Company Quick10K Filing
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GDS Holdings
20-F 2018-12-31 Annual: 2018-12-31
20-F 2017-12-31 Annual: 2017-12-31
20-F 2016-12-31 Annual: 2016-12-31
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GDS 2018-12-31
Part I.
Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers
Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable
Item 3. Key Information
Item 4. Information on The Company
Item 4A. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects
Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees
Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions
Item 8. Financial Information
Item 9. The Offer and Listing
Item 10. Additional Information
Item 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Item 12. Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities
Part II.
Item 13. Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies
Item 14. Material Modifications To The Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds
Item 15. Controls and Procedures
Item 16A. Audit Committee Financial Expert
Item 16B. Code of Ethics
Item 16C. Principal Accountant Fees and Services
Item 16D. Exemptions From The Listing Standards for Audit Committees
Item 16E. Purchase of Equity Securities By The Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers
Item 16F. Change in Registrant's Certifying Accountant
Item 16G. Corporate Governance
Item 16H. Mine Safety
Part III.
Item 17. Financial Statements
Item 18. Financial Statements
Item 19. Exhibit Index
EX-4.5 a19-2732_1ex4d5.htm
EX-4.36 a19-2732_1ex4d36.htm
EX-8.1 a19-2732_1ex8d1.htm
EX-12.1 a19-2732_1ex12d1.htm
EX-12.2 a19-2732_1ex12d2.htm
EX-13.1 a19-2732_1ex13d1.htm
EX-13.2 a19-2732_1ex13d2.htm
EX-15.1 a19-2732_1ex15d1.htm
EX-15.2 a19-2732_1ex15d2.htm

GDS Holdings Earnings 2018-12-31

GDS 20F Annual Report

Balance SheetIncome StatementCash Flow

20-F 1 a19-2732_120f.htm 20-F

Table of Contents

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 20-F

 

(Mark One)

 

o

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

 

 

OR

 

 

x

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018.

 

 

OR

 

 

o

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

 

 

OR

 

 

o

SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 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)

 

2/F, Tower 2, Youyou Century Place

428 South Yanggao Road

Pudong, Shanghai 200127

People’s Republic of China

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

Contact Person: Mr. Daniel Newman

Chief Financial Officer

+86-21-2033-0303

2/F, Tower 2, Youyou Century Place

428 South Yanggao Road

Pudong, Shanghai 200127

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

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

American Depositary Shares, each representing eight
Class A ordinary shares

 

NASDAQ Global Market

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

 

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

 


Table of Contents

 

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

 

None

 

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

 

939,479,307 Class A ordinary shares were outstanding as of December 31, 2018

67,590,336 Class B ordinary shares were outstanding as of December 31, 2018

 

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

x Yes   o No

 

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

o Yes   x 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.

x Yes   o No

 

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

x Yes   o No

 

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

 

Large accelerated filer x

 

Accelerated filer o

 

Non-accelerated filer o

 

Emerging growth company o

 

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

 

†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 which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:

 

U.S. GAAP x

 

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

 

Other o

 

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

o Item 17   o Item 18

 

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

o Yes   x No

 

(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.

 

o Yes   o No

 


Table of Contents

 

GDS HOLDINGS LIMITED

 

FORM 20-F ANNUAL REPORT
FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2018

 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

 

Page

 

 

 

 

PART I.

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1.

IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

2

 

ITEM 2.

OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

2

 

ITEM 3.

KEY INFORMATION

2

 

ITEM 4.

INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

51

 

ITEM 4A.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

84

 

ITEM 5.

OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

84

 

ITEM 6.

DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES

114

 

ITEM 7.

MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

131

 

ITEM 8.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

135

 

ITEM 9.

THE OFFER AND LISTING

136

 

ITEM 10.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

136

 

ITEM 11.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

143

 

ITEM 12.

DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES

144

 

 

 

 

PART II.

 

 

146

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 13.

DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES

146

 

ITEM 14.

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

146

 

ITEM 15.

CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

147

 

ITEM 16A.

AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT

148

 

ITEM 16B.

CODE OF ETHICS

148

 

ITEM 16C.

PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES

149

 

ITEM 16D.

EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES

149

 

ITEM 16E.

PURCHASE OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS

149

 

ITEM 16F.

CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT

149

 

ITEM 16G.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

149

 

ITEM 16H.

MINE SAFETY

150

 

 

 

 

PART III.

 

 

150

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 17.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

150

 

ITEM 18.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

150

 

ITEM 19.

EXHIBIT INDEX

150

 

i


Table of Contents

 

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

 

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

 

·                  “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 the net floor area of data centers in service for which agreements from customers remain in effect;

 

·                  “area held for future development” are to the estimated data center net floor area that we expect to be able to develop on land, at buildings and pursuant to development or lease agreements which we have secured, but which are not under construction;

 

·                  “area in service” are to the net floor area of data centers in service for which one or more modules have been equipped and fitted out ready for utilization by customers;

 

·                  “area pre-committed” are to the net floor area of data centers under construction for which agreements from customers remain in effect;

 

·                  “area utilized” are to the net floor area of data centers in service that is also revenue generating pursuant to customer agreements in effect;

 

·                  “area under construction” are to the net floor area of data centers which are under construction and are not yet ready for service;

 

·                  “China” and the “PRC” are to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report on Form 20-F only, Taiwan, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region;

 

·                  “commitment rate” are to the ratio of area committed to area in service;

 

·                  “ordinary shares” refers to, collectively, our Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.00005 per share;

 

·                  “pre-commitment rate” are to the ratio of area pre-committed to area under construction;

 

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

 

·                  “self-developed data centers” are to data centers that we have either purpose-built, acquired while under construction or fully operational, or converted from existing buildings to fit our standards;

 

·                  “sqm” are to square meters;

 

·                  “third-party data centers” are to data center net floor area that we lease on a wholesale basis from other data center providers and use to provide data center services to our customers;

 

·                  “total area committed” are to the sum of area committed and area pre-committed;

 

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

 

·                  “utilization rate” are to the ratio of area utilized to area in service; and

 

·                  “we,” “us,” “our company” and “our” are to GDS Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries and consolidated affiliated entities, as the context requires.

 

Unless specifically indicated otherwise or unless the context otherwise requires, all references to our ordinary shares exclude Class A ordinary shares issuable upon the exercise of outstanding options with respect to our ordinary shares under our share incentive plans.

 

This annual report on Form 20-F includes our audited consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

 

Our ADSs are listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol “GDS.”

 

1


Table of Contents

 

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

 

A.                                    Selected Financial Data

 

The selected consolidated financial data shown below should be read in conjunction with “Item 5. Operating and Financial review and Prospects,” and the financial statements and the notes to those statements included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 20-F. The selected consolidated statement of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 and 2018 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 20-F. We derived the selected consolidated statement of operations data for the year ended December 31, 2014 and 2015, and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2014, 2015 and 2016, as set forth below, from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this Form 20-F. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP.

 

On May 19, 2016, we, through GDS Beijing, acquired all the equity interest in Guangzhou Weiteng Construction Co., Ltd., or Weiteng Construction, from a third party for an aggregate purchase price of RMB129.5 million. Weiteng Construction is a limited liability company organized and existing under the PRC law and operates a data center (“GZ1”) in Guangzhou, China. Since the date of the acquisition, Weiteng Construction has been our consolidated variable interest entity and has been consolidated with our results of operations.

 

On June 29, 2017, we consummated an acquisition of all the equity interests in a target group comprising two onshore entities (Shenzhen Yaode Data Services Co., Ltd., or Shenzhen Yaode, and Shenzhen Jinyao Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Shenzhen Jinyao) and an offshore entity (RDTJ Limited or RDTJ, which has an onshore subsidiary, Guangzhou Shi Wan Guo Yun Lan Data Technology Co., Ltd., or Guangzhou Yunlan) from third parties for an aggregate contingent purchase price of RMB312.0 million. The target group owns a data center project (“SZ5”) in Shenzhen, China. As of the date of the acquisition, the data center had just commenced operations. Since the date of the acquisition, the target group has been our subsidiary and has been consolidated with our results of operations.

 

On October 9, 2017, we consummated an acquisition of all equity interests in a target group comprising an onshore entity (Guangzhou Weiteng Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Weiteng Network) and an offshore entity (Raojin Limited, or Raojin, which has an onshore subsidiary, Wan Qing Teng Data (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., or Wan Qing Teng) from third parties for a cash consideration of RMB234.0 million. The target group owns a data center project (“GZ2”) in Guangzhou, China. As of the date of the acquisition, the data center was fully operational. Since the date of the acquisition, the target group has been our subsidiary and has been consolidated with our results of operations.

 

In May 2018, we consummated an acquisition of all equity interests in a target group comprising an onshore entity (Guangzhou Weiteng Data Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Weiteng Data) and an offshore entity (PSDC Limited, or PSDC, which has an onshore subsidiary, Shenzhen Qian Hai Wan Chang Technology Services Co., Ltd., or Qian Hai Wan Chang) from third parties for a cash consideration of RMB262.2 million (US$38.1 million), subject to adjustment, if any, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the equity purchase agreement. The target group owns a data center project (“GZ3”) in Guangzhou, China. At the date of the acquisition, the data center had just commenced operations. The company operating the data center has its own IDC license.

 

2


Table of Contents

 

In June 2018, we consummated an acquisition of all equity interests in a target company (Cai Tuo Cloud Computing (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., or Shanghai Cai Tuo) from third parties for a consideration of RMB320.0 million (US$46.5 million), subject to adjustment, if any, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the equity purchase agreement. The target company owns a data center project (“SH11”) in Shanghai, China. At the date of the acquisition, the data center was fully operational. The company operating the data center has its own IDC license.

 

See note 8 of our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 20-F.

 

Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any future period.

