|Item 1.Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers|
|Item 2.Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable|
|Item 3.Key Information|
|Item 4.Information on The Company|
|Item 4A.Unresolved Staff Comments|
|Item 5.Operating and Financial Review and Prospects|
|Item 6.Directors, Senior Management and Employees|
|Item 7.Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions|
|Item 8.Financial Information|
|Item 9.The Offer and Listing|
|Item 10.Additional Information|
|Item 11.Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk|
|Item 12.Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities|
|Item 13.Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies|
|Item 14.Material Modifications To The Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds|
|Item 15.Controls and Procedures|
|Item 16A.Audit Committee Financial Expert|
|Item 16B.Code of Ethics|
|Item 16C.Principal Accountant Fees and Services|
|Item 16D.Exemptions From The Listing Standards for Audit Committees|
|Item 16E.Purchases of Equity Securities By The Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers|
|Item 16F.Change in Registrant's Certifying Accountant|
|Item 16G.Corporate Governance|
|Item 16H.Mine Safety Disclosure|
|Item 17.Financial Statements|
|Item 18.Financial Statements|
|Balance Sheet||Income Statement||Cash Flow|
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended
For the transition period from to
Date of event requiring this shell company report:
Commission file number:
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(Address of principal executive offices)
(Name, Telephone, Email and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of Each Class
Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered
(The Nasdaq Global Market)
Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on The Nasdaq Global Market of American depositary shares.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act.
(Title of Class)
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.
As of December 31, 2019, there were
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
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 ☒
Note – Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
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. ☐
Accelerated filer ☐
Non-accelerated filer ☐
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
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 Exchange Act).
(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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Unless otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all information in this annual report reflects the following:
|●||“ABS” refers to asset-backed securities;|
|●||“active users” refer to, for a specified period, users who made at least one transaction during that period through our platform or through our third-party partners’ platforms using credit line granted by us;|
|●||“ADSs” refer to our American depositary shares, each of which represents two Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;|
|●||“APR” in relation to a loan refers to the annualized percentage rate of all-in interest costs and fees charged to a borrower over the net proceeds received by the borrower;|
|●||“China” or the “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report only, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;|
|●||“users” refer to users with an approved credit line on our online consumer finance platform and shoppers on our e-commerce channel;|
|●||“delinquency rate” refers to outstanding principal balance of loans that were 1 to 29, 30 to 59, 60 to 89 and 90 to 179 calendar days past due as a percentage of the total outstanding principal balance of the loans on our platform as of a specific date;|
|●||“educated young professionals” refer to (i) students enrolled in college programs or associate degree programs in colleges, or college students, and (ii) the working population with college or associate degrees and under the age of 36, or educated young professionals;|
|●||“GMV” refers to the total value of transactions completed for products or services purchased on the e-commerce channel of our platform, net of returns;|
|●||“institutional funding partners” refer to third-party commercial banks, consumer finance companies and other licensed financial institutions as well as consolidated trusts and investors of our asset-backed securitized debts, who fund the loans originated to our users on our platform.|
|●||“Fenqile” or “our platform” refers to our online consumer finance platform;|
|●||“Juzi Licai” refers to our online investment platform where we match funding from individual investors with user loans;|
|●||“originations” refer to the total principal amount of the loans we originate during the relevant period. The amount borrowed by users using flexible repayment options to finance the repayment of certain principal amount of an original loan is calculated as a new loan principal amount. We treat off-balance sheet loans as part of our originations;|
|●||“our variable interest entities” refer to Shenzhen Xinjie Investment Co., Ltd., or Shenzhen Xinjie, Shenzhen Fenqile Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Shenzhen Fenqile, Beijing Lejiaxin Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Lejiaxin, Shenzhen Qianhai Dingsheng Asset Management Co., Ltd., or Qianhai Dingsheng, and Shenzhen Mengtian Technology Co., Ltd., or Mengtian Technology, collectively;|
|●||“shares” or “ordinary shares” refers to our ordinary shares, which include both Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;|
|●||“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of China;|
|●||“U.S. GAAP” refers to generally accepted accounting principles in the United States;|
|●||“US$,” “U.S. dollars,” “$,” or “dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States;|
|●||“Vintage charge-off rate” refers to, with respect to on- and off-balance sheet loans originated during a specified time period, which we refer to as a vintage, the total outstanding principal balance of the loans that are charged off or assumed charged off during a specified period divided by the total initial principal of the loans originated in such vintage; and|
|●||“we,” “us,” “our company,” “our,” or “Lexin” refers to LexinFintech Holdings Ltd., its subsidiaries, and, in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial information, our variable interest entities and their subsidiaries in China.|
Our reporting currency is Renminbi, or RMB. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from RMB to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to RMB in this annual report are made at a rate of RMB6.9618 to US$1.00, the exchange rate in effect as of the end of December 2019 as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. We make no representation that any RMB or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate, or at all.
This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current expectations and views of future events. These statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You can identify these forward-looking statements by terminology such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “future,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “estimate,” “is/are likely to” or other similar expressions. 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. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to:
|●||our goals and strategies;|
|●||our future business development, financial condition and results of operations;|
|●||the expected growth of the online consumer finance market in China;|
|●||our expectations regarding demand for and market acceptance of our products and services;|
|●||our expectations regarding our relationships with users, funding sources, third-party guarantee companies and other partners;|
|●||competition in our industry;|
|●||general economic and business conditions in China and elsewhere; and|
|●||relevant government policies, laws and regulations relating to our industry; and|
|●||the outcome of any current and future legal or administrative proceedings.|
We would like to caution you not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and you should read these statements in conjunction with the risk factors disclosed in “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors.” Those risks are not exhaustive. We operate in a rapidly evolving environment.
New risks emerge from time to time and it is impossible for our management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ from those contained in any forward-looking statement. We do not undertake any obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements except as required under applicable law. You should read this annual report, including the documents incorporated by reference herein, 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
Selected Financial Data
The following selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2018 and 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, which are included in this annual report beginning on page F-1. Our selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2016 and selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2015, 2016 and 2017 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements not included in this annual report. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Our historical results do not necessarily indicate results expected for any future periods. You should read this Selected Consolidated Financial Data and Selected Operating Data section together with our consolidated financial statements and the related notes in conjunction with “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” below.
For the Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands, except for per share and per ADS data)
Selected Consolidated Statements of Operations Data:
Online direct sales
Services and others
Online direct sales and services income
Interest and financial services income
Loan facilitation and servicing fees
Financial services income (3)
Total operating revenue
Cost of sales
Processing and servicing cost (2)
Provision for credit losses of financing receivables
Provision for credit losses of contract assets and service fees receivable
Total operating cost
Sales and marketing expenses (2)
Research and development expenses (2)
General and administrative expenses (2)
Total operating expenses
Gain on guarantee liabilities, net
Interest expense, net
Change in fair value of financial guarantee derivatives, net
(Loss)/income before income tax expense
Income tax benefit/(expense)
Pre-IPO Preferred Shares redemption value accretion
Income allocation to participating Pre-IPO Preferred Shares
Deemed dividend to a preferred shareholder
Net (loss)/income attributable to ordinary shareholders
Net (loss)/income per ordinary share
Net (loss)/income per ADS (representing two Class A ordinary shares)
|(1)||We adopted Accounting Standards Codification, or ASC, 606, "Revenue from Contracts with Customers," using the modified retrospective method on January 1, 2018, in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Results for reporting periods beginning after January 1, 2018 are presented under ASC 606, while prior period amounts are not adjusted and continue to be reported in accordance with our historical accounting method under ASC 605. See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Results—Critical Accounting Policies—Revenue Recognition."|
|(2)||Share-based compensation expenses are allocated to processing and servicing cost and operating expense items as follows:|
For the Year Ended December 31,
Processing and servicing cost
Sales and marketing expenses
Research and development expenses
General and administrative expenses
|(3)||For the year ended December 31, 2019, we recorded an out-of-period adjustment of RMB66.1 million to reduce financial services income, and corresponding RMB63.6 million of financing receivables and RMB2.5 million of contract assets and service fees receivable in the first quarter of 2019, to correct the cumulative effect of errors in recording discounts and interests waived in the periods prior to December 31, 2018. We have evaluated the effects of this out-of-period adjustment, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and concluded that the correction of this amount was not material to our financial position or results of operations for any prior periods or for the year ended December 31, 2019.|
As of December 31,
Selected Consolidated Balance Sheets Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
Restricted cash — current
Restricted time deposits — current
Short-term financing receivables, net(3)
Prepaid expenses and other current assets
Deposits to insurance companies and guarantee companies
Guarantee receivables, net — current(2)
Contract assets and service fees receivable, net — current(3)
Restricted cash — non-current
Long-term financing receivables, net(3)
Guarantee receivables, net — non-current(2)
Contract assets and service fees receivable, net — non-current(3)
Short-term funding debts
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities
Funds payable to Individual Investors(2)
Long-term funding debts
Convertible loans — non-current
Convertible notes — non-current
Total mezzanine equity
Total shareholders’ (deficit)/equity
|(1)||We adopted ASC 842, Leases, using the modified retrospective method. The consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 has been prepared in accordance with ASC 842, while the comparative information for those periods prior to January 1, 2019 has not been restated and continue to be reported under the accounting standards in effect for those periods.|
|(2)||We reclassified certain prior year amounts for consistency with the current period presentation. See note 2(a) to our audited consolidated financial statements included in this annual report.|
|(3)||For the year ended December 31, 2019, we recorded an out-of-period adjustment of RMB66.1 million to reduce financial services income, and corresponding RMB63.6 million of financing receivables and RMB2.5 million of contract assets and service fees receivable in the first quarter of 2019, to correct the cumulative effect of errors in recording discounts and interests waived in the periods prior to December 31, 2018. We have evaluated the effects of this out-of-period adjustment, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and concluded that the correction of this amount was not material to our financial position or results of operations for any prior periods or for the year ended December 31, 2019.|
Capitalization and Indebtedness
Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
We have a limited operating history in China’s online consumer finance market, an emerging and evolving industry, which makes it difficult to evaluate our future prospects.
China’s online consumer finance industry in general remains at a relatively preliminary stage of development and may not develop at the anticipated growth rate. Online consumer finance is a new industry, and there are few established players with business models that we can follow or build upon. In particular, there are a limited number of comparable online consumer finance platforms with e-commerce business. Potential users and investors may not be familiar with this new industry and may have difficulty distinguishing our services from those of our competitors. Attracting and retaining users, investors and institutional funding partners are critical to increasing the loan originations on our platform.
The emerging and evolving online consumer finance market makes it difficult to effectively assess our future prospects. In addition, our business has grown substantially in recent years, but our past growth rates may not be indicative of our future growth.
The regulatory framework for this industry is also evolving and may remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. It is possible that the PRC laws and regulations may change in ways that do not favor our development. In particular, the PRC laws and regulations may impose more stringent requirements and regulatory burdens relating to certain of our target users. If that happens, there may not be adequate loans originated on our platform.
We launched our online consumer finance platform Fenqile in 2013, our online investment platform Juzi Licai in 2014 and our membership platform Le Card in 2019, and have a limited operating history. As our business develops, or in response to competition, we may continue to introduce new products or make adjustments to our existing products, or make adjustments to our business model. In connection with the introduction of new products or in response to general economic conditions, we may impose more stringent user qualifications to ensure the quality of loans on Fenqile, which may negatively affect the growth of our business. It is therefore difficult to effectively assess our future prospects. You should consider our business and prospects in light of the risks and challenges we encounter or may encounter in this developing and rapidly evolving market. These risks and challenges include our ability to, among other things:
|●||navigate an evolving regulatory environment;|
|●||expand our user base on Fenqile;|
|●||enhance our risk management capabilities;|
|●||diversify our funding sources;|
|●||maintain and enhance our relationships with our other business partners, including merchandise suppliers, data providers and financial service providers that participate on our platforms;|
|●||improve our operational efficiency;|
|●||continue to scale our technology infrastructure to support the growth of our platforms and higher transaction volume;|
|●||broaden our product and service offerings;|
|●||operate without being adversely affected by the negative publicity about the industry in general and our company in particular, if any;|
|●||maintain the security of our platforms and the confidentiality of the information provided and utilized across our platforms;|
|●||cultivate a vibrant consumer finance ecosystem;|
|●||attract, retain and motivate talented employees to support our business growth;|
|●||navigate microeconomic conditions and fluctuations; and|
|●||defend ourselves in litigation, and against regulatory, intellectual property, privacy or other claims.|
If our market does not develop as we expect, if we fail to educate potential users and funding sources about the value of our platforms and services, or if we fail to address the needs of our target users, our reputation, business and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.
The laws and regulations governing the online consumer finance industry in China are developing and evolving rapidly, and our business operations have been and may need to continue to be modified to ensure full compliance with relevant laws and regulations. We also cooperate with institutional funding partners, whose compliance with PRC laws and regulations may affect our business.
The online consumer financing industry in China is heavily regulated. Since mid-2015, the PRC government and relevant regulatory authorities have issued various laws and regulations governing the online consumer finance industry, including, among others, the Guidelines on Promoting the Healthy Development of the Internet Finance, or the Guidelines, the Notice on Regulating and Rectifying “Cash Loan” Business in December 2017, or the Circular 141, the Notice on the Rectification and Inspection Acceptance of Risk of Online Lending Information Intermediaries issued on December 8, 2017, or the Circular 57, and the Notice on Proper Disposal of Online Lending Information Intermediaries in a Classified Manner and Risk Control issued on December 19, 2018, or the Circular 175. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services.”
As we rely primarily on our funding partners for our loan products, our collaboration with institutional funding partners has exposed us to and may continue to expose us to additional regulatory uncertainties faced by such institutional funding partners. For example, the Circular 141 provides a series of guidance on the “cash loan” business of financial institutions. To comply with such guidance, our institutional funding partners, such as banks and consumer finance companies, may need to adopt changes to the cooperation model with their business partners, including us, which changes may adversely affect our business. In addition, we cannot assure you that the business operations of our institutional funding partners currently are or will be in compliance with the relevant PRC laws and regulations, and in the event that our institutional funding partners do not operate their businesses in accordance with the relevant PRC laws and regulations, they will be exposed to various regulatory risks and therefore, our business, financial condition and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.
To comply with existing laws, regulations, rules and governmental policies relating to the online consumer finance industry, we have implemented and will continue to implement various policies and procedures to conduct our business. As of the date of this annual report, we have not been subject to any material fines or other penalties under any PRC laws or regulations, including those governing the online consumer finance industry in China. However, due to the lack of detailed rules and the expectation that the relevant laws, regulations and rules may to continue to evolve, we cannot be certain that our existing practices would not be deemed to violate any existing or future laws, regulations and rules.
