solutions, new cloud computing and artificial intelligence. We may also face potential competition from international SaaS companies, which have longer operating histories, greater financial, technical, marketing, distribution, professional services or other resources and greater name recognition. In addition, many of our prospective competitors may have close relationship with our existing and new clients and bear an extensive knowledge of this industry. As a result, they may be able to respond more quickly to new or emerging technologies and changes in clients’ requirements, or devote greater resources to the development, promotion and sale of their products. If we fail to upgrade our technologies and differentiate our enterprise solutions to effectively identify and address clients’ needs, our business, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

If online marketing technology solutions and enterprise solutions do not achieve widespread market acceptance, our business, growth prospects and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.

The market for online marketing technology solutions and enterprise solutions such as ours is evolving in China and these solutions may not achieve or sustain high levels of demand and market acceptance as we expect. While marketing via search engines or display channels has been established for several years, marketing via new digital channels such as mobile and social media is not as well established. The future growth of our business could be constrained by both the level of acceptance and expansion of emerging online marketing channels, as well as the continued use and growth of existing channels. Even if these channels become widely adopted, marketers and agencies may not be familiar with and make significant investments in, solutions such as ours that help them manage their online marketing across channels and devices. In addition, some of our solutions are delivered as software-as-a-service, or SaaS, offerings, which are less mature or common in China, and the pace of transition to SaaS business may be slower among marketers with heightened data security concerns or general demand for highly customizable application software. The acceptance of our solutions delivered as SaaS offerings will depend to a substantial extent on the education of our clients on the SaaS offerings and the widespread adoption of SaaS solutions in general, and we cannot be certain that the trend of adoption of such solutions will continue in the future. Therefore, it is difficult to predict the demand for our platform or the future growth rate and size of the market for online marketing technology solutions.

Expansion of the market for online marketing technology solutions depends on a number of factors, including the growth of new digital channels such as mobile and social media and the cost, as well as the performance and perceived value associated with online marketing technology solutions. If online marketing technology solutions do not achieve widespread acceptance, or there is a reduction in demand for online marketing caused by weakening economic conditions, decreases in corporate spending, technological challenges, data security or privacy concerns, governmental regulation, competing technologies and solutions or otherwise, our business, growth prospects and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.

 

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Enterprise solution is a relative new data technology market in PRC. The expansion of our enterprise solutions depends on the clients’ interest and market acceptance. If we fail to obtain a widespread acceptance, our number of clients may decrease. We may also incur additional spending to further enhance our brand recognition and promotion, which could adversely impact our profitability. If our enterprise solutions fail to gain a widespread acceptance, our business, growth prospects and results of operations may also be materially and adversely affected.

If our algorithms and data engines for assessing and predicting potential audience behaviors are flawed or ineffective, or if our platform fails to otherwise function properly, our reputation and market share would be materially and adversely affected.

Our ability to attract marketers to, and build trust in, our platform is significantly dependent on our ability to effectively assess and predict audience interest in, and therefore interaction with, relevant marketing content. In addition, our ability to attract businesses to use our enterprise solutions is significantly dependent on our ability to effectively identify and address their needs on customer relationship management, or CRM, and data analytics (e.g. sales data, customer data, product data, etc.). We utilize our proprietary algorithms and data engines to track, process and analyze internet user data, forecast probability and nature of internet users’ potential engagement with a given marketing message, create and tailor the marketing message to specific user interest, and execute marketing campaigns based on parameters specified by our clients. Our proprietary algorithms and data engines take into account multiple kinds and sources of data, including data on users’ interest, intent, E-commerce and offline purchase behavior, social data, demographic data and campaign performance data, which we track using our proprietary tracking tools, from our marketers, publishers and ad exchanges in connection with marketing campaigns, and from collaboration with selected third-party data partners. The data we collect may not be relevant to all industries, and for certain industries, we may not have sufficient user data to ensure that our algorithms and data engines would work effectively. Furthermore, we generally do not verify the data we gather, which may be subject to fraud or are otherwise inaccurate. Even if such data are accurate, they may become irrelevant or outdated and thus may not reflect a user’s genuine interest or accurately predict his or her interaction with a given marketing message. For example, following the date we obtain the relevant data, a user’s interest and behavior pattern may change or he or she may have already completed a transaction and is no longer interested in the marketing message.

In addition, we expect to experience significant growth in the amount of data we process as we continue to develop new solutions and features to meet evolving and growing marketer demands. As the amount of data and variables we process increases, the calculations that our algorithms and data engines must process become increasingly complex and the likelihood of any defect or error increases. To the extent our proprietary algorithms and data engines fail to accurately assess or predict a user’s interest in and interaction with, the relevant marketing content, or experience significant errors or defects, marketers may not achieve their marketing goals in a cost-effective manner or at all, which could make our platform less attractive to them, result in damages to our reputation and a decline of our market share and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Our ability to collect and use data from various sources could be restricted.

The optimal performance of our algorithms and data engines depends on the data that we collect from multiple sources, which we use to build user profiles, develop and refine our algorithms and data engines. Our ability to collect and use these types of data is limited by a number of factors, some of which are described in further details elsewhere in this section, including:

 

consumer choices, including the blocking or deletion of cookies or modifications to privacy settings;

 

decisions by marketers, content distribution channels, or selected third party that we have data collaboration arrangement with, to restrict our ability to collect data from them, to refuse to implement mechanisms that we request to ensure compliance with our legal obligations;

 

changes in browser or device functionality and settings, and other new technologies, which could make it easier for users to prevent the placement of cookies or other tracking technologies;

 

new developments in law, regulations and industry standards on privacy and data protection regimes, including increased visibility of consent mechanisms as a result of these legal, regulatory or industry developments;

 

the failure of our network or software systems, or the network or software systems of marketers;

 

our inability to grow client base in new industries and geographic markets in order to obtain the critical mass of data necessary for our algorithms and data engines to perform optimally in these new industries and geographies;

 

our relationship with our data partners or certain key data sources, including major internet companies in China, which may stop providing or be unable to provide us data on terms acceptable to us; and

 

interruptions, failures or defects in our data collection, mining, analysis and storage systems.

 

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Any of the above described limitations on our ability to successfully collect and use data could materially impair the optimal performance of our algorithms and data engines as well as the efficiency of our solutions, which could make our platform less attractive to marketers and result in damages to our reputation, a decline of our market share and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Blocking or deletion of cookies or other modifications to privacy settings on PCs and mobile devices could impair our data collection and effectiveness of our solutions.

Cookies that we place are generally regarded as “third party cookies” because we place them through internet browsers on an internet user when an internet user visit our website or a website owned by our marketers or other party that has given us permission to place cookies. Our cookies generally record non-personally identifiable information, including when a user views or clicks on a marketing message, where a user is located, how many marketing messages a user has seen, and browser or device information. We use data from cookies to help build user profiles that assess audience interest and predict audience potential interaction with a given marketing message. Cookies may easily be deleted or blocked by internet users. Commonly used internet browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari) allow internet users to modify their browser settings to prevent cookies from being accepted by their browsers. Most browsers also now support temporary privacy modes that allow the user to suspend, with a single click, the placement of new cookies or reading or updates of existing cookies. Internet users can also delete cookies from their computers at any time. Some internet users also download free or paid “ad blocking” software that prevents certain cookies from being stored on a user’s computer. Further, certain web browsers, such as Safari, currently block or are planning to block some or all third-party cookies by default, as do Apple’s iPad and iPhones devices. Mobile devices based upon the Android operating system use cookies only in their web browser applications, so that cookies do not track Android users while they are using other applications on the device. If web browsers block, or internet users reject or delete, cookies, fewer of our cookies or our marketers’ cookies may be set in browsers or accessible in mobile devices, which could adversely affect our data collection and hence the optimal performance of our algorithms and data engines and effectiveness of our solutions.

Aside from blocking or deleting of cookies, other modifications to privacy settings on the PCs and mobile devices could limit or restrict our ability to collect and analyze data. For example, certain search engines, such as Google, provide an encrypted search function. Although we may still be able to see the amount of traffic brought to marketers’ website through the search engine, we will not be able to see the keywords that generate the traffic as the keywords are encrypted. This makes it more difficult for us to evaluate the effectiveness of keywords, and hence the effectiveness of our solutions may be compromised, which would result in client departure and reputation damages, and materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

If we fail to maintain or renew the value-added telecommunication license, or fail to obtain other requisite license, or approvals or filings in China, the business carried out by certain consolidated entity may be materially and adversely affected.

In November 2018, we, through OptAim Network, our variable interest entity, or VIE, made a controlling investment in Shanghai Myhayo Technology Co., Ltd., or Myhayo, a content distribution channel and a mobile content aggregator of articles and short videos in China. Myhayo presents customized feeds to users via its mobile application and allows users to earn points from their daily access to the app, which could be used to redeem cash rewards. Under the relevant PRC laws, commercial operators of value-added telecommunication services, which refer to providers of telecommunications and information services through public network infrastructures that provide information or services to internet users with a charge, shall obtain a value-added telecommunications business operation license. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Value-added Telecommunication Services” and “—Regulations on Internet Content Providers.” It is unclear whether Myhayo’s business model would render it a commercial operator of value-added telecommunication service provider under the relevant PRC laws.

In August 2019, Myhayo obtained the value-added telecommunication license that has a validity term of five years from the relevant local counterpart of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT. We are subject to ongoing obligations and continued regulatory review. If we fail to maintain or renew the value-added telecommunication license, or fail to obtain any additional licenses and permits or make any records or filings required by new laws, regulations or executive orders in a timely manner or at all, we could be subject to liabilities or penalties, and we may have to change our business models, and our operations could be adversely affected. In addition, new laws and regulations may be adopted from time to time to address new issues that come to the authorities’ attention, which may require us to obtain new license and permits, or take certain actions that may adversely affect our business operations. We may not timely obtain or maintain all the required licenses or approvals or make all the necessary filings. Nor can we assure you that we will be able to timely address all the change in policy, failure of which may subject us to liabilities or penalties, and our operations could be adversely affected.

