|Item 1 Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers|
|Item 2 Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable|
|Item 3 Key Information|
|Item 4 Information on The Company|
|Item 4A. Unresolved Staff Comments|
|Item 5 Operating and Financial Review and Prospects|
|Item 6 Directors, Senior Management and Employees|
|Item 7 Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions|
|Item 8 Financial Information|
|Item 9 The Offer and Listing|
|Item 10 Additional Information|
|Item 11 Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk|
|Item 12 Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities|
|Item 13 Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies|
|Item 14 Material Modifications To The Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds|
|Item 15 Controls and Procedures|
|Item 16A. Audit Committee Financial Expert|
|Item 16B. Code of Ethics|
|Item 16C. Principal Accountant Fees and Services|
|Item 16D. Exemptions From The Listing Standards for Audit Committee|
|Item 16E. Purchases of Equity Securities By The Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers|
|Item 16F. Change in Registrant's Certifying Accountant.|
|Item 16G. Corporate Governance.|
|Item 16H. Mine Safety Disclosure.|
|Item 17 Financial Statements.|
|Item 18 Financial Statements.|
|Item 19 Exhibits.|
|Balance Sheet||Income Statement||Cash Flow|
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(B) OR 12(G) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(D) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(D) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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...............
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 001-36614
|Alibaba Group Holding Limited |
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
c/o Alibaba Group Services Limited
26/F Tower One, Times Square
1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay
(Address of principal executive offices)
Timothy A. Steinert, Esq., General Counsel and Secretary
Alibaba Group Holding Limited
c/o Alibaba Group Services Limited
26/F Tower One, Times Square
1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay
(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(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Ordinary Shares, par value US$0.000025 per share|
American Depositary Shares, each representing one Ordinary Share
|BABA||New York Stock Exchange|
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer's classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report: 2,587,059,572 Ordinary Shares
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
ý Yes o No
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
o Yes ý 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.
ý Yes o 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).
ý Yes o No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer ý||Accelerated filer o||Non-accelerated filer o||Emerging growth company o|
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act o
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
|U.S. GAAP ý||International Financial Reporting Standards as issued |
by the International Accounting Standards Board o
If "Other" has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.
o Item 17 o Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934).
o Yes ý 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.
o Yes o No
| || ||Page|
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES
MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS
THE OFFER AND LISTING
QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES
DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES
MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS
CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT
CODE OF ETHICS
PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES
EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEE
PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS
CHANGE IN REGISTRANT'S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT
MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE
Unless the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report on Form 20-F to:
Our reporting currency is the Renminbi. This annual report contains translations of Renminbi and Hong Kong dollar amounts into U.S. dollars at specific rates solely for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations of Renminbi and Hong Kong dollars into U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars into Renminbi in this annual report were made at a rate of RMB6.7112 to US$1.00 and HK$7.8498 to US$1.00, the respective exchange rates on March 29, 2019 set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board. We make no representation that any Renminbi, Hong Kong dollar or U.S. dollar amounts referred to in this annual report could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars, Renminbi or Hong Kong dollars, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all. On May 31, 2019, the noon buying rate for Renminbi and Hong Kong dollars was RMB6.9027 to US$1.00 and HK$7.8387 to US$1.00, respectively.
This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including statements based on our current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about us, our industries and the regulatory environment in which we and companies integral to our digital economy operate. These forward-looking statements are made under the "safe harbor" provision under Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. 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. In some cases, these forward-looking statements can be identified by words or phrases such as "may," "will," "expect," "anticipate," "aim," "estimate," "intend," "plan," "believe," "potential," "continue," "is/are likely to" or other similar expressions. The forward-looking statements included in this annual report relate to, among others:
The global and China Internet, retail, wholesale, online and mobile commerce, cloud computing, and digital media and entertainment industries or markets may not grow at the rates projected by market data, or at all. The failure of these industries or markets to grow at the projected rates may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and the market price of our ADSs. If any one or more of the assumptions underlying the industry or market data turns out to be incorrect, actual results may differ from the projections based on these assumptions. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.
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. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. You should read this annual report and the documents that we have referred to in this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect.
A. Selected Financial Data
The selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended March 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019, and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of March 31, 2018 and 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. Our selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended March 31, 2015 and 2016 and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of March 31, 2015, 2016 and 2017 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements not included in this annual report. Our financial statements have been prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP.
The following selected consolidated financial data for the periods and as of the dates indicated are qualified by reference to and should be read in conjunction with our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects," both of which are included elsewhere in this annual report.
Our historical results for any prior period do not necessarily indicate our results to be expected for any future period.
Consolidated Statements of Operations Data:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in millions, except per share data) |
Cost of revenue
Product development expenses
Sales and marketing expenses
General and administrative expenses
Amortization of intangible assets
Impairment of goodwill
Income from operations
Interest and investment income, net
Other income, net
Income before income tax and share of results of equity investees
Income tax expenses
Share of results of equity investees
Net (income) loss attributable to noncontrolling interests
Net income attributable to Alibaba Group Holding Limited
Accretion of convertible preference shares(1) and mezzanine equity
Dividends accrued on convertible preference shares(1)
Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders
Earnings per share/ADS attributable to ordinary shareholders:
Weighted average number of shares used in computing earnings per share:
Marketplace-based core commerce adjusted EBITA
Non-GAAP net income
Non-GAAP diluted EPS
Free cash flow
We use adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITA, marketplace-based core commerce adjusted EBITA, non-GAAP net income, non-GAAP diluted EPS and free cash flow, each a non-GAAP financial measure, in evaluating our operating results and for financial and operational decision-making purposes.
We believe that adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITA, marketplace-based core commerce adjusted EBITA, non-GAAP net income and non-GAAP diluted EPS help identify underlying trends in our business that could otherwise be distorted by the effect of certain income or expenses that we include in income from operations, net income and diluted EPS. We believe that these non-GAAP measures provide useful information about our core operating results, enhance the overall understanding of our past performance and future prospects and allow for greater visibility with respect to key metrics used by our management in its financial and operational decision-making.
We consider free cash flow to be a liquidity measure that provides useful information to management and investors about the amount of cash generated by our business that can be used for strategic corporate transactions, including investing in our new business initiatives, making strategic investments and acquisitions and strengthening our balance sheet.
Adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITA, marketplace-based core commerce EBITA, non-GAAP net income, non-GAAP diluted EPS and free cash flow should not be considered in isolation or construed as an alternative to income from operations, core-commerce EBITA, net income, diluted EPS, cash flows or any other measure of performance or as an indicator of our operating performance. These non-GAAP financial measures presented here do not have standardized meanings prescribed by U.S. GAAP and may not be comparable to similarly-titled measures presented by other companies. Other companies may calculate similarly-titled measures differently, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures to our data.
Adjusted EBITDA represents net income before (i) interest and investment income, net, interest expense, other income, net, income tax expenses and share of results of equity investees, (ii) certain non-cash expenses, consisting of share-based compensation expense, amortization, depreciation, impairment of goodwill and (iii) settlement of a U.S. federal class action lawsuit, which we do not believe are reflective of our core operating performance during the periods presented.
Adjusted EBITA represents net income before (i) interest and investment income, net, interest expense, other income, net, income tax expenses and share of results of equity investees, (ii) certain non-cash expenses, consisting of share-based compensation expense, amortization and impairment of goodwill and (iii) settlement of a U.S. federal class action lawsuit, which we do not believe are reflective of our core operating performance during the periods presented.
Marketplace-based core commerce adjusted EBITA represents EBITA for core commerce excluding the effects of (i) local consumer services, (ii) Lazada, (iii) New Retail and direct import and (iv) Cainiao Network.
Non-GAAP net income represents net income before share-based compensation expense, amortization, impairment of goodwill and investments, gain on deemed disposals/disposals/revaluation of investments, settlement of a U.S. federal class action lawsuit, amortization of excess value receivable arising from the restructuring of commercial arrangements with Ant Financial, immediate recognition of unamortized professional fees and upfront fees upon early repayment/termination of bank borrowings, the expenses relating to the sale of shares by existing shareholders in our initial public offering and others, as adjusted for the tax effects on non-GAAP adjustments.
Non-GAAP diluted EPS represents non-GAAP net income attributable to ordinary shareholders divided by the weighted average number of shares outstanding during the periods on a diluted basis, including accounting for the effects of the assumed conversion of convertible preference shares prior to our initial public offering in September 2014.
Free cash flow represents net cash provided by operating activities as presented in our consolidated cash flow statement less purchases of property and equipment (excluding acquisition of land use rights and construction in
progress relating to office campus), licensed copyrights and other intangible assets, and adjusted for changes in loan receivables relating to micro loans of our SME loan business (which we transferred to Ant Financial in February 2015) and others. We present the adjustment for changes in loan receivables because these receivables are reflected under cash flows from operating activities, whereas the secured borrowings and other bank borrowings used to finance them are reflected under cash flows from financing activities, and accordingly, the adjustment is made to show cash flows from operating activities net of the effect of changes in loan receivables.
The following table sets forth a reconciliation of our net income to adjusted EBITA and adjusted EBITDA for the periods indicated:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in millions) |
Less: Interest and investment income, net
Add: Interest expense
Less: Other income, net
Add: Income tax expenses
Add: Share of results of equity investees
Income from operations
Add: Share-based compensation expense
Add: Amortization of intangible assets
Add: Impairment of goodwill
Add: Settlement of U.S. federal class action lawsuit(1)
Add: Depreciation and amortization of property and equipment and land use rights
The following table sets forth a reconciliation of adjusted EBITA for core commerce to marketplace-based core commerce adjusted EBITA for the periods indicated:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in millions) |
Adjusted EBITA for core commerce
Less: Effects of local consumer services, Lazada, New Retail and direct import and Cainiao Network
Marketplace-based core commerce adjusted EBITA
The following table sets forth a reconciliation of our net income to non-GAAP net income for the periods indicated:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in millions) |
Add: Share-based compensation expense
Add: Amortization of intangible assets
Add: Impairment of goodwill and investments
Less: Gain on deemed disposals/disposals/revaluation of investments and others
Add: Settlement of U.S. federal class action lawsuit(1)
Add: Amortization of excess value receivable arising from the restructuring of commercial arrangements with Ant Financial
Add: Immediate recognition of unamortized professional fees and upfront fees upon early repayment/termination of bank borrowings
Add: Expenses relating to the sale of shares by existing shareholders at initial public offering
Adjusted for tax effects on non-GAAP adjustments(2)
Non-GAAP net income
The following table sets forth a reconciliation of our diluted EPS to non-GAAP diluted EPS for the periods indicated:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in millions) |
Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders
Add: Reversal of accretion upon assumed conversion of convertible preference shares
Add: Dividend eliminated upon assumed conversion of convertible preference shares
Less: Dilution effect on earnings arising from share-based awards operated by a subsidiary and equity investees
Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders for computing diluted EPS
Add: Non-GAAP adjustments to net income(1)
Non-GAAP net income attributable to ordinary shareholders for computing non-GAAP diluted EPS
Weighted average number of shares on a diluted basis
Add: Non-GAAP adjustments to net income per share(3)
Non-GAAP diluted EPS(4)
The following table sets forth a reconciliation of net cash provided by operating activities to free cash flow for the periods indicated:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in millions) |
Net cash provided by operating activities(1)
Less: Purchase of property and equipment (excluding land use rights and construction in progress relating to office campus)
Less: Acquisition of licensed copyrights and other intangible assets
Add: Changes in loan receivables, net and others
Free cash flow
Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
| ||As of March 31,|
| ||(in millions) |
Cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments
Investment securities and investments in equity investees(1)
Property and equipment, net
Goodwill and intangible assets, net
Accrued expenses, accounts payable and other liabilities(2)
Deferred tax liabilities
Unsecured senior notes(4)
Total Alibaba Group Holding Limited shareholders' equity
Selected Operating Data
Annual active consumers
The table below sets forth the number of annual active consumers on our China retail marketplaces for the periods indicated:
| ||Twelve months ended|
| ||Jun 30, |
|Sep 30, |
|Dec 31, |
|Mar 31, |
|Jun 30, |
|Sep 30, |
|Dec 31, |
|Mar 31, |
| ||(in millions) |
Annual active consumers
The table below sets forth the mobile MAUs on our China retail marketplaces for the periods indicated:
| ||The month ended|
| ||Jun 30, |
|Sep 30, |
|Dec 31, |
|Mar 31, |
|Jun 30, |
|Sep 30, |
|Dec 31, |
|Mar 31, |
| ||(in millions) |
The table below sets forth the GMV in respect of our China retail marketplaces for the periods indicated:
| ||Year ended March 31,|
| ||(in billions of RMB) |
Taobao Marketplace GMV
Exchange Rate Information
Most of our revenues and expenses are denominated in Renminbi. This annual report contains translations of Renminbi amounts and Hong Kong dollar amounts into U.S. dollars at specific rates solely for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations from Renminbi and Hong Kong dollars into U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars into Renminbi in this annual report were made at a rate of RMB6.7112 to US$1.00 and HK$7.8498 to US$1.00, the respective exchange rates on March 29, 2019 set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board. We make no representation that any Renminbi, Hong Kong dollar or U.S. dollar amounts referred to in this annual report could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all. The PRC government imposes control over its foreign currency reserves in part through direct regulation of the conversion of Renminbi into foreign exchange and through restrictions on foreign trade. On May 31, 2019, the noon buying rate for Renminbi and Hong Kong dollars was RMB6.9027 to US$1.00 and HK$7.8387 to US$1.00, respectively.
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D. Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Maintaining the trusted status of our digital economy is critical to our success and growth, and any failure to do so could severely damage our reputation and brand, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We have established a strong brand name and reputation for our digital economy. Any loss of trust in our digital economy or platforms could harm our reputation and the value of our brand, and could result in consumers, merchants, brands, retailers and other participants reducing their levels of activity in our digital economy, which could materially reduce our revenue and profitability. Our ability to maintain trust in our digital economy and platforms is based in large part upon:
Sustained investment in our business, strategic acquisitions and investments, as well as our focus on long-term performance, and on maintaining the health of our digital economy, may negatively affect our margins and our net income.
We focus on the long-term interests of the participants in our digital economy. We continue to increase our spending and investments in our business, strategic acquisitions and certain initiatives. Many of our newly invested businesses have lower or negative margins, and others are in the early stages of exploring, establishing and optimizing appropriate monetization models, many of which are less efficient in attracting and converting paying merchants, subscribers or other participants as compared with certain of the marketplaces and other businesses we operate. We believe these investments and initiatives are crucial to our success and future growth, but they will have the effect of increasing our costs and lowering our margins and profit, and this effect may be significant in the short term and potentially over longer periods. We expect our margins will decrease as we continue to make these and similar investments. From fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2019, our adjusted EBITDA margin declined from 42% to 32%. These investments and initiatives include:
We have made, and intend to continue to make, strategic investments and acquisitions to further strengthen our digital economy. We may make strategic investments and acquisitions in a range of areas either directly related to one or more of our businesses, or related to the infrastructure, technology, services or products that support our businesses and digital economy. Our strategic investments and acquisitions may adversely affect our financial results, at least in the short term. For example, acquisitions of, and continued investments in, businesses with lower margins or which are loss-making, such as our acquisitions of a controlling stake in Lazada and Cainiao Network, and our newly integrated local consumer services business, have negatively affected our margins and net income. Acquired businesses that are loss-making may continue to sustain losses and may not become profitable in the near future or at all. Investments made to expand our business, facilities and workforce will also involve costs and risks, such as potential labor disputes and compliance costs and risks. The performance of our current and future equity investees and investment areas may also adversely affect our net income. There can be no assurance that we will be able to grow our acquired or invested businesses, or realize returns, benefits of synergies and growth opportunities we expect in connection with these investments and acquisitions. Also refer to " We face risks relating to our acquisitions, investments and alliances."
We may not be able to maintain or grow our revenue or our business.
We have experienced significant growth in revenue and in our business in recent years. Our ability to continue to grow our revenue depends on a number of factors. See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects Operating Results Factors Affecting Our Results of Operations Our Ability to Create Value for Our Users and Generate Revenue" and " Our Monetization Model."
Our revenue growth also depends on our ability to continue to grow our core businesses as well as businesses we have acquired or which we consolidate. We are exploring and will continue to explore in the future new business initiatives, including in industries and markets in which we have limited or no experience, as well as new business models, that may be untested. Developing new businesses, initiatives and models requires significant investments of time and resources, and may present new and difficult technological, operational and compliance challenges. Particularly in the commerce space, we expect to face various challenges while facilitating the convergence of online and offline retail and digitalization of offline business operations. Many of these challenges may be specific to business areas we do not have sufficient experience with. We may encounter difficulties or setbacks in the execution of various growth strategies, including our New Retail initiatives, which we expect to be an important driver of our future growth, and this and the other growth strategies may not generate the returns we expect within the timeframe we anticipate, or at all.
In addition, our overall or segment revenue growth may slow or our revenues may decline for other reasons, including decreasing consumer spending, increasing competition and slowing growth of China's retail industry, as well as changes in the geopolitical landscape, government policies or general economic conditions. As our revenue grows to a higher base level, our revenue growth rate may slow in the future. Furthermore, due to the size and scale we have achieved, our user base may not continue to grow as quickly or at all.
If we are unable to compete effectively, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
We face increasingly intense competition, principally from established Chinese Internet companies, such as Tencent, and their respective affiliates, as well as global and regional e-commerce players, such as Amazon, other providers of local consumer services, and in the cloud computing and digital media and entertainment areas. These areas of our business are subject to rapid market change, the introduction of new business models, and the entry of new and well-funded competitors. Increased investments made and lower prices offered by our competitors may require
us to divert significant managerial, financial and human resources in order to remain competitive, and ultimately may reduce our market share and negatively impact the profitability of our business. We mainly compete to:
Our ability to compete depends on a number of other factors as well, some of which may be beyond our control, including alliances, acquisitions or consolidations within our industries that may result in stronger competitors, and changes in the regulatory environment in the markets we operate. Existing and new competitors may leverage their established platforms or market positions, or introduce innovative business models, to launch highly-engaging content, products or services that may attract a large user base and achieve rapid growth, which may materially and adversely affect our business expansion and results of operations. We increasingly face competition from domestic and international players operating in these markets, as well as potential political measures, regulatory challenges and protectionist policies that may support domestic players in those markets. As we develop our platforms and other businesses, such as our New Retail initiatives and other direct sales businesses, we may also be perceived to compete with other participants in our digital economy, such as certain merchants and retailers, which may negatively affect our relationships with them.
If we are not able to compete effectively, the level of economic activity and user engagement in our digital economy may decrease and our market share and profitability may be negatively affected, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as our reputation and brand.
We may not be able to maintain and improve the network effects of our digital economy, which could negatively affect our business and prospects.
Our ability to maintain a healthy and vibrant digital economy that creates strong network effects among consumers, merchants, brands, retailers and other participants is critical to our success. The extent to which we are able to maintain and strengthen these network effects depends on our ability to:
In addition, changes to current operations we may make to enhance and improve our digital economy or to comply with regulatory requirements may be viewed positively from one participant group's perspective, such as consumers, but may have negative effects from another group's perspective, such as merchants. If we fail to balance the interests of all participants in our digital economy, consumers, merchants, brands, retailers and other participants may spend less time, mind-share and resources on our platforms and may conduct fewer transactions or use alternative platforms, any of which could result in a material decrease in our revenue and net income.
We may not be able to maintain our culture, which has been a key to our success.
Since our founding, our culture has been defined by our mission, vision and values, and we believe that our culture has been critical to our success. In particular, our culture has helped us serve the long-term interests of our customers, attract, retain and motivate employees and create value for our shareholders. We face a number of challenges that may affect our ability to sustain our corporate culture, including:
If we are not able to maintain our culture or if our culture fails to deliver the long-term results we expect to achieve, our reputation, business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
If we are not able to continue to innovate or if we fail to adapt to changes in our industry, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
Our industry is characterized by rapidly changing technology, evolving industry standards, new mobile apps and protocols, new products and services, new media and entertainment content including user-generated content and changing user demands and trends. Furthermore, our domestic and international competitors are continuously developing innovations in personalized search and recommendation, online shopping and marketing, communications, social networking, entertainment, logistics and other services, to enhance user experience. As a result, we continue to invest significant resources in our infrastructure, research and development and other areas in order to enhance our businesses and operations, as well as to explore new growth strategies and introduce new high-quality products and services. Our investments in innovations and new technologies, which may be significant, may not increase our competitiveness or generate financial returns in the short term, or at all, and we may not be successful in adopting and implementing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, or AI. Our investments and projects to develop new growth initiatives and technologies may be hindered by political measures, regulatory scrutiny or other protectionist policies, on national security grounds or for other reasons. The changes and developments taking place in our industry may also require us to re-evaluate our business model and adopt significant changes to our long-term strategies and business plans. Our failure to innovate and adapt to these changes and developments would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Even if we timely innovate and adopt changes in our strategies and plans, we may nevertheless fail to realize the anticipated benefits of these changes or even generate lower levels of revenue as a result.
Our failure to manage the significant challenges involved in growing our business and operations could harm us.
Our business has become increasingly complex as the scale, diversity and geographic coverage of our business and our workforce continue to expand. This expansion increases the complexity of our operations and places a significant strain on our management, operational and financial resources. The challenges involved in expanding our businesses require our employees to handle new and expanded responsibilities and duties. If our employees fail to adapt to the expansion or if we are unsuccessful in hiring, training, managing and integrating new employees or retraining and expanding the roles of our existing employees, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially harmed.
Moreover, our current and planned staffing, systems, policies, procedures and controls may not be adequate to support our future operations. To effectively manage continuing expansion and growth of our operations and workforce, we will need to continue to improve our personnel management, transaction processing, operational and financial systems, policies, procedures and controls, which could be particularly challenging as we acquire new operations with different and incompatible systems in new industries or geographic areas. These efforts will require significant managerial, financial and human resources. There can be no assurance that we will be able to effectively manage our growth or to implement all these systems, policies, procedures and control measures successfully. If we are not able to manage our growth effectively, our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
We face risks relating to our acquisitions, investments and alliances.
We have acquired and invested in a large number and a diverse range of businesses, including those in different countries and regions, technologies, services and products in recent years, including investments of varying sizes in equity investees and joint ventures, and, from time to time, we may have a number of pending investments and acquisitions that are subject to closing conditions. See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects A. Operating Results Recent Investment, Acquisition and Strategic Alliance Activities." We expect to continue to evaluate and consider a wide array of potential strategic transactions as part of our overall business strategy, including business combinations, acquisitions and dispositions of businesses, technologies, services, products and other assets, as well as strategic investments, joint ventures and alliances. At any given time we may be engaged in
discussing or negotiating a range of these types of transactions. These transactions involve significant challenges and risks, including:
These and other risks could lead to negative publicity, litigation, government inquiries, investigations or actions against the companies we invest in or acquire, or even against our other businesses, and may force us to incur significant additional expenses and allocate significant management and human resources to rectify or improve these companies' corporate governance standards or internal controls and systems. As we continue to implement our New Retail strategy, among other initiatives, and further expand our digital economy, we expect that our acquisition and investment activity will continue at a rapid pace, with a large number and diverse range of target companies, and we will continue to face significant challenges, including unanticipated ones, in integrating these businesses into our existing businesses.
We may face challenges in expanding our international and cross-border businesses and operations.
In addition to risks that generally apply to our acquisitions and investments, we face risks associated with expanding into an increasing number of markets where we have limited or no experience, we may be less well-known or have fewer local resources and we may need to localize our business practices, culture and operations. We may also face protectionist policies that could, among other things, hinder our ability to execute our business strategies and put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to domestic companies in other
jurisdictions. The expansion of our international and cross-border businesses will also expose us to risks and challenges inherent in operating businesses globally, including:
Failure to manage these risks and challenges could negatively affect our ability to expand our international and cross-border businesses and operations as well as materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business operations and financial position may be materially and adversely affected by any economic slowdown in China as well as globally.
Our revenue and net income are impacted to a significant extent by economic conditions in China and globally, as well as economic conditions specific to our business. The global economy, markets and levels of spending by businesses and consumers are influenced by many factors beyond our control.
The growth of the PRC economy has slowed in recent years compared to prior years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, China's real GDP growth rate was 6.7% in 2016, which increased to 6.9% in 2017 and slowed to 6.6% in 2018. There have also been concerns about the relationships among China and other Asian
countries, the relationship between China and the United States, as well as the relationship between the United States and certain Asian countries such as North Korea, which may result in or intensify potential conflicts in relation to territorial, regional security and trade disputes. See " Changes in international trade policies and barriers to trade, or the emergence of a trade war, may have an adverse effect on our business and expansion plans." Any disruptions or continuing or worsening slowdown could significantly reduce domestic commerce activities in China, which could lead to significant reduction in merchants' demand for and spending on the various services we offer, such as our marketing services and cloud computing services. An economic downturn, whether actual or perceived, a further decrease in economic growth rates or an otherwise uncertain economic outlook in China or any other market in which we may operate could have a material adverse effect on business and consumer spending and, as a result, adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, because we hold a significant amount of cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments, if financial institutions and issuers of financial instruments that we hold become insolvent or if the market for these financial instruments become illiquid as a result of a severe economic downturn, our business and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Our results of operations fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter which may make it difficult to predict our future performance.
Our results of operations generally are characterized by seasonal fluctuations due to various reasons, including seasonal buying patterns and economic cyclical changes, as well as promotions on our marketplaces. Historically, the fourth quarter of each calendar year generally contributes the largest portion of our annual revenues due to a number of factors, such as merchants allocating a significant portion of their online marketing budgets to the fourth calendar quarter, promotions, such as the 11.11 global shopping festival, and the impact of seasonal buying patterns in respect of certain categories such as apparel. The first quarter of each calendar year generally contributes the smallest portion of our annual revenues, primarily due to a lower level of allocation of marketing budgets by merchants at the beginning of the calendar year and the Chinese New Year holiday, during which time consumers generally spend less and businesses in China are generally closed. We may also introduce new promotions or change the timing of our promotions in ways that further cause our quarterly results to fluctuate and differ from historical patterns. In addition, seasonal weather patterns may affect the timing of buying decisions. The performance of our equity investees and of major businesses in which we have made investments may also result in fluctuations in our results of operations. Fluctuations in our results of operations related to our investments may also result from the accounting implication of re-measurement of fair values of certain financial instruments, share-based awards and previously held equity interests upon disposal or step acquisitions. Given that the fair value movements are beyond our control, the magnitude of the related accounting impact is unpredictable and may significantly affect our results of operations.
Our results of operations will likely fluctuate due to these and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. In addition, our growth in the past may have masked the seasonality that might otherwise be apparent in our results of operations. As the rate of growth of our business declines in comparison to prior periods, we expect that the seasonality in our business may become more pronounced. Moreover, as our business grows, we expect that our fixed costs and expenses will continue to increase, which will result in operating leverage in seasonally strong quarters but can significantly pressure operating margins in seasonally weak quarters.
