SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report
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(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
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Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
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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:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
◻ Yes ⌧
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
◻ Yes ⌧
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.
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).
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 ◻
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Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ◻
†The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued
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 Securities Exchange Act of 1934).
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.
◻ Yes ◻ No
CONVENTIONS THAT APPLY TO THIS ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 20-F
Unless where the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report on Form 20-F to:
|●||“ADRs” are to the American depositary receipts, which, if issued, evidence the ADSs;|
|●||“ADSs” are to the American depositary shares, each of which represents two ordinary shares;|
|●||“China” and the “PRC” are to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report only, Taiwan and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau;|
|●||“EU” are to the European Union;|
|●||“shares” or “ordinary shares” are to our ordinary shares, par value $0.000067 per share;|
|●||“North America” are to, for the purposes of this annual report only, the United States and Canada;|
|●||“Our number of customers” are to the number of customer accounts that have purchased at least once from our company during the relevant period;|
|●||“repeat customers” are to customers who have purchased products from us more than once since our inception;|
|●||“RMB” and “Renminbi” are to the legal currency of China;|
|●||“UK” are to United Kingdom;|
|●||“VIE” are to variable interest entity;|
|●||“we,” “us,” “our company” and “our” are to LightInTheBox Holding Co., Ltd., together with its consolidated subsidiaries as a consolidated entity,, unless the context requires otherwise; and|
|●||“$,” “dollars” and “U.S. dollars” are to the legal currency of the United States.|
Our reporting and functional currency is the U.S. dollar. In addition, this annual report also contains translations of certain foreign currency amounts into U.S. dollars for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations of Renminbi into U.S. dollars were made at RMB6.3726 to $1.00, the noon buying rate on December 31, 2021 as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. We make no representation that the Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts referred to in this annual report could have been or could be converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all. On March 31, 2022, the noon buying rate for Renminbi was RMB6.3393 to $1.00.
The consolidated financial statements include the financial statements of the Company, its subsidiaries and VIEs. All inter-company transactions and balances are eliminated upon consolidation.
This annual report on Form 20-F contains statements of a forward-looking nature. All statements other than statements of historical facts are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are made under the “safe harbor” provision under Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, and as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. In some cases, these forward-looking statements can be identified by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “potential,” “continue,” “is/are likely to” or other similar expressions. These forward-looking statements relate to, among others:
|●||our growth strategies;|
|●||our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;|
|●||trends in online consumer retailing;|
|●||trends in Chinese manufacturing;|
|●||the expected benefits of our acquisitions or investments;|
|●||consumer and economic dynamics in the markets we serve, including any adverse effects the coronavirus outbreak may have on income due to lower transaction volumes;|
|●||expected changes in our revenues and certain cost and expense items; and|
|●||assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.|
We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs.
You should read these statements in conjunction with the risks disclosed in “Item 3.D. Risk Factors” of this annual report and other risks outlined in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC. Moreover, we operate in an emerging and evolving environment. New risks may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for our management to predict all risks, nor can we assess the impact of such risks on our business or the extent to which any risk, or combination of risks, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this annual report. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. You should read this annual report and the documents that we have referred to in this annual report, completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect.
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION
Unwinding the VIE arrangements
To mitigate the uncertainties in our corporate structure and increase control on our operating entities, we have started to transfer our VIEs to wholly-owned entities and unwind the VIEs arrangements that were intended to support the operations of our PRC subsidiaries, which were no longer in operation. In 2021, we closed companies of two dormant VIEs, and the shares in relation to four of our VIEs were transferred to our wholly-owned entities while the related companies remained as our subsidiaries in the Group. See “Item 4. Information on the Company - C. Corporate Structure.” As a result, the contractual arrangements between our wholly-owned entities and the relevent VIEs were terminated, which includes Exclusive and Technical Support and Consulting Service Agreements, Powers of Attorney, Exclusive Option Agreements, Loan Agreements, Share Pledge Agreements and Spousal Consent Letters.
As of the date of this Annual Report, we had VIE arrangements with two remaining VIE entitities, namely, Chongqing Ruizhihe and Lanting Gaochuang. For the year ended December 31, 2021, we generated aggregate revenue of approximately US$790,000 from our VIE entities, representing less than 0.2% of our total revenue of the same year.
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D. Risk Factors
Summary of Risk Factors
An investment in our capital stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the risks described below, together with all of the other information included in this annual report, before making an investment decision. If any of the following risks actually occurs, our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations could suffer. In that case, the trading price of our capital stock could decline, and you may lose all or part of your investment. Below please find a summary of the principal risks we face.
|●||Any catastrophe, including outbreaks of health pandemics and other extraordinary events, could severely disrupt our business operations.|
|●||We face a number of challenges in the operation and expansion of our business.|
|●||The online retail industry is intensely competitive and we may not compete successfully against new and existing competitors, which may materially and adversely affect our results of operations.|
|●||Our failure to quickly identify and adapt to changing industry conditions may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.|
|●||Our business is subject to the laws of various jurisdictions, many of which are unsettled and still developing and could subject us to claims or otherwise harm our business.|
|●||We do not have any business liability, disruption or litigation insurance and any business disruption or litigation we experience might result in our incurring substantial costs and diversion of resources.|
|●||Any failure to manage our growth or execute our strategies effectively may materially and adversely affect our business and prospects.|
|●||We have incurred net losses since our inception and experienced net current liabilities and negative cash flow from operating activities in the past. We may continue to incur net losses and experience net current liabilities and negative cash flow from operating activities and, as a result, we may need to obtain additional capital in the future.|
|●||Products manufactured by our suppliers may be defective or inferior in quality or infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, which may materially and adversely affect our business and our reputation.|
|●||We may have difficulties managing our marketing efforts and may face increased competition in our marketing efforts, which could materially and adversely affect our business and growth prospects.|
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Any catastrophe, including outbreaks of health pandemics and other extraordinary events, could severely disrupt our business operations.
Our business could be materially and adversely affected by the outbreak of pandemics. Any occurrence of pandemic diseases or other adverse public health developments could severely disrupt our staffing or the staffing of our suppliers and couriers and otherwise reduce the activity levels of our work force and the work force of our suppliers and couriers, causing a material and adverse effect on our business operations.
In particular, the global outbreak of COVID-19 has created a negative impact on global economy and our business in certain areas. For instance, COVID-19 caused certain delay in the delivery schedule of products purchased through our online platform, and disruption to our customers, supply chains and staff, and further to our global operations. We are unable to accurately and comprehensively forecast the potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in the future. Should COVID-19 have a continued adverse effect on our operation and transaction volume, macro-economy in global economy, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, our operations are vulnerable to interruption and damage from natural and other types of catastrophes, including earthquakes, fire, floods, hail, windstorms, severe winter weather (including snow, freezing water, ice storms and blizzards), environmental accidents, power loss, communications failures, explosions, man-made events such as terrorist attacks and similar events. Due to their nature, we cannot predict the incidence, timing and severity of catastrophes. Occurrences of natural disasters, as well as accidents and incidents of adverse weather in or around our warehouses, sourcing offices or suppliers may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations. We may also be particularly vulnerable to catastrophes in Europe and North America, where most of our customers are located. In addition, any uncertainty on the Korean Peninsula, where many suppliers of Ezbuy are located, may also have an adverse impact on our business operations.
Changing climate conditions, primarily rising global temperatures, may be increasing, or may in the future increase, the frequency and severity of natural catastrophes. If any such catastrophe or extraordinary event occurs in the future, our ability to operate our business could be seriously impaired. Such events could make it difficult or impossible for us to deliver our services and products to our customers and could decrease demand for our products. Because we only have limited insurance covering certain of our warehouses and do not maintain insurance for all of our properties, significant time could be required to resume our operations and our financial position and operating results could be materially and adversely affected in the event of any major catastrophic event.
We face a number of challenges in the operation and expansion of our business.
We face risks and difficulties frequently experienced by companies in our industry, including our potential inability to:
|●||implement our business model and strategy and adapt and modify them as needed;|
|●||increase awareness of our brands, protect our reputation and develop customer loyalty;|
|●||acquire customers cost-effectively;|
|●||manage our expanding operations and offerings, including the integration of any future acquisitions;|
|●||anticipate and adapt to changing conditions in online retail industry globally and in China;|
|●||anticipate and adapt to changes in government regulations, industry consolidation, technological developments and other significant competitive and market dynamics;|
|●||manage risks related to intellectual property rights;|
|●||upgrade our technology or infrastructure to support increased user traffic and product offerings; and|
|●||manage relationships with a growing number of suppliers and couriers.|
The online retail industry is intensely competitive and we may not compete successfully against new and existing competitors, which may materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
The market for products posted on our websites and mobile applications is intensely competitive. Customers have many choices online and offline, including global, regional and local retailers. For example, our current and potential competitors include global and regional online retailers such as other China-based global online retail companies, retail chains, specialty retailers, and sellers on online marketplaces. In the future, we may also face competition from new entrants, consolidations of existing competitors or companies spun off from our larger competitors.
We face a variety of competitive challenges, including sourcing products efficiently, pricing our products competitively, maintaining optimal inventory levels, selling our products effectively, maintaining the quality of our products, anticipating and responding quickly to changing customer demands and preferences, building our customer base, conducting effective marketing activities and maintaining favorable recognition of our brands, websites and products. In addition, as we further develop our business, we will face increasing challenges to compete for and retain high quality suppliers. If we cannot properly address these challenges, our business and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Some of our current and potential competitors have significantly more established brands or greater financial, sourcing, marketing, operational or other resources than we do. In addition, other online retailers may be acquired by, receive investments from or enter into strategic relationships with well-established and well-financed companies or investors, which would help to enhance their competitive positions. Certain of our competitors may be able to secure more favorable terms with suppliers, devote greater resources to marketing campaigns, adopt more aggressive pricing or inventory policies and devote substantially more resources to infrastructure development. Increased competition may reduce our gross and operating margins, market share and brand recognition. We may not be able to compete successfully against current and future competitors, and competitive pressures may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our failure to quickly identify and adapt to changing industry conditions may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The online and offline retail industries are subject to changing consumer preferences and industry conditions. This is particularly true with respect to products such as apparel, small accessories and gadgets, electronics and communication devices and home garden products. Consequently, we must stay abreast of emerging fashion, lifestyle, design, technological and other industry and consumer trends. This requires timely collection of market feedback, accurate assessments of market trends, deep understanding of industry dynamics and flexible manufacturing capabilities. For example, we experienced certain cost pressure and challenging global economic conditions in the third quarter of 2021, which caused our results to be materially affected by external factors including higher than anticipated digital advertising cost, new European laws on VAT and market regulation on certain products, and changes in consumer sentiment and spending.
We must also maintain relationships with suppliers who can adapt to fast-changing consumer preferences. If one or more of our existing suppliers cannot meet these requirements effectively, we will need to source from new suppliers, which may be costly and time-consuming. We may overestimate customer demand, face increased overhead expenditures without a corresponding increase in product sales and incur inventory write-downs, which will adversely affect our results of operations.
If we cannot offer appealing products on our websites or our mobile applications, our customers may purchase fewer products from us, stop purchasing products from us, visit our websites or our mobile applications less often or stop visiting our websites or our mobile applications all together. Our reputation may also be negatively impacted. If we do not anticipate, identify and respond effectively to consumer preferences or changes in consumer trends at an early stage, we may not be able to generate our desired level of product sales. Failure to properly address these challenges may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business is subject to the laws of various jurisdictions, many of which are unsettled and still developing and could subject us to claims or otherwise harm our business.
We are subject to a variety of laws in various jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, China, Singapore, the United States and other countries, including laws regarding data retention, privacy and consumer protection, that are continuously evolving and developing. The scope and interpretation of the laws that are or may be applicable to us are often uncertain and may be conflicting. For example, laws relating to the liability of providers of online services for activities of their users and other third parties are currently being tested by a number of claims, including actions based on invasion of privacy and other torts, unfair competition, copyright and trademark infringement and other theories based on the nature and content of the materials searched, the advertisements posted, or the content provided by users. It is also likely that as our business grows and evolves and our solutions are used in a greater number of countries, we will become subject to laws and regulations in additional jurisdictions. It is difficult to predict how existing laws will be applied to our business and the new laws which we may become subject to.
As we continue to offer products around the world, we are regularly subject to actual and threatened claims, litigation, reviews, investigations, and other proceedings, including proceedings by governments and regulatory authorities, involving a wide range of issues, including intellectual property infringement claims, contract disputes involving third-party suppliers and consumers of our platforms, consumer protection claims, claims relating to data and privacy protection, employment related cases, cross-border payment and settlement disputes and other matters in the ordinary course of our business. For example, in 2021, we received a notice from a resident in California stating that the warning label of our products did not sufficiently address potential health risks, pursuant to newly implemented local law. We believe such lawsuits are without merit, however, there is uncertainty regarding the timing or ultimate resolution of these lawsuits and legal proceedings in which we are involved. In addition, although we impose contractual terms with suppliers that are intended to prohibit sales of products that might subject us to such claims, we may not be able to detect, enforce, or collect sufficient damages for breaches of such agreements. Also, as a public company, we might subject to securities class actions. We anticipate that we will continue to be subject to legal, regulatory and/or administrative proceedings in the future incidental to our ordinary course of business. There can be no assurance that we will be able to prevail in our defense or reverse any unfavorable judgment, ruling or decision against us. We may also decide to enter into settlements that may adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. The litigation process may utilize a material portion of our cash resources and divert management’s attention away from the day-to-day operations of our company, all of which could harm our business.
As we continue to maintain an international operation, we are subject to litigation or regulatory proceedings in various jurisdictions including EU, UK, US and Singapore. We are required to maintain a representative office for our operations in Europe and there is no guarantee that our agreements with our representatives will be sufficient to satisfy the regulatory requirements. in addition, we may be prohibited by laws, regulations or government authorities in one jurisdiction from complying with subpoenas, orders or other requests from courts or regulators of other jurisdictions. Our failure or inability to comply with the subpoenas, orders or requests could subject us to fines, penalties or other legal liability, which could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, results of operations and the trading price of our ordinary shares and/or ADSs.
If we are not able to comply with these laws or regulations or if we become liable under these laws or regulations, we could be directly harmed and we may be forced to implement new measures to reduce our exposure to this liability. This may require us to expend substantial resources or to discontinue certain solutions. In addition, the increased attention focused upon liability issues as a result of lawsuits and legislative proposals could harm our reputation or otherwise impact the growth of our business. Any costs incurred as a result of this potential liability could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We do not have any business liability, disruption or litigation insurance and any business disruption or litigation we experience might result in our incurring substantial costs and diversion of resources.
As the insurance industry in China is still in an early stage of development, insurance companies in China currently offer limited business insurance products. We have determined that the difficulties associated with acquiring product liability or business interruption insurance coverage in China on commercially reasonable terms make it impractical for us to have such insurance. As such, we currently only have limited insurance covering certain of our warehouses. Any product liability claims or business disruption, natural disaster could result in our incurring substantial costs and diversion of resources, which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any failure to manage our growth or execute our strategies effectively may materially and adversely affect our business and prospects.
We anticipate spending significant resources on marketing, supply chain management, fulfillment infrastructure, technology and other business expenditures as our business continues to grow. We will need to continue to expand, train, manage and motivate our workforce and manage our relationships with customers, suppliers, wholesalers and third-party service providers. Our historical growth and expansion have placed, and will continue to place, a significant strain on our management and resources. If we are not successful in managing our growth or executing our strategies effectively, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
As part of our growth strategy, we intend to broaden the range of our product offerings, which will require us to introduce new products, work with different suppliers and address the needs of different kinds of customers. We may incur significant costs in trying to expand our offerings into these new products, or fail to introduce new products that meet anticipated customer demand. We also face risks related to our acquisition of Ezbuy in December 2018, in terms of the continued integration of our operations and the planning of and execution of our business strategy following this acquisition. See also “—We may engage in acquisitions that may present integration challenges, disrupt our business and lower our operating results and the value of your investment”.
We have incurred net losses since our inception and experienced net current liabilities and negative cash flow from operating activities in the past. We may continue to incur net losses and experience net current liabilities and negative cash flow from operating activities and, as a result, we may need to obtain additional capital in the future.
We incurred loss from operations of $16.1 million in 2019, and income from operation of $3.9 million in 2020 and loss from operations of $16.1 million in 2021, respectively, and we may incur losses in the future. We experienced net current liabilities of $12.0 million and $26.0 million as of December 31, 2020 and 2021, respectively, and we may continue to experience net current liabilities in the future. We generated net cash inflow of $1.9 million, $29.3 million from operating activities in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and experienced negative cash flow of $1.8 million from operating activities in 2021, and we may experience negative cash flows in the future.
We expect our costs and expenses, especially our selling and marketing expenses, to increase as we expand our operations. Our ability to achieve and maintain profitability and positive cash flow from operating activities depends on various factors, including but not limited to, the acceptance of our products by customers, the growth and maintenance of our customer base, our ability to control our costs and expenses and grow our revenues and the effectiveness of our selling and marketing activities. We may not be able to achieve or sustain profitability or positive cash flow from operating activities, and if we achieve positive operating cash flow, it may not be sufficient to satisfy our anticipated capital expenditures and other cash needs. As such, we may not be able to fund our operating expenses and expenditures and may be unable to fulfill our financial obligations as they become due, which may result in voluntary or involuntary dissolution or liquidation proceeding of our Company and a total loss of your investment.
We have financed our operations to date primarily with proceeds from the sale of equity securities and cash inflow from operating activities. As of December 31, 2021, we had approximately $59.6 million in cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash. We expect that our existing cash and restricted cash will be sufficient to fund our capital requirements for at least the next 12 months. However, we may need to raise additional capital to fund our continued operations. We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Our failure to obtain sufficient capital on acceptable terms, or at all, could significantly harm our business, financial condition and prospects.
Products manufactured by our suppliers may be defective or inferior in quality or infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, which may materially and adversely affect our business and our reputation.
As of December 31, 2021, we sourced our products from around 1,000 selected active suppliers mainly from China. Some of the products provided by our suppliers may be defective or of inferior quality. Such products may also infringe on the intellectual property rights of third parties. Defective, inferior or infringing products may adversely affect consumer perceptions of our company or the products we sell, which may lead to negative reviews that could harm our reputation. Although we have adopted internal policies and guidelines during our procurement process to make sure our suppliers and products that we offer do not infringe on third-party intellectual property rights, we may receive, from time to time, notices claiming that our products have infringed on the intellectual property rights of others. If we determine that products posted on our websites and mobile applications are infringing on intellectual property rights, we will remove them from our websites and mobile applications. We are also involved in several intellectual property rights claims related to certain products posted on our website and mobile applications. As of the date of this annual report, we are involved as defendants in one pending intellectual property legal proceeding. We estimate the associated liabilities of the legal proceeding to be no more than 100,000 Euro. We cannot assure you that future claims will not have a material impact on our business and financial condition.
Irrespective of the validity of such allegations or claims, we may experience lost product sales or incur significant costs and efforts in defending against or settling such allegations or claims. If there is a successful claim against us, we may be required to refrain from further sale of the relevant products or pay substantial damages, and we may be unable to recoup our losses from our suppliers. In addition, since our products are sold to customers in many different countries and regions, we are subject to numerous different legal regimes governing mandatory product standards, intellectual property and torts. Such regimes may impose burdensome legal obligations, which may increase the costs and complexity of compliance. Regardless of whether we successfully defend against such claims, our reputation could be severely damaged. Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may have difficulties managing our marketing efforts and may face increased competition in our marketing efforts, which could materially and adversely affect our business and growth prospects.
We may have difficulty managing our marketing efforts as our business expands. Currently, we actively manage millions of product feeds in 25 languages on google shopping platform, also manage millions of keywords in 25 languages and display advertising on over 800,000 publisher sites. In addition, we actively engage with our users on social networking sites. However, given the rapid changes of Internet advertising, customer preferences, the development of new forms of Internet marketing and the different forms of social media in each of our target countries and regions, we may have difficulties adapting our marketing techniques quickly and we may not sustain our customer acquisition rates, which may have a material and adverse effect on our business prospects.
We are highly dependent on our continuing relationships with our affiliate websites and major search engines around the world. Our advertising publishing partners for our affiliate marketing programs may cease, suspend or change the business terms in which we work with them. Search engines may introduce new products and features or modify their page ranking algorithms, which may make our marketing efforts more challenging and costly, or reduce our web traffic. They may also modify existing features or interfere with our ability to advertise on their platforms or to change the business terms on which we advertise. The occurrence of any such event could materially and adversely affect our ability to acquire new customers and thus negatively impact our business, growth prospects, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, as search engine marketing is based on a bidding system, other online advertisers may outbid us on our chosen advertising keywords, which may cause us to increase our marketing expenses and adversely affect our results of operations.
Our expansion may lower our profit margins and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have traditionally focused on the sale of apparel, electronics and communication devices and derived a large percentage of our total revenues from such products. Following the acquisition of Ezbuy in December 2018, we have expanded our product offerings into a number of other product categories, such as home garden and sports and outdoor and penetrated into new geographic markets, such as South and Southeast Asia. This has required improvements to our technology and logistics infrastructure and increased marketing spending. We intend to continue to expand our product offerings and increase the variety and customization options of the products we offer in each of our categories and in each of our geographic regions.
These new businesses involve risks and challenges different from the sale of our traditional products. The introduction of other products imposes additional complications in logistics, supply chain management and marketing. For example, home garden products introduced new complications due to the shipping of heavier and more fragile products. Furthermore, we may have to deal with customers in demographics that we have previously not targeted. We also face inventory risks and other challenges when addressing changing customer demands and preferences. We may introduce new products, which may increase the risks of inventory write-downs and financing costs. As a result, we may not be able to compete successfully in these new markets, our costs may increase and our revenues and profit margins may decrease, all of which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to successfully adopt new technologies or adapt our websites, mobile applications and systems to customer requirements or emerging industry standards, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The Internet and the online retail industry are characterized by rapid technological evolution. Changes in user and customer preferences and the emergence of new industry standards and practices may render our existing proprietary technologies and systems obsolete. To remain competitive, we must enhance our technology infrastructure and adapt to the evolving online retail landscape. Not only do we need to constantly improve our user experience through personal computers, but we also need to enhance our user experience through mobile phones, handheld tablets or other devices. As new platforms and new devices are continually being released, it is difficult to predict the problems we may encounter to reach customers. If we are unable to adapt to changing market conditions or customer requirements in a cost-effective and timely manner, whether for technical, financial or other reasons, our business prospects, financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.
We use third-party couriers to deliver products and their failure to provide high quality delivery services or our failure to effectively manage our relationships with them may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We use a network of third-party courier companies to deliver parcels to over 140 countries and territories, except for in Singapore, where we manage the delivery by our employees. Interruptions to or failures in these third parties’ shipping services could prevent the timely or successful delivery of our products or the products of our customers with whom we provide logistics services. These interruptions may be due to unforeseen events such as inclement weather, natural disasters, import or export restrictions, or labor unrest, which may be beyond our control or the control of these third- party couriers. For example, our distribution network is sensitive to fluctuation in oil prices, which may result in increased shipping costs from third-party courier companies, which may, in turn, increase the prices of our products and services and render our products and services less competitive.
If we do not deliver products to our customers in a timely manner or deliver damaged products, our customers may refuse to accept our products and become less confident in us. Many of our bestselling products, such as apparel, may be especially sensitive to delivery delays given that they are often purchased in anticipation of a specific date. Other products, such as electronics and fast fashion apparel for women, have a limited shelf-life and become quickly outdated. Certain products may not be delivered through certain couriers or may not be delivered to certain countries or regions. As a result, certain products may not be deliverable to certain customers or they may not be deliverable at a sufficiently low cost. In addition, if we are unable to ensure the delivery of products of the our customers in which we provide logistics services to in a timely manner or such products are damaged during delivery, our business customers may no longer utilize services that we provide. Our third-party couriers may also offer us less favorable terms, which may increase our shipping cost and materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Furthermore, if our third-party couriers terminate their cooperation with us or do not renew their agreements with us on terms acceptable to us upon the expiry of the existing agreements, we may not be able to find alternative couriers to provide delivery services in a timely and reliable manner, or at all, which may materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. We may not be able to promptly and successfully deliver products to customers, which may result in the loss of their business and a material and adverse effect on our financial condition and reputation.
