20-F 1 f20f2022_sentageholdings.htm ANNUAL REPORT

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 20-F

 

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

 

OR

 

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

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022

 

OR

 

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

 

For the transition period from                  to                 .

 

OR 

 

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

 

Date of event requiring this shell company report

  

Commission file number: 001-40580

 

Sentage Holdings Inc.

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)

 

N/A

(Translation of Registrant’s Name Into English)

 

Cayman Islands

(Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)

 

501, Platinum Tower 233 Taicang Road

HuangPu, Shanghai City 200001

People’s Republic of China

(Address of Principal Executive Offices)

 

Qiaoling Lu

Telephone: +86-21 5386 0209

Email: qllu@sentageholdings.com

 

At the address of the Company set forth above

(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   Trading Symbol   Name of Each Exchange On Which Registered
Ordinary shares, par value US$0.005 per share   SNTG   The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

 

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

 

None

(Title of Class)

 

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

 

None

(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, 2022, there were 2,805,325 issued and outstanding ordinary shares, par value US$0.005 per share.

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    ☐  Yes    ☒  No

 

If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.    ☐  Yes    ☒  No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    ☒  Yes    ☐  No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    ☒  Yes    ☐  No 

 

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

 

Large accelerated filer Accelerated filer
Non-accelerated filer Emerging growth company

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.  ☐  Item 17  ☐  Item 18

 

If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  ☐  Yes    No

 

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

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by 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

 

INTRODUCTION   ii
     
FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION   iii
       
Part I.      
       
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS   1
ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE   1
ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION   1
ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY   48
ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS   92
ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS   92
ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES   106
ITEM 7. MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS   112
ITEM 8. FINANCIAL INFORMATION   113
ITEM 9. THE OFFER AND LISTING   114
ITEM 10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION   114
ITEM 11. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK   129
ITEM 12. DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES   130
       
Part II.      
       
ITEM 13. DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES   131
ITEM 14. MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS   131
ITEM 15. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES   131
ITEM 16. [RESERVED]   133
ITEM 16A. AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT   133
ITEM 16B. CODE OF ETHICS   134
ITEM 16C. PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES   134
ITEM 16D. EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES   135
ITEM 16E. PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS   135
ITEM 16F. CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT   135
ITEM 16G. CORPORATE GOVERNANCE   135
ITEM 16H. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE   136
ITEM 16I. DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS   136
       
Part III.      
       
ITEM 17. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS   137
ITEM 18. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS   137
ITEM 19. EXHIBITS   137

 

i

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

We are a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with no material operations of our own. We are not a Chinese operating company. Investors of our Ordinary Shares do not own any equity interests in the VIEs (defined below), but instead own shares of a Cayman Islands holding company. Unless otherwise stated, as used in this annual report and in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial information, “we,” “us,” the “Company,” “Sentage Holdings”, or “our company” refers to Sentage Holdings Inc., a Cayman Islands holding company. 

 

“Sentage Operating Companies” or the “VIEs” refer, collectively, to Daxin Wealth Investment Management (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (“Daxin Wealth”), Daxin Zhuohui Financial Information Services (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (“Daxin Zhuohui”), Qingdao Buytop Payment Services Co., Ltd. (“Qingdao Buytop”), and Zhenyi Information Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (“Zhenyi”), and their subsidiaries, all of which are limited liability companies organized under the laws of the Peoples Republic of China (the “PRC”).  We do not have any equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies, but consolidate their financial results in accordance with U.S. GAAP because we are deemed to have effective control over and be the primary beneficiary of these companies, for accounting purposes only, via a series of contractual agreements, or the “VIE Agreements”, among Sentage WFOE (defined below), the Sentage Operating Companies and their respective shareholders. However, the VIE Agreements have not been tested in a court of law in China as of the date of this annual report, and as a result we are subject to various risks.  As advised by our PRC counsel, Beijing Dentons Law Offices, LLP (Fuzhou) (“Dentons”), the VIE structure is not used to provide contractual exposure to foreign investment in China-based companies where Chinese law prohibits direct foreign investment in the operating companies; rather we use the VIE structure because the Chinese laws and regulations affecting Sentage Operating Companies’ businesses are vague and unclear. Sentage Operating Companies engage in (i) consumer loan repayment and collection management service, (ii) loan recommendation service, and (iii) prepaid payment network service. According to “Administrative Measures of People’s Bank of China on Payment Services Provided by Non-financial Institutions” (“Order 2”) and “People’s Bank of China Announcement [2018] No. 7 — Announcement on Matters Relating to Foreign-funded Payment Organizations” (“Announcement No. 7”), those who engage in prepaid network services business within China need to go through a special legal approval procedure to obtain third-party payment licenses. Although the People’s Bank of China has loosened the requirements for foreign-invested enterprises to hold third-party payment licenses, the review procedure is still very strict in practice. At the same time, Chinese authorities have not yet made it clear whether to permit or prohibit foreign-invested enterprises to engage in prepaid network services, loan collection management and loan recommendation services, and there is a risk that Chinese authorities may prohibit direct foreign investment of such businesses. For details of the VIE Agreements, see “ITEM 4. C. Organizational Structure – The VIE Agreements”; and for the risks associated with the VIE Agreements and the VIE structure, see “ITEM 3D. Risk Factors – Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure”.

 

In this annual report on Form 20-F, except where the context otherwise requires and for purposes of this annual report only, references to: 

 

  “China” or the “PRC” are to the People’s Republic of China;

 

  “Code” are to the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended;

 

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

 

  “PRC operating entities” are to Sentage WFOE (defined below) and the Sentage Operating Companies;

 

  “Sentage HK” are to Sentage Hong Kong Limited, a Hong Kong corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sentage Holdings (defined below);

 

  “Sentage Holdings” are to Sentage Holdings Inc., an exempted company with limited liability incorporated under the laws of Cayman Islands;

 

  “Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders” or “VIEs Shareholders” are to the shareholders of Sentage Operating Companies, or the VIEs;

 

  “Sentage WFOE” or “WFOE” are to Shanghai Santeng Technology Co., Ltd., a limited liability company organized under the laws of the PRC, which is wholly owned by Sentage HK;

 

  “shares,” “Shares,” or “Ordinary Shares” are to the ordinary shares of Sentage Holdings, par value $0.005 per share;

 

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

 

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

 

  “VIE” are to variable interest entity; and

 

  “VIE Agreements” are to a series of contractual agreements among Sentage WFOE, Sentage Operating Companies, and Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders.

 

Our business is conducted by Sentage Operating Companies, or the VIEs, in the PRC, using RMB, the currency of mainland China. Our consolidated financial statements are presented in United States dollars. In this annual report, we refer to assets, obligations, commitments and liabilities in our consolidated financial statements in United States dollars. These dollar references are based on the exchange rate of RMB to United States dollars, determined as of a specific date or for a specific period. Changes in the exchange rate will affect the amount of our obligations and the value of our assets in terms of United States dollars which may result in an increase or decrease in the amount of our obligations (expressed in dollars) and the value of our assets, including accounts receivable (expressed in dollars).

 

Unless expressly indicated herein to the contrary, all references to share amounts in this annual report give retroactive effect to share consolidations, the last of which was effected August 10, 2022.

ii

 

 

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

 

This annual report contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current expectations and views of future events. These forward-looking statements are made under the “safe-harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, including those listed under “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors,” “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Results” and “Item 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk” may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.

 

You can identify some of these forward-looking statements by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “is/are likely to,” “potential,” “continue” or other similar expressions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include statements relating to:

 

  assumptions about our future financial and operating results, including revenue, income, expenditures, cash balances, and other financial items;

 

  our ability to execute our growth, and expansion, including our ability to meet our goals;

 

  current and future economic and political conditions;

 

  our capital requirements and our ability to raise any additional financing which we may require;

 

  our ability to attract clients and further enhance our brand recognition;

 

  our ability to hire and retain qualified management personnel and key employees in order to enable us to develop our business;

 

  uncertainty about the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and the impact it may still have on the Company’s operations, the demand for the Company’s products, global supply chains, and economic activity in general;

 

  trends and competition in the consumer loan repayment and collection management, loan recommendation, and third-party payment services industries;

 

  our expectations regarding the demand for, and market acceptance of, our services and our brands;

 

  general economic and business conditions in the markets in which we operate;

 

  relevant government policies and regulations relating to our corporate structure, business and industry; and

 

  the assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.

 

iii

 

 

These forward-looking statements involve various risks and uncertainties. Although we believe that our expectations expressed in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, our expectations may later be found to be incorrect. Our actual results could be materially different from our expectations. Other sections of this annual report include additional factors that could adversely impact our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties emerge from time to time and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. You should read thoroughly this annual report and the documents that we refer to with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from, or worse than, what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.

 

The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this annual report. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. You should read this annual report and the documents that we refer to in this annual report and exhibits to this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect.

 

Industry Data and Forecasts

 

This annual report also contains data related to the consumer loan repayment and collection management, loan recommendation, and third-party payment services industries in China. These industry data include projections that are based on a number of assumptions which have been derived from industry and government sources which we believe to be reasonable. The consumer loan repayment and collection management, loan recommendation, and third-party payment services industries may not grow at the rate projected by industry data, or at all. The failure of these industries to grow as anticipated is likely to have a material adverse effect on our business and the market price of our Ordinary Shares. In addition, the rapidly changing nature of the consumer loan repayment and collection management, loan recommendation, and third-party payment services industries subjects any projections or estimates relating to the growth prospects or future condition of our industries to significant uncertainties. Furthermore, if any one or more of the assumptions underlying the industry data turns out to be incorrect, actual results may, and are likely to, differ from the projections based on these assumptions.

 

This annual report contains information and statistics relating to China’s economy and the industries in which we operate derived from various publications issued by PRC governmental entities which have not been independently verified by us. The information in such official sources may not be consistent with other information compiled in or outside China.

 

iv

 

 

PART I.

 

ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

 

Not applicable.

 

ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

 

Not applicable.

 

ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION

 

A. [Reserved]

 

B. Capitalization and Indebtedness

 

Not applicable.

 

C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds

 

Not applicable.

 

D. Risk Factors

 

Summary of Risk Factors

 

Investing in our Ordinary Shares involves significant risks. You should carefully consider all of the information in this annual report before making an investment in our Ordinary Shares. Below please find a summary of the principal risks we face, organized under relevant headings. These risks are discussed more fully in the section titled “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” in this annual report.

 

Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

 

We are also subject to risks and uncertainties related to our corporate structure, including, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  If the PRC government finds that the contractual arrangements that establish the structure for our business operations do not comply with applicable PRC laws and regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations;

 

  We rely on contractual arrangements with the VIEs and their shareholders for our operations in China, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership;

 

  Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of any new PRC laws, rules and regulations relating to foreign investment and how they may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations;

 

1

 

 

  The Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may adversely affect our business and financial condition;

 

  Because we rely on the exclusive business cooperation agreement with each of the Sentage Operating Companies for our revenue, the termination of this agreement would severely and detrimentally affect our continuing business viability under our current corporate structure; and

 

  Because we are a Cayman island company and all of our business is conducted in the PRC, you may be unable to bring an action against us or our officers and directors or to enforce any judgment you may obtain.

 

Risks Related to Our Business and Industries

 

Risks and uncertainties related to our business and industries include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  We have a limited operating history, which makes it difficult to evaluate our future prospects;
     
  The industries we are in are still evolving, which makes it difficult to effectively assess our future prospects;

 

  The financial sector in China is subject to changes in regulations. Non-compliance with new financial regulations or new licensing requirements may materially affect our business operations and financial results;

  

  The wind-down of our past engagements in the consumer loan repayment and collection management business affected our business operation and financial performance, and we may not be able to expand our customer base by collaborating with third-party financial institutions as we have planned;

 

  We operate a socially sensitive business public complaints against the consumer loan repayment and collection management industry generally or against us in particular may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations;

 

  If we fail to maintain collaboration with our funding partners, our reputation, results of operations, and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected;

 

  Fluctuations in interest rates could negatively affect our loan origination volume;

 

  We are dependent on NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, and any changes to its rules or practices could harm our prepaid payment network business;

 

  If we fail to implement and maintain an effective system of internal controls, we may be unable to accurately or timely report the results of operations or prevent fraud, and investor confidence and the market price of our securities may be materially and adversely affected; and

 

  We may be liable for improper use or appropriation of personal information provided by the customers and any failure to comply with PRC laws and regulations over data security could result in materially adverse impact on our business, results of operations, and our continued listing on Nasdaq.

 

2

 

 

Risks Related to Doing Business in China

 

Risks and uncertainties related to doing business in China include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  There are uncertainties under the Foreign Investment Law relating to the status of businesses in China controlled by foreign invested projects primarily through contractual arrangements, such as our business;

 

  Changes in China’s economic, political, or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations;

 

  Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protection available to you and us;

 

  PRC laws and regulations governing our current business operations are sometimes vague and uncertain and any changes in such laws and regulations may impair our ability to operate profitably;

 

  You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments, or bringing actions in China against us or our management named in the reporting based on foreign laws;

 

  U.S. regulatory bodies may be limited in their ability to conduct investigations or inspections of our operations in China;

 

  Increases in labor costs in the PRC may adversely affect our business and our profitability;

 

  PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or the PRC operating entities to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into the PRC Operating Entities, limit the PRC Operating Entities’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us;

 

  Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment;

 

  Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, we may be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise” for PRC enterprise income tax purposes. Such classification would likely result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our non-PRC shareholders and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment;

 

  Our PRC operating entities are subject to restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us, which may have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business;

 

  We face uncertainty with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises by their non-PRC holding companies;

 

  Governmental control of currency conversion may affect the value of your investment and our payment of dividends;

 

3

 

 

  There are significant uncertainties under the  PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law relating to the withholding tax liabilities of the PRC Operating Entities, and dividends payable by the PRC operating entities to our offshore subsidiaries may not qualify to enjoy certain treaty benefits;

 

  The “Opinions on Severely Cracking Down on Illegal Securities Activities According to Law,” or the “Opinions,” recently issued by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council may subject us to additional compliance requirement in the future;

 

  Recent greater oversight by the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) over data security, particularly for companies seeking to list on a foreign exchange, could adversely impact our business;

 

  If we become directly subject to the scrutiny, criticism, and negative publicity involving U.S.-listed Chinese companies, we may have to expend significant resources to investigate and resolve the matter which could harm our business operations, stock price, and reputation;

 

  The disclosures in our reports and other filings with the SEC and our other public pronouncements are not subject to the scrutiny of any regulatory bodies in the PRC;

 

  The recent joint statement by the SEC and the PCAOB, rule changes by Nasdaq, and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act and related regulations, all call for additional and more stringent criteria to be applied to emerging market companies upon assessing the qualification of their auditors, especially the non-U.S. auditors who are not inspected by the PCAOB. These developments could add uncertainties to our continued listing or future offerings of our securities in the U.S;

  

  We may be unable to complete a business combination transaction efficiently or on favorable terms due to complicated merger and acquisition regulations and certain other PRC regulations;

 

  The Chinese government exerts substantial influence over the manner in which we must conduct our business, and may intervene or influence our operations at any time, which could result in a material change in our operations, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and cause the value of our Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or be worthless; and
  To the extent cash or assets of our business, or of the PRC Operating Entities, is in the PRC or Hong Kong, such cash or assets may not be available to fund operations or for other use outside of the PRC or Hong Kong, due to interventions in or the imposition of restrictions and limitations by the PRC government to the transfer of cash or assets.

 

Risks Related to Our Ordinary Shares

 

Risks and uncertainties related to our Ordinary Shares include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  We may issue additional Ordinary Shares or other equity securities without your approval, which would dilute your ownership interests and may depress the market price of our Ordinary Shares;

 

  We are not expected to pay dividends on our Ordinary Shares in the foreseeable future; and

 

  You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we were formed under Cayman Islands law.

 

4

 

 

Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

 

If the PRC government finds that the contractual arrangements that establish the structure for our business operations do not comply with applicable PRC laws and regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations.

 

We operate our business through the VIEs, in which we do not have equity interests but whose financial results have been consolidated by Sentage Holdings in accordance with U.S. GAAP because we are deemed to have effective control over and be the primary beneficiary of these companies, for accounting purposes only, via the VIE Agreements, which have not been tested in a court of law in China. There are uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of PRC laws, rules and regulations, including but not limited to the laws, rules and regulations governing the validity and enforcement of the contractual arrangements between WFOE and the VIEs.

  

As advised by our PRC counsel, Dentons, if WFOE, the VIEs, or their ownership structure or the contractual arrangements are determined to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws, rules or regulations, or if WFOE or the VIEs, fails to obtain or maintain any of the required governmental permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violations, including:

 

  revoking the business and operating licenses of WFOE or the VIEs;

 

  discontinuing or restricting the operations of WFOE or the VIEs;

 

  imposing conditions or requirements with which we, WFOE, or the VIEs may not be able to comply;

 

  requiring us, WFOE, or the VIEs to restructure the relevant ownership structure or operations which may significantly impair the rights of the holders of our Ordinary Shares;

 

  restricting or prohibiting our use of the proceeds from our initial public offering to finance our business and operations in China; and

 

  imposing fines.

 

Recently, the PRC government adopted a series of regulatory actions and issued statements to regulate business operations in China, including those related to variable interest entities. There are currently no relevant laws or regulations in the PRC that prohibit companies whose entity interests are within the PRC from listing on overseas stock exchanges. Although we believe that our corporate structure and contractual arrangements comply with current applicable PRC laws and regulations, in the event that PRC government determines that the contractual arrangements constituting part of our VIE structure do not comply with PRC regulations, or if these regulations change or are interpreted differently in the future, we may be unable to asset our contractual rights over the assets of the VIEs and their subsidiaries, and our Ordinary Shares may decline in value or become worthless. The VIE Agreements have not been tested in a court of law in China as of the date of this annual report.

 

5

 

 

We rely on contractual arrangements with the VIEs and their shareholders for our operations in China, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership.

 

A substantial part of our current revenue and net income is derived from the Sentage Operating Companies. We do not have an equity interest in any of the Sentage Operating Companies but their financial results have been consolidated by us in accordance with U.S. GAAP, due to us being deemed to have effective control over, and be the primary beneficiary of, these companies for accounting purposes, via the VIE Agreements, which VIE Agreements have not been tested in a court of law in China. The VIE Agreements may not be as effective in providing us with the necessary control over the Sentage Operating Companies and their operations. Any deficiency in these VIE Agreements may result in our loss of control over the management and operations of the Sentage Operating Companies, which will result in a significant loss in the value of an investment in our company. We rely on contractual rights through the VIE Agreements to effect control over and management of the Sentage Operating Companies, which exposes us to the risk of potential breach of contract by the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders.

 

As all of the VIE agreements with the Sentage Operating Companies are governed by PRC laws and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in the PRC, they would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. Disputes arising from these VIE agreements between us and any of the Sentage Operating Companies will be resolved through arbitration in the PRC, although these disputes do not include claims arising under the United States federal securities law and thus do not prevent you from pursuing claims under the United States federal securities law. The legal environment in the PRC is not as developed as in the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could further limit our ability to enforce these VIE agreements, through arbitration, litigation, and other legal proceedings in the PRC, which could limit our ability to exert effective control over the Sentage Operating Companies. Furthermore, these contracts may not be enforceable in the PRC if the PRC government authorities or courts take a view that such contracts contravene PRC laws and regulations or are otherwise not enforceable for public policy reasons. In the event we are unable to enforce these VIE agreements, we may not be able to exert effective control over the Sentage Operating Companies, and our ability to conduct our business through the operating entities may be materially and adversely affected.

 

Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of any new PRC laws, rules and regulations relating to foreign investment and how they may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.

 

On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress promulgated the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the three existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The existing foreign-invested enterprises, or FIEs, established prior to the effectiveness of the Foreign Investment Law may keep their corporate forms within five years. The Foreign Investment Law stipulates that China implements the management system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list to foreign investment, and the government generally will not expropriate foreign investment, except under certain special circumstances, in which case it will provide fair and reasonable compensation to foreign investors. Foreign investors are barred from investing in prohibited industries on the negative list and must comply with the specified requirements when investing in restricted industries on such list. As of the date of this annual report, according to our PRC counsel, Dentons, our business and industry are not on the negative list, and our VIE structure is not implemented to avoid direct foreign investment in the prohibited fields, but to protect the Company, its subsidiaries and VIEs from uncertainties and risks related to China’s policy on foreign investments in Sentage Operating Companies’ line of businesses. On December 26, 2019, the State Council promulgated the Implementing Regulations of the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and further requires that FIEs and domestic enterprises be treated equally with respect to policy making and implementation.

 

Pursuant to the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investment” means any foreign investor’s direct or indirect investment in the PRC, including: (i) establishing FIEs in the PRC either individually or jointly with other investors; (ii) obtaining stock shares, stock equity, property shares, other similar interests in Chinese domestic enterprises; (iii) investing in new project in the PRC either individually or jointly with other investors; and (iv) making investment through other means provided by laws, administrative regulations or State Council of the PRC (the “State Council”) provisions. Although the Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify the contractual arrangements, such as our contractual arrangement described in “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure,” as a form of foreign investment, it contains a catch-all provision under the definition of “foreign investment,” which includes investments made by foreign investors in China through other means stipulated by laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council without elaboration on the meaning of “other means.” However, the Implementing Regulations of the Foreign Investment Law still do not specify whether foreign investment includes contractual arrangements.

 

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It is possible that future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council may regard contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, at which time it will be uncertain whether the contractual arrangements will be deemed to be in violation of the foreign investment access requirements and how the above-mentioned contractual arrangements will be handled. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the contractual arrangements and the business of our operating entities will not be materially and adversely affected in the future due to changes in the PRC laws and regulations. Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council mandate further actions to be completed by companies with existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to the timely completion of such actions. In the extreme case scenario, we may be required to unwind the contractual arrangements and/or dispose of the VIEs and their subsidiaries, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial conditions and results of operations.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders may have potential conflicts of interest with us. These shareholders may not act in the best interest of Sentage Holdings or may breach, or cause Sentage Operating Companies to breach, the existing VIE Agreements we have with them and the Sentage Operating Companies, which would have a material and adverse effect on our ability to effectively control the Sentage Operating Companies and receive economic benefits from them. For example, the shareholders may be able to cause our agreements with the Sentage Operating Companies to be performed in a manner adverse to us by, among other things, failing to remit payments due under the VIE Agreements to us on a timely basis. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these shareholders will act in the best interests of us or such conflicts will be resolved in our favor.

 

Currently, we do not have any arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders and us, except that we could exercise our purchase option under the exclusive purchase option agreements with these shareholders to request them to transfer all of their equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies to a PRC entity or individual designated by us, to the extent permitted by PRC law. If we cannot resolve any conflicts of interest or disputes between us and those individuals, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which may materially disrupt our business. There is also substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceeding.