In addition, it is possible that new laws and regulations may be adopted, or that existing laws and regulations may be interpreted in other ways, which, along with any possible changes needed to fully comply with any existing or newly released regulations, could require us to further modify our business or operations. The cost to comply with such laws or regulations would force us to incur increased operating expenses, and modifications of our business may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. For example, the Circular 141 requires network microcredit companies, such as Ji’an Fenqile Network Microcredit Co., Ltd., or Ji’an Microcredit, a subsidiary of Shenzhen Fenqile, to suspend the funding of microloans with no specific consumption scenario or designated use of loan proceeds, gradually reduce the volume of the existing business relating to such loans and take rectification measures in the period to be separately specified by authorities. The Circular 141 also prohibits online lending information intermediaries, such as Juzi Licai, from facilitating loans with no designated use of loan proceeds. The banking financial institutions are also prohibited from providing loans with no designated use of loan proceeds under the relevant PRC laws and regulations. For personal installment loans, we require users to select one of the specified permissible uses of loan proceeds in their loan applications, such as education, training, cost of living or personal daily consumption expenditures, and we track actual use of the loans with reasonable measures. It is unclear whether such personal installment loans would be deemed as loans with no designated use of loan proceeds and thus be subject to the foregoing requirements under the Circular 141. If such personal installment loans were deemed as loans with no designated use of loan proceeds, Ji’an Microcredit and Juzi Licai would need to take necessary measures to track the actual use of loans, and the financial institutions would also need to take necessary measures to track the actual use of loans and may require us to cooperate with them and upgrade our system, both of which could cause us to incur substantial additional expenses. If we were unable to effectively implement the foregoing or other rectification measures, we might need to reduce or cease the funding and facilitation of such personal installment loans.
For another example, to comply with the laws and regulations applicable to campus online lending, since May 2017, new borrowings taken by college students have been matched with funds from banking financial institutions, instead of from individual investors on Juzi Licai. However, we cannot assure you that we are able to identify all college students on our platform. Furthermore, the Circular 141 prohibits banking financial institutions from lending to borrowers "with no source of income," and it is unclear to us whether such prohibition would be applicable to the loans provided by financial institutions to college students. If the regulatory authorities intend to completely prohibit campus online lending, including loans funded by financial institutions, we would need to implement further rectification measures which may include, without limitation, termination of facilitating loans to college students. If the foregoing were to occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
If we are unable to retain existing users or attract new users, or if we fail to meet the financial needs of our users as they evolve and are therefore unable to capture their long-term growth potential, our business and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.
The volume of loans we originate has grown rapidly over the past few years. From our inception in August 2013 through December 31, 2019, we cumulatively originated RMB269 billion (US$38.6 billion) in loans. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, we originated RMB47.7 billion, RMB66.1 billion and RMB126 billion (US$18.1 billion) in loans, respectively, for approximately 4.1 million, 4.9 million and 9.9 million active users. We strategically focus on serving educated young professionals and seek to capture their long-term growth potential. To maintain the high growth momentum of our platform, we must continuously increase loan originations by retaining current users and attracting more users. If there is insufficient demand for our loan products, investors and institutional funding partners may not be able to deploy their funds in a timely or efficient manner, and may seek alternative investment opportunities. If there are insufficient commitments from investors or institutional funding partners, users may not be able to obtain capital through our platform and may turn to other sources for their borrowing needs. If we are unable to attract qualified users and sufficient commitments from investors or institutional funding partners, we might not be able to increase our loan originations and operating revenue as we expect, and our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.
In addition, the success of our business depends on our ability to continue to serve our users’ growing credit needs as their consumption requirements change and their ability to repay loans increases with their increasing income. Moreover, we depend on repeat borrowing to cultivate user loyalty, accumulate user data and credit history, grow with our users and offer them better products and services. Of all active users on our platform in 2017, 2018 and 2019, approximately 80%, 80% and 81%, respectively, were repeat users who had made at least one transaction on our platform before in the same year or in the previous year. If we fail to retain our existing users by offering products and services that cater to their evolving consumption needs, or if we fail to maintain or increase repeat borrowing on our platform, we may not be able to capture their long-term growth potential, and our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.
We may be forced to terminate our online lending information intermediary services if we fail to complete the record-filing for our online lending information intermediary services. We may also be required to gradually reduce the balance of loans on Juzi Licai.
The Interim Measures on Administration of Business Activities of Online Lending Information Intermediaries issued in August 2016, or the Interim Measures, introduced a record-filing and registration regime, which requires online lending information intermediaries to register with the local financial regulatory authority and obtain a telecommunication business license from the relevant telecommunication regulatory authority.
Since the issuance of the Interim Measures, the PRC government and relevant regulatory authorities have issued various laws and regulations in relation to the record-filing and registration regime, pursuant to which, among other things, certain rectifications and inspections shall be completed before the record-filing. These rectifications and inspections include (i) the self-inspection conducted by the online lending information intermediary itself, (ii) the self-discipline inspection conducted by local internet finance associations or other local organizations, and (iii) the administrative inspection conducted by the local online lending rectification offices, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Record-filings of Online Lending Information Intermediary Service Agency.” Juzi Licai has completed all three types of inspections listed above and received a letter from local authorities related to the result of the administrative inspection in May 2019. We have implemented respective measures to fully comply with the requirement set forth in the letter and further reported such implementations to the local financial regulatory authority in June 2019. As of the date of this annual report, we have not received any further communication from the local financial regulatory authority.
Nevertheless, local financial regulatory authorities have not promulgated the detailed implementation rules regarding the record-filing procedures, and to our knowledge, none of the online information intermediaries, including us, have been permitted to submit such application for record-filing in Shenzhen. We are uncertain as to when we will be allowed to submit such application for record-filing and to obtain a license, and we cannot assure you that once submitted, our application will be accepted by the relevant government authorities. Failure to register as an online lending information intermediary, if deemed as a violation of the Interim Measures or any other relevant regulations or rules, may result in, among others, regulatory warning, correction order, condemnation, fines or criminal liability to us, or may require us to terminate our online lending information intermediary business operated through Juzi Licai. If such situations were to occur, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, the Circular 175 provides that an online lending information intermediary shall be classified into two general categories according to their risk profiles: (i) Intermediary with Incurred Risk, which includes any online lending information intermediary that has been exposed to high risks such as delinquency and not able to run its business in a consistent manner; and (ii) Intermediary without Incurred Risk, which includes any online lending information intermediary that has not been exposed to any high risk. The Intermediary without Incurred Risk shall be further divided into certain categories, including but not limited to a zombie intermediary, an online lending intermediary with high risk, and a normally running online lending intermediary, among which only the normally running online lending intermediaries could be subject to further compliance inspection. We classify our online investment platform, Juzi Licai, as a normally running online lending intermediary, but we cannot assure you that the PRC regulatory authorities would take the same view as ours. If Juzi Licai is classified into other types of online lending intermediaries, we might be forced to terminate our online lending information intermediary business operated through Juzi Licai in the future. Furthermore, with respect to the normally running online lending intermediaries, Circular 175 also provides that the relevant governmental authorities shall, among other things, require such institutions to strictly limit balance of loans and number of lenders and borrowers and to assess the risk profiles of such institutions regularly and adjust their classifications in a timely manner if necessary. Given that the regulatory framework in China remains evolving, we are not certain whether any future laws, regulations and implemented measures will have any material negative impact on our financial condition or results of operations.
Given the increasingly tightening trend of restrictions on online consumer financing, we have gradually shifted our business model away from individual funding and further diversified our funding sources in 2019 in line with regulatory guidance. We have ceased facilitating new loans with funding from individual investors on Juzi Licai platform since November 2019. As of March 31, 2020, the outstanding balance of loans invested by individual investors on Juzi Licai platform was approximately RMB5.3 billion (US$755.3 million). However, we cannot assure you that such business modifications will be successful or that we can completely cease sourcing funding from individual investors without adversely affecting our business. With the increasing regulatory scrutiny on funding from individual investors, individual funding may not remain a viable funding source for us. We may have to further change the business model of Juzi Licai or terminate its operation in its entirety, which may result in material and adverse impact on our business operations and prospects and our financial results. We may also be required to guarantee the repayment of outstanding balances and interests to individual investors as we gradually reduce loan balances on Juzi Licai, and our business, financial condition and result of operations may be materially and adversely affected. We plan to continue our shift towards institutional funding while ensuring smooth closing of the existing loans facilitated on Juzi Licai.
Our online consumer finance platform, Fenqile, does not itself engage in direct loan facilitation between peers. Fenqile merely facilitates transactions that are funded by our institutional funding partners and Juzi Licai. As such, we do not consider Fenqile as an “online information intermediary” regulated under the Interim Measures. However, we cannot assure you that the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, or the CBIRC, or other regulatory agencies would not expand the applicability of the Interim Measures or otherwise regard Shenzhen Fenqile as an online lending information intermediary. In the event that Fenqile is deemed as an online lending information intermediary by the PRC regulatory authorities in the future, we may be required to register with local financial regulatory authorities and our current business practices would need to be modified to adapt to the regulatory requirements as an online lending information intermediary. If such situations were to occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
If any of our online lending information intermediary services is deemed to violate any PRC laws or regulations, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
Pursuant to the Guidelines and the Interim Measures, intermediaries that provide online lending information intermediary services may not engage in certain activities, including, among others, (i) fund-raising for the online lending information intermediaries themselves, (ii) holding lenders’ funds or setting up capital pools with lenders’ funds, (iii) providing security or guarantee to lenders as to the principals and returns of the investment, (iv) issuing or selling any wealth management products, (v) splitting the terms of any financing project, (vi) securitization, (vii) promoting its financial products on physical premises, and (viii) equity crowd-funding. The Interim Measures also require the intermediaries that provide online lending information services to strengthen their risk management, enhance screening and verifying efforts on the borrowers’ and lenders’ information, to set up custody accounts with qualified banks to hold borrowers’ funds, and to disclose the basic information of the borrower and the financing projects. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services.”
To comply with existing laws, regulations, rules and governmental policies relating to the online lending information intermediary services, we have implemented and will continue to implement various policies and procedures to conduct our business and operations. However, due to the lack of detailed rules and the fact that the relevant laws, regulations and rules are expected to continue to evolve, we cannot be certain that our existing practices would not be deemed to violate any existing or future laws, regulations and rules. To the extent that we are not able to fully comply with any existing or new regulations when they are promulgated, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. Below are a few examples.
|●||Requirement to set custody account. We have entered into an agreement with China Guangfa Bank, under which the bank provides custodian services for funds of borrowers and investors. Although we have established the custodian mechanism in this agreement to comply with the requirement of the Custodian Guidelines and the regulatory authorities, we may need to further implement certain measures in the event any detailed implementation rules of the Custodian Guidelines or other new laws and regulations regulating the custodian mechanism applicable to online lending information intermediaries are promulgated. For example, the Circular 57 requires that online lending intermediaries set up custody accounts with qualified banks that have passed certain testing and evaluation procedures run by the National Online Lending Rectification Office, or the Online Lending Rectification Office, to hold funds of borrowers and investors. The Notice on Further Strengthening the Testing and Evaluation of Funds Custodian for Online Lending Intermediaries jointly issued by the Online Lending Rectification Office and National Internet Finance Association of China in September 2019 further stipulated that the valid period of the testing and evaluation were two (2) years after the date on which the custodian banks passed such testing and evaluation procedures. China Guangfa Bank has passed such testing and evaluation procedures in September 2018. However, if China Guangfa Bank is unable to pass such testing and evaluation procedures after the valid period, we may have to seek an alternative custodian bank other than China Guangfa Bank to satisfy the relevant regulatory requirement, which may materially affect our rectification progress and record-filing application, which in turn may materially and adversely our business.|
|●||Requirement on the information disclosure. We have implemented various policies and procedures to conduct our business and operations to comply with the requirement relating to the information disclosure set forth in the Interim Measures and the Information Disclosure Guidelines, including maintaining a section on an official website for disclosing the basic information of Juzi Licai, the borrowers and the financing projects on Juzi Licai. However, we cannot assure that we would not be subject to any further rectification requirements from the relevant authorities.|
|●||Limit on the loan amount. The Interim Measures require that the balance of loans borrowed by the same individual must not exceed RMB200,000 (US$28,728) on a single online lending information intermediary and not exceed RMB1.0 million (US$143,641) in the aggregate on all online lending information intermediaries in the PRC. We currently do not offer loans to the same individual in an aggregate amount exceeding RMB200,000 (US$28,728). We determine whether users have outstanding loans through consumer finance platforms using external databases at the time they obtain a loan from us. We also compare our user’s name with the list in the databases on a regular basis. However, due to the lack of an industry-wide information sharing arrangement, there can be no assurance that the aggregate amount borrowed by any user through our platform and other online lending information intermediaries does not exceed the RMB1.0 million (US$143,641) borrowing limit set out by the Interim Measures.|
|●||Restriction on credit enhancement. For investor protection purposes, our previous quality assurance program established in July 2017 and ceased in April 2018 covers loans funded by individual investors historically, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Investors and Funding Partners—Protection of investors and funding partners.” As of the date of this annual report, our previous quality assurance program has not been deemed as a form of risk reserve funds, which is prohibitive under the Interim Measures and Circular 57. However, we cannot assure you that our previous quality assurance program will not be deemed as a form of security interest or guarantee to investors.|
|●||Requirement of telecommunication service licenses. Our online investment platform, Juzi Licai, operated by Shenzhen Qianhai Juzi Information Technology Co., Ltd., or Qianhai Juzi, a subsidiary of one of our variable interest entities, would be required to obtain certain telecommunications service licenses in accordance with the Interim Measures and the relevant provisions of telecommunications authorities after completing record-filing with a local financial regulator.|
If our current investor protection measures for institutional funding partners are deemed to violate the relevant laws and regulations, or if we are deemed to have operated financial guarantee business by the PRC regulatory authorities, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
In our direct lending programs, certain investor protection measures shall be taken by us or our third-party service provider as required by the institutional funding partners. Historically, we provided our institutional funding partners a deposit using our own funds at an amount equal to a percentage of the total loans funded by the institutional funding partners and are required to replenish such deposit from time to time, in order to compensate them for the principal and interest repayment of loans in the event of a user default.
However, the Circular 141 requires financial institutions that participate in the “cash loan” business not to accept any credit enhancement services or other similar services from third parties without qualification to provide guarantee and to ensure that no third parties will charge borrowers any interest or fees to borrowers. The Circular 141 specifies the features of “cash loans” as not relying on consumption scenarios, with no specified use of loan proceeds, no qualification requirement on the part of users and no security to the loans, among others. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services.” It is unclear whether our personal installment loans would be viewed as the “cash loans” specified in the Circular 141 and thus be subject to the provisions thereunder.
