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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

FORM 20-F

(Mark One)

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

 

 

OR

 

 

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021.

 

 

OR

 

 

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

 

 

OR

 

 

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

For the transition period from                       to

Commission file number 001-37925

GDS Holdings Limited

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Cayman Islands

(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

 

F4/F5, Building C, Sunland International

No. 999 Zhouhai Road

Pudong, Shanghai 200137

People’s Republic of China

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

Contact Person: Mr. Daniel Newman

Chief Financial Officer

+86-21-2029 2200

F4/F5, Building C, Sunland International

No. 999 Zhouhai Road

Pudong, Shanghai 200137

People’s Republic of China

* (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

Class A ordinary shares, par value $0.00005 per share*

 

9698

The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong
Limited

American Depositary Shares, each representing eight
Class A ordinary shares

 

GDS

Nasdaq Global Market

*       Not for trading, but only in connection with the registration of American Depositary Shares representing such Class A ordinary shares pursuant to the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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.

Title of class

   

Number of shares outstanding

Class A ordinary shares were outstanding as of December 31, 2021 

1,427,590,059

Class B ordinary shares were outstanding as of December 31, 2021

67,590,336

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

Yes    No

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

Yes    No

Note — Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.

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

Yes    No

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

Yes    No

 Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, 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  

Accelerated filer  

Non-accelerated filer  

Emerging growth company    

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

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

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

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

U.S. GAAP 

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

Other

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

Item 17    Item 18

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

Yes    No

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

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

Yes    No

GDS HOLDINGS LIMITED

FORM 20-F ANNUAL REPORT

FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2021

   

PART I

7

ITEM 1.

IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

7

ITEM 2.

OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

7

ITEM 3.

KEY INFORMATION

7

ITEM 4.

INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

83

ITEM 4A.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

129

ITEM 5.

OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

129

ITEM 6.

DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES

163

ITEM 7.

MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

181

ITEM 8.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

184

ITEM 9.

THE OFFER AND LISTING

185

ITEM 10.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

185

ITEM 11.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

193

ITEM 12.

DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES

194

PART II

199

ITEM 13.

DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES

199

ITEM 14.

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

199

ITEM 15.

CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

201

ITEM 16A.

AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT

202

ITEM 16B.

CODE OF ETHICS

202

ITEM 16C.

PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES

202

ITEM 16D.

EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES

202

ITEM 16E.

PURCHASE OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS

203

ITEM 16F.

CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT

203

ITEM 16G.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

203

ITEM 16H.

MINE SAFETY

205

ITEM 16I.

DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS

205

PART III

205

ITEM 17.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

205

ITEM 18.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

205

ITEM 19.

EXHIBIT INDEX

206

i

Conventions That Apply to This Annual Report on Form 20-F

Unless we indicate otherwise, references in this annual report on Form 20-F to:

“2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law” are to the PRC Foreign Investment Law promulgated by the National People’s Congress in March 2019, which became effective on January 1, 2020;
“ADSs” are to our American depositary shares, each of which represents eight Class A ordinary shares, and “ADRs” are to the American depositary receipts that evidence our ADSs;
“area committed” are to that part of our area in service which is committed to customers pursuant to customer agreements remaining in effect;
“area held for future development” are to the estimated net floor area that we have secured for potential future development by different means, which are not actively under construction;
“area in service” are to the entire net floor area of data centers (or phases of data centers) which are ready for service;
“area pre-committed” are to that part of our area under construction which is pre-committed to customers pursuant to customer agreements remaining in effect;
“area under construction” are to the entire net floor area of data centers (or phases of data centers) which are actively under construction and have not yet reached the stage of being ready for service;
“area utilized” are to that part of our area in service that is committed to customers and revenue generating pursuant to the terms of customer agreements remaining in effect;
“Articles” or “Articles of Association” are to our Articles of Association (as amended from time to time), adopted on June 29, 2021 and effective on June 29, 2021;
“build-operate-transfer data centers” or “B-O-T data centers” are to data centers that we undertake to build and operate for specific customers for their exclusive use, and transfer to such customers at the end of the contract period;
“carrier-neutral” or “cloud-neutral” are to data centers that are not owned, operated, or tied to any one network or cloud service provider, respectively;
“CBIRC” are to the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission;
“CCASS” are to the Central Clearing and Settlement System established and operated by Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited;
“China” and the “PRC” are to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report only, Taiwan, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau;
“Circular 82” are to the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-controlled Offshore-Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the basis of de facto management bodies, issued on April 22, 2009 and further amended on December 29, 2017;
“Class A ordinary shares” are to Class A ordinary shares in the share capital of our company with a par value of US$0.00005 each, conferring a holder of a Class A ordinary share to one vote per share on any resolution tabled at our general meeting;

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“Class B ordinary shares” are to Class B ordinary shares in the share capital of our company with a par value of US$0.00005 each, conferring weighted voting rights in our company such that a holder of a Class B ordinary share is entitled to 20 votes per share on resolutions tabled at our general meeting for (i) the election or removal of a simple majority, or six, of our directors; and (ii) any change to our Articles of Association that would adversely affect the rights of Class B shareholders, and which are convertible into Class A ordinary shares, and will automatically convert into Class A ordinary shares under certain circumstances;
“commitment rate” are to the ratio of area committed to area in service;
“Companies (WUMP) Ordinance” are to the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Chapter 32 of the Laws of Hong Kong), as amended or supplemented from time to time;
“Controlling Shareholders” are to Mr. Huang and STT GDC, unless the context otherwise requires; such term has the meaning ascribed to it under the Hong Kong Listing Rules;
“CSRC” are to the China Securities Regulatory Commission;
“Data Center Operation Management Platform” are to the platform we developed and operate which provides real-time information on many aspects of data center operating performance;
“DTC” are to The Depository Trust Company, the central book-entry clearing and settlement system for equity securities in the United States and the clearance system for our ADSs;
“Entity List” are to the list maintained by the United States or U.S. Department of Commerce identifying foreign entities believed to be involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States and which are prohibited from acquiring some or all items subject to the U.S. Export Administration Regulations, or EAR;
“ESG report” or “Environmental, Social and Governance Report” are to our 2020 ESG report, which is accessible via hyperlink in our press release furnished to the SEC as Exhibit 99.1 to our Form 6-K (File No. 001-37925) on November 30, 2021;
“foreign private issuer” are to such term as defined in Rule 3b-4 under the U.S. Exchange Act;
“GDS Beijing” are to Beijing Wanguo Chang’an Science and Technology Co., Ltd., a limited liability company established in the PRC on May 30, 2006 and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Management HoldCo;
“GDS Holdings,” “company,” “our company,” “we,” “our” or “us” are to GDS Holdings Limited, a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with limited liability on December 1, 2006 and, where the context requires, its consolidated subsidiaries and the consolidated affiliated entities, including the variable interest entities and their subsidiaries, from time to time;
“GDS Investment Company” are to GDS (Shanghai) Investment Co., Ltd. (formerly known as Shanghai Free Trade Zone GDS Management Co., Ltd.), a limited liability company established in the PRC on December 30, 2015 and our wholly-owned indirect subsidiary;
“GDS Shanghai” are to Shanghai Shu’an Data Services Co., Ltd., a limited liability company established in the PRC on May 4, 2011 and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Management HoldCo;
“GDS Suzhou” are to Global Data Solutions Co., Ltd., a limited liability company established in the PRC on September 30, 2000 and a wholly-owned subsidiary of GDS Beijing;
“GIC” are to GIC Private Limited, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund;

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“gross floor area” are either to the total internal area of buildings which we own, or to the total area under lease with respect to buildings which we lease;
“Group,” “our Group” or “the Group” are to GDS Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries (including the variable interest entities) from time to time;
“HK$,” “Hong Kong dollars” or “HK dollars” are to Hong Kong dollars, the lawful currency of Hong Kong;
“Hong Kong,” “HK” or “Hong Kong S.A.R.” are to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC;
“Hong Kong Listing Rules” are to the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited, as amended or supplemented from time to time;
“Hong Kong Share Registrar” are to Computershare Hong Kong Investor Services Limited;
“Hong Kong Stock Exchange” are to The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited;
“IDC(s)” are to internet data center(s);
“M&A Rules” are to the Rules on the Merger and Acquisition of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors jointly issued by MOFCOM, SASAC, STA, CSRC, SAIC and SAFE on August 8, 2006, effective on September 8, 2006 and further amended on June 22, 2009 by MOFCOM;
“Macau” or “Macau S.A.R.” are to the Macau Special Administrative Region of the PRC;
“Management HoldCo” are to Shanghai Xinwan Enterprise Management Co., Ltd., a limited liability company established in the PRC on October 16, 2019; as of March 31, 2022, the shareholders of Management HoldCo were Yilin Chen (senior vice president, product and service), Yan Liang (senior vice president, design, operation and delivery), Liang Chen (head of data center design), Andy Wenfeng Li (general counsel, compliance officer, and company secretary) and Qi Wang (head of cloud and network business); such shareholders were designated by the board of directors of our company;
“Memorandum” or “Memorandum of Association” are to our memorandum of association (as amended from time to time);
“MIIT” are to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology;
“MOFCOM” are to the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC;
“move-in period” are to the period commencing when part of the area committed under a particular customer agreement becomes area utilized and ending when all of the area committed under such customer agreement becomes area utilized in accordance with the terms of such customer agreement remaining in effect;
“Mr. Huang” are to Mr. William Wei Huang, the founder, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of our company and a Controlling Shareholder;
“Nasdaq” are to the Nasdaq Global Market;
“NDRC” are to the National Development and Reform Commission;

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“Negative List (2021)” are to the Special Administrative Measures (Negative List) for Foreign Investment Access, most recently jointly promulgated by the MOFCOM and the NDRC on December 27, 2021 and which became effective on January 1, 2022, as amended, supplemented or otherwise modified from time to time;
“net floor area” are to the total internal area of the computer rooms within each data center where customers can house, power and cool their computer systems and networking equipment;
“ordinary shares” are to, collectively, our Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.00005 per share;
“PBOC” are to the People’s Bank of China;
“PCAOB” are to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board;
“PRC government” or “State” are to the central government of the PRC, including all political subdivisions (including provincial, municipal and other regional or local government entities) and its organs or, as the context requires, any of them;
“pre-commitment rate” are to the ratio of area pre-committed to area under construction;
“Principal Share Registrar” are to Conyers Trust Company (Cayman) Limited;
“PUE” are to power usage effectiveness;
“PUE ratio” are to power usage effectiveness ratio, a metric used to determine the energy efficiency of a data center; it is determined by dividing the total amount of power consumed by the data center by the total amount of power consumed directly by customers to operate their IT systems housed in the data center;
“ready for service” are to data centers (or phases of data centers) which have passed commissioning and testing, obtained government approvals for operation, are fully supplied with power, and contain one or more computer rooms fully equipped and fitted out ready for utilization by customers;
“RMB” or “Renminbi” are to Renminbi, the lawful currency of the PRC;
“SAFE” are to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange of the PRC, the PRC governmental agency responsible for matters relating to foreign exchange administration, including local branches, when applicable;
“SAFE Circular 37” are to the Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control on Domestic Residents’ Offshore Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles promulgated by SAFE with effect from July 4, 2014;
“SAIC” are to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of the PRC, currently known as the PRC State Administration for Market Regulation;
“SASAC” are to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council;
“SCNPC” are to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the PRC;
“SEC” are to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission;

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“self-developed data centers” are to data centers operated by us that we either purpose-build from the ground up, develop from building shells purpose-built for us, convert from existing buildings, acquire, or build, operate, and transfer pursuant to contacts with specific customers;
“SFO” are to the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Chapter 571 of the Laws of Hong Kong), as amended or supplemented from time to time;
“shareholder(s)” are to holder(s) of ordinary shares and, where the context requires, ADSs;
“sqm” are to square meters;
“STA” are to the State Taxation Administration of the PRC;
“State Council” are to the PRC State Council;
“STT GDC” are to STT GDC Pte. Ltd., a private limited liability company incorporated in Singapore on November 21, 2012, and a wholly owned subsidiary of STT Communications Ltd, which is in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte. Ltd, or ST Telemedia;
“Takeovers Codes” are to the Codes on Takeovers and Mergers and Share Buy-backs issued by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong;
“third-party data centers” are to data center net floor area operated by us that we lease on a wholesale basis from other data center providers and use to provide data center services to our customers;
“Tier 1 markets” are to the areas in and around the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing;
“total area committed” are to the sum of area committed and area pre-committed;
“UK” or “United Kingdom” are to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
“U.S.” or “United States” are to the United States of America, its territories, its possessions and all areas subject to its jurisdiction;
“U.S. Exchange Act” are to the United States Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder;
“U.S. GAAP” are to accounting principles generally accepted in the United States;
“U.S. Securities Act” are to the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder;
“US$” or “U.S. dollars” are to the legal currency of the United States;
“utilization rate” are to the ratio of area utilized to area in service;
“variable interest entities,” “VIE” or “VIEs” are to the variable interest entities that are 100% owned by PRC citizens or by PRC entities owned by PRC citizens, where applicable, that hold the VATS licenses, or other business operation licenses or approvals, in which foreign investment is restricted or prohibited, and are consolidated into our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP as if they were our wholly-owned subsidiaries;

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“VAT” are to value-added tax; all amounts are exclusive of VAT in this annual report except where indicated otherwise;
“VATS” are to value-added telecommunications services;
“VIE structure” or “Contractual Arrangements with Affiliated Consolidated Entities” or “contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs” are to the variable interest entity structure; and
“WFOE(s)” are to wholly foreign owned enterprise(s) incorporated in the PRC which is/are directly or indirectly wholly owned by our company.

Unless specifically indicated otherwise or unless the context otherwise requires, all references to our ordinary shares exclude Class A ordinary shares issuable upon (i) conversion of our convertible senior notes and (ii) conversion of our convertible preferred shares.

This annual report contains translations between Renminbi and U.S. dollars solely for the convenience of the reader. The translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to Renminbi in this annual report were made at a rate of RMB6.3726 to US$1.00, the exchange rate set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board on December 30, 2021. We make no representation that the Renminbi 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.

This annual report includes our audited consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Our ADSs are listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol “GDS.” Our ordinary shares are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock code “9698.”

Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This annual report contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including statements based on our current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about us and our industry. These forward-looking statements are made under the “safe harbor” provision under Section 21E of the U.S. Exchange Act 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:

our goals and strategies;
our expansion plans;
our future business development, financial condition and results of operations;
the expected growth of the data center and cloud services market;
our expectations regarding demand for, and market acceptance of, our services;
our expectations regarding maintaining and strengthening our relationships with customers;
the completion of any proposed acquisition transactions, including the regulatory approvals and other conditions that must be satisfied or waived in order to complete the acquisition transactions;
international trade policies, protectionist policies and other policies that could place restrictions on economic and commercial activity;

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general economic and business conditions in the regions where we operate; and
assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.

In addition, any projections, assumptions and estimates of our future performance and the future performance of the industry in which we operate is necessarily subject to a high degree of uncertainty and risk due to a variety of factors, including those described in “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this annual report. 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. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly 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 and have filed as exhibits hereto completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect.

Other sections of this annual report include additional factors that could adversely impact our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties emerge from time to time and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.

PART I

ITEM 1.    IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

Not required.

ITEM 2.    OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

Not required.

ITEM 3.    KEY INFORMATION

Our Corporate Structure and Contractual Arrangements with the Consolidated Affiliated Entities

GDS Holdings Limited is not an operating company in China, but instead is a Cayman Islands holding company. PRC laws and regulations impose certain restrictions or prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies that engage in telecommunications-related businesses, including the provision of VATS. Our internet data center businesses are classified as VATS by the PRC government. Accordingly, we operate substantially all of these business operations in China through the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries, as well as through our subsidiaries, and rely on contractual arrangements, described below, to control the business operations of the consolidated VIEs. GDS Holdings Limited has no equity ownership in the consolidated VIEs. Revenues contributed by the VIEs and their subsidiaries accounted for 97.4%, 95.0% and 96.1% of our total revenues for the years of 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. As used in this annual report, “we,” “us,” “our company,” “the Company” or “our” refers to a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands and, where the context requires, its consolidated subsidiaries and the consolidated affiliated entities, including the variable interest entities and their subsidiaries, from time to time. Investors in our ADSs are not purchasing an equity interest in the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries in China, but instead are purchasing an equity interest in a Cayman Islands holding company and its subsidiaries (excluding the VIEs and their subsidiaries).

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Our wholly-owned PRC subsidiary, the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders have entered into a series of contractual arrangements, including equity interest pledge agreements, shareholder voting rights proxy agreements, exclusive technology license and service agreements, intellectual property rights license agreements, exclusive call option agreements and loan agreements. The terms in each set of contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders are substantially similar. For more details of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Affiliated Consolidated Entities.” We rely on these contractual arrangements to control the business operations of the consolidated VIEs. As a result of these contractual arrangements, we are the primary beneficiary of Management HoldCo, GDS Shanghai, GDS Beijing and their respective subsidiaries, and, therefore, have consolidated their financial results in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

However, these contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over the consolidated VIEs and we may have to incur substantial costs and expend significant resources to enforce such arrangements in reliance on legal remedies under PRC law. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure—We rely on contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders for our China operations, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control and otherwise have a material adverse effect as to our business” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure—The individual management shareholders of our Management HoldCo may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.”

There are also substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future PRC laws, regulations and rules regarding the status of the rights of our Cayman Islands holding company with respect to the contractual arrangements. It is uncertain whether our corporate structure will be seen as violating the foreign investment rules as we are currently leveraging the contractual arrangements to operate businesses which are classified as VATS by the PRC government and are prohibited or restricted to foreign investment. Furthermore, if future legislation mandates further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. If we fail to take appropriate and timely measures to comply with any of these or similar regulatory compliance requirements, our current corporate structure, corporate governance, and business operations could be materially and adversely affected. Further, if our corporate structure or contractual arrangements were found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties, and the relevant regulatory authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violations. As a result, we would be unable to direct the activities of the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries, receive their economic benefits and/or claim our contractual control rights over the assets of the VIEs and their subsidiaries that conduct substantially all of our operations in China, we would no longer be able to consolidate such VIEs and their subsidiaries in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, which would likely materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations, and cause the value of our securities to significantly decline or become worthless. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—If the PRC government deems that the contractual arrangements in relation to the consolidated VIEs do not comply with PRC regulatory restrictions on foreign investment in the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in the operations of the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries.” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure -Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.”

In addition, we face various risks and uncertainties related to doing business in China. Our business operations are primarily conducted in China, and we are subject to complex and evolving PRC laws and regulations. For example, we face risks associated with regulatory approvals on offshore offerings, anti-monopoly regulatory actions, and oversight on cybersecurity and data security and protection, which may impact our ability to conduct certain businesses, accept foreign investments or financing, or list on a United States, Hong Kong or other foreign exchange. These risks could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our ADSs, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, or cause the value of our securities to significantly decline or become worthless. For more details of the risks we face related to doing business in China, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in People’s Republic of China.”

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The PRC government’s significant authority in regulating our operations, as well as its oversight and control over offerings conducted overseas by, and foreign investment in, China-based issuers, could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors. Implementation of industry-wide regulations of this nature may cause the value of our securities to significantly decline or become worthless. For more details, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in People’s Republic of China—Our business operations are extensively impacted by the policies and regulations of the PRC government. Any policy or regulatory change may cause us to incur significant compliance costs.” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in People’s Republic of China—We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties as a company based in and primarily operating in China.”

Risks and uncertainties arising from the legal system in China, including risks and uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws and quickly evolving rules and regulations in China, could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our ADSs. For more details, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—There are uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system, including uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations, and sudden or unexpected changes in policies, laws, rules and regulations in the PRC that could adversely affect us.”

Cash Flows through our Organization

GDS Holdings Limited is a holding company with no material operations of its own. As a result, although other means are available for us to obtain financing at the holding company level, our company’s ability to pay dividends to the shareholders and to service any debt it may incur may depend upon dividends paid by our subsidiaries. We conduct our operations primarily through our subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries. GDS Holdings Limited provides continuing financial support to our subsidiaries for business expansion, while our subsidiaries also obtain financings through borrowings from various financial institutions. Meanwhile, for compliance purpose, the VIEs and their subsidiaries are the contracting party for our IDC service agreements, and our subsidiaries, as the owners of most of the self-developed data center assets, provide outsourcing and other services to the VIEs. Once the VIEs and their subsidiaries receive service fee from the customers, they can settle the corresponding outsourcing and service fees to our subsidiaries accordingly. For more details, see “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Liquidity and Capital Resources.”

Under PRC laws and regulations, our subsidiaries and the VIEs and their subsidiaries incorporated in China are subject to certain restrictions with respect to paying dividends or otherwise transferring any of their net assets to us. Remittance of dividends by a wholly foreign-owned enterprise out of China is also subject to examination by the banks designated by SAFE. As of December 31, 2021, the restricted net assets were RMB20,939.9 million (US$3,285.9 million), including those of the VIEs and their subsidiaries of RMB210.1 million (US$33.0 million) and our subsidiaries of RMB20,729.8 million (US$3,252.9 million), which mainly consisted of paid-in registered capital. For risks relating to the fund flows of our operations in China, see “Item 3. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure —We rely to a significant extent on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our principal operating subsidiaries to fund offshore cash and financing requirements.”

Under PRC laws, GDS Holdings Limited may provide funding to our PRC subsidiaries only through capital contributions or intercompany loans, and to our VIEs and their subsidiaries only through intercompany loans, subject to satisfaction of applicable government registration and approval requirements.

In the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, GDS Holdings Limited, through the intermediate holding companies, made capital contribution or provided intercompany loans to the non-VIE subsidiaries of RMB4,473.7 million, RMB4,940.0 million and RMB9,935.4 million (US$1,559.1 million), respectively.

In the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, GDS Holdings Limited and our subsidiaries did not provide any additional intercompany loans to the VIEs or their subsidiaries and the VIEs and their subsidiaries did not repay any existing intercompany loans to GDS Holdings Limited and our subsidiaries.

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The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act

In December 2020, the U.S. enacted the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCA Act, which includes requirements for the SEC to identify issuers whose audit reports are prepared by auditors that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate because of restrictions imposed by non-U.S. authorities in the auditor’s local jurisdiction. If the auditor of a U.S. listed company’s financial statements is not subject to PCAOB inspections for three consecutive “non-inspection” years after the law becomes effective, the SEC is required to prohibit such company’s securities from being traded on any of the U.S. national securities exchanges, such as the NYSE and Nasdaq Stock Market, or in the U.S. “over-the-counter” markets. On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which if enacted into law would amend the HFCA Act and require the SEC to prohibit an issuer’s securities from trading on U.S. stock exchanges if its auditor is not subject to PCAOB inspections for two consecutive “non-inspection” years instead of three, and thus would reduce the time before our ADSs may be prohibited from trading or delisted from the Nasdaq Global Market. On December 2, 2021, the SEC announced that it had adopted final amendments to its rules implementing the HFCA Act. Furthermore, on December 16, 2021, pursuant to the HFCA Act the PCAOB issued its report notifying the SEC of its determination that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely accounting firms headquartered in China or Hong Kong, including our independent registered public accounting firm. Accordingly, our securities may be prohibited from trading on the NYSE or other U.S. stock exchanges if our auditor is not inspected by the PCAOB for three consecutive years, and this ultimately could result in our ADSs being delisted. While the CSRC released the Provisions on Strengthening Confidentiality and Archives Administration for Overseas Securities Offering and Listing (Draft for Comments) on April 2, 2022, which if officially promulgated and implemented, could allow the PCAOB to inspect accounting firms in China, maintaining the listing of our ADSs depends on full compliance with PCAOB audit inspections, and there can be no assurance that these draft rules will be officially promulgated or implemented, and if so, that we or our auditor will be able to comply with requirements imposed by U.S. regulators. The market prices of our ADSs and/or other securities could be adversely affected as a result of anticipated negative impacts of the HFCA Act upon, as well as negative investor sentiment towards, China-based companies listed in the United States, regardless of our actual operating performance. For more details, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by an auditor who is not inspected by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and, as such, our investors are deprived of the benefits of such inspection and are exposed to uncertainties. In addition, the adoption of any rules, legislations or other efforts to increase U.S. regulatory access to audit information could cause uncertainty, and we could be delisted if we were unable to meet any PCAOB inspection requirement in time.”

Permissions Required from the PRC Authorities for Our Operations

We conduct our business primarily through our subsidiaries, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries in China. Our operations in China are governed by PRC laws and regulations. As of the date of this annual report, our PRC subsidiaries, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries have obtained the requisite licenses and permits from the PRC government authorities that are material for the business operations of our subsidiaries, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries in China, including, among others, the VATS licenses, fixed-asset investment project filings and energy conservation review opinions. Given the uncertainties of interpretation and implementation of relevant laws and regulations and the enforcement practice by relevant government authorities, we may be required to obtain additional licenses, permits, filings or approvals for our business in the future. For more detailed information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—We may fail to obtain, maintain and update licenses or permits necessary to conduct our operations in the PRC, and our business may be materially and adversely affected as a result of any changes in the laws and regulations governing the VATS industry in the PRC.”

Furthermore, in connection with our previous issuance of securities to foreign investors, under current PRC laws, regulations and regulatory rules, as of the date of this annual report, we, our PRC subsidiaries, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries, (i) are not required to obtain permissions from the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, (ii) are not required to go through cybersecurity review by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, and (iii) have not been asked to obtain such permissions by any PRC authority.

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However, the PRC government has recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over offerings that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers. For more detailed information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—The approval of, or filing with the CSRC or other PRC government authorities may be required in connection with acquisitions conducted by foreign investors or future offshore offerings under PRC law, and, if required, we cannot predict whether or for how long it will take to obtain such approval or complete such filing.”

A.          [Reserved]

B.          Capitalization and Indebtedness

Not required.

C.          Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds

Not required.

D.          Risk Factors

Summary of Risk Factors

An investment in our ADSs and/or ordinary shares involves significant risks. Below is a summary of material risks we face, organized under relevant headings. These risks are discussed more fully in Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors.

Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry

A slowdown in the demand for data center capacity or managed services could have a material adverse effect on us;
Any inability to manage the growth of our operations could disrupt our business and reduce our profitability;
If we are not successful in expanding our service offerings, we may not achieve our financial goals and our results of operations may be adversely affected;
Our business requires us to make significant capital expenditures and resource commitments prior to recognizing revenue for those services; and
The data center business is capital-intensive, and we expect our capacity to generate capital in the short term will be insufficient to meet our anticipated capital requirements.

Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

If the PRC government deems that the contractual arrangements in relation to the consolidated VIEs do not comply with PRC regulatory restrictions on foreign investment in the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in the operations of the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries;
Our contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs may result in adverse tax consequences to us; and
We rely on contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders for our China operations, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control and otherwise have a material adverse effect as to our business.

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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; and
We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties as a company based in and primarily operating in China.

Risks Related to Our ADSs and Class A Ordinary Shares

The trading prices of our ADSs and ordinary shares may be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to you;
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the market price for our ADSs and/or ordinary shares and trading volume could decline;
Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares;
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares for return on your investment; and
The different characteristics of the capital markets in Hong Kong and the U.S. may negatively affect the trading prices of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.

Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry

A slowdown in the demand for data center capacity or managed services could have a material adverse effect on us.

Adverse developments in the data center market, in the industries in which our customers operate, or in demand for cloud computing could lead to a decrease in the demand for data center capacity or managed services, which could have a material adverse effect on us. We face risks including:

a decline in the technology industry, such as a decrease in the use of mobile or web-based commerce, business layoffs or downsizing, relocation of businesses, increased costs of complying with existing or new government regulations and other factors;
a reduction in cloud adoption or a slowdown in the growth of the internet generally as a medium for commerce and communication and the use of cloud-based platforms and services in particular;
a downturn in the market for data center capacity generally, which could be caused by an oversupply of or reduced demand for space, and a downturn in cloud-based data center demand in particular; and
the rapid development of new technologies or the adoption of new industry standards that render our or our customers’ current products and services obsolete or unmarketable and, in the case of our customers, that contribute to a downturn in their businesses, increasing the likelihood of a default under their service agreements or that they become insolvent.

To the extent that any of these or other adverse conditions occur, they are likely to impact market demand and pricing for our services.

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Any inability to manage the growth of our operations could disrupt our business and reduce our profitability.

We have experienced significant growth in recent years. Our net revenue grew from RMB4,122.4 million in 2019 to RMB5,739.0 million in 2020, representing an increase of 39.2%, and further increased to RMB7,818.7 million (US$1,226.9 million) in 2021, representing an increase of 36.2%. We derive net revenue primarily from colocation services and, to a lesser extent, managed services. In addition, we also sell IT equipment either on a stand-alone basis or bundled in a managed service agreement and provide consulting services. Our net revenues from colocation services were RMB3,261.7 million, RMB4,710.9 million and RMB6,514.3 million (US$1,022.2 million) in 2019, 2020 and 2021, representing 79.1%, 82.1% and 83.3% of total net revenue over the same periods, respectively. Our net revenues from managed services and other services were RMB832.8 million, RMB1,006.0 million and RMB1,300.1 million (US$204.0 million) in 2019, 2020 and 2021, representing 20.2%, 17.5% and 16.6% of total net revenue over the same periods, respectively. Our net revenue from IT equipment sales were RMB27.9 million, RMB22.1 million and RMB4.3 million (US$0.7 million) in 2019, 2020 and 2021, representing 0.7%, 0.4% and 0.1% of total net revenue over the same periods, respectively. Our operations have also expanded in recent years through increases in the number and size of the data center facilities we operate, which we expect will continue to grow. Our rapid growth has placed, and will continue to place, significant demands on our management and our administrative, operational and financial systems. Continued expansion increases the challenges we face in:

obtaining suitable sites or land to build new data centers;
establishing new operations at additional data centers and maintaining efficient use of the data center facilities we operate;
managing a large and growing customer base with increasingly diverse requirements;
expanding our service portfolio to cover a wider range of services, including managed cloud services;
creating and capitalizing on economies of scale;
being exposed to protectionist or national security policies that restrict our ability to invest in or acquire companies or develop, import or export certain technologies;
obtaining additional capital to meet our future capital needs;
recruiting, training and retaining a sufficient number of skilled technical, sales and management personnel;
maintaining effective oversight over personnel and multiple data center locations;
coordinating work among sites and project teams; and
developing and improving our internal systems, particularly for managing our continually expanding business operations.

In addition, we have grown our business through acquisitions in the past and intend to continue selectively pursuing strategic partnerships and acquisitions to expand our business. From time to time, we may have a number of pending investments and acquisitions that are subject to closing conditions. There can be no assurance that we will be able to identify, acquire and successfully integrate other businesses and, if necessary, to obtain satisfactory debt or equity financing to fund those acquisitions. See “-We have expanded in the past and expect to continue to expand in the future through acquisitions of other companies, each of which may divert our management’s attention, result in additional dilution to shareholders or use resources that are necessary to operate our business.”

If we fail to manage the growth of our operations effectively, our businesses and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

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If we are not successful in expanding our service offerings, we may not achieve our financial goals and our results of operations may be adversely affected.

We have been expanding, and plan to continue to expand, the nature and scope of our service offerings, particularly into the area of managed cloud services, including direct private connection to major cloud platforms , an innovative service platform for managing hybrid clouds and, where required, the resale of public cloud services. The success of our expanded service offerings depends, in part, upon demand for such services by new and existing customers and our ability to meet their demand in a cost-effective manner. We may face a number of challenges in expanding our service offerings, including:

acquiring or developing the necessary expertise in IT;
maintaining high-quality control and process execution standards;
maintaining productivity levels and implementing necessary process improvements;
controlling costs; and
successfully attracting existing and new customers for new services we develop.

A failure by us to effectively manage the growth of our service portfolio could damage our reputation, cause us to lose business and adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, because managed cloud services may require significant upfront investment, we expect that continued expansion into these services will reduce our profit margins. In the event that we are unable to successfully grow our service portfolio, we could lose our competitive edge in providing our existing colocation and managed services, since significant time and resources that are devoted to such growth could have been utilized instead to improve and expand our existing colocation and managed services.

Our business requires us to make significant capital expenditures and resource commitments prior to recognizing revenue for those services.