Our websites, mobile applications or product offerings may not receive positive market recognition and wide acceptance, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, negative publicity, including negative Internet and blog postings from anonymous sources, about our company, our business, our management or our products could have a material adverse effect on our business, our reputation and the trading price of our ADSs.
Maintaining and enhancing the level of customer visits to and volume of customer purchases on our websites and mobile applications are critical to our ability to compete effectively. We intend to enhance the recognition of our websites and mobile applications and product offerings by expending significant time and resources on marketing and customer relations. However, we may not be able to achieve our goals in a short period of time and our marketing efforts may not achieve expected results.
Such efforts may also be jeopardized if we fail to maintain high product quality, fulfill orders for popular items, maintain and enhance high customer experience, provide high quality customer services, or offer efficient and reliable delivery. In addition, any negative publicity or disputes regarding our products, company, management or affiliated individuals or other online retailers in China may also materially and adversely affect our websites or branded products. For example, certain products posted on our websites were the subject of intellectual property right disputes, we have had difficulties receiving customer orders due to disruptions to the fiber optic cable connections out of China and there have been certain negative online reviews of our company, our websites and some of the products we sell. Furthermore, if our customer service representatives fail to satisfy the individual needs of customers, our reputation and customer loyalty could be negatively affected and we may lose potential or existing customers and experience a decrease in product sales. Failure to successfully promote and maintain positive customer experience and awareness of our websites and mobile applications, damage to our reputation or brands or loss of customer confidence could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Factors important to maintaining and increasing the sales volumes of goods purchased from our websites and mobile applications include:
|●||our ability to maintain a convenient and reliable user experience as customer preferences evolve and as we expand into new products and new business lines;|
|●||our ability to increase repeat purchases by customers;|
|●||our ability to increase purchase by mobile application users;|
|●||our ability to provide high quality customer services;|
|●||our ability to offer products of sufficient quality at competitive prices;|
|●||our ability to manage new and existing technologies and sales channels;|
|●||our ability to increase website awareness among existing and potential customers through various means of marketing and promotional activities;|
|●||our ability to assure our customers of the security of our websites and mobile applications for online purchases; and|
|●||the efficiency, reliability and service quality of our logistics and payment service providers.|
Any failure to properly manage these factors could negatively impact our websites and mobile applications. Such failures may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, we have from time to time received negative publicity, including negative Internet and blog postings from anonymous sources, and anonymous allegations about our company, our business, our management and our products. We cannot assure you that we will not receive similar negative publicity, negative Internet or blog postings or anonymous allegations in the future. Any such negative publicity, negative Internet or blog postings or anonymous allegations, regardless of veracity, may have a material adverse effect on our business, our reputation and the trading price of our ADSs.
Failure to protect confidential information of our customers and our network against security breaches could damage our reputation and substantially harm our business and results of operations.
As we operate our cross-border e-commerce business in Europe, America and Southeast Asia, we are subject to consumer protection and data breach laws and regulations of EU, UK, USA and Singapore. Countries where we have business operations have implemented laws and regulations to provide consumer protection in data security and privacy. In particular, states in the U.S. where we operate our business such as California has implemented laws to prevent any unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in commercial activities. EU data privacy law, the GDPR, also imposes strict rules on commercial use of personal data, data storage, data profiling and transfer personal data to countries outside the EU, including the U.S., and permits data protection authorities to impose large penalties for violations of the GDPR, including potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global revenues, whichever is greater. We deal with large amount of customer data in our daily operations due to our online sales business. Compliance with these requirements might require us to take measures other than disclosing the collection, use and disclosure of personal data on our website, and the compliance with such laws and regulations could increase our compliance costs and adversely affected our business and financial results. In addition, we might be subject to judicial proceedings in these areas, which could materially negatively and adversely impact our business.
In addition, a significant challenge to online commerce and communications is the secure transmission of confidential information over public networks. Currently, product orders and payments for products we offer are made through our websites and mobile applications. In addition, online payments for our products are settled through third-party electronic platforms. In such transactions, maintaining complete security for the transmission of confidential information, such as our customers’ credit card information, personal information and billing addresses, on our websites and mobile applications are essential to maintain customers’ confidence. We have no control over the security measures of third-party electronic payment service providers. We also hold certain other private information about our customers, such as their names, addresses, phone numbers and browsing and purchasing records.
We may not be able to prevent third parties, such as hackers or criminal organizations, from stealing information provided by our customers to us through our websites and mobile applications. Furthermore, our third-party logistics and payment service providers may accidentally or purposefully disclose information about our customers. We may also accidentally disclose such information due to employee negligence.
Significant capital and other resources may be required to protect against security breaches or to alleviate problems caused by such breaches. The methods used by hackers and others engaged in online criminal activities are increasingly sophisticated and constantly evolving. Even if we successfully adapt to and prevent new security breaches, any perception by the public that online commerce and transactions are becoming increasingly unsafe could inhibit the growth of e-commerce and other online services generally, which, in turn, may reduce the number of purchase orders we receive. Any compromise of our security or third-party service providers’ security could materially and adversely affect our reputation, business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
We derive our revenues from products that represent discretionary spending and changes in global macroeconomic conditions may decrease the demand for our products and adversely affect our growth strategies and business prospects.
Many of our products may be viewed as discretionary items rather than necessities. Consequently, our results of operations tend to be sensitive to changes in macroeconomic conditions that impact consumer discretionary spending. During an economic downturn similar to the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, customers may be less willing to purchase products that we offer.
Challenging macroeconomic conditions also impact our customers’ ability to obtain consumer credit. It is difficult to predict household spending patterns in light of the global economic challenges. Other factors, including consumers’ confidence, employment levels, interest rates, tax rates, consumer debt levels and fuel and energy costs, could reduce consumer spending or change in consumers’ purchasing habits.
We rely on third-party suppliers for our products and any deterioration in the quality of those products or services provided by such suppliers may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We source our products from selected third-party suppliers. Our continued growth will increase our product demands, which will require us to increase our ability to source products of commercial quality on reasonable terms.
Our suppliers may:
|●||cease selling merchandise to us on terms acceptable to us;|
|●||fail to deliver goods that meet customer demands;|
|●||encounter financial difficulties;|
|●||terminate our relationships or enter into agreements with our competitors;|
|●||have economic or business interests or goals that are inconsistent with ours and take actions contrary to our instructions, requests or objectives;|
|●||be unable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations, including their obligations to meet our production deadlines, quality standards and product specifications;|
|●||fail to expand their production capacities to meet our demands;|
|●||encounter raw material or labor shortages or increases in raw material or labor costs, which may impact our procurement costs; or|
|●||engage in other activities or employment practices that may harm our reputation.|
Furthermore, agreements with our suppliers do not typically establish a fixed price for the purchase of products. As a result, we may be subject to price fluctuations based on changes in our suppliers’ businesses, cost structures or other factors. The occurrence of any of these events, alone or together, may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, our agreements with some of our suppliers do not contain non-compete clauses that would prevent those suppliers from producing similar products for any other third party. Any breakdown in our supplier relationships or our failure to timely resolve disputes with or complaints from our suppliers, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in international trade policies and international barriers to trade, or the emergence of a trade war, may have an adverse effect on our business and expansion plans.
Changes to trade policies, treaties and tariffs in the jurisdictions in which we operate, or the perception that these changes could occur, could adversely affect the financial and economic conditions in the jurisdictions in which we operate, as well as our international and cross-border operations, our financial condition and results of operations. In recent years, the U.S. administration has advocated greater restrictions on trade generally and significant increases on tariffs on certain goods imported into the United States, particularly from China and has recently taken steps toward restricting trade in certain goods. For example, since 2018, the U.S. administration has imposed various tariffs on certain good imported from China.
The current U.S. administration has also created uncertainty with respect to, among other things, existing and proposed trade agreements, free trade generally, and potential significant increases on tariffs on goods imported into the U.S., particularly from Mexico, Canada and China. It is possible that further measures will be announced. As we are a leading cross-border e-commerce platform selling goods to customers globally, any unfavorable changes in international trade policies and international barriers to trade, such as capital controls or tariffs, may affect the demand for our products and services, impact the competitive position of our products or prevent us from being able to sell products in certain countries.
In addition, China and other countries have retaliated in response to new trade policies, treaties and tariffs implemented by the United States. For example, in response to the United States’ tariff plan on steel and aluminum, China announced planned tariffs on various goods imported from the United States, including a 15% tariff on U.S. steel pipes, fresh fruit and wine, and a 25% tariff on pork and recycled aluminium. Further, China has announced plans to introduce or increase tariffs on goods imported from the United States in response to the implementation of U.S. tariffs on China imports. Such policy retaliations could ultimately result in further trade policy responses by the United States and other countries, and result in an escalation leading to a trade war, which would have an adverse effect on manufacturing levels, trade levels and industries, including logistics, retail sales and other businesses and services that rely on trade, commerce and manufacturing. Any such escalation in trade tensions or a trade war, or news and rumors of the escalation of a potential trade war, could have a material and adverse effect on our business, results of operations and trading price of our ADSs.
Increasing focus with respect to environmental, social and governance matters may impose additional costs on us or expose us to additional risks.
Governments and public advocacy groups have been increasingly focused on environment, social and governance (“ESG”) issues in recent years, making our business more sensitive to ESG issues and changes in governmental policies and laws and regulations associated with environment protection and other ESG-related matters. Investor advocacy groups, certain institutional investors, investment funds, and other influential investors are also increasingly focused on ESG practices and in recent years have placed increasing importance on the implications and social cost of their investments. Regardless of the industry, increased focus from investors and governmental entities on ESG and similar matters may hinder access to capital, as investors may decide to reallocate capital or to not commit capital as a result of their assessment of a company’s ESG practices. Any ESG concern or issue could increase our regulatory compliance costs. If we do not adapt to or comply with the evolving expectations and standards on ESG matters or are perceived to have not responded appropriately to the growing concern for ESG issues, regardless of whether there is a legal requirement to do so, we may suffer from reputational damage and the business, financial condition, and the price of our ADSs could be materially and adversely effected.
Increases in labor costs or restrictions in the supply of labor in China may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We source our products primarily from third-party suppliers in China. With the rapid development of the Chinese economy, the cost of labor has risen and may continue to rise. Our results of operations will be materially and adversely affected if the labor costs of our suppliers increase. In addition, even if labor costs do not increase, we and our suppliers may not be able to find a sufficient number of workers to produce the products that we offer.
Furthermore, pursuant to the new PRC labor contract law that became effective in 2008 and was amended on December 28, 2012, employers in China are subject to stricter requirements when signing labor contracts, paying remuneration, determining the term of employees’ probation and unilaterally terminating labor contracts. The new labor contract law and related regulations impose greater liabilities on employers and may significantly increase the costs of workforce reductions. If we or our suppliers decide to significantly change or reduce our workforces, the new labor contract law could adversely affect our ability to make such changes in a timely, favorable and effective manner. Any of these events may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The proper functioning of our information infrastructure is essential to our business and any failure to maintain the satisfactory performance, security and integrity of our information infrastructure may materially and adversely affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations.
Our revenues from product sales depend on the number of visitors who purchase products on our websites and mobile applications and the volume of orders we fulfill. Telecommunications failures, errors encountered during system upgrades or system expansions, failures related to imbedded social networking functions, computer viruses, attempts to harm our systems, or any inability to maintain, develop and upgrade our existing information infrastructure may damage our hardware and software systems and database, interrupt access to our websites and mobile applications, disrupt our business activities, reveal confidential customer information, slow down response times, degrade customer service, increase shipping and handling costs or delay order fulfillment, which may individually or collectively affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations materially and adversely. For example, disruptions in the fiber optic cables used to connect computers located in the United States and China rendered us temporarily unable to receive orders placed by customers, which caused delays in our ability to process and deliver products to customers.
Our technology infrastructure may not function properly as a result of third-party action, employee error, malfeasance or otherwise and resulting in unauthorized access to our customers’ data. In addition, our domain names may not point to our IP address correctly due to malfeasance or neglect by our hosting solutions or domain name registries. For example, they may determine that we have violated contractual, civil or criminal duties and, as a result, suspend our domain names. Such errors would render our sites inaccessible for a period of time. Additionally, third parties may attempt to fraudulently induce employees or customers into disclosing sensitive information such as user names, passwords or other information in order to gain access to our or our customers’ data.
Even if we are successful in preventing security breaches, any perception by the public that online commercial transactions, or the privacy of user information, are increasingly unsafe or vulnerable to attack could inhibit the growth of online retailers and other online services generally, which, in turn, may have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations.
Taxation risks could materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
The imposition of indirect taxes, such as sales and use tax, value-added tax, goods and services tax, and business tax is a complex and evolving issue. Many of the statutes and regulations that govern these taxes were established before the expansion of the Internet commerce. In many cases, it is not clear how existing statutes apply to e-commerce. In addition, we may become subject to new regulations as regional and national governments may impose new tax laws or revise existing tax laws, especially with regards to Internet sales.
Levy of indirect taxes may increase the costs of our products to our customers and reduce our competitive advantage over our competitors that do not collect such sales taxes. The imposition by regional or national governments of various taxes upon Internet commerce could create administrative burdens for us, place us at a competitive disadvantage if they do not impose similar obligations on all of our online competitors and decrease our future product sales. A successful assertion by one or more foreign countries that we should collect sales or other taxes on the sale of merchandise or services could result in substantial tax liabilities for past product sales, decrease our competitiveness with local retailers, materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, we may be required to incorporate corporate entities in different jurisdictions around the world in order to deliver our products to such jurisdictions, which may have uncertain tax implications.
Our growth depends on expanding in various geographic markets and such expansion may pose new logistical, operational and marketing challenges that may materially and adversely affect our business prospects.
We plan to further increase the sales of our products by deepening our penetration of geographic markets globally. Although our products are sold to customers in over 140 countries and territories, we still have relatively limited experience in many countries in the world. It is costly to establish, develop and maintain international operations, websites and mobile applications and promote our brand internationally. The expansion of product sales into such geographic markets may not be profitable on a sustained basis for many reasons including, but not limited to:
|●||local economic and political conditions;|
|●||government regulation of online retail, other online services and electronic devices and restrictive governmental actions (such as trade protection measures, including export duties and quotas and custom duties and tariffs), nationalization and restrictions on foreign ownership;|
|●||restrictions on sales or distribution of certain products or services and uncertainty regarding intellectual property rights and liability for products, services and content on our websites and mobile applications or social marketing channels;|
|●||business licensing or certification requirements, such as for imports, exports and electronic devices;|
|●||limited fulfillment and technology infrastructure;|
|●||laws and regulations regarding consumer protection, import and export requirements, duties, tariffs, other trade-related barriers or restrictions, data protection, privacy, network security, encryption and restrictions on pricing or discounts;|
|●||lower levels of Internet use;|
|●||lower levels of consumer spending and fewer growth opportunities compared to our current geographic markets;|
|●||lower levels of credit card usage and increased payment risk; and|
|●||difficulty in staffing, developing and managing foreign operations as a result of language and cultural differences.|
As we expand the sale of our products to other countries, competition will intensify. Local companies may have a substantial competitive advantage because of their greater understanding of, and focus on, local consumers, as well as their more established local brand names. This may benefit from reduced logistics costs and marketing. We may not be able to hire, train, retain and manage required personnel, which may limit our international growth.
As new markets have different business practices and consumer demand may vary significantly by region, our experience in the geographic markets on which we currently focus may not be applicable in other parts of the world. For example, we may need to build infrastructure in foreign countries to remain competitive in such markets. Furthermore, deepening our geographic penetration entails increased complexity for our managers and employees including, but not limited to, difficulties associated with managing a more diverse customer base, the challenges of meeting different regulatory regimes and requirements, partnering with different local logistics providers and other business partners, managing more complex marketing efforts and providing customer support in different languages.
In addition, our expansion into China may suffer due to uncertainties and various factors affecting the development of online retail in China. For example, the use and penetration of Internet and broadband may decline, consumers’ confidence in online shopping may decrease, the quality of alternative retail channels may increase, sufficiently reliable or secure logistic or payment methods may not be available, or the Chinese economy may deteriorate.
To the extent that we cannot successfully expand our operations in other geographic markets, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Fluctuations in currency exchange rates may make us less competitive and may make our growth and future prospects uncertain and difficult to evaluate.
We are exposed to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates.We sell to customers in over 140 countries and territories. Our customers pay for our products and we pay costs and expenditures in various currencies, but we report our financial results in U.S. dollars and, as a result, our financial results may be impacted by fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. If the U.S. dollar appreciates against foreign currencies, our translation of foreign currency denominated transactions will result in lower total revenues, operating expenses and net income. As we are deepening our penetration of geographic markets globally, our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations has increased. We have no hedges against currency risk. Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates could significantly impact our financial results, which may result in an impact on our share price.
Our business depends substantially on the continued efforts of our executive officers and our business may be severely disrupted if we lose their services.
Our future success depends substantially on the continued efforts of our executive officers. Competition for senior management and other key personnel is intense, and the pool of suitable candidates is very limited. We may not be able to retain the services of our senior executives or other key personnel or attract and retain senior executives or key personnel in the future. If one or more of our executive officers are unable or unwilling to continue their employment with us, we may not find replacements in a timely manner, or at all, our business may be severely disrupted, and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. We may also incur additional expenses to recruit and retain qualified replacements.
If any of our executive officers joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose customers, suppliers, partners and know-how. Each of our executive officers has entered into an employment agreement with us, which contains confidentiality and non-compete provisions. However, if any dispute arises between our executive officers and us and we were not be able to enforce these non-compete provisions due to uncertainties in legal proceedings, our business, financial conditions and results of operations may be adversely affected.
If we are unable to attract, train and retain qualified personnel, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Our business is supported and enhanced by a team of highly skilled employees who are critical to maintaining the quality and consistency of our business and reputation. It is important for us to attract qualified employees, especially marketing personnel, designers, supply chain managers, or engineers with high levels of experience in creative design, software development and Internet- related services. Competition for these employees is intense. In order to attract prospective employees and retain current employees, we may have to increase our employee compensation by a larger amount and at a faster pace than expected, which would increase our operating expenses. In addition, we must hire and train qualified employees in a timely manner to keep pace with our growth while maintaining the quality of our operations in various geographic locations.
We must also provide continuous training to our employees so that they have up-to-date knowledge of various aspects of our operations and can meet our demand for high quality services. If we fail to do so, the quality of our services may deteriorate in one or more of the markets where we operate, which may cause a negative perception of our brand and adversely affect our business. Finally, disputes between us and our employees may arise from time to time and if we are not able to properly handle our relationship with our employees, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Our branding efforts for our products may be costly and may not obtain positive market recognition which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have launched our own branded product lines, which require more research, design and marketing costs than our private label products. These costs may not be recovered from sufficient sales of these branded products. These brands may not receive or maintain positive market recognition. Furthermore, it may take time and additional expenditures before we realize that our branding efforts have been unsuccessful. As a result of these efforts to develop branded products, we may incur costs without corresponding increases in revenues which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our results of operations are subject to quarterly fluctuations due to a number of factors that could adversely affect our business and the trading price of the ADSs.
We experience seasonality in our business, reflecting seasonal fluctuations in online and offline retail patterns in general and for our products. For example, product sales may be higher in the fourth quarter of a calendar year due to the Christmas holidays, and sales may be lower in the first quarter due to the Lunar New Year holiday in China. Our product mix may experience quarterly shifts which may cause our margins to fluctuate from quarter to quarter.
Due to the foregoing factors, our operating results in one or more future quarters may fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors. In such event, the trading price of the ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.
We may not be able to prevent unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.
We regard our trademarks, service marks, domain names, trade secrets, proprietary technologies and similar intellectual property critical to our success and we currently rely on a mix of trademark law, trade secret protection, confidentiality and license agreements with our employees, suppliers, partners and others to protect our proprietary rights. Our trademarks and service marks may be invalidated, circumvented or challenged. Trade secrets are difficult to protect and our trade secrets may be leaked or otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. Confidentiality agreements may be breached and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach.
It is often difficult to create and enforce intellectual property rights in certain geographic regions where we operate. Even where adequate laws exist in these regions, it may not be possible to obtain swift and equitable enforcement of such laws, or to obtain enforcement of a court judgment or an arbitration award delivered in another jurisdiction and, accordingly, we may not be able to effectively protect our intellectual property rights or enforce agreements in certain geographic regions where we operate. Preventing any unauthorized use of our intellectual property is difficult and costly and the steps we have taken may be inadequate to prevent the misappropriation of our technologies.
We are subject to payment-related risks which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our customers may choose from a wide range of payment methods. As we offer new payment options to our customers, we may be subject to additional regulations, compliance requirements and fraud.
We rely on third parties, such as PayPal, Global Collect, Checkout and Stripe, to provide certain payment processing services, including the processing of credit card and debit card transactions. Our business may be disrupted if these companies become unwilling or unable to provide these services to us. We are also subject to payment card association operating rules, certification requirements and rules governing electronic funds transfers, which could change or be reinterpreted to make it difficult or impossible for us to comply. If we fail to comply with these rules or requirements, we may be subject to fines and higher transaction fees and lose our ability to accept credit and debit card payments from our customers, process electronic funds transfers, or facilitate other types of online payments and our business and operating results could be adversely affected.
Under current credit card practices, we are liable for fraudulent credit card transactions because we do not require a cardholder’s signature. We do not currently carry insurance against this risk. Although we have only experienced minimal losses from credit card fraud, we face the risk of significant losses from this type of fraud as our net product sales increase and as we expand internationally. Our failure to adequately control fraudulent credit card transactions could damage our reputation and brand, thus substantially harm our business and results of operations. Additionally, for certain payment transactions, including credit and debit cards, we pay interchange and other fees. These fees may increase over time, which would raise our operating costs and lower our operating margins.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may be unable to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud and investors’ confidence in our company and the market price of the ADSs may be adversely affected.
In preparing our consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2019 included in our annual report on Form 20-F for 2019, we identified deficiencies in our management of our information technology user access and change for certain internal systems relating to financial reporting that aggregated into a material weakness. In addition, the Company’s controls to monitor for international sales tax exposures was insufficient during 2019. Therefore, as of December 31, 2019, three material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, as defined in the standards established by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board of the United States, or PCAOB existed that arose from our i) insufficient financial reporting and accounting expertise necessary to comply with U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting and compliance requirements, ii) ineffective operation of controls related to our management of our information technology user access and change for certain systems relating to financial reporting and iii) insufficient controls to monitor for international sales tax exposures. Such material weaknesses, if not timely remedied, may lead to significant misstatements in our consolidated financial statements in the future. Our independent registered public accounting firm did not undertake a comprehensive assessment of our internal control for purposes of identifying and reporting material weaknesses and other control deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. Had our independent registered public accounting firm performed an audit of our internal control over financial reporting, additional deficiencies may have been identified.
We have implemented measures and controls to mitigate the material weakness identified during 2019. If we fail to correct the material weaknesses or fail to discover and address any other material weaknesses, we could result in inaccuracies in our financial statements and could also impair our ability to comply with applicable financial reporting requirements and related regulatory filings on a timely basis. As a result, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, as well as the trading price of our ADSs, may be materially and adversely affected. Moreover, ineffective internal control over financial reporting significantly hinders our ability to prevent fraud. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, as these standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. If we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could in turn limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations, and lead to a decline in the trading price of our ADSs. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions.
We may engage in acquisitions that may present integration challenges, disrupt our business and lower our operating results and the value of your investment.
As part of our business strategy, we regularly evaluate investments in, mergers with or acquisitions of, complementary businesses, joint ventures, services and technologies. Acquisitions and investments involve numerous risks, including:
|●||potential failure to achieve the expected benefits of the combination or acquisition;|
|●||difficulties in and the cost of integrating operations, technologies, services and personnel; and|
|●||potential write-offs of acquired assets or investments or related goodwill.|
In addition, if we finance acquisitions by issuing equity or convertible debt securities, our existing shareholders may be diluted, which could affect the market price of the ADSs. For example, we issued convertible promissory notes in connection with the Ezbuy acquisition, the conversion of such convertible promissory notes to ADSs has diluted the ownership interests of existing shareholders. Any sales in the public market of our ADSs issuable upon such conversion of the convertible promissory note could adversely affect prevailing market prices of our ADSs. Further, if we fail to properly evaluate and execute acquisitions or investments, our business and prospects may be seriously harmed and the value of your investment may decline.