To the extent our results of operations are below the expectations of public market analysts and investors in the future, or if there are significant fluctuations in our financial results, the market price of our ADSs could fluctuate significantly.
Failure to maintain or improve our technology infrastructure could harm our business and prospects.
We are continuously upgrading our platforms to provide increased scale, improved performance, additional capacity and additional built-in functionality, including functionality related to security. Adopting new products and maintaining and upgrading our technology infrastructure require significant investments of time and resources. Any
failure to maintain and improve our technology infrastructure could result in unanticipated system disruptions, slower response times, impaired user experience and delays in reporting accurate operating and financial information. The risks of these events occurring are even higher during certain periods of peak usage and activity, such as on or around the 11.11 global shopping festival or other promotional events, when user activity and transactions are significantly higher on our marketplaces compared to other days of the year. In addition, much of the software and interfaces we use are internally developed and proprietary technology. If we experience problems with the functionality and effectiveness of our software, interfaces or platforms, or are unable to maintain and continuously improve our technology infrastructure to handle our business needs, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, as well as our reputation and brand, could be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, our technology infrastructure and services, including our cloud product and service offerings, incorporate third-party-developed software, systems and technologies, as well as hardware purchased or commissioned from outside and overseas suppliers. As our technology infrastructure and services expand and become increasingly complex, we face increasingly serious risks to the performance and security of our technology infrastructure and services that may be caused by these third-party-developed components, including risks relating to incompatibilities among these components, service failures or delays or back-end procedures on hardware and software. We also need to continuously enhance our existing technology. Otherwise, we face the risk of our technology infrastructure becoming unstable and susceptible to security breaches. This instability or susceptibility could create serious challenges to the security and uninterrupted operation of our platforms and services, which would materially and adversely affect our business and reputation.
Security breaches and attacks against our systems and network, and any potentially resulting breach or failure to otherwise protect personal, confidential and proprietary information, could damage our reputation and negatively impact our business, as well as materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our cybersecurity measures may not detect, prevent or control all attempts to compromise our systems, including distributed denial-of-service attacks, viruses, Trojan horses, malicious software, break-ins, phishing attacks, third-party manipulation, security breaches, employee misconduct or negligence or other attacks, risks, data leakage and similar disruptions that may jeopardize the security of data stored in and transmitted by our systems or that we otherwise maintain. Breaches of our cybersecurity measures could result in unauthorized access to our systems, misappropriation of information or data, deletion or modification of user information, or a denial-of-service or other interruption to our business operations. As techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to or sabotage systems change frequently and may not be known until launched against us or our third-party service providers, there can be no assurance that we will be able to anticipate, or implement adequate measures to protect against, these attacks.
We have in the past and are likely again in the future to be subject to these types of attacks, breaches and data leakage, although to date no attack, breach or data leakage has resulted in any material damage or remediation cost. In addition, we could be subject to an attack, breach or leakage which we do not discover at the time or the consequences of which are not apparent until a later point in time, that could result in material damages or remediation costs. If we are unable to avert these attacks and security breaches, we could be subject to significant legal and financial liability, our reputation would be harmed and we could sustain substantial revenue loss from lost sales and customer dissatisfaction. We may not have the resources or technical sophistication to anticipate or prevent rapidly-evolving cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks may target us, our merchants, consumers, users, customers, key service providers or other participants in our digital economy, or the communication infrastructure on which we depend. We only carry limited cybersecurity insurance, and actual or anticipated attacks and risks may cause us to incur significantly higher costs, including costs to deploy additional personnel and network protection technologies, train employees, and engage third-party experts and consultants. Cybersecurity breaches would not only harm our reputation and business, but also could materially decrease our revenue and net income.
The successful operation of our business depends upon the performance, reliability and security of the Internet infrastructure in China and other countries in which we operate.
Our business depends on the performance, reliability and security of the telecommunications and Internet infrastructure in China and other countries in which we operate. Substantially all of our computer hardware and a majority of our cloud computing services are currently located in China. Almost all access to the Internet in China is maintained through state-owned telecommunication operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT. In addition, the national networks in China are connected to the Internet through state- owned international gateways, which are the only channels through which a domestic user can connect to the Internet outside of China. We may face similar or other limitations in other countries in which we operate. We may not have access to alternative networks in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems with the Internet infrastructure in China or elsewhere. In addition, the Internet infrastructure in the countries in which we operate may not support the demands associated with continued growth in Internet usage.
The failure of telecommunications network operators to provide us with the requisite bandwidth could also interfere with the speed and availability of our websites and mobile apps. We have no control over the costs of the services provided by the telecommunications operators. If the prices that we pay for telecommunications and Internet services rise significantly, our margins could be adversely affected. In addition, if Internet access fees or other charges to Internet users increase, our user base may decrease, which in turn may significantly decrease our revenues.
Moreover, if the security of domain names is compromised, we will be unable to use the domain names in our business operations, which could materially and adversely affect our business operations, reputation and brand image. If we fail to implement adequate encryption of data transmitted through the networks of the telecommunications and Internet operators we rely upon, there is a risk that telecommunications and Internet operators or their business partners may misappropriate our data, which could materially and adversely affect our business operations and reputation.
Our digital economy could be disrupted by network interruptions.
Our digital economy depends on the efficient and uninterrupted operation of our computer and communications systems. System interruptions and delays may prevent us from efficiently processing the large volume of transactions on our marketplaces and other businesses we operate. In addition, a large number of merchants and customers maintain their important systems, such as enterprise resource planning, or ERP, and customer relationship management, or CRM, systems on our cloud computing platform, which contain substantial quantities of data that enables them to operate and manage their businesses. Increasing media and entertainment content on our platforms also requires additional network capacity and infrastructure to process. Consumers expect our media and entertainment content to be readily available online, and any disruptions or delay to the delivery of content could affect the attractiveness and reputation of our media and entertainment platforms.
We and other participants in our digital economy, including Ant Financial, have experienced, and may experience in the future, system interruptions and delays that render websites, mobile apps and services (such as cloud services and payment services) temporarily unavailable or slow to respond. Although we have prepared for contingencies through redundancy measures and disaster recovery plans and also carry business interruption insurance, these preparations and insurance coverage may not be sufficient. Despite any precautions we may take, the occurrence of a natural disaster or other unanticipated problems at our facilities or the facilities of Ant Financial and other participants in our digital economy, including power outages, system failures, telecommunications delays or failures, construction accidents, break-ins to information technology systems, computer viruses or human errors, could result in delays in or temporary outages of our platforms or services, loss of our, consumers' and customers' data and business interruption for us and our customers. Any of these events could damage our reputation, significantly disrupt our operations and the operations of the participants in our digital economy and subject us to liability,
heightened regulatory scrutiny and increased costs, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in international trade policies and barriers to trade, or the emergence of a trade war, may have an adverse effect on our business and expansion plans.
In recent years, international market conditions and the international regulatory environment have been increasingly affected by competition among countries and geopolitical frictions. Changes to trade policies, treaties and tariffs in the jurisdictions in which we operate, or the perception that these changes could occur, could adversely affect the financial and economic conditions in the jurisdictions in which we operate, as well as our international and cross-border operations, our financial condition and results of operations. The U.S. administration under President Donald Trump has advocated greater restrictions on international trade generally and significant increases on tariffs on certain goods imported into the United States, particularly from China, and has taken steps toward restricting trade in certain goods. For example, in 2018 the United States announced three finalized tariffs that applied exclusively to products imported from China, totaling approximately US$250 billion, and in May 2019 the United States increased from 10% to 25% the rate of certain tariffs previously levied on Chinese products. Trade tension between China and the United States may intensify, and the United States may adopt even more drastic measures in the future.
Changes to laws or policies in the U.S. and other markets may lead to adverse consequences for our businesses. For example, changes in laws and policy could negatively affect both export-focused businesses on AliExpress and Alibaba.com, as well as import-focused businesses on Tmall and Tmall Global. In addition, if trade discussions lead to greater access to the China market, certain of our businesses, such as our cloud business and digital media and entertainment businesses, could be subject to greater competition and pricing pressure, which could reduce our margins or otherwise negatively affect our results of operations.
In addition, China and other countries have retaliated and may further retaliate in response to new trade policies, treaties and tariffs implemented by the United States. This policy retaliation could result in an escalation leading to a trade war, which would have an adverse effect on manufacturing levels, trade levels and industries, including logistics, retail sales and other businesses and services that rely on trade, commerce and manufacturing, as well as on our marketplaces that rely upon imports.
Any escalation in trade tensions or a trade war, or news and rumors of any escalation, could affect activity levels within our digital economy and have a material and adverse effect on our business, results of operations and trading price of our ADSs.
Export control and economic or trade sanctions could subject us to regulatory investigations or other actions and reputational harm, and could negatively affect our technology supply chain and ability to recruit talent and conduct technological collaboration, which could materially and adversely affect our competitiveness and business operations, as well as lead to significant decrease in the trading price of our ADSs.
The United Nations and a number of countries and jurisdictions, including China, the United States and the European Union, or the EU, have adopted various export control and economic or trade sanction regimes. The U.S. government imposes broad economic and trade restrictions on dealings with certain countries and regions, including the Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria, or the Sanctioned Countries, and numerous individuals and entities, including those designated as having engaged in activities relating to terrorism, drug trafficking, cybercrime, the rough diamond trade, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or human rights violations, or the Sanctioned Persons. The U.S. government also imposes more targeted sanctions on certain dealings with countries such as Russia and Venezuela, among others. The U.S. government has recently expanded or suggested that it will expand economic sanctions concerning Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, and there are risks of further enhanced economic sanctions concerning these countries, among others. It is not, however, possible to predict with a reasonable degree of certainty how the regulatory environment concerning U.S. economic sanctions
may develop. The United Nations, the EU, the United Kingdom, or the UK, and other countries also impose economic and trade restrictions, including on certain Sanctioned Countries and Sanctioned Persons.
As a Cayman Islands company with the substantial majority of our subsidiaries and operations outside of the U.S., UK and EU, we are generally not required to comply with U.S., UK, and EU sanctions to the same extent as U.S., UK or EU entities. However, for companies like us, their U.S., UK, and EU subsidiaries, employees who are U.S. persons or UK or EU nationals, activities in the U.S., UK, or EU, activities involving U.S.-origin goods, technology or services, and certain conduct or dealings involving Iran and North Korea, among other activities, are subject to applicable sanctions requirements. We do not have employees or operations in any of the Sanctioned Countries, and, although our websites are open and available worldwide, we do not actively solicit business from the Sanctioned Countries or Sanctioned Persons. In the case of Alibaba.com, our aggregate cash revenue from members in these Sanctioned Countries in fiscal year 2019 accounted for a negligible portion of our total revenue. In the case of AliExpress and our China retail marketplaces, an insignificant percentage of orders have been placed by consumers from the Sanctioned Countries, with a negligible amount of aggregate GMV in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019 through transactions conducted voluntarily among merchants and consumers on these marketplaces. As all transaction fees on AliExpress and our China retail marketplaces are paid by merchants, primarily based in China, we do not earn any fees or commission from consumers in Sanctioned Countries in respect of transactions conducted on these platforms.
Recent economic and trade sanctions threatened and/or imposed by the U.S. government on a number of China-based technology companies, including ZTE Corporation, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., or Huawei, and certain of their respective affiliates, as well as actions brought against Huawei and related persons by the U.S. and the Canadian governments, have raised further concerns as to whether, in the future, there may be additional regulatory challenges or enhanced restrictions involving other China-based technology companies with global operations in areas such as data security, import/export of technology or other business activities. For instance, the U.S. government recently announced an order effectively barring American firms from selling components and software to Huawei and its affiliates. This restriction, and similar or more expansive restrictions that may be imposed by the U.S. or other jurisdictions in the future, may materially and adversely affect our ability to acquire technologies, systems, devices or components that may be critical to our technology infrastructure, service offerings and business operations. These restrictions or sanctions, even targeting specific entities unrelated to us, could nevertheless also negatively affect our ability to recruit research and development talent or conduct technological collaboration with scientists and research institutes in the U.S., Europe or other countries, which could significantly harm our competitiveness. There can be no assurance that current or future export controls or economic and trade sanctions regulations or developments will not have a negative impact on our business or reputation.
We have established a compliance program that aims to ensure our compliance with these laws and regulations. However, these laws and regulations are complex and subject to frequent change, including with respect to jurisdictional reach and the lists of countries, entities, individuals and technologies subject to sanctions and other regulatory controls. Hence, we may incur significant costs related to current, new or changing sanctions, embargoes or export controls programs, as well as investigations, fines, fees or settlements, which may be difficult to predict. We also could face increased compliance costs and risks as we expand globally and into additional businesses, such as cloud computing. In addition, our expanding network of investee companies, global business partners, joint venture partners or other parties that have collaborative relationships with us or our affiliates may engage in activities in or with Sanctioned Countries, Sanctioned Persons or persons targeted by export control restrictions, which might result in significant negative publicity, governmental investigations and reputational harm. Media reports on alleged violation of export control or economic and trade sanctions laws by our business partners or other companies, even on matters not involving us, could nevertheless damage our reputation and lead to regulatory investigations against us. If we are investigated by any regulator on the basis of suspected or alleged violations of export control or economic and trade sanctions laws and rules, even in situations in which the potential amount or fine involved may be relatively small, our reputation could be significantly harmed. Any of these circumstances may cause the price of our ADSs to decline significantly, and materially reduce the value of your investment in our ADSs.
Certain institutional investors, including state and municipal governments in the United States and universities, as well as financial institutions, have proposed or adopted divestment or similar initiatives regarding investments in companies that do business with Sanctioned Countries. Accordingly, as a result of activities on our marketplaces or in connection with other business we operate that may involve users based in the Sanctioned Countries, certain investors may not wish to invest or may divest their investment in us, certain financial institutions may not wish to lend, extend credit or offer ordinary banking services to us, or seek early repayment of loans made to us, and certain financial institutions and other businesses with which we partner or may partner may seek to avoid business relationships with us. These divestment initiatives and terminations of business services may negatively impact our reputation, business and results of operations, and may materially and adversely affect the trading price of our ADSs.
Our business generates and processes a large amount of data, including personal data, and the improper use or disclosure of data could harm our reputation and have a material adverse effect on the trading price of our ADSs, our business and prospects.
Our business generates and processes a large quantity of personal, behavioral, transaction and demographic data. Our privacy policies concerning the collection, use and disclosure of personal data are posted on our platforms. We face risks inherent in handling and protecting large volumes of data, especially consumer data. In particular, we face a number of challenges relating to data from transactions and other activities on our platforms, including:
These challenges are heightened as we expand our business into jurisdictions with different legal and regulatory regimes, such as the GDPR and the Russian Data Localization Law. There have been reports of a number of incidents relating to data security and unauthorized use of user data by high-profile Internet and technology companies and their business partners. If our user data is improperly used or disclosed by any party, it could result in a loss of users, businesses and other participants from our digital economy, loss of confidence or trust in out platforms, litigation, regulatory investigations, penalties or actions against us, significant damage to our reputation, and have a material adverse effect on the trading price of our ADSs, our business and prospects.
Pursuant to our data sharing agreement with Ant Financial and Alipay, which sets forth data security and confidentiality protocols, we have agreed to a broad sharing of depersonalized data through a data sharing platform that we own and operate, subject to compliance with relevant law. As permitted by our privacy policies and user agreements, we also grant expressly limited access to specified data on our data platform to certain other participants in our digital economy that provide services to consumers, merchants, brands and retailers. These participants in our digital economy face the same challenges inherent in handling and protecting large volumes of data. Any systems failure or security breach or lapse on our or their part that results in the release of user data could harm our reputation and brand and, consequently, our business, in addition to exposing us to potential legal liability or regulatory actions. This could also attract negative publicity from media outlets, privacy advocates, our competitors or others and could adversely affect the trading price of our ADSs.
Our business is subject to complex and evolving domestic and international laws and regulation regarding privacy and data protection. These laws and regulations can be complex and stringent, and many are subject to change and uncertain interpretation, which could result in claims, changes to our data and other business practices, penalties, increased cost of operations, or declines in user growth or engagement, or otherwise affect our business.
Regulatory authorities in China and around the world have implemented and are considering further legislative and regulatory proposals concerning data protection, including measures to ensure that encryption of users' data does not hinder law enforcement agencies' access to that data. New laws and regulations that govern new areas of data protection or impose more stringent requirements may be introduced in China and other jurisdictions where we conduct business or may expand into. In addition, the interpretation and application of consumer and data protection laws in China and elsewhere are often uncertain and in flux. It is possible that existing or newly-introduced laws and regulations, or their interpretation or application, could significantly affect the value of our data and force us to change our data and other business practices.
The PRC regulatory and enforcement regime with regard to privacy and data security is evolving. According to the PRC Cybersecurity Law and relevant regulations, network operators, including us, are obligated to provide assistance and support in accordance with the law for public security and national security authorities to protect national security or assist with criminal investigations. In addition, the PRC Cybersecurity Law provides that personal information and important data collected and generated by operators of critical information infrastructure in the course of their operations in the PRC should be stored in the PRC, and the law imposes heightened regulation and additional security and privacy protection obligations on operators of critical information infrastructure. The PRC National Security Law covers various types of national security, including technology security and information security. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Internet Security." Compliance with the PRC Cybersecurity Law, the PRC National Security Law, as well as additional laws and regulations that PRC regulatory bodies may enact in the future, may result in additional expenses to us and subject us to negative publicity, which could harm our reputation among users and negatively affect the trading price of our ADSs. There are also uncertainties with respect to how the PRC Cybersecurity Law and the PRC National Security Law will be implemented and interpreted in practice. PRC regulators, including the MIIT and the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the Cyberspace Administration, have been increasingly focused on regulation in the areas of data security and data protection. We expect that these areas will receive greater and continued attention and scrutiny from regulators and the public going forward, which could increase our compliance costs and subject us to heightened risks and challenges associated with data security and protection. If we are unable to manage these risks, we could become subject to penalties, including fines, suspension of business and revocation of required licenses, and our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
As we further expand our operations into international markets, we will be subject to additional laws in other jurisdictions where we operate and where our consumers, users, merchants, customers and other participants are located. The laws, rules and regulations of other jurisdictions may be more comprehensive, detailed and nuanced in their scope, and may impose requirements and penalties that conflict with, or are more stringent than, those in China. In addition, these laws, rules and regulations may restrict the transfer of data across jurisdictions, which could impose additional and substantial operational, administrative and compliance burdens on us, and may also restrict our business activities and expansion plans, as well as impede our data-driven business strategies. Complying with laws and regulations for an increasing number of jurisdictions could require significant resources and costs. Our continued expansion into cloud computing services, both in China and elsewhere, will also increase the amount of data hosted on our system, as well as increase the number of jurisdictions in which we have information technology systems. This, as well as the increasing number of new legal requirements in various jurisdictions, such as the Russian Data Localization Law and the GDPR, present increased challenges and risks in relation to policies and procedures relating to data collection, storage, transfer, disclosure, protection and privacy, and will impose significant penalties for non-compliance, including for example, penalties calculated as a percentage of global revenue under the GDPR. The compliance requirements of the GDPR affect a number of our businesses, such as AliExpress and Alibaba Cloud. Compliance with cross-border e-commerce tax laws that
apply to our businesses will also affect a number of our businesses, increase our compliance costs and subject us to additional risks.
Any failure, or perceived failure, by us to comply with the above and other regulatory requirements or privacy protection-related laws, rules and regulations could result in reputational damages or proceedings or actions against us by governmental entities, consumers or others. On the other hand, compliance with these laws and requirements in manners that are perceived as harming privacy could also lead to significant damages to our reputation and similar proceedings and actions against us by regulators and private parties. These proceedings or actions could subject us to significant penalties and negative publicity, require us to change our data and other business practices, increase our costs and severely disrupt our business, hinder our global expansion or negatively affect the trading price of our ADSs.
We rely on Alipay to conduct substantially all of the payment processing and all of the escrow services on our marketplaces. If Alipay's services are limited, restricted, curtailed or degraded in any way, or become unavailable to us or our users for any reason, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Given the significant transaction volume on our platforms, Alipay provides convenient payment processing and escrow services to us through contractual arrangements on preferential terms. These services are critical to our marketplaces and the development of our digital economy. In the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, approximately 70% of the GMV on our China retail marketplaces was settled through Alipay's escrow and payment processing services. We rely on the convenience and ease of use that Alipay provides to our users. If the quality, utility, convenience or attractiveness of Alipay's services declines for any reason, the attractiveness of our marketplaces could be materially and adversely affected.
Alipay's business is subject to a number of risks that could materially and adversely affect its ability to provide payment processing and escrow services to us, including:
In addition, certain commercial banks in China impose limits on the amounts that may be transferred by automated payment from users' bank accounts to their linked accounts with third-party payment services. Although we believe the impact of these restrictions has not been and will not be significant in terms of the overall volume of payments processed for our China retail marketplaces, and automated payment services linked to bank accounts represent only one of many payment mechanisms that consumers may use to settle transactions, we cannot predict whether these and any additional restrictions that could be put in place would have a material adverse effect on our marketplaces.
Alipay's business is highly regulated and faces challenges in managing its regulatory risks. Alipay is required to comply with numerous complex and evolving laws, rules and regulations. In particular, regulators and third parties in China have been increasing their focus on online and mobile payment services, and recent regulatory and other developments could reduce the convenience or utility of Alipay users' accounts. In addition, as Alipay expands its businesses and operations into more international markets, it will become subject to additional legal and regulatory risks and scrutiny. Furthermore, our commercial arrangements with Alipay may be subject to anti-competition challenges. See " We and Ant Financial are subject to a broad range of laws and regulations, and future laws and regulations may impose additional requirements and other obligations on our business or otherwise that could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations," and "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation Applicable to Alipay."
If we needed to migrate to another third-party payment service or significantly expand our relationship with other third-party payment services, the transition would require significant time and management resources, and the third-party payment service may not be as effective, efficient or well-received by consumers, merchants, brands and retailers on our marketplaces. These third-party payment services also may not provide escrow services, and we may not be able to receive commissions based on GMV settled through these systems. We would also receive less, or lose entirely, the benefit of the commercial agreement with Ant Financial and Alipay, which provides us with preferential terms, and would possibly be required to pay more for payment processing and escrow services than we currently pay. There can be no assurance that we would be able to reach an agreement with an alternative online payment service provider on acceptable terms or at all.
We do not control Alipay or its parent entity, Ant Financial, over which Jack Ma effectively controls a majority of the voting interests. If conflicts that could arise between us and Alipay or Ant Financial are not resolved in our favor, our digital economy, business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
Although we rely on Alipay to conduct substantially all of the payment processing and all of the escrow services on our marketplaces and we have agreed to acquire a 33% equity interest in Alipay's parent, Ant Financial, we do not, and will not upon completion of the acquisition, have any control over Alipay. Alipay provides payment services to us on preferential terms pursuant to our long-term commercial agreement with Ant Financial and Alipay. Following the 2011 divestment and subsequent equity holding restructuring related to Ant Financial, an entity wholly owned by Jack Ma, our executive chairman, became the general partner of Hangzhou Junhan Equity Investment Partnership, or Junhan, and Hangzhou Junao Equity Investment Partnership, or Junao, each a PRC limited partnership, which are two major equity holders of Ant Financial. Accordingly, Jack has an economic interest in Ant Financial and is able to exercise the voting power of the equity interest in Ant Financial held by Junhan and Junao. We understand that through the exercise of this voting power, Jack continues to control a majority of the voting interests in Ant Financial.
If Alipay were not able to successfully manage the risks relating to its business, its ability to continue to deliver payment services to us on preferential terms may be undermined. Furthermore, if for any reason, Alipay sought to amend the terms of its agreements and arrangements with us, there can be no assurance that Jack Ma, in light of his voting control over Alipay's parent, Ant Financial, would act in our interest. If Alipay were required by regulators to modify the commercial agreement under certain circumstances, Alipay may not have sufficient funds to adequately compensate us for the impact of the adjustment. If we were to lose the preferential terms with Alipay or if Alipay is unable to successfully manage its business, our digital economy could be negatively affected, and our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Ant Financial also provides other financial services to participants in our digital economy, including wealth management, financing (including consumer financing) and insurance, and may provide additional services in the future. Other conflicts of interest between us, on the one hand, and Alipay and Ant Financial, on the other hand, may arise relating to commercial or strategic opportunities or initiatives. Although we and Ant Financial have each agreed to certain non-competition undertakings, Ant Financial may provide services to our competitors from time to time and there can be no assurance that Ant Financial would not pursue other opportunities that would conflict
with our interests. See "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions B. Related Party Transactions Agreements and Transactions Related to Ant Financial and its Subsidiaries 2014 Share and Asset Purchase Agreement Non-competition Undertakings." Jack Ma may not resolve these conflicts in our favor. Furthermore, our ability to explore alternative payment services other than Alipay for our marketplaces may be constrained due to Jack's relationship with Ant Financial.
In addition, we grant share-based awards to employees of Ant Financial, and Junhan grants share-based awards tied to the value of Ant Financial to our employees, and a subsidiary of Ant Financial grants restricted share unit awards to our employees. The provision of awards relating to Ant Financial to our employees is intended to enhance our strategic and financial relationship with Ant Financial. See "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions B. Related Party Transactions Agreements and Transactions Related to Ant Financial and its Subsidiaries Equity-based Award Arrangements." The share-based awards granted by Junhan and the Ant Financial subsidiary to our employees result in expenses that are recognized by our company. Subject to the approval of our audit committee, Jack (through his role with us and his control over Junhan) and Ant Financial could be in a position to propose and promote further share-based grants that result in additional, and potentially significant, expenses to our company. Accordingly, these and other potential conflicts of interest between us and Ant Financial or Alipay, and between us and Jack or Junhan or Junao, may not be resolved in our favor, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Moreover, because of our close association with Ant Financial and overlapping user bases, events that negatively affect Ant Financial could also negatively affect customers', regulators' and other third parties' perception of us. In addition, any actual or perceived conflict of interest between us and Ant Financial, or any other company integral to the functioning of our digital economy, could also materially harm our reputation as well as our business and prospects.
We may not be able to receive the equity ownership interest in Ant Financial.
Pursuant to the amendment to the 2014 SAPA that we entered into in February 2018 (as amended, the 2018 SAPA Amendment), we have agreed to acquire a 33% equity interest in Ant Financial. The closing of this transaction is subject to the receipt of the necessary PRC regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other conditions.
If Ant Financial does not receive the required PRC regulatory approvals mentioned above, we will not be able to complete the acquisition of the equity ownership interest in Ant Financial, and we would fail to benefit from any appreciation in its equity value beyond the date of a qualified IPO of Ant Financial or Alipay. Our inability to reap the benefits of any appreciation in equity value of Ant Financial, including in connection with a qualified IPO of Ant Financial or Alipay, could represent a significant missed opportunity that is beyond our control.