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except for numbers of shares and per share data)

 

Consolidated Statement of Operations Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net revenue

 

468,337

 

703,636

 

1,055,960

 

1,616,166

 

2,792,077

 

406,091

 

Cost of revenue

 

(388,171

)

(514,997

)

(790,286

)

(1,207,694

)

(2,169,636

)

(315,560

)

Gross profit

 

80,166

 

188,639

 

265,674

 

408,472

 

622,441

 

90,531

 

Operating expenses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selling and marketing expenses

 

(40,556

)

(57,588

)

(71,578

)

(90,118

)

(110,570

)

(16,082

)

General and administrative expenses

 

(113,711

)

(128,714

)

(227,370

)

(228,864

)

(329,601

)

(47,938

)

Research and development expenses

 

(1,597

)

(3,554

)

(9,100

)

(7,261

)

(13,915

)

(2,024

)

(Loss) Income from operations

 

(75,698

)

(1,217

)

(42,374

)

82,229

 

168,355

 

24,487

 

Other income (expenses)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net interest expense

 

(124,973

)

(125,546

)

(263,164

)

(406,403

)

(636,973

)

(92,644

)

Foreign currency exchange (loss) gain, net

 

(875

)

11,107

 

18,310

 

(12,299

)

20,306

 

2,953

 

Government grants

 

4,870

 

3,915

 

2,217

 

3,062

 

3,217

 

468

 

Gain on remeasurement of equity investment

 

62,506

 

 

 

 

 

 

Others, net

 

(412

)

1,174

 

284

 

435

 

5,436

 

791

 

Loss before income taxes

 

(134,582

)

(110,567

)

(284,727

)

(332,976

)

(439,659

)

(63,945

)

Income tax benefits

 

4,583

 

11,983

 

8,315

 

6,076

 

9,391

 

1,366

 

Net loss

 

(129,999

)

(98,584

)

(276,412

)

(326,900

)

(430,268

)

(62,579

)

Extinguishment of redeemable preferred shares

 

(106,515

)

 

 

 

 

 

Change in redemption value of redeemable preferred shares

 

(69,116

)

(110,926

)

205,670

 

 

 

 

Cumulative Dividends on preferred shares

 

(3,509

)

(7,127

)

(332,660

)

 

 

 

Net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders

 

(309,139

)

(216,637

)

(403,402

)

(326,900

)

(430,268

)

(62,579

)

Net loss per ordinary share—basic and diluted

 

(1.91

)

(0.99

)

(1.35

)

(0.42

)

(0.43

)

(0.06

)

Weighted average number of ordinary shares outstanding—basic and diluted

 

162,070,745

 

217,987,922

 

299,093,937

 

784,566,371

 

990,255,959

 

990,255,959

 

 

 

 

As of December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except for numbers of shares and per share data)

 

Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash

 

606,758

 

924,498

 

1,811,319

 

1,873,446

 

2,161,622

 

314,395

 

Accounts receivable, net

 

73,366

 

111,013

 

198,851

 

364,654

 

536,842

 

78,080

 

Total current assets

 

745,831

 

1,186,699

 

2,210,313

 

2,454,028

 

3,037,396

 

441,771

 

Property and equipment, net

 

1,694,944

 

2,512,687

 

4,322,891

 

8,165,601

 

13,994,945

 

2,035,480

 

Goodwill and intangible assets

 

1,350,524

 

1,341,599

 

1,433,656

 

1,919,221

 

2,234,462

 

324,989

 

Total assets

 

3,854,074

 

5,128,272

 

8,203,866

 

13,144,567

 

20,885,243

 

3,037,632

 

Total current liabilities

 

897,630

 

925,049

 

1,479,221

 

2,423,071

 

3,507,879

 

510,199

 

Total liabilities

 

1,706,600

 

3,073,463

 

5,217,392

 

8,669,055

 

15,363,318

 

2,234,502

 

Redeemable preferred shares

 

2,164,039

 

2,395,314

 

 

 

 

 

Total shareholders’ (deficit) equity

 

(16,565

)

(340,505

)

2,986,474

 

4,475,512

 

5,521,925

 

803,130

 

 

3


Table of Contents

 

Key Financial Metrics

 

We monitor the following key financial metrics to help us evaluate growth trends, establish budgets, measure the effectiveness of our business strategies and assess operational efficiencies:

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

Other Consolidated Financial Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gross margin(1)

 

17.1

%

26.8

%

25.2

%

25.3

%

22.3

%

Operating margin(2)

 

(16.2

)%

(0.2

)%

(4.0

)%

5.1

%

6.0

%

Net margin(3)

 

(27.8

)%

(14.0

)%

(26.2

)%

(20.2

)%

(15.4

)%

 


(1)         Gross profit as a percentage of net revenue.

(2)         Income (loss) from operations as a percentage of net revenue.

(3)         Net income (loss) as a percentage of net revenue.

 

Non-GAAP Measures

 

In evaluating our business, we consider and use the following non-GAAP measures as supplemental measures to review and assess our operating performance:

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except for numbers of shares and per share data)

 

Non-GAAP Consolidated Financial Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDA(1)

 

38,044

 

164,701

 

270,545

 

512,349

 

1,046,538

 

152,215

 

Adjusted EBITDA margin(2)

 

8.1

%

23.4

%

25.6

%

31.7

%

37.5

%

37.5

%

Adjusted net operating income (Adjusted NOI)(3)

 

154,114

 

320,475

 

475,100

 

764,726

 

1,322,585

 

192,363

 

Adjusted NOI margin(4)

 

32.9

%

45.5

%

45.0

%

47.3

%

47.4

%

47.4

%

 


(1)         Adjusted EBITDA is defined as net income or net loss excluding net interest expenses, incomes tax benefits, depreciation and amortization, accretion expenses for asset retirement costs, share-based compensation expenses and gain on remeasurement of equity investment.

(2)         Adjusted EBITDA margin is defined as adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of net revenue.

(3)         Adjusted net operating income (Adjusted NOI) is defined as net loss (computed in accordance with GAAP), excluding: net interest expenses, income tax benefits, depreciation and amortization, accretion expenses for asset retirement costs, share-based compensation expenses, gain on remeasurement of equity investment, selling and marketing expenses, general and administrative expenses, research and development expenses, foreign currency exchange loss (gain), government grants and others.

(4)         Adjusted NOI margin is defined as adjusted NOI as a percentage of net revenue.

 

Our management and board of directors use adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA margin, adjusted NOI, and adjusted NOI margin, which are non-GAAP financial measures, to evaluate our operating performance, establish budgets and develop operational goals for managing our business. In particular, we believe that the exclusion of the income and expenses eliminated in calculating adjusted EBITDA and adjusted NOI can provide a useful measure of our core operating performance.

 

We also present these non-GAAP measures because we believe these non-GAAP measures are frequently used by securities analysts, investors and other interested parties as measures of the financial performance of companies in our industry.

 

These non-GAAP financial measures are not defined under U.S. GAAP and are not presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. These non-GAAP financial measures have limitations as analytical tools, and when assessing our operating performance, cash flows or our liquidity, investors should not consider them in isolation, or as a substitute for net income (loss), cash flows provided by operating activities or other consolidated statements of operations and cash flow data prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. There are a number of limitations related to the use of these non-GAAP financial measures instead of their nearest GAAP equivalent. First, adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA margin, adjusted NOI, and adjusted NOI margin are not substitutes for gross profit, net income (loss), cash flows provided by operating activities or other consolidated statements of operation and cash flow data prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Second, other companies may calculate these non-GAAP financial measures differently or may use other measures to evaluate their performance, all of which could reduce the usefulness of these non-GAAP financial measures as tools for comparison. Finally, these non-GAAP financial measures do not reflect the impact of net interest expenses, incomes tax benefits, depreciation and amortization, accretion expenses for asset retirement costs, and share-based compensation expenses, each of which have been and may continue to be incurred in our business.

 

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We mitigate these limitations by reconciling the non-GAAP financial measure to the most comparable U.S. GAAP performance measure, all of which should be considered when evaluating our performance.

 

The following table reconciles our adjusted EBITDA in the years presented to the most directly comparable financial measure calculated and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP, which is net income or net loss:

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except for numbers of shares and per share data)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net loss

 

(129,999

)

(98,584

)

(276,412

)

(326,900

)

(430,268

)

(62,579

)

Net interest expenses

 

124,973

 

125,546

 

263,164

 

406,403

 

636,973

 

92,644

 

Income tax benefits

 

(4,583

)

(11,983

)

(8,315

)

(6,076

)

(9,391

)

(1,366

)

Depreciation and amortization

 

82,753

 

145,406

 

227,355

 

378,130

 

741,507

 

107,848

 

Accretion expenses for asset retirement costs

 

73

 

255

 

588

 

949

 

1,840

 

268

 

Share-based compensation expenses

 

27,333

 

4,061

 

64,165

 

59,843

 

105,877

 

15,400

 

Gain on remeasurement of equity investment

 

(62,506

)

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDA

 

38,044

 

164,701

 

270,545

 

512,349

 

1,046,538

 

152,215

 

 

The following table reconciles our adjusted NOI in the years presented to the most directly comparable financial measure calculated and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP, which is net income or net loss:

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

 

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

RMB

 

US$

 

 

 

(in thousands, except for numbers of shares and per share data)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net loss

 

(129,999

)

(98,584

)

(276,412

)

(326,900

)

(430,268

)

(62,579

)

Net interest expenses

 

124,973

 

125,546

 

263,164

 

406,403

 

636,973

 

92,644

 

Income tax benefits

 

(4,583

)

(11,983

)

(8,315

)

(6,076

)

(9,391

)

(1,366

)

Depreciation and amortization

 

82,753

 

145,406

 

227,355

 

378,130

 

741,507

 

107,848

 

Accretion expenses for asset retirement costs

 

73

 

255

 

588

 

949

 

1,840

 

268

 

Share-based compensation expenses

 

27,333

 

4,061

 

64,165

 

59,843

 

105,877

 

15,400

 

Gain on remeasurement of equity investment

 

(62,506

)

 

 

 

 

 

Selling and marketing expenses (1)

 

38,599

 

57,263

 

64,988

 

71,728

 

85,357

 

12,415

 

General and administrative expenses (1)

 

79,457

 

111,403

 

152,054

 

165,785

 

207,255

 

30,142

 

Research and development expenses (1)

 

1,597

 

3,304

 

8,324

 

6,062

 

12,394

 

1,803

 

Foreign currency exchange loss (gain), net

 

875

 

(11,107

)

(18,310

)

12,299

 

(20,306

)

(2,953

)

Government grants

 

(4,870

)

(3,915

)

(2,217

)

(3,062

)

(3,217

)

(468

)

Others, net

 

412

 

(1,174

)

(284

)

(435

)

(5,436

)

(791

)

Adjusted NOI

 

154,114

 

320,475

 

475,100

 

764,726

 

1,322,585

 

192,363

 

 


(1)         Selling and marketing expenses, general and administrative expenses and research and development expenses exclude depreciation and amortization and share-based compensation expenses.

 

B.                                    Capitalization and Indebtedness

 

Not required.

 

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C.                                    Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds

 

Not required.

 

D.                                    Risk Factors

 

Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry

 

A slowdown in the demand for data center resources 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 resources 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 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 space 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 occurs, they are likely to impact market demand and pricing for our services.

 

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 RMB1,056.0 million in 2016 to RMB1,616.2 million in 2017, representing an increase of 53.1%, and increased to RMB2,792.1 million (US$406.1 million) in 2018, representing an increase of 72.8%. 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 contract arrangement and provide consulting services. Our net revenues for colocation were RMB770.1 million, RMB1,219.1 million and RMB2,104.3 million (US$306.1 million) in 2016, 2017 and 2018, representing 72.9%, 75.4% and 75.4% of total net revenue over the same periods, respectively. Our net revenues for managed services and consulting services were RMB232.9 million, RMB372.8 million and RMB655.2 million (US$95.3 million) in 2016, 2017 and 2018, representing 22.1%, 23.1% and 23.4% 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 site 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;

 

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·                  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;

 

·                  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.