We have a long selling cycle for our services, which typically requires significant investment of capital, human resources and time by both our customers and us. Constructing, developing and operating our data centers require significant capital expenditures. A customer’s decision to utilize our colocation services, our managed solutions or our other services typically involves time-consuming contract negotiations regarding the service level commitments and other terms, and substantial due diligence on the part of the customer regarding the adequacy of our infrastructure and attractiveness of our resources and services. Furthermore, we may expend significant time and resources in pursuing a particular sale or customer, and we do not recognize revenue for our services until such time as the services are provided under the terms of the applicable agreement. Our efforts in pursuing a particular sale or customer may not be successful, and we may not always have sufficient capital on hand to satisfy our working capital needs between the date on which we sign an agreement with a new customer and when we first receive revenue for services delivered to the customer. If our efforts in pursuing sales and customers are unsuccessful, or our cash on hand is insufficient to cover our working capital needs over the course of our long selling cycle, our financial condition could be negatively affected.

The data center business is capital-intensive, and we expect our capacity to generate capital in the short term will be insufficient to meet our anticipated capital requirements.

The costs of constructing, developing and operating data centers are substantial. Further, we may encounter development delays, excess development costs, or delays in developing space for our customers to utilize. We also may not be able to secure suitable land or buildings for new data centers or at a cost on terms acceptable to us. We are required to fund the costs of constructing, developing and operating our data centers with cash retained from operations, as well as from financings from bank and other borrowings. Moreover, the costs of constructing, developing and operating data centers have increased in recent years, and may further increase in the future, which may make it more difficult for us to expand our business and to operate our data centers profitably. Based on our current expansion plans, we do not expect that our net revenue in the short term will be sufficient to offset increases in these costs, or that our business operations in the short term will generate capital sufficient to meet our anticipated capital requirements. If we cannot generate sufficient capital to meet our anticipated capital requirements, our financial condition, business expansion and future prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

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Our substantial level of indebtedness could adversely affect our ability to raise additional capital to fund our operations, expose us to interest rate risk to the extent of our variable rate debt and prevent us from meeting our obligations under our indebtedness.

We have substantial indebtedness. As of December 31, 2021, we had total consolidated indebtedness of RMB35,761.1 million (US$5,611.7 million), including borrowings, finance lease and other financing obligations and convertible bonds. Based on our current expansion plans, we expect to continue to finance our operations through the incurrence of debt. Our indebtedness could, among other consequences:

make it more difficult for us to satisfy our obligations under our indebtedness, exposing us to the risk of default, which, in turn, would negatively affect our ability to operate as a going concern;
require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flows from operations to interest and principal payments on our indebtedness, reducing the availability of our cash flows for other purposes, such as capital expenditures, acquisitions and working capital;
limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industries in which we operate;
increase our vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions;
place us at a disadvantage compared to our competitors that have less debt;
expose us to fluctuations in the interest rate environment because the interest rates on borrowings under our project financing agreements are variable;
increase our cost of borrowing;
limit our ability to borrow additional funds; and
require us to sell assets to raise funds, if needed, for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or other purposes.

As a result of the covenants and restrictions, we are limited in how we conduct our business, and we may be unable to raise additional debt or equity financing to compete effectively or to take advantage of new business opportunities. Our current or future borrowings could increase the level of financial risk to us and, to the extent that the interest rates are not fixed and rise, or that borrowings are refinanced at higher rates, our available cash flow and financial condition could be adversely affected. Recent reports that the Federal Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve System has signaled as many as six more increases in the target range for the federal funds rate for the remaining of 2022 could significantly increase our borrowing costs, reduce our available cash flow and adversely affect our financial condition.

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We have financing arrangements in place with various lenders to support specific data center construction projects. Certain of these financing arrangements are secured by share pledge over equity interests of our subsidiaries, our accounts receivable, property and equipment and land use rights. The terms of these financing arrangements may impose covenants and obligations on the part of our borrowing subsidiaries and/or GDS Beijing and its subsidiaries, and our company as guarantor. For example, some of these agreements contain requirements to maintain a specified minimum cash balance at all times or require that the borrowing subsidiary maintain a certain debt-to-equity ratio. We cannot provide any assurances that we will always be able to meet any covenant tests under our financing arrangements. Other loan facility agreements of ours require that STT GDC, one of our major shareholders, maintain (i) an ownership percentage in our company of at least 25%, or (ii) have the power (whether by way of ownership of shares, proxy, contract, agency or otherwise) to control the casting of, at least 25% of the votes that may be cast at a meeting of the board of directors (or similar governing body) of our company, or (iii) its status as the single largest shareholder of our company. If any of the abovementioned conditions were not maintained, pursuant to the terms of relevant facility agreements we could be obligated to notify the lender or repay any loans outstanding immediately or on an accelerated repayment schedule. In addition, the majority of our loan facility agreements require that the IDC license of GDS Beijing or the borrowing subsidiaries, other affiliated entities or the authorization by GDS Beijing to one such subsidiary to operate the data center business and provide IDC services under the auspices of the IDC license held by GDS Beijing, be maintained and renewed on or before the expiry date of the IDC license or authorization thereunder, as applicable. However, we have learned that the MIIT will not allow subsidiaries authorized to provide IDC services by an IDC license holder to renew its current authorization in the future; instead, the MIIT will require subsidiaries of IDC license holders to apply for their own IDC licenses. See “—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—We may be regarded as being non-compliant with the regulations on VATS due to the lack of IDC licenses for which penalties may be assessed that may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, growth strategies and prospects.” If the subsidiaries of GDS Beijing cannot renew their authorizations to provide IDC services under the auspices of GDS Beijing’s IDC license timely, and such subsidiaries cannot apply for and obtain their own IDC licenses, we also could be obligated to notify the lender or repay any loans outstanding immediately or on an accelerated repayment schedule.

In May 2019, one of GDS Beijing’s subsidiaries, GDS Suzhou, obtained its own IDC license. In September and November 2019, the other two of GDS Beijing’s subsidiaries, Beijing Wan Chang Yun Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Wan Chang Yun, and Shenzhen Yaode Data Services Co., Ltd., or Shenzhen Yaode obtained their own IDC license, respectively. Two other subsidiaries of the VIEs plan to apply for and obtain their own IDC licenses prior to the expiry of the existing authorizations under which they provide IDC services. While we do not foresee any legal impediment based on our experience with IDC license applications, there can be no assurance that these subsidiaries will be able to obtain approvals from the MIIT for their own IDC licenses in a timely manner or at all, or obtain such approvals for an expansion of authorization by GDS Beijing to allow the other subsidiaries of the VIEs to provide IDC services under the auspices of GDS Beijing’s IDC license. There also can be no assurance that we will be able to renew such authorizations and expansions in due course.

The terms of any future indebtedness we may incur could include more restrictive covenants. A breach of any of these covenants could result in a default with respect to the related indebtedness. If a default occurs, the relevant lenders could elect to declare the indebtedness, together with accrued interest and other fees, to be due and payable immediately. This, in turn, could cause our other debt, to become due and payable as a result of cross-default or acceleration provisions contained in the agreements governing such other debt. In the event that some or all of our debt is accelerated and becomes immediately due and payable, we may not have the funds to repay, or the ability to refinance, such debt.

In mid-August 2019, the PBOC decided to reform the formation mechanism of the Loan Prime Rate, or LPR, and authorized the National Interbank Funding Center to release LPR monthly, which may impact the interest rate on our variable rate debt. Uncertainty on future LPR reforms and rate changes may impact our indebtedness.

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We will likely require additional capital to meet our future capital needs, which may adversely affect our financial position and result in additional shareholder dilution.

To grow our operations, we will be required to commit a substantial amount of operating and financial resources. Our planned capital expenditures, together with our ongoing operating expenses, will cause substantial cash outflows. In the near term, we will likely be unable to fund our expansion plans solely through our operating cash flows. Accordingly, we will likely need to raise additional funds through equity, equity-linked or debt financings in the future in order to meet our operating and capital needs. In this regard, at our annual general meeting, or AGM, held on June 29, 2021, our shareholders passed ordinary resolutions authorizing our board of directors to approve the allotment or issuance, in the 12-month period from the date of the AGM, of ordinary shares or other equity or equity-linked securities of our company up to an aggregate twenty percent (20%) of our existing issued share capital at the date of the AGM, whether in a single transaction or a series of transactions (other than any allotment or issues of shares on the exercise of any options that have been granted by our company). Additional debt or equity financing may not be available when needed or, if available, may not be available on satisfactory terms. Recently, the Russia-Ukraine war, the deterioration of the U.S.-China relationship, and increased regulatory scrutiny have limited, and may continue to limit, our ability to raise, and our flexibility in raising, additional funds. Our inability to obtain additional debt and/or equity financing or to generate sufficient cash from operations may require us to prioritize projects or curtail capital expenditures and could adversely affect our results of operations.

If we raise additional funds through further issuances of equity or equity-linked securities, our existing shareholders could suffer significant dilution in their percentage ownership of our company, and any new equity securities we issue could have rights, preferences and privileges senior to those of the holders of our ordinary shares. In addition, any debt financing that we may obtain in the future could have restrictive covenants relating to our capital raising activities and other financial and operational matters, which may make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities, including potential acquisitions.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Beginning in early 2020, there was an outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus, later named COVID-19. In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. As part of its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, from time to time governments in the PRC and Southeast Asia have taken and may continue to take a number of actions, including quarantining and otherwise treating individuals who are infected with COVID-19, asking residents to remain at home and to avoid public gatherings, among other actions. COVID-19 has resulted in temporary closures of many corporate offices, retail stores, and manufacturing facilities and factories. Most of our revenues are generated in and our workforce are located in China. Consequently, our business could be materially and adversely impacted by the effects of COVID-19 or other pandemics or epidemics.

The construction of new data centers or the expansion of existing data centers might be significantly delayed because of temporary closures of our construction sites and shortages of workers due to travel restrictions that have been or may be imposed in China or Southeast Asia. The completion of pending acquisitions of data centers might also be delayed or suffer other adverse impacts due to the impact of COVID-19. If the construction of new data centers, the expansion of existing data centers, or the completion of our pending acquisitions of data centers cannot be completed or delivered on time, we may be unable to meet our customer demand as expected, which may adversely and materially affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Business disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may also adversely and materially affect the business operations and financial condition of many of our customers. Any prolonged disruption of our businesses or those of our customers or business partners could negatively impact our results of operations and financial condition. We have experienced slower cash collection as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, for administrative reasons unrelated to our customers’ ability to pay, which has resulted in an increase in our accounts receivable. An increase in our accounts receivable and any decrease in our recovery rate on accounts receivable could impact our cash flow, increase our need to fund operations from other sources of capital and impact our operations and business. Our customers may encounter cash flow or operating difficulties, which may reduce their demand for our services, further delay their payments to us thereby increasing our accounts receivable turnover days, or even increase the risk that they may default on their payment obligations. Any of these events would negatively affect our operating results. In response to the pandemic, we temporarily suspended our offline customer acquisition activities and business travel to ensure the safety and health of our employees. Certain of our employees have been required to work from home on business days, in accordance with lockdown policies implemented by municipal health authorities. The measures we took or are taking may reduce our business operation capacity and are likely to negatively affect our operating results.

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In addition, our results of operations could be adversely affected to the extent that this pandemic harms the Chinese economy or global economy in general. The costs of constructing, developing and operating data centers are substantial. See “—The data center business is capital-intensive, and we expect our capacity to generate capital in the short term will be insufficient to meet our anticipated capital requirements.” Expanding our data center capacity and growing our business requires substantial amounts of capital. If our existing cash resources are insufficient to meet our needs to expand our data center capacity and grow our business, we may seek to raise capital by selling equity or equity-linked securities, debt securities or by arranging financing and incurring indebtedness through borrowing from banks. Any economic slowdown in China, Southeast Asia or worldwide due to COVID-19 may result in a shortage of available credit and insufficient funds for our future expansion or growth, and we may not be able to raise additional capital, obtain additional financing from banks or other financial institutions, or draw down our existing loans and financing facilities. We cannot assure you that financing will be available in the amounts we need or on terms acceptable to us, if at all. If we were unable to obtain additional equity or debt financing as required, our business, operations and prospects and our ability to maintain our desired level of revenue growth may suffer materially. This in turn could limit our capital expenditures and cause our revenues to decrease, and our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected as a result.

While many of the restrictions on movements have been relaxed, there is great uncertainty around the future of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it will impact our operations in mainland China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. In particular, we cannot accurately forecast the potential impact of additional outbreaks as government restrictions are relaxed, further shelter-in-place or other government restrictions implemented in response to such outbreaks, or the impact on the ability of our customers to remain in business as a result of the ongoing pandemic or such additional outbreaks. With the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak , including the availability of effective vaccines or cure, the threat to our business disruption and the related financial impact remains.

If we fail to manage effectively or collect our accounts receivable, our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity may be adversely affected.

As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, our accounts receivable, net, amounted to RMB880.0 million, RMB1,480.3 million and RMB1,732.7 million (US$271.9 million). Our accounts receivable turnover days, which are the average accounts receivable balances as of the beginning and the end of the period divided by total net revenues during the period and multiplied by the number of days during the period, increased from 62.7 days in 2019 to 75.3 days in 2020, as a higher proportion of our contracts were billed quarterly in arrears as opposed to monthly in arrears. In addition, we experienced slower cash collection for administrative reasons as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unrelated to our customers’ ability to pay. Our accounts receivable turnover days remained relatively stable at 75.0 days in 2021.

The amount and turnover days of our accounts receivable may increase in the future, which will make it more challenging for us to manage our working capital effectively and our results of operations, financial conditions and liquidity may be adversely affected.

Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements or restrictions on data center development may adversely affect our results of operations.

The development and operation of data centers in China are subject to stringent regulatory requirements and various governmental authorizations are required to be obtained for the construction and operation of data centers, among which the fixed-asset investment project filings and energy conversation review opinions are the primary governmental authorizations for the construction and operation of data centers. For more details, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Filing and Energy Conservation of Fixed-Asset Investment.”

In addition to national laws and regulations, various provincial and municipal governments also issued in the past few years local regulations to impose additional regulatory requirements and tighten enforcement of such regulatory requirements on the construction and operation of data centers in order to conserve energy and reduce carbon emission. As the regulatory regime for the construction and operation of data centers has a relatively short history and has been constantly evolving, relevant government authorities have broad discretion in the interpretation and enforcement of relevant regulatory requirements and the regulatory practice may vary significantly in terms of time and place. Local requirements and regulatory practice have been further tightened following the announcement of the PRC government’s carbon neutrality policy initiative in 2021.

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For example, the Development and Reform Commission of Shenzhen Municipality, or Shenzhen DRC, issued regulations in the first half of 2017 to tighten the requirements for energy conservation review of fixed-asset investment projects for data centers by requiring all such projects to obtain an energy conservation review opinion from Shenzhen DRC regardless of the amount of their energy consumption and conditioning its approval of power supply applications on the receipt of such energy conservation review opinion. The Energy Bureau of Guangdong Province published the Notice on the Investigation and Punishment of Illegal Energy Use and the Notice on the Rectification of Data Center Projects Violating Laws and Regulations in Guangdong Province in June 2021 and October 2021 respectively to strengthen the supervision of power consumption of data centers and required that data centers without energy conservation review opinion to be ordered to shut down if rectification cannot be completed within the prescribed period. For more details and examples, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Filing and Energy Conservation of Fixed-Asset Investment.”

The increasingly stringent regulatory requirements or restrictions may have a material adverse effect and affect our results of operations. While we have been making every effort to comply with the relevant regulatory requirements, we cannot assure you that we have obtained, and will be able to obtain the required governmental authorizations (including the fixed-asset investment project filings and energy conversation review opinions) for all our data centers in a timely manner or at all due to the constantly evolving regulatory requirements and practices. Furthermore, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete required rectification in a timely manner or at all, due to the lack of the required approvals, filings and licenses (including the fixed-asset investment project filings and energy conversation review opinions) if we are ordered to do so by the relevant government authorities, which may result in fines and suspension or shutdown of the operations of the relevant data centers.

Limited availability of power resources may adversely affect our results of operations.

We are a large consumer of power, which for the purpose of these risk factors discussion refers to electrical power supplied through the electrical grid, rather than through our own on-site solar or diesel generators. We use electricity to house, power and cool the computer systems and networking equipment that support our customers’ mission-critical IT infrastructure. Therefore, we need an increasing supply of electricity to grow our business and we are subject to risks associated with obtaining access to enough power. 

In China, the government sets annual “Dual-Control” targets to limit the increase in electricity consumption in each province both in absolute terms and relative to GDP in order to conserve energy and reduce carbon emission. China’s central and local governments began implementing “Dual-Control” targets during the thirteenth Five-Year Plan, from 2016-2020. In September 2021, the NDRC issued the “Program for Improving the Dual-Control of Energy Consumption Intensity and Total Volume”, or the Program, which seeks to improve the original policy through promoting the achievement of the carbon peak and carbon neutrality. According to the Program, connection should be made between the issuance of energy conservation review opinion and the “Dual-Control” targets, and the energy consumption review of newly established heavy power-consuming projects shall be strictly controlled and coordinated with local “Dual-Control” targets. Local authorities in the Tier 1 markets have imposed various stringent requirements as to the energy conservation review of data center projects. For more details, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Filing and Energy Conservation of Fixed-Asset Investment.” If demand for power in a particular area exceeds the government consumption targets, we may not be able to access the increased power supply which we need to grow our business. Furthermore, local governments may take actions, such as suspending power supply, to reduce consumption to targeted levels. This may force us to rely on backup generators at higher cost, which may harm our financial condition and results of operations.

More stringent regulatory requirements imposed by local authorities in the Tier 1 markets may also limit our ability to obtain the regulatory approvals for the development and operation of data centers, which are essential for us to obtain power supply and expand our business.

Mission-critical data centers such as ours, require high levels of redundancy, particular in respect of power infrastructure. For more information about our data centers’ technical features, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Data Centers—Self Developed Data Centers—High Performance Features.” We are subject to risks associated with obtaining access to power supply and power infrastructure from local utilities. In China, we rely on two utility suppliers, State Grid and Southern Grid, each of which has a monopoly over electricity transmission in its areas of operation. We must coordinate extensively with them and finance the construction of necessary power infrastructure, including infrastructure assets located off-site. If local utilities are unable to meet our requirements, we may not be able to grow our business and provide service to our customers on time or at all.

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China’s regulatory regime regarding energy conservation has continued to evolve to achieve national targets for peak carbon consumption and carbon neutrality. The government has established platforms for trading of certified carbon emissions reductions, renewable power, and renewable energy certificates. Further, our customers increasingly request that we provide them with renewable energy solutions. We describe our approach to increasing renewable energy usage in our ESG report, which is accessible via hyperlink in our press release furnished to the SEC as Exhibit 99.1 to our Form 6-K (File No. 001-37925), on November 30, 2021.

Renewable energy supply is very limited in Tier 1 markets, as these markets are generally located in Chinese eastern regions and further from China’s renewable sources. We may not be able to obtain sufficient supply or find alternative solutions to enable us to meet our targets or satisfy our customer requirements. Furthermore, renewable energy may come at a cost premium. If we incur this premium, we may not be able to pass the cost to our customers, even though we expect that they will also be seeking to reduce their carbon footprint, which will negatively affect our future operating results and financial condition.

Our customers’ requirements and overall demand for power may increase as they adopt new technologies, for example, for virtualization of hardware resources and for specialized processing of artificial intelligence. As a result, the average amount of power utilized per server is increasing, which in turn increases power consumption required to cool the data center facilities. Pursuant to our colocation service agreements, we provide our customers with a committed level of power supply availability. Although we aim to improve the energy efficiency of the data center facilities that we operate, there can be no assurance such data center facilities will be able to provide sufficient power to meet the growing needs of our customers. Our customers’ demand for power may exceed the power capacity in our older data centers, which may limit our ability to fully utilize the net floor area of these data centers. We may lose customers, or our customers may reduce the services purchased from us due to increased power costs and limited availability of power resources, or we may incur costs for data center capacity which we cannot utilize, which would reduce our net revenue and have a material and adverse effect on our cost of revenue and results of operations.

We attempt to manage our power resources and limit exposure to system downtime due to power outages from the electric grid by having redundant power feeds from the grid and by using backup generators and battery power. However, these protections may not limit our exposure to power shortages or outages entirely. Any system downtime resulting from insufficient power resources or power outages could damage our reputation and lead us to lose current and potential customers, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

China’s power market is regulated and undergoing reform which may affect our ability to optimize power usage and costs.

Costs of power account for a significant portion of our cost of revenue. Power costs may be included in the costs for our services, or we may charge our customers separately for actual power consumed.

The NDRC is introducing gradual market-oriented reform to the power markets. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Feed-in Electricity Price for Coal-Fired Power Generation.” As a result, we are starting to enter into direct power purchase agreements with power generators, while continuing to purchase through State Grid and Southern Grid. At this early stage of reform, we see power costs increasing. While we believe ongoing reform may enable us to purchase power at normalized or even lower costs by purchasing through a competitive market in the long-term, power costs may remain elevated in the short to medium term, which may adversely affect our results of operations.

As part of the reform, in October 2021, the NDRC expanded the price range of coal-fired power generation, by expanding the range of transaction prices. The government raised the ceiling from 10% to 20% above the floor, which has allowed electricity tariffs to rise above historic levels. While we believe that increase is temporary, we are paying for this increased cost and only able to recover a limited proportion from our customers. For more information about risks arising from fixed price agreements with our customers, see “—We enter into fixed price agreements with many customers, and our failure to accurately estimate the resources and time required for the fulfillment of our obligations under these agreements could negatively affect our results of operations.”

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Implementation of China’s “East Data and West Computation” policy subjects us to regulatory and economic uncertainty.

In December 2020, the NDRC, CAC, MIIT and National Energy Administration jointly released the Guiding Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of a National Integrated Large Data Center Collaborative Innovation System, or the guiding opinions. The guiding opinions proposed the construction of a nationwide integrated data center system. The above four agencies have since issued a series of related policy documents, including the Implementation Plan for Computing Power Hubs of the National Integrated Large Data Center Collaborative Innovation System, or the Implementation Plan, in May 2021, which introduced the policy of “East Data and West Computation.” By moving data that does not require intensive computation from eastern regions to the resource-rich western regions, the “East Data and West Computation” policy aims to optimize the use of the national resources, correct the imbalance in supply and demand of computing capacity and promote the overall development of data centers in both western and eastern regions.

The Implementation Plan and other policy documents identify eight computing hubs in eastern and western China, and designate ten data center clusters in specific locations within these hubs to complete the overall layout of the national integrated big data center system. We have started to develop and operate hyperscale data centers in some of the hubs designated by the “East Data and West Computation” policy to meet customer demand prior to the introduction of such policy and will continue to do so to meet increased customer demand. Most of our existing data center capacity, including area in service, area under construction and area held for future development is located within the four computing hubs in eastern China and a portion of it is in the ten designated data center cluster. We therefore believe our long-term strategy is aligned with the policy aims. Nevertheless, there are uncertainties on how the policy will be implemented in practice and how this policy will affect the customer demand. For example, through the policy, government authorities may allocate more energy quota to certain areas within the ten designated data center clusters where we have not yet secured resources and remove favorable land and tax policies in areas outside such data center clusters where we have already secured resources, which may have adverse effects on our business.

Implementation of the “East Data and West Computation” policy may result in unfavorable business conditions in any region we operate currently or expect to operate, and could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations.

We have a history of net losses and negative cash flows from operating activities and may continue to incur losses and experience negative cash flows from operating activities in the future.

We incurred net losses of RMB442.1 million, RMB669.2 million and RMB1,191.2 million (US$186.9 million) in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, and we may incur losses in the future. We expect our costs and expenses to increase as we expand our operations, primarily including costs and expenses associated with owning and leasing data center capacity, increasing our headcount and utility expenses. Our ability to achieve and maintain profitability depends on the continued growth and maintenance of our customer base, our ability to control our costs and expenses, the expansion of our service offerings and our ability to provide our services at the level needed to satisfy the stringent demands of our customers. In addition, our ability to achieve profitability is affected by many factors which are beyond our control, such as the overall demand for data center services in China, Southeast Asia and elsewhere, as well as general economic conditions. If we cannot efficiently manage the data center facilities we operate, our financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. We may continue to incur losses in the future due to our continued investments in data center capacity, increased headcount and increased utility expenses.

The data center business is capital-intensive. Constructing, developing and operating our data centers require significant capital expenditures. We need to fund these costs with various forms of financing, in addition to cash retained from operations. We have historically funded data center development through additional equity or debt financing. We expect to continue to fund future developments through debt financing or through the issuance of additional equity securities if necessary and when market conditions permit. If we are unable to secure such additional financing, it will have a material adverse effect on our business and we may have to limit operations in a manner inconsistent with our development plans. If additional funds are raised through the issuance of equity securities or convertible debt securities, it will be dilutive to our shareholders and could result in a decrease in our stock price. In addition, if there are other factors that negatively impact our cash flow, such as the credit risk associated with accounts receivable or the ability to recover VAT on a timely basis, our cash flow and ability to fund our operations and capital expenditures would be negatively affected. If we are unable to obtain requisite financing needed to fund our planned operations and expansion, it would have a material adverse effect on our business.

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Any significant or prolonged failure in the data center facilities we operate or services we provide would lead to significant costs and disruptions and would reduce our net revenue, harm our business reputation and have a material adverse effect on our results of operation.

The data center facilities we operate are subject to failure. Any significant or prolonged failure in any data center facility we operate or services that we provide, including a breakdown in critical plant, equipment or services, such as the cooling equipment, generators, backup batteries, routers, switches, or other equipment, power supplies, or network connectivity, whether or not within our control, could result in service interruptions and data losses for our customers as well as equipment damage, which could significantly disrupt the normal business operations of our customers and harm our reputation and reduce our net revenue. Any failure or downtime in one of the data center facilities that we operate could affect many of our customers. The total destruction or severe impairment of any of the data center facilities we operate could result in significant downtime of our services and catastrophic loss of customer data. Since our ability to attract and retain customers depends on our ability to provide highly reliable service, even minor interruptions in our service could harm our reputation and cause us to incur financial penalties. The services we provide are subject to failures resulting from numerous factors, including:

power loss;
equipment failure;
human error or accidents;
theft, sabotage and vandalism;
failure by us or our suppliers to provide adequate service or maintenance to our equipment;
network connectivity downtime and fiber cuts;
security breaches to our infrastructure;
improper building maintenance by us or by the landlords of the data center buildings which we lease;
physical, electronic and cyber security breaches;
fires and fire hazards, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood and other natural disasters;
extreme temperatures;
water damage;
public health emergencies; and
terrorism.

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We have in the past experienced, and may in the future experience, interruptions in service due to power outages or other technical failures or for reasons outside of our control, including a service interruption that caused system downtime to certain banking and financial institution customers and other customers. These interruptions in service, regardless of whether they result in breaches of the service level agreements we have with customers, may negatively affect our relationships with customers, including resulting in customers terminating their agreements with us or seeking damages from us or other compensatory actions. Interruptions in service may also have consequences for customers, such as banking and financial institutions, that are under the oversight of industry regulators, including the CBIRC and other PRC regulatory agencies. In response to such interruptions in service, industry regulators have taken, and may in the future take, various regulatory actions, including notifications or citations to our customers, over which they have oversight. Such regulatory actions with respect to our customers, including banking and financial institutions, could negatively impact our relationships with such customers, lead to audits of our services, inspections of our facilities, place restrictions or prohibitions upon the ability of such institutions to use our services, and thereby negatively affect our business operations and results of operations. We have taken and continue to take steps to improve our infrastructure to prevent service interruptions, including upgrading our electrical and mechanical infrastructure and sourcing, designing the best facilities possible and implementing rigorous operational procedures to maintenance programs to manage risk. However, we cannot assure you that such interruptions in service will not occur again in the future, or that such incidents will not result in the loss of customers and revenue, our paying compensation to customers, reputational damage to us, penalties or fines against us, and would not have a material and adverse effect on our business and results of operations. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Information Technology Outsourcing Services Provided to Banking Financial Institutions.” Service interruptions continue to be a significant risk for us and could affect our reputation, damage our relationships with customers and materially and adversely affect our business.

Delays in the construction of new data centers or the expansion of existing data centers could involve significant risks to our business.

In order to meet customer demand and the continued growth of our business, we need to expand existing data centers, lease buildings for conversion into new data center facilities or obtain suitable land to build new data centers. Expansion of existing data centers and/or construction of new data centers are currently underway or being contemplated and such expansion and/or construction require us to carefully select and rely on the experience of one or more designers, general contractors, and subcontractors during the design and construction process. If a designer or contractor experiences financial or other problems during the design or construction process, we could experience significant delays and/or incur increased costs to complete the projects, resulting in negative impacts on our results of operations.

In addition, we need to work closely with the local power suppliers, and sometimes local governments, where our proposed data centers are located. Delays in actions that require the assistance of such third parties, or delays in receiving required permits and approvals from such parties, may also affect the speed with which we complete data center projects or result in their not being completed at all. We have experienced such delays in receiving approvals and permits or in actions to be taken by third parties in the past and may experience them again in the future.

If we experience significant delays in the supply of power required to support the data center expansion or new construction, either during the design or construction phases, the progress of the data center expansion and/or construction could deviate from our original plans, which could , among others, result in liability for penalties and loss of customers, and cause material and negative effect to our revenue growth, profitability and results of operations.

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The occurrence of a catastrophic event or a prolonged disruption may exceed our insurance coverage by significant amounts.

Our operations are subject to hazards and risks normally associated with the daily operations of our data center facilities. Currently, we maintain insurance policies in the following categories: construction and installation, work interruption expense due to public health event, business interruption for lost profits, property and casualty, public liability, cyber security liability, directors and officers liability, employer liability and commercial employee insurance. Our business interruption insurance for lost profits includes coverage for business interruptions, our property and casualty insurance includes coverage for equipment breakdowns and our commercial employee insurance includes employee group insurance and senior management medical insurance. We believe our insurance coverage adequately covers the risks of our daily business operations. However, our current insurance policies may be insufficient in the event of a prolonged or catastrophic event. The occurrence of any such event that is not entirely covered by our insurance policies may result in interruption of our operations and subject us to significant losses or liabilities and damage our reputation as a provider of business continuity services. In addition, any losses or liabilities that are not covered by our current insurance policies may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We may be vulnerable to security breaches which could disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

A party who is able to compromise the security measures protecting the data center facilities we operate or any of the data stored in such data center facilities could misappropriate our or our customers’ proprietary information or cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations. As we provide assurances to our customers that we provide the highest level of security, such a compromise could be particularly harmful to our brand and reputation. We may be required to expend significant capital and resources to protect against such threats or to alleviate problems caused by breaches in security. In addition, as we continue expanding our service offerings in managed cloud services, including direct private connection to major cloud platforms and the provision of cloud infrastructure, we will face greater risks from potential attacks because the provision of cloud-related services will increase the flow of internet user data through the data center facilities we operate and create broader public access to our system. As techniques used to breach security change frequently and are often not recognized until launched against a target, we may not be able to implement new security measures in a timely manner or, if and when implemented, we may not be certain whether these measures could be circumvented. Any breaches that may occur could expose us to increased risk of lawsuits, regulatory penalties, loss of existing or potential customers, harm to our reputation and increases in our security costs, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Security risks and deficiencies may also be identified in the course of government inspections, which could subject us to fines and other sanctions. During construction of certain of our facilities, government inspectors have cited security risks at our construction sites and subjected us and our legal representative to fines for such risks. We cannot assure you that similar fines and sanctions will not occur in the future, or that such fines and sanctions will not result in damage to our business and reputation, which could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations.

In addition, any assertions of alleged security breaches or systems failure made against us, whether true or not, could harm our reputation, cause us to incur substantial legal fees and have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations.

Our ability to provide data center services depends on the major telecommunications carriers in China providing sufficient network services to our customers in the data center facilities that we operate on commercially acceptable terms.

Our ability to provide data center services depends on the major telecommunications carriers in China, namely China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile, providing sufficient network connectivity and capacity to enable our customers to transfer data to and from equipment that they locate in the data center facilities that we operate. Furthermore, given the limited competition among basic service providers in the telecommunications market in China, we depend on the dominant carrier in each location to provide such services to our customers on commercially acceptable terms. Although we believe we have maintained good relationships with China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile in the past, there can be no assurance that they will continue to provide the network services that our customers require on commercially acceptable terms at each of the data centers where we operate, if at all. In addition, if China Telecom, China Unicom or China Mobile increases the price of their network services, it would have a negative impact on the overall cost-effectiveness of data center services in China, which could cause our customers’ demand for our services to decline and would materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

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Our leases for self-developed data centers or our agreements for third-party data centers could be terminated early and we may not be able to renew our existing leases and agreements on commercially acceptable terms or our rent or payment under the agreements could increase substantially in the future, which could materially and adversely affect our operations.