Content displayed on our platform and the mobile application may be found objectionable by PRC regulatory authorities and may subject us to penalties and other administrative actions.

We are subject to PRC regulations governing internet access and other forms of information over the internet. Under these regulations, internet content providers are prohibited from posting over the internet any content that, among other things, violates PRC laws and regulations, impairs the national dignity of China or the public interest, or is obscene, superstitious, frightening,

 

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gruesome, offensive, fraudulent or defamatory. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in monetary penalties, revocation of licenses to provide internet content or other licenses, suspension of the concerned platforms and reputational harm. In addition, these laws and regulations are subject to interpretation by the relevant authorities, and it may not be possible to determine in all cases the types of content that could cause us to be held liable as a content distribution channel and a mobile content aggregator of articles and short videos in China, which presents customized feeds to users via its mobile application. For a detailed discussion, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Internet Content Providers.”

Internet platform operators may also be held liable for the content displayed on or linked to their platforms that is subject to certain restrictions. Our users may browse professional or user-generated content, such as articles and other content formats. Although we have adopted internal procedures to monitor the content displayed on our mobile application, due to the significant amount of content, we may not be able to identify all the content that may be illegal or otherwise objectionable. In addition, we may not be able to timely update our internal procedures to reflect the latest changes in the PRC government’s requirements for content display. Failure to identify and prevent illegal or inappropriate content from being displayed on our platform and the mobile application may subject us to liability, government sanctions or loss of licenses and/or permits.

Regulatory, legislative or self-regulatory developments for online businesses, including privacy and data protection regimes, are expansive, not clearly defined and rapidly evolving. These laws and regulations could create unexpected costs, subject us to threats of lawsuits, enforcement actions for compliance failures, result in declines in user growth or engagement, restrict portions of our business or cause us to change our technology platform or business model.

Governments around the world, including the PRC, Hong Kong, U.S. and European Union governments, have enacted or are considering legislation related to online businesses. There may be an increase in legislation and regulation related to online marketing, the use of geo-location data to inform marketing, the collection and use of anonymous internet user data and unique device identifiers, such as IP address or mobile unique device identifiers, and other data protection and privacy regulation. Some of our competitors may have more access to lobbyists or governmental officials and may use that access to effect statutory or regulatory changes in a manner to commercially harm us while favoring their solutions. These laws and regulations could adversely affect the demand for or effectiveness and value of our solutions, force us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a manner that could adversely affect our business and results of operations or compromise our ability to effectively pursue our growth strategies.

We primarily target Chinese language internet users in China for our marketers from all over the world. Through our enterprise solutions, we also access and gather data of users outside China as clients adopt our enterprise solutions. As a result, we may be directly or indirectly subject to the laws and regulations on online marketing, including data and privacy laws, of multiple jurisdictions.

In recent years, the PRC government has enacted legislation on internet use to protect personal information from any unauthorized disclosure. For example, on February 1, 2013, China’s first set of personal data protection guidelines, the Guidelines for Personal Information Protection in Information Security Technology Public and Commercial Service Systems, came into effect, which set forth detailed personal information protection requirements on data collection, data processing, data transfer and data creation. Although these guidelines are voluntary and non-binding, we believe that growing regulatory oversight of data privacy in China is inevitable. In addition, Amendment 7 to the PRC Criminal Law prohibits institutions, companies and their employees in the telecommunications and other industries from selling or otherwise illegally disclosing a citizen’s personal information obtained during the course of performing duties or providing services or obtaining such information through theft or other illegal ways. On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress issued the Cyber Security Law of the PRC, which became effective on June 1, 2017. Pursuant to the Cyber Security Law of the PRC, providers of network products and services shall provide security maintenance for their products and services and shall comply with provisions regarding the protection of personal information as stipulated under the relevant laws and regulations. Moreover, the Provisions on Protection of Personal Information of Telecommunication and Internet Users is the specific regulation governing the collection, use, disclosure and security of personal information. Complying with these PRC laws and regulations may cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices. Furthermore, the Personal Information Security Specification, or the China Specification, came into force on May 1, 2018. Although the China Specification is not a mandatory regulation, it nonetheless has a key implementing role in relation to China’s Cyber Security Law in respect of protecting personal information in China. It is likely that the China Specification will be relied on by Chinese government agencies as a standard to determine whether businesses have abided by China’s data protection rules. The China Specification has broadened the scope of personal sensitive information, or PSI, including but not limited to phone number, transaction record and purchase history, bank account, browse history, and e-ID info such as system account, email address and corresponding password, and thus, the application of explicit consent under the China Specification is more far reaching. Furthermore, under the China Specification, the data controller must provide the purpose of collecting and using subject personal information, as well as business functions of such purpose, and the China Specification requires the data controller to distinguish its core function from additional functions to ensure the data controller will only collect personal information as needed. Our failure to comply with the China Specification could result in governmental enforcement actions, litigation, fines and penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.

 

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In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Personal Data Ordinance prohibits an internet company collecting information about its users, analyzing the information for a profile of the user’s interests or selling or transmitting the profiles to third parties for direct marketing purposes unless it has obtained the user’s consent.

In the U.S., all 50 states have now passed laws to regulate the actions that a business must take in the event of a data breach, such as prompt disclosure and notification to affected users and regulatory authorities. In addition to the data breach notification laws, some states have also enacted statutes and rules requiring businesses to reasonably protect certain types of personal information they hold or to otherwise comply with certain specified data security requirements for personal information. Additionally, the U.S. government has announced that it is reviewing the need for greater regulation of the collection of consumer information, including regulation aimed at restricting some targeted advertising practices.

In the European Union, or EU, to the extent it is applicable to the processing operations carried out in the course of our activities, the General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, which became applicable on May 25, 2018, has a broad territorial scope affecting the processing of personal data by companies outside of the EU offering goods and services to, or monitoring the behavior of, individuals in the EU. The GDPR introduces new obligations for subject companies in the area of privacy and data protection. The GDPR implements more stringent legal and operational requirements for both processors and controllers of personal data, including, for example, requiring expanded disclosures about how personal information is to be used, limitations on retention of information, new rights for data subjects with respect to their data (including by enabling them to exercise rights to erasure and data portability), mandatory data breach notification requirements, and higher standards for data controllers to demonstrate that they have obtained either valid consent or have another legal basis in place to justify their data processing activities. The GDPR further provides that EU member states may make their own additional laws and regulations in relation to certain data processing activities, which could further limit our ability to use and share personal data and could require localized changes to our operating model. Under the GDPR, fines of up to a 20 million or up to 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, may be imposed in certain cases of non-compliance. Since the GDPR has just recently become applicable, the potential risks associated with non-compliance therewith are uniquely difficult to predict. Moreover and to the extent the GDPR is applicable, the implementation of the GDPR may require amendments to our procedures and policies or the agreements we have with our service providers and clients, and these changes could impact our business by increasing its operational and compliance costs. The EU has also released a proposed Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications, or the e-Privacy Regulation, to replace the EU’s current Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, or the e-Privacy Directive, to, among other things, achieve a greater harmonization among EU member states and better align the rules governing electronic communications (e.g., in relation to the use of cookies and other tracking technologies and protection against spam) with the requirements of the GDPR. While the ePrivacy Regulation was originally intended to be adopted on May 25, 2018 (alongside the GDPR), it is still going through the European legislative process and commentators now expect it to be adopted by the end of 2020. The current draft of the ePrivacy Regulation imposes strict opt-in e-marketing rules with limited exceptions to business to business communications and significantly increases fining powers to the same levels as GDPR of cookies and web beacons may lead to broader restrictions on our online activities, including efforts to understand followers’ internet usage and promote ourselves to them.

Outside of the U.S. and the EU, many jurisdictions have adopted or are adopting new data privacy and data protection laws that may impose further onerous compliance requirements, such as data localization, which prohibits companies from storing outside the jurisdiction data relating to resident individuals in data centers outside the jurisdiction. The proliferation of such laws within the jurisdictions and countries in which we operate may result in conflicting and contradictory requirements, particularly in relation to evolving technologies such as cloud computing. Any failure to successfully navigate the changing regulatory landscape could result in legal liability or impairment to our reputation in the marketplace, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations.

While we strive to comply with all applicable laws and regulations relating to privacy and data collection, processing, use, and disclosure applicable to us, it is possible that our practices are and will continue to be, inconsistent with certain regulatory requirements. These laws and regulations are continually evolving, are not always clear, and are not always consistent across the jurisdictions in which we do business, and the measures we take to comply with these laws, regulations and industry standards may not always be effective. We may be subject to litigation or enforcement action or reduced demand for our solutions if we or our marketers fail to abide by applicable data protection and privacy laws or to provide adequate notice and/or obtain consent from end users. In addition, some of our content distribution channels require us to indemnify and hold them harmless from the costs or consequences of litigation resulting from using their networks. Any proceeding, claims or lawsuits initiated by governmental bodies, customers or other third parties, whether meritorious or not, or perception of concerns relating to our collection, use, disclosure, and retention of data, including our security measures applicable to the data we collect, whether or not valid, could harm our reputation, force us to spend significant amounts and time on defense of these proceedings, give rise to significant fines, liabilities and damage awards, distract our management, change our business practices, increase our costs of doing business, inhibit the use of our solutions, harm our ability to keep existing customers or attract new customers, or otherwise materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and prospects.

 

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We are subject to, and may expend significant resources in defending against, government actions and civil claims in connection with false, fraudulent, misleading or otherwise illegal marketing content for which we provide design, production or agency services.

Under PRC Advertising Law, where an advertising operator provides advertising design, production or agency services with respect to an advertisement when it knows or should have known that the advertisement is false, fraudulent, misleading or otherwise illegal, the competent PRC authority may confiscate the advertising operator’s advertising revenue from such services, impose penalties, order it to cease dissemination of such false, fraudulent, misleading or otherwise illegal advertisement or correct such advertisement, or suspend or revoke its business licenses under certain serious circumstances.