 

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

 

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 and the provision of cloud infrastructure and solutions to assist customers in managing their hybrid clouds. 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 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.

 

We face risks associated with having a long selling and implementation cycle for our services that 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 contract. 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.

 

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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 identify suitable land or facilities 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.

 

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, 2018, we had total consolidated indebtedness of RMB12,793.0 million (US$1,860.7 million), including borrowings, capital 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;

 

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·                  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 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 results of operations could be adversely affected.

 

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 subsidiary and/or our consolidated VIEs, namely GDS Shanghai, 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 borrower’s outstanding loans stay within a “borrowing range.” A subsidiary of ours in the past failed to meet the borrowing range requirement and although the subsidiary obtained a waiver letter from the creditor that waived the covenant violations, 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 an ownership percentage in our company of at least 25% or, in some cases, at least 30%. If STT GDC’s ownership in our company were to decrease below either of these percentages, 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, other loan facility agreements of ours require that the IDC license of GDS Beijing or the borrowing subsidiaries, 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, recently 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 timely renew their authorizations to provide IDC services under the auspices of GDS Beijing’s IDC license, and such subsidiaries cannot timely 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.

 

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.

 

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 October 9, 2018, 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. 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.

 

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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 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.

 

Increased power costs and limited availability of power resources may adversely affect our results of operations.

 

We are a large consumer of power and costs of power account for a significant portion of our cost of revenue. We require power supply to provide many services we offer, such as powering and cooling our customers’ servers and network equipment and operating critical data center plant and equipment infrastructure. Since we rely on two centralized power utility suppliers, State Grid and Southern Grid, to provide our data centers with power, our data centers could have limited or inadequate access to power.

 

New requirements or restrictions imposed by local authorities as to energy conversation or industrial policies may also limit our ability to obtain power supply and expand our business. 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. We plan to conduct relevant energy conservation examinations of our data center construction projects to meet the requirements under relevant laws and regulations (including requirements of local authorities). However, we may incur additional costs in order to fulfill such requirements, and we cannot assure you that our data centers will meet all the requirements and that we will obtain all relevant approvals, the lack of which could have a material and adverse effect on our business and expected growth.

 

The amount of power required by our customers may increase as they adopt new technologies, for example, for virtualization of hardware resources. 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 contracts, 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 space 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 would harm our financial condition and results of operations.

 

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We have a history of net losses and may continue to incur losses in the future.

 

We incurred net losses of RMB276.4 million, RMB326.9 million and RMB430.3 million (US$62.6 million) in 2016, 2017 and 2018, 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 space, 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 and 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 leasing data center space, increased headcount and increased utility expenses.

 

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 the landlords of the buildings in which our leased facilities are located;

 

·                  physical, electronic and cyber security breaches;

 

·                  fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood and other natural disasters;

 

·                  extreme temperatures;

 

·                  water damage;

 

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·                  public health emergencies; and

 

·                  terrorism.

 

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 China Banking Regulatory Commission (and its successor, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission which was established in March 2018 to replace the China Banking Regulatory Commission) or CBRC, 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 new 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 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 four categories: business interruption for lost profits, property and casualty, public 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 data center operations are located in properties that we have entered into long-term operating leases. Such leases generally have fifteen to twenty year terms. In some instances, we may negotiate an option to purchase the leased premises and facilities 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 six 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. Four 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 three 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 the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, almost all of our data centers (self-developed and third-party) are located within the municipal areas of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Furthermore, several of our data centers are located on campuses or clusters in close proximity to each other in specific districts within these cities. 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 data center services. We may enter into contracts directly with our end user customers or through 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 two end user customers that generated 18.6% and 14.6% of our total net revenue, respectively, in 2016, and one end user customer that generated 25.2% of our total net revenue in 2017. We had two end user customers that generated 27.0% and 17.4% of our total net revenue, respectively, in 2018. No other end user 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 end user customers who account for a large percentage of our total area committed. As of December 31, 2018, we had four end user customers who accounted for 27.9%, 24.2%, 11.4% and 10.3%, respectively, of our total area committed. No other end user customer accounted for 10% or more of our total area committed. Moreover, for several of our data centers, a limited number of end user customers accounted for a substantial majority of area committed or area utilized, including some cases where a single end user 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 contracts 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 contract. 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 who 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 contracts 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 contracts 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 contract, and the customer may in some cases be able to terminate its contract. 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

 

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·                  cancelling or electing not to renew their contracts.

 

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 to outsource 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 contract renewal rates.

 

We seek to renew customer contracts when those contracts 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 contract renewals for our services. Nevertheless, we cannot assure you that we will be able to renew service contracts with our existing customers or re-commit space relating to expired service contracts to new customers if our current customers do not renew their contracts. In the event of a customer’s termination or non-renewal of expired contracts, or a renewal of an expired contract for fewer services or less area than it had previously utilized, our ability to enter into services contracts 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 contracts which terminated or expired without renewal during the quarter to the total quarterly service revenue for the preceding quarter, averaged 1.6%, 2.1% and 0.9% in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. During 2019, data center service agreements with our customers with respect to 6.8% of our total area committed as of December 31, 2018 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. 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 contracts 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, 2018, end user customers from the cloud services, Internet and financial services industries accounted for 71.3%, 16.0% and 7.9% 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 contracts with many customers, and our failure to accurately estimate the resources and time required for the fulfillment of our obligations under these contracts 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 contracts, 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 contract 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 contracts. 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.

 

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

 

Many of our customer contracts 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 contracts. Our customer contract commitments could significantly decrease if any of the customer contracts is terminated either pursuant to, or in violation of, the terms of such contract. In addition, our customer contract commitments during a particular future period may be reduced for reasons outside of our customers’ control, such as general current economic conditions. It is difficult to predict how market forces, or PRC or U.S. government policy, in particular, the outbreak of a trade war between the PRC and the United States and the imposition in 2018 of additional tariffs on bilateral imports, may continue to impact the PRC economy as well as related demand for our data center resources, managed services and solutions going forward. If our customer contract commitments are significantly reduced, our results of operations and the price of our ADSs could be materially and adversely affected.

 

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Even if our current and future customers have entered into a binding contract with us, they may choose to terminate such contract 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 contract, 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.

 

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 space, 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.

 

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 space in China’s large commercial centers. 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.

 

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

 

Among the data centers 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 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 respect to one data center in Beijing, a portion of the property 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. In respect of some data centers, the usage of leased properties for data center purposes may be deemed to be inconsistent with the designated usage as stated under the building ownership certificates. 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 properties for the designated usage only, we may not be able to continue to use these properties 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.”

 

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 cloud-related 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 or they may decide to terminate their agreements with us, any of which could adversely and materially affect our business expansion plan and expected growth.

 

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Our data center infrastructure may become obsolete or unmarketable and we may not be able 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, non-disclosure 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 , our figure trademark, in a majority of our services. We have registered the figure trademark in China in several categories that cover our services areas and we plan to register the figure trademark 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 agreements, we could be exposed to protracted and costly legal proceedings and lose clients.

 

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 contracts 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 non-disclosure 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 contracts 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.

 

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

 

We contract with third parties for the supply of hardware, such as servers and other equipment, 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.

 

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

 

We engage third-party contractors to carry out various services relating to our data center facilities, including security services. 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 at the level of quality required by us, resulting in inappropriate access to our facilities.

 

Any difficulties in identifying and consummating future acquisitions may expose us to potential risks and have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

We may seek to make strategic acquisitions and enter into alliances to further expand our business. 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 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, 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. The occurrence of any of these events could have a material and adverse effect on our ability to manage 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.

 

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 global financial markets have experienced significant disruptions between 2008 and 2009 and the United States, Europe and other economies have experienced periods of recessions. The recovery from the economic downturns of 2008 and 2009 has been uneven and is facing new challenges. These include the anticipation of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the outbreak of a trade war between the PRC and the United States and the imposition in 2018 of additional tariffs on bilateral imports, as well as the slower growth of the PRC economy since 2012, all of which have contributed to uncertainty about the global economy. It is unclear whether the PRC economy will accelerate and resume a faster pace of growth. 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 over unrest in the Middle East and Africa, which have contributed to volatility in financial and other markets. There also 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. Any prolonged slowdown in the global or the PRC economy may lead to decreased demand for data center resources or managed services and have a negative impact on 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 increased or heightened volatility in financial, equity and other markets 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. William Wei 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. William Wei 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 clients 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 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.

 

Failure to commence or resume development of land that we have been granted right to use within the required timeframe may subject us to default liabilities under land use right grant contracts and cause us to lose such land use rights.

 

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. According to the relevant PRC regulations, the PRC government may impose an “idle land fee” equal to 20% of the land premium 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 failed 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.

 

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. As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, we have received approval 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 have commenced construction after receiving such approval. Nonetheless, the local government may treat both the land parcel in Kunshan and the land parcel in Chengdu as being formerly idle land, in which case we may be required to pay idle land fees or penalties, change the planned use of the land, find another parcel of land, or even be required to forfeit the land to PRC government. We may further be subject to penalties for breach of relevant land use right grant contracts and be required to pay damages.

 

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

 

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

 

We are required to perform an annual goodwill impairment test. As of December 31, 2018, we carried RMB1,752.0 million (US$254.8 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.

 

We are subject to anti-corruption laws of China and Hong Kong 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 China and Hong Kong and are thus subject to PRC and Hong Kong laws and regulations related to anti-corruption, 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., Chinese or Hong Kong 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 southeastern 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 Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chengdu 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 natural disasters or public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, Zika virus, Ebola virus, or another epidemic. 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. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the 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 have ceased to be an “emerging growth company” as the term is defined in 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 will require that we incur substantial additional professional fees and internal costs to expand our accounting and finance functions and that we expend significant management efforts. We are in the process of enhancing our accounting personnel and other resources to address our internal controls and procedures.

 

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 could decline and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by the SEC, Nasdaq, or other regulatory authorities.

 

Compliance with rules and requirements applicable to public companies has caused us to incur increased costs, which may negatively affect our results of operations.

 

As a public company, we have incurred significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and Nasdaq, have required changes in corporate governance practices of public companies. These rules and regulations have increased our legal, accounting and financial compliance costs and made certain corporate activities more time-consuming and costly. Complying with these rules and requirements may be especially difficult and costly for us because we may have difficulty locating sufficient personnel in China with experience and expertise relating to U.S. GAAP and U.S. public company reporting requirements, and such personnel may command higher salaries relative to what similarly experienced personnel would command in the United States. If we cannot employ sufficient personnel to ensure compliance with these rules and regulations, we may need to rely more on outside legal, accounting and financial experts, which may be expensive. In addition, we have incurred additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. We continuously evaluate and monitor developments with respect to these rules, and we cannot predict or estimate the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs.

 

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Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

 

If the PRC government deems that the contractual arrangements in relation to our consolidated variable interest entities 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 those operations.