Furthermore, we may fail to identify or secure suitable acquisition opportunities, or our competitors may capitalize on such opportunities before we do, which could impair our ability to compete with our competitors and adversely affect our growth prospects and results of operations.
Failure to renew the lease of our existing premises or to renew such leases at acceptable terms could materially and adversely affect our business.
All of our offices and warehouses are presently located on leased premises. At the end of each lease term, we may not be able to negotiate an extension of the lease and may therefore be forced to move to a different location, or the rent we pay may increase significantly. This could disrupt our operations and adversely affect our profitability. A number of our leases will expire in the near future and are subject to renewal at market prices, which could result in a substantial increase in the rent at the time of renewal. We compete with other businesses for premises at certain locations or of desirable sizes and some landlords may have entered into long- term leases with our competitors for such premises. We may not be able to obtain new leases at desirable locations or renew our existing leases on acceptable terms or at all, which could materially and adversely affect our business.
Our international operations are subject to risks relating to worldwide operations.
Our employees are mainly located in China and Singapore currently, but we sell our products to over 140 countries. We may be affected by numerous, and sometimes conflicting, legal and regulatory regimes, including: changes in tax rates and tax laws or their interpretations, including changes related to tax holidays or tax incentives; trade protection laws, policies and measures, and other regulatory requirements affecting trade and investment, including export controls and economic sanctions laws; unexpected changes in regulatory requirements; political conditions and events, including embargoes; different liability standards and legal systems that may be less developed and less predictable than those in the United States, restrictive actions by governments that could limit our ability to provide services in specific countries; and potential non-compliance with a wide variety of laws and regulations. We must also manage: social, political, labor and economic conditions in a specific country or region; difficulties in staffing and managing local operations difficulties in penetrating new markets because of established and entrenched competitors, uncertainties of obtaining data and creating products and services that are relevant to particular geographic markets; lack of recognition of our brands, products or services, unavailability of joint venture partners or local companies for acquisition, restrictions or limitations on outsourcing contracts or services abroad, differing levels of data security and privacy and intellectual property protection in various jurisdictions; potential adverse tax consequences on the repatriation of funds and from taxation reform affecting multinational companies and exposure to adverse government action in countries where we may conduct reporting activities. Because of the varying degrees of development of the legal systems of the countries in which we operate, local laws might be insufficient to protect our rights. Compliance with diverse legal and regulatory requirements is costly, time-consuming and requires significant resources. Violations could result in significant fines or monetary damages, criminal sanctions, prohibitions or restrictions on doing business and damage to our reputation. In addition, the developing countries in which we operate may continue to undergo changes in political, economic and social conditions, as well as legal developments and government policies. We cannot assure you that any future changes will not materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are exempted from certain corporate governance requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.
We are exempted from certain corporate governance requirements of the New York Stock Exchange by virtue of being a foreign private issuer. We are required to provide a brief description of the significant differences between our corporate governance practices and the corporate governance practices required to be followed by U.S. domestic companies under the New York Stock Exchange. The standards applicable to us are considerably different than the standards applied to U.S. domestic issuers. For instance, we are not required to:
|●||have a majority of the board of directors be independent (other than due to the requirements for the audit committee under the Exchange Act);|
|●||have a minimum of three members in our audit committee;|
|●||have a compensation committee, a nominating or corporate governance committee;|
|●||have regularly scheduled executive sessions with only independent directors;|
|●||have executive session of solely independent directors each year; or|
|●||adopt and disclose a code of business conduct and ethics for directors, officers and employees.|
We have relied on and intend to continue to rely on some of these exemptions. As a result, you may not be provided with the benefits of certain corporate governance requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
Before we complete transitioning to direct control structure by closing our remaining VIE entities and transferring related shares to our wholly owned entities, we control and receive the economic benefits from the two remaining VIEs through the VIE Agreements, which have not been tested in a court of law and are subject to significant risks.
Since January 1, 2021, we have been gradually transited to a direct control corporate structure by transferring related shares of the VIEs to our wholly owned entities. The VIEs were intended to serve the operation of our PRC websites but the websites were no longer in operation as we focused on consumer markets outside China. However, the transition is still in progress as we still have two remaining VIEs, Chongqing Ruizhihe and Lanting Gaochuang as of this report date, due to on-going contractual obligations that could not be transferred before the contracts expired. We control and receive the economic benefits of the two VIEs through certain contractual arrangements (the “VIE agreements”), which enables us to consolidate the financial results of the VIEs in our consolidated financial statements under U.S. GAAP, and the structure involves unique risks to investors.
The VIE structure provides contractual exposure to foreign investment in China-based companies where Chinese law prohibits direct foreign investment in the operating companies. As a result, our Ordinary Shares traded on the NYSE are shares of our offshore holding company and you may never directly hold equity interests in our two VIEs. In addition, the Chinese regulatory authorities could disallow our structure, which could adversely affect our business. Our contractual arrangements of Chongqing Ruizhihe and Lanting Gaochuang are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in the PRC. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements or cause us unable to assert contractual control rights over the assets of our PRC subsidiaries. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China.” In addition, under PRC law, rulings by arbitrators are final, parties cannot appeal the arbitration results in court and the prevailing parties may only enforce the arbitration awards in PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which would incur additional expenses and delay. If we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our VIEs and our ability to conduct our businesses may be negatively affected. If the PRC government determines that the contractual arrangements do not comply with PRC regulations, our business could be adversely affected. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China” for recent regulatory initiatives implemented by the relevant PRC government entities.
Although we have been advised by our PRC counsel, Hiways Law Firm, that these contractual arrangements are in compliance with current PRC laws, these contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing control as direct ownership. For example, our Chongqing Ruizhihe and Lanting Gaochuang VIEs and their shareholders could breach their contractual arrangements with us by failing to operate our online retail business in an acceptable manner. In addition, if the shareholders of our VIEs refuse to transfer their equity interests in our VIEs to us or our designee when we exercise our call option pursuant to these contractual arrangements, we may have to take legal actions to compel them to perform their contractual obligations.
In addition, our two remaining VIEs may be required to obtain various licenses or approvals. If the VIEs fail to obtain or maintain any of the requisite assets, licenses or approvals, their continued business operations in e-commerce may subject them to various penalties, such as confiscation of illegal total revenues, fines and the discontinuation or restriction of their operations. Any such disruption in the business operations of our VIEs may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Contractual arrangements with our VIEs may result in adverse tax consequences.
Under PRC laws and regulations, an arrangement or transaction among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities within ten years after the taxable year when the arrangement or transaction takes place. If this occurs, the PRC tax authorities could request our VIEs to adjust their taxable income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment for PRC tax purposes if contractual arrangements among related parties do not represent arm’s length prices. Such a pricing adjustment could adversely affect us by increasing our VIEs’ tax expenses without a corresponding reduction in our tax expenses, which, in turn, could subject our VIEs to late payment fees and other penalties for underpayment of taxes. As a result, our contractual arrangements with our VIEs may result in adverse tax consequences to us. In addition, if our VIEs generate net income from transactions with our PRC subsidiaries under the contractual arrangements in the future and the PRC tax authorities decide to make transfer pricing adjustments on their net income, our consolidated net income may be adversely affected.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
The Chinese government exerts substantial influence over the manner in which we must conduct our business activities. We are currently not required to obtain approval from Chinese authorities to issue securities to foreign investors, however, if our subsidiaries or the holding company were required to obtain approval in the future and were denied permission from Chinese authorities to list on U.S. exchanges, we will not be able to continue listing on U.S. exchange, which would materially affect the interest of the investors.
The Chinese government governs every sector of the Chinese economy through regulation and state ownership. Under the current government leadership, the government of the PRC has been pursuing reform policies which have adversely affected China-based operating companies whose securities are listed in the United States, with policies changes being made from time to time without sufficient notice. There are uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of PRC laws and regulations, including, but not limited to, the laws and regulations governing our business, or the enforcement and performance of our contractual arrangements with borrowers in the event of the imposition of statutory liens, death, bankruptcy or criminal proceedings. Our ability to operate in China may be harmed by changes in its laws and regulations, including those relating to taxation, environmental regulations, land use rights, property and other matters. The central or local governments of these jurisdictions may impose new, stricter regulations or interpretations of existing regulations that would require additional expenditures and efforts on our part to ensure our compliance with such regulations or interpretations. Accordingly, government actions in the future, including any decision not to continue to support recent economic reforms and to return to a more centrally planned economy or regional or local variations in the implementation of economic policies, could have a significant effect on economic conditions in China or particular regions thereof, and could require us to divest ourselves of any interest we then hold in Chinese properties.
Given recent statements by the Chinese government indicating an intent to exert more oversight and control over offerings that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers, any such action could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or become worthless.
Recently, the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council jointly issued the Opinions on Severely Cracking Down on Illegal Securities Activities According to Law, or the Opinions, which was made available to the public on July 6, 2021. The Opinions emphasized the need to strengthen the administration over illegal securities activities, and the need to strengthen the supervision over overseas listings by Chinese companies. Effective measures, such as promoting the construction of relevant regulatory systems, will be taken to deal with the risks and incidents of China-concept overseas listed companies. As of the date of this annual report, we have not received any inquiry, notice, warning, or sanctions from PRC government authorities in connection with the Opinions.
On June 10, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, or the SCNPC, promulgated the PRC Data Security Law, which took effect in September 2021. The PRC Data Security Law imposes data security and privacy obligations on entities and individuals carrying out data activities, and introduces a data classification and hierarchical protection system based on the importance of data in economic and social development, and the degree of harm it will cause to national security, public interests, or legitimate rights and interests of individuals or organizations when such data is tampered with, destroyed, leaked, illegally acquired or used. The PRC Data Security Law also provides for a national security review procedure for data activities that may affect national security and imposes export restrictions on certain data an information.
In early July 2021, regulatory authorities in China launched cybersecurity investigations with regard to several China-based companies that are listed in the United States. The Chinese cybersecurity regulator announced on July 2 that it had begun an investigation of Didi Global Inc. (NYSE: DIDI) and two days later ordered that the company’s app be removed from smartphone app stores. On July 5, 2021, the Chinese cybersecurity regulator launched the same investigation on two other Internet platforms, China’s Full Truck Alliance of Full Truck Alliance Co. Ltd. (NYSE: YMM) and KANZHUN LIMITED (Nasdaq: BZ).
As such, the Company’s business segments may be subject to various government and regulatory interference in the provinces in which they operate. The Company could be subject to regulation by various political and regulatory entities, including various local and municipal agencies and government sub-divisions. The Company may incur increased costs necessary to comply with existing and newly adopted laws and regulations or penalties for any failure to comply. Additionally, the governmental and regulatory interference could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless.
Furthermore, it is uncertain when and whether the Company will be required to obtain permission from the PRC government to list on U.S. exchanges in the future, and even when such permission is obtained, whether it will be denied or rescinded. Although the Company is currently not required to obtain permission from any of the PRC central or local government to obtain such permission and has not received any denial to list on the U.S. exchange, our operations could be adversely affected, directly or indirectly, by existing or future laws and regulations relating to its business or industry.
On December 24, 2021, the CSRC, together with other relevant government authorities in China issued the Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments), and the Measures for the Filing of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments) (“Draft Overseas Listing Regulations”). The Draft Overseas Listing Regulations requires that a PRC domestic enterprise seeking to issue and list its shares overseas (“Overseas Issuance and Listing”) shall complete the filing procedures of and submit the relevant information to CSRC. The Overseas Issuance and Listing includes direct and indirect issuance and listing. Where an enterprise whose principal business activities are conducted in PRC seeks to issue and list its shares in the name of an overseas enterprise (“Overseas Issuer”) on the basis of the equity, assets, income or other similar rights and interests of the relevant PRC domestic enterprise, such activities shall be deemed an indirect overseas issuance and listing (“Indirect Overseas Issuance and Listing”) under the Draft Overseas Listing Regulations. Therefore, the proposed listing would be deemed an Indirect Overseas Issuance and Listing under the Draft Overseas Listing Regulations. As such, the Company would be required to complete the filing procedures of and submit the relevant information to CSRC after the Draft Overseas Listing Regulations become effective.
We have been closely monitoring the development in the regulatory landscape in China, particularly regarding the requirement of approvals, including on a retrospective basis, from the CSRC, the CAC or other PRC authorities, as well as regarding any annual data security review or other procedures that may be imposed on us. If any approval, review or other procedure is in fact required, we are not able to guarantee that we will obtain such approval or complete such review or other procedure timely or at all. For any approval that we may be able to obtain, it could nevertheless be revoked and the terms of its issuance may impose restrictions on our operations and offerings relating to our securities.
Uncertainties with respect to the Chinese legal system could adversely affect us.
The Chinese government may implement rules and regulations that influence our operations or may exert more influence on offerings conducted overseas and foreign investment in China-based issuers. In addition, the enforcement of laws and regulations in China can be implemented with little advance notice. In 2021, the PRC government initiated a series of regulatory actions and statements to regulate business operations in China with little advance notice, including cracking down on illegal activities in the securities market, enhancing supervision over China-based companies listed overseas, adopting new measures to extend the scope of cybersecurity reviews, and expanding the efforts in anti-monopoly enforcement.
We cannot predict the effects of future developments in government policy or the PRC legal system in general. We may be required in the future to procure additional permits, authorizations and approvals for our existing and future operations, which may not be obtainable in a timely fashion or at all, or may involve substantial costs and unforeseen risks. An inability to obtain, or the incurrence of substantial costs in obtaining, such permits, authorizations and approvals may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be adversely affected by the complexity and uncertainties of and changes in PRC regulation of Internet business and related companies.
The PRC government extensively regulates the Internet industry, including with respect to foreign ownership of and licensing and permit requirements pertaining to companies in the Internet industry. These Internet-related laws and regulations are relatively new and evolving and their interpretation and enforcement involve significant uncertainties. As a result, in certain circumstances, it may be difficult to determine what actions or omissions may be deemed to be in violation of applicable laws and regulations. Issues, risks and uncertainties relating to PRC regulation of Internet businesses include, but are not limited to:
|●||there are uncertainties relating to the regulation of Internet businesses in China, including evolving licensing practices. This means that permits, licenses or operations at some of our companies may be subject to challenge, or we may fail to obtain permits or licenses that may be deemed necessary for our operations, or we may not be able to obtain or renew certain permits or licenses.|
|●||the evolving PRC regulatory system for the Internet industry may lead to the establishment of new regulatory agencies. For example, the Cyberspace Administration of China was established in 2014, as the central Internet censorship, oversight and control agency for the PRC. Further, new laws, regulations or policies may be promulgated or announced that will regulate Internet activities, including the online video and online advertising businesses. If these new laws, regulations or policies are promulgated, additional licenses may be required for our operations. If our operations do not comply with these new regulations after they become effective, or if we fail to obtain any licenses required under these new laws and regulations, we could be subject to penalties.|
The interpretation and application of the existing PRC laws, regulations, policies and possible new laws, regulations or policies relating to the Internet industry have created uncertainties regarding the legality of existing and future foreign investments in and the businesses and activities of, Internet businesses in China, including our business. We cannot assure you that we have obtained all the permits or licenses required for conducting our business in China or will be able to maintain our existing licenses or obtain any new licenses required under any new laws or regulations. There are also risks that we may be found to violate the existing or future laws and regulations given the uncertainty and complexity of China’s regulation of Internet business.
We may be adversely affected by the uncertainties and changes in the PRC regulations and policies of cross-border business activities.
We are a global online retailer with substantial operations in China. The PRC government extensively regulates the Internet industry and cross-border business activities. While the PRC government has been encouraging the export industry, such policy may change in the future. Currently laws and regulations relating to online retail, including export online retail, are still evolving and the interpretation and enforcement of these laws and regulations are subject to significant uncertainties. As a result, in certain circumstances, it may be difficult to determine what actions or omissions may be deemed to be in violation of the applicable laws or regulations. Issues, risks and uncertainties relating to PRC regulation of export online retail include, but are not limited to:
|●||how our online retail activities are subject to the laws and regulations pertaining to traditional cross-border transactions or international trade, especially those related to customs declarations, statutory inspections, couriers and commodities export payments; and|
|●||new regulations, or new interpretations of existing regulations, requiring additional licenses, declarations or inspections for our products.|
The varying interpretations and applications of existing PRC laws, regulations and policies, along with possible new laws, regulations or policies relating to cross-border online retail, create substantial uncertainty regarding the licenses, customs declarations and inspections that may be required for our products. We cannot guarantee that all of the licenses, customs clearances and/or approvals for commodity inspections currently required, or in the future may be required, will be obtained.
For example, we work with third-party couriers to ship and export merchandise purchased by our customers around the world as articles or product samples on a parcel-by-parcel basis in accordance with procedures applicable to articles or product samples. This differs from the customs declaration, clearance and inspection procedures for traditional large-scale export shipments. Despite that the current PRC regulatory regime on customs declaration and inspection being formulated, interpreted and enforced primarily with the regulation of traditional large-scale exports in mind, the regulatory regime could technically be interpreted as being applicable to the shipment of merchandise on a parcel-by-parcel basis.
If the relevant PRC governmental authorities determine that we or our sourcing agents, suppliers or third-party couriers do not comply with the applicable laws and regulations, they could:
|●||require us, or our sourcing agents, suppliers or third-party couriers, to restructure business operations, including a possible change to our current method and manner of contracting with such sourcing agents, suppliers or third-party couriers, or require us or third-party couriers to go through customs declaration, clearance and inspection procedures for the merchandise sold to our customer under our business arrangements in accordance with procedures for goods rather than for articles;|
|●||impose fines or confiscate income from our PRC subsidiary or the operations of the affiliates of our sourcing agents, suppliers or third-party couriers that are subject to PRC jurisdiction; and|
|●||impose additional conditions or requirements with which we may not be able to comply or take other regulatory or enforcement actions against us.|
Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of Cyber Security Law as well as any impact it may have on our business operations.
On July 1, 2015, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued the National Security Law, which came into effect on the same day. The National Security Law provides that the state shall safeguard its sovereignty, security and cybersecurity development interests, and that the government shall establish a national security review and supervision system to review, among other things, foreign investment, key technologies, internet and information technology products and services, and other important activities that are likely to impact the national security of China.
On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued the Cyber Security Law, which came into effect on June 1, 2017. This is the first Chinese law that focuses exclusively on cyber security. The Cyber Security Law provides that network operators must set up internal security management systems that meets the requirements of a classified protection system for cybersecurity, including appointing dedicated cybersecurity personnel, taking technical measures to prevent computer viruses, network attacks and intrusions, taking technical measures to monitor and record network operation status and cybersecurity incidents, and taking data security measures such as data classification, backups and encryption. The Cyber Security Law also imposes a relatively vague but broad obligation to provide technical support and assistance to the public and state security authorities in connection with criminal investigations or for reasons of national security. The Cyber Security Law also requires network operators that provide network access or domain name registration services, landline or mobile phone network access, or that provide users with information publication or instant messaging services, to require users to provide a real identity when they sign up.
Changes in China’s political, economic or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations.
Most of our suppliers and some of our business operations are located in China. Our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be influenced by political, economic and social conditions in China generally and by continued economic growth in China as a whole.
While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth over the past decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy. The PRC government has implemented various measures to encourage economic growth and guide the allocation of resources. Some of these measures benefit the overall Chinese economy, but may also have a negative effect on us. For example, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by government influence on capital investments or changes in tax regulations. In addition, in the past the PRC government has implemented certain measures, including interest rate increases, to adjust the pace of economic growth. These measures may increase the costs of business activities for us and our suppliers in China and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, any changes in China’s foreign policies and political environment domestically or internationally, such as the occurrence of widespread social unrest, or a significant deterioration in its relations with its neighboring countries could negatively affect the Chinese economy and our business.
Fluctuations in the value of the Renminbi may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
Most of our revenues are denominated in U.S. dollars, Euros and currencies other than Renminbi, collectively referred to as other currencies, while most costs and expenses are denominated in Renminbi. As a result, there are certain mismatches between our revenues in other currencies and costs denominated in Renminbi. In addition, most of our suppliers are based in China and their operating costs are denominated in Renminbi. If the Renminbi appreciates relative to the other currencies, the cost of our products will become more expensive in other currency terms, the currency in which we price our products. We have no hedges against currency risk. Consequently, any increase in the value of the Renminbi against the other currencies may reduce our margins, reduce our competitiveness against retailers who source their products from suppliers with costs denominated in other currencies or render us unable to meet our costs.
The value of the Renminbi against other currencies may fluctuate and is affected by, among other things, changes in political and economic conditions and the foreign exchange policy adopted by the PRC government. On July 21, 2005, the PRC government changed its policy of pegging the value of the Renminbi to the U.S. dollar. Under the current policy, the Renminbi is permitted to fluctuate within a narrow and managed band against a basket of certain foreign currencies. Following the removal of the U.S. dollar peg, the Renminbi appreciated more than 20% against the U.S. dollar over the following three years. Since August 2015, the U.S. dollar has also started to gradually appreciate against the Renminbi. It is difficult to predict how market forces of PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future.
There remains significant international pressure on the PRC government to adopt an even more flexible currency policy, which could result in a further and more significant appreciation of the Renminbi against other currencies. Any significant fluctuations in the exchange rate between the Renminbi and other currencies may materially and adversely affect our cash flows, revenues, earnings and financial position and the amount of and any dividends we may pay on the ADSs in U.S. dollars. Any fluctuations in the exchange rate between the Renminbi and other currencies could also result in foreign currency translation losses for financial reporting purposes.
PRC regulations relating to the establishment of offshore special purpose companies by PRC domestic residents and registration requirements for employee stock ownership plans or share option plans may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or the plan participants to personal liability, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiary, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.
On July 4, 2014, SAFE promulgated the Notice on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control of Domestic Residents’ Overseas Investment and Financing and Round-trip Investment through Offshore Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular No. 37, which replaced the former Notice on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Administration for PRC Residents to Engage in Financing and Inbound Investment via Overseas Special Purpose Vehicles (generally known as SAFE Circular No. 75) promulgated by SAFE on October 21, 2005.
SAFE Circular No. 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, which is referred to in SAFE Circular No. 37 as a “special purpose vehicle.” SAFE Circular No. 37 further requires amendment to the registration in the event of any significant changes with respect to the special purpose vehicle, such as an increase or decrease of capital contributed by PRC residents, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material events. In the event that a PRC resident holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to complete 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 subsidiaries.
Furthermore, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liabilities under PRC law for evasion of foreign exchange controls.
We have requested PRC residents that, to our knowledge, hold direct or indirect interest in our company to make the necessary applications, filings and amendments as required under the SAFE regulations. For instance, Mr. Jian He is a PRC domestic resident, holds interests in our company, and has registered with the Shenzhen SAFE branch.
We may not be fully informed of the identities of all of our beneficial owners who are PRC residents, we do not have control over our beneficial owners and we cannot provide any assurances that all of our shareholders who are PRC residents will make or obtain any applicable registrations or approvals required by these SAFE regulations. The failure or inability of our PRC resident shareholders and beneficial owners to comply with the registration procedures set forth above may subject us to fines and legal sanctions, restrict our cross-border investment activities or limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to distribute dividends or obtain foreign- exchange-denominated loans for our company.
As it is uncertain how the SAFE regulations will be interpreted or implemented, we cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operations or future strategies. For example, we may be subject to more stringent review and approval processes with respect to our foreign exchange activities, such as remittance of dividends and foreign-currency-denominated borrowings, which may adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. In addition, if we decide to acquire a PRC company, we or the owners of such company will be able to obtain the necessary approvals or complete the necessary filings and registrations required by the SAFE regulations. This may restrict our ability to acquire PRC companies and could adversely affect our business and prospects.
In February 2012, the SAFE promulgated the Notice on the Administration of Foreign Exchange Matters for Domestic Individuals Participating in the Stock Incentive Plans of Overseas Listed Companies, or the Stock Option Notice. Under the Stock Option Notice, PRC resident individuals who are granted stock options by an overseas publicly-listed company are required, through a PRC agent or PRC subsidiary of such overseas publicly-listed company, to register with the SAFE and complete certain other procedures. As a public company listed in the United States, we and our PRC employees who have been granted stock options are subject to the Stock Option Notice. If we or our PRC optionees fail to comply with these regulations, we or our PRC optionees may be subject to fines and legal sanctions. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation— Regulations on Employee Stock Option Plans.”