Most of our self-developed data centers are located in properties that we hold under long-term leases. Such leases generally have 15 to 20-year terms from inception. In some instances, we may negotiate an option to purchase the leased premises and facilities or a right of first refusal for the renewal of the existing leases according to the terms and conditions under the relevant lease agreements. However, upon the expiration of such leases, we may not be able to renew these leases on commercially reasonable terms, if at all. Under certain lease agreements, the lessor may terminate the agreement by giving prior notice and paying default penalties to us. However, such default penalties may not be sufficient to cover our losses. Even though the lessors for most of our data centers generally do not have the right of unilateral early termination unless they provide the required notice, the lease may nonetheless be terminated early if we are in material breach of the lease agreements. We may assert claims for compensation against the landlords if they elect to terminate a lease agreement early and without due cause. If the leases for our data centers were terminated early prior to their expiration date, notwithstanding any compensation we may receive for early termination of such leases, or if we are not able to renew such leases, we may have to incur significant cost related to relocation. In addition, we have entered into ten agreements in respect of data centers in operation with parties who have not produced evidence of proper legal title of the premises, and although we may seek damages from such parties, such leases may be void and we may be forced to relocate The ten agreements are in relation to thirteen leased data centers which collectively accounted for approximately 5.7%, 9.8% and 10.2% of our revenues in the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, and approximately 8.9%, 8.6% and 11.8% of total area committed as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. Except for one data center, which accounted for 0.9%, 0.9%, and 0.5% of net revenues in the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021 and 0.4%, 0.2% and 0.1% of total area committed as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the owners of the premises for the twelve other data centers (including the owners of nine B-O-T data centers, who are the end users or their affiliates) have confirmed such property ownership certificates are in the process of being obtained without any foreseen legal or regulatory difficulties; in addition, as advised by our PRC legal counsel, as the owners have obtained relevant construction planning permits with regard to the construction of the premises, the relevant leases will be deemed valid and effective by a court in case of any dispute. Fourteen of our data centers are located in properties that were already mortgaged to third parties before the commencement of the lease. If such third parties claim their rights on the mortgaged properties in case of default or breach under the principal debt by the lessors or other relevant parties, we may not be able to protect our leasehold interest and may be ordered to vacate the affected premises. Any relocation could also affect our ability to provide continuous uninterrupted services to our customers and harm our reputation. As a result, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Furthermore, certain portions of our data center operations are located in third-party data centers that we lease from wholesale data center providers. Our agreements with third parties are typically five years but may also be up to ten years. Under some of such agreements, we have the right of first refusal to renew the agreements subject to mutual agreement with the third parties. Some of such agreements allow the third parties to terminate the agreements early, subject to a notification period requirement and the payment of a pre-determined termination fee, which in some cases may not be sufficient to cover any direct and indirect losses we might incur as a result. Although historically we have successfully renewed all agreements we wanted to renew, and we do not believe that any of our agreements will be terminated early in the future, there can be no assurance that the counterparties will not terminate any of our agreements prior to its expiration date. We plan to renew our existing agreements with third parties upon expiration or migrate our operations to the data centers leased or owned by our company. However, we may not be able to renew these agreements on commercially acceptable terms, if at all, or the space in data centers that we lease or own may not be adequate for us to relocate such operations, and we may experience an increase in our payments under such agreements. Any adverse change to our ability to exert operational control over any of the data center facilities we operate could have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate these data center facilities at the standards required for us to meet our service level commitments to our customers.

We generate significant revenue from data centers located in only a few locations and a significant disruption to any location could materially and adversely affect our operations.

We generate significant revenue from data centers located in only a few locations and a significant disruption to any single location could materially and adversely affect our operations. As of March 31, 2022, most of our data centers (self-developed and third-party) were located in our Tier 1 markets. Furthermore, several of our data centers are located on campuses or clusters in close proximity to each other in specific districts within our Tier 1 markets. The occurrence of a catastrophic event, or a prolonged disruption in any of these regions, could materially and adversely affect our operations.

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Our net revenue is highly dependent on a limited number of customers, and the loss of, or any significant decrease in business from, any one or more of our major customers could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

We consider our customers to be the end users of our services. We may enter into agreements directly with our customers or provide services to our customers through agreements with intermediate contracting parties. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Customers.”

We have in the past derived, and believe that we will continue to derive, a significant portion of our net revenue from a limited number of customers. We had three customers that generated 27.2%, 19.1% and 10.8% of our total net revenue, respectively, in 2019, two customers that generated 26.3% and 20.5%, respectively, in 2020, and two customers that generated 23.7% and 22.2% of our total net revenue, respectively, in 2021. No other customer accounted for 10% or more of our total net revenue during those periods. We expect our net revenue will continue to be highly dependent on a limited number of customers who account for a large percentage of our total area committed. As of December 31, 2021, we had two customers who accounted for 40.5% and 16.6%, respectively, of our total area committed. No other customer accounted for 10% or more of our total area committed. Moreover, for several of our data centers, a limited number of customers accounted for or are expected to account for a substantial majority of area committed or area utilized, including some cases where a single customer accounted for all area committed or area utilized. If there are delays in the move-in, whereby the net floor area they are committed to is not utilized as expected, or there is contract termination in relation to these customers, then our net revenue and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.

There are a number of factors that could cause us to lose major customers. Because many of our agreements involve services that are mission-critical to our customers, any failure by us to meet a customer’s expectations could result in cancellation or non-renewal of the agreement. Our service agreements usually allow our customers to terminate their agreements with us before the end of the contract period under certain specified circumstances, including our failure to deliver services as required under such agreements, and in some cases without cause as long as sufficient notice is given. In addition, our customers may decide to reduce spending on our services due to a challenging economic environment or other factors, both internal and external, relating to their business such as corporate restructuring or changing their outsourcing strategy by moving more facilities in-house or outsourcing to other service providers. Furthermore, our customers, some of whom have experienced rapid changes in their business, substantial price competition and pressures on their profitability, may demand price reductions or reduce the scope of services to be provided by us, any of which could reduce our profitability. In addition, our reliance on any individual customer for a significant portion of our net revenue may give that customer a degree of pricing leverage against us when negotiating agreements and terms of services with us.

The loss of any of our major customers, or a significant decrease in the extent of the services that they outsource to us or the price at which we sell our services to them, could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

If we are unable to meet our service level commitments, our reputation and results of operation could suffer.

Most of our customer agreements provide that we maintain certain service level commitments to our customers. If we fail to meet our service level commitments, we may be contractually obligated to pay the affected customer a financial penalty, which varies by agreement, and the customer may in some cases be able to terminate its agreement. Although we have not had to pay any material financial penalties for failing to meet our service level commitments in the past, there is no assurance that we will be able to meet all of our service level commitments in the future and that no material financial penalties may be imposed. In addition, if such a failure were to occur, there can be no assurance that our customers will not seek other legal remedies that may be available to them, including:

requiring us to provide free services;
seeking damages for losses incurred; and
cancelling or electing not to renew their agreements.

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Any of these events could materially increase our expenses or reduce our net revenue, which would have a material adverse effect on our reputation and results of operations. Our failure to meet our commitments could also result in substantial customer dissatisfaction or loss. As a result of such customer loss and other potential liabilities, our net revenue and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

Our customer base may decline if our customers or potential customers develop their own data centers or expand their own existing data centers.

Some of our customers may develop their own data center facilities. Other customers with their own existing data centers may choose to expand their data center operations in the future. In the event that any of our key customers were to develop or expand their data centers, we may lose business or face pressure as to the pricing of our services. Although we believe that the trend is for companies in China and Southeast Asia to outsource more of their data center facilities and operations to colocation data center service providers, there can be no assurance that this trend will continue. In addition, if we fail to offer services that are cost-competitive and operationally advantageous as compared with services provided in-house by our customers, we may lose customers or fail to attract new customers. If we lose a customer, there is no assurance that we would be able to replace that customer at the same or a higher rate, or at all, and our business and results of operations would suffer.

We may be unable to achieve high agreement renewal rates.

We seek to renew customer agreements when those agreements are due for renewal. We endeavor to provide high levels of customer service, support, and satisfaction to maintain long-term customer relationships and to secure high rates of agreement renewals for our services. Nevertheless, we cannot assure you that we will be able to renew service agreements with our existing customers or re-commit space relating to expired service agreements to new customers if our current customers do not renew their agreements. In the event of a customer’s termination or non-renewal of expired agreements, or a renewal of an expired agreement for fewer services or less area than it had previously utilized, our ability to enter into services agreements so that new or other existing customers utilize the expired existing space in a timely manner will impact our results of operations. If such expired existing space is not utilized by new or other existing customers in a timely manner, our service revenue and results of operations may be negatively impacted. Our quarterly churn rate, which we define as the ratio of quarterly service revenue from agreements which terminated or expired without renewal during the quarter to the total quarterly service revenue for the preceding quarter, averaged 0.5%, 0.8% and 0.4% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. During 2022, data center service agreements with our customers with respect to 6.6% of our total area committed as of December 31, 2021 will become due for renewal.

If we do not succeed in attracting new customers for our services and/or growing revenue from existing customers, we may not achieve our revenue growth goals.

We have been expanding our customer base to cover a range of industry verticals, particularly cloud service providers and other internet-based businesses. Our ability to attract new customers, as well as our ability to grow revenue from our existing customers, depends on a number of factors, including our ability to offer high-quality services at competitive prices, the strength of our competitors and the capabilities of our marketing and sales teams to attract new customers. If we fail to attract new customers, we may not be able to grow our net revenue as quickly as we anticipate or at all.

As our customer base grows and diversifies into other industries, we may be unable to provide customers with services that meet the specific demand of such customers or their industries, or with quality customer support, which could result in customer dissatisfaction, decreased overall demand for our services and loss of expected revenue. In addition, our inability to meet customer service expectations may damage our reputation and could consequently limit our ability to retain existing customers and attract new customers, which would adversely affect our ability to generate revenue and negatively impact our results of operations.

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Customers who rely on us for the colocation of their servers, the infrastructure of their cloud systems, and management of their IT and cloud operations could potentially sue us for their lost profits or damages if there are disruptions in our services, which could impair our financial condition.

As our services are critical to many of our customers’ business operations, any significant disruption in our services could result in lost profits or other indirect or consequential damages to our customers. Although our customer agreements typically contain provisions attempting to limit our liability for breach of the agreement, including failing to meet our service level commitments, there can be no assurance that a court would enforce any contractual limitations on our liability in the event that one of our customers brings a lawsuit against us as the result of a service interruption that they may ascribe to us. The outcome of any such lawsuit would depend on the specific facts of the case and any legal and policy considerations that we may not be able to mitigate. In such cases, we could be liable for substantial damage awards. Since we do not carry liability insurance coverage, such damage awards could seriously impair our financial condition.

Our customers operate in a limited number of industries, particularly in the cloud services, internet and financial services industries. Factors that adversely affect these industries or information technology spending in these industries may adversely affect our business.

Our customers operate in a limited number of industries, particularly in the cloud services, internet and financial services industries. As of December 31, 2021, customers from the cloud services, internet and financial services industries accounted for 69.1%, 19.8% and 5.7% of our total area committed, respectively. Our business and growth depend on continued demand for our services from our current and potential customers in the cloud services, internet and financial services industries. Demand for our services, and technology services in general, in any particular industry could be affected by multiple factors outside of our control, including a decrease in growth or growth prospects of the industry, a slowdown or reversal of the trend to outsource information technology operations, or consolidation in the industry. In addition, serving a major customer within a particular industry may effectively preclude us from seeking or obtaining engagements with direct competitors of that customer if there is a perceived conflict of interest. Any significant decrease in demand for our services by customers in these industries, or other industries from which we derive significant net revenue in the future, may reduce the demand for our services.

We enter into fixed price agreements with many customers, and our failure to accurately estimate the resources and time required for the fulfillment of our obligations under these agreements could negatively affect our results of operations.

Our data center services are generally provided on a fixed price basis that requires us to undertake significant projections and planning related to resource utilization and costs. Although our past project experience helps to reduce the risks associated with estimating, planning and performing fixed price agreements, we bear the risk of failing to accurately estimate our projected costs, including power costs as we may not accurately predict our customer’s ultimate power usage once the agreement is implemented, and failing to efficiently utilize our resources to deliver our services, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to reduce the risk of estimating, planning and performing our agreements. In light of the NDRC’s market-oriented reforms for coal-fired power, electricity prices may fluctuate while the reforms are being implemented at various levels of government. See “Item 4. Information on the Company-B. Business Overview-Regulatory Matters-Regulations Related to Feed-in Electricity Price for Coal-Fired Power Generation.” For fixed priced agreements, we may absorb higher power costs which may result in higher cost of revenue. Any failure to accurately estimate the resources and time required for a project, or any other factors that may impact our costs, could adversely affect our profitability and results of operations.

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Our customer agreement commitments are subject to reduction and potential cancellation.

Many of our customer agreements allow for early termination, subject to payment of specified costs and penalties, which are usually less than the revenues we would expect to receive under such agreements. Our customer agreement commitments could significantly decrease if any of the customer agreements is terminated either pursuant to, or in violation of, the terms of such agreement. In addition, our customer agreement commitments during a particular future period may be reduced for reasons outside of our customers’ control, such as general prevailing economic conditions. It is difficult to predict how market forces, or PRC or U.S. government policies, in particular, the severe and continued deterioration of bilateral relations between the PRC and the U.S., may continue to impact the PRC economy as well as related demand for our colocation and managed services going forward. See “—Geopolitical tensions have led to a heightened trend towards trade, technology and even finance “decoupling” between China and the United States and this adverse trend may continue to deteriorate, which could negatively affect our business operations and results of operations.” If our customer agreement commitments are significantly reduced, our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

Even if our current and future customers have entered into a binding agreement with us, they may choose to terminate such agreement prior to the expiration of its terms. Any penalty for early termination may not adequately compensate us for the time and resources we have expended in connection with such agreement, or at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash flows.

We may not be able to compete effectively against our current and future competitors.

We offer a broad range of data center services and, as a result, we may compete with a wide range of data center service providers for some or all of the services we offer. Policies promoted by the PRC government concerning the concept of “new infrastructure” may encourage and result in a new wave of investment in, among other things, largescale data centers, artificial intelligence and industrial internet at all levels of the economy. Accordingly, there may be an increase in the number of companies engaging in the data center services business due to the numerous opportunities presented by such policies, which may result in increased competition in our industry.

We face competition from the state-owned telecommunications carriers, namely China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile, as well as other domestic and international carrier-neutral data center service providers. Our current and future competitors may vary by size and service offerings and geographic presence. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Competition.”

Competition is primarily centered on reputation and track record, quality and availability of data center capacity, quality of service, technical expertise, security, reliability, functionality, breadth and depth of services offered, geographic coverage, financial strength and price. Some of our current and future competitors may have greater brand recognition, marketing, technical and financial resources than we do. As a result, some of our competitors may be able to:

bundle colocation services with other services or equipment they provide at reduced prices;
develop superior products or services, gain greater market acceptance, and expand their service offerings more efficiently or rapidly;
adapt to new or emerging technologies and changes in customer requirements more quickly;
take advantage of acquisition and other opportunities more readily; and
adopt more aggressive pricing policies and devote greater resources to the promotion, marketing and sales of their services.

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We operate in a competitive market, and we face pricing pressure for our services. Prices for our services are affected by a variety of factors, including supply and demand conditions and pricing pressures from our competitors. Although we offer a broad range of data center services, our competitors that specialize in only one of our services offerings may have competitive advantages in that offering. With respect to all of our colocation services, our competitors may offer such services at rates below current market rates or below the rates we currently charge our customers. With respect to both our colocation and managed services offerings, our competitors may offer services in a greater variety that are more sophisticated or that are more competitively priced than the services we offer. We may be required to lower our prices to remain competitive, which may decrease our margins and adversely affect our business prospects, financial condition and results of operations.

An oversupply of data center capacity could have a material adverse effect on us.

A buildup of new data centers or reduced demand for data center services could result in an oversupply of data center capacity in large commercial centers in China and Southeast Asia. Excess data center capacity could lower the value of data center services and limit the number of economically attractive markets that are available to us for expansion, which could negatively impact our business and results of operations.

Export control and economic or trade sanctions could subject us to regulatory investigations or other actions, and may limit our ability to sell to certain customers, which could materially and adversely affect our competitiveness and business operations.

Our operations expose us to risks related to export controls and economic and trade sanctions. In recent years, the U.S. government and other governments have threatened and/or imposed export controls, economic sanctions, or other trade restrictions on a number of China-based technology companies, including ZTE Corporation, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., or Huawei, and certain of their respective affiliates and other China-based technology companies, as well as taken other actions against Huawei and related persons. This has raised further concerns as to whether, in the future, China-based companies, including us, may be subject to additional regulatory challenges or enhanced restrictions in a wide range of areas such as data security, telecommunications, artificial intelligence, technologies deployed for surveillance purposes, import/export of technology or other business activities. We may also face restrictions on transactions with certain customers, business partners and other persons.

For example, the U.S. government has added several Chinese companies and institutions, including Huawei, to the Entity List under the U.S. Export Administration Regulation, or EAR, and imposed targeted economic and trade restrictions on them that effectively bar their access to U.S.-origin goods and technologies, as well as goods and technologies that contain a significant portion of U.S.-origin content. The Entity List identifies foreign parties that are prohibited from acquiring—whether by export, re-export, or transfer in-country—some or all items subject to the EAR, unless the exporter secures a license. Licenses, and exceptions to the license requirement, are rarely granted to exporters. Exporting, re-exporting or transferring items subject to the EAR in violation of licensing requirements could result in criminal and/or civil penalties. The U.S. Department of Commerce has indicated that engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security and/or foreign policy interests would be grounds for inclusion on the Entity List. The Company provided colocation services to two PRC companies (which belong to the same group) on the Entity List during the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

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Furthermore, on November 12, 2020, former U.S. President Trump issued Executive Order 13959 on Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Communist Chinese Military Companies which prohibits any transaction in publicly traded securities, or any securities that are derivative of, or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of any identified company. On June 3, 2021, U.S. President Biden issued Executive Order 14032 amending Executive Order 13959. As amended, Executive Order 13959 continues to prohibit certain transactions involving the purchase or sale of publicly traded securities of designated companies. Restrictions are applicable to certain entities designated as Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies, or CMICs, who have been placed on the CMIC List. While the CMIC List is not a blocking sanctions list, it is possible that in the future more severe sanctions may be imposed by the U.S. government on CMICs. Additional companies, including China-based technology companies, have been added to the CMIC List for their alleged involvement in supporting surveillance of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang, China and for their alleged involvement in efforts to develop and use biotechnology and other technologies for military application and human rights abuses. Additionally, the United States has ended trade preferences for Hong Kong as well as imposed sanctions on certain officials of Hong Kong and the PRC government.

Export control and economic sanctions laws and regulations are complex and likely subject to frequent changes, and the interpretation and enforcement of the relevant regulations involve substantial uncertainties, which may be driven by political and/or other factors that are out of our control or heightened by national security concerns. Such potential restrictions, as well as any associated inquiries or investigations or any other government actions, may be difficult or costly to comply with and may, among other things, delay or impede the development of our technology, products and solutions, hinder the stability of our supply chain, and may result in negative publicity, require significant management time and attention and subject us to fines, penalties or orders that we cease or modify our existing business practices, any of which may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

These restrictions, and similar or more expansive restrictions or sanctions may be imposed by the U.S. or other governments in the future that may adversely affect our ability to work with certain existing and future customers and business partners. This, in turn, could possibly lead to the modification or cancellation of our existing customer contracts, all of which would harm our business. Furthermore, our association with customers or business partners that are or become subject to U.S. regulatory scrutiny or export restrictions could subject us to actual or perceived reputational harm among current or prospective investors, suppliers or customers, customers of our customers, other parties doing business with us, or the general public. Any such reputational harm could result in the loss of investors, suppliers or customers, which could harm our business, financial conditions or prospects.

Additionally, given the important role played by China-based companies, these developments may materially and adversely affect certain of our suppliers’ and customers’ abilities to acquire technologies, systems, devices or components that may be critical to their technology infrastructure, service offerings and business operations, and further cause a turmoil to their industries including telecommunications, information technology infrastructure and consumer electronics, which may, in turn, materially and adversely affect their demand for our services and affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. These restrictions or sanctions, even those targeting specific entities unrelated to us, could nevertheless also negatively affect our and our technology partners’ abilities 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 we will not be affected by current or future export controls or economic and trade sanctions regulations.

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Geopolitical tensions have led to a heightened trend towards trade, technology and even finance “de-coupling” between China and the United States and this adverse trend may continue to deteriorate, which could negatively affect our business operations and results of operations.

In recent years, there has been a deterioration in the relationship between China and the United States which has resulted in intense potential conflicts between the two countries in trade, technology and other areas, and this has led to greater uncertainties in the geopolitical situations in other parts of the world affecting China and Chinese companies. Political tensions between the United States and China have escalated in recent years due to, among other things, the trade war between the two countries since 2018, the COVID-19 outbreak, the PRC National People’s Congress’ passage of Hong Kong national security legislation and decision of the National People’s Congress on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong, the imposition of U.S. sanctions on certain Chinese officials from China’s central government and the Hong Kong by the U.S. government, and the imposition of sanctions on certain individuals from the U.S. by the Chinese government. Export controls, economic and trade sanctions have been threatened and/or imposed by the U.S. government on a number of Chinese technology companies, some of which are existing or potential customers and/or suppliers to us. The United States has also threatened to impose further export controls, sanctions, trade embargoes, and other heightened regulatory requirements on China and Chinese companies. These have raised concerns that there may be increasing regulatory challenges or enhanced restrictions against China and other Chinese technology companies, including us, in a wide range of areas such as data security, emerging technologies, “dual-use” commercial technologies and applications that could be deployed for surveillance or military purposes, import/export of technology or other business activities. For instance, in 2019 and 2020, the U.S. government announced several executive orders and regulations effectively barring American firms from selling, exporting, re-exporting, or transferring U.S.-origin technology, components and software, among other items, to Chinese technology companies and their respective affiliates. In May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security announced plans to restrict certain Chinese companies and their overseas-related affiliates’ ability to use U.S. technology and software to design and manufacture their products. In August 2020, the U.S. State Department expanded their “Clean Network” program to cover, among others, availability of apps from Chinese companies and storage of data sensitive to U.S. citizens and businesses on cloud-based storage systems run by Chinese companies, including Alibaba. Various executive orders issued by former U.S. President Trump have also led to escalating political tensions between the U.S. and China, such as the one issued in August 2020 that prohibits certain transactions with ByteDance Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and the respective subsidiaries of such companies, the executive order issued in November 2020 that prohibits U.S. persons from transacting publicly traded securities of certain “Communist Chinese military companies” named in such executive order, as well as the executive order issued in January 2021 that prohibits such transactions as are identified by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce with certain “Chinese connected software applications,” including Alipay and WeChat Pay. When such measures become effective, any transaction that is related to such target companies by any such person, or with respect to any such property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with such target companies shall be prohibited. In March 2021, the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, said it had identified five Chinese companies that posed a threat to U.S. national security. In November 2021, the U.S. enacted the Secure Equipment Act, which stops companies judged to be a security threat from receiving new telecoms equipment licenses, and directs the Federal Communications Commission not to review applications from such companies ruled a threat. The Secure Equipment Act signifies that equipment from Huawei, ZTE and three other Chinese companies cannot be used in U.S. telecoms networks. In November 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce added a dozen more China-based companies to the Entity List. In February 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022. In response, in March 2022 the U.S. Senate passed an amended bill based on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that it passed in 2021. If differences between the bills are resolved and an amended bill is enacted, the bill may seek to reduce U.S. reliance on semiconductors manufactured in China and provide funding to encourage and strengthen U.S. scientific, technological and educational initiatives, as well as research and development, to help the U.S. compete economically against China. Accordingly, if enacted the America COMPETES Act of 2022 may place further strain on the U.S.-China relationship. These restrictions or regulations, and similar or more expansive restrictions or regulations 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. There can be no assurance that the current and/or future restrictions or regulations implemented by the U.S. government, or authorities in other jurisdictions, and related developments, will not have a negative impact on our business operations or reputation.

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In addition, if any additional existing or potential customers and/or suppliers of ours, any other parties that have collaborative relationships with us or our affiliates, or our company, were to become targeted under sanctions or export control restrictions, this may result in significant interruption in our business, regulatory investigations and reputational harm to us. Media reports on alleged violation of export control or economic and trade sanctions or data security and privacy laws, by us or by our customers, even on matters not involving us, could nevertheless damage our reputation and lead to regulatory investigations, fines and penalties against us. Such fines and penalties may be significant, and if we were publicly named or investigated by any regulator on the basis of suspected or alleged violations of export control or economic and trade sanctions or data security and privacy laws and rules, even in situations where the potential amount or fine involved may be relatively small, our businesses could be severely interrupted and our reputation could be significantly harmed.

Furthermore, rising trade and political tensions between the United States and China could place pressure on the economic growth in China as well as the rest of the world. Such rising tensions could also reduce levels of trade, investments, technological exchanges and other economic activities between the two major economies, which would have a material adverse effect on global economic conditions and the stability of global financial markets. The U.S. administration under former U.S. President Trump had advocated for and taken steps toward restricting trade in certain goods, particularly from China. While the two nations reached a “Phase One” trade agreement in January 2020, the progress of future trade talks between China and the United States are subject to uncertainties, and there can be no assurance as to whether the United States will maintain or reduce tariffs, or impose additional tariffs on Chinese products in the near future. Trade tension between China and the United States may intensify and the United States may adopt even more drastic measures in the future. China has retaliated and may further retaliate in response to new trade policies, treaties and tariffs implemented by the United States. For example, on January 9, 2021, MOFCOM promulgated the Rules on Counteracting Unjustified Extra-territorial Application of Foreign Legislation and Other Measures, which will apply to Chinese individuals or entities that are purportedly barred by a foreign country’s law from dealing with nationals or entities of a third country. The measures taken by the U.S. and Chinese governments may have the effect of restricting our ability to transact or otherwise do business with entities within or outside of China and may cause investors to lose confidence in Chinese companies and counterparties, including us. If we were unable to conduct our business as it is currently conducted as a result of such regulatory changes, our business, results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected.

Any further escalation in trade or other tensions between the United States and China or news and rumors of any escalation, could introduce uncertainties to China’s economy and the global economy which in turn could affect the Chinese economy generally, including the use of mobile, web-based commerce as well as our customers’ cloud-based platforms and services. Any such decline in the technology industry, reduction in cloud adoption or slowdown in the growth of the internet and the use of our customers’ platforms and services may lead to decreased demand for data center capacity or managed services, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Foreign policies of the United States tend to be followed by certain other countries, and those countries may adopt similar policies in their relationships with China and the Chinese companies.

Changes in international trade or investment policies and barriers to trade or investment, and the ongoing trade conflict, 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 national trade or investment policies, treaties and tariffs, fluctuations in exchange rates 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. For example, in 2018 the United States announced tariffs that applied to products imported from China, totaling approximately US$250 billion, and in May 2019 the United States increased the rate of certain tariffs previously levied on Chinese products from 10% to 25%. In August 2019, the United States announced that it would apply an additional tariff of 10% on the remaining US$300 billion of goods and products coming from China. After several rounds of trade talks between China and the United States, the United States temporarily delayed an increase in tariffs on US$250 billion of products imported from China, and in September and October 2019, the United States announced several tariff exemptions for certain Chinese products. In August 2019, the U.S. Treasury labeled China a currency manipulator and withdrew such designation in January 2020. In addition, the United States is reported to be considering ways to limit U.S. investment portfolio flows into China, though no details in such regard have been officially announced.

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China and other countries have retaliated and may further retaliate in response to new trade policies, treaties and tariffs implemented by the United States. For instance, in response to the tariffs announced by the United States in May 2018, China imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods of a similar value, and in response to the tariff announcements by the United States in August 2019, China announced it would stop buying U.S. agricultural products and would not rule out import tariffs on newly purchased U.S. agricultural products. In September 2019, China unveiled several tariff exemptions for U.S. products, including various agricultural products. Even though, in January 2020, the “Phase One” trade agreement was signed between the United States and China, the U.S.-China relationship has deteriorated further, and there can be no assurances that the U.S. or China will not increase tariffs or impose additional tariffs in the future. Any further actions to increase existing tariffs or impose additional tariffs could result in an escalation of the trade conflict, and may have tremendous negative impact on the economies of not merely the two countries concerned, but the global economy as a whole. If these measures and tariffs affect any of our customers and their business results and prospects, their demand for, or ability to pay for, our data center services may decrease, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, if China were to increase the tariff on any of the items imported by our suppliers and contract manufacturers from the U.S., they might not be able to find substitutes with the same quality and price in China or from other countries. As a result, our costs would increase and our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.

Our failure to comply with regulations applicable to our leased data center buildings may materially and adversely affect our ability to use such data centers.

Among the data center buildings that we lease, including those under construction, a majority of the lease agreements have not been registered or filed with relevant authorities in accordance with the applicable PRC laws and regulations. The enforcement of this legal requirement varies depending on local practices. In case of failure to register or file a lease, the parties to the unregistered lease may be ordered to make rectifications (which would involve registering such leases with the relevant authority) before being subject to penalties. The penalty ranges from RMB1,000 to RMB10,000 for each unregistered lease, at the discretion of the relevant authority. The relevant PRC law is not clear as to which of the parties, the lessor or the lessee, is liable for the failure to register the lease, and the lease agreements of several of our data centers provide that the lessor is responsible for processing the registration and must compensate us for losses caused by any breach of the obligation. Although we have proactively requested that the applicable lessors complete or cooperate with us to complete the registration in a timely manner, we are unable to control whether and when such lessors will do so. In the event that a fine is imposed on both the lessor and lessee, and if we are unable to recover from the lessor any fine paid by us in accordance with the terms of the lease agreement, such fine will be borne by us. In the case of one data center in Beijing, a portion of the building has been constructed without obtaining the building ownership certificate, and the part of the lease in relation to such portion may be deemed invalid if the construction has not been duly approved by the government, in which event we would not be able to use that portion of property. If the owners fail to obtain the necessary consents and/or to comply with the applicable legal requirements for the change of usage of these premises, and the relevant authority or the court orders us to use the relevant leased buildings for the designated usage only, we may not be able to continue to use these buildings for data center purposes and we may need relocate our operation there to other suitable premises. We may also be subject to administrative penalties for lack of fire safety approvals for renovation of the leased premises, and we may be ordered to suspend operations at applicable premises if we fail to timely cure any such defect. Construction or renovation of certain other of our data centers was carried out without obtaining construction (including zoning) related permits, and certain leased premises were put into use without fulfillment of construction inspection and acceptance procedures, which may cause administrative penalties to be imposed on us in the case of renovation, and may cause the use of the leased premises to be deemed illegal, and we may be forced to suspend our operations as a result. See also “—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—Our business operations are extensively impacted by the policies and regulations of the PRC government. Any policy or regulatory change may cause us to incur significant compliance costs.”

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We may be regarded as being non-compliant with the regulations on VATS due to the lack of IDC licenses for which penalties may be assessed that may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, growth strategies and prospects.

The laws and regulations regarding VATS, licenses in the PRC are relatively new and are still evolving, and their interpretation and enforcement involve significant uncertainties. Investment activities in the PRC by foreign investors are principally governed by the Industry Catalog Relating to Foreign Investment, or the Catalog, which was promulgated and is amended from time to time by the MOFCOM and the NDRC. Industries not included in the Special Management Measures (Negative List) of the Catalog are permitted industries. Industries such as VATS, including internet data center services, are restricted to foreign investment. The Special Management Measures (Foreign Investment Permitted Negative List) of the Catalog has been superseded by the Special Management Measures (Negative List) (2018) and the Encouraged Foreign Investment Industry Catalog has been superseded by Encouraged Foreign Investment Industry Catalog (2019). On December 27, 2021, the MOFCOM and the NDRC promulgated the Special Management Measures (Negative List) for the Access of Foreign Investment, or the Negative List (2021), which became effective on January 1, 2022. Foreign investment in VATS (other than e-commerce, domestic multi-party communications, store-and-forward and call center), including internet data center services, still falls within the Negative List (2021). Specifically, the Administrative Regulations on Foreign-Invested Telecommunications Enterprises restrict the ultimate capital contribution percentage held by foreign investor(s) in a foreign-invested VATS enterprise to 50% or less. Under the Telecommunications Regulations, telecommunications service providers are required to procure operating licenses prior to their commencement of operations. The Administrative Measures for Telecommunications Business Operating License, which took effect on April 10, 2009 and was amended on September 1, 2017, set forth the types of licenses required to provide telecommunications services in China and the procedures and requirements for obtaining such licenses.