Under the PRC Advertising Law, “advertising operators” include any natural person, legal person or other organization that provides advertising design, production or agency services to advertisers for their advertising activities. Since our solutions involve provision of agency services to marketers, including helping them identify, engage and convert audience, and create content catering to their potential clients across different content distribution channels, we are deemed as an “advertising operator” under the PRC Advertising Law. Therefore, we are required to examine advertising content for which we provide agency services for compliance with applicable laws, notwithstanding the fact that the advertising content may have been previously published, and that the advertisers also bear liabilities for the content in their advertisements. In addition, for advertising content related to certain types of products and services, such as alcohol, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medical procedures, we are expected to confirm that the advertisers have obtained requisite government approvals, including operating qualifications, proof of quality inspection for the advertised products, government pre-approval of the content of the advertisements and filings with the local authorities. Although we have established internal policies to review and vet advertising content before it is placed on a content distribution channel to ensure compliance with applicable laws, we cannot ensure that each advertisement for which we provide agency services complies with all PRC laws and regulations relevant to advertising activities, that supporting documentation provided by our clients is authentic or complete, or that we are able to identify and rectify all non-compliances in a timely manner.

Moreover, civil claims may be filed against us for fraud, defamation, subversion, negligence, copyright or trademark infringement or other violations due to the nature and content of the information for which we provide design, production or agency services. For example, we generally represent and warrant in our contracts with content distribution channels as to the truthfulness of the advertising content that we place on these channels, and agree to indemnify the content distribution channels for any losses resulting from false, fraudulent, misleading or otherwise illegal advertising content that we place on these content distribution channels. On the other hand, not all our marketing campaign contracts contain a back-to-back representation and warranty as to the truthfulness of the advertising content or an indemnity provision where the clients undertake to hold us harmless in case we incur losses arising out of any false, fraudulent, misleading or otherwise illegal advertising content. In the event we are subject to government actions or civil claims in connection with false, fraudulent, misleading or otherwise illegal marketing content for which we provide agency services, our reputation, business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

If we are not able to grow efficiently to meet our clients’ increasing needs, our operating results could be harmed.

As usage of our solutions grows, we will need to devote additional resources to improving our system infrastructure. In addition, we will need to appropriately scale our internal business systems and our services organization, including account servicing staff, to serve marketers’ growing demands. We cannot assure you these improvements and expansions to our infrastructure and staff will be fully or effectively implemented on a timely basis, if at all. Even if we are able to upgrade our systems and expand our staff, such expansion may be expensive and complex and require our management’s time and attention. We could also face inefficiencies or operational failures as a result of our efforts to scale our infrastructure and expand our staff. Any of these could impair the performance of our platform, reduce customer satisfaction and lead to client departure, which could harm our reputation and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

If we fail to offer high-quality account services, our business and reputation may suffer.

Our success in marketing and sale of our solutions and retention and expansion of client base depends on our ability to maintain a consistently high level of customer services, client education and technical support, which requires that our account servicing personnel have specific marketing domain knowledge and expertise. If we are unable to hire and train a sufficient number of support staff to provide effective and timely support to our clients, our clients’ appreciation of, or satisfaction with, our solutions may be adversely affected, resulting in reduced client spending or departure and adversely affect our reputation and materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

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If we fail to offer high-quality technical support services under enterprise solutions, our relationships with our clients and our financial results may be adversely affected.

Our clients on enterprise solution will depend on our support organization to resolve technical issues relating to our applications. We may be unable to respond quickly enough to accommodate short-term increases in their demand for support services. Increased demand for these services, without corresponding revenues, could increase costs and adversely affect our operating results. In addition, our sales growth can be highly dependent on our applications and business reputation and on positive recommendations from clients. Any failure to maintain high-quality technical support, or a market perception that we do not maintain high-quality support, could adversely affect our reputation, our ability to sell our service offerings to existing and prospective customers, and our business, operating results and financial position.

If we fail to innovate, adapt and respond timely and effectively to rapidly changing technologies and new trends in online marketing, our solutions may become less competitive or obsolete.

Our future success will depend on our ability to continuously innovate, enhance and broaden our solutions to meet evolving marketing needs, and address technological advancements and new trends in online marketing, in particular the growing popularity of online marketing via mobile channel. We may not be able to timely identify and respond to these new trends. The design of mobile devices and operating systems is controlled by third parties with which we do not have any formal relationship. These parties frequently introduce new devices, and from time to time they may introduce new operating systems or modify existing ones. Network carriers may also restrict our ability to access specific content on mobile devices. If we fail to innovate or adapt our technologies and solutions so that they are compatible with these devices or operating systems, which in turn require that we maintain adequate research and development personnel and resources, our solutions may become less competitive or obsolete. In addition, any new solution that we develop may not receive wide acceptance as we anticipated. Any of these events could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and prospects.

If we are unable to protect our proprietary information or other intellectual property, our business could be adversely affected.

As of December 31, 2019, we held two patents and 40 computer software copyrights in China, and 22 registered trademarks in China and Hong Kong. We rely on a combination of trademark and trade secret laws, and contractual restrictions, including through confidentiality, non-disclosure and assignment of invention assignment agreements with our key employees, consultants and third parties with whom we do business, to establish, maintain and protect our proprietary information and other intellectual property. Policing any misappropriation, unauthorized use or reverse engineering our proprietary information and other intellectual property is difficult and costly and the steps we have taken may be inadequate. For example, contractual restrictions may be breached, and we may not succeed in enforcing our rights or have adequate remedies for any breach of laws or contractual restrictions. In addition, we may not be able to enter into agreements or arrangements with everyone who has access to our proprietary information or contributes to the development of our intellectual property. Moreover, our trade secrets may be disclosed to or otherwise become known or be independently developed by competitors, and in these situations we may have no or limited rights to stop others’ use of our information.

Furthermore, to the extent that our employees, consultants or other third parties with whom we do business use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights to such intellectual property. If, for any of the above reasons, our intellectual property is disclosed or misappropriated, it would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our business may suffer if it is alleged or determined that our technologies or any other aspects of our business infringe on the intellectual property rights of others.

As we continue to expand and as litigation or other similar proceedings become more common in resolving commercial disputes, we face a higher risk of being subject to intellectual property infringement claims. Companies in the internet, technology and media industries are increasingly bringing and becoming subject to suits alleging infringement of proprietary rights. The validity, enforceability and scope of protection of intellectual property rights in internet-related industries are uncertain and evolving. In particular, our registered or unregistered trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented, declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. At times, third parties may adopt trade names or trademarks similar to those of ours, thereby impeding our ability to build brand identity and possibly leading to market confusion. In addition, there could be potential trade name or trademark infringement claims brought by owners of other registered or unregistered trademarks that are similar to our registered or unregistered trademarks or trade names. If a third party has been using in commerce any mark that is confusingly similar to our trade names or trademarks, or has registered any such marks, prior to our use or registration of our trade names or trademarks, such third party could potentially bring infringement claims against us depending on the territory of the use or registration. Any such claim would require us to incur significant costs to defend, and if we are unsuccessful, we may be subject to an injunction and/or required to pay significant damages or spend significant time and resources to rebrand any relevant products or services.

 

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We have received in the past, and expect to receive in the future, notices that claim we have infringed, misappropriated or misused other parties’ trademark and other intellectual property rights. For example, in January 2015, iClick, Inc., a company incorporated in the state of Washington in the United States and the owner of a U.S. registered trademark for the term “iClick” filed an action in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against one of our subsidiaries in Hong Kong, iClick Interactive Asia Limited, alleging trademark and trade name infringement and unfair competition, among others. The basis of iClick Inc.’s claims arose from iClick Interactive Asia Limited’s use of the name iClick in the United States. We believe these claims lacked merit, primarily because the parties offer different goods and services, and therefore any chance of consumer confusion is remote. However, to avoid the costs and uncertainty of litigation, we settled the lawsuit in January 2016. Furthermore, we have not conducted any trademark clearance searches in the United States nor have we obtained any registrations or filed any applications for the registration of our trade names or trademarks in the United States. Although common law and federal law in the United States provide unregistered mark in use in the United States with protection against infringement, such protection is only limited to the geographic areas where such mark is in use. Therefore, we may not be able to effectively enforce and protect our trade names or trademark throughout the United States. Any litigation or other proceedings on intellectual property rights could be costly, time-consuming, divert management resources, and may impede our ability to use existing or develop new technologies or expand into new markets, any of which could have a material adverse effect upon our business and results of operations.

Past and future acquisitions, strategic investments, partnership or alliance could be difficult to integrate, divert the attention of key management personnel, disrupt our business, dilute shareholder value and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

In July 2015, we acquired OptAim, a mobile marketing business. Since the acquisition, we have substantially expanded our mobile marketing business, with OptAim’s complementary mobile analytics, attribution technologies, and content distribution channel partners that allow marketers to track and optimize marketing campaigns on mobile channels.

In November 2018, we made a controlling investment in Myhayo, a content distribution channel and a mobile content aggregator of articles and short videos in the PRC, which presents customized feeds to users via its mobile application, as we seeks to increase our market shares in the PRC online marketing segment, particularly in relation to mobile platforms.

In January 2019, we made a controlling investment in Changyi, as we seeks to extend our client solutions beyond the core digital marketing business, addressing enterprise needs in China, particularly in the emerging area of New Retail—an expanding and innovative market involving the combination of online and offline solutions. There can be no assurance that we will successfully enhance our enterprise solutions and go beyond our core digital marketing business by integrating, utilizing and leveraging Changyi’s intelligent retail and CRM solutions, which may adversely affect our ability to achieve growth and business objectives, and have a material effect upon our business and results of operations.