PRC regulation of loans and direct investment by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering and private placements to make loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiary.
In utilizing the proceeds of our initial public offering and private placements, as an offshore holding company of our PRC operating subsidiary, we may make loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiary. Any loans to our PRC subsidiary, which is a FIE, cannot exceed statutory limits, being the difference between the registered capital and the investment amount of the PRC subsidiary as approved by the MOFCOM or its local branches and must be approved by and registered with the SAFE or its local branches. In addition, our PRC subsidiary is required to pay withholding tax at the rate of 10% (or a maximum of 7% if the interest is paid to a Hong Kong resident) on our behalf on any interest paid under such shareholder loan. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations Relating to Foreign Currency Exchange—Foreign Exchange Relating to FIEs.”
We may also decide to finance our PRC subsidiary by means of capital contributions. According to the relevant PRC regulations on FIEs in China, depending on the nature of the business conducted by the relevant subsidiary, capital contributions to FIEs in China are subject to approval by the MOFCOM or its local branches. We may not obtain these government approvals or registrations on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans and capital contributions by us to our PRC subsidiary. If we fail to receive such approvals or registrations, our ability to use the proceeds of our initial public offering and private placements and to capitalize our PRC operations may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.
We may be deemed a PRC resident enterprise under the New EIT Law and be subject to PRC taxation on our income.
Under the Enterprise Income Tax Law of the PRC, or the New EIT Law, which was issued in 2007 and amended in 2017 and 2018, and its implementation rules which were issued in 2007, 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 global income. The implementation 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.” The State Administration of Taxation, or the SAT, issued the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or Circular 82, on April 22, 2009. Circular 82 provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise is located in China. Further to Circular 82, on July 27, 2011, the SAT issued the Administrative Measures of Enterprise Income Tax of Chinese- controlled Offshore Incorporated Resident Enterprises (Trial), or Bulletin No. 45, which took effect on September 1, 2011, to provide more guidance on the implementation of Circular 82. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Tax—PRC Enterprise Income Tax.”
According to Circular 82, a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having a “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its worldwide income only if all of the following conditions set forth in Circular 82 are met: (i) the primary location of the day-to-day operational management is in the PRC; (ii) decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or are subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC; (iii) the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals and board and shareholder resolutions are located or maintained in the PRC; and (iv) at least 50% of voting board members or senior executives habitually reside in the PRC. In addition, Bulletin No. 45 provides clarification on the resident status determination, post- determination administration and competent tax authorities. It also specifies that when provided with a copy of a PRC resident determination certificate from a resident Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise, the payer should not withhold 10% income tax when paying certain Chinese-sourced income such as dividends, interest and royalties to the Chinese-controlled offshore- incorporated enterprise.
Although both the circular and the bulletin only apply to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises and not those by PRC individuals, the determination criteria set forth in the circular and administration clarification made in the bulletin may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax residency status of offshore enterprises and the administration measures should be implemented, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC individuals.
Although we do not believe that our legal entities organized outside of the PRC constitute PRC resident enterprises or meet all of the conditions above, it is possible that the PRC tax authorities could reach a different conclusion. In such case, we may be considered a resident enterprise and may therefore be subject to enterprise income tax at a rate of 25% on our global 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 global income could significantly increase our tax burden and materially and adversely affect our cash flow and profitability.
Pursuant to the New EIT Law and its implementation rules, dividends generated after January 1, 2008 and payable by a FIE in China to its foreign investors, which are non-PRC tax resident enterprises without an establishment in China, or whose income has no connection with their institutions and establishments inside China, are subject to withholding tax at a rate of 10%, unless any such foreign investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. We are a Cayman Islands holding company and we conduct substantially all of our business in China through Shanghai Light In The Box Information Technology Co., Limited (“Shanghai Lanting”), Shenzhen Light In The Box Information Technology Co., Limited (“Shenzhen Lanting”), Beijing Light In The Box Information Technology Co., Limited (“Beijing Lanting”), Light in the Box (Chengdu) Technology Co., Limited (“Chengdu Lanting”), Jiaxing Ruili Supply Chain Management Co., Limited (“Jiaxing Ruili”), Dongguan Herui Supply Chain Management Co., Limited (“Dongguan Herui”), Shenzhen Ruizhihe Supply Chain Management Co., Limited (“Shenzhen Ruizhihe”) and Light In The Box Trading (Shenzhen) Co., Limited (“Shenzhen Lanting Jishi”) (collectively, “our PRC subsidiaries”), which are 100% owned by Light In the Box Limited (Hong Kong), our wholly-owned subsidiary registered in Hong Kong. According to the Mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Arrangements on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income, or the Double Taxation Avoidance Arrangement, dividends that Light In The Box Limited receives from our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to withholding tax at a rate of 5%, provided that: (a) Light In The Box Limited or Ezbuy Holdings Limited is determined by the relevant PRC tax authorities to be a “non-resident enterprise” under the New EIT Law; (b) Light In The Box Limited or Ezbuy Holdings Limited is the beneficial owner of the PRC sourced income; (c) Light In The Box Limited holds at least 25% of the equity interest of our PRC subsidiaries; (d) all other conditions and requirements under the Double Taxation Avoidance Arrangement shall be satisfied. Neither Light In The Box Limited nor Ezbuy Holdings Limited has obtained the approval for a withholding tax rate of 5% from the local tax authority and neither of them plans to obtain such approval in the near future, as none of our PRC subsidiaries has paid dividends in the past and none of them plans to pay dividends in the future as it may continue to incur losses. In addition, as described above, our company or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries may be considered a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes, in which case dividends received by it, as the case may be, from our PRC subsidiaries would be exempt from the PRC withholding tax because such income is exempt under the New EIT Law for a PRC resident enterprise recipient.
As uncertainties remain regarding the interpretation and implementation of the New EIT Law and its implementation rules, we cannot assure you that if we are regarded as a PRC resident enterprise, any dividends to be distributed by us to our non-resident enterprise shareholders and ADS holders would not be subject to any PRC withholding tax at a rate of up to 10%. Similarly, any gain recognized by such non-resident enterprise shareholders or ADS holders on the sale of shares or ADSs, as applicable, may also be subject to PRC withholding tax. Furthermore, if we are considered a PRC resident enterprise and the competent PRC tax authorities consider dividends we pay with respect to our shares or ADSs and the gains realized from the transfer of our shares or ADSs to be income derived from sources within the PRC, such dividends and gains earned by non-resident individuals may be subject to PRC individual income tax at a rate of 20%, unless any such non-resident individuals’ jurisdiction has a tax treaty with China that provides for a preferential tax rate or a tax exemption. It is also unclear whether, if we are considered a PRC resident enterprise, holders of our shares or ADSs would be able to claim the benefit of income tax treaties or agreements entered into between China and other countries or areas. If we are required under PRC law to withhold PRC income tax on our dividends payable to our non-PRC shareholders and ADS holders, or the PRC authorities tax gain recognized by such non-PRC shareholders or ADS holders, such investors’ investment in our ordinary shares or ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.
The labor contract law and its implementation regulations may increase our operating expenses and may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
As the PRC Labor Contract Law, or Labor Contract Law, and the Implementation Regulation for the PRC Labor Contract Law, or Implementation Regulation, have been enforced and the interpretation and implementation of these laws and regulations are still evolving, substantial uncertainty remains as to its potential impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview— Regulation—Labor Laws and Social Insurance.” The implementation of the Labor Contract Law and the Implementation Regulation may increase our operating expenses, in particular our human resources costs and our administrative expenses.
In addition, as the interpretation and implementation of these regulations are still evolving, we cannot assure you that our employment practices will at all times be deemed to be in full compliance with the law. In the event that we decide to significantly modify our employment or labor policy or practice, or reduce the number of our sales professionals, the labor contract law may limit our ability to effectuate the modifications or changes in the manner that we believe to be most cost-efficient or otherwise desirable, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If we are subject to severe penalties or incur significant liabilities in connection with labor disputes or investigations, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected. In the event that we decide to significantly modify our employment or labor policy or practice, or reduce the number of our sales professionals, the labor contract law may limit our ability to effectuate the modifications or changes in the manner that we believe to be most cost-efficient or otherwise desirable, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
PRC labor-related laws and individual income tax obligations expose us to potential penalty risks.
Companies operating in China are generally required to contribute to the mandatory social insurance and housing funds. Our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs have not fully contributed to the employee benefit plans as required by applicable PRC regulations before 2020. While we believe we have made adequate provisions for any payments due on our audited consolidated financial statements, our prior failure to make payments may constitute a violation of the applicable PRC regulations and, as of December 31, 2021, we were potentially subject to a maximum of $3.6 million related to employee benefit plans. In addition, we have previously not withheld appropriate amounts of individual income taxes as required by applicable PRC regulations. However, such amounts were substantially paid by us on a voluntary basis in March 2013 to the relevant tax authority. Although as of the date of this annual report, no action has been initiated by the relevant authorities against us, future fines or levies may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Failure to obtain prior approval required under the M&A Rules and/or any other regulations promulgated by relevant PRC regulatory agencies in the future could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations as well as the trading price of the ADSs.
On August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies, including the Ministry of Commerce, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the SAT, the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (“SAIC”) (On March 21, 2018, the State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR, was formally established, which integrates the responsibilities of the SAIC, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the PRC (“AQSIQ”), State Food and Drug Administration, the pricing supervision and anti-monopoly law enforcement responsibilities of the National Development and Reform Commission, the anti-monopoly examination and law enforcement of undertaking concentration responsibilities of the Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) as well as the responsibilities of Anti-Monopoly Committee General Office of the State Council), the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, and the SAFE, jointly adopted the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, which came into effect on September 8, 2006 and was amended on June 22, 2009. The M&A Rules, among other things, include provisions that purport to require that an offshore special purpose vehicle formed for the purpose of an overseas listing of a PRC company obtain the approval of the CSRC prior to the listing and trading of such special purpose vehicle’s securities on an overseas stock exchange. On September 21, 2006, the CSRC published on its official website procedures regarding its approval of overseas listings by special purpose vehicles. However, substantial uncertainty remains regarding the scope and applicability of the M&A Rules to offshore special purpose vehicles.
The application of the M&A Rules with respect to our continued listing remains unclear. We believe that we were not required to apply to the relevant PRC regulatory agencies, including the CSRC and the Ministry of Commerce, for approval of our continued listing or our current corporate structure because:
|●||the CSRC currently has not issued any definitive rule or interpretation concerning whether international public offerings like ours under our prospectus are subject to this regulation;|
|●||we established our PRC subsidiary by means of direct investment rather than by merger or acquisition of the equity or assets of PRC domestic companies; and|
|●||no provision in this regulation clearly classified contractual arrangements as a type of transaction subject to its regulation.|
However, we cannot assure you that relevant PRC government agencies, including the CSRC, would reach the same conclusion as we do. If prior approval is required but not obtained, we may face regulatory actions or other sanctions from the CSRC or other PRC regulatory agencies. These regulatory agencies may impose fines and penalties on our operations in China, limit our operating privileges in China, delay or restrict the repatriation of the proceeds from our initial public offering into China or take other actions that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, as well as the trading price of the ADSs. In addition, if the CSRC or other regulatory agencies later promulgate new rules or explanations requiring that we obtain their approvals for our continued listing, we may be unable to obtain a waiver of such approval requirements, if and when procedures are established to obtain such a waiver. Any uncertainties and/or negative publicity regarding such approval requirement could have a material adverse effect on the trading price of the ADSs.
We may rely on dividends and other cash distributions on equity paid by our subsidiaries to fund future cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our subsidiaries to make payments to us could have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our businesses.
We are a holding company, and we may rely on dividends and cash distributed by our Hong Kong subsidiaries and may, in the future, rely on dividends and cash distributed by our PRC subsidiaries through our Hong Kong subsidiaries for our cash requirements. However, current PRC regulations permit our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends only out of its accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, our PRC subsidiaries are required to set aside at least 10% of its accumulated after-tax profits each year, if any, to fund certain statutory reserves until the accumulative amount of such reserves reaches 50% of the respective subsidiary’s registered capital. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends. Furthermore, if any of our PRC subsidiaries incurs debt on its own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments to us or our Hong Kong subsidiaries. If we or our Hong Kong subsidiaries require dividends and cash contributions from our PRC subsidiaries in the future, any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to distribute dividends or other payments to us or our Hong Kong subsidiaries could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our businesses, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our businesses.
If the chops of our PRC subsidiaries and our VIEs are not kept safely, are stolen or are used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized purposes, the corporate governance of these entities could be severely and adversely compromised.
In China, a company chop or seal serves as the legal representation of the company towards third parties even when unaccompanied by a signature. Each legally registered company in China is required to maintain a company chop, which must be registered with the local Public Security Bureau. In addition to this mandatory company chop, companies may have several other chops which can be used for specific purposes. The chops of our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs are generally held securely by personnel designated or approved by us in accordance with our internal control procedures. To the extent those chops are not kept safely, are stolen or are used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized purposes, the corporate governance of these entities could be severely and adversely compromised and those corporate entities may be bound to abide by the terms of any documents so chopped, even if they were chopped by an individual who lacked the requisite power and authority to do so. In addition, if the chops are misused by unauthorized persons, we could experience disruption to our normal business operations. We may have to take corporate or legal action, which could involve significant time and resources to resolve while distracting management from our operations.
The auditor of our consolidated financial statements included in this annual report, like other independent registered public accounting firms operating in China, is not permitted to be subject to inspection by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), or PCAOB, and consequently, you are deprived of the benefits of such inspection. In addition, various legislative and regulatory developments related to U.S.- listed China-based companies due to lack of PCAOB inspection and other developments due to political tensions between the United States and China may have a material adverse impact on our listing and trading in the U.S. and the trading prices of our ADSs.
The auditors of our consolidated financial statements included in this annual report are registered with the PCAOB. Pursuant to laws in the United States, the PCAOB has authority to conduct regular inspections over independent registered public accounting firms registered with the PCAOB to assess their compliance with the applicable professional standards. The auditors are located in China, a jurisdiction which does not allow the PCAOB to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities. As a result, we understand that our auditors are not currently inspected by the PCAOB.
In May 2013, the PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the China Securities Regulation Commission, or the CSRC, and the Ministry of Finance, which establishes a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations undertaken by PCAOB, the CSRC or the Ministry of Finance in the United States and the PRC, respectively. The PCAOB continues to discuss with the CSRC, and the Ministry of Finance on joint inspections in the PRC of PCAOB-registered audit firms that provide auditing services to Chinese companies that trade on U.S. stock exchanges.
On December 7, 2018, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a joint statement highlighting continued challenges faced by the U.S. regulators in their oversight of financial statement audits of U.S.-listed companies with significant operations in China. However, it remains unclear what further actions the SEC and the PCAOB will take to address the problem. On April 21, 2020, the SEC and the PCAOB issued another joint statement reiterating the greater risk of insufficient disclosures from companies in many emerging markets, including China, compared to those from U.S. domestic companies. In discussing the specific issues related to these greater risks, the statement again highlighted the PCAOB’s inability to inspect audit work and practices of accounting firms in China with respect to U.S. reporting companies.
On June 4, 2020, the U.S. President issued a memorandum ordering the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, or the PWG, to submit a report to the President within 60 days of the memorandum that includes recommendations for actions that can be taken by the executive branch and by the SEC or PCAOB on Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges and their audit firms. On August 6, 2020, the PWG released the report and recommended the SEC implement five recommendations to address companies from jurisdictions that do not provide the PCAOB with sufficient access to fulfill its statutory mandate (the “NCJs”). In particular, the PWG recommends that enhanced listing standards be applied to companies from NCJs for seeking initial listing and remaining listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Under the enhanced listing standards, if the PCAOB does not have access to work papers of the principal audit firm located in a NCJ for the audit of a U.S.-listed company as a result of governmental restrictions, the U.S.-listed company may satisfy this standard by providing a co-audit from an audit firm with comparable resources and experience where the PCAOB determines that it has sufficient access to the firm’s audit work papers and practices to inspect the co-audit. The report permits the new listing standards to provide for a transition period until January 1, 2022 for listed companies, but would apply immediately to new listings once the necessary rulemakings and/or standard-setting are effective. After this transition period, if currently listed companies were unable to meet the enhanced listing standards, then they would become subject to securities exchange rules and processes that could lead to possible de-listing if not cured, deregistration from the SEC and/or other risks, which may materially and adversely affect the market price and liquidity of such companies’ securities, or effectively terminate their trading in the United States.
On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCAA, which includes requirements similar to those in the EQUITABLE Act requiring the SEC to identify issuers whose audit reports are prepared by auditors that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate because of restrictions imposed by non-U.S. authorities. The HFCAA would also require public companies on the SEC’s list to certify that they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government and make certain additional disclosures on foreign ownership and control of such issuers in their SEC filings. The HFCAA was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2020 and was signed into law by the U.S. President on December 18, 2020. The HFCAA would amend the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to require the SEC to prohibit securities of any U.S.-listed companies from being listed on any of the U.S. securities exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange, or traded “over-the-counter,” if the registrant’s financial statements have been audited by an accounting firm branch or office that is not subject to PCAOB inspection for a period of three consecutive years beginning in 2021.
On March 24, 2021, the SEC adopted interim final rules to implement certain disclosure and documentation requirements of the HFCAA, which became effective on May 5, 2021. The requirements of annual report for foreign issuers have been updated by the SEC to reflect the disclosure requirements, which require disclosure in a foreign issuer’s annual report regarding the audit arrangements of, and governmental influence on, such foreign issuer. A foreign issuer would be required to comply with such disclosure requirement if the SEC identified it as having a “non-inspection” year. On May 13, 2021, the PCAOB proposed a new rule to implement the HFCAA, which was subsequently adopted by PCAOB on September 22, 2021 and approved by the SEC on November 5, 2021. Among other things, the proposed rule provides a framework for the PCAOB to determine, under the HFCAA, whether it is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction. The proposed rule also established the approach, evaluation factors, required documents and information, form, public availability, effective date and duration of such determinations and the process by which the board of the PCAOB can modify or vacate its determinations. On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed a bill and if eventually signed into law, would reduce the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the HFCA Act from three years to two. The SEC may propose additional rules or guidance that could impact us if our auditor is not subject to the PCAOB inspection. The SEC have implemented some of the concepts recommended in the PWG report published in 2013, which were more stringent than the HFCAA. For example, if a company was not subject to the PCAOB inspection, the report recommended that the transition period before a company would be delisted would end on January 1, 2022. On December 2, 2021, the SEC issued amendments to finalize the interim final rules adopted in March 2021, and established procedures to identify and prohibit the trading of the securities of certain registrants under the HFCAA. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued a report on its determination that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in China and in Hong Kong because of positions taken by PRC and Hong Kong authorities in those jurisdictions. The PCAOB has made such determination as mandated under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act. Pursuant to each annual determination by the PCAOB, the SEC will, on an annual basis, identify issuers that have used non-inspected audit firms and thus are at risk of such suspensions in the future. Since our auditor is located in China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditor is not currently inspected by the PCAOB. The lack of the inspections prevents the PCAOB from fully evaluating audits and quality control procedures of the auditors of our consolidated financial statements included in this document and our annual reports on Form 20-F filed with the SEC. As a result, we and investors in our ordinary shares are deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our stock to lose confidence in our reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
The enactment of Act and any additional rulemaking efforts to increase U.S. regulatory access to audit information in China could cause investor uncertainty for affected SEC registrants, including us, the market price of our ADSs could be materially adversely affected, and our ADSs could be delisted if we are unable to meet the PCAOB inspection requirement in time. Furthermore, there has been media reports on deliberations within the U.S. government regarding potentially limiting or restricting China-based companies from accessing U.S. capital markets. If any such deliberations were to materialize, the resulting legislation may have material and adverse impact on the stock performance of China-based issuers listed in the United States.
Risks Related to the ADSs
The market price for the ADSs has fluctuated and may be volatile.
The market price for our ADSs has fluctuated since we listed our ADSs. Since our ADSs became listed on the NYSE on June 6, 2013, the trading price of our ADSs have ranged from US$0.58 to US$23.38 per ADS and the last reported trading price on March 31, 2022 was US$1.05 per ADS. In addition to the volatility in the price of the ADSs which could be caused by the materialization of any of the risks described in this section, the securities markets in the United States, China and elsewhere have from time to time experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that are not related to the operating performance of particular companies. These market fluctuations may also materially and adversely affect the market price of our ADSs. In particular, in November 2019 and March 2020, we received letters from the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”), indicating that our Company is “below criteria” due to the average closing price of our ADSs being less than $1.00 over a consecutive 30-trading-day period pursuant to Section 802.01C of the NYSE Listed Company Manual. Our ADS price subsequently increased to and remained at a level that was in compliance with Section 802.01C of the NYSE Listed Company Manual.
The securities of some China-based companies that have listed their securities in the United States have experienced significant volatility since their initial public offerings in recent years, including, in some cases, substantial declines in the trading prices of their securities. The trading performances of these companies’ securities after their offerings may affect the attitudes of investors towards Chinese companies listed in the United States in general, which consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs, regardless of our actual operating performance. In addition, any negative news or perceptions about inadequate corporate governance practices or fraudulent accounting, corporate structure or other matters of other Chinese companies may also negatively affect the attitudes of investors towards Chinese companies in general, including us, regardless of whether we have engaged in any inappropriate activities. In particular, the global financial crisis and the ensuing economic recessions in many countries have contributed and may continue to contribute to extreme volatility in the global stock markets. These broad market and industry fluctuations may adversely affect the market price of our ADSs. Volatility in our ADS price may also adversely affect our ability to retain key employees, most of whom have been granted options or other equity incentives.
We may need additional capital, and the sale of additional ADSs or other equity securities or incurrence of additional indebtedness could result in additional dilution to our shareholders or increase our debt service obligations.
Historically, we have relied principally on the issuance of our preferred shares, convertible notes and ADRs to fund our operations and capital expansion needs. We may require additional cash resources due to changed business conditions or other future developments, including any investments or acquisitions we may pursue. If our resources are insufficient to satisfy our cash requirements, we may seek to sell additional equity, equity-linked or debt securities or enter into a credit facility. The sale of additional equity securities could result in additional dilution to our shareholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased debt service obligations and could result in operating and financing covenants that would restrict our operations. It is uncertain whether financing will be available in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all.
Substantial future sales of the ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the price of the ADSs to decline.
Additional sales of our ordinary shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of the ADSs to decline. As of December 31, 2021, we had 226,080,381 ordinary shares outstanding, including 116,558,948 ordinary shares represented by ADSs. All our ordinary shares represented by ADSs were freely transferable by persons other than our “affiliates” without restriction or additional registration under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or Securities Act. The remaining ordinary shares will be available for sale subject to volume and other restrictions as applicable under Rules 144 and 701 under the Securities Act.
In addition, certain holders of our ordinary shares have the right to cause us to register the sale of those shares under the Securities Act. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the public market could cause the price of the ADSs to decline.
You may not have the same voting rights as the holders of our ordinary shares and may not receive voting materials in time to be able to exercise your right to vote.
Except as described in the deposit agreement, holders of the ADSs are not able to exercise voting rights attaching to the shares evidenced by the ADSs. You have a right to instruct the depositary how to exercise those voting rights. However, the depository or its nominee may not successfully comply with your instructions or intentions. You may not receive voting materials in time to instruct the depositary to vote, and it is possible that you, or persons who hold their ADSs through brokers, dealers or other third parties, will not have the opportunity to exercise a right to vote.
You may not be able to participate in rights offerings and may experience dilution of your holdings as a result.
We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. Under the deposit agreement for the ADSs, the depositary will not offer those rights to ADS holders unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, or exempt from registration under the Securities Act with respect to all holders of ADSs. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or underlying securities or to endeavor to cause such a registration statement to be declared effective. In addition, we may not be able to take advantage of any exemptions from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, holders of the ADSs may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in their holdings as a result.
You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.
Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its transfer books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. In addition, the depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of ADSs generally when our books or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary deem it advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests and your ability to protect your rights through the U.S. federal courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law, primarily operate our business from China and a majority of our officers reside outside the United States.
We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands and primarily conduct our operations through our subsidiaries in China. Most of our directors and officers reside outside the United States and all or a substantial portion of their assets are located outside of the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to effect service of process within the United States upon us or these persons, or to bring an original action against us or against these individuals in a Cayman Islands or PRC court in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.