Before 2013, the definition of the IDC services was subject to interpretation as to whether our services would fall within its scope. In addition, authorities in different localities had different interpretations. According to the Classification Catalogue of Telecommunications Services, or the Telecom Catalogue, publicized in February 2003 by the Ministry of Information Industry, the predecessor of the MIIT, which took effect in April 2003, and our consultations with the MIIT, IDC services should be rendered through the connection with the internet or other public telecommunications networks.

On May 6, 2013, the “Q&A on the Application of IDC/ISP Business,” or the Q&A, was published on the website of China Academy of Telecom Research, an affiliate of the MIIT. The Q&A was issued together with the draft revised Telecom Catalogue of the 2013 version, which although not an official law or regulation, reflected the evolving attitude of the MIIT towards the legal requirements as to applications for IDC licenses. A national consulting body and certain telephone numbers, the Designated Numbers, are provided in the Q&A to answer any questions arising from the application of IDC licenses. Since then, even though the definition of IDC services under the Q&A is identical to that under the Telecom Catalogue, whether a business model should be deemed to be IDC services is subject to the unified clarifications under the Q&A and replies obtained from such Designated Numbers, rather than different replies which may be obtained from different officials from the MIIT or its local branches. The draft revised Telecom Catalogue did not come into effect until March 2016, when it was further revised to adapt to developments in the telecommunications industry. During such period, we closely followed legislative developments and conducted feasibility studies for restructuring our business. Based on the Q&A and our consultation with both the Designated Numbers and MIIT officials in 2014 and 2015, IDC services which did not utilize public telecommunications networks would also require an IDC license and that IDC services could only be provided by a holder of an IDC license, or a subsidiary of such holder, with the authorization of the holder.

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GDS Beijing obtained a cross-regional IDC license in November 2013, the scope of which now includes Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Zhangjiakou, Langfang, Tianjin, Huizhou , Wulanchabu, Wuhan, Nantong and Chongqing. In order to adapt to the new regulatory requirements and address pre-existing customer agreements, we converted GDS Suzhou into a domestic company wholly owned by GDS Beijing by acquiring all of the equity interests in GDS Suzhou from Further Success Limited, or FSL, a limited liability company established in the British Virgin Islands, in order to enable GDS Suzhou to provide IDC services with the authorization of GDS Beijing, and under the auspices of an IDC license held by GDS Beijing. The MIIT approved GDS Beijing’s application to expand its IDC license coverage to include GDS Suzhou and Kunshan Wanyu Data Service Co., Ltd., or Kunshan Wanyu, so that they are now authorized to provide IDC services. As part of the VIE restructuring, we converted and changed the shareholding of Shanghai Waigaoqiao EDC Technology Co, Ltd., or EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao, in the same way as GDS Suzhou, and the MIIT has approved GDS Beijing’s application to expand its IDC license coverage to include EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao so that EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao is also authorized to provide IDC services, and the MIIT has approved GDS Beijing’s application to expand its IDC license coverage to include Shenzhen Yaode. As the result of our acquisition of BJ10, BJ11 and BJ12, we have acquired all of the equity interests in Lanting (Beijing) Information Science and Technology Co., Ltd., or Lanting Information, which therefore has been converted into a foreign-invested company. The existing customer agreements of BJ10, BJ11 and BJ12 were entered into by Lanting Information as an IDC service provider before our acquisition. As part of the acquisition, Lanting Information canceled its IDC license prior to the closing and the relevant counterparties have completed the assignment of all of the rights and obligations of Lanting Information as the IDC service provider under these customer agreements to GDS Beijing as the IDC service provider. In addition, with regard to the other WFOEs that have not contributed substantial revenue, we are deliberating different measures to ensure that any business activity that may have to be conducted by IDC license holders will be conducted by our IDC license holders, which are the VIEs and their subsidiaries.

However, there can be no assurance that our agreements signed before the completion of the VIE restructuring with any of our WFOEs as the service provider will not be deemed as historical non-compliance. Also, we cannot assure you that the fact that Lanting Information is the signing party of such agreements during the interim period from the cancellation date of its own IDC license to the completion date of the assignment of such agreements will not be deemed as historical non-compliance. If the MIIT regards us as existing in a state of non-compliance, penalties could potentially be assessed against us. It is possible that the amount of any such penalties may be several times more than the net revenue generated from these services. Our business, financial condition, expected growth and prospects would be materially and adversely affected if such penalties were to be assessed upon us. It is also possible that the PRC government may prohibit a non-compliant entity from continuing to carry on its business, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations, expected growth and prospects.

We have learned that the MIIT will not approve any expansion of authorization by an IDC license holder to its subsidiary, and that it will not allow any such subsidiary of an IDC license holder to renew its current authorization in the future. Instead, the MIIT will require subsidiaries of IDC license holders to apply for their own IDC licenses. Although, to our knowledge, such policy is not supported by any published laws or regulations, we have been making efforts to comply with this regulatory development. GDS Suzhou has already obtained its own IDC license in May 2019. Beijing Wan Chang Yun and Shenzhen Yaode have obtained their own IDC license respectively in September and November 2019. Two other subsidiaries of the VIEs plan to apply for and obtain their own IDC licenses prior to the expiry of the existing authorizations under which they provide IDC services going forward. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain approvals from the MIIT for their own IDC Licenses in a timely manner or at all, or obtain approvals from the MIIT for an expansion of authorization from GDS Beijing under its IDC license to allow IDC services to be provided by the other subsidiaries of the VIEs, who rely on such authorizations and expansions to provide IDC services, or that we will be able to renew such authorizations and expansions in due course. Based on our experience with IDC license applications, we do not foresee any legal impediment for such subsidiaries to obtain their IDC licenses. In the unlikely event that such subsidiaries fail to obtain their IDC licenses, we plan to have such subsidiaries assign relevant customer agreements to GDS Beijing so that GDS Beijing will provide the IDC services under such customer agreements, as GDS Beijing’s IDC license covers the locations and scope of IDC services provided by such subsidiaries. However, we will need to obtain customers’ consent to the foregoing assignment, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain such consents from customers before the authorization expires. If any of these situations occur, our business, financial condition, expected growth and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.

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Some of the consolidated VIEs may be regarded as being non-compliant with the regulations on VATS, due to operating beyond the permitted scope of their IDC licenses.

One of the consolidated VIEs, GDS Shanghai, obtained a regional IDC license for the Shanghai area in January 2012. Nevertheless, GDS Shanghai provided IDC services in cities outside of Shanghai, which were beyond the scope of its then-effective IDC license. GDS Shanghai upgraded its IDC license to a cross-regional license in April 2016, according to which GDS Shanghai is allowed to provide IDC services in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu. A subsidiary of one of the consolidated VIEs, GDS Suzhou, was historically authorized to provide general IDC services under the auspices of an IDC license held by GDS Beijing but such authorization approved by MIIT did not include internet resources collaboration services. Nevertheless, GDS Suzhou signed agreements with clients to provide internet resources collaboration services. In 2018, we further expanded GDS Beijing’s authorization to GDS Suzhou so that GDS Suzhou also was allowed to provide internet resources collaboration services. In addition, in 2016, 2017 and 2018, GDS Beijing and GDS Suzhou entered into IDC service agreements with relevant customers, according to which GDS Beijing and GDS Suzhou have been providing IDC services to their respective customers through third-party data centers in Tianjin. In 2017, GDS Beijing entered into an IDC services agreement with a certain customer, according to which GDS Beijing has been providing IDC services since 2018 in our three data centers located at Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province. However, GDS Beijing’s IDC license and its authorization granted to GDS Suzhou have not included the Tianjin and Zhangjiakou areas until 2019, when GDS Beijing has upgraded its IDC license to cover the Zhangjiakou, Langfang and Tianjin areas, and GDS Suzhou has obtained its own IDC license whereby GDS Suzhou is also allowed to provide general IDC services in broad geographic scope including Tianjin and Zhangjiakou. However, although such approvals have been obtained, we cannot assure you that any agreements signed before GDS Beijing and GDS Suzhou obtained such approvals may not be deemed as historical non-compliance. If the MIIT regards GDS Shanghai, GDS Suzhou and GDS Beijing as being historically non-compliant, penalties which could be several times more than the net revenue generated from these services, could potentially be assessed against us, and as a result, our business, financial condition, expected growth and prospects would be materially and adversely affected. It is also possible that the PRC government may prohibit a historically non-compliant entity from continuing to carry on its business, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations, expected growth and prospects.

One of our subsidiaries, GDS (Hong Kong) Limited, entered into IDC service agreements with customers outside China, which may be regarded as non-compliance with the regulations on foreign investment restriction and VATS, by providing IDC service without qualification.

In 2015 and 2016, GDS (Hong Kong) Limited, or GDS HK, which is one of our Hong Kong incorporated subsidiaries, entered into IDC service agreements with a few customers outside China, while the actual service provider was intended to be GDS Beijing or EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao. These IDC service agreements may be regarded as non-compliant, because the law prohibits foreign entities from providing IDC services in the PRC.

We have amended all of our IDC service agreements to specify GDS Beijing or its subsidiaries as the contracting party for such agreements, so that such agreements are, in our belief, compliant. However, we cannot assure you that our IDC service agreements as amended will not be found to be non-compliant. If the MIIT regards such agreements as non-compliant, penalties could potentially be assessed against us, and as a result, our business, financial condition, expected growth and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.

We may fail to obtain, maintain and update licenses or permits necessary to conduct our operations in the PRC, and our business may be materially and adversely affected as a result of any changes in the laws and regulations governing the VATS industry in the PRC.

There can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain our existing licenses or permits necessary to provide our current IDC services in the PRC, renew any of them when their current term expires, or update existing licenses or obtain additional licenses necessary for our future business expansion. The failure to obtain, retain, renew or update any license or permit generally, and our IDC licenses in particular, could materially and adversely disrupt our business and future expansion plans.

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For example, the revised Telecom Catalogue came into effect in March 2016 in which the definition of the IDC business also covers the internet resources collaboration services business to reflect the developments in the telecommunications industry in China and covers cloud-based services. Also, in January 2017, the MIIT issued The Circular of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Clearing up and Regulating the Internet Access Service Market, or the 2017 MIIT Circular, according to which an enterprise that obtained its IDC license prior to the implementation of the revised Telecom Catalogue and has actually carried out internet resources collaboration services shall make a written commitment to its original license issuing authority before March 31, 2017 to meet the relevant requirements for business licensing and obtain the corresponding telecommunication business license by the end of 2017. The 2017 MIIT Circular also requires that companies providing IDC services shall not construct communication transmission facilities without permission. Although we have successfully expanded the scope of our IDC licenses to cover internet resources collaboration services, fixed network domestic data transmission services and domestic internet virtual private network services as required under the 2017 MIIT Circular, changes in the regulatory environment of this kind are potentially disruptive to our business as they may require us to modify the way we conduct our business in order to receive licenses or otherwise comply with such requirements. We may also be deemed in non-compliance for failure to update our operation licenses in a timely manner according to such new regulatory requirements. Any such changes could increase our compliance costs, divert management’s attention or interfere with our ability to serve customers, any of which could harm our results of operations.

In addition, if future PRC laws or regulations governing the VATS industry require that we obtain additional licenses or permits or update existing licenses in order to continue to provide our IDC services, there can be no assurance that we would be able to obtain such licenses or permits or update existing licenses in a timely manner, or at all. If any of these situations occur, our business, financial condition and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.

Third-party data center providers from whom we lease data center capacity on a wholesale basis may fail to maintain licenses and permits necessary to conduct their operations in the PRC, and our business may be materially and adversely affected.

As of December 31, 2021, we operated an aggregate net floor area of 8,982 sqm that we lease on a wholesale basis from other data center providers, and which we refer to as our third-party data centers. There can be no assurance that the wholesale data center providers from whom we lease will be able to maintain their existing licenses or permits necessary to provide our current IDC services in the PRC or renew any of them when their current term expires. Their failure to obtain, retain or renew any license or permit generally, and their IDC licenses in particular, could materially and adversely disrupt our business.

In addition, if any future PRC laws or regulations governing the VATS industry require that the wholesale data center providers from whom we lease obtain additional licenses or permits in order to continue to provide their IDC services, there can be no assurance that they would be able to obtain such licenses or permits in a timely manner, or at all. If any of these situations occur, our business, financial condition and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

We cannot assure you that we will be able to relocate such operations to suitable alternative premises, and any such relocation may result in disruption to our business operations and thereby result in loss of earnings. We may also need to incur additional costs for the relocation of our operation. There is also no assurance that we will be able to effectively mitigate the possible adverse effects that may be caused by such disruption, loss or costs. Any of such disruption, loss or costs could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Our failure to maintain our relationships with various cloud service providers may adversely affect our managed cloud services, and as a result, our business, operating results and financial condition.

Our managed cloud services involve providing services to the customers of cloud service providers. If we do not maintain good relationships with cloud service providers, our business could be negatively affected. If these cloud service providers fail to perform as required under our agreements for any reason or suffer service level interruptions or other performance issues, or if our customers are less satisfied than expected with the services provided or results obtained, we may not realize the anticipated benefits of these relationships.

Since our agreements with key cloud service providers in China are non-exclusive, these companies may decide in the future to partner with more of our competitors, develop in-house data center capabilities or terminate their agreements with us, any of which could adversely and materially affect our business expansion plan and expected growth.

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We may not be able to keep up with rapidly changing technology, including our ability to upgrade our power, cooling, security or connectivity systems cost-effectively or at all.

The markets for the data centers we own and operate, as well as certain of the industries in which our customers operate, are characterized by rapidly changing technology, evolving industry standards, frequent new service introductions, shifting distribution channels and changing customer demands. As a result, the infrastructure at our data centers may become obsolete or unmarketable due to demand for new processes and/or technologies, including, without limitation: (i) new processes to deliver power to, or eliminate heat from, computer systems; (ii) customer demand for additional redundancy capacity; (iii) new technology that permits higher levels of critical load and heat removal than our data centers are currently designed to provide; and (iv) an inability of the power supply to support new, updated or upgraded technology. In addition, the systems that connect our self-developed data centers, and in particular, our third-party data centers, to the internet and other external networks may become outdated, including with respect to latency, reliability and diversity of connectivity. When customers demand new processes or technologies, we may not be able to upgrade our data centers on a cost-effective basis, or at all, due to, among other things, increased expenses to us that cannot be passed on to customers or insufficient revenue to fund the necessary capital expenditures. The obsolescence of our power and cooling systems and/or our inability to upgrade our data centers, including associated connectivity, could reduce revenue at our data centers and could have a material adverse effect on us. Furthermore, potential future regulations that apply to industries we serve may require customers in those industries to seek specific requirements from their data centers that we are unable to provide. If such regulations were adopted, we could lose customers or be unable to attract new customers in certain industries, which could have a material adverse effect on us.

If we are unable to adapt to evolving technologies and customer demands in a timely and cost-effective manner, our ability to sustain and grow our business may suffer.

To be successful, we must adapt to our rapidly changing market by continually improving the performance, features and reliability of our services and modifying our business strategies accordingly, which could cause us to incur substantial costs. We may not be able to adapt to changing technologies in a timely and cost-effective manner, if at all, which would adversely impact our ability to sustain and grow our business.

In addition, new technologies have the potential to replace or provide lower cost alternatives to our services. The adoption of such new technologies could render some or all of our services obsolete or unmarketable. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to identify the emergence of all of these new service alternatives successfully, modify our services accordingly, or develop and bring new services to market in a timely and cost-effective manner to address these changes. If and when we do identify the emergence of new service alternatives and introduce new services to market, those new services may need to be made available at lower profit margins than our then-current services. Failure to provide services to compete with new technologies or the obsolescence of our services could lead us to lose current and potential customers or could cause us to incur substantial costs, which would harm our operating results and financial condition. Our introduction of new alternative services that have lower price points than our current offerings may also result in our existing customers switching to the lower cost products, which could reduce our net revenue and have a material adverse effect on our results of operation.

We have limited ability to protect our intellectual property rights, and unauthorized parties may infringe upon or misappropriate our intellectual property.

Our success depends in part upon our proprietary intellectual property rights, including certain methodologies, practices, tools and technical expertise we utilize in designing, developing, implementing and maintaining applications and processes used in providing our services. We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark, trade secrets and other intellectual property laws, nondisclosure agreements with our employees, customers and other relevant persons and other measures to protect our intellectual property, including our brand identity. Nevertheless, it may be possible for third parties to obtain and use our intellectual property without authorization. The unauthorized use of intellectual property is common in China and enforcement of intellectual property rights by PRC regulatory agencies is inconsistent. As a result, litigation may be necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights. Litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of our management’s attention and resources, and could disrupt our business, as well as have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Given the relative unpredictability of China’s legal system and potential difficulties in enforcing a court judgment in China, there is no guarantee that we would be able to halt any unauthorized use of our intellectual property in China through litigation.

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We may be subject to third-party claims of intellectual property infringement.

We derive most our revenues in China and use Graphic, our figure trademarks, in a majority of our services. We have registered the figure trademark Graphic in China and the trademark Graphic in Hong Kong in several categories that cover our services areas and we plan to register the figure trademark Graphic in China in certain additional categories. We have also registered the pure text of “GDS” as a trademark in several categories that cover our services areas, however, a third party has also registered the pure text of “GDS” as a trademark in certain IT-related services. As the services for which the third-party trademark is registered are also IT-related and could be construed as similar to ours in some respects, infringement claims may be asserted against us, and we cannot assure you that a government authority or a court will hold the view that such similarity will not cause confusion in the market. In this case, if we use the pure text of GDS (which we have not registered as a trademark with respect to all services we provide) as our trademark, we may be required to explore the possibility of acquiring this trademark or entering into an exclusive licensing agreement with the third party, which will cause us to incur additional costs. In addition, we may be unaware of intellectual property registrations or applications that purport to relate to our services, which could give rise to potential infringement claims against us. Parties making infringement claims may be able to obtain an injunction to prevent us from delivering our services or using trademark or technology containing the allegedly intellectual property. If we become liable to third parties for infringing upon their intellectual property rights, we could be required to pay a substantial damage award. We may also be subject to injunctions that require us to alter our processes or methodologies so as not to infringe upon a third party’s intellectual property, which may not be technically or commercially feasible and may cause us to expend significant resources. Any claims or litigation in this area, whether we ultimately win or lose, could be time-consuming and costly, could cause the diversion of management’s attention and resources away from the operations of our business and could damage our reputation.

If our customers’ proprietary intellectual property or confidential information is misappropriated or disclosed by us or our employees in violation of applicable laws and contractual arrangements, we could be exposed to protracted and costly legal proceedings and lose customers.

We and our employees are in some cases provided with access to our customers’ proprietary intellectual property and confidential information, including technology, software products, business policies and plans, trade secrets and personal data. Many of our customer agreements require that we do not engage in the unauthorized use or disclosure of such intellectual property or information and that we will be required to indemnify our customers for any loss they may suffer as a result. We use security technologies and other methods to prevent employees from making unauthorized copies, or engaging in unauthorized use or unauthorized disclosure, of such intellectual property and confidential information. We also require our employees to enter into nondisclosure arrangements to limit access to and distribution of our customers’ intellectual property and other confidential information as well as our own. However, the steps taken by us in this regard may not be adequate to safeguard our customers’ intellectual property and confidential information. Moreover, most of our customer agreements do not include any limitation on our liability with respect to breaches of our obligation to keep the intellectual property or confidential information we receive from them confidential. In addition, we may not always be aware of intellectual property registrations or applications relating to source codes, software products or other intellectual property belonging to our customers. As a result, if our customers’ proprietary rights are misappropriated by us or our employees, our customers may consider us liable for such act and seek damages and compensation from us.

Assertions of infringement of intellectual property or misappropriation of confidential information against us, if successful, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Protracted litigation could also result in existing or potential customers deferring or limiting their purchase or use of our services until resolution of such litigation. Even if such assertions against us are unsuccessful, they may cause us to lose existing and future business and incur reputational harm and substantial legal fees.

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We rely on third-party suppliers for key elements of our facilities, equipment, network infrastructure and software.

We contract with third parties for the supply of facilities, equipment and hardware that we use in the provision of our services to our customers and that we sell to our customers in some cases. The loss of a significant supplier could delay expansion of the data center facilities that we operate, impact our ability to sell our services and hardware and increase our costs. If we are unable to purchase the hardware or obtain a license for the software that our services depend on, our business could be significantly and adversely affected. In addition, if our suppliers are unable to provide products that meet evolving industry standards or that are unable to effectively interoperate with other products or services that we use, then we may be unable to meet all or a portion of our customer service commitments, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations.

We engage third-party contractors to carry out various services relating to our data center facilities.

We engage third-party contractors to carry out various services relating to our data center facilities, including on-site security, cleaning and greening service, part of the 24/7 on duty operations and IT and customer service delivery. We endeavor to engage third-party companies with a strong reputation and proven track record, high-performance reliability and adequate financial resources. However, any such third-party contractor may still fail to provide satisfactory security services or quality outsourced labor, resulting in inappropriate access to our facilities or IT faults which, though non-critical, may cause poor service quality to customers.

We are expanding our operations to new markets outside of mainland China and Hong Kong, which subject us to additional regulatory, economic and political risks, and we may not be able to effectively implement our international expansion plans.

We are expanding our operations in new markets outside of mainland China and Hong Kong. In the second half of 2021, we announced new development projects in Macau, Malaysia and Indonesia. In addition, we began providing data center services in Singapore at third-party data centers. We are currently evaluating other expansion opportunities as well.

Our ability to effectively implement our international plans will depend on, among other things, our ability to source and develop additional data centers on an economically feasible basis, and our ability to secure commitments from customers. Our new markets may have different competitive conditions and may subject us to operating considerations that are different from those we have experienced in mainland China and Hong Kong, which, in turn, may adversely affect our ability to develop and operate data centers in these new markets.

International expansion involves operational risks related to zoning, regulatory approvals, and construction. Our lack of operating experience in new markets may adversely impact our ability to successfully develop new data centers. To successfully develop our data center facilities in these new markets, we must work closely with local government regulators, power suppliers and carriers, where our proposed data centers are located, and third-party technical personnel with whom we have limited experience. Should a significant vendor working on any such development project breach their contractual obligations during the construction process, we could experience significant delays, increased costs to complete the project and other issues that may negatively impact our business.

We are subject to a variety of national, regional and local laws and regulations in the markets where we do business, notably mainland China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, some of which may conflict with each other and all of which are subject to change. These laws and regulations include telecommunication regulations, tax laws and regulations, environmental regulations, labor laws and other government requirements, approvals, permits and licenses. Any new regulations or policies pertaining to our business may result in significant additional expenses to us and customers, which could cause a significant reduction in demand for data center services. Changes in applicable laws or regulations, or in the interpretations of these laws and regulations, could result in increased compliance costs or the need for additional capital expenditures. If we fail to comply with these requirements, we could also be subject to civil or criminal liability and the imposition of fines.

Undertaking and managing international expansion may subject us to additional risks, including:

protectionist laws and business practices favoring local competition;
greater difficulty or delay in accounts receivable collection;

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difficulties in staffing and managing foreign operations, including negotiating with foreign labor unions or workers’ councils;
political and economic instability;
unexpected changes in regulatory, tax and political environments;
fluctuations in exchange rates between the Renminbi, the Hong Kong dollar, Macanese pataca, the U.S. dollar, the Singapore dollar and Malaysian ringgit;
difficulties in repatriating funds from certain countries;
difficulties in managing across cultures and in foreign languages;
our ability to obtain, transfer or maintain licenses required by governmental entities with respect to our business;
our ability to secure and maintain the necessary physical and telecommunications infrastructure;
compliance with anti-bribery and corruption laws;
compliance with evolving governmental regulation with which we have little experience; and
compliance with evolving and varied regulations related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As we further expand into overseas markets in Southeast Asia, we may face risks associated with a lack of market knowledge or understanding of the local economy and culture, forging new business relationships in the area and unfamiliarity with local government procedures. In addition, due diligence, transaction and structuring costs in Southeast Asia may be higher than those we may face in mainland China and Hong Kong. We may mitigate such risks through extensive diligence and research and associations with experienced local partners; however, we cannot assure you that all such risks will be eliminated.

As we further expand in Southeast Asia, specifically in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, adverse developments in the economic, political, or regulatory environment of these countries may materially adversely affect our business and operating results.

We provide data center services in Singapore at third-party data centers and have data center capacity held for future development in Malaysia and Indonesia. Our expansion in these countries in Southeast Asia involves strategically locating projects in and around Singapore. Consequently, we may be exposed to adverse developments in the economic, political and regulatory environments in these markets, and particularly in Singapore.

Our growth in this region is dependent on the Singapore government’s “Singapore Plus” strategy, which seeks to stimulate cooperation among regional neighbors, so that each country may take advantage of its relative strengths and complement neighboring countries’ relative strengths. For example, companies may establish their research facilities in Singapore and their production facilities in neighboring countries. The governments of Malaysia and Indonesia have each sought to promote the development of the region through preferential policies in in special economic zones, such as tax exemptions for businesses or individuals. Any change in the policies of the Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia governments as they relate to promoting regional development may adversely impact our business. As a result, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

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Due to land and energy restrictions in Singapore, data centers supporting businesses that require accessing the data connectivity hubs in Singapore may be located in neighboring countries and data must be transferred across political borders. The cross-border transfer of data raises data security concerns for the governments in which we operate and the companies who are our customers and suppliers. Our ability to develop profitable data centers is dependent on acceptance and implementation of a data management framework and cross border flows within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, for transferring data across borders. We are cooperating with government authorities to clarify our concerns regarding data protection, but there can be no assurance that a data management framework will be fully accepted by market participants such that cross-border transfer of data will no longer raise data privacy concern, which will affect our ability to develop data centers and attract customers to them. Furthermore, as there are uncertain existing laws and regulations regarding data security, we cannot assure you that we will comply with such laws and regulations in all respects, and we may be ordered to rectify or terminate any actions that are deemed illegal by regulatory authorities. We may also become subject to fines and/or other sanctions which may have material adverse effect on our business, operations and financial condition as well as price of our securities.

Establishing data centers in and around Singapore requires providing sufficient network connectivity and capacity for our customers to transfer data to and from equipment that they locate in the data center facilities that we operate. We are therefore dependent on telecommunications carriers, including those with undersea cable options connecting our data centers to Singapore. Although we believe we are developing and will maintain good relationships with local and global telecommunications carriers, there can be no assurance that they will provide the network services that our customers require on commercially acceptable terms at each of the data centers where we operate, if at all. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to source sufficient and/or redundant connectivity from telecommunications carriers to Singapore to satisfy our customers’ requirements for deployment of IT infrastructure in neighboring countries. In addition, if any telecommunications carrier increases the price of their network services, it would have a negative impact on the overall cost-effectiveness of data center services in the region, which could cause our customers’ demand for our services to decline and would materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

We have expanded in the past and expect to continue to expand in the future through acquisitions of other companies, each of which may divert our management’s attention, result in additional dilution to shareholders or use resources that are necessary to operate our business.

In the past, we have grown our business through acquisitions and we expect to continue to evaluate and enter into discussions regarding potential strategic acquisition transactions and alliances to further expand our business, and, from time to time, we may have a number of pending investments and acquisitions that are subject to closing conditions. However, such pending acquisitions are subject to uncertainties and may not be completed due to failure to satisfy all closing conditions as a result of inaccuracy or breach of representations and warranties of, or non-compliance with covenants by, either party or other reasons. If we are presented with appropriate opportunities, we may acquire additional businesses, services, resources, or assets, including data centers, that are complementary to our core business. Our integration of the acquired entities or assets into our business may not be successful and may not enable us to generate the expected revenues or expand into new services, customer segments or operating locations as well as we expect. This would significantly affect the expected benefits of these acquisitions. Moreover, the integration of any acquired entities or assets into our operations could require significant attention from our management. The diversion of our management’s attention and any difficulties encountered in any integration process could have an adverse effect on our ability to manage our business. In addition, we may face challenges trying to integrate new operations, services and personnel with our existing operations. Our possible future acquisitions may also expose us to other potential risks, including risks associated with unforeseen or hidden liabilities, litigation, corrupt practices of prior owners, problems with data center design or operation, or other issues not discovered in the due diligence process or addressed through acquisition agreements, the diversion of resources from our existing businesses and technologies, our inability to generate sufficient revenue to offset the costs, expenses of acquisitions and potential loss of, or harm to, relationships with employees and customers as a result of our integration of new businesses.

Our failure to address these risks or other problems encountered in connection with our past or future acquisitions and investments could cause us to fail to realize the anticipated benefits of these acquisitions or investments, cause us to incur unanticipated liabilities and harm our business generally. Future acquisitions could also result in the use of substantial amounts of our cash and cash equivalents, dilutive issuances of our equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities, amortization expenses or the write-off of goodwill, any of which could harm our financial condition. Also, the anticipated benefits of any acquisitions may not materialize, may be less beneficial, or may develop more slowly, than we expect. If we do not receive the benefits anticipated from these acquisitions and investments, or if the achievement of these benefits is delayed, our operating results may be adversely affected and our stock price could decline.

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The anticipated benefits of our joint ventures and strategic partnerships or future joint ventures or strategic partnerships may not be fully realized, or take longer to realize than expected.

We have entered into onshore and offshore joint ventures with several third-party partners, including GIC and CPE Fund. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company” for additional details about our relationship with GIC. We may continue to evaluate and establish potential joint ventures and strategic partnerships with other appropriate partners to further develop our business.

We may not realize the anticipated benefits from these joint ventures and strategic partnerships. The success of these joint ventures and strategic partnerships will depend, in part, on the successful partnership between the relevant partner and us. Such a partnership is subject to the risks outlined below, and more generally, to the same types of business risks as would impact our business operations when pursued on a cooperative basis:

we may not have the right to exercise sole decision-making authority regarding the joint venture;
our partner may become bankrupt or fail to pay the relevant consideration for the cooperation with us;
our partner’s interests may not be aligned with our interests, our partner may have economic, tax or other business interests or goals which are inconsistent with our business interests or goals, and may take actions contrary to our policies or objectives;
our partner may take actions unrelated to our business agreement but which reflect adversely on us because of our joint venture;
changes in the terms of the arrangements of our partnerships may materially and adversely affect our ability to complete or operate projects we are pursuing or contemplating through joint venture partnerships;
disputes between us and our partner may result in litigation or arbitration that would increase our expenses and prevent our management from focusing their time and effort on our business; and
we may in certain circumstances be liable for the actions of our partner or guarantee all or a portion of the joint venture’s liabilities.

A failure to successfully partner, or a failure to realize our expectations for the joint ventures, could materially impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The uncertain economic environment may have an adverse impact on our business and financial condition.

The uncertain economic environment could have an adverse effect on our liquidity. While we believe we have a strong customer base, if the current market conditions were to worsen, some of our customers may have difficulty paying us and we may experience increased churn in our customer base and reductions in their commitments to us. We may also be required to make allowances for doubtful accounts and our results would be negatively impacted. Our sales cycle could also be lengthened if customers reduce spending on, or delay decision-making with respect to, our services, which could adversely affect our revenue growth and our ability to recognize net revenue. We could also experience pricing pressure as a result of economic conditions if our competitors lower prices and attempt to lure away our customers with lower cost solutions. Finally, our ability to access the equity and debt capital markets may be severely restricted at a time when we would like, or need, to do so, especially during times of increased volatility in global financial markets and stock markets, which could limit our ability to raise funds through additional equity sales. Any inability to raise funds from capital markets generally, and equity capital markets in particular, could adversely affect our liquidity as well as hinder our ability to pursue additional strategic expansion opportunities, execute our business plans and maintain our desired level of revenue growth in the future.

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A downturn in the PRC or global economy could reduce the demand for our services, which could materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.

The recovery since the economic downturns of 2008 and 2009 has been uneven and is facing new challenges. These include the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the outbreak of a trade war between the PRC and the United States, the imposition of additional tariffs on bilateral imports in 2018 and 2019, the slower growth of the PRC economy since 2012, as well as the outbreak and global spread of a novel strain of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in early 2020 and the severe deterioration of bilateral relations between the PRC and the United States in 2019, 2020 and 2021, all of which have contributed to uncertainty about the global economy. See “—Geopolitical tensions have led to a heightened trend towards trade, technology and even finance “de-coupling” between China and the United States and this adverse trend may continue to deteriorate, which could negatively affect our business operations and results of operations.” There is considerable uncertainty over the long-term effects of the expansionary monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including those of the United States and the PRC. There have been concerns about the economic effects of rising tensions between the PRC and surrounding Asian countries. Economic conditions in the PRC are sensitive to global economic conditions. International conditions and any new or escalating trade war can lead to disruption in our supply chain and higher costs of capital expenditures. There also have been concerns over unrest across the globe, including in the Middle East, Africa and Hong Kong, which have contributed to volatility in financial and other markets. In particular, actual or perceived social unrest in Hong Kong, one of our Tier 1 markets, could result in service interruptions and data losses for our customers as well as equipment damage, which could significantly disrupt the normal business operations of our customers and reduce our net revenue.