In addition, the 2018 SAPA Amendment provides that if Ant Financial's intended equity issuance to us is not completed for any reason, we will unwind the 2018 SAPA Amendment and restore the 2014 SAPA and other related agreements. As a result, we may incur additional costs to unwind the 2018 SAPA Amendment and be subject to significant negative publicity, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as the trading price of our ADSs. Pursuant to the 2014 SAPA, in the event of a qualified IPO of Ant Financial or Alipay, if the equity issuance has not been completed or is subsequently unwound, we would be entitled, at our election, to receive a one-time payment equal to the 37.5% of the total equity value of Ant Financial immediately prior to the qualified IPO. If we elect to receive this one-time payment, it is possible that Ant Financial will not have sufficient funds to make the payment in a timely manner or on a schedule acceptable to us. See "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions B. Related Party Transactions Agreements and Transactions Related to Ant Financial and its Subsidiaries 2014 Restructuring of Our Relationship with Ant Financial and Alipay and 2014 Amendments."
We depend on key management as well as experienced and capable personnel generally, and any failure to attract, motivate and retain our staff could severely hinder our ability to maintain and grow our business.
Our future success is significantly dependent upon the continued service of our key executives and other key employees, particularly in new business areas we are expanding into, such as New Retail and local consumer services. If we lose the services of any member of management or key personnel, we may not be able to locate suitable or qualified replacements, and may incur additional expenses to recruit and train new staff. Jack Ma, our lead founder, executive chairman and one of our principal shareholders, has been crucial to the development of our vision, culture and strategic direction. Jack Ma announced that he will retire as our executive chairman in September 2019. Daniel Zhang, our current chief executive officer, has been designated to succeed Jack in that role. This and similar retirements and successions could result in disruptions, or perceived disruptions, in our operations and the execution of our strategy.
As our business develops and evolves, it may become difficult for us to continue to retain our employees. A number of our employees, including many members of management, may choose to pursue other opportunities outside of our company. If we are unable to motivate or retain these employees, our business may be severely disrupted and our prospects could suffer.
The size and scope of our digital economy also require us to hire and retain a wide range of capable and experienced personnel who can adapt to a dynamic, competitive and challenging business environment. We will need to continue to attract and retain experienced and capable personnel at all levels, including members of management, as we expand our business and operations. Our various incentive initiatives may not be sufficient to retain our management and employees. Competition for talent in our industry is intense, and the availability of suitable and qualified candidates in China and elsewhere is limited. Competition for these individuals could cause us to offer higher compensation and other benefits to attract and retain them. Even if we were to offer higher compensation and other benefits, there can be no assurance that these individuals will choose to join or continue to work for us. Any failure to attract or retain key management and personnel could severely disrupt our business and growth.
Failure to deal effectively with fraudulent or illegal activities by our employees would harm our business.
Illegal, fraudulent, corrupt or collusive activities by our employees could subject us to liability or negative publicity. We have discovered cases in which certain of our employees had accepted payments from merchants or other service providers in order to receive preferential treatment on our marketplaces or in connection with other businesses we operate. Although we dismissed the employees responsible for these incidents and other illegal activities, and have implemented internal controls and policies with regard to the review and approval of merchant accounts, sales activities, interactions with business partners and government officials and other relevant matters, there can be no assurance that our controls and policies will prevent fraud or illegal activity by our employees or that similar incidents will not occur in the future. Any illegal, fraudulent, corrupt or collusive activity could severely damage our brand and reputation, which could drive users and consumers away from our digital economy, and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If other third-party service providers in our digital economy fail to provide reliable or satisfactory services, our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Ant Financial and a number of other third-party participants, including retail operating partners, logistics service providers, mobile app developers, ISVs, cloud-based developers, marketing affiliates and various professional service providers, provide services to users on our platforms, including consumers, merchants, brands, retailers and users of our cloud computing services. To the extent these service providers are unable to provide satisfactory services to our users on commercially acceptable terms, or at all, or if we fail to retain existing or attract new quality service providers to our platforms, our ability to retain, attract or engage our users may be severely limited, which may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, we share our user data with certain of these third-party service providers in our digital economy in
accordance with our privacy policies, agreements and applicable laws. These third-party service providers also engage in a broad range of other business activities outside of our platforms. If these third-party participants engage in activities that are negligent, fraudulent, illegal or otherwise harm the trustworthiness and security of our digital economy, including, for example, the leak or negligent use of data, the handling, transport and delivery of prohibited or restricted content or items, or if these participants fail to perform their contractual obligations, or users are otherwise dissatisfied with their service quality on or off our platforms, we could suffer reputational harm, even if these activities are not related to, attributable to or caused by us, or within our control.
If logistics service providers used by our merchants fail to provide reliable logistics services, or the logistics data platform operated by Cainiao Network were to malfunction, suffer an outage or otherwise fail, our business and prospects, as well as our financial condition and results of operations, may be materially and adversely affected.
Our merchants use third-party logistics service providers to fulfill and deliver their orders. Cainiao Network cooperates with a number of third-party logistics service providers to help merchants on our platforms fulfill orders and deliver their products to consumers. We operate Cainiao Network's logistics data platform that links our information system and those of logistics service providers. Interruptions to or failures in these third parties' logistics services, or in Cainiao Network's logistics data platform, could prevent the timely or proper delivery of products to consumers, which would harm the reputation of our digital economy and the businesses we operate. In addition, certain of our businesses, including Lazada, operate and provide logistics services to merchants within our digital economy and may experience interruptions or failures to timely and properly deliver products to consumers. These interruptions or failures may be due to events that are beyond the control of any of our companies, Cainiao Network or these logistics service providers, such as inclement weather, natural disasters, accidents, transportation disruptions, including special or temporary restrictions or closings of facilities or transportation networks due to regulatory or political reasons, or labor unrest or shortages. These logistics services could also be affected or interrupted by business disputes, industry consolidation, insolvency or government shut-downs. The merchants in our digital economy may not be able to find alternative logistics service providers to provide logistics services in a timely and reliable manner, or at all. We do not have agreements with third-party logistics service providers that require them to offer services to our merchants. If the logistics data platform operated by Cainiao Network were to fail for any reason, the logistics service providers would be severely hindered from or unable to connect with our merchants, and their services and the functionality of our digital economy could be severely affected. If the products sold by merchants in our digital economy are not delivered in proper condition, on a timely basis or at shipping rates that are commercially acceptable to marketplace participants, our business and prospects, as well as our financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
We may be subject to liability for content available in our digital economy that is alleged to be socially destabilizing, obscene, defamatory, libelous or otherwise unlawful.
Under PRC law and the laws of certain other jurisdictions in which we operate, we are required to monitor our websites and the websites hosted on our servers and mobile interfaces, as well as our services and devices that generate or host content, for items or content deemed to be socially destabilizing, obscene, superstitious or defamatory, as well as for items, content or services that are illegal to sell online or otherwise in other jurisdictions in which we operate our marketplaces and other businesses, and promptly take appropriate action with respect to the relevant items, content or services. We may also be subject to potential liability in China or other jurisdictions for any unlawful actions of our merchants, marketing customers or users of our websites or mobile interfaces, or for content we distribute or that is linked from our platforms that is deemed inappropriate. It may be difficult to determine the type of content that may result in liability to us, our websites and platforms, such as our cloud computing services, which allow users to upload and save massive data on our cloud data centers, social communities on our marketplaces and DingTalk, and Youku, which allow users to upload videos and other content to our websites and platforms, may make this even more difficult. If we are found to be liable, we may be subject to negative publicity, fines, have our relevant business operation licenses revoked, or be prevented from operating our websites or mobile interfaces in China or other jurisdictions.
In addition, claims may be brought against us for defamation, libel, negligence, copyright, patent or trademark infringement, tort (including personal injury), other unlawful activity or other theories and claims based on the nature and content of information posted on our platforms, including user-generated content, product reviews and message boards, by our consumers, merchants and other participants.
Regardless of the outcome of any dispute or lawsuit, we may suffer from negative publicity and reputational damage as a result of these actions.
We have been and may continue to be subject to allegations, lawsuits and negative publicity claiming that items listed and content available in our digital economy are pirated, counterfeit or illegal.
We have been the subject in the past, and may continue to be the subject in the future, of allegations that items offered, sold or made available through our online marketplaces by third parties or that content we make available through other services, such as our online video and music platforms or through our smart devices, infringe third-party copyrights, trademarks and patents or other intellectual property rights. Although we have adopted measures to proactively verify the products sold on our marketplaces for infringement and to minimize potential infringement of third-party intellectual property rights through our intellectual property infringement complaint and take-down procedures, these measures may not always be successful. In the event that alleged counterfeit or infringing products are listed or sold on our marketplaces or allegedly infringing content are made available through our other services, we could face claims and negative publicity relating to these activities or for our alleged failure to act in a timely or effective manner in response to infringement or to otherwise restrict or limit these activities. We may also choose to compensate consumers for any losses, although we are currently not legally obligated to do so. If, as a result of regulatory developments, we are required to compensate consumers, we would incur additional expenses.
Measures we take to protect against these potential liabilities could require us to spend substantial additional resources and/or experience reduced revenues. In addition, these measures may reduce the attractiveness of our digital economy to consumers, merchants, brands, retailers and other participants. A merchant or online marketer whose content is removed or whose services are suspended or terminated by us, regardless of our compliance with the applicable laws, rules and regulations, may dispute our actions and commence action against us for damages based on breach of contract or other causes of action, make public complaints or allegations or organize group protests and publicity campaigns against us or seek compensation. Any costs incurred as a result of liability or asserted liability relating to the sale of unlawful goods or other infringement could harm our business.
We also have been and may continue to be subject to allegations of civil or criminal liability based on allegedly unlawful activities or unauthorized distribution of products or content carried out by third parties through our online marketplaces. We have also acquired certain companies, such as Youku, Lazada and Ele.me, that from time to time are subject to allegations and lawsuits regarding alleged infringement of third-party intellectual property or other rights, and we may continue to acquire other companies that are subject to similar disputes.
In addition, we have been and may continue to be subject to significant negative publicity in China and other countries based on similar claims and allegations. For example, in December 2016, January 2018 and April 2019, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR, identified Taobao Marketplace as a "notorious market." The USTR may continue to identify Taobao Marketplace as a notorious market, and there can be no assurance that the USTR will not identify our other businesses as notorious markets in the future. In addition, government authorities have in the past accused, and may in the future accuse, us of perceived problems and failures of our platforms, including alleged failures to crack down on the sale of counterfeit goods and other alleged illegal activities on our China retail marketplaces. As a result of any claims or accusations by government authorities, by industry watchdog organizations, including the U.S. Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, by brand and intellectual property rights holders or by enterprises, there may be a public perception that counterfeit or pirated items are commonplace on our marketplaces or that we delay the process of removing these items. This perception, even if factually incorrect, and existing or new litigation as well as regulatory pressure or action related
to intellectual property rights protection, could damage our reputation, harm our business, diminish the value of our brand name and negatively affect trading price of our ADSs.
Failure to deal effectively with any fraud perpetrated and fictitious transactions conducted in our digital economy, and other sources of customer dissatisfaction, would harm our business.
We face risks with respect to fraudulent activities on our marketplaces and in connection with other businesses we operate, and we periodically receive complaints from consumers who may not have received the goods that they had purchased, complaints from merchants who have not received payment for the goods that a consumer had contracted to purchase, as well as other types of actual and alleged fraudulent activities. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Transaction Platform Safety Programs" for more details about the measures we have adopted against fraudulent activities. Although we have implemented various measures to detect and reduce the occurrence of fraudulent activities on our marketplaces and in connection with other businesses we operate, there can be no assurance that these measures will be effective in combating fraudulent transactions or improving overall satisfaction among our consumers, merchants and other participants. Additional measures that we take to address fraud could also negatively affect the attractiveness of our marketplaces and other businesses we operate to consumers or merchants. In addition, merchants on our marketplaces contribute to a fund to provide consumer protection guarantees. If our merchants do not perform their obligations under these programs, we may use funds that have been deposited by merchants in a consumer protection fund to compensate consumers. If the amounts in the fund are not sufficient, we may choose to compensate consumers for losses, although currently we are not legally obligated to do so. If, as a result of regulatory developments, we are required to compensate consumers, we would incur additional expenses. Although we have recourse against our merchants for any amounts we incur, there can be no assurance that we would be able to collect these amounts from our merchants.
In addition to fraudulent transactions with legitimate consumers, merchants may also engage in fictitious or "phantom" transactions with themselves or collaborators in order to artificially inflate their own ratings on our marketplaces, reputation and search results rankings, an activity sometimes referred to as "brushing." This activity may harm other merchants by enabling the perpetrating merchant to be favored over legitimate merchants, and may harm consumers by deceiving them into believing that a merchant is more reliable or trusted than the merchant actually is.
Government authorities, industry watchdog organizations or other third parties may issue reports or engage in other forms of public communications concerning alleged fraudulent or deceptive conduct on our platforms. Negative publicity and user sentiment generated as a result of these reports or allegations could severely diminish consumer confidence in and use of our services, reduce our ability to attract new or retain current merchants, consumers and other participants, damage our reputation, result in shareholder or other litigation, diminish the value of our brand, and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be subject to claims under consumer protection laws, including health and safety claims and product liability claims, if property or people are harmed by the products and services sold through our platforms.
Due to several high-profile incidents involving safety, including food safety, and consumer complaints that have occurred in China in recent years, the PRC government, media outlets and public advocacy groups are increasingly focused on consumer protection. Government authorities in other countries where we operate also place high importance on consumer protection. Moreover, as part of our growth strategy, we expect to increase our focus on food, food delivery, food supplements and beverages, mother care, baby care, pharmaceutical and healthcare products and services, as well as electronics products, both as a platform operator and as part of our directly operated business. We have also invested in companies involved in these sectors. These activities pose increasing challenges to our internal control and compliance systems and procedures, including our control over and management of third-party service personnel, and expose us to substantial increasing liability, negative publicity and reputational damage arising from consumer complaints, harms to personal health or safety or accidents involving products or services offered through our platforms or provided by us. Operators of e-commerce platforms
are subject to certain provisions of consumer protection laws even where the operator is not the merchant of the product or service purchased by the consumer. In addition, if we do not take appropriate remedial action against merchants or service providers for actions they engage in that we know, or should have known, would infringe upon the rights and interests of consumers, we may be held jointly liable for infringement alongside the merchant or service provider. We may also be held jointly liable with the merchants under the PRC E-commerce Law if we fail to take necessary actions when we know or should have known that the products or services provided by the merchants on our platforms do not meet personal and property security requirements, or otherwise infringe upon consumers' legitimate rights. Moreover, applicable consumer protection laws in China hold that trading platforms will be held liable for failing to meet any undertaking that the platforms make to consumers with regard to products listed on their websites. Furthermore, we are required to report to the State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR, formerly known as the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, or the SAIC, or its local branches any violation of applicable laws, regulations or SAMR rules by merchants or service providers, such as sales of goods without proper license or authorization, and we are required to take appropriate remedial measures, including ceasing to provide services to the relevant merchants or service providers. We may also be held liable if we fail to verify the licenses or qualifications of merchants, or fail to safeguard consumers with respect to products or services affecting consumers' health or safety.
In addition, we are facing increasing levels of activist litigation in China by plaintiffs claiming damages based on consumer protection laws. This type of activist litigation could increase in the future, and if it does, we could face increased costs defending these suits and damages should we not prevail, which could materially and adversely affect our reputation and brand and our results of operations.
We may also face increasing scrutiny from consumer protection regulators and activists, as well as increasingly become a target for litigation, in the United States, Europe and other jurisdictions. For example, recently, member groups of the European Consumer Organization's BEUC network expressed concerns about certain consumer rights related to product returns and dispute resolution with respect to transactions conducted on our AliExpress platform, and requested a review of these consumer rights by their national consumer protection agencies. We only maintain product liability insurance for certain businesses we operate, and do not maintain product liability insurance for products and services transacted on our marketplaces, and our rights of indemnity from the merchants in our digital economy may not adequately cover us for any liability we may incur. Consumer complaints and associated negative publicity could materially and adversely harm our reputation and affect our business expansion. Claims brought against us under consumer protection laws, even if unsuccessful, could result in significant expenditure of funds and diversion of management time and resources, which could materially and adversely affect our business operations, net income and profitability.
We may be accused of infringing intellectual property rights of third parties or violating content restrictions under relevant laws.
Third parties may claim that our product and service offerings, the content on our platforms, including content available through our digital media and entertainment business, search business, online reading platform, online music platform, news feed features and Internet of Things, or IoT, devices or our technology infringe upon their intellectual property rights or are provided beyond the authorized scope. Although we have not in the past faced material litigation involving direct claims of infringement by us, the possibility of intellectual property claims against us, whether in China or other jurisdictions, increases as we continue to grow, particularly internationally. The establishment of, and issuance of reports by, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property also highlights the current focus of the United States on investigating, preventing and taking action against alleged misappropriation of intellectual property, that may result in increased scrutiny, investigations, enforcement actions and litigation relating to intellectual property infringement. In addition, in April 2019, the U.S. administration issued an executive order instructing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with other federal agencies working to combat the counterfeiting of goods. This executive order aims to hold intermediary online marketplaces, such as our company, accountable for the availability and sale of counterfeit goods on their marketplaces. We have also acquired businesses, such as Youku, that have been, and may continue to be, subject to
liabilities for infringement of third-party intellectual property rights or other allegations based on the content available on their websites and mobile apps or the services they provide. In addition, we expect our digital economy to involve more and more user-generated content, including the entertainment content on Youku and our smart speakers, the interactive media content displayed on Taobao Marketplace and Tmall, including livestreams and short-form videos, as well as the data generated, uploaded and saved by users of our cloud computing services, over which we have limited control and we may be subject to claims for infringement of third-party intellectual property rights, or subject us to additional scrutiny by the relevant government authorities. These claims or scrutiny, whether or not having merit, may result in our expenditure of significant financial and management resources, injunctions against us or payment of damages. We may need to obtain licenses from third parties who allege that we have infringed their rights, but these licenses may not be available on terms acceptable to us or at all. These risks have been amplified by the increase in the number of third parties whose sole or primary business is to assert these claims.
China has enacted laws and regulations governing Internet access and the distribution of products, services, news, information, audio-video programs and other content through the Internet. The PRC government has prohibited the distribution of information through the Internet that it deems to be in violation of PRC laws and regulations, impairs the national dignity of China or the public interest, or is obscene, superstitious, fraudulent or defamatory. Users of certain of our websites and platforms, including Youku, can upload content to these websites, mobile apps and platforms, which is generally referred to as user-generated content. Due to the significant amount of content uploaded by our users, we may not be able to identify all the videos or other content that may violate relevant laws and regulations. If any of the information disseminated through our marketplaces, websites, mobile apps or other businesses we operate, including videos and other content (including user-generated content) displayed on Youku's or our other websites, mobile apps or on our Tmall set-top boxes, smart speakers and smart televisions, or any content that we produce, were deemed by the PRC government to violate any content restrictions, we would not be able to continue to display this content and could suffer losses or become subject to penalties, including confiscation of income, fines, suspension of business and revocation of required licenses, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. The outcome of any claims, investigations and proceedings is inherently uncertain, and in any event defending against these claims could be both costly and time-consuming, and could significantly divert the efforts and resources of our management and other personnel. An adverse determination in any of these litigation matters or proceedings could cause us to pay damages, incur legal and other costs, limit our ability to conduct business or require us to change the manner in which we operate and harm our reputation. As we expand our operations internationally, we expect that we will become subject to similar laws and regulations in other jurisdictions.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights.
We rely on a combination of trademark, fair trade practice, patent, copyright and trade secret protection laws in China and other jurisdictions, as well as confidentiality procedures and contractual provisions, to protect our intellectual property rights. We also enter into confidentiality agreements with our employees and any third parties who may access our proprietary information, and we rigorously control access to our proprietary technology and information. In addition, as our business expands and we increase our acquisition of and management of content, we expect to incur greater costs to acquire, license and enforce our rights to content.
Intellectual property protection may not be sufficient in the jurisdictions in which we operate. Confidentiality agreements may be breached by counterparties, and there may not be adequate remedies available to us for these breaches. Accordingly, we may not be able to effectively protect our intellectual property rights or to enforce our contractual rights in China or elsewhere. In addition, policing any unauthorized use of our intellectual property is difficult, time-consuming and costly and the steps we have taken may be inadequate to prevent the misappropriation of our intellectual property. In the event that we resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, this litigation could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our managerial and financial resources. There can be no assurance that we will prevail in any litigation. In addition, our trade secrets may be leaked or otherwise become available to, or be independently discovered by, our competitors. Any failure in
protecting or enforcing our intellectual property rights could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We and Ant Financial are subject to a broad range of laws and regulations, and future laws and regulations may impose additional requirements and other obligations that could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The industries in which we and Ant Financial operate in the PRC and other countries, including online and mobile commerce and payments, financial services, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment and other online content offerings, are highly regulated. Government authorities in the PRC and other countries are likely to continue to issue new laws, rules and regulations governing the industries in which we and Ant Financial operate in the PRC and other countries and enhance enforcement of existing laws, rules and regulations. They have imposed, and may continue to impose, requirements relating to, among other things, new and additional licenses, permits and approvals or governance or ownership structures on us or certain of our businesses, Ant Financial and our users.
For example, the recently promulgated E-commerce Law imposes a series of requirements on e-commerce operators including e-commerce platform operators, merchants operating on the platform and the individuals and entities carrying out business online. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Online and Mobile Commerce." Certain third-party platforms, although offering products and services competing with our marketplaces, may not be deemed as e-commerce operators and may be subject to less stringent requirements with respect to merchant regulation and consumer protection. The platform governance measures we adopt in response to the enhanced regulatory requirements may fail to meet these requirements and may lead to penalties or our loss of merchants to those platforms, or to complaints or claims made against us by merchants on our platforms. New regulations governing various aspects of e-commerce platform operations, including those that may limit an e-commerce platform operator's ability to provide consumers with personalized shopping recommendations, could materially and adversely affect our operating results.
We have from time to time been subject, and are likely again in the future to be subject, to PRC and foreign government inquiries and investigations, including those relating to online content, alleged third-party intellectual property infringement, cybersecurity and privacy laws, and securities laws and regulations. We also face scrutiny, and have been subject and continue to be subject to inquiries and investigations, from PRC and foreign governmental bodies that focus on cross-border trade, tax, intellectual property protection, our investment activities, human rights, user privacy and data protection matters and allegedly fraudulent or other criminal transactions. We may also face protectionist policies and regulatory scrutiny, on national security grounds or for other reasons, in foreign countries in which we conduct business or investment activities. None of these inquiries and investigations has resulted in significant restrictions on our business operations. However, as we continue to grow in scale and significance, we expect to face increased scrutiny, which will, at a minimum, result in our having to continue to increase our investment in compliance and related capabilities and systems.
Ant Financial, which through Alipay provides the substantial majority of the payment processing services on our marketplaces as well as other financial and value-added services, such as wealth management, financing and insurance, is subject to various laws, rules and regulations in the PRC and other countries where it operates, including those governing banking, privacy, cross-border and domestic money transmission, anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing and consumer protection laws, rules and regulations. In recent years, the PRC government has increasingly focused on regulation of the financial industry, including laws, rules and regulations relating to the provision of payment services. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation Applicable to Alipay." These laws, rules and regulations are highly complex, constantly evolving and could change or be reinterpreted to be burdensome, difficult or impossible for Ant Financial to comply with.
As we and Ant Financial further expand into international markets, we and Ant Financial will increasingly become subject to additional legal and regulatory compliance requirements as well as political and regulatory challenges, including scrutiny on data privacy and security and anti-money laundering compliance, or on national security grounds or for other reasons, to our business and investment activities in these markets. In addition, Alipay or its affiliates are required to maintain payment business licenses in the PRC and are also required to obtain and maintain other applicable payment, money transmitter or other related licenses and approvals in other countries or regions where they operate. In certain jurisdictions where Alipay currently does not have the required licenses, Alipay provides payment processing and escrow services through third-party service providers. If Alipay or its partners fail to obtain and maintain all required licenses and approvals or otherwise fails to comply with applicable laws, rules and regulations, if new laws, rules or regulations come into effect that impact Alipay or its partners' businesses, or if any of Alipay's partners cease to provide services to Alipay, its services could be suspended or severely disrupted, and our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
Tightening of tax compliance efforts that affect our merchants could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Tax legislation relating to the digital economy is still developing. Governments, both in China and in other jurisdictions, may promulgate or strengthen the implementation of tax regulations that impose obligations on e-commerce companies, which could increase the costs to consumers and merchants and make our platforms less competitive in these jurisdictions. Governments may require operators of marketplaces, such as our company, to assist in the enforcement of tax registration requirements and the collection of taxes with respect to the revenue or profit generated by merchants from transactions conducted on their platforms. We may also be requested by tax authorities to supply information about our merchants, such as transaction records and bank account information, and assist in the enforcement of other tax regulations, including the payment and withholding obligations against our merchants. As a result of more stringent tax compliance requirements and liabilities, we may lose existing merchants and potential merchants might not be willing to open storefronts on our marketplaces, which could in turn negatively affect us. Stricter tax enforcement by tax authorities may also reduce the activities by merchants on our platforms and result in liability to us.
Potential heightened tax law enforcement against participants in our digital economy (including imposition of reporting or withholding obligations on operators of marketplaces with respect to value-added tax of merchants and stricter tax enforcement against merchants generally) could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be subject to material litigation and regulatory proceedings.
We have been involved in a high volume of litigation in China and a small volume of potentially high-value litigation outside China relating principally to securities law class actions, third-party and principal intellectual property infringement claims, contract disputes involving merchants and consumers on our platforms, consumer protection claims, claims relating to data and privacy protection, employment related cases and other matters in the ordinary course of our business. As our digital economy expands, including across jurisdictions and through the addition of new businesses, we have encountered and may face an increasing number and a wider variety of these claims, including those brought against us pursuant to anti-monopoly or unfair competitions laws or involving higher amounts of alleged damages. Laws, rules and regulations may vary in their scope and overseas laws and regulations may impose requirements that are more stringent than, or which conflict with, those in China. We have acquired and may acquire companies that have been subject to or may become subject to litigation, as well as regulatory proceedings. In addition, in connection with litigation or regulatory proceedings we may be subject to in various jurisdictions, we may be prohibited by laws, regulations or government authorities in one jurisdiction from complying with subpoenas, orders or other requests from courts or regulators of other jurisdictions, including those relating to data held in or with respect to persons in these jurisdictions. Our failure or inability to comply with the
subpoenas, orders or requests could subject us to fines, penalties or other legal liability, which could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, results of operations and the trading price of our ADSs.
As publicly-listed companies, we and certain of our subsidiaries face additional exposure to claims and lawsuits inside and outside China. We will need to defend against these lawsuits, including any appeals should our initial defense be successful. The litigation process may utilize a material portion of our cash resources and divert management's attention away from the day-to-day operations of our company, all of which could harm our business. There can be no assurance that we will prevail in any of these cases, and any adverse outcome of these cases could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and results of operations. In addition, although we have obtained directors' and officers' liability insurance, the insurance coverage may not be adequate to cover our obligations to indemnify our directors and officers, fund a settlement of litigation in excess of insurance coverage or pay an adverse judgment in litigation.