 

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 e-commerce which does not apply to us. Any such foreign investor must also have experience and a good track record in providing value-added telecommunications services overseas.

 

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, GDS (Shanghai) Investment Co., Ltd. (formerly known as Shanghai Free Trade Zone GDS Management Co., Ltd.), or GDS Management Company, Shenzhen Yungang EDC Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing Wanguo Shu’an Science & Technology Development Co., Ltd., Beijing Hengpu’an Data Technology Development Co., Ltd., Guojin Technology (Kunshan) Co., Ltd., Shanghai Yungang EDC Technology Co., Ltd., Shenzhen Pingshan New Area Global Data Science & Technology Development Co., Ltd., EDC Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd., EDC (Chengdu) Industry Co., Ltd., EDC Technology (Kunshan) Co., Ltd., Wan Qing Teng, Shanghai Shuyao Data Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Lingying Data Technology Co., Ltd., Guangzhou Wanxu Technology Services Co., Ltd., Shanghai Puchang Data Science and Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Shuchang Data Science and Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Wanshu Data Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing Hengchang Data Science & Technology Development Co., Ltd. Guangzhou Yunlan, Shanghai Shuge Data Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Shulan Data Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Fengtu Data Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Jingyao Network Technology Co.,Ltd., Shou Xin Yun (Beijing) Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing Wan Qing Teng Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing Wan Teng Yun Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing Hua Wei Yun Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Shou Rong Yun (Beijing) Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Jiangsu Wanguo Xingtu Data Services Co., Ltd., Qian Hai Wan Chang, Shenzhen Anda Data Science & Technology Development Co., Ltd., Heyuan Teng Wei Yun Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Wulanchabu Wanguo Yuntu Data Services Co., Ltd., Zhangjiakou Yunhong Data & Technology Co., Ltd., Guangzhou Wanzhuo Data &Technology Co., Ltd. and Langfang Wanguo Yunxin Data & Technology Co., Ltd. are foreign-invested enterprises, or their subsidiaries. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, we conduct our business in China through contractual arrangements with our consolidated variable interest entities, or VIEs, and their shareholders. These contractual arrangements provide us with effective control over our consolidated VIEs, namely GDS Shanghai, GDS Beijing and its subsidiaries, and enable us to receive substantially all of the economic benefits of our consolidated VIEs 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 our consolidated VIEs when permissible under PRC laws. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our 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, our consolidated VIEs and their shareholders is valid, 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 Ministry of Commerce, or the MOFCOM, the MIIT, or other authorities that regulates 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.

 

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If our corporate and contractual structure is deemed by the MIIT, the MOFCOM or other regulators having competent authority to be illegal, either in whole or in part, we may lose control of our consolidated VIEs and have to modify such structure to comply with regulatory requirements. 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, 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;

 

·                  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, new PRC laws, rules and regulations may be introduced to impose additional requirements that may be applicable to our corporate structure and contractual arrangements. See “—Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation of the draft PRC Foreign Investment Law, and its enactment may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.” Occurrence of any of these events could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if the imposition of any of these penalties or requirement to restructure our corporate structure causes us to lose the rights to direct the activities of our consolidated VIEs or our right to receive their economic benefits, we would no longer be able to consolidate in our consolidated financial statements such VIEs. However, we do not believe that such actions would result in the liquidation or dissolution of our company, our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China or our consolidated VIEs or their subsidiaries. For the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018, our consolidated VIEs contributed 80.1%, 91.0% and 97.2%, respectively, of our total net revenue.

 

Our contractual arrangements with our 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 our 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 our consolidated VIEs without reducing the tax liability of our subsidiaries, which could further result in late payment fees and other penalties to our consolidated VIEs for underpaid taxes; or (ii) limiting the ability of our consolidated VIEs to obtain or maintain preferential tax treatments and other financial incentives.

 

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We rely on contractual arrangements with our 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 our consolidated VIEs and their shareholders to operate our business in China. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company— C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our Affiliated Consolidated Entities.” In 2016, 2017 and 2018, 80.1%, 91.0% and 97.2%, of our total net revenue, respectively, were attributed to our consolidated VIEs. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company.” These contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over our consolidated VIEs. If our consolidated VIEs or their shareholders fail to perform their respective obligations under these contractual arrangements, our recourse to the assets held by our 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 our 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 our consolidated VIEs, and our ability to conduct our business and our financial conditions 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 shareholders of our consolidated VIEs 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 shareholders of our consolidated VIEs to abide by the obligations under such contractual arrangements. In particular, Shanghai Shu’an Data Services Co., Ltd., or GDS Shanghai, is 99.90% owned by William Wei Huang, our chairman and chief executive officer, and 0.10% owned by Qiuping Huang, and Beijing Wanguo Chang’an Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or GDS Beijing, is approximately 99.97% owned by William Wei Huang, and approximately 0.03% owned by Qiuping Huang. The interests of William Wei Huang and Qiuping Huang in their individual capacities as the shareholders of GDS Shanghai and GDS Beijing may differ from the interests of our company as a whole, as what is in the best interests of GDS Shanghai and GDS Beijing, 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 our consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries 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 shareholders of GDS Shanghai and GDS Beijing may encounter, on one hand, and as a beneficial owner of our company, on the other hand; 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 GDS Shanghai and GDS Beijing 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 GDS Shanghai and GDS Beijing as provided under the shareholder voting rights proxy agreements, directly appoint new directors of GDS Shanghai and GDS Beijing. We rely on the shareholders of our 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 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 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 our 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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Our corporate actions are substantially controlled by our principal shareholders, including our founder, chairman and chief executive officer, William Wei 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 materially reduce the value of your investment.

 

Our amended articles of association provide that Class B ordinary shares are entitled to 20 votes per share at general meetings of our shareholders with respect to the election of a simple majority of our directors. Mr. William Wei Huang beneficially owns 100% of the Class B ordinary shares issued and outstanding, and any additional Class A ordinary shares which are acquired by the Class B shareholders will 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 one less than a simple majority, or five, of our directors, and (ii) to have 20 votes per share with respect to the election and removal of a simple majority, or six, of our directors. In addition, our amended articles of association provide that STT GDC Pte Ltd, or STT GDC (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 the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, two of our principal shareholders—STT GDC and William Wei Huang, our founder, chairman and chief executive officer—owned or exercised voting and investment control over approximately 35.4% and 6.7% (including ordinary shares underlying share options, and ADSs underlying restricted share units, exercisable within 60 days beneficially owned by Mr. Huang), respectively, of our outstanding ordinary shares, and approximately 38.0% of our outstanding Class A ordinary shares, and 100% of our outstanding Class B ordinary shares, respectively.

 

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.

 

These actions may be taken even if they are opposed by our other shareholders, including the holders of the ADSs.

 

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 shares as part of a sale of our company and reducing the price of the ADSs. 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 administrative 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, administrative 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 enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation of the draft PRC Foreign Investment Law, and its enactment may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

The MOFCOM published a discussion draft of the proposed Foreign Investment Law in January 2015, or the 2015 Draft FIL, aiming to, upon its enactment, replace major existing laws and regulations governing foreign investment in China. While the MOFCOM solicited comments on this draft, substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation of the proposed legislation and the extent of revision to the currently proposed draft. The 2015 Draft FIL, if enacted as proposed, may materially impact the entire legal framework regulating foreign investments in China.

 

Among other things, the 2015 Draft FIL purports to introduce the principle of “actual control” in determining whether a company is considered a foreign invested enterprise, or an FIE. The 2015 Draft FIL specifically provides that entities established in China but “controlled” by foreign investors will be treated as FIEs, whereas an entity organized in a foreign jurisdiction, but cleared by the MOFCOM as “controlled” by PRC entities and/or citizens, would nonetheless be treated as a PRC domestic entity for investment in the “restricted category” or similar category that could appear on any such “negative list.” In this connection, “control” is broadly defined in the 2015 Draft FIL to cover any of the following summarized categories:

 

·                  holding 50% or more of the voting rights or similar rights and interests of the subject entity;

 

·                  holding less than 50% of the voting rights or similar rights and interests of the subject entity but having the power to directly or indirectly appoint or otherwise secure at least 50% of the seats on the board or other equivalent decision-making bodies, or having the voting power to materially influence the board, the shareholders’ meeting or other equivalent decision-making bodies; or

 

·                  having the power to exert decisive influence, via contractual or trust arrangements, over the subject entity’s operations, financial, staffing and technology matters.

 

Once an entity is determined to be an FIE, and its investment amount exceeds certain thresholds or its business operation falls within a “negative list” separately issued by the State Council in the future, market entry clearance by the MOFCOM or its local counterparts would be required.

 

The “variable interest entity” structure, or VIE structure, has been adopted by many PRC-based companies, including our company, to obtain necessary licenses and permits in the industries that are currently subject to foreign investment restrictions in China. Under the 2015 Draft FIL, VIEs that are controlled via contractual arrangements would also be deemed as FIEs, if they are ultimately “controlled” by foreign investors. For any companies with a VIE structure in an industry category that is “restricted,” or similar category that could appear on any such “negative list,” the existing VIE structure may be deemed legitimate only if its ultimate controlling persons are of PRC nationality, whether PRC state owned enterprises or agencies, or PRC citizens. Conversely, if the one or more actual controlling persons are of foreign nationality, then the VIEs will be treated as FIE, in which case, the existing VIE structures are likely to be scrutinized as well as subject to foreign investment restrictions and approval requirements of PRC supervisory authorities such as the MOFCOM and MIIT. Any operations in industry categories on a “negative list” without market entry clearance may be considered illegal.

 

However, there are significant uncertainties as to how the control status of our company and our consolidated VIEs would be determined under the enacted version of the 2015 Draft FIL. In addition, it is uncertain whether any of the businesses that we currently operate or plan to operate in the future through our consolidated VIEs, and the businesses operated by our equity investees with a VIE structure, would be on any to-be-issued “negative list” and therefore be subject to any restrictions or prohibitions on foreign investment. We also face uncertainties as to whether the enacted version of the 2015 Draft FIL and the final “negative list” would mandate further actions, such as MOFCOM market entry clearance, to be completed by companies with existing VIE structures, and whether such clearance can be timely obtained, if at all. If we or our equity investees with a VIE structure were not considered as ultimately controlled by PRC domestic investors, we or our equity investees may be required to take further actions under the enacted version of the 2015 Draft FIL, and our business and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.

 

In addition, our corporate governance practices may be materially impacted and our compliance costs could increase if we were not considered as ultimately controlled by PRC domestic investors under the 2015 Draft FIL, if enacted as currently proposed. For instance, the 2015 Draft FIL as proposed purports to impose stringent ad hoc and periodic information reporting requirements on foreign investors and the applicable FIEs. Aside from investment implementation reports and investment amendment reports that would be required for each investment, and alteration of investment specifics, an annual report would be mandatory, and large foreign investors meeting certain criteria would be required to report on a quarterly basis. Any company found to be noncompliant with these information reporting obligations could potentially be subject to fines and/or administrative or criminal liabilities, and the persons directly responsible could be subject to criminal liabilities.