The recent outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine has significantly impacted global economic markets. Russia’s recent military interventions in Ukraine have also led to, and may continue to lead to, additional economic or trade sanctions being imposed against Russia by the U.S., European Union and other countries. We cannot predict the progress or outcome of the situation in Russia and Ukraine, as the conflict and governmental reactions are rapidly evolving. Prolonged unrest, intensified military activities, and more extensive economic or trade sanctions impacting Russia and Ukraine could have a material adverse effect on the global economy, and such effect could in turn have a material adverse effect on our operations, financial condition, liquidity and business outlook. Any disruptions or continuing or worsening slowdown in the global economy or the PRC economy, whether as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade conflicts, the Russia-Ukraine war, the deterioration of the U.S.-China relationship, or other reasons, could significantly impact and reduce domestic commercial activities in China, which may lead to decreased demand for our colocation or managed services and have a negative impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. A decrease in economic activity, whether actual or perceived, a further decrease in economic growth rates or an otherwise uncertain economic outlook in China could have a material adverse effect on our customers’ expenditures and, as a result, may also adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, continued turbulence in the international markets may adversely affect our ability to access the capital markets to meet our liquidity needs. Any periods of continuing or worsening increased or heightened volatility in financial, equity and other markets, particularly due to investor concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the deterioration of the U.S.-China relationship, or the Russia-Ukraine war could limit our ability to raise funds, pursue further business expansion and maintain revenue growth. See “—The uncertain economic environment may have an adverse impact on our business and financial condition” above.

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Our success depends to a substantial degree upon our senior management, including Mr. Huang, and key personnel, and our business operations may be negatively affected if we fail to attract and retain highly competent senior management.

We depend to a significant degree on the continuous service of Mr. Huang, our founder, chairman and chief executive officer, and our experienced senior management team and other key personnel such as project managers and other middle management. If one or more members of our senior management team or key personnel resigns, it could disrupt our business operations and create uncertainty as we search for and integrate a replacement. If any member of our senior management leaves us to join a competitor or to form a competing company, any resulting loss of existing or potential customers to any such competitor could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, there could be unauthorized disclosure or use of our technical knowledge, practices or procedures by such personnel. We have entered into employment agreements with our senior management and key personnel. We have also entered into confidentiality agreements with our personnel which contain nondisclosure covenants that survive indefinitely as to our trade secrets. Additionally, pursuant to these confidentiality agreements, any inventions and creations of our employees relating to the company’s business that are completed within twelve months after termination of employment shall be transferred to the company without payment of consideration, and the employees shall assist the company in applying for corresponding patents or other rights. However, these employment agreements do not ensure the continued service of these senior management and key personnel, and we may not be able to enforce the confidentiality agreements we have with our personnel. In addition, we do not maintain key man life insurance for any of the senior members of our management team or our key personnel.

Competition for employees is intense, and we may not be able to attract and retain the qualified and skilled employees needed to support our business.

We believe our success depends on the efforts and talent of our employees, including data center design, construction management, operations, engineering, IT, risk management, and sales and marketing personnel. Our future success depends on our continued ability to attract, develop, motivate and retain qualified and skilled employees. Competition for highly skilled personnel is extremely intense. We may not be able to hire and retain these personnel at compensation levels consistent with our existing compensation and salary structure. Some of the companies with which we compete for experienced employees have greater resources than we have and may be able to offer more attractive terms of employment.

In addition, we invest significant time and expenses in training our employees, which increases their value to competitors who may seek to recruit them. If we fail to retain our employees, we could incur significant expenses in hiring and training their replacements, and the quality of our services and our ability to serve our customers could diminish, resulting in a material adverse effect to our business.

Our operating results may fluctuate, which could make our future results difficult to predict, and may fall below investor or analyst expectations.

Our operating results may fluctuate due to a variety of factors, including many of the risks described in this section, which are outside of our control. You should not rely on our operating results for any prior periods as an indication of our future operating performance. Fluctuations in our net revenue can lead to even greater fluctuations in our operating results. Our budgeted expense levels depend in part on our expectations of long-term future net revenue. Given relatively large fixed cost of revenue for services, other than utility costs, any substantial adjustment to our costs to account for lower than expected levels of net revenue will be difficult. Consequently, if our net revenue does not meet projected levels, our operating performance will be negatively affected. If our net revenue or operating results do not meet or exceed the expectations of investors or securities analysts, the price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may decline.

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Declining fixed asset valuations could result in impairment charges, the determination of which involves a significant amount of judgment on our part. Any impairment charge could have a material adverse effect on us.

We review our fixed assets for impairment on an annual basis and whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount may not be recoverable. Indicators of impairment include, but are not limited to, a sustained significant decrease in the market price of or the cash flows expected to be derived from a property. A significant amount of judgment is involved in determining the presence of an indicator of impairment. If the total of the expected undiscounted future cash flows is less than the carrying amount of a property on our balance sheet, a loss is recognized for the difference between the fair value and carrying value of the asset. The evaluation of anticipated cash flows requires a significant amount of judgment regarding assumptions that could differ materially from actual results in future periods, including assumptions regarding future occupancy, contract rates and estimated costs to service the contracts. Any impairment charge could have a material adverse effect on us.

We may fail to acquire land use rights according to our investment and framework agreements and failure to commence or resume development of land that we have been granted right to use within the required timeframe or to fulfill the investment commitments under the land use right grant contracts and/or investment/framework agreements may cause us to lose such land use rights and subject us to liabilities under land use right grant contracts and investment/framework agreements.

We have entered into, and may enter into additional, binding investment and framework agreements to reserve or acquire land use rights. The reservation or acquisition of land use rights under such investment and framework agreements are usually subject to certain grant conditions and subsequently entering into a land use right grant contract through relevant tender, auction or listing-for-sale procedures, and we cannot assure you that all these grant conditions will be satisfied or that ultimately we will be able to enter into the land use right grant contract, or that we will indeed acquire the land use right under the relevant investment and framework agreement.

Contracts for the grant of land use rights and some of the investment/framework agreements that we have entered into with the local governments as well as PRC regulations provide for the timeframe within which we are obligated to carry out the construction projects on the land parcels under these contracts and/or agreements. According to the relevant PRC regulations, the PRC government may impose an “idle land fee” equal to 20% of the land fees on land use if the relevant construction land has been identified as “idle land.” The construction land may be identified as “idle land” under any of the following circumstances: (i) where development of and construction on the land fails to commence for more than one year from the construction commencement date prescribed in the land grant contract; or (ii) the development and construction on the land have commenced but have been suspended when the area of the developed land is less than one-third of the total area to be developed or the invested amount is less than 25% of the total amount of investment, and the suspension of development attains for one year. Furthermore, the PRC government has the authority to confiscate any land without compensation if the construction does not commence within two years after the construction commencement date specified in the land grant contract, unless the delay is caused by force majeure, governmental action or preliminary work necessary for the commencement of construction. In addition, these contracts and agreements usually provide for certain investment commitments (such as total investment amount and amount of revenues and taxes generated by the investment projects on the land parcels). We may lose the land use rights and be subject to other liabilities under the land use right grant contracts and the investment/framework agreements if we fail to commence or resume development of land that we have been granted right to use within the required timeframe or to fulfill the investment commitments under the land use right grant contracts and/or investment/framework agreements.

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For example, we have two parcels of land, one in Chengdu and one in Kunshan, over which we have obtained land use rights, but which may be treated as “idle land” by the respective local government authorities. We suspended the development of one parcel of land in Chengdu after completion of the construction of the then existing buildings thereon in November 2010, and upon such suspension, the area of the developed land was less than one third of the total land area. The development of one parcel of land in Kunshan was not timely commenced before the December 2012 deadline. We have received approvals from the local government authorities to commence construction on the rest of such land parcel in Chengdu and the parcel of land in Kunshan, respectively, and we commenced construction after receiving such approvals. As of December 31, 2021, we have obtained the property ownership certificate of the data centers on the parcel in Kunshan, and made progress in construction on the parcel in Chengdu. Our PRC legal counsel, based on their consultation with the local authorities, has advised us that it is unlikely the local authorities will order penalties against us or require us to forfeit the relevant land by invoking the laws and regulations in relation to “idle land” or for breach of relevant land use right grant contracts and/or the investment/framework agreements.

We have not been subject to any penalties or required to forfeit any land as a result of failing to commence or resume development or fulfill the relevant investment commitments we made pursuant to the relevant land grant contracts and/or the investment/framework agreements. However, we cannot assure you that we will not be subject to penalties as a result of any failure to commence development or fulfill our investment commitments in accordance with the relevant land grant contracts and/or the investment/framework agreements in the future. If this occurs, our financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

We may experience impairment of goodwill in connection with our acquisition of entities.

We review our goodwill for impairment when events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value may not be recoverable, such as a decline in stock price and market capitalization. We are required to perform an annual goodwill impairment test. As of December 31, 2021, we carried RMB7,076.5 million (US$1,110.5 million) of goodwill on our balance sheet. However, goodwill can become impaired. We test goodwill for impairment annually or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate possible impairment, but the fair value estimates involved require a significant amount of difficult judgment and assumptions. We may not achieve the anticipated benefits of the acquisitions, which may result in the need to recognize impairment of some or all of the goodwill we recorded.

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We are subject to anti-corruption laws of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Our failure to comply with these laws could result in penalties, which could harm our reputation and have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We operate our business in various countries and regions, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and are thus subject to the laws and regulations related to anti-corruption of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, which prohibit bribery to government agencies, state or government owned or controlled enterprises or entities, to government officials or officials that work for state or government owned enterprises or entities, as well as bribery to non-government entities or individuals. We are also subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or the FCPA, which generally prohibits companies and any individuals or entities acting on their behalf from offering or making improper payments or providing benefits to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business, along with various other anti-corruption laws. Our existing policies prohibit any such conduct and we have implemented and conducted additional policies and procedures designed, and providing training, to ensure that we, our employees, business partners and other third parties comply with PRC anti-corruption laws and regulations, the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws to which we are subject. There is, however, no assurance that such policies or procedures will work effectively all the time or protect us against liability under the FCPA or other anti-corruption laws. There is no assurance that our employees, business partners and other third parties would always obey our policies and procedures. Further, there is discretion and interpretation in connection with the implementation of PRC anti-corruption laws. We could be held liable for actions taken by our employees, business partners and other third parties with respect to our business or any businesses that we may acquire. We operate in the data center services industry in China and generally purchase our colocation facilities and telecommunications resources from state or government-owned enterprises and sell our services domestically to customers that include state or government-owned enterprises or government ministries, departments and agencies. This puts us in frequent contact with persons who may be considered “foreign officials” under the FCPA, resulting in an elevated risk of potential FCPA violations. If we are found not to be in compliance with PRC anti-corruption laws, the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws governing the conduct of business with government entities, officials or other business counterparties, we may be subject to criminal, administrative, and civil penalties and other remedial measures, which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any investigation of any potential violations of the FCPA or other anti-corruption laws by U.S., mainland China, Hong Kong , Macau, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia authorities or the authorities of any other foreign jurisdictions, could adversely impact our reputation, cause us to lose customer sales and access to colocation facilities and telecommunications resources, and lead to other adverse impacts on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics and other outbreaks, which could significantly disrupt our operations.

On May 12, 2008 and April 14, 2010, severe earthquakes hit part of Sichuan Province in southwestern China and part of Qinghai Province in western China, respectively, resulting in significant casualties and property damage. While we did not suffer any loss or experience any significant increase in cost resulting from these earthquakes, if a similar disaster were to occur in the future that affected our Tier 1 markets or another city where we have data centers or are in the process of developing data centers, our operations could be materially and adversely affected due to loss of personnel and damages to property. In addition, a similar disaster affecting a larger, more developed area could also cause an increase in our costs resulting from the efforts to resurvey the affected area. Even if we are not directly affected, such a disaster could affect the operations or financial condition of our customers and suppliers, which could harm our results of operations.

In addition, our business could be materially and adversely affected by other natural disasters, such as snowstorms, typhoon, fires or floods, the outbreak of a widespread health epidemic or pandemic, such as swine flu, avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19, or other events, such as wars, acts of terrorism, environmental accidents, power shortage or communication interruptions. If any of our employees is suspected of having contracted any contagious disease, we may under certain circumstances be required to quarantine such employees and the affected areas of our premises. Therefore, we may have to temporarily suspend part of or all of our operations. Furthermore, any future outbreak may restrict economic activities in affected regions, resulting in temporary closure of our offices or prevent us and our customers from traveling. Such closures could severely disrupt our business operations and adversely affect our results of operations.

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If we fail to maintain proper and effective internal controls, our ability to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis could be impaired.

We are subject to the reporting requirements of the U.S. Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the rules and regulations of Nasdaq. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal controls over financial reporting. Commencing with our year ended December 31, 2017, we have been obligated to perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal controls over financial reporting to allow management to report on the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting in our Form 20-F filing for that year, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In addition, as of December 31, 2018, we ceased to be an “emerging growth company” as the term is defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or the JOBS Act, and our independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. Even if our management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm, after conducting its own independent testing, may issue a report that is qualified if it is not satisfied with our internal controls or the level at which our controls are documented, designed, operated or reviewed, or if it interprets the relevant requirements differently from us. This has required and will continue to require us to incur substantial additional professional fees and internal costs to expand our accounting and finance functions and that we expend significant management efforts. We continue to enhance our accounting personnel and other resources to address our internal controls and procedures. We also continuously enhance our accounting procedures and internal controls.

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

If we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in a timely manner, or if we are unable to maintain proper and effective internal controls, we may not be able to produce timely and accurate financial statements. If that were to happen, the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares could decline and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by the SEC, Nasdaq, or other regulatory authorities.

Fluctuations in exchange rates could result in foreign currency exchange losses and could materially reduce the value of your investment.

The value of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollar and other currencies may fluctuate and is affected by, among other things, changes in political and economic conditions and the foreign exchange policy adopted by the PRC government. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy, including any increases in the target range for the federal funds rate announced by the Federal Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future. We cannot assure you that the Renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future or what impact this will have on our results of operations.

Substantially all of our net revenue and costs are denominated in Renminbi. We are a holding company and we rely on dividends paid by our operating subsidiaries in China for our cash needs. Any significant revaluation of the Renminbi may materially reduce any dividends payable on, our ADSs and/or ordinary shares in U.S. dollars.

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Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

If the PRC government deems that the contractual arrangements in relation to the consolidated VIEs do not comply with PRC regulatory restrictions on foreign investment in the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in the operations of the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries.

The PRC government regulates telecommunications-related businesses through strict business licensing requirements and other government regulations. These laws and regulations also include limitations on foreign ownership of PRC companies that engage in telecommunications-related businesses. Specifically, foreign investors are not allowed to own more than a 50% equity interest in any PRC company engaging in value-added telecommunications businesses, with certain exceptions relating to certain categories which do not apply to us.

Because we are a Cayman Islands company, we are classified as a foreign enterprise under PRC laws and regulations, and our wholly owned PRC subsidiaries or PRC joint ventures are foreign-invested enterprises, or their subsidiaries. See List of Subsidiaries of the Registrant, Exhibit 8.1 to this annual report, for a complete list of our wholly owned subsidiaries and joint ventures incorporated in the PRC. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, we conduct our business in China through contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders. These contractual arrangements provide us with effective control over the consolidated VIEs, and enable us to receive substantially all of the economic benefits of the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries in consideration for the services provided by our wholly-owned PRC subsidiaries, and have an exclusive option to purchase all of the equity interest in the consolidated VIEs when permissible under PRC laws. See List of Subsidiaries of the Registrant, Exhibit 8.1 to this annual report, for a complete list of the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries. For a description of the contractual arrangements among GDS Investment Company, Management HoldCo, GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Affiliated Consolidated Entities.”

We believe that our corporate structure and contractual arrangements comply with the current applicable PRC laws and regulations. Our PRC legal counsel, based on its understanding of the relevant laws and regulations, is of the opinion that each of the contracts among our wholly-owned PRC subsidiaries, the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders is valid, legally binding and enforceable in accordance with its terms. However, as there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of PRC laws and regulations, including the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, the telecommunications circular described above and the Telecommunications Regulations of the People’s Republic of China, or the Telecommunications Regulations, and the relevant regulatory measures concerning the telecommunications industry, there can be no assurance that the PRC government, such as the MIIT, or other authorities that regulate providers of data center service and other participants in the telecommunications industry would agree that our corporate structure or any of the above contractual 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. PRC laws and regulations governing the validity of these contractual arrangements are uncertain and the relevant government authorities have broad discretion in interpreting these laws and regulations. In addition, such laws and regulations could change or be interpreted differently in the future.

If our corporate and contractual structure constituting part of the VIE structure is deemed by the MIIT, MOFCOM or other regulators having competent authority to be illegal, either in whole or in part, we could be forced to relinquish control of, and our interests in the operations of, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries, and/or be forced to modify such structure to comply with regulatory requirements as interpreted by such authorities. However, there can be no assurance that we can achieve this without material disruption to our business. Further, if our corporate and contractual structure is found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties. The relevant regulatory authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violations, including:

revoking our business and operating licenses;
levying fines on us;
confiscating any of our income that they deem to be obtained through illegal operations;

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shutting down a portion or all of our networks and servers;
discontinuing or restricting our operations in China;
imposing conditions or requirements with which we may not be able to comply;
requiring us to restructure our corporate and contractual structure;
restricting or prohibiting our use of the proceeds from overseas offering to finance our PRC consolidated VIEs’ business and operations; and
taking other regulatory or enforcement actions that could be harmful to our business.

Furthermore, the enforceability of the agreements under the contractual arrangements has not been tested in a court of law, and new PRC laws, rules and regulations may be introduced to impose additional requirements that may be applicable to our corporate structure and contractual arrangements. In addition, relevant PRC regulatory authorities could disallow the VIE structure. See “—Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.” If any of the foregoing were to occur, and as a result we were unable to direct the activities of the consolidated VIEs, receive their economic benefits and/or claim our contractual control rights over the assets of the VIEs and their subsidiaries that conduct substantially all of our operations in China, we would no longer be able to consolidate such VIEs in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, which would likely materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations, and cause the value of our securities, including our ADSs and ordinary shares, to significantly decline or become worthless. For the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the VIEs and their subsidiaries contributed 97.4%, 95.0% and 96.1%, respectively, of our total net revenue.

Our contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs may result in adverse tax consequences to us.

We could face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that our contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs were not made on an arm’s length basis and adjust our income and expenses for PRC tax purposes by requiring a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could adversely affect us by (i) increasing the tax liabilities of the consolidated VIEs without reducing the tax liability of our subsidiaries, which could further result in late payment fees and other penalties to the consolidated VIEs for underpaid taxes; or (ii) limiting the ability of the consolidated VIEs to obtain or maintain preferential tax treatments and other financial incentives.

We rely on contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders for our China operations, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control and otherwise have a material adverse effect as to our business.

We rely on contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs and their shareholders to operate our business in China. We enhanced the structure of the variable interest entities and certain other variable interest entities, or the VIE Enhancement, in order to further improve control over the variable interest entities, reduce key man risks associated with having certain individuals be the equity holders of the variable interest entities, and address the uncertainty resulting from any potential disputes between us and the individual equity holders of the variable interest entities that may arise. As part of the VIE Enhancement, the entire equity interests of GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai were transferred to a holding company, Management HoldCo. The entire equity interest in Management HoldCo is held by a number of management personnel designated by our board of directors. In conjunction with the transfer of legal ownership, GDS Investment Company, one of our subsidiaries, entered into a series of contractual arrangements with Management HoldCo, its shareholders, GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai to replace the previous contractual arrangements with GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai on substantially the same terms under such previous contractual arrangements. We also replaced the sole director of GDS Shanghai and certain subsidiaries of GDS Beijing with a board of three directors. Mr. Huang acts as the chairman of the boards of directors of Management HoldCo, GDS Investment Company, GDS Beijing, and certain subsidiaries of GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai. Other management members of us and board appointees serve as directors and officers of Management HoldCo, GDS Investment Company, GDS Beijing, and certain subsidiaries of GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai.

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For a description of the abovementioned contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company— C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Affiliated Consolidated Entities.” In 2019, 2020 and 2021, 97.4%, 95.0% and 96.1% of our total net revenue, respectively, were attributed to the VIEs and their subsidiaries. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Our Corporate Structure.” These contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over the consolidated VIEs. If the consolidated VIEs or their shareholders fail to perform their respective obligations under these contractual arrangements, our recourse to the assets held by the consolidated VIEs is indirect and we may have to incur substantial costs and expend significant resources to enforce such arrangements in reliance on legal remedies under PRC law. These remedies may not always be effective, particularly in light of uncertainties in the PRC legal system. Furthermore, in connection with litigation, arbitration or other judicial or dispute resolution proceedings, assets under the name of any of record holder of equity interest in the consolidated VIEs, including such equity interest, may be put under court custody. As a consequence, we cannot be certain that the equity interest will be disposed pursuant to the contractual arrangement or ownership by the record holder of the equity interest.

All of these contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in the PRC. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC laws and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The legal environment in the PRC is not as developed as in other jurisdictions, such as the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. In the event that we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, or if we suffer significant time delays or other obstacles in the process of enforcing these contractual arrangements, it would be very difficult to exert effective control over the consolidated VIEs, and our ability to conduct our business and our financial condition and results of operation may be materially and adversely affected. See “—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.”

The individual management shareholders of our Management HoldCo may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.

In connection with our operations in China, we rely on the individual management shareholders of our Management HoldCo to abide by the obligations under such contractual arrangements. In particular, GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai are wholly-owned by Management HoldCo, which, as of March 31, 2022, is in turn owned by five individual management shareholders designated by our board, each holding 20% equity interest in Management HoldCo, namely Yilin Chen (senior vice president, product and service), Yan Liang (senior vice president, design, operation and delivery), Liang Chen (head of data center design), Andy Wenfeng Li (general counsel, compliance officer, and company secretary) and Qi Wang (head of cloud and network business) (together referred as “Individual Management Shareholders”). The interests of such Individual Management Shareholders in their individual capacities as the shareholders of Management HoldCo may differ from the interests of our company as a whole, as what is in the best interests of Management HoldCo, including matters such as whether to distribute dividends or to make other distributions to fund our offshore requirement, may not be in the best interests of our company. There can be no assurance that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these individuals will act in the best interests of our company or that conflicts of interest will be resolved in our favor. In addition, these individuals may breach or cause the consolidated VIEs to breach or refuse to renew the existing contractual arrangements with us.

Currently, we do not have arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest the Individual Management Shareholders may encounter; provided that we could, at all times, exercise our option under the exclusive call option agreements to cause them to transfer all of their equity ownership in Management HoldCo to a PRC entity or individual designated by us as permitted by the then applicable PRC laws. In addition, if such conflicts of interest arise, we could also, in the capacity of attorney-in-fact of the then existing shareholders of Management HoldCo as provided under the shareholder voting rights proxy agreements, directly appoint new directors of Management HoldCo. We rely on the shareholders of the consolidated VIEs to comply with PRC laws and regulations, which protect contracts and provide that directors and executive officers owe a duty of loyalty to our company and require them to avoid conflicts of interest and not to take advantage of their positions for personal gains, and the laws of the Cayman Islands, which provide that directors and executive officers have a duty of care and a duty of loyalty to act honestly in good faith with a view to our best interests. However, the legal frameworks of China and the Cayman Islands do not provide guidance on resolving conflicts in the event of a conflict with another corporate governance regime. If we cannot resolve any conflicts of interest or disputes between us and the shareholders of the consolidated VIEs, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and subject us to substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.

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In order to enhance corporate governance and facilitate administration of the VIEs and their subsidiaries, we have also replaced the sole director of GDS Shanghai and certain subsidiaries of GDS Beijing with a board of three directors. Mr. Huang acts as the chairman of the boards of directors of Management HoldCo, GDS Investment Company, GDS Beijing and certain subsidiaries of GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai. Other management members of us and board appointees serve as directors and officers of Management HoldCo., GDS Investment Company, GDS Beijing, and certain subsidiaries of GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai. These enhancements to the corporate governance and management of the VIEs and their subsidiaries may help to mitigate some of the conflict of interest and other risks detailed above; however, we cannot assure you that the enhancements will be effective in preventing or mitigating such risks.

Our corporate actions are substantially controlled by our principal shareholders, including our founder, chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. Huang, who have the ability to control or exert significant influence over important corporate matters that require approval of shareholders, which may deprive you of an opportunity to receive a premium for your ADSs and/or ordinary shares and materially reduce the value of your investment.

Our Articles of Association provide that Class B ordinary shares are entitled to 20 votes per ordinary share at general meetings of our shareholders with respect to the election or removal of a simple majority of our directors. Mr. Huang beneficially owns 100% of the Class B ordinary shares issued and outstanding, and any additional Class A ordinary shares which Mr. Huang directly or indirectly acquires may be converted into Class B ordinary shares. In addition, for so long as there are Class B ordinary shares outstanding, the Class B shareholders are entitled (i) to nominate five of our directors, and (ii) to have 20 votes per ordinary share with respect to the election and removal of a simple majority, or six, of our directors. In addition, our Articles of Association provide that STT GDC (a wholly owned subsidiary of STT Communications Ltd., or STTC, which is in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte Ltd, or ST Telemedia), has the right to appoint up to three directors to our board of directors for so long as they beneficially own certain percentages of our issued share capital. Such appointments will not be subject to a vote by our shareholders. See “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—C. Board Practices—Appointment, Nomination and Terms of Directors.”

Furthermore, as of April 15, 2022, two of our principal shareholders—STT GDC and Mr. Huang, our founder, chairman and chief executive officer—beneficially owned approximately 36.4% of our outstanding Class A ordinary shares and 100% of our outstanding Class B ordinary shares, respectively. On matters where Class A and Class B ordinary shares vote on a 1:1 basis, STT GDC exercises 31.9% of the aggregate voting power. On matters where Class A and Class B ordinary shares vote on a 1:20 basis, Mr. Huang exercises 49.2% of the aggregate voting power. For more details, see “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—E. Share Ownership.”

As a result of these appointment rights, nomination rights, dual-class ordinary share structure and ownership concentration, these shareholders have the ability to control or exert significant influence over important corporate matters, investors may be prevented from affecting important corporate matters involving our company that require approval of shareholders, including:

the composition of our board of directors and, through it, any determinations with respect to our operations, business direction and policies, including the appointment and removal of officers;
any determinations with respect to mergers or other business combinations;
our disposition of substantially all of our assets; and
any change in control.

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These actions may be taken even if they are opposed by our other shareholders, including the holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares. We have granted special rights to STT GDC and certain of our other shareholders. The rights granted to STT GDC include an anti-dilution right, directors’ appointment rights, right to requisition an extraordinary general meeting, committee rights, registration rights and information rights, which enable STT GDC to maintain its significant shareholding in and influence over our Company. In particular, STT GDC’s anti-dilution right entitles it to subscribe for up to a 35% pro rata ordinary share of future issuances of equity or equity linked securities by our Company any time on or before June 25, 2023. We have also granted registration rights to certain other shareholders, including STT GDC and PA Goldilocks Limited, an affiliate of China Ping An Insurance Overseas (Holdings) Limited (a subsidiary of Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China). If any shareholders exercise their registration rights, we will incur costs and be required to divert management attention and resources associated with facilitating the registration of their ordinary shares. We have also granted Ping An Overseas Holdings the right to designate an observer to join meetings of our board of directors, subject to maintaining its shareholders at or above a specified percentage threshold.

Furthermore, this concentration of ownership may also discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the dual effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their ordinary shares as part of a sale of our company and reducing the price of the ADSs and/or ordinary shares. As a result of the foregoing, the value of your investment could be materially reduced.

If the custodians or authorized users of our controlling non-tangible assets, including chops and seals, fail to fulfill their responsibilities, or misappropriate or misuse these assets, our business and operations may be materially and adversely affected.

Under PRC law, legal documents for corporate transactions, including agreements and contracts such as the leases and sales contracts that our business relies on, are executed using the chop or seal of the signing entity or with the signature of a legal representative whose designation is registered and filed with the relevant local branch of the SAIC. We generally execute legal documents by affixing chops or seals, rather than having the designated legal representatives sign the documents.

We have three major types of chops—corporate chops, contract chops and finance chops. We use corporate chops generally for documents to be submitted to government agencies, such as applications for changing business scope, directors or company name, and for legal letters. We use contract chops for executing leases and commercial, contracts. We use finance chops generally for making and collecting payments, including, but not limited to issuing invoices. Use of corporate chops and contract chops must be approved by our legal department and use of finance chops must be approved by our finance department. The chops of our subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs are generally held by the relevant entities so that documents can be executed locally. Although we usually utilize chops to execute contracts, the registered legal representatives of our subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs have the apparent authority to enter into contracts on behalf of such entities without chops, unless such contracts set forth otherwise.

In order to maintain the physical security of our chops, we generally have them stored in secured locations accessible only to the designated key employees of our legal, business operation or finance departments. Our designated legal representatives generally do not have access to the chops. Although we have approval procedures in place and monitor our key employees, including the designated legal representatives of our subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs, the procedures may not be sufficient to prevent all instances of abuse or negligence. There is a risk that our key employees or designated legal representatives could abuse their authority, for example, by binding our subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs with contracts against our interests, as we would be obligated to honor these contracts if the other contracting party acts in good faith in reliance on the apparent authority of our chops or signatures of our legal representatives. If any designated legal representative obtains control of the chop in an effort to obtain control over the relevant entity, we would need to have a shareholder or board resolution to designate a new legal representative and to take legal action to seek the return of the chop, apply for a new chop with the relevant authorities, or otherwise seek legal remedies for the legal representative’s misconduct. If any of the designated legal representatives obtains and misuses or misappropriates our chops and seals or other controlling intangible assets for whatever reason, we could experience disruption to our normal business operations. We may have to take corporate or legal action, which could involve significant time and resources to resolve while distracting management from our operations, and our business and operations may be materially and adversely affected.

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Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.

On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress adopted the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, which became effective on January 1, 2020 and replaced three existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Wholly Foreign-Invested Enterprise Law of the PRC, the Sino-Foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law of the PRC and the Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law of the PRC, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. On December 26, 2019, the State Council issued the Regulations on Implementing the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020, and replaced the Regulations on Implementing the Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law of the PRC, Provisional Regulations on the Duration of Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Regulations on Implementing the Wholly Foreign-Invested Enterprise Law of the PRC, and the Regulations on Implementing the Sino-Foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law of the PRC. The 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law embodies an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. However, since it is relatively new, uncertainties still exist in relation to its interpretation and implementation. For example, the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law adds a catch-all clause to the definition of “foreign investment” so that foreign investment, by its definition, includes “investments made by foreign investors in China through other means defined by other laws or administrative regulations or provisions promulgated by the State Council” without further elaboration on the meaning of “other means.” It leaves leeway for future legislations to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. It is therefore uncertain whether our corporate structure will be seen as violating the foreign investment rules as we are currently leveraging the contractual arrangements to operate certain businesses in which foreign investors are prohibited from or restricted to investing. Furthermore, if future legislations mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. If we fail to take appropriate and timely measures to comply with any of these or similar regulatory compliance requirements, our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations could be materially and adversely affected.

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.

Substantially all of our operations are conducted in the PRC and a substantial majority of our net revenue is sourced from the PRC. 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, and control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. Although the PRC government has implemented measures emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, the reduction of state ownership of productive assets, and the establishment of improved corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of productive assets in China is still owned by the government. In addition, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth 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 three decades, such 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 operation could be materially and adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations that are applicable to us. See “—There are uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system, including uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations, and sudden or unexpected changes in policies, laws, rules and regulations in the PRC that could adversely affect us.” In addition, the PRC government has implemented in the past certain measures to control the pace of economic growth. These measures may cause decreased economic activity, which in turn 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.

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We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties as a company based in and primarily operating in China.

We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties as a company based in and primarily operating in China. The PRC government has significant authority to exert influence on the ability of a China-based company, like us, to conduct its business, accept foreign investments or list on a U.S. stock exchange. In particular, there have been recent statements by the PRC government indicating an intent to exert more oversight and control over offerings that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers with substantial operations in China. For example, we face risks associated with regulatory approvals of offshore offerings, anti-monopoly regulatory actions, cybersecurity and data privacy, as well as the lack of inspection from the U.S. PCAOB, on our auditors. In addition, the PRC government may also intervene with or influence our operations as the government deems appropriate to further regulatory, political and societal goals. The PRC government has published new policies that significantly affected certain industries such as the education and internet industries, and we cannot rule out the possibility that it will in the future release regulations or policies regarding our industry that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. See “—There are uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system, including uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations, and sudden or unexpected changes in policies, laws, rules and regulations in the PRC that could adversely affect us.” Any such regulatory oversight or control actions, once taken by the PRC government, could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and could cause the value of our securities, including our ADSs, to significantly decline or become worthless.