In early 2016, the SEC informed us that it had initiated an investigation into whether there have been any violations of the federal securities laws. The SEC has requested that we voluntarily provide it with documents and information relating to, among other things, our consolidation policies and practices (including our prior practice of accounting for Cainiao Network as an equity method investee), our policies and practices applicable to related party transactions in general, and our reporting of operating data from the 11.11 global shopping festival. We are cooperating with the SEC and, through our legal counsel, have been providing the SEC with requested documents and information. The SEC advised us that the initiation of a request for information should not be construed as an indication by the SEC or its staff that any violation of the federal securities laws has occurred. This matter is ongoing, and, as with any regulatory proceeding, we cannot predict when it will be concluded.
The existence of litigation, claims, investigations and proceedings may harm our reputation, limit our ability to conduct our business in the affected areas and adversely affect the trading price of our ADSs. The outcome of any claims, investigations and proceedings is inherently uncertain, and in any event defending against these claims could be both costly and time-consuming, and could significantly divert the efforts and resources of our management and other personnel. An adverse determination in any litigation, investigation or proceeding could cause us to pay damages, incur legal and other costs, limit our ability to conduct business or require us to change the manner in which we operate.
We may increasingly become a target for public scrutiny, including complaints to regulatory agencies, negative media coverage, including social media and malicious reports, all of which could severely damage our reputation and brand and materially and adversely affect our business and prospects.
We process an extremely large number of transactions on a daily basis on our marketplaces and other businesses we operate, and the high volume of transactions taking place in our digital economy and publicity about our business creates the possibility of heightened attention from the public, regulators, the media and participants in our digital economy. Changes in our services or policies have resulted and could result in objections by members of the public, the media, including social media, participants in our digital economy or others. From time to time, these objections or allegations, regardless of their veracity, may result in public protests or negative publicity, which could result in government inquiry or harm our reputation and brand.
Corporate transactions we or related parties undertake, such as our partnership with the International Olympic Committee, our consolidation of Ele.me and Koubei, our agreement to acquire a 33% equity interest in Ant Financial, and other initiatives to implement our New Retail strategy, grow our local consumer services business and expand into international markets, may also subject us to increased media exposure and public scrutiny in Hong Kong, China and internationally. There can be no assurance that we would not become a target for regulatory or public scrutiny in the future or that scrutiny and public exposure would not severely damage our reputation and brand as well as our business and prospects.
In addition, our directors and management have been, and continue to be, subject to scrutiny by the media and the public regarding their activities in and outside Alibaba Group, which may result in unverified, inaccurate or misleading information about them being reported by the press. Negative publicity about our executive chairman or other founders, directors or management, even if untrue or inaccurate, may harm our reputation and brand.
Our reputation, our brand and our business may be harmed by aggressive marketing and communications strategies of our competitors.
Due to intense competition in our industry, we have been and may be the target of incomplete, inaccurate and false statements and complaints about our company and our products and services that could damage our reputation and brand and materially deter consumers and customers from spending in our digital economy. In addition, competitors have used, and may continue to use, methods such as lodging complaints with regulators, initiating frivolous and nuisance lawsuits, and other forms of attack litigation and "lawfare" that attempt to harm our reputation and brand, hinder our operations, force us to expend resources on responding to and defending against these claims, and otherwise gain a competitive advantage over us by means of litigious and accusatory behavior. Our ability to respond on share price-sensitive information to our competitors' misleading marketing efforts, including lawfare, may be limited during our self-imposed quiet periods around quarter ends consistent with our internal policies or due to legal prohibitions on permissible public communications by us during certain other periods.
Failure to comply with the terms of our indebtedness or enforcement of our obligations as a guarantor of other parties' indebtedness could have an adverse effect on our cash flow and liquidity.
As of March 31, 2019, we had US$13.7 billion in aggregate principal amount of unsecured senior notes and a US$4 billion term loan outstanding, as well as a US$5.15 billion revolving credit facility that we have not yet drawn. Under the terms of our indebtedness and under any debt financing arrangement that we may enter into in the future, we are, and may be in the future, subject to covenants that could, among other things, restrict our business and operations. If we breach any of these covenants, our lenders under our credit facilities and holders of our unsecured senior notes will be entitled to accelerate our debt obligations. Any default under our credit facilities or unsecured senior notes could require that we repay these debts prior to maturity as well as limit our ability to obtain additional financing, which in turn may have a material adverse effect on our cash flow and liquidity. In May 2019, we agreed to provide a guarantee for a loan facility of HK$7.7 billion (US$1.0 billion) in favor of an entity partially owned by Cainiao Network in connection with a logistics center development project at the Hong Kong International Airport. As of the date of this annual report, this entity has not made any drawdown under this facility. In the event of default by this entity under the loan facility, we may be required to repay the full amount or a portion of the outstanding loan and undertake the borrower's other obligations under the loan facility. Enforcement against us under this guarantee and other similar arrangements we may enter into in the future could materially and adversely affect our cash flow and liquidity.
We may need additional capital but may not be able to obtain it on favorable terms or at all.
We may require additional cash resources due to future growth and development of our business, including any investments or acquisitions we may decide to pursue. If our cash resources are insufficient to satisfy our cash requirements, we may seek to issue additional equity or debt securities or obtain new or expanded credit facilities. Our ability to obtain external financing in the future is subject to a variety of uncertainties. Offshore incorporated companies directly or indirectly controlled by individual PRC residents are required to complete filings before the launch of any offshore debt issuance with a term of one year or more in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The filing procedure takes time which may result in our missing the best market windows for debt issuances in the future. In addition, incurring indebtedness would subject us to increased debt service obligations and could result in operating and financial covenants that would restrict our operations. Our ability to access international capital and lending markets may be restricted at a time when we would like, or need, to do so, especially during times of increased volatility and reduced liquidity in global financial markets and stock markets, including due to policy changes and regulatory restrictions, which could limit our ability to raise funds. There can be no assurance that financing will be available in a timely manner or in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, or at all. Any failure to raise needed funds on terms favorable to us, or at all, could severely restrict our liquidity as well as have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, any issuance of equity or equity-linked securities could result in significant dilution to our existing shareholders.
We are subject to interest rate risk in connection with our indebtedness.
We are exposed to interest rate risk related to our indebtedness. The interest rates under certain of our offshore credit facilities are based on a spread over LIBOR. As a result, the interest expenses associated with this indebtedness will be subject to the potential impact of any fluctuation in LIBOR. Any increase in LIBOR could impact our financing costs if not effectively hedged. Our Renminbi-denominated bank borrowings are also subject to interest rate risk. Although from time to time, we use hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to interest rate risk, these hedges may not be effective.
In addition, on July 27, 2017, the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority, or the FCA, which regulates LIBOR, announced that it intends to stop persuading or compelling banks to submit rates for the calculation of LIBOR to the administrator of LIBOR after 2021 (the "FCA Announcement"). The FCA Announcement indicates that the continuation of LIBOR on the current basis is not guaranteed after 2021. Uncertainties surrounding changes to the basis on which LIBOR is calculated or the phase-out of LIBOR, which may cause a sudden and prolonged increase or decrease in LIBOR, could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition, as well as our cash flows. There can be no assurance that any hedging transactions we use will be effective in protecting us against adverse changes in interest rates or that our bank counterparties will be able to perform their obligations. Once LIBOR is not available, the terms of certain of our offshore credit facilities will require alternative determination procedures, which may result in an interest rate differing from our expectations and could materially affect the cost to us of these facilities.
We may not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover our business risks.
We have obtained insurance to cover certain potential risks and liabilities, such as property damage, business interruptions, public liabilities and product liability insurance for certain businesses we operate. However, insurance companies in China and other jurisdictions in which we operate may offer limited business insurance products. As a result, we may not be able to acquire any insurance for all types of risks we face in our operations in China and elsewhere, and our coverage may not be adequate to compensate for all losses that may occur, particularly with respect to loss of business or operations. We do not maintain product liability insurance for products and services transacted on our marketplaces or other businesses we operate, and our rights of indemnity from the merchants in our digital economy may not adequately cover us for any liability we may incur. We also do not maintain key-man life insurance. This potentially insufficient coverage could expose us to potential claims and losses. Any business disruption, litigation, regulatory action, outbreak of epidemic disease or natural disaster could also expose us to substantial costs and diversion of resources. There can be no assurance that our insurance coverage is sufficient to prevent us from any loss or that we will be able to successfully claim our losses under our current insurance policy on a timely basis, or at all. If we incur any loss that is not covered by our insurance policies, or the compensated amount is significantly less than our actual loss, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
An occurrence of a natural disaster, widespread health epidemic or other outbreaks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business could be materially and adversely affected by natural disasters, such as snowstorms, earthquakes, fires or floods, the outbreak of a widespread health epidemic, such as swine flu, avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, Ebola, Zika or other events, such as wars, acts of terrorism, environmental accidents, power shortage or communication interruptions. The occurrence of a disaster or a prolonged outbreak of an epidemic illness or other adverse public health developments in China or elsewhere in the world could materially disrupt our business and operations. These events could also significantly impact our industry and cause a temporary closure of the facilities we use for our operations, which would severely disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Our operations could be disrupted if any of our employees or employees of our business partners were suspected of contracting an epidemic disease, since this could require us or our business partners to quarantine some or all of these employees or disinfect the facilities used for our operations. In addition, our revenue and profitability could be materially reduced to the extent that a
natural disaster, health epidemic or other outbreak harms the global or PRC economy in general. Our operations could also be severely disrupted if our consumers, merchants or other participants were affected by natural disasters, health epidemics or other outbreaks.
Risks Related to our Corporate Structure
The Alibaba Partnership and related voting agreements limit the ability of our shareholders to nominate and elect directors.
Our articles of association allow the Alibaba Partnership to nominate or, in limited situations, appoint a simple majority of our board of directors. If at any time our board of directors consists of less than a simple majority of directors nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership for any reason, including because a director previously nominated by the Alibaba Partnership ceases to be a member of our board of directors or because the Alibaba Partnership had previously not exercised its right to nominate or appoint a simple majority of our board of directors, the Alibaba Partnership will be entitled (in its sole discretion) to nominate or appoint such number of additional directors to the board as necessary to ensure that the directors nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership comprise a simple majority of our board of directors.
In addition, we have entered into a voting agreement pursuant to which SoftBank, Altaba, Jack Ma and Joe Tsai have agreed to vote their shares in favor of the Alibaba Partnership director nominees at each annual general shareholders meeting for so long as SoftBank owns at least 15% of our outstanding ordinary shares. Furthermore, the voting agreement provides that SoftBank has the right to nominate one director to our board until SoftBank owns less than 15% of our outstanding ordinary shares, and that right is also reflected in our articles of association. In addition, pursuant to the voting agreement, Altaba, Jack Ma and Joe Tsai have agreed to vote their shares (including shares for which they have voting power) in favor of the election of the SoftBank director nominee at each annual general shareholders meeting in which the SoftBank nominee stands for election.
Moreover, subject to certain exceptions, pursuant to the voting agreement SoftBank and Altaba have agreed to give Jack and Joe a proxy over, with respect to SoftBank, any portion of its shareholdings exceeding 30% of our outstanding shares and, with respect to Altaba, all of its shareholdings up to a maximum of 121.5 million of our ordinary shares. These proxies will remain in effect until Jack Ma owns less than 1% of our ordinary shares on a fully diluted basis or we materially breach the voting agreement.
This governance structure and contractual arrangement limit the ability of our shareholders to influence corporate matters, including any matters determined at the board level. In addition, the nomination right granted to the Alibaba Partnership will remain in place for the life of the Alibaba Partnership unless our articles of association are amended to provide otherwise by a vote of shareholders representing at least 95% of shares that vote at a shareholders meeting. The nomination rights of the Alibaba Partnership will remain in place notwithstanding a change of control or merger of our company. These provisions and agreements could have the effect of delaying, preventing or deterring a change in control and could limit the opportunity of our shareholders to receive a premium for their ADSs, and could also materially decrease the price that some investors are willing to pay for our ADSs. As of the date of this annual report, the parties to the voting agreement and the partners of the Alibaba Partnership held in the aggregate more than 40% of our outstanding ordinary shares (including shares underlying vested and unvested awards). See "Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees A. Directors and Senior Management Alibaba Partnership."
The interests of the Alibaba Partnership may conflict with the interests our shareholders.
The nomination and appointment rights of the Alibaba Partnership limit the ability of our shareholders to influence corporate matters, including any matters to be determined by our board of directors. The interests of the Alibaba Partnership may not coincide with the interests of our shareholders, and the Alibaba Partnership or its director nominees may make decisions with which they disagree, including decisions on important topics such as compensation, management succession, acquisition strategy and our business and financial strategy. Since the Alibaba Partnership will continue to be largely comprised of members of our management team, the Alibaba
Partnership and its director nominees, consistent with our operating philosophy, may focus on the long-term interests of participants in our digital economy at the expense of our short-term financial results, which may differ from the expectations and desires of shareholders unaffiliated with the Alibaba Partnership. To the extent that the interests of the Alibaba Partnership differ from the interests of any of our shareholders, our shareholders may be disadvantaged by any action that the Alibaba Partnership may seek to pursue.
Our articles of association contain anti-takeover provisions that could adversely affect the rights of holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
Our articles of association contain certain provisions that could limit the ability of third parties to acquire control of our company, including:
These provisions could have the effect of delaying, preventing or deterring a change in control, and could limit the opportunity for our shareholders to receive a premium for their ADSs, and could also materially decrease the price that some investors are willing to pay for our ADSs.
SoftBank owns approximately 25.9% of our outstanding ordinary shares and its interests may differ from those of our other shareholders.
As of June 3, 2019, SoftBank beneficially owned approximately 25.9% of our outstanding ordinary shares. Subject to certain exceptions, SoftBank has agreed to grant the voting power of any portion of its shareholding exceeding 30% of our outstanding ordinary shares to Jack Ma and Joe Tsai by proxy. Under the terms of the voting agreement we entered into with SoftBank, SoftBank also has the right to nominate one member of our board of directors, and Altaba, Jack and Joe have agreed to vote their shares (including shares for which they have voting power) in favor of the SoftBank director nominees at each annual general shareholders meeting in which the SoftBank nominee stands for election until such time as SoftBank holds less than 15% of our outstanding ordinary shares. SoftBank's director nomination right is also reflected in our articles of association. Except with regard to shareholder votes relating to the Alibaba Partnership director nominees, SoftBank will have significant influence over the outcome of matters that require shareholder votes and accordingly over our business and corporate matters. SoftBank may exercise its shareholder rights in a way that it believes is in its own best interest, which may conflict with the interest of our other shareholders. These actions may be taken even if SoftBank is opposed by our other shareholders.
For more information, see "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions B. Related Party Transactions Transactions and Agreements with SoftBank and Altaba Voting Agreement."
If the PRC government deems that the contractual arrangements in relation to our variable interest entities do not comply with PRC governmental restrictions on foreign investment, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations changes in the future, we could be subject to penalties, or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial results and the trading price of our ADSs.
Foreign ownership of certain types of Internet businesses, such as Internet information services, is subject to restrictions under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations. Under these laws and regulations, foreign investors
are generally not permitted to own more than 50% of the equity interests in a value-added telecommunication service provider. Any foreign investor must also have experience and a good track record in providing value-added telecommunications services overseas. Although foreign investors are allowed to hold up to 100% of all equity interests in the online data processing and transaction processing business (operational e-commerce) in China, other requirements provided by the relevant rules (such as the track record and experience requirement for a major foreign investor) still apply. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Telecommunications and Internet Information Services Regulation of Telecommunication Services" and "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Foreign Investment."
While the significant majority of our revenue was generated by our wholly-owned entities in fiscal year 2019, we provide Internet information services in China, which are critical to our business, through a number of PRC incorporated variable interest entities. Contractual arrangements between us and the variable interest entities and their equity holders give us effective control over each of the variable interest entities and enable us to obtain substantially all of the economic benefits arising from the variable interest entities as well as to consolidate the financial results of the variable interest entities in our results of operations. Although the structure we have adopted is consistent with longstanding industry practice, and is commonly adopted by comparable companies in China, the PRC government may not agree that these arrangements comply with PRC licensing, registration or other regulatory requirements, with existing policies or with requirements or policies that may be adopted in the future. We are in the process of enhancing the structure of our variable interest entities. See " We are in the process of enhancing the structure of some of our variable interest entities, and its completion is subject to uncertainties."
In the opinion of Fangda Partners, our PRC counsel, the ownership structures of our material wholly-owned entities and our material variable interest entities in China do not and will not violate any applicable PRC law, regulation or rule currently in effect; and the contractual arrangements between our material wholly-owned entities, our material variable interest entities and their respective equity holders governed by PRC law are valid, binding and enforceable in accordance with their terms and applicable PRC laws and regulations currently in effect and will not violate any applicable PRC law, rule or regulation currently in effect. However, Fangda Partners has also advised us that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current PRC laws, rules and regulations. Accordingly, the possibility that the PRC regulatory authorities and PRC courts may in the future take a view that is contrary to the opinion of our PRC legal counsel cannot be ruled out.
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 also see " Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the recently adopted PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, business, financial condition and results of operations."
If we or any of our variable interest entities are found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws, rules or regulations, or fail to obtain or maintain any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities would have broad discretion to take action in dealing with these violations or failures, including revoking the business and operating licenses of our PRC subsidiaries or the variable interest entities, requiring us to discontinue or restrict our operations, restricting our right to collect revenue, blocking one or more of our websites, requiring us to restructure our operations or taking other regulatory or enforcement actions against us. The imposition of any of these measures could result in a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct all or any portion of our business operations. In addition, it is unclear what impact the PRC government actions would have on us and on our ability to consolidate the financial results of any of our variable interest entities in our consolidated financial statements, if the PRC government authorities were to find our legal structure and contractual arrangements to be in violation of PRC laws, rules and regulations. If the imposition of any of these government actions causes us to lose our right to direct the activities of any of our material variable interest entities or otherwise separate from any of these entities and if we are not able to restructure our ownership structure and operations in a satisfactory manner, we would no longer be able to consolidate the financial results
of our variable interest entities in our consolidated financial statements. Any of these events would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are in the process of enhancing the structure of some of our variable interest entities, and its completion is subject to uncertainties.
In order to further improve our control over our material variable interest entities, reduce key man risks associated with having certain individuals be the equity holders of the material variable interest entities, and address the uncertainty resulting from any potential disputes between us and the individual equity holders of the material variable interest entities that may arise, we are in the process of enhancing the structure of our material variable interest entities and certain other variable interest entities, or the VIE Structure Enhancement.
Prior to the completion of the VIE Structure Enhancement, the variable interest entities were owned, or are owned, by a few PRC citizens who are our founders or employees or by PRC entities owned by these PRC citizens. After completion of the VIE Structure Enhancement, those variable interest entities will be directly owned by PRC limited liability companies that are indirectly held by selected members of the Alibaba Partnership or our management who are PRC citizens through PRC limited partnerships jointly established by these individuals. We enter into contractual arrangements, which are substantially similar to the contractual arrangements we have historically used for our VIEs, with the above-mentioned multiple layers of legal entities and variable interest entity interest holders. The contractual arrangements, both before and after the VIE Structure Enhancement, give us effective control over each of those variable interest entities and enable us to obtain substantially all of the economic benefits arising from those variable interest entities as well as to consolidate the financial results of those variable interest entities in our results of operations. Please also see "Item 4. Information on the Company Organizational Structure."
While we believe the new structure following completion of the VIE Structure Enhancement is consistent with longstanding industry practice, the PRC government may not agree that these arrangements comply with PRC licensing, registration or other regulatory requirements, with existing policies or with requirements or policies that may be adopted in the future. The VIE Structure Enhancement process is subject to a number of uncertainties, including registration of the transfer of the equity interests, registration of the new equity pledges, and the receipt of required approvals of amendments to certain operating permits, including the Value-added Telecommunication Business Operation Permit, Network Culture Permit and the License for Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs through Information Network. If we are unable to successfully complete these processes involved in the VIE Structure Enhancement, we will be unable to enjoy the benefits we expect, including the anticipated enhanced control over those variable interest entities, or reduced key man risks or the uncertainty resulting from any potential disputes among us and the individual equity holders of those variable interest entities as discussed above.
For further information, See " If the PRC government deems that the contractual arrangements in relation to our variable interest entities do not comply with PRC governmental restrictions on foreign investment, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations changes in the future, we could be subject to penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial results and the trading price of our ADSs" and "Item 4. Information on the Company C. Organizational Structure."
Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the recently adopted PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, business, financial condition and results of operations.
The "variable interest entity" structure, or the VIE structure, has been adopted by many China-based companies, including us and certain of our equity investees, to obtain licenses and permits necessary to operate in industries that currently are subject to restrictions on or prohibitions for foreign investment in China. The Ministry of Commerce, or the MOFCOM, published a discussion draft of the proposed Foreign Investment Law in January 2015, or the 2015 Draft PRC Foreign Investment Law, according to which, variable interest entities that
are controlled via contractual arrangements would be deemed as foreign-invested enterprises, if they are ultimately "controlled" by foreign investors. In March 2019, the National People's Congress promulgated the Foreign Investment Law, or the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, which will become effective on January 1, 2020 and will replace major existing laws and regulations governing foreign investment in the PRC. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Foreign Investment." The 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law does not use the concept of "control" in determining whether a company should be considered as a foreign-invested enterprise, nor does it explicitly classify the VIE structure as a method of foreign investment. Since the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law has only recently been adopted and relevant government authorities may promulgate rules and regulations as to the interpretation and implementation of the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, there can be no assurance that the concept of "control" as reflected in the 2015 Draft PRC Foreign Investment Law, will not be reintroduced, or that the VIE structure adopted by us will not be deemed as a method of foreign investment by other laws, regulations and rules. Accordingly, there are substantial uncertainties as to whether our VIE structure may be deemed as a method of foreign investment in the future. If our VIE structure were to be deemed as a method of foreign investment under any future laws, regulations and rules, and if any of our business operations were to fall under the "negative list" for foreign investment, we would need to take further actions in order to comply with these laws, regulations and rules, which may materially and adversely affect our current corporate structure, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing control over the variable interest entities as direct ownership.
We rely on contractual arrangements with our variable interest entities to operate part of our Internet businesses in China and other businesses in which foreign investment is restricted or prohibited. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see "Item 4. Information on the Company C. Organizational Structure Contractual Arrangements among Our Wholly-Owned Entities, Variable Interest Entities and the Variable Interest Entity Equity Holders." These contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over our variable interest entities.
If we had direct ownership of the variable interest entities, we would be able to exercise our rights as an equity holder directly to effect changes in the boards of directors of those entities, which could effect changes at the management and operational level. Under our contractual arrangements, we may not be able to directly change the members of the boards of directors of these entities and would have to rely on the variable interest entities and the variable interest entity equity holders to perform their obligations in order to exercise our control over the variable interest entities. The variable interest entity equity holders may have conflicts of interest with us or our shareholders, and they may not act in the best interests of our company or may not perform their obligations under these contracts. Pursuant to the call options, we may replace the equity holders of the variable interest entities at any time pursuant to the contractual arrangements. However, if any equity holder is uncooperative in the replacement of the equity holders or there is any dispute relating to these contracts that remains unresolved, we will have to enforce our rights under the contractual arrangements through the operations of PRC law and arbitral or judicial agencies, which may be costly and time-consuming and will be subject to uncertainties in the PRC legal system. See " Any failure by our variable interest entities or their equity holders to perform their obligations under the contractual arrangements would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations." Consequently, the contractual arrangements may not be as effective in ensuring our control over the relevant portion of our business operations as direct ownership.
Any failure by our variable interest entities or their equity holders to perform their obligations under the contractual arrangements would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If our variable interest entities or their equity holders fail to perform their respective obligations under the contractual arrangements, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend additional resources to enforce the arrangements. Although we have entered into call option agreements in relation to each variable interest entity, which provide that we may exercise an option to acquire, or nominate a person to acquire, ownership of the equity
in that entity or, in some cases, its assets, to the extent permitted by applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, the exercise of these call options is subject to the review and approval of the relevant PRC governmental authorities. We have also entered into equity pledge agreements with the equity shareholders and, in the case of VIEs that have started, or will start, the VIE Structure Enhancement, the limited partnerships with respect to each variable interest entity to secure certain obligations of the variable interest entity or its equity holders to us under the contractual arrangements. We have not been able to register certain of the pledges in Zhejiang Province where we incorporated those limited partnerships, because the Zhejiang rules for the registration of pledges of partnership interests were relatively new and we are still discussing with the local SAMR about the detailed procedures. In addition, the enforcement of these agreements through arbitral or judicial agencies, if any, may be costly and time-consuming and will be subject to uncertainties in the PRC legal system. Moreover, our remedies under the equity pledge agreements are primarily intended to help us collect debts owed to us by the variable interest entities or the variable interest entity equity holders under the contractual arrangements and may not help us in acquiring the assets or equity of the variable interest entities.
In addition, with respect to the VIEs that have not completed the VIE Structure Enhancement, although the terms of the contractual arrangements provide that they will be binding on the successors of the variable interest entity equity holders, as those successors are not a party to the agreements, it is uncertain whether the successors in case of the death, bankruptcy or divorce of a variable interest entity equity holder will be subject to or will be willing to honor the obligations of the variable interest entity equity holder under the contractual arrangements. If the relevant variable interest entity or its equity holder (or its successor), as applicable, fails to transfer the shares of the variable interest entity according to the respective call option agreement or equity pledge agreement, we would need to enforce our rights under the call option agreement or equity pledge agreement, which may be costly and time-consuming and may not be successful.
The contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration or court proceedings in China. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. Uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce the contractual arrangements. Under PRC law, if the losing parties fail to carry out the arbitration awards or court judgments within a prescribed time limit, the prevailing parties may only enforce the arbitration awards or court judgments in PRC courts, which would require additional expense and delay. In the event we are unable to enforce the contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over the variable interest entities, and our ability to conduct our business, as well as our financial condition and results of operations, may be materially and adversely affected.
We may lose the ability to use, or otherwise benefit from, the licenses, approvals and assets held by our variable interest entities, which could severely disrupt our business, render us unable to conduct some or all of our business operations and constrain our growth.
Although the significant majority of our revenues are generated, and the significant majority of our operational assets are held, by our wholly-owned entities, which are our subsidiaries, our variable interest entities hold licenses and approvals and assets that are necessary for our business operations, as well as equity interests in a series of our portfolio companies, to which foreign investments are typically restricted or prohibited under applicable PRC law. The contractual arrangements contain terms that specifically obligate variable interest entity equity holders to ensure the valid existence of the variable interest entities and restrict the disposal of material assets of the variable interest entities. However, in the event the variable interest entity equity holders breach the terms of these contractual arrangements and voluntarily liquidate our variable interest entities, or any of our variable interest entities declares bankruptcy and all or part of its assets become subject to liens or rights of third-party creditors, or are otherwise disposed of without our consent, we may be unable to conduct some or all of our business operations or otherwise benefit from the assets held by the variable interest entities, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, if any of our variable interest entities undergoes a voluntary or involuntary liquidation proceeding, its equity holder or unrelated third-
party creditors may claim rights to some or all of the assets of the variable interest entity, thereby hindering our ability to operate our business as well as constrain our growth.