There is no statutory enforcement in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the federal or state courts of the United States (and the Cayman Islands are not a party to any treaties for the reciprocal enforcement or recognition of such judgments), a judgment obtained in such jurisdiction will be recognized and enforced in the courts of the Cayman Islands at common law, without any re-examination of the merits of the underlying dispute, by an action commenced on the foreign judgment debt in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, provided such judgment (a) is given by a foreign court of competent jurisdiction, (b) imposes on the judgment debtor a liability to pay a liquidated sum for which the judgment has been given, (c) is final, (d) is not in respect of taxes, a fine or a penalty, and (e) was not obtained in a manner and is not of a kind the enforcement of which is contrary to natural justice or the public policy of the Cayman Islands. However, the Cayman Islands courts are unlikely to enforce a judgment obtained from the U.S. courts under civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities law if such judgment is determined by the courts of the Cayman Islands to give rise to obligations to make payments that are penal or punitive in nature. Because such a determination has not yet been made by a court of the Cayman Islands, it is uncertain whether such civil liability judgments from U.S. courts would be enforceable in the Cayman Islands.
Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association, as amended and restated from time to time, and by the Companies Act (As Revised) and common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take legal action against our directors and us, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from English common law, which has persuasive, but not binding, authority on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedents in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands have a less developed body of securities laws as compared to the United States, and provide significantly less protection to investors. In addition, shareholders of Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action before the federal courts of the United States. As a result, your ability to protect your interests if you are harmed in a manner that would otherwise enable you to sue in a United States federal court may be limited to direct shareholder lawsuits.
As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulties in protecting their interests through actions against our management, directors or major shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States.
We are subject to increased costs as a public company, and our compliance costs may continue to increase in the future.
As a public company, we have incurred significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not have as a private company prior to our initial public offering. In addition, new rules and regulations relating to information disclosure, financial reporting and control and corporate governance, which could be adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, the New York Stock Exchange and other regulatory bodies and exchange entities from time to time, could result in a significant increase in legal, accounting and other compliance costs and to make certain corporate activities more time-consuming and costly, which could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have no present plan to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, and you may only rely on price appreciation of our ADSs for return on your investment.
Since our inception, we have not declared or paid any dividends on our ordinary shares. Since we intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to operate and expand our business, we have no present plan to pay any dividends on our ordinary shares in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should not reply on an investment in our ADSs as a source for any future dividend income.
Any future determination to pay dividends will be made at the sole discretion of our board of directors and may be based on a number of factors, including our future operations and earnings, capital requirements and surplus, general financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors that the board of directors may deem relevant. If we pay any dividends, we will pay the ADS holders to the same extent as holders of our ordinary shares, subject to the terms of the deposit agreement, including the fees and expenses payable thereunder. See “Item 12. Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities—D. American Depositary Shares.” Accordingly, the return on your investment in our ADSs will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of our ADSs. There is no guarantee that our ADSs will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs. You may not realize a return on your investment in our ADSs and you may even lose your entire investment in our ADSs.
We may become a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, which could result in adverse United States tax consequences to United States investors.
Based on the composition of our income and assets, and the valuation of our assets, including goodwill, we do not believe that we were a passive foreign investment company (a “PFIC”) for 2021. The determination of whether or not we are a PFIC is made on an annual basis and will depend on the composition of our income and assets from time to time. Specifically, for any taxable year we will be classified as a PFIC for United States federal income tax purposes if either (i) 75% or more of our gross income in that taxable year is passive income or (ii) the average percentage of our assets by value in that taxable year which produce or are held for the production of passive income (which includes cash) is at least 50%. The calculation of the value of our assets will be based, in part, on the quarterly market value of our ADSs, which is subject to changes. Due to the volatility of the market price of our ADSs, we may become a PFIC in the future. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations.”
In addition, there is uncertainty as to the treatment of our corporate structure and ownership of our VIEs for United States federal income tax purposes. If it is determined that we do not own the stock of our VIEs for United States federal income tax purposes, we may be treated as a PFIC.
If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which you hold the ADSs or ordinary shares, such characterization could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequences to you if you are a United States Holder, as defined under “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations.” For example, if we are or become a PFIC, you may become subject to increased tax liabilities under United States federal income tax laws and regulations, and will become subject to burdensome reporting requirements. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations.” We cannot assure you that we were not a PFIC for 2020 or that we will not be a PFIC for 2021 or any future taxable year. Moreover, the determination of our PFIC status is based on an annual determination that cannot be made until the close of a taxable year, and involves extensive factual investigation, including ascertaining the fair market value of all of our assets on a quarterly basis and the character of each item of income we earn, as discussed under “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations—Passive Foreign Investment Company.” Our United States counsel expresses no opinion with respect to our PFIC status.
Our fourth amended and restated memorandum and articles of association contain anti-takeover provisions that could have a material adverse effect on the rights of holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
Our fourth amended and restated memorandum and articles of association contains provisions limiting the ability of others to acquire control of our company or cause us to engage in change-of-control transactions and provisions that could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transaction.
Furthermore, our board of directors has the authority, without further action by our shareholders, to issue preferred shares in one or more series and to fix their designations, powers, preferences, privileges, and relative participating, optional or special rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions, including dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our ordinary shares, in the form of ADSs or otherwise. Preferred shares could be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control of our company or make removal of management more difficult. If our board of directors decides to issue preferred shares, the price of the ADSs may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.
It may be difficult for overseas regulators to conduct investigation or collect evidence within China.
Shareholder claims or regulatory investigation that are common in the United States generally are difficult to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in China. For example, in China, there are significant legal and other obstacles to providing information needed for regulatory investigations or litigation initiated outside China. Although the authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, such cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the Unities States may not be efficient in the absence of mutual and practical cooperation mechanism. Furthermore, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law, or Article 177, which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC. While detailed interpretation of or implementation rules under Article 177 have yet to be promulgated, the inability for an overseas securities regulator to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within China may further increase difficulties faced by you in protecting your interests.
ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
A. History and Development of the Company
We were founded in June 2007 and operated our business through Light In The Box Limited. In March 2008, we incorporated LightInTheBox Holding Co., Ltd., an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands, which, through a corporate restructuring, became our ultimate holding company.
Initial Public Offering
In June 2013, we completed our initial public offering, in which we offered and sold 19,090,000 ordinary shares in the form of ADSs, raising $75.0 million in proceeds before expenses to us. Our ADSs are listed on the NYSE under the symbol “LITB.”
In March 2016, we completed the issuance of 42,500,000 ordinary shares to Zall Cross-border E-commerce Investment Company Limited, or Zall E-Commerce, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Zall Smart Commerce Group Ltd. a developer and operator of large-scale consumer-focused product wholesale shopping malls in China, at $1.80 per ordinary share, which amounted to $76.5 million in proceeds.
Acquisition of Ezbuy
To supplement our growth, on November 8, 2018, we announced our entry into a share purchase agreement to acquire Ezbuy Holding Co., Ltd., or Ezbuy, in the form of convertible promissory notes, or the Notes. Subsequently, from December 2019 to March 2020, we issued a total of 50,699,442 ordinary shares and 19,091,837 ADSs (representing 38,183,674 ordinary shares) in exchange of the Notes held by Ezbuy’s shareholders.
Ezbuy is a Singapore-based cross-border e-commerce company. Founded in 2010, Ezbuy serves more than three million customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan. With the acquisition of Ezbuy, we have expanded our market reach to South and Southeast Asia. The two companies have a number of commonalities in supply chain while differ in target markets. Synergies from such business combination have been achieved and will continue to benefit the operation across a number of areas.
We currently conduct our businesses primarily through the following wholly owned subsidiaries and affiliated entities. We expect to close several other dormant entities.
|●||Light In The Box Limited and Ezbuy Holding Limited, our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated in Hong Kong, that primarily engage in product sourcing, marketing and the operation of our websites and mobile applications and the sale of our products;|
|●||Shanghai Lightinthebox Information Technology Co., Limited (“Shanghai Lanting”), Beijing Lightinthebox Information Technology Co., Limited (“Beijing Lanting”), Shenzhen Lightinthebox Information Technology Co., Limited (“Shenzhen Lanting”), and Light In The Box (Chengdu) Technology Co., Limited (“Chengdu Lanting”), our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated in the PRC, that primarily engage in providing supplier chain management, research and development, customer service and marketing services;|
|●||Jiaxing Ruili Supply Chain Management Co., Limited (“Jiaxing Ruili”), Dongguan Herui Supply Chain Management Co., Limited (“Dongguan Herui”) and Shenzhen Ruizhihe Supply Chain Management Co., Limited (“Shenzhen Ruizhihe”), our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated in the PRC, that primarily engage in warehousing and fulfillment services;|
|●||Avant Logistic Service PTE. LTD., our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated under the laws of Singapore, that primarily focuses on the warehouse management services and local delivery in Singapore;|
|●||Ching International Service PTE. LTD., and Avant E-commerce Service PTE. LTD., our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated under the laws of Singapore, and Avant E-commerce Malaysia SDN. BHD., our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated under the laws of Malaysia, that primarily engage in marketing and customer service in Southeast Asia;|
|●||LITB Netherlands B.V., our wholly owned subsidiary incorporated in the Netherlands that primarily engages in marketing in Europe;|
|●||Lanting International Holding Limited and LightInTheBox International Logistic Co., Limited, our wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated in Hong Kong that primarily focus on our global distribution network; and|
|●||Hong Kong Wholesale Companies include Light Square Limited, Light Xiao Limited and Fashion Easy-go International Trading Co., Limited, our subsidiaries incorporated under the laws of Hong Kong in the name of our employees who hold such shares on trust for the benefit of Light In The Box Limited, that primarily engage in maintaining our stores on other online platforms and also maintaining our global distribution network.|
Our principal executive offices are located at Floor 11,Shanghai KAISA Financial Center, No.1188 Minsheng Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, 200135 People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +(86-21) 6877-2231. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the office of Vistra (Cayman) Limited, PO Box 31119, Grand Pavilion, Hibiscus Way, 802 West Bay Road, Grand Cayman KY1-1205, Cayman Islands. Our telephone number at this address is +1 345 769 9372.
The SEC maintains a website at www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. Our annual report and some of the other information submitted by us to the SEC may be accessed through this website. Our investor relations website is http://ir.lightinthebox.com. The information contained on our websites is not a part of this annual report.
B. Business Overview
We are a cross-border e-commerce platform that delivers products directly to consumers around the world. We offer customers a convenient way to shop for a wide selection of products at attractive prices through www.lightinthebox.com, www.miniinthebox.com, www.ezbuy.sg and our other websites as well as mobile applications, which are available in 25 major languages and over 140 countries and regions. By offering a wide variety of products at affordable prices, we hope to a create better lifestyle for people living in these countries and regions.
We strive to source high quality products directly from competitive manufacturers in the strongest supply ecosystems mainly in China. Our data-driven business model allows us to offer products at affordable prices through optimal merchandising and fulfillment. We work closely with our suppliers to re-engineer their manufacturing processes to achieve faster time-to-market for our products. By locating our warehouses near these suppliers, we also realize cost advantages and inventory efficiency. As a result, we manage to reduce our product costs and offer more affordable prices in shorter time to our customers.
We target products that can offer our customers better choices and savings, such as fast fashion and other general merchandise product category. To effectively present our product selections to customers, we have developed a strong algorithm to recommend similar and related products based on customers purchase and browsing history.
We serve customers globally without incurring the costs and complexities associated with establishing a traditional multinational retail infrastructure. Our major markets are Europe, North America and Southeast Asia. To acquire and retain customers across diverse geographical markets, we have developed proprietary technologies to manage and optimize our marketing operations. We have established a specialized social marketing team to our customers.
We partner with global online marketing platforms, such as Google, Facebook and other social media, to reach our customers. We accept payments through all major credit cards and electronic payment platforms, such as PayPal, Stripe, Checkout and Global Collect, and we deliver our goods through different international couriers, including DHL, UPS, FEDEX, EMS and other international couriers.
Our Websites and Mobile Applications
We operate our business primarily through www.lightinthebox.com, www.miniinthebox.com and www.ezbuy.sg, offering apparel and other general products. Our websites are currently available in 25 major languages. All of our websites and mobile applications are supported by a common back-end technology platform, allowing for centralized inventory management across all of our websites.
We have made our websites and mobile applications easily accessible by users on their mobile devices. We believe this provides our customers with greater flexibility and convenience as to when and where they shop and provide us with the ability to attract even more customers. Our dedicated shopping application works with the iPhoneTM, the iPadTM and the AndroidTM to enhance the mobile shopping experience of our users.
Our websites and mobile applications offer customers a rich shopping experience and includes comprehensive information on our entire line of products such as rich media presentation and multilingual description. Users may search and view our products by category, style and other popular features. They may also search by product name, code or keyword. We offer users social media tools on our websites and mobile applications to share information about our products on the world’s major social networking sites. We have also established online communities to foster customer peer sharing.
Our Product Offerings
We offer customers products through our websites and mobile applications. Our product offerings include:
|●||Apparel. This category includes fast fashion and customized, special occasion apparel.|
|●||Other general merchandise. This category includes small accessories and gadgets, home garden, toys and hobbies, electronics and communication devices and other products.|
We have established dedicated retail management teams with strong expertise in their individual categories. We focus on products with strong market demand and large market size, supply chain feasibility and efficiency, online marketing efficiency, logistical feasibility and cost saving potentials. After products are selected, we conduct frequent real-time customer behavior analysis and seek customer feedback through surveys to improve and tailor our offerings. This allows us to quickly adjust and improve our products and product presentation. For apparel, we have established our own design teams. Such internal design expertise allows us to create distinctive product designs and provide design feedback to suppliers as to the latest fashions and trends. Our design teams also assist us with our product selection and product presentation to maximize the appeal of our product offerings.
Revenues from apparel sales accounted for 32.4%, 41.3%, and 61.4% of our total revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Our Relationship with Suppliers
We source majority of our products directly from factories in China. We have a comprehensive supplier qualification system and have around 1,000 selected active suppliers accordingly. We select our suppliers based on a range of factors, including product quality, price, reliability, financial strength, reputation, ability to meet our delivery timeline and production capacity, ability to increase their production capacity along with the growth in our business and historical relationship.
While we do not have manufacturing operations ourselves, we have in-house manufacturing experts who work closely with our suppliers. This provides us with visibility into the manufacturing process, which allows us to efficiently manage capacity and quality, thus enables continuous improvements and business innovations. Typically, we enter into supply framework agreements with our suppliers and specify in each purchase order the product type, unit price, quantity, delivery timeline and other detailed items. As the manufacturing processes of some of our products, such as apparel and certain electronics, require a variety of delicate parts and materials, we usually require our suppliers to procure key materials from our designated raw material suppliers in case of raw material shortages and to ensure prompt fulfillment for popular items. We may also require our suppliers to produce custom fabrics and other materials in accordance with certain design and specification. Our suppliers are liable for problems and costs associated with custom clearance.
We have established a supply network that is characterized by on-demand procurement with low lead time. We work with some of our suppliers to re-engineer their manufacturing process that enables us to place orders in relatively small batches. This provides us with the advantage to quickly adjust the design of our products, in each batch if needed, based on customer feedback. For example, for our made-to-measure products, such as customized apparel, we place orders with our suppliers only when our customers have placed an order, and such products are delivered to our warehouses by our suppliers within 3 to 14 days from the time when we place an order. For non-customized products, we adopt a frequent procurement strategy characterized with short refill cycles from suppliers that are, in most cases, within 48 hours. Our supply chain management system has been efficient in managing inventory while also reducing production waste for our suppliers, which we believe increases the desire for suppliers to work with us.
We have entered into arrangements with certain suppliers under which the suppliers store their products in our warehouses. Such products are referred to in this annual report as co-location inventory. Such co-location inventory products are delivered to our warehouses by our suppliers at their own costs, and we do not record these products as our inventory until all liabilities and rights of ownership of these products are passed on to us upon the confirmation of orders by our customers. We have the right to ask the suppliers to remove the co-location inventory from our warehouses at any time, generally at the suppliers’ own costs. However, we may from time to time pay the transportation cost associated with returning such products to suppliers. In addition, certain agreements with our suppliers require them to remove unsold co-location inventory within 90 days after these products are delivered. The costs and expenses incurred related to the storage of co-location inventory in our warehouses, such as rentals, are generally paid by us.
Purchases from our suppliers accounted for 74.5%, 64.6% and 61.5% of our total cost of product sales in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
In general, we aim to set our products at competitive prices. We price our products to reflect the savings associated with direct sourcing, low inventory levels and optimized logistics. We set the price of our products based on customer demand and feedback, sourcing costs, delivery costs and existing market prices for similar products. As we perform extensive data analysis on our product presentation and customer purchasing decisions, we believe that we can effectively conduct targeted promotional activities, identify optimal pricing points for each product and generate strong product sales and gross-margin performance.
Payment and Order Fulfillment
Our customers may choose from a wide range of payment methods. Available payment options include online payment through all major credit and debit cards, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express, and electronic payment platforms such as PayPal, Stripe, Checkout and Global Collect, money transfer through Western Union and wire transfer. However, available payment options may differ depending on the country or region in which the customers are based.
We have established warehouses in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province and Dongguan, Guangdong Province in China and Singapore. In total, our warehouses have the capacity to handle over 50,000 orders per day. As we grow our business, we build incremental capacity to reduce our capital expenditures. Our warehouses are currently leased.
Generally, orders placed by our customers are transmitted via our information technology system to one of our warehouses. As a result of our unique supply network, we have generally maintained a low inventory level and, in many cases, do not keep many products in stock. Rather, we transmit orders to our suppliers for fulfillment only when such orders are received from our customers or on a daily basis in small batches. Products are then delivered from our suppliers to our warehouses for quality inspection before being shipped out to our customers by third-party couriers. We regularly monitor our order fulfillment process and solicit customer feedback to ensure fulfillment accuracy.
We offer different delivery options to our customers, including expedited express, priority lines and international postal services. We partner with third party carriers in all regions except for in Singapore, where we manage the local delivery by our employees.
Refund and Exchange
We have implemented refund and exchange policies specific to each of our product categories. Generally, for products sold through our www.lightinthebox.com, www.miniinthebox.com, and other sites targeting customers in Europe and North America, if the product is returned for quality issues, damage during shipping, failure to conform to specifications, allergic reactions. Customized apparel return requests are subject to additional restrictions due to the personalized nature of such products. For products sold through our www.ezbuy.sg and other sites targeting customers in South and Southeast Asia, refunds are generally available for damages, defects and loss of products.
We believe that our ability to offer quality products is essential to our continued growth and success. Therefore, we emphasize quality control and, as of December 31, 2021, we had built a quality control department with approximately 15 employees.
As we source a majority of our products from suppliers, we have implemented a series of quality control measures to ensure that the products they provide meet our specifications and standards. We communicate actively with our suppliers to clarify our requirements, conduct onsite inspections both to ensure compliance with specifications on particular items as well as for regular quality concerns and share customer feedback. We thoroughly examine product prototypes or initial samples before production begins or agreements with the suppliers are enter into. We examine products when they arrive at our warehouses and we thoroughly inspect most of our products prior to the delivery to our customers.
We focus our marketing activities on effective customer acquisition through targeted performance marketing. We employ search engine marketing on a cost-per-click basis. Users are shown our advertisements when they conduct searches using designated keywords or phrases. Under our cost-per-click arrangements, we pay a fixed fee for each time a user clicks on our advertisements, with a higher fee for common keywords with a high correlation to purchase intention. Under our cost-per-acquisition arrangements, we pay each time a user purchases a product after clicking on an advertisement. We employ a combination of our own proprietary technology and advanced third-party infrastructure to manage and optimize our cost-per-click advertising and to discover long-tail multilingual keywords that are most likely to offer a positive return on investment.
We display contextual advertising through major search engines’ advertising networks on a cost-per-click basis. We measure the cost of customer acquisition and constantly adjust our keyword selection combinations, advertising copies and landing pages to increase the likelihood of customer purchases once they visit our websites and mobile applications. We also engage in an affiliate marketing program where we offer affiliated websites commissions for directing customer traffic to our websites and mobile applications through embedded hyperlinks. As of the date of this annual report, we actively managed millions of keywords in 25 languages and display advertising on over 800,000 publisher sites around the world.
Furthermore, we have established a specialized social marketing team to promote our brand and presence across major global social networking platforms. We display contextual advertising through major social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, on a cost-per-impression basis. We present customized advertisements to different groups of users based on their age groups, languages and interests, to improve our customer acquisition efficiency. We also engage social influencers and key opinion leaders for social marketing in different countries on a cost-per-sales basis or cost-per-impression basis. In addition, we conduct offline marketing in certain countries to maximize the overall coverage of our marketing campaigns.
We also focused on providing our customers with a rich shopping experience, which drives customer recommendations, foster customer sharing and encourages repeat customer visits. We engage in direct marketing campaigns through personalized electronic direct marketing newsletters and mobile application push notifications to our customers. We believe that our data analysis capabilities facilitate repeat purchases as we are able to send targeted notices to customers highlighting products they may find relevant and attractive. In addition, we have established a specialized customer relationship management team to enhance our customer experience.
We believe that our growth in past years and success in attracting a large customer base is partially attributable to our effort to provide excellent customer service. We have a team of highly trained customer service representatives to address customer inquiries, educate potential customers about our products and services and monitor order progress. We also pay close attention to reviews of our business or products on our or third-party websites in order to promptly address customer complaints and to improve our shopping experience and product offerings. Our full-time and part-time customer service representatives are able to provide customer services in 25 languages, and most of these representatives have overseas working experience.
We primarily provide customer services through electronic communications, including real-time online chat, e-mails and messages posted on our websites and mobile applications or through social media networks.
Our websites and mobile applications also offer a variety of self-help features. These features help our customers to track the status of their orders in real time. Customers may also cancel or modify their orders or contact our customer service representatives for exchange or return of products. We collect customer feedback to improve our responses and utilize such feedback to update our knowledge base to better address customers’ needs.
For discussion as to our product exchange and return policy, see “—Payment and Order Fulfillment—Refund and Exchange.”
We have focused on and will continue to invest in our information technology infrastructure and applications. We have built a proprietary modularized and scalable technology infrastructure, which enables us to quickly expand system capacity and add new features and functionalities in response to our business needs and evolving customer demand without affecting our existing operations or incurring significant costs.
Our systems are mainly composed of front-end and back-end modules with different functions. Each module operates independently but correlates with other modules during the operation flow. The following describes the functionality of our front-end and back-end modules:
|●||Front-end Modules. Our front-end modules support the operation of our user-interface, including PC websites, mobile websites and APPS, functions including user account management, website homepages, search functions, category browsing, product display pages, online shopping carts, payment and order management functions.|
|●||Back-end Modules. Our back-end modules support our business operations, including our marketing system, campaign and user management system, product management system, order management system, warehouse management system, purchase management system, customer support system, and supplier portal (which is also connected to the ERP systems of many of our suppliers for product and order placement and tracking). Many of our back-end systems work and connect with each other, which ensure the complete atomization and transparency from order placement to the inspection, packaging and delivery of the products, with the corresponding reports and data available for tracking. Our BI systems can generate up-to-date inventory reports and purchase management system can automatically place customized orders to our manufacturers with the inventory data.|
A critical component of our business model is our data analysis capabilities. We have a dedicated data analysis team to track, analyze and forecast customer purchase and browsing behaviors. This enables us to anticipate market demand, arrange for production, rearrange website layouts, userflow and product placement and recommendation, product presentation and supports our supply network. Our systems are integrated to allow a seamless communication of data regarding our customers, their orders, product availability information and logistics information.
Our open application programming interface approach allows us to integrate and work with third-party websites including social network sites, electronic payment platforms, other online distribution outlets and analytic systems. We have also adopted rigorous security policies and measures, including our dual-key and server-specific encryption technology, to protect customer privacy. Customers are protected by their own unique passwords and by our advanced data security software. Additionally, we have currently established an independent system security team, and implemented a series of measures to enhance and strengthen the security of our system, including but not limited to the newly implemented risk control system, access to the hacker monitoring tool of the paid third parties, review of the data authorization, upgrade of the control process, regular security scan of the websites and conduct penetration test etc.