There are uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system, including uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations, and sudden or unexpected changes in policies, laws, rules and regulations in the PRC that could adversely affect us.

Substantially all of our operations are conducted in the PRC, and are governed by PRC laws, rules and regulations. Our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and their 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.

In 1979, the PRC government began to promulgate a comprehensive system of laws, rules and regulations governing economic matters in general. The overall effect of legislation over the past three decades has significantly enhanced the protections afforded to various forms of foreign investment in China. However, China has not developed a fully integrated legal system, and enacted laws, rules and regulations may not sufficiently cover all aspects of economic activities in China or may be subject to significant degrees of interpretation by PRC regulatory agencies. In particular, because these laws, rules and regulations are relatively new, and because of the limited number of published decisions and the nonbinding nature of such 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. 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 change from time to time and 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. For example, although under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law, companies conducting certain investments and acquisitions relating to businesses in China must file with the anti-monopoly enforcement agency, in advance of any transaction where the parties’ revenues exceed certain thresholds and the buyer would obtain control of, or decisive influence over, the other party, it has been long debated in the past whether transactions involving companies with a VIE structure, including us, are subject to such prior filing requirements, namely filing of notification of concentration of undertaking. However, the enforcement of notification of concentration of undertaking filing requirement by companies with a VIE structure has been strengthening. In April 2020, the SAMR, which is the anti-monopoly enforcement agency, published a case of concentration of undertaking where a VIE structure was involved (such case was closed in July 2020 and unconditional approval was granted). In December 2020, the SAMR, for the first time, formally penalized three internet companies with a VIE structure for failure to make the filing. Since then, the SAMR has been reviewing historical cases of concentrations of undertaking of certain major internet companies with a VIE structure, and past failure to file prior notification of concentrations of undertaking may be investigated and penalized. Although we have not received any investigation or enquiry from the SAMR related to the filing of notification of concentration of undertaking, there can be no assurance that we will not be subject to such enquiries or any penalty in connection with any such enquiry in the future. Any failure or perceived failure to comply with the anti-monopoly laws and regulations, as well as the related government policies and guidance, by us or our top customers, may result in governmental investigations or enforcement actions, litigations or claims against us or our top customers and could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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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.

Our business operations are extensively impacted by the policies and regulations of the PRC government. Any policy or regulatory change may cause us to incur significant compliance costs.

We are subject to extensive national, provincial and local governmental regulations, policies and controls. Central governmental authorities and provincial and local authorities and agencies regulate many aspects of Chinese industries, including without limitation, among others and in addition to specific industry-related regulations, the following aspects:

construction or development of new data centers or renovation, rebuilding or expansion of existing data centers;
banking regulations, as a result of the colocation services we provide to banks and financial institutions, including regulations governing the use of subcontractors in the management and maintenance of facilities;
environmental protection laws and regulations;
security laws and regulations;
establishment of or changes in shareholder of foreign investment enterprises;
foreign exchange;
taxes, duties and fees;
customs;
land planning and land use rights;
energy conservation and emission reduction; and
cyber security and information protection laws and regulations, including the Cyber Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, or the Cyber Security Law, the Data Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, or the Data Security Law, and the Administrative Measures for the Graded Protection of Information Security.

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The liabilities, costs, obligations and requirements associated with these laws and regulations may be material, may delay the commencement of operations at our new data centers or cause interruptions to our operations. Failure to comply with the relevant laws and regulations in our operations may result in various penalties, including, among others the suspension of our operations and thus adversely and materially affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. While we have endeavored to comply with the relevant laws and regulations in the development and operation of our data centers, we may incur additional costs in order to fulfill such requirements, and we cannot assure you that we have complied with, or will comply with the requirements of all relevant laws and regulations (including obtaining of all relevant approvals required for the development and operation of data centers). Additionally, there can be no assurance that the relevant government agencies will not change such laws or regulations or impose additional or more stringent laws or regulations. For example, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Information Technology Outsourcing Services Provided to Banking Financial Institutions” for information regarding regulations of banking and financial institutions that outsource their data center services to us, and “—Regulations Related to Land Use Rights” for information regarding restrictions on the new construction or expansion of data centers within the boundaries of the Beijing municipality. We cannot assure you that we will comply with the requirements of all new laws and regulations. For example, the PRC Civil Code, which was passed on May 28, 2020 by the National People’s Congress and became effective in January 2021, replaces among other laws, the General Provisions of the PRC Civil Law, the PRC Marriage Law, the PRC Guarantee Law, the PRC Contract Law, the PRC Property Law and the PRC Tort Liability Law. It remains to be seen how the PRC Civil Code will be implemented and enforced in practice. In addition, in March 2021, the National People’s Congress published the Fourteenth Five-Year Plan for the National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China and the Outline of the Long-term Goals for 2035, according to which the PRC government aims to reach the goal of achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by offsetting emissions of carbon dioxide by 2060, namely carbon neutrality, through various measures including afforestation, energy conservation and emission reduction. To achieve the carbon neutrality goal, the PRC government may promulgate more laws and regulations in the future. These laws and regulations may compel us to source more renewable energy, and we may be unable to do on commercially acceptable terms. Compliance with such laws or regulations may require us to incur material capital expenditures or other obligations or liabilities.

The PRC Cyber Security Law and Data Security Law are relatively new, and subject to change and uncertain interpretation by regulators. These laws could result in claims, penalties, changes to our business practices, increased cost of operations, damages to our reputation and brand, or otherwise harm our business.

Additionally, the Cyber Security Law came into effect on June 1, 2017, which provides certain rules and requirements applicable to network service providers in China. The Cyber Security Law requires network operators to perform certain functions related to cyber security protection and the strengthening of network information management through taking technical and other necessary measures as required by laws and regulations to safeguard the operation of networks, responding to network security effectively, preventing illegal and criminal activities, and maintaining the integrity and confidentiality and usability of network data. However, the Cyber Security Law still leaves a series of gaps to be filled due to the complex and sensitive nature of this regulatory area. While the Cyber Security law sets out a broad set of principles, certain key terms and clauses are uncertain and ambiguous, which appear intended to be clarified through a series of laws, implementing regulations and guidelines to be issued by relevant authorities. Numerous regulations, guidelines and other measures have been and are expected to be adopted under the Cyber Security Law. For more details, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Information Security and Confidentiality of User Information.” Currently, the Cyber Security Law and relevant regulations, guidelines and other measures have not directly impacted our operations, but in light of rapid advances in its implementation, we believe the implementation of the Cyber Security Law involves potential risks to our business because we may be deemed as the network operator of critical information infrastructure thereunder.

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Furthermore, the PRC regulatory and enforcement regime with regard to data security and data protection has continued to evolve. There are uncertainties on how certain laws and regulations will be implemented in practice. PRC regulators have been increasingly focused on regulating data security and data protection. We expect that these areas will receive greater attention from regulators, as well as attract public scrutiny and attention going forward. This greater attention, scrutiny and enforcement, including more frequent inspections, could increase our compliance costs and subject us to heightened risks and challenges associated with data security and protection. As of the date of this annual report, we have not been designated as operator of critical information infrastructure by the PRC governmental authorities. While we do not have access to our customers’ data stored on the servers collocated in our data centers, we cannot rule out the possibility that data related to our operations may be deemed important data/core data or we may be deemed to be a critical information infrastructure operator, which would subject us to additional supervisory requirements. Any incompliance on such additional supervisory requirements may subject us to fines, order to rectify, suspension of users registration, revocation of business certificate and other penalties, which may have material adverse effect on our business, operations and financial condition as well as the price of our securities.

In addition, we could become subject to enhanced cybersecurity review or investigations launched by PRC regulators in the future. The Data Security Law provides that the state shall establish a data security review mechanism on data processing activities that do or may affect national security. Pursuant to the Cybersecurity Review Measures effective on February 15, 2022, critical information infrastructure operators that procure internet products and services must be subject to the cybersecurity review if their activities affect or may affect national security and network platform operators that hold personal information of over one million users shall apply with the Cybersecurity Review Office for a cybersecurity review before any public listing in a foreign country. Any failure or delay in the completion of the cybersecurity review procedures or any other non-compliance with the cybersecurity related laws and regulations may result in fines or other penalties, including suspension of business, website closure, and revocation of prerequisite licenses, as well as reputational damage or legal proceedings or actions against us, which may have material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Further, pursuant to the Cyber Data Security Regulations (Draft for Comments), or the Draft Regulations released by the CAC in November 2021, data processors shall apply for a cybersecurity review for certain activities. For more details, please see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Information Security and Confidentiality of User Information.” As of the date of this annual report, the Draft Regulations was released for public comment only, and their respective provisions and anticipated adoption or effective date may be subject to change with substantial uncertainty. We cannot predict the impact of the Draft Regulations, if any, at this stage, and we will closely monitor and assess any development in the rule-making process. If the Cybersecurity Review Measures and the enacted version of the Draft Regulations mandate clearance of cybersecurity review and other specific actions to be completed by China-based companies listed on a U.S. stock exchange and Hong Kong exchange, we will face uncertainties as to whether such clearance can be timely obtained, or at all. In addition, if a final version of the Draft Regulations is adopted, we may be subject to review when conducting data processing activities and annual data security assessment and may face challenges in addressing its requirements and make necessary changes to our internal policies and practices in data processing. As of the date of this annual report, we have not been informed by any PRC governmental authority of any requirement that we file for a cybersecurity review. We have not been involved in any investigations on cybersecurity review initiated by the CAC or other competent authorities and we have not received any inquiry, notice, warning, or sanction in such respect. However, there remains significant uncertainty in the interpretation and enforcement of relevant PRC cybersecurity laws and regulations. We cannot assure you that our future offering will be subject to cybersecurity review by the CAC or other competent authorities, and if so, we may not be able to pass such review.

We believe that we are in compliance with the regulations and policies that have been issued by the CAC and other competent PRC regulatory authorities on cybersecurity as of the date of this annual report. We have formulated a cyber security management policy and information security management guidelines to comply with the requirements under the Cyber Security Law. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Environmental and Operational Sustainability Initiatives—Information security” for details on measures we have taken to manage information security risk. However, we cannot assure you that the measures we have taken or will take are adequate under the Cyber Security Law or other cybersecurity related laws and regulations, and we may be held liable in the event of any breach of the relevant requirements under the Cyber Security Law or other relevant laws and regulations. Furthermore, as uncertainties remain regarding the interpretation and implementation of applicable PRC laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that we will comply with such laws and regulations in all respects and we may be ordered to rectify or terminate any actions that are deemed illegal by regulatory authorities. We may also become subject to fines and/or other sanctions which may have material adverse effect on our business, operations and financial condition as well as price of our securities.

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We may also be held liable in the event of any breach of general clauses on our compliance with such statutory requirements as well as some other specific requirements related to data protection under the relevant customer contracts. If further changes in our business practices are required under China’s evolving regulatory framework for the protection of information in cyberspace, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

The approval of, or filing with the CSRC or other PRC government authorities may be required in connection with acquisitions conducted by foreign investors or future offshore offerings under PRC law, and, if required, we cannot predict whether or for how long it will take to obtain such approval or complete such filing.

On August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies, including MOFCOM, the SASAC, the State Administration of Taxation, or the STA, the SAIC, the CSRC, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or the SAFE, jointly adopted the M&A Rules, which came into effect on September 8, 2006 and were amended on June 22, 2009. The M&A Rules include, among other things, provisions that purport to require that an offshore special purpose vehicle formed for the purpose of an overseas listing of securities in a PRC company obtain the approval of the CSRC prior to the listing and trading of such special purpose vehicle’s securities on an overseas stock exchange. On September 21, 2006, the CSRC published on its official website procedures regarding its approval of overseas listings by special purpose vehicles. However, substantial uncertainty remains regarding the scope and applicability of the M&A Rules to offshore special purpose vehicles.

While the application of the M&A Rules remains unclear, we believe, based on the advice of our PRC counsel, King & Wood Mallesons, that the CSRC approval was not required in the context of our initial public offering or follow-on public offerings because we had not acquired any equity interests or assets of a PRC company owned by its Controlling Shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC companies or individuals, as such terms are defined under the M&A Rules. There can be no assurance that the relevant PRC government agencies, including the CSRC, would reach the same conclusion as our PRC counsel. If the CSRC or another PRC regulatory body subsequently determines that its approval was needed for our initial public offering or follow-on public offerings or such approval is needed for any future offerings, we may face adverse actions or sanctions by the CSRC or other PRC regulatory agencies. In any such event, these regulatory agencies may impose fines and penalties on our operations in China, limit our operating privileges in China, delay or restrict the repatriation of the proceeds from our initial public offering or follow-on public offerings into the PRC or take other actions that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, reputation and prospects, as well as the trading price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.

The regulations also established additional procedures and requirements that are expected to make merger and acquisition activities in China by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex, including requirements in some instances that MOFCOM be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise, or that the approval from MOFCOM be obtained in circumstances where overseas companies established or controlled by PRC enterprises or residents acquire affiliated domestic companies. We may grow our business in part by acquiring other companies operating in our industry. Complying with the requirements of the new regulations to complete such transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including approval from MOFCOM, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share. See “Item 4. Information on the Company-B. Business Overview-Regulatory Matters-Regulations Related to M&A and Overseas Listings.”

The PRC government authorities have recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over securities offerings and other capital markets activities that are or have been conducted overseas and foreign investment in China-based companies like us. In July 2021, the relevant PRC government authorities issued the Opinions on Strictly Scrutinizing Illegal Securities Activities in Accordance with the Law. These opinions emphasized the need to, among other things, strengthen the supervision on overseas listings by China-based companies and proposed to take effective measures, such as promoting the construction of relevant regulatory systems to deal with the risks and incidents faced by China-based overseas-listed companies. In December 2021, the CSRC published the Administrative Provisions of the State Council on the Overseas Issuance and Listing of Securities by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments), or the Draft Provisions, and the Measures for the Overseas Issuance and Listing of Securities Record-filings by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments), or the Draft Administration Measures. Pursuant to these drafts, an overseas offering and listing by a domestic company, whether directly or indirectly, shall be filed with the CSRC, and the issuer or its affiliated domestic company, as the case may be, shall file with the CSRC for its initial public offering, follow-on offering and other equivalent offering activities. Failure to complete the record-filing under the Draft Provisions may subject a PRC domestic company to a warning or a fine of RMB1 million to RMB10 million. If the circumstances are serious, the PRC domestic company may be ordered to suspend its business, or its permits or businesses license may be revoked.

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As of the date of this annual report, the Draft Provisions and the Draft Administration Measures were released for public comment only. There are uncertainties as to whether the Draft Provisions and the Draft Administration Measures would be further amended, revised or updated. Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the enactment timetable and final content of the Draft Provisions and the Draft Administration Measures. As the CSRC may formulate and publish guidelines for filings in the future, the Draft Administration Measures does not provide for detailed requirements of the substance and form of the filing documents. At a press conference held by the CSRC on December 24, 2021, a CSRC officer expressed that the record-filing requirement would be imposed starting from the new listing and new financing activities like follow-on financing and the sufficient transition period would be given for the existing public companies offering their securities on the oversea stock exchanges before the effectiveness of these drafts. At the press conference, the CSRC officer also answered questions relating to the contractual arrangements and pointed out that if relevant domestic laws and regulations have been observed, companies with compliant variable interest entity structure may seek overseas listing after completion of the CSRC filings. Nevertheless, the CSRC officer did not specify what qualify as compliant variable interest entity structures and what relevant domestic laws and regulations are required to be complied with. Given the substantial uncertainties surrounding the latest CSRC filing requirements at this stage, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the filings of our future offshore offerings and fully comply with the relevant new rules on a timely basis, if at all.

In addition, we cannot assure you that any new rules or regulations promulgated in the future will not impose additional requirements on us. If it is determined in the future that approval and filing from the CSRC or other regulatory authorities or other procedures, including the cybersecurity review under the Cybersecurity Review Measures, are required for our offshore offerings, it is uncertain whether we can or how long it will take us to obtain such approval or complete such filing procedures and any such approval or filing could be rejected. Any failure to obtain (including possible rescission of such approval) or delay in obtaining such approval or completing such filing procedures for our offshore offerings, or a rescission of any such approval or filing if obtained by us, would subject us to sanctions by the CSRC or other PRC regulatory authorities for failure to seek CSRC approval or filing or other government authorization for our offshore offerings. These regulatory authorities may impose fines and penalties on our operations in China, limit our ability to pay dividends outside of China, limit our operating privileges in China, delay or restrict the repatriation of the proceeds from our offshore offerings into China or take other actions that could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects, as well as the trading price of our listed securities. The CSRC or other PRC regulatory authorities also may require us to halt our offshore offerings before settlement and delivery of the shares offered. Consequently, if investors engage in market trading or other activities in anticipation of and prior to settlement and delivery, they do so at the risk that settlement and delivery may not occur. In addition, if the CSRC or other regulatory authorities later promulgate new rules or explanations requiring that we obtain their approvals or accomplish the required filing or other regulatory procedures for our prior offshore offerings, we may be unable to obtain a waiver of such approval requirements, if and when procedures are established to obtain such a waiver. Any uncertainties or negative publicity regarding such approval requirement could materially and adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition, reputation, and the trading price of our listed securities.

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. SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents to register with 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 such 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.” SAFE Circular 37 further requires amendment to the registration in the event of any significant changes with respect to the special purpose vehicle, such as increase or decrease of capital contributed by PRC individuals, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material event. In the event that a PRC shareholder holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to fulfill the required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that special purpose vehicle may be prohibited from making profit distributions to the offshore parent and from carrying out subsequent cross-border foreign exchange activities, and the special purpose vehicle may be restricted in its ability to contribute additional capital into its PRC subsidiary. Moreover, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC law for evasion of foreign exchange controls. According to the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Policies for the Foreign Exchange Administration of Direct Investment released on February 13, 2015 by SAFE, local banks will examine and handle foreign exchange registration for overseas direct investment, including the initial foreign exchange registration and amendment registration, under SAFE Circular 37 from June 1, 2015.

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Mr. Huang has completed the initial SAFE registration pursuant to SAFE Circular 75 in 2012, and is in the process of applying for amendment of such registration. We have notified substantial beneficial owners of ordinary shares who we know are PRC residents of their filing obligation. Nevertheless, 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, and there is no assurance that the registration under SAFE Circular 37 and any amendment will be completed in a timely manner or will be completed at all. The failure of our beneficial owners who are PRC residents to register or amend their foreign exchange registrations in a timely manner pursuant to SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules, or the failure of future beneficial owners of our company who are PRC residents to comply with the registration procedures set forth in SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules, may subject such beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiaries to fines and legal sanctions. Failure to register or comply with relevant requirements may also limit our ability to contribute 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 share incentive plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.

Pursuant to SAFE Circular 37, PRC residents who participate in share incentive plans in overseas non-publicly-listed companies due to their position as director, senior management or employees of the PRC subsidiaries of the overseas companies may submit applications to SAFE or its local branches for the foreign exchange registration with respect to offshore special purpose companies. Our directors, executive officers and other employees who are PRC residents and who were granted options may follow SAFE Circular 37 to apply for the foreign exchange registration before our company became an overseas listed company. Since our company became an overseas listed company upon completion of our initial public offering, we and directors, executive officers and other employees of our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and their subsidiaries and any individuals who have been granted options have been subject to 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, or SAFE Circular 7, according to which, among others, employees, directors, supervisors and other management members of PRC companies participating in any stock incentive plan of an overseas publicly listed company who are domestic individuals as defined therein are required to register and make regular periodic filings with SAFE through a domestic qualified agent, which could be a PRC subsidiary of such overseas listed company, and complete certain other procedures. One of our subsidiaries, as the domestic qualified agent, has completed the registration under SAFE Circular 7 for our share incentive plans and we are making efforts to comply with these requirements stipulated in SAFE Circular 7. Failure to complete the SAFE registrations or meet other requirements may subject relevant participants in our share incentive plans to fines and legal sanctions and may also limit the ability to make payment under our share incentive plans or receive dividends or sales proceeds related thereto, or our ability to contribute additional capital into our wholly-foreign owned enterprises in China and limit our wholly-foreign owned enterprises’ ability to distribute dividends to us. We also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional share incentive plans for our directors and employees under PRC law.

It may be difficult for overseas regulators to conduct investigations or collect evidence within China.

There are significant legal and other obstacles in China to providing information needed for regulatory investigations or litigation initiated by regulators outside China. Although the authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, such cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the Unities States involves uncertainty. Furthermore, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law, or Article 177, which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation, evidence collection and other activities within the territory of the PRC. While detailed interpretation of or implementation rules under Article 177 have yet to be promulgated, the inability for an overseas securities regulator to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within China may further increase difficulties faced by you in protecting your interests.

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The enforcement of the Labor Contract Law of the People’s Republic of China, or the PRC Labor Contract Law, and other labor-related regulations in the PRC may increase our labor costs, impose limitations on our labor practices and adversely affect our business and our results of operations.

On June 29, 2007, the SCNPC enacted the PRC Labor Contract Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008 and was amended on December 28, 2012. The PRC Labor Contract Law introduces specific provisions related to fixed-term employment contracts, part-time employment, probation, consultation with labor unions and employee assemblies, employment without a written contract, dismissal of employees, severance, and collective bargaining, which together represent enhanced enforcement of labor laws and regulations. According to the PRC Labor Contract Law, an employer is obliged to sign an unfixed-term labor contract with any employee who has worked for the employer for ten consecutive years. Further, if an employee requests or agrees to renew a fixed-term labor contract that has already been entered into twice consecutively, the resulting contract must have an unfixed term, with certain exceptions. The employer must pay economic compensation to an employee where a labor contract is terminated or expires in accordance with the PRC Labor Contract Law, except for certain situations which are specifically regulated. In addition, the government has issued various labor-related regulations to further protect the rights of employees. According to such laws and regulations, employees are entitled to annual leave ranging from five to fifteen days and are able to be compensated for any untaken annual leave days in the amount of three times their daily salary, subject to certain exceptions. In the event that we decide to change our employment or labor practices, the PRC Labor Contract Law and its implementation rules may also limit our ability to effect those changes in a manner that we believe to be cost-effective. In addition, as the interpretation and implementation of these new regulations are still evolving, our employment practices may not be at all times deemed in compliance with the new regulations. If we are subject to severe penalties or incur significant liabilities in connection with labor disputes or investigations, our business and financial conditions may be adversely affected.

We rely to a significant extent on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our principal operating subsidiaries to fund offshore cash and financing requirements.

We are a holding company and rely to a significant extent on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our principal operating subsidiaries and on remittances from the VIEs, for our offshore cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders, fund intercompany loans, service any debt we may incur outside of China and pay our expenses. When our principal operating subsidiaries or the VIEs incur additional debt, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other distributions or remittances 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 at least 10% of its net income each year to fund certain statutory reserves until the cumulative amount of such reserves reaches 50% of its registered capital. These reserves, together with the registered capital, are not distributable as cash dividends. As a result of these laws, rules and regulations, our subsidiaries, VIEs and their subsidiaries incorporated in China are restricted in their ability to transfer a portion of their respective net assets to their shareholders as dividends, loans or advances. As of December 31, 2021, the restricted net assets were RMB20,939.9 million (US$3,285.9 million), including those of the VIEs and their subsidiaries of RMB210.1 million (US$33.0 million) and our subsidiaries of RMB20,729.8 million (US$3,252.9 million), which mainly consisted of paid-in registered capital. 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.

Limitations on the ability of VIEs to make remittance to the wholly-foreign owned enterprise and on the ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends to us could limit our ability to access cash generated by the operations of those entities, including to make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our businesses, pay dividends to our shareholders or otherwise fund and conduct our business.

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In January 2017, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Further Improving Reform of Foreign Exchange Administration and Optimizing Genuineness and Compliance Verification, or SAFE Circular 3, which stipulates several capital control measures with respect to the outbound remittance of profit from domestic entities to offshore entities, including (i) under the principle of genuine transactions, banks shall check board resolutions regarding profit distribution, original copies of tax filing records and audited financial statements; and (ii) domestic entities shall hold income to account for previous years’ losses before remitting any profits. Moreover, pursuant to SAFE Circular 3, domestic entities shall make detailed explanations of their sources of capital and utilization arrangements, and provide board resolutions, contracts and other proof when completing the registration procedures in connection with any outbound investment.

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, 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. “De facto management body” refers to a managing body that exercises substantive and overall management and control over the production and business, personnel, accounting books and assets of an enterprise. The STA issued Circular 82 on April 22, 2009. Circular 82 provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise is located in China. Although Circular 82 only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises, not those controlled by foreign enterprises or individuals, the determining criteria set forth in Circular 82 may reflect the STA general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises. 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 such 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.”

We may not be able to obtain certain benefits under the relevant tax treaty on dividends paid by our PRC subsidiaries to us through our Hong Kong subsidiary.

We are a holding company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands and as such rely on dividends and other distributions on equity from our PRC subsidiaries to satisfy part of our liquidity requirements. Pursuant to the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, a withholding tax rate of 10% currently applies to dividends paid by a PRC “resident enterprise” to a foreign enterprise investor, unless any such foreign investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for preferential tax treatment. Pursuant to the Arrangement between Mainland China and the Hong Kong for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income, such withholding tax rate may be lowered to 5% if a Hong Kong resident enterprise owns no less than 25% of a PRC enterprise. However, the 5% withholding tax rate does not automatically apply and certain requirements must be satisfied, including without limitation that (a) the Hong Kong enterprise must be the beneficial owner of the relevant dividends; and (b) the Hong Kong enterprise must directly hold no less than 25% share ownership in the PRC enterprise during the 12 consecutive months preceding its receipt of the dividends.

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Dividends payable to our foreign investors and gains on the sale of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares by our foreign investors may become subject to PRC tax.

Under the Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation regulations issued by the State Council, a 10% PRC withholding tax , subject to any reduction or exemption set forth in applicable tax treaties or under applicable tax arrangements between jurisdictions, is applicable to dividends payable to investors that are non-resident enterprises, which do not have an establishment or place of business in the PRC or which have such establishment or place of business but the dividends are not effectively connected with such establishment or place of business, to the extent such dividends are derived from sources within the PRC. Similarly, any gain realized on the transfer of ADSs and/or ordinary shares by such investors is also subject to PRC tax at a current rate of 10%, subject to any reduction or exemption set forth in applicable tax treaties or under applicable tax arrangements between jurisdictions, if such 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 and/or ADSs, and any gain realized from the transfer of our ordinary shares and/or ADSs, would be treated as income derived from sources within the PRC and would as a result be subject to PRC taxation. 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 and/or ordinary shares by such 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 or under applicable tax arrangements between jurisdictions. If we or any of our subsidiaries established outside China are considered a PRC resident enterprise, it is unclear whether holders of our ADSs and/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. If dividends payable to our non-PRC investors, or gains from the transfer of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares by such investors, are deemed as income derived from sources within the PRC and thus are subject to PRC tax, the value of your investment in our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may decline significantly.

We and our shareholders face uncertainties with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises or other assets attributed to a Chinese establishment of a non-Chinese company, or immovable properties located in China owned by non-Chinese companies.

On February 3, 2015, the STA issued the Bulletin on Issues of Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Transfers of Assets by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or STA Bulletin 7, which replaced or supplemented previous rules under the Notice on Strengthening Administration of Enterprise Income Tax for Share Transfers by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or Circular 698, issued by the STA, on December 10, 2009. Pursuant to STA Bulletin 7, an “indirect transfer” of assets, including equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise, by non-PRC resident enterprises may be recharacterized and treated as a direct transfer of PRC taxable assets, if such 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 such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax. According to STA Bulletin 7, “PRC taxable assets” include assets attributed to an establishment in China, immovable properties located in China, and equity investments in PRC resident enterprises, in respect of which gains from their transfer by a direct holder, being a non-PRC resident enterprise, would be subject to PRC enterprise income taxes. When determining whether there is a “reasonable commercial purpose” of the transaction arrangement, features to be taken into consideration include: whether the main value of the equity interest of the relevant offshore enterprise derives from PRC taxable assets; whether the assets of the relevant offshore enterprise mainly consists of direct or indirect investment in China or if its income mainly derives from China; whether the offshore enterprise and its subsidiaries directly or indirectly holding PRC taxable assets have real commercial nature which is evidenced by their actual function and risk exposure; the duration of existence of the business model and organizational structure; the replicability of the transaction by direct transfer of PRC taxable assets; and the tax situation of such indirect transfer and applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements. In respect of an indirect offshore transfer of assets of a PRC establishment, the resulting gain is to be included with the enterprise income tax filing of the PRC establishment or place of business being transferred, and would consequently be subject to PRC enterprise income tax at a rate of 25%. Where the underlying transfer relates to the immovable properties located in China or to equity investments in a PRC resident enterprise, which is not related to a PRC establishment or place of business of a non-resident enterprise, a PRC enterprise income tax of 10% would apply, subject to available preferential tax treatment under applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements, and the party who is obligated to make the transfer payments has the withholding obligation. Where the payor fails to withhold any or sufficient tax, the transferor shall declare and pay such tax to the tax authority by itself within the statutory time limit. Late payment of applicable tax will subject the transferor to default interest.STA Bulletin 7 does not apply to transactions of sale of ordinary shares by investors through a public stock exchange where such ordinary shares were acquired from a transaction through a public stock exchange.

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On October 17, 2017, the STA issued the Announcement on Issues Relating to Withholding at Source of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises, or STA Circular 37. STA Circular 37 supersedes Circular 698 in its entirety, and amends certain provisions in STA Bulletin 7, but does not touch upon other provisions of STA Bulletin 7, which remain in full force. STA Circular 37 purports to clarify certain issues in the implementation of the above regime, by providing, among others, the definitions of equity transfer income and tax basis, the foreign exchange rate to be used in the calculation of withholding amounts and the date of occurrence of the withholding obligation. Specifically, STA Circular 37 provides that where the transfer income subject to withholding at its source is derived by a non-PRC resident enterprise by way of instalments, the instalments may first be treated as recovery of costs of previous investments; upon recovery of all costs, the tax amount to be withheld shall then be computed and withheld.

There is uncertainty as to the application of STA Bulletin 7 and STA Circular 37. STA Bulletin 7 and STA Circular 37 may be determined by the tax authorities to be applicable to our historical or future offshore restructuring transactions or sale of our ordinary shares or ADSs or those of our offshore subsidiaries, with non-resident enterprises being the transferors. We may be subject to filing obligations or taxed as the transferor, or subject to withholding obligations as the transferee, in such transactions. For transfers of our ordinary shares or ADSs by investors that are non-PRC resident enterprises, our PRC subsidiaries may be requested to assist with filings under STA Bulletin 7 and STA Circular 37. For example, in the past, we acquired EDC Holding Limited, or EDC Holding, by issuing shares of GDS Holdings, to its shareholders in exchange for all of the outstanding shares of EDC Holding that were not held by us then. In addition, certain of our direct and indirect shareholders transferred some or all of their equity interest in us through indirect transfers conducted by their respective overseas holding companies which held ordinary shares in us. As a result, the transferors and transferees in these transactions, including us may be subject to the tax filing and 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 STA Bulletin 7 and STA Circular 37 or to establish that we and our non-resident enterprises should not be taxed under STA Bulletin 7 and STA Circular 37, 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.

Restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to utilize our net revenue effectively.

Substantially all of our net 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 not under the “capital account,” which includes foreign direct investment and loans, including loans we may secure from our onshore subsidiaries, VIEs or their subsidiaries. Currently, certain of our PRC subsidiaries, 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. Foreign exchange transactions under the capital account remain subject to limitations and require approvals from, or registration with, SAFE and other relevant PRC governmental authorities. Since a significant amount of our future net revenue will be denominated in Renminbi, any existing and future restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to utilize net revenue generated in Renminbi to fund our business activities outside of the PRC or pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares, and may limit our ability to obtain foreign currency through debt or equity financing for our subsidiaries, VIEs or their subsidiaries.

The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by an auditor who is not inspected by the PCAOB and, as such, our investors are deprived of the benefits of such inspection and are exposed to uncertainties. In addition, the adoption of any rules, legislations or other efforts to increase U.S. regulatory access to audit information could cause uncertainty, and we could be delisted if we were unable to meet any PCAOB inspection requirement in time.