 

Because we rely on the exclusive business cooperation agreement with each of the Sentage Operating Companies for our revenue, the termination of this agreement would severely and detrimentally affect our continuing business viability under our current corporate structure; and

 

We are a holding company and a substantial part of our business operations are conducted through the VIE Agreements. As a result, we currently rely on the assumption that we will continue to generate revenue from dividends payments from Sentage WFOE upon its receipt of payments from each of the Sentage Operating Companies pursuant to the exclusive business cooperation agreement. The term of the exclusive business cooperation agreement remains effective unless the agreement is explicitly terminated by Sentage WFOE through written form or other means specified therein. None of the Sentage Operating Companies has the right to terminate that agreement unilaterally. Because neither we nor our subsidiaries own equity interests of the Sentage Operating Companies, the termination of the exclusive business cooperation agreement would sever our ability to continue receiving payments from the Sentage Operating Companies under our current holding company structure. While we are currently not aware of any event or reason that may cause the business cooperation agreement to terminate, we cannot assure you that such an event or reason will not occur in the future. In the event that the exclusive business cooperation agreement is terminated, this may have a severe and detrimental effect on our viability under our current corporate structure, which, in turn, may affect the value of your investment.

 

Because we are a Cayman Island company and all of our business is conducted in the PRC, you may be unable to bring an action against us or our officers and directors or to enforce any judgment you may obtain.

 

We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands and conduct our operations primarily in China. Substantially all of our assets are located outside of the United States. In addition, all of our directors and officers reside outside of the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States in the event that you believe we have violated your rights, either under United States federal or state securities laws or otherwise, or if you have a claim against us. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may not allow you to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. See “Enforceability of Civil Liabilities.”  

 

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The VIE Agreements among Sentage WFOE and each of the Sentage Operating Companies may result in adverse tax consequences.

 

PRC laws and regulations emphasize the requirement of an arm’s length basis for transfer pricing arrangements between related parties. The laws and regulations also require enterprises with related party transactions to prepare transfer pricing documentation to demonstrate the basis for determining pricing, the computation methodology, and detailed explanations. Related party arrangements and transactions may be subject to challenge or tax inspection by the PRC tax authorizes

 

Under a tax inspection, as advised by our PRC counsel, Dentons, if our transfer pricing arrangements among Sentage WFOE and each of the Sentage Operating Companies are judged to be tax avoidance vehicles, or related documentation does not meet the requirements, Sentage WFOE and each of the Sentage Operating Companies may be subject to material adverse tax consequences, such as transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could result in a reduction, for PRC tax purpose, of adjustments recorded by Sentage WFOE, which could adversely affect us by (i) increasing Sentage Operating Companies’ tax liabilities without reducing our subsidiaries’ tax liabilities, which could further result in interest being levied to us for unpaid taxes; (ii) limiting the ability of our PRC companies to maintain preferential tax treatment and other financial incentives; or (iii) the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment fees and other penalties on a Sentage Operating Company for the adjusted but unpaid taxes according to the applicable regulations.

 

We rely on the approvals, certificates and business licenses held by the Sentage Operating Companies and any deterioration of the relationship between Sentage WFOE and any of the Sentage Operating Companies could materially and adversely affect our overall business operations.

 

Pursuant to the VIE Agreements, a substantial part of our business in the PRC will be undertaken on the basis of the approvals, certificates, business licenses, and other requisite licenses held by each of the Sentage Operating Companies. There is no assurance that all the Sentage Operating Companies will be able to renew their approvals, licenses or certificates when their terms expire with substantially similar terms as the ones they currently hold.

 

Further, our relationship with each of the Sentage Operating Companies is governed by the VIE Agreements, which are intended to provide us, through our indirect ownership of Sentage WFOE, with effective control over the business operations of each of the Sentage Operating Companies. However, the VIE Agreements may not be effective in providing control over the applications for and maintenance of the licenses required for our business operations. Each of the Sentage Operating Companies could violate the VIE Agreements, go bankrupt, suffer from difficulties in its business, or otherwise become unable to perform its obligations under the VIE Agreements and, as a result, our operations, reputation, business, and stock price could be severely harmed.

 

 If any of our operating entities becomes the subject of a bankruptcy or liquidation proceeding, we may lose the ability to use and enjoy assets held by such entity, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We currently conduct our operations in China through contractual arrangements with the Sentage Operating Companies and the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders. As part of these arrangements, most of our assets that are important to the operation of our business are held by the Sentage Operating Companies. If any of these entities goes bankrupt and all or part of their assets become subject to liens or rights of third-party creditors, we may be unable to continue some or all of our business activities, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If any of our operating entities undergoes a voluntary or involuntary liquidation proceeding, its equity owners or unrelated third-party creditors may claim rights relating to some or all of these assets, which would hinder our ability to operate our business and could materially and adversely affect our business, our ability to generate revenue and the market price of our Ordinary Shares.

 

PRC regulation of loans and direct investment by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or prevent us from using financing activities to make loans or additional capital contributions to the PRC operating entities and operating entities, which could harm our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

 

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As an offshore holding company of the PRC Operating Entities, we may (i) make loans to the PRC Operating Entities, (ii) make additional capital contributions to the PRC Operating Entities, (iii) establish new PRC subsidiaries and make capital contributions to these new PRC subsidiaries, and (iv) acquire offshore entities with business operations in China in an offshore transaction. However, most of these uses are subject to PRC regulations and approvals. For example:

 

  loans by us to our wholly-owned subsidiary in China, which is a foreign-invested enterprise, cannot exceed statutory limits and must be registered with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange of the PRC, or SAFE, or its local counterparts; and

 

  loans by us to our operating entities, which are domestic PRC entities, over a certain threshold must be approved by the relevant government authorities and must also be registered with SAFE or its local counterparts.

 

In addition, on August 29, 2008, SAFE promulgated Circular 142, a notice regulating the conversion by a foreign-invested company of its capital contribution in foreign currency into Renminbi. The notice requires that the capital of a foreign-invested company settled in Renminbi converted from foreign currencies shall be used only for purposes within the business scope as approved by the applicable governmental authorities. Such loan may not be used for equity investments within the PRC unless such activity is set forth in the business scope or is otherwise permissible under PRC laws or regulations. In addition, SAFE strengthened its oversight of the flow and use of such capital of a foreign-invested company settled in Renminbi converted from foreign currencies. The use of such Renminbi capital may not be changed without SAFE’s approval, and may not in any case be used to repay Renminbi loans if the proceeds of such loans have not otherwise been used. Violations of Circular 142 will result in severe penalties including heavy fines. In order to further reform the foreign exchange administration system, SAFE issued the Circular on Reform of Administration Model of the Settlement of Foreign Currency Capital of Foreign-Invested Enterprises on March 30, 2015, or Circular 19, which took effect from June 1, 2015 and replaced the SAFE Circular 142. Circular 19 allows foreign invested enterprises to settle their foreign exchange capital on a discretionary basis according to the actual needs of their business operations and provides procedures by which a foreign-invested company may convert and use equity investments made in foreign currencies. Circular 19 also reiterates, however, the principle that Renminbi converted from the foreign currency-denominated capital of a foreign-invested company may not be used, either directly or indirectly, for purposes beyond its business scope.

 

Furthermore, SAFE has promulgated Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Policies for Reforming and Regulating the Control over Foreign Exchange Settlement under the Capital Account, on June 9, 2016, hereinafter referred to as Circular 16, which emphasizes the unified policies for discretionary settlement of foreign exchange receipts under the capital account by domestic institutions. Circular 16 also reiterated the principle that Renminbi converted from the foreign currency-denominated capital of a foreign-invested company may not be used, either directly or indirectly, for purposes beyond the company’s business scope. Circular 16 requires SAFE’s local counterparts to unify and regulate the control over discretionary settlement and payment of foreign exchange receipts under the capital account, with the purpose of better serving and facilitating domestic enterprises’ needs in business and capital operations. Circular 16 stipulates that a domestic enterprise, when using its capital account foreign exchange income and Renminbi funds obtained from foreign exchange settlements, shall abide by the principle of truthfulness and only apply such funds for use in its own operations, and will comply with the following: (1) such receipts and funds shall not, directly or indirectly, be used for the expenditures beyond the business scope of domestic institutions or the expenditures prohibited by laws and regulations of the State; (2) unless otherwise provided, such receipts and funds shall not, directly or indirectly, be used for investment in securities or other investments than banks’ principal-secured products; (3) such receipts and funds shall not be used for the granting of loans to non-affiliated enterprises, with the exception that such granting is expressly permitted in the business license; and (4) such receipts and funds shall not be used for construction or purchase of real estate for purpose other than self-use (subject to certain exceptions for real estate enterprises).

 

We expect that PRC laws and regulations may continue to limit our use of proceeds from financing sources. We cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain these government registrations or approvals on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans or capital contributions by us to our entities in China. If we fail to receive such registrations or approvals, our ability to capitalize our PRC operations may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

 

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Risks Related to Our Business and Industries

 

We have a limited operating history, which makes it difficult to evaluate our future prospects.

 

Through Sentage Operating Companies, we launched our (i) consumer loan repayment and collection management business in 2015, (ii) loan recommendation business in June 2019, and (iii) prepaid payment network business in August 2019. We only have a limited operating history. Members of our management team have been working together only for a short period of time and are still in the development period. They may still be in the process of exploring approaches to running our company and reaching consensus among themselves, which may affect the efficiency and results of our operation.

 

We have limited experience in most aspects of our business operation, such as service and product offerings, credit assessment, risk management, and the development of long-term relationships with borrowers, funding partners, and other business partners. As our businesses develop or in response to competition, we may continue to introduce new products and services, adjust our existing product and service profile, or make changes to our business operation in general. Any significant change to our business model may have a material and adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations. It is therefore difficult to effectively assess our future prospects.

 

Furthermore, in addition to our existing product services and offerings, we may also from time to time explore other growth opportunities, such as broadening our customer base across all three business lines and seek strategic partnerships to enter new markets that are complementary to our existing business lines. These initiatives may have different impacts on our operation, including cannibalization of existing services. Failure to manage our expansion may have an unexpected material effect on our financial condition and results of operation.

 

The industries we are in are still evolving, which makes it difficult to effectively assess our future prospects.

 

The industries in which we operate through Sentage Operating Companies, including the consumer loan repayment and collection management industry, loan recommendation industry, and the third-party payment services industry in the PRC are still in evolving stages. The regulatory framework for these industries remains uncertain for the foreseeable future. Many market players in these industries, including us, are inexperienced in responding to changes of market situations effectively and keeping the growth of business steadily when the industries enter a different stage. We may not be able to sustain our historical growth rate in the future.

 

You should consider our business and prospects in light of the risks and challenges we encounter or may encounter given the rapidly evolving markets in which we operate and our limited operating history. These risks and challenges include our ability to, among other things:

 

  offer competitive product and services;

 

  broaden our prospective customer bases across three business lines;

 

  increase the utilization of our products and services by existing customers as well as new customers;

 

  maintain and enhance our relationship and business collaboration with our partners, including, but not limited to, developing cooperative relationships with new funding partners to provide borrowers with sufficient, diversified, and cost-effective funding options and maintaining strategic partnerships with NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, or NetsUnion;

 

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  navigate a complex and evolving regulatory environment in China;

 

  improve our operational efficiency;

 

  attract, retain and motivate talented employees to support our business growth;

 

  enhance our technology infrastructure to support the growth of our business, maintain the security of our systems, and safeguard the confidentiality of the information provided and utilized across our systems;

 

  navigate economic conditions and fluctuation; and\or

 

  defend ourselves against legal and regulatory actions, such as actions involving intellectual property or privacy claims.

 

The financial sector in China is subject to changes in regulations. Non-compliance with new financial regulations or new licensing requirements may materially affect our business operations and financial results.

 

The Company’s operations are subject to evolving regulatory oversight by the Chinese governmental and local regulatory authorities. As the Chinese financial sector grows, applicable laws, rules, and regulations are evolving. Any changes in laws and regulations applicable to our operations may increase our cost of compliance or may force us to revise our business plan or cease some aspects of our operations. If we fail to continuously comply with applicable rules and regulations, we may face fines or restrictions on our business activities, or even a suspension of all or part of our business operations. Furthermore, the Chinese governmental and local authorities may institute new licensing requirements applicable to our current or future operations. If such licensing requirements were introduced, we cannot assure you that we would be able to obtain any newly required license promptly, or at all, which could materially and adversely affect our business.

 

The wind-down of our past engagements in the consumer loan repayment and collection management business affected our business operation and financial performance, and we may not be able to expand our customer base by collaborating with third-party financial institutions as we have planned.

 

Our existing loan repayment and collection management engagements were completed by the end of 2021, and no related revenue was generated in fiscal year 2022. With a team of experienced loan management professionals, the Company plans to continue its consumer loan repayment and collection management business by expanding its client base and collaborating with third-party financial institutions. However, we cannot guarantee the success of such business plan. Although we believe that we can engage new clients and continue our consumer loan repayment and collection management business successfully, there can be no assurance that such will be the case and we have not been able to execute our plan as of the date of this annual report.

 

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We operate a socially sensitive business. Public complaints against the consumer loan repayment and collection management industry generally or against us in particular may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

The general public may have certain misconceptions about the consumer loan repayment and collection management industry, such as the perceived use of unlawful means to collect debts. Given the growth of collection service providers in China, the contentious nature associated with debt collection, the unpredictability of borrower behavior, and the inflow of small-scale market participants with weak compliance protocols, the consumer loan repayment and collection management industry is subject to potentially higher and unpredictable government scrutiny. Such development could subject our operations to regulatory restrictions, government investigations, administrative fines, and increased compliance requirements. As a result, our business and our ability to generate revenue could be materially and adversely affected.

 

Furthermore, negative publicity about our industry and business creates the possibility of heightened attention from the public, the media and government regulators. From time to time, complaints or allegations against us, regardless of their veracity, may result in negative publicity, which in turn could result in government inquiry or reputational harm. There is no assurance that we would not become a target for public scrutiny in the future or such scrutiny and public exposure would not severely damage our reputation, business, and prospects. Furthermore, we rely heavily on our reputation to develop and maintain client relationships. Our prospective clients, including commercial banks, may refuse to work with us if we suffer from a tarnished reputation, since any perceived or actual violation of laws and regulations by service providers could increase our clients’ regulatory risks. As such, our business is particularly vulnerable to negative media coverage and negative publicity.

 

In addition, our directors and management may become subject to scrutiny by the media and the public regarding our business, which may result in unverified, inaccurate or misleading information about our directors and management being reported by the press. Negative publicity about our directors or management, even if untrue or inaccurate, may harm our reputation.

 

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If the scale and growth of our loan recommendation business are restrained by PRC laws and regulations, our business, financial condition, and prospects would be materially and adversely affected.

 

As part of our business model, we provide recommendation services to funding partners under our loan recommendation business, which allow funding partners to access borrowers who have passed our risk assessment. The funding partners make the final credit decision based on their own credit assessment and are also in charge of funding and servicing the loans. See “Business—Loan Recommendation” for details.

 

Under the current PRC regulatory regime, the legal definition and regulatory principles of loan recommendation services and specific regulatory requirements regarding the services have not been clarified in any relevant promulgated laws or regulations. However, in light of the evolving and developing nature of the regulatory regime regarding loan recommendation services in China, it is probable that the Chinese government will adopt regulations and policies that may temporarily restrain the scale and growth of our loan recommendation services in the future. For more details, see “Regulations—Regulations on Loan Recommendation Services.”

 

Conditions that negatively impact the real estate market in China may affect the loan amount borrowers may receive from funding partners, reduce demand for the operating entities’ loan recommendation business, and adversely impact their business, results of operations, and financial condition.

 

We only recommend borrowers who are able to collateralize properties evaluated and approved by our dedicated team of experienced professionals. The borrowers who have used our loan recommendation services are primarily owners of residential properties in Shanghai City, China. Accordingly, the success of our business is closely tied to the conditions of the real estate market segment in which these borrowers are located. Various changes in real estate conditions may impact this market segment. Any negative trends in such real estate conditions may affect the loan amount borrowers may receive from funding partners, the demand for our recommendation services, the accuracy of our property valuation and, as a result, adversely affect our results of operations. These conditions include:

 

  oversupply of, or a reduction in demand for, residential properties;

 

  zoning, rent control or stabilization laws, or other laws regulating the real estate market segment;

 

  changes in the national and local tax code related to real estate;

 

  increased operating costs, including increased real property taxes, maintenance, insurance, and utilities costs; and

 

  potential liability under environmental and other laws.

 

Any or all of these factors could negatively impact the real estate market segment and, as a result, reduce the demand for loans provided by our funding partners or the terms on which they are able to make loans and, as a result, materially and adversely affect us.

 

Fraudulent activity could negatively impact our operating results, brand, and reputation, and cause the use of our loan recommendation services to decrease.

 

We are subject to the risk of fraudulent activity associated with borrowers and parties handling borrower or funding partner information. Our resources, technologies and fraud detection tools may be insufficient to accurately detect and prevent fraud. Even if we identify a fraudulent borrower and reject her loan recommendation application, such borrower may re-apply by using fraudulent information. We may fail to identify such behavior, despite our measures to verify personal identification information provided by borrowers. Furthermore, we may not be able to recoup funds underlying transactions made in connection with fraudulent activities. A significant increase in fraudulent activities could negatively impact our brands and reputation, discourage funding partners from collaborating with us, reduce the total amount of loans originated by funding partners, and lead us to take additional steps to reduce fraud risk, which could increase our costs. High profile fraudulent activity could even lead to regulatory intervention and may divert our management’s attention and cause us to incur additional expenses and costs. Although we have not experienced any material business or reputational harm as a result of fraudulent activities in the past, we cannot rule out the possibility that fraudulent activities may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations in the future.

 

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We rely on our risk management model in assessing the creditworthiness of borrowers, the value of collateralized property, and risks associated with loans. If our risk management approach is ineffective, or if we otherwise fail or are perceived to fail to manage the impact of default, our reputation and market share would be materially and adversely affected, which would severely impact our business and results of operations.

 

Our ability to attract borrowers and funding partners to, and build trust in, our loan recommendation business is significantly dependent on our ability to effectively evaluate borrowers’ credit profiles, the likelihood of default, and the value of borrowers’ collateralized properties. We have devised and implemented a systematic credit assessment model and an asset-driven, disciplined risk management approach to minimize a borrower’s default risk and mitigate the impact of default. Specifically, our assessment model and risk management capabilities not only enable us to select high-quality borrowers whose financial conditions and personal background are satisfactory to us, but also protect our funding partners against lending more than they might be able to recover in the case of default. For details on our credit assessment and risk management approach, see “Business—Loan Recommendation—Credit Assessment and Risk Management.”

 

During the risk management process, appraisals are obtained on the collateral underlying each prospective mortgage. Although we have adopted internal measures to guide the appraisal process and conducted internal review for each appraisal opinion, the quality of these appraisals may vary widely in accuracy and consistency. The appraiser may feel pressure to provide an appraisal in the amount necessary to enable funding partners to make the loan, whether or not the value of the property justifies such an appraised value. Inaccurate or inflated appraisals may result in an increase in the severity of losses on the mortgage loans, which could have a material and adverse effect on our reputation, business, and results of operations.

 

There can be no assurance that our risk management measures will allow us to identify or appropriately assess whether the interest and principal payments due on a loan will be repaid when due, or at all, or whether the value of the mortgaged property will be sufficient to otherwise provide for recovery of such amounts. Our risk management measures are narrower than some of our competitors because we give primary consideration to the adequacy of the property as collateral rather than focusing on the personal income of the borrower. For example, while we have adopted a multifactor selection process, there is no minimum credit score that a potential borrower must have in order to obtain a recommendation from us. Although we believe that this asset-driven approach is one of our competitive advantages, it may result in higher delinquency and default rates than those experienced by our competitors with broader risk management measures and/or those who require minimum credit scores. Furthermore, if we are unable to identify delinquency, default, and other fraud risks of the borrower through our risk management measures, although we are not legally responsible for such risks, they may still expose us to reputational harm, reduce our industry credibility, and adversely affect our business.

 

On a case by case basis, our in-house credit assessment team may determine that a prospective borrower that does not strictly qualify under our internal guidelines warrants a recommendation exception, based upon compensating factors. Compensating factors may include, but are not limited to, higher borrower net worth or liquidity, stable employment, longer length of time in business and length of time owning the property. If our funding partners lend loans to these borrowers recommended by us, it may result in a higher number of delinquencies and defaults.

 

We also rely on analytical models (both models developed by us and those supplied by third parties) and information and data (both generated by us and supplied by third parties). Models and data will be used to make projections on borrowers’ ability to repay loans and estimate value of collateralized properties. When models and data prove to be incorrect, misleading or incomplete, any decisions made in reliance thereon expose us to potential risks. Some of the analytical models we use, such as mortgage default models, are predictive in nature. The use of predictive models has inherent risks. For example, such models may incorrectly forecast future behavior, leading to volatility in results. In addition, the predictive models used by us may differ substantially from those models used by our competitors.

 

If any of the foregoing were to occur in the future, our funding partners may try to rescind their affected investments or decide not to invest in loans, or borrowers may seek to revise the terms of their loans or reduce the use of our services, and our reputation and market share would be materially and adversely affected, which would severely impact our business and results of operations.

 

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We rely on our risk management team to establish and execute our risk management policies. If our risk management team or key members of such team were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, our business may be severely disrupted.

 

We rely on our risk management team to continuously adjust our property valuation method, which is the center of our risk management policies. We rely on our risk management team to spot and fix potential errors and flaws in our property valuation method. Meanwhile, the primary mortgage market in China changes fast and we may need to adjust our risk management principles from time to time to minimize borrowers’ default rate while securing a stable increase in the number of borrowers and satisfying returns for our funding partners. We rely on our risk management team to closely monitor the change in the market and our business and update our risk management principles accordingly. If our risk management team or key members of such team were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may have to incur additional time and monetary cost to find a replacement to our risk management team that fits us, and our result of business operation and financial conditions may be adversely and severely impacted.

  

Credit and other information we receive from third parties about borrowers may be inaccurate or may not accurately reflect the borrower’s creditworthiness, which may compromise the accuracy of our credit assessment.

 

For credit assessment purposes, we obtain certain information of the prospective borrowers from prospective borrowers directly and some information from third parties. For more details on our information collection measures, see “Business—Loan Recommendation—Credit Assessment and Risk Management—Information Collection, Verification, and Fraud Detection.” Such information may not be complete, accurate, or reliable. Our credit assessment may not reflect that particular borrower’s actual creditworthiness because the assessment may be based on outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate borrower information. We currently cannot accurately determine whether borrowers have outstanding loans at the time they apply for loans through the use of recommendation services even though we have adopted compliance processes. This creates the risk that a borrower may borrow money through our services in order to pay off loans they have obtained through other funding sources and vice versa. If a borrower incurs additional debt before fully repaying any loan such borrower takes out with our funding partner, the additional debt may impair the ability of that borrower to make repayments on her loan with the funding partner. In addition, the additional debt may adversely affect the borrower’s creditworthiness generally and could result in the financial distress or insolvency of the borrower. As a result, we may incur reputational harm and lose potential or existing business opportunities with our funding partners.