The equity holders, directors and executive officers of the variable interest entities may have potential conflicts of interest with our company.
PRC laws provide that a director and an executive officer owes a fiduciary duty to the company he or she directs or manages. The directors and executive officers of the variable interest entities, including the relevant members of the Alibaba Partnership or our management, must act in good faith and in the best interests of the variable interest entities and must not use their respective positions for personal gain. On the other hand, as a director of our company, the relevant individuals have a duty of care and loyalty to our company and to our shareholders as a whole under Cayman Islands law. We control our variable interest entities through contractual arrangements and the business and operations of our variable interest entities are closely integrated with the business and operations of our subsidiaries. Nonetheless, conflicts of interests for these individuals may arise due to dual roles both as equity holders, directors and executive officers of the variable interest entities and as directors or employees of our company.
There can be no assurance that these individual shareholders of our variable interest entities will always act in the best interests of our company should any conflicts of interest arise, or that any conflicts of interest will always be resolved in our favor. There also can be no assurance that these individuals will ensure that the variable interest entities will not breach the existing contractual arrangements. If we cannot resolve any of these conflicts of interest or any related disputes, we would have to rely on legal proceedings to resolve these disputes and/or take enforcement action under the contractual arrangements. There is substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any of these legal proceedings. See " Any failure by our variable interest entities or their equity holders to perform their obligations under the contractual arrangements would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations."
Furthermore, a company controlled by Jack serves as one of the general partners of a PRC limited partnership that made a minority investment in Wasu. Yuzhu Shi, the founder, chairman and a principal shareholder of Giant Interactive, a China-based online game company that was previously listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and an entrepreneur with significant experience in and knowledge of the media industry in China, serves as the other general partner and the executive partner. The interest of the general partner controlled by Jack in the limited partnership is limited to a return of its RMB10,000 capital contribution. In addition, Simon Xie, a former employee who is one of our founders and an equity holder in certain of our variable interest entities, is a limited partner in this PRC limited partnership. To fund this investment, in April 2015 Simon was granted a financing with an aggregate principal of up to RMB6.9 billion by a major financial institution in the PRC. The financing is secured by a pledge of the Wasu shares acquired by the PRC limited partnership, and a pledge of certain wealth management products we purchased. In addition, we entered into a loan agreement for a principal amount of up to RMB2.0 billion with Simon in April 2015 to finance the repayment by Simon of the principal and interest under the above financing. We entered into these arrangements to strengthen our strategic business arrangements with Wasu to pursue our strategy of expanding entertainment offerings to consumers. See "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions B. Related Party Transactions Pledge for the Benefit of and Loan Arrangement with a Related Party."
There can be no assurance that Jack Ma will act in our interest given his ability to control one of the general partners of the PRC limited partnership that invested in Wasu, nor can we assure you that he will not breach his obligations to us as our director, including obligations not to compete with us. In addition, the interests of Mr. Shi, as an independent third party, may not coincide with those of Jack, or with our interests in pursuing our entertainment strategy. If any conflicts of this kind arise between Jack and Mr. Shi in conducting the business of the PRC limited partnership, it could potentially have a material adverse effect on our relationship with the shareholder of Wasu and, consequently, on our ability to benefit from our alliance with Wasu. Furthermore, there can be no assurance that Simon will have sufficient resources to repay the loans in a timely manner or at all. The loan that we provided to Simon is secured by a pledge of Simon's limited partnership interest in the PRC limited
partnership. However, if Simon fails to repay the loan, our enforcement of our secured interests could be costly and time-consuming and would be subject to the uncertainties in the PRC legal system.
The contractual arrangements with our variable interest entities may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities. Any pricing adjustment of a related party transaction could lead to additional taxes, and therefore substantially reduce our consolidated net income and the value of your investment.
The tax regime in China is rapidly evolving and there is significant uncertainty for taxpayers in China as PRC tax laws may be interpreted in significantly different ways. The PRC tax authorities may assert that we or our subsidiaries or the variable interest entities or their equity holders are required to pay additional taxes on previous or future revenue or income. In particular, under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties, such as the contractual arrangements with our variable interest entities, may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. If the PRC tax authorities determine that any contractual arrangements were not entered into on an arm's length basis and therefore constitute a favorable transfer pricing, the PRC tax liabilities of the relevant subsidiaries and/or variable interest entities and/or variable interest entity equity holders could be increased, which could increase our overall tax liabilities. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment interest. Our net income may be materially reduced if our tax liabilities increase.
Risks Related to Doing Business in the People's Republic of China
Changes in the political and economic policies of the PRC government may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and may result in our inability to sustain our growth and expansion strategies.
Although we have operating subsidiaries located in various countries and regions, our operations in China currently contribute the large majority of our revenue. Accordingly, our financial condition and results of operations are affected to a significant extent by economic, political and legal developments in the PRC.
The PRC economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the extent of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. A substantial portion of productive assets in China is still owned by the government. In addition, the PRC government regulates industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also plays a significant role in China's economic growth by allocating resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy, regulating financial services and institutions and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies.
While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past four 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 also have a negative effect on us. Our financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations that are applicable to us. In addition, the PRC government has implemented in the past certain measures, including interest rate increases, to control the pace of economic growth. These measures may cause decreased economic activity. Any prolonged slowdown in the Chinese economy could lead to a reduction in demand for our services and consequently have a material adverse effect on our businesses, financial condition and results of operations.
There are uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations.
Most of our operations are conducted in the PRC, and are governed by PRC laws, rules and regulations. Our PRC subsidiaries are subject to laws, rules and regulations applicable to foreign investment in China. The PRC legal system is a civil law system based on written statutes. Unlike the common law system, prior court decisions may be cited for reference but have limited precedential value.
China has not developed a fully integrated legal system, and recently enacted laws, rules and regulations may not sufficiently cover all aspects of economic activities in China or may be subject to a significant degree of interpretation by PRC regulatory agencies and courts. In particular, because these laws, rules and regulations are relatively new, and because of the limited number of published decisions and the non-precedential nature of these decisions, and because the laws, rules and regulations often give the relevant regulator significant discretion in how to enforce them, the interpretation and enforcement of these laws, rules and regulations involve uncertainties and can be inconsistent and unpredictable. Therefore, it is possible that our existing operations may be found not to be in full compliance with relevant laws and regulations in the future. In addition, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules, some of which are not published on a timely basis or at all, and which may have a retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until after the occurrence of the violation.
Any administrative and court proceedings in China may be protracted, resulting in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention. 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. These uncertainties may impede our ability to enforce the contracts we have entered into and could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
PRC regulations regarding acquisitions impose significant regulatory approval and review requirements, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions.
Under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law, companies undertaking certain investments and acquisitions relating to businesses in China must notify the anti-monopoly enforcement agency, in advance of any transaction where the parties' revenues in the China market exceed certain thresholds and the buyer would obtain control of, or decisive influence over, the other party. In addition, on August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies, including the MOFCOM, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the State Administration of Taxation, the SAIC, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, jointly adopted the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, which came into effect on September 8, 2006 and was amended on June 22, 2009. Under the M&A Rules, the approval of MOFCOM must be obtained in circumstances where overseas companies established or controlled by PRC enterprises or residents acquire domestic companies affiliated with PRC enterprises or residents. Applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations also require certain merger and acquisition transactions to be subject to security review.
Due to the level of our revenues, our proposed acquisition of control of, or decisive influence over, any company with revenues within China of more than RMB400 million in the year prior to any proposed acquisition would be subject to the SAMR merger control review. As a result of our size, many of the transactions we may undertake could be subject to SAMR merger review. Complying with the requirements of the relevant regulations to complete these transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including approval from SAMR, may be uncertain and could delay or inhibit our ability to complete these transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business, maintain our market share or otherwise achieve the goals of our acquisition strategy.
According to the Regulations on Enterprise Outbound Investment issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, or the NDRC, in December 2017 which came into effect on March 1, 2018, we may also need to report to the NDRC relevant information on overseas investments with an amount of US$300 million or more in non-sensitive areas, and obtain the NDRC's approval for our overseas investments in sensitive areas, if any, before the closing of the investments. Accordingly, these new regulations may restrict our ability to make investments in some regions and industries overseas, and may subject any proposed investments to additional delays and increased uncertainty, as well as heightened scrutiny, including after the investments have been made.
Our ability to carry out our investment and acquisition strategy may be materially and adversely affected by the regulatory authorities' current practice, which creates significant uncertainty as to whether transactions that we may undertake would subject us to fines or other administrative penalties and negative publicity and whether we will be able to complete investments and acquisitions in the future in a timely manner or at all.
Anti-monopoly and unfair competition claims or regulatory actions against us may result in our being subject to fines as well as constraints on our business.
The PRC anti-monopoly enforcement agencies have in recent years strengthened enforcement under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law, including levying significant fines, with respect to concentration of undertakings and cartel activity, mergers and acquisitions, as well as abusive behavior by companies with market dominance. In March 2018, the SAMR was formed as a new governmental agency to take over, among other things, the anti-monopoly enforcement functions from the relevant departments under the MOFCOM, the NDRC, and the SAIC, respectively. Since its inception, the SAMR has continued to strengthen its anti-monopoly enforcement. The SAMR issued a new set of guidelines with respect to merger control review in September 2018, and issued the Notice on Anti-monopoly Enforcement Authorization on December 28, 2018, which grants authorizations to the SAMR's province-level branches for anti-monopoly enforcement within their respective jurisdictions. The SAMR recently has also imposed several administrative penalties on various companies for failing to duly make filings as to their transactions subject to merger control review by the SAMR. The scope of the companies that were penalized is broad, and covers a variety of different industries.
The PRC Anti-monopoly Law also provides a private right of action for competitors, business partners or customers to bring anti-monopoly claims against companies. In recent years, an increased number of companies have been exercising their right to seek relief under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law. As public awareness of the rights under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law increases, more companies, including our competitors, business partners and customers have resorted to and may continue seeking the remedies available under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law, such as through complaints to regulators or as plaintiffs in private ligation, to hinder our business operations and improve their competitive position, regardless of the merits of their claims. Any of the above actions against us could materially and adversely affect our business, operations, reputation, brand and the trading price of our ADSs.
From time to time, we have received and expect to continue to receive close scrutiny from government agencies under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law in connection with our business practices, investments and acquisitions. Any anti-monopoly lawsuit, regulatory investigations or administrative proceeding initiated against us could result in our being subject to profit disgorgement, heavy fines and various constraints on our business, or result in negative publicity that could harm our reputation and negatively affect the trading prices of our ADSs. These constraints could include forced termination of any agreements or arrangements that are determined by governmental authorities to be in violation of anti-monopoly laws, required divestitures and limitations on certain pricing and business practices, which may limit our ability to continue to innovate, diminish the appeal of our services, increase our operating costs and prevent us from pursuing our investment and acquisition strategy. These constraints could also encourage our competitors to develop platforms, websites, products and services that mimic the functionality of our services, which could decrease the popularity of our marketplaces or other businesses we operate, products and services among merchants, consumers and other participants, and cause our revenue and net income to decrease materially. Given the scale and rapid expansion of our business, we may be subject to greater scrutiny, which could in turn increase the likelihood that we will face regulatory action, which could result in fines or
restrictions on our business as well as negative publicity and adversely affect our reputation and the trading price of our ADSs.
PRC regulations relating to investments in offshore 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.
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, which replaced the former circular commonly known as "SAFE Circular 75" promulgated by SAFE on October 21, 2005. See also "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Foreign Exchange and Dividend Distribution Foreign Exchange Regulation SAFE Circular 37." SAFE Circular 37 and its implementing rules require PRC residents to register with banks designated by local branches of SAFE in connection with their direct establishment or indirect control of an offshore entity, for the purpose of overseas investment and financing, with the PRC residents' legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests, referred to in SAFE Circular 37 as a "special purpose vehicle."
We have notified substantial beneficial owners of ordinary shares who we know are PRC residents of their filing obligation, and pursuant to SAFE Circular 37, we have periodically filed and updated the above-mentioned foreign exchange registration on behalf of certain employee shareholders who we know are PRC residents. However, we may not be aware of the identities of all of our beneficial owners who are PRC residents. We do not have control over our beneficial owners, and there can be no assurance that all of our PRC-resident beneficial owners will comply with SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules. The failure of our beneficial owners who are PRC residents to register or amend their SAFE 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 the beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiaries to fines and legal sanctions.
Furthermore, since it is unclear how those SAFE regulations, and any future regulation concerning offshore or cross-border transactions, will be further interpreted, amended and implemented by the relevant PRC government authorities, we cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operations or future strategy. Failure to register or comply with relevant requirements may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital to our PRC subsidiaries and limit our PRC subsidiaries' ability to distribute dividends to our company. These risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding our employee equity incentive plans may subject the PRC participants in the plans, us or our overseas and PRC subsidiaries 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, prior to the exercise of an option, submit applications to 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 citizens residing in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year, subject to limited exceptions, and who have been granted restricted share units, or RSUs, options or restricted shares, by us or our overseas listed subsidiaries may follow the Notice on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plan of Overseas Publicly Listed Company, issued by SAFE in February 2012, to apply for the foreign exchange registration. According to those regulations, employees, directors and other management members participating in any stock incentive plan of an overseas publicly listed company who are PRC citizens or who are non-PRC citizens residing in China for a continuous period of not less than one year, subject to limited exceptions, are required to register with SAFE through a domestic qualified agent, which may be a PRC subsidiary of the overseas listed company, and complete certain other procedures. Failure to complete the SAFE registrations may subject them to fines and legal sanctions and may also limit their ability to make payment under the relevant
equity incentive plans or receive dividends or sales proceeds related thereto in foreign currencies, or our ability to contribute additional capital into our domestic subsidiaries in China and limit our domestic subsidiaries' ability to distribute dividends to us. We also face regulatory uncertainties under PRC law that could restrict our ability or the ability of our overseas listed subsidiaries to adopt additional equity incentive plans for our directors and employees who are PRC citizens or who are non-PRC citizens residing in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year, subject to limited exceptions.
In addition, the State Administration of Taxation has issued circulars concerning employee RSUs, share options or restricted shares. Under these circulars, employees working in the PRC whose RSUs or restricted shares vest, or who exercise share options, will be subject to PRC individual income tax. The PRC subsidiaries of an overseas listed company have obligations to file documents related to employee RSUs, share options or restricted shares with relevant tax authorities and to withhold individual income taxes of those employees related to their RSUs, share options or restricted shares. Although we and our overseas listed subsidiaries currently withhold income tax from our PRC employees in connection with the vesting of their RSUs and restricted shares and their exercise of options, if the employees fail to pay, or the PRC subsidiaries fail to withhold, their income taxes according to relevant laws, rules and regulations, the PRC subsidiaries may face sanctions imposed by the tax authorities.
We rely to a significant extent on dividends, loans and other distributions on equity paid by our principal operating subsidiaries in China.
We are a holding company and rely to a significant extent on dividends, loans and other distributions on equity paid by our principal operating subsidiaries for our offshore cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders, fund inter-company loans, service any debt we may incur outside of China and pay our expenses. When our principal operating subsidiaries incur additional debt, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other distributions or remittances, including loans, to us. Furthermore, the laws, rules and regulations applicable to our PRC subsidiaries and certain other subsidiaries permit payments of dividends only out of their retained earnings, if any, determined in accordance with applicable accounting standards and regulations.
Under PRC laws, rules and regulations, each of our subsidiaries incorporated in China is required to set aside a portion of its net income each year to fund certain statutory reserves. These reserves, together with the registered equity, are not distributable as cash dividends. As a result of these laws, rules and regulations, our subsidiaries incorporated in China are restricted in their ability to transfer a portion of their respective net assets to their shareholders as dividends. In addition, registered share capital and capital reserve accounts are also restricted from withdrawal in the PRC, up to the amount of net assets held in each operating subsidiary. As of March 31, 2019, these restricted net assets totaled RMB112.5 billion (US$16.8 billion).
Pay-for-performance services are considered, in part, to involve Internet advertisement, which subjects us to other laws, rules and regulations as well as additional obligations.
On July 4, 2016, the SAIC promulgated the Interim Measures for Administration of Internet Advertising, or the Internet Advertising Measures, which came into effect as of September 1, 2016 and defined Internet advertisements as any commercial advertising that directly or indirectly promotes goods or services through Internet media in any form including paid-for search results. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Advertising Services."
There exist substantial uncertainties with respect to the interpretation and implementation in practice of the Internet Advertising Measures by various government authorities. We derive a significant amount of our revenue from pay-for-performance, or P4P, services and other related services. Our P4P services and other related services may be considered to, in part, involve Internet advertisement. We may incur additional taxes in connection with our P4P and other related services. Moreover, PRC advertising laws, rules and regulations require advertisers, advertising operators and advertising distributors to ensure that the content of the advertisements they prepare or distribute is fair and accurate and is in full compliance with applicable law. Violation of these laws, rules or
regulations may result in penalties, including fines, confiscation of advertising fees and orders to cease dissemination of the advertisements. In circumstances involving serious violations, the PRC government may suspend or revoke a violator's business license or license for operating an advertising business. In addition, the Internet Advertising Measures require paid-for search results to be clearly distinguished from organic search results so that consumers will not misunderstand the nature of these search results. Therefore, we are obligated to distinguish from others the merchants who purchase the above-mentioned P4P and related services or the relevant listings by these merchants. Complying with these requirements, including any penalties or fines for any failure to comply, may significantly reduce the attractiveness of our platforms and increase our costs, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, for advertising content related to specific types of products and services, advertisers, advertising operators and advertising distributors must confirm that the advertisers have obtained requisite government approvals, including the advertiser's operating qualifications, proof of quality inspection of the advertised products, and, with respect to certain industries, government approval of the content of the advertisement and filing with the local authorities. Pursuant to the Internet Advertising Measures, we are required to take steps to monitor the content of advertisements displayed on our platforms. This requires considerable resources and time, and could significantly affect the operation of our business, while also subjecting us to increased liability under the relevant laws, rules and regulations. The costs associated with complying with these laws, rules and regulations, including fines or any other penalties for our failure to so comply if required, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any further change in the classification of our P4P and other related services by the PRC government may also significantly disrupt our operations and materially and adversely affect our business and prospects.
We may be treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, and we may therefore be subject to PRC income tax on our global income.
Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementing rules, both of which came into effect on January 1, 2008, enterprises established under the laws of jurisdictions outside of China with "de facto management bodies" located in China may be considered PRC tax resident enterprises for tax purposes and may be subject to the PRC enterprise income tax at the rate of 25% on their global income. The State Administration of Taxation 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, or Circular 82, on April 22, 2009. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Tax Regulations PRC Enterprise Income Tax." If we were to be considered a PRC resident enterprise, we would be subject to PRC enterprise income tax at the rate of 25% on our global income. In this case, our profitability and cash flow may be materially reduced as a result of our global income being taxed under the Enterprise Income Tax Law. We believe that none of our entities outside of China is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term "de facto management body."
Dividends payable to foreign investors and gains on the sale of our ADSs or ordinary shares by our foreign investors may become subject to PRC taxation.
Under the Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation regulations issued by the State Council, a 10% PRC withholding tax is applicable to dividends payable by a resident enterprise to investors that are non-resident enterprises, which do not have an establishment or place of business in the PRC or which have an establishment or place of business but the dividends are not effectively connected with the establishment or place of business, to the extent these dividends are derived from sources within the PRC, subject to any reduction set forth in applicable tax treaties. Similarly, any gain realized on the transfer of shares of a resident enterprise by these investors is also subject to PRC tax at a current rate of 10%, subject to any exemption set forth in relevant tax treaties, if the gain is regarded as income derived from sources within the PRC. If we are deemed a PRC resident enterprise, dividends paid on our ordinary shares or ADSs, and any gain realized by the investors from the transfer of our
ordinary shares or ADSs, may be treated as income derived from sources within the PRC and as a result be subject to PRC taxation. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Tax Regulations." Furthermore, if we are deemed a PRC resident enterprise, dividends payable to individual investors who are non-PRC residents and any gain realized on the transfer of ADSs or ordinary shares by these investors may be subject to PRC tax at a current rate of 20%, subject to any reduction or exemption set forth in applicable tax treaties. It is unclear if we or any of our subsidiaries established outside China are considered a PRC resident enterprise, whether holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares would be able to claim the benefit of income tax treaties or agreements entered into between China and other countries or areas and claim foreign tax credit if applicable. If dividends payable to our non-PRC investors, or gains from the transfer of our ADSs or ordinary shares by these investors are subject to PRC tax, the value of your investment in our ADSs or ordinary shares may decline significantly.
Discontinuation of preferential tax treatments we currently enjoy or other unfavorable changes in tax law could result in additional compliance obligations and costs.
Chinese companies operating in the high-technology and software industry that meet relevant requirements may qualify for three main types of preferential treatment, which are high and new technology enterprises, software enterprises and key software enterprises within the scope of the PRC national plan. For a qualified high and new technology enterprise, the applicable enterprise income tax rate is 15%. The high and new technology enterprise qualification is re-assessed by the relevant authorities every three years. Moreover, a qualified software enterprise is entitled to a tax holiday consisting of a two-year tax exemption beginning from the first profit-making calendar year and a 50% tax reduction for the subsequent three calendar years. The software enterprise qualification is subject to an annual assessment. For a qualified key software enterprise within the scope of the PRC national plan, the applicable enterprise tax rate for a calendar year is 10%. The key software enterprise qualification is subject to an annual assessment.
A number of our China operating entities enjoy these preferential tax treatments. The discontinuation of any of the various types of preferential tax treatment we enjoy could materially and adversely affect our results of operations. See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects A. Operating Results Taxation PRC Income Tax."
We and our shareholders face uncertainties with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises or other assets attributed to a PRC establishment of a non-PRC company.
On February 3, 2015, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Bulletin on Issues of Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Transfers of Assets by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or Bulletin 7, which has been further amended by the Announcement on Issues Concerning the Withholding of Enterprise Income Tax at Source on Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or Bulletin 37, issued by the State Administration of Taxation on October 17, 2017 and amended on June 15, 2018. Pursuant to these bulletins, an "indirect transfer" of assets, including equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise, by non-PRC resident enterprises may be re-characterized and treated as a direct transfer of PRC taxable assets, if the arrangement does not have a reasonable commercial purpose and was established for the purpose of avoiding payment of PRC enterprise income tax. As a result, gains derived from this indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax. See also "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Tax Regulations PRC Enterprise Income Tax."
There are uncertainties as to the application of Bulletin 7 and Bulletin 37. Bulletin 7 may be determined by the tax authorities to be applicable to some of our offshore restructuring transactions or sale of the shares of our offshore subsidiaries or investments where PRC taxable assets are involved. The transferors and transferees may be subject to the tax filing and the transferees may be subject to withholding or tax payment obligation, while our PRC subsidiaries may be requested to assist in the filing. Furthermore, we, our non-resident enterprises and PRC subsidiaries may be required to spend valuable resources to comply with Bulletin 7 or to establish that we and our non-resident enterprises should not be taxed under Bulletin 7, for our previous and future restructuring or disposal
of shares of our offshore subsidiaries, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The PRC tax authorities have the discretion under Bulletin 7 to make adjustments to the taxable capital gains based on the difference between the fair value of the taxable assets transferred and the cost of investment. If the PRC tax authorities make adjustments to the taxable income of the transactions under Bulletin 7, our income tax costs associated with potential acquisitions or disposals will increase, which may have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Restrictions on currency exchange or outbound capital flows may limit our ability to utilize our PRC revenue effectively.
Substantially all of our revenue is denominated in Renminbi. The Renminbi is currently convertible under the "current account," which includes dividends, trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, but requires approval from or registration with appropriate government authorities or designated banks under the "capital account," which includes foreign direct investment and loans, including loans we may secure from our onshore subsidiaries or variable interest entities. Currently, our PRC subsidiaries, that are foreign invested enterprises, may purchase foreign currency for settlement of "current account transactions," including payment of dividends to us, without the approval of SAFE by complying with certain procedural requirements. However, the relevant PRC governmental authorities may limit or eliminate our ability to purchase foreign currencies in the future for current account transactions.
Since 2016, PRC governmental authorities have imposed more stringent restrictions on outbound capital flows, including heightened scrutiny over "irrational" overseas investments for certain industries, as well as over four kinds of "abnormal" offshore investments, which are:
On January 26, 2017, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Further Improving Reform of Foreign Exchange Administration and Optimizing Genuineness and Compliance Verification, which tightened the authenticity and compliance verification of cross-border transactions and cross-border capital flow. See "Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Regulation Regulation of Foreign Exchange and Dividend Distribution Foreign Exchange Regulation." In addition, the Outbound Investment Sensitive Industry Catalogue (2018) lists certain sensitive industries that are subject to NDRC pre-approval requirements prior to remitting investment funds offshore, which subjects us to increased approval requirements and restrictions with respect to our overseas investment activity. Since a significant amount of our PRC revenue is denominated in Renminbi, any existing and future restrictions on currency exchange or outbound capital flows may limit our ability to utilize revenue generated in Renminbi to fund our business activities outside of the PRC, make investments, service any debt we may incur outside of China or pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of our ADSs.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could result in foreign currency exchange losses to us.
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 and the foreign exchange policy adopted by the PRC government. In August 2015, the People's Bank of China, or PBOC, changed the way it calculates the mid-point price of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar, requiring the market-makers who submit for reference rates to consider the previous day's closing spot rate, foreign-exchange demand and supply as well as changes in major currency
rates. In 2017, the value of the Renminbi appreciated by approximately 6.3% against the U.S. dollar; and in 2018, the Renminbi depreciated by approximately 5.7% against the U.S. dollar. From the end of 2018 through the end of April 2019, the value of the Renminbi appreciated by approximately 2.0% against the U.S. dollar. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy, including any interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve, may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future. There remains significant international pressure on the PRC government to adopt a more flexible currency policy, including from the U.S. government, which has threatened to label China as a "currency manipulator," which could result in greater fluctuation of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollar.
A substantial percentage of our revenues and costs are denominated in Renminbi, and a significant portion of our financial assets are also denominated in Renminbi while the majority of our debt is denominated in dollars. We are a holding company and we rely on dividends, loans and other distributions on equity paid by our operating subsidiaries in China. Any significant fluctuations in the value of the Renminbi may materially and adversely affect our liquidity and cash flows. If we decide to convert our Renminbi into U.S. dollars for the purpose of repaying principal or interest expense on our outstanding U.S. dollar-denominated debt, making payments for dividends on our ordinary shares or ADSs or other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the Renminbi would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount we would receive. Conversely, to the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars 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 time to time we enter into hedging activities with regard to exchange rate risk. There can be no assurance that our hedging activities will successfully mitigate these risks adequately or at all, and in addition hedging activities may result in greater volatility in our financial results.