In February 2020, we agreed to make a controlling investment in Optimal Power Limited, a subsidiary wholly owned by Creative Big Limited. As of the date of this annual report, we are still in the process of negotiating and finalizing the terms of a definitive agreement for this investment, and we expect to complete the investment in the second quarter of 2020. As part of the transaction, Creative Big Limited will inject certain premium media licensing assets into Optimal Power Limited covering a number of jurisdictions in Asia-Pacific. We believe this investment will broaden our content distribution channels and enrich offerings of our online marketing solutions. That said, we cannot assure you that any of these transactions will be executed or consummated on terms favorable or acceptable to us in a timely matter, or at all, or that this investment, if consummated, will enable us to achieve our expected business targets.

In addition, future acquisitions, strategic investments, partnerships or alliances could be difficult to integrate, divert the attention of key management personnel, disrupt our business, dilute shareholder value and adversely affect our business and results of operations. We have limited experience in acquiring and integrating businesses, products and technologies. If we identify an appropriate acquisition candidate, we may not be successful in negotiating the terms and/or financing of the acquisition, and our due diligence may fail to identify all of the problems, liabilities or other shortcomings or challenges of an acquired business, product or technology, including issues related to intellectual property, product quality or architecture, regulatory compliance practices, revenue recognition or other accounting practices or employee or client issues. Any acquisition or investment may require us to use significant amounts of cash, issue potentially dilutive equity securities or incur debt. In addition, acquisitions, including our acquisitions of OptAim, our strategic investment in Changyi and Optimal Power Limited, involve numerous risks, any of which could harm our business, including:

 

difficulties in integrating the operations, technologies, services and personnel of acquired businesses, especially if those businesses operate outside of our core competency;

 

cultural challenges associated with integrating employees from the acquired company into our organization;

 

reputation and perception risks associated with the acquired product or technology by the general public;

 

ineffectiveness or incompatibility of acquired technologies or solutions;

 

potential loss of key employees of acquired businesses;

 

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inability to maintain the key business relationships and the reputations of acquired businesses;

 

diversion of management’s attention from other business concerns;

 

litigation for activities of the acquired company, including claims from terminated employees, clients, former shareholders or other third parties;

 

failure to identify all of the problems, liabilities or other shortcomings or challenges of an acquired company, technology, or solution, including issues related to intellectual property, solution quality or architecture, regulatory compliance practices, revenue recognition or other accounting practices or employee or client issues;

 

in the case of foreign acquisitions, the need to integrate operations across different cultures and languages and to address the particular economic, currency, political and regulatory risks associated with specific countries;

 

costs necessary to establish and maintain effective internal controls for acquired businesses;

 

failure to successfully further develop the acquired technology in order to recoup our investment; and

 

increased fixed costs.

If we are unable to successfully fully integrate any future business, product or technology we acquire, our business, financial condition and results of operations may suffer.

We may be required to record significant impairment charges as a result of our acquisitions.

As of December 31, 2019, we had US$65.7 million goodwill, which represented approximately 20.4% of our total assets, the majority of which was related to OptAim and its subsidiaries, VIE and VIE’s subsidiary, which we acquired in 2015. Goodwill is recorded at fair value and is not amortized, but is reviewed for impairment at least annually or more frequently if impairment indicators arise. In evaluating the potential for impairment of goodwill, we make assumptions regarding future operating performance, business trends, and market and economic conditions. Such analyzes further require us to make judgmental assumptions about sales, operating margins, growth rates, and discount rates.

There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and to management’s judgment in applying these factors to the assessment of goodwill recoverability. Any possible changes in our judgmental assumptions on which the recoverability of goodwill is based would cause a change in the recoverable amounts of goodwill. In addition, we could be required to evaluate the recoverability of goodwill prior to the annual assessment if there are any impairment indicators, including experiencing disruptions to the business, unexpected significant declines in operating results, divestiture of a significant component of our business or market capitalization declines, any of which could be caused by our failure to manage OptAim or other entities in which we have controlling investment, or to successfully integrate their operations with our other operations. Impairment charges could negatively affect our reported earnings and financial ratios in the periods of such charges and limit our ability to obtain financing in the future. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Results—Critical Accounting Policies—Impairment of Goodwill” for more information.

If we do not appropriately maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, we may be unable to accurately report our financial results and the market price of our ADSs may be adversely affected.

As a public company in the United States, we are subject to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires that we include a report of management on our internal control over financial reporting in our annual report on Form 20-F beginning with our annual report for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018. In addition, once we cease to be an “emerging growth company” as such term is defined in JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting.

Our management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was not effective as of December 31, 2019. We and our independent registered public accounting firm identified two material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting. These two material weaknesses identified relate to (1) the lack of sufficient accounting personnel with appropriate understanding of U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting requirements, and (2) the lack of a comprehensive accounting policies and procedures manual to facilitate preparation of U.S. GAAP financial statements, which inhibits our subsidiaries’ ability to prepare consolidation from local books based on PRC GAAP and Hong Kong Financial Reporting Standards to their U.S. GAAP basis information for group financial reporting and imposes a risk that adjustments to U.S. GAAP are not identified in a timely manner. We have taken measures to remediate these weaknesses. In particular, we are in the process of hiring additional qualified accounting staff with an appropriate understanding of U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting requirements. Furthermore, we request our existing accounting personnel to complete external courses relating to U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting such that the accounting personnel can earn the necessary credentials to be qualified as certified public accountants in the U.S. In addition, we are in the process of establishing a

 

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comprehensive accounting policies and procedures manual and providing internal training to accounting and operation staff in relation to these policies and procedures. See “Item 15. Controls and Procedures.” We cannot assure you, however, that these measures may fully address these deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting or that we may conclude that they have been fully remedied. Our failure to correct these control deficiencies or our failure to discover and address any other control deficiencies could result in inaccuracies in our financial statements and could also impair our ability to comply with applicable financial reporting requirements and related regulatory filings on a timely basis. This could in turn result in the loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements. As a result of these, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, as well as the trading price of our ADSs, may be materially and adversely affected. Moreover, ineffective internal control over financial reporting significantly hinders our ability to prevent fraud. Furthermore, we have incurred and may need to incur additional costs and use additional management and other resources in an effort to comply with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other requirements going forward.

In addition, our internal controls over financial reporting will not prevent or detect all errors or fraud. A control system, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the control system’s objectives will be met. Because of the inherent limitations in all control systems, no evaluation of controls can provide absolute assurance that misstatements due to error or fraud will not occur or that all control issues and instances of fraud will be detected.

Failures or disruption in any systems, software or hardware infrastructure supporting our platform and solutions could significantly disrupt our operation and cause us to lose clients or partners.

The optimal performance of our solutions relies on the continued and uninterrupted performance of our systems, software and hardware infrastructure, and security and integrity of our data. They are vulnerable to damages from a variety of sources, some of which are out of our control, including telecommunications failures, power outages, cyber-attacks, or other malicious human acts and natural disasters. Any steps we take to increase the reliability and redundancy of our systems, software and hardware infrastructure supporting our platform and solutions and to improve the security of our data assets may be expensive and may not be successful in preventing system failures or disruption. For example, techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to or sabotage our data or otherwise hack our systems change frequently and generally are not recognized until launched against a target. As a result, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate preventative measures. Sustained or repeated failures or disruption in our systems, including from security breaches, whether actual or perceived, could significantly reduce the attractiveness of our solutions, harm our reputation, result in our liabilities and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

In addition, our business may be negatively affected by interruptions or delays in services provided by third-party system or infrastructure providers that we rely upon. We currently lease data centers and utilize related equipment and services from third-party data center providers. All of our data gathering and analytics are conducted on, and the marketing content we deliver are processed through, our servers located in these data centers and their cloud. We also rely on bandwidth providers and internet information service providers to deliver marketing content. While we have disaster recovery arrangements in place, our testing in actual disasters or similar events is limited and any damage to, or failure of, the systems or facilities of our third-party providers, including as a result of any occurrence of a natural disaster, an act of terrorism, vandalism or sabotage, a decision to close any data center or the facilities of any other third-party provider without adequate notice, or other unanticipated problems at these facilities, could adversely impact our ability to deliver our solution to marketers and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Our inability to use software licensed from third parties, including open source software could negatively affect our ability to sell our solutions and subject us to possible litigation.

Our technology platform incorporates software licensed from third parties, including open source software, which we use without charge. Although we monitor our use of open source software, the terms of many open source licenses to which we are subject have not been interpreted by courts, and there is a risk that such licenses could be construed in a manner that imposes unanticipated conditions or restrictions on our ability to provide our solution to our clients. In addition, the terms of open source software licenses may require us to provide software that we develop using such software to others on unfavorable license terms. For example, certain open source licenses may require us to offer the components of our platform that incorporate the open source software for free, to make available source code for modifications or derivative works we create based upon, incorporating or using the open source software, and to license such modifications or derivative works under the terms of the particular open source license.

In the future, we could be required to seek licenses from third parties in order to continue offering our solution, in which case licenses may not be available on terms that are acceptable to us, or at all. Alternatively, we may need to re-engineer our solutions or discontinue use of portions of the functionality provided by our solutions. Our inability to use third-party software could result in disruptions to our business, or delays in the development of future offerings or enhancements of our existing platform, which could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

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If we fail to detect fraud or serve marketers’ marketing content on undesirable websites, our reputation will suffer, which would harm our brand and negatively impact our business and results of operations.

Our business depends in part on providing marketers with solutions that they can trust, and we have contractual commitments to take reasonable measures to prevent marketer’s marketing content from appearing on undesirable websites. We use proprietary technologies and third party services to detect click fraud and block inventory on websites with inappropriate content. However, technologies utilized by bad actors are constantly evolving. Preventing and combating fraud and inappropriate content requires constant vigilance and investment of time and resources. We may not always be successful in our efforts to do so. If we serve marketing content on websites that are objectionable to marketers, or inadvertently purchase content distribution opportunities for marketers that proves to be unacceptable for their marketing campaigns, such as fraudulent bot generated impressions, we may lose business and incur damages to our brand and reputation. In addition, we may be exposed to liabilities or the need to provide credits or refunds to our clients, and our business and results of operations may be harmed.