 

Meanwhile, if the price of the quality data increases, we may not get access to the quality information at the same cost in the future. We may be forced to conduct credit assessment with less quality data or pay more for quality information in the future, which could adversely affect our business, financial conditions, and result of the operation.

 

If we are unable to maintain or increase the overall loan volume, if we are unable to retain existing borrowers or attract new borrowers, or if we fail to meet the financial needs of borrowers as they evolve and are therefore unable to capture their long-term growth potential, our loan recommendation business and results of operations will be adversely affected.

 

To maintain or grow our loan recommendation business, we must continuously increase the loan volume by retaining current borrowers and attracting additional borrowers. We intend to continue to dedicate significant resources to our borrower acquisition efforts. If there are insufficient qualified loan requests, our funding partners may consider withdrawing from our collaboration, which may result in borrowers being unable to obtain capital through our recommendation services and turning to other sources for their borrowing needs.

 

The overall loan volume may be affected by several factors, including our brand recognition and reputation, the interest rates offered to borrowers relative to the market rates, the efficiency of our credit assessment process, availability of our funding partners, the macroeconomic environment, and other factors. In connection with the introduction of new services or response to general economic conditions, we may also impose more stringent borrower qualifications to ensure the quality of our recommended borrowers, which may negatively affect the growth of loan volume.

 

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If any of our current user acquisition channels become less effective, if we are unable to continue to use any of these channels or if we are not successful in using new channels, we may not be able to attract new borrowers in a cost-effective manner or convert potential borrowers into active borrowers, and may even lose our existing borrowers to our competitors. If we are unable to attract qualified borrowers or if borrowers do not continue to use our recommendation services at the current rates, we might be unable to increase loan volume as we expect, and our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

Some borrowers may use our loan recommendation services through business contacts, which could expose us to risks associated with such third parties.

 

Some borrowers are referred to us after receiving and reviewing the information provided by a third party. We do not verify, validate or modify any information provided by third-party websites and, while we do not believe we would have liability for such information, it is possible that an unsatisfied borrower could bring claims against us based on such information. Such claims could be costly and time-consuming to defend and would distract management’s attention from the operation of our business and create negative publicity, which could harm our business and affect our reputation. In addition, if the business operation of such third parties deteriorate, the unsatisfied borrowers may associate our company with such third parties, which could harm our business and negatively affect our reputation.

  

If we fail to maintain collaboration with our funding partners, our reputation, results of operations, and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.

 

Our funding partners typically agree to provide funding to borrowers who meet their predetermined criteria, subject to their credit approval process. While borrowers’ loan requests are usually approved if they fall within the parameters set and agreed upon by us and our funding partners, our funding partners may implement additional requirements in their approval process outside of our capacity to monitor and control. Thus, there is no assurance that our funding partners could provide reliable, sustainable and adequate funding, either because they could decline to fund borrowers recommended by us or decline to continue consider qualified borrowers recommended by us.

 

In addition, if PRC laws and regulations impose more restrictions on our collaboration with funding partners, these funding partners will become more selective in choosing business partners for recommendation services, which may drive up the competition among loan recommendation service providers. If our funding partners, which mainly consist of national and regional banks, are restricted from funding loans to borrowers recommended by us in any sense, it may adversely affect our results of operations. Furthermore, if the PRC government issues any laws and regulations that restrict or prohibit our collaboration with our funding partners, our collaboration 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.

 

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If our loan recommendation services do not achieve sufficient market acceptance, our financial results and competitive position will be harmed.

 

To achieve market acceptance of our recommendation services, it is essential for us to maintain and enhance our ability to match and recommend suitable mortgage products for our borrowers and the effectiveness of our credit assessment and property valuation process. If we are unable to respond to changes in borrower preference and deliver satisfactory and distinguishable borrower experience, existing borrowers and prospective borrowers may prefer services provided by competitors or obtain mortgage products directly from funding providers. As a result, loan recommendation applications will decrease, and our services and solutions will be less attractive to funding partners, and our business, financial performance, and prospects will be materially and adversely affected.

 

Our loan recommendation services could fail to attain sufficient market acceptance for many reasons, including:

 

  borrowers may not find the features of available mortgage loan products, such as the prices and credit limits, competitive or appealing;

 

  we may fail to predict market demand accurately and recommend mortgage products that meet this demand in a timely fashion;

 

  borrowers and funding partners using our services may not like, find useful, or agree with the changes we make;

 

  there may be defects, errors, or failures in our credit assessment and risk management process;

 

  there may be negative publicity about our recommendation services;

 

  regulatory authorities may take the view that our existing and new recommendation services 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 loan recommendation services 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.

 

Fluctuations in interest rates could negatively affect our loan origination volume.

 

Most of the mortgages provided by our funding partners are issued with fixed interest rates. Fluctuations in the interest rate environment may discourage funding partners to provide loans for borrowers recommended by us, which may adversely affect our business. Meanwhile, if our funding partners fail to respond to the fluctuations in interest rates in a timely manner, the available mortgage products may become less attractive to borrowers.

 

Our success depends on the ability to develop products and services to address the rapidly evolving market for third-party payment services, which include prepaid payment network services.

 

As we offer prepaid payment network services, which is a subcategory of third-party payment services, we expect that new products, services and technologies applicable to the third-party payment services industry in which we operate will continue to emerge and evolve. Rapid and significant technological changes continue to shape such industry, including developments in ecommerce, mobile commerce, and proximity payment devices. Other potential changes, such as developments in big data analytics and artificial intelligence, are on the horizon as well. Similarly, there is rapid innovation in the products and services to facilitate business operations, including technology-enabled business services. These new products, services and technologies may be superior to, impair, or render obsolete the payment services we currently offer, or the technologies we currently use to provide them.

 

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Incorporating new technologies into our payment services may require substantial expenditures and considerable time, and we may not be successful in realizing a return on these development efforts in a timely manner or at all. There can be no assurance that any new products or services we develop and offer to our customers will achieve significant commercial acceptance. Our ability to develop new products and services may be inhibited by industry-wide standards, laws and regulations, payment networks, resistance to change from customers, or third parties’ intellectual property rights. The planned timing for introduction of new products and services is subject to risks and uncertainties. We cannot assure you that any of our new payment products and services will achieve widespread market acceptance and generate incremental revenue. Moreover, actual timing may differ materially from original plans. Unexpected technical, distribution or other problems could delay or prevent the introduction of our new products and services. If we are unable to provide enhancements and new features for our prepaid payment network services or keep pace with rapid technological developments and evolving industry standards, our business, results of operations, and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected.

 

Market, economic and other conditions in China may adversely affect the demand for our products and services.

 

Payment services depend upon the overall level of economic conditions and consumer spending in China. A sustained deterioration in the general economic conditions in China, including any turmoil in the economy, reductions in household disposable income, distresses in financial markets, or reduced market liquidity, as well as increased government intervention, may reduce the number of our customers. Small-to-medium size business owners, in particular, are more susceptible to adverse changes in market, economic and regulatory conditions and the level of consumption in China. As a result, the demand for our existing and new payment services could decrease, and our financial performance could be adversely affected.

 

Adverse market trends may affect our financial performance. Such trends may include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  fluctuations in consumer demand, which reflect the prevailing economic and demographic conditions;

 

  low levels of consumer and business confidence associated with recessionary environments which may in turn reduce consumer spending;

 

  financial institutions restricting credit lines to cardholders or limiting the issuance of new cards to mitigate cardholder defaults; and

 

  government intervention and regulation, and/or reduction in government investments in our customers, and that may reduce their desire to use our products and services.

 

We are subject to extensive regulations in the third-party payment services industry. Non-compliance with or changes to the regulations or licensing regimes may materially affect our business operations and financial results.

 

As prepaid payment network services is a subcategory third-party payment services, we are subject to the regulations applicable to the third-party payment services industry, which is implemented and monitored by several regulatory authorities, such as the PBOC, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (“CSRC”), the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (“SAFE”), the National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (“CBIRC”). There are laws and regulations that cover different aspects of the industry including entry into such businesses, scope of permitted activities, licenses and permits for various operations and pricing. Major laws and regulations that govern our prepaid payment network business include or may in the future include those relating to payment services, such as payment processing and settlement, money transfer, foreign exchange, anti-money laundering and financial consumer protection, insurance and financial services. See “Regulations—Regulations on Prepaid Payment Network Services.”

 

As the third-party payment services industry in China is emerging and evolving, the applicable laws, rules, and regulations are continually developing and evolving. Any changes in the relevant rules and regulations may result in an increase in our cost of compliance or might restrict our business activities. If we fail to continuously comply with the applicable rules, regulations, we may face fines or restrictions on our business activities, or even a suspension or revocation of some or all of our licenses that allow us to carry on our business activities. Furthermore, the PRC government may institute new licensing regimes covering our current and future services offerings. If such a licensing regime were introduced, we cannot assure you that we would be able to obtain any newly required license in a timely manner, or at all, which could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.

 

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Our efforts to expand our payment service offerings may not succeed and may reduce our revenue growth.

 

While we intend to continue to broaden the scope of our payment services, we may not be successful in deriving any significant revenue from such efforts. Failure to do so may inhibit the growth of our business, as well as increase the vulnerability of our core payments business to competitors who offer a full suite of products and services. Furthermore, we may have limited or no experience in our newly expanded markets. We cannot assure you that any of our new payment services will be widely used. These offerings may present new technology, operational, and other challenges. If we experience service disruptions, failures, or other issues, our business may be materially and adversely affected. Our newly expanded business operations may not recoup our investments in a timely manner or at all. If any of these events were to occur, it could damage our reputation, limit our growth, and materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

If we are unable to provide customers with satisfactory experience, or otherwise fail to maintain or enlarge our customer base, the volume of transactions processed via our prepaid payment network services may decline and our results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

We believe that customer base is the core building block of our prepaid payment network business, and our ability to provide customers with satisfactory experience is critical to our success and continuous growth in revenue and customer base. If we fail to deliver satisfactory and distinct user experience, we may lose our customers and business partners, resulting in a decrease in the volume of transactions processed via our payment services, and our results of operations may be adversely affected. Our ability to provide customers with satisfactory experience is subject to a number of factors, including our ability to provide effective services, our ability to continuously innovate and improve our services to meet customer needs, and our access to and cooperation with our business partners. We may lose customers and revenue, and our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected if we fail to provide satisfactory experience to our customers.

 

We are dependent on NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, and any changes to its rules or practices could harm our prepaid payment network business. 

 

According to the People’s Bank of China, or the PBOC, after June 30, 2018, third-party payment service providers, which include prepaid payment network service providers, are required to channel internet payments via NetsUnion, rather than banks’ payment gateways. As a result, we rely on NetsUnion to process transactions on our behalf. However, NetsUnion may fail or refuse to process transactions adequately, may breach its agreement with us, or may refuse to renew the agreement on commercially reasonable terms. It may also take actions that downgrade the functionality of our services, impose additional costs or requirements on us, or give preferential treatment to competitive services, including those of its own. If we are unsuccessful in establishing or maintaining mutually beneficial relationship with NetsUnion, our business may be harmed, as there is no alternative to NetsUnion to furnish the same services.

 

NetsUnion requires us to comply with its network operating rules, including special operating rules that apply to us as a provider of payment services to customers. These rules are set by NetsUnion, which has the discretion as to interpretation and alteration. If there is any interpretation of, or alteration to the network rules that are inconsistent with the way we currently operate, we may be required to make changes to our business operation. This could be costly or difficult to implement. If we fail to make such changes or otherwise resolve the issue with NetsUnion, we could be fined or prohibited from processing prepaid cards. In addition, violations of the network rules or failure to maintain good relationships with NetsUnion could increase our costs or otherwise harm our prepaid payment network business.

 

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Our current risk management system and internal control policies and procedures may not be able to exhaustively address or mitigate all risks to which we are exposed through our prepaid payment network business. 

 

We are subject to various kinds of risks, including business risks, operational risks and financial risks. Currently, we rely on our data driven risk management system, and internal control policies and procedures to address and mitigate these risks. See “Business—Prepaid Payment Network Services— Risk Management and Internal Control.” Our limited experience in providing prepaid payment network services may render risk management less effective in addressing some of the risks, exacerbating our risk exposure. Additionally, our data-driven risk management system and internal control policies and procedures may not be able to exhaustively mitigate our exposure to these risks. We cannot assure you that our assessment and monitoring of risks will always be sufficient. Any insufficiency in our risk management system and internal control policies and procedures may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition.

 

Fraudulent and fictitious transactions, and misconduct committed by our employees, customers, and other third parties may pose challenges to our risk management capabilities, and failure to manage the related risks may adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

As our prepaid payment network business grows and we diversify our service offerings, we may be subject to liability for fraudulent payment transactions by customers, in particular, fraudulent chargeback and use of counterfeit cards. Fraud or other misconduct committed by our employees, customers, or other third parties may be difficult to detect or prevent. Such fraud or misconduct could subject us to financial losses and regulatory sanctions as well as seriously damage our reputation. We cannot assure you that all of our employees and customers and other third parties will fully comply with our risk management policies, measures and procedures for preventing fraud and other misconduct. We cannot assure that we will always be able to identify and prevent all fraud and other misconduct by our employees and customers and other third parties. Future fraud or other misconduct by our employees and customers and other third parties could damage our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Fraudulent activities have become increasingly sophisticated. Incidents of frauds could increase in the future. Our measures to detect and reduce the risk of fraud need to be continually improved to effectively guard against new and evolving forms of fraud, or frauds in connection with our new products and services. Substantial costs may be incurred in improving such security measures. Failure to effectively identify and address these risks could lead to losses, regulatory penalties, or even regulatory restrictions to our business operations, which will adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations. See “Business—Prepaid Payment Network Services—Risk Management and Internal Control—Fraud.”

 

We face increasing competition, and if we do not compete effectively, our operating results could be harmed. 

 

The industries in which we are operating are competitive and evolving. With respect to loan repayment and collection management and loan recommendation, we compete with market players such as traditional financial institutions, small loan companies, e-commerce driven installment platforms, and other consumer finance platforms. For repayment and collection management, our major competitors include China Data Group (Suzhou) Limited, M&Y Global Services, and Promisechina (Shanghai) Investment Co., Ltd. For loan recommendation, we primarily compete with institutions such as Shanghai Qingpu Real Estate Investment Property Co., Ltd, Shanghai Hongkou Real Estate Service Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Yangpu Public Housing Asset Management Co., Ltd. With respect to prepaid payment network services, we primarily compete with other third-party payment service providers in China, including Shandong Chenglian Card Payment Co., Ltd., Qingdao Baisentong Payment Co., Ltd. and Shandong Feiyin Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd.

 

Our competitors may operate with different business models, have different cost structures or participate selectively in different market segments. They may ultimately prove to be 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, a more extensive pool of borrowers, larger amounts of data, greater brand recognition and customer loyalty, and broader partner relationships than we do. For example, traditional financial institutions may offer loan recommendation services. Experienced enterprises in financial product development and risk management that are able to devote greater resources to the development, promotion, sale and technical support of their platforms, may gain an edge in the competition against us. 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.

 

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Our competitors may be better at developing new services and products, responding to new technologies, charging lower fees on products and services and undertaking more extensive marketing campaigns. When new competitors seek to enter our targeted markets, or when existing market participants seek to increase their market share, they sometimes undercut product and service pricing and/or terms prevalent in the markets, which could adversely affect our market share or ability to capture new market opportunities. Our pricing and terms could deteriorate if we fail to act to meet these competitive challenges.

 

Any harm to our brand or reputation may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

Enhancing the recognition and reputation of our brand is critical to our business and competitiveness. Factors that are vital to this objective include, but are not limited to, our ability to:

 

  maintain the quality and reliability of our products and services;

 

  provide our customers with a satisfactory and distinguished customer experience;

 

  enhance and improve our credit assessment model, risk management system, and IT infrastructure;

 

  effectively manage and resolve customer complaints; and

 

  effectively protect personal information and privacy of customers and business partners.

 

Any malicious or innocent negative allegations made by the media or other parties about our company, including, but not limited to our management, business, compliance with law, financial condition or prospects, whether with merit or not, could severely hurt our reputation and harm our business and operating results. As the industries in which we operate are still evolving, negative publicity may arise from time to time. Negative publicity about China’s financial industry in general may also have a negative impact on our reputation, regardless of whether we have engaged in any inappropriate activities.

 

In addition, certain factors that may adversely affect our reputation are beyond our control. Negative publicity about the operating entities’ partners, outsourced service providers or other counterparties, such as negative publicity about their business practices and any failure by them to adequately protect confidential information, to comply with applicable laws and regulations or to otherwise meet required quality and service standards could harm our reputation. Furthermore, any negative development in the financial industry in China, such as bankruptcies or failures of finance platforms, or negative perception of the industry as a whole, even if factually incorrect or based on isolated incidents, could compromise our image, undermine the trust and credibility we have established and impose a negative impact on our ability to acquire new customers and establish new strategic partnerships.

 

Misconduct, errors and failure to function by the Sentage Operating Companies’ employees and third-party service providers could harm our business and reputation.

 

The operating entities are exposed to many types of operational risks, including the risk of misconduct and errors by the Sentage Operating Companies’ employees and third-party service providers. Our business depends on the Sentage Operating Companies’ employees and third-party service providers for a variety of business activities, which including, but are not limited to interacting with potential and existing customers, processing large numbers of transactions, and supporting the loan repayment and collection management process, all of which involve the use and disclosure of personal information. We could be materially 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 customers is governed by various PRC laws. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct or errors by employees or third-party service providers, 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 the Sentage Operating Companies’ employees or third-party service providers take, convert or misuse funds, documents or data or fail to follow protocol when interacting with the customers, we could be liable for damages and subject to regulatory actions and penalties. We could also be perceived to have originated or participated in the illegal misappropriation of funds, documents or data, or the failure to follow protocol, and therefore be subject to civil or criminal liability.

 

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Furthermore, we rely on certain third-party service providers, such as borrower acquisition partners, data providers, and third-party collection agencies, to conduct our business. If these 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. Even though the third-party services we engage are usually subject to pay-per-use schedules, we do maintain a few fixed-term contracts, and we cannot assure you that we can renew them once they expire, or we can renew them with the term we desire. Such service providers may also be demanded by their customers not to work with us, or form alliances to seek better terms dealing with us. Even though our business does not substantially depend on any particular third-party service providers, the above-mentioned occurrences may result in our diminished ability to operate our business, potential liability to borrowers, inability to attract borrowers, reputational damage, regulatory intervention, and financial harm. Such occurrences could negatively impact our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

Our ability to protect the confidential information of various parties, including borrowers, funding partners, and merchants, may be adversely affected by cyberattacks, computer viruses, physical or electronic break-ins or similar disruptions.

 

We collect, store, and process certain personal and other sensitive data from various parties, including, but not limited to borrowers, funding partners, and merchants, which makes us an attractive target and potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks, computer viruses, physical or electronic break-ins or similar disruptions. While we have taken steps to protect the confidential information that we have access to, our security measures 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 systems could cause confidential information to be stolen and used for criminal purposes. 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 third-party action, employee error, malfeasance or otherwise, or if design flaws in our technology infrastructure are exposed and exploited, our relationships with our customers, including borrowers, funding partners, and merchants, could be severely damaged, we could incur significant liability, and our business and operations could be adversely affected.

 

Meanwhile, if we fail to protect confidential information, we may be involved in various claims and litigation for privacy breaches or other damages. Such claims and litigation may require a lot of time and resources to defend and we cannot assure you that any such claims or litigation will result in a favorable outcome.

 

We may be liable for improper use or appropriation of personal information provided by the customers and any failure to comply with PRC laws and regulations over data security could result in materially adverse impact on our business, results of operations, and our continued listing on Nasdaq.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ business involves collecting and retaining certain internal data and customer information. The integrity and protection of student information and company data is crucial to the operating entities. The customers expect that we will adequately protect their personal information. The operating entities are required by applicable laws to keep strictly confidential the personal information that they collect, and to take adequate security measures to safeguard such information.

 

The PRC Criminal Law, as amended by its Amendment 7 (effective on February 28, 2009) and Amendment 9 (effective on November 1, 2015), prohibits institutions, companies and their employees from selling or otherwise illegally disclosing a citizen’s personal information obtained in performing duties or providing services or obtaining such information through theft or other illegal ways.

 

On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress issued the Cyber Security Law of the PRC, or Cyber Security Law, which became effective on June 1, 2017. Pursuant to the Cyber Security Law, network operators must not, without users’ consent, collect their personal information, and may only collect users’ personal information necessary to provide their services. Providers are also obliged to provide security maintenance for their products and services and shall comply with provisions regarding the protection of personal information as stipulated under the relevant laws and regulations.

 

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The Civil Code of the PRC (issued by the PRC National People’s Congress on May 28, 2020 and effective from January 1, 2021) provides legal basis for privacy and personal information infringement claims under the Chinese civil laws. PRC regulators, including the Cyberspace Administration of China (the “CAC”), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the Ministry of Public Security, have been increasingly focused on regulation in data security and data protection.

 

On June 10, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, or the SCNPC, promulgated the PRC Data Security Law (《中华人民共和国数据安全法》), which became effective in September 2021. The PRC Data Security Law imposes data security and privacy obligations on entities and individuals carrying out data activities, and introduces a data classification and hierarchical protection system based on the importance of data in economic and social development, and the degree of harm it will cause to national security, public interests, or legitimate rights and interests of individuals or organizations when such data is tampered with, destroyed, leaked, illegally acquired or used. The PRC Data Security Law also provides for a national security review procedure for data activities that may affect national security and imposes export restrictions on certain data and information.

 

The Personal Information Protection Law of the PRC (《中华人民共和国个人信息保护法》), (issued by Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and became effective on November 1, 2021) provides that critical information infrastructure operators (“CIIOs”) and personal information processors whose quantity of processing of personal information reaches that as prescribed by the CAC must store personal information collected and generated within the territory of the People’s Republic of China. Where it is necessary to provide such information and data to an overseas party, such provision are required to pass the security evaluation organized by the CAC, unless otherwise waived by laws or administrative regulations.

 

On December 28, 2021, the CAC, together with 12 other governmental departments of the PRC, jointly promulgated the Cybersecurity Review Measures (《网络安全审查办法》), which became effective on February 15, 2022. The Cybersecurity Review Measures provide that, in addition to CIIOs that intend to purchase Internet products and services, data processing operators engaging in data processing activities that affect or may affect national security must be subject to cybersecurity review by the Cybersecurity Review Office of the PRC. According to the Cybersecurity Review Measures, a cybersecurity review assesses potential national security risks that may be brought about by any procurement, data processing, or overseas listing. The Cybersecurity Review Measures further require that CIIOs and data processing operators that possess personal data of at least one million users must apply for a review by the Cybersecurity Review Office of the PRC before conducting listings in foreign countries.

 

On November 14, 2021, the CAC published the Draft Regulations on the Network Data Security Administration (Draft for Comments) (the “Security Administration Draft”) (《网络数据安全管理条例(征求意见稿)》), which provides that data processing operators engaging in data processing activities that affect or may affect national security must be subject to cybersecurity review by the relevant Cyberspace Administration of the PRC. According to the Cybersecurity Review Measures, which provides that data processing operators who possess personal data of at least one million users conducting listings in foreign countries or process data that affects or may affect national security must be subject to cybersecurity review by the relevant Cyberspace Administration of the PRC. The deadline for public comments on the Security Administration Draft was December 13, 2021.