The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by auditors who are not inspected fully by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and, accordingly, our shareholders are deprived of the benefits of this inspection.
As an auditor of companies that are publicly traded in the United States and a firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, PricewaterhouseCoopers is required under the laws of the United States to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB. However, because we have substantial operations within the People's Republic of China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB is currently unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese government authorities, our auditor and its audit work are not currently inspected fully by the PCAOB. On December 7, 2018, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a joint statement highlighting continued challenges faced by the U.S. regulators in their oversight of financial statement audits of U.S.-listed companies with significant operations in China. The joint statement reflects a heightened interest in an issue that has concerned U.S. regulators in recent years. However, it remains unclear what further actions the SEC and PCAOB will take to address the problem.
Inspections of other auditors conducted by the PCAOB outside of China have at times identified deficiencies in those auditors' audit procedures and quality control procedures, which may be addressed as part of the inspection process to improve future audit quality.
The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our auditor's audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to PCAOB inspections. Investors may lose confidence in our reported financial information and procedures and the quality of our financial statements.
Restrictions on the direct production of audit work papers to foreign regulators could result in our financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In late 2012, the SEC commenced administrative proceedings under Rule 102(e) of its Rules of Practice and also under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 against the mainland Chinese affiliates of the "big four" accounting firms, including the affiliate of our auditor, and also against Dahua, the former BDO affiliate in China. The Rule 102(e) proceedings initiated by the SEC related to the failure of these firms to produce documents, including audit work
papers, in response to the request of the SEC pursuant to Section 106 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as the auditors located in China are not in a position lawfully to produce documents directly to the SEC because of restrictions under PRC law and specific directives issued by the CSRC. The issues raised by the proceedings are not specific to the Chinese affiliate of our auditor or to us, but potentially affect equally all PCAOB-registered audit firms based in China and all businesses based in China (or with substantial operations in China) with securities listed in the United States. In addition, auditors based outside of China are subject to similar restrictions under PRC law and CSRC directives in respect of audit work that is carried out in China that supports the audit opinions issued on financial statements of entities with substantial China operations.
In February 2015, each of the "big four" accounting firms in China agreed to a censure and to pay a fine to the SEC to settle the dispute with the SEC. The settlement stayed the current proceeding for four years, during which time the firms were required to follow detailed procedures to seek to provide the SEC with access to Chinese firms' audit documents via the CSRC. If a firm were not to follow the procedures, the SEC would impose penalties such as suspensions, or commence a new, expedited administrative proceeding against the non-compliant firm or it could restart the administrative proceeding against all four firms. In addition, the limitations imposed by the PRC on the production of workpapers reflecting audit work performed in the PRC could likewise result in the imposition of penalties on our independent registered public accounting firm by the PCAOB or the SEC, such as suspensions of our audit firm's ability to practice before the SEC. Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the "big four" accounting firms in China was deemed dismissed with prejudice four years after entry of the settlement. The fourth anniversary of the settlement was on February 6, 2019. We cannot predict if the SEC will further challenge the four firms as to their compliance with U.S. law in connection with U.S. regulatory requests for audit work papers, or if the results of the challenge would result in the SEC imposing penalties, such as suspensions. If any additional remedial measures are imposed on the Chinese affiliates of the "big four" accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act.
If our independent registered public accounting firm, or the affiliate of our independent registered public accounting firm, were denied, even temporarily, the ability to practice before the SEC, we would need to consider alternate support arrangements for the audit of our operations in China. If our auditor, or an affiliate of that firm, were unable to address issues related to the production of documents, and we were unable to timely find another independent registered public accounting firm to audit and issue an opinion on our financial statements, our financial statements could be determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act. A determination of this type could ultimately lead to delisting of our ADSs from the New York Stock Exchange or deregistration from the SEC, or both. This would materially and adversely affect the market price of our ADSs and substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of our ADSs in the United States.
Risks Related to Our ADSs
The trading price of our ADSs has been and is likely to continue to be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to holders of our ADSs.
The trading price of our ADSs has been and is likely to continue to be volatile and could fluctuate widely in response to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. For example, the high and low sale prices of our ADSs in fiscal year 2019 were US$211.70 and US$129.77, respectively. In addition, the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States may affect the volatility in the price of and trading volumes for our ADSs. Some of these companies have experienced significant volatility, including significant price declines after their initial public offerings. The trading performances of these PRC companies' securities at the time of or after their offerings may affect the overall investor sentiment towards other PRC companies listed in the United States
and consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs. In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for our ADSs may be highly volatile for specific business reasons, including:
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and trading price of our ADSs. In addition, the stock market has from time to time experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that are unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies and industries. These fluctuations may include a so-called "bubble market" in which investors temporarily raise the price of the stocks of companies in certain industries, such as the e-commerce industry, to unsustainable levels. These market fluctuations may significantly affect the trading price of our ADSs. In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company's securities, shareholders have often instituted securities class action litigation against that company. We were named as a defendant in certain purported shareholder class action lawsuits described in "Item 8. Financial Information A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information Legal and Administrative Proceedings." The litigation process may utilize a material portion of our cash resources and divert management's attention from the day-to-day operations of our company, all of which could harm our business. If adversely determined, the class action suits may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Substantial future sales or perceived potential sales of our ADSs, ordinary shares or other equity or equity-linked securities in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline significantly.
Sales of our ADSs, ordinary shares or other equity or equity-linked securities in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our ADSs to decline significantly. As of March 31, 2019, we had 2,587,059,572 ordinary shares outstanding, and 1,713,232,408 of our ordinary shares were represented by ADSs. All of our ordinary shares represented by ADSs were freely transferable by persons other than our affiliates without restriction or additional registration under the Securities Act of 1933, or the Securities Act. The ordinary shares held by our affiliates and other shareholders are also available for sale, subject to volume and other restrictions as applicable under Rules 144 and 701 under the Securities Act, under sales plans adopted pursuant to Rule 10b5-1 or otherwise.
On May 15, 2019, Altaba, one of our principal shareholders, announced that it intends to commence sales of our shares on May 20, 2019. Altaba stated that it intends to sell no more than 50% of the Company's shares it holds prior to receiving stockholder approval of its previously announced plan to liquidate and dissolve the Altaba entity pursuant to voluntary liquidation and dissolution. Altaba's stockholder meeting to vote on the plan is scheduled to be held on June 27, 2019. In addition, Altaba expects to file its certificate of dissolution during the third or fourth quarter of 2019, although this filing may be delayed by Altaba's board in its sole discretion. Altaba stated that it intends to sell all of its shares in us if the plan is approved at the stockholder meeting, although Altaba has stated that the timing and method of sales, and other related transaction considerations will be determined at its discretion, and the plan is subject to change based on prevailing market conditions and other factors. If Altaba, or any vehicles that have been created or may be created to hold our shares, among other assets, takes any further steps to divest itself of all or a portion of its holdings in our ordinary shares in the form of ADSs in the public market, including through its announced plan of liquidation and dissolution and through periodic small-scale sales, this could cause the price of our ADSs to decline significantly.
Certain major holders of our ordinary shares will have the right to cause us to register under the Securities Act the sale of their shares. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in ADSs representing these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the form of ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline significantly.
As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to and we will, rely on exemptions from certain New York Stock Exchange corporate governance standards applicable to domestic U.S. issuers. This may afford less protection to holders of our ordinary shares and the ADSs.
We are exempted from certain corporate governance requirements of the New York Stock Exchange by virtue of being a foreign private issuer. We are required to provide a brief description of the significant differences between our corporate governance practices and the corporate governance practices required to be followed by domestic U.S. companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The standards applicable to us are considerably different than the standards applied to domestic U.S. issuers. For instance, we are not required to:
We have relied on and intend to continue to rely on some of these exemptions. As a result, holders of our ADSs may not be provided with the benefits of certain corporate governance requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.
As a foreign private issuer, we are exempt from certain disclosure requirements under the Exchange Act, which may afford less protection to holders of our ADSs than they would enjoy if we were a domestic U.S. company.
As a foreign private issuer, we are exempt from, among other things, the rules prescribing the furnishing and content of proxy statements under the Exchange Act and the rules relating to selective disclosure of material nonpublic information under Regulation FD. In addition, our executive officers, directors and principal shareholders are exempt from the reporting and short-swing profit and recovery provisions contained in Section 16 of the Exchange Act. We are also not required under the Exchange Act to file periodic reports and financial statements with the SEC as frequently or as promptly as domestic U.S. companies with securities registered under the Exchange Act. As a result, holders of our ADSs may be afforded less protection than they would under the Exchange Act rules applicable to domestic U.S. companies.
We may in the future conduct a public offering and listing of our shares in China, which may result in increased regulatory scrutiny and compliance costs as well as increased fluctuations in the prices of our ordinary shares and ADSs listed in overseas markets.
We may conduct a public offering and/or listing of our shares on a stock exchange in China in the future. We have not set a specific timetable or decided on any specific form for an offering in China and may not ultimately conduct an offering and listing. The precise timing of the offering and/or listing of our shares in China would depend on a number of factors, including relevant regulatory developments and market conditions. If we complete a public offering or listing in China, we would become subject to the applicable laws, rules and regulations governing public companies listed in China, in addition to the various laws, rules and regulations that we are subject to in the United States as a reporting company. The listing and trading of our shares in multiple jurisdictions and multiple markets may lead to increased compliance costs for us, and we may face the risk of significant intervention by regulatory authorities in these jurisdictions and markets.
In addition, under current PRC laws, rules and regulations, our ordinary shares will not be interchangeable or fungible with any shares we may decide to list on a PRC stock exchange, and there is no trading or settlement between these markets in the United States and mainland China. Furthermore, these two markets have different trading characteristics and investor bases, including different levels of retail and institutional participation. As a result of these differences, the trading prices of our ADSs, accounting for the share-to-ADS ratio, may not be the same as the trading prices of any shares we may decide to list on a PRC stock exchange. The issuance of a separate class of shares and fluctuations in its trading price may also lead to increased volatility in, and may otherwise materially decrease, the prices of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
Our shareholders may face difficulties in protecting their interests, and their ability to protect their rights through the federal courts may be limited because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law, we conduct substantially all of our operations in China and most of our directors and substantially all of our executive officers reside outside the United States.
We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands and conduct substantially all of our operations in China through our wholly-owned entities and variable interest entities. Most of our directors and substantially all of our executive officers reside outside the United States and a substantial portion of their assets are located outside of the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for our shareholders (including holders of ADSs) to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the Cayman Islands or in China in the event that they believe that their rights have been infringed under the securities laws of the United States or otherwise. Even if shareholders are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and China may render them unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. There is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States or China, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will generally recognize and enforce a non-penal judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction without retrial on the merits.
Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association, as amended and restated from time to time, and by the Companies Law (2018 Revision) and common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take legal action against us and our directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from English common law, which provides persuasive, but not binding, authority in a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedents in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States and provides significantly less protection to investors. In addition, shareholders in Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in U.S. federal courts.
In addition, our articles of association provide that in the event that any shareholder initiates or asserts any claim or counterclaim against us, or joins, offers substantial assistance to or has a direct financial interest in any claim or counterclaim against us, and does not obtain a judgment on the merits in which the initiating or asserting party prevails, then the shareholder will be obligated to reimburse us for all fees, costs and expenses (including, but not limited to, all reasonable attorneys' fees and other litigation expenses) that we may incur in connection with a claim or counterclaim. These fees, costs and expenses that may be shifted to a shareholder under this provision are potentially significant and this fee-shifting provision is not limited to specific types of actions, but is rather potentially applicable to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Our fee-shifting provision may dissuade or discourage our shareholders (and their attorneys) from initiating lawsuits or claims against us or may impact the fees, contingency or otherwise, required by attorneys to represent our shareholders. Fee-shifting provisions such as ours are relatively new and untested. There can be no assurance that we will or will not invoke our fee-shifting provision in any particular dispute, or that we will be successful in obtaining fees if we choose to invoke the provision.
As a result of the foregoing, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests through actions against us, our management, our directors or our major shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States.
The voting rights of holders of our ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement.
Holders of our ADSs may exercise their voting rights with respect to the ordinary shares underlying their ADSs only in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Upon receipt of voting instructions from them in the manner set forth in the deposit agreement, the depositary for our ADSs will endeavor to vote their underlying ordinary shares in accordance with these instructions. Under our articles of association, the minimum notice period required for convening a general meeting is ten days. When a general meeting is convened, holders of our ADSs may not receive sufficient notice of a shareholders' meeting to permit them to withdraw their ordinary shares to allow them to cast their votes with respect to any specific matter at the meeting. In addition, the depositary and its agents may not be able to send voting instructions to holders of our ADSs or carry out their voting instructions in a timely manner. We will make all reasonable efforts to cause the depositary to extend voting rights to holders of our ADSs in a timely manner, but they may not receive the voting materials in time to ensure that they can instruct the depositary to vote the ordinary shares underlying their ADSs. Furthermore, the depositary and its agents will not be responsible for any failure to carry out any instructions to vote, for the manner in which any vote is cast or for the effect of any vote. As a result, holders of our ADSs may not be able to exercise their rights to vote and they may lack recourse if the ordinary shares underlying their ADSs are not voted as they requested.
The depositary for our ADSs will give us a discretionary proxy to vote our ordinary shares underlying the ADSs if holders of these ADSs do not give voting instructions to the depositary, except in limited circumstances, which could adversely affect the interests of holders of our ADSs.
Under the deposit agreement for our ADSs, the depositary will give us a discretionary proxy to vote the ordinary shares underlying the ADSs at shareholders' meetings if holders of these ADSs do not give voting instructions to the depositary, unless:
The effect of this discretionary proxy is that, if holders of our ADSs fail to give voting instructions to the depositary, they cannot prevent our ordinary shares underlying their ADSs from being voted, absent the situations described above, and it may make it more difficult for shareholders to influence our management. Holders of our ordinary shares are not subject to this discretionary proxy.
Holders of our ADSs may be subject to limitations on transfer of their ADSs.
ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its transfer books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. In addition, the depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of ADSs generally when our books or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary deems it advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
Holders of our ADSs may not receive distributions on our ordinary shares or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical to make them available to them.
The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay holders of our ADSs the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian for our ADSs receives on our ordinary shares or other deposited securities after deducting its fees and expenses. Holders of our ADSs will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of our ordinary shares that their ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible for making these payments or distributions if it is unlawful or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. For example, it would be unlawful to make a distribution to a holder of ADSs if it consists of securities that require registration under the Securities Act but that are not properly registered or distributed pursuant to an applicable exemption from registration. The depositary is not responsible for making a distribution available to any holders of ADSs if any government approval or registration required for the distribution cannot be obtained after reasonable efforts made by the depositary. We have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution of our ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or anything else to holders of our ADSs. This means that holders of our ADSs may not receive the distributions we make on our ordinary shares or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical for us to make them available. These restrictions may materially reduce the value of the ADSs.
There could be adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States investors if we were or were to become a passive foreign investment company.
While we do not believe we are or will become a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, there can be no assurance that we were not a PFIC in the past and will not become a PFIC in the future. The determination of whether or not we are a PFIC is made on an annual basis and will depend on the composition of our income and assets from time to time. Specifically, we will be classified as a PFIC for United States federal income tax purposes if either: (i) 75% or more of our gross income in a taxable year is passive income, or (ii) the average percentage of our assets by value in a taxable year that produce or are held for the production of passive income (which includes cash) is at least 50%. The calculation of the value of our assets will be based, in part, on the quarterly market value of our ADSs, which is subject to change. See "Item 10. Additional Information E. Taxation Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations Passive Foreign Investment Company."
Although we do not believe we were or will become a PFIC, it is not entirely clear how the contractual arrangements between us and our variable interest entities will be treated for purposes of the PFIC rules. If it were determined that we do not own the stock of our variable interest entities for United States federal income tax purposes (for example, because the relevant PRC authorities do not respect these arrangements), we may be treated as a PFIC. See "Item 10. Additional Information E. Taxation Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations Passive Foreign Investment Company."
If we were or were to become a PFIC, adverse United States federal income tax consequences to our shareholders that are United States investors could result. For example, if we are a PFIC, our United States investors will
become subject to increased tax liabilities under United States federal income tax laws and regulations and will become subject to burdensome reporting requirements. There can be no assurance that we were not or will not become a PFIC for any taxable year. You are urged to consult your own tax advisors concerning United States federal income tax consequence on the application of the PFIC rules. See "Item 10. Additional Information E. Taxation Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations Passive Foreign Investment Company."
A. History and Development of the Company
Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Cayman Islands holding company established under the Companies Law of the Cayman Islands (as amended) on June 28, 1999, and we conduct our business in China through our subsidiaries and variable interest entities. Our ADSs are listed on the NYSE under the symbol "BABA."
Our significant subsidiaries, as that term is defined under Section 1-02 of Regulation S-X under the Securities Act, include the following entities:
The principal executive offices of our main operations are located at 969 West Wen Yi Road, Yu Hang District, Hangzhou 311121, People's Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86-571-8502-2088. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the offices of Trident Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, Fourth Floor, One Capital Place, P.O. Box 847, George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Our agent for service of process in the United States is Corporation Service Company located at 1180 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 210, New York, New York 10036. Our corporate website is www.alibabagroup.com.
We have a demonstrated track record of successful organic business creation. In addition to organic growth, we have made, or have entered into agreements to make strategic investments, acquisitions and alliances that are intended to further our strategic objectives. See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects A. Operating Results Recent Investment, Acquisition and Strategic Alliance Activities" for more information.
Share Repurchase Program
In May 2017, we announced the adoption of a share repurchase program in an aggregate amount of up to US$6.0 billion over a period of two years, or the 2017 Share Repurchase Program. We have repurchased approximately 10.9 million of our ADSs for a total of approximately US$1.57 billion on the open market under a purchase plan adopted to implement the 2017 Share Repurchase Program. See "Item 16E. Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers." The 2017 Share Repurchase Program expired as of the date of
this annual report. In May 2019, our board of directors authorized a new share repurchase program for an amount of up to US$6.0 billion over a period of another two years.
B. Business Overview
Our mission is to make it easy to do business anywhere.
Our founders started our company to champion small businesses, in the belief that the Internet would level the playing field by enabling small enterprises to leverage innovation and technology to grow and compete more effectively in domestic and global economies. We believe that concentrating on customer needs and solving their problems whether those customers are consumers, merchants or enterprises ultimately will lead to the best outcome for our business. We have developed a large digital economy that enables participants to create and share value on our platforms. Our decisions are guided by how they serve our mission over the long term, not by the pursuit of short-term gains.
We aim to build the future infrastructure of commerce. We envision that our customers will meet, work and live at Alibaba, and that we will be a company that lasts at least 102 years.
Meet @ Alibaba. We enable commercial and social interactions among hundreds of millions of users, between consumers and merchants, and among businesses every day.
Work @ Alibaba. We empower our customers with the fundamental infrastructure for commerce and new technology, so that they can build businesses and create value that can be shared among our digital economy participants.
Live @ Alibaba. We strive to expand our products and services to become central to the everyday lives of our customers.
As we continue to expand our businesses from commerce to cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, among other sectors, Alibaba has evolved into a digital economy that is unique, energetic and innovative. By the year 2036, we aim to have served 2 billion global consumers, empowered 10 million profitable businesses and created 100 million jobs.
102 Years. For a company that was founded in 1999, lasting at least 102 years means we will have spanned three centuries, an achievement that few companies can claim. Our culture, business models and systems are built to last, so that we can achieve sustainability in the long run.
Our values are fundamental to the way we operate and how we recruit, evaluate and compensate our people.
Our six values are:
To fulfill our mission "to make it easy to do business anywhere," we enable businesses to transform the way they market, sell and operate and improve their efficiencies. We provide the technology infrastructure and marketing reach to help merchants, brands and other businesses to leverage the power of new technology to engage with their users and customers and operate in a more efficient way.
Our businesses are comprised of core commerce, cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, and innovation initiatives. In addition, Ant Financial, an unconsolidated related party, provides payment and financial services to consumers and merchants on our platforms. A digital economy has developed around our platforms and businesses that consists of consumers, merchants, brands, retailers, third-party service providers, strategic alliance partners and other businesses.
Retail commerce in China
We are the largest retail commerce business in the world in terms of GMV in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, according to Analysys. We operate Taobao Marketplace, China's largest mobile commerce destination with a large and growing social community, and Tmall, the world's largest third-party online and mobile commerce platform for brands and retailers, in each case in terms of GMV in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, according to Analysys. In fiscal year 2019, we generated approximately 66% of our revenue from our retail commerce business in China.
We have introduced New Retail initiatives to reengineer the fundamentals of retail operations and transform the retail landscape. New Retail represents the convergence of online and offline retail by leveraging digitalized operating systems, in-store technology, supply chain systems, consumer insights and mobile ecosystem to provide a seamless shopping experience for consumers. For example, we operate Freshippo, known as "Hema" in Chinese, our proprietary grocery retail chain. Freshippo exemplifies the creation of a new shopping experience through the convergence of online and offline activities by using retail stores to warehouse and fulfill online orders in addition to offering a rich and fun experience for customers who shop in-store.
Retail commerce cross-border and global
We operate Lazada's leading e-commerce platform across Southeast Asia with local language mobile apps and websites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. AliExpress, one of our global retail marketplaces, enables consumers from around the world to buy directly from manufacturers and distributors in China and around the world. Tmall Global allows overseas brands and retailers to reach Chinese consumers, and is the largest import e-commerce platform in China based on GMV in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, according to Analysys. Additionally, Tmall World, a Chinese-language e-commerce platform, allows overseas Chinese consumers to shop directly from Chinese domestic brands and retailers. In fiscal year 2019, we also acquired Trendyol in Turkey, and Daraz, which primarily operates in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both Trendyol and Daraz operate leading e-commerce platforms in their respective markets.
Wholesale commerce in China
1688.com, China's leading integrated domestic wholesale marketplace in 2018 by revenue, according to Analysys, connects wholesale buyers and sellers in a wide range of categories. Lingshoutong ( ), a digital sourcing platform for retailers, connects fast moving consumer goods, or FMCG, brand manufacturers and their distributors directly to local mom-and-pop stores in China.
Wholesale commerce cross-border and global
We operate Alibaba.com, China's largest integrated international online wholesale marketplace in 2018 by revenue, according to Analysys. As of March 31, 2019, buyers on Alibaba.com were located in over 190 countries.
We operate Cainiao Network's logistics data platform and global fulfillment network that primarily leverages the capacity and capabilities of logistics partners. It offers domestic and international one-stop-shop logistics services and supply chain management solutions, fulfilling various logistics needs of merchants and consumers at scale, serving our digital economy and beyond. We use Cainiao Network's data insights and technology to facilitate the digitalization of the entire warehousing, fulfillment and delivery process, thereby improving efficiency across the logistics value chain. For example, it provides real-time access to data for merchants to better manage their inventory and warehousing, for consumers to track their orders, and for express courier companies to optimize delivery routes.
We use mobile and online technology to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and convenience of consumer services for both service providers and their customers. We utilize this technology in Ele.me, a leading on-demand delivery and local services platform, to enable consumers to order food and beverages through a mobile app anytime and anywhere. Koubei, a leading restaurant and local services guide platform for in-store consumption, provides targeted marketing tools for merchants and allow consumers to discover local services content. Fliggy, a leading online travel platform, provides comprehensive services for consumers' travel needs.
Alibaba Cloud is the world's third largest, and Asia Pacific's largest, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS, and Infrastructure Utility Services provider by revenue in 2018, according to Gartner's April 2019 report (Source: Gartner, Market Share: IT Services, 2018, Dean Blackmore et al., April 8, 2019) (Asia Pacific refers to Mature Asia/Pacific, Greater China, Emerging Asia/Pacific and Japan). Alibaba Cloud is also China's largest provider of public cloud services by revenue in 2018, including Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS, and IaaS services, according to IDC (Source: IDC Semiannual Public Cloud Services Tracker, 2018). Alibaba Cloud offers a complete suite of cloud services, including elastic computing, database, storage, network virtualization services, large scale computing, security, management and application services, big data analytics, a machine learning platform, and IoT services, serving our digital economy and beyond.
Digital Media and Entertainment
Digital media and entertainment is a natural extension of our strategy to capture consumption beyond our core commerce businesses. Insights we gain from our core commerce business and our proprietary data technology enable us to deliver relevant digital media and entertainment content to consumers. This synergy delivers a superior entertainment experience, increases customer loyalty and return on investment for enterprises, and improves monetization for content providers across the digital economy.
Youku, the third largest online video platform in China in terms of monthly active users in March 2019, according to QuestMobile, and UC Browser, one of the top mobile browsers in the world, according to Stat Counter (http://gs/statcounter.com), serve as our two key distribution platforms for digital media and entertainment content. In addition, to further implement our digital media and entertainment strategies, we increased our shareholding in Alibaba Pictures, an Internet-driven integrated platform that covers content production, promotion and distribution, intellectual property licensing and integrated management, cinema ticketing management and data services for the entertainment industry, to approximately 51% in fiscal year 2019. Youku, UC Browser, Alibaba Pictures and our other content platforms, such as news feeds, literature and music, allow users to discover and consume content as well as interact with each other.
We continue to innovate and develop new service offerings and products with the goals of meeting the needs and improving efficiency in the daily lives of our customers and creating synergies among our digital economy participants. Amap, the largest provider of mobile digital map, navigation and real-time traffic information in China by monthly active users in March 2019, according to QuestMobile, empowers our businesses and third-party mobile apps through its map data technology. Amap also provides a simple one-stop access point to end-users with services such as navigation, food delivery and taxi-hailing services. To enhance communication and efficiency of our business enterprise customers, DingTalk, the largest business efficiency app in China by monthly active users in March 2019, according to QuestMobile, enables communication in multiple formats, workflow management and network collaboration among team members and enterprises, all in a single interface. Through Tmall Genie, the No. 1 smart speaker in China by shipments in 2018, according to IDC (Source: IDC China Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker, Fourth Quarter 2018), we have created a new and interactive interface for our customers to easily access services offered by our digital economy participants.
Our Digital Economy
A digital economy has developed around our platforms and businesses that consists of consumers, merchants, brands, retailers, third-party service providers, strategic alliance partners and other businesses. At the nexus of this digital economy are our technology platform, our marketplace rules and the role we play in connecting these participants to make it possible for them to discover, engage and transact with each other and manage their businesses anytime and anywhere. Much of our effort, time and energy is spent on initiatives that are for the greater good of the digital economy and on balancing the interests of its participants. We feel a strong responsibility for the continued development of the digital economy and we take ownership in this development. Accordingly, we refer to this as "our digital economy." Our digital economy has strong self-reinforcing network effects benefitting its various participants, who are in turn invested in our digital economy's growth and success.
The following chart sets forth the key businesses and services provided by us and Ant Financial, our major cooperation partner.