Any negative publicity with respect to us, the online marketing industry in general or our partners may materially and adversely affect our reputation, business and results of operations.

Complaints, litigation, regulatory actions or other negative publicity that arise about the online marketing industry in general or our company in particular, including on the quality, effectiveness and reliability of online marketing solutions, privacy and security practices, and online marketing content, even if inaccurate, could adversely affect our reputation and client confidence in, and the use of, our solutions. Harm to our reputation and client confidence can also arise for many other reasons, including employee misconduct, misconduct of our data and content distribution channel partners, data center providers or other counterparties, failure by these persons or entities to meet minimum quality standards or otherwise fulfill their contractual obligations or to comply with applicable laws and regulations. Additionally, negative publicity with respect to our data or content distribution channel partners could also affect our business and results of operation to the extent that we rely on these partners or if marketers or marketing agencies associate our company with such partners.

If we fail to promote or maintain our brand in a cost-efficient manner, our business and results of operations may be harmed.

We believe that developing and maintaining awareness of our brand in a cost-effective manner is critical to achieving widespread acceptance of our solutions, and is an important element in attracting new clients and partners. Furthermore, we believe that the importance of brand recognition will increase as competition in our market increases. Successful promotion of our brand will depend largely on our ability to deliver value propositions to marketers and on the effectiveness of our marketing efforts. In the past, our efforts to build our brand have involved significant expenses and promotion of our brand may be subject to restrictions and challenges. For example, as part of the settlement of the trademark infringement lawsuit brought by iClick, Inc. in January 2015, although we are free to use the term “iClick” in connection with our business in the United States, we are subject to ongoing obligations and restrictions to certain types of marketing and promotion that contain that term. In addition, our brand promotion activities may not yield increased revenue, and even if they do, any increased revenue may not offset the expenses we incurred in building our brand. If we fail to successfully promote and maintain our brand, or incur substantial expenses in an unsuccessful attempt to promote and maintain our brand, we may fail to attract enough new clients or retain our existing clients and our business and results of operations can be materially and adversely affected.

Misconduct, errors and failure to function by our employees could harm our business and reputation.

We are exposed to many types of operational risks, including the risk of misconduct and errors by our employees. Our business depends on our employees to process a large number of marketing campaigns orders, which involve the use of audience data and marketers’ business information. We could be materially adversely affected if such data or information was disclosed to unintended recipients or if we experience an operational breakdown or failure in the processing of a marketing campaign whether as a result of human error, a purposeful sabotage or a fraudulent manipulation of our operations or systems. We could also be materially adversely affected if our employees absconded with our proprietary data or used our know-how to compete with us. Although employees have left our company in the past and may have violated the non-compete and non-solicitation clauses in their employment agreements with little impact on our business, future violations of these clauses could have a material adverse effect on our business. Any of these occurrences could result in our diminished ability to operate our business, potential liability to our clients, inability to attract future clients, reputational damage, regulatory intervention and financial harm, which could negatively impact our business and results of operations.

We may not be able to obtain additional capital when desired, on favorable terms or at all.

We intend to continue to make investments to support our business growth and may require additional funds, to respond to business challenges, including to better support and serve our clients and provide better terms for our clients to capture more market share, develop new features or enhance our platform and solutions, improve our operating and technology infrastructure or acquire complementary businesses and technologies. Accordingly, we may need to engage in public or private equity, equity-linked or debt financings to secure additional funds. If we raise additional funds through future issuances of equity or convertible debt securities, our

 

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existing shareholders could suffer significant dilution, and any new equity securities we issue could have rights, preferences and privileges superior to those of holders of our ordinary shares. Any debt financing that we secure in the future could involve restrictive covenants relating to our capital raising activities and other financial and operational matters, including the ability to pay dividends. This may make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities, including potential acquisitions. We may not be able to obtain additional financing on terms favorable to us, if at all. If we are unable to obtain adequate financing on terms satisfactory to us when we require it, our ability to continue to support our business growth and respond to business challenges could be significantly impaired, and our business and prospects could be adversely affected.

If we do not retain our senior management team and key employees, or attract additional technology and sales talents, we may not be able to sustain our growth or achieve our business objectives.

Our future success is substantially dependent on the continued service of our senior management team and key employees. Our management team is currently spread across multiple physical locations and geographies, which can strain the organization and make coordinated management more challenging. Our future success also depends on our ability to continue to attract, retain and motivate highly skilled employees, particularly employees with technical skills that enable us to deliver effective marketing solutions, and sales and marketing, and publisher development and support personnel with experience in online marketing. Competition for these employees in our industry is intense. As a result, we may be unable to attract or retain these management, technical, sales and marketing and publisher development and support personnel who are critical to our success, resulting in harm to our key marketer and publisher relationships, loss of key information, expertise or proprietary knowledge and unanticipated recruitment and training costs. The loss of the services of our senior management or other key employees could make it more difficult to successfully operate our business and pursue our business goals.

Increases in labor costs in the PRC may adversely affect our business and results of operations. Most of our employees are based in China. Chinese economy has experienced increases in inflation and labor costs in recent years. As a result, average wages in the PRC are expected to continue to increase. In addition, we are required by PRC laws and regulations to pay various statutory employee benefits, including pension, housing fund, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance to designated government agencies for the benefit of our employees. We expect that our labor costs, including wages and employee benefits, will continue to increase. Unless we are able to control our labor costs or pass on these increased labor costs to our users by increasing the fees of our services, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

We do not have any business insurance coverage in China.

Insurance companies in China currently do not offer as extensive an array of insurance products as insurance companies in more developed economies in China. Currently, we do not have any business liability or disruption insurance to cover our operations. We have determined that the costs of insuring for these risks and the difficulties associated with acquiring such insurance on commercially reasonable terms make it impractical for us to have such insurance. Any uninsured business disruptions may result in our incurring substantial costs and the diversion of resources, which could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

We rely on the contractual arrangements that establish the structure for certain of our operations in China and we will need to rely on the contractual arrangements when and to the extent our operations are deemed as foreign-related survey.

Foreign ownership in advertising business used to be subject to certain restrictions under the PRC laws and regulations. For example, according to the Administrative Provisions on Foreign-Invested Advertising Enterprises, which were abolished in June 2015, foreign investors were required to meet several conditions in order to invest in PRC advertising business, such as a minimum number of years of advertising-related experience and an approval from the relevant PRC regulatory authority. OptAim, which we acquired in July 2015, is a Cayman Islands company and OptAim Beijing, its PRC subsidiary, is considered a foreign invested enterprise, or FIE. To comply with the then-effective PRC laws and regulations, including the Administrative Provisions on Foreign-Invested Advertising Enterprises, OptAim Beijing entered into a set of contractual arrangements with OptAim Network and its shareholders. For a detailed description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with OptAim Network.” As a result of these contractual arrangements, we exert control over OptAim Network and its subsidiaries, and consolidate their operating results in our financial statements under U.S. GAAP.

After the abolishment of the foreign ownership restriction in advertising business, we had been transferring the advertising business previously operated by our VIE, OptAim Network, primarily consisting of our mobile marketing solution business, to our wholly-owned subsidiaries. As of December 31, 2018, our wholly-owned subsidiaries had replaced OptAim Network as contracting party for all our mobile marketing solution business. In November 2018, OptAim Network made a controlling investment in Myhayo, a content distribution channel and a mobile content aggregator of articles and short videos in the PRC, which presents customized feeds to users via its mobile application. The mobile application operated by Myhayo allows users to earn points from their daily access, which could be used to redeem cash rewards. It is unclear whether Myhayo’s business model would render it a commercial

 

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operator of value-added telecommunication services under the relevant PRC laws, in which case Myhayo would be required to hold a value-added telecommunication license. In August 2019, Myhayo obtained the value-added telecommunication license that has a validity term of five years. See “—Risk Related to Our Business and Industry—If we fail to maintain or renew the value-added telecommunication license, or fail to obtain other requisite license, or approvals or filings in China, the business carried out by certain consolidated entity may be materially and adversely affected.” Current PRC laws and regulations impose certain restriction on foreign investment in value-added telecommunication services. See “—Regulations—Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment in Value-Added Telecommunications Companies.” As a result, we made our controlling investment in Myhayo through OptAim Network, our VIE. In 2017, OptAim Network contributed 11.1% to our gross billing and 20.2% of our net revenues. In 2018, OptAim Network contributed 0.7% to our gross billing and 1.8% of our net revenues. In 2019, OptAim Network contributed 3.6% to our gross billing and 11.5% of our net revenues.

Under the Measures on the Administration of Foreign-related Surveys, or the Foreign-related Surveys Measures, promulgated by the National Bureau of Statistics of China on October 13, 2004, no individual or organization may conduct any foreign-related survey without a license for foreign-related survey granted by the National Bureau of Statistics in China or its local counterparts.

Under the Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries, or Foreign Investment Catalog, promulgated by the Ministry of Commerce and National Development and Reform Commission on June 28, 2017, only a domestic enterprise or a sino-foreign enterprise which meets the several requirements stipulated in the Foreign-related Surveys Measures can apply for a license for the foreign-related survey. On October 24, 2019, MOFCOM and NDRC jointly promulgated the Special Administrative Measures (Negative List 2019) for Foreign Investment Access, or the Special Administrative Measures, which replaced the negative list attached to the Foreign Investment Catalog in 2018. Industries that are not listed in the Special Administrative Measures are permitted areas for foreign investments, and are generally open to foreign investment unless specifically restricted by other PRC regulations. We do not believe our collection and use of multiple kinds of data from multiple sources in China to improve the cost-effectiveness of marketing campaigns for marketers in and outside China fall within the scope of “foreign-related survey” under the Foreign-related Survey Measures listed under the Special Administrative Measures. However, there are uncertainties under the PRC Laws whether such activities may be deemed as “foreign-related survey,” which would require a foreign-related survey license from the National Bureau of Statistics in China or its local counterparts. In light of these uncertainties and out of prudence, we, through our VIE OptAim Network applied for and were granted a foreign-related survey license on June 6, 2017 by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. If the PRC regulatory authorities disagree with our interpretation of what would constitute foreign-related survey and enforcement practices on foreign-related survey licensing requirement or if we expand our business scope to engage in activities falling within the scope of foreign-related survey, we will need to continue to rely on OptAim Beijing’s contractual arrangements with OptAim Network and its shareholders to conduct certain of our operations in China, including to transfer such operations to our VIE to the extent they are deemed foreign-related survey.