 

On July 7, 2022, the CAC published the Measures for the Security Assessment of Outbound Data Transfer (《数据出境安全评估办法》), which were effected on September 1, 2022. The measures apply to the security assessment of important data and personal information collected and generated during operation within the territory of the People’s Republic of China and transferred abroad by a data handler. According to the Measures, if a data handler transfers data abroad under any of the following circumstances, it shall file with the State Cyberspace Administration for security assessment via the Province Cyberspace Administration: (i) a data handler who transfers important data abroad; (ii) a critical information infrastructure operator, or a data handler processing the personal information of more than one million individuals transfers personal information to abroad;(iii) since January 1 of the previous year, a data handler cumulatively transferred abroad the personal information of more than 100,000 individuals, or the sensitive personal information of more than 10,000 individuals, or;(iv) other circumstances where the security assessment for the outbound data transfer is required by the State Cyberspace Administration.

 

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As of the date of this annual report, our PRC operating entities have not received any notice from any authorities identifying the operating entities as a CIIO or requiring the operating entities to go through cybersecurity review or network data security review by the CAC. Nor our PRC operating entities have been involved in any investigations on cybersecurity review initiated by the CAC or related governmental regulatory authorities. Our operating entities have not received any inquiry, notice, warning, or sanction in such respect. We believe that our PRC operating entities are in compliance with the aforementioned regulations and policies that have been issued by the CAC. However, as uncertainties remain regarding the interpretation and enforcement of relevant PRC cybersecurity laws and regulations, the operating entities could be subject to cybersecurity review, and if so, the operating entities may not be able to pass such review. In addition, our PRC operating entities could become subject to enhanced cybersecurity review or investigations launched by PRC regulators in the future. Any failure or delay in the completion of the cybersecurity review procedures or any other non-compliance with the related laws and regulations may result in fines or other penalties, including suspension of business, website closure, removal of the operating entities’ app from the relevant app stores, and revocation of prerequisite licenses, as well as reputational damage or legal proceedings or actions against the operating entities, which may have material adverse effect on the operating entities’ business, financial condition or results of operations.

  

Our operations depend on the performance of the internet infrastructure and fixed telecommunications networks in China, which we do not control.

 

Almost all access to the internet in China is maintained through state-owned telecommunication operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. We primarily rely on a limited number of telecommunications service providers to provide us with data communications capacity through local telecommunications lines and internet data centers to host our servers. We have limited access to alternative networks or services in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems with China’s internet infrastructure or the fixed telecommunications networks provided by telecommunications service providers. With the expansion of our business, we may be required to upgrade our technology and infrastructure by relevant regulatory authorities. We cannot assure you that the internet infrastructure and the fixed telecommunications networks in China will be able to support the demands associated with the continued growth in internet usage we anticipate.

 

In addition, we have no control over the costs of the services provided by telecommunications service providers. If the prices we pay for telecommunications and internet services rise significantly, our financial performance may be adversely affected. Furthermore, if internet access fees or other charges to internet users increase, our business may be harmed.

 

We are highly dependent on telecommunications and IT systems, and an interruption or error in those systems could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

Our business is materially dependent on our proprietary operating portal and IT systems. Development and maintenance of our proprietary operating portal and IT systems are time-consuming, expensive and complex, and may involve unforeseen difficulties. We may encounter technical obstacles, and it is possible that we may discover additional problems that prevent our operating portal and IT systems from functioning properly and consequently adversely affect our information infrastructure and our business. If our IT systems cease to work, become unavailable, or experience significant interruption, we may be prevented from operating business normally.

 

Our business also depends on the efficient and uninterrupted operation of our computer systems. All our computer hardware and our computing services are currently located in China. Although we have prepared for contingencies through redundancy measures and disaster recovery plans, such preparation may not be sufficient, and we currently do not carry business interruption insurance. Despite any precautions we may take, the occurrence of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, flood or fire, or other unanticipated problems at our offices in China, including power outages, telecommunications delays or failures, break-ins to our systems or computer viruses, could result in delays or interruptions to our business and loss of data for us. Any of these events could damage our reputation, significantly disrupt our operations, and subject us to liability, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

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Our internal systems rely on software that is highly technical, and if it contains undetected errors, our business could be adversely affected.

 

Our internal systems rely on software that is highly technical and complex. In addition, our 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. Some errors may only be discovered after the code has been released for external or internal use. Errors or other design defects within the software on which we rely may result in a negative experience for borrowers and funding partners, delay introductions of new features or enhancements, result in errors or compromise our ability to protect borrower 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 customers or business partners, loss of revenue, or liability for damages, any of which could adversely affect our business and financial results.

 

If we are not able to respond to technological advances in a timely manner, we may not remain competitive.

 

Our success depends in a large part on our technology and IT infrastructure. We use these systems to identify, locate and contact borrowers and record the results of our collection efforts, manage merchant accounts and behavior and transaction data, and store and analyze borrower information to establish a comprehensive borrower profile for prospective borrowers who submitted their loan recommendation applications. If we are not able to respond to advances in telecommunications and computer technologies in a timely manner, we may not be able to remain competitive. We have made significant investments in technology to remain competitive and we anticipate that it will be necessary to continue to do so in the future. Although we will continue to devote significant resources to enhance and develop our technologies, we cannot assure you that we will have the capital resources available to invest in new technologies, and we may not be able to implement technology updates on a timely basis, or at all. In addition, new technologies may not succeed or integrate well with our existing systems and infrastructure, and even if integrated, may not function as expected. As telecommunications and computer technologies are changing rapidly and are characterized by short product life cycles, we may not be successful in anticipating new technology trends or adopt technological changes on a timely basis. If any of the foregoing were to occur in the future, our business and results of operation could be materially adversely affected. 

 

We may not be able to prevent others from unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.

 

We regard our intellectual property as critical to our success, and we rely on trademark and trade secret law and confidentiality, invention assignment and non-compete agreements with our employees and others to protect our proprietary rights. See “Business— Intellectual Property.” However, we cannot assure you that any of our intellectual property rights would not be challenged, invalidated or circumvented, or such intellectual property will be sufficient for providing us with competitive advantages. In addition, other parties may misappropriate our intellectual property rights, which would cause us to suffer economic or reputational damages. Because of the rapid pace of technological change, we cannot assure you that all of our proprietary technologies and similar intellectual property will be patented in a timely or cost-effective manner, or at all. Furthermore, parts of our business rely on technologies developed or licensed by other parties, or co-developed with other parties, and we may not be able to obtain or continue to obtain licenses and technologies from these other parties on reasonable terms, or at all.

 

It is often difficult to register, maintain and enforce intellectual property rights in China. Statutory laws and regulations are subject to judicial interpretation and enforcement and may not be applied consistently due to the lack of clear guidance on statutory interpretation. Confidentiality, invention assignment, and non-compete agreements may be breached by counterparties, and there may not be adequate remedies available to us for any such breach. Accordingly, we may not be able to effectively protect our intellectual property rights or to enforce our contractual rights in China. Preventing any unauthorized use of our intellectual property is difficult and costly, and the steps we take may be inadequate to prevent the misappropriation of our intellectual property. In the event that we resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, such litigation could result in substantial costs and in a diversion of our managerial and financial resources. We can provide no assurance that we will prevail in such litigation. In addition, our trade secrets may be leaked or otherwise become available to, or be independently discovered by, our competitors. To the extent that our employees or authorized third-party service providers use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related know-how and inventions. Any failure in protecting or enforcing our intellectual property rights could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

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We may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, 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, copyrights, know-how, proprietary technologies or other intellectual property rights held by other 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. In addition, there may be other parties’ trademarks, copyrights, know-how, proprietary technologies or other intellectual property rights that are infringed by our products and 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 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, copyrights, know-how, proprietary technologies 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. As a result, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

 

The operating entities’ business depends on the continued efforts of their management. If one or more of their key executives were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, our business may be severely disrupted. 

 

Our business operations depend on the continued services of our management, particularly the executive officers named in this annual report, and teams in charge of our risk management, research and development, customer relationship management, and collaboration with business partners, such as NetsUnion, and funding partners. While we have provided different incentives to our management, we cannot assure you that we can continue to retain their services. If one or more members of our management team were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to replace them easily or at all, our future growth may be constrained, our business may be severely disrupted, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected, and we may incur additional expenses to recruit, train and retain qualified personnel. In addition, although we have entered into confidentiality and non-competition agreements with members of our management team, there is no assurance that any member of our management team will not join our competitors, form a competing business, or disclose confidential information to the public. If any dispute arises between our current or former officers and us, we may have to incur substantial costs and expenses in order to enforce such agreements in China or we may be unable to enforce them at all.

 

From time to time we may evaluate and potentially consummate strategic investments or acquisitions, which could require significant management attention, disrupt our business and adversely affect our financial results.

 

We may evaluate and consider strategic investments, combinations, acquisitions or alliances to further increase the value of our business. These transactions could be material to our financial condition and results of operations if consummated. If we are able to identify an appropriate business opportunity, we may not be able to successfully consummate the transaction, and even if we do consummate such a transaction, we may be unable to obtain the benefits or avoid the difficulties and risks of such transaction.

 

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Strategic investments or acquisitions will involve risks commonly encountered in business relationships, including:

 

  difficulties in assimilating and integrating the operations, personnel, systems, data, technologies, rights, platforms, products and services of the acquired business;

 

  the inability of the acquired technologies, products or businesses to achieve expected levels of revenue, profitability, productivity or other benefits;

 

  difficulties in retaining, training, motivating and integrating key personnel;

 

  the diversion of managements’ time and resources from our daily operations;

 

  difficulties in maintaining uniform standards, controls, procedures and policies within the combined organizations;

 

  difficulties in retaining relationships with borrowers, employees and suppliers of the acquired business;

 

  risks of entering markets in which we have limited or no prior experience;

 

  regulatory risks, including remaining in good standing with existing regulatory bodies or receiving any necessary pre-closing or post-closing approvals, as well as being subject to new regulators with oversight over an acquired business;

 

  the assumption of contractual obligations that contain terms that are not beneficial to us, require us to license or waive intellectual property rights or increase our risk of liability;

 

  the failure to successfully further develop the acquired technology;

 

  liability for activities of the acquired business before the acquisition, including intellectual property infringement claims, violations of laws, commercial disputes, tax liabilities and other known and unknown liabilities;

 

  potential disruptions to our ongoing businesses; and

 

  unexpected costs and unknown risks and liabilities associated with strategic investments or acquisitions.

 

We may not make any investments or acquisitions, or any future investments or acquisitions may not be successful, may not benefit our business strategy, may not generate sufficient revenue to offset the associated acquisition costs or may not otherwise result in the intended benefits. In addition, we cannot assure you that any future investment in or acquisition of new businesses or technology will lead to the successful development of new or enhanced products and services or that any new or enhanced loan products and services, if developed, will achieve market acceptance or prove to be profitable.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Failure to maintain the quality of customer services could harm our reputation and our ability to retain existing customers and attract new customers, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

We depend on our customer service representatives to provide assistance to clients using our services. As such, the quality of customer services is critical to retaining our existing customers and attracting new customers. If our customer service representatives fail to satisfy our customers’ individual needs, we may incur reputational harm and lose potential or existing business opportunities with our existing clients, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

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

 

Our business may be adversely affected by instability, disruption or destruction in a geographic region of China in which it operates, regardless of cause, including war, terrorism, riot, economic boycott, civil insurrection or social unrest, and natural or manmade disasters, including famine, flood, fire, earthquake, storm or pandemic events and spread of disease, including the new coronavirus commonly referred to as “COVID-19”. The COVID-19 pandemic, first found in mainland China, then in Asia, and eventually throughout the world, significantly affected our overall business, results of operation, and financial conditions. Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to economic downturns and other significant changes in regional and global economic conditions. As a result, borrowers’ default and delinquency risks increased as they experienced unemployment or generated less income. Subsequently, higher default and delinquency risks required us to dedicate more resources to maintain our current collection rate for the loan repayment and collection management business and posed risk-management challenges for our loan recommendation business, increasing our operating costs. As the majority of our merchant customers are retailers whose businesses were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic caused our merchant customers to stop or delay using our prepaid payment network services, adversely impacting our revenue from the prepaid payment network business.

 

Any significant disruption to communications and travel, including travel restrictions and other potential protective quarantine measures by governmental agencies, also increase the difficulty and could make it impossible for us to conduct on-site inspection of collateralized properties, which is a necessary step of our credit assessment and risk management process. Accordingly, travel restrictions and protective measures caused the Company to incur additional unexpected labor costs and expenses and restrained our ability to retain the highly skilled personnel we needed for our operations, adversely affecting our business and results of operation. In addition, any health epidemic such as the COVID-19 pandemic could have an adverse impact on the real estate market in the Shanghai area and other first-tier cities we target, subsequently decreasing the total loan amount borrowers are able to obtain through our services, reducing our service fee, which is based on specific loan amount, and adversely impacting our revenue from the loan recommendation business.

 

In the beginning of February 2020, we had to temporarily suspend our prepaid payment network services due to government restrictions. We managed to promptly implement a series of response measures to the COVID-19 pandemic, including having our full work force resume work remotely by the end of February 2020. We fully resumed our operation on March 10, 2020 and our business was fully operational in 2021. However, our business facilities in Shanghai, China were temporarily closed again, starting from April 2022 to June 2022, as a result of local government’s efforts to contain the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 negatively affected our operations in fiscal year 2022 and could cause the Company’s revenue and cash flows to underperform in the next 12 months.

 

For the consumer loan repayment and collection management business, due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19, our prospective business partners were not able to start new cooperation with us and we were not able to generate any revenue for fiscal year 2022.

 

For the loan recommendation services, which requires face-to-face interaction with potential customers, the temporary lock down from April 2022 to June 2022 severely impacted our ability to generate new business. Even after June 2022, due to the uncertainties caused by COVID-19, the demand from customers decreased sharply and the we were not able to generate any revenue for fiscal year 2022.

 

For the prepaid payment network services, the revenue in 2022 declined sharply because decreased demand from customers due to the uncertainties caused by COVID-19.

 

Although China relaxed the COVID-19 restrictions at the end of 2022, because the COVID-19 has deeply affected businesses and economy in China from 2020 to 2022, the extent of any future impact of COVID-19 on our operations remains highly uncertain and unpredictable.

 

We may from time to time be subject to claims, controversies, lawsuits and legal proceedings, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and reputation.

 

We may from time to time become subject to or involved in various claims, controversies, lawsuits, and legal proceedings. However, claims, lawsuits, and litigation are subject to inherent uncertainties, and we are uncertain whether any of these claims would develop into a lawsuit. Lawsuits and litigation may cause us to incur defense costs, utilize a significant portion of our resources and divert management’s attention from our day-to-day operations, any of which could harm our business. Any settlements or judgments against us could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. In addition, negative publicity regarding claims or judgments made against us may damage our reputation and may result in material adverse impact on us.

 

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Our current insurance policies may not provide adequate levels of coverage against all claims and we may incur losses that are not covered by our insurance.

 

We believe we maintain insurance coverage that is customary for businesses of our size and type. However, we may be unable to insure against certain types of losses or claims, or the cost of such insurance may be prohibitive. Uninsured losses or claims, if they occur, could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, results of operations, financial condition, or prospects.

 

If we fail to implement and maintain an effective system of internal controls, we may be unable to accurately or timely report the results of operations or prevent fraud, and investor confidence and the market price of our securities may be materially and adversely affected.

 

Our independent registered public accounting firm has not conducted an audit of our internal control over financial reporting. In the course of auditing our consolidated financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, our independent registered public accounting firm identified two material weaknesses and other control deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting.

 

The material weaknesses identified relate to (i) our lack of a sufficient number of finance and accounting personnel or sufficiently trained finance and accounting personnel, as well as comprehensive accounting policies in accordance with U.S. GAAP financial reporting; and (ii) our internal control policy does not have a proper approval mechanism, and our lack of internal controls on performing periodic reviews of user accounts and their level of authorization in the financial systems. We plan to implement a number of measures to remedy these material weaknesses. To remedy the identified material weakness and the other control deficiencies, we have implemented and will continue to implement initiatives to improve our internal control over financial reporting to address the material weaknesses that have been identified, including: (i) obtain additional resources, including experienced staff with U.S. GAAP and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) reporting knowledge, to strengthen the financial reporting function and to set up financial and system control framework; (ii) conducting regular and continuous U.S. GAAP accounting and financial reporting training programs for our accounting and financial reporting personnel, including sending our financial staff to attend external U.S. GAAP training courses; and (iii) optimizing our financial systems by establishing a proper approval mechanism and performing periodic reviews of users accounts and their level of authorization. We cannot assure you, however, that these measures will fully address these material weaknesses and other deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting or that we will be able to conclude that they have been fully remedied.

 

If we fail to establish and maintain adequate internal controls, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could limit our access to capital markets, adversely affect our results of operations and lead to a decline in the trading price of our securities. Additionally, ineffective internal controls could expose us to an increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list our Ordinary Shares or to other regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions.

 

As a public company, we are subject to Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Since we qualify as an “emerging growth company” pursuant to the JOBS Act with less than US$1.235 billion in revenue for our last fiscal year. An emerging growth company may take advantage of specified reduced reporting and other requirements that are otherwise applicable generally to public companies. These provisions include exemption from the auditor attestation requirement under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or Section 404, in the assessment of the emerging growth company’s internal control over financial reporting. Moreover, even if management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm, after conducting its own independent testing, may issue a report that is qualified, if it is not satisfied with our internal controls or the level at which our controls are documented, designed, operated or reviewed, or if it interprets the relevant requirements differently from us.

 

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During the course of documenting and testing our internal control procedures, we may identify other weaknesses and deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, as these standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404. Generally speaking, if we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could in turn limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations, and lead to a decline in the trading price of our securities. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions.

 

Risks Related to Doing Business in China

 

There are uncertainties under the Foreign Investment Law relating to the status of businesses in China controlled by foreign invested projects primarily through contractual arrangements, such as our business.

 

The Administrative Measures of People’s Bank of China on Payment Services Provided by Non-financial Institutions (Order of the People’s Bank of China (2010) No. 2, “Order No. 2”) (中国人民银行令[2010]第2号《非金融机构支付服务管理办法》) was promulgated by the PBOC on June 14, 2010. According to Order No. 2, the business scope of a foreign-invested payment institutions, the qualification conditions, and the allowed ratio of contribution of the payment institution’s foreign investors shall be stipulated by the PBOC and submitted to the State Council for approval. According to “Announcement No. 7 of the People’s Bank of China (2018) (《中国人民银行公告(2018)第7号》”) (“No. 7 Announcement”), which was issued by the PBOC and became effective on March 19, 2018, upon approval by the State Council, pursuant to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the People’s Bank of China and Order No. 2, foreign-invested payment institutions should satisfy regulatory requirements relevant to foreign-invested payment institutions. According to Order No. 2 and the No. 7 Announcement, the VIE entity, Qingdao Buytop, is considered a payment institution, as it provides prepaid payment network services. To comply with PRC laws and regulations on foreign ownership and investment in companies that engage in certain businesses including third-party payment services, we rely on the VIE Agreements with the Qingdao Buytop to operate such business in China and Qingdao Buytop has obtained all requisite licenses.

 

The Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, or MOFCOM, published a discussion draft of the proposed Foreign Investment Law in January 2015, or the “2015 FIL Draft,” which expanded the definition of foreign investment and introduced the principle of “actual control” in determining whether a company is considered a foreign-invested enterprise. Under the 2015 FIL Draft, VIEs that are controlled via contractual arrangement would also be deemed as foreign-invested enterprises if they are ultimately “controlled” by foreign investors. On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress approved the Foreign Investment Law of the PRC, which came into effect on January 1, 2020, repealing simultaneously the Law of the PRC on Sino-foreign Equity Joint Ventures, the Law of the PRC on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises, and the Law of the PRC on Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. Pursuant to the Foreign Investment Law, foreign investment refers to any investment activity directly or indirectly carried out by foreign natural persons, enterprises, or other organizations, including investment in new construction project, establishment of foreign funded enterprise or increase of investment, merger and acquisition, and investment in any other way stipulated under laws, administrative regulations, or provisions of the State Council. Although the Foreign Investment Law has deleted the particular reference to the concept of “actual control” and contractual arrangements from the 2015 FIL Draft, there is still uncertainty regarding whether the VIEs would be identified as a foreign-invested enterprise in the future. As a result, we cannot assure you that the Foreign Investment Law will not have a material and adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business through the VIE Agreements.

 

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Changes in China’s economic, political, or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations.

 

Substantially all of our assets and operations are currently located in China. Accordingly, our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects may be influenced to a significant degree by political, economic, and social conditions in China generally. The Chinese economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the level of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange, and allocation of resources. Although the Chinese government has implemented measures emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, including the reduction of state ownership of productive assets and the establishment of improved corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of productive assets in China is still owned by the government. In addition, the Chinese government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The Chinese government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth by allocating resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy, and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies.

 

While the Chinese economy has experienced significant growth over the past decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy. Any adverse changes in economic conditions in China, in the policies of the Chinese government, or in the laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China. Such developments could adversely affect our business and operating results, reduce demand for our products, and weaken our competitive position. The Chinese government has implemented various measures to encourage economic growth and guide the allocation of resources. Some of these measures may benefit the overall Chinese economy but may have a negative effect on us. For example, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations. In addition, in the past the Chinese government has implemented certain measures, including interest rate adjustments, to control the pace of economic growth. These measures may cause decreased economic activities in China, which may adversely affect our business and operating results.

 

Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protection available to you and us.

 

The PRC legal system is based on written statutes. Unlike common law systems, it is a system in which legal cases have limited value as precedents. In the late 1970s, the PRC government began to promulgate a comprehensive system of laws and regulations governing economic matters in general. The legislation over the past three decades has significantly increased the protection afforded to various forms of foreign or private-sector investment in China. Our PRC operating entities are subject to various PRC laws and regulations generally applicable to companies in China. Since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system continues to rapidly evolve, however, the interpretations of many laws, regulations, and rules are not always uniform and enforcement of these laws, regulations, and rules involve uncertainties.

 

On July 6, 2021, the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council jointly issued a document to crack down on illegal activities in the securities market and promote the high-quality development of the capital market, which, among other things, requires the relevant governmental authorities to strengthen cross-border oversight of law-enforcement and judicial cooperation, to enhance supervision over China-based companies listed overseas, and to establish and improve the system of extraterritorial application of the PRC securities laws. Since this document is relatively new, uncertainties still exist in relation to how soon legislative or administrative regulation making bodies will respond and what existing or new laws or regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations will be modified or promulgated, if any, and the potential impact such modified or new laws and regulations will have on companies like us.

 

From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. Since PRC administrative and court authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, however, it may be more difficult to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy in the PRC legal system than in more developed legal systems. Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules (some of which are not published in a timely manner or at all) that may have retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Such uncertainties, including uncertainties over the scope and effect of our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights, and any failure to respond to changes in the regulatory environment in China could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.

 

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PRC laws and regulations governing our current business operations are sometimes vague and uncertain and any changes in such laws and regulations may impair our ability to operate profitably.

 

There are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of PRC laws and regulations including, but not limited to, the laws and regulations governing our business and the enforcement and performance of our arrangements with customers in certain circumstances. The laws and regulations are sometimes vague and may be subject to future changes, and their official interpretation and enforcement may involve substantial uncertainty. The PRC legal system is evolving rapidly and the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules may contain inconsistencies and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties. The effectiveness and interpretation of newly enacted laws or regulations, including amendments to existing laws and regulations, may be delayed, and our business may be affected if we rely on laws and regulations which are subsequently adopted or interpreted in a manner different from our understanding of these laws and regulations. New laws and regulations that affect existing and proposed future businesses may also be applied retroactively. We cannot predict what effect the interpretation of existing or new PRC laws or regulations may have on our business.

 

You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments, or bringing actions in China against us or our management named in the reporting based on foreign laws.

 

As a company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands, we conduct a majority of our operations in China and a majority of our assets are located in China. In addition, almost all our senior executive officers reside within China for a significant portion of the time and are PRC nationals. As a result, it may be difficult for you to effect service of process upon those persons inside mainland China. It may be difficult for you to enforce judgements obtained in U.S. courts based on civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws against us and our officers and directors, as none of them currently resides in the U.S. or has substantial assets in the U.S. In addition, there is uncertainty as to whether the courts of the Cayman Islands or the PRC would recognize or enforce judgments of U.S. courts against us or such persons predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the securities laws of the U.S. or any state.

 

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

 

U.S. regulatory bodies may be limited in their ability to conduct investigations or inspections of our operations in China.

 

The SEC, the U.S. Department of Justice and other U.S. authorities may also have difficulties in bringing and enforcing actions against us or our directors or executive officers in the PRC. The SEC has stated that there are significant legal and other obstacles to obtaining information needed for investigations or litigation in China. China has recently adopted a revised securities law that became effective on March 1, 2020, Article 177 of which provides, among other things, that no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC. Accordingly, without governmental approval in China, no entity or individual in China may provide documents and information relating to securities business activities to overseas regulators when it is under direct investigation or evidence discovery conducted by overseas regulators, which could present significant legal and other obstacles to obtaining information needed for investigations and litigation conducted outside of China.

 

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Increases in labor costs in the PRC may adversely affect our business and our profitability.

 

China’s economy has experienced increases in labor costs in recent years. China’s overall economy and the average wage in China are expected to continue to grow. The average wage level for our employees has also increased in recent years. We expect that our labor costs, including wages and employee benefits, will continue to increase. Unless we are able to pass on these increased labor costs to our customers by increasing prices for our services, our profitability and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

 

In addition, we have been subject to stricter regulatory requirements in terms of entering into labor contracts with our employees and paying various statutory employee benefits, including pensions, housing fund, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance, and maternity insurance to designated government agencies for the benefit of our employees. Pursuant to the PRC Labor Contract Law that became effective in January 2008 and its amendments that became effective in July 2013 and its implementing rules that became effective in September 2008, employers are subject to stricter requirements in terms of signing labor contracts, minimum wages, paying remuneration, determining the term of employees’ probation, and unilaterally terminating labor contracts. In the event that we decide to terminate some of our employees or otherwise change our employment or labor practices, the Labor Contract Law and its implementation rules may limit our ability to effect those changes in a desirable or cost-effective manner, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

As the interpretation and implementation of labor-related laws and regulations are still evolving, we cannot assure you that our employment practice does not and will not violate labor-related laws and regulations in China, which may subject us to labor disputes or government investigations. If we are deemed to have violated relevant labor laws and regulations, we could be required to provide additional compensation to our employees and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

 

PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or the PRC operating entities to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into the PRC Operating Entities, limit the PRC Operating Entities’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.

 

On July 4, 2014, State Administration of Foreign Exchange (“SAFE”) issued the Circular on Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control over the Overseas Investment and Financing and Round-trip Investment by Domestic Residents via Special Purpose Vehicles, or “SAFE Circular 37.” According to SAFE Circular 37, prior registration with the local SAFE branch is required for PRC residents, (including PRC individuals and PRC corporate entities as well as foreign individuals that are deemed PRC residents for foreign exchange administration purpose), in connection with their direct or indirect contribution of domestic assets or interests to offshore special purpose vehicles, or “SPVs.” SAFE Circular 37 further requires amendments to the SAFE registrations in the event of any changes with respect to the basic information of the offshore SPV, such as change of a PRC individual shareholder, name and operation term, or any significant changes with respect to the offshore SPV, such as an increase or decrease of capital contribution, share transfer or exchange, or mergers or divisions. SAFE Circular 37 is applicable to our shareholders who are PRC residents and may be applicable to any offshore acquisitions that we make in the future. In February 2015, SAFE promulgated a Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Foreign Exchange Administration Policy on Direct Investment, or “SAFE Notice 13,” effective in June 2015. Under SAFE Notice 13, applications for foreign exchange registration of inbound foreign direct investments and outbound overseas direct investments, including those required under SAFE Circular 37, will be filed with qualified banks instead of SAFE. The qualified banks will directly examine the applications and accept registrations under the supervision of SAFE.

 

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In addition to SAFE Circular 37 and SAFE Notice 13, our ability to conduct foreign exchange activities in China may be subject to the interpretation and enforcement of the Implementation Rules of the Administrative Measures for Individual Foreign Exchange promulgated by SAFE in January 2007 (as amended and supplemented, the “Individual Foreign Exchange Rules”). Under the Individual Foreign Exchange Rules, any PRC individual seeking to make a direct investment overseas or engage in the issuance or trading of negotiable securities or derivatives overseas must make the appropriate registrations in accordance with SAFE provisions, the failure of which may subject such PRC individual to warnings, fines, or other liabilities.

 

Our current shareholders, Qiaoling Lu, Yiheng Guo, Hua Wang and Jianxiu Li, who are subject to SAFE Circular 37 and the Individual Foreign Exchange Rules, have completed the initial registrations with the qualified banks as required by the regulations. We may not be informed of the identities of all the PRC residents holding direct or indirect interest in our company, however, and we have no control over any of our future beneficial owners. Thus, we cannot provide any assurance that our current or future PRC resident beneficial owners will comply with our request to make or obtain any applicable registrations or continuously comply with all registration procedures set forth in these SAFE regulations. Such failure or inability of our PRC residents beneficial owners to comply with these SAFE regulations may subject us or our PRC resident beneficial owners to fines and legal sanctions, restrict our cross-border investment activities, or limit the PRC Operating Entities’ ability to distribute dividends to or obtain foreign-exchange-dominated loans from us, or prevent us from being able to make distributions or pay dividends, as a result of which our business operations and our ability to distribute profits to you could be materially and adversely affected.

 

Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.

 

The value of the RMB against the U.S. dollar and other currencies may fluctuate and is affected by, among other things, changes in political and economic conditions in China and by China’s foreign exchange policies. On July 21, 2005, the PRC government changed its decade-old policy of pegging the value of the RMB to the U.S. dollar, and the RMB appreciated more than 20% against the U.S. dollar over the following three years. Between July 2008 and June 2010, this appreciation halted and the exchange rate between the RMB and the U.S. dollar remained within a narrow band. Since June 2010, the RMB has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the RMB and the U.S. dollar in the future. Since we sell a majority of the products of our brand partners in the U.S., the fluctuations in exchange rates would have a negative effect on our business and results of operations and financial condition.

 

Our business is conducted in the PRC, and our books and records are maintained in RMB, which is the currency of the PRC. The financial statements that we file with the SEC and provide to our shareholders are presented in U.S. dollars. Changes in the exchange rates between the RMB and U.S. dollar affect the value of our assets and the results of our operations, when presented in U.S. dollars. The value of the RMB against the U.S. dollar and other currencies may fluctuate and is affected by, among other things, changes in the PRC’s political and economic conditions and perceived changes in the economy of the PRC and the United States. Any significant revaluation of the RMB may materially and adversely affect our cash flows, revenue, and financial condition. Further, our Ordinary Shares offered by our initial public offering were offered in U.S. dollars, we will need to convert the net proceeds we receive into RMB in order to use the funds for our business. Changes in the conversion rate among the U.S. dollar and the RMB will affect the amount of proceeds we will have available for our business.

 

Very limited hedging options are available in China to reduce our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. To date, we have not entered into any hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to foreign currency exchange risk. While we may decide to enter into more hedging transactions in the future, the availability and effectiveness of these hedges may be limited and we may not be able to adequately hedge our exposure or at all. In addition, our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert RMB into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.

 

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Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, we may be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise” for PRC enterprise income tax purposes. Such classification would likely result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our non-PRC shareholders and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.

 

Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, or the “EIT Law,” that became effective in January 2008, an enterprise established outside the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC is considered a “resident enterprise” for PRC enterprise income tax purposes and is generally subject to a uniform 25% enterprise income tax rate on its worldwide income. Under the implementation rules to the EIT Law, a “de facto management body” is defined as a body that has material and overall management and control over the manufacturing and business operations, personnel and human resources, finances, and properties of an enterprise. In addition, a circular, known as SAT Circular 82, issued in April 2009 by the State Administration of Taxation, or the “SAT,” specifies that certain offshore incorporated enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise groups will be classified as PRC resident enterprises if the following are located or resident in the PRC: senior management personnel and departments that are responsible for daily production, operation and management; financial and personnel decision making bodies; key properties, accounting books, company seal, and minutes of board meetings and shareholders’ meetings; and half or more of the senior management or directors having voting rights. Further to SAT Circular 82, the SAT issued a bulletin, known as SAT Bulletin 45, which took effect in September 2011, to provide more guidance on the implementation of SAT Circular 82 and clarify the reporting and filing obligations of such “Chinese-controlled offshore incorporated resident enterprises.” SAT Bulletin 45 provides procedures and administrative details for the determination of resident status and administration on post-determination matters. Although both SAT Circular 82 and SAT Bulletin 45 only apply to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise groups, not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreign individuals, the determining criteria set forth in SAT Circular 82 and SAT Bulletin 45 may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises, PRC enterprise groups, or by PRC or foreign individuals.

 

If the PRC tax authorities determine that the actual management organ of Sentage Holdings is within the territory of China, Sentage Holdings may be deemed to be a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes and a number of unfavorable PRC tax consequences could follow. First, we will be subject to the uniform 25% enterprise income tax on our worldwide income, which could materially reduce our net income. In addition, we will also be subject to PRC enterprise income tax reporting obligations. Finally, dividends payable by us to our investors and gains on the sale of our shares may become subject to PRC withholding tax, at a rate of 10% in the case of non-PRC enterprises or 20% in the case of non-PRC individuals (in each case, subject to the provisions of any applicable tax treaty), if such gains are deemed to be from PRC sources. It is unclear whether non-PRC shareholders of our company would be able to claim the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise. Any such tax may reduce the returns on your investment in our shares. As of the date of this annual report, Sentage Holdings has not been notified or informed by the PRC tax authorities that it has been deemed to be a resident enterprise for the purpose of the EIT Law, however we cannot assure you that it will not be deemed to be a resident enterprise in the future.

 

Our PRC operating entities are subject to restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us, which may have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business.

 

We are a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. We may need dividends and other distributions on equity from our PRC operating entities to satisfy our liquidity requirements. Current PRC regulations permit our PRC operating entities to pay dividends to us only out of its accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, our PRC operating entities are required to set aside at least 10% of its respective accumulated profits each year, if any, to fund certain statutory reserves until the total amount set aside reaches 50% of their respective registered capital. Our PRC operating entities may also allocate a portion of its respective after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards to employee welfare and bonus funds at its discretion. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends. These limitation on the ability of our PRC operating entities to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments, or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business.

 

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We face uncertainty with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises by their non-PRC holding companies.

  

In February 2015, SAT issued a Public Notice Regarding Certain Corporate Income Tax Matters on Indirect Transfer of Properties by Non-Tax Resident Enterprises, or “SAT Circular 7.” SAT Circular 7 provides comprehensive guidelines relating to indirect transfers of PRC taxable assets (including equity interests and real properties of a PRC resident enterprise) by a non-resident enterprise. In addition, in October 2017, SAT issued an Announcement on Issues Relating to Withholding at Source of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises, or “SAT Circular 37,” effective in December 2017 and amended in June 2018, which, among others, amended certain provisions in SAT Circular 7 and further clarify the tax payable declaration obligation by non-resident enterprise. Indirect transfer of equity interest and/or real properties in a PRC resident enterprise by their non-PRC holding companies are subject to SAT Circular 7 and SAT Circular 37.

 

SAT Circular 7 provides clear criteria for an assessment of reasonable commercial purposes and has introduced safe harbors for internal group restructurings and the purchase and sale of equity through a public securities market. As stipulated in SAT Circular 7, indirect transfers of PRC taxable assets are considered as reasonable commercial purposes if the shareholding structure of both transaction parties falls within the following situations: i) the transferor directly or indirectly owns 80% or above equity interest of the transferee, or vice versa; ii) the transferor and the transferee are both 80% or above directly or indirectly owned by the same party; iii) the percentage in bullet point i) and ii) shall be 100% if over 50% the share value of a foreign enterprise is directly or indirectly derived from PRC real properties. Furthermore, SAT Circular 7 also brings challenges to both foreign transferor and transferee (or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer) of taxable assets. Where a non-resident enterprise transfers PRC taxable assets indirectly by disposing of the equity interests of an overseas holding company, which is an indirect transfer, the non-resident enterprise as either transferor or transferee, or the PRC entity that directly owns the taxable assets, may report such indirect transfer to the relevant tax authority and the PRC tax authority may disregard the existence of the overseas holding company if it lacks a reasonable commercial purpose and was established for the purpose of reducing, avoiding, or deferring PRC tax. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, and the transferee or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer is obligated to withhold the applicable taxes, currently at a rate of 10% for the transfer of equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise.

 

According to SAT Circular 37, where the non-resident enterprise fails to declare the tax payable pursuant to Article 39 of the EIT Law, the tax authority may order it to pay the tax due within required time limits, and the non-resident enterprise shall declare and pay the tax payable within such time limits specified by the tax authority. If the non-resident enterprise, however, voluntarily declares and pays the tax payable before the tax authority orders it to do so within required time limits, it shall be deemed that such enterprise has paid the tax in time.

 

We face uncertainties as to the reporting and assessment of reasonable commercial purposes and future transactions where PRC taxable assets are involved, such as offshore restructuring, sale of the shares in our offshore subsidiaries, and investments. In the event of being assessed as having no reasonable commercial purposes in an indirect transfer transaction, we may be subject to filing obligations or taxed if we are a transferor in such transactions, and may be subject to withholding obligations (to be specific, a 10% withholding tax for the transfer of equity interests) if we are a transferee in such transactions, under SAT Circular 7 and SAT Circular 37. For transfer of shares by investors who are non-PRC resident enterprises, the PRC operating entities may be requested to assist in the filing under the SAT circulars. As a result, we may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with the SAT circulars or to request the relevant transferors from whom we purchase taxable assets to comply with these circulars, or to establish that we should not be taxed under these circulars, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

Governmental control of currency conversion may affect the value of your investment and our payment of dividends.

 

The PRC government imposes controls on the convertibility of the RMB into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. We receive substantially all of our revenue in the RMB. Under our current corporate structure, Sentage Holdings may rely on dividend payments from our PRC subsidiary, Sentage WFOE, to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have. Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payments of current account items, such as profit distributions and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior approval from SAFE by complying with certain procedural requirements. Therefore, Sentage WFOE is able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to us without prior approval from SAFE, subject to the condition that the remittance of such dividends outside of the PRC complies with certain procedures under PRC foreign exchange regulation, such as the overseas investment registrations by our shareholders or the ultimate shareholders of our corporate shareholders who are PRC residents. Approval from or registration with appropriate government authorities is, however, required where the RMB is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. The PRC government may also at its discretion restrict access in the future to foreign currencies for current account transactions. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currencies to satisfy our foreign currency demand, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders.

 

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There are significant uncertainties under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law relating to the withholding tax liabilities of the PRC Operating Entities, and dividends payable by the PRC operating entities to our offshore subsidiaries may not qualify to enjoy certain treaty benefits.

 

Under the EIT Law and its implementation rules, the profits of a foreign invested enterprise generated through operations, which are distributed to its immediate holding company outside the PRC, will be subject to a withholding tax rate of 10%. Pursuant to the Arrangement between the Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Tax Evasion on Income, or the “Double Tax Avoidance Arrangement,” a withholding tax rate of 10% may be lowered to 5% if the PRC enterprise is at least 25% held by a Hong Kong enterprise for at least 12 consecutive months prior to distribution of the dividends and is determined by the relevant PRC tax authority to have satisfied other conditions and requirements under the Double Tax Avoidance Arrangement and other applicable PRC laws.

 

However, based on the Circular on Certain Issues with Respect to the Enforcement of Dividend Provisions in Tax Treaties, or the “SAT Circular 81,” which became effective on February 20, 2009, if the relevant PRC tax authorities determine, in their discretion, that a company benefits from such reduced income tax rate due to a structure or arrangement that is primarily tax-driven, such PRC tax authorities may adjust the preferential tax treatment. According to Circular on Several Issues regarding the “Beneficial Owner” in Tax Treaties, which became effective as of April 1, 2018, when determining an applicant’s status as the “beneficial owner” regarding tax treatments in connection with dividends, interests, or royalties in the tax treaties, several factors will be taken into account. Such factors include whether the business operated by the applicant constitutes actual business activities, and whether the counterparty country or region to the tax treaties does not levy any tax, grant tax exemption on relevant incomes, or levy tax at an extremely low rate. This circular further requires any applicant who intends to be proved of being the “beneficial owner” to file relevant documents with the relevant tax authorities. Our PRC subsidiary is wholly owned by our Hong Kong subsidiary. However, we cannot assure you that our determination regarding our qualification to enjoy the preferential tax treatment will not be challenged by the relevant PRC tax authority or we will be able to complete the necessary filings with the relevant PRC tax authority and enjoy the preferential withholding tax rate of 5% under the Double Tax Avoidance Arrangement with respect to dividends to be paid by Senage WFOE to our Hong Kong subsidiary, in which case, we would be subject to the higher withdrawing tax rate of 10% on dividends received.

 

The “Opinions on Severely Cracking Down on Illegal Securities Activities According to Law,” or the “Opinions,” recently issued by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council may subject us to additional compliance requirement in the future.

 

Recently, the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council jointly issued the Opinions, which were made available to the public on July 6, 2021. The Opinions emphasized the need to strengthen the administration over illegal securities activities and the supervision on overseas listings by China-based companies. The Opinions proposed to take effective measures, such as promoting the construction of relevant regulatory systems, to deal with the risks and incidents facing China-based overseas-listed companies and the demand for cybersecurity and data privacy protection. The aforementioned policies and any related implementation rules to be enacted may subject us to additional compliance requirement in the future. As the Opinions were recently issued, official guidance and interpretation of the Opinions remain unclear in several respects at this time. Therefore, we cannot assure you that we will remain fully compliant with all new regulatory requirements of the Opinions or any future implementation rules on a timely basis, or at all.

 

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Recent greater oversight by the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) over data security, particularly for companies seeking to list on a foreign exchange, could adversely impact our business.

 

On June 10, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, or the SCNPC, promulgated the PRC Data Security Law (《中华人民共和国数据安全法》), which became effective in September 2021. The PRC Data Security Law imposes data security and privacy obligations on entities and individuals carrying out data activities, and introduces a data classification and hierarchical protection system based on the importance of data in economic and social development, and the degree of harm it will cause to national security, public interests, or legitimate rights and interests of individuals or organizations when such data is tampered with, destroyed, leaked, illegally acquired or used. The PRC Data Security Law also provides for a national security review procedure for data activities that may affect national security and imposes export restrictions on certain data and information.

 

On July 10, 2021, the CAC issued the Circular on Seeking Comments on Cybersecurity Review Measures (Revised Draft for Comments) (the “Review Measures Draft”) (《网络安全审查办法(修订草案征求意见稿)》), which required, among others, in addition to any “critical information infrastructure operators (“CIIOs”),” any “data processor” controlling personal information of no less than one million users which seeks to list in a foreign stock exchange should also be subject to cybersecurity review.

 

On August 20, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued The Personal Information Protection Law of the PRC (《中华人民共和国个人信息保护法》), effective on November 1, 2021. It provides that critical information infrastructure operators (“CIIOs”) and personal information processors whose quantity of processing of personal information reaches that as prescribed by the CAC must store personal information collected and generated within the territory of the People’s Republic of China. Where it is necessary to provide such information and data to an overseas party, such provision are required to pass the security evaluation organized by the CAC, unless otherwise waived by laws or administrative regulations.

 

On November 14, 2021, the CAC published the Network Internet Data Protection Draft Regulations (draft for comments), (《网络数据安全管理条例(征求意见稿)》), and accepted public comments until December 13, 2021. The Network Internet Data Protection Draft Regulations provides that data processors refer to individuals or organizations that autonomously determine the purpose and the manner of processing data. If a data processor that processes the personal data of more than one million users intends to list overseas, it shall apply for a cybersecurity review. In addition, data processors that process important data or are listed overseas shall carry out an annual data security assessment on their own or by engaging a data security services institution, and the data security assessment report for the prior year should be submitted to the local cyberspace affairs administration department before January 31 of each year.

 

Later on, December 28, 2021, the CAC and other relevant PRC governmental authorities jointly promulgated the Cybersecurity Review Measures Transfer (《网络安全审查办法》), which took effect on February 15, 2022. The Cybersecurity Review Measures provide that, in addition to CIIOs that intend to purchase Internet products and services, net platform operators engaging in data processing activities that affect or may affect national security must be subject to cybersecurity review by the Cybersecurity Review Office of the PRC. According to the Cybersecurity Review Measures, a cybersecurity review assesses potential national security risks that may be brought about by any procurement, data processing, or overseas listing. The Cybersecurity Review Measures require that an online platform operator which possesses the personal information of at least one million users must apply for a cybersecurity review by the CAC if it intends to be listed in foreign countries.

 

On July 7, 2022, the CAC published the Measures for the Security Assessment of Outbound Data Transfer (《数据出境安全评估办法》), which effected on September 1, 2022. The measures apply to the security assessment of important data and personal information collected and generated during operation within the territory of the People’s Republic of China and transferred abroad by a data handler. According to the Measures, if a data handler transfers data abroad under any of the following circumstances, it shall file to the State Cyberspace Administration for security assessment via the Province Cyberspace Administration: (i) a data handler who transfers important data abroad; (ii) a critical information infrastructure operator, or a data handler processing the personal information of more than one million individuals transfers personal information abroad;(iii) since January 1 of the previous year, a data handler cumulatively transferred abroad the personal information of more than 100,000 individuals, or the sensitive personal information of more than 10,000 individuals, or;(iv) other circumstances where the security assessment for the outbound data transfer is required by the State Cyberspace Administration.