 

On December, 26, 2018, the National People’s Congress published the Foreign Investment Law of the PRC (Draft), or the 2018 Draft FIL, on its official website for public review and comments. The 2018 Draft FIL defines foreign investment and contains provisions regulating the promotion, protection and management of foreign investment. If the 2018 Draft FIL were enacted as currently proposed, it would apply to foreign investment within the PRC and replace the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law in their entirety.

 

The 2015 Draft FIL and the 2018 Draft FIL regulate the same subject area, namely foreign investment in the PRC, but the two drafts are different in their legislative approach. The 2018 Draft FIL is silent on the concepts of “control of a domestic enterprise through contractual arrangement” and whether VIEs that are controlled via contractual arrangements would be deemed as FIEs if they are ultimately “controlled” by foreign investors. There are uncertainties as to whether the 2018 Draft FIL will be enacted, its enactment timetable, whether issues presented by the 2015 Draft FIL will be reflected in laws or regulations promulgated by the relevant authorities in the future, and how such laws or regulations, if and when enacted, would impact our existing contractual arrangements.

 

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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.

 

The laws and regulations regarding value-added telecommunications services, or 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. The Catalog divides industries into three categories: encouraged, restricted and prohibited. Industries not included in the Catalog are permitted industries. Industries such as VATS, including Internet data center services, or IDC services, restrict foreign investment. 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. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulation on Foreign Investment Restrictions” for additional details. 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 Telecom Catalogue publicized in February 2003 by the Ministry of Information Industry, or MII, 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”, 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 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 telecommunication 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.

 

GDS Beijing obtained a cross-regional IDC license in November 2013, the scope of which now includes Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Guangzhou. As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, we are in the process of applying to further expand the scope of such cross-regional IDC license to include Tianjin and Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. In order to adapt to the new regulatory requirements and address pre-existing customer contracts, we converted Global Data Solutions Co., Ltd., or 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. MIIT has 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. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company—2016 VIE Restructuring.” 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 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 MIIT has approved GDS Beijing’s application to expand its IDC license coverage to include Shenzhen Yaode. 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 our consolidated VIEs. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Value-Added Telecommunications Business” for additional details.

 

Recently 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 cannot assure you that we will be able to 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 GDS Suzhou or the other subsidiaries of our 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. GDS Suzhou and the other subsidiaries of our VIEs currently plan to apply for their own IDC licenses in order to continually maintain authorizations to provide IDC services going forward.

 

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However, there can be no assurance that our contracts 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. 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.

 

Some of our 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 our 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. Another one of our consolidated VIEs, GDS Suzhou, is 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 contracts 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 is 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 data centers HB1/2/3. As GDS Beijing’s IDC license and its authorization granted to GDS Suzhou do not include the Tianjin and Zhangjiakou areas, GDS Beijing and GDS Suzhou may be regarded as being non-compliant with the regulations on VATS due to operating beyond the permitted geographic scope of their IDC licenses. GDS Beijing is in the process of applying to expand its IDC license to cover the Tianjin and Zhangjiakou areas. Once GDS Beijing has upgraded its IDC license to cover a broader geographic scope, we will then apply to further expand GDS Beijing’s authorization to GDS Suzhou so that GDS Suzhou also will be allowed to provide IDC services in Tianjin. We cannot assure you that GDS Beijing and GDS Suzhou will be able to obtain approvals from the MIIT for the foregoing expanded permitted geographic scope and authorizations, and even if such approvals are obtained, any agreements signed before GDS Beijing and GDS Suzhou obtained such approvals could 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 (HK) Limited, has entered into IDC service agreements with customers outside China, which may be regarded as non-compliance with the regulations on foreign investment restriction and value-added telecommunications services, by providing IDC service without qualification.

 

In 2015 and 2016, GDS (HK) 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 providing IDC services in the PRC.

 

As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, we have amended all of our IDC service agreements to specify GDS Beijing or its subsidiary 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.

 

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We may fail to obtain, maintain and update licenses and 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.

 

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 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 can be 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 and lower the price of our ADSs.

 

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 fashion, 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 space 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, 2018, we operated an aggregate net floor area of 9,839 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 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 fashion, or at all. If any of these situations occur, our business, financial condition and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

 

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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, 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. 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.

 

There are uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations.

 

Substantially all of our operations are conducted in the PRC, and are governed by PRC laws, rules and regulations. Our PRC subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs 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 recently 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 have a retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until after the occurrence of the violation.

 

Any administrative and court proceedings in China may be protracted, resulting in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention. Since PRC administrative and court authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be more difficult to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy than in more developed legal systems. These uncertainties may impede our ability to enforce the contracts we have entered into and could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

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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, among others and in addition to specific industry-related regulations, the following aspects:

 

·                  construction or development of new data centers or 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;

 

·                  environment 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; 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, and the Administrative Measures for the Graded Protection of Information Security.

 

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. 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. Compliance with such laws or regulations may require us to incur material capital expenditures or other obligations or liabilities.

 

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. In addition, the Cyber Security Law imposes certain requirements on network operators of critical information infrastructure, for example, network operators of critical information infrastructure generally shall, during their operations in the PRC, store the personal information and important data collected and produced within the territory of PRC, and shall perform certain security obligations as required under the Cyber Security Law. 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 implementing regulations and guidelines to be issued by relevant authorities. For example, implementing regulations dealing with “personal information protection”, “security assessment of cross-border transfer of personal information and important data” and “protection of critical information infrastructure (CII)” are being formulated. Currently, the Cyber Security Law has 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. We are in the process of formulating internal rules to comply with the requirements under the Cyber Security Law, including without limitation, the appointment of designated personnel in charge of data protection. However, we cannot assure you that the measures we have taken or will take are adequate under the Cyber Security Law. 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.

 

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The approval of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, may be required under a PRC regulation. The regulation also establishes more complex procedures for acquisitions conducted by foreign investors that could make it more difficult for us to grow through acquisitions.

 

On August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies, including the MOFCOM, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, or the SASAC, the State Administration of Taxation, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, or the SAIC, the CSRC, and the SAFE, jointly adopted the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, which came into effect on September 8, 2006 and 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 offering 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 offering 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 offering 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.

 

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 the 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 the 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 the MOFCOM, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to M&A and Overseas Listings.”

 

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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.

 

Mr. William Wei 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 and consolidated VIEs and 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.

 

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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 Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China 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 10 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 15 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 consolidated VIEs, for our offshore cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders, fund inter-company loans, service any debt we may incur outside of China and pay our expenses. When our principal operating subsidiaries or the consolidated 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 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, 2018, the restricted assets were RMB4,768.7 million (US$693.6 million), which mainly consisted of registered capital. Our subsidiaries did not have any significant retained earnings available for distribution in the form of dividends as of December 31, 2018. 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.

 

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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.

 

In January 2017, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Further Improving Reform of Foreign Exchange Administration and Optimizing Genuineness and Compliance Verification, or 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 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 State Administration of Taxation issued the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore-Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or Circular 82, on April 22, 2009. 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 State Administration of Taxation’s 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 subsidiary 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 subsidiary 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 Special Administrative Region 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 or Class A 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 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 or Class A 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 Class A ordinary shares or ADSs, and any gain realized from the transfer of our Class A ordinary shares 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 or Class A 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 or Class A 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 or Class A 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 or Class A 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 State Administration of Taxation issued the Bulletin on Issues of Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Transfers of Assets by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or Bulletin 7, which 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 State Administration of Taxation, on December 10, 2009. Pursuant to 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 Bulletin 7, “PRC taxable assets” include assets attributed to an establishment in China, immoveable 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 immoveable 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. Bulletin 7 does not apply to transactions of sale of shares by investors through a public stock exchange where such shares were acquired from a transaction through a public stock exchange.

 

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On October 17, 2017, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Announcement on Issues Relating to Withholding at Source of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises, or SAT Circular 37. SAT Circular 37 supersedes Circular 698 in its entirety, and amends certain provisions in Bulletin 7, but does not touch upon other provisions of Bulletin 7, which remain in full force. SAT 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. Specially, SAT 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 Bulletin 7 and SAT Circular 37. Bulletin 7 and SAT Circular 37 may be determined by the tax authorities to be applicable to our historical or future offshore restructuring transactions or sale of our 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 transfer of our shares or ADSs by investors that are non-PRC resident enterprises, our PRC subsidiaries may be requested to assist with filings under Bulletin 7 and SAT Circular 37. For example, in the past, we acquired EDC Holding by issuing shares of GDS Holdings Limited, or 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 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 Bulletin 7 and SAT Circular 37 or to establish that we and our non-resident enterprises should not be taxed under Bulletin 7 and SAT 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 or consolidated VIEs. 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 may limit our ability to obtain foreign currency through debt or equity financing for our subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs.

 

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. On July 21, 2005, the PRC government changed its policy of pegging the value of the Renminbi to the U.S. dollar. From December 31, 2015 to December 31, 2016, the Renminbi depreciated approximately 6.7% against the U.S. dollar. In 2017, however, the RMB appreciated approximately 6.7% against the U.S. dollar; and in 2018, the RMB depreciated approximately 5.7% against the U.S. dollar. It remains unclear what further fluctuations may occur or what impact this will have on our results of operations.

 

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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 in U.S. dollars. To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars we received from our initial public offering into Renminbi for our operations, appreciation of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the Renminbi amount we would receive. Conversely, if we decide to convert our Renminbi into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our Class A ordinary shares or ADSs or for other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the Renminbi would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount.

 

The audit report included in this annual report on Form 20-F 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.

 

Our independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 20-F filed with the SEC, as auditors of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or the PCAOB, is required by the laws of the United States to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB to assess its compliance with the laws of the United States and professional standards. 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.

 

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. This lack of PCAOB inspections in China prevents the PCAOB from regularly evaluating our auditor’s audits and its quality control procedures. As a result, investors may be deprived of the benefits of PCAOB inspections.

 

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

 

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 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 late 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 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 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.

 

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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 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 may be adversely affected.

 

If our independent registered public accounting firm were denied, even temporarily, the ability to practice before the SEC and we were unable to timely find another registered public accounting firm to audit and issue an opinion on our financial statements, our financial statements could be determined not to be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act. Such a determination could ultimately lead to the delisting of our Class A ordinary shares from Nasdaq or deregistration from the SEC, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of our ADSs in the United States.

 

Risks Related to Our ADSs

 

The trading price of our ADSs may be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to you.

 

The trading prices of our ADSs have been, and are likely to continue to be, volatile and could fluctuate widely due to factors beyond our control. 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 the United States, which consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs, 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. In addition, 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 and in 2015, which may have a material and adverse effect on the trading price of our ADSs.