In the opinion of our PRC counsel, Jingtian & Gongcheng, our current ownership structure, the ownership structure of our PRC subsidiaries, our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiary, and the contractual arrangements among OptAim Beijing, OptAim Network and the shareholders of OptAim Network are not in violation of existing PRC laws, rules and regulations; and these contractual arrangements are valid, binding and enforceable in accordance with their terms and applicable PRC laws and regulations currently in effect. However, Jingtian & Gongcheng has also advised us that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current or future PRC laws and regulations and there can be no assurance that the PRC government will ultimately take a view that is consistent with the opinion of our PRC counsel.

It is uncertain whether any new PRC laws, rules or regulations relating to variable interest entity structures will be adopted or if adopted, what they would provide. Please see “—Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the newly enacted PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.” for more information. If the ownership structure, contractual arrangements and business of our company, our PRC subsidiaries or our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiary are found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, or we fail to obtain or maintain any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant governmental authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violation, including levying fines, confiscating our income or the income of our PRC subsidiaries, consolidated variable interest entity or its subsidiary, revoking the business licenses or operating licenses of our PRC subsidiaries, consolidated variable interest entity or its subsidiary, shutting down our servers or blocking our online platform, discontinuing or placing restrictions or onerous conditions on our operations, requiring us to undergo a costly and disruptive restructuring, restricting or prohibiting our use of proceeds from our initial public offering to finance our business and operations in China, and taking other regulatory or enforcement actions that could be harmful to our business. Any of these actions could cause significant disruption to our business operations and severely damage our reputation, which would in turn materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations. If any of these occurrences results in our inability to direct the activities of our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiary, and/or our failure to receive economic benefits from our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiary, we may not be able to consolidate their results into our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

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We rely on contractual arrangements with our variable interest entity and its shareholders for certain of our business operations, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control.

We have relied and expect to continue to rely on contractual arrangements with our variable interest entity, OptAim Network, and its shareholders for part of our online marketing business on mobile channels in China, as well as certain other complementary businesses, and to the extent our operations are deemed as foreign-related survey. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with OptAim Network.” These contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiary.

If we had direct ownership of OptAim Network and its subsidiaries, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to effect changes in the board of directors of OptAim Network and its subsidiaries, which in turn could implement changes, subject to any applicable fiduciary obligations, at the management and operational level. However, under the current contractual arrangements, we rely on the performance by OptAim Network and the shareholders of OptAim Network of their obligations under the contracts to exercise control over our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiaries. The shareholders of our consolidated variable interest entity may not act in the best interests of our company or may not perform their obligations under these contracts. Such risks exist throughout the period in which we intend to operate our business through the contractual arrangements with OptAim Network and its shareholders. In addition, if any third party claims any interest in such shareholders’ equity interests in OptAim Network, our ability to exercise shareholders’ rights or foreclose the share pledge according to the contractual arrangements may be impaired. Therefore, our contractual arrangements with our consolidated variable interest entity may not be as effective in ensuring our control over the relevant portion of our business operations as direct ownership would be.

Any failure by our variable interest entity or its shareholders to perform their obligations under our contractual arrangements with them would have a material adverse effect on our business.

If our consolidated variable interest entity or its shareholders fail to perform their respective obligations under the contractual arrangements, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend additional resources to enforce such arrangements. We may also have to rely on legal remedies under PRC laws, including seeking specific performance or injunctive relief, and claiming damages, which we cannot assure you will be effective under PRC laws. For example, if the shareholders of OptAim Network were to refuse to transfer their equity interest in OptAim Network to us or our designee if we exercise the purchase 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 actions to compel them to perform their contractual obligations. In addition, if any third parties claim any interest in such shareholders’ equity interests in OptAim Network, our ability to exercise shareholders’ rights or foreclose the share pledge according to the contractual arrangements may be impaired.

All the agreements under our contractual arrangements are governed by PRC laws and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in China. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC laws and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. Such disputes do not include claims arising under the United States federal securities laws and therefore these arbitration provision do not prevent you from pursuing claims under the United States federal securities law. The legal system in the PRC is different from 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. Meanwhile, there are very few precedents and little formal guidance as to how contractual arrangements in the context of a consolidated variable interest entity should be interpreted or enforced under PRC laws. There remain significant uncertainties regarding the ultimate outcome of such arbitration should legal action become necessary. In addition, under PRC laws, rulings by arbitrators are final and parties cannot appeal arbitration results in court unless such rulings are revoked or determined unenforceable by a competent court. If the losing parties fail to carry out the arbitration awards within a prescribed time limit, the prevailing parties may only enforce the arbitration awards in PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which would require additional expenses and delay. In the event that we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, or if we suffer significant delay or other obstacles in the process of enforcing these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our consolidated variable interest entity and its subsidiary, and our ability to conduct our business may be negatively affected.

The shareholders of our variable interest entity, may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.

The equity interests of OptAim Network are held by Mr. Jian Tang, who is our co-founder, director and chief executive officer, and Ms. Jie Jiao, who is our former chief financial officer. As of the date of this annual report, we are arranging the transfer of Ms. Jie Jiao’s equity interest in OptAim Network to an affiliate of our company. Their interests may differ from the interests of our company as a whole. These shareholders may breach, or cause our consolidated variable interest entity to breach, or refuse to renew the existing contractual arrangements we have with them and our consolidated variable interest entity, which would have a material adverse effect on our ability to effectively control our consolidated variable interest entity and receive economic benefits from them. For example, the shareholders may be able to cause our agreements with OptAim Network to be performed in a manner adverse to us by, among

 

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other things, failing to remit payments due under the contractual arrangements to us on a timely basis. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these shareholders will act in the best interests of our company or such conflicts will be resolved in our favor.

Currently, we do not have any arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these shareholders and our company, except that we could exercise our purchase option under the second amended and restated exclusive option agreement with these shareholders to request them to transfer all of their equity interests in OptAim Network to a PRC entity or individual designated by us, to the extent permitted by PRC laws. If we cannot resolve any conflict of interest or dispute between us and the shareholders of OptAim Network, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in the disruption of our business and subject us to substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.

Contractual arrangements in relation to our variable interest entity may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and they may determine that we or our PRC variable interest entity owe additional taxes, which could negatively affect our results of operations and the value of your investment.

Under applicable PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities within ten years after the taxable year when the transactions are conducted. The PRC Enterprise Income Tax law requires every enterprise in China to submit its annual enterprise income tax return together with a report on transactions with its related parties to the relevant tax authorities. The tax authorities may impose reasonable adjustments on taxation if they have identified any related party transactions that are inconsistent with arm’s length principles. We may face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements between our wholly-owned subsidiary OptAim Beijing, our variable interest entity OptAim Network and the shareholders of OptAim Network were not entered into on an arm’s length basis in such a way as to result in an impermissible reduction in taxes under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, and adjust OptAim Network’s income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in a reduction of expense deductions recorded by OptAim Network for PRC tax purposes, which could in turn increase their tax liabilities without reducing OptAim Beijing’s tax expenses. In addition, if OptAim Beijing requests the shareholders of OptAim Network to transfer their equity interests in OptAim Network at nominal or no value pursuant to these contractual arrangements, such transfer could be viewed as a gift and subject OptAim Beijing to PRC income tax. Furthermore, the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment fees and other penalties on OptAim Network for the adjusted but unpaid taxes according to the applicable regulations. Our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected if OptAim Network’s tax liabilities increase or if they are required to pay late payment fees and other penalties.

Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the newly enacted PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.

On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress approved the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The Foreign Investment Law embodies an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. On December 26, 2019, the State Council adopted the Implementing Rules for the Foreign Investment Law of the People’s Republic of China, which took effect from January 1, 2020, to interpret and implementat the Foreign Investment Law. However, uncertainties still exist in relation to the nature of “variable interest entity” structure. As a result, the Foreign Investment Law may materially impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations in many aspects.

Under the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investment” refers to the investment activities directly or indirectly conducted by foreign individuals, enterprises or other entities in China. Though the Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, there is no assurance that foreign investment via contractual arrangement would not be interpreted as a type of indirect foreign investment activities under the definition. In addition, the definition contains a catch-all provision which includes investments made by foreign investors through means stipulated in laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, it still leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions promulgated by the Stale Council to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment.

If our contractual arrangements is considered a form of foreign investment, then we may be required to complete the MOC market entry clearance, and we face uncertainties as to whether such clearance can be timely obtained, or at all. If we are not able to obtain such clearance when required, our VIE structure may be regarded as invalid and illegal. As a result, we would not be able to (a) continue our business in China through our contractual arrangements with the VIE and shareholders of the VIE, (b) exert control over the VIE, (c) receive the economic benefits of the VIE under such contractual arrangements, or (d) consolidate the financial results of the VIE. Were this to occur, our results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected and the market price of our ADSs may decline. Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face

 

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substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. Failure to take timely and appropriate measures to cope with any of these or similar regulatory compliance challenges could materially and adversely affect our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.

If we exercise the option to acquire equity ownership of OptAim Network, the ownership transfer may subject us to certain limitation and substantial costs.

Pursuant to the contractual arrangements, OptAim Beijing has the exclusive right to purchase all or any part of the equity interests in OptAim Network from OptAim Network’s shareholders for a nominal price, unless the relevant government authorities or then applicable PRC laws request that a minimum price amount be used as the purchase price, in such case the purchase price shall be the lowest amount under such request. The shareholders of OptAim Network will be subject to PRC individual income tax on the difference between the equity transfer price and the then current registered capital of our consolidated variable interest entity. Additionally, if such a transfer takes place, the competent tax authority may require OptAim Beijing to pay enterprise income tax for ownership transfer income with reference to the market value, in which case the amount of tax could be substantial.