 

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As advised by our PRC counsel, Dentons, the operations of the PRC operating entities and our continued listing will not be affected and that we will not be subject to cybersecurity review by the CAC, given that the PRC operating entities (i) possess personal data of fewer than one million individual clients; (ii) do not collect data that affects or may affect national security in their business operations, as of the date of this annual report; and (iii) do not anticipate that they will be collecting over one million users’ personal information or data that affects or may affect national security in the near future. However, as uncertainties remain regarding the interpretation and implementation of these laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that we will comply with such regulations in all respects, and we may be ordered to rectify or terminate any actions that are deemed illegal by regulatory authorities. We may also become subject to fines and/or other sanctions and the costs of compliance with, and other burdens imposed by such laws and regulations may limit the use and adoption of our products, which may have material adverse effects on our business, operations, and financial condition.

 

If we become directly subject to the scrutiny, criticism, and negative publicity involving U.S.-listed Chinese companies, we may have to expend significant resources to investigate and resolve the matter which could harm our business operations, stock price, and reputation.

 

U.S. public companies that have substantially all of their operations in China have been the subject of intense scrutiny, criticism, and negative publicity by investors, financial commentators, and regulatory agencies, such as the SEC. Much of the scrutiny, criticism, and negative publicity has centered on financial and accounting irregularities and mistakes, a lack of effective internal controls over financial accounting, inadequate corporate governance policies or a lack of adherence thereto and, in many cases, allegations of fraud. As a result of the scrutiny, criticism, and negative publicity, the publicly traded stock of many U.S. listed Chinese companies sharply decreased in value and, in some cases, has become virtually worthless. Many of these companies are now subject to shareholder lawsuits and SEC enforcement actions and are conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations. It is not clear what effect this sector-wide scrutiny, criticism, and negative publicity will have on us, our business, and the price of our Ordinary Shares. If we become the subject of any unfavorable allegations, whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, we will have to expend significant resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend our company. This situation will be costly and time consuming and distract our management from developing our business. If such allegations are not proven to be groundless, we and our business operations will be severely affected and you could sustain a significant decline in the value of our Ordinary Shares.

 

The disclosures in our reports and other filings with the SEC and our other public pronouncements are not subject to the scrutiny of any regulatory bodies in the PRC.

 

We are regulated by the SEC, and our reports and other filings with the SEC are subject to SEC review in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the SEC under the Securities Act and the Exchange Act. Our SEC reports and other disclosure and public pronouncements are not subject to the review or scrutiny of any PRC regulatory authority. For example, the disclosure in our SEC reports and other filings are not subject to the review by China Securities Regulatory Commission, a PRC regulator that is responsible for oversight of the capital markets in China. Accordingly, you should review our SEC reports, filings, and our other public pronouncements with the understanding that no local regulator has done any review of us, our SEC reports, other filings, or any of our other public pronouncements.

 

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The recent joint statement by the SEC and the PCAOB, rule changes by Nasdaq, and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act and related regulations, all call for additional and more stringent criteria to be applied to emerging market companies upon assessing the qualification of their auditors, especially the non-U.S. auditors who are not inspected by the PCAOB. These developments could add uncertainties to our continued listing or future offerings of our securities in the U.S. 

 

On April 21, 2020, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and PCAOB Chairman William D. Duhnke III, along with other senior SEC staff, released a joint statement highlighting the risks associated with investing in companies based in or have substantial operations in emerging markets including China. The joint statement emphasized the risks associated with lack of access for the PCAOB to inspect auditors and audit work papers in China and higher risks of fraud in emerging markets.

 

On May 18, 2020, Nasdaq filed three proposals with the SEC to (i) apply a minimum offering size requirement for companies primarily operating in a “Restrictive Market,” (ii) adopt a new requirement relating to the qualification of management or the board of directors for Restrictive Market companies, and (iii) apply additional and more stringent criteria to an applicant or listed company based on the qualifications of the company’s auditor. On October 4, 2021, the SEC approved Nasdaq’s revised proposal for the rule changes.

 

On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act requiring a foreign company to certify it is not owned or controlled by a foreign government if the PCAOB is unable to audit specified reports because the company uses a foreign auditor not subject to PCAOB inspection. If the PCAOB is unable to inspect the company’s auditors for three consecutive years, the issuer’s securities are prohibited to trade on a national exchange. On December 2, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act. On December 18, 2020, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act was signed into law.

 

On March 24, 2021, the SEC adopted interim final rules relating to the implementation of certain disclosure and documentation requirements of the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act.

 

On September 22, 2021, the PCAOB adopted a final rule implementing the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which provides a framework for the PCAOB to use when determining, as contemplated under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, whether the board of directors of a company is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction.

 

On December 2, 2021, the SEC adopted amendments to finalize rules implementing the submission and disclosure requirements in the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act.

 

On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued a Determination Report on December 16, 2021 which found that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms headquartered in: (1) mainland China of the People’s Republic of China because of a position taken by one or more authorities in mainland China; and (2) Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region and dependency of the PRC, because of a position taken by one or more authorities in Hong Kong. In addition, the PCAOB’s report identified the specific registered public accounting firms which are subject to these determinations.

 

On August 26, 2022, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (the “CSRC”), the Ministry of Finance of the PRC (the “MOF”), and the PCAOB signed a Statement of Protocol (the “Protocol”) governing inspections and investigations of audit firms based in mainland China and Hong Kong, taking the first step toward opening access for the PCAOB to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong. Pursuant to the fact sheet with respect to the Protocol disclosed by the SEC, the PCAOB shall have independent discretion to select any issuer audits for inspection or investigation and has the unfettered ability to transfer information to the SEC.

 

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On December 15, 2022, the PCAOB determined that it was able to secure complete access to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong and vacated its previous determinations to the contrary. However, should PRC authorities obstruct or otherwise fail to facilitate the PCAOB’s access in the future, the PCAOB may consider the need to issue a new determination.

 

On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, and on December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023 was signed into law, which contained, among other things, an identical provision to the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which reduces the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act from three years to two years.

 

Our auditor, Enrome LLP, the independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance with the applicable professional standards and was not identified in the Determination Report as a firm subject to the PCAOB’s Determination. Enrome LLP is headquartered in Singapore, and can be inspected by the PCAOB.

 

However, we cannot assure you whether the national securities exchange we are listed on or regulatory authorities would apply additional and more stringent criteria to us after considering the effectiveness of our auditor’s audit procedures and quality control procedures, adequacy of personnel and training, or sufficiency of resources, geographic reach, or experience as it relates to our audit. In addition, our Ordinary Shares may be delisted in the future if the PCAOB is unable to inspect our accounting firm within two years.

 

The Chinese government exerts substantial influence over the manner in which we must conduct our business, and may intervene or influence our operations at any time, which could result in a material change in our operations, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and cause the value of our Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or be worthless

 

The Chinese government has exercised and continues to exercise substantial control over virtually every sector of the Chinese economy through regulation and state ownership. Our ability to operate in China may be harmed by changes in its laws and regulations, including those relating to taxation, environmental regulations, land use rights, property and other matters. The central or local governments of these jurisdictions may impose new, stricter regulations or interpretations of existing regulations that would require additional expenditures and efforts on our part to ensure our compliance with such regulations or interpretations. Accordingly, government actions in the future, including any decision not to continue to support recent economic reforms and to return to a more centrally planned economy or regional or local variations in the implementation of economic policies, could have a significant effect on economic conditions in China or particular regions thereof, and could require us to divest ourselves of any interest we then hold in Chinese properties.

 

Recent statements made by the Chinese government have indicated an intent to increase the government’s oversight and control over offerings of companies with significant operations in the PRC that are to be conducted in foreign markets, as well as foreign investment in China-based issuers. On February 17, 2023, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (the “CSRC”) released the Trial Administrative Measures of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (the “Trial Measures”), (《境内企业境外发行证券和上市管理试行办法》) and five supporting guidelines (collectively, the “Overseas Listings Rules”), which has taken effect on March 31, 2023.

 

The Overseas Listing Rules aim to lay out the filing regulation arrangement for both direct and indirect overseas listing and clarify the determination criteria for indirect overseas listing in overseas markers. Where an enterprise whose principal business activities are conducted in the PRC seeks to issue and list its shares in the name of an overseas enterprise based on equity, assets, income, or other similar rights and interests of the relevant domestic enterprise in the PRC, such activities are deemed an indirect overseas issuance and listing.

 

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According to the Overseas Listings Rules, after the submission of relevant application for initial public offerings or listings in overseas markets, or after the completion of subsequent securities offerings of an issuer in the same overseas market where it has previously offered and listed, or after the submission of relevant application for subsequent securities offerings and listings of an issuer in other overseas markets than where it has offered and listed, all China-based companies shall file the required filing materials with the CSRC within three working days. In addition, overseas offerings and listings will be prohibited for such China-based companies when any of the following applies: (i) where such securities offerings and listings are explicitly prohibited by the PRC laws and regulations; (ii) where the intended securities offerings and listings may endanger national security as reviewed and determined by competent authorities under the State Council in accordance with laws; (iii) where the domestic company intending to make the securities offering and listing, or its controlling shareholders and the actual controller, have committed crimes such as corruption, bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation of property or undermining the order of the socialist market economy during the latest three years; (iv) where the domestic company intending to make the securities offering and listing is suspected of committing crimes or major violations of laws and regulations, and is under investigation according to law, and no conclusion has yet been made thereof; or (v) where there are material ownership disputes over equity held by the domestic company’s controlling shareholder or by other shareholders that are controlled by the controlling shareholder and/or actual controller. The Trial Measures further stipulate that a fine between RMB1 million (approximately $157,255) and RMB10 million (approximately $1,572,550) may be imposed if an applicant fails to fulfill the filing requirements with the CSRC or conducts an overseas offering or listing in violation of the Overseas Listings Rules.

 

As of the date of this annual report, we have not received any formal inquiry, notice, warning, sanction, or any regulatory objection from the CSRC with respect to our listing or subsequent offerings. As the Overseas Listings Rules were newly published and there exists uncertainty with respect to the filing requirements and its implementation, if we are required to submit to the CRSC and complete the filing procedure of our subsequent overseas public offerings, we cannot be sure that we will be able to complete such filings in a timely manner. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with such filing requirements under the Overseas Listings Rules may result in forced corrections, warnings and fines against us and could materially hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer our securities.

 

Notwithstanding the above, our PRC counsel has further advised us that uncertainties still exist as to whether we, our subsidiaries,the VIEs to operate in China, or any of their subsidiaries are required to obtain permissions from the CAC, the CSRC, or any other governmental agency that is required to approve our operations and/or offering. We have been closely monitoring the development in the regulatory landscape in the PRC, particularly regarding the requirement of approvals, including on a retrospective basis, from the CAC, the CSRC, or other PRC authorities with respect to this offering, as well as other procedures that may be imposed on us. In the event that we, our subsidiaries, the VIEs, or any of their subsidiaries are subject to the compliance requirements, we cannot assure you that any of these entities will be able to receive clearance of such compliance requirements in a timely manner, or at all. Any failure of our Company, our subsidiaries, and the VIEs, or any of their subsidiaries to fully comply with new regulatory requirements may subject us to regulatory actions, such as fines, relevant businesses or operations suspension for rectification, revocation of relevant business permits or operational license, or other sanctions, which may significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer our securities cause significant disruption to our business operations, severely damage our reputation, materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations and cause our securities to significantly decline in value or become worthless.

 

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We may be unable to complete a business combination transaction efficiently or on favorable terms due to complicated merger and acquisition regulations and certain other PRC regulations. 

 

The Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, purport to require offshore special purpose vehicles that are controlled by PRC companies or individuals and that have been formed for the purpose of seeking a public listing on an overseas stock exchange through acquisitions of PRC domestic companies or assets to obtain CSRC approval prior to publicly listing their securities on an overseas stock exchange. The interpretation and application of the regulations remain unclear. If a governmental approval of our continued listing is required, it is uncertain how long it will take for us to obtain such approval, and, even if we obtain such approval, the approval could be rescinded. Any failure to obtain, or a delay in obtaining, the requisite governmental approval for our continued listing, or a rescission of such CSRC approval if it is obtained by us, may subject us to sanctions imposed by the relevant PRC regulatory authority, which could include fines and penalties on the operations of the VIEs and their subsidiaries in China, restrictions or limitations on our ability to pay dividends outside of China, and other forms of sanctions that may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

Our PRC counsel, Dentons, has advised us that, based on its understanding of the current PRC laws and regulations, we are not subject to the CSRC’s approval under the M&A Rules for our continued listing, because (i) the CSRC currently has not issued any definitive rule or interpretation concerning whether any continued listings are subject to this regulation; (ii) we currently control Sentage WFOE by virtue of Sentage HK acquiring 100% of the equity interest of Sentage WFOE, which is not regulated by the M&A Rules. Sentage WFOE was established by means of direct investment rather than by a merger with or an acquisition of any PRC domestic companies as defined under the M&A Rules. CSRC approval only applies to overseas listings of SPVs that have used their existing or newly issued equity interest to acquire existing or newly issued equity interest in PRC domestic companies (iii) no provision in the M&A Rules classifies the contractual arrangements under the VIE Agreements as a type of acquisition transaction falling under the M&A Rules.

 

Our PRC counsel, Dentons, has further advised us that there remains some uncertainty as to how the M&A Rules will be interpreted or implemented in the context of an overseas listing, and its opinions summarized above are subject to any new laws, rules and regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations in any form relating to the M&A Rules. We cannot assure you that relevant PRC governmental authorities, including the CSRC, would reach the same conclusion as our PRC counsel, and hence, we may face regulatory actions or other sanctions from them.

 

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To the extent cash or assets of our business, or of the PRC Operating Entities, is in the PRC or Hong Kong, such cash or assets may not be available to fund operations or for other use outside of the PRC or Hong Kong, due to interventions in or the imposition of restrictions and limitations by the PRC government to the transfer of cash or assets.

 

The transfer of funds and assets among Sentage Holdings, its Hong Kong and PRC subsidiaries, and the VIEs is subject to restrictions. The PRC government imposes controls on the conversion of the RMB into foreign currencies and the remittance of currencies out of the PRC. In addition, the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules provide that a withholding tax at a rate of 10% will be applicable to dividends payable by Chinese companies to non-PRC-resident enterprises, unless reduced under treaties or arrangements between the PRC central government and the governments of other countries or regions where the non-PRC resident enterprises are tax resident.

 

As of the date of this annual report, there are no restrictions or limitations imposed by the Hong Kong government on the transfer of capital within, into and out of Hong Kong (including funds from Hong Kong to the PRC), except for the transfer of funds involving money laundering and criminal activities. However, there is no guarantee that the Hong Kong government will not promulgate new laws or regulations that may impose such restrictions in the future.

 

As a result of the above, to the extent cash or assets of our business, or of the PRC Operating Entities, is in the PRC or Hong Kong, such funds or assets may not be available to fund operations or for other use outside of the PRC or Hong Kong, due to interventions in or the imposition of restrictions and limitations by the PRC government to the transfer of cash or assets.

 

Risks Related to Our Ordinary Shares

 

We may issue additional Ordinary Shares or other equity securities without your approval, which would dilute your ownership interests and may depress the market price of our Ordinary Shares.

 

We may issue additional Ordinary Shares or other equity securities of equal or senior rank in the future for any reason or in connection with, among other things, future acquisitions or repayment of outstanding indebtedness, without shareholder approval.

 

Our issuance of additional Ordinary Shares or other equity securities of equal or senior rank would have the following effects:

 

  our existing shareholders’ proportionate ownership interest in us will decrease;

 

  the amount of cash available per share, including for payment of dividends in the future, may decrease;

 

  the relative voting strength of each previously outstanding share may be diminished; and

 

  the market price of our Ordinary Shares may decline.

 

We are not expected to pay dividends on our Ordinary Shares in the foreseeable future.

 

We are not expected to pay dividends on our Ordinary Shares in the foreseeable future. Instead, for the foreseeable future, it is expected that we will continue to retain any earnings to finance the development and expansion of its business, and not to pay any cash dividends on our Ordinary Shares. Consequently, you should not rely on an investment in the Company as a source for any future dividend income.

 

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Our board of directors has complete discretion as to whether to distribute dividends, subject to applicable laws. Even if our board of directors decides to declare and pay dividends, the timing, amount and form of future dividends, if any, will depend on, among other things, our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiaries, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in our Ordinary Shares will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of our Ordinary Shares. We cannot guarantee that our Ordinary Shares will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the Ordinary Shares. You may not realize a return on your investment in our Ordinary Shares and you may even lose your entire investment in our Ordinary Shares.

 

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

 

Based on the projected composition of our income and valuation of our assets, we are not expected to be a passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”) for its current taxable year, and we do not expect to become one in the future, although there can be no assurance in this regard. Although we do not expect to be a PFIC, it is not entirely clear how the contractual arrangements between our Company and the VIEs will be treated for purposes of the PFIC rules. If it were determined that we do not own the stock of the VIEs for U.S. federal income tax purposes (for instance, because the relevant PRC authorities do not respect these arrangements), we may be treated as a PFIC. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—U.S. Holders—Passive Foreign Investment Company.” If we are or were to become a PFIC, such characterization could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequences to you if you are a U.S. investor. For example, if we are a PFIC, its U.S. investors will become subject to increased tax liabilities under U.S. federal income tax laws and regulations and will become subject to burdensome reporting requirements. We cannot assure you that we will not be a PFIC for our current taxable year or any future taxable year.

 

Our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association contains anti-takeover provisions that could have a material adverse effect on the rights of holders of our Ordinary Shares.

 

Our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association include provisions to limit the ability of others to acquire control of us or cause us to engage in change-of-control transactions. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of us in a tender offer or similar transaction. For example, our board of directors has the authority, subject to any resolution of the shareholders to the contrary, to issue preference shares in one or more series and to fix their designations, powers, preferences, privileges, and relative participating, optional or special rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions, including dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our Ordinary Shares. Preference shares could be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control of the Company or make removal of management more difficult. If our board of directors decides to issue preference shares, the price of our Ordinary Shares may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our Ordinary Shares may be materially and adversely affected.

 

You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we were formed under Cayman Islands law.

 

We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the Companies Act of the Cayman Islands and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders to take action against our directors, actions by our minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedents in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedents in some jurisdictions in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.

 

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

 

Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands differ significantly from requirements for companies incorporated in other jurisdictions such as the U.S. To the extent we choose to follow home country practice, shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would have under rules and regulations applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.

 

The Cayman Islands courts are also unlikely (i) to recognize or enforce against us judgments of courts of the United States based on certain civil liability provisions of U.S. securities laws, or (ii) to impose liabilities against us, in original actions brought in the Cayman Islands, based on certain civil liability provisions of U.S. securities laws that are penal in nature.

 

There is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will in certain circumstances recognize and enforce a non-penal judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction without retrial on the merits.

 

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

 

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

 

We are a Cayman Islands company and all of our assets are located outside of the United States. All of our current operations are conducted in the PRC. In addition, the majority of our officers and directors are nationals and residents of countries other than the United States and all of their assets are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of the PRC may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. For more information regarding the relevant laws of the Cayman Islands and the PRC.

 

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

 

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

 

  the rules under the Exchange Act requiring the filing of quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K with the SEC;

 

  the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act;

 

  the sections of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their stock ownership and trading activities and liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time; and

 

  the selective disclosure rules by issuers of material nonpublic information under Regulation FD.

 

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

 

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

 

As a Cayman Islands company listed on the Nasdaq, we are subject to Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards. However, the Nasdaq rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards. A Cayman Islands company is not required to have annual general meetings. Shareholders of Cayman Islands exempted companies like us have no general rights under Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders of these companies. Our directors have discretion under our articles of association to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder motion or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest. To the extent we choose to follow home country practice with respect to corporate governance matters such as the exemption from holding an annual general meeting pursuant to Nasdaq Rule 5620(a), our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would under rules and regulations applicable to U.S. domestic issuers. For details as to the corporate governance matters for which we have elected to follow our home country practices, rather than Nasdaq listing standards, please see “Item 16.G—Corporate Governance.”

 

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We have incurred and will continue to incur increased costs as a result of being a public company.

 

We are a public company and we incur significant accounting, legal and other expenses. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and the Nasdaq, have detailed requirements concerning corporate governance practices of public companies, including Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 relating to internal controls over financial reporting. These rules and regulations applicable to public companies have increased our accounting, legal and financial compliance costs and made certain corporate activities more time-consuming and costly. Our management is required to devote substantial time and attention to our public company reporting obligations and other compliance matters. Our reporting and other compliance obligations as a public company may place a strain on our management, operational and financial resources and systems for the foreseeable future.

 

In the past, shareholders of a public company often brought securities class action suits against the company following periods of instability in the market price of that company’s securities. If we were involved in a class action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations, which could harm our results of operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit. Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

 

A. History and Development of the Company

 

Sentage Holdings Inc. (“Sentage Holdings”) was incorporated on September 16, 2019, under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Sentage Hongkong Limited (“Sentage HK”) was incorporated on September 25, 2019 in Hong Kong as a wholly owned subsidiary of Sentage Holdings.

 

On December 17, 2019, Shanghai Santeng Technology Co., Ltd. (“Sentage WFOE”) was incorporated pursuant to PRC laws as a wholly foreign owned enterprise. Sentage HK holds 100% of the equity interests in Sentage WFOE. Due to PRC laws and regulations on foreign ownership and investment in companies that engage in certain businesses including third-party payment services, we conduct our businesses in China through a VIE structure.

 

We currently operate three lines of business in loan repayment and collection management, loan recommendation, and prepaid payment network through three of the Sentage Operating Companies, Daxin Wealth, Daxin Zhuohui, and Qingdao Buytop, pursuant to a series of contractual arrangements, also known as VIE Agreements. As of the date of this annual report, Zhenyi, another VIE and Sentage Operating Company, is not engaged in active business operation but is expected to provide us with technical and system development and support in the future. All the Sentage Operating Companies were incorporated as limited companies pursuant to PRC laws. Specifically, Daxin Wealth and Daxin Zhuohui are engaged in the loan repayment and collection management business, Daxin Zhuohui provides loan recommendation services, and Qingdao Buytop provides prepaid payment network services.

 

On July 9, 2021, our Ordinary Shares were listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol “SNTG.”

 

On July 13, 2021, we closed our initial public offering (“IPO”) of 4,000,000 Ordinary Shares, or 800,000 Ordinary Shares reflecting the 1-for-5 share consolidation that took effect on August 10, 2022, pursuant to the registration statement on Form F-1 (File No.333-254558).

 

The SEC maintains a website at www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC using its EDGAR system. Investors may also find more information about us on our website at www.sentageholdings.com.