 

In addition to the above factors, the price and trading volume of our ADSs 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;

 

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·                  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;

 

·                  fluctuations of exchange rates between the RMB and the U.S. dollar;

 

·                  release or expiry of lock-up or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding shares or ADSs;

 

·                  sales or perceived potential sales of additional Class A ordinary shares or ADSs; 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.”

 

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 trading volume could decline.

 

The trading market for our ADSs 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 or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the market price for our ADSs 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 to decline.

 

Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of our ADSs.

 

Short selling is the practice of selling securities that the seller does not own but rather has borrowed from a third party with the intention of buying identical securities back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the value of the securities between the sale of the borrowed securities and the purchase of the replacement shares, as the short seller expects to pay less in that purchase than it received in the sale. As it is in the short seller’s 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, and may in the future be, the subject of unfavorable allegations made by a short seller, which allegations were followed by periods of instability in the market price of our ADSs. If we again were to become the subject of any unfavorable allegations, 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 its business operations and stockholders equity, and any investment in our ADSs could be greatly reduced or rendered worthless.

 

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Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our ADSs 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 as a source for any future dividend income.

 

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 will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of our ADSs. There is no guarantee that our ADSs will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs. You may not realize a return on your investment in our ADSs and you may even lose your entire investment in our ADSs.

 

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

 

Sales of our ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our ADSs to decline significantly. As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, we have 1,007,069,640 ordinary shares outstanding, comprising 939,479,304 Class A ordinary shares (including 5,208,216 Class A ordinary shares 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 of 1933, as amended, or the 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 Securities Act.

 

Certain major holders of our Class A ordinary shares have the right to cause us to register under the Securities Act the sale of their shares, subject to the applicable lock-up periods in connection with our initial public offering. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in ADSs representing these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the form of ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline significantly.

 

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 in the form of ADSs upon issuance, 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 in the form of ADSs after they become eligible for sale, the sales could reduce the trading price of our ADSs and impede our ability to raise future capital. In addition, any ordinary shares that we issue under our share incentive plans would dilute the percentage ownership held by the investors who purchased ADSs in our follow-on public offering.

 

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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 Class A ordinary shares and ADSs 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, William Wei 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 materially reduce the value of your investment” above, Mr. William Wei 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 Class A ordinary shares and our ADSs of the opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over the prevailing market price.

 

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

 

Holders of ADSs 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 amended articles of association, the minimum notice period required to convene a general meeting will be 10 days. When a general meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient notice of a shareholders’ meeting to permit you to withdraw your Class A ordinary shares to allow you to cast your vote with respect to any specific matter. In addition, the depositary and its agents may not be able to send voting instructions to you or carry out your voting instructions in a timely manner. We will make all reasonable efforts to cause the depositary to extend voting rights to you in a timely manner, but there can be no assurance that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote your 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, you may not be able to exercise your right to vote and you may lack recourse if your ADSs are not voted as you requested. In addition, in your capacity as an ADS holder, you will not be able to call a shareholders’ meeting.

 

Your right to participate in any future rights offerings may be limited, which may cause dilution to your 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 you in the United States unless we register both the rights and the securities to which the rights relate under the Securities Act or an exemption from the registration requirements is available. Under the deposit agreement, the depositary will not make rights available to you unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the Securities Act or exempt from registration under the Securities Act. 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 Securities Act. Accordingly, you may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in your holdings.

 

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

 

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 you 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. You will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of Class A ordinary shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary may, at its discretion, decide that it is inequitable or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. 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 you.

 

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

 

Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its transfer books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. In addition, the depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of ADSs generally when our books or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary 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.

 

Certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.

 

We are a company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. We conduct our operations outside the United States and substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States. In addition, all of our directors and executive officers and the experts named in this annual report on Form 20-F reside outside the United States, and most of their assets are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against them in the United States in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands, the PRC or other relevant jurisdiction may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.

 

You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through 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 Law (2018 Revision) of the Cayman Islands and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against the 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. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.

 

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 will have discretion under the post-offering memorandum and articles of association we expect to adopt, 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.

 

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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 shares, including Class A ordinary shares represented by our ADSs, at a premium.

 

We have adopted amended and restated 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 may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, our amended 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 amended 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 of a simple majority of our directors; a provision that entitles Class B shareholders to nominate one less than a simple majority, or 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 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 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 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 Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act;

 

·                  the sections of the 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 FD.

 

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, you may not be afforded the same protections or information that would be made available to you were you 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 Global Market, 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 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 may become a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, 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 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 our consolidated VIEs for United States federal income tax purposes. For United States federal income tax purposes, we consider ourselves to own the stock of our consolidated VIEs. If it is determined, contrary to our view, that we do not own the stock of our consolidated 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 “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 2019 or any future taxable year. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, our United States counsel, does not express any opinion about our status as a PFIC in any 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. As of December 31, 2018, we are deemed to be a “large accelerated filer” as the term is defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act, and we thereby have 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 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. On August 2, 2018, a securities class action lawsuit was filed against GDS Holdings Limited, our Chief Executive Officer William Huang, and our Chief Financial Officer Daniel Newman by Hamza Ramzan, a GDS shareholder. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Legal Proceedings.” There can be no assurance, however, that we will be successful. As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, this lawsuit is in its preliminary stages; at present, we cannot reasonably assess the likelihood of any unfavorable outcome, nor can we reasonably estimate the amount, or range, of potential losses, if any, related to the lawsuit.

 

Any class action lawsuit, including the abovementioned 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. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

ITEM 4.                                                INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

 

A. History and Development of the Company

 

We are an exempted company and were incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2006. 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 Management Company.

 

Due to PRC regulations that limit foreign equity ownership of entities providing VATS at 50%, and the inclusion of IDC services within the scope of VATS, we conduct a substantial part of our operations in China through contractual arrangements among GDS Management Company, our data center companies and two VIEs that hold licenses required to operate our business, GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai, and their shareholders. As a result of these contractual arrangements, we control GDS Shanghai, GDS Beijing and its subsidiaries, including EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao, GDS Suzhou, Kunshan Wanyu, Weiteng Construction, Beijing Wanguo Yixin Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Yixin, Zhangbei Yuntong Data Network Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Zhangbei Yuntong, Shenzhen Yaode, Shenzhen Jinyao, Weiteng Network, and Shanghai Jinkai Data Technology Co., Ltd., or Shanghai Jinkai, Shanghai Cai Tuo , Beijing Wan Chang Yun Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Wan Chang Yun and Guangzhou Weiteng Data Science & Technology Co.,Ltd., or Guangzhou Weiteng Data have consolidated the financial information of these VIEs in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. MIIT has approved GDS Beijing’s application to expand its IDC license coverage to include GDS Suzhou and Kunshan Wanyu so that they are now authorized to provide IDC services. See “—2016 VIE Restructuring.” As part of the VIE restructuring, we converted and changed the shareholding of EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao in the same way as GDS Suzhou, and 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. MIIT has also approved GDS Beijing’s application to expand its IDC license coverage to include Shenzhen Yaode, the company operating the data center we acquired in the SZ5 acquisition. 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 consolidated VIEs. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Value-Added Telecommunications Business” for additional details.

 

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Historically, prior to our VIE restructuring, our consolidated VIEs, GDS Beijing and GDS Shanghai, contributed 2.0% and 4.3% of our total net revenue, and we conducted the substantial majority of our operations through GDS Suzhou when it was a WFOE under PRC law. See “—2016 VIE Restructuring” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in the People’s Republic of China—We may be regarded as existing, in a state of historical non-compliance with the regulations on foreign investment restriction and value-added telecommunications services, for which penalties may be assessed that may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, growth strategies and prospects.” As a result of our internal restructuring, GDS Suzhou and EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao became domestic-owned enterprises under PRC law and operating subsidiaries of GDS Beijing. GDS Suzhou and EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao have received approval from the MIIT for providing IDC services with authorization from GDS Beijing under its IDC license. As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, we conducted the substantial majority of our operations in China through GDS Beijing and its subsidiaries. Accordingly, going forward we expect that substantially all of our net revenue will be generated through our consolidated VIEs, namely GDS Shanghai, GDS Beijing and its subsidiaries.

 

Acquisition of GZ1

 

In May 2016, we, through GDS Beijing, acquired all the equity interest in a target company from a third party for an aggregate purchase price of RMB129.5 million. The target company is a limited liability company organized and existing under the PRC law, operates GZ1 in Guangzhou, China, and has its own IDC license.

 

Acquisition of SZ5

 

In June 2017, we consummated an acquisition of all the equity interests in a target group comprising two onshore entities (Shenzhen Yaode and Shenzhen Jinyao) and an offshore entity (RDTJ, which has an onshore subsidiary, Guangzhou Yunlan) from third parties for an aggregate contingent purchase price of RMB312.0 million, subject to adjustment, if any, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the equity purchase agreement. The target group owns SZ5 in Shenzhen, China. As of the date of the acquisition, the data center had just commenced operations. The company operating the data center has been authorized by GDS Beijing to provide IDC services under GDS Beijing’s IDC license.

 

Acquisition of GZ2

 

In October 2017, we consummated an acquisition of all equity interests in a target group comprising an onshore entity (Weiteng Network) and an offshore entity (Raojin, which has an onshore subsidiary, Wan Qing Teng) from third parties for a cash consideration of RMB234.0 million. The target group owns GZ2 in Guangzhou, China. At the date of the acquisition, the data center was fully operational. The company operating the data center has its own IDC license.

 

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Acquisition of GZ3

 

In May 2018, we consummated an acquisition of all equity interests in a target group comprising an onshore entity (Weiteng Data) and an offshore entity (PSDC, which has an onshore subsidiary, Qian Hai Wan Chang) from third parties for a cash consideration of RMB262.2 million (US$38.1 million), subject to adjustment, if any, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the equity purchase agreement. The target group owns GZ3 in Guangzhou, China. At the date of the acquisition, the data center had just commenced operations. The company operating the data center has its own IDC license.

 

Acquisition of SH11

 

In June 2018, we consummated an acquisition of all equity interests in a target company (Shanghai Cai Tuo) from third parties for a consideration of RMB320.0 million (US$46.5 million), subject to adjustment, if any, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the equity purchase agreement. The target company owns SH11 in Shanghai, China. At the date of the acquisition, the data center was fully operational. The company operating the data center has its own IDC license.

 

2016 VIE Restructuring

 

The laws and regulations regarding VATS licenses in the PRC, especially those in relation to IDC services, are relatively new and are still evolving, and their interpretation and enforcement involve significant uncertainties. PRC laws and regulations restrict foreign equity ownership of entities that hold VATS licenses, and such licenses have been denied to entities whose foreign equity ownership exceeds permitted thresholds.

 

Before 2013, the definition of IDC service did not offer clear guidance as to whether our business at the time fell within its scope. Between 2010 and 2012, in order to comply with then-effective laws and administrative practice, we consulted relevant officials of local branches of the MIIT. Based on such consultations, we understood that we were not required to hold an IDC license in order for us to operate our business lawfully, and we entered into most of our customer contracts through GDS Suzhou, a WFOE, because we believed that restrictions on foreign investment in IDC services did not apply in our case.