Our independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report filed with the SEC, as auditors of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the U.S. PCAOB, is required by the laws of the United States to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB to assess its compliance with the laws of the United States and professional standards. According to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC. Accordingly, without the consent of the competent PRC securities regulators and relevant authorities, no organization or individual may provide the documents and materials relating to securities business activities to overseas parties. Because our auditors are located in the Peoples’ Republic of China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB is currently unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditors are not currently inspected by the PCAOB.

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On May 24, 2013, PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the CSRC and the Ministry of Finance, or the MOF, which establishes a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations in the United States and China. PCAOB continues to be in discussions with the CSRC and the MOF to permit joint inspections in the PRC of audit firms that are registered with PCAOB and audit Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges.

On December 7, 2018, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a joint statement highlighting continued challenges faced by U.S. regulators in their oversight of financial statement audits of U.S.-listed companies with significant operations in China. The joint statement reflects the U.S. regulators’ heightened interest in this issue. In a statement issued on December 9, 2019, the SEC reiterated concerns over the inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of the audit firm work papers with respect to U.S.-listed companies that have operations in China, and emphasized the importance of audit quality in emerging markets, such as China. On April 21, 2020, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a new joint statement, reminding investors that invest in companies that are based in or have substantial operations in many emerging markets, including China, there is substantially greater risk that disclosures will be incomplete or misleading, and there is also a greater risk of fraud. In the event of investor harm, there is substantially less ability to bring and enforce SEC, Department of Justice or DOJ and other U.S. regulatory actions, in comparison to U.S. domestic companies, and the joint statement reinforced past SEC and PCAOB statements on matters including the difficulty to inspect audit work papers in China and its potential harm to investors. However, it remains unclear what further actions the SEC and PCAOB will take to address the concerns. On June 4, 2020, the U.S. President issued a memorandum ordering the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, or the PWG, to submit a report to the President within 60 days of the memorandum that includes recommendations for actions that can be taken by the executive branch and by the SEC or PCAOB on Chinese companies listed on the U.S. stock exchanges and their audit firms, in an effort to protect investors in the U.S. On August 6, 2020, the PWG released a report recommending that the SEC take steps to implement the five recommendations outlined in the report. In particular, to address companies from jurisdictions that do not provide the PCAOB with sufficient access to fulfill its statutory mandate, or NCJs, the PWG recommends enhanced listing standards on U.S. stock exchanges. This would require, as a condition to initial and continued exchange listing, PCAOB access to work papers of the principal audit firm for the audit of the listed company. Companies unable to satisfy this standard as a result of governmental restrictions on access to audit work papers and practices in NCJs may satisfy this standard by providing a co-audit from an audit firm with comparable resources and experience where the PCAOB determines it has sufficient access to audit work papers and practices to conduct an appropriate inspection of the co-audit firm. There is currently no legal process under which such a co-audit may be performed in China. The report permits the new listing standards to provide for a transition period until January 1, 2022 for listed companies, but would apply immediately to new listings once the necessary rulemakings and/or standard-setting are effective. The measures in the report are expected to be subject to the standard SEC rulemaking process before becoming effective. On August 10, 2020, the SEC announced that SEC Chairman had directed the SEC staff to prepare proposals in response to the report, and that the SEC was soliciting public comments and information with respect to these proposals. If we fail to meet the new listing standards before the deadline specified thereunder due to factors beyond our control, we could face possible delisting from the Nasdaq, deregistration from the SEC and/or other risks, which may materially and adversely affect, or effectively terminate, our ADS trading in the United States.

Inspections of other firms that the PCAOB has conducted outside China have identified deficiencies in those firms’ 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 consolidated financial statements.

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In recent years, U.S. regulators have continued to express their concerns about challenges in their oversight with auditors of U.S. listed companies with significant operations in China. More recently, as part of increased regulatory focus in the United States on access to audit and other information currently protected by national law, in particular China’s, in December 2020, the U.S. enacted the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCA Act, which includes requirements for the SEC to identify issuers whose audit reports are prepared by auditors that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate because of restrictions imposed by non-U.S. authorities in the auditor’s local jurisdiction. The HFCA Act also requires public companies on this SEC list to certify that they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government and make certain additional disclosures on foreign ownership and control of such issuers in their SEC filings. In addition, if the auditor of a U.S. listed company’s financial statements is not subject to PCAOB inspections for three consecutive “non-inspection” years after the law becomes effective, the SEC is required to prohibit such company’s securities from being traded on any of the U.S. national securities exchanges, such as the NYSE and Nasdaq Stock Market, or in the U.S. “over-the-counter” markets. On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which if enacted into law would amend the HFCA Act and require the SEC to prohibit an issuer’s securities from trading on U.S. stock exchanges if its auditor is not subject to PCAOB inspections for two consecutive “non-inspection” years instead of three, and thus, would reduce the time before our ADSs may be prohibited from trading or delisted from the Nasdaq. On March 24, 2021, the SEC announced that it had adopted interim final amendments to implement the foregoing certification and disclosure requirements under the HFCA Act. On December 2, 2021, the SEC announced that it had adopted final amendments to its rules implementing the HFCA Act, thereby finalizing the interim final rules that it had adopted in March 2021, with two modifications to clarify application of the requirements to variable interest entities, and to require tagging of information such as auditor name and location. On May 13, 2021, the PCAOB issued proposed PCAOB Rule 6100, Board Determinations Under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, for public comment. The proposed rule provides a framework for making determinations as to whether PCAOB is unable to inspect an audit firm in a foreign jurisdiction, including the timing, factors, bases, publication and revocation or modification of such determinations, and such determinations will be made on a jurisdiction-wide basis in a consistent manner applicable to all firms headquartered in the jurisdiction. On September 22, 2021, the PCAOB adopted PCAOB Rule 6100 as final, and on November 5, 2021, the SEC announced that it had approved PCAOB Rule 6100, giving it immediate effect. Accordingly, our securities may be prohibited from trading on the Nasdaq or other U.S. stock exchanges if our auditor is not inspected by the PCAOB for three consecutive years, and this ultimately could result in our ADSs being delisted. Furthermore, on December 16, 2021, pursuant to the HFCA Act the PCAOB issued its report notifying the SEC of its determination that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely accounting firms headquartered in mainland China or Hong Kong, including our independent registered public accounting firm. In March 2022, the SEC identified eleven “commission-identified issuers” that are not in compliance with the accounting-related procedures of the HFCA Act and could be subject to potential delisting from U.S. exchanges over time. Under the current regulatory framework, we will likely be identified as such by the SEC in the future. There also can be no assurance that, once we have a “non-inspection” year, we or our auditor will be able to take remedial measures in a timely manner, and as a result, there can be no assurance that we will always be able to maintain the listing of our ADSs on a national stock exchange in the U.S., such as the NYSE or the Nasdaq Stock Market, or that you will always be allowed to trade our shares or ADSs. While the CSRC has released the Provisions on Strengthening Confidentiality and Archives Administration for Overseas Securities Offering and Listing (Draft for Comments)on April 2, 2022, which, if progmultaed and implemented, could allow the PCAOB to inspect accounting firms in China, maintaining the listing of our ADSs depends on full compliance with PCAOB audit inspections, and there can be no assurance that these draft rules will be officially progmulated or implemented, our auditor or us will be able to comply with requirements imposed by U.S. regulators. The market prices of our ADSs and/or other securities could be adversely affected as a result of anticipated negative impacts of the HFCA Act upon, as well as negative investor sentiment towards, China-based companies listed in the United States, regardless of our actual operating performance. If our ADSs were not listed on a national stock exchange in the U.S., the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will regard us as having a primary listing in Hong Kong and we will no longer enjoy certain exemptions or waivers from strict compliance with the requirements under the Hong Kong Listing Rules, the Companies (WUMP) Ordinance, the Takeovers Codes and the SFO, which could result in our incurring incremental compliance costs. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that the Hong Kong Stock Exchange deemed us as having a dual primary listing in Hong Kong, we will be permitted to retain our existing weighted voting rights structure and our variable interest entity structure. See “—Risks Related to Our ADSs and Class A Ordinary Shares—We adopt different practices as to certain matters as compared with many other companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

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If additional remedial measures are imposed on the “big four” PRC-based accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, in administrative proceedings brought by the SEC alleging such firms’ failure to meet specific criteria set by the SEC with respect to requests for the production of documents, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the U.S. Exchange Act.

Starting in 2011 the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, were affected by a conflict between U.S. and Chinese law. Specifically, for certain U.S. listed companies operating and audited in mainland China, the SEC and the PCAOB sought to obtain from the Chinese accounting firms access to their audit work papers and related documents. The firms were, however, advised and directed that under Chinese law they could not respond directly to the U.S. regulators on those requests, and that requests by foreign regulators for access to such papers in China had to be channeled through the CSRC.

In December 2012, this impasse led the SEC to commence administrative proceedings under Rule 102(e) of its Rules of Practice and also under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act against the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm. In January 2014, the administrative law judge reached an initial decision to impose penalties on the firms including a temporary suspension of their right to practice before the SEC. The accounting firms filed a petition for review of the initial decision. On February 6, 2015, before a review by the commissioners of the SEC had taken place, the firms reached a settlement with the SEC. Under the settlement, the SEC accepts that future requests by the SEC for the production of documents will normally be made to the CSRC. The firms will receive matching Section 106 requests and are required to abide by a detailed set of procedures with respect to such requests, which in substance require them to facilitate production via the CSRC. If they fail to meet the specified criteria, the SEC retains authority to impose a variety of additional remedial measures on the firms depending on the nature of the failure. Remedies for any future noncompliance could include, as appropriate, an automatic six-month bar on a single firm’s performance of certain audit work, commencement of a new proceeding against a firm, or in extreme cases the resumption of the current proceeding against all four firms. Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the four PRC-based accounting firms was deemed dismissed with prejudice four years after entry of the settlement. The four-year mark occurred on February 6, 2019. It is uncertain whether the SEC will further challenge the four PRC-based accounting firms’ compliance with U.S. laws in connection with U.S. regulatory requests for audit work papers or if the results of such challenge would result in the SEC imposing penalties such as suspensions. If 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. Exchange Act.

In the event that the SEC restarts the administrative proceedings, depending upon the final outcome, listed companies in the United States with major PRC operations may find it difficult or impossible to retain auditors in respect of their operations in the PRC, which could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the U.S. Exchange Act, including possible delisting. Moreover, any negative news about any such future proceedings against these audit firms may cause investor uncertainty regarding China-based, United States-listed companies and the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may be adversely affected.

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The perception among investors that the Company is at heightened risk of delisting from Nasdaq could negatively affect the market price of our securities and trading volume of our ADSs. If a delisting were to occur, we would face material adverse consequences.

The perception among investors, due to current and proposed rules and regulations relating to the ability of the PCAOB to inspect our auditors, political tensions between the United States and China, and other matters, that the Company is at heightened risk of delisting from Nasdaq, could negatively affect the market price of our securities and trading volume of our ADSs. There have been recent media reports on deliberations within the U.S. government regarding limiting or restricting China-based companies from accessing U.S. capital markets, and delisting China-based companies from U.S. national securities exchanges. If any further such deliberations were to materialize, the resulting legislation may have a material and adverse impact on the stock performance of China-based issuers listed in the United States such as us, and there can be no assurance that we will always be able to maintain the listing of our ADSs on a national stock exchange in the U.S., such as the NYSE or the Nasdaq Stock Market, or that you will always be allowed to trade our shares or ADSs. See “—The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by an auditor who is not inspected by the PCAOB and, as such, our investors are deprived of the benefits of such inspection and are exposed to uncertainties. In addition, the adoption of any rules, legislations or other efforts to increase U.S. regulatory access to audit information could cause uncertainty, and we could be delisted if we were unable to meet any PCAOB inspection requirement in time.” If our ADSs were not listed on a national stock exchange in the U.S., the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will regard us as having a primary listing in Hong Kong and we will no longer enjoy certain exemptions or waivers from strict compliance with the requirements under the Hong Kong Listing Rules, the Companies (WUMP) Ordinance, the Takeovers Codes and the SFO, which could result in our incurring incremental compliance costs. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that the Hong Kong Stock Exchange deemed us as having a dual primary listing in Hong Kong, we will be permitted to retain our existing weighted voting rights structure and our variable interest entity structure. See “—Risks Related to Our ADSs and Class A Ordinary Shares—We adopt different practices as to certain matters as compared with many other companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Additionally, any actual delisting determination could seriously decrease or eliminate the value of an investment in our ADSs. We could face substantial material adverse consequences, including, but not limited to, among other things: limited availability for market quotations for our ADSs; reduced liquidity with respect to our shares; a reduced number of investors willing to hold or acquire our shares, which could negatively impact our ability to raise equity financing; an impaired ability to provide equity incentives to our employees; and limited news and analyst coverage. Additionally, many of our loan agreements include a covenant that we maintain our shares listed on at least one of the following stock exchanges before the maturity date: (i) Nasdaq; or (ii) The Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited; or (iii) the Hong Kong Stock Exchange; or (iv) any other stock exchange acceptable to the lender. The breach of such covenant could result in a default with respect to the related indebtedness. If a default occurs, the relevant lenders could elect to declare the indebtedness, together with accrued interest and other fees, to be due and payable immediately. This, in turn, could cause our other debt, to become due and payable as a result of cross-default or acceleration provisions contained in the agreements governing such other debt. In the event that some or all of our debt is accelerated and becomes immediately due and payable, we may not have the funds to repay, or the ability to refinance, such debt.

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Risks Related to Our ADSs and Class A Ordinary Shares

The trading prices of our ADSs and ordinary shares may be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to you.

The trading prices of our ADSs and ordinary shares have been, and are likely to continue to be, volatile and could fluctuate widely due to factors beyond our control. The trading price of our ordinary shares, likewise, can be volatile for similar or different reasons. This may happen because of broad market and industry factors, like the performance and fluctuation in the market prices or the underperformance or deteriorating financial results of other listed companies based in China. The securities of some of these companies have experienced significant volatility since their initial public offerings, including, in some cases, substantial price declines in the trading prices of their securities. The trading performances of other Chinese companies’ securities after their offerings, including internet and e-commerce companies, may affect the attitudes of investors toward Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong and/or the United States, which consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares, regardless of our actual operating performance. In addition, any negative news or perceptions about inadequate corporate governance practices or fraudulent accounting, corporate structure or matters of other Chinese companies may also negatively affect the attitudes of investors towards Chinese companies in general, including us, regardless of whether we have conducted any inappropriate activities. Furthermore, securities markets may from time to time experience significant price and volume fluctuations that are not related to our operating performance, such as the large decline in share prices in the United States, China and other jurisdictions in late 2008, early 2009, the second half of 2011, in 2015 and early 2020. Any additional volatility or further declines in securities markets, such as the Nasdaq, on which our ADSs are listed, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, on which our ordinary shares are listed, may have a material and adverse effect on the prices and trading volumes of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.

In addition to the above factors, the prices and trading volumes of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may be highly volatile due to multiple factors, including the following:

regulatory developments affecting us or our industry, customers or suppliers;
announcements of studies and reports relating to the quality of our service offerings or those of our competitors;
changes in the economic performance or market valuations of other data center services companies;
actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly results of operations and changes or revisions of our expected results;
changes in financial estimates by securities research analysts;
conditions in the market for data center services;
announcements by us or our competitors of new product and service offerings, acquisitions, strategic relationships, joint ventures, capital raisings or capital commitments;
additions to or departures of our senior management;
any actual or alleged illegal acts of our senior management or other key employees;
actual or expected changes in monetary and fiscal policies adopted by central banks and financial authorities, particularly any increases in the target range for the federal funds rate announced by the Federal Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve System;
actual or expected increases in prices for commodities, consumer prices, and inflation rates;
fluctuations in exchange rates between the Renminbi, the Hong Kong dollar, and the U.S. dollar;
political or market instability or disruptions, and actual or perceived social unrest in the United States, Hong Kong, or other jurisdictions;

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release or expiry of lock-up or other transfer restrictions on our ADSs and/or ordinary shares;
sales or perceived potential sales or other dispositions of existing or additional ADSs and/or ordinary shares or other equity or equity-linked securities; and
attacks by short sellers, including the publication of negative opinions regarding us and our business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a stock short. See “—Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.”

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the market price for our ADSs and/or ordinary shares and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our ADSs and ordinary shares depends in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If research analysts do not establish and maintain adequate research coverage or if one or more of the analysts who covers us downgrades our ADSs and/or ordinary shares or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the market price for our ADSs and ordinary shares would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to publish reports on us regularly, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which, in turn, could cause the market price or trading volume for our ADSs and ordinary shares to decline.

Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.

Short selling is the practice of selling securities that the seller does not own but rather has borrowed from a third party with the intention of buying identical securities back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the value of the securities between the sale of the borrowed securities and the purchase of the replacement shares, as the short seller expects to pay less in that purchase than it received in the sale. As it is in the short seller’s best interests for the price of the stock to decline, many short sellers publish, or arrange for the publication of, negative opinions regarding the relevant issuer and its business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a stock short. These short attacks have, in the past, led to selling of shares in the market.

Public companies that have substantially all of their operations in China have been the subject of short selling. Much of the scrutiny and negative publicity has centered on allegations of a lack of effective internal control over financial reporting resulting in financial and accounting irregularities and mistakes, inadequate corporate governance policies or a lack of adherence thereto and, in many cases, allegations of fraud. As a result, many of these companies are now conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations and, in the interim, are subject to shareholder lawsuits and/or SEC enforcement actions.

We have in the past been, are currently, and may in the future be, the subject of unfavorable allegations made by a short seller. Any such allegations may be followed by periods of instability in the market price of our ADSs and ordinary shares and negative publicity. Regardless of whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, it is not clear what effect such negative publicity could have on us, and we could have to expend a significant amount of resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend ourselves. While we would strongly defend against any such short seller attacks, we may be constrained in the manner in which it can proceed against the relevant short seller by principles of freedom of speech, applicable state law or issues of commercial confidentiality. Such a situation could be costly and time-consuming and could distract our management from growing our business. Even if such allegations are ultimately proven to be groundless, allegations against us could severely impact our business operations and shareholders’ equity, and any investment in our ADSs or ordinary shares could be greatly reduced or rendered worthless.

Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares for return on your investment.

We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Dividend Policy and Distributions.” Therefore, you should not rely on an investment in our ADSs and/or ordinary shares as a source for any future dividend income.

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Our board of directors has complete discretion as to whether to distribute dividends. Even if our board of directors decides to declare and pay dividends, the timing, amount and form of future dividends, if any, will depend on, among other things, our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiaries, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in our ADSs and/or ordinary shares will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares. There is no guarantee that our ADSs and/or ordinary shares will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs and/or ordinary shares. You may not realize a return on your investment in our ADSs and/or ordinary shares and you may even lose your entire investment in our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.

The different characteristics of the capital markets in Hong Kong and the U.S. may negatively affect the trading prices of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.

As a dual-listed company, we are subject to Hong Kong and Nasdaq listing and regulatory requirements concurrently. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Nasdaq have different trading hours, trading characteristics (including trading volume and liquidity), trading and listing rules, and investor bases (including different levels of retail and institutional participation). As a result of these differences, the trading prices of our ADSs and our ordinary shares may not be the same, even allowing for currency differences. Fluctuations in the price of our ADSs due to circumstances peculiar to the U.S. capital markets could materially and adversely affect the price of our ordinary shares, or vice versa. Certain events having significant negative impact specifically on the U.S. capital markets may result in a decline in the trading price of our ordinary shares notwithstanding that such event may not impact the trading prices of securities listed in Hong Kong generally or to the same extent, or vice versa.

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 and/or ordinary shares 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 and/or ordinary shares to decline significantly. As of April 15, 2022, we had 1,524,432,995 ordinary shares outstanding, comprising 1,456,842,659 Class A ordinary shares (including 63,514,816 Class A ordinary shares issued and held by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., as depositary, which are reserved for future delivery upon exercise or vesting of share awards granted under our share incentive plans) and 67,590,336 Class B ordinary shares. All ADSs representing our Class A ordinary shares sold in our public offerings are freely transferable by persons other than our “affiliates” without restriction or additional registration under the U.S. Securities Act. All of the other Class A ordinary shares may be available for sale, subject to volume and other restrictions as applicable under Rules 144 and 701 under the U.S. Securities Act.

Divestiture in the future of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares by shareholders, the announcement of any plan to divest our ADS and/or ordinary shares, or hedging activity by third-party financial institutions in connection with similar derivative or other financing arrangements entered into by shareholders, could cause the price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares to decline.

Certain major holders of our ordinary shares have the right to cause us to register under the U.S. Securities Act the sale of their shares. Registration of these shares under the U.S. Securities Act would result in ADSs representing these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the U.S. 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 and/or ordinary shares to decline significantly.

We have adopted share incentive plans, under which we have the discretion to grant a broad range of equity-based awards to eligible participants. See “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—B. Compensation—Share Incentive Plans.” We intend to register all ordinary shares that we may issue under these share incentive plans. Once we register these ordinary shares, they can be freely sold in the public market, subject to volume limitations applicable to affiliates. If a large number of our ordinary shares or securities convertible into our ordinary shares are sold in the public market after they become eligible for sale, the sales could reduce the trading price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares and impede our ability to raise future capital.

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The ADSs and ordinary shares are equity and are subordinate to our existing and future indebtedness, the convertible preferred stock and any preferred stock we may issue in the future.

The ADSs and ordinary shares are our equity interests and do not constitute indebtedness. As such, ADSs and ordinary shares will rank junior to all indebtedness and other non-equity claims on us with respect to assets available to satisfy claims on us, including in a liquidation of us. Additionally, holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may be subject to prior dividend and liquidation rights of any holders of our preferred stock or depositary shares representing such preferred stock then outstanding.

Our ADSs and ordinary shares will rank junior to our convertible preferred stock with respect to the payment of dividends and amounts payable in the event of our liquidation, dissolution or winding-up of our affairs. This means that, unless accumulated dividends have been paid on all our convertible preferred stock through the most recently completed dividend period, no dividends may be declared or paid on our ADSs and ordinary shares and we will not be permitted to repurchase any of our ADSs and ordinary shares, subject to limited exceptions. Likewise, in the event of our voluntary or involuntary liquidation, dissolution or winding-up of our affairs, no distribution of our assets may be made to holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares until we have paid to holders of our preferred stock a liquidation preference equal to the greater of (i) the stated value per convertible preferred share, plus an amount equal to any dividends accumulated but unpaid thereon (whether or not declared), and (ii) the payment such holders would have received had such holders, immediately prior to such liquidation, converted their convertible preferred shares into Class A ordinary shares (at the then applicable conversion rate).

Our board of directors is authorized to issue additional classes or series of preferred stock without any action on the part of the shareholders. The board of directors also has the power, without shareholder approval, to set the terms of any such classes or series of preferred stock that may be issued, including voting rights, dividend rights, and preferences over our ADSs and ordinary shares with respect to dividends or upon our dissolution, winding-up and liquidation and other terms. If we issue preferred stock in the future that has a preference over our ADSs and ordinary shares with respect to the payment of dividends or upon our liquidation, dissolution, or winding up, or if we issue preferred stock with voting rights that dilute the voting power of our ADSs and ordinary shares, the rights of holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares or the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares could be adversely affected.

Our dual-class voting structure and concentrated ownership limits your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may view as beneficial.

As discussed under “—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—Our corporate actions are substantially controlled by our principal shareholders, including our founder, chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. Huang, who have the ability to control or exert significant influence over important corporate matters that require approval of shareholders, which may deprive you of an opportunity to receive a premium for your ordinary shares and/or ADSs and materially reduce the value of your investment” above, Mr. Huang, our founder, chairman and chief executive officer and our other principal shareholders have considerable influence over matters requiring shareholder approval. To the extent that their interests differ from yours, you may be disadvantaged by any action that they may seek to pursue. This concentrated control could also discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions, which could have the effect of depriving the holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares of the opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over the prevailing market price.

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ADS holders may have fewer rights than holders of our ordinary shares and must act through the depositary to exercise those rights.

ADS holders do not have the same rights of our shareholders and may only exercise the voting rights with respect to the underlying Class A ordinary shares in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under our Articles of Association, the minimum notice period required to convene a general meeting will be 14 calendar days. When a general meeting is convened, ADS holders may not receive sufficient notice of a shareholders’ meeting to permit them to withdraw their Class A ordinary shares to allow them to cast their vote with respect to any specific matter. In addition, the depositary and its agents may not be able to send voting instructions to them 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 them in a timely manner, but there can be no assurance that they will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that they can instruct the depositary to vote 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 such vote. As a result, ADS holders may not be able to exercise their right to vote and they may lack recourse if their ADSs are not voted as they requested. In addition, in their capacity as an ADS holder, they will not be able to call a shareholders’ meeting.

The right of ADS holders to participate in any future rights offerings may be limited, which may cause dilution to their holdings.

We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. However, we cannot make rights available to ADS holders in the United States unless we register both the rights and the securities to which the rights relate under the U.S. Securities Act or an exemption from the registration requirements is available. Under the deposit agreement, the depositary will not make rights available to ADS holders unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the U.S. Securities Act or exempt from registration under the U.S. Securities Act. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or securities or to endeavor to cause such a registration statement to be declared effective and we may not be able to establish a necessary exemption from registration under the U.S. Securities Act. Accordingly, ADS holders may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in their holdings.

ADS holders may not receive cash dividends if the depositary decides it is impractical to make them available to them.

The depositary will pay cash dividends on the ADSs only to the extent that we decide to distribute dividends on our ordinary shares or other deposited securities, and we do not have any present plan to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Dividend Policy and Distributions.” To the extent that there is a distribution, the depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to ADS holders the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on our ordinary shares or other deposited securities after deducting its fees and expenses. ADS holders will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of Class A ordinary shares their ADSs represent. However, the depositary may, at its discretion, decide that it is inequitable or impractical to make a distribution available to any ADS holders. For example, the depositary may determine that it is not practicable to distribute certain property through the mail, or that the value of certain distributions may be less than the cost of mailing them. In these cases, the depositary may decide not to distribute such property to ADS holders.

ADS holders may be subject to limitations on transfer of their ADSs.

Our 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.

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Our ADSs and ordinary shares are equity securities of a Cayman Islands holding company rather than equity securities of our subsidiaries, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries that have substantive business operations in China. As a result, certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.

We are an exempted company limited by shares incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands with no business operations. We conduct a substantial portion of our operations through our wholly-foreign owned enterprises, the consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries in the PRC, and majority of our assets are located in the PRC. We do not and are not, and holders of our ADSs and ordinary shares do not and are not, legally permitted to have any, or more than the permitted percentage of, equity interest in the consolidated VIEs as current PRC laws and regulations restrict foreign ownership and investment in, among other areas, the business of providing VATS, including internet data center services. As a result, we provide the services that may be subject to such restrictions in the PRC through the VIEs and their subsidiaries, and we operate our businesses in the PRC through certain contractual arrangements with the consolidated VIEs. For a summary of such contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Affiliated Consolidated Entities.” Our ADSs and ordinary shares are equity securities of a Cayman Islands holding company rather than equity securities of our subsidiaries and the consolidated VIEs. In addition, some of our directors and executive officers and the experts named in this document do not reside within the U.S. or Hong Kong, and most of their assets are not located in the U.S. or Hong Kong. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against them in the United States or in Hong Kong in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws, Hong Kong laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands or other relevant jurisdiction may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.

There is no statutory enforcement in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the Hong Kong courts or federal or state courts of the United States (and the Cayman Islands are not a party to any treaties for the reciprocal enforcement or recognition of such judgments). The courts of the Cayman Islands would recognize as a valid judgment a final and conclusive judgment in personam obtained in such jurisdiction under which a sum of money is payable (other than a sum of money payable in respect of multiple damages, taxes or other charges of a like nature or in respect of a fine or other penalty) or, in certain circumstances, an in personam judgment for non-monetary relief, and would give a judgment based thereon provided that: (a) such courts had proper jurisdiction over the parties subject to such judgment; (b) such courts did not contravene the rules of natural justice of the Cayman Islands; (c) such judgment was not obtained by fraud; (d) the enforcement of the judgment would not be contrary to the public policy of the Cayman Islands; (e) no new admissible evidence relevant to the action is submitted prior to the rendering of the judgment by the courts of the Cayman Islands; and (f) there is due compliance with the correct procedures under the laws of the Cayman Islands. However, the Cayman Islands courts are unlikely to enforce a judgment obtained from the U.S. or Hong Kong courts under civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities law or Hong Kong law if such judgment is determined by the courts of the Cayman Islands to give rise to obligations to make payments that are penal or punitive in nature. Because such a determination has not yet been made by a court of the Cayman Islands, it is uncertain whether such civil liability judgments from U.S. or Hong Kong courts would be enforceable in the Cayman Islands.

The recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are provided for under the PRC Civil Procedures Law. PRC courts may recognize and enforce foreign judgments in accordance with the requirements of the PRC Civil Procedures Law based either on treaties between China and the country where the judgment is made or on principles of reciprocity between jurisdictions. China does not have any treaties or other forms of reciprocity with the United States that provide for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. In addition, according to the PRC Civil Procedures Law, the PRC courts will not enforce a foreign judgment against us or our director and officers if they decide that the judgment violates the basic principles of PRC laws or national sovereignty, security or public interest. As a result, it is uncertain whether and on what basis a PRC court would enforce a judgment rendered by a court in the United States.

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Since we are a Cayman Islands exempted company, the rights of our shareholders may be different from those of shareholders of a company organized in the United States or Hong Kong.

Under the laws of some jurisdictions in the United States, majority and controlling shareholders generally have certain fiduciary responsibilities to the minority shareholders. Shareholder action must be taken in good faith, and actions by controlling shareholders which are obviously unreasonable may be declared null and void. Cayman Islands law protecting the interests of minority shareholders may not be as protective in all circumstances as the law protecting minority shareholders in some U.S. jurisdictions. In addition, the circumstances in which a shareholder of a Cayman Islands company may sue the company derivatively, and the procedures and defenses that may be available to the company, may result in the rights of shareholders of a Cayman Islands company being more limited than those of shareholders of a company organized in the United States.

Furthermore, our directors have the power to take certain actions without shareholder approval which would require shareholder approval under Hong Kong law or the laws of most U.S. jurisdictions. Our ability to create and issue new classes or series of shares without shareholders’ approval could have the effect of delaying, deterring or preventing a change in control without any further action by our shareholders, including a tender offer to purchase our ordinary shares at a premium over then current market prices.

Furthermore, our Articles of Association are specific to us and include certain provisions that may be different from common practices in Hong Kong, such as the absence of requirements that the appointment, removal and remuneration of auditors must be approved by a majority of our shareholders.

You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through Hong Kong or U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law.

We are an exempted company limited by shares incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by our Memorandum and Articles of Association, the Companies Act (As Revised) of the Cayman Islands and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against our directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on 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 precedent in some jurisdictions in the United States or the Hong Kong courts. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States or Hong Kong. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States or Hong Kong courts.

Shareholders of Cayman Islands exempted companies like us have no general rights under Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders of these companies. Our directors have discretion under our Memorandum and Articles of Association to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder resolution or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.

As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by management, members of the board of directors or Controlling Shareholders than they would as public shareholders of a company incorporated in the United States or Hong Kong.

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Our Articles of Association contain anti-takeover provisions that could discourage a third party from acquiring us, which could limit our shareholders’ opportunity to sell their ADSs and/or ordinary shares at a premium.

We have adopted Articles of Association that contain provisions to limit the ability of others to acquire control of our company or cause us to engage in change-of-control transactions. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transaction. For example, our board of directors has the authority, without further action by our shareholders, to issue preferred shares in one or more series and to fix their designations, powers, preferences, privileges, and relative participating, optional or special rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions, including dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our ordinary shares, in the form of ADS or otherwise. Preferred shares could be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control of our company or make removal of management more difficult. If our board of directors decides to issue preferred shares, the price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, our Articles of Association contain other provisions that could limit the ability of third parties to acquire control of our company or cause us to engage in a transaction resulting in a change of control, as defined in our Articles of Association, including: a provision that entitles Class B ordinary shares to 20 votes per share at general meetings of our shareholders with respect to the election or removal of a simple majority of our directors; a provision that entitles Class B shareholders to nominate five of our directors; a provision that allows one of our principal shareholders to appoint up to three directors to our board of directors for so long as they beneficially own certain percentages of our issued share capital; and a classified board with staggered terms for our directors, which will prevent the replacement of a majority of directors at one time.

These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transaction.

We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the U.S. Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to U.S. domestic public companies.