Meanwhile, our investor protection practice described above may also be deemed as providing guarantee services without proper qualification under the Regulations on the Supervision and Administration of Financing Guarantee Companies, or the Financing Guarantee Regulations, which were promulgated by State Council on August 2, 2017 and became effective on October 1, 2017, and the Supplementary Provisions on the Supervision and Administration of Financing Guarantee Companies, or the Financing Guarantee Supplementary Provisions, which were promulgated by CBIRC and other eight PRC regulatory agencies and became effective on October 9, 2019. Pursuant to these Financing Guarantee Regulations, “financing guarantee” refers to the activities in which guarantors provide guarantee to the guaranteed parties as to the debt financing (including but not limited to the extension of loans or issuance of bonds), and “financing guarantee companies” refer to companies legally established and operating financing guarantee business. According to the Financing Guarantee Regulations, the establishment of financing guarantee companies shall be subject to the approval by the competent government authorities, and, unless otherwise stipulated by the state, no entity may operate financing guarantee business without such approval. If any entity violates these regulations and operates financing guarantee business without approval, the entity may be subject to various penalties, including but not limited to suspension of operation, confiscation of illegal gains, fines of up to RMB1,000,000 and criminal liabilities.
In addition to the Financing Guarantee Regulations, the Financing Guarantee Supplementary Provisions further clarifies that institutions providing services such as client recommendation and credit assessment to various institutional funding partners shall not render any financing guarantee services, directly or in disguised form, without the competent approval. Otherwise, the penalties set forth in the Financing Guarantee Regulations may be imposed by the regulatory authorities, and the existing business shall be properly settled. In case an institution intends to continue the financing guarantee business, certain financing guarantee companies shall be established in accordance with the Financing Guarantee Regulations.
In an effort to ensure compliance with the requirements of those laws and regulations, we have proactively adjusted our practice and currently conduct a part of the investor protection program through our own financial guarantee companies which are qualified to provide financing guarantee for the users on our platform and charge guarantee fees directly to users. Due to the restriction on the outstanding guarantee liabilities of our own financing guarantee companies, we also cooperate with other third-party financing guarantee companies or commercial insurance companies, which provide guarantee or insurance services for the users on our platform, provided that for some of such cooperation, Shenzhen Fenqile, one of our variable interest entities without the financing guarantee qualification, has been required to provide the third-party financing guarantee companies and/or the commercial insurance companies with a back-to-back guarantee or a deposit to compensate them in the event that such financing guarantee company or commercial insurance companies performed its guarantee or insurance obligation upon the defaults of our users. As to the fees charged by us in the direct lending programs, our own financial guarantee companies currently charge users fees for the guarantee services they provide to users in favor of our institutional funding partners. We have further adjusted our cooperation model with certain institutional funding partners by having them charge fees directly to users and pay a certain percentage of such fees to us.
Due to the lack of interpretation and implementation rules and the fact that the laws and regulations are rapidly evolving, we cannot assure you that our current investor protection mechanisms in our direct lending programs will be in full compliance with Circular 141, Financing Guarantee Regulations, the Financing Guarantee Supplementary Provisions or other existing and future laws and regulations. For example, due to a lack of further interpretations, the exact definition and scope of “operating financing guarantee business” under the Financing Guarantee Regulations or “providing financing guarantee services in disguised form” under the Financing Guarantee Supplementary Provisions are still unclear. It is uncertain whether we would be deemed to have operated financing guarantee business or provided financing guarantee services in disguised form because of our current arrangements with institutional funding partners, third-party financing guarantee companies or commercial insurance companies. If our current investor protection mechanisms in our direct lending programs are deemed to be in violation of any applicable laws and regulations, we could be subject to penalties and/or be required to change our current business model and, as a result, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Moreover, if the assets of certain third-party guarantee companies were seized or implicated in legal or regulatory proceedings, and the loans we facilitated were not repaid in time, the funding partners may not be able to recover their funds and cease their cooperation with us, and we may fail to recoup our deposit paid to such third-party guarantee companies and lose our service fees. Should any of the foregoing occur, our competitive position as well as our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, due to the restriction on the outstanding guarantee liabilities and the minimum assets ratio of a financing guarantee company set forth in the applicable PRC laws and regulations (see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Financing Guarantee”), we may not have sufficient capital to meet the required ratio and may be required to take measures such as increasing the registered capital of our own financial guarantee companies. Although we do not expect any difficulties of the required governmental approval, we cannot assure you that these measures will be successful and in the event that we do not have sufficient capital to meet the ratio requirement, our business prospects and results of operations may be adversely affected.
If our current collaboration with trust companies is deemed to violate the relevant laws and regulations, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
We have established trusts in collaboration with trust companies. As agreed with the trust company, we are designated as the service provider for such trusts. If a loan application is approved by us, the loans will be funded from the trusts to our users directly. Such trusts are funded from institutional funding partners, individual investors, and, in certain circumstance, from our own capital, as a result of which we may be deemed as a lender or a provider of financial services by the PRC regulatory authorities, and we may become subject to supervision and restrictions on lending under applicable laws and regulations. For example, the Measures for the Banning of Illegal Financial Institutions and Illegal Financial Business Operations, promulgated by the State Council in July 1998 and amended in January 2011, prohibits facilitating loans to the public without the approval of the People’s Bank of China, or the PBOC, and the Circular 141 further set forth that banking financial institutions (including the trust companies) shall not extend loans jointly with any third-party institution which has not obtained approvals for the lending business. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services.” There are uncertainties as to the interpretation of the relevant PRC laws and regulations and their applicability to our business. For example, if a regulatory authority considers a trust funded from our own capital as involving the use of our own capital in lending, we may be deemed as a lender or a provider of financial services. Funding loans without going through a network microcredit company or a trust may also render us to be deemed as a lender or a provider of financial services. In the event that we are subject to or be deemed to violate such PRC laws and regulations, we may be subject to certain administrative penalties, including the confiscation of illegal revenue, fines up to five times the amount of the illegal revenue and suspension of business operations. Furthermore, our current service fees and various other fees charged to our users might be fully or partially deemed as interest, which shall be subject to the restrictions on interest rate as specified in applicable rules on private lending. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services—Regulations Relating to Loans Between Individuals.”
In addition, in case that certain risk warning events set forth in the trust agreements occur, including, among others, when the utilization rate of funds in the trust has been less than a certain percentage for a period of time, the trust will no longer fund any loans and shall be dissolved in advance, which may materially and adversely affected our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We may be required to segregate our own assets from the assets of our institutional funding partners and borrowers.
The Guidelines requires that internet finance institutions shall segregate assets of their clients in a custodian bank from their own assets. However, other than the Guidelines to Regulate Funds Custodian for Online Lending Intermediaries, there is no clear implementation of such requirement applicable to internet finance institutions, and the scope of internet finance institutions that are subject to such assets segregation liabilities remains unclear. Meanwhile, commercial banks in the PRC currently only provide custodian services to the online lending intermediaries.
It is uncertain whether any new PRC laws, regulations or rules requiring segregation of assets will be adopted. In January 2020, the CBIRC issued a discussion draft of the Interim Measures for the Administration of Commercial Banks on Online Lending, pursuant to which, among other things, with respect to the online lending business conducted in cooperation with third-party institutions, commercial banks shall manage and control the payment of loan and shall not outsource their core businesses (including the funding and settlement of loans) to third-party institutions, unless the commercial banks extend loans jointly with a third-party institution that has obtained governmental approval for operating lending business. However, it is uncertain when the draft would be signed into law and whether the final version would have any substantial changes from the draft.
In our direct lending programs, we use our best efforts to separate our own assets from those assets of the institutional funding partners and the borrowers, including, without limitation, by relying on custodian banks, clearing banks and payment companies for transferring funds between the institutional funding partners and borrowers. However, in certain situations, the funds may be transferred between the institutional funding partners and borrowers though bank accounts under our names. Due to the lack of clarity in the interpretation and implementation of the assets segregation requirements, we cannot assure you that our current arrangement would not be deemed as a violation of the applicable laws and regulations, or that we would not be required to change our business operations in the future. In addition, the custodian banks, clearing banks and payment companies we currently cooperate with are subject to changing local laws and regulations, and they may be required to change their cooperation arrangements with us or cease such arrangements entirely. If any of the foregoing were to occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
If we are unable to maintain or renew the microcredit license, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
We fund certain of our loans through Ji’an Microcredit. Ji’an Microcredit is a network microcredit company holding license issued by the relevant competent local authorities. Such license was renewed in July 2019 and will remain valid until July 2020, which reflects an increase of Ji’an Microcredit’s paid-in capital from RMB300 million (US$43.1 million) to RMB500 million (US$71.8 million).
However, since the regulatory regime and practice with respect to network microcredit companies are evolving in recent years and subject to uncertainties, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Microcredit”, we cannot assure you that we would not be subject to any rectification requirements or administrative penalties due to any non-compliance, nor can we assure you that we will be able to satisfy rectification requirements, if any, and maintain such license or renew the license. For example, pursuant to the Implementation Plan of Specific Rectification for Risks in Microcredit Companies and Network Microcredit Companies issued in December, 2017, or the Rectification Implementation Plans of Network Microcredit Companies, the third-party institutions cooperating with microcredit companies are prohibited from collecting any interests or fees from borrowers. Some local regulatory authorities require a certain minimum percentage on local borrowers, prohibit providing loans to students, enforce a grading system based on performance, or require us to connect into the local credit supervision system. In light of the foregoing provision, we have modified our business model so that for the loans funded by Ji’an Microcredit and facilitated by Shenzhen Fenqile, all the fees are charged and collected by Ji’an Microcredit as the lender. However, we cannot assure you that such modification will be able to satisfy rectification requirements.
Although we believe that Ji’an Microcredit is only a supplementary funding source and we do not intend to rely on it as a major source for funding, if we need to obtain funding from Ji’an Microcredit but are unable to maintain or renew the microcredit license or obtain any other requisite approvals, licenses or permits, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
If we are unable to effectively maintain the quality of our loan portfolio, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Our financial condition and results of operations are affected by our ability to effectively maintain the quality of our loan portfolio. There is no assurance that the quality of our loan portfolio will remain at the current level or improve. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, we originated RMB47.7 billion, RMB66.1 billion and RMB126 billion (US$18.1 billion) in loans, respectively. As of December 31, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, our outstanding principal balance of loans was approximately RMB3.4 billion, RMB9.9 billion, RMB19.3 billion, RMB32.4 billion and RMB60.6 billion (US$8.7 billion), respectively. Our financing receivables, net amounted to RMB11,642 million, RMB6,424 million and RMB4,411 million (US$634 million) as of December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Our vintage charge-off rates as of December 31, 2019 were just over 3.0% for each vintage of a three-month period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2019. The quality of our loan portfolio may be negatively affected by a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. These factors include, among others, the slowdown and structural reform of the PRC economy, adverse development in general economic conditions, an increase in unemployment rates among our target users, epidemics and natural disasters. See "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Our business has been and is likely to continue to be materially adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in China." The quality of our loan portfolio may also deteriorate if we are not able to manage credit risks. In addition, we may experience an adverse change in user credit risk as we expand our user base and offer new product features and higher credit lines to users. For example, while we have set certain requirements for the use of flexible repayment options, such as requiring minimum monthly repayments and keeping the user’s credit line at the approved amount, the flexible repayment options may affect our loan delinquencies and charge-offs as the outstanding principal balance of the new loan borrowed by a user using the flexible repayment options will be considered as current, as long as the user meets the payment schedule of the new loan agreed to by the user and us. We may also experience an adverse change in user credit risk if our credit assessment and control process fails to effectively contain the credit exposures of higher-risk users in using our existing or new credit products. Moreover, our risk management system and policies are subject to change from time to time. We cannot assure you that our risk management system and policies have been, or will be, effective in managing our credit risks and hence the asset quality of our loan portfolio.
Furthermore, we use our proprietary Hawkeye engine to assess credit risks of our users. While we continually improve our risk management capabilities as we accumulate user data, the Hawkeye engine may inaccurately predict future credit losses under certain circumstances. For instance, after initial credit lines are granted, a user’s risk profile may change due to a variety of factors, such as deteriorating financial situations, and there is no assurance that such changes will be captured by the Hawkeye engine in a timely manner. The models and algorithms used by the Hawkeye engine may contain errors, flaws or other deficiencies that may lead to inaccurate credit assessment, and the data provided by users and external data sources may be incorrect or obsolete. If any of the foregoing were to occur in the future, our loan pricing and approval process could be negatively affected, resulting in misclassified loans or incorrect approvals or denials of credit applications.
If we are unable to effectively maintain and manage the quality of our loan portfolio due to any reason, the delinquency rates and the charge-offs of our loan portfolio may increase. Moreover, if the quality of our loan portfolio were to deteriorate, investors may try to rescind their affected investments, institutional funding partners may decide not to continue to cooperate with us, and users may seek to revise the terms of their loans or reduce the use of our platform for borrowing. If any of the foregoing were to occur, our business, competitive position, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We need adequate funding at reasonable cost to successfully operate our business, and access to adequate funding at a reasonable cost cannot be assured.
The growth and success of our operations depend on the availability of adequate funding to meet user demand for loans on our platform. We derive our funding for our platform from a variety of sources and types of investors, including our institutional funding partners in our direct lending programs, individual investors on Juzi Licai and investors of asset-backed securities. We obtained the majority of our funding from Juzi Licai in 2016 and 2017, and from institutional funding partners in 2018 and 2019. Our ability to diversify funding sources is subject to the development of regulatory requirements. For example, the Circular 141 prohibits banking financial institutions from providing loans to persons without source of income or investing in asset-backed securities with underlying assets consisting of “cash loans” or “campus loans.” If college students are deemed as persons without source of income, the funding of loans to college students provided by financial institutions may need to be terminated. Although investors of asset-backed securities were not our major source of funding in historical periods, to the extent we intend to increase funds obtained through asset-back securities, the foregoing requirement would affect the amount of funding that we could obtain through this channel. To the extent there is insufficient funding from investors or funding partners willing to accept the risk of default posed by potential users or the particular type of funding could be matched to only certain group of our users due to restrictions imposed by current or existing laws or regulations, our platform will be unable to fund loan originations. If adequate funds are not available to meet users’ demand for loans, loan originations on our platform may be significantly impacted. Also, to the extent that risk-adjusted return requirements of our funding sources change, funding sources may choose not to fund loans originated on our platform. In addition, our growth strategy involves offering our users competitively priced financial products and services. As the online consumer finance market is intensely competitive, we may attempt to further reduce our funding cost by modifying the investment products offered to our investors and the terms and conditions of cooperation agreements with our funding partners. To the extent that our funding sources find the risk-adjusted returns with us less attractive, we may not be able to obtain the requisite level of funding. As some of our funding partners require us to provide deposits and compensate them in case of default while others do not require such deposits but offer us less favorable terms, we have to adjust our funding model from time to time to balance the amount of deposits paid to funding sources and the commercial viability of funding terms. If our platform is unable to provide potential users with loans or fund the loans on a timely basis due to insufficient funding or less favorable pricing compared to that of our competitors, it would harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our expansion into offering our users higher credit lines, new loan products and financial services, and new product categories on our e-commerce channel, and our expansion into serving increased numbers of educated young professional users, may expose us to new challenges and more risks.