 

On May 6, 2013, 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 VATS licenses, especially with regards to IDC services. A national consulting body and certain 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 an IDC service 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 this 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, most of our services would be deemed IDC services, and that such services could only be provided by a holder of an IDC license, or a subsidiary of such holder, with the authorization of the holder.

 

GDS Beijing obtained a cross-regional IDC license in November 2013, the scope of which now includes Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Guangzhou, and is in the process of applying to expand its IDC license to include Tianjin and Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. In order to adapt to the new regulatory requirements and address pre-existing customer contracts, we converted GDS Suzhou into a domestic company wholly owned by GDS Beijing by way of transferring all of the equity interests in GDS Suzhou from FSL to GDS Beijing in order to enable GDS Suzhou to engage in the provision of IDC services with the authorization of GDS Beijing, and under the auspices of an IDC license held by GDS Beijing. As part of the VIE restructuring, we converted and changed the shareholding of EDC Shanghai Waigaoqiao in the same way as GDS Suzhou, and 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. In addition, with regard to the other WFOEs that have not contributed substantial revenue, we are considering measures to ensure that any services that may have to be provided by IDC license holders will be conducted by our IDC license holders, which are our consolidated VIEs. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulatory Matters—Regulations Related to Value-Added Telecommunications Business” for additional details.

 

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Public Offerings

 

On November 2, 2016, our ADSs began trading on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol “GDS.” We completed our initial public offering on November 7, 2016 and subsequently the underwriters partially exercised their over-allotment option on December 6, 2016. We issued and sold a total of 20,070,735 ADSs in these transactions, representing 160,565,880 Class A ordinary shares in the form of ADSs, raising US$186.7 million in proceeds to us before expenses but after underwriting discounts and commissions.

 

On January 30, 2018, we completed our follow-on public offering of 12,650,000 ADSs (including full exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional ADSs), comprising 8,225,000 ADSs offered and sold by us and 4,425,000 ADSs offered and sold by certain selling shareholder entities affiliated with SBCVC Holdings Limited, or SBCVC, representing an aggregate of 101,200,000 Class A ordinary shares, raising US$204.8 million in proceeds to us and US$110.2 million in proceeds to SBCVC before expenses but after underwriting discounts and commissions. We did not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of ADSs by SBCVC.

 

Investment from CyrusOne

 

In October 2017, we formed a new strategic partnership with CyrusOne, a premier global data center REIT company, through the execution of a commercial agreement, and the issuance to CyrusOne of 64,257,028 Class A ordinary shares, equivalent to approximately 8.0 million ADSs, at a purchase price of US$1.55625 per ordinary share, or US$12.45 per ADS, for a total consideration of US$100 million. Pursuant to the commercial agreement, the parties intend to exchange best practices as to sales and marketing, data center design and construction, supply chain management, customer relationship management, as well as operations, leveraging the core competencies of both companies in order to deliver data center solutions to their respective customers and assist in their global expansion.

 

Conversion of Convertible Bonds

 

In November 2017, our outstanding convertible bonds in an aggregate principal amount of US$150.0 million, together with the accrued interest thereon, were voluntarily converted into approximately 97.9 million additional Class A ordinary shares, equivalent to approximately 12.2 million ADS and representing 10.4% of our enlarged issued share capital immediately after completion of the conversion.

 

Partnership with SDIC, China Unicom and China Telecom

 

In January 2018, we entered into a non-binding letter of intent with State Development Investment Corporation, or SDIC, the largest state-owned investment holding company in China, China United Network Communications Corporation Limited, or China Unicom, and China Telecommunications Corporation Limited, or China Telecom, for the joint development of data centers in selected upcoming markets in China. We believe that this positions us to capture a growing market opportunity outside our core geographic markets. The parties intend to prioritize an initial pilot project in the Tianjin market. The parties have been collaborating in furtherance of the objectives under the letter of intent.

 

Upgrade of GDS Management Company to an Investment Holding Company

 

On March 28, 2018, we completed the regulatory filing and registration to upgrade GDS Management Company to a foreign invested investment holding company in the PRC by changing its name from “Shanghai Free Trade Zone GDS Management Co., Ltd.” to “GDS (Shanghai) Investment Co., Ltd.” and expanding its business scope to include, among other things, equity investment. We expect that the upgrade of GDS Management Company to a foreign invested investment holding company will further facilitate our future investment activities in China.

 

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Issuance of Convertible Notes

 

On June 5, 2018, we completed our offering of US$300 million aggregate principal amount of 2% convertible senior notes due 2025 (including full exercise of the initial purchasers’ option to purchase additional notes), raising US$291.1 million in net proceeds to us after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other offering expenses.

 

Principal Offices

 

Our principal executive offices are located at 2/F, Tower 2, Youyou Century Place, 428 South Yanggao Road, Pudong, Shanghai 200127, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86-21-2033-0303. 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 10 East 40th Street, 10th Floor, New York, New York 10016, 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. Our data centers have large net floor area, high power capacity, density and efficiency, and multiple redundancy across all critical systems. We are carrier and cloud-neutral, which enables our customers to connect to all major PRC telecommunications carriers, and to access a number of the largest PRC cloud service providers, whom we host in our facilities. We offer colocation and managed services, including direct private connection to major public cloud platforms. We have a 18-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. Our base of approximately 590 customers consists predominantly of cloud service providers, large Internet companies, financial institutions, telecommunications and IT service providers, and large domestic private sector and multinational corporations. As of December 31, 2018, we had an aggregate net floor area of 160,356 sqm in service, 94.9% of which was committed, and an aggregate net floor area of 65,201 sqm under construction, 48.4% of which was pre-committed.

 

The market for high-performance data center services in China is experiencing strong growth. Demand is driven by the confluence of several secular economic and industry trends, including: rapid growth of the Internet, e-commerce, e-payments and big data; rising adoption of cloud computing and server virtualization, which requires data centers with higher power capacity, density and efficiency; increasing criticality of information technology and data in the enterprise environment which requires data centers with higher reliability; and growing reliance by enterprises on outsourcing as a solution to the increasing complexity and cost of managing mission-critical IT infrastructure. We believe that, as a result of this strong demand and the challenges of sourcing, developing and operating new facilities that meet the required standard, there is a relative scarcity of high-performance data center capacity in China.

 

Our portfolio of data centers and secured expansion capacity are strategically located to address this growing demand. We operate our data centers to service our customers predominantly in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu, the primary financial, commercial, industrial and communications hubs in each region of China. We have established and are developing our presence in Hong Kong which we believe is another important market for our customers. Our data centers are located in close proximity to the corporate headquarters and key operation centers of many large enterprises, providing convenient access for our customers. 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 addition to our presence in core markets, in 2018 we developed and now operate a data center campus in Hebei province, China, for one of our largest customers. Our management is considering potential strategic acquisitions of land use rights and developments of data center campuses in order to meet the demands of our customers.

 

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Our data centers are large-scale, 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 and optimize power usage efficiency, which enables our customers to deploy their IT infrastructure 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.

 

We currently serve approximately 590 customers, including cloud service providers and large Internet companies, a diverse community of financial institutions, telecommunications and IT service providers and large domestic private sector and multinational corporations, many of which are leaders in their respective industries. We host a number of the largest cloud service providers operating in China, including Aliyun, the cloud computing unit of Alibaba, which are present in several of our data centers. Contracts with our cloud service provider and large Internet customers generally have terms of three to ten years, while contracts with our financial institution and enterprise customers typically have terms of one to five years.

 

Capturing demand from cloud adoption in China is an important part of our business, and we believe it will remain central to our growth strategy going forward. During the past three years, cloud service providers have grown to account for over 70% of our total area committed as of December 31, 2018. Cloud service providers are driving increased global demand for data center capacity, and we believe that leading cloud service providers represent the majority of such new demand in China. Our total area committed increased from 102,528 sqm as of December 31, 2017 to 183,743 sqm as of December 2018, representing an increase of 79.2%. This sales increase was driven primarily by increased cloud adoption in China and higher demand from cloud service providers, as well as new commitments from large Internet, financial service institution and enterprise customers. As we strengthen partnerships with cloud service providers and supply data center capacity that meets their needs, we believe that our service offerings will also be more attractive to enterprise customers.

 

As of December 31, 2018, we operated twenty-six self-developed data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 150,517 sqm in service. We also operated capacity at approximately eighteen third-party data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 9,839 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 nine new self-developed data centers, and multiple phases of two existing data centers, which collectively have an aggregate net floor area of 65,201 sqm, under construction. In addition, we had an estimated aggregate developable net floor area of approximately 79,000 sqm held for future development and had entered into a memorandum of understanding for leasing of three data center shell buildings that we expect to provide us with additional net floor area of approximately 30,000 sqm. Our net revenue and results of operations are largely determined by the degree to which data center space is committed or pre-committed as well as its utilization. We had commitment rates of 89.0%, 91.8% and 94.9% as of December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. We had utilization rates of 60.8%, 60.9% and 67.6% as of December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018, 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.

 

Our net revenue grew from RMB1,056.0 million in 2016 to RMB1,616.2 million in 2017, representing an increase of 53.1%, and increased to RMB2,792.1 million (US$406.1 million) in 2018, representing an increase of 72.8%. Our adjusted EBITDA increased from RMB270.5 million in 2016 to RMB512.3 million in 2017, and further increased to RMB1,046.5 million (US$152.2 million) in 2018. Our net loss increased from RMB276.4 million in 2016 to RMB326.9 million in 2017, and increased to RMB430.3 million (US$62.6 million) in 2018. As of December 31, 2017 and 2018, our accumulated deficit was RMB1,185.6 million and RMB1,615.1 million (US$234.9 million), respectively.

 

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Our Business Model and the Data Center Lifecycle

 

Our core business operations entail the planning and sourcing of new data center sites, developing such sites, securing customer commitments, providing our colocation services 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, high power capacity, density, and efficiency, and multiple redundancy across all critical systems.

 

Our strong customer and industry relationships afford us insight into the size, timing, and location of future demand which is reflected in our data center resource development plan. We source new data center resources by: (i) acquiring or leasing property which we develop for use as data center facilities, whether through constructing on greenfield sites or converting existing industrial buildings; (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 resource, we ensure that the facilities meet the high-performance standards required by our target customers. After procuring greenfield sites or existing buildings for conversion, we design and, through cooperation with developers, contractors, and suppliers, build out the facility to 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 resource in accordance with proven sales demand or contractual delivery commitments to customers.