Because we qualify as a foreign private issuer under the U.S. Exchange Act, we are exempt from certain provisions of the securities rules and regulations in the United States that are applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, including:

the rules under the U.S. Exchange Act requiring the filing with the SEC of quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K;
the sections of the U.S. Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the U.S. Exchange Act;
the sections of the U.S. Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their stock ownership and trading activities and liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time; and
the selective disclosure rules by issuers of material nonpublic information under Regulation Fair Disclosure.

We are required to file an annual report on Form 20-F within four months of the end of each fiscal year. In addition, we intend to publish our results on a quarterly basis as press releases, distributed pursuant to the rules and regulations of Nasdaq. Press releases relating to financial results and material events will also be furnished to the SEC on Form 6-K. However, the information we are required to file with or furnish to the SEC will be less extensive and less timely compared to that required to be filed with the SEC by U.S. domestic issuers. As a result, ADS holders may not be afforded the same protections or information that would be made available to them were they investing in a U.S. domestic issuer.

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As a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards; these practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we complied fully with the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards.

As a Cayman Islands company listed on the Nasdaq, we are subject to the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards. However, Nasdaq Stock Market Rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards.

For instance, we are not required to:

have a majority of the board be independent (although all of the members of the audit committee must be independent under the U.S. Exchange Act);
have a compensation committee or a nominations or corporate governance committee consisting entirely of independent directors; or
have regularly scheduled executive sessions with only independent directors each year.

We have relied on and intend to continue to rely on some of these exemptions. As a result, you may not be provided with the benefits of certain corporate governance requirements of Nasdaq.

We adopt different practices as to certain matters as compared with many other companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

We completed our public offering in Hong Kong in November 2020 and the trading of our ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange commenced on November 2, 2020 under the stock code “9698.” As a company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange pursuant to Chapter 19C of the Hong Kong Listing Rules, we are not subject to certain provisions of the Hong Kong Listing Rules pursuant to Rule 19C.11, including, among others, rules on notifiable transactions, connected transactions, share option schemes, content of financial statements as well as certain other continuing obligations. In addition, in connection with the listing of our ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, we have been granted a number of waivers and/or exemptions from strict compliance with the Hong Kong Listing Rules, the Companies (WUMP) Ordinance, the Takeovers Codes and the SFO. As a result, we adopt different practices as to those matters, including with respect to the content and presentation of our annual reports and interim reports, as compared with other companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that do not enjoy those exemptions or waivers.

Furthermore, if 55% or more of the total worldwide trading volume, by dollar value, of our ADSs and ordinary shares over our most recent fiscal year takes place on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will regard us as having a dual primary listing in Hong Kong . If our ADSs were not listed on a national stock exchange in the U.S., the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will regard us as having a primary listing in Hong Kong. See “—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by an auditor who is not inspected by the PCAOB and, as such, our investors are deprived of the benefits of such inspection and are exposed to uncertainties. In addition, the adoption of any rules, legislations or other efforts to increase U.S. regulatory access to audit information could cause uncertainty, and we could be delisted if we were unable to meet any PCAOB inspection requirement in time” and “—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—The perception among investors that the Company is at heightened risk of delisting from Nasdaq could negatively affect the market price of our securities and trading volume of our ADSs. If a delisting were to occur, we would face material adverse consequences.” If the Hong Kong Stock Exchange were to regard us has having a dual primary listing or primary listing in Hong Kong, we will no longer enjoy certain exemptions or waivers from strict compliance with the requirements under the Hong Kong Listing Rules, the Companies (WUMP) Ordinance, the Takeovers Codes and the SFO, which could result in our incurring incremental compliance costs. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that the Hong Kong Stock Exchange deemed us as having a dual primary listing in Hong Kong, we will be permitted to retain our existing weighted voting rights structure and our variable interest entity structure.

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Exchange between our ordinary shares and our ADSs may adversely affect the liquidity and/or trading price of each other.

Our ADSs are currently traded on Nasdaq. Subject to compliance with U.S. securities law and the terms of the deposit agreement, holders of our Class A ordinary shares may deposit Class A ordinary shares with the depositary in exchange for the issuance of our ADSs. Any holder of ADSs may also withdraw the underlying Class A ordinary shares represented by the ADSs pursuant to the terms of the deposit agreement for trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. In the event that a substantial number of Class A ordinary shares are deposited with the depositary in exchange for ADSs or vice versa, the liquidity and trading price of our Class A ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and our ADSs on Nasdaq may be adversely affected.

The time required for the exchange between ADSs and ordinary shares might be longer than expected and investors might not be able to settle or effect any sale of their securities during this period, and the exchange of ADSs into Class A ordinary shares involves costs.

There is no direct trading or settlement between Nasdaq and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on which our ADSs and our ordinary shares are respectively traded. In addition, the time differences between Hong Kong and New York and unforeseen market circumstances or other factors may delay the deposit of ordinary shares in exchange of ADSs or the withdrawal of ordinary shares underlying the ADSs. Investors will be prevented from settling or effecting the sale of their securities during such periods of delay. In addition, there is no assurance that any exchange of ordinary shares into ADSs (and vice versa) will be completed in accordance with the timelines investors may anticipate.

Furthermore, the depositary for the ADSs is entitled to charge holders fees for various services including for the issuance of ADSs upon deposit of ordinary shares, cancellation of ADSs, distributions of cash dividends or other cash distributions, distributions of ADSs pursuant to share dividends or other free share distributions, distributions of securities other than ADSs and annual service fees. As a result, shareholders who exchange ordinary shares into ADSs, and vice versa, may not achieve the level of economic return the shareholders may anticipate.

We may become a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States investors.

Based on the past and projected composition of our income and assets, and the valuation of our assets, including goodwill, we do not believe we were a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for our most recent taxable year and we do not expect to become one in the future, although there can be no assurance in this regard. 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, for any taxable year, 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 that taxable year is passive income or (ii) the average percentage of our assets (which includes cash) by value in that taxable year which produce, or are held for the production of, passive income 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.”

In addition, there is uncertainty as to the treatment of our corporate structure and ownership of the VIEs for United States federal income tax purposes. For United States federal income tax purposes, we consider ourselves to own the stock of the VIEs. If it is determined, contrary to our view, that we do not own the stock of the VIEs for United States federal income tax purposes (for instance, because the relevant PRC authorities do not respect these arrangements), we may be treated as a PFIC.

If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which you hold our ADSs or Class A ordinary shares, our PFIC status could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequences to you if you are a United States Holder, as defined under “Item 10. Additional Information-E. Taxation—Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations.” For example, if we are or become a PFIC, you may become subject to increased tax liabilities under United States federal income tax laws and regulations and will become subject to burdensome reporting requirements. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations—Passive Foreign Investment Company.” There can be no assurance that we will not be a PFIC for the current or any future taxable year.

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We will continue to incur increased costs as a result of being a public company, particularly since we have ceased to qualify as an “emerging growth company.”

Since the completion of our initial public offering, we have incurred significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and Nasdaq, impose various requirements on the corporate governance practices of public companies. Since December 31, 2018, we have been deemed to be a “large accelerated filer” as the term is defined in Rule 12b-2 of the U.S. Exchange Act, and we thereby ceased to be an “emerging growth company” as the term is defined in the JOBS Act.

These rules and regulations have increased our legal and financial compliance costs and made some corporate activities more time-consuming and costly. Since we have ceased to be an “emerging growth company,” we expect to incur significant expenses and devote substantial management effort toward ensuring compliance with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the other rules and regulations of the SEC. Operating as a public company has also made it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. In addition, we have incurred additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. It may also be more difficult for us to find qualified persons to serve on our board of directors or as executive officers. We will also incur additional costs as a result of the listing of our ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. We are currently evaluating and monitoring developments with respect to these rules and regulations, and we cannot predict or estimate with any degree of certainty the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs.

Shareholders of our company have in the past brought, and may in the future bring, securities class action lawsuits against our company following periods of instability in the market price of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares. On August 2, 2018, a securities class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Texas against GDS Holdings Limited, our Chief Executive Officer Mr. Huang, and our Chief Financial Officer Mr. Daniel Newman (collectively, “Defendants”) by Hamza Ramzan, a GDS shareholder. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Legal Proceedings.” On April 7, 2020, the court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint, and dismissed the action in its entirety against all Defendants. On May 6, 2020, plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal of that decision. On June 29, 2020, plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew their appeal, resulting in the dismissal of the case against all Defendants with prejudice. Any further class action lawsuit could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations, which could harm our results of operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit. Any such class action lawsuit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future.

We are exposed to risks associated with the potential spin-off of one or more of our businesses.

We are exposed to risks associated with the potential spin-off of one or more of our businesses. We have been granted a waiver from strict compliance with the requirements in Paragraph 3(b) of Practice Note 15 to the Hong Kong Listing Rules such that we are able to spin-off a subsidiary entity and list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange within three years of the listing of our ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. While we currently do not have any plan with respect to any spin-off listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, we may consider a spin-off listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for one or more of our businesses within the three year period subsequent to the listing of our ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The waiver granted by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is conditional upon us confirming to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in advance of any spin-off that it would not render our company incapable of fulfilling the eligibility requirements under Rule 19C.05 of the Hong Kong Listing Rules based on the financial information of the entity or entities to be spun-off at the time of the listing of our ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (calculated cumulatively if more than one entity is spun-off). In the event that we proceed with a spin-off, our interest in the entity to be spun-off will be reduced accordingly.

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There is uncertainty as to whether Hong Kong stamp duty will apply to the trading or conversion of our ADSs.

In connection with the initial public offering of our Class A ordinary shares in Hong Kong in November 2020, or the Hong Kong IPO, we established a branch register of members in Hong Kong, or the Hong Kong share register. Our Class A ordinary shares that are traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, including those issued in the Hong Kong IPO and those that may be converted from ADSs, are registered on the Hong Kong share register, and the trading of these Class A ordinary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange are subject to Hong Kong stamp duty. To facilitate ADS-ordinary share conversion and trading between Nasdaq and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, we have moved a portion of our issued Class A ordinary shares from our register of members maintained in the Cayman Islands to our Hong Kong share register.

Under the Hong Kong Stamp Duty Ordinance, any person who effects any sale or purchase of Hong Kong stock, defined as stock the transfer of which is required to be registered in Hong Kong, is required to pay Hong Kong stamp duty. The stamp duty is currently set at a total rate of 0.26% of the greater of the consideration for, or the value of, shares transferred, with 0.13% payable by each of the buyer and the seller.

To the best of our knowledge, Hong Kong stamp duty has not been levied in practice on the trading or conversion of ADSs of companies that are listed in both the United States and Hong Kong and that have maintained all or a portion of their ordinary shares, including ordinary shares underlying ADSs, in their Hong Kong share registers. However, it is unclear whether, as a matter of Hong Kong law, the trading or conversion of ADSs of these dual-listed companies constitutes a sale or purchase of the underlying Hong Kong-registered ordinary shares that is subject to Hong Kong stamp duty. We advise investors to consult their own tax advisors on this matter. If Hong Kong stamp duty is determined by the competent authority to apply to the trading or conversion of our ADSs, the trading price and the value of your investment in our ordinary shares and/or ADSs may be affected.

ITEM 4.    INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

A.          History and Development of the Company

We are an exempted company and were incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands on December 1, 2006. Our ADSs are listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol “GDS.” Our ordinary shares are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock code “9698.”

We operate our business through our wholly-owned subsidiaries, joint ventures, the VIEs and their subsidiaries. We own 100% of the shares in EDC Holding, an exempted company also incorporated in the Cayman Islands, through which we indirectly hold 100% of the equity interests in holding companies in Hong Kong, many of which own our data centers through one or more data center companies. Through EDC Holding we also indirectly hold 100% of the equity interests in GDS Investment Company.

The following are our key business milestones:

In 2001, we started our business as an IT service provider. Our initial focus was on business continuity and disaster recovery solutions. Many of our early customers were financial service institutions with demanding IT compliance standards. To guarantee the reliability and availability of services to them, we leased data center capacity from third parties.

In 2009, after realizing that there was a shortage of qualified data center capacity in key markets, we began developing our own data centers, thereby entering the data center business. We established our presence in Shanghai and Chengdu in 2010 and 2011, by bringing three data centers into service in these markets. From 2013 to 2014, we expanded our footprint to Beijing and Shenzhen and completed the construction of three data centers in these markets. By 2014, we had developed a supply of capacity in all of China’s Tier 1 markets.

In 2014, we received a major infusion of capital to fund data center development from STT GDC. We have since established a long-term strategic partnership with STT GDC, which has made several subsequent rounds of investment in us. STT GDC is a wholly owned subsidiary of ST Telemedia. STT GDC is an experienced and strategic data center player which owns a portfolio of data centers in Singapore, UK, Thailand, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and in China through GDS. As of April 15, 2022, STT GDC is our single largest shareholder and we benefit from STT GDC’s industry expertise, access to potential customer and supplier relationships, and solid corporate governance guidance.

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In 2016, we completed our initial public offering on NASDAQ under the symbol “GDS”.

In 2017, we began developing B-O-T data centers for specific customers. In August 2019, we entered into a strategic cooperation framework agreement with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, to develop and operate hyperscale B-O-T data centers for a strategic customer on a joint venture basis. According to the agreement, we will own 10% equity interest in the joint venture asset companies and GIC will own 90%. In September 2021, we entered into a new master joint venture investment agreement with GIC, pursuant to which the two parties will form joint ventures for the investment and development of hyperscale B-O-T data centers for several customers. According to the new agreement, we will own 51% equity interest in the joint venture asset companies and GIC will own 49%. We will continue to provide management and operation services to the joint ventures and earn recurring service fees. As of December 31, 2021, we completed the sale of a 49% equity interest of the project company of HL1 Phase 1 data center to GIC, as the first B-O-T joint venture data center pursuant to the new master joint venture investment agreement.

In 2018, we expanded our footprint of self-developed data centers to Hong Kong by purchasing an industrial property for conversion to a data center.

In 2020, we completed our secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock code of “9698.”

In 2021, we entered the Macau market, and launched our Southeast Asia plan by acquiring two parcels of greenfield land in Malaysia and Indonesia, both in the proximity of Singapore, as part of our “Singapore Plus” strategy in the region.

Principal Offices

Our principal executive offices are located at F4/F5, Building C, Sunland International, No. 999 Zhouhai Road, Pudong, Shanghai 200137, People’s Republic of China. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the offices of Conyers Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, Cricket Square, Hutchins Drive, P.O. Box 2681, Grand Cayman, KY1-1111, Cayman Islands. Prior to September 30, 2018, our agent for service of process in the United States was Law Debenture Corporate Services Inc., located at 801 2nd Avenue, Suite 403, New York, New York 10017, U.S.A. We appointed Cogency Global Inc., located at 122 East 42nd Street, 18th Floor, New York, New York 10168, U.S.A., as our successor agent for service of process in the United States, effective as of and after October 1, 2018.

B.Business Overview

We are a leading developer and operator of high-performance data centers in China. Our facilities are strategically located in China’s primary economic hubs where demand for high-performance data center services is concentrated. We also build, operate and transfer data centers at other locations selected by our customers to fulfill their broader requirements. Our data centers are designed and configured as high-performance data centers with large net floor area and power capacity, high power density and efficiency, and multiple redundancy across all critical systems.

We are carrier and cloud neutral, which enables our customers to access all the major PRC telecommunications networks, as well as the largest PRC and global public clouds which we host in many of our facilities.

We offer colocation and managed services, including direct private connection to leading public clouds, an innovative service platform for managing hybrid clouds and, where required, the resale of public cloud services. Our innovative and unique platform of interconnected data centers enables cloud service providers to expand in a flexible way in their key markets, and also enables enterprises to deploy their hybrid clouds in close proximity to the networked nodes of leading public clouds.

We have a 21-year track record of service delivery, successfully fulfilling the requirements of some of the largest and most demanding customers for outsourced data center services in China. As of December 31, 2021, we had an aggregate net floor area of 487,883 sqm in service, 93.8% of which was committed by customers, and an aggregate net floor area of 161,515 sqm under construction, 61.3% of which was pre-committed by customers.

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We believe the market for high-performance data center services in China is experiencing strong growth. Demand is driven by rapid growth in the volume of data created, transmitted, processed and stored as a result of the accelerating trend of digital transformation and the rising adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing, 5G, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, blockchain, internet of things, augmented and virtual reality, e-payments and digital currency. Demand is also driven by PRC government policies which consistently and actively support technology-driven development and the growth of the digital economy. The PRC government has promoted the concept of “new infrastructure” which includes, among other things, largescale data centers, artificial intelligence and industrial internet. Such policy orientation is ushering in new waves of investment at all levels of the economy, which we believe will give rise to numerous opportunities in the years to come.

To satisfy such demand requires data centers which are largescale, both in terms of net floor area and power capacity, highly reliable in terms of uptime, and highly efficient in terms of power usage. With increasing scale, it has become increasingly challenging to source, develop and operate new facilities that meet the required standard, in particular to secure suitable land and buildings which can be developed or converted into data center facilities and to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals and power supply in China’s primary economic hubs where demand is concentrated. As a result, we believe that there is a relative scarcity of high-performance data center capacity in these areas.

Our platform of interconnected data centers and secured expansion capacity is strategically located to address this growing demand. We develop and operate our data centers predominantly in and around Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing, the primary financial, commercial, industrial and communications hubs in each region of China. We refer to the areas in and around these hubs as Tier 1 markets. Our customers typically use our data centers in Tier 1 markets to house their mission-critical, latency-sensitive data and applications. Our data center locations provide convenient access for our customers and, furthermore, the extensive multi-carrier telecommunications networks in these markets enable our customers to enhance the performance and lower the cost of connectivity to our facilities. In the past, our data centers were mainly clustered in key urban districts within each Tier 1 market in accordance with customer preference. In order to keep pace with demand and overcome the challenge of creating new supply, we are also developing more data centers at strategic locations on the outer edge of these markets, including on campuses where we can expand capacity in multiple phases. These outer edge developments, which we still consider Tier 1 markets, enable our hyperscale customers to fulfill their requirement for larger deployments of IT capacity on a single site and to upscale over time, while remaining within acceptable parameters for network latency. In addition to our presence in Tier 1 markets, we also build, operate and transfer data centers at other locations selected by our customers in order to house their offline and less critical data and applications in lower cost areas where, at times, renewable energy sources are also accessible.

During 2021, we launched our Southeast Asia strategy to develop data centers in strategic locations in and around Singapore to better serve our customers’ requirements in the region. Through this “Singapore Plus” strategy, we seek to support customers who will benefit from a network of interconnected data centers in the region.

From our inception, we have built up our own in-house data center design capability, which we believe is unparalleled in the industry. We were one of the first movers in developing high-performance data centers in China, anticipating the trend for IT to become increasingly mission-critical, and then in combining high availability with larger net floor area and power capacity to meet the unprecedented requirements of hyperscale cloud service providers and large internet companies. Our data centers are largescale, highly reliable and highly efficient facilities that provide a flexible, modular and secure operating environment in which our customers can house, power and cool the computer systems and networking equipment that support their mission-critical IT. We install high power density (which refers to the ratio of power capacity to net floor area) and optimize power usage efficiency, which enables our customers to deploy their IT systems more efficiently and reduce their operating and capital costs. As a result of our advanced data center design, high technical specifications and robust operating procedures, we are able to make service level commitments related to service availability and other key metrics that meet our customers’ required standards. Within our data centers, we have also developed an innovative service platform to assist our enterprise customers to integrate and control every aspect of their hybrid cloud computing environment across their private servers and one or more public cloud service providers.

As of December 31, 2021, we served 760 customers, including PRC and global hyperscale cloud service providers and large internet companies, a diverse community of financial institutions, telecommunications carriers and IT service providers and large domestic private sector and multinational corporations, many of which are leaders in their respective industries. We host the largest public cloud platforms operating in China, some of which are present in multiple GDS data centers. Agreements with our hyperscale cloud service provider and large internet customers generally have terms of three to ten years, while agreements with our financial institution and enterprise customers typically have terms of one to five years.

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As of December 31, 2021, we operated 81 self-developed data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 478,901 sqm in service. We also operated capacity at 22 third-party data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 8,982 sqm in service, which we lease on a wholesale basis and use to provide colocation and managed services to our customers. As of the same date, we had a further 15 new self-developed data centers and multiple phases of eight existing self-developed data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 161,515 sqm under construction. As of the same date, we had an estimated aggregate developable net floor area of approximately 475,239 sqm held for potential future development. Our net revenue and results of operations are largely determined by the degree to which our data center capacity is committed or pre-committed as well as its utilization. We had commitment rates for our area in service of 92.1%, 94.6% and 93.8% as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. We had utilization rates for our area in service of 67.9%, 70.3% and 65.5% as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. The difference between commitment rate and utilization rate is primarily attributable to customers who have entered into agreements but have not yet started to use revenue-generating services.

We have experienced significant growth in recent years. Our net revenue grew from RMB4,122.4 million in 2019 to RMB5,739.0 million in 2020, representing an increase of 39.2%, and increased to RMB7,818.7 million (US$1,226.9 million) in 2021, representing an increase of 36.2%. Our net loss increased from RMB442.1 million in 2019 to RMB669.2 million in 2020, and increased to RMB1,191.2 million (US$186.9 million) in 2021. Our adjusted EBITDA increased from RMB1,824.0 million in 2019 to RMB2,680.6 million in 2020, and increased to RMB3,703.4 million (US$581.1 million) in 2021. As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, our accumulated deficit was RMB2,057.2 million, RMB2,723.6 million and RMB3,910.8 million (US$613.7 million), respectively.

Our Business Model

Our core business operations entail the planning and sourcing of new data centers, developing such facilities, securing customer commitments, providing our colocation and managed services to customers, and maintaining high levels of service and customer satisfaction to develop and maintain long-term relationships with our customers. We focus on developing and operating what we refer to as high-performance data centers. These are data centers that feature large net floor area and power capacity, high power density and efficiency, and multiple redundancy across all critical systems.

Sourcing

Our strong customer and industry relationships offer us insight into the size, timing, and location of future demand which is reflected in our data center capacity development plan. Based on this insight, we aim to secure land and buildings in Tier 1 markets, together with the required power capacity and regulatory approvals, including energy quota under the energy conservation review opinion, for future development commensurate with anticipated demand for our services. Our in-house team begins sourcing potential sites a few years in advance of planned development. We source new data center capacity by: (i) acquiring or leasing property which we develop for use as data center facilities, whether through constructing on greenfield land, redeveloping brownfield sites, converting existing industrial buildings, or fitting out and equipping purpose-built building shells; (ii) leasing existing data center capacity from third-party wholesale providers; and (iii) acquiring high-performance data centers from other companies.

Regardless of the source of our data center capacity, we ensure that the facilities meet the high-performance standards required by our target customers.

Construction

After procuring greenfield or brownfield sites or existing industrial buildings or purpose-built building shells, we design and, through cooperation with developers, contractors, and suppliers, build out the facility to achieve our advanced design and high technical specifications.

We take a modular approach to developing, commissioning, equipping and fitting out of facilities, so that we can cater to a range of customer requirements with regard to redundancy, power density, cooling, rack configuration and other technical specifications. In addition, by taking a modular approach, we are able to phase our capital expenditures related to equipping and fitting out individual computer rooms in accordance with proven sales demand or contractual delivery commitments to customers.

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Marketing

We usually commence marketing new data center facilities before we commence construction by seeking strong indications of interest from customers. We aim to convert such indications of interest into legally-binding pre-commitment agreements for a substantial part of the capacity under development as early as possible in the construction cycle. Such pre-commitments typically come from anchor customers who require largescale capacity, such as hyperscale cloud service providers and large internet companies. Through securing such pre-commitments, we are able to reduce investment risk and optimize resource planning. We had pre-commitment rates of 66.5%, 77.4% and 61.3% as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. Once construction is complete, and the data center enters service, we re-categorize area pre-committed as area committed. We aim to maintain high commitment rates for each of our data centers.

Due to the strength of customer demand, for certain sites, we deliberately do not seek pre-commitments, in order to reserve sufficient capacity for our financial institution and large enterprise customers who typically procure with a shorter lead time once data centers are in service. This also helps to ensure that we have sufficient capacity available to fulfill the anticipated expansion requirements of strategic customers who we are already serving in the same location. As a result of this sales approach, some of our data centers under construction and in service have lower pre-commitment and commitment rates, respectively.

Delivery

Once construction is complete, and the data center enters service, we re-categorize area under construction as area in service.

Anchor customers with largescale commitments typically move in over a period of 12 to 24 months, whereas financial institutions and large enterprise customers typically move in over a period of three to six months. The longer move-in period for anchor customers is due to the larger scale of their deployments and operational models, under which they increase utilization of committed data center capacity in multiple phases and in line with the increasing load on their IT systems. During such move-in periods, customers have the right to use part or all of the services for which they have committed. They are billed for the amount of services they actually use, subject to a minimum billable amount as stated in the sales agreements. Such minimum billable amount typically steps up over time. In practice, during the move-in period, most customers’ actual usage and billing is higher than the minimum. Customers are not allowed to terminate their sales agreements before the end of the move-in period. See “Our Business—Our Customers—Sales Agreements.” The portion of area committed by customers which is revenue generating is referred to as area utilized. As a result of the flexibility granted to customers to use part or all of the services during the move-in period, some of our data centers have lower utilization rates.

Commitment and Utilization Rates

Our business model provides us with high levels of revenue visibility due to the long-term nature of our customer agreements and substantial backlog. Backlog is defined as area committed or pre-committed by customers but yet to be utilized (total area committed minus area utilized at the end of each period). As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, we had backlog of 120,521 sqm, 203,369 sqm and 237,347 sqm, respectively. The increase in backlog across these periods was primarily due to higher levels of customer commitments and pre-commitments. We endeavor to provide high levels of customer service, support, and satisfaction to maintain long-term customer relationships and high rates of agreement renewals for our services. We had a very low incidence of sales agreements that expired without renewal or terminated early, as evidenced by our average quarterly churn rate of 0.5%, 0.8% and 0.4% for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.

For our in-service data centers, we aim to maintain high levels of long-term commitment and utilization rates. We had commitment rates for our area in service of 92.1%, 94.6% and 93.8% as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. We had utilization rates for our area in service of 67.9%, 70.3% and 65.5% as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. The difference between commitment rate and utilization rate is primarily attributable to customers who have not yet fully utilized all the revenue-generating services for which they have committed. Until the end of the move-in period, the area committed is not fully categorized as area utilized.

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Due to the typical time lag for move-in, our continual expansion of our data center capacity, and the high proportion of anchor customers with largescale commitments, we expect that our utilization rate will continue to lag behind our commitment rate. For data centers that have been in operation for a longer period of time, the commitment rate and utilization rate will tend to converge, as customers have fully moved in.

Our Data Centers

Our data centers are largescale, highly reliable and highly efficient facilities that provide a flexible, modular and secure operating environment in which our customers can house, power and cool the computer systems and networking equipment that support their mission-critical IT infrastructure. We install large power capacity, together with engineering technologies to optimize PUE, enabling our customers to deploy their IT infrastructure more efficiently and reduce their operating and capital costs.

We develop and operate our data centers predominantly in and around Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing, the primary financial, commercial, industrial and communications hubs in each region of China. We refer to the areas in and around these hubs as Tier 1 markets. Our customers typically use our data centers in Tier 1 markets to house their mission-critical, latency-sensitive data and applications. Our data center locations provide convenient access for our customers and, furthermore, the extensive multi-carrier telecommunications networks in these markets enable our customers to enhance the performance and lower the cost of connectivity to our facilities. We also build, operate and transfer data centers at other locations selected by our customers in order to fulfill their broader requirements. We have also begun developing data centers in Southeast Asia by developing data centers in strategic locations in and around Singapore to better serve our customers’ requirements in the region.

In 2021, we commenced construction of 14 new self-developed data centers and multiple phases of two existing data centers and data centers through acquisitions with a total net floor area of 121,872 sqm. As of December 31, 2021, we had an aggregate net floor area under construction of 161,515 sqm, 61.3% of which was pre-committed. In 2021, we completed construction and brought into service 18 new self-developed data centers with a total net floor area of 116,477 sqm. In 2021, we acquired SZ9 with a net floor area of 2,217 sqm, BJ15 with a net floor area of 19,166 sqm, BJ17 and BJ18 with an aggregate net floor area of 3,698 sqm, BJ20, BJ21, BJ22 and BJ23 with an aggregate net floor area of 11,632 sqm which were all in service when acquired. As of December 31, 2021, we had an aggregate net floor area in service of 487,883 sqm, this capacity was 93.8% committed and 65.5% utilized.

The following table presents certain information relating to our data center portfolio as of December 31, 2021:

Area held for

Area

Area under

future

(Sqm)

    

in service

    

construction

    

development

Location

Beijing - Tianjin - Hebei

 

221,608

 

77,968

 

43,529

Yangtze River Delta

 

157,356

 

39,272

 

121,942

Greater Bay Area(1)

 

81,794

 

35,635

 

210,195

Chengdu - Chongqing

 

14,537

 

8,640

 

38,005

Other (China)

11,666

33,568

Southeast Asia

 

923

 

 

28,000

Total

 

487,883

 

161,515

 

475,239

Type

 

 

 

Self-developed

 

409,990

 

158,075

 

475,239

B-O-T

68,910

3,440

Third party

 

8,982

 

 

Total

 

487,883

 

161,515

 

475,239

(1)Greater Bay Area includes Hong Kong and Macau.

As of December 31, 2021, our total area committed was 556,822 sqm, of which 457,838 sqm and 98,983 sqm related to data centers in service and data centers under construction, respectively.

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Self-Developed Data Centers

As of December 31, 2021, we operated 81 self-developed data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 478,901 sqm in service. As of the same date, we had a further 15 new self-developed data centers and multiple phases of eight existing self-developed data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 161,515 sqm, under construction. In addition, we had an estimated aggregate developable net floor area of approximately 475,239 sqm held for potential future development.

High-Performance Features. Our self-developed data centers generally feature:

High Availability. Over 90% of our self-developed data center capacity in service and under construction is equipped with 2N redundant delivery paths for power, cooling and other critical systems. 2N redundancy entails significant additional up-front investment and decreases the yield of net floor area in a building of a given size. By installing 2N redundancy and operating our facilities to the highest standards, we are able to satisfy the requirements of the most demanding customers for housing their mission-critical IT infrastructure.
High Power Density. Our self-developed data center capacity in service and under construction has an average power density of approximately 2.24 kW/sqm, which we believe is far above the average for data centers in China. High power density must be incorporated into the data center design from inception and entails increased development cost per sqm of net floor area. By installing high power density, we enable our customers to deploy their IT infrastructure more efficiently and to optimize their IT infrastructure performance. This is of particular importance to hyperscale cloud service provider and large internet customers as it reduces their IT investment and operating costs.
High Power Efficiency. Our self-developed data centers are designed to achieve high power efficiency, which is expressed conversely by a low PUE ratio. In 2021, our self-developed data centers in stabilized operation had an average PUE of around 1.3, which we believe is significantly below the average for data centers in China. High power efficiency reduces operating costs, for the benefit of our customers and ourselves, and reduces our carbon footprint. A low PUE ratio is of particular importance to hyperscale cloud service provider and large internet customers who have the most demanding performance targets.

In addition to the high-performance features described above, our data centers provide flexible fit-out, sufficient floor load bearing strength and clear slab-to-slab height to support dense deployment of IT hardware, multiple layers of physical security, early fire detection monitoring and fire suppression systems, diverse connectivity, and other amenities.

We believe that this combination of high availability, high power density, high power efficiency and other features enables us to serve the most sophisticated and demanding users of data center services who seek cost efficient solutions for their requirements, without compromise on performance across multiple operating parameters.

Types of Data Centers. We have a diversified and flexible approach to developing our data center portfolio. We categorize our self-developed data centers into the following three types:

Purpose-Built. Purpose-built data centers are facilities which are designed and constructed specifically for use as data centers. Our purpose-built facilities comprise those that we design ourselves and for which we directly oversee the construction and fit out, as well as certain of the facilities that we lease or have acquired from third parties. Purpose-built and build-operate-transfer facilities represented approximately 50.2% by aggregate net floor area of our self-developed data centers in service and under construction as of December 31, 2021.
Converted. Conversion involves repurposing existing industrial buildings for use as data centers. We undertake conversions in order to fulfill demand where time-to-market and site opportunity do not allow us to purpose-build. We carefully select such buildings based on their suitability for use as data centers. We design and construct to the same high technical specifications as our purpose-built data centers, so as to ensure that the end product is of a comparable standard. Converted facilities represented approximately 49.8% by aggregate net floor area of our self-developed data centers in service and under construction as of December 31, 2021.

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