We have a limited operating history and have been rapidly expanding our products and services and our user base since our inception. For example, we started to offer personal installment loans to our users in addition to installment purchase loans in 2014. In 2015, we began to offer flexible repayment options, which allow users who meet our criteria to reschedule or postpone their current monthly payment. In recent years, we have expanded our product offerings to include a wide range of products including apparel and footwear, bags, fashion accessories, household goods, cosmetics, personal care products, baby and maternity products, food and beverages, and virtual goods. To serve our expanded user base and our users’ evolving credit needs, we continuously offer new credit products and offer our users higher credit lines as they obtain higher incomes with greater ability to repay. In 2019, we launched our Le Card membership and benefits program to offer a wide range of savings, benefits and membership privileges across various retailers, products, channels, and brands. Expansion into diverse new products and service categories involves new risks and challenges. Our lack of familiarity with these new product and service offerings and lack of relevant user data may make it more difficult for us to anticipate user demand and preferences and manage credit risk. We may misjudge user demand, resulting in inventory buildup and possible inventory write-down. It may also make it more difficult for us to inspect and control quality and ensure proper handling, storage and delivery. We may experience higher return rates on new products, receive more customer complaints and become subject to costly product liability claims as a result of selling certain products, which would harm our brand and reputation as well as our financial performance. We cannot assure you that we will be able to recoup our investments in introducing these new product and service categories. In addition, as our user base shifts to consist of more educated young professionals, it may also make it more difficult for us to accurately assess the credit risks of these new users due to our lack of credit data and experience. Higher credit limit products may also carry more risks, and we may not be able to adequately address the default risk of our loans originated under these higher credit limit products due to lack of historical data. Serving a changing user base may also expose us to new challenges and more risks. If we fail to execute our growth strategies, or if we fail to address the challenges and risks we encounter when executing our growth strategies, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
If our existing and new loan products or financial services do not maintain or achieve sufficient market acceptance, our financial results and competitive position will be harmed.
We have devoted significant resources to, and will continue to put an emphasis on, upgrading and marketing our existing loan products and enhancing their market awareness. We also incur expenses and expend resources upfront to develop and market new loan products and financial services that incorporate additional features, improve functionality or otherwise make our platform more attractive to users. New loan products and financial services must achieve high levels of market acceptance in order for us to recoup our investments in developing and marketing them.
Our existing and new loan products and financial services could fail to attain sufficient market acceptance for many reasons, including:
|●||users may not find the terms of our loan products, such as the costs and credit limits, competitive or appealing;|
|●||we may fail to predict market demand accurately and provide loan products and financial services that meet this demand in a timely fashion;|
|●||users, investors and institutional funding partners using our platforms may not like, find useful or agree with, the changes we make;|
|●||there may be defects, errors or failures on our platforms;|
|●||there may be negative publicity about our loan products or financial services, or our platform’s performance or effectiveness;|
|●||regulatory authorities may take the view that the new products, financial services or platform changes do not comply with PRC laws;|
|●||regulations or rules applicable to us; and|
|●||there may be competing products or services introduced or anticipated to be introduced by our competitors.|
If our existing and new loan products and services and investment products do not maintain or achieve adequate acceptance in the market, our competitive position, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
If we fail to promote and maintain our brand in an effective and cost-efficient way, our business and results of operations may be harmed.
We believe that effectively developing and maintaining awareness of our brand is critical to attracting and retaining users. This in turn largely depends on the effectiveness of our user acquisition strategy, our marketing efforts, our cooperation with institutional funding partners and the success of the channels we use to promote our platform. If any of our current user acquisition strategies or marketing channels becomes less effective, more costly or no longer feasible, we may not be able to attract new users in a cost-effective manner or convert potential users into active users.
Our efforts to build our brand have caused us to incur expenses, and it is likely that our future marketing efforts will require us to incur additional expenses. These efforts may not result in increased operating revenue in the immediate future or any increases at all and, even if they do, any increases in operating revenue may not offset the expenses incurred. If we fail to successfully promote and maintain our brand while incurring additional expenses, our results of operations and financial condition would be adversely affected, and our ability to grow our business may be impaired.
Any negative publicity or user complaints with respect to us, the consumer finance industry in general and our third-party service providers may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
The reputation of our brands is critical to our business and competitiveness. Any malicious or negative publicity or any publicized incidents in connection with the use of our products or services, whether or not we are negligent or at fault, including but not limited to those relating to our management, business, compliance with the law, financial condition or prospects and our business operations related to campus online lending, whether with or without merit, could severely compromise our reputation and harm our business and operating results. As China’s consumer finance industry is new and the regulatory framework for this industry is also evolving, negative publicity about this industry and the market segment in which we operate may arise from time to time. Negative publicity about China’s consumer finance industry in general may also have a negative impact on our reputation, regardless of whether or not we have engaged in any inappropriate activities. The PRC government has recently instituted specific rules, including the Guidelines, Interim Measures, and the Circular 141, to develop a more transparent regulatory environment for the online consumer finance industry. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services.” Any players in China’s online consumer finance industry who are not in compliance with these regulations may adversely impact the reputation of the industry as a whole. Furthermore, any negative development or perception of the consumer finance industry as a whole, including campus lending, even if factually incorrect or based on isolated incidents or as result of conduct by other market players, could compromise our image, undermine our trust and credibility, and negatively impact our ability to attract new users, investors and institutional funding partners. Negative developments in the consumer finance industry, such as widespread user defaults, fraudulent behavior, the closure of other online consumer finance platforms, or incidents indirectly resulting from the accumulation of large amounts of debt and inability to repay by any particular user, may also lead to tightened regulatory scrutiny of the sector and limit the scope of permissible business activities that may be conducted by market players in the consumer finance industry. For instance, since 2015, there has been a number of reports of business failures of, or accusations of fraud and unfair dealing against, certain companies in the consumer finance industry in China. In addition, any actual or claimed incidents related to aggressive or illegal loan collection activities may harm our reputation, and if users, investors or institutional funding partners associate us with other peers in the industry who have been implicated in such incidents, they may be less willing to engage in borrowing or funding activities on our platform. Moreover, in the ordinary course of our business, we may need to bring lawsuits against certain borrowers for delinquent loans. If courts do not support our claims, such legal proceedings may also negative impact our reputation and brand image. If any of the foregoing takes place, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
If we fail to continue the risk safeguard scheme successfully, our financial results and competitive position may be harmed.
We have limited experience operating our risk safeguard scheme, which was established in April 2018 for Juzi Licai. We set aside a portion of each repayment equal to a certain percentage of the outstanding principal balance of the loan and transfer such amount to a custody account managed by an independent guarantee company, which we refer to as risk safeguard funds. Such independent guarantee company provides make-up payments to an investor using the risk safeguard funds when a user fails to satisfy his interest or principal repayment obligations. Under these agreements between users and investors relating to the risk safeguard scheme, the amount of make-up payments is up to the available balance of the risk safeguard funds.
As a result of continued introduction of new products and changes in the composition of the underlying loan assets, we may not be able to accurately forecast delinquencies and charge-offs for our target user cohort based on information on historical delinquency rates and charge off rates. Given these challenges, it is possible that we will under- or over-fund to the risk safeguard funds. If we under-fund the risk safeguard funds, and we do not or are unable to replenish the risk safeguard funds to a sufficient level in time, individual investors may not be fully protected from losses, which may result in negative publicity and reduce the attractiveness of our online investment platform. Conversely, if we over-fund the risk safeguard funds, this will reduce our income and revenue. In the event any investor is not fully compensated by the risk safeguard funds for delinquent payments, a dispute may arise between the investor and us as a result of the investor’s uncompensated loss, which may adversely affect our reputation, the perception of us by the investors and regulatory authorities, or our business.
We have entered into a cooperation agreement with the guarantee company that is currently managing the risk safeguard fund. We cannot assure you that we will be able to extend the cooperation agreement before its expiration or that the risk safeguard scheme will be successfully continued in the future. In the event that our cooperation with the current guarantee company partner is terminated, we may not be able to find an alternative guarantee company that is willing to manage the risk safeguard scheme on terms reasonable to us, or at all. If we fail to do the foregoing, the investors may lose confidence in our platform.
Since the fourth quarter of 2019, the operators of online lending information intermediary have started to obtain access the Credit Reference Center of the PBOC, the official credit database in China. Currently, we are in progress of connecting to the center.
With the gradual optimization of the individual credit reference system in the PRC, including the launch of the Baihang credit reporting system and the maintaining of blacklists by the local internet finance associations, we expect to see a more transparent credit environment that enables more effective credit management and loan collection activities.
If we fail to maintain cooperation with our funding partners or to maintain sufficient liquidity to originate loans to our users, our reputation, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
We have historically offered our individual investors on Juzi Licai a variety of investment programs and some of them remain ongoing. Upon maturity of an investment program with fixed maturities or a withdrawal request made by an individual investor in step-up returns investment programs that allow weekly or monthly withdrawals on specified dates during each weekly or monthly period, the loans underlying such investment program held by the individual investor may be transferred to another investment program as part of the underlying loan portfolios. In the event that investors request to withdraw a substantial amount of their investments at the same time or within a short time period, it may cause a run on our investment programs. Although we have developed sophisticated algorithms and systems to match the investment and redemption requests among the investors to provide liquidity, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to maintain the liquidity at a sufficient level that every withdrawal request from our investors who subscribe to our investment programs can be met on a timely basis, or at all.
Our institutional funding partners typically agree to provide funding to our users who meet their predetermined criteria, subject to their approval process. These agreements have fixed terms ranging from one to two years. Some of these agreements have automatic renewal options upon expiration. In addition, while our users’ loan requests are usually approved if they fall within the parameters set and agreed upon by us and our institutional funding partners, the funding institutions may implement additional requirements in their approval process outside of our monitor and control. Thus, there is no assurance that our institutional funding partners could provide reliable, sustainable and adequate funding to support the required liquidity, either because they could decline to fund user loans originated on our platform or decline to renew or renegotiate their participation in our direct lending programs. Moreover, some institutional funding partners have required that in the event where the repayment of loans by the borrower is overdue for a certain period of time, the funding partner would have the right to terminate the loan and is entitled to a compensation equal to the amount of the outstanding principal and interests from the us or our affiliated guarantee companies. If we are unable to provide such compensation, the funding partner may terminate the cooperation with us, which in turn may negatively affect the confidence of other funding partners in us. In such events, our liquidity, the availability of our investor protection funds and our business prospects will be adversely and negatively affected.
In addition, if PRC laws and regulations impose more restrictions on cooperation with institutional funding partners, institutional funding partners may become more selective in choosing cooperation partners, which may drive up the funding costs and the competition among online lending platforms to cooperate with a limited number of institutional funding partners as well as other non-institutional funding sources. Furthermore, if PRC laws and regulations are issued that prohibit our cooperation with our institutional funding partners, including licensed financial institutions, microcredit lenders or other consumer finance platforms, our cooperation with our funding partners may have to be terminated or suspended, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to sustain our historical growth rates.
We have experienced rapid growth since we commenced our online consumer finance business. Our total operating revenue increased significantly from RMB5,582 million in 2017 to RMB7,597 million in 2018, and further to RMB10,604 million (US$1,523 million) in 2019. We originated RMB66.1 billion and RMB126 billion (US$18.1 billion) in loans in 2018 and 2019. However, there can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain our historical growth rates in future periods. Our revenue growth may slow, or our operating revenue may decline for a number of possible reasons, including decreasing consumer spending, changes in regulations and government policies, increasing competition, slowing in the growth of China’s online consumer finance industry, difficulties in delivery and fulfillment of online purchases, emergence of alternative business models, changes in government policies or general economic conditions, and natural disasters or virus outbreaks. If our growth rate declines, investors’ perceptions of our business and business prospects may be adversely affected and the market price of our ADSs could decline.
We incurred net losses in the past and may incur net losses in the future.
We incurred net losses in the past while we had a net income in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. We anticipate that our operating expenses will increase in the foreseeable future as we seek to continue to grow our business, attract potential users, investors and partners, and further enhance and develop product and service offerings. These efforts may prove more expensive than we currently anticipate, and we may not succeed in increasing our operating revenue sufficiently to offset these higher expenses. We strategically focus on serving educated young professionals and seek to capture their long-term growth potential. To the extent we are
unable to execute this strategy or if we are unable to generate increased revenue on repeat users, we may not continue to generate net income. In addition, we historically had relatively low charge-off rates. Our vintage charge-off rates as of December 31, 2019 for each vintage of a three-month period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2019 were just over 3%. If our charge-off rates were to increase in the future, we may incur losses. We have also adopted, and may continue to adopt, accounting standards that affect our net income. If any of the foregoing occurs, we may incur net losses again and may be unable to achieve or maintain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis for the foreseeable future.
Our business is dependent on our ability to maintain relationships with our business partners and other third parties, and at the same time, we are subject to risks associated with our business partners and other third parties.
We currently rely on a number of business partners and other third parties in various aspects of our business. For example, we source products from third-party suppliers for our online direct sales. In particular, we have cooperated extensively with JD.com, from which we source a significant portion of products that we offer on our e-commerce channel. We cannot assure you that our current suppliers will continue to sell products to us on commercially acceptable terms, or at all, after the current agreement expires. In addition, if we fail to attract new suppliers to sell their products to us due to any reason, our business and growth prospects may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, we have third-party sellers on our online marketplace on the e- commerce channel. We do not have as much control over the quality, storage and delivery of products sold on our online marketplace as we do over the products that we sell directly ourselves. If any third-party seller does not control the quality of the products that it sells on our website, or if it does not deliver the products or delivers them late or delivers products that are materially different from its description of them, or if it sells certain products without licenses or permits as required by the relevant laws and regulations, we could face claims that we should be held liable for any losses or face product liability claims. We may also incur liability or become subject to administrative penalties for counterfeit or unauthorized products sold on our website, or for products sold on our website or content posted on our website that infringe on intellectual property rights, or for other misconduct, including carrying out fictitious transactions or deleting unfavorable comments. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to E-Commerce” and “—Regulations Relating to Product Quality and Consumer Rights Protection.”
In addition, we cooperate with a number of business partners and other third parties to fulfill and deliver our products to our users. For example, we use the warehousing and delivery infrastructure of JD.com and SF Express for fulfilling user orders on our e-commerce channel. Our ability to process and fulfill orders accurately and provide high-quality user service depends on the fulfillment infrastructure of our business partners and other third parties. Any interruptions to or failures in their delivery and fulfillment services could prevent the timely or proper delivery of our products to users. Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by any disruptions to their delivery and fulfillment services.
Furthermore, we work closely with certain third-party service providers, such as third-party payment platforms, custody and settlement service providers, commercial data providers, and loan collection service providers, in conducting our business. If these third-party service providers fail to function properly, we cannot assure you that we would be able to find an alternative in a timely and cost-efficient manner, or at all. Moreover, any aggressive practices or misconduct by any of our third-party service providers, including third-party loan collection service providers, could damage our reputation and subject us to claims and investigations. If we are unable to effectively monitor and regulate our third-party loan collection service providers, we may need to conduct more loan collection activities ourselves, which may increase our costs, subject us to heightened reputational and legal risks and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Pursuing, establishing and maintaining relationships with business partners and other third parties, as well as integrating their data and services with our system, require significant time and resources. Our current agreements with partners and other third parties generally do not prohibit them from working with our competitors or from offering competing services. Our competitors may be more effective in providing incentives to our partners to favor our competitors’ products or services. Certain types of partners may devote more resources to support their own businesses which compete with us. For example, JD Finance conducts consumer finance business and is supported with the significant resources available from JD.com.
The smooth operation of our business also depends on the compliance by our business partners and other third parties with applicable laws and regulations. Any negative publicity about business partners and other third parties, such as negative publicity about their loan collection practices and any failure by them to adequately protect the information of our users and investors, to comply with applicable laws and regulations or to otherwise meet required quality and service standards, could harm our reputation and further lead to decrease in the willingness of prospective borrowers. We may also be hold responsible for any misconduct of their loan collection practice. If any of the foregoing were to occur, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Our reputation is associated with these business partners and other third parties, and if any of the foregoing were to occur, our reputation may suffer.
Fraudulent activities on our platforms or that target our users could negatively impact our operating results, brand and reputation.
We are subject to risks associated with fraudulent activities on our platforms as well as risks associated with handling user and investor information. Our resources, technologies and fraud detection tools may be insufficient to accurately detect and prevent fraud. In addition, our educated young professional users may be more susceptible to fraud due to their limited financial knowledge and experience in using financial services. They may not be well equipped to detect sophisticated fraudulent schemes that directly target them. For instance, our users may be encouraged by third parties or organized criminal groups to incur personal installment loans on our platform and transfer the proceeds to them, who have no intention to repay, ultimately resulting in default. Other scammers may pretend to be us, offer our users fraudulent loans and charge fraudulent “service fees” to our users. We provide our users with education on financial planning and management, including on the concept of credit, credit and personal information protection, fraud and identity theft prevention. However, we cannot assure you that these efforts will be effective in preventing fraud. While we have not historically experienced any significant incident of fraud that caused material losses to us, significant increases in fraudulent activities on our platform could negatively impact our brand and reputation, increase our operational costs, result in losses to us and our funding sources, reduce loan originations on our platform and lead us to take additional steps to reduce the risk of fraud, which could further increase our costs and expenses. High-profile fraudulent activity could also lead to regulatory intervention, and may divert our management’s time and attention and cause us to incur additional expenses and costs. If any of the foregoing were to occur, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Any lack of requisite approvals, licenses or permits applicable to our business may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business is subject to governmental supervision and regulation by the relevant PRC governmental authorities. Together, these government authorities promulgate and enforce regulations that cover many aspects of the operation of the online retail and the online finance industries. The PRC government extensively regulates the internet industry. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations.” 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.
We are required to obtain various licenses and permits from different regulatory authorities in order to distribute certain categories of products on our website. We have made efforts to obtain all the applicable licenses and permits, but due to the large number and variety of products sold on our websites, we may not always be able to do so, and we may be penalized by governmental authorities for selling products without proper licenses. As we increase our product selection, we may also become subject to new or existing laws and regulations that did not affect us before. Furthermore, we do not directly own the websites or mobile internet applications due to the restriction of foreign investment in businesses providing value-added telecommunication services in China, which may result in significantly disruptions to our business, subject us to sanctions, compromise enforceability of related contractual arrangements, or have other harmful effects on us. We are also required to obtain certain licenses and permits for our online consumer financing and microcredit services. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—The laws and regulations governing the online consumer finance industry in China are developing and evolving rapidly, and our business operations have been and may need to continue to be modified to ensure full compliance with relevant laws and regulations” and “—We may be forced to terminate our online lending information intermediary services if we fail to complete the record-filing for our online lending information intermediary services. We may also be required to gradually reduce the balance of loans on Juzi Licai.”
Our online consumer finance platform, Fenqile, operated by Shenzhen Fenqile, has obtained certain value-added telecommunications service license for the operation of domestic call center service and content service (excluding internet content service) in July 2017, which will remain valid until July 2022, and certain value-added telecommunications service license for online data processing and transaction processing in July 2019, which will remain valid until July 2024. Our membership platform, Le Card, operated by Mengtian Technology, one of our variable interest entities, has obtained certain value-added telecommunications service license for the operations of internet content service in January 2019, which will remain valid until January 2024. 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 new ones. If the PRC government determines that we are operating without the proper approvals, licenses or permits or promulgates new laws and regulations that require additional approvals or licenses or imposes additional restrictions on the operation of any part of our business, it has the power, among other things, to levy fines, confiscate our income, revoke our business licenses, and require us to discontinue the relevant parts of our business or to impose restrictions on the affected portion of our business. Any of these actions by the PRC government may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
New laws and regulations may impose additional requirements and other obligations on our e-commerce business, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition to requirements of licenses and permits, PRC laws and regulations also require e-commerce platform operators to take measures to protect consumer rights. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to E-Commerce.” Failure to do so may subject the e-commerce platform operators to rectification requirements and penalties. For example, the E-Commerce Law that became effective on January 1, 2019 requires e-commerce platform operators to take necessary actions if the merchants on the platform fail to display prominently on their home page the information contained in their business licenses or administrative permits relating to their operations.
Moreover, under the E-Commerce Law, except for in certain circumstances, all e-commerce operators, including e-commerce platform operators and merchants on these platforms, shall register with local branches of the State Administration for Market Regulations, or the SAMR, provide identity information of merchants on their platform to local branches of SAMR and prompt any merchants failing to make such registrations to comply with the relevant registration requirements. We have required merchants on our platform to complete such registrations. As a result of such requirements, we may lose existing merchants and fail to attract potential merchants who may not be willing to cooperate with us in full compliance with the E-Commerce Law. In addition, the E-Commerce Law imposes a number of new obligations on e-commerce platform operators, including the obligations to (i) ensure platforms’ security, including but not limited to protection of data privacy, (ii) ensure fair dealing and protect the legitimate rights and interests of consumers on the platform, (iii) publicize transaction information preservation and transaction rules, and (iv) protect intellectual properties. As no detailed interpretation and implementation rules have been promulgated, it remains uncertain how the newly adopted E-Commerce Law will be interpreted and implemented. We cannot assure you that our current business operations satisfy the obligations provided under the E-Commerce Law in all respects. If the PRC governmental authorities determine that we are not in compliance with all the requirements proposed under the E-Commerce Law, we may be subject to fines and/or other sanctions, which may have a material adverse impact on our business and results of operations.
Our business has been and is likely to continue to be materially adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in China.
Since the beginning of 2020, outbreaks of COVID-19 have resulted in the temporary closure of many corporate offices, retail stores, and manufacturing facilities across China. In early 2020, in response to intensifying efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Chinese government took a number of actions, which included extending the Chinese New Year holiday, quarantining individuals infected with or suspected of having COVID-19, prohibiting certain travels, encouraging employees of enterprises to work remotely from home, and cancelling public activities, among others. We have taken a series of measures in response to the outbreak, including, among others, temporary remote working arrangements for nearly all of our employees, assigning shuttle buses to transport our employees, increased health monitoring (included daily temperature checks), additional disinfecting and cleaning of our offices, provisions of masks, and other sanitary measures. In addition, to facilitate remote working, we have adjusted our IT and technology systems. These steps taken have increased and may continue to increase our costs, lowered our efficiency, reduce our ability to market our products, and disrupted our normal operations. Return to operations after the Chinese New Year holiday was significantly delayed and impacted as a results, and our operations continues to be impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
The outbreak has suspended our offline marketing activities as well as impeded our e-commerce operations. Normal e-commerce activities were delayed and logistics did not fully return to normal after the Chinese New Year holiday. Delays in the delivery of our merchandise sold on our platform to the customers have occurred, which may in turn adversely affect our revenue and financial condition as well as our customer experience. This outbreak has also caused restrictions on our employees’ and other service providers’ ability to travel, which may in turn impair our ability to conduct any business activities that require face-to-face meetings and signings, such as discussions with our business partners and our funding partners. This may in turn impact our access to and ability to obtain sufficient funding. The ongoing pandemic has also effectively shut off our offline marketing efforts and may continue to do so in the future. It has also negatively impacted the effectiveness of our collection efforts, which may require us to increase the amount of allowance for credit losses. As a result of any of the above developments, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
In particular, as our collections team is primarily based in Wuhan, the ongoing pandemic has and may continue to negatively impact our collections efforts, which in turn will negatively impact our delinquency rates and our credit statistics. We lease office space in Wuhan for our collection services team of approximately 1,600 employees and outsourced personnel under our management. The ongoing outbreak has caused, and may continue to cause us and certain of our business partners, to implement temporary adjustment of work schemes allowing employees to work from home and adopt remote collaboration, even after the suspension of the travel bans from and to Wuhan. We have taken measures to reduce the impact of this epidemic outbreak, including, upgrading our telecommuting system, monitoring our employees’ health on a daily basis and optimizing our technology system to meet the ongoing
requirements. However, we might still experience lower work efficiency and productivity, which may adversely affect our service quality and collections efforts.
As COVID-19 has negatively affected the broader Chinese economy and the global economy, China may experience lower domestic consumption, higher unemployment, severe disruptions to exporting of goods to other countries and greater economic uncertainty, which may also impact us in a materially negative way. As our customers experience greater economic uncertainty, potential unemployment or actual unemployment, they may become less confident in economic recovery and less inclined to consume or borrow, which could then materially impact our businesses. Users may also have less propensity or ability to repay their loans as a result of the economic problems caused by COVID-19, which may then impact directly our delinquencies, bad debt, charge-offs, and other credit statistics. This may result in an upward adjustment in our provision of financial assets subject to credit losses and guarantee liabilities and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations in 2020. In the negative economic environment caused by COVID-19, we have and may also continue to need to adjust our credit scoring model and lower our approval rates, in order to mitigate against any potential credit risks. This may in turn negatively impact our revenues and our growth.
In addition, our business partners, especially smaller or medium sized enterprises in China, may also experience economic hardship which may force them out of business, leaving us with fewer partners and consumption scenarios for our clients. Further, the operations of our business partners and service providers may also be constrained and impacted, due to limited freedom of movement and less efficient operations, which may have a negative impact on our business. As parts of our business is focused on facilitating consumption, both online and offline, the inability of customers to move freely and consume in offline environments may also impact negatively our growth and loan generation. Furthermore, some of the companies we have invested in have suffered from the temporary closure of offices and facilities and the general downturn of the economy resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak. Consequently, we may not receive investment returns as excepted, and may lose part or all of our investment in these companies.
The extent to which COVID-19 impacts our results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including new information which may emerge concerning the severity of the global impact of COVID-19 and the actions to contain the coronavirus or alleviate its impact, among others. Currently, there is no vaccine or specific anti-viral treatment for COVID-19. Relaxation of restrictions on economic and social life may lead to new cases which may lead to the reimposition of restrictions. Our business and financial performance have been adversely affected by the outbreak of coronavirus in China since the beginning of 2020, and such adversely impact is likely to continue throughout the current year, if not longer.
Fluctuations in interest rates could negatively affect our business.
The profitability of our business depends on the interest rates at which our users are willing to borrow, and the interest rates at which our funding partners are willing to lend. Specific benchmark rates may fluctuate as a result of changes in economic conditions and governmental policies. For example, the People's Bank of China lowered its benchmark lending rates in February 2020 and further in April 2020 as China's economy continued to be threatened by the COVID-19 outbreak. If we fail to respond to the fluctuations in interest rates in a timely manner and reprice our loan products, our loan products may become less attractive to our users. For example, in a falling interest rate environment, potential users may seek lower priced loans from other channels if we do not lower the interest rates on our loan products. Similarly, in a rising interest rate environment, potential investors may seek higher return investments from other channels if we do not increase the return on our investment products. Moreover, if we are unable to reprice our loan products and investment products correspondingly, the spreads between the interest rates on our loan products and the expected rates of return on our investment products may be reduced, and our profitability may be adversely affected.
We rely on the sale of computers, smartphones and other consumer electronics for a significant portion of our loans originated to finance user purchases on our e-commerce channel.
Historically, online sales of electronic products, including computers and smartphones, have accounted for a majority of purchases on our e-commerce channel, and thus a significant portion of online direct sales and services income. Electronic products sold on our e-commerce channel accounted for approximately 69%, 52% and 53% of our total loans originated to finance user purchases on our e-commerce channel in 2017, 2018 and 2019. We expect that sales of these products will continue to translate into a significant portion of our total operating revenue and loans originated to finance user purchases on our e-commerce channel in the near future. We have increased our offerings on our e-commerce channel to include other product categories, and we have continuously added new products within each product category. However, due to the demographic characteristics of our target user cohort and their demand, our sales of these new products and services may not increase to a level that would substantially reduce our dependence on the sales of electronic products. We face intense competition from online sellers of electronic products and from established companies with physical stores that are moving into online retail, such as Taobao.com, Tmall.com, JD.com and
Suning.com. Any event that results in a reduction in our sales of electronic products could materially and adversely affect our ability to maintain or increase the level of our operating revenue and loan originations and to maintain or improve our business prospects.
If we fail to manage our inventory effectively, our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity may be materially and adversely affected.
Our scale and business model require us to manage our inventory effectively. We depend on our demand forecasts for various kinds of products to make purchase decisions and to manage our inventory. Demand for products, however, can change significantly between the time inventory is ordered and the date by which we hope to sell it. Demand may be affected by seasonality, new product launches, changes in product cycles and pricing, product defects, changes in consumer spending patterns, changes in consumer tastes and other factors, and our users may not order products in the quantities that we expect. In addition, when we begin selling a new product, it may be difficult to establish supplier relationships, determine appropriate product selection, and accurately forecast demand. The acquisition of certain types of inventory may require significant lead time and prepayment and they may not be returnable.