 

We commence marketing new data center facilities several quarters prior to completion of construction. We aim to secure pre-commitments from customers for a portion of the area under construction, typically from anchor customers who require large-scale capacity. Through securing such pre-commitments, we are able to reduce investment risk and optimize resource planning. Our contracts provide flexibility to our customers with regard to utilization and the commencement of billing. Anchor customers with large-scale commitments usually move in over 12 to 24 months, whereas enterprise customers usually move in over a period of three to six months. During the period when customers are moving into our data centers, we bill our customers for services based on a fixed amount which is the higher of actual utilization and minimum contractual customer commitments. See “—Contracts Terms and Pricing.”

 

Once data center resource becomes billable, customers are charged a fixed price over the life of the contract for colocation services and managed services. In certain contracts, the customers are also charged for actual power consumed. Area committed is included in area utilized when we commence generating revenue from the customer under the terms of the contract.

 

For our in-service data centers, we aim to maintain high levels of long-term utilization. As of December 31, 2018, our commitment rate was 94.9% of aggregate net floor area in service, while our utilization rate was 67.6%. The difference between commitment rate and utilization rate reflects the contracts which were still in the process of moving into our data centers. If we secure pre-commitments from customers, particularly large-scale capacity commitments from anchor customers, we expect that our utilization rate will continue to lag our commitment rate due to the longer time taken to move in associated with these types of contracts.

 

Our business model provides us with high levels of revenue visibility due to the long-term nature of our customer contracts and substantial backlog. We endeavor to provide high levels of customer service, support, and satisfaction so as to maintain long-term customer relationships and high rates of contract renewals for our services.

 

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Our Data Centers

 

Our data centers are large-scale, 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 power usage efficiency, enabling our customers to deploy their IT infrastructure more efficiently and reduce their operating and capital costs. Our data centers are located in close proximity to the corporate headquarters and key operations centers of many large enterprises, providing convenient access for our customers, as well as in areas where there are extensive telecommunications networks enabling our customers to enhance the performance and lower the cost of connectivity to our data centers. Our data centers are strategically located in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu, which are the primary financial, commercial, industrial and communications hubs in each region of China, and where demand is concentrated. In 2018, we developed and now operate a new data center campus in Hebei province, China. We continue to source and secure additional data center resources in China’s primary economic hubs. Moreover, in 2018, we commenced the construction of two new data centers located in Kunshan, which are expected to be delivered in 2020. The new data centers have an aggregate capacity of approximately 11,400 sqm of IT area, which has been 100% pre-committed by our strategic hyper-scale customers for their cloud expansion requirements.

 

The following table presents certain information relating to our data center portfolio as of December 31, 2018:

 

(Sqm)

 

Area
in service

 

Area under
construction

 

Area held for
development

 

Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai

 

56,685

 

29,505

 

9,185

 

Shenzhen

 

30,154

 

6,821

 

7,334

 

Guangzhou

 

22,178

 

0

 

14,000

 

Beijing

 

21,418

 

28,875

 

19,881

 

Hong Kong region

 

953

 

0

 

7,061

 

Chengdu

 

14,512

 

0

 

21,506

 

Hebei province

 

14,456

 

0

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

160,356

 

65,201

 

78,967

 

Type

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-developed

 

150,517

 

65,201

 

78,967

 

Third party

 

9,839

 

0

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

160,356

 

65,201

 

78,967

 

 

As of December 31, 2018, our total area committed was 183,743 sqm, of which 152,163 sqm and 31,580 sqm related to data centers in service and data centers under construction, respectively.

 

Self-developed Data Centers

 

As of December 31, 2018, we operated twenty-six self-developed data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 150,517 sqm in service. We also operated capacity at approximately eighteen third-party data centers with an aggregate net floor area of 9,839 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 nine new self-developed data centers, and multiple phases of existing two data centers, which collectively have an aggregate net floor area of 65,201 sqm, under construction. In addition, we had an estimated aggregate developable net floor area of approximately 79,000 sqm held for future development and had entered into a memorandum of understanding for leasing of three data center shell buildings that we expect to provide us with additional net floor area of approximately 30,000 sqm.

 

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

 

·                  High Availability.  Our data centers are equipped with redundant delivery paths for power, cooling and other critical systems, sufficient to satisfy or exceed the Tier III standard as defined by the Uptime Institute. High availability data centers are suitable for housing mission-critical IT infrastructure. We operate our facilities so as to deliver the levels of service availability required by the most demanding customers.

 

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·                  High Power Density.  Our self-developed data centers in service and under construction have an average power density of approximately 2.0 kW/m2. High power density enables customers to deploy their IT infrastructure more efficiently and to optimize their IT infrastructure performance.

 

·                  High Power Efficiency.  Our self-developed data centers are designed to achieve high power efficiency, which is expressed conversely by a low PUE ratio. Our self-developed data centers had around 1.4 times power usage effectiveness, or PUE on average in stabilized operation, compared with an average of 1.7 times for data centers built from 2011 to mid-2013 in China and a PUE of more than 2.0 times for some older data centers, according to the MIIT. High power efficiency reduces operating costs, for the benefit of our customers and ourselves.

 

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.

 

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 data centers into the following two 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 facilities represent approximately 47.9% by aggregate net floor area of our self-developed data centers in service and under construction as of December 31, 2018.

 

·                  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 represent approximately 52.1% by aggregate net floor area of our self-developed data centers in service and under construction as of December 31, 2018.

 

Data Center Tenure.  We hold our data centers either through direct ownership or lease. In China, land cannot be owned outright, but is secured through land use rights. For self-developed data centers that we own, we have rights to use the underlying land for up to 43 years, which is close to the longest permissible period, plus ownership of the buildings and other fixed assets comprising the data center. For self-developed data centers that we lease, we enter into long-term leases with the owners of the building generally for periods of fifteen to twenty years, which is the longest permitted lease period under PRC law. For third-party data centers where we lease capacity on a wholesale basis, we typically enter into leases for fixed terms of three to ten years.

 

Stage of Development.  We categorize our data centers, and the corresponding net floor area, according to the following stages of development:

 

·                  In Service.  Data centers are categorized as in service once the construction of the building is complete, critical systems have been installed, the facility has passed rigorous integrated system testing, and one or more modules have been equipped and fitted out ready for utilization by customers. Once this stage has been reached, we categorize the net floor area of the data center as area in service, including the net floor area which may require additional capex for equipping and fitting out prior to utilization by customers.

 

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·                  Under Construction.  Data centers are categorized as under construction once we have secured control of the site, obtained the necessary construction and other permits, established the design, and building and engineering works are in progress. When we successfully secure pre-commitments from customers, we calculate pre-commitment rate based on the area under construction.

 

·                  Held for Future Development.  Area held for future development consist of the estimated data center net floor area that we expect to be able to develop on land which we have secured, at buildings which we have constructed or leased and pursuant to development or lease agreements we have entered into, but which, in each case, are not under construction. The developable net floor area estimates are subject to a number of contingencies and uncertainties.

 

Self-Developed Data Centers in Service:  The following table sets forth additional details concerning our portfolio of self-developed data centers in service as of December 31, 2018:

 

Market

 

Data center

 

Date ready for
service
(HHYY)

 

Type

 

Tenure

 

Area in service

 

Area committed

 

Commitment rate(1)

 

Area utilized

 

Utilization rate(2) 

 

Shanghai

 

KS1

 

2H10

 

Purpose-Built

 

Owned

 

6,546

 

6,347

 

97

%

6,144

 

94

%

 

SH1

 

2H11

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

6,432

 

6,238

 

97

%

6,095

 

95

%

 

SH2

 

2H15

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

7,712

 

7,653

 

99

%

7,372

 

96

%

 

SH3

 

2H16

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

7,950

 

7,832

 

99

%

7,146

 

90

%

 

SH4

 

2H17

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

8,415

 

8,027

 

95

%

4,707

 

56

%

 

SH5 (Phase 1)(3)

 

1H18

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

2,040

 

2,040

 

100

%

1,059

 

52

%

 

SH6

 

2H18

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

7,540

 

3,546

 

47

%

0

 

0

%

 

SH8

 

2H18

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

4,924

 

4,274

 

87

%

2,354

 

48

%

 

SH11

 

1H18

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

4,214

 

4,214

 

100

%

1,885

 

45

%

Shenzhen

 

SZ1

 

2H14

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

4,286

 

4,225

 

99

%

4,218

 

98

%

 

SZ2

 

1H16

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

4,308

 

4,308

 

100

%

4,294

 

100

%

 

SZ3

 

2H16

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

2,678

 

2,323

 

87

%

2,177

 

81

%

 

SZ4 (Phase 1) (3)

 

2H17

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

4,677

 

4,528

 

97

%

229

 

5

%

 

SZ5 (Phase 1) (3)

 

1H17

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

5,000

 

5,000

 

100

%

5,000

 

100

%

 

SZ5 (Phase 2) (3)

 

1H18

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

7,858

 

7,858

 

100

%

6,458

 

82

%

Guangzhou

 

GZ1

 

1H16

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

6,521

 

6,521

 

100

%

6,521

 

100

%

 

GZ2

 

2H17

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

6,131

 

6,131

 

100

%

5,959

 

97

%

 

GZ3 (Phase 1) (3)

 

1H18

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

7,648

 

7,648

 

100

%

7,338

 

96

%

Beijing

 

BJ1

 

2H15

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

2,435

 

2,431

 

100

%

2,386

 

98

%

 

BJ2

 

2H17

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

5,816

 

5,664

 

97

%

4,810

 

83

%

 

BJ3

 

2H17

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

3,144

 

3,144

 

100

%

2,819

 

90

%

 

BJ5 (Phase 1) (3)

 

2H18

 

Converted

 

Leased

 

5,274

 

5,274

 

100

%

0

 

0

%

Hebei

 

HB1

 

1H18

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

5,132

 

5,132

 

100

%

4,185

 

82

%

 

HB2

 

2H18

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

4,662

 

4,662

 

100

%

2,958

 

63

%

 

HB3

 

2H18

 

Purpose-Built

 

Leased

 

4,662

 

4,662

 

100

%

2,050

 

44

%

Chengdu

 

CD1

 

1H17

 

Purpose-Built

 

Owned

 

6,262

 

6,248

 

100

%

3,567

 

57

%

 

CD2 (Phase 1) (3)

 

2H18

 

Purpose-Built

 

Owned

 

8,250

 

8,250

 

100

%

0

 

0

%

 


(1)             The ratio of area committed to area in service.

(2)             The ratio of area utilized to area in service.

(3)             We are developing our SH5, SZ4, SZ5, GZ3, BJ5 and CD2 data centers in phases. The categorization of data centers by stage of development is applied to each phase of the SH5, SZ4, SZ5, GZ3, BJ5 and CD2 project.

 

As of December 31, 2018, we had invested an aggregate RMB9,983.4 million (US$1,452.0 million) in our data centers in service and expect to invest approximately an additional RMB243.7 million (US$35.4 million) to complete fitting out these data centers.

 

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Self-Developed Data Centers Under Construction.  The following data table presents certain information relating to our self-developed data centers under construction as of December 31, 2018: