Company Quick10K Filing
China Finance Online
20-F 2018-12-31 Filed 2019-04-26
20-F 2017-12-31 Filed 2018-04-27
20-F 2016-12-31 Filed 2017-04-28
20-F 2015-12-31 Filed 2016-04-27
20-F 2013-12-31 Filed 2014-05-06
20-F 2012-12-31 Filed 2013-04-29
20-F 2011-12-31 Filed 2012-04-30
20-F 2010-12-31 Filed 2011-05-31
20-F 2009-12-31 Filed 2010-05-28

JRJC 20F Annual Report

Item 17 ☐ Item 18 ☐
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. Exemption From The Listing Standard for Audit Committees
Item 16E. Purchases of Equity Securities By The Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers
Item 16F. Change in Registrant's Certifying Accountant
Item 16G. Corporate Governance
Item 16H. Mine Safety Disclosure
Part III
Item 17. Financial Statements
Item 18. Financial Statements
Item 19. Exhibits
EX-4.181 jrjc-ex4181_345.htm
EX-4.182 jrjc-ex4182_344.htm
EX-4.183 jrjc-ex4183_343.htm
EX-8.1 jrjc-ex81_339.htm
EX-12.1 jrjc-ex121_337.htm
EX-12.2 jrjc-ex122_338.htm
EX-13.1 jrjc-ex131_335.htm
EX-13.2 jrjc-ex132_336.htm
EX-15.1 jrjc-ex151_334.htm
EX-15.2 jrjc-ex152_333.htm

China Finance Online Earnings 2018-12-31

Balance SheetIncome StatementCash Flow

20-F 1 jrjc-20f_20181231.htm 20-F jrjc-20f_20181231.htm

 

 

UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

FORM 20-F

(Mark One)

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

OR

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018

OR

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

OR

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

Date of event requiring this shell company report

Commission file number: 000-50975

CHINA FINANCE ONLINE CO. LIMITED

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

Not Applicable
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)

Hong Kong
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

17th Floor of Fuzhuo Plaza A,
No. 28 Xuanwai Street, Xicheng District,
Beijing, China 100052
(Address of principal executive offices)

Lin Yang, Vice President

Telephone: + (86 10) 83363008

Email: ir@jrj.com

Facsimile: + (86 10) 83363188

17th Floor of Fuzhuo Plaza A,

No. 28 Xuanwai Street, Xicheng District,

Beijing, China 100052

(Name, Telephone, Email 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

None

 

None

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

 

 


 

American Depositary Shares, each representing 5 ordinary shares*

(Title of Class)

*

Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on the NASDAQ Global Market of American Depository Shares each representing 5 ordinary shares pursuant to the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission

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: 118,098,018 ordinary shares.

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

  Yes              No

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

  Yes                No

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

  Yes                No

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

  Yes                No

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

 

 

Large accelerated filer

Accelerated filer

 

Non-accelerated filer

Emerging growth company

 

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

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

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

U.S. GAAP        International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board     Other 

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

Item 17     Item 18  

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

  Yes                No

 

 

 

 


 

CHINA FINANCE ONLINE CO. LIMITED

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

i

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

ii

PART I

1

ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

1

ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

1

ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION

2

ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

34

ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

56

ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

56

ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES

77

ITEM 7. MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

86

ITEM 8. FINANCIAL INFORMATION

87

ITEM 9. THE OFFER AND LISTING

88

ITEM 10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

89

ITEM 11. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

96

ITEM 12. DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES

97

PART II

100

ITEM 13. DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES

100

ITEM 14. MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS

100

ITEM 15. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

100

ITEM 16A. AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT

101

ITEM 16B. CODE OF ETHICS

101

ITEM 16C. PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES

101

ITEM 16D. EXEMPTION FROM THE LISTING STANDARD FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES

102

ITEM 16E. PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS

102

ITEM 16F. CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT

102

ITEM 16G. CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

102

ITEM 16H. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE

102

PART III

103

ITEM 17. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

103

ITEM 18. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

103

ITEM 19. EXHIBITS

104

SIGNATURE

116

 

 

 


Table of Contents

 

INTRODUCTION

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

 

“we”, ” us”, “our Company”, “the Company”, “our”, refer to China Finance Online Co. Limited, or CFO Hong Kong and its subsidiaries, and, in the context of describing our operations include consolidated affiliates in China, Hong Kong or British Virgin Islands;

 

“shares” and “ordinary shares” refer to our ordinary shares, “preferred shares” refers to our preferred shares, all of which were converted into our ordinary shares upon the completion of our initial public offering on October 20, 2004. “ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares, each of which represents five ordinary shares, and “ADRs” refers to the American depositary receipts which evidence our ADSs;

 

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

 

“Hong Kong” or “H.K.” refers to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China;

 

“U.S. GAAP” refers to generally accepted accounting principles in the United States; and

 

all references to “Renminbi”, “RMB” or “yuan” are to the legal currency of China, all references to “U.S. dollars”, “dollars”, “$” or “US$” are to the legal currency of the United States and all references to “Hong Kong dollars” or “HK$” are to the legal currency of Hong Kong. Any discrepancies in any table between totals and sums of the amounts listed are due to rounding.

We and certain selling shareholders of our company completed the initial public offering of 6,200,000 American depositary shares, each representing five of our ordinary shares, on October 20, 2004. On October 15, 2004, we listed our ADSs on the NASDAQ Global Market (known as the Nasdaq National Market prior to July 1, 2006), or NASDAQ, under the symbol “JRJC”. Effective from January 3, 2011, our ADSs were elevated to trade on the NASDAQ Global Select Market.

 

i


Table of Contents

 

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that are based on our current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about us and our industry. All statements other than statements of historical fact in this annual report are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements can be identified by words or phrases such as “may”, “will”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “estimate”, “intend”, “plan”, “believe”, “is /are likely to” or other and similar expressions. The forward-looking statements included in this annual report relate to, among others:

 

our goals and new strategies, including how we effect our goals and new strategies;

 

our future business developments, business prospects, financial condition and results of operations;

 

our future pricing strategies or policies;

 

our plans to expand our service offerings and upgrade our business strategies;

 

our plans to use acquisitions and investments as part of our corporate strategy;

 

our strategic transformation initiative;

 

cost-cutting initiatives and their effect on efficiency and operational performance;

 

competition in the PRC financial data and information services industry, securities investment advisory, wealth management and financial services industry;

 

the market prospect of the online financial data and information services market;

 

the market prospect of the securities investment advisory and wealth management services markets;

 

the market prospect and competition in other business areas that we have expanded or ventured into, including without limitation, futures contracts brokerage business and commodities brokerage business;

 

performance of China’s securities markets, Hong Kong’s securities markets and global financial markets;

 

global macroeconomic uncertainties;

 

wavering investor confidence that could impact our business;

 

our ability to retain key personnel and attract new talents;

 

possible non-cash goodwill, intangible assets and investment impairment may adversely affect our net income;

 

PRC and Hong Kong governmental policies relating to taxes and how they will impact our business;

 

PRC governmental policies relating to the Internet and Internet content providers;

 

PRC governmental policies relating to securities investment advisory companies to provide advisory services on securities and related products;

 

PRC governmental policies relating to wealth management services and our commodities brokerage business;

 

PRC governmental policies relating to the distribution of content, especially the distribution of financial content over the Internet; and

 

PRC governmental policies relating to mobile value-added services.

ii


Table of Contents

 

These forward-looking statements involve various risks, assumptions and uncertainties. Although we believe that our expectations expressed in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot assure investors that our expectations will turn out to be correct. Our actual results could be materially different from and worse than our expectations. Important risks and factors that could cause our actual results to be materially different from our expectations are generally set forth in Item 3.D of this annual report, “Key Information — Risk factors” and elsewhere in this annual report.

The failure of these markets to grow at the projected rates may have a material adverse effect on our business and the market price of our ADSs. In addition, the relatively new and rapidly changing nature of the online financial data and information services industry, securities investment advisory, wealth management and financial services industry subjects any projections or estimates relating to the growth prospects or future condition of our markets to significant uncertainties. Furthermore, if any one or more of the assumptions underlying the market data turn out to be incorrect, actual results may differ from the projections based on these assumptions.

The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this annual report. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and you should read these statements in conjunction with the risk factors disclosed in Item 3.D of this annual report, “Key Information — Risk factors”. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

 

 

iii


Table of Contents

 

PART I

ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

Not Applicable.

ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

Not Applicable.

1


Table of Contents

 

ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION

A. Selected financial data.

The selected historical consolidated financial statement of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and the selected historical consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 and 2018 set forth below are derived from our audited historical consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. The selected historical consolidated statement of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2015 and the selected historical consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2014, 2015 and 2016 set forth below are derived from our audited historical consolidated financial statements, which are not included in this annual report. This data may not be indicative of our future condition or results of operations and should be read in conjunction with “Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” and the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes.

 

  

 

For the year ended December 31,

 

(in thousands of U.S. dollars, except per share or

   per ADS data)

 

2014

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

Consolidated statement of operations and

   comprehensive income (loss) data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net revenues

 

$

83,696

 

 

$

107,405

 

 

$

83,058

 

 

$

42,623

 

 

$

45,478

 

Cost of revenues

 

 

(20,353

)

 

 

(19,739

)

 

 

(20,380

)

 

 

(21,934

)

 

 

(16,842

)

Gross profit

 

 

63,343

 

 

 

87,666

 

 

 

62,678

 

 

 

20,689

 

 

 

28,636

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General and administrative

 

 

(17,592

)

 

 

(17,994

)

 

 

(19,837

)

 

 

(15,250

)

 

 

(14,254

)

Product development

 

 

(11,148

)

 

 

(10,739

)

 

 

(14,485

)

 

 

(16,208

)

 

 

(13,924

)

Sales and marketing

 

 

(43,761

)

 

 

(46,474

)

 

 

(50,083

)

 

 

(29,467

)

 

 

(22,066

)

Loss from impairment of intangible assets

 

 

(1,802

)

 

 

(250

)

 

 

(1,111

)

 

 

(292

)

 

 

 

Loss from impairment of goodwill

 

 

(8,150

)

 

 

 

 

 

(6,660

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

 

 

(82,453

)

 

 

(75,457

)

 

 

(92,176

)

 

 

(61,217

)

 

 

(50,244

)

Government subsidies

 

 

659

 

 

 

252

 

 

 

1,195

 

 

 

230

 

 

 

 

Income (loss) from operations

 

 

(18,451

)

 

 

12,461

 

 

 

(28,303

)

 

 

(40,298

)

 

 

(21,608

)

Interest income

 

 

4,044

 

 

 

2,648

 

 

 

1,051

 

 

 

487

 

 

97

 

Interest expense

 

 

(12

)

 

 

(1

)

 

 

(2

)

 

 

(3

)

 

 

(1

)

Exchange gain (loss), net

 

 

(112

)

 

 

(766

)

 

 

(55

)

 

 

(131

)

 

247

 

Gain (loss) on the interest sold and retained

   noncontrolling investments

 

 

 

 

 

10,000

 

 

 

20,568

 

 

 

(1,997

)

 

 

(1,187

)

Gain from sale of cost method investment

 

 

4,338

 

 

 

4,648

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gain from sale of equity method investment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

111

 

 

 

 

Loss from equity method investment

 

 

 

 

 

(67

)

 

 

(138

)

 

 

(13

)

 

 

 

Short-term investments income

 

 

58

 

 

 

216

 

 

 

379

 

 

 

63

 

 

 

(73

)

Other income (expense), net

 

 

18

 

 

 

(937

)

 

 

(305

)

 

 

(283

)

 

107

 

Income (loss) before income tax expense

 

 

(10,117

)

 

 

28,202

 

 

 

(6,805

)

 

 

(42,064

)

 

 

(22,418

)

Income tax expense

 

 

(514

)

 

 

(1,384

)

 

 

(4,161

)

 

 

(324

)

 

 

(52

)

Net income (loss)

 

 

(10,631

)

 

 

26,818

 

 

 

(10,966

)

 

 

(42,388

)

 

 

(22,470

)

Less: net income (loss) attributable to the

   noncontrolling interests

 

 

(3,463

)

 

 

4,335

 

 

 

(9,287

)

 

 

(5,652

)

 

 

(2,520

)

Net income (loss) attributable to China

   Finance Online Co. Limited

 

$

(7,168

)

 

$

22,483

 

 

$

(1,679

)

 

$

(36,736

)

 

$

(19,950

)

Net income (loss) per share attributable

   to China Finance Online Co. Limited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-basic

 

$

(0.07

)

 

$

0.20

 

 

$

(0.01

)

 

$

(0.32

)

 

$

(0.18

)

-diluted

 

$

(0.07

)

 

$

0.18

 

 

$

(0.01

)

 

$

(0.32

)

 

$

(0.18

)

Net income (loss) per ADS equivalent

   attributable to China Finance Online

   Co. Limited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-basic (1)

 

$

(0.33

)

 

$

1.01

 

 

$

(0.07

)

 

$

(1.62

)

 

$

(0.88

)

-diluted (1)

 

$

(0.33

)

 

$

0.90

 

 

$

(0.07

)

 

$

(1.62

)

 

$

(0.88

)

2


Table of Contents

 

 

(in thousands of U.S. dollars)

 

As of December 31,

 

 

 

2014

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

Consolidated balance sheet data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

$

32,539

 

 

$

85,734

 

 

$

66,151

 

 

$

38,693

 

 

$

12,493

 

Current working capital (2)

 

 

55,771

 

 

 

76,976

 

 

 

64,701

 

 

 

33,106

 

 

 

16,797

 

Total current assets

 

 

92,214

 

 

 

120,735

 

 

 

148,461

 

 

 

101,617

 

 

 

70,973

 

Total assets

 

 

113,903

 

 

 

144,065

 

 

 

167,624

 

 

 

114,604

 

 

 

80,689

 

Deferred revenue, current

 

 

4,936

 

 

 

6,659

 

 

 

6,526

 

 

 

9,371

 

 

 

8,127

 

Total current liabilities

 

 

36,443

 

 

 

43,759

 

 

 

84,894

 

 

 

68,511

 

 

 

54,176

 

Deferred revenue, non-current

 

 

1,373

 

 

 

692

 

 

 

609

 

 

 

144

 

 

 

149

 

Total China Finance Online Co.

   limited shareholders’ equity

 

 

64,615

 

 

 

88,038

 

 

 

86,165

 

 

 

54,047

 

 

 

35,446

 

 

(1)

Each ADS represents five ordinary shares.

(2)

Current working capital is the difference between total current assets and total current liabilities.

Exchange Rate Information

We have published our financial statements in U.S. dollars. Our business is primarily conducted in China and is denominated in Renminbi. Periodic reports will be made to shareholders and will be expressed in U.S. dollars using the then-current exchange rates. The conversion of Renminbi into U.S. dollars in this annual report is based on the official base exchange rate published by the People’s Bank of China. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars in this annual report were made at $1.00 to RMB6.8632, which were the prevailing exchange rate on December 31, 2018. The prevailing exchange rate on April 5, 2019 was $1.00 to RMB6.7055. We make no representation that any Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate, the rates stated below, or at all. The PRC government imposes controls over its foreign currency reserves in part through direct regulation of the conversion of Renminbi into foreign exchange and through restrictions on foreign trade.

The People’s Bank of China sets and publishes a daily base exchange rate. Until July 21, 2005, the People’s Bank of China set this rate with reference primarily to the supply and demand of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar in the market during the prior day. Beginning on July 21, 2005, the People’s Bank of China has set this rate with reference primarily to the supply and demand of Renminbi against a basket of currencies in the market during the prior day. The People’s Bank of China also takes into account other factors such as the general conditions existing in the international foreign exchange markets. Although governmental policies were introduced in the PRC in 1996 to reduce restrictions on the convertibility of Renminbi into foreign currency for current account items, conversion of Renminbi into foreign exchange for capital items, such as foreign direct investment, loans or security, requires the approval of the State Administration for Foreign Exchange and other relevant authorities.

3


Table of Contents

 

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

 

 

 

Average(1)

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

Period-

end

 

 

 

(RMB per U.S.$1.00)

 

December 31, 2014

 

 

6.1453

 

 

 

6.1710

 

 

 

6.0930

 

 

 

6.1190

 

December 31, 2015

 

 

6.2401

 

 

 

6.4936

 

 

 

6.1079

 

 

 

6.4936

 

December 31, 2016

 

 

6.6529

 

 

 

6.9508

 

 

 

6.4565

 

 

 

6.9370

 

December 31, 2017

 

 

6.7518

 

 

 

6.9526

 

 

 

6.4997

 

 

 

6.5342

 

December 31, 2018

 

 

6.6174

 

 

 

6.9670

 

 

 

6.2764

 

 

 

6.8632

 

Most recent six months:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2018

 

 

6.9264

 

 

 

6.9646

 

 

 

6.8957

 

 

 

6.9646

 

November 2018

 

 

6.9351

 

 

 

6.9670

 

 

 

6.8976

 

 

 

6.9357

 

December 2018

 

 

6.8853

 

 

 

6.9431

 

 

 

6.8476

 

 

 

6.8632

 

January 2019

 

 

6.7897

 

 

 

6.8631

 

 

 

6.7025

 

 

 

6.7025

 

February 2019

 

 

6.7364

 

 

 

6.7765

 

 

 

6.6857

 

 

 

6.6901

 

March 2019

 

 

6.7093

 

 

 

6.7335

 

 

 

6.6850

 

 

 

6.7335

 

April 2019 (through 5th)

 

 

6.7151

 

 

 

6.7194

 

 

 

6.7055

 

 

 

6.7055

 

 

(1)

Annual averages are calculated using the average of month-end rates of the relevant year. Monthly averages are calculated using the average of the daily rates during the relevant period.

B. Capitalization and indebtedness.

Not Applicable.

C. Reasons for the offer and use of proceeds.

Not Applicable.

D. Risk factors.

Risks relating to our business

Any prolonged or substantial slowdown in the global or Chinese economy could adversely affect Chinese investors’ interests and engagement in the securities market, which may in turn have a significantly negative impact on our business.

Our business can be adversely affected by the general macroeconomic environment. Global economic, securities market and financial developments all could significantly influence the overall interests and engagement of Chinese investors in the stock market. China macro-economic growth has also slowed down due to various factors, including concerns over China’s economic transformation and the bleak corporate earnings prospects and deteriorating global economic conditions. The recent trade war between U.S. and China may adversely affect the economic growth in China and the global market, which may result in a negative impact on Chinese securities market, which could in turn have a significantly negative impact on our business. Any prolonged or substantial slowdown in the global or Chinese economy could adversely affect Chinese investors’ interests and engagement in the securities market, which may in turn have a significant negative impact on our business.

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Increasing challenges in China’s securities markets, economic conditions, inflation, regulatory policies, interest rates, the availability of hedging instruments and other factors that could affect investors’ interests in investing in China’s securities markets could have an adverse effect on our business.

We believe that the level of investors’ interest in investing in China’s securities market could significantly influence the demand for market intelligence on China’s securities markets and our products and services. Such demand could be affected by the level of trading activities in China’s securities markets. However, irregular activities involving China’s securities markets, including, without limitation, insider trading, large-scale selling shares by executive officers of newly listed companies, over issuance of IPOs and inadequate legal protections of individual investors, have become increasingly intense in recent years and resulted in market weakness and decreased investor confidence in China’s securities markets. Any factors that lead to weakness or intensified volatility in China’s securities markets in the future may diminish investors’ interest in China’s securities markets, and our business could be adversely affected accordingly.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, officially approved the trial margin trading and short selling rules at Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges in late 2011, which indicates that margin trading and short selling have become the regular trading activities within China’s securities market. On July 1, 2015, CSRC announced regulations that capped the volume of brokerages’ margin trading businesses as part of an effort to minimize the risks associated with highly leveraged stock market. And in the wake of the stock market’s dramatic fall in early July 2015, CSRC took another step to curb volatility, launching investigations into “malicious short selling” in the equity futures market. Both the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges published new rules on their websites in early August 2015 barring investors from borrowing and repaying stocks on the same day. In November 2015, the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges further announced rule changes that would double the required base ratio for margin financing as the government looks to reduce excessive leverage. Despite the measures by the government, it is possible that these hedging instruments, among other things, could cause increased volatility in China’s securities market, which, in turn, may have a negative impact on Chinese investors’ participation in the securities market, and materially and adversely affect our business.

The Interim Measures on Administration of the Business Activities of Peer-to-Peer Lending Information Intermediaries may adversely affect our business, financial conditions and results of operations.

The laws and regulations governing the peer-to-peer (“P2P”) lending service industry in China are developing and evolving and subject to changes. On December 28, 2015, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (the “CBRC”) revealed proposed rules on the regulation of online P2P lending platform for public comment. The proposed rules require P2P lending platforms to publicly disclose aggregate loan information and performance. All P2P lenders are required to register with local financial authorities to improve transparency. Online lenders will not be allowed to use any outside funding.

On August 24, 2016, the CBRC, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (“MIIT”), the Ministry of Public Security and the Cyber Administration of China (“CAC”) jointly released the Interim Measures on Administration of the Business Activities of Peer-to-Peer Lending Information Intermediaries (the “Interim Measures”). The Interim Measures comprise the first comprehensive legal framework specifically regulating P2P lending activities in China. The Interim Measures provide a 12-month transitional period for existing P2P lending platforms to achieve compliance. Any violation of the Interim Measures by a P2P lending platform may subject such platform to certain penalties as determined by applicable laws and regulations, or by relevant government authorities if the applicable laws and regulations are silent on the penalties. The applicable penalties may include, but are not limited to, criminal liabilities, warning, rectification, tainted integrity record and fines of up to RMB30,000 (approximately US$4,000).

The Interim Measures require, among other things, that (i) the information intermediary must apply to the MIIT or other relevant telecommunications authority for a telecommunications business permit; (ii) the information intermediary intending to provide P2P lending information agency services (excluding to its own subsidiaries and branches) must make relevant filings and registrations with local financial regulatory authorities with which it is registered after obtaining its business license; and (iii) the information intermediary must separate its own funds from the funds of lenders and borrowers and engage a qualified financial institution as a third-party banking custodian. Yinglibao is in the process of making the relevant filings, registrations and custodian arrangements. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to obtain and/or establish any or all of the required permit, license, and custodian arrangements prior to the expiration of the 12-month transitional period for existing P2P lending platforms to achieve compliance under the Interim Measures. Yinglibao’s operations may be suspended or terminated if we fail to comply with the filing and custodian requirements of the Interim Measures and our business, financial conditions and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.

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The Interim Measures prohibit information intermediaries from engaging in activities including taking deposits from members of the public or creating asset pools, conducting offline promotion of financing projects, providing guarantees for borrowers (unless facilitated through a third party), or selling wealth management products. The Interim Measures also imposed limits on the size of the online borrowing transactions. Under the Interim Measures, the total amount that an individual can borrow on a single platform must not exceed RMB200,000, and RMB1 million on multiple platforms. The respective caps for a corporate entity are RMB1 million and RMB5 million. Currently, a significant number of borrowers using Yinglibao borrow money in amounts that exceed such caps. Yinglibao is planning to take measures to comply with the size limits the size of the online borrowing transactions within the 12-month transitional period. As a result, we may incur extra costs (especially if we are to monitor the borrowing amounts of on multiple platforms), and the size of Yinglibao’s business will be adversely effected unless we can attract more users to make up for the decrease in individual borrowing amounts.

In February 2017, the CBRC released the Guidelines to Regulate Funds Custodian for Online Lending Intermediaries, or the Custodian Guidelines. The Custodian Guidelines define depositories as commercial banks that provide online lending fund custodian services, and stipulate that the depositories shall not engage in offering any guarantee, including: (i) offering guarantees for lending transaction activities conducted by online lending intermediaries, or undertaking any liability for breach of contract related to such activities; or (ii) offering guarantees to lenders, guaranteeing principal and dividend payments or bearing the risks associated with fund lending operations for lenders. Apart from the requirements set forth in the Interim Measures, the Custodian Guidelines impose certain responsibilities on online lending intermediaries, including entering into fund custodian agreements with only one commercial bank to provide fund custodian services, and organizing independent audit on funds custodian accounts of borrowers and investors and various other services. The Custodian Guidelines also provide that online lending intermediaries are permitted to develop an online lending fund custodian business only after satisfying certain conditions, including: (i) completing registration, filing records and obtaining a business license from the competent industry and commerce administration authority; (ii) filing records with the local financial regulatory authority; and (iii) applying for a corresponding telecommunications service license pursuant with the relevant telecommunication authorities. The Custodian Guidelines also require online lending intermediaries to perform various obligations and prohibits them from advertising their services except in accordance with certain exposure requirements, the interpretation and applicability of which is unclear, as well as certain oversight requirements. The Custodian Guidelines also sets forth other business standards and miscellaneous requirements for depositories and online lending intermediaries as well. Online lending intermediaries and commercial banks conducting the online custodian services prior to the effectiveness of the Custodian Guidelines have a six-month grace period to rectify any activities not in compliance with the Custodian Guidelines.

In August 2017, the General Office of the CBRC released the Guidelines on Information Disclosure of Business Activities of Online Lending Information Intermediaries, or the Information Disclosure Guidelines (the “Information Disclosure Guidelines”). Consistent with the Interim Measures, the Information Disclosure Guidelines emphasize the requirement of information disclosure by an online lending intermediary and further, detail the frequency and scope of such information disclosure. Any violation of the Information Disclosure Guidelines by an online lending intermediary may be subject the online lending intermediary to certain penalties under Interim Measures. In addition, the Information Disclosure Guidelines require online lending intermediaries that do not fully comply with the Information Disclosure Guidelines in conducting their business to rectify the relevant activities within six months after the release of the Information Disclosure Guidelines.

In May 2017, CBRC, MOE and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security issued the Notice on Further Strengthening the Regulation and Management Work of Campus Online Lending Business, or the CBRC Circular 26. The CBRC Circular 26 provides that (i) the commercial banks and the policy banks may research and develop financial products and provide loans that provide general assistance to college students and support them in areas such as learning and training, consumption and entrepreneurship, and provide customized and quality financial services to college students with reasonable credit limits and interest rates; (ii) any entity established without approval of the relevant banking regulatory authority shall not provide any credit services to college students so as to eliminate fraud, usurious loans or violent loan collections; and (iii) all Campus Online Lending business conducted by the Online Lending Information Intermediaries shall be suspended and the outstanding balance of Online Campus Lending loans shall be gradually reduced until reaching a zero balance.

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Complying with these new requirements released in 2017 may cause Yinglibao to incur significant compliance costs and/or eventually reduce the profitability of Yinglibao.

Furthermore, the information intermediaries shall comply with the relevant provisions of national security and national information security protection system, to carry out the information system classification and grading test, with solid firewall, intrusion detection, data encryption and disaster recovery network security facilities and management system, and to establish the rule of the management of technology information, risk and audit. Information intermediaries shall record and retain the debit online log information and interactive information content for five years after the expiration date of the loan contract. At least once every two years, information intermediaries should carry out a comprehensive safety assessment, and accept the examination and review of information security by competent governments, and shall establish or use facilities application level disaster recovery system. Complying with these new requirements may cause Yinglibao to incur significant compliance costs and eventually reduce the profitability of Yinglibao.

In August 2018, the Office of the Leading Group for the Special Campaign against P2P Lending Risks issued a new policy for this purpose, conducting a large-scale and comprehensive rectification check on the P2P online lending platform, and cleaning up the platform development environment. On December 19, 2018 the Office of the Leading Group for the Special Campaign against P2P Lending Risks and the Office of the Leading Group for the Special Campaign against Internet Financial Risks jointly issued the opinion of Working Effectively on Classification and Disposal of Online Lending Agencies (“Circular 175”), which provided that relevant authorities will classify the online lending agencies according to their risk status and scale, and relevant authorities will resolutely promote the market clearing and guide the risk-free exit of the small-scale online lending agencies. We cannot ensure that Yinglibao will not be classified as a small-scale online lending agency, and if it is, our business will be materially and adversely affected.

Downturns, disruptions and volatility in Hong Kong securities markets and global financial markets, and increasing challenges in the business, economic and market conditions that could affect investors’ investments in Hong Kong securities markets and global financial markets could have a material and adverse impact on our business in the future.

We provide a diversified portfolio of brokerage and information service to our clients in connection with their investment in Hong Kong securities market and global financial markets through our subsidiaries in Hong Kong. Lower trading volumes and price levels of securities transactions in Hong Kong securities market may affect investors’ participation in Hong Kong’s securities markets and have a material and adverse impact on our business in the future.

Historically, securities trading volume and price level in Hong Kong have fluctuated considerably. After reaching one of its all-time high on October 30, 2007, the Hang Seng Index (HSI) lost approximately 65.18% of its value from October 30, 2007 through October 27, 2008. In 2018, the HSI had a decrease of 13.61% for the year, down from 29,919.15 points on December 29, 2017 to 25,845.70 points on December 31, 2018.

On November 17, 2014, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect was formally launched granting investors mutual access to the stock market in Shanghai and Hong Kong. On December 5, 2016, the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect was formally launched, granting investors mutual access to the stock market in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In 2018, the average daily turnover of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect was RMB11.63 billion northbound and HK$8.17 billion southbound and the average daily turnover of the Hong Kong stock market was HK$107.41 billion, representing an increase of 21.71% as compared with HK$88.25 billion for the year 2017.

Continued significant fluctuations and weak investor confidence in the Hong Kong securities markets may materially and adversely impact our business.

Our securities brokerage, futures trading and securities advising business in Hong Kong operate in a highly regulated industry and compliance failures could materially and adversely affect our business.

Rifa Securities Limited (or Rifa Securities, previously named iSTAR International Securities Co. Limited), holds a Type 1 license and provides a diversified portfolio brokerage and other related services to our customers who invest in stocks listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchanges and Clearing Limited, or HKEx. Rifa Futures Limited (or Rifa

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Futures, previously named iSTAR International Futures Co. Limited), holds a Type 2 license and commences futures contract trading business in Hong Kong. Rifa Credit Limited (or Rifa Credit, previously named iSTAR International Credit Co. Limited), holds a Money Lenders License. Rifa Asset Management Limited (“Rifa Asset Management”) holds Type 9 License, Type 4 License and Type 5 License. The securities brokerage, securities advising, futures contracts trading, futures contracts advising, asset management and money lending business and operations in Hong Kong are subject to extensive regulations by Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”), and Hong Kong Police Force, which may increase our cost of doing business and may be a limiting factor on the operations and development of such businesses. The regulation on our businesses in Hong Kong is also an ever-changing area of law and is subject to modification by the Hong Kong legislature, government, regulatory and judicial actions. As our business has expanded into these areas in Hong Kong, we devote more time to regulatory matters.

On April 12, 2017, Rifa Futures resolved a disciplinary action with SFC. The disciplinary action was instituted against Rifa Futures by the SFC under section 194 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance with respect to Rifa Futures’ internal control deficiencies during the period between January 1, 2014 and July 31, 2014 (the “Relevant Period”). Although this disciplinary action has been resolved with SFC, we cannot guarantee that we will not be challenged by SFC or other governmental authorities in Hong Kong in the future. Failure to comply with any of the laws, rules, regulations, codes or guidelines applicable to our businesses in Hong Kong could lead to adverse consequences including, without limitation, investigations, fines, law suits and other penalties from regulatory agencies, which could materially and adversely affect our operation of such businesses.

We have incurred significant net losses in the past, and we may not be able to achieve or subsequently maintain profitability.

We incurred net losses attributable to the Company of $1.7 million, $36.7 million and $20.0 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. Our ability to achieve and/or sustain profitability depends on a lot of factors, many of which are beyond our control, such as the continuous development of securities market in China and Hong Kong, as well as the online financial investment services industry. We may incur losses in the near future due to our continued investments in technology, research and development and our sales and marketing initiatives. Changes in macroeconomics and regulatory environment or competitive dynamics and our inability to respond to these changes in a timely and effectively manner may also impact our profitability.

We may not be able to successfully continue to innovate, improve and provide products and services to attract and retain paying subscribers and registered users, which could have a material and adverse impact on our business in the future.

In order to attract and retain users and compete against our competitors, we must continue to invest significant resources in research and development to enhance our Internet technology, improve our existing products and services and introduce additional high-quality products and services. If we are unable to anticipate user preferences or industry changes, or if we are unable to modify our products and services on a timely basis, or if we introduce a new feature or a new research tool that is not favorably received, we may lose users. Our operating results may also suffer if our innovations do not respond to the needs of our users, are not appropriately timed with market opportunities or are not effectively brought to market. Furthermore, our research tools or features may contain errors, including without limitation, programming errors, which are not discovered by our internal testing or are discovered after the services are introduced. Our business operation and our reputation shall be damaged by those errors, and we may need to significantly modify the design of these research tools or features to correct these errors, which could result in significant cost and expense. As Internet technology and products continue to develop, our competitors may be able to offer services and products including news, data, analytics and brokerage-related services through web portals, desktop solutions and mobile handsets that are, or that are perceived to be, substantially similar to or better than those generated by our services. This may force us to expend significant resources in order to remain competitive.

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Our transition to a new business model and our recently started venture into new business areas may not be successful. We cannot guarantee that each of these businesses will be profitable, which may materially and adversely affect our performance.

Beginning in April 2012, while we continue to offer basic versions of paid individual subscription services to individual investors through our flagship portal sites and accumulated paid subscribers with basic software and information services, we no longer accept new paid subscribers or renewals for our premium individual subscription services. We implemented a strategic transition of our core businesses shifting from providing premium subscription services to individual investors to developing Internet-based financial services, including securities, wealth management products and investment advisory services. Beginning in 2013, we started providing commodity brokerage services as part of our transition to new business model. Our transition into commodities brokerage business was suspended in 2017 because we were forced to suspend such business due to the suspension of new commodities trading business according to relevant policies in China in the mid of 2017.

In 2014, the Company launched- “Investment Masters” (“iTougu”), an investment advisory service platform. In 2015, we launched the updated version 2.0 and version 3.0 of iTougu for iOS and android. In July 2017, iTougu platform along with all of its users was migrated into JRJ mobile app.

While securities investment advisory, wealth management product and commodities brokerage businesses have attractive market potential in China, such businesses are relatively new and the related business models are unproven. Our limited experience in new business areas that we may venture into also gives rise to higher unpredictability to our success in these new business areas. We face a variety of risks and uncertainties during the transition and exploration of new business opportunities, many of which will be new and unexpected. If we are unable to successfully and smoothly transition into the new principal businesses and implement our growth strategies, or, if we fail to generate profit in business areas other than our principal businesses in a timely and cost-effective manner, loss of profits may occur and our overall business and financial results may suffer.

Our Internet-based financial platforms “Yinglibao” and “Investment Masters”, and our website may not be successful as they may face intensive competition and/or future regulatory hurdles.

In August 2013, the Company launched “Yinglibao”, which is now a mobile-based financial platform that integrates wealth management solutions and mutual fund distribution. For users who maintain Yinglibao balances, their balances would be used to subscribe for the money market fund managed by third-party mutual fund management companies. Yinglibao users have the option of purchasing mutual fund and other wealth management products directly through their accounts.

In 2014, the Company launched a new platform, namely “Investment Masters”. “Investment Masters”, our web-based mobile investment advisory service platform, facilitates securities investment advisors to communicate with their clients and followers directly in real-time and for 24 hours, allowing a large number of Chinese individual investors to obtain advice and recommended portfolios from thousands of investment advisors that was inaccessible previously.

Our website http://www.jrj.com.cn/ also provides access for wealth management solutions and mutual fund distribution.

Yinglibao, Investment Masters, and our website may be subject to future additional Chinese laws and regulations relating to banking, securities and wealth management businesses. In the event that any of those platforms becomes restricted or even prohibited by Chinese laws, our customers’ financial activities may be affected and there may be a material adverse impact on our business operations.

Competitors with larger customer base and greater market visibility, such as Alibaba Group Holding Limited (“Alibaba”), Tencent Holdings Limited (“Tencent”) and Baidu, Inc. (“Baidu”), also launched their respective Internet-based financial platform which provides financial services similar to that of Yinglibao. In the future, banks and fund management companies may also enter this market and offer similar services to customers. Because of such expected influx of new market entrants, competition in this industry may become more intense. Many of our competitors, especially Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, have greater financial and marketing resources than we do. Investment Masters also faces intense competitions. Several financial websites in China have also launched similar

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services. In addition, securities brokers in China have also begun to develop their own Internet-based financial service platforms. Thus, we may not be able to compete effectively or provide compelling service alternatives to potential customers. Our financial results may suffer as a result.

Uncertain legal regulation in our new areas of business may adversely impact our business.

Laws and regulations governing the securities investment advisory and wealth management services industries in China, are developing and are subject to further changes. As a result, substantial uncertainties exist regarding the evolution of the regulatory system and the interpretation and implementation of current and any future Chinese laws and regulations applicable to such industries. In recent years, China has tightened regulations on commodities transactions in the spot market. The Ministry of Commerce, the People’s Bank of China and the CSRC jointly issued Interim Provisions on Commodities Transactions in the Spot Market, effective from January 1, 2014 (“Circular 3”). New requirements imposed by Circular 3 and the uncertainties in subsequent implementations and administration of such requirements by related agencies may negatively impact our businesses and business performance.

On January 9, 2017, the joint meeting led by CSRC and joined by other relevant authorities of the State Council (“Joint Meeting”) held the third conference in Beijing, reporting the current situations and problems of trading venues, studying and discussing the measures to further conduct cleaning-up and rectification of trading venues. Relevant authorities shall conduct overall clean-up and rectification of trading venues within their jurisdiction. Members, agents and authorized entities of the trading venues are also required to be cleaned up and rectified. On March 16, 2017, CSRC promulgated the Notice on Reviewing the related work in the Early Stage of the Clean-up and Rectification of All Types of Trading Venues, which required further implementation of clean-up and rectification of trading revenues. Above measures and the uncertainties in subsequent implementations and administration of such requirements by related agencies may negatively impact our businesses and business performance.

We cannot guarantee you that we will be able to obtain or maintain our existing licenses and permits, renew any of them when their current terms expire, or obtain additional licenses requisite for our strategic transition and venture into new areas of business. Any changes in the regulatory landscape may materially and adversely affect our business.

We face significant competition in the securities investment advisory and wealth management services industry as we transition into the new principal businesses, and our operations and financial condition may suffer if we fail to compete effectively.

As a new market entrant competing in the highly competitive and fragmented securities investment advisory and wealth management services industries in China, we may not be able to compete effectively or provide a compelling service alternative for potential customers. Securities investment advisory and wealth management services industries in China are at their early stages of development and are highly fragmented and competitive, but they provide vast opportunities, and thus we expect competition to persist and could even intensify in the future. We face competition from independent firms providing wealth management services, securities advisory and investment corporations providing securities investment advisory services, brokerage firms providing securities investment advisory services and domestic commercial banks with in-house sales force and private banking functions, among others. Many of our competitors, especially brokerage firms and commercial banks, have greater financial and marketing resources than we do. Many brokerage firms, trust companies and commercial banks we compete with enjoy significant competitive advantages due to their nationwide distribution network, longer operational history, broader client base, and settlement capabilities. Moreover, many of the securities investment advisory and wealth management services and product providers, such as brokerage firms, commercial banks and trust companies, are also engaged in, or may in the future, engage in the distribution of wealth management products and they may benefit from the integration of wealth management products with their other services and product offerings, which may provide them competitive advantage in this market.

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Cash arrangements with brokers for the procurement of our overseas futures contract trading business expose us to third-party risk, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, reputation, client relationships, operations and prospects.

With respect to Rifa Futures’ future contracts trading business, as we currently do not hold membership at overseas futures exchanges, such as the London Metal Exchange or the CME Group, we rely on third party brokers who are members of these exchanges to hold our customers’ funds and execute our customers’ trades. This business arrangement with third party brokers involves various risks, primarily, third party credit risks and default risks. In the event that one or more of these brokers become insolvent or bankrupt, we and our clients may have difficulty recovering money deposited with such broker. Although we enforce and implement strict risk management policies and procedures, such policies and procedures may not be fully effective in mitigating our clients’ risk exposure to third party insolvency or bankruptcy. If we fail to identify any material financial weakness of any of those brokers who hold our customers’ funds in a timely manner, and as a result our customers suffer financial loss or other damages resulting from such broker’s insolvency or bankruptcy, then accordingly, our financial conditions, reputation, client relationships, operations and prospects will be adversely affected.

We are subject to counterparty risk whereby defaults by parties with whom we do business can have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and cash flows.

Rifa Securities’ margin financing business requires a commitment of capital and involves risks of losses due to the potential failure of our customers to perform their obligations under their transactions with us. Our margin policy allows our margin clients to borrow cash from us to buy stocks listed in HKEx in amounts that may be significantly larger than their cash balances. While we closely monitor each customer’s exposure, it does not guarantee our ability to eliminate negative customer account balances prior to the occurrence of adverse market changes relative to a customer’s position(s). Moreover, we are exposed to debit/deficit risk with our customers. If our customers default on their obligations, we remain financially liable for such obligations, and although these obligations are collateralized, we are subject to market risk in the liquidation of customer collateral to satisfy such obligations since the value of our customers’ positions are subject to fluctuation as market prices change. In addition, if an adverse market move relative to a customer’s position(s) occurs and we are unable to collect the margin loan in a timely manner, the customer account may incur a loss resulting in a debit balance. In light of the current turbulence in the global economy, we face increasing risk of default by our customers and other counterparties. Any default by our counterparties or partners could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and cash flows.

If we are unable to hire high quality personnel for the securities investment advisory and wealth management businesses, our new business model will suffer, which may materially and adversely affect our overall business performance.

We are also facing fierce competition hiring competent licensed securities investment advisors. Highly skilled and qualified financial advisors are in high demand throughout wealth management industries in China. The total number of individuals qualified to provide securities investment advisory and wealth management services in China is limited due to the early development stage of the industry. In addition, the rate of wage inflation in most areas of the economy remains persistently high in recent years. There is no assurance that we can recruit and retain enough licensed securities investment advisors and qualified wealth management financial advisors who meet our high quality requirements to support our further growth into the new principal business, or, if we do, that the cost of doing so will permit us to realize reasonable margins. We may incur disproportional compensation, training and other administrative expenses in order to retain such recruits in light of the aggressive hiring competition from other securities investment advisory firms, brokerage firms, commercial banks and trust companies that are better situated financially for recruitment of this kind. These factors may materially and adversely affect our business and our strategy.

We may incur higher operating expenses in connection with the ongoing business transition and expansion into other new business areas.

In transitioning into internet-based financial services, we are required to incur development, operation and potential acquisition costs in order to keep pace with the new market and technology needs for the industry. In the meantime, we have also ventured into other business areas aside from our principal businesses, which ventures may incur increased administrative costs and other input. As a result, our cost-cutting initiatives to increase efficiency and improve our operational performance may not prove to be effective in the short-term and we may experience losses in connection with our new businesses. During the transition into commodities brokerage business, we were forced

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to suspend commodities brokerage business according to relevant policies in the PRC and incurred operating expenses as a result of such suspension and may incur additional expenses in the future.

Our business could be materially and adversely affected if the stock exchanges and indexes providers from which we receive data and information fail to deliver us reliable data and price quotes or other trading related information, or if we cannot maintain our current business relationships with our historical data providers on commercially reasonable terms.

We provide real-time stock, bond, mutual fund and financial futures quotes and other trading related information from Shanghai Stock Exchange (“SSE”) and Shenzhen Stock Exchange (“SZSE”), and, we also provide delayed trading related information from Hong Kong stock market indexes from HSI. We primarily rely on contractual arrangements with SSE Infonet Co., Ltd. which is associated with SSE, SZSE, and HSI, pursuant to which we pay fixed service fees in exchange for receiving real-time or delayed price quotes and other trading related information.

We renew our agreements with each of SSE Infonet Co., Ltd., SZSE and HSI on an annual basis, respectively. Under these agreements, each of the three data providers can terminate its respective agreement with us if we materially breach relevant terms, such as delay in payment of, or failure to pay, fees to these providers. However, we cannot assure investors that we will be able to timely renew all of these business arrangements on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, after our current terms expire. In addition, we cannot assure investors that the three securities data providers will not change their current mode of providing stock information to us, change the packages of stock information authorized to us, change their current qualification requirements on the authorized information service provider, or charge us service fees substantially higher than the service fees we are currently paying. If they did so, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Even if we are able to maintain our current business arrangements for data on commercially reasonable terms, either of these three securities data providers may fail to deliver us reliable price quotes or other trading related information. And it would be difficult for us to obtain reliable price quotes and other trading related information from an alternative source, which could materially and adversely affect our business.

We rely on Shenzhen Genius Information Technology, Ltd. (“CFO Genius”) as the provider of all historical data and information on listed companies, bonds and mutual funds, any disruption to CFO Genius may have a material adverse effect on our business.

We have transferred to and made CFO Genius, which we acquired in September 2006, the primary source of historical data and information on listed companies, bonds and mutual funds. CFO Genius has become our primary provider of historical data and information, thereby mitigating our reliance on third-party backup providers of such historical data and information. Any problems arising in or any disruption to CFO Genius as the primary provider of historical data and information may have a material adverse effect on our business.

Our business would be adversely affected if we do not continue to maintain an effective telemarketing and customer support force or if our customer support staff fails to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

We market our service offerings through our websites, as well as through our telemarketing and customer service centers. In addition to sales and marketing functions, we depend on our customer support force to market our service offerings to our existing and potential customers and to resolve our subscribers’ technical problems. Many of our telemarketing and customer support personnel have only worked for us for a short period of time and some of them may not have received sufficient training or gained sufficient experience to effectively serve our customers. We may not be able to hire, retain, integrate or motivate additional customer support personnel without any short-term disruptions of our operations. As a result, our business could be adversely affected if we do not continue to maintain an effective customer support force.

The CSRC’s Provisional Regulations on Securities Investment Advisory Business (“Provisional Regulations”), effective from January 1, 2011, has considerably increased requirements on pre-sale disclosures, standardized contract signing and service provisions, and after-sales product return policies in the course of providing securities investment advisory services to customers. The Interim Provisions on Strengthening the Supervision and Control of Engagement in Securities Investment Advisory Business by Utilizing “Securities Analysis Software” promulgated by the CSRC and effective on January 1, 2013 (“Circular 40”) further provide that securities investment advisory

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companies shall provide contact information of companies and certain reminders to clients when promoting products or providing services via the Internet, telephone or SMS.

We require our customer support staff to study and comply with these new requirements imposed by the Provisional Regulations and the Circular 40 in their work. However, we cannot assure investors that our customer support staff would fully comply with the Provisional Regulations and the Circular 40. Our business could be subject to severe penalties if the failure of our customer support staff to comply with those requirements is detected by or complained to regulatory authorities.

Our acquisitions and investments may not recognize our strategic goals, and may result in operating difficulties and other harmful consequences that may adversely impact our business and results of operations.

Acquisitions and investments are important elements of our overall corporate strategy and we expect to continue to acquire and invest in companies, products, services and technologies in the future. In the past several years, we acquired certain businesses and intangible assets, including products, services, trademarks, customer relationships, users list and other assets such as CFO Genius, a financial information database provider mainly serving Chinese domestic institutional customers, and Rifa Securities, a licensed securities brokerage firm incorporated in Hong Kong. We intend to make other strategic investments and acquisitions in the future if suitable opportunities arise. Investments and acquisitions involve uncertainties and risks that may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operation, including:

 

we may not identify suitable candidates and successfully complete acquisition and investment transactions, and may not be able to manage post-closing issues such as the integration of acquired businesses, products or employees;

 

we may not fully realize all of the anticipated benefits of any acquisition and investment transaction;

 

the pricing and other terms of contracts for acquisition and investment transactions require us to make estimates and assumptions at the time we enter into these contracts, so that we may pay more than it is worth; 

 

we may not identify all of the problems during the course of our due diligence, such as factors necessary to estimate our costs accurately, and issues with unlicensed use of intellectual property;

 

any increased or unexpected costs, unanticipated delays or failure to meet contractual obligations, and failure of investments to perform as expected, could make these transactions less profitable or unprofitable;

 

if we fail to successfully complete acquisitions that further our strategic objectives, we may be required to expend resources to develop products and technology internally, and we may be at a competitive disadvantage or we may be adversely affected by negative market perceptions;

 

our ongoing business may be disrupted and our management’s attention may be diverted by transition or integration issues;

 

we may have legal and tax exposures or lose anticipated tax benefits as a result of unforeseen difficulties in our legal entity integration activities;

 

we may face contingencies related to intellectual property, financial disclosures and accounting practices or internal controls;

 

when goodwill, intangible assets and investments, in connection with potential acquisition and investment transactions become impaired, we may be required to incur additional material charges relating to the impairment of those assets;

 

we may incur additional amortization expense over the useful lives of certain intangible assets acquired in connection with acquisitions;

 

any acquisition and investment transactions may require a significant amount of capital investment, which would decrease the amount of cash available for working capital or capital expenditures;

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we may issue common stock, potentially creating dilution for existing stockholders to complete acquisition and investment transactions;

 

we may borrow to finance these transactions, the amount and terms of which as well as other factors could affect our liquidity and financial condition, and debt instruments may contain restrictive covenants that could, among other things, restrict us from distributing dividends;

 

we may experience risks relating to the challenges and costs of closing acquisition and investment transactions and the risk that an announced acquisition and investment transaction may not close.

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

Short selling is the practice of selling securities that the seller does not own but rather has, supposedly, 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 therefore in the short seller’s best interests for the price of the stock to decline, many short sellers (sometimes known as “disclosed shorts”) publish, or arrange for the publication of, negative opinions regarding the issuer and its business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a stock short. While traditionally these disclosed shorts were limited in their ability to access mainstream business media or to otherwise create negative market rumors, the rise of the Internet and technological advancements regarding document creation, videotaping and publication by weblog, or blogging, have allowed many disclosed shorts to publicly attack a company’s credibility, strategy and veracity by means of so-called research reports that mimic the type of investment analysis performed by large Wall Street firms and independent research analysts. These short attacks have, in the past, led to selling of shares in the market, on occasion in large scale and broad base. Issuers who have limited trading volumes and are susceptible to higher volatility levels than large-cap stocks, can be particularly vulnerable to such short seller attacks. These short seller publications are not regulated by any governmental, self-regulatory organization or other official authority in the U.S., are not subject to the certification requirements imposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC and, accordingly, the opinions they express may be based on distortions of actual facts or, in some cases, fabrications of facts. In light of the limited risks involved in publishing such information, and the enormous profit that can be made from running just one successful short attack, unless the short sellers become subject to significant penalties, it is more likely than not that disclosed short sellers will continue to issue such reports.

We have been in the past and may in the future be the subject of short seller attacks. While we intend to strongly defend our public filings against any short seller attack, oftentimes we are constrained, either by principles of freedom of speech, applicable state law (often called “Anti-SLAPP statutes”), or issues of commercial confidentiality, in the manner in which we can proceed against the relevant short seller. Investors should also be aware that in light of the relative freedom to operate that such persons enjoy, should we be targeted for such an attack, the trading price of our ADSs will likely suffer from a temporary, or possibly long term, decline should the rumors created not be dismissed by market participants.

We have recorded losses from impairment of goodwill and/or intangible assets in 2016 and 2017. We may be required to record a significant charge to earnings if we are required to reassess our goodwill or other intangible assets arising from our acquisitions. 

In the course of our operating history, we have acquired assets and businesses, which have resulted in the recording of goodwill and/or intangible assets on our financial statements. We are required under U.S. GAAP to test goodwill for impairment at least annually or sooner if we determine there are indicators of impairment and to review our intangible assets for impairment when events or changes in circumstance indicate the carrying value may not be recoverable. Factors that could lead to impairment of goodwill and intangible assets include, but not limited to, significant adverse changes in the business climate (affecting our company as a whole or affecting any particular segment), unfavorable changes in our stock price and market capitalization, and declines in the financial condition of our business.

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In 2016, the Company concluded that goodwill allocated to the commodities brokerage reporting unit was fully impaired because the estimated growth rates and profit margins for future periods were expected to be lower than that of prior years based on that assessment. The Group recognized an impairment loss of $6.7 million related to the commodities brokerage reporting unit for the year ended December 31, 2016. The Company also recorded an impairment loss on its intangible assets of Henghui (Tianjin) Precious Metals Investment Co., Ltd (“CFO Henghui”), which was fully disposed by the Company in 2016 for $1.1 million. In 2017, The Group recognized an impairment loss of $0.3 million related to the commodities brokerage businesses.

If we reassess our goodwill and intangible assets in the next years, or if we acquire new assets and businesses in the future, we may record additional goodwill and/or intangible assets. The possible write-off of the goodwill and/or intangible assets could negatively impact our future earnings and, as a result, the market price of our common stock could decline.

Stricter securities investment advisory, wealth management regulations may materially weaken the investors’ desire to subscribe or renew subscription for our securities investment advisory and wealth management services.

The Provisional Regulations and the Circular 40 expressly state that the business of providing securities investment advisory or other similar service through software tools or any other terminal equipment (“Securities Analysis Software”) should be subject to regulation by the CSRC. The Regulations on Securities Investment Funds (2015 Amended), which took effect on June 1, 2013, further require companies providing advisory services for investment in public funds should be registered and filed pursuant to the regulations of the CSRC.

While we have acquired requisite securities investment advisory license, in accordance with the Provisional Regulations and we will continue to devote resources to regulatory compliance, the failure to comply with such regulations could lead to adverse consequences which could materially affect our securities investment advisory business. In order to comply with the Provisional Regulations, we have considerably increased pre-sales disclosure requirements, standardized contract signing and service provisions among others. Through fully disclosing the limitation of making investment decisions based on software tools and advice provided by licensed professionals, we emphasize to clients that they must be able to bear the risks of their own investments. Combined with the continuously sluggish stock market, customers’ desire to purchase new or renew existing products and services is increasingly and significantly weakened.

Although the Provisional Regulations benefits the healthy development of securities investment advisory business in China in the long run, such negative impact on our business is anticipated to remain in the foreseeable future.

China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission released the Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Wealth Management Business of Commercial Banks(“Circular 6”), effective from September 26, 2018, pursuant to which banking regulators shall subject wealth management business to penetrative supervision, and identify the ultimate investors and the underlying assets of wealth management products, and carry out all-round dynamic supervision of the operation and management of wealth management products.

None of our group companies is a bank and therefore we are currently not subject to the provisions of Circular 6. However, we cannot assure you that China will not proceed to issue similar laws and regulations on wealth management that may become applicable to companies like us. In the event we become subject to such restrictions and regulation, our wealth management business may be materially and adversely affected.

Interruption or failure of our own electronic systems or those of third-party service providers we rely upon could impair our ability to provide our products and services, which could damage our reputation and harm our operating results.

We have limited backup systems and have previously experienced system failures that have disrupted our operations. Any damage to or failure of our systems could interrupt our service. Service interruptions could reduce our revenues and profits and damage our brand and reduce competitiveness if our system is perceived to be unreliable. Our systems are vulnerable to damage or interruption as a result of terrorist attacks, wars, earthquakes, floods, fires, power loss, telecommunications failures, undetected errors or “bugs” in our software, computer viruses, interruptions in access to our websites through the use of “denial of service” or similar attacks, hacking or other attempts to harm our systems, and similar events. Any security breach caused by hackings, which involve efforts to gain unauthorized access to information or systems, or to cause intentional malfunctions or loss or corruption of data, software, hardware or other computer equipment, and the inadvertent transmission of computer viruses could cause our users to question the safety or reliability of our website and our services and could have a material adverse effect on our business results of operations and financial condition.

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If we experience frequent or persistent system failures on our websites and products due to interruptions and failures of third-party service providers we rely upon, including internet content providers and securities data providers, our reputation and brand could be severely harmed. In addition, our users depend on Internet service providers, online service providers and other website operators for access to our website and they may experience outages, delays and other difficulties due to system failures unrelated to our systems. These types of occurrences could cause users to perceive our website as not functioning properly and therefore cause them to use other methods to obtain the financial data and information services they need.

The trading software of Rifa Securities and Rifa Futures are provided by third parties. Because our trading software and trading platforms are provided by third parties, we are unable to assure the technical stability and soundness of such trading platforms. If there are technical issues related to these third party systems, such as “bugs” or undetected errors, our services may be temporarily halted and our customers may choose to subscribe to our competitors’ services instead and our overall business and financial results may suffer as result.

If we are unable to adapt or expand our existing technology infrastructure to accommodate greater traffic or additional customer requirements, our business may be harmed.

In the past, our websites and mobile applications regularly serve a large number of daily unique visitors when there are significant business developments, financial news and activities, or stock market trading activities. In addition, the number of visitors has continued to increase over time and we are seeking to further increase our user base. Therefore, our servers must accommodate a high volume of traffic to meet peak user demand and deliver frequently updated information. Our servers have in the past experienced and may in the future experience slower response time or login delays for a variety of reasons. It is essential to our success that our servers are able to accommodate our users in an efficient manner so that our users’ experience with us is viewed favorably and without frequent delays. Therefore, we may be required to upgrade our technology infrastructure to keep up with the increasing traffic on our websites, such as increasing the capacity of our hardware servers and the sophistication of our software. If we fail to adapt our technology infrastructure to accommodate greater traffic or customer requirements, our users and customers may become dissatisfied with our services and switch to our competitors, which could harm our business.

We depend largely on the infrastructure of the telecommunications operators in China, and any interruption of their network infrastructure may result in severe disruptions to our business.

Although private Internet service providers exist in China, substantially all access to the Internet in China is maintained through the telecommunications operators, under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT. In addition, local networks connect to the Internet through a government-owned international gateway. We rely on this infrastructure and to a lesser extent, certain other Internet data centers in China to provide data communications capacity primarily through local telecommunications lines. In the event of a large-scale infrastructure disruption or failure, we may not have access to alternative networks and services, on a timely basis or at all.

We may not be able to lease additional bandwidth from the telecommunications operators in China on acceptable terms, on a timely basis or at all. In addition, we may not have means of getting access to alternative networks and services on a timely basis or at all in the event of any disruption or failure of the network. Consequently, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

The Internet infrastructure in China, which is not as well developed as in the United States or other more developed countries, may limit our growth.

The Internet infrastructure in China is not as well developed as in the United States or other more developed countries. In particular, we depend significantly on the PRC government and fixed line telecommunications operators in China to establish and maintain a reliable Internet infrastructure to reach a growing base of Internet users in China. We cannot assure investors that the Internet infrastructure in China will support the demands associated with the continued growth of the Internet industry in China. If the necessary infrastructure standards or protocols, or complementary products, services or facilities are not developed in China on a timely basis or at all by these enterprises, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

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Concerns about the security and confidentiality of information on the Internet may reduce use of our network, impede our growth, and could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.

A significant barrier to confidential communications over the Internet in general has been a public concern over security and privacy, including the transmission of confidential information. To address such concerns, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China issued the Decisions on Strengthening the Protection of Internet Information, effective on December 28, 2012 (“Information Protection Decisions”), which prescribe detailed measures to protect confidential information transmitted via the Internet and the liabilities for violation of the provisions. If these concerns are not adequately addressed pursuant to the Information Protection Decisions and other relevant regulations, they may inhibit the growth of the Internet and other online services generally. If a well-publicized Internet breach of security were to occur, general Internet usage could decline, which could reduce traffic to our websites and impede our growth.

Cyber Security Law came into effect on June 1, 2017. According to the Cyber Security Law, providers of services over Internet networks may not collect any personal information that is not related to the services they provide, or disclose or tamper with personal information that they have collected, unless such information is encoded to prevent identification of individuals whose information is so disclosed or tampered with. Under the Cyber Security Law, the internet service providers are required to take technical and other necessary measures to ensure the security of the personal information they have collected and prevent the personal information from being divulged, damaged or lost. Service providers who do not comply with the Cyber Security Law may be subject to fines, warnings, suspension of their businesses, confiscation of illegal gains, shutdown of their websites, and revocation of their business licenses.

The General Rules of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China promulgated by National People’s Congress in March 15, 2017 and effective as of October 1, 2017 require that any organization or individual shall legally obtain the personal information of others and ensure the safety of such personal information, and shall not illegally collect, use, process or transmit the personal information of others, or illegally buy or sell, provide or make public the personal information of others. On May 8, 2017, the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC and the Supreme People’s Procurator of the PRC issued the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procurator on Several Issues Concerning the Applicable Law for Criminal Cases with respect to Infringement of Citizen’s Personal Information, which defines “personal information,” “the provision of personal information,” and “the illegal collection of personal information.” For the purpose of protecting the personal information, General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine of the PRC and the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China issued the Information security technology-Personal information security specification, which came into effect on May 1, 2018.

We may incur significant costs to protect against the threat of security breaches or to alleviate problems caused by these breaches. If unauthorized persons are able to penetrate our network security, they could misappropriate proprietary information, including personal information regarding our subscribers, or cause interruptions in our services. As a result, we may be required to incur substantial costs and divert our other resources to protect against or to alleviate these problems. Security breaches and leakage of personal information of our subscribers could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.

We may be subject to, and may expend significant resources in defending against claims based on the content and services that we provide through our website and research tools.

Due to the manner in which we obtain, collect, categorize and integrate content for our website, and because our services, including our online bulletin boards and discussion forums, may be used for the distribution of information and expression of opinions, claims may be filed against us for defamation, subversion, negligence, copyright or trademark infringement or other violations due to the nature and content of such information. For example, our bulletin boards and online forums reflect the statements and views of persons we do not control and we cannot be assured that such information is true and correct and is not misleading. These persons may also have conflicts of interest in relation to their statements or views regarding securities or other financial matters. Liability insurance for these types of claims is not currently available in the PRC. While we do not take responsibility for statements or views presented on our website, we may incur significant costs investigating and defending these types of claims even if they do not result in liability. Any such claim may also damage our reputation if our users and subscribers do not view this content as reliable or accurate, which could materially and adversely affect our business.

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We have been and may continue to be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, which may force us to incur substantial legal expenses and, if determined adversely against us, may materially disrupt our business.

We cannot be certain that our website content, online services and our research tools do not or will not infringe upon patents, valid copyrights or other intellectual property rights held by third parties. We may become subject to legal proceedings and claims from time to time relating to the intellectual property of others in the ordinary course of our business. If we are found to have violated the intellectual property rights of others, we may be enjoined from using such intellectual property, and we may incur licensing fees or be forced to develop alternatives. In addition, we may incur substantial expenses in defending against these third-party infringement claims, regardless of their merit. Successful infringement or licensing claims against us may result in substantial monetary liabilities, which may materially and adversely affect our business.

Unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties, and the expenses incurred in protecting our intellectual property rights, may materially and adversely affect our business.

We regard our copyrights, trademarks, trade secret and other intellectual property as critical to our success. Unauthorized use of the intellectual property used in our business may materially and adversely affect our business and reputation. We rely on trademark and copyright law, trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements with our employees, customers, business partners and others to protect our intellectual property rights. Despite our precautions, it may be possible for third parties to obtain and use our intellectual property without authorization. In particular, the laws and enforcement procedures in the PRC do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as do the laws and enforcement procedures in the United States. Moreover, litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce our intellectual property rights. Future litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources, and could disrupt our business, as well as have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

We depend on our key personnel and our business and growth prospects may be severely disrupted if we lose their services.

Our future success is dependent upon the continued service of our key executives and employees. We rely on their expertise in our business operations. If one or more of our key executives are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, or if they join a competitor or form a competing company in violation of their employment agreements, we may not be able to easily replace them.

Furthermore, since our industry is characterized by high demand and intense competition for talent, we may need to offer higher compensation and other benefits in order to attract and retain key personnel in the future. We currently do not maintain key-man life insurance for any of our key personnel. We cannot assure investors that we will be able to retain the services of our executives or key personnel, or attract and retain experienced executives or key personnel that we will need to achieve our business objectives in the future. As a result, our business may be significantly disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

Because there is limited business insurance coverage in China, any business disruption or litigation we experience might result in us incurring substantial costs and the diversion of resources.

The insurance industry in China is still at an early stage of development. Insurance companies in China offer limited business insurance products and do not, to our knowledge, offer business liability insurance. While business disruption insurance is available to a limited extent in China, we have determined that the risks of disruption, cost of such insurance and the difficulties associated with acquiring such insurance make having such insurance impractical for us.

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Our results of operations may fluctuate, which makes our results difficult to predict and you should not rely on our past operating results as an indication of our future performance, because our results of operations are subject to significant fluctuations.

We may experience significant fluctuations in our operating results including but not limited to strategic transformation initiative, cost-cutting initiative and its effect on efficiency and operational performance, potential business consolidation amidst the new regulatory environment, the market prospect of the businesses of securities investment advisory and wealth management, the difficulty in forecasting revenues from our commodities brokerage services business and the transition period to adapt to the new compliance requirements, due to a variety of factors, many of which are outside our control. Significant fluctuations in our operating results could be caused by any of the factors identified in this section, including but not limited to, our ability to retain existing clients, attract new clients at a steady rate and maintain client satisfaction; technical difficulties, system downtime or Internet failures; operators’ policies; changing customer needs, regulatory environment and market condition; seasonal trends in Internet use; wavering investor confidence that could impact our business; possible non-cash goodwill, intangible assets and investment impairment that may adversely affect our net income; the unpredictability of our strategic transformation and upgrade; general economic conditions and economic conditions specific to the Internet and wireless, financial information and services, securities investment advisory and wealth management, and the China and Hong Kong securities markets. As a result of these and other factors, comparing our results of operations on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful, and you should not rely on our past results as an indication of our future performance. Our quarterly and annual revenues and costs and expenses as a percentage of our revenues may be significantly different from our historical or projected figures. Our results of operations in the future may fall below expectations.

The effects of war, acts of terrorism, health epidemics, natural disasters or other unforeseen wide-scale events could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.

The continued threat of terrorism and associated heightened security measures and military actions in response to acts of terrorism has disrupted commerce and has intensified uncertainties in the U.S. and international economies. Any further acts of terrorism, a future war, a widespread natural disaster, or a health epidemic, such as the influenza H7N9, may disrupt commerce, undermine consumer confidence and lead to a further downturn in China or international economies, which could negatively impact our revenues. Furthermore, an act of terrorism or war, or the threat thereof, or any natural disaster that results in unforeseen interruptions of commerce, could negatively impact our business by interfering with our ability to obtain products from our manufacturers.

Risks relating to our corporate structure

We primarily rely on contractual arrangements with our significant PRC-incorporated affiliates and their shareholders to maintain control over our China operations indirectly. If the affiliates fail to perform their obligations under these contractual arrangements or PRC laws impair the enforceability of these contracts, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

Because PRC regulations restrict our ability to provide Internet content directly in China, we rely on contractual arrangements, or VIE agreements, with our significant PRC-incorporated affiliates and their shareholders for the operation of our businesses. We have no direct equity ownership interest in these onshore affiliates. These contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing control over these entities as direct ownership. For example, these entities could fail to take actions required for our business or fail to perform its obligations under these contractual arrangements.

The VIE agreements are governed by PRC law. In the event any of these significant PRC affiliates fails to perform its obligations under these contractual arrangements, we may have to rely on legal remedies under PRC law, including seeking specific performance or injunctive relief, and claiming damages, which we cannot be sure would be effective. The 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, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

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The VIE agreements we entered into include share pledge agreements. We have registered the pledges of equity interests by nominee shareholders of some of our consolidated affiliated entities. The nominee shareholders of each of our consolidated affiliated entities have pledged all of their equity interests in the relevant consolidated affiliated entities to our subsidiaries. An equity pledge agreement becomes effective among the parties upon execution, but according to the PRC Property Rights Law, an equity pledge is not perfected as a security property right unless it is registered with the relevant local administration for industry and commerce. There is no assurance that we can have these equity pledges registered successfully. Prior to the completion of the registration, we may not be able to successfully enforce the equity pledge against any third parties who have acquired property right interests in good faith in the equity interests in the relevant consolidated affiliated entity.

If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our online financial data and information services and securities investment advisory services no longer comply with PRC government restrictions on foreign investment in the Internet content services industry, we could be subject to severe penalties.

PRC regulations currently limit foreign ownership of companies that provide Internet content services, which include operating financial data and information services through the Internet, to be no more than 50%. Accordingly, foreign and wholly foreign-owned enterprises are currently not able to apply for the required licenses for operating such services in China.

We are a foreign enterprise and each of our significant subsidiaries, China Finance Online (Beijing) Co., Ltd., or CFO Beijing, Fortune Software (Beijing) Co., Ltd., or CFO Software, CFO Genius and Zhengning Information & Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., or CFO Zhengning, accordingly, neither we, nor any of these significant subsidiaries is eligible to apply for licenses to operate our website. In order to comply with foreign ownership restrictions, we operated our website in China through CFO Fuhua, which holds the licenses required to be an Internet information content provider under the relevant PRC laws. Zhiwei Zhao and Jun Wang hold 45% and 55% of the equity interests in CFO Fuhua, respectively. We are expected to continue to be dependent on CFO Fuhua to host www.jrj.com. We have entered into VIE agreement with CFO Fuhua, its shareholders to maintain substantial control over CFO Fuhua. There are, however, substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current or future PRC laws and regulations. And VIE agreements have been under increasing scrutiny by the relevant government authorizes in recent years. Accordingly, we cannot assure investors that the PRC regulatory authorities will ultimately take a view that our arrangements with CFO Fuhua comply with PRC law.

Although we believe we comply with current PRC laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that the PRC government would agree that our 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. The PRC government has broad discretion in determining penalties for violations of laws and regulations. If the PRC government determines that we do not comply with applicable law, it could revoke our business and operating licenses, require us to discontinue or restrict our operations, restrict our right to collect revenues, block our websites, require us to restructure our operations, impose additional conditions or requirements with which we may not be able to comply, impose restrictions on our business operations or on our customers, or take other regulatory or enforcement actions against us that could be harmful to our business. Any of these or similar occurrences could significantly disrupt our business operations or restrict us from conducting a substantial portion of our business operations, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If any of these occurrences results in our inability to direct the activities of any of our consolidated affiliated entities that most significantly impact its economic performance, and/or our failure to receive the economic benefits from any of our consolidated affiliated entities, we may not be able to consolidate the entity in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

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VIE agreements that we have entered into with our PRC affiliates may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and a finding that we or our PRC affiliates owe additional taxes could substantially reduce our consolidated net income.

Under PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. We could face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements among our PRC-incorporated subsidiaries and PRC-incorporated affiliates do not represent an arm’s length price and adjust the income of our PRC-incorporated subsidiaries or that of our PRC-incorporated affiliates in the form of transfer pricing adjustments. Transfer pricing adjustments could, among other things, result in a reduction, for PRC tax purposes, of expense deductions recorded by our PRC incorporated subsidiaries or affiliates, which could in turn increase their respective tax liabilities. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment fees and other penalties on our PRC-incorporated subsidiaries or affiliates for underpayment of taxes. Our consolidated net income may be materially and adversely affected if our PRC-incorporated subsidiaries or affiliates’ tax liabilities increase or if they are found to be subject to late payment fees or other penalties.

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

On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress approved the Foreign Investment Law, which will come into effect on January 1, 2020 and replace the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The Foreign Investment Law embodies an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. Article 41 of the Foreign Investment Law provides that the management for foreign investors who invest in such financial industries as banking, securities and insurance or manage any investment in such financial markets as securities market and foreign exchange market within the territory of China, where there are any other provisions in any other regulations published by China, such provisions shall prevail. However, since it is relatively new, uncertainties still exist in relation to its interpretation and implementation. For instance, under the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investment” refers to the investment activities directly or indirectly conducted by foreign individuals, enterprises or other entities in China. Though it does not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, there is no assurance that foreign investment via contractual arrangement would not be interpreted as a type of indirect foreign investment activities under the definition in the future. In addition, the definition contains a catch-all provision which includes investments made by foreign investors through means stipulated in laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, it still leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions promulgated by the Stale Council to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. In any of these cases, it will be uncertain whether our contractual arrangements will be deemed to be in violation of the market access requirements for foreign investment under the PRC laws and regulations. Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. Failure to take timely and appropriate measures to comply with any of these or similar regulations could materially and adversely affect our current VIE structure, corporate governance and business operations.

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We rely principally on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our wholly owned operating subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have.

We are a holding company, and our ability to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders, repay any debt we may incur and meet our other cash requirements depends solely on our ability to receive dividends and other distributions from our PRC subsidiaries and consolidated affiliated entities to our offshore affiliates and/or other contractual arrangements, more specifically:

(a)

Earnings of our PRC subsidiaries that we directly own and operate inside the PRC are transferred to us by means of dividend payments. The amount of dividends paid to us by our directly owned PRC subsidiaries depends mainly on the service fees paid to them from our consolidated affiliated entities.

(b)

Earnings of our PRC subsidiaries that we indirectly hold through an intermediary Hong Kong or British Virgin Islands company are transferred to us by means of dividend payments via such intermediary company. The transfer of dividend payments from such intermediary company to us is not subject to PRC taxation or other regulatory restrictions.

(c)

Earnings of the VIEs, which we exert control via VIE contracts including without limitation exclusive technology consulting and management service agreement, exclusive purchase right agreement, power of attorney and pledge agreement, are first transferred in full (pre-tax) to our wholly foreign owned enterprise via such contractual arrangements.

However, there are restrictions under PRC laws for the payment of dividends to us by our PRC subsidiaries. For example, if our PRC subsidiaries incur debt on its own behalf, the instruments governing the debt may restrict its ability to make payments or distributions to us. Furthermore, relevant PRC laws and regulations permit payments of dividends by the PRC subsidiaries only out of their retained earnings, if any, as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. Under PRC laws and regulations, the PRC subsidiaries are required to set aside at least 10% of its after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards each year to fund a statutory reserve. This reserve is not distributable as dividends until the accumulated amount of such reserve has exceeded 50.0% of its registered capital. Consequently, each of our PRC subsidiaries is restricted in its ability to transfer a portion of its net assets to us or any of our other subsidiaries in the form of dividends, loans or advances. In addition, PRC tax authorities may require us to amend the VIE contractual arrangements that would materially and adversely affect the ability to pay dividends and other distributions to us. The foregoing restrictions on the ability of the PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to pay dividends to holders of our ADSs.

Risks relating to doing business in the People’s Republic of China

A slowdown of the Chinese economy or adverse changes in economic and political policies of the PRC government could negatively impact China’s overall economic growth, which could materially adversely affect our business.

Substantially all of our assets are located in China and substantially all of our revenues are derived from our operations in China. Accordingly, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects are subject, to a significant extent, to economic, political and legal developments in China.

The annual growth rate of China’s economy increased from 6.7% in 2016 to 6.9% in 2017. In 2018, the annual growth rate of China’s economy decreased to 6.6%. According to a recent forecast by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, China’s economic growth rate targets 6.3% in 2019. A slowdown in overall economic growth, an economic downturn or recession or other adverse economic developments in China may materially reduce the demand for the Company’s services and may have materially adverse effects on our business.

The PRC economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, and control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past 20 years, 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 benefit the overall PRC economy, but may also have a negative effect on us. For example, our financial condition

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and results of operations may be adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations that are applicable to us.

The PRC economy has been transitioning from a planned economy to a more market-oriented economy. Although the PRC government has implemented measures since the late 1970s 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 PRC government. In addition, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through the allocation of resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. These actions, as well as future actions and policies of the PRC government, could materially affect the financial markets in China and our business and operations.

The PRC legal system embodies uncertainties which could limit the legal protections available to you and us.

The PRC legal system is a civil law system based on written statutes. Unlike common law systems, it is a system in which decided legal cases have little precedential value. Our significant PRC operating subsidiaries are enterprises incorporated in China and wholly owned by foreign investors and are subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign investment in China in general and laws and regulations applicable to wholly foreign-owned enterprises in particular. However, these laws, regulations and legal requirements are constantly changing, and their interpretation and enforcement involve uncertainties. These uncertainties could limit the legal protections available to us and other foreign investors, including you. In addition, we cannot predict the effect of future developments in the PRC legal system, particularly with regard to the Internet, securities investment advisory and wealth management, including the promulgation of new laws, changes to existing laws or the interpretation or enforcement thereof, or the preemption of local regulations by national laws.

The PRC government may prevent us from, and we may be subject to liability for, distributing content online that it believes to be inappropriate.

China has enacted laws and regulations governing Internet access and the distribution of news, information or other content, as well as products and services, through the Internet. In the past, the PRC government has stopped the distribution of information through the Internet that it believes violates PRC law. MIIT, the General Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television, and the Ministry of Culture have promulgated regulations which prohibit information from being distributed through the Internet if it contains content that is found to, among other things, propagate obscenity, gambling or violence, instigate crimes, undermine public morality or the cultural traditions of the PRC, or compromise state security or secrets.

In addition, MIIT has published regulations that subject website operators to potential liability for content included on their websites and the actions of users and others using their systems, including liability for violations of PRC laws prohibiting the distribution of content deemed to be socially destabilizing. The PRC’s Ministry of Public Security has the authority to order any local Internet service provider, or ISP, to block any Internet website maintained outside China at its sole discretion. Periodically, the Ministry of Public Security has stopped the distribution over the Internet of information which it believes to be socially destabilizing. The PRC’s State Secrecy Bureau, which is directly responsible for the protection of state secrets of the PRC government, is authorized to block any website it deems to be leaking state secrets or failing to meet the relevant regulations relating to the protection of state secrets in the distribution of online information.

Under applicable PRC regulations, we may be held liable and be subject to penalties for any content we offer or will offer through our website, including information posted on bulletin boards and online forums which we host and maintain on our website. Furthermore, we are required to delete any content we transmit through our website if such content clearly violates PRC laws and regulations. Where any content is considered suspicious, we are required to report such content to PRC governmental authorities.

It may be difficult to determine the type of content that may result in liability for us. If any financial data and information services we offer through our website were deemed to have violated any of such content restrictions, we could be forced to discontinue such services and provision of financial data and be subject to penalties, including

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confiscation of income, fines, suspension of business and revocation of licenses for operating online financial data and information services, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, if any information posted on our bulletin boards or online forums were deemed to have violated any of the content restrictions, we could be subject to similar penalties that materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If the current tax benefits we enjoy in PRC were no longer available, our effective tax rates for our PRC operations could increase.

The PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, or the EIT Law which became effective on January 1, 2008, and was amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018, and its implementation regulations adopted a uniform tax rate of 25% for all enterprises (including domestically owned enterprises and foreign-invested enterprises) and revoked the previous tax exemption, reduction and preferential treatments applicable to foreign-invested enterprises. However, there is a five-year transitional period during which certain enterprises are allowed to continue to enjoy existing preferential tax treatments provided by the then-applicable tax laws and administrative regulations. 

According to the Administrative Measures on the Recognition of “High and New Technology Enterprises”, or the Recognition Rules, issued in 2008, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation shall jointly determine whether an enterprise is qualified as a “High and New Technology Enterprise”, or HNTE, under the EIT Law and be entitled to enjoy a preferential enterprise income tax rate of 15%. The qualification is valid for three years from the date of award, and enterprises should submit the application for renewal. CFO Genius obtained the HNTE status in 2012. There is no assurance that they will continue to be classified as the HNTE when they are subject to reevaluation in the future. In 2014, CFO Meining obtained renewal of its HNTE status successfully, which initially obtained the HNTE in 2011. In 2015, CFO Genius also obtained renewal of its HNTE status, which will be valid through November 2018. In 2016, CFO Fuhua obtained the HNTE and enjoys the preferential tax rate of 15% from 2016 to 2018. Following the closing of the sale of 90% of equity interest in CFO Meining, CFO Genius and CFO Fuhua will be the only two subsidiaries having HNTE status. In the event that the preferential tax treatment for CFO Genius and CFO Fuhua are discontinued, it will become subject to the uniform tax rate of 25%, which materially increase our tax obligations.

In addition, companies that develop their own software and register the software with relevant authorities in China were generally entitled to a value-added tax, or VAT, refund. With respect to revenue generated from the sale of certain online subscriptions, including our service packages, nine of our subsidiaries obtained VAT refunds that reduce their effective VAT rates from 17% to 3% before 2011. The VAT refund policy was reconfirmed pursuant to the Notice on VAT Policy for Software Products, effective January 1, 2011, jointly promulgated by the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation on October 13, 2011, or Caishui Circular 100. Although the Notice on VAT Policy for Software Products does not specify policy expiration date, in the event that the VAT refund policy for our subsidiaries is discontinued, our subsidiaries will become subject to the standard tax rate at 17%, which materially increase our tax obligations.

Pursuant to the implementation rules of EIT Law in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China (“Tibet”), companies incorporated and operated in Tibet could enjoy a preferential enterprise income tax rate of 15%. In addition, a further 6% is exempted for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018, which reduces the enterprise income tax rate to 9%. Tibet Fortune Jinyuan Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“CFO Tibet”) and Tibet Zhisheng Gold Industry Co., Ltd. (renamed as Tibet Lieqian Network Technology Co., Ltd. in December 2017, “Tibet Lieqian”), an affiliate of the Company was in Tibet and enjoyed a preferential tax rate of 9% from 2016 and 2017, 15% from 2018 respectively.

Uncertainties in the PRC tax system may lead to penalties, termination of preferential tax treatment or change of tax levy method imposed on us because of a difference in interpretation of the applicable law by the relevant governmental authority. For example, under current tax laws and regulations, the local tax authority approved certain of our entities to file the income tax by adopting the “deemed-profit method”. Under the method, the entities filed the income tax by calculating the tax as 2.5% of the gross revenues. However, since there is no clear guidance as to the applicability of certain areas of preferential tax treatment and tax levy position, we may be found to be in violation of the tax laws and regulations based on the interpretation of local tax authorities with regard to taxable income and the applicable tax rates, and therefore might be subject to penalties, including but not limited to monetary penalties, termination of preferential tax treatment or change of tax levy method, or claw-back and late payment interest. Reduction or elimination of the preferential tax treatments we have enjoyed or change of our tax

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levy method on us or our combined entities in China may significantly increase our income tax expenses and materially reduce our net income, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition.

In addition, we cannot predict the effect of future tax application and tax developments in the PRC legal system, including the promulgation of new laws, changes to existing laws or the interpretation or enforcement thereof, or the preemption of local regulations by national laws. The discontinuation of tax application could materially and adversely affect our financial condition. Any significant increase in our income tax expenses may materially and adversely affect our profit.

Enhanced scrutiny over acquisition transactions by the PRC tax authorities may have a negative impact on potential acquisitions we may pursue in the future.

In connection with the EIT Law, the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation jointly issued, on April 30, 2009, the Notice on Issues Concerning Process of Enterprise Income Tax in Enterprise Restructuring Business, or Circular 59. On December 10, 2009, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Notice on Strengthening the Management on Enterprise Income Tax for Non-resident Enterprises Equity Transfer, or Circular 698. On July 26, 2010, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Bulletin Concerning Promulgation of Administrative Measures on the Enterprise Income Tax Treatment of Enterprise Reorganization, or Bulletin 4. On March 28, 2011, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Bulletin Concerning the Tax Administration of Non-resident Enterprises, or Bulletin 24. Both Circular 59 and Circular 698 became effective retroactively on January 1, 2008. Bulletin 4 became effective retroactively on January 1, 2010. Bulletin 24 took effective since April 1, 2011 and also applies to transactions that have occurred prior to its effectiveness for which the relevant PRC tax matters have not been dealt with. On February 3, 2015, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Announcement on Several Issues Related to Enterprise Income Tax for Indirect Asset Transfer by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or Announcement 7, effective from February 3, 2015, which in part supersedes Circular 698 and Bulletin 24. On June 24, 2015, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Bulletin Concerning Certain Issues on the Administration of the Enterprise Income Tax of Enterprise Reorganization, or Bulletin 48, which in part supersedes Bulletin 4. On October 17, 2017, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Matters Concerning Withholding of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises at Source, or Bulletin 37 became effective on December 1, 2017.

By promulgating and implementing these circulars, the PRC tax authorities have enhanced their scrutiny over the direct or indirect transfer of equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise by a non-resident enterprise. The PRC tax authorities have the discretion under Circular 59, and Circular 698, Bulletin 4, Bulletin 24 and Bulletin 48 to make adjustments to the taxable capital gains based on the difference between the fair value of the equity interests transferred and the cost of investment. The PRC tax authorities may also, under Announcement 7, treat an indict transfer of the equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise by a non-resident enterprise as a direct transfer of PRC taxable assets subject to PRC corporate income tax, if it is established that such transfer is made through an arrangement without a reasonable commercial purpose but to avoid PRC corporate income tax.

If the PRC tax authorities make adjustments under Circular 59, Circular 698, Bulletin 4, Bulletin 24, Bulletin 48, Announcement 7 or Bulletin 37, our income tax costs associated with such potential acquisitions will be increased. We may also be at risk of being imposed a penalty under the above rules and regulations and may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with or to establish that we (or such foreign investor) should not be taxed under those rules and regulations, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Dividends we receive from our operating subsidiaries located in the PRC may be subject to PRC withholding tax.

The EIT Law provides that a maximum income tax rate of 20% may be applicable to dividends payable to non-PRC investors that are “non-resident enterprises” to the extent such dividends are derived from sources within the PRC, and the State Council has reduced such rate to 10% through the implementation regulations unless any such non-PRC investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. We are a Hong Kong incorporated company and substantially all of our income may be derived from dividends we receive from our operating subsidiaries located in the PRC. According to mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Arrangement on Avoiding Double Taxation or Evasion of Taxation on Income agreed between the Mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in August 2006, dividends payable by a subsidiary located in the PRC to the company in Hong Kong who directly holds at least 25% of the equity interests

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in the subsidiary will be subject to a maximum 5% withholding tax under certain conditions. Since the preferential withholding tax is subject to the approval from competent taxation authorities in PRC, it remains uncertain whether our company in Hong Kong actually would be able to enjoy preferential withholding taxes for dividends distributed by our subsidiaries in China. If we are not able to enjoy the preferential withholding taxes and the tax rate may be 10% for dividends distributed by our subsidiaries, it will materially and adversely affect the amount of dividends, if any, we may pay to our shareholders and ADS holders.

We may be deemed a PRC resident enterprise under the EIT Law and be subject to the PRC taxation on our worldwide income.

Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its Implementing Rules, an enterprise established outside of the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC is considered a resident enterprise and will be subject to the enterprise income tax at the rate of 25% on its worldwide income. The Implementing Rules define the term “de facto management bodies” as “establishments that carry out substantial and overall management and control over the manufacturing and business operations, personnel, accounting, properties, etc. of an enterprise”.

On April 22, 2009, the State Administration of Taxation, or the SAT, issued the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprise on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or SAT Circular 82, which provided certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a Chinese-controlled offshore- incorporated enterprise is located in China. In addition, the SAT issued the Bulletin 45 on July 27, 2011 to provide more guidance on the implementation of the above circular with an effective date to be September 1, 2011. The Bulletin 45 made clarification in the areas of resident status determination, post-determination administration, as well as competent tax authorities. It also specifies that when provided with a copy of PRC tax resident determination certificate from a resident PRC -controlled offshore incorporated enterprise, the payer should not withhold 10% income tax when paying the PRC-sourced dividends, interest or royalties to the PRC-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise.

Although SAT Circular 82 and the Bulletin 45 only apply to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises, not those controlled by PRC individuals, the determining criteria set forth in SAT Circular 82 and the administration clarification made in Bulletin 45 may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises or individuals. Accordingly, we may be considered a resident enterprise and may therefore be subject to the enterprise income tax at 25% on our worldwide income. If we are considered a resident enterprise and earn income other than dividends from our PRC subsidiary, a 25% enterprise income tax on our worldwide income could significantly increase our tax burden and materially and adversely affect our cash flow and profitability.

A failure by our shareholders who are Chinese citizens or residents in China to comply with regulations issued by SAFE could restrict our ability to distribute profits, restrict our overseas and cross-border investment activities or subject us to liability under Chinese laws, which could adversely affect our business and prospects.

SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control on Domestic Residents’ Offshore Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, on July 4, 2014. SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents to register with 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.

NDRC promulgated the Administrative Measures for the Offshore Investment of Enterprise, or Circular 11, on December 26, 2017 which took effect on March 1, 2018. According to Circular 11, to make offshore investments, an

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enterprise located within the territory of the PRC, or an Investor, shall go through the formalities to have a proposed overseas investment project approved or filed on the record, report relevant information, and cooperate with supervision and inspection. Projects subject to approval administration shall be sensitive projects carried out by Investors either directly or through overseas enterprises under their control. The authority in charge of examining and approving such projects shall be the NDRC. Projects subject to record-filing administration shall be non-sensitive projects carried out directly by Investors; in other words, non-sensitive projects carried out by Investors to make direct investment with assets and equities or provide financing or a guarantee. For projects subject to record-filing administration, the authority in charge of record-filing shall be: (1) the NDRC, if the Investor is an enterprise under the administration of the Central Government (including financing institutions under the administration of the Central Government and enterprises under the direct administration of the State Council or its subordinate organs, the same below); (2) the NDRC, if the Investor is a local enterprise but the amount of investment made by the Chinese Investor amounts to US$300 million or above; and (3) the development and reform authority under the provincial government at the place where the Investor is registered if the Investor is a local enterprise and the amount of investment made by the Chinese Investor is less than US$300 million. Where natural persons within the territory of China make investments abroad through overseas enterprises under their control or through enterprises located in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, the above mentioned approval or record filing measures shall apply mutatis mutandis.

For Circular 11, since it took effect in March 2018, its impact to us remains to be observed. 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.

Dividends payable by us to our foreign investors and gain on the sale of our ADSs or ordinary shares may become subject to taxes under PRC tax laws.

Under the EIT Law and implementation regulations issued by the State Council, PRC income tax at the rate of 10% is applicable to dividends generated on or after January 1, 2008 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 relevant income is not effectively connected with the establishment or place of business, to the extent such dividends have their sources within the PRC. Similarly, any gain realized on the transfer of ADSs or shares by such investors is also subject to 10% PRC income tax if such gain is regarded as income derived from sources within the PRC. If we are considered a PRC “resident enterprise”, it is unclear whether dividends we pay with respect to our ordinary shares or ADSs, or the gain you may realize from the transfer of our ordinary shares or ADSs, would be treated as income derived from sources within the PRC and be subject to PRC tax. If we are required under the EIT Law to withhold PRC income tax on dividends payable to our non-PRC investors that are “non-resident enterprises” or if you are required to pay PRC income tax on the transfer of our ordinary shares or ADSs, the value of your investment in our ordinary shares or ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.

SAT promulgated the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Several Issues Concerning the Implementation of Tax Treaties, on February 9, 2018 which took effect on April 1, 2018, or Announcement No.11. According to the Announcement No.11, a partnership established under the laws of a foreign country (region) who does not have an actual management body in China but has an establishment or place in China or who does not have an establishment or place in China but has China-sourced income, is a non-resident taxpayer for the purpose of China's enterprise income tax. Except as otherwise provided in a Tax Treaty, only when such partnership is a resident of the other Contracting State to the Tax Treaty, its income subject to tax liability in China may receive treatment under the Tax Treaty. The tax residency certificate issued by tax authorities of the other Contracting State and submitted by the partnership in accordance with Article 7 of the Administrative Measures for Non-resident Taxpayers to Enjoy Tax Treaty Treatment (issued under the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation [2015] No.60) must prove that the partnership is liable to tax in the other Contracting State by reason of its domicile, residence, place of establishment, place of management or other standards of a similar nature in accordance with the domestic laws of the other Contracting State. The term "except as otherwise provided in a Tax Treaty" means that the Tax Treaty provides that, if income derived by a partnership shall be deemed as income derived by its partners according to the domestic laws of the other Contracting State, the partner who is a resident of the other Contracting State shall enjoy treatment under the Tax Treaty for the partner's corresponding portion of income derived from the partnership. If the partnership is required to pay PRC income tax on the transfer of our ordinary shares or ADSs, and

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failure to receive treatment under the Tax Treaty, the value of your investment in our ordinary shares or ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.

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

The majority of our revenues and operating expenses are denominated in Renminbi. The PRC government imposes controls on the convertibility of the Renminbi into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. Pursuant to the Foreign Currency Administration Rules promulgated on January 29, 1996 and amended on January 14, 1997 and various regulations issued by the Administration for Foreign Exchange (“SAFE”) and other relevant PRC government authorities, Renminbi is freely convertible only to the extent of current account items, such as trade-related receipts and payments, interest and dividends. Capital account items, such as direct equity investments, loans and repatriation of investment, require the prior approval from the SAFE or its local branch for conversion of Renminbi into a foreign currency, such as U.S. dollars, and remittance of the foreign currency outside the PRC. Shortages in the availability of foreign currency may restrict the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to remit sufficient foreign currency to pay dividends or other payments to us, or otherwise satisfy its foreign currency-denominated obligations. Currently, each of our PRC subsidiaries and affiliates may purchase foreign exchange for settlement of “current account transactions”, including payment of dividends to us and payment of license fees and service fees to foreign licensors and service providers, without the approval of SAFE. However, approval from the SAFE or its local branch is required where Renminbi is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies.

Each of our PRC subsidiaries and affiliates may also retain foreign exchange in their current accounts to satisfy foreign exchange liabilities or to pay dividends. However, we cannot assure investors that the relevant PRC governmental authorities will not limit or eliminate our ability to purchase and retain foreign currencies in the future. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currency to satisfy our currency demands, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders. Since a significant amount of our future revenues will be in the form of Renminbi, the existing and any future restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to utilize revenues generated in Renminbi to fund our business activities outside China, if any, or expenditures denominated in foreign currencies.

In addition, as further explained in disclosures below, each of our PRC subsidiary and affiliated consolidated entities is required to set aside at least 10% of its after-tax profit based on PRC accounting standards each year to its general reserves or statutory capital reserve fund until the accumulative amount of such reserve reaches 50% of its respective registered capital. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends.

Fluctuations in exchange rates could result in foreign currency exchange losses.

Because substantially all of our revenues and expenditures are denominated in Renminbi and HK dollars and the net proceeds from our initial public offering were denominated in U.S. dollars, fluctuations in the exchange rate between U.S. dollars and Renminbi, HK dollars and Renminbi, HK dollars and U.S. dollars affect the relative purchasing power of these proceeds and our balance sheet and earnings per ADS in U.S. dollars. In addition, we report our financial results in U.S. dollars, and appreciation or depreciation in the value of the Renminbi relative to the U.S. dollar and HK dollars relative to U.S. dollars would affect our financial results reported in U.S. dollars without giving effect to any underlying change in our business or results of operations. Fluctuations in the exchange rate will also affect the relative value of any dividend we issue that will be exchanged into U.S. dollars and earnings from and the value of any U.S. dollar-denominated investments we make in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces, or PRC or U.S. government policy, in particular, the outbreak of trade war between PRC and U.S. and the imposition of additional tariffs on goods in 2018, may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future.

Since July 2005, the Renminbi has no longer been pegged to the U.S. dollar. Although beginning in April, 2012, the Renminbi exchange rate verses the U.S. dollar is restricted to a rise or fall of no more than 1% per day and increased to 2% beginning in March, 2014, and the People’s Bank of China regularly intervenes in the foreign exchange market to prevent significant short-term fluctuations in the exchange rate, the Renminbi may appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the medium- to long-term. Moreover, it is possible that in

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the future, PRC authorities may expand the Renminbi exchange rate’s floating range, lift restrictions on fluctuations in the Renminbi exchange rate and lessen intervention in the foreign exchange market.

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

The audit report included in this annual report are prepared by auditors who are not inspected by the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”), as such, our investors currently do not have the benefits of PCAOB oversight.

Our independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit reports included in our annual reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, as auditors of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with 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 applicable professional standards. Because our auditors are located in 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.

 

On December 7, 2018, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a joint statement highlighting continued challenges faced by the U.S. regulators in their oversight of financial statement audits of U.S.-listed companies with significant operations outside United States, especially in China. The joint statement reflects the unsatisfactory progress made by U.S. regulators with respect to improving information access and audit inspections to China-based companies. However, it remains unclear what further actions the SEC and PCAOB will take to address the problem.

Inspections of other firms that the PCAOB has conducted outside of 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, our 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 consequently lose confidence in our reported financial information and procedures and the quality of our financial statements.

PRC’s labor law restricts our ability to reduce our workforce in the PRC in the event of an economic downturn and may increase our labor costs.

The PRC Labor Contract Law became and was implemented on January 1, 2008 and was amended on December 28, 2012. The Labor Contract Law has reinforced the protection for employees who, under the PRC Labor Contract Law, have the right, among others, to have written labor contracts, to enter into labor contracts with no fixed terms under certain circumstances, to receive overtime wages and to terminate or alter terms in labor contracts. Furthermore, the Labor Contract Law establishes additional restrictions and increases the costs involved with dismissing employees. There remains significant uncertainty as to its interpretation and application by the PRC government and courts. In the event that we decide to significantly reduce our workforce, particularly in the period with sluggish prospect in securities market, the Labor Contract Law could adversely affect our ability to do so in a timely and cost effective manner, and our results of operations could be adversely affected. In addition, for employees whose contracts include non-competition terms, the Labor Contract Law requires employers to pay monthly compensation after such employment ends, which will increase employers’ operating expenses.

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Risks relating to our shares and ADSs

Due to recent credit crisis of U.S.-listed Chinese companies caused by Chinese companies’ accounting scandals and the short selling agencies’ raider activities in the aggregate, the price of our underlying common stock might fluctuate significantly and if our stock price drops sharply, we may not satisfy the continued listing requirements of NASDAQ.

Since 2011, there have been well-publicized accounting problems at several U.S.-listed Chinese companies that have resulted in significant drops in the trading prices of their shares and, in some cases, have led to the resignation of outside auditors, trading halts or share de-listings by NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange, and investigations by the Division of Enforcement of the SEC. Many, but not all, of the companies involved in these scandals had entered the U.S. trading market through “reverse mergers” into publicly traded shells. The scandals have had a broad effect on Chinese companies with shares listed in the United States. Such accounting scandals in other Chinese companies could have an adverse effect on the market for shares of our underlying common stock. Investors could lose confidence in PRC companies in general, which could lead to fluctuations in the market prices of our underlying common stock and, if such prices were to drop sharply below $1.00 for 30 days consecutively, could cause us not to satisfy the continued listing requirements of NASDAQ.

In addition, some short selling agencies have been targeting U.S.-listed Chinese companies. Although the research reports issued by those short selling agencies regarding some U.S.-listed Chinese companies are largely meritless, targeted companies had suffered from significant fluctuations on their share prices. We cannot assure investors that we will not be the target of the short selling agencies in the future. If we were to become their target, even if their claims are meritless, our share price may drop significantly, and if such prices were to drop sharply below $1.00 for 30 days consecutively, could cause us not to satisfy the continued listing requirements of NASDAQ.

Stock prices of Internet-related companies, particularly companies with business operations primarily in China, have fluctuated widely in recent years, and the trading prices of our ADSs are likely to be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.

The trading prices of our ADSs have been volatile and could fluctuate widely in response to factors beyond our control. Since the completion of our initial public offering in October 2004, the trading prices of our ADSs have ranged between a high of $47.68 per ADS to a low of $0.64 per ADS as of December 31, 2018. During the twelve-month period ended December 31, 2018, the price of our ADSs has ranged from a low of $0.64 to a high of $3.36 per ADS. The market prices of the securities of Internet-related companies have generally been especially volatile.

In particular, the outbreak of trade war between PRC and U.S., the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other technology companies with business operations mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States may affect the volatility in the price of and trading volumes for our ADSs. Some of these companies have experienced significant volatility, including significant price declines in connection with their initial public offerings and as a result of the global financial crisis. The trading performances of these Chinese companies’ securities at the time of or after their offerings may affect the overall investor sentiment towards PRC companies listed in the United States and consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs. Changes in the U.S. stock market generally or as it concerns our industry, as well as geopolitical, economic, and business factors unrelated to us, may also affect the market price and volatility of our ADSs, regardless of our actual operating performance.

In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for our ADSs may be highly volatile for business specific reasons. Factors such as variations in our revenue, earnings and cash flow, announcements of strategic transition and new investments, cooperation arrangements or acquisitions, and fluctuations in market prices for our services could cause the market price for our ADSs to change substantially. The global financial crisis may have substantial negative impact on our financial and business performance. Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and price at which our ADSs will trade. We cannot assure investors that these factors will not occur in the future.

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The sale or availability for sale of substantial amounts of our ADSs could adversely affect their market price.

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. Such sales also might make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and price that we deem appropriate. If any existing shareholder or shareholders sell a substantial amount of ADSs, the prevailing market price for our ADSs could be adversely affected. In addition, if we pay for our future acquisitions in whole or in part with additionally issued ordinary shares, your ownership interests in our company would be diluted and this, in turn, could have a material and adverse effect on the price of our ADSs.

The 82,837,921 ordinary shares that were outstanding prior to our initial public offering are “restricted securities” as defined in Rule 144 promulgated under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act and may not be sold in the absence of registration other than in accordance with Rule 144 under the Securities Act or another exemption from registration. These “restricted securities” are available for sale subject to volume and other restrictions as applicable under Rule 144 of the Securities Act. To the extent ordinary shares are sold to the market, the market price of our ADSs could decline.

A significant percentage of our outstanding ordinary shares are held by a small number of our shareholders, and these shareholders may have significantly greater influence on us and our corporate actions by nature of the size of their shareholdings relative to our public shareholders.

As of December 31, 2018, five of our existing shareholders, including Zhiwei Zhao, IDG Technology Venture Investment, LP, Sheng Guang Holdings Limited, Ling Zhang and Jianping Lu, beneficially owned, collectively, approximately 48.3% of our outstanding ordinary shares. 

For more information regarding our principal shareholders and their affiliated entities, see “ITEM 6.E. Directors, Senior Management and Employees — Share Ownership.”

Accordingly, these shareholders have had, and may continue to have, significant influence in determining the outcome of any corporate transaction or other matter submitted to the shareholders for approval, including mergers, consolidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. In addition, without the consent of these shareholders, we could be prevented from entering into transactions that could be beneficial to us.

Provisions in our constitutional documents and certain provisions under Hong Kong law may discourage our acquisition by a third party, which could limit your opportunity to sell your shares at a premium.

Our constitutional documents and Hong Kong law include provisions that could limit the ability of others to acquire control of us, modify our structure or cause us to engage in change in control transactions, including, among other things, the following:

 

Our articles of association provide for a staggered board, which means that half of the directors for the time being (excluding our chief executive officer) or if their number is not a multiple of two, then the whole number nearest to but not exceeding one-half, shall retire at every annual general meeting and the retiring directors shall be eligible for re-election. Our chief executive officer will at all times serve as a director, and will not be required to retire as a director and to stand for re-election, so long as he remains our chief executive officer. This means that, with our staggered board, at least two consecutive annual general meetings, instead of one, are generally required in the normal course to effect a change in a majority of our directors, making it more difficult for any potential acquirer to take control of our board in a relatively short period of time, which may discourage contests for the election of our directors and purchases of substantial blocks of our shares.

 

Hong Kong law permits shareholders of a company to remove directors by a shareholders’ resolution. Our articles of association require any shareholder who wishes to remove a director by a resolution passed at a general meeting to give us advance notice in writing of the intention at least 120 days before the meeting at which it is to be proposed, making it more difficult and time consuming for a potential acquirer who has accumulated substantial voting rights to obtain control of our board by removing opposing directors.

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Our articles of association provide that our board can have no less than five and no more than nine directors. Our board has five directors as of the date of this report. Any increase in the maximum number of directors on our board beyond nine directors can only be accomplished by resolution of the board and by further amending our articles of association, which under Hong Kong law requires a special resolution of shareholders that is passed by a majority of at least 75%. These restrictions can make it more difficult for a potential acquirer who has accumulated a majority of our shares to take control of us by promptly increasing the size of our board and appointing new directors that are its nominees.

 

Hong Kong does not have merger laws that permit Hong Kong companies (other than within the same group) to merge in the same way as U.S. companies could in the United States. However, the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622 of the Laws of Hong Kong) has provisions that facilitate an arrangement or compromise between a company and its shareholders and/or creditors. The arrangement or compromise must be approved by a majority in number of each class of shareholders (unless the court orders otherwise) and/or creditors (as appropriate) with whom the arrangement or compromise is to be made, representing at least 75% of the voting rights of each such class of shareholders or creditors that are present and voting either in person or by proxy at meetings ordered by the High Court of Hong Kong. The arrangement or compromise is not effective unless sanctioned by the High Court of Hong Kong after approval by shareholders or creditors and the court order has been registered by the Registrar of Companies.

 

Our shareholders have authorized our board of directors, without any further action by shareholders, to issue additional shares. Under Hong Kong law, the authority granted by our shareholders will remain valid until the conclusion of the annual general meeting, or the time when our next annual general meeting is required to be held. For as long as this approval remains effective, or is renewed, our board of directors will have the power to issue additional ordinary shares (including ordinary shares represented by ADSs) and preference shares without any further authorization from the shareholders.

We are a Hong Kong company and because the legal and procedural protections of minority shareholders under Hong Kong law differ from those under U.S. law, you may have difficulty protecting your interests as our shareholder relative to shareholders of corporations organized in the U.S.

We are a Hong Kong company and are subject to the laws of Hong Kong. The fiduciary responsibilities of our directors and the ability of minority shareholders to take successful legal action in Hong Kong against us or our directors are governed by the laws and court procedures of Hong Kong. Shareholders of a Hong Kong company would not be able to bring class action lawsuits against that company or its directors in a Hong Kong court in the same way that shareholders of a U.S. corporation might be able to bring such lawsuits in a U.S. court. In addition, professional conduct rules applicable to Hong Kong lawyers generally prohibit Hong Kong lawyers from accepting contingency fee arrangements, where a lawyer representing the plaintiffs is paid a fee only if the lawsuit is successful. Without contingency fee arrangements or the ability to bring class action lawsuits, our shareholders may find it more costly and difficult to take legal action against us or our directors in the Hong Kong courts. In addition, there is no statutory reciprocity between Hong Kong and the United States. for the mutual recognition of the judgements of each other’s courts, meaning that the enforcement in Hong Kong of the judgment of a U.S. Court will require that new legal proceedings to be commenced before the Hong Kong courts. The Hong Kong courts are also less likely to enforce against us judgments of courts of the U.S. based on the civil liability provisions of U.S. securities laws, or, to allow original actions brought in Hong Kong, based on the civil liability provisions of U.S. securities laws that are penal in nature.

Moreover, Hong Kong companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.

As a result, minority public shareholders may have more difficulties in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by management, directors or controlling shareholders than they would as minority public shareholders of a U.S. corporation. Moreover, substantially all of our assets are located outside of the United States and all of our current operations are conducted in the PRC. In addition, most of our directors and officers are nationals and residents of countries other than the United States, whose substantial portion of assets are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult for you to effect service of process within the United States upon these persons.

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The voting rights of holders of ADSs must be exercised in accordance with the terms of the deposit agreement, the American depositary receipts, and the procedures established by the depositary. The process of voting through the depositary may involve delays that limit the time available to you to consider proposed shareholders’ actions and also may restrict your ability to subsequently revise your voting instructions.

A holder of ADSs may exercise his/her/its voting rights with respect to the underlying ordinary shares only in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement and the American depositary shares.

When the depositary receives from us notice of any shareholders meeting, it will distribute the information in the meeting notice and any proxy solicitation materials to you. The depositary will determine the record date for distributing these materials, and only ADS holders registered with the depositary on that record date will, subject to applicable laws, be entitled to instruct the depositary to vote the underlying ordinary shares. The depositary will also determine and inform you of the manner for you to give your voting instructions, including instructions to give discretionary proxies to a person designated by us. Upon receipt of voting instructions of a holder of ADSs, the depositary will endeavor to vote the underlying ordinary shares in accordance with these instructions. Although Hong Kong law requires us to call annual shareholders’ meetings by not less than 21 days’ notice in writing, and all other shareholders’ meeting by not less than 14 days’ notice in writing, these minimum notice requirements can be shortened or completely waived by the consent of all holders of our ordinary shares entitled to attend and vote (in the case of annual shareholders’ meetings) or a majority in number of the holders of our ordinary shares representing at least 95% in nominal value of the shares giving the right to attend and vote (in the case of all other shareholders’ meetings). If the minimum notice periods are shortened or waived, you may not receive sufficient notice of a shareholders’ meeting for you to withdraw your ordinary shares and cast your vote with respect to any proposed resolution, as a holder of our ordinary shares. In addition, the depositary and its agents may not be able to send materials relating to the meeting and voting instruction forms to you, or to carry out your voting instructions, in a timely manner. We cannot assure investors that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote your shares. The additional time required for the depositary to receive from us and distribute to you meeting notices and materials, and for you to give voting instructions to the depositary with respect to the underlying ordinary shares, will result in your having less time to consider meeting notices and materials than holders of ordinary shares who receive such notices and materials directly from us and who vote their ordinary shares directly. If you have given your voting instructions to the depositary and subsequently decide to change those instructions, you may not be able to do so in time for the depositary to vote in accordance with your revised instructions.

Furthermore, the depositary has deemed any holders who do not send in voting instructions at all or in a timely manner as having instructed the depository to give a discretionary voting proxy to the person(s) designated by us to receive voting proxies, with full power to exercise such holder’s (or holders’) voting rights under the ADSs’ underlying ordinary shares in the manner as the proxy holder deems fit. Accordingly, matters that favor the incumbent board of directors and management will have a higher likelihood of passing than would otherwise be the case.

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.

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

The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions (which may include securities or rights distributions) it or the custodian for our ADSs 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 our ordinary shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs if it decides that it is unlawful to make such distribution. For example, it would be unlawful to make a distribution to holder of ADSs if it consisted of securities that required registration under the Securities Act but that were not properly registered or distributed pursuant to an applicable exemption from registration. The depositary is not responsible for making a distribution available to any holders of ADSs if any government approval or registration required for such distribution cannot be obtained after reasonable efforts made by the depositary. We have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution of our ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or anything else to holders of our ADSs. This means that you may not receive the distributions we make on our ordinary shares or any value for them if it is unlawful or unreasonable from a regulatory perspective for us to make them available to you. These restrictions may have a material adverse effect on the value of your ADSs.

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

Your ADSs, each of which represents five ordinary shares, are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. The depositary may close its books from time to time for a number of reasons, including in connection with corporate events such as a rights offering, during which time the depositary needs to maintain an exact number of ADS holders on its books for a specified period. The depositary may also close its books in emergencies, and on weekends and public holidays. The depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of our ADSs generally when the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary thinks it is advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.

Your right as a holder of ADSs 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 our ADS holders in the United States unless we register the rights and the securities to which the rights relate under the Securities Act or an exemption from the registration requirements is available. In addition, the deposit agreement provides that the depositary bank will not make rights available to you unless the distribution to ADS holders of both the rights and any related securities are either registered under the Securities Act or exempted 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. Moreover, we may not be able to establish an exemption from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, ADS holders may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in their holdings.

In addition, if the depositary is unable to sell rights that are not exercised or not distributed or if the sale is not lawful or reasonably practicable, it will allow the rights to lapse, in which case you will receive no value for these rights.

ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

A. History and Development of the Company

China Finance Online Co. Limited was incorporated in Hong Kong in November 1998. In April 2001, we launched our online financial and listed company data and information services.

In October 2004, we completed the initial public offering of our ADSs, each of which represents five of our ordinary shares, and listed our ADSs on The NASDAQ Stock Market. On January 3, 2011, our ADSs were elevated to trade on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. The NASDAQ Global Select Market is designated for public companies that meet the highest initial listing standards in the world. Inclusion in the world-class blue chip market is a significant milestone of our progress and is indicative of our commitment to high standards and good governance, and demonstrates our achievement, leadership and stature.

In April 2000, we acquired the financial information website www.jrj.com.cn and in October 2004 we acquired the domain name www.jrj.com, and commenced operating our subscription-based financial information business in March 2005. We maintain the same content under both domain names.

In 2006 we acquired the website www.stockstar.com, which was established in 1996 and is one of the leading finance and securities websites in China.

Also in 2006, we acquired CFO Genius, a financial information database provider primarily serving domestic securities and investment institutions.

In 2007, we acquired Daily Growth Securities Limited, (renamed iSTAR International Securities Co. Limited in February 2013, and further renamed Rifa Securities Limited, or Rifa Securities, in 2016), a licensed securities brokerage firm incorporated in Hong Kong.

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Based on our assessment of changes in customer demand, market and regulatory environment and industry outlook, the Board of Directors approved the strategic transition. The goal of our strategic transition is to deliver to investors and our clients and customers a one-stop financial platform providing investment advisory, securities trading and wealth management services. In order to address the demand for alternative investment opportunities, the Company established new affiliates and acquired and invested in other business entities engaged in alternative investments.

In January 2013, Zhengjin (Fujian) Precious Metal Investment Co., Ltd. (“Zhengjin Fujian”), a new affiliate of the Company we established in 2013, became a member of the SAIC (State Administration for Industry and Commerce) – approved Haixi Commodity Exchange (“Haixi”). Haixi is the only commodities spot market which provides electronic trading in Fujian province. In September 2013, Zhengjin (Tianjin) Precious Metal Management Co., Ltd. (“Zhengjin Tianjin”), another affiliate of the Company, became the member of Tianjin Precious Metal Exchange (“TJPME”). In September 2013, we acquired 60% equity of Shenzhen Tahoe Investment and Development Co., Ltd. (“Tahoe”). Henghui (Tianjin) Precious Metals Management Co., Ltd. (“Henghui”), a subsidiary of Tahoe, is also a member of TJPME. We are also the members of some other commodities exchanges, such as Qilu Commodity Exchange in Qingdao, Shandong Province.

In August 2013, the Company launched “Yinglibao”, a mobile-based financial platform that integrates wealth management solutions and mutual fund distribution. For users who maintained Yinglibao balances, they could receive a money market fund rate of return on their balances, which is higher than the current bank demand deposit rate. In addition, Yinglibao users have the option of purchasing mutual fund and other wealth management products directly through their accounts.

In the second quarter of 2014, as part of our strategic transition, the Board of Directors determined that online brokerage services should be one of the Company’s core businesses going forward. In December 2014, we continued our strategic transition efforts by launching an investment advisory service platform, “Investment Masters” (“iTougu”), designed to provide securities investment advisors and their clients a real-time communication channel, where messages, market analytics, research report and investment strategies are exchanged. In December 2015, we launched the updated version 3.0 of iTougu. In July 2017 iTougu platform along with all of its users was migrated into JRJ mobile app.

In March 2015, we signed a contract with a third party buyer to transfer the entire equity interest in Rifa Futures and iSTAR Wealth Management to a third party for a total consideration of $6.5 million (HK$ 50.7 million equivalently), comprising $1.0 million (HK$8.0 million equivalently) and a sum equal to the net assets of the Rifa Futures and iSTAR Wealth Management as of March 31, 2015. The contract has not been fulfilled and expired automatically on December 31, 2015, as a result Rifa Futures remains in our Group. In April 2016, we signed a new agreement with the same third party buyer to transfer the entire equity interest in iSTAR Wealth Management for a total consideration of $3.0 million (HK$23.3 million equivalently), and such transfer was completed in September, 2016. 

In December 2015, we signed a framework agreement with Shanghai EBI Capital Co., Ltd., a Chinese private equity firm (“Shanghai EBI”), to sell (i) Shanghai Fenxin Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“CFO Fenxin”) which owns 90% of equity stake in CFO Meining which wholly owns the financial portal stockstar.com; and (ii) Zhongcheng Futong Co., Ltd. (“CFO Zhongcheng”) which owns 90% equity stake in Shanghai Stockstar Securities Advisory and Investment Co., Ltd. (“CFO Securities Consulting”). The considerations were approximately $21.6 million (RMB140.0 million, equivalently) and $9.3 million (RMB 60.0 million, equivalently), respectively. The sale of CFO Zhongcheng was completed in December 2015, while the sale of CFO Fenxin was completed in April 2016.

In November 2016, Beijing Zhongjun Sunshine Investment and Management Co., Ltd. completed a registration as general manager of private equity fund under the category of securities investment fund with Asset Management Association of China.

In October 2017, our wholly owned subsidiary, Rifa Asset Management Limited (“Rifa Asset Management”), received approval by the Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) of Hong Kong for its Type 9 License, Type 4 License and Type 5 License. SFC is the independent statutory body in charge of regulating the securities and futures markets in Hong Kong.

In 2017, we were forced to suspend commodities brokerage business due to the suspension of new commodities trading by most of precious metal exchange in China.

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On August 18th, 2018, the Company entered into a strategic partnership agreement with China’s largest corporate software provider, YonYou Network, to provide corporate cash management solutions to its over 4 million corporate and small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) clients. Relying on JRJ’s research capability of comprehensive fund diagnosis and intelligent asset allocation, the Company’s cash management product will provide YonYou’s customers to portfolios of high-quality money market funds to meet their cash management needs. The cash management product, back-tested with historical data since 2017, achieved an average annual return of approximately 4.3% which outperformed over 90% of money market funds in the marketplace.

In November 2018, China Finance Online officially entered into a share transfer agreement with West Platinum Limited (the “Buyer”) to sell 1,552,000 shares, 20% of Rifa Financial Holdings Limited (the “Share Transfer Agreement”). West Platinum Limited is a company incorporated in British Virgin Islands and is an independent third party. With an 85% equity shareholding, China Finance Online is currently the controlling shareholder of Rifa Financial. Pursuant to the agreement, the total consideration for the transaction is HK$ 73.8 million (about US$ 9.4 million) and all of them has been received.

Starting on November 21, 2018, China Unicom officially enlisted China Finance Online’s Lingxi Robo-advisor in its flagship payment app, EPay. Users of China Unicom EPay mobile app will have access to the one-stop wealth management services of global asset allocations provided by China Finance Online’s Lingxi Robo-Advisor.

In late 2018, the Company launched the i-TAMP platform (Turnkey Asset Management Platform) to provide financial advisors consultation and advice on stocks, mutual funds, wealth management products, insurance, trust and other financial products. Featuring best-in-class TAMP, this platform has already attracted hundreds of financial advisors to open their online offices to provide services to mass retail investors.

In January 2019, the Company signed a strategic partnership agreement with Founder CIFCO Futures Co. Ltd (“Founder CIFCO Futures”), a leading futures brokerage firm in China. Pursuant to the partnership agreement, both parties will collaborate in the development of more advanced trading system, smart market news alert, cloud-based research platform and industry forums.

B. Business overview.

Overview:

China Finance Online Co. Limited is a leading web-based financial services company in China. The Company’s prominent flagship portal site, www.jrj.com, is ranked among the top financial websites in China. The company provides Chinese retail investors with online access to securities trading services, wealth management products, investment advisory services, as well as financial database, wealth management solutions and online investor education tools to institutional customers. We are committed to strengthen our innovation capability to further apply advanced technologies in the financial sector and empower securities industry with fintech.

In 2015, Chinese stock market experienced a historical bull market. By mid-2015, the market suffered one of the largest sell-offs since the inception of stock market in China. Marked by weak investor confidence and intensified trade conflict with the US, the following two and half years were both in negative territory for the performances of all the major indices. The changing market condition and investor sentiment call brokerage firms for transition of their business focuses. The ongoing intensified price war among brokerage firms over the years has driven the market rate for commissions to a historical low. After the market crash in June 2015 that caused massive wealth losses among the majority of retail investors, many investors are also reluctant to return to the market. As a result, the importance of customer services, product offerings and investor education became increasingly recognized by the brokerage industry.

With the changing environment and complexity of the Chinese financial markets, we believe that individual investors will increasingly seek out professional investment advice and services, and brokerage firms will look for tools to improve their investor advisory services and strengthen their competitiveness. In order to better meet market demand, we introduced the conception of Z3 strategy which stands for Zhineng Keji (Intelligent Technology), Zhihui Guandian (Intelligent Viewpoint) and Zhinang Huhang (Intelligent Co-pilot) in 2016. Leveraging our extensive capital market experience and internet technology capabilities, we are adapting and strategically

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transitioning our business to the new environment by building tools and offerings to become a leading one-stop financial products and services platform for individual investors in China.

Based upon our track records in financial media, financial data service and securities advisory services, along with our robust fintech (financial technology) capabilities, we have made breakthrough in developing products and services to both retail investors and institutional investors. Our strategic planning is to create synergy among retail investors services, institutional investors services and wealth management. We will continue to strengthen our innovation capability to further apply advanced technologies in the financial sector and empower securities industry with fintech. In short, we want to help our clients simplify their investment decisions.

We provided precious metals spot trading, silver product sales and financial investment advisory services (“commodities brokerage services”) from 2013 to 2017. We also provide brokerage and related services outside mainland China (“Hong Kong Brokerage services”), financial information and advisory services including subscriptions services for financial data, information services and investment advisory, online P2P lending (“Financial information and advisory services”), and advertising services.

During the second quarter of 2017, new commodities trading was suspended by most of precious metal exchange in China. Such suspension announcements have adversely affected companies in commodity brokerage businesses in China, including us. As a result, the Group stopped providing commodities brokerage business in 2017.

In 2018, we continue to develop our mutual fund distribution business, securities investment advisory business, stock analysis subscription business for individual investors, online P2P lending business, stock analytics subscription business for institutional investors, advertising business, as well as Hong Kong securities and futures contracts brokerage business. We continued to increase financial technology content based upon artificial intelligence and cloud computing in our existing lines of businesses in 2018.

Our Business Sectors

Currently, the Company’s net revenues are categorized under: (a) revenues from financial services, which include brokerage-related revenues and mutual fund distribution revenues; (b) revenues from financial information and advisory business, which include subscription fees from individual customers and institutional customers; and (c) advertising revenues.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, revenues from financial services business were $69.0 million $28.2 million and $23.1 million, representing approximately 83.0%, 66.2% and 50.7%, of our total net revenues, respectively.  In 2016, 2017 and 2018, revenues from financial information and advisory business were $10.7 million, $10.3 million and $14.9 million, representing approximately 12.9%, 24.1% and 32.7%, of our total net revenues, respectively.  In 2016, 2017 and 2018, revenues from advertising business were $2.9 million, $3.6 million and $7.3 million, representing approximately 3.5%, 8.4%, and 16.1% of our total net revenues, respectively.

For a breakdown of total revenues by geographic market for each of the last financial years, see “Item 5.A. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects — Operating Results — Net Revenues.”

a.

Subscription Services and other Related Services in the PRC

(i)

Financial Services Business

Mutual Fund Distribution

We obtained the license for mutual fund distribution issued by China Securities Regulatory Commission, or CSRC, in 2012, and launched Yinglibao, an internet based financial platform that integrates cash management solutions and mutual fund distribution in August 2013. As of December 31, 2018, Yinglibao established business relationships with 91 mutual fund companies in China, and provided more than 4,200 mutual fund products. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, revenues from mutual fund distribution were $0.2 million, $0.4 million and $0.7 million, representing approximately 0.3%, 0.9%, and 1.5% of our total net revenues, respectively.

In order to facilitate and support our mutual fund distribution business, we conducted a trial launch of our proprietary robo-advisory service.

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We officially launched our robo-advisory product – Lingxi in November, 2016. Based upon different user risk profiles, Lingxi offers a wide array of investment combinations and personalized global asset allocations through Chinese domestic mutual funds.  From the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2018, the accumulative returns of Lingxi’s high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk strategies were 16.94%, 13.91% and 10.79%, respectively, reflecting our capability in asset allocations. We also launched Lingxi Premium Version in October 2017, which targets mass affluent investors in China.

(ii)

Financial Information and Advisory Business

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, revenues from financial information and advisory business services represented approximately 12.9%, 24.1% and 32.7% of our total net revenues, respectively.

Securities Investment Advisory Business (“iTougu”)

On December 25, 2014, we launched an investment advisory service platform “Investment Masters (iTougu)” at its annual conference “Leading China 2014: Financial Industry Innovation Forum”. The iTougu platform is designed to provide securities investment advisors and their clients a real-time communication channel, where they may communicate directly and in real-time. It also provides a vast number of Chinese individual investors access to securities investment advisors where they may attain private investment advice from thousands of investment advisors. In addition, the iTougu platform provides these highly-demanded features:

 

Text and audio interactive messaging system for broadcast and Q&As between investment advisors and their clients;

 

Daily market analytics, research reports and investment strategies for investment advisors; and

 

Client Management system for every investment advisor to view and manage client profiles, historical data and activities.

In May 2015, we launched the updated version 2.0 of iTougu with a new feature called “What to Buy”. With a monthly fee, retail investors can receive stock picking advice and have access to the advisors’ recommended portfolios and their market performance.

In December 2015, we launched iTougu version 3.0 with an optimized broadcast system, up-to-the-minute stock news on webpages of individual stock, improved stock charts, a streamlined login system and an optimized stock selection function to enhance the user experience.

On March 30, 2017, we launched JRJ app version 6.0 and in July 2017, iTougu platform along with all of its users migrated into JRJ mobile app. Upon consolidation, JRJ became one-stop platform for financial information, securities trading, investment advisory and wealth management for our customers.

Individual Subscription Business

To conduct our subscription services, we collect and process our website content through our research tools and provide our subscribers financial analysis tools, real-time and historical data, news, research reports and online forums in one integrated information platform, providing them the means to make informed investment decisions with respect to China’s listed company stocks, bonds, mutual funds and stock index futures based on specifications determined by them.

In 2017, we introduced cloud-based analytical tools for retail investors. The mobile application powered by algorithms that provide investors with quantitative trading investment strategies matching their risk appetites.

Online P2P Lending

We provide services as information intermediary in online P2P lending business. We procure borrowing and lending information from independent third parties, and our professional team evaluates and selects the information provided by third parties, from the perspective of risks. Eventually we display the selected information on the platform of Yinglibao.

However, with the introduction of the Interim Measures, although not prohibited from directly engaging in peer-to-peer lending, Yinglibao must follow an application process that requires registration and filling with the relevant

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government authorities. Please refer to Item 3. “Key Information – D. Risk Factors – The Interim Measures on Administration of the Business Activities of Peer-to-Peer Lending Information Intermediaries may adversely affect our business, financial conditions and results of operations.”

Institutional Subscription Business

Founded in 1994, CFO Genius was the first professional financial database provider in China. In 2006, it became a fully-owned subsidiary of China Finance Online Co., Ltd. Based upon the established Genius database and ongoing research findings, China Finance Online is engaged in providing financial institutions with financial data, financial advisor software, wealth management software and investor education software. Powered by Genius database, in October 2017, we officially launched our cloud-based stock analytics software product for enterprise users, Genius Zhisheng. Based on Genius database and our software algorithm, Genius Zhisheng provides institutional investors with analytical tools such as visual analysis, back testing and simulation. In 2017, we have entered into strategic partnership agreements with leading Citic Securities and China Investment Securities. In March 2018, we signed strategic partnership agreement with Orient Securities to provide a cloud-based investor education platform. In October 2018, the investor education platform of Orient Securities was awarded top rating by Shanghai government as well as the sole winner for online investor education.

(iii)

Advertising Business

We believe that our website www.jrj.com is among the most popular financial information websites in China. While our internet community is generally affluent and educated and thus represents a potentially attractive group for advertisement, in 2012, we continued to allocate most of our advertising inventory to promote our own product and service offerings to individual investors. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, revenues from advertising-related services represented approximately 3.5%, 8.4% and 16.1% of our total net revenues respectively, and online advertising was not part of our core business.

b.

Hong Kong Securities and Futures Contracts Brokerage and Wealth Management Business

Rifa Securities Limited (or Rifa Securities, previously named iSTAR International Securities Co. Limited), holds a Type 1 license and provides a diversified portfolio brokerage and other related services to our customers who invest in stocks listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchanges and Clearing Limited, or HKEx. Rifa Futures Limited (or Rifa Futures, previously named iSTAR International Futures Co. Limited), holds a Type 2 license and commences futures contract trading business in Hong Kong. Rifa Credit Limited (or Rifa Credit, previously named iSTAR International Credit Co. Limited), holds a Money Lenders License. Rifa Asset Management Limited (“Rifa Asset Management”) holds Type 9 License, Type 4 License and Type 5 License. The Type 9 License allows Rifa to manage a portfolio of securities or futures contracts for clients on a discretionary basis. The Type 4 License allows Rifa to give investment advice to clients relating to the sale and purchase of securities. The Type 5 License allows Rifa to give investment advice to clients relating to the sale and purchase of futures contracts.

Rifa Securities, together with Rifa Futures, serve as our platform for developing financial services outside mainland China. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the brokerage and related services provided by Rifa Securities and Rifa Futures contributed approximately 10.8%, 59.3% and 49.1% of our total net revenues.

In September, 2016, the Company transferred the entire equity interest in iSTAR International Wealth Management Co. Limited to a third party for a total consideration of $3.0 million (HK$23.3 million equivalently).

In November 2018, the Company entered into a share transfer agreement with West Platinum Limited (the “Buyer”) to sell 1,552,000 shares, 20% of Rifa Financial Holdings Limited (the “Share Transfer Agreement”). Pursuant to the agreement, the total consideration for the transaction is HK$ 73.8 million (about US$ 9.4 million) and all of them has been received.

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Customer support

Our customer support center provides our clients and users with real-time and professional support our customer support personnel are available to explain various features of our offerings and provide investment advisory services directly over the phone. Customer support is also available to provide assistance on technical problems to our users, as well as perform sales and marketing roles. We have an in-house training program for our customer support personnel, which include training courses on China’s securities markets, our service features and functionalities, technical problem solving skills and general customer service guidelines.

Sales and Marketing

We market our service offerings through online marketing, call centers, advertising and our customer support personnel. We will continue to use our focused marketing strategy to further enhance awareness of our brand and acquire new customers. We market our service offerings through various channels including our own websites JRJ.com.cn and mobile apps JRJ, Yinglibao, etc. According to Alexa, JRJ.com.cn is a top 500 most visited websites globally. JRJ and Yinglibao mobile apps are available in Apple store and Android app stores. In China, we also form partnerships with other online platforms and print publications to place our advertisement on their sites and newspapers. We also place offline digital advertising on buses and in locations with high foot traffic such as airports. In Hong Kong, we utilized our sales team to outreach to potential customers for brokerage services.

We also host competitions and industry forums to increase our brand recognition and create public speaking opportunities for our key executives and product managers to discuss our products and services. We also create online events and publish proprietary reports to engage users and promote our various products.

In December 2016, we hosted “2016 Fintech Forum & Leading China Annual Awards” in Beijing. The key-note speakers for this event include senior management from financial companies and banks and also officials from regulatory commissions. The forum had over 500 attendees from a large number of prestigious Chinese financial institutions, including banks, broker dealers, asset management firms and insurance companies.

In May 2017, we produced our first live coverage on Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Widely perceived as the Woodstock of capitalists and investors, Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Shareholder Meeting has drawn significant attention in China among both institutional and retail investors. We sent a team to Omaha to provide live coverage and streaming of this annual event. On May 6-7 in China, there were over 800,000 viewers watched our live production featuring the wisdom-filled question-and-answer session hosted by the legendary leadership duo, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. In addition, we also produced a series of videos, blogs and articles including visit to Warren Buffett’s favorite steak house in Omaha, interviews with Chinese entrepreneurs who had lunch with Warren Buffett, and conversations with many Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders from all corners of the world.

In July 2017, we organized Fund-of-fund forums to discuss the current market opportunities and challenges in China for FOF investment strategy. There were 36 mutual funds in attendance in the Beijing venue and 38 mutual funds in attendance in the Shenzhen forum. Among the attendees, there were portfolio managers from leading investment managers such as China Southern Asset Management, Harvest Fund Management, China Asset Management, Bosera Asset Management, CCB Principal Asset Management, Fullgoal Asset Management, E Fund Management, MANULIFE TEDA Fund Management and Haitong Fortis Investment Management.

In 2017, we introduced China’s first Top 1000 wealth list. Similar to Forbes World’s Billionaire list and Hurun Global Rich List, our China A-Share Market Top 1000 Wealth List (“A-Share Top 1000 Wealth List”) tracks and publishes the wealthiest 1000 individuals and families with holdings in companies publicly listed in Chinese stock market. Based on our wholly-owned market data service- Genius, A-Share Top 1000 Wealth List screens more than 1,700 non-state-owned-enterprises publicly listed on Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and analyzes their market capitalizations, tax contributions, employee compensations and cash dividends with four key metrics, Fundamental Support Coefficient, Environmental Contribution Coefficient, Fundamental Support Value and Social Contribution Value. Powered by a series of advanced algorithms, A-Share Top 1000 Wealth List features three proprietary rankings: Family Wealth Value, Corporate Wealth Creation Value, and Z3 Wealth Creation Score.

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In February 2018, we hosted “2017 Fintech Forum & Leading China Annual Awards” in Nanjing. Among the key note speakers and panelists were regulators, executives from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, leading financial institutions and leading internet and fintech companies. The key discussions were centered around data security, risk management, and fintech innovation. The conference was committed to promoting the long-term health of financial industry in China and received high recognitions from financial regulators and institutions.

In May 2018, we hosted the "2018 Value Discovery Forum for Public Companies on Chinese Stock Markets" in Chengdu. Over 80 prestigious public companies listed on the Shenzhen and Shanghai stock markets and influential investors attended the forum. During the forum, China Finance Online also announced the 2018 Top 30 Growth Non-State-Owned-Companies, 2018 Top 30 Socially Responsible Non-State-Owned-Companies and 2018 Top 30 Investor Confidence Non-State-Owned-Companies. These rankings are based on our proprietary algorithms dynamically tracking a series of data points including financials, valuation, growth trends, ESG (environment, social and governance) and other metrics, which enable investors to identify investment opportunities and discover value stocks.

In November 2018, we hosted “2018 Innovation Summit of Public Companies” in Beijing. Surrounding the subject of “rebuilding competitive strengths and promoting industry reforms”, over 300 attendees including industry experts, entrepreneurs, institutional investors, and media executives share their views on how innovations, mergers & acquisitions, investments propel public companies to regain competitive advantages, strengthen operations, and promote corporate responsibilities.

In December 2018, we hosted the 3rd “2018 Fintech Forum & Leading China Annual Awards” in Beijing. During the forum, approximately 1,000 attendees, 500 financial institutions and 60 industry experts discussed new trends in Chinese economy, social and technology development and debated the new growth engine for Chinese and global economy. There were 50 individual awards in 12 categories including banking, insurance and securities brokerage given to winners.

Research and Development

We seek to differentiate our products and optimizing our services as continue to strengthen our core competence. We have been focusing on development and innovation of internet platforms and mobile internet applications, bringing different technologies including multimedia, social networking, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and user behavior analysis to our financial service platform.

In late 2016, we introduced our proprietary robo-advisory service, Lingxi. Depending upon users’ risk profiles, Lingxi provides retail investors with investment products for global asset allocations. In 2017, we introduced cloud-based one-stop investment research platform for institutional investors, Genius Zhisheng. For retail investors, we also introduced trading research tools based on Zhisheng algorithm. In 2018, we continued to upgrade our products and services with more advanced algorithm and technologies.

When designing products, we aim to anticipate our customers’ needs and to meet their increasingly complex and specific design requirements. We also strive to design products that will achieve broad market acceptance and generate widespread end user demand. Our product development team conducts frequent meetings with our sales and marketing team to discuss the feasibility of new service offerings and the progress of existing product development efforts. Our research and development team also works closely with our customer support team to develop features and content based on user feedback.

We have established a strong R&D team especially for our Zhisheng Finance and Lingxi robo-advisory platforms. Our R&D team includes financial industry veterans, Wall Street quantitative trading experts, and web technologists. In the three years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018, our product development expenses were $14.5 million, $16.2 million and $13.9 million, respectively.

We expect product development to remain an important part of our business as the online financial services industry in China becomes increasingly sophisticated. We will keep placing significant emphasis on refining and upgrading our products and service platform, and on creating new and innovative features to meet the changing needs of our customers. Our research and development team works as an integral part of our overall service offering efforts.

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Competition

Although we pioneer in providing online financial services and information, we are still facing more competition in many aspects of our business. Our business ventures such as Investment Masters, Yinglibao, securities investment advisory and wealth management services are developing in accordance with our current business plan. We are operating in an increasingly competitive environment and competing for clients on the basis of product choices, client services, reputation and brand names. The potential competitions we face include the following:

 

competition from traditional and online financial service providers offering similar services and products;

 

competition from existing internet companies entering into financial service market offering similar services and products; and

 

competition from new entrants providers offering similar services and products.

With respect to our scaled-down of software-based financial information services, the number of competitors providing online financial news and information has increased since we commenced operations. Competition is intensifying among companies that provide security analysis software. More broadly, we also compete, directly and indirectly, for users and subscribers with companies in the business of providing financial data and information services, including:

 

publishers and distributors of traditional media, including print, radio and television as well as radio and television programs and news programs focused on financial news and information;

 

internet portals providing information on business, finance and investing;