Furthermore, as we plan to continue expanding our product offerings, we expect to include more products in our inventory, which will make it more challenging for us to manage our inventory and logistics effectively. If we fail to manage our inventory effectively, we may be subject to a heightened risk of inventory obsolescence, a decline in inventory value, and significant inventory write-downs or write-offs. In addition, we may be required to lower sale prices in order to reduce inventory level, which may lead to lower gross margins. High inventory levels may also require us to commit substantial capital resources, preventing us from using that capital for other purposes. Any of the above may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. On the other hand, if we underestimate demand for our products, or if our suppliers fail to supply quality products in a timely manner, we may experience inventory shortages, which might result in missed sales, diminished brand loyalty and lost revenues, any of which could harm our business and reputation.
Limited liquidity exists for investments made on Juzi Licai, which may make these investments less attractive to investors.
There currently exists no trading market for the loans invested by individual investors on Juzi Licai. Individual investors are not permitted to directly transfer their investments to other individual investors prior to maturity. For fixed maturities investment programs, investors are only allowed to withdraw their funds upon maturity. For step-up returns investment programs, individual investors are allowed to withdraw their funds on the condition that withdrawals be made on specified dates during each weekly or monthly period. We are also currently in the process of gradually reducing funding from individual investors on Juzi Licai and have ceased facilitating new loans with funding from individual investors on Juzi Licai platform since November 2019. In the event that investors request to withdraw a substantial amount of their investments at the same time or within a short time period, there may be a run on our investment programs and we may be unable to meet the investors’ withdrawal demands on a timely basis, or at all. To the extent that individual investors are not able to transfer loans at all or withdraw their funds when needs for liquidity arise, our reputation may be adversely affected and we may be subject to legal liability and administrative penalties, which may have a material and adverse effect on our business and competitive position.
Misconduct, errors and failure to perform by our employees could harm our business and reputation.
We are exposed to many types of operational risks, including the risk of misconduct and errors by our employees. Our business depends on our employees to interact with users and investors, process large numbers of transactions and support the loan collection process, all of which involve the use and disclosure of personal information. We could be materially and adversely affected if transactions were redirected, misappropriated or otherwise improperly executed, if personal information was disclosed to unintended recipients, or if an operational breakdown or failure in the processing of transactions occurred, whether as a result of human error, purposeful sabotage or fraudulent manipulation of our operations or systems. In addition, the manner in which we store and use certain personal information and interact with users and investors is governed by various PRC laws. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct or errors by employees, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses. If any of our employees take, convert or misuse funds, documents or data or fail to follow protocol when interacting with users and investors, we could be liable for damages and subject to regulatory actions and penalties. We could also be perceived to have facilitated or participated in the illegal misappropriation of funds, documents or data, or have failed to follow protocol, and therefore be subject to civil or criminal liability.
If our ability to collect delinquent loans is impaired, or if the collection efforts of our in-house team or third-party service providers are impaired, our business and results of operations might be materially and adversely affected.
We have built a collection team with both in-house employees and third-party service providers to handle the collection of delinquent loans. If either our employees or our third-party service providers’ collection methods, such as phone calls, text messages, in-person visits, legal letters and litigations and/or arbitrations, are not effective and we fail to respond quickly and improve our collection methods, our delinquent loan collection rate may decrease. While we have implemented and enforced policies and procedures relating to collection activities by us and third-party service providers, including initiating litigations and arbitrations against delinquent users, if those collection methods were to be viewed by the users or regulatory authorities as harassments, threats or other illegal conducts, we may be subject to lawsuits initiated by the users or prohibited by the regulatory authorities from using certain collection methods. If this were to happen and we fail to adopt alternative collection methods in a timely manner or the alternative collection methods are proven to be ineffective, we might not be able to maintain our delinquent loan collection rate and the funding sources’ confidence in our platform may be negatively impacted. If any of the foregoing takes place and impairs our ability to collect delinquent loans, the loan originations on our platform will decrease, and our business and the results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 in China has also negatively impacted the effectiveness of our collection efforts. As our collections team is primarily based in Wuhan, the ongoing pandemic has, and may continue to have, a negative impact on our collection efforts. This has negatively impacted, and may continue to negatively impact, our delinquency rates and our credit statistics. The ongoing outbreak has caused, and may continue to cause us to implement temporary adjustment of work schemes for our collections team, allowing our employees to work from home and adopt remote collaboration, even after the suspension of the travel ban from and to Wuhan. We have taken measures to reduce the impact of this epidemic outbreak, including upgrading our telecommuting system, monitoring our employees’ health on a daily basis and optimizing our technology system to meet the ongoing requirements. However, we have and may continue to experience lower work efficiency and productivity, which may adversely affect our service quality and collections efforts. See "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Our business has been and is likely to continue to be materially adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in China."
Moreover, the current regulatory regime for debt collection in China remains unclear. Although we aim to ensure compliance of our collection efforts with the relevant laws and regulations and we have established strict internal policies to prohibit our collections team from engaging in aggressive practices, we cannot assure you that our collection activities will not engage in any misconduct as part of their collection efforts. Any such misconduct by our collection personnel or the perception that our collection practices are considered to be aggressive and not compliant with the relevant laws and regulations in China may result in harm to our reputation and business, which could further reduce our ability to collect payments from borrowers, lead to a decrease in the willingness of prospective customers to use our products or fines and penalties imposed by the relevant regulatory authorities, any of which may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Uncertainties relating to the growth and profitability of the online retail industry in China in general, and the e-commerce industry in particular, could adversely affect our operating revenue and business prospects.
Online direct sales on our e-commerce channel account for a significant portion of our total operating revenue and loan originations. Our future results of operations will depend on numerous factors affecting the development of the e-commerce industry in China, which may be beyond our control. These factors include:
|●||the growth of internet, broadband, personal computer and mobile penetration and usage in China, and the rate of any such growth;|
|●||the level of trust and confidence of Chinese consumers in online shopping, as well as changes in user demographics and consumer tastes and preferences;|
|●||the selection, price and popularity of products that we and our competitors offer online;|
|●||whether alternative retail channels or business models that better address the needs of consumers emerge in China; and|
|●||the development of fulfillment, payment and other ancillary services associated with online purchases.|
A decline in the popularity of online shopping in general, or any failure by us to adapt our website and improve the online shopping experience of our users in response to trends and consumer requirements, may adversely affect our operating revenue and business prospects.
Furthermore, the e-commerce industry is subject to macroeconomic changes, and retail purchases tend to decline during recessionary periods. Many factors outside of our control, including inflation and deflation, currency exchange rate fluctuation, volatility of stock and property markets, interest rates, tax rates, other government policies, and unemployment rates, can adversely affect consumer confidence and spending, which could in turn materially and adversely affect our growth and profitability. Unfavorable developments in domestic and international politics, including military conflicts, political turmoil and social instability, may also adversely affect consumer confidence and reduce spending, which could in turn materially and adversely affect our growth and profitability.
Our delivery, return and exchange policies may materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
We have adopted user-friendly return and exchange policies. We may also be required by law to adopt new or amend existing return and exchange policies from time to time. For example, pursuant to the PRC Consumer Rights and Interests Protection Law and the Measures on the Administration of Online Transactions promulgated by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (which was integrated into the SAMR with other governmental departments in March 2018), in January 2014, which became effective in March 2014, or the Online Transactions Measures, consumers are entitled to return goods purchased online within seven days upon receipt of such goods for no reason, subject to certain exceptions. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview— Regulations—Regulations Relating to Product Quality and Consumer Rights Protection.” These policies improve users’ shopping experience and promote user loyalty, which in turn help us acquire and retain users. However, these policies also subject us to additional costs and expenses which we may not be able to recoup with increased revenue. Our ability to handle a large volume of returns is unproven. If our return and exchange policy is misused by a significant number of users, our costs may increase significantly and our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. If we revise these policies to reduce our costs and expenses, our users may be dissatisfied, which may result in a loss of existing users or failure to acquire new users at a desirable pace, and may materially and adversely affect our results of operations as a result.
If we fail to compete effectively, our results of operations and market share could be harmed.
The online consumer finance industry in China is highly competitive and evolving. As a leading online consumer finance platform in China, we face competition from other online platforms, major internet players, traditional financial institutions as well as other installment loan service providers.
Our competitors include, among others, Ant Financial Services Group, JD Finance and WeBank. We also compete with traditional financial institutions, including credit card issuers, consumer finance business units in commercial banks and other consumer finance companies. Our competitors operate with different business models, have different cost structures or participate selectively in different market segments. They may ultimately prove more successful or more adaptable to new regulatory, technological and other developments. Some of our current and potential competitors have significantly more financial, technical, marketing and other resources than we do, and may be able to devote greater resources to the development, promotion, sale and support of their platforms. Our competitors may also have longer operating histories, more extensive user or investor bases, larger amounts of data, greater brand recognition and loyalty, and broader partner relationships than we do. Additionally, a current or potential competitor may acquire one or more of our existing competitors or form a strategic alliance with one or more of our competitors. Any of the foregoing could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and future growth.
In addition, our competitors may be better at developing new products, responding to new technologies, charging lower fees on loans and undertaking more extensive marketing campaigns. When new competitors seek to enter our target market, or when existing market participants seek to increase their market share, they sometimes undercut the pricing and/or terms prevalent in that market, which could adversely affect our market share or ability to exploit new market opportunities. Also, since the online consumer finance industry in China is relatively new and fast evolving, potential investors and users may not fully understand how our platform works. Our pricing and terms could deteriorate if we fail to act to meet these competitive challenges. In addition, in response to more stringent PRC laws and regulations regarding cash loans, more online lending platforms may expand their services and products to scenario-based lending, including partnering with e-commerce platforms, which may drive up the competition among online lending platforms. Such intensified competition may increase our operation costs and adversely affect our results of operations and profitability. Furthermore, to the extent that our competitors are able to offer more attractive terms to our business partners, such business partners may choose to terminate their relationships with us. In addition, as our competitors may implement certain procedures to reduce their fees in response to the current or potential PRC regulations on interest rates and fees charged by online
lending platforms, we may need to reduce our fees as well to comply with such regulations and to remain competitive in the online lending industry. If we are unable to compete with our competitors, or if we are forced to charge lower fees due to competitive pressures, we could experience reduced revenues or our platforms could fail to achieve market acceptance, any of which could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We have granted, and may continue to grant, low and nominally priced options, restricted share units and other types of awards under our share incentive plans, which may result in increased share-based compensation expenses.
Our performance is largely dependent on talented and highly-skilled individuals. Our future success depends on our continuing ability to identify, develop, motivate, and retain highly-skilled personnel. We have adopted share incentive plans to provide additional incentives in the forms of low and nominally priced options, restricted share units and other types of awards to employees, directors and consultants. See “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—B. Compensation—Share Incentive Plans” for a detailed discussion. For the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019, we recorded an aggregate of RMB75.7 million, RMB122.6 million RMB177.3 million (US$25.5 million), respectively, in share-based compensation expenses. We believe the granting of share-based awards is of significant importance to our ability to attract and retain key personnel and employees, and we will continue to grant share-based awards to employees in the future. As a result, our expenses associated with share-based compensation may increase, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
If the total addressable market for our target user cohort is smaller than what we believe it is, our results of operations may be adversely affected and our business may suffer.
It is very difficult to estimate the total addressable market for our target user cohort due to factors such as market demand, PRC regulations of the credit industry, competition, general economic conditions and the relatively short history of the online consumer finance industry in China. We believe that our total addressable market of users consists of educated young professionals. However, if there is less demand than we anticipate for loan products offered on our platform, it may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our quarterly results may fluctuate significantly due to the seasonality of our business and may not fully reflect the underlying performance of our business.
We experience some seasonality in our business, reflecting a combination of seasonal demand for consumer loans and seasonality patterns associated with the online retail industry. For example, we generally experience less user traffic and purchase orders during national holidays in China, particularly during the Chinese New Year holiday season in the first quarter of each year. Furthermore, e-commerce companies in China hold special promotional campaigns on November 11 each year, which improve our results for that quarter. The demand for our products and services is higher in March, April, September, October and November, which generally corresponds to the start of school and our promotional activities around November 11. While our rapid growth has somewhat masked this seasonality, our quarterly operating results could be affected by such seasonality in the future.
Therefore, our quarterly results of operations, including our operating revenue, expenses, net loss or income and other key metrics, may vary significantly in the future, and period-to-period comparisons of our operating results may not be meaningful. Accordingly, the results for any single quarter are not necessarily an indication of future performance.
We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics and other outbreaks, which could significantly disrupt our operations.
In addition to the impact of COVID-19, our business could also be adversely affected by the effects of epidemics, including avian influenza, sever acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), influenza A (H1N1), Ebola, Zika virus, H7N9 flu, avian flu or another pandemic. Any such occurrences could cause sever disruption to our daily operations. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of epidemics in China and globally. Our business could also be adversely affected if our employees are affected by health epidemics. In addition, our results of operations could be adversely affected to the extent that any health epidemic harms the Chinese economy in general. Our headquarters are located in Shenzhen, where most of our directors and management and a significant portion of our employees currently reside. Most of our in-house and outsourcing collection team, customer service team are located in Wuhan. Most of our system hardware and back-up systems are hosted in leased facilities located in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing. Consequently, we are highly susceptible to factors adversely affecting Shenzhen, Wuhan, Guangzhou and Beijing. If any of the abovementioned natural disasters, health epidemics or other outbreaks were to occur in Shenzhen, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Beijing, or any other city where we have major operations in China, our operation may experience material disruptions, such as temporary closure of our offices and suspension of services, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to obtain additional operating capital on favorable terms or at all.
Our consolidated financial statements have been prepared on a going concern basis. We believe that our current cash, cash provided by operating activities and funds available through our bank loans and credit facilities, will be sufficient to meet our current and anticipated needs for general corporate purposes for at least the next 12 months. However, we need to make continued investments in facilities, hardware, software, technological systems and to retain talents to remain competitive. Due to the unpredictable nature of the capital markets and our industry, we cannot assure you that we will be able to raise additional capital on terms favorable to us, or at all, if and when required, especially if we experience disappointing operating results. If adequate capital is not available to us as required, our ability to fund our operations, take advantage of unanticipated opportunities, develop or enhance our infrastructure or respond to competitive pressures could be significantly limited, which would adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In such event, there may also be significant doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern. If we do raise additional funds through the issuance of equity or convertible debt securities, the ownership interests of our shareholders could be significantly diluted. These newly issued securities may have rights, preferences or privileges senior to those of existing shareholders.
If we cannot obtain sufficient cash when we need it, we may not be able to meet our payment obligations under our convertible notes.
In September 2019, we issued $300 million principal amount of convertible senior notes. The convertible notes will mature in seven years, bearing interest at a rate of 2.0% per annum. The notes will be convertible into fully paid Class A ordinary shares of the Company or ADSs at a conversion price of US$14 per ADS at the holder’s option from the date that is six months after the issuance date. The holder of the notes will have the right to require us to repurchase for cash all or any portion of the notes on the fourth anniversary of the issuance date. We may not have sufficient funds to pay the interest or fulfill other obligations under the notes.