Risks Related to Doing Business in China

Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to us.

The PRC legal system is based on written statutes. Unlike common law legal systems, prior court decisions may be cited for reference but have limited precedential value. The PRC legal system evolves rapidly, and the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules may contain inconsistencies and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties.

From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC administrative and court authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be more difficult to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy than in more developed legal systems. Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules (some of which are not published in a timely manner or at all) that may have retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Such uncertainties, including uncertainty over the scope and effect of our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights, could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations. Litigation in China may be protracted and result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention.

We are subject to many of the economic and political risks associated with emerging markets due to our operation in China.  Changes in China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Our primary operations are based in, and a substantial percentage of our revenue is generated from China, the world’s largest emerging market. In light of our operations in an emerging market. We may be subject to risks and uncertainties including fluctuations in GDP, unfavorable or unpredictable treatment in relation to tax matters, expropriation of private assets, exchange controls, restrictions affecting our ability to make cross-border transfer of funds, regulatory proceedings, inflation, currency fluctuations or the absence of, or unexpected changes in, regulations and unforeseeable operational risks. In addition, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations may be influenced to a significant degree by political, economic and social conditions in China generally and by continued economic growth in China as a whole.

The Chinese 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. Although the PRC government has implemented measures emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, the reduction of state ownership of productive assets and the establishment of improved corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of productive assets in China is still owned by the government. In addition, 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 payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy, and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies.

The economies of emerging markets are typically more vulnerable to market downturns and economic slowdowns elsewhere in the world. While the Chinese economy has experienced significant growth over the past decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy. The PRC government has implemented various measures to encourage economic growth and guide the allocation of resources. Some of these measures may benefit the overall PRC economy, but may have a negative effect on us. For example, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations. In addition, in the past the Chinese government has implemented certain measures, including interest rate increases, to control the pace of economic growth. These measures may cause decreased economic activity in China, and since 2012, the Chinese economy has slowed down. Any adverse changes in economic conditions in

 

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China, in the policies of the PRC government or in the laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China. Such developments could adversely affect our business and operating results, lead to reduction in demand for our services and adversely affect our competitive position.

A downturn in the Chinese or global economy could reduce the demand for our solutions, which could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

The global financial markets have experienced significant disruptions since 2008 and the United States, Europe and other economies have experienced periods of recession. The recovery from the lows of 2008 and 2009 has been uneven and is facing new challenges, including the escalation of the European sovereign debt crisis from 2011 and the slowdown of the Chinese economy since 2012. It is unclear whether the Chinese economy will resume its high growth rate.

Furthermore, the government of the United Kingdom held an in-or-out referendum on its membership in the European Union on June 23, 2016. The referendum resulted in a vote in favor of the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, or “Brexit.” On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom ceased to be a member of the European Union. The effects of Brexit remain uncertain. Brexit could negatively impact the economies and market conditions of the European Union and/or worldwide, and could continue to contribute to instability in the global financial markets. To the extent we may seek to expand our business in the European market, the uncertainty surrounding the terms of the Brexit and its consequences could adversely impact our clients’ spending budget on our solutions, which could harm our results of operations.

There is considerable uncertainty over the long-term effects of the expansionary monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including the United States, China and Europe. More recently, the stock markets around the world have experienced extreme volatility, in reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak and governments’ responses thereto, including the recent rate reductions by the Federal Reserve. It is unclear whether these challenges and uncertainties will be contained or resolved, and what effects they may have on the global political and economic conditions in the long term. Economic conditions in China are sensitive to global economic conditions. Any prolonged slowdown in the global or Chinese economy may reduce the demand for our solutions and have a negative impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Additionally, continued turbulence in the international markets may adversely affect our ability to access the capital markets to meet liquidity needs.

We rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our PRC subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to make payments to us could have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business.

We are a Cayman Islands exempted limited liability company, used as a holding company, and we rely on dividends and other distributions on equity from our PRC subsidiaries for our cash requirements, including payment of dividends and other cash distributions to holders of our ordinary shares and services of any debt we may incur. If our PRC subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us. Under PRC laws and regulations, our PRC subsidiaries, as wholly foreign-owned enterprises in China, may pay dividends only out of their respective accumulated after-tax profits as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise is required to set aside at least 10% of its accumulated after-tax profits each year, if any, to fund certain statutory reserve funds, until the aggregate amount of such funds reaches 50% of its registered capital. At its discretion, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise may allocate a portion of its after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards to staff welfare and bonus funds. These reserve funds and staff welfare and bonus funds are not distributable as cash dividends.

In addition, the PRC tax authorities may require our PRC subsidiaries to adjust its taxable income under the contractual arrangements it currently has in place with our consolidated variable interest entity in a manner that would materially and adversely affect their ability to pay dividends and other distributions to us.

Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business.

PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of currency conversion may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of our offshore fundraisings to make loans to or make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries, which could materially and adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

Any funds we transfer to our PRC subsidiaries, either as a shareholder loan or as an increase in registered capital, are subject to approval by, registration or record filing with relevant governmental authorities in China. According to the relevant PRC regulations on foreign-invested enterprises in China, capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries are subject to the requirement of making

 

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necessary filings in the Foreign Investment Comprehensive Management Information System, or FICMIS, and registration with other governmental authorities in China. In addition, (a) any foreign loan procured by our PRC subsidiaries is required to be registered with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, or its local branches, and (b) except as otherwise regulated by laws or regulations each of our PRC subsidiaries may procure loans which do not exceed the difference between its registered capital and its total investment amount as recorded in FICMIS, or as an alternative, do not exceed the upper limit as specified in the Notice of the People’s Bank of China on Matters concerning the Macro-Prudential Management of Full-Covered Cross-Border Financing as promulgated by People’s Bank of China, or the PBOC, on January 11, 2017. Any medium or long term loan to be provided by us to our variable interest entity must be recorded and registered by the NDRC and the SAFE or its local branches. We may not complete such recording or registrations on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future capital contributions or foreign loans by us to our PRC subsidiaries. If we fail to complete such recording or registration, our ability to use the proceeds of our offering and 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 2008, SAFE promulgated the Circular on the Relevant Operating Issues Concerning the Improvement of the Administration of the Payment and Settlement of Foreign Currency Capital of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 142, which used to regulate the conversion by foreign-invested enterprises of foreign currency into Renminbi by restricting the usage of converted Renminbi. On March 30, 2015, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Reforming the Management Approach Regarding the Foreign Exchange Capital Settlement of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 19. SAFE Circular 19 took effect as of June 1, 2015 and superseded SAFE Circular 142 on the same date. SAFE Circular 19 launched a nationwide reform of the administration of the settlement of the foreign exchange capitals of foreign-invested enterprises and allows foreign-invested enterprises to settle their foreign exchange capital at their discretion, but continues to prohibit foreign-invested enterprises from using the Renminbi fund converted from their foreign exchange capitals for expenditure beyond their business scopes, investment in security market, offering of entrustment loans or purchase of any investment properties. On June 9, 2016, the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Reforming and Standardizing the Administrative Provisions on Capital Account Foreign Exchange Settlement, or SAFE Circular 16, was promulgated. In addition to restating the general principles of SAFE Circular 19, SAFE Circular 16 explicitly stipulates that foreign debts and repatriated funds raised through overseas listings as foreign exchange receipts can be settled discretionally. SAFE Circular 16 continues to prohibit foreign-invested enterprises from using the Renminbi funds converted from their foreign exchange capitals for expenditures beyond their business scopes, investments in security market, offerings of entrustment loans or purchases of any investment properties. Although SAFE Circular 16 further relaxes the control over foreign exchange settlement of capital accounts, in practice, there are still several specific requirements that limit the abilities of PRC enterprises to access the offshore financing capitals, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and operating results.

Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the price of our ADSs.

The value of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollar and other currencies may fluctuate and is affected by, among other things, changes in political and economic conditions in China and by China’s foreign exchange policies. On July 21, 2005, the PRC government changed its decade-old policy of pegging the value of the Renminbi to the U.S. dollar, and the Renminbi appreciated more than 20% against the U.S. dollar over the following three years. Between July 2008 and June 2010, this appreciation halted and the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar remained within a narrow band. Since June 2010, the Renminbi has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. On November 30, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the regular five-year review of the basket of currencies that make up the Special Drawing Right, or the SDR, and decided that with effect from October 1, 2016, Renminbi is determined to be a freely usable currency and will be included in the SDR basket as a fifth currency, along with the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound. For U.S. dollars against Renminbi, there was depreciation of approximately 6.3%, appreciation of approximately 5.7% and appreciation of approximately 1.3% in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. With the development of the foreign exchange market and progress towards interest rate liberalization and Renminbi internationalization, the PRC government may in the future announce further changes to the exchange rate system and we cannot assure you that the Renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future. In addition, the People’s Bank of China may, from time to time, release policies and measures concerning the foreign exchange market to limit fluctuations in Renminbi exchange rates and for other policy considerations.

A substantial portion of our revenues and costs are denominated in Renminbi, whereas our reporting currency is the U.S. dollar. Any significant depreciation of the Renminbi may materially and adversely affect our revenues, earnings and financial position as reported in U.S. dollars. To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars we receive from our offshore fundraisings into Renminbi for our operations, appreciation of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the Renminbi amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, if we decide to convert our Renminbi 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 Renminbi would have an adverse effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us.

 

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We estimate that a 10% depreciation of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar based on the foreign exchange rate on December 31, 2017 would result in a decrease of US$10.4 million and US$9.4 million in our net revenues and cost of revenues in 2017, respectively; a 10% depreciation of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar based on the foreign exchange rate on December 31, 2018 would result in a decrease of US$14.1 million and US$11.6 million in our net revenues and cost of revenues in 2018, respectively; and a 10% depreciation of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar based on the foreign exchange rate on December 31, 2019 would result in a decrease of US$19.6 million and US$15.9 million in our net revenues and cost of revenues in 2019, respectively.