The retail market for our products is intensely competitive. Customers have many product choices online and offline offered by global, regional and local retailers. Our current or potential competitors include online retailers such as other China-based global online retail companies, retail chains, specialty retailers and sellers on online marketplaces. Each of our competitors has unique strengths that depend on their demographic, product and geographic focus. We may also in the future face competition from new entrants, consolidations of existing competitors or companies created through spin-offs of our larger competitors. For information in relation to the competitive challenges that we face, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—The online retail industry is intensely competitive and we may not compete successfully against new and existing competitors, which may materially and adversely affect our results of operations.”
We compete on the basis of characteristics such as sourcing products efficiently, technology innovation, pricing our products competitively, maintaining the quality of our products and services, anticipating and responding quickly to changing customer demands, conducting strong and effective marketing activities and maintaining favorable brand recognition. We believe that our primary competitive advantages are our technology-enabled infrastructure, our differentiated product offerings, direct sourcing from cost competitive and flexible suppliers in China, strong online marketing capabilities, favorable prices, effective customer service, and a strong management team.
We rely on a combination of trademark, trade secret, patent and other intellectual property laws as well as confidentiality agreements with our employees, manufacturers and others to protect our intellectual property. We have registered domain names for all of our websites, including www.lightinthebox.com, www.miniinthebox.com, www.ezbuy.sg. We have in total 287 trademarks and service marks registered in China, the United States, European Union, Hong Kong. Our trademarks include Lightinthebox and MiniInTheBox. We also have 33 registered computer software copyrights in China and one registered copyright in the United States. We have two registered patents in the United States and two registered patents in China.
In addition to the protection of our intellectual property, we also focused on ensuring that our product offerings do not infringe the intellectual property of others. We have adopted internal policies and guidelines during product design and procurement process to make sure our suppliers and products we offer do not infringe on third-party intellectual property rights. All our supplier agreements contain provisions to safeguard against potential intellectual property infringement by our suppliers and impose severe penalties in the event of any infringement. We will also refuse to work with or terminate our relationship with suppliers in the event of intellectual property right violations. In addition, we have also engaged third-party advisors to assist us in ensuring compliance with third-party intellectual property rights.
Despite our best efforts, however, we cannot be certain that third parties will not infringe or misappropriate our intellectual property rights and that products posted on our websites and mobile applications do not infringe or misappropriate the intellectual property rights of others. For information in relation to the challenges we face protecting our intellectual property, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—We may not be able to prevent unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.” For information in relation to the challenges we face in relation to preventing our infringement of the intellectual property rights of others, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Products manufactured by our suppliers may be defective or inferior in quality or infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, which may materially and adversely affect our business.”
We experience seasonality in our business, reflecting seasonal fluctuations in online and offline retail patterns in general and for our products. For example, product sales may be higher in the fourth quarter of a calendar year due to the Christmas holidays, and lower during Chinese New Year period when many manufacturers are on vacation. Our product mix may experience quarterly shifts which may cause our margins to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Our results of operations are subject to quarterly fluctuations due to a number of factors that could adversely affect our business and the trading price of the ADSs.”
We participate in government sponsored social security programs including pension, unemployment insurance, childbirth insurance, work-related injury insurance, medical insurance and housing fund. We currently have limited insurance covering certain of our warehouses but do not maintain insurance for all of our properties. In addition, as is typical in China, we do not maintain business interruption insurance, or general third-party liability insurance, general product liability insurance, or key-man life insurance. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—We do not have any business liability, disruption or litigation insurance and any business disruption or litigation we experience might result in our incurring substantial costs and diversion of resources.”
We sell our products to customers around the world, and as such we are subject to a number of laws and regulations in different jurisdictions that affect companies conducting global online retail businesses, many of which are still evolving and could be interpreted in ways that could harm our business. For example, we are subject to laws protecting the privacy of customer non-public information and regulations prohibiting unfair and deceptive trade practices. Other laws in which we may be subject include issues such as user privacy, the tracking of customer activities, marketing e-mails and communications, other advertising and promotional practices, content and quality of products and services, sales and other taxes, import and export laws, electronic contracts and other communications and mandatory data retention.
An increasing number of jurisdictions are legislating or have adopted laws that impose new taxes on companies engaged in online commerce or remote sales, and new tax regulations may subject us to additional sales and income taxes. New legislations or regulations, the application of laws and regulations from jurisdictions whose laws do not currently apply to our business or the application of existing laws and regulations to the Internet and commercial online services could result in significant additional taxes or regulatory restrictions on our business.
Many states in the United States have passed laws requiring notification to subscribers when there is a security breach of personal data. There are also a number of legislative proposals pending before Congress, various state legislative bodies and foreign governments concerning data protection. In addition, data protection laws in Europe and other jurisdictions outside the United States may be more restrictive, and the interpretation and application of these laws are still uncertain. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our data practices. If so, in addition to the possibility of fines, this could result in an order requiring that we change our data practices, which could have an adverse effect on our business. Complying with these various laws could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a manner adverse to our business.
The following sets forth a summary of the major rules and regulations that affect our business activities.
Regulations Relating to Cross-border Trading
The Customs Law, effective as of July 1, 1987 and amended on July 8, 2000, June 29, 2013, December 28, 2013, November 17, 2016 and November 4, 2017, divides imported and exported items into “goods” and “articles” based upon the nature and purpose of such items. Under the Customs Law, “goods” and “articles” are not defined. However, this concept is clarified in the Rules for the Implementation of Administrative Punishments Under the Customs Law, effective as of November 1, 2004. These Rules describes “articles” as postal items and travelers’ luggage that are brought in and out of the PRC on an individual’s person or luggage. When the quantity of articles is higher than a reasonable amount for personal use, it will be regarded as “goods”. “Personal use” means that the traveler or consignee will use the items themselves or give the items as gifts, rather than selling or renting the items. “Reasonable amount” means the regular amount determined in accordance with the traveler or consignee’s situation, purpose of travel and duration of stay. Product samples are also categorized as “goods”, but customs declaration, clearance and inspection procedures for the export of product samples are handled differently from the export of other “goods”.
The Foreign Trade Law, effective as of July 1, 2004 and amended on November 7, 2016, governs international trade in services and the import and export of goods and technologies. Under this law, goods and technologies are categorized as (i) permitted, which may be freely imported and exported, (ii) restricted, which require advance approval or (iii) prohibited, which may not be imported or exported at all. Currently, all merchandise we export is categorized as permitted. Furthermore, an “import and export trader”, or any company or individual engaging in the import or export of goods or technologies, must register with the administrative department of foreign trade under the State Council or any of its authorized bodies in order to be qualified as a foreign trade business operator. According to current foreign trade laws, the Ministry of Commerce and its competent local branches are the authorized bodies to conduct qualification filings and registrations for foreign trade business operators.
The Customs Law requires that importers and exporters make true declarations of their goods and technologies to customs. The Imported and Exported Commodity Inspection Law, issued February 21, 1989 and amended on April 28, 2002, June 29, 2013, April 27, 2018 and December 29, 2018, also requires that certain items listed in the Catalogue of Import and Export Commodities for Inspection, or the Customers Catalogue, must be inspected by a commodity inspection organization authorized by the State Administration for Commodity Inspection before they can be exported. For import and export commodities not listed in the Customers Catalogue, the commodity inspection authorities may conduct random inspections pursuant to the Measures for the Administration of Random Inspection of Import and Export Commodities, issued as of December 31, 2002 and amended as of April 28, 2018. Further, the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs jointly adopted a mandatory licensing system for the export of certain merchandise, which exporters must comply with depending on the commodities they export.
The customs declaration, clearance and inspection procedures for goods and articles are different. The declaration of import or export of goods may be made by the consignees or consigners themselves or by customs brokers that have registered with the permission of the customs. The consignees, consigners or customs brokers shall make true declarations and submit the import or export license for restricted goods and relevant documentation to the customs for inspection. Where the commodities are imported or exported by means of express delivery, the consignees or consignor shall entrust an entry-exit express delivery enterprise with the inspection declaration, pursuant to the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Import and Export Commodity Inspection, effective as December 1, 2005 and amended on February 6, 2016, March 1, 2017 and March 2, 2019. In addition, a new information management system for express delivery consignments was established on November 30, 2018, according to the Announcement on Initiating the Application of the Information Management System for Inward and Outward Postal Items issued on November 8, 2018, requiring express delivery operators to collect data of each item of mail and submit it to the information management system. The Imported and Exported Commodity Inspection Law also requires that certain goods must be inspected by a commodity inspection organization before they can be exported, while other exported articles are generally exempted from inspection unless otherwise required by law.
We work with third-party couriers to ship the merchandise purchased by our global customers on a parcel-by-parcel basis and to go through customs declaration, clearance and inspection procedures for the export of these merchandise. The customs declaration, clearance and inspection procedures for the merchandise which are packaged and shipped in parcels are handled in accordance with procedures for articles or product samples. If the PRC government determines that our custom declaration practice do not comply with applicable laws and regulations and the merchandise we sell to our global customers shall be exported as goods instead of articles or product samples, it may take regulatory or enforcement actions against us. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We may be adversely affected by the uncertainties and changes in the PRC regulations and policies of cross-border business activities.”
Corporate Laws and Industry Catalogue Relating to Foreign Investment
The establishment, operation and management of corporate entities in China are governed by the Company Law of the PRC, or the Company Law, effective in 1994 and as amended in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2013 and 2018, respectively. The Company Law is applicable to our PRC subsidiaries and contractual arrangements unless the PRC laws on foreign investment have stipulated otherwise.
The establishment, approval, filing, registered capital requirement and day-to-day operational matters of wholly foreign owned enterprises, such as our PRC subsidiaries are regulated by the Wholly Foreign owned Enterprise Law of the PRC, effective in 1986 and as amended in 2000 and 2016, and the Implementation Rules of the Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise Law of the PRC, effective in 1990, as amended in 2001, 2014 and 2015. Under those rules, in those cases where the establishment of a given wholly foreign-owned enterprise does not involve any special restriction under applicable PRC regulations, the establishment, breakup, merger or any other major change to such wholly foreign-owned enterprise will be subject to record-filing requirements. On March 13, 2019, the National People’s Congress promulgated the PRC Foreign Investment Law, effective January 1, 2020 and replacing a 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 owned 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. The Foreign Investment Law references pre-establishment national treatment along with a negative industry list for foreign investment.
Investment activities in the PRC by foreign investors are currently principally governed by the Catalogue of Industries that Encourage Foreign Investment and the Special Administrative Measures on Foreign Investment, or the Catalogues, which was promulgated and is amended from time to time by the Ministry of Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission. Industries not prohibited the Catalogue are generally open to foreign investment unless specifically restricted by other PRC regulations. The State Council is in charge of approving the Negative Industry List for Foreign Investment and list industry sectors prohibited to foreign investment, which the 2020 Negative Industry List of the Catalogues was promulgated on June 23, 2020 and came into force on July 23, 2020. The 2019 Catalogue of Industries that Encourage Foreign Investment was promulgated on July 30, 2019.
Establishment of wholly foreign owned enterprises is generally permitted in encouraged industries. Some restricted industries are limited to equity or contractual joint ventures, while in some cases Chinese partners are required to hold the majority interests in such joint ventures. In addition, restricted category projects are also subject to higher-level government approvals. Foreign investors are not allowed to invest in industries in the prohibited category.
Regulations Relating to Data Privacy Protection
As we further expand our operations into international markets, we will be subject to additional laws in other jurisdictions where we operate and where our consumers, users, merchants, customers and other participants are located. We are subject to GDPR, an EU regulation that governs consumers’ private information. The collection, use, disclosure, transfer, or other processing of personal data regarding individuals in the EU, including personal transaction data, is subject to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which became effective on May 25, 2018. The GDPR is wide-ranging in scope and imposes numerous requirements on companies that process personal data, including requirements relating to processing personal address and other sensitive data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, providing information to individuals regarding data processing activities, implementing safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of personal data, providing notification of data breaches, and taking certain measures when engaging third-party processors. The GDPR also imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data to countries outside the EU, including the U.S., and permits data protection authorities to impose large penalties for violations of the GDPR, including potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global revenues, whichever is greater. The GDPR also confers a private right of action on data subjects and consumer associations to lodge complaints with supervisory authorities, seek judicial remedies, and obtain compensation for damages resulting from violations of the GDPR. Compliance with the GDPR is a rigorous and time-intensive process that may increase the cost of our business operations or requires us to change our business practice.
Regulations on Intellectual Property Rights
China has adopted legislation governing intellectual property rights, including trademarks, patents and copyrights. China is a signatory to the major international conventions on intellectual property rights and became a member of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights upon its accession to the World Trade Organization in December 2001.
The National People’s Congress adopted the Patent Law in 1984, which was subsequently amended in 1992, 2000, 2008 and 2020. The purpose of the Patent Law is to protect lawful interests of patent holders, encourage invention, foster applications of invention, enhance innovative capabilities and promote the development of science and technology. To be patentable, invention or utility models must meet three conditions: novelty, inventiveness and practical applicability. Patents cannot be granted for scientific discoveries, rules and methods for intellectual activities, methods used to diagnose or treat diseases, animal and plant breeds, substances obtained by means of nuclear transformation or a design which has major marking effect on the patterns or colors of graphic print products or a combination of both patterns and colors. The Administrative Department for Patent under the State Council is responsible for administering patents in the PRC. A patent is valid for a term of 20 years in the case of an invention and a term of ten and 15 years in the case of utility models and designs respectively, each starting from the application date. A third-party user must obtain consent or a proper license from the patent owner to use the patent. Otherwise, the use constitutes an infringement of patent rights.
China follows a “first to file” principle for patents. When more than one person files a patent application for the same invention, the patent will be granted to the person who first filed the application. In addition, the PRC requires absolute novelty in order for an invention to be patentable. Pursuant to this requirement, generally, with limited exceptions, any prior written or oral publication in or outside the PRC, demonstration or use in the PRC before the patent application filing prevents an invention from being patented in the PRC. Patents issued in the PRC are not enforceable in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macau, each of which has an independent patent system. The fact that a patent application is pending is no guarantee that a patent will be granted and, even if granted, the scope of a patent may not be as broad as that of the initial application.
When a patent infringement dispute arises, the patent holder or an interested party who believes the patent is being infringed may either file a civil lawsuit or file a complaint with the relevant authorities in charge of the patent administration. A PRC court may grant the patent holder’s or the interested party’s request for a preliminary injunction before the legal proceeding. Pursuant to the Patent Law, an infringer shall be subject to various civil liabilities, which include ceasing the infringement and compensating the actual loss suffered by patent owners. If it is difficult to calculate the actual loss suffered by the patent owner, the illegal income received by the infringer as a result of the infringement or if it is difficult to calculate the illegal income, a reasonable amount calculated with reference to the patent royalties shall be deemed as the actual loss. The compensation amount shall also include the reasonable expenses incurred by the patent owner for stopping the infringement. If damages cannot be established by any of the above methods the court can decide the amount of the actual loss up to RMB1,000,000. In addition, an infringer who counterfeits patents of third parties shall be subject to administrative penalties or criminal liabilities if applicable. Typically, a patent holder in the PRC has the burden of proving that the patent is being infringed. However, if the holder of a production process patent alleges infringement of such patent, the alleged infringing party which produces the same kind of products has the burden of proving that there has been no infringement.
We have registered two patents in the United States and two patents in China as of December 31, 2021.
Copyrights are protected by the Copyright Law of the PRC which was promulgated in 1990 and amended in 2001, February 2010 and November 2020, and the Regulation for the Implementation of the Copyright Law of the PRC which came into effect in September 2002 and was amended in January 2011 and further amended in January 2013. The amended Copyright Law extends copyright protection to Internet activities, products disseminated over the Internet and software products. In addition, there is a voluntary registration system administered by local Copyright Bureaus and the China Copyright Protection Center. The amended Copyright Law also requires registration of a copyright pledge.
Copyrights shall vest on the authors, unless otherwise provided under the laws. If a work constitutes “work for hire”, the employer, instead of the employee, is considered the legal author of the work and will enjoy the copyrights of such “work for hire” other than rights of authorship. “Works for hire” include, (1) drawings of engineering designs and product designs, maps, computer software and other categories, which are created mainly with the materials and technical resources of the legal entity or organization with responsibilities being assumed by such legal entity or organization; (2) those works the copyrights of which are, in accordance with the laws or administrative regulations or under contractual arrangements, enjoyed by a legal entity or organization. The actual creator may enjoy the rights of authorship of such “work for hire.” A copyright owner may transfer its copyrights to others or permit others to use its copyrighted works. Use of copyrighted works of others generally requires a licensing contract with the copyright owner. The protection period for copyrights in the PRC varies, with 50 years as the minimum. The protection period for a “work for hire” where a legal entity or organization owns the copyright (except for the right of authorship) is 50 years, expiring on December 31 of the fiftieth year after the first publication of such work.
In China, holders of computer software copyrights enjoy protections under the Copyright Law. Various regulations relating to the protection of software copyrights in China have promulgated. Under these regulations, computer software that is independently developed and exists in a physical form is protected, and software copyright owners may license or transfer their software copyrights to others. Registration of software copyrights, exclusive licensing and transfer contracts with the Copyright Protection Center of China or its local branches is encouraged. Such registration is not mandatory under Chinese law, but can enhance the protections available to the registered copyrights holders.
Where copyright or a copyright-related right is infringed, the infringer shall make compensation according to the actual losses incurred by the right owner. Where the actual losses are difficult to calculate, the compensation may be paid according to the illegal incomes obtained by the infringer. The compensation amount shall also include the reasonable expenses incurred by the right owner for preventing the infringement. Where neither the actual losses incurred by the right owner nor the illegal gains obtained by the infringer is determinable, the court may render a ruling to award compensation in an amount not more than RMB5,000,000.
We have 33 registered computer software copyrights in China, one registered copyright in the United States and one registered copyright in China as of December 31, 2021.
Pursuant to the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China (promulgated on August 23, 1982 and implemented on March 1, 1983 and last amended on 23 April 2019, effective since November 1, 2019) and the Regulation for the Implementation of the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China (promulgated on August 3, 2002 and implemented on September 15, 2002 and last amended on April 29, 2014 and implemented on May 1, 2014), the right to exclusive use of a registered trademark shall be limited to trademarks which have been approved for registration and to commodities for which the use of trademark has been approved. The period of validity of a registered trademark shall be ten years, counted from the day the registration is approved. If a trademark registrant wishes to use a trademark after the expiration of the duration of the trademark registration, according to the requirements, a registration renewal application should be filed within twelve months prior to the expiration. Each registration renewal is valid for ten years. Using a trademark that is identical with a registered trademark on the same commodities without the licensing of the registrant of the registered trademark; or using a trademark that is similar to a registered trademark on the same commodities, or using a trademark that is identical with or similar to the registered trademark on similar commodities without the licensing of the registrant of the registered trademark, which is likely to cause confusion; selling commodities that infringe upon the exclusive right to use a registered trademark; forging, manufacturing a registered trademark which was registered by others without authorization, or selling a registered trademark forged or manufactured without authorization; changing a registered trademark and putting the commodities with the changed trademark into the market without the consent of the registrant of the registered trademark; providing, intentionally, convenience for activities infringing upon others’ exclusive right to use a registered trademark, and facilitating others to commit infringement on the exclusive right to use a registered trademark, constitutes an infringement of the exclusive right to use a registered trademark. The infringer must undertake to cease the infringement, take remedial action and pay damages. The infringer also may be subject to fines or even criminal punishment.
Selling goods without awareness of such goods’ infringement of the exclusive right to use a trademark shall be exempted from liability for compensation insofar as the seller is able to prove that the goods were lawfully obtained and can indicate the supplier’s identity.
We have registered our logos as trademarks in China, including Lightinthebox and oukoo.
On August 24, 2017, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China, or the MIIT, promulgated the Administrative Measures for Internet Domain Names, or Internet Domain Name Measures. The Domain Name Measures regulate the registration of domain names, such as the first tier domain name “.cn.” In 2009, China Internet Network Information Center, or the CNNIC, issued the Implementing Rules for Domain Name Registration setting forth detailed rules for registration of domain names, which was amended on May 28, 2012. On September 1, 2014, CNNIC issued the Measures of the China Internet Network Information Center for Resolving Disputes over Domain Names, pursuant to which the CNNIC can authorize a domain name dispute resolution institution to decide disputes, which was then invalidated by the issuance and implementing of a series of rules including Rules of China Country Code Top-Level Domain Names Registration (annex: China Country Code Top-Level Domain Names Dispute Resolution Policy and the Procedural Rules of China Country Code Top-Level Domain Names), promulgated and implemented on June 18, 2020. These regulations require owners of Internet domain names to register their domain names with qualified domain name registrars approved by the MIIT and obtain registration certificates from such registration agencies. A registered domain name owner has the exclusive right to use its domain name. Unregistered domain names may not receive proper legal protections and may be misappropriated by unauthorized third parties.
We and our VIEs have registered domain names for all of our websites, including www.lightinthebox.com, www.miniinthebox.com and www.ezbuy.sg.
Under the Anti-Unfair Competition Law, effective in 1993 and revised in December 2017 and April 2019, a business operator is prohibited from carrying out acts intending to cause confusion, which would mislead others into thinking that its products belong to another party or that there is an association with another party, by:
|●||using without permission, a mark that is identical with or similar to product names, packaging or decoration of others with a certain degree of influence;|
|●||using without permission, the name of an enterprise, a social organization or an individual with a certain degree of influence;|
|●||using without permission, the main element of a domain name, website name or webpage with a certain degree of influence;|
|●||carrying out confusing acts that are intended to mislead others into thinking that a product belongs to another party or there is an affiliation with another party.|
Regulations Relating to Foreign Currency Exchange
Foreign Exchange Relating to Export Businesses
Foreign exchange activities relating to import and export trading in China are primarily governed by the following regulations:
|●||the Foreign Exchange Administration Rules (2008), or the Exchange Rules;|
|●||the Administration Rules for the Settlement, Sale and Payment of Foreign Exchange (1996), or the Administration Rules; and|
|●||the Guidance on Foreign Exchange Business under the Current Account (2020).|
These foreign exchange regulations, along with certain other ancillary notices issued by the SAFE, lay out the legal framework for the administration of foreign exchange for the export of commodities in international trade. Under these foreign exchange regulations, the exporter, in order to receive the proceeds of the export in foreign exchange and settle the same into Renminbi, must apply with the local branch of the SAFE for a certificate of verification and cancellation of export proceeds in foreign exchange unless otherwise provided under the applicable laws and regulations. The exporter must also apply with the competent tax authorities for a tax exemption or refund where a tax exemption or refund is applicable.
We source most of our products from suppliers in the PRC. Payments are made to the suppliers after the approval by local SAFE, with the provision of relevant exporting documents including customer order details, payment records, shipping and delivery tracking.
Foreign Exchange Relating to FIEs
Under current Chinese regulations, Renminbi are freely convertible for trade and service-related transactions denominated in foreign currency, but not for direct investment, loans or investments in securities outside China without the prior approval of the SAFE or its local branches.
FIEs in China may execute foreign exchange transactions without the SAFE approval for trade and service-related transactions denominated in foreign currency by providing commercial documents evidencing these transactions. They may also retain foreign currency, subject to a cap approved by the SAFE, to satisfy foreign currency-denominated liabilities or to pay dividends. Foreign exchange transactions related to direct investment, loans and investment in securities outside China are still subject to limitations and require approval from the SAFE.
On March 30, 2015, SAFE issued the SAFE Circular 19, which became effective on June 1, 2015. Pursuant to SAFE Circular 19, foreign-invested enterprises may either continue to follow the current payment-based foreign currency settlement system or choose to follow the “conversion-at-will” system for foreign currency settlement. Where a foreign-invested enterprise follows the conversion- at-will system for foreign currency settlement, it may convert part or all of the amount of the foreign currency in its capital account into Renminbi at any time. The converted Renminbi will be kept in a designated account labeled as settled but pending payment, and if the foreign-invested enterprise needs to make payment from such designated account, it still needs to go through the review process with its bank and provide necessary supporting documents. SAFE Circular 19, therefore, has substantially lifted the restrictions on the usage by a foreign-invested enterprise of its Renminbi registered capital converted from foreign currencies. There remain substantial uncertainties with respect to the interpretation and implementation of this circular by relevant authorities. On June 9, 2016, SAFE issued Notice on Reform and Regulation of Currency Exchanges for Capital Investments, which, among others, provides certain restrictions on the use of proceeds from currency exchange. Furthermore, on October 23, 2019 SAFE issued Notice on Further Facilitation of Cross-board Trade Investments, which allows equity investment in domestic companies by certain foreign entities.