We will continue to innovate in the areas of business models, products and services, and technology to create value for both consumers and businesses. We formulate and evolve strategies that aim to best serve consumers' and businesses' interests.
User Growth and Engagement
We look at our businesses and service and product offerings through the lens of our users. To cater to each user's personal needs, we aim to expand and make available a broad range of products and services across our digital economy, including physical and virtual goods, local consumer services, travel, media and entertainment, healthcare and financial services, among others.
We intend to further address the consumption needs of users in less developed cities and rural areas, and to provide individuals at different income levels with access to quality merchandise and services suitable to their consumption capabilities.
We also intend to make our offerings available to more users outside of China as we implement our globalization initiatives. Starting with Southeast Asia, we aim to serve users around the world with localized operations, as well as cross-border commerce with access to Chinese manufacturers and consumers.
Empower Businesses to Facilitate Digital Transformation and Improve Operational Efficiency
Our diverse commerce platforms and extensive consumer insights, combined with our cloud computing technologies, New Retail supply-chain management and sales and marketing systems form a critical foundation that facilitate digital transformation for businesses. We refer to this foundation as the Alibaba Business Operation System ("ABOS").
ABOS allows us to enable the participants in our digital economy with our proprietary capabilities and know-how. To date, we have already enabled the transformation of the business operations, technology infrastructure and organizational systems of many of our enterprise customers. The enterprises that have leveraged our ABOS have already benefited from integrated online and offline operations, effective customer engagement, acquisition and retention, speedy delivery, innovative utilization of retail space, enhanced operating efficiencies and new business models.
ABOS currently serves a wide variety of businesses in our digital economy. We intend to make ABOS available to a broader range of enterprise customers in the future.
Continue to Innovate
We will continue to be an innovator in products and technology as well as an enabler of new business models. Traditionally unstructured, undiscovered and underutilized data can now be captured, activated and leveraged as a new source of intelligence that supports business growth and decisions, driving improved operating efficiency and targeted offerings to meet consumer needs.
With cloud computing as an easily accessible and scalable service, and data as a value-enhancing resource, we believe that new technology will play a fundamental role in social and commercial interactions. With a strong commitment to data security and privacy, we will continue to apply machine learning technology to all aspects of our business and invest in our cloud computing platform to support our own and our customers' businesses.
Our core commerce business is comprised of the following businesses:
Retail Commerce in China
Our retail commerce business in China, empowered by our commerce technologies and services, is primarily comprised of Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, New Retail initiatives and Alibaba Health. Together, they have become an important part of the everyday lives of Chinese consumers, as evidenced by the 654 million annual active consumers we had on our China retail marketplaces in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019.
Value Proposition to Consumers
Our retail commerce businesses in China offer the following value propositions to consumers:
Our ability to offer and deliver value has driven increased consumer engagement over time. Generally, the longer consumers have been with us, the larger number of orders they tend to place, across a more diverse range of product categories, and the more they tend to spend on our China retail marketplaces. In addition, we believe our platforms appeal to a growing and increasingly-diversified consumer base, including those at different income levels. In fiscal year 2018, more than 100 million annual active consumers spent more than RMB10,000 on our China retail marketplaces and 98% of these consumers continued to be active in fiscal year 2019. Furthermore, consumers from less developed areas are important growth drivers of our user base, contributing to more than 70% of the increase in our annual active consumers on our China retail marketplaces in fiscal year 2019. While there has been an increasing number of active consumers from less developed areas, the overall average number of
orders and amount spent (excluding those related to insurance) per annual active consumer on China retail marketplaces remained relatively stable.
Value Proposition to Merchants
With data and technology, we are committed to enabling merchants, brands and retailers by delivering the following value propositions:
Taobao means "search for treasure" in Chinese. Through the Taobao app and the website at www.taobao.com, we have positioned Taobao Marketplace as the starting point and destination portal for the shopping journey. Consumers from both large cities and less developed areas come to Taobao Marketplace to enjoy an engaging, personalized shopping experience, optimized by our big data analytics. Through highly relevant and engaging content and real-time updates from merchants, consumers can learn about products and new trends. They can also interact with each other and their favorite merchants and key opinion leaders. Taobao Marketplace has a broad offering of interactive features such as live broadcast and short-form videos. Taobao Marketplace is China's largest mobile commerce destination, with a large and growing social community, in terms of GMV for the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, according to Analysys.
Taobao Marketplace provides a top-level traffic funnel that directs users to the various marketplaces, channels and features within our digital economy. For example, a search result on Taobao Marketplace displays listings not only from Taobao Marketplace merchants but also from Tmall merchants and brands, thereby generating traffic for Tmall.
Below is a visual presentation of various features of the Taobao app:
Taobao app offers a unique social commerce experience through highly relevant content,
personalized shopping recommendations and opportunities for social engagements
Consumers see targeted content based on relevancy
Consumers come to Taobao app to discover new trends and browse for ideas
Taobao app offers features like live streaming, short-form videos and social media which allow
merchants to engage with consumers beyond their storefronts
Interest-based interactive platform for consumers to share shopping experiences,
interact with one another and answer each other's questions
Taobao Marketplace is also the entry point to various specific product and service categories beyond general merchandise, such as second-hand auctions, and online travel booking, which may also be accessed through their respective independent mobile apps.
Merchants on Taobao Marketplace are primarily individuals and small businesses. Merchants can create storefronts and listings on Taobao Marketplace free of charge. The escrow payment services provided by Alipay are free of charge to consumers and merchants unless payment is funded through a credit product such as a credit card, in which case Alipay charges a fee to the merchant based on the related bank fees charged to Alipay. Taobao Marketplace merchants can purchase pay-for-performance, or P4P, and display marketing services to direct traffic to their storefronts. In addition, merchants can acquire additional traffic from third-party marketing affiliates. Taobao Marketplace merchants can also pay for advanced storefront software that helps to upgrade, decorate and manage their online storefronts.
Tmall caters to consumers' ever-growing demand for high-quality products and premium shopping experience. A large number of international and Chinese brands and retailers have established storefronts on Tmall. We have positioned Tmall as a trusted platform for consumers in China and overseas to buy both homegrown and international-branded products as well as products not available in traditional retail outlets. As the brands and offerings on Tmall continue to grow and diversify, we have been able to more accurately target and meet different consumer demands. In the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, Tmall was the largest third-party online and mobile commerce platform for brands and retailers in the world in terms of GMV, according to Analysys, and continues to grow quickly.
In 2009, Tmall pioneered the 11.11 global shopping festival. 11.11 has become the most important shopping event in China and we believe it generated the highest one-day retail sales volume in the world in 2018. On November 11, 2018, our China retail marketplaces and AliExpress generated GMV of RMB213.5 billion (US$30.8 billion) settled within a 24-hour period, reflecting the strength of our infrastructure and the scale of our entire digital economy in China and around the world.
Tmall is the partner of choice for brands. Brands and retailers operate their own stores on the Tmall platform with unique brand identities and look and feel, accompanied by full control over their own branding and merchandising. As of March 31, 2019, there were over 190,000 brands and merchants on Tmall, including 77% of the consumer brands ranked in the Forbes Top 100 World's Most Valuable Brands for 2019. Because of the presence of a large number of global brands and the stringent standards required for merchants, brands and retailers to join and operate on Tmall, a presence on Tmall has become a validation of quality, allowing merchants, brands and retailers to take advantage of our significant traffic to extend and build brand awareness and customer engagement. Major international brands that have physical operations in China are well represented on Tmall.
Brands and retailers turn to Tmall not only for its broad user base, but also for its data insights and technology. Tmall has driven the digitalization and transformation of brands and retailers by enabling them to digitalize their operations, engage, acquire and retain consumers, increase brand recognition, innovate product offerings, manage supply chains and enhance operational efficiency. Tmall also offers a variety of one-stop brand marketing and promotional products to help brands and retailers quickly acquire new users and enhance brand awareness.
We also seek to build our mind-share among consumers to position Tmall as the premier shopping destination for everyday items, highlighting value and convenience. Consumer electronics, apparel and FMCG are among Tmall's most popular product categories, which are growing quickly. We have also strengthened consumer recognition of Tmall's value proposition in consumer electronics and home appliances through promotional events and strategic partnerships.
Like merchants on Taobao Marketplace, brands and merchants on Tmall have access to P4P, display marketing services and storefront software, which they can use to fully engineer, customize, and even code the software behind, their storefronts.
New Retail Initiatives
We have introduced New Retail initiatives to innovate models for retail businesses and reengineer and transform the fundamentals of traditional retail operations. New Retail represents the convergence of online and offline retail by leveraging digitalized operating systems, in-store technology, supply chain systems, consumer insights and the mobile ecosystem to provide a seamless shopping experience for consumers. We believe the lack of real-time consumer insights is one of the key issues facing China's traditional retailers today. Through consumer insights and technology, our New Retail initiatives not only incubate new business models, but also focus on enabling traditional retailer partners to reinvigorate their businesses by digitalizing their operations and increasing their catchment area online and offline, thereby improving sales productivity. We are also empowering retailers with our new technology to significantly improve operating efficiency and allow them to react to consumer demands on a real-time basis.
We are also pursuing New Retail initiatives in product categories beyond daily consumption, such as electronics, home furnishings and FMCG, among others. Intime Department Store is a leading department store chain in China that intends to transform traditional retail models for fashion apparel and accessories. We and Suning are jointly testing and developing new ways for consumers to shop for and purchase consumer electronics. In the home furnishing sector, we have invested in Red Star Macalline Group Corporation Limited and Easyhome, each of which is a leading retail chain for home-improvement supplies and furniture in China.
Alibaba Health is our flagship vehicle for bringing innovative solutions to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Alibaba Health primarily engages in the operation of pharmaceutical e-commerce and consumer healthcare platforms, self-operated sales of pharmaceutical and healthcare products, the provision of product tracking services, and the development of intelligent medicine and Internet healthcare solutions.
Branding and Monetization Platforms
Alimama is our monetization platform. Using data technology, this platform matches the marketing demands of merchants, brands and retailers with the media resources on our own platforms and third-party properties, and enables us to monetize our core commerce and digital media and entertainment businesses. The platform supports P4P marketing services based on keyword search rankings or display marketing in fixed positions that are bid on through auctions, as well as cost per thousand impression (CPM)-based, time-based marketing formats, or individual campaigns at fixed cost, through the display of photos, graphics and videos.
The ranking of P4P search results on our core commerce platforms is based upon proprietary algorithms that take into account the bid price of keywords, the popularity of an item or merchant, customer feedback ranking of merchants and quality of product displays. For display marketing, the Alimama platform delivers marketing messages based on data insights generated across our digital economy. The relevance and comprehensiveness of data based on commercial activity and user activity in our digital economy provide a unique advantage for Alimama to deliver the most relevant information to users.
Alimama also has an affiliate marketing program that places marketing displays on third-party apps and websites, thereby enabling marketers, if they so choose, to extend their marketing and promotional reach to properties and users beyond our own platforms. Our affiliate marketing program not only provides additional traffic to our core commerce platforms, but also generates revenue to us.
Alimama operates the Taobao Ad Network and Exchange, or TANX, one of the largest real-time online bidding marketing exchanges in China. TANX helps publishers to monetize their media inventories both on mobile apps and web properties. TANX automates the buying and selling of billions of marketing impressions on a daily basis. Participants on TANX include publishers, marketers and demand side platforms operated by agencies.
Marketing for Brands
Drawing on our big data capabilities, we have developed a Uni Marketing approach that digitalizes consumer-brand relationships and empowers brands to build robust relationships with consumers throughout their lifecycles in our digital economy. We aim to help brands reach consumers by leveraging our marketplaces, Youku, UC Browser, strategic partners in our digital economy, as well as other major third-party Internet properties in China. We intend to become the key partner for brand building by creating an open, inclusive and transparent platform where brands and marketing agencies are able to design, execute, track and optimize their brand building activities using our data and tools.
Commerce Technologies and Services
We provide commerce technologies and services to enable merchants, brands and retailers on Taobao marketplace and Tmall to enhance their online and offline operational capabilities. With our commerce technologies, innovative services and data capabilities, merchants, brands and retailers can acquire, retain and further deepen their engagement with consumers in an efficient and effective manner, thereby enhancing merchants', brands' and retailers' loyalty to our platforms. These commerce technologies and services include the following key components:
Core Operations Control Panel
We provide an integrated online control panel that allows merchants, brands and retailers to conduct core operations through a unified interface. It offers essential business tools, such as an operations dashboard and direct messaging, access to business software marketplace and access to a wide range of offline services such as fashion modeling and photography, among others.
Merchants on our China retail marketplaces use this control panel to conduct day-to-day operations, such as managing storefronts and product listings, fulfilling orders, managing inventory and transactions, conducting sales and marketing activities, servicing customers, managing procurement process, interacting and collaborating with other businesses and seeking credit financing provided by Ant Financial.
Big Data Support and Engagement Platform
Equipped with our New Retail solutions, which are designed to improve offline retail operations, brands on our secure cloud-based data insights platform have access to sophisticated analytics services that consolidate online and offline data, which in turn help brands gain insights into each stage of the consumer journey and provide a personalized online and offline shopping experience for consumers.
We are the largest retail commerce business in the world in terms of GMV in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, according to Analysys. In March 2019, over 250 million daily active users came to our China retail marketplaces, which featured extensive listings. We develop significant insights from our digital economy, empowered by our technology, which allow us to establish comprehensive understanding of the products' profile and correlation with consumers' needs as well as deepen our product insights throughout our digital economy. As a result, we are able to provide more accurate product recommendations to our consumers. We then aggregate and build on these insights to design standardized, themed and interconnected product categorization frameworks that recommend and sort product listings on behalf of merchants. As a result, we are able to help our merchants streamline their daily operations, generate more accurate search results across our platforms, and offer better recommendations and shopping experiences to our consumers.
Retail Commerce Cross-border and Global
Our retail commerce cross-border and global businesses include Lazada, AliExpress, Tmall Global, Tmall World, Trendyol and Daraz. In the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, Lazada, AliExpress, Trendyol and Daraz together served more than 120 million annual active consumers overseas.
We operate Lazada's leading e-commerce platform across Southeast Asia, with local language mobile apps and websites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Lazada offers merchants and brands a one-stop marketplace solution to access consumers in these six countries. Lazada also sells products on its platform directly via its own retail operations. In addition, it has an extensive in-house logistics operations, which is supported by our highly scalable warehouse management system, to ensure quick and reliable order fulfillment that improve consumer experience and cost efficiency.
AliExpress is a global marketplace targeting consumers from around the world and enabling them to buy directly from manufacturers and distributors in China and around the world. In addition to the global English-language site, the AliExpress app is also available in 17 local languages, including Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and French. Consumers can access the marketplace through the AliExpress app or its websites. Top consumer markets where AliExpress is popular are Russia, the United States, Brazil, Spain and France.
We launched Tmall Global to address increasing Chinese consumer demand for international products and brands. Tmall Global serves as the premier platform through which overseas brands and retailers reach Chinese consumers, build brand awareness and gain valuable consumer insights in forming their overall China strategy,
without the need for physical operations in China. According to Analysys, Tmall Global was the largest import e-commerce platform in China in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, in terms of GMV.
Tmall World allows overseas Chinese consumers to conveniently shop for products from China. Tmall World, a Chinese language e-commerce platform, leverages our commerce infrastructure and aims to fulfill the shopping needs of millions of overseas Chinese consumers.
Wholesale Commerce in China
1688.com China domestic wholesale marketplace
1688.com, China's leading integrated domestic wholesale marketplace in 2018 by revenue, according to Analysys, connects wholesale buyers and sellers in China who trade in apparel, general merchandise, home decoration and furnishing materials, electronics, packaging materials and shoes, among others. Listing items on 1688.com is free. Sellers may purchase a China TrustPass membership for an annual subscription fee to reach customers, provide quotations and transact on the marketplace. Paying members may also pay for additional services, such as premium data analytics and upgraded storefront management tools, as well as customer management services. As of March 31, 2019, 1688.com had over 910,000 paying members.
Lingshoutong ( ) digital eRTM (electronic route to market) platform
Lingshoutong connects FMCG brand manufacturers and their distributors directly with local mom-and-pop stores in China. It provides digital supply chain services to FMCG brands and their distributors and improves their distribution efficiency by digitalizing offline distribution data through setting up point-of-sale, or POS, systems at the mom-and-pop stores, thereby enabling visibility to data throughout the transaction value chain. Lingshoutong also enables FMCG brands and their distributors to achieve efficient distribution and precise marketing by providing more targeted and accurate marketing recommendations. With these technologies and data, Lingshoutong also makes it easier for mom-and-pop store owners to do business by digitalizing their operations and offering their customers a broader selection of FMCG products.
Wholesale Commerce Cross-border and Global
Alibaba.com is China's largest integrated international online wholesale marketplace in 2018 by revenue, according to Analysys. Sellers on Alibaba.com may purchase an annual Gold Supplier membership to reach customers, provide quotations and transact on the marketplace. Sellers may also purchase an upgraded membership package to receive value-added services such as upgraded storefront management tools and P4P services. Buyers on Alibaba.com were located in over 190 countries as of March 31, 2019. Buyers are typically trade agents, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers and SMEs engaged in the import and export business.
Alibaba.com also offers its members and other SMEs import/export supply chain services, including customs clearance, trade financing and logistics services. As of March 31, 2019, Alibaba.com had over 165,000 paying members.
Through Cainiao Network, we are committed to further strengthening the capabilities of our global logistics network. Our logistics vision is to be able to fulfill consumer orders within 24 hours in China and within 72 hours anywhere else in the world. To realize this vision, Cainiao Network establishes and operates a global fulfillment network together with logistics partners. It offers domestic and international one-stop-shop logistics services and supply chain management solutions, addressing various logistics needs of merchants and consumers at scale.
Enhanced point-to-point network and on-demand delivery
Cainiao Network uses data insights and technology to digitalize the entire logistics process and empower logistics partners, thereby improving efficiency across the logistics value chain. For example, powered by large-scale computing and machine learning capabilities, Cainiao Network's e-shipping label and value-added services optimize delivery routes and improve efficiencies for express delivery couriers, leading to more accurate and speedy delivery to consumers. As an important complement to the last-mile delivery network of Cainiao's express delivery partners, Cainiao Network has also developed neighborhood delivery solutions with a combination of community and campus stations and residential self-pickup lockers, which we call Cainiao Post. Consumers can pick up packages from stations around urban communities and college campuses, as well as from smart pick-up lockers. In addition, we also operate Ele.me's local on-demand delivery network, known as Fengniao Logistics, to deliver food, beverages, groceries, among other products, to consumers on a timely basis.
Through technology innovation and open collaboration, Cainiao Network has further strengthened its strategic partnership with major express delivery companies. As of March 31, 2019, Cainiao Network's 15 strategic express courier partners employed over 1.6 million delivery personnel in more than 700 cities and 31 provinces in China, according to data provided by these partners. Collectively these partners operate more than 190,000 hubs and sorting stations. During fiscal year 2019, Cainiao Network and its logistics partners enabled the delivery of 25.1 billion packages that originated from our China retail marketplaces.
Scalable fulfillment network
The vast geographical area of China and wide distribution of Chinese consumers and merchants require a large and distributed logistics infrastructure. Cainiao Network has established a scalable network that consists of fulfillment hubs at key strategic locations, package sorting and distribution centers, which are owned, leased or partnered with logistics partners. The fulfillment network is connected by Cainiao Network's proprietary logistics data platform. To facilitate the execution of our New Retail strategy, Cainiao Network provides a full-fledged fulfillment network at provincial, city, and county levels to offer integrated supply chain management solutions to medium-sized and large brands and merchants. This network allows them to place inventory across multiple locations in advance based on sales forecasts to optimize supply chain efficiency and provide fast delivery to consumers.
Cainiao Network and the logistics arm of Lazada have developed a strong and growing network of assets and partners to support our international commerce retail businesses (Lazada, AliExpress and Tmall World). From a China import standpoint, Cainiao Network is focused on developing cross-border fulfillment solutions for Tmall Global, utilizing a combination of bonded warehouses in China and direct shipping from foreign countries.
Our consumer services businesses consist of:
Ele.me ( ) (which means "Are you hungry?" in Chinese), a leading on-demand delivery and local services platform in China, enables consumers to use the Ele.me, Taobao, Alipay and Koubei mobile apps to order meals, snacks and beverages online. In addition, Ele.me's on-demand delivery network is highly synergistic with our other businesses, such as New Retail initiatives and Alibaba Health, which can now leverage the network to deliver fresh food, groceries and pharmaceutical products. As of March 31, 2019, Ele.me's network covered approximately 96% of cities in China, with approximately 30% of total orders generated from Alipay and the Taobao app.
Koubei, one of China's leading restaurant and local services guide platforms for in-store consumption, provides targeted, data-driven marketing tools and integrated digital operational services for restaurants and local services providers.
Ele.me and Koubei operate under a single management team. Our strategy is for the combined business to leverage the 654 million annual active consumers on our China retail marketplaces and our data technology to expand our offerings from shopping to services, further tapping into new addressable markets for consumption in China.
Fliggy, a leading online travel platform in China, provides comprehensive reservation services for airline tickets, train tickets, accommodation, car rental, package tours and local attractions. Fliggy enhances user experience through data technology that enables partner hotels to identify travelers with good credit and provide travel privileges such as zero-deposit hotel bookings, express check-out and automatic post-stay billing.
Alibaba Cloud is the world's third largest, and Asia Pacific's largest, IaaS and Infrastructure Utility Services provider by revenue in 2018, according to Gartner's April 2019 report (Source: Gartner, Market Share: IT Services, 2018, Dean Blackmore et al., April 8, 2019) (Asia Pacific refers to Mature Asia/Pacific, Greater China, Emerging Asia/Pacific and Japan). Alibaba Cloud is also China's largest provider of public cloud services by revenue in 2018, including PaaS and IaaS services, according to IDC (Source: IDC Semiannual Public Cloud Services Tracker, 2018). The technologies that power Alibaba Cloud grew out of our own need to operate at the massive scale and to address the complexity of our core commerce business, including related payments and logistics elements. In 2009, we founded Alibaba Cloud to make these technologies available to third-party customers. In fiscal year 2019, Alibaba Cloud had more than 1.4 million paying customers, covering approximately 50% of the Top 500 Chinese brands, as ranked by Fortune, and more than half of the A-share listed companies in China.
Alibaba Cloud offers a complete suite of cloud services to customers worldwide, including elastic computing, database, storage, network virtualization services, large scale computing, security, management and application services, big data analytics, a machine learning platform and IoT services. Products that differentiate Alibaba Cloud from our domestic peers include proprietary security and middleware products, large scale computing services and analytic capabilities supported by our big data analytics platform. These products not only enable customers to quickly build IT infrastructure services on-line without on-premises work, but also equip them with leading big data analytics capabilities, providing deep data insights by efficiently handling the complex computing tasks of hundreds of millions of data dimensions. We also operate data centers in a number of countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Japan, the United States and others.
As a major part of our partnership with the International Olympic Committee, we unveiled Alibaba Cloud sports-related intelligent capabilities, built on Alibaba Cloud's high-performance infrastructure of world-class data centers, network virtualization services and market-leading security services, which integrate data intelligence and machine learning to re-define engagement between fans, organizers, venues and athletes.
Digital Media and Entertainment
Our digital media and entertainment business leverages our deep data insights to serve the broader interests of consumers through two key distribution platforms, Youku and UC Browser, and through Alibaba Pictures and our other diverse content platforms that provide online videos, films, live events, news feeds, literature and music, among other areas.
Key Distribution Platforms
Youku is the third largest online video platform in China in terms of monthly active users in March 2019, according to QuestMobile. It enables users to search, view and share high-quality video content quickly and easily across multiple devices. The Youku brand is among the most recognized online video brands in China.
Insights we gain from our retail commerce business and our proprietary data technology enable Youku to deliver relevant digital media and entertainment content to its users. At the same time, Youku helps drive customer loyalty
to our core commerce business in the form of complementary content offerings for users. For example, a loyalty program member of our core commerce business can purchase a Youku membership at a preferential rate or be rewarded a membership free of charge. Youku is also the exclusive online video platform to live stream major events of our core commerce business such as the countdown gala celebration for the 11.11 global shopping festival, which is supported by interactive features to drive consumer engagement. In fiscal year 2019, Youku's average daily paying subscribers increased by 88% from the prior fiscal year.
UC Browser is one of the top mobile browsers in the world, according to StatCounter (http://gs.statcounter.com). It is the second largest third-party browser in terms of monthly active users in China in March 2019, according to QuestMobile. It is also the No. 2 mobile browser in India and Indonesia by page view during the same period.
Key Content Platforms
We offer a diverse range of digital media and entertainment content using a sustainable production and acquisition approach. First, we provide self-produced content. We also jointly produce content through arrangements with studios that commission them to produce and distribute some or all of their content exclusively on our platforms. Third, we acquire rights to display content on our digital media and entertainment platforms pursuant to licensing agreements with rights holders. Last, we offer an open-platform on which user-generated content and professionally-generated content are generated and distributed. Our digital media and entertainment offerings include online videos, films, live events, news feeds, literature and music.
In fiscal year 2019, we increased our shareholding in Alibaba Pictures to approximately 51%. Alibaba Pictures is an Internet-driven integrated platform that covers content production, promotion and distribution, intellectual property licensing and integrated management, cinema ticketing management and data services for the entertainment industry. Alibaba Pictures was involved in the production, promotion and distribution of a number of highly popular films in the twelve months ended March 31, 2019. Green Book, for example, won the Oscar for best picture. The Wandering Earth, widely cited as China's first major science-fiction film, has already generated more than RMB4.6 billion of ticket sales since its opening in February 2019. Through Damai, the largest online ticketing platform for live events in China in 2018, according to Analysys, we provide users with ticketing services for popular concerts, plays and sporting events. Alibaba Literature is our platform for distributing literature online, and it offers content for use in derivative works or tie-in entertainment. Our music platform provides music streaming and digital music online publishing services, as well as enabling the discovery and support of independent musicians.
Amap is the largest provider of mobile digital map, navigation and real-time traffic information in China by monthly active users in March 2019, according to QuestMobile. Amap provides these services to end users directly and operates a leading open platform in China that powers many major mobile apps in different industries, such as food delivery, ride service, taxi-hailing and social networking with its big data-enabled digital mapping technology. In addition, Amap provides digital map data, navigation software and real-time traffic information to international and domestic automobile manufacturers and aftermarket consumers in China. It also empowers major platforms and infrastructural service providers in our digital economy, including our China retail marketplaces, Cainiao Network and Alipay.
According to QuestMobile, DingTalk is the largest business efficiency app in China by monthly active users in March 2019. DingTalk is a digital working platform that serves enterprises and organizations of various types and sizes with unified communication services, intelligent mobile workplaces and network collaboration services.
Through both PC and mobile devices, DingTalk provides a unified interface for communications in different forms (such as text messages, photo, audio, video and e-mail), workflow management and network collaborations. Its open platform also supports independent software developers and enterprise service providers to develop third-party enterprise apps or services that are seamlessly integrated with DingTalk.