Very limited hedging options are available in China to reduce our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. To date, we have not entered into any hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to foreign currency exchange risk. While we may decide to enter into hedging transactions in the future, the availability and effectiveness of these hedges may be limited and we may not be able to adequately hedge our exposure or at all. In addition, our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert Renminbi into foreign currency.

Governmental control of currency conversion may limit our ability to utilize our revenues effectively and affect the value of your investment.

The PRC government imposes controls on the convertibility of the Renminbi into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. We receive a substantial portion of our revenues in Renminbi. Under our current corporate structure, our company in the Cayman Islands relies on dividend payments from our PRC subsidiaries and HK subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have. Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payments of current account items, such as profit distributions and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior approval from the SAFE by complying with certain procedural requirements. Therefore, our PRC subsidiaries are able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to us without prior approval from the SAFE, subject to the condition that the remittance of such dividends outside of the PRC complies with certain procedures under PRC foreign exchange regulation, such as the overseas investment registrations by the beneficial owners of our company who are PRC residents. However, approval from or registration with appropriate government authorities is required where the Renminbi is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies, as enterprises shall duly file the cross- border financing contracts according to the Circular of the People’s Bank of China on Matters relating to the Macro-prudential Management of Full-covered Cross-border Financing for the Issuance of Foreign Debts by Enterprise, or Circular on Management of Cross-border Financing, effective on January 12, 2017, and any medium or long term loan to be provided by foreign entities to domestic enterprises must be recorded and registered by the National Development and Reform Committee, or the NDRC, according to the Circular on Promoting the Administrative Reform of the Record-filing and Registration System for the Issuance of Foreign Debts by Enterprises, or Circular on Promoting the Administrative Reform, by the NDRC on September 14, 2015.

In light of the flood of capital outflows of China in 2016 due to the weakening Renminbi, the PRC government has imposed more restrictive foreign exchange policies and stepped up scrutiny of major outbound capital movement. More restrictions and substantial vetting process are put in place by the SAFE to regulate cross-border transactions falling under the capital account. The PRC government may at its discretion further restrict access in the future to foreign currencies for current account transactions. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currencies to satisfy our foreign currency demands, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of our ADSs.

PRC regulations relating to investments in offshore special purposes companies by PRC residents may subject our PRC-resident beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiaries to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiaries or limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits.

The SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control on Domestic Residents’ Offshore Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, on July 4, 2014. SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents to register with the local SAFE branches in connection with their direct establishment or indirect control of any offshore entity, referred to in SAFE Circular 37 as a “special purpose vehicle,” for the purpose of overseas investment and financing with such PRC residents’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests. SAFE Circular 37 requires further registrations in the event of any significant changes with respect to the special purpose vehicle, such as increase or decrease of capital contributed by PRC individuals, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material events. In the event that a PRC shareholder holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to fulfill this required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that special purpose vehicle may be prohibited from making profit distributions to the offshore parent and from carrying out subsequent cross-border foreign exchange activities, and it may be restricted from contributing additional capital into its PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liabilities under PRC law for evasion of foreign exchange controls. According to the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Policies for the Foreign Exchange Administration of Direct Investment released on February 13, 2015 by the SAFE, local banks shall examine and handle foreign exchange registration for overseas direct investment, including the initial foreign exchange registration and amendment registration under SAFE Circular 37 since June 1, 2015. Beneficial owners of the special purpose vehicle who are PRC citizens are also required to make annual filing with the local banks regarding their overseas direct investment status.

 

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Moreover, we do not have control over our beneficial owners and may not be aware of the identities of all of our beneficial owners. We cannot assure you that all of our PRC-resident beneficial owners comply with SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules. The failure of our beneficial owners who are PRC residents to register or amend their foreign exchange registrations in a timely manner pursuant to SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules, or the failure of future beneficial owners of our company who are PRC residents to comply with the registration procedures set forth in SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules, may subject such beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiaries to fines and legal sanctions. Failure to register or comply with relevant requirements may also limit our ability to contribute capital to our PRC subsidiaries and limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to us. These risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The M&A rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for some acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China.

Among other things, the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A rules, established additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex. Such regulation requires, among other things, that the MOFCOM be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor acquires control of a PRC domestic enterprise or a foreign company with substantial PRC operations, if certain thresholds under the Provisions on Thresholds for Prior Notification of Concentrations of Undertakings, issued by the State Council in 2008, were triggered.

Moreover, the Anti-Monopoly Law promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the PRC, which became effective in 2008 requires that transactions which are deemed concentrations and involve parties with specified turnover thresholds must be cleared by MOFCOM before they can be completed. In addition, the Notice of the General Office of the State Council on Establishing the Security Review System for Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors which became effective in March 2011 requires acquisitions by foreign investors of PRC companies engaged in military related or certain other industries that are crucial to national security be subject to security review before consummation of any such acquisition. We may pursue potential strategic acquisitions that are complementary to our business and operations. Complying with the requirements of these regulations to complete such transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval or clearance from the MOFCOM, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.

Any failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee stock incentive plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.

Pursuant to SAFE Circular 37, PRC residents who participate in share incentive plans in overseas non-publicly-listed companies may submit applications to the SAFE or its local branches for the foreign exchange registration with respect to offshore special purpose companies. In the meantime, our directors, executive officers and other employees who are PRC citizens or who are non-PRC residents residing in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year, subject to limited exceptions, and who have been granted incentive share awards by us, may follow the Notices on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plan of Overseas Publicly-Listed Company, promulgated by SAFE in 2012, or the 2012 SAFE Notices. Pursuant to the 2012 SAFE Notices, PRC citizens and non-PRC citizens who reside in China for a continuous period of not less than one year who participate in any stock incentive plan of an overseas publicly listed company, subject to a few exceptions, are required to register with SAFE through a domestic qualified agent, which could be the PRC subsidiaries of such overseas listed company, and complete certain other procedures. In addition, an overseas entrusted institution must be retained to handle matters in connection with the exercise or sale of stock options and the purchase or sale of shares and interests. We and our executive officers and other employees who are PRC citizens or who reside in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year and who have been granted options are subject to these regulations. Failure to complete SAFE registrations may subject them to fines, and legal sanctions and may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital into our PRC subsidiaries and limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to us. We also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional incentive plans for our directors, executive officers and employees under PRC law. See “Item 4. Information On the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Exchange—Equity Incentive Plans.”

The State Administration of Taxation, or SAT, has issued certain circulars concerning employee share options and restricted shares. Under these circulars, our employees working in China who exercise share options or are granted restricted shares will be subject to PRC individual income tax. Our PRC subsidiaries have obligations to file documents related to employee share options or restricted shares with relevant tax authorities and to withhold individual income taxes of those employees who exercise their share options. If our employees fail to pay or we fail to withhold their income taxes according to relevant laws and regulations, we may face sanctions imposed by the tax authorities or other PRC governmental authorities. See “Item 4. Information On the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Exchange—Equity Incentive Plans.”

 

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Failure to make adequate contributions to various employee benefit plans as required by PRC regulations may subject us to penalties.

Companies operating in China are required to participate in various government sponsored employee benefit plans, including certain social insurance, housing funds and other welfare-oriented payment obligations, and contribute to the plans in amounts equal to certain percentages of salaries, including bonuses and allowances, of our employees up to a maximum amount specified by the local government from time to time at locations where we operate our businesses. The requirement of employee benefit plans has not been implemented consistently by the local governments in China given the different levels of economic development in different locations. We have not made adequate employee benefit payments. We may be required to make up the contributions for these plans as well as to pay late fees and fines. If we are subject to late fees or fines in relation to the underpaid employee benefits, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

If we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise for PRC income tax purposes, such classification could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our non-PRC shareholders or ADS holders.

Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, or the EIT law, and its implementation rules, an enterprise established outside of the PRC with a “de facto management body” within the PRC is considered a resident enterprise and will be subject to the enterprise income tax on its global income at the rate of 25%. The implementation rules define the term “de facto management body” as the body that exercises full and substantial control over and overall management of the business, productions, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. In April 2009, the SAT issued the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, as amended on December 29, 2017, known as Circular 82, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a PRC-controlled enterprise that is incorporated offshore is located in China. Although this circular applies only to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise groups, not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners like us, the criteria set forth in the circular may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of all offshore enterprises. According to Circular 82, an offshore incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its global income only if all of the following conditions are met: (a) the primary location of the day-to-day operational management is in the PRC; (b) decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or are subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC; (c) the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals, and board and shareholder resolutions, are located or maintained in the PRC; and (d) at least 50% of voting board members or senior executives habitually reside in the PRC.

We believe none of our entities outside of China is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—People’s Republic of China Taxation.” However, the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body”. As a majority of our management members are based in China, it remains unclear how the tax residency rule will apply to our case. If the PRC tax authorities determine that iClick Interactive Asia Group Limited or any of our subsidiaries outside of China is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes, then iClick Interactive Asia Group Limited or such subsidiary could be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 25% on its world-wide income, which could materially reduce our net income. In addition, we will also be subject to PRC enterprise income tax reporting obligations. Furthermore, income and any gains realized in respect to our ordinary shares or ADSs may be deemed by the PRC tax authorities as income or gain, as the case may be, arising from sources within the PRC, as described immediately below.

You may be subject to PRC income tax on dividends from us or on any gain realized on the transfer of our ordinary shares.

Under the EIT Law and its implementation rules, subject to any applicable tax treaty or similar arrangement between the PRC and our shareholders’ jurisdictions of residence that provide for a different income tax arrangement, PRC withholding tax at the rate of 10% is generally applicable to dividends from PRC sources paid to shareholders that are non-PRC resident enterprises, which do not have an establishment or place of business