Regulations on Dividend Distributions
The principal regulations governing dividend distributions of wholly foreign owned companies in China include the Companies Law (2013), as amended in 2018 and the PRC Foreign Investment Law (2019), including the relevant implementation rules subsequently promulgated.
Under these regulations, wholly foreign owned companies in China may pay dividends only out of their accumulated profits, if any, as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, wholly foreign owned companies are required to set aside at least 10% of their respective accumulated profits each year, if any, to fund certain reserve funds, until the aggregate amount of these funds reaches 50% of the company’s registered capital. Wholly foreign owned companies may, at their discretion, allocate a portion of their after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards to staff welfare and bonus funds. These reserve funds and staff welfare and bonus funds are not distributable as cash dividends.
Regulations on Tax
PRC Enterprise Income Tax
The PRC enterprise income tax is calculated based on the taxable income determined under the applicable Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules. On March 16, 2007, the National People’s Congress of China enacted the New EIT Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008 and were amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018. On December 6, 2007, the State Council promulgated the implementation rules to the New EIT Law, which also became effective on January 1, 2008 and amended in on April 23, 2019. On December 26, 2007, the State Council issued the Notice on Implementation of Enterprise Income Tax Transition Preferential Policy under the New EIT Law, or the Transition Preferential Policy Circular, which became effective simultaneously with the New EIT Law. The New EIT Law was further amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018. The New EIT Law imposes a uniform enterprise income tax rate of 25% on all resident enterprises in China, including FIEs and domestic enterprises, unless they qualify for certain exceptions, and terminates most of the tax exemptions, reductions and preferential treatments available under the old Enterprise Income Tax Law and regulations. Under the New EIT Law and the Transition Preferential Policy Circular, qualified enterprises established before March 16, 2007 that already enjoyed preferential tax treatments will continue to enjoy them (i) in the case of preferential tax rates, for a maximum of five years starting from January 1, 2008 and during the five-year period, the tax rate will gradually increase from their current preferential tax rate to 25%, or (ii) in the case of preferential tax exemption or reduction for a specified term, until the expiration of such term. For enterprises that are not profitable enough to enjoy the preferential tax exemption or reduction referred to in (ii) above, the preferential duration shall commence from 2008.
Prior to the effectiveness of the New EIT Law on January 1, 2008, domestic companies were generally subject to an enterprise income tax at a statutory rate of 33%.
The New EIT Law and its implementation rules permit “high and new technology enterprises strongly supported by the state” holding independent ownership of core intellectual property and meeting certain other criteria, as stipulated in the implementation rules and other regulations, to enjoy a reduced enterprise income tax rate of 15%. The State Administration of Taxation, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued Notice to Amendment to the Administrative Rules for the Certification of High and New Technology Enterprises in January 2016, which delineate the specific criteria and procedures for the certification of “high and new technology enterprises”. The New EIT Law and its implementation rules also provide that “software enterprises” enjoy a two-year income tax exemption starting from the first profit making year, followed by a reduced tax rate of 12.5% for the subsequent three years.
Uncertainties exist with respect to how the New EIT Law applies to our tax residency status. Under the New EIT Law, an enterprise established outside of the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC is considered a “resident enterprise,” which means that it can be treated in a manner similar to a Chinese enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, although the dividends paid to one resident enterprise from another may qualify as “tax-exempt income.” Though the implementation rules of the New EIT Law define “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,” the only detailed guidance currently available for the definition of “de facto management body” as well as the determination of an offshore incorporated PRC tax resident and its administration are set forth in Circular 82 and Bulletin No. 45 issued by the SAT, which provide guidance on the administration as well as determination of the tax residency status of a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise, defined as an enterprise that is incorporated under the law of a foreign country or territory and that has a PRC enterprise or PRC enterprise group as its primary controlling shareholder. Although we do not have a PRC enterprise or enterprise group as our primary controlling shareholder and are therefore not a Chinese- controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise within the meaning of Circular 82, in the absence of guidance specifically applicable to us, we have applied the guidance set forth in Circular 82 to evaluate the tax residency status of our legal entities organized outside the PRC.
According to Circular 82, a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its global income only if all of the following conditions set forth in Circular 82 are met:
|●||the primary location of the day-to-day operational management is in the PRC;|
|●||decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or are subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC;|
|●||the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals and board and shareholder resolutions are located or maintained in the PRC; and|
|●||50% or more of voting board members or senior executives habitually reside in the PRC.|
In addition, Bulletin No. 45 provided clarification on the resident status determination, post-determination administration, and competent tax authorities. It also specifies that when provided with a copy of a PRC resident determination certificate from a resident Chinese-controlled offshore- incorporated enterprise, the payer should not withhold 10% income tax when paying certain PRC-sourced income such as dividends, interest and royalties to the Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise.
Although both the circular and the bulletin only apply to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises and not those by PRC individuals, the determination criteria set forth in the circular and administration clarification made in the bulletin may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax residency status of offshore enterprises and the administration measures should be implemented, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC individuals.
We do not believe that we meet all of the conditions above. We are a company incorporated outside the PRC. We are not aware of any offshore holding companies with a corporate structure similar to ours that has been deemed a PRC “resident enterprise” by the PRC tax authorities. Therefore, we believe that we should not be treated as a “resident enterprise” for PRC tax purposes if the criteria for “de facto management body” as set forth in the Circular 82 were deemed applicable to us. However, as the tax residency status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body” as applicable to our offshore entities, we will continue to monitor our tax status. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We may be deemed a PRC resident enterprise under the New EIT Law and be subject to PRC taxation on our income.”
Although we believe we are not a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, substantial uncertainty regarding our status still exists. In the event that our company or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries is considered to be a PRC resident enterprise, (1) our company or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries would be subject to the PRC enterprise income tax at the rate of 25% on worldwide income; and (2) dividend income that our Hong Kong subsidiaries receives from our PRC subsidiaries, however, may be exempt from the PRC withholding tax since such income is exempted under the New EIT Law for PRC resident enterprise recipients. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We may rely on dividends and other cash distributions on equity paid by our subsidiaries to fund future cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our subsidiaries to make payments to us could have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our businesses.”
On February 3, 2015, the SAT issued SAT Notice on the Collection of Corporate Income Tax by Indirect Transfer of Assets by Non-Resident Companies, or SAT Circular 7. Pursuant to SAT Circular 7, except for a few circumstances falling into the scope of the safe harbor provided by SAT Circular 7, such as open market trading of stocks in public companies listed overseas, if a non-PRC resident enterprise indirectly transfers PRC taxable properties (i.e. properties of an establishment or a place in the PRC, real estate properties in the PRC or equity investments in a PRC tax resident enterprise) by disposing of equity interests or other similar rights in an overseas holding company, without a reasonable commercial purpose and resulting in the avoidance of PRC enterprise income tax, such indirect transfer should be deemed as a direct transfer of PRC taxable properties and gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to the PRC withholding tax at a rate of up to 10%. SAT Circular 7 sets out several factors to be taken into consideration by tax authorities in determining whether an indirect transfer has a reasonable commercial purpose, such as whether the main value of equity interests in an overseas holding company is derived directly or indirectly from PRC taxable properties. An indirect transfer satisfying all the following criteria will be deemed to lack reasonable commercial purpose and be taxable under PRC law without considering other factors set out by SAT Circular 7: (i) 75% or more of the equity value of the intermediary enterprise being transferred is derived directly or indirectly from the PRC taxable properties; (ii) at any time during the one-year period before the indirect transfer, 90% or more of the asset value of the intermediary enterprise (excluding cash) is comprised directly or indirectly of investments in the PRC, or 90% or more of its income is derived directly or indirectly from the PRC; (iii) the functions performed and risks assumed by the intermediary enterprise and any of its subsidiaries that directly or indirectly hold the PRC taxable properties are limited and are insufficient to prove their economic substance; and (iv) the foreign tax payable on the gain derived from the indirect transfer of the PRC taxable properties is lower than the potential PRC income tax on the direct transfer of such assets. Both the foreign transferor and the transferee, and the PRC tax resident enterprise whose equity interests are being transferred, may voluntarily report the transfer by submitting the documents required in SAT Circular 7. SAT Circular 7 brings challenges to both the foreign transferor and transferee of the indirect transfer as they are required to make self-assessment on whether the transaction should be subject to PRC tax and to file or withhold the PRC tax accordingly. Further, the PRC tax authorities have discretion under SAT Circular 7 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.
Value Added Tax / Sales tax / Goods and Services Tax
In China, our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs are subject to value added tax, or VAT, on revenue from sale of products in the PRC and are entitled to a refund for VAT already paid or borne on the goods purchased by them and utilized in the production of goods that have generated gross sales proceeds.
In European Union, new VAT rules on cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce activities have come into effect since 1 July 2021. Online sellers, including online marketplaces/platforms can register the Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS) in one EU Member State. The IOSS allows suppliers and electronic interfaces selling imported goods of EUR150 or less to buyers in the EU to collect, declare and pay the VAT to the tax authorities, instead of making the buyer pay the VAT at the moment the goods are imported into the EU as it was previously the case (for products over EUR22).
For the non-EU European countries, some countries, such as United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland also have issued new VAT policies on foreign suppliers (businesses and marketplaces) of low-value goods to domestic individual consumers, where foreign suppliers are obliged to register and collect VAT on their B2C sales. Meanwhile, there are other non-EU European countries that still charge VAT at the border when the goods are imported.
In United States, most states have enacted laws or adopted formal positions that apply an economic nexus standard and require remote sellers with no in-state physical presence to register for sales and use tax purposes, collecting and remitting tax on sales directed to customers in the state. Sales and use tax rates vary from state to state. Most states also allow a 'local option' that permits local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties, to impose an additional percentage on top of the state-level tax and to keep the related revenues.
In Australia, the supply of low value imported goods of AUD1,000 or less to an Australian non-registered consumer will be taken to have necessary connection with Australia and may be subject to goods and services tax, or GST, unless otherwise exempted. Nonresident suppliers and/or re-deliverers to consumers in Australia are liable to remit that GST to the Commissioner of Taxation.
In addition to the above countries, other regions or countries also have developed and introduced their own VAT or GST regulations.
Dividends Withholding Tax
Under the old Enterprise Income Tax Law effective prior to January 1, 2008, dividends paid to foreign investors by FIEs would be exempt from PRC withholding tax. We are a Cayman Islands holding company and substantially all of our income may come from dividends we receive from our subsidiaries, Light In The Box Limited, and Ezbuy Holdings Limited, two Hong Kong registered companies and their PRC subsidiaries and our VIEs. Substantially none of our total revenues in 2021 were generated from product sales via our websites and third-party online marketplace platforms targeting consumers from China. Pursuant to the New EIT Law and its implementation rules, dividends generated after January 1, 2008 and distributed to us by our PRC subsidiaries directly held by Light In The Box Limited, may be subject to withholding tax at a rate of up to 10%. Pursuant to the Double Taxation Avoidance Arrangement, dividends that Light In The Box Limited receives from our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to withholding tax at a rate of 5%, provided that the conditions and requirements under the Double Taxation Avoidance Arrangement have been satisfied, and subject to the assessment and approval of our relevant local tax authority.
Regulations on Offshore Investment by PRC Residents
On July 4, 2014, the SAFE promulgated the Notice on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control of Domestic Residents’ Overseas Investment and Financing and Round-trip Investment through Offshore Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, which replaced the former Notice on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Administration for PRC Residents to Engage in Financing and Inbound Investment via Overseas Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 75, promulgated by the SAFE in 2005.
SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents to register with local branches of SAFE in connection with their direct establishment or indirect control of an offshore entity, for the purpose of overseas investment and financing, with such PRC residents’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests, which is 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 an increase or decrease of capital contributed by PRC residents, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material events. In the event that a PRC resident holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to complete 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 subsidiaries. Furthermore, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC law for evasion of foreign exchange controls. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—PRC regulations relating to the establishment of offshore special purpose companies by PRC domestic residents and registration requirements for employee stock ownership plans or share option plans may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or the plan participants to personal liability, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiary, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase its registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.”
In addition, PRC subsidiaries of an offshore special purpose company are required to coordinate and supervise the filing of foreign exchange registrations by the offshore holding company’s shareholders who are PRC residents in a timely manner. If these shareholders fail to comply, the PRC subsidiaries of the offshore parent company may be prohibited from distributing their profits and proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation to their offshore parent company and the offshore parent company may be restricted in its ability to contribute additional capital into its PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the above foreign exchange registration requirements could result in liabilities for such PRC subsidiaries under PRC laws for evasion of foreign exchange restrictions, including (i) requirement by the SAFE to return the foreign exchange remitted overseas within a period specified by the SAFE, with a fine of up to 30% of the total amount of foreign exchange remitted overseas and deemed evasive and (ii) in circumstances involving serious violations, a fine of no less than 30% of and up to the total amount of remitted foreign exchange deemed evasive. Furthermore, the persons-in-charge and other persons at such PRC subsidiaries who are held directly liable for the violations may be subject to administrative sanctions.
Regulations on Employee Stock Option Plans
In December 2006, the People’s Bank of China promulgated the Administrative Measures of Foreign Exchange Matters for Individuals, setting forth the respective requirements for foreign exchange transactions by individuals (both PRC and non-PRC citizens) under either the current account and the capital account. In January 2007, the SAFE issued implementing rules for the Administrative Measures of Foreign Exchange Matters for Individuals, or Stock Option Rules, which, among other things, specified the approval requirements for certain capital account transactions, such as a PRC citizen’s participation in employee stock ownership plans or share option plans of overseas listed companies, and it was further amended on May 29, 2016. In February 2012, the SAFE promulgated the Stock Option Notice. This Stock Option Notice replaced the previous Stock Option Rules. The Stock Option Notice simplifies the requirements and procedures for the registration of stock incentive plan participant, especially in respect of the required application documents and the absence of strict requirements on offshore and onshore custodian banks, as were stipulated in the Stock Option Rules. The purpose of the Stock Option Notice is to regulate the foreign exchange administration of PRC resident individuals who participate in employee stock incentive plans of overseas listed companies.
According to the Stock Option Notice, if a PRC resident individual participates in stock incentive plans of an overseas listed company, which includes employee stock ownership plan, share option plan and other incentive plans permitted by the relevant laws and regulations, a PRC domestic qualified agent or the PRC subsidiary of such overseas listed company must, among other things, file, on behalf of such resident, an application with the SAFE or its local counterpart to obtain approval for an annual allowance with respect to the purchase of foreign exchange in connection with stock holding or share option exercises as PRC resident individuals may not directly use overseas funds to purchase shares or exercise share options. With the approval from the SAFE or its local counterpart, the PRC domestic qualified agent or the PRC subsidiary shall open a special foreign exchange account at a PRC domestic bank to hold the funds required in connection with the stock purchase or option exercise, any returned principal or profits upon sales of shares, any dividends issued on the stock and any other income or expenditures approved by the SAFE or its local counterpart. In addition, within three months after any substantial changes to any such stock incentive plan, including, for example, any changes due to a merger or acquisition or changes to the domestic or overseas custodian agent, the domestic agent must update the registration with SAFE.
Under the Foreign Currency Administration Rules (1996), as amended in 1997 and 2008, the foreign exchange proceeds of domestic entities and individuals can be remitted into China or deposited abroad, subject to the terms and conditions to be issued by the SAFE. However, to date, the SAFE has not issued any implementing rules in respect of depositing the foreign exchange proceeds abroad.
Currently, the foreign exchange proceeds from the sales of shares can be converted into Renminbi or transferred to such individuals’ foreign exchange savings account after the proceeds have been remitted back to the special foreign exchange account opened at the PRC domestic bank. If share options are exercised on a non-cash basis, the PRC domestic individuals are required to remit the proceeds to special foreign exchange accounts.
Furthermore, the Notice concerning the Individual Income Tax on Earnings From Employee Stock Options jointly issued by the Ministry of Finance and the SAT on March 28, 2005 and amended by the Circular on Issues concerning the Connection of Relevant Preferential Policies after the Revision of the Law on Individual Income Tax on December 27, 2018, and its implementing rules, provide that domestic companies that implement employee share option programs shall (1) file the employee share option plans and other relevant documents to the local tax authorities having jurisdiction over them before implementing such employee share option plans; (2) file share option exercise notices and other relevant documents with the local tax authorities having jurisdiction over them before exercise by the employees of the share options and clarify whether the shares issuable under the employee share options mentioned in the notice are the shares of publicly listed companies; and (3) withhold taxes from the PRC employees in connection with the PRC individual income tax.
Our board of directors adopted the Amended and Reinstated 2008 Share Incentive Plan on October 27, 2008 and the 2019 Share Incentive Plan on January 20, 2019, pursuant to which we may issue employee stock options to our qualified employees and directors on a regular basis. We and our PRC employees who have participated in the Amended and Reinstated 2008 Share Incentive Plan and the 2019 Share Incentive Plan are subject to the Stock Option Rules as our company is an overseas listed company. However, we cannot assure you that our PRC individual beneficiary owners and the stock options holders can successfully register with the SAFE in full compliance with Stock Option Notice. See “Item 3. Key Information— D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—PRC regulations relating to the establishment of offshore special purpose companies by PRC domestic residents and registration requirements for employee stock ownership plans or share option plans may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or the plan participants to personal liability, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiary, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.”
Labor Laws and Social Insurance
Pursuant to the PRC Labor Law and the PRC Labor Contract Law, employers must execute written labor contracts with full- time employees in order to establish an employment relationship. All employers must compensate their employees equal to at least the local minimum wage standards. All employers are required to establish a system for labor safety and sanitation, strictly abide by state rules and standards and provide employees with appropriate workplace safety training. Violations of the PRC Labor Contract Law and the PRC Labor Law may result fines or other administrative sanctions or, in the case of serious violations, criminal liability.
In addition, employers in China are obliged to provide employees with welfare schemes covering pension insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance, work-related injury insurance, medical insurance and housing funds.
Regulations on Overseas Listing
In 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies jointly adopted the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules which was amended in 2009. This rule requires that, if an overseas company established or controlled by PRC domestic companies or citizens intends to acquire equity interests or assets of any other PRC domestic company affiliated with the PRC domestic companies or citizens, such acquisition must be submitted to the Ministry of Commerce, rather than local regulators, for approval. In addition, this regulation requires that an overseas special purpose vehicle, or SPV, formed for overseas listing purposes and controlled by PRC companies or individuals, to obtain the approval of CSRC prior to publicly listing their securities on an overseas stock exchange.
While the application of the new regulations remains unclear, based on their understanding of current PRC laws, regulations and new procedures announced on September 21, 2006, we believe that:
|●||the CSRC currently has not issued any definitive rule or interpretation concerning whether offerings like ours are subject to this regulation;|
|●||we established our PRC subsidiary by means of direct investment other than by merger or acquisition of the equity or assets of PRC domestic companies; and|
|●||no provision in this regulation clearly classified contractual arrangements as a type of transaction subject to its regulation.|
See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Failure to obtain prior approval required under the M&A Rules and/or any other regulations promulgated by relevant PRC regulatory agencies in the future could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations as well as the trading price of the ADSs.”
Regulations on Concentration in Merger and Acquisition Transactions
The M&A Rules also establish procedures and requirements that could make some merger and acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex. These rules require, among other things, that the Ministry of Commerce be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor will take control of a PRC domestic enterprise or a foreign company with substantial PRC operations, if certain thresholds under the Provisions on Thresholds for Prior Notification of Concentrations of Undertakings issued by the State Council on August 3, 2008 and amended on September 18, 2018 are triggered.
According to the Implementing Rules Concerning Security Review on the Mergers and Acquisitions by Foreign Investors of Domestic Enterprises issued by the Ministry of Commerce in August 2011, mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors involved in an industry related to national security are subject to strict review by the Ministry of Commerce. These rules also prohibit any transactions attempting to bypass such security review, including controlling entities through contractual arrangements.
C. Organizational Structure
The chart below summarizes our corporate structure and identifies our significant subsidiaries, as that term is defined under Section 1-02 of Regulation S-X under the U.S. Securities Act, and other subsidiaries and variable interest entities that are representative of our major businesses, which we collectively refer to as our major subsidiaries and major variable interest entities:
As of the date of this annual report, we have two remaining VIEs in the PRC, including Beijing Lanting Gaochuang Technologies Co., Limited (“Lanting Gaochuang”) and Chongqing Ruizhihe E-Commerce Co., Limited (“Chongqing Ruizhihe”).
|(1)||Mr. Jian He, our CEO, and one of the dormant subsidiaries hold 51% and 49% of the equity interest in Lanting Gaochuang, respectively. Lanting Gaochuang previously engaged in technology research and development, marketing, administrative and general supports. The majority of the employees and business contracts in Lanting Gaochuang have been transferred to Beijing Lanting. Therefore, Lanting Gaochuang is currently a dormant company and is expected to be closed down in year 2022;|
|(2)||Mr. Qianneng Fu and Ms. Jing Zhu hold 95% and 5% of equity interests in Chongqing Ruizhihe, respectively. Chongqing Ruizhihe primarily engages in e-commerce business and is expected to be closed down or transferred out in year 2022;|
|(3)||Include three subsidiaries each of which is a limited liability company incorporated in Hong Kong that are primarily engaged in the wholesale distribution of products. These three subsidiaries are Light Square Limited, Light Xiao Limited and Fashion Easy-go International Trading Co., Limited. Light In The Box Limited is the beneficial owner of each of these companies. The entire share capital of each of these subsidiaries are registered in the name of our employees who hold such shares on trust for the benefit of Light In The Box Limited pursuant to the respective declaration of trust executed on various dates in June and July of 2016.|
To mitigate the uncertainties in our corporate structure and increase control on our operating entities, we have started to transfer our VIEs to wholly-owned entities and unwind the VIEs arrangements that were intended to support the operations of our PRC subsidiaries, which were no longer in operation. In 2021, we closed the Shenzhen Xuyi and Chongqing Xuyi VIEs, and the shares in relation to four of our VIEs, Lanting Huitong, Jiaxing Xuyang, Dongguan Herui and Shenzhen Ruizhihe, namely, were transferred to our wholly-owned entities while the related companies remained as our subsidiaries in the Group. As a result, the contractual arrangements between our wholly-owned entities and the relevent VIEs were terminated, which includes Exclusive and Technical Support and Consulting Service Agreements, Powers of Attorney, Exclusive Option Agreements, Loan Agreements, Share Pledge Agreements and Spousal Consent Letters.
Before our VIE structure in the PRC is completely removed, and for the purpose of this annual report, we maintain the control of the two remaining VIEs, Lanting Gaochuang and Chonqing Ruizhihe, respectively, through contractual arrangements between our wholly-owned subsidiaries, the two VIEs and the respective shareholders of the two VIEs.
Contractual Arrangements with the two VIEs and the Respective Shareholders of the two VIEs
The following is a summary of the currently effective contractual arrangements by and among our wholly-owned subsidiaries including Shanghai Lanting and Shenzhen Lanting Jishi, the two VIEs, namely, Chongqing Ruizhihe and Lanting Gaochuang, and the Respective Shareholders of such two VIEs.
Exclusive Technical Support and Consulting Service Agreements: Under the Exclusive Technical Support and Consulting Service Agreements entered into between our wholly-owned subsidiaries and our respective VIEs, our wholly-owned subsidiaries agreed to provide the two VIEs with technical support and consulting services, including the provision of technology platforms required for operations, provision and maintenance of office networks, the conception, configuration, design, updating and maintenance of web pages, employee training, advertisements and other technology services required for the operations. The two VIEs agreed to pay a service fee equal to substantially all of their net income, an amount equal to the amount of our VIEs’ operating revenue deducted by: (1) working capital necessary for the maintaining of the daily operations of the two VIEs; and (2) the amount of cash required for the two VIEs’ capital expenditures. The exclusive technical support and consulting service agreements will be valid for 10 years and automatically renewed for another ten years at the end of each period unless terminated earlier at the respective wholly-owned subsidiaries’ sole discretion or the liquidation of the two VIEs.