Tmall Genie, our AI-powered smart speaker, is the No. 1 smart speaker in China by shipments in 2018, according to IDC (Source: IDC China Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker, Fourth Quarter 2018). It connects our customers with services offered by digital economy participants in an interactive way. Tmall Genie has focused on entertainment and educational content for families in order to broaden its user base and drive their engagement with their devices. Tmall Genie is our gateway to link customers with new services and experiences to be generated by IoT and smart home appliances. As of March 31, 2019, over 10 million Tmall Genie units had been activated since its official launch in August 2017.
Ant Financial Financial Technology Services
Ant Financial, an unconsolidated related party, is a technology company focused on providing inclusive financial services to consumers and small and micro businesses, or SMBs, in China and across the world. It primarily operates digital payment services and financial technology platform services through sustained technological innovation and cooperation with financial institutions, and is also pursuing a globalization strategy. During fiscal year 2019, Ant Financial has implemented a series of strategic marketing initiatives to further grow its user base and enhance user mind-share. During the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, the number of global annual active users, or AAUs, served by Ant Financial and its nine local e-wallet partners increased to over one billion. During the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, seven out of ten of Ant Financial's domestic AAUs used three or more of the following five service categories: digital payment, wealth management, micro financing, insurance and Zhima Credit.
Digital payment services
Ant Financial operates Alipay, a leading global third-party mobile payment platform. Through Alipay, Ant Financial provides digital payment processing services predominantly to online and offline merchants and consumers globally. In the twelve months ended March 31, 2019, Ant Financial experienced rapid growth in payment transactions, which was primarily driven by the expansion of the offline payment market. With deep customer insights derived from increasing numbers of payments, Ant Financial continuously expands use cases to better serve both consumers and merchants. Ant Financial has also continued to improve the user experience through product innovation. For example, it has been promoting an innovative payment device by leveraging facial recognition technology across its merchant network. Ant Financial is dedicated to establishing Alipay as a leading one-stop financial and lifestyle platform.
Financial technology platform services
Ant Financial's financial technology services platform is a comprehensive and open platform through which users can access and purchase a wide variety of wealth management, micro financing and insurance products and related services. The vast majority of these financial products are provided by third-party financial institutions. Ant Financial's platform primarily serves three sectors in China:
Ant Financial also seeks to leverage its leading technology capabilities to provide inclusive financial services globally. Primarily focusing on emerging markets, Ant Financial has cooperated with strategic partners in nine regions or countries, including Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, to launch local e-wallets by leveraging its know-how and technological capabilities developed in China. Ant Financial is also building a global network that connects all of its users to its rapidly-expanding global acceptance network. Starting in early 2019, users of Alipay Hong Kong are able to make online and offline payments in mainland China and Japan.
For additional details on our commercial relationship with Ant Financial and Alipay, see "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions B. Related Party Transactions Agreements and Transactions Related to Ant Financial and its Subsidiaries."
Customer Services for China Retail Marketplaces
Our customer service representatives serve consumers and merchants on our marketplaces through telephone hotlines, real-time instant messaging and online inquiry systems. In addition, merchants on our platforms serve their customers with commerce technologies and services we provide. Based on big data analytics, we provide numerous methods to facilitate the resolution of disputes. Aside from disputes referred to our customer service representatives for resolution and disputes handled automatically by our system, consumers may choose adjudication by a large panel of experienced and independent consumers and merchants in certain situations, such as those involving contractual disputes.
With certain exceptions, consumers on our China retail marketplaces may return the purchased goods within seven days from receipt. Alipay's escrow payment services ensure efficient refunds. In addition, for qualified consumers with good credit record, we may accelerate refund procedure by making the refund payment upon the buyer's submission of a refund application and proof of shipment for the returned goods.
We believe every consumer has the right to protection from false and misleading claims and harmful products. We encourage our merchants to make product quality a priority and have established various safeguard mechanisms. All Tmall merchants are required to contribute to and maintain a fund deposit for the benefit of consumers. Fund deposit requirements vary by product category and typically range from RMB10,000 to RMB1,000,000 per storefront. For Tmall Global merchants, the fund deposit requirement typically ranges from RMB150,000 to RMB800,000 for standard storefronts. In most circumstances, Taobao Marketplace merchants maintain individual fund deposit with minimum amounts ranging from RMB1,000 to RMB100,000. All Tmall and Taobao Marketplace merchants are required to sign agreements with us authorizing us to deduct fund deposit from their Alipay accounts in the event of confirmed consumer claims. Merchants who have failed to maintain a minimum amount in their fund deposit are blocked from showing product listings in our P4P, recommendation feeds and search results, among others.
The consumer protection fund amounts are displayed on each merchant's information page. Many merchants on Tmall and Taobao Marketplace provide a larger deposit than required and make additional service commitments, such as expedited shipment, free maintenance for electronics and installation services for furniture purchases, to demonstrate to their customers their confidence in the quality of their services and products. In addition, Alipay's escrow payment services offer consumers further protection by only releasing the relevant payment upon consumer confirming the receipt of the merchandise, unless specified otherwise.
Transaction Platform Safety Programs
Preserving the integrity of our marketplaces is fundamental to our business. We are committed to protecting intellectual property rights and eliminating counterfeit merchandise and fictitious activities. Infringement of intellectual property, both online and offline, is an industry-wide issue globally. By working with rights holders, trade associations and governments around the world, we have made significant progress in combating the issue of intellectual property rights infringement. As of March 31, 2019, there were over 190,000 brands on Tmall, including 77% of the consumer brands among the Forbes Top 100 World's Most Valuable Brands for 2019, a demonstration of the trust these brands place in the integrity of our marketplaces.
We are committed to offering authentic, high-quality products across our marketplaces, including premium overseas products on Tmall Global, grocery and daily consumption products on Tmall Mart. At the same time, we are proactive in partnering with rights holders and law enforcement authorities both online and offline to monitor product authenticity and protect intellectual property. We have called for collective efforts in the fight against counterfeiting that include stronger law enforcement measures and harsher penalties for those found to be engaged in criminal activity. In addition, we also initiate civil actions against counterfeiters using our platforms. In May 2019, Alibaba Group was awarded World Trademark Review's Asia Pacific Team of the Year for its work in brand protection.
Our product authenticity initiatives have produced effective results. As part of our commitment to allow only authentic product listings on our platforms, we employ big data and technology to proactively identify and shut down storefronts selling infringing products and remove suspicious product listings. Our offline product authenticity initiatives also have borne tangible results as we regularly provide law enforcement authorities with evidence to successfully track down and arrest violators of intellectual property rights.
By leveraging our advanced technologies, as well as engaging in close collaboration with stakeholders, including rights holders, trade associations and government bodies, we have implemented the following best practices around a three-pronged strategy:
Alibaba Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance (AACA)
In January 2017, Alibaba, along with 30 domestic and international intellectual property rights holders, founded the Alibaba Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance (AACA), the first alliance of its kind. Owners of famous global consumer brands, such as 3M, Amway, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Procter & Gamble, and Spalding, have participated as founding members in the AACA since its establishment. After more than two years, AACA membership has expanded to 133 rights holder members from 16 different countries and regions, and now encompasses 12 industries, such as electronics, automotive, pharmaceuticals and luxury goods, which regularly collaborate through Industry Working Groups, or IWGs.
Alibaba contributes its Internet technology and data to support the AACA through a number of cooperation programs that rights holders can opt into. The cooperation programs encourage rights holders, e-commerce platforms, and law enforcement agencies to work collaboratively to protect intellectual property rights through increased communication and the exchange of information. The AACA facilitates sharing of best practices among its members, as well as with wider society via educational programs for public bodies and consumers about the damage counterfeit products cause, including with respect to health, the environment and safety.
The AACA has also established an Advisory Board consisting of rights owners from all IWGs that acts as a channel for rights holders to provide feedback on significant intellectual property enforcement-related strategies and policies to each other, Alibaba, and other parties. The Advisory Board acts as a leading industry forum to discuss new trends in online intellectual property infringement activities, litigation and platform practices.
Combating Fictitious Transactions
We have and will continue to invest significant resources in protecting the trust and credit systems we have built on our marketplaces. Measures to prevent, detect and reduce the occurrence of fictitious transactions on Taobao Marketplace and Tmall that we have implemented include:
We aim to protect consumers by excluding suspicious merchandise and fictitious transactions from ranking systems, credit systems and transaction volume statistics. When these activities are confirmed, we penalize the parties involved, based on the severity of the violation, through a number of means, including but not limited to:
Technology is key to our success in achieving efficiency, improving user experience, and enabling innovation. Our world-class proprietary technology supports peak order volumes of up to hundreds of thousands per second, delivers tens of billions of online marketing impressions per day, and enables millions of merchants, brands and other businesses to conduct their operations efficiently and effectively. The uniqueness of our technology lies in the unparalleled large-scale application environment due to the scale of our businesses. By constantly applying our technology across our businesses, we generate knowledge and innovations that drive improvements and further technological development.
Members of our research and development team play key roles in various international standardization organizations in areas such as e-commerce, security and IoT. In addition, we are also active in open source communities. In October 2017, we established DAMO Academy, a global research program in cutting-edge technology that aims to integrate science with industry and speed up information exchange between them. It encourages a collaborative environment where scientific discoveries can be more quickly applied to real-life problems.
Key components of our technology include those described below:
Our data centers utilize leading technologies in distributed structure, innovative cooling techniques, distributed power technology and intelligent monitoring, and we believe our data centers are one of the most efficient in the world as indicated by a low power usage effectiveness, or PUE, ratio. The multi-region availability of our transaction system data centers provides scalability and stable redundancy.
Cloud Operating System
Aspara, our cloud computing operating system, is a proprietary general purpose distributed computing operating system that provides Alibaba Cloud customers with enhanced computing power to support their business growth in the new technology era.
We have developed the next generation cloud native database, POLARDB, which enables our customers to meet their requirements for on-demand storage and computation, pay-per-use elasticity and scalability. POLARDB significantly increases the throughput and performance of transaction and query processing as compared to other open-source relational database management systems. We have also developed a distributed online analytics database, AnalyticDB, which supports real-time interactive and complex analytics over massive data.
Big Data Analytics Platform
We have developed a distributed data analytics platform that can efficiently handle the complex computing tasks of millions of gigabytes of data per day, providing deep data insights to our businesses and our cloud computing customers. Our big data analytics platform includes MaxCompute, an offline data storage and computing platform, Blink, a real-time data storage and computing platform, and OneData, a data integration and management system.
We believe we are one of the few companies in the world with a proprietary, distributed deep learning platform that has access to consumer insights across diverse businesses involving a rich variety of consumer experiences. As a result, we believe we are in a unique position to develop large-scale commercial use of artificial intelligence, or AI. We have applied various AI technologies across our digital economy to enhance the consumer experience. These enhancements include personalized search results and shopping recommendations empowered by deep learning and data analytics, speech recognition and image analysis technology adopted in search functions, and
intelligent customer service. In addition, our AI capabilities enable us to introduce innovative products, such as Tmall Genie, our AI-powered smart speaker.
Internet of Things
We are engaged in the development of a wide range of IoT technologies, such as PaaS, microchip design and development framework, operating systems and cloud computing capabilities for transportation, home, mobile, public and industrial applications. Our IoT PaaS and data allow hardware to work in more application scenarios and solutions as well as for applications to have more hardware options.
We have established a comprehensive situational awareness and risk management security infrastructure that spans across our entire network, covering our systems, apps, data, services and individual end users. Our back-end security system handles hundreds of millions of instances of malicious attacks each day to provide effective security for our commerce and cloud platforms.
Sales and Marketing
As Taobao Marketplace is China's largest mobile commerce destination, with a large and growing social community and an exceptionally wide range of product offerings, and Tmall is the world's largest third-party online and mobile commerce platform for brands and retailers, we have wide consumer recognition of our brands and enjoy significant organic traffic through word-of-mouth. We believe the reputation and ubiquitous awareness of our brands and platforms in China and, increasingly, abroad, provide us with the best and most cost-efficient marketing channel. In addition, we also use other marketing initiatives to promote our platforms. In January 2017, we launched a historic long-term partnership with the International Olympic Committee that will last through 2028. Joining The Olympic Partner worldwide sponsorship program, Alibaba has become the official "E-Commerce Services" Partner and "Cloud Services" Partner and a founding partner of the Olympic Channel through the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. During the most recent fiscal year, we increased our marketing efforts, such as a highly coordinated marketing and promotional campaigns on Tmall for the 11.11 global shopping festival, to expand our user base. We expect to continue to leverage our resources in future marketing activities. We also expect to enhance our monetization capability through leveraging our data technologies to develop and offer more personalized and innovative services, so as to improve customer experience and wallet share. Furthermore, our major business segments and other elements in our digital economy provide synergetic advantages and create cross-promotional opportunities. For example, the large number of consumers on our marketplaces attracts a large number of merchants who become customers for our online marketing services, while an increasing number of key opinion leaders are actively producing content to engage with consumers and fans on our platforms, thereby driving revenue for merchants, brands and retailers.
Socially Responsible Mindset
At Alibaba, we believe acting in a socially responsible way is an integral part of our business model. Since our founding, we have been highly committed to supporting and participating in charitable and socially responsible projects that align with our core values and mission, and to establishing a technology-driven charitable digital economy to extend the benefits of our technological capabilities to the community at large.
Our major corporate social responsibility achievements and initiatives include:
Creating Job Opportunities and Enabling Small Businesses
The breadth of our digital economy and the range of service providers needed within it create substantial employment opportunities. In addition to providing direct business opportunities for merchants, our digital economy has created new opportunities for service providers in logistics, marketing, consulting, operations outsourcing, training and other online and mobile commerce professions. According to a report published in 2019
by China's Renmin University, it is estimated that we contributed to the creation of about 40 million direct and indirect job opportunities in China via our retail platforms. The international expansion of our business also creates job opportunities by enabling merchants from different parts of the world to do business online.
With the power of new technology, our platforms have leveled the playing fields for businesses in many respects, helping to foster an inclusive economy where everyone and small businesses can thrive and prosper. Female sellers represented approximately half of the sellers who had one or more orders confirmed by a buyer on our China retail marketplaces in fiscal year 2019, as declared by these sellers.
Supporting Poverty Relief and Rural Development in China
We are committed to contributing to China's poverty relief initiatives. Apart from using our own resources, we also leverage our platforms' reach to maximize our influence and our technological capabilities to increase the efficiency of these initiatives.
In December 2017, we launched a RMB10 billion Alibaba Poverty Relief Program that focuses on education, rural commerce advancement, women's empowerment, healthcare and environmental sustainability. The program is primarily funded by donations from us and the partners in the Alibaba Partnership. We aim to leverage the power of our digital economy to discover sustainable and replicable ways to work with impoverished communities to break the poverty cycle. To advance rural commerce, in fiscal year 2019, we connected people from over 200 impoverished counties to our platforms, which led to the development of many new agricultural product brands. In 2018, sellers in impoverished counties sold over RMB60 billion (US$8.9 billion) GMV through our China retail marketplaces. Furthermore, as part of our environmental sustainability initiatives, we have provided sustainable business solutions for villagers living in conservation zones to increase their income through developing local products while protecting the environment. To reduce intergenerational poverty through better healthcare, we have provided health insurance to cover major illnesses to over four million people in over 60 impoverished counties as of March 31, 2019. To empower women, we have developed a comprehensive insurance plan that covers women's education, pregnancy and illness in impoverished counties, affording young women opportunities to be educated without worrying about their families' financial situation.
Contributing to Environmental Sustainability
We are committed to raising public awareness of environmental issues and promoting an eco-friendly mindset among the public. In 2011, we established the Alibaba Foundation, a private charity fund that primarily focuses on supporting environmental protection in China. The Alibaba Foundation has funded and spearheaded projects to help protect drinking water sources in China, allow the public to contribute to and monitor air quality on Amap app and research international environmental policies for local survey and legislative purposes.
We also work with enterprises to implement environmentally-sustainable business models across various sectors, such as manufacturing, retail, logistics and cloud computing. Alibaba Cloud not only helps enterprises reduce their need for computing hardware, its technology is also built to promote environmental sustainability. For example, we launched a data center featuring an innovative cooling system that uses fresh water from a nearby lake to reduce energy consumption. Furthermore, Cainiao Network actively spearheads and promotes "green" initiatives with its courier partners and within our digital economy. Key initiatives include "green packages" and "green delivery." "Green packages" refers to promoting the use of biologically degradable courier bags and reusable packages, minimizing repackaging of products and using algorithms to optimize package size and materials used. In fiscal year 2019, Cainiao Network's package material optimization algorithm was used in over 290 million packages. Approximately 50% of Tmall Mart's packages used the manufacturers' original packages during the same period. These measures contribute to reducing the amounts of materials needed for packaging. Cainiao Network further promotes "green delivery" not only through the use of electric delivery vehicles, but also through its neighborhood delivery solutions and fully-fledged multi-location fulfillment network. These measures significantly shorten the package delivery distances from warehouses, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the logistics industry.
Charitable Contributions and Community Service
We have consistently been active, and also have always encouraged our employees to be active, in participating in community service.
Since 2010, we have established a special fund to encourage environmental awareness and conservation as well as other corporate social responsibility initiatives. In addition, since September 2015, we have encouraged our employees to perform a minimum of three hours of community service every year, which led to the creation of projects such as a public online platform for vaccine production information. In fiscal year 2019, we contributed over RMB250 million (US$37.3 million) to charitable causes and initiatives.
We also leverage our digital economy to extend the reach of our charitable initiatives and encourage merchants, consumers and other digital economy participants to engage in community service. For instance, in support of the United Nation's annual International Day of Charity on September 5 each year, we hosted the "95 Philanthropy Week," where we initiated multiple public charity activities.
Charitable organizations can also set up storefronts on our marketplaces to raise funds and engage with volunteers. Merchants on China retail marketplaces and Tmall Global can designate a percentage of their sales proceeds generated on our platforms to go to charitable organizations. Consumers can contribute to charitable causes by purchasing public interest products, participating in charity auctions hosted on our platforms or directly making donations. Through our China retail marketplaces, we supported over two million merchants and over 440 million users to donate to domestic and overseas charitable projects and enabled charitable organizations to raise approximately RMB470 million (US$70.0 million) in donations in fiscal year 2019, which benefited over 4.8 million disadvantaged people.
Furthermore, "Reunion", a platform that our employees created during their free time, connects our mobile apps and our partners' mobile apps to help locate missing children across China. Since its initial launch in mid-2016 and up to March 15, 2019, our platform has helped law enforcement authorities solve 98.2% of the cases announced through our platform, successfully locating over 3,500 children. In March 2019, we presented our "Reunion" platform to representatives from the United Nations and countries along the Mekong River Delta, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. We are committed to providing technological support to countries along the Mekong River Delta to set up similar systems in order to help prevent trafficking of children in the region.
We face competition principally from established Chinese Internet companies, such as Tencent, and their respective affiliates, global and regional e-commerce players, cloud computing service providers, such as Amazon, and digital media and entertainment providers. These competitors generate significant traffic and have established strong brand recognition, robust technological capabilities and significant financial resources. Although foreign e-commerce companies currently have a limited presence in China, we face significant competition from them in the areas of cross-border commerce. The areas in which we compete primarily include:
As we acquire new businesses and expand into new industries and sectors, we face competition from major players in these industries and sectors. In addition, as we expand our businesses and operations into an increasing number of international markets, such as Southeast Asia, India and Russia, we increasingly face competition from domestic and international players operating in these markets. See "Item 3. Key Information D. Risk Factors Risks Related to Our Business and Industry If we are unable to compete effectively, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected."
Our overall operating results fluctuate from quarter to quarter as a result of a variety of factors, including seasonal factors and economic cycles that influence consumer spending as well as promotions.
Historically, we have experienced the highest levels of revenues in the fourth calendar quarter of each year due to a number of factors, including merchants allocating a significant portion of their online marketing budgets to the fourth calendar quarter, promotions, such as the 11.11 global shopping festival, and the impact of seasonal buying patterns in respect of certain merchandise categories such as apparel. We also have experienced lower levels of revenues in the first calendar quarter of each year due to a lower level of operating activities by merchants early in the calendar year and during the Chinese New Year holiday, during which time consumers generally spend less and businesses in China are generally closed. Moreover, as our fixed costs and expenses, such as payroll and benefits, bandwidth and location fees, grow at a relatively stable rate compared to our revenue growth, we expect to enjoy increased operating leverage in seasonally strong quarters, but will face significant margin pressure in seasonally weak quarters.
We operate in an increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment. We and our key service provider, Ant Financial, are subject to a variety of PRC and foreign laws, rules and regulations across a number of aspects of our business. As we have expanded our operations to other countries, we have become increasingly subject to applicable regulations in these jurisdictions. This section primarily summarizes the principal PRC laws, rules and regulations relevant to our business and operations, because the PRC remains the country where we conduct the substantial majority of our business and generate the substantial majority of our revenues. Other jurisdictions where we conduct business have their own laws and regulations that cover many of the areas covered by PRC laws and regulations, but their focus, specifics and approaches may differ considerably. Areas in which we are subject to laws, rules and regulations outside of the PRC include data protection and privacy, consumer protection, content regulation, intellectual property, competition, cross-border trade, taxation, anti-money laundering and anti-corruption. We may also face protectionist policies and regulatory scrutiny on national security grounds in foreign countries in which we conduct business or investment activities. See "Item 3. Key Information D. Risk Factors Risks Related to Our Business and Industry We and Ant Financial are subject to a broad range of laws and regulations, and future laws and regulations may impose additional requirements and other obligations that could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations."
Our online and mobile commerce businesses are classified as value-added telecommunication businesses by the PRC government. Current PRC laws, rules and regulations generally restrict foreign ownership in value-added telecommunication services. As a result, we operate our online and mobile commerce businesses and other businesses in which foreign investment is restricted or prohibited through variable interest entities, each of which is owned by PRC citizens or by PRC entities owned by PRC citizens, and holds all licenses associated with these businesses.
The applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations governing value-added telecommunication services may change in the future. We may be required to obtain additional approvals, licenses and permits and to comply with any new regulatory requirements adopted from time to time. Moreover, substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of these PRC laws, rules and regulations. See "Item 3. Key Information D. Risk Factors Risks Related to Doing Business in the People's Republic of China There are uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations."
Regulation of Foreign Investment
On March 15, 2019, the National People's Congress promulgated the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, which will become effective on January 1, 2020 and will replace the major existing laws and regulations governing foreign investment in the PRC. Pursuant to the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, "foreign investments" refer to investment activities conducted by foreign investors directly or "indirectly" in the PRC, which include any of the following circumstances: (i) foreign investors setting up foreign-invested enterprises in the PRC solely or jointly with other investors, (ii) foreign investors obtaining shares, equity interests, property portions or other similar rights and interests of enterprises within the PRC, (iii) foreign investors investing in new projects in the PRC solely or jointly with other investors, and (iv) investment of other methods as specified in laws, administrative regulations, or as stipulated by the State Council.
According to 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, China adopts a system of national treatment plus negative list with respect to foreign investment administration, and the negative list will be issued by, amended or release upon approval by the State Council, from time to time. The negative list is contemplated to consist of a list of industries in which foreign investments are prohibited and a list of industries in which foreign investments are restricted. Foreign investors would not be allowed to make investments in prohibited industries, while foreign investments must satisfy certain conditions stipulated in the negative list for investment in restricted industries. Foreign investment and domestic investment in industries outside the scope of the prohibited industries and restricted industries stipulated in the negative list would be treated equally. The current industry entry clearance requirements governing investment activities in the PRC by foreign investors are set out in the Foreign Investment Catalogue, which was promulgated by the MOFCOM and the National Development and Reform Commission, with the latest amendment being effective as of July 28, 2018. The recently amended Foreign Investment Catalogue includes two categories, i.e., "Category of Industries Encouraged for Foreign Investment" and "Special Administrative Measures (Negative List) for Foreign Investment Access," or the "Negative List." Industries not listed in the Foreign Investment Catalogue are generally deemed "permitted" for foreign investment. The Negative List expands the scope of industries in which foreign investment is permitted by reducing the number of industries that fall within the Negative List where foreign investment is prohibited or restrictions on the shareholding percentage or requirements on the composition of board or senior management still exist. Among our significant subsidiaries, Taobao (China) Software Co., Ltd. and Zhejiang Tmall Technology Co., Ltd. are registered in China and mainly engaged in software development, technical services and consultations, and Hangzhou Cainiao Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd. is also registered in China and mainly engaged in logistics services and supply chain solutions, all of which fall into the encouraged or permitted category under the latest Foreign Investment Catalogue. These three significant subsidiaries have obtained all material approvals required for their business operations. The Foreign Investment Catalogue does not apply to our significant subsidiaries that are registered and domiciled in Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands or the Cayman Islands, and operate outside China. The businesses of our other PRC subsidiaries including PRC subsidiaries of our significant subsidiaries are generally software development, technical services and consulting, which fall into the encouraged or permitted category. Industries such as value-added telecommunication services, including Internet information services, are generally restricted to foreign investment pursuant to the latest Foreign Investment Catalogue. We conduct business operations that are restricted or prohibited to foreign investment through our variable interest entities.
On January 12, 2017, the State Council issued the Notice on Several Measures for Expansion of Opening-up Policy and Active Use of Foreign Capital, or the Notice No. 5, which purports to relax restrictions on foreign investment in sectors including services, manufacturing and mining. Specifically, the Notice No. 5 proposes to gradually open
up telecommunication, Internet, culture, education and transportation industries to foreign investors. However, there are still substantial uncertainties with respect to the implementing rules and regulations of Notice No. 5.
Regulation of Telecommunications and Internet Information Services
Regulation of Telecommunication Services
Under the Telecommunications Regulations of the PRC, or the Telecommunications Regulations, promulgated on September 25, 2000 by the State Council of the PRC and most recently amended in February 2016, a telecommunication service provider in China must obtain an operating license from the MIIT, or its provincial counterparts. The Telecommunications Regulations categorize all telecommunication services in China as either basic telecommunications services or value-added telecommunications services. Our online and mobile commerce businesses, as well as Youku's online video businesses, are classified as value-added telecommunications services. The Administrative Measures for Telecommunications Business Operating License, promulgated by the MIIT in December 2001 and most recently amended in September 2017, set forth more specific provisions regarding the types of licenses required to operate value-added telecommunications services, the qualifications and procedures for obtaining the licenses and the administration and supervision of these licenses.
Foreign investment in telecommunications businesses is governed by the State Council's Administrative Rules for Foreign Investments in Telecommunications Enterprises, or the Foreign Investment Telecommunications Rules, issued by the State Council on December 11, 2001 and most recently amended in February 2016, under which a foreign investor's beneficial equity ownership in an entity providing value-added telecommunications services in China is not permitted to exceed 50%. In addition, for a foreign investor to acquire any equity interest in a business providing value-added telecommunications services in China, it must demonstrate