We derive most of our revenues from, and hold most of our assets through, our subsidiaries. As a result, we may rely in part upon distributions and advances from our subsidiaries in order to help us meet our payment obligations under the notes and our other obligations. Our subsidiaries are distinct legal entities and do not have any obligation, legal or otherwise, to provide us with distributions or advances. We may face tax or other adverse consequences, or legal limitations, on our ability to obtain funds from these entities. In addition, our ability to obtain external financing in the future is subject to a variety of uncertainties, including:
|●||our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows;|
|●||general market conditions for financing activities by internet companies; and|
|●||economic, political and other conditions in the PRC and elsewhere.|
If we are unable to obtain funding in a timely manner or on commercially acceptable terms, we may not be able to meet our payment obligations under our convertible notes. If we fail to pay interest on the notes, we will be in default under the agreements governing the notes, which in turn may constitute a default under existing and future agreements governing our indebtedness.
We have obligations to verify information relating to users and to detect fraud. If we fail to perform such obligations to meet the requirements of relevant laws and regulations, we may be subject to liabilities.
Our business of connecting individual investors and users on Juzi Licai constitutes an intermediary service, and Qianhai Juzi’s contracts with individual investors and/or users on Juzi Licai are intermediation contracts under the PRC Contract Law. Under the PRC Contract Law, an intermediary that intentionally conceals any material information or provides false information in connection with the conclusion of the proposed contract, which results in harm to the client’s interests, may not claim any service fee for its intermediary services and is liable for any damage incurred by the client. In addition, the Interim Measures have imposed on us additional obligations to verify the truthfulness of the information provided by or in relation to users, and to actively detect fraud. Therefore, if we intentionally conceal any material information or provide false information to funding sources, or fail to verify the truthfulness of the information provided by or in relation to our users or to actively detect fraud, we could be subject to liabilities as an intermediary under the PRC Contract Law and liabilities under the Interim Measures, and our results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Our current level of fee rates may decline in the future. Any material reduction in our fee rates could reduce our profitability.
We primarily generate financial services income by charging fees from the users on our platform through our own guarantee companies and from third-party guarantee companies, who in turn charge guarantee service fees to our users. We also generate
financial services income by charging fees from financial institutions. These fee rates may also be affected by a change over time in the mix of the types of products we provide to our users and investors, the macroeconomic factors, as well as the competition in the online consumer finance industry. In line with the general regulatory trends in enforcing a lower maximum percentage on fees charged for financial services, we may have to further reduce our fee rates. Any material reduction in our fee rates could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Changes in PRC regulations relating to interest rates and fees for online consumer finance platforms and microcredit lending could have a material adverse effect on our business.
The interest rate permitted to be charged on loans originated on our platform is subject to limitations set forth in the Provisions on Several Issues Concerning Laws Applicable to Trials of Private Lending Cases issued by the Supreme People’s Court in August 2015 and effective in September 2015, or the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations, which provide that (i) when the interest rate agreed between the borrower and lender does not exceed an annual interest rate of 24%, the People’s Court will uphold the interest rate charged by the lender, and (ii) when the interest rate agreed between the borrower and lender exceeds an annual interest rate of 36%, the portion in excess of 36% is void and the People’s Court will uphold the borrower’s claim for return of the excess portion to the borrower. For loans with interest rates per annum between 24% and 36%, if the interest on the loans has already been paid to the lenders, and so long as such payment has not damaged the interest of the state, the community or any third parties, the courts will likely not enforce the borrower’s demand for the return of such interest payment.
Ji’an Microcredit, is subject to regulations applicable to micro-credit companies. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Microcredit.” These regulations provide that “integrated actual interest” (namely the aggregated borrowing costs charged to borrowers in the forms of interest and various fees) shall be subject to the limit on interest rate of private lending set forth in the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations issued by the Supreme People’s Court. The loans originated on our platform and by Ji’an Microcredit will be subject to the aforementioned interest rate restrictions, which could affect our ability to originate loans to certain users and may have a material adverse effect on our business.
Certain Opinions Regarding Further Strengthening the Financial Judgment Work issued by the Supreme People’s Court in August 2017, or the Opinions for Financial Judgment Work, provide more detailed rules on the legal limits of interest and fees charged in connection with a loan and specify that the intermediary service fees charged by an online lending intermediary to circumvent the legal limit of interest of private lending shall be invalid. The Circular 141 further clarifies that the total amount of interest and fees charged to borrowers must be within the limit set forth in the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations Relating to Online Consumer Finance Services—Regulations Relating to Loans Between Individuals.”
Currently, none of our loans facilitated by us has an overall annualized interest rate exceeding 36%. We believe the current service fees and various other fees charged to the users on our platform are reasonable and in compliance with relevant requirements under the above PRC laws, regulations or rules. However, if our current fee level is deemed to be excessive or constitutes usurious loans under any existing or future relevant PRC laws, regulations and rules, we may face, among others, regulatory warning, correction order, condemnation, fines and criminal liability and may be required to reduce the fees and annual interest rate we charge to our users. If such situations were to occur, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.
The origination of loans on our platform could give rise to liabilities under PRC laws and regulations that prohibit illegal fundraising and unauthorized public offerings.
PRC laws and regulations prohibit persons and companies from raising funds by advertising to the public a promise to repay premium or interest payments over time through payments in cash or in kind except with the prior approval of the applicable government authorities. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in penalties imposed by the PBOC, the SAMR, and other governmental authorities, and can lead to civil or criminal lawsuits.
We have taken measures to avoid conducting any activities that are prohibited under the illegal-funding related laws and regulations. We act as online lending information intermediaries for users and individual investors. In addition, we do not directly receive any funds from individual investors in our own accounts as funds from individual investors are deposited into and settled by a third-party custody account managed by China Guangfa Bank. To date, our platform has not been subject to any fines or other penalties under any PRC laws and regulations that prohibit illegal fundraising. Nevertheless, considerable uncertainties exist with respect to the PBOC, the SAMR and other governmental authorities’ interpretations of the fundraising-related laws and regulations. Therefore, we cannot guarantee you that our current services provided to investors will not be deemed to violate illegal fundraising laws and regulations in the future.
The PRC Securities Law prohibits the issuance of securities for public offering without obtaining prior approval in accordance with the provisions of the law. The following offerings are deemed to be public offerings under the PRC Securities Law: (i) offering of securities to non-specific targets; (ii) offering of securities to more than 200 specific targets; and (iii) other offerings provided by the laws and administrative regulations. Additionally, private offerings of securities may not be carried out through advertising, open solicitation and disguised publicity campaigns. If any transaction between a user and multiple individual investors is identified as a public offering by PRC government authorities, we may be subject to sanctions under PRC laws and our business may be adversely affected.
Credit and other information that we receive from prospective users and third parties about a user may be inaccurate and thus may not accurately reflect the user’s creditworthiness, which may compromise the accuracy of our credit assessment.
For our credit assessment, we obtain from prospective users and third parties certain information of the prospective users, which may not be complete, accurate or reliable. Our credit assessment of a user may not reflect that particular user’s actual creditworthiness due to outdated, incomplete or inaccurate user information. Additionally, once we have obtained a user’s information, the user may subsequently (i) become delinquent in the payment of an outstanding obligation; (ii) default on a pre-existing debt obligation; (iii) take on additional debt; or (iv) experience other adverse financial events, making the information we previously obtained inaccurate. We currently determine whether users have outstanding loans through consumer finance platforms using external databases at the time they obtain a loan from us. We also compare a user’s name against our database on a regular basis. Once we detect that a user has multiple outstanding loans with substantial aggregate balances and poses a high credit risk, we will place such user on a high risk user list and closely monitor the user going forward. However, there is no assurance that we have complete and accurate information relating to all of our users’ outstanding loans. For example, a user may borrow money through our platform in order to pay off loans on other consumer finance platforms, and vice versa. If a user incurs additional debt before fully repaying any loan that user takes out on our platform, the additional debt may impair the ability of that user to make payments on his or her loan with us and our funding sources, ability to receive investment returns associated with such loan. In addition, the additional debt may adversely affect the user’s creditworthiness generally and could result in the financial distress or insolvency of the user. To the extent that a user has other indebtedness and cannot repay all of his or her indebtedness, the user may choose to make payments to other platforms instead of us.
Such inaccurate or incomplete user information could affect the accuracy of our credit assessment and the effectiveness of our risk management, which could in turn harm our reputation, and as a result, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Any failure to protect the confidential information of our users, funding sources and other third parties or improper use of such data may subject us to liabilities imposed by data privacy and protection laws and regulations, negatively impact our reputation, and discourage users from using our platform.
Our platform collects, stores and processes certain personal and other sensitive data from our users and funding sources. There are numerous laws governing privacy and the storage, sharing, use, disclosure and protection of personally identifiable information and user data. Specifically, personally identifiable and other confidential information is increasingly subject to legislation and regulations in numerous domestic and international jurisdictions. PRC government authorities have enacted a series of laws and regulations relating to the protection of privacy and personal information, under which internet service providers and other network operators are required to clearly indicate the purposes, methods and scope of any information collection and usage, to obtain appropriate user consent and to establish user information protection systems with appropriate remedial measures. However, the regulatory framework for privacy protection in China and worldwide is currently evolving and is likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. We could be adversely affected if legislation or regulations in China are expanded to require changes in business practices or privacy policies, or if the PRC governmental authorities interpret or implement their legislation or regulations in ways that negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Meanwhile, in addition to laws, regulations and other applicable rules regarding privacy and privacy advocacy, industry associations or other private parties may propose new and different privacy standards. Because the interpretation and application of privacy and data protection laws and privacy standards are still uncertain, it is possible that these laws or privacy standards may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our practices. Any inability to adequately address privacy concerns, even if unfounded, or to comply with applicable privacy or data protection laws, regulations and privacy standards, could result in additional cost and liability to us, cause the App stores to remove our mobile applications, damage our reputation, inhibit the use of our platform and harm our business.
For example, the Internet Security Law released by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in November 2016 provides that personal information and important data collected and generated by operators of critical information infrastructure in the course of their operations in the PRC should be stored in the PRC, and the law imposes heightened regulation and additional security obligations on operators of critical information infrastructure. In addition, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and Standardization Administration jointly issued the Standard of Information Security Technology—Personal Information Security Specification (GB/T 35273-2017), which came into effect in May 2018. Moreover, the State Administration for Market Regulation and the Standardization Administration jointly issued the new Standard of Information Security Technology—Personal Information Security Specification (GB/T 35273-2020) in March 2020, which will replace the previous standard GB/T 35273-2017 and will take effect in October 2020. Pursuant to this standard, the personal data controller refers to entities or persons who are authorized to determine the purposes and methods for using and processing personal information. The personal data controller should collect information in accordance with the principles of legality, minimization and voluntariness and should also obtain a consent from the information provider. We expect that these areas will receive greater and continued attention and scrutiny from regulators and the public going forward, which could increase our compliance costs and subject us to heightened risks and challenges associated with data security and protection. If we are unable to manage these risks, we could become subject to penalties, including fines, suspension of business and revocation of required licenses, and our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Further, we use certain data collected from external data sources to make credit assessment. In the event that the data collection and provision by any of our external data sources is considered in violation of the Internet Security Law, we may not be able to use relevant data for our credit assessment and our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Failure to prevent cybersecurity breaches will materially and adversely affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations.
The massive data that we have processed and stored makes us or third-party service providers who host our servers a target and potentially vulnerable to cyber-attacks, computer viruses, physical or electronic break-ins, or similar disruptions. In addition, we store part of our data on third-party cloud computing platform servers that are vulnerable to service breaks or cyber-attacks, the occurrence of which may result in data breach or loss. While we and/or the applicable third-party service providers that we cooperate with have taken steps to protect the confidential information that we have access to, security measures, whether taken by us and/or by third-party service providers with whom we cooperate with could be breached. Because techniques used to sabotage or obtain unauthorized access to systems change frequently and generally are not recognized until they are launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate preventative measures. Any accidental or willful security breaches or other unauthorized access to our platform could cause confidential user and investor information to be stolen and used for criminal purposes. Security breaches or unauthorized access to third-party servers which results in leakage of personal data and user information may also harm consumer trust in us and damages our brand reputation. Security breaches or unauthorized access to confidential information could also expose us to liability related to the loss of the information, time-consuming and expensive litigation and negative publicity. If security measures are breached because of any third-party action, employee error, malfeasance or otherwise, or if design flaws in our technology infrastructure are exposed and exploited, our relationships with users and investors could be severely damaged, we could incur significant liability and our business and operations could be adversely affected in addition to the increased operating costs we incur for data protection.
In addition, we rely on the massive amount of data and user information that we have accumulated over time to conduct our business. In particular, we use user information to make credit assessment of users through our Hawkeye engine. These data might be lost due to cyber-attacks, computer viruses, physical or electronic break-ins, or similar disruptions. A noticeable trend in the laws, regulations and policies in China toward an increased level of data protection has also restricted our access to user data in some ways as well as the third-party data providers’ ability to provide us with comprehensive data and user information. If the amount and quality of the data we collect are negatively affected, the effectiveness of our risk management may be undermined, which may lead to higher charge-off rates and adversely and materially affect our business and results of operations.
Any significant disruption in service on our platforms, our computer systems or third-party service providers’ systems, including events beyond our control, could reduce the attractiveness of our platforms and result in a loss of users or investors.
In the event of a platform outage and physical data loss, our ability to perform our servicing obligations, process loan applications or make funds available on our platforms would be materially and adversely affected. The satisfactory performance, reliability and availability of our platforms and our underlying network infrastructure are critical to our operations, user service, reputation, and ability to retain existing and attract new users, investors and institutional funding partners. Much of our system hardware is hosted in leased facilities located in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing. We also rely significantly on our third-party service providers for the operation of our platform. Our operations depend on our ability to protect our systems against damage or interruption from natural disasters, power or telecommunications failures, air quality issues, environmental conditions, computer viruses, or attempts to harm our systems, criminal acts and similar events. If there is a lapse in service or damage to our leased facilities in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing, we could experience interruptions and delays in our service and may incur additional expenses in arranging new facilities.
Any interruptions or delays in our service, whether as a result of third-party or our error, natural disasters, health pandemics such as the ongoing COVID-19 or security breaches, whether accidental or willful, could harm our relationships with our users, investors and institutional funding partners and our reputation. Our disaster recovery plan has not been tested under actual disaster conditions, and we may not have sufficient capacity to recover all data and services in the event of an outage. These factors could prevent us from processing or posting payments on loans, damage our brand and reputation, divert our employees’ attention, subject us to liability and cause users, investors and institutional funding partners to abandon our platforms, any of which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We rely on App Stores to disseminate our mobile applications.