Powers of Attorney: Each registered shareholder of the two VIEs has executed a Power of Attorney appointing the respective wholly-owned entities or its designee to be his or her attorney, and irrevocably authorizing them to vote on his or her behalf on all of the matters concerning the two VIEs that may require shareholders’ approval, including nominating and electing directors, general managers and other executive officers. The powers of attorney will be irrevocably effective as long as the registered shareholders remain as shareholders of the two VIEs.
Exclusive Option Agreements: Under the Exclusive Option Agreements entered into among our wholly-owned subsidiaries, the two VIEs, and the shareholders of the two VIEs, our wholly-owned subsidiaries or its designated parties have exclusive options to purchase, when and to the extent permitted under PRC law, all or part of the equity interest in the respective VIEs. The exercise price for the options to purchase all or part of the equity interest will be the minimum amount of consideration permissible under the then applicable PRC law. If the exercise price for the options is higher than the respective equity investment cost, the two VIEs agree to repay the difference between the exercise price and equity investment cost to our wholly-owned subsidiaries or their designated persons. The agreements are valid until our wholly-owned subsidiaries or its designated parties complete transaction of all the equity interest of the two VIEs.
Loan Agreements: Under the Loan Agreements entered into between our wholly-owned subsidiaries and the registered shareholders of the respective VIEs, our wholly-owned subsidiaries extended loans to the respective registered shareholders of the two VIEs to be contributed as the registered capital of our wholly-owned subsidiaries. Under these agreements, the registered shareholders of the two VIEs agreed that without prior written consent from our wholly-owned subsidiaries, the two VIEs might not enter into any transaction that could materially affect its assets, liabilities, interests or operations, and there would be no earnings distribution in any form by the two VIEs before such loan has been repaid. These loans could only be repaid by transferring all of the registered shareholders of the two VIEs’ equity interest in the two VIEs to our wholly-owned subsidiaries or any third parties designated by our wholly-owned subsidiaries, and submitting all proceeds from such transaction to our wholly-owned subsidiaries. The loan agreements had a term of ten years and will be extended automatically, unless indicated otherwise by our wholly-owned subsidiaries in writing three months prior to the contract expiration date.
Share Pledge Agreements: Under the Share Pledge Agreements entered into among our wholly-owned subsidiaries, the two VIEs, and the respective shareholders of the two VIEs, the registered shareholders of the two VIEs pledged all of their respective equity interest in favor of our wholly-owned subsidiaries to secure the two VIEs and their shareholders’ obligations under the various contractual agreements, including the Exclusive Option Agreements and the Exclusive Technical Support and Consulting Service Agreements described above. If the two VIEs or any of their respective registered shareholders breach any of their respective contractual obligations under these agreements, our wholly-owned subsidiaries, as pledgees, will be entitled to certain rights, including the right to sell the pledged equity interest. The registered shareholders of the two VIEs agreed not to transfer, sell, pledge, dispose of or otherwise create any new encumbrance on their respective equity interest in the two VIEs, without their respective wholly-owned subsidiaries’ prior written consent. The share pledge agreements will be valid until the two VIEs and their shareholders fulfill all contractual obligations under the exclusive option agreements and the exclusive technical support and consulting service agreements.
Spousal Consent Letters: Under the Spousal Consent Letters, the spouses of the registered shareholders of the two VIEs acknowledged that a certain percentage of the equity interest in the two VIEs held by and registered in the name of their respective spouse will be disposed of pursuant to the Exclusive Option Agreements and Share Pledge Agreements. These spouses understand that such equity interest is held by their respective spouse on behalf of our wholly-owned subsidiaries, and they will not take any action to interfere with the disposition of such equity interests, including, without limitation, claiming that such equity interest constitute communal property of marriage.
In the opinion of Hiways Law Firm, our PRC legal counsel:
|●||the ownership structures of wholly-owned subsidiaries and VIEs are not in any violation of PRC laws or regulations currently in effect; and|
|●||the contractual arrangements among wholly-owned subsidiaries and VIEs and their respective shareholders governed by PRC law are legal, valid, binding and enforceable in accordance with its terms and applicable PRC laws, and do not and will not result in any violation of PRC laws or regulations currently in effect.|
We have been further advised by our PRC legal counsel that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future PRC laws, regulations and rules. If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our e-commerce business do not comply with PRC government restrictions on foreign investment in our businesses, we could be subject to severe penalties including being prohibited from continuing operations. See “Item 3. Key Information — D. Risk Factors — Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure.”
D. Property, Plant and Equipment
We currently lease all properties for our operations. Our corporate headquarters are located in Shanghai, China. We have established sourcing offices in Singapore, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Chengdu. We maintain warehouses in Dongguan, Jiaxing and Singapore. The following table sets forth a summary of our leased properties as of the date of this annual report:
(in square meters)
Usage of Property
Research and development, sales and operation, customer service and administrative functions
Sales and operation, research and development, administrative functions
Sales and operation, and administrative functions
Research and development
Sales and operation, customer service and warehouse
We believe that our existing facilities are adequate for our current business operations and we will be able to enter into lease arrangements on commercially reasonable terms for future expansion.
ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this annual report. This discussion contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results and the timing of selected events could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including those set forth under “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this annual report.
A. Operating Results Overview
We are a cross-border e-commerce platform that delivers products directly to consumers around the world. We offer customers a convenient way to shop for a wide selection of products at attractive prices through www.lightinthebox.com, www.miniinthebox.com, www.ezbuy. sg and our other websites as well as mobile applications, which are available in 25 major languages and over 140 countries and regions. By offering a wide variety of products at affordable prices, we hope to create a better lifestyle for people living in these countries and regions.
We target products that can offer our customers better choices and savings, such as fast fashion and home garden products. We also offer a wide range of other products in our other general merchandise product category, as well as high quality, made-to- measure dresses and wedding gowns.
We serve customers globally without incurring the costs and complexities associated with establishing a traditional multinational retail infrastructure. Our major markets are Europe, North America and South East Asia. We use global online marketing platforms such as Google and Facebook to reach our customers, we accept payments through all major credit cards and electronic payment platforms such as PayPal, Stripe and Global Collect and we deliver our goods through major international couriers, including DHL, UPS and EMS.
To supplement our growth, in December 2018, we acquired Ezbuy Holding Co., Ltd., or Ezbuy, a Singapore-based cross-border e-commerce company which serves more than three million customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan. With the acquisition of Ezbuy, we have expanded our market reach to South and Southeast Asia.
Since the acquisition of Ezbuy in December 2018, we have gained synergies through the following combinations and consolidations.
|●||Supplier resources and product selections available to customers, which not only widen customers’ shopping options, but also generate more sales revenue and effectively reducing suppliers’ production costs;|
|●||Warehouse resources in China, which significantly improve fulfillment efficiency and reduce operating costs; and|
|●||Leverage of marketing experiences to acquire more customers and increase customer repeated purchase rate.|
Our total revenues were $243.6 million, $398.2 million and $446.1 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. We recorded net income of $1.1 million, $13.3 million and $13.5 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. Cash provided by operating activities was $1.9 million and $29.3 million in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and cash used in operating activities was $1.8 million in 2021.
Factors Affecting Our Results of Operations
Our business and results of operations are affected by general factors affecting online retail markets around the world. Such factors include:
|●||the growth of the global economy and of our targeted geographic markets, including the breakout of the pandemic that has an adverse impact on global economy;|
|●||per capita disposable income and consumer spending;|
|●||growth of global Internet penetration and online retail;|
|●||government policies and initiatives in our targeted geographic markets that affect online retail and, in particular, the import of products into their respective countries or regions; and|
|●||overall global consumer perception of consumer goods exported from China.|
Unfavorable changes in any of these general industry conditions could materially and adversely affect demand for our products and our results of operations. In addition, our operating results are affected by the following company-specific factors:
|●||our ability to acquire new customers and increase repeat purchases by customers at reasonable cost;|
|●||our ability to control product sourcing costs, fulfillment and other operating expenses;|
|●||our product selection and pricing;|
|●||our ability to introduce new product offerings and categories;|
|●||our ability to expand into new geographic markets;|
|●||our ability to enhance our brand; and|
|●||our ability to compete effectively.|
Since 2016, we have reported our operating results in two operating segments:
|●||Product sales. Our product sales segment is comprised of sales of our products through our websites and mobile applications and other supplemental online revenues from our product sales and other consumer products are recorded less value added tax, sales and use tax, goods and services tax, discounts and allowances; and|
|●||Services and others. Our services and others segment comprised of provision of logistic services to companies and individual customers globally. In 2019, we also derived service revenues from selling systems and from providing technical services.|
This presentation reflects (i) how we manage our business to maximize efficiency in allocating resources and (ii) the expansion of our service business as the revenue contribution from such business account for a large portion of our total revenues. We present the segment information after elimination of inter-company transactions. In general, revenues, and cost of revenues are directly attributable, and are allocated, to each segment.
In 2019, 2020 and 2021, we generated total revenues of $243.6 million, $398.2 million and $446.1 million, respectively. The following table sets forth information of our total revenues by segment and product category in absolute amounts and as percentages of total revenues for the periods presented.
Year Ended December 31,
(U.S. dollars in thousands, except for percentage)
% of Total
% of Total
% of Total
Other general merchandise (1)
Total product sales
Services and others
We deliver products to customers in over 140 countries and territories. The following table breaks down our total revenues by geographic regions as determined by shipping addresses or the addresses of our customers that we provide services to in absolute amounts and as percentages of total revenues for the years presented.
Year Ended December 31,
(U.S. dollars in thousands, except for percentage)
% of Total
% of Total
% of Total
We have primarily focused on selling apparel and other general merchandise. We expect to continue to focus on the growth in sales of apparel and expect that sales of apparel will continue to contribute considerably to our total revenues in the future.
We face seasonality for the sale of our products. For example, during the first quarter of the past several years, we experienced greater demand for our wedding dresses and, during the fourth quarter of the past several years, we experienced a general increase in the demand for our products as a result of holiday shopping. In addition, we recorded lower sales during Chinese New Year period when many manufacturers are on vacation.
We have made our websites easily accessible by users on their mobile devices. We have also launched our mobile apps to enhance the mobile shopping experience of our users. As the number of customers making purchases through our mobile apps or mobile devices continue to increase, our mobile revenue increased to 67.1% of revenues from product sales in 2021, compared with 59.2% in 2019 and 63.8% in 2020, respectively.
We expect our revenues from product sales to grow in the future as we continue to introduce new products and deepen our penetration of various geographic markets around the world. We also expect to expand our customer base and increase product sales to each customer to drive our growth.
We regularly review a number of operating metrics, including the following, to evaluate our performance of product sales, identify trends affecting our business, formulate financial projections and make certain strategic decisions: (i) our number of customers, (ii) revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers, (iii) revenues from product sales attributed to new customers and (iv) the change in revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers. The following table sets forth the above metrics for our product sales segment for the years indicated.
Year Ended December 31,
(U.S. dollar in thousands, unless otherwise stated)
Our number of customers
Revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers
Revenues from product sales attributed to new customers
Change in revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers (1) (percentage)
|(1)||“Change in revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers” refers to, in percentage, the difference between (i) revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers for a given period and (ii) revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers for the prior period, divided by revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers from such prior period.|
Our revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers increased from $162.7 million in 2020 to $174.3 million in 2021, primarily contributed by our efforts to upgrade our supply chain and product mix to fulfill our customers’ diverse demand. We expect revenues from product sales attributed to repeat customers to increase in the long run as we continue to optimize our supply chain and operating efficiency to enhance customers’ experience and satisfaction.
Services and others
We also record revenues from the provision of logistics to companies and individual customers globally. Such logistics services include product collection, packaging and labeling, shipment and delivery of products from our warehouses to locations designated by our customers.
Cost of Revenues and Operating Expenses
The following table sets forth our cost of revenues and operating expenses, both in absolute amounts and as percentages of total revenues for the periods indicated.
Year Ended December 31,
(U.S. dollar in thousands, except for percentage)
% of Total
% of Total
% of Total
Cost of revenues
Cost of product sales
Cost of services and others
Total cost of revenues
Selling and marketing
General and administrative
Other operating income
Total operating expenses
Cost of revenues
Our cost of revenues is comprised of cost of product sales and cost of services.
Our cost of product sales consists primarily of cost of consumer products sold by us and shipping charges, and to a much lesser degree, packaging supplies and inventory write-downs. We write down the cost of slow-moving and broken inventory to the net realizable value based on historical trends for such inventory, inventory aging, historical and forecasted consumer demand and such write-down is recorded as part of cost of product sales. Shipping charges to receive products from our suppliers are included as inventory and recognized as cost of product sales upon the sale of such products. Our cost of product sales as percentage of our total revenues during a specific period is affected by the composition of the type of products sold during that period.
Our cost of services consists primarily of shipping charges and to a lesser extent, packaging supplies in connection with the provision of such services to our customers. Shipping charges primarily include shipping fees that we pay to third-party international couriers and are recognized as cost of services when delivery services are completed.
Fulfillment Expenses. Fulfillment expenses include costs incurred in operating and staffing our warehouses and customer service centers, including (i) costs attributable to buying, receiving, inspecting and warehousing inventories, (ii) picking, packaging, and preparing customer orders for shipment and (iii) payment processing and related transaction costs. Our fulfillment expenses are primarily affected by the cost of personnel at our warehouses and our ability to strengthen our logistic management capabilities and increase our economies of scale as our volume of products shipped increases. As we expanded our warehouse network to accommodate increase in purchase orders and provide better coverage of our target markets, our fulfillment expenses increased in absolute amount when compared with last year. We expect that as our business continues to grow and as we achieve economies of scale, our fulfillment cost as a percentage of our total revenues will decrease in the future.
Selling and Marketing Expenses. Selling and marketing expenses include marketing program expenses and marketing personnel expenses. Marketing program expenses are comprised of targeted online marketing expenses, such as search engine marketing, display advertising and affiliate marketing program expenses. Marketing personnel expenses are comprised of payroll and related expenses for personnel engaged in selling, marketing and business development, including the execution of search engine optimization and social viral marketing activities. The fluctuation of selling and marketing expenses as a percentage of our total revenues relates to our business expansion into and the testing of new geographic markets, product categories, marketing channels and promotional activities. In the near term, we expect to focus our selling and marketing efforts on growing our customer base, but we expect our selling and marketing expenses as a percentage of our total revenues to decrease in the long term as we achieve economies of scale and utilize our selling and marketing channels more efficiently.
General and Administrative Expenses. General and administrative expenses include payroll-related expenses and travel-related expenses for personnel engaged in accounting, finance, tax, legal, human resources and other general corporate functions, as well as costs related to the use of facilities and equipment by these personnel, such as depreciation expenses and rent, professional fees, provision for credit losses and other general corporate costs. General and administrative expenses also include technological development and related expenses, including payroll-related expenses. In addition, general and administrative expenses include chargebacks relating to fraudulent credit card activities from payment processing agencies. We expect our general and administrative expenses as a percentage of our total revenues to decrease in the future as we achieve economies of scale.
Share-based Compensation Expenses
The table below shows the effect of the share-based compensation expenses on our operating expense line items for the periods indicated.
Year Ended December 31,
% of Total
% of Total
% of Total
(U.S. dollar in thousands, except for percentage)
Selling and marketing
General and administrative
Total share-based compensation expenses
We expect to continue to grant share options, restricted shares and other share-based awards under our share incentive plan and incur further share-based compensation expenses in future periods. For information regarding share options and restricted shares granted to our officers and directors, see “—Share Incentive Plan.”
We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Under the current law of the Cayman Islands, we are not subject to income, corporate or capital gains tax in the Cayman Islands. In addition, our payment of dividends to shareholders, if any, is not subject to withholding tax in the Cayman Islands.
Our wholly owned subsidiaries in Hong Kong are subject to the uniform profit tax rate of 16.5% in Hong Kong. It is exempted from income tax on its foreign-derived income and there are no withholding taxes in Hong Kong on remittance of dividends. A two-tiered profits tax rates regime was introduced since 2018 where the first HK$2,000 of assessable profits earned by a company will be taxed at half of the current tax rate (8.25%) whilst the remaining profits will continue to be taxed at 16.5%.
There is an anti-fragmentation measure where each group will have to nominate only one company in the group to benefit from the progressive rates. We did not make any provisions for Hong Kong profit tax as there were no assessable profits derived from or earned in Hong Kong for any of the years presented.
The Company’s subsidiaries and VIEs in the PRC are subject to the statutory rate of 25%, in accordance with the Enterprise Income Tax law (the ‘‘EIT Law’’), which was effective since January 1, 2008 except for the following entities eligible for preferential tax rates.
On December 22, 2016, Lanting Gaochuang obtained the High and New Technology Enterprise (“HNTE”) certificate with a validity term of three years. Lanting Gaochuang reapplied and obtained the HNTE certificate on December 2, 2019 and was eligible to an enterprise income tax rate of 15% from December 31, 2019 through December 31, 2021.
Chengdu Lanting was qualified as a software enterprise which allows it to utilize a two-year 100% exemption for 2018 and 2019 followed by a three-year half-reduced EIT rate effective for years from 2020 to 2022.
Shenzhen Ruizhihe, Beijing Lanting, Shenzhen Lanting and Jiaxing Ruili qualified as SMEs in 2021, Dongguan Herui and Chongqing Ruizhihe qualified as SMEs in 2020 and 2021, Shenzhen Lanting Jishi qualified as SME in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and therefore their taxable income will be taxed at 20% subject to certain taxable income exemptions for the respective years.
Other entities of the Group domiciled in the PRC are subject to 25% statutory income tax rate in accordance with the EIT Law in the periods presented.
Under the New EIT Law and its implementation rules, dividends from our PRC subsidiaries paid out of profits generated after January 1, 2008, are subject to a withholding tax of 20%, although under the detailed implementation rules to the New EIT Law promulgated by the PRC State Council, the withholding tax rate is 10%, unless there is a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. Distributions of profits generated before January 1, 2008 are exempt from PRC withholding tax. Pursuant to the Double Taxation Avoidance Arrangement, dividends that Light in The Box Limited receives from our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to withholding tax at a rate of 5%, provided that the conditions and requirements under the Double Taxation Avoidance Arrangement have been satisfied.
Under the New EIT Law, 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 global income. The implementation 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.” The SAT issued the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese—Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or Circular 82, on April 22, 2009. Circular 82 provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise is located in China. Further to Circular 82, on July 27, 2011, the SAT issued Bulletin No. 45 to provide more guidance on the implementation of Circular 82, which took effect on September 1, 2011. Bulletin No. 45 provides clarification on the resident status determination, post- determination administration, and competent tax authorities. It also specifies that when provided with a copy of a Chinese tax resident determination certificate from a resident Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise, the payer should not withhold 10% income tax when paying certain Chinese-sourced income such as dividends, interest and royalties to the Chinese-controlled offshore- incorporated enterprise. Although both the circular and the bulletin only apply to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises and not those by PRC individuals, the determination criteria set forth in the circular and administration clarification made in the bulletin may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax residency status of offshore enterprises and the administration measures should be implemented, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC individuals. Although we do not believe that our legal entities organized outside of the PRC constitute PRC resident enterprises, it is possible that the PRC tax authorities could reach a different conclusion. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We may be deemed a PRC resident enterprise under the New EIT Law and be subject to PRC taxation on our income.”
Ching International Service PTE. LTD., D2D Express PTE. LTD, Avant E-Commerce Service PTE. LTD. and Avant Logistic Service PTE. LTD are located in Singapore and subject to 17% statutory income tax rate with respect to the profit generated from Singapore.
Critical Accounting Policies
We prepare our financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP, which requires us to make judgments, estimates and assumptions. We continually evaluate these estimates and assumptions based on the most recently available information, our own historical experience and various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. Since the use of estimates is an integral component of the financial reporting process, actual results could differ from our expectations as a result of changes in our estimates.
An accounting policy is considered critical if it requires an accounting estimate to be made based on assumptions about matters that are highly uncertain at the time such estimate is made and if different accounting estimates that reasonably could have been used, or changes in the accounting estimates that are reasonably likely to occur, could materially impact the consolidated financial statements. We believe that the following accounting policies involve a higher degree of judgment and complexity in their application and require us to make significant accounting estimates. The following descriptions of critical accounting policies, judgments and estimates should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and other disclosures included in this annual report.
We account for business combinations using the purchase method of accounting in accordance with ASC Topic 805, Business Combinations. The purchase method of accounting requires that the consideration transferred to be allocated to the assets, including separately identifiable assets and liabilities we acquired, based on their estimated fair values. The consideration transferred in an acquisition is measured as the aggregate of the fair values at the date of exchange of the assets given, liabilities incurred, and equity and debt instruments issued as well as the contingent considerations as of the acquisition date. The costs directly attributable to the acquisition are expensed as incurred. Identifiable assets, liabilities and contingent liabilities acquired or assumed are measured separately at their fair value as of the acquisition date, irrespective of the extent of any non-controlling interests. The excess of (i) the total of cost of acquisition, fair value of the non-controlling interests and acquisition date fair value of any previously held equity interest in the acquiree over (ii) the fair value of the identifiable net assets of the acquiree, is recorded as goodwill. If the cost of acquisition is less than the fair value of the net assets of the subsidiary acquired, the difference is recognized directly in earnings.
We issued convertible promissory notes (the “Note”) for business acquisition and designated the convertible promissory notes as financial liabilities at fair value through profit or loss. We adopted Monte-Carlo Simulation based on a scenario-weighted average method to estimate the fair value of the convertible promissory notes at acquisition date and December 31, 2018. The estimate is based on the probability of each scenario and pay-off of the convertible promissory notes under each scenario. The scenarios include different timing and corresponding conversion price of the convertible promissory notes. The key assumptions adopted in the convertible promissory notes valuation include risk-free rate of interest and expected stock price volatility in the conversion period.
We recognize revenue (i) from product sales of apparel and other general merchandise through our websites and other online platforms, and (ii) from logistic services to companies and individual customers.
We recognize revenues upon the satisfaction of our performance obligation (upon transfer of control of promised goods or services to customers) in an amount that reflects the consideration to which we expect to be entitled to in exchange for those goods or services, excluding amounts collected on behalf of third-parties (for example, value added taxes). For each performance obligation satisfied over time, we recognize revenue over time by measuring the progress toward complete satisfaction of that performance obligation. If we do not satisfy a performance obligation over time, the performance obligation is satisfied at a point in time.
We identified one performance obligation which is to sell products to customers through its websites and other online platforms. Revenue of product sales is recognized on a gross basis and presented as product sales on the consolidated statements of operations, because (i) we are primarily responsible for fulfilling the promise to provide the specified products; (ii) we bear the physical and general inventory risk once the products are delivered to its warehouses; and (iii) we have discretion in establishing the price.
Customers in the Middle East can also choose to pay upon the receipt of our products, which is called the cash on delivery, or COD. For COD, our delivery service providers collect the payments from our customers for us. We recorded accounts receivable on the balance sheet when the customers receive their products from our delivery service providers.
Product sales, net of discounts, return allowances and VAT, sales and use tax, goods and services tax, are recognized at the point in time when customers accept the products upon delivery. Revenues are measured as the amount of consideration we expect to receive in exchange for transferring products to consumers. Return allowances, which reduce revenue, are estimated utilizing the expected value method based on historical experience of returns. Included in our product sales, prime membership revenues are amortized over the membership period with straight-line method. Prime is a subscription-based membership programme. Items purchased from Prime shop enjoy flat international shipping per checkout. Prime membership revenues for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021 were $1,394 thousand, $1,166 thousand and $810 thousand, respectively.
We utilize delivery service providers to deliver products to our consumers (“shipping activities”) but the delivery service is not considered as a separate obligation as the shipping activities are performed before the consumers obtain control of the products. Therefore, shipping activities are not considered a separate promised service to the consumers but rather are activities to fulfill our promise to transfer the products. Outbound shipping charges to customers are included as a part of the revenues and outbound shipping-related costs are recorded as cost of product sales.
Services and others
We derive services revenue mainly from provision of logistic services to companies and individual customers, and from provision of systems and technical services. Revenues from logistic services are recognized over the delivery period since the customers simultaneously receive and consume benefits provided by our performance as we perform during the delivery period. Revenues from provision of systems and technical services are recognized upon completion of services and provision of systems. Revenues from provision of systems and technical services for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021 were $1,198 thousand, $nil and $nil, respectively.