We offer our services mainly through our mobile applications. Our mobile applications are offered via App Stores operated by third parties, such as Apple’s App Store, which could suspend or terminate users’ access to our mobile applications, increase access costs or change the terms of access in a way that makes our applications more difficult to access. As a result, our ability to expand our user base may be adversely affected if potential users experience difficulties in or are prevented from accessing our mobile applications. In the past, our mobile applications were taken down from certain third-party App Stores for a short period of time. We cannot assure you that we will not experience incidents of similar nature in the future, and occurrence of such incidents may adversely affect our brand and reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our platforms and internal systems rely on software that is highly technical, and if it contains undetected errors, our business could be adversely affected.
Our platforms and internal systems rely on software that is highly technical and complex. In addition, our platform and internal systems depend on the ability of such software to store, retrieve, process and manage immense amounts of data. The software on which we rely has contained, and may now or in the future contain, undetected errors or bugs. Errors or other design defects within the software on which we rely may result in a negative experience for users and funding sources, delay introductions of new features or enhancements, result in errors or compromise our ability to protect user or investor data or our intellectual property. Any errors, bugs or defects discovered in the software on which we rely could result in harm to our reputation, loss of users or investors or liability for damages, any of which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may not be able to prevent others from unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.
We believe that trademarks, trade secrets, copyright and other intellectual property we use are critical to our business. We rely on a combination of trademark, copyright and trade secret protection laws in China, as well as confidentiality procedures and contractual provisions to protect our intellectual property and our brand. Despite these measures, any of our intellectual property rights could be challenged, invalidated, circumvented or misappropriated, or such intellectual property may not be sufficient to provide us with competitive advantages. For example, we regularly file applications to register our trademarks in China, but these applications may not be successful and may be challenged by third parties. Meanwhile, intellectual property rights and confidentiality protections in China may not be as effective as those in the U.S. or other countries for many reasons, including lack of procedural rules for discovery and evidence, and low damage awards. Implementation and enforcement of China intellectual property laws have historically been deficient and ineffective. As a result, we may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property rights, which could adversely affect our revenues and competitive position.
In addition, any unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties may adversely affect our revenues and our reputation. In particular, we may have difficulty addressing the threats to our business associated with piracy of our content, particularly our original content. Our content may be potentially subject to unauthorized consumer copying and illegal digital dissemination without an economic return to us. We adopt a variety of measures to mitigate risks associated with piracy, including by litigation and through technology measures. We cannot assure that such measures will be effective.
In addition, while we typically require our employees who may be involved in the development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who in fact develops intellectual property that we regard as our own. In addition, such agreements may be breached. Accordingly, we may be forced to bring claims against third parties, or defend claims that they may bring against us related to the ownership of such intellectual property.
Furthermore, policing unauthorized use of proprietary technology is difficult and expensive, and we may need to resort to litigation to enforce or defend intellectual property or to determine the enforceability, scope and validity of our proprietary rights or those of others. Such litigation and an adverse determination in any such litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention. The experience and capabilities of China courts in handling intellectual property litigation varies and outcomes are unpredictable.
We have been and may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims or other legal proceedings and claims in the ordinary course of our business, which may be expensive to defend and may disrupt our business and operations.
We cannot be certain that our operations or any aspects of our business do not or will not infringe upon or otherwise violate trademarks, patents, copyrights, know-how or other intellectual property rights held by third parties. We may be from time to time in the future subject to legal proceedings and claims relating to the intellectual property rights of others. Some of our trademarks applications have been challenged by third parties, and we may not be able to successfully register such trademarks. In addition, there may be third-party trademarks, patents, copyrights, know-how or other intellectual property rights that are infringed upon by our products, services or other aspects of our business without our awareness. Holders of such intellectual property rights may seek to enforce such intellectual property rights against us in China, the United States or other jurisdictions. If any third-party infringement claims are brought against us, we may be forced to divert management’s time and other resources from our business and operations to defend against these claims, regardless of their merits.
Additionally, the application and interpretation of China’s intellectual property right laws and the procedures and standards for granting trademarks, patents, copyrights, know-how or other intellectual property rights in China are still evolving and are uncertain, and we cannot assure you that PRC courts or regulatory authorities would agree with our analysis. If we were found to have violated the intellectual property rights of others, we may be subject to liability for our infringement activities or may be prohibited from using such intellectual property, and we may incur licensing fees or be forced to develop alternatives of our own.
In addition, from time to time, we may be subject to other legal proceedings and claims arising from our ordinary course of business. For example, Shenzhen Fenqile has been named as a third-party in a complaint filed in the Second Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing in December 2019 by Beijing Zhongtai Yingchuang Enterprise Management Co., Ltd. against Yinglianshi Animation Culture Development (Beijing) Co., Ltd. The plaintiff claimed a damage of RMB120 million from Shenzhen Fenqile. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings” for more information. We are currently unable to estimate the possible outcome or possible range of loss, if any, associated with the resolution of this case. Any adverse outcome of this and other cases could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation.
Defending litigations or other claims against us is costly and can impose a significant burden on our management and employees, and there can be no assurances that favorable final outcomes will be obtained in all cases. Such claims, even if they do not result in liability, may harm our reputation. Any resulting liability or expenses, or changes required to our platform to reduce the risk of future liability, may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and prospects.
We may be held liable for information or content displayed on, retrieved from or linked to our mobile applications, which may materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
In addition to our website, we also offer consumer finance products on our mobile applications, which are regulated by the Administrative Provisions on Mobile Internet Applications Information Services, or the APP Provisions, promulgated by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, in June 2016 and became effective in August 2016. According to the APP Provisions, the providers of mobile applications shall not create, copy, publish or distribute information and content that is prohibited by laws and regulations. We have implemented internal control procedures screening the information and content on our mobile applications to ensure their compliance with the APP Provisions. However, we cannot assure that all the information or content displayed on, retrieved from or linked to our mobile applications complies with the requirements of the APP Provisions at all times. If our mobile applications were found to be violating the APP Provisions, we may be subject to relevant penalties, including warning, service suspension or removal of our mobile applications from the relevant mobile application store, which may materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
Erroneous reports with respect to certain of our users have been sent to the credit reference center of the PBOC, which may result in reputational damage to us.
Some of our institutional funding partners report delinquencies of our users to the credit reference center of the PBOC, which adversely affect such users’ credit profiles and abilities to obtain loans in the future. Due to errors in our interfaces with certain institutional funding partners, we have occasionally failed to inform certain institutional funding partners about repayments made by users. As a result, such institutional funding partners believed that the users were delinquent on loan repayments and therefore made erroneous reports to the credit reference center of the PBOC. Neither we nor the institutional funding partners are subject to legal liabilities as long as the institutional funding partners inform the PBOC about the errors in a timely fashion after receiving complaints from the borrowers. Such errors in reports have been isolated incidents and have not resulted in material adverse effect on our business as of the date of this annual report. We have started to request our institutional funding partners to compare their records of delinquent borrowers with ours to avoid future errors. However, there can be no assurance that our institutional funding partners will always cooperate with us or that such measures will be effective in preventing errors. If additional erroneous reports were made to the PBOC in the future, we may suffer negative publicity and reputational damage, which could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Any failure by us or our third-party service providers to comply with applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations could damage our reputation.
The Guidelines purport, among other things, to require internet finance service providers, including online lending information intermediaries, to comply with certain anti-money laundering requirements, including the establishment of a customer identification program, the monitoring and reporting of suspicious transactions, the preservation of customer information and transaction records, and the provision of assistance to the public security department and judicial authority in investigations and proceedings in relation to anti-money laundering matters. In conjunction with the Guidelines, the PBOC, the CBIRC and the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, jointly released the Administrative Measures for Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing of Internet Financial Institutions (for Trial Implementation), or the Anti-Money Laundering Measures for Internet Financial Institutions, effective in January 2019, pursuant to which institutions engaging in internet finance business, including online payment, online lending, online lending information intermediary business etc., shall be subject to the obligation of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing. The Anti-Money Laundering Measures for Internet Financial Institutions further requires that institutions engaging in internet finance business (other than financing institutions and non-bank payment institutions) shall complete a registration and report large-sum transactions and suspicious transactions through an internet platform to monitor anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing, or the Anti-Money Laundering Internet Monitoring Platform, which shall be established by the PBOC. The Interim Measures also require the online lending information intermediaries, among other things, to comply with certain anti-money laundering obligations, including verifying customer identification, reporting suspicious transactions and preserving customer information and transaction records. The Custodian Guidelines require that the anti-money laundering obligation be included in the fund custodian agreements between an online lending intermediary and custody banks, and the online lending intermediary shall fulfill and cooperate with custodian bank to fulfill anti-money laundering obligations.
We have implemented various policies and procedures, including internal controls, collaborations with relevant regulatory authorities and “know-your-customer” procedures, for anti-money laundering purposes. We have also established access to the Anti-Money Laundering Internet Monitoring Platform to report large-sum transactions and suspicious transactions thereon in accordance with such Anti-Money Laundering Measures for Internet Financial Institutions In addition, we rely on our institutional funding partners and payment processors, in particular the custodian banks and online payment companies that handle the transfer of funds between borrowers and lenders, to have their own appropriate anti-money laundering policies and procedures. Certain of our institutional funding partners, the custody banks and online payment companies are subject to anti-money laundering obligations under applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations and are regulated in that respect by the PBOC.
However, there is no assurance that our anti-money laundering policies and procedures will protect us from being exploited for money laundering purposes or that we will be deemed to be in compliance with applicable anti-money laundering implementing rules, if and when adopted. Moreover, if any of our third-party service providers fail to comply with applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations, our reputation could suffer and we could become subject to regulatory intervention, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
From time to time we may evaluate and consummate strategic investments or acquisitions, which could require significant management attention, disrupt our business and adversely affect our financial results.
We have made, and may evaluate and consider to make, strategic investments, combinations, acquisitions or alliances to further increase the value of our platforms and better serve users, investors and institutional funding partners. Our current equity investments outside of China primarily include investments in companies in India, Indonesia and the United States. We have also made debt and equity investments in various companies in China. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company—Strategic Investments.”
The investments and acquired assets or businesses may not generate the financial results we expect. Moreover, these investments, as well as potential future investments we may make, may require significant attention from our management, in particular to ensure that such changes do not disrupt any existing collaborations, or affect our users’ opinion and perception of our products and services. The diversion of our management’s attention and any difficulties encountered during integration could have a material adverse effect on our ability to manage our business. In addition, strategic investments, acquisitions or new business initiatives could expose us to potential risks, including:
|●||risks associated with the assimilation of new operations, services, technologies and personnel;|
|●||unforeseen or hidden liabilities;|
|●||the diversion of resources from our existing businesses and technologies;|
|●||the inability to generate sufficient revenues to offset the costs and expenses of the transaction; and|
|●||the potential loss of, or harm to, relationships with employees and marketplace users as a result of the integration of new businesses or investment.|
Any failure to address these risks or other problems encountered in connection with our past or future acquisitions and investments could cause us to fail to realize the anticipated benefits of such acquisitions or investments, incur unanticipated liabilities and harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Furthermore, investments and acquisitions could result in the use of substantial amounts of cash, increased leverage, potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, goodwill impairment charges, amortization expenses for other intangible assets and exposure to potential liabilities of the acquired business, and the invested or acquired assets or businesses may not generate the financial results we expect. For example, the private companies that we have invested in could be adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, which may lead to impairment in the fair values of our investments and in turn adversely affect our financial condition and operating results. Moreover, the costs of identifying and consummating these transactions may be significant. In addition to obtaining the necessary corporate governance approvals, we may also need to obtain approvals and licenses from relevant governmental authorities for the acquisitions to comply with applicable laws and regulations, which could result in increased costs and delays.
Our business is subject to the risks of international operations.
We had expanded our operations overseas and operate our business in certain foreign jurisdictions such as India. Compliance with foreign laws and regulations that apply to our international operations increases our cost of doing business in foreign jurisdictions. These laws and regulations include foreign investment laws, labor relations laws, tax laws, foreign currency-related regulations, anti-competition regulations, prohibitions on payments to governmental officials, market access and others. In particular, laws and business practices that prohibit or limit foreign ownership of certain businesses may adversely affect our business prospects and slow our growth. For example, in April 2020, the Finance Ministry of India adopted changes in the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), pursuant to which foreign investors from countries that share land border with India, including China, must obtain prior governmental approval for transfer of ownership and/or increase in registered capital in any existing or future investments in India. We are a minority shareholder in an Indian Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) and plan to transfer part of our shares to potential buyers to realize a profit on our investment. We have also made other investments in India and are currently planning to register a NBFC. The changes in FEMA described above may delay or restrict our operations in India and have an adverse impact on our results of operations.
Furthermore, laws and regulations in many jurisdictions are subject to uncertainties and changes, and any violations of these laws and regulations could result in fines and penalties, criminal sanctions against us, our officers or our employees, and prohibitions on the conduct of our business. Any such violations could also delay or prevent potential acquisitions and could also materially damage our reputation, our brand, our international expansion efforts, our ability to attract and retain employees, our business and our operating results. Compliance with these laws requires a significant amount of management attention and effort, which may divert management’s attention from running our business operations and could harm our ability to grow our business, or may increase our expenses as we engage specialized or other additional resources to assist us with our compliance efforts. Our success depends, in part, on our ability to anticipate these risks and manage these difficulties.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may lose investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements.
The SEC, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, adopted rules requiring every public companies to include a management report on such company’s internal control over financial reporting in its annual report, which contains management’s assessment of the effectiveness of the company’s internal control over financial reporting. In addition, when a company meets the SEC’s criteria, an independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of the company’s internal control over financial reporting.
Our management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2019. However, if we fail to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in the future, our management may not be able to conclude that we have effective internal control over financial reporting at a reasonable assurance level. Further, because of inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect all misstatements on a timely basis. For instance, in the preparation of the unaudited condensed consolidated financial information for the second quarter of 2019, we uncovered certain control deficiencies which led to accounting errors in our unaudited condensed consolidated financial information for the first quarter of 2019. The accounting errors were corrected and disclosed in our earnings release for the quarter ended June 30, 2019 on Form 6-K. We have undertaken remedial measures to improve our quarter-end closing procedures and addressed the relevant control deficiencies. Moreover, the process of designing and implementing an effective financial reporting system is a continuous effort that requires us to anticipate and react to changes in our business and the economic and regulatory environments and to expend significant resources to maintain a financial reporting system that satisfies our reporting obligations. Our failure to discover and address any material weaknesses or deficiencies in the future may result in inaccuracies in our financial statements or delay in the preparation of our financial statements. This could in turn result in the loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements and negatively impact the trading price of our ADSs. Ineffective internal control over financial reporting could also expose us to increased risk of fraud or misappropriations of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which our ADSs are listed, regulatory investigations or civil or criminal sanctions.