 

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B. Business Overview

 

Sentage Holdings is not an operating company but a Cayman Islands holding company. The Company’s operations are conducted through Sentage Operating Companies, or the VIEs, based in China, pursuant to the VIE Agreements. The VIE structure is not used to provide contractual exposure to foreign investment in China-based companies where Chinese law prohibits direct foreign investment in the operating companies, rather we use the VIE structure because the Chinese laws and regulations affecting Sentage Operating Companies’ businesses are vague and unclear. Sentage Operating Companies engage in (i) consumer loan repayment and collection management service, (ii) loan recommendation service, and (iii) prepaid payment network service. According to “Administrative Measures of People’s Bank of China on Payment Services Provided by Non-financial Institutions” (“Order 2”) and “People’s Bank of China Announcement [2018] No. 7 — Announcement on Matters Relating to Foreign-funded Payment Organizations” (“Announcement No. 7”), those who engage in prepaid network services business within China need to go through a special legal approval procedure to obtain third-party payment licenses. Although the People’s Bank of China has loosened the requirements for foreign-invested enterprises to hold third-party payment licenses, the review procedure is still very strict in practice. At the same time, Chinese authorities have not yet made it clear whether to permit or prohibit foreign-invested enterprises to engage in prepaid network services, loan collection management and loan recommendation services, and there is a risk that Chinese authorities may prohibit direct foreign investment of such businesses.

 

We do not have any equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies, whose financial results have been consolidated by us in accordance with U.S. GAAP because we are deemed to have effective control over and be the primary beneficiary of these companies, for accounting purposes only, via the VIE Agreements. However, the VIE Agreements have not been tested in a court of law in China as of the date of this annual report. Investors of our Ordinary Shares, thus, do not own any equity interest in the Sentage Operating Companies, or the VIEs, in China, but instead own equity interest in a Cayman Islands holding company. For details of the VIE Agreements, see “ITEM 4. C. Organizational Structure – The VIE Agreements”; and for the risks associated with the VIE Agreements and the VIE structure, see “ITEM 3D. Risk Factors – Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure”.

 

We are subject to risks associated with our VIE structure. Investors may never directly hold equity interests in the VIEs. If the PRC government finds that the contractual arrangements which establish the structure of our business operations do not comply with PRC laws and regulations, or if these regulations or their interpretations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations, which would result in the VIEs being deconsolidated. A majority of our assets, including the necessary licenses to conduct business are held by the VIEs and their subsidiaries. Substantially all of our revenue is generated by the VIEs. The deconsolidation of the VIEs would have a material adverse effect on our operations and substantially diminish the value of our Ordinary Shares. There are uncertainties about potential future actions by the PRC government that could affect the enforceability of our contractual arrangements with the VIEs and, consequently, significantly affect our financial performance. The value of the Ordinary Shares may significantly decline or become worthless as a result. For a detailed description of the risks associated with our corporate structure, please refer to risks disclosed under “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure.”

 

We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties associated with having substantially all of our operations in China and with the complex and evolving PRC laws and regulations, and as a result these risks may result in material changes in the operations of our subsidiaries, the VIEs, and their subsidiaries, significant depreciation or a complete loss of the value of our Ordinary Shares, or a complete hindrance of our ability to offer, or continue to offer, our securities to investors. For example, we face risks associated with PRC governmental authorities’ significant oversight and discretion over the businesses and financing activities of the VIEs, the requirement of regulatory approvals for offerings and listings conducted overseas and foreign investment in China-based issuers, the use of VIEs, the enforcement of anti-monopoly regime, the regulatory oversight on cybersecurity and data privacy as well as the risk of delisting if the PCAOB is unable to conduct inspection on our auditors, which may impact our ability to conduct certain businesses, accept foreign investments, or continue to list on a United States or other foreign exchange. These risks could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our Ordinary Shares, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer such securities to investors, or cause the value of such securities to significantly decline. For a detailed description of risks related to doing business in China, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China.”

 

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Recently, the PRC government adopted a series of regulatory actions and issued statements to regulate business operations in China with little advance notice, including cracking down on illegal activities in the securities market, adopting new measures to extend the scope of cybersecurity reviews, and expanding the efforts in anti-monopoly enforcement. As of the date of this report, none of the Company, our subsidiaries, nor the VIEs and their subsidiaries have been involved in any investigation or cybersecurity review initiated by any PRC regulatory authority, nor has any of them received any inquiry, notice, or sanction related to cybersecurity review under the Cybersecurity Review Measures. On December 28, 2021, 13 governmental departments of the PRC, including the Cyberspace Administration of China (the “CAC”), issued the Cybersecurity Review Measures, which became effective on February 15, 2022. The Cybersecurity Review Measures provide that an online platform operator which possesses the personal information of at least one million users must apply for a cybersecurity review by the CAC if it intends to be listed in foreign countries. On July 7, 2022, the CAC published the Measures for the Security Assessment of Outbound Data Transfer (《数据出境安全评估办法》), which effected on September 1, 2022. The measures apply to the security assessment of important data and personal information collected and generated during operation within the territory of the People’s Republic of China and transferred abroad by a data handler. According to the Measures, if a data handler transfers data abroad under any of the following circumstances, it shall file to the State Cyberspace Administration for security assessment via the Province Cyberspace Administration: (i) a data handler who transfers important data abroad; (ii) a critical information infrastructure operator, or a data handler processing the personal information of more than one million individuals transfers personal information to abroad;(iii) since January 1 of the previous year, a data handler cumulatively transferred abroad the personal information of more than 100,000 individuals, or the sensitive personal information of more than 10,000 individuals, or;(iv) other circumstances where the security assessment for the outbound data transfer is required by the State Cyberspace Administration. As of the date of this annual report, according to our PRC counsel, Dentons, our operations in the PRC and our continued listing are not subject to the review or prior approval of the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) or the China Securities Regulatory Commission (“CSRC”). Uncertainties still exist, however, due to the possibility that laws, regulations, or policies in the PRC could change rapidly in the future.

 

In the event that (i) the PRC government expanded the categories of industries and companies whose foreign securities offerings are subject to review by the CSRC or the CAC and that we are required to obtain such permissions or approvals; or (ii) we inadvertently concluded that relevant permissions or approvals were not required or that we did not receive or maintain relevant permissions or approvals required, any action taken by the PRC government could significantly limit or completely hinder our operating subsidiaries’ operations in the PRC and our ability to offer or continue to offer our Ordinary Shares to investors and could cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless. Since these statements and regulatory actions are newly published, however, official guidance and related implementation rules have not been issued. It is highly uncertain what the potential impact such modified or new laws and regulations will have on the daily business operations of our subsidiaries and the VIEs and their subsidiaries, our ability to accept foreign investments, and our listing on a U.S. exchange. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (“SCNPC”) or PRC regulatory authorities may in the future promulgate laws, regulations, or implementing rules that require us, our subsidiaries, or the VIEs and their subsidiaries to obtain regulatory approval from Chinese authorities before listing in the U.S. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Doing Business in China—Recent greater oversight by the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) over data security, particularly for companies seeking to list on a foreign exchange, could adversely impact our business” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors— Risks Related to Doing Business in China —Changes in China’s economic, political, or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on the operating entities’ business and operations.

 

As a holding company, we conduct our operations in China through the VIEs in China. In addition, some of our senior executive officers and directors, namely Qiaoling Lu, Jianhu Chen, Yiheng Guo, Shengsong Wong, reside in the PRC for a significant portion of the time and are PRC nationals. As a result, it may be difficult to effect service of process upon those persons. It may be difficult to enforce judgements obtained in U.S. courts based on civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws against us and our officers and directors, as none of them currently resides in the U.S. or has substantial assets in the U.S. In addition, there is uncertainty as to whether the courts of the Cayman Islands or the PRC would recognize or enforce judgments of U.S. courts against us or such persons predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the securities laws of the U.S. or any state. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Doing Business in China— You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments, or bringing actions in China against us or our management named in this annual report based on foreign laws.”

 

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In addition, trading in our securities may be prohibited under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act if the PCAOB determines that it cannot inspect our auditor, and as a result an exchange may determine to delist our securities. On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, and on December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023 was signed into law, which contained, among other things, an identical provision to the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which reduces the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act from three years to two years.

 

Enrome LLP. Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report, is headquartered in Singapore. As an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the U.S. and a firm registered with the PCAOB, our auditor is subject to laws in the U.S. and PCAOB’s inspection.

 

However, these recent developments would add uncertainties to our continued listing and we cannot assure you whether Nasdaq or other regulatory authorities would apply additional and more stringent criteria to us after considering the effectiveness of our auditor’s audit procedures and quality control procedures, adequacy of personnel and training, or sufficiency of resources, geographic reach or experience as related to the audit of our financial statements. Furthermore, there is a risk that our auditor cannot be inspected by the PCAOB in the future. The lack of inspection could cause trading in our securities to be prohibited on a national exchange or in the over-the-counter trading market under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, and, as a result, Nasdaq may determine to delist our securities, which may cause the value of our securities to decline or become worthless.

 

Dividends and Distributions

 

Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payment of current account items, such as profit distributions and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior approval from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or the SAFE, by complying with certain procedural requirements. Therefore, our PRC subsidiary is able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to us without prior approval from SAFE, subject to the condition that the remittance of such dividends outside of the PRC complies with certain procedures under PRC foreign exchange regulations, such as the overseas investment registrations by our shareholders or the ultimate shareholders of our corporate shareholders who are PRC residents. Approval from, or registration with, appropriate government authorities is, however, required where the RMB is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. The PRC government may also at its discretion restrict access in the future to foreign currencies for current account transactions. Current PRC regulations permit Sentage WFOE to pay dividends to the Company only out of its accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. As of the date of this annual report, there are no restrictions or limitations imposed by the Hong Kong government on the transfer of capital within, into and out of Hong Kong (including funds from Hong Kong to the PRC), except for transfer of funds involving money laundering and criminal activities. See “Item 3. D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—To the extent cash or assets of our business, or of the PRC Operating Entities, is in PRC or Hong Kong, such cash or assets may not be available to fund operations or for other use outside of the PRC or Hong Kong, due to interventions in or the imposition of restrictions and limitations by the PRC government to the transfer of cash or assets.” 

 

For the fiscal year 2022, 2021 and 2020, and as of the date of this annual report, there were no dividends distributed between the holding company and its subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs or to investors. Cash is transferred among our Company, our subsidiaries, and the VIE, in the following manners: (i) funds are transferred to our WFOE from our Company as needed through Sentage HK, our Hong Kong subsidiary, in the form of capital contributions or shareholder loans, as the case may be; (ii) funds may be paid by the VIE to WFOE, as service fees according to the VIE Agreements; (iii) dividends or other distributions may be paid by WFOE, to our Company through Sentage HK; and (iv) WFOE and the VIE lend to and borrow from each other from time to time for business operation purposes.  As of the date of this annual report, cash transfers and transfers of other assets between the Company, its subsidiaries, and the VIE, were as follows: For fiscal year 2021, the Company transferred all the net IPO proceeds in the amount of $16.91 million to its subsidiary, Sentage HK. There was no cash or other assets transfer between the Company, its subsidiaries, and the VIE during the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021. As of the date of this annual report, the VIE have not distributed any earnings or settled any amounts owed under the VIE Agreements, nor does it have any plan to distribute earnings or settle amounts owed under the VIE Agreements in the foreseeable future.

 

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Under Cayman Islands law, a Cayman Islands company may pay a dividend on its shares out of either profit or share premium amount, provided that in no circumstances may a dividend be paid if this would result in the company being unable to pay its debts due in the ordinary course of business. We intend to keep any future earnings to finance the expansion of our business, and we do not anticipate that any cash dividends will be paid in the foreseeable future, or any funds will be transferred from one entity to another on a regular basis. As such, we have not installed any cash management policies that dictate how funds are transferred among Golden Sun Cayman, its subsidiaries, or investors.

 

If we determine to pay dividends on any of our Ordinary Shares in the future, as a holding company, we will be dependent on receipt of funds from our Hong Kong subsidiary, Sentage HK.

 

Current PRC regulations permit Sentage WFOE to pay dividends to Sentage HK only out of its accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, each of our operating entities in China is required to set aside at least 10% of its after-tax profits each year, if any, to fund a statutory reserve until such reserve reaches 50% of its registered capital. Each of such entity in China is also required to further set aside a portion of its after-tax profits to fund the employee welfare fund, although the amount to be set aside, if any, is determined at the discretion of its board of directors. Although the statutory reserves can be used, among other ways, to increase the registered capital and eliminate future losses in excess of retained earnings of the respective companies, the reserve funds are not distributable as cash dividends except in the event of liquidation.

 

The PRC government also imposes controls on the conversion of RMB into foreign currencies and the remittance of currencies out of the PRC. Therefore, we may experience difficulties in complying with the administrative requirements necessary to obtain and remit foreign currency for the payment of dividends from our profits, if any. Furthermore, if our operating entities in the PRC incur debt on their own in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments. If we or the PRC operating entities is unable to receive all of the revenue from our operations, we may be unable to pay dividends on our Ordinary Shares.

 

Cash dividends, if any, on our Ordinary Shares will be paid in U.S. dollars. Sentage HK may be considered a non-resident enterprise for tax purposes, so that any dividends Sentage WFOE pays to Sentage HK may be regarded as China-sourced income and as a result may be subject to PRC withholding tax at a rate of up to 10%. See “Material Income Tax Consideration—People’s Republic of China Enterprise Taxation.”

 

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In order for us to pay dividends to our shareholders, we will rely on payments made from the Sentage Operating Companies to Sentage WFOE, pursuant to VIE Agreements between them, and the distribution of such payments to Sentage HK as dividends from Sentage WFOE. Certain payments from the Sentage Operating Companies to Sentage WFOE are subject to PRC taxes, including business taxes and value-added taxes. In addition, if any of the Sentage Operating Companies incurs debt on their own behalves in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict its ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us.

 

Pursuant to the Arrangement between Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Tax Evasion on Income, or the Double Tax Avoidance Arrangement, the 10% withholding tax rate may be lowered to 5% if a Hong Kong resident enterprise owns no less than 25% of a PRC project. The 5% withholding tax rate, however, does not automatically apply and certain requirements must be satisfied, including without limitation that (a) the Hong Kong project must be the beneficial owner of the relevant dividends; and (b) the Hong Kong project must directly hold no less than 25% share ownership in the PRC project during the 12 consecutive months preceding its receipt of the dividends. In current practice, a Hong Kong project must obtain a tax resident certificate from the Hong Kong tax authority to apply for the 5% lower PRC withholding tax rate. As the Hong Kong tax authority will issue such a tax resident certificate on a case-by-case basis, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain the tax resident certificate from the relevant Hong Kong tax authority and enjoy the preferential withholding tax rate of 5% under the Double Taxation Arrangement with respect to any dividends paid by Sentage WFOE to its immediate holding company, Sentage HK. As of the date of this annual report, we have not applied for the tax resident certificate from the relevant Hong Kong tax authority. Sentage HK intends to apply for the tax resident certificate if and when Sentage WFOE plans to declare and pay dividends to Sentage HK. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—There are significant uncertainties under the EIT Law relating to the withholding tax liabilities of Sentage WFOE, and dividends payable by Sentage WFOE to our offshore subsidiaries may not qualify to enjoy certain treaty benefits.”

 

Recent Regulatory Developments

 

Recent regulatory developments on oversea-listing

 

On July 6, 2021, the relevant PRC governmental authorities made public the Opinions on Strictly Cracking Down Illegal Securities Activities in Accordance with the Law. These opinions emphasized the need to strengthen the administration over illegal securities activities and the supervision on overseas listings by China-based companies and proposed to take effective measures, such as promoting the construction of relevant regulatory systems to deal with the risks and incidents faced by China-based overseas-listed companies. As these opinions are recently issued, official guidance and related implementation rules have not been issued yet and the interpretation of these opinions remains unclear at this stage. See “Item 3. D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—The “Opinions on Severely Cracking Down on Illegal Securities Activities According to Law,” or the “Opinions,” recently issued by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council may subject us to additional compliance requirement in the future.

 

On December 24, 2021, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, issued Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments) (the “Administration Provisions”), and the Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments) (the “Measures”), of which the public comment period ended on January 23, 2022. The Administration Provisions and Measures for overseas listings lay out specific requirements for filing documents and include unified regulation management, strengthening regulatory coordination, and cross-border regulatory cooperation. Domestic companies seeking to list abroad must carry out relevant security screening procedures if their businesses involve such supervision. Companies endangering national security are among those off-limits for overseas listings.

 

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On February 17, 2023, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (the “CSRC”) released the Trial Administrative Measures of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (the “Trial Measures”), (《境内企业境外发行证券和上市管理试行办法》), and five supporting guidelines (collectively, the “Overseas Listings Rules”), which has become effective on March 31, 2023. On the same date of the issuance of the Overseas Listings Rules, the CSRC circulated No.1 to No.5 Supporting Guidance Rules, the Notes on the Overseas Listings Rules, the Notice on Administration Arrangements for the Filing of Overseas Listings by Domestic Enterprises and the relevant CSRC Answers to Reporter Questions on the official website of CSRC, or collectively, the Guidance Rules and Notice. The Overseas Listings Rules, together with the Guidance Rules and Notice, reiterate the basic supervision principles as reflected in the Administration Provisions and Measures by providing substantially the same requirements for filings of overseas offering and listing by domestic companies.

 

Under the Overseas Listings Rules and the Guidance Rules and Notice, domestic companies conducting overseas securities offering and listing activities, either in direct or indirect form, shall complete filing procedures with the CSRC pursuant to the requirements of the Trial Measures within three working days following its submission of initial public offerings or listing application. The companies that have already been listed on overseas stock exchanges or have obtained the approval from overseas supervision administrations or stock exchanges for its offering and listing before March 31, 2023 and completed their overseas offering and listing prior to September 30, 2023 are not required to make immediate filings for its listing yet need to make filings for subsequent offerings in accordance with the Overseas Listings Rules. The companies that have already submitted an application for an initial public offering to overseas supervision administrations prior to the effective date of the Overseas Listings Rules but have not yet obtained the approval from overseas supervision administrations or stock exchanges for the offering and listing may arrange for the filing within a reasonable time period and should complete the filing procedure before such companies’ overseas issuance and listing. See “Item 3. D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—The Chinese government exerts substantial influence over the manner in which we must conduct our business, and may intervene or influence our operations at any time, which could result in a material change in our operations, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and cause the value of our Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or be worthless.”

 

See “Item 3. D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China— The Chinese government exerts substantial influence over the manner in which we must conduct our business, and may intervene or influence our operations at any time, which could result in a material change in our operations, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and cause the value of our Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or be worthless .”

 

As of the date of this annual report, we and the PRC operating entities have not received any formal inquiry, notice, warning, sanction, or any regulatory objection from the CSRC with respect to our listing or subsequent offerings. As the Overseas Listings Rules were newly published and there exists uncertainty with respect to the filing requirements and its implementation, if we are required to submit to the CRSC and complete the filing procedure of our subsequent overseas public offerings, we cannot be sure that we will be able to complete such filings in a timely manner. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with such filing requirements under the Overseas Listings Rules may result in forced corrections, warnings and fines against us and could materially hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer our securities.

 

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Recent regulatory development of Cyberspace Administration of China over data security

 

On July 7, 2022, the CAC published the Measures for the Security Assessment of Outbound Data Transfer (《数据出境安全评估办法》), which effected on September 1, 2022. The measures apply to the security assessment of important data and personal information collected and generated during operation within the territory of the People’s Republic of China and transferred abroad by a data handler. According to the Measures, if a data handler transfers data abroad under any of the following circumstances, it shall file to the State Cyberspace Administration for security assessment via the Province Cyberspace Administration: (i) a data handler who transfers important data to abroad; (ii) a critical information infrastructure operator, or a data handler processing the personal information of more than 1 million individuals transfers personal information to abroad;(iii) since January 1 of the previous year, a data handler cumulatively transferred abroad the personal information of more than 100,000 individuals, or the sensitive personal information of more than 10,000 individuals, or;(iv) other circumstances where the security assessment for the outbound data transfer is required by the State Cyberspace Administration.

 

As advised by our PRC counsel, Dentons, the operations of the PRC operating entities and our continued listing has not be affected and are not subject to cybersecurity review by the CAC, given that the PRC operating entities (i) possess personal data of fewer than one million individual clients; (ii) do not collect data that affects or may affect national security in their business operations, as of the date of this annual report; and (iii) do not anticipate that they will be collecting over one million users’ personal information or data that affects or may affect national security in the near future. For further details, see “Item 3. D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Recent greater oversight by the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) over data security, particularly for companies seeking to list on a foreign exchange, could adversely impact our business.”

 

Selected Condensed Consolidated Financial Schedule of Sentage Holdings Inc., its subsidiaries, and the VIEs

 

The following tables present selected condensed consolidated financial data of Sentage Holdings Inc. and its subsidiaries and VIEs for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022, 2021, and 2020, and balance sheet data as of December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020, which have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements for those years.

 

SELECTED CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME AND COMPREHENSIVE LOSS 

 

   For the year ended December 31, 2020 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Revenue   -        -    3,595,409        -    3,595,409 
Net Income   -    -    1,587,375    -    1,587,375 
Comprehensive Income    -    -    1,624,368    -    1,624,368 

 

   For the year ended December 31, 2021 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Revenue   -    -    2,262,449        -    2,262,449 
Net Income (loss)   (1,748,643)   (37,371)   692,775    -    (1,093,241)
Comprehensive Income (loss)   (1,748,643)   (36,328)   844,511    -    (940,461)

 

   For the year ended December 31, 2022 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Revenue   -    -    161,372         -    161,372  
Net Income   (1,470,635)   (130,766)   (960,506)   -    (2,561,907)
Comprehensive Income   (1,470,635)   (183,036)   (994,319)   -    (2,647,990)

 

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SELECTED CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS

 

   As of December 31, 2021 
USD 

Sentage
Holdings
Inc.

   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Cash   -    10,145,841    637,546    -    10,783,387 
Total current assets   15,611,082    12,844,391    1,526,409    (12,779,725)   17,202,157 
Total assets   15,611,082    12,844,391    1,690,960    (12,779,725)   17,366,708 
Total liabilities   2,208,643    10,111,084    1,003,752    (12,779,725)   543,754 
Total shareholders’ equity   13,402,439    2,733,307    687,208    -    16,822,954 
Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity   15,611,082    12,844,391    1,690,960    (12,779,725)   17,366,708 

 

   As of December 31, 2022 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Cash   -    3,785,115    20,020    -    3,805,135 
Total current assets   12,740,447    6,873,303    1,442,879    (6,715,249)   14,341,380 
Total assets   12,740,447    7,035,573    1,598,063    (6,715,249)   14,658,834 
Total liabilities   1,466,983    3,826,962    1,905,174    (6,715,249)   483,870 
Total shareholders’ equity   11,273,464    3,208,611    (307,111)   -    14,174,964 
Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity   12,740,447    7,035,573    1,598,063    (6,715,249)   14,658,834 

 

SELECTED CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS

 

   For the year ended December 31, 2020 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Net cash used in operating activities         -          -    465,210       -    465,210 
Net provided by (used in) investing activities   -    -    -    -    - 
Net cash provided by financing activities   -    -    (585,859)   -    (585,859)

 

   For the year ended December 31, 2021 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Net cash used in operating activities          -    (1,815,919)   1,433,255                (382,664)
Net used in investing activities   -    (5,500,000)   (19,977)       (5,519,977)
Net cash provided by (used in) financing activities   -    17,360,717    (959,420)        16,401,297 

 

   For the year ended December 31, 2022 
USD  Sentage
Holdings
Inc.
   Subsidiaries   VIE and its
Subsidiaries
   Eliminations   Consolidated
Total
 
Net cash used in operating activities   -    (6,291,604)   (371,005)   -    (6,662,609)
Net provided by investing activities      -           -    (34,346)          -    (34,346)
Net cash provided by financing activities   -    -    (173,162)   -    (173,162)

 

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Business

 

Through the Sentage Operating Companies, we are a financial service provider that offers a range of financial services across consumer loan repayment and collection management, loan recommendation, and prepaid payment network services in China. Leveraging a deep understanding of the client base, strategic partner relationships, and valuation models and technologies, the Sentage Operating Companies are committed to working with the clients to understand their financial needs and challenges and offering customized services to help them meet their respective objectives.

 

We currently report our operating revenue from three main revenue streams, namely, (i) consumer loan repayment and collection management service, (ii) loan recommendation service, and (iii) prepaid payment network service.

 

For fiscal years 2022, 2021 and 2020, our revenue was $161,372, $2,262,449 and $3,595,409, respectively, and our net profit (loss) was $(2,561,907), ($835,897) and $2,180,076, respectively. The declines of our revenue and increase in our net loss in fiscal year 2022 was due to the fact that we did not generate any revenue from the consumer loan repayment and collection management service and loan recommendation service due to the impact of COVID-19.

 

The declines of our revenue and net profit in fiscal year 2021 was mainly due to the fact that the outstanding servicing agreements under our consumer loan repayment and collection management were fully completed in fiscal 2021 and revenues from this service were significantly reduced in 2021. Revenue from the consumer loan repayment and collection management accounted for 29.9 %, 6.9%, and nil of the total revenue for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively. Revenue from the loan recommendation accounted for 58.1%, 52.1% and nil of the total revenue for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively. Revenue from prepaid payment network service business accounted for 12%, 41% and 100% of the total revenue for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively.

 

For the consumer loan repayment and collection management business, due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19, our prospective business partners were not able to start new cooperation with us and we were not able to generate any revenue for fiscal year 2022. For the loan recommendation services, which requires face-to-face interaction with potential customers, the temporary lock down from April 2022 to June 2022 severely impacted our ability to generate new business. Even after June 2022, due to the uncertainties caused by COVID-19, the demand from customers decreased sharply and the we were not able to generate any revenue for fiscal year 2022. For the prepaid payment network services, the revenue in 2022 declined sharply because decreased demand from customers due to the uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Although China relaxed the COVID-19 restrictions at the end of 2022, because the COVID-19 has deeply affected businesses and economy in China from 2020 to 2022, the extent of any future impact of COVID-19 on our operations remains highly uncertain and unpredictable.

 

Consumer Loan Repayment and Collection Management Service

 

For the fiscal years 2022, 2021 and 2020, revenue generated from the Sentage Operating Companies’ consumer loan repayment and collection management services was nil, US$156,062 and US$1,074,734, respectively. Since the end of 2017, the Sentage Operating Companies have not charged any new fees for loan repayment and collection management. All loan repayment and collection management engagements were fully completed by December 31, 2021.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies devised and implemented a systematic repayment and collection management process adapted to each stage of a loan. Prior to loan delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies provided customers with services such as repayment record reconciliation and payment reminders and notices. Upon delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies’ experienced in-house team worked on recovering past-due loans during the first three months of delinquency through means that did not require face-to-face interaction. If delinquency exceeded three months, the Sentage Operating Companies outsourced loan collection services to reputable and local licensed third-party loan collection agencies, whose performance was supervised and evaluated by the Sentage Operating Companies under a monitoring system. Specifically, these third-party agencies collected past-due loans through various collection efforts such as professional skip-tracing (i.e. the process of locating a borrower who cannot be found at his or her place of residence or usual hangouts) and on-site visits. After the first six months of delinquency, if all the previous efforts to recover past-due loans remained unsuccessful, and after having received the Sentage Operating Companies’ customers’ express authorizations, the Sentage Operating Companies then engaged reputable third-party law firms and initiate judicial proceedings against the delinquent borrower on behalf of the customers. As the Sentage Operating Companies exclusively relied upon third-party resources for on-site visits, their in-house team was able to minimize potential physical confrontation with borrowers and effectively controlled compliance-related risks. In addition, the Sentage Operating Companies coordinated and managed all client engagements and collected information centrally through the Shanghai headquarters. Through the internal management system, the Sentage Operating Companies assigned and adjusted repayment and collection tasks to in-house specialists and third-party collection agencies based on a variety of factors. The Sentage Operating Companies believed this centralized management allowed them to streamline and standardize the payment and collection management process, effectively monitor compliance levels, and increase collection efficiency. 

 

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For fiscal years 2022, 2021 and 2020, the total amount repaid by borrowers and collected by the Sentage Operating Companies and third-party agencies reached RMB nil , RMB1.01million (approximately US$ 0.16million), and RMB 2.16 million (approximately US$ 0.31 million), respectively. While the Sentage Operating Companies offer services nationwide, they strategically focused on strengthening their presence in second-tier and third-tier Chinese cities where they have observed a strong demand for consumer loans. The Sentage Operating Companies’ existing loan repayment and collection management engagements were fully completed by December 31, 2021. Those customers paid service fees for loan repayment and collection management as part of the Sentage Operating Companies’ service agreements that were entered into at the time of loan facilitation. Such prepayments were recorded as a credit to a liability account for prepayments on the Sentage Operating Companies’ balance sheet. As the Sentage Operating Companies provided loan repayment and collection management services to specific customers clients, loan management and collection management fees received from customers in advance were deferred and recognized as revenue over time when designated services were performed.

 

All loan repayment and collection management engagements were fully completed by December 31, 2021. With a team of experienced loan management professionals, the Sentage Operating Companies plan to continue the consumer loan repayment and collection management business by expanding the client base and collaborating with third-party financial institutions. The Sentage Operating Companies have been actively seeking collaboration with third-party financial institutions to further the consumer loan repayment and collection management services. However, there can be no guarantee that the Sentage Operating Companies will be successful in their efforts to continue their consumer loan repayment and collection management business.

 

Loan Recommendation Service

 

As part of the strategy to diversify and expand product and service offering, the Sentage Operating Companies started the loan recommendation business in June 2019. Leveraging their advanced credit assessment and risk management capabilities, the Sentage Operating Companies carefully evaluate applications and supporting materials submitted by individual borrowers and recommend those borrowers the Sentage Operating Companies deem qualified to funding partners, who in return directly provide funds to borrowers recommended by them. The Sentage Operating Companies endeavor to provide a transparent, seamless, and convenient recommendation process for both borrowers and funding partners, while safeguarding their respective interests.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies provide services, including processing paperwork related to borrowers’ applications, evaluating credentials of borrower applicants, and appraising properties to be collateralized through data analysis and on-site inspection. For borrowers the Sentage Operating Companies acquired through business contacts, the Sentage Operating Companies do not directly charge them any service fee. Instead, referral partners first charge borrowers service fees for their referrals. The Sentage Operating Companies then charge the referral partners a commission pursuant to the service agreement between them and the referral partners. The Sentage Operating Companies did not provide new services in fiscal year 2022, due to the impact of COVID-19.

 

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The Sentage Operating Companies only recommend borrowers who are able to collateralize properties that have been evaluated and approved by a team of experienced in-house appraisers. This asset-driven risk management approach is designed to minimize borrowers’ default risk, mitigate the impact of a default, and promote sustainable returns for the funding partners. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies require a current real estate appraisal on all properties that borrowers intend to collateralize. Leveraging the appraisal model and technologies, the experienced in-house appraisers first undertake a rigorous due diligence process involving intensive data collection, review, and analysis to ensure that the Sentage Operating Companies understand the state of the market and the risk-reward profile of the property. The Sentage Operating Companies then conduct a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the property, through which they examine conditions that might adversely affect the property’s value. After consolidating information collected through various channels, the in-house appraisers compare the property with comparable sales based on a set of factors selected to assess specific features of the property and its market conditions..

 

The Sentage Operating Companies continuously work on strengthening the cooperation with funding partners and organically expanding the network of funding partners. For fiscal year 2022, and as of April 22, 2023, due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sentage Operating Companies did not do any business with the funding partners. The Sentage Operating Companies provide the funding partners access to a high-quality borrower applicants base, as well as enhanced credit assessment and risk management capabilities. The Sentage Operating Companies value proposition is further magnified by the repeat lending and cross-selling opportunities the Sentage Operating Companies provide to them. Once borrowers are connected to funding partners through services, funding partners will be able to extend more loans and sell other financial products to such borrowers. The Sentage Operating Companies acquire the funding partners through word-of-mouth referrals and referrals made by the shareholders and management team members, many of whom have established extensive connections in the financial industry based on their respective years of professional experience. While remaining subject to regulations on loan recommendation services, the business model does not subject the Sentage Operating Companies to the relevant local regulatory requirements that are applicable to online lending platforms, since the Sentage Operating Companies do not provide online financing intermediary services. The Sentage Operating Companies believe the strengthened cooperation with funding partners will permit them to sustainably grow the business and mitigate any negative impact brought by the continuing challenging regulatory environment in China.

 

Borrowers may be drawn to the Sentage Operating Companies because of the convenient access to various mortgage products offered by funding partners, a transparent, easily navigable recommendation process, and a client-centric service approach aiming to understand borrowers’ specific financial needs and match them with mortgage products suitable to their current situation. The number of borrowers who have used the Sentage Operating Companies’ recommendation services has grown rapidly over time through third-party and word-of-mouth referrals. For fiscal year 2020, the funding partners approved loans to borrowers recommended by the Sentage Operating Companies in the aggregate amount of RMB744.269 million (approximately US$107.91 million) and the Sentage Operating Companies earned $2,087,717 recommendation service revenue. For fiscal year 2021, the funding partners approved loans to borrowers recommended by the Sentage Operating Companies in the aggregate amount of RMB 256.85million (approximately US$39.82 million) and the Sentage Operating Companies earned $1,177,822 in recommendation service revenue. For fiscal year 2022, the Sentage Operating Companies earned nil recommendation service revenue due to that the Sentage Operating Companies were not able to engage new customers, which process required face-to-face interactions with customers, in the first half of 2022 (the peak season for this type of business). After June 2022, the demand from customers decreased sharply due to the continued uncertainties caused by COVID-19, resulting in nil in revenues for fiscal year 2022.

 

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Prepaid Payment Network Service

 

The Sentage Operating Companies started providing prepaid payment network services in August 2019, offering seamless, convenient, and reliable payment services to merchants across different industries. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies offer prepaid cards to individual consumers who, after purchasing such prepaid cards from the Sentage Operating Companies, will be able to buy goods and services offered by the Sentage Operating Companies’ merchant customers with their prepaid cards and recharge such cards online. The proceeds generated from the actual sales of the prepaid card are deposited into an escrow account designated and monitored by the PBOC. Leveraging the partnership with NetsUnion Clearing Corporation (“NetsUnion”) (i.e. the only bank card clearing house and the largest card payment organization offering mobile and online payment services in China), the Sentage Operating Companies prepaid payment network services enable qualified merchants selected by the Sentage Operating Companies after rigorous internal review to accept prepaid-card payments using traditional payment terminals. The growing prepaid payment service business enables the Sentage Operating Companies to develop a deep understanding of customers’ needs and will allow us to provide merchants with continuously improving services and technologies. During fiscal year 2020, the revenue generated from the payment services consisted of technology consulting and support fees and amounted to US$432,958. During fiscal year 2021, the revenue generated from the payment services consisted of technology consulting and support fees and amounted to US$928,565. During fiscal year 2022, the revenue generated from the payment services consisted of technology consulting and support fees and amounted to US$161,372, which decrease was due to decreased demand due to the uncertainties of COVID-19. As of April 22, 2023, the Sentage Operating Companies have engaged a total of 11 merchant customers for the prepaid network payment business.

  

For merchant customers who need payment-related technical consulting and support, the Sentage Operating Companies charge service fees for designing tailored payment solutions, interfacing their internal systems with the Sentage Operating Companies’ prepaid card payment system, and providing their staff with relevant operation training. Depending on the estimated annual transaction amount agreed by the Sentage Operating Companies and the particular merchant customer, the technology consulting and support fee ranges from RMB100,000 (approximately US$14,474) to RMB500,000 (approximately US$72,370). For merchant customers who need prepaid card payment services, the Sentage Operating Companies charge fees for services, including, but not limited to, collecting and processing information necessary for prepaid card issuance and authorizing transaction requests after verifying transaction information. The prepaid card payment service fee is equal to either (i) 0.3% to 0.5% of each transaction amount or (ii) 0.2% of the estimated annual transaction amount.

  

Merchant customers choose the Sentage Operating Companies because they are a licensed prepaid card issuer capable of offering multipurpose prepaid cards and a licensed payment service provider. In order to issue multipurpose prepaid cards, which can be used to purchase goods and services from a diverse group of merchants across industries and regions, and provide related payment services, a service provider must obtain a third-party payment license that allows such activities. As a result of the tightened control imposed by the PBOC over payment licenses in recent years, it has become much harder to obtain such licenses from relevant regulatory bodies in China. A license applicant must undergo a time-consuming application process, be able to pay an expensive application fee, and satisfy stringent standards adopted by the regulatory bodies. In light of the strong entry barriers, the Sentage Operating Companies’ payment license is a unique asset that distinguishes us from competitors. Without such license, a prepaid issuer can issue only single-purpose prepaid cards, which is limited to purchasing goods and services provided by the card issuer or companies related to the card issuer.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ proprietary technology systems are critical to the growth of the prepaid payment network business, allowing the Operating Companies to process a large volume of transactions, achieve high level of stability, promote workflow automation, and build an easily scalable business model. Supported by a set of integrated databases, the Sentage Operating Companies’ information system can efficiently process and analyze a high volume of data, securely store the data on a cloud server, and provide each of the departments with convenient access to data. The Sentage Operating Companies’ account management system allows the Sentage Operating Companies to consolidate and manage all the customers’ account information and track the balances of customer accounts in an efficient manner, promoting more transparent management of fund movements. The Sentage Operating Companies regularly update the systems to improve their reliability, efficiency and compatibility with the services and evolving regulatory requirements. We believe that the proprietary technology systems will enable the Sentage Operating Companies to build a highly automated platform that is compatible with mainstream payment methods and channels across different industries. As of the date of this annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies’ systems have not encountered any major system interruption.  

 

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Loan Repayment and Collection Management Service

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ Repayment and Collection Management Service

 

The Sentage Operating Companies provided consumer loan repayment and collection management services to customers by leveraging the in-house team’s years of industry knowledge, strategic partnerships with third parties, standard and streamlined repayment and collection management process, centralized management, and proprietary IT infrastructure. The Sentage Operating Companies’ loan repayment and collection management engagements were completed by the end of 2021. For the fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022 revenue generated from the consumer loan repayment and collection management services was US$1,074,734, US$156,062, and nil, respectively.

 

Repayment and Collection Management Process

 

In general, when a borrower does not make a payment as scheduled, the Sentage Operating Companies consider the loan as being delinquent.

 

Prior to loan delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies provide customers with services such as repayment record reconciliation and payment reminders and notices. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies assist borrowers to fulfill their loan obligations according to an agreed-upon schedule through daily management and monitoring of loan repayments and provide customers with after-lending services to receive investment returns throughout the life of loan. The Sentage Operating Companies also send repayment reminders through SMSs by their service representatives before the due date for each scheduled loan repayment. Borrowers may elect to make full prepayments prior to the date for the scheduled repayment. Repayments are made directly to customers. The Sentage Operating Companies are not involved in the process of prepayment.

 

Upon delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies integrate internal and external resources to implement a systematic repayment and collection management process adapted to each stage of a loan. When a loan becomes delinquent, the service representatives may contact the borrower on the same day to request an immediate payment or negotiate a repayment date. The Sentage Operating Companies utilize the following strategies to collect loans based on the severity of the delinquency:

 

  Within one to seven days past due, the Sentage Operating Companies will contact the defaulting borrower by phone to understand reasons for the nonpayment and inform them of consequences of past-due repayments.

  

  If the delinquency exceeds seven days, the borrower cannot be located, has refused to make repayment, or otherwise failed to cooperate with the Sentage Operating Companies, the delinquent loan will be sent to the in-house team for loan collection.

 

  During the first three months of delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies utilize the in-house team to recover the delinquent loan using professional skip tracing, phone calls, voice messages, text messages, e-mails, etc.

 

  After the first three months of delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies engage professional, licensed third-party reputable collection agencies who will be responsible for collecting the delinquent loan. In addition to the methods utilized by the in-house team, they also pay on-site visits to borrowers.

 

  After the first six months of delinquency, the Sentage Operating Companies engage reputable third-party law firms and initiate judicial proceedings against the borrower on behalf of the customer after obtaining his or her authorization. The Sentage Operating Companies provide a holistic range of services across all phases of a judicial proceeding to assist the customer with navigating the process, such as serving as an intermediary between the customer and the legal team and explaining legal documents to the customer in a clear and concise manner.

 

  During any stage as described above, borrowers directly make repayments to customers. The Sentage Operating Companies are not involved in the process of repayment.

 

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Quality Assurance

 

We believe that quality assurance is critical to the success of our business. To ensure in-house specialists and third-party agencies consistently provide quality services that meet the standards, the Sentage Operating Companies have designed and adopted the following set of policies and procedures to incentive them, help them improve based on their past performance, and manage their workload based on their experience and expertise.

 

  Daily inspection. The department leaders of each team perform daily spot checks on several collection cases for potential compliance violations. The Sentage Operating Companies’ operating portal records all telephone conversations between the in-house specialists and borrowers, and the system transcribes some of these recordings into text for the quality assurance team to internally review in accordance with the quality assurance protocol. The Sentage Operating Companies operating portal also conducts daily keyword searches against all the work logs generated that day for potential violations. If a violation is identified, the Sentage Operating Companies issue a disciplinary action against the specialist. The Sentage Operating Companies’ disciplinary actions vary from warning to termination, which are issued depending on the seriousness of the violation. Furthermore, the Sentage Operating Companies analyze work logs and telephone recordings collected from daily inspections for performance trend and non-compliant activities and train the Sentage Operating Companies’ specialists based on these findings in order to improve their performance.

 

  Performance Evaluation and Review. Sentage Operating Companies have employed a monitoring system that monitors the in-house specialists and third-party agencies’ performances at different stages of the loan repayment and collection management process and evaluates them based on a set of key performance indicators, or KPIs. The Sentage Operating Companies use KPIs to assess in-house specialists and third-party agencies’ service quality, collection efficiency, and compliance with relevant laws, regulations and internal procedures. The Sentage Operating Companies’ quality assurance team continuously monitors the performance and compliance of the in-house specialists and third-party agencies to ensure that they employ appropriate collection methods to achieve better collection performance through KPI tracking, phone call recording assessment, complaint call feedback, and internal training and examination.

 

  Performance-based compensation structure. The Sentage Operating Companies require the in-house specialists and third-party agencies to meet the minimum performance standards predetermined by their management team and tie their performance to compensation structures.

 

  Case assignment. The Sentage Operating Companies’ performance monitoring system analyzes the past performance of each in-house specialist to aid the case assignment process. For example, potentially contentious cases that are likely to cause complaints are assigned to more experienced specialists, instead of those with less experience or have a record of compliance violations, as a way for the Sentage Operating Companies to manage and reduce the noncompliant risk.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies require all the employees to strictly comply with compliance policies and laws and regulations. For example, the in-house specialists are not allowed to contact a borrower for more than five times a day; no contact shall be made before 8 a.m. or after 10 p.m.; and unless authorized by the customers, the in-house specialists are not allowed to make proposal to reduce the loan value as a compromise. If any employee violates such requirements, the Sentage Operating Companies will issue certain penalties that range from warnings to termination of employment.

 

Furthermore, the Sentage Operating Companies require the in-house specialists to contact borrowers only through the means allowed under standard procedures. The in-house specialists are not allowed to have face-to-face contact with any borrower. When contacting borrowers over phone, in-house specialists are required to make such calls only from operating center landline or encrypted mobile phones issued by the Sentage Operating Companies, which record all of the telephone conversations and are subject to the system’s real-time automatic monitoring.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies carefully select third-party agencies by performing thorough due diligence through which the Sentage Operating Companies review their corporate history, past business activities, professional licenses necessary for their operation, and internal compliance policies and measures, etc. In addition to constantly monitor and evaluate third-party agencies’ activities through means described in “Performance Evaluation and Review,” the Sentage Operating Companies establish guidelines and limitations on their collection actions and take measures to enforce those guidelines and limitations. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies regularly pay on-site visits to ensure that the collection actions of third-party agencies are compliant and the customers’ information is properly stored and managed. Furthermore, each third-party law firm with whom the Sentage Operating Companies collaborate is selected from an accredited industry law firm list, has compatible information technology systems, and meet certain other specific criteria.

 

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Compliance

 

We believe the Sentage Operating Companies’ core competence lies in the ability to provide quality customer service and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The Sentage Operating Companies have undertaken the following measures to ensure compliance.

 

Compliance Policies

 

The Sentage Operating Companies have adopted the following compliance policies:

 

  Employee Code of Conduct. The Sentage Operating Companies’ efforts to maintain compliant operations starts with the training and continuing education of the employees. The Employee Code of Conduct sets forth the basic code of ethics, proper business conduct and obligations to customers. In particular, the code emphasizes the importance of keeping proprietary information confidential and maintaining a high level of professionalism in the performance of work functions, and have strict guidelines that prohibit certain actions such as selling borrower information, impersonating government officials, threat of violence, and use of vulgar or inappropriate language. In addition, the code specifies the reward and disciplinary actions for employees abiding by or violating this Employee Code of Conduct and other company regulations.

 

  Quality Assurance Management Plan. The goal of implementing the Quality Assurance Management Plan is to standardize the repayment and collection management operations, minimize risks related to repayment and collection management services, and ensure compliance with government and internal regulations. The plan sets forth definitions of violating conduct, including improper management of private and personal information, procedural violations, and fraudulent conduct and violations specific to loan repayment and collection management. The plan also includes corresponding penalties for employee violations and subsequent remediation plans to minimize the damage and prevent future incidents of similar violations. The plan consists of (i) Telephone Record Inspection Regulation; (ii) Compliance Management Regulation; (iii) Information Security Regulation; (iv) Work Log Inspection Regulation; and (v) Trade Secret Protection Regulation.

 

Compliance Structure

 

In addition to implementing the Sentage Operating Companies’ compliance policies to regulate employee conduct, the Sentage Operating Companies also established an internal committee to monitor employee conduct, investigate possible violations, and ensure policy adherence. The committee is responsible for monitoring employee activities daily to observe and detect possible violations and investigating possible violations after the violations have been reported to the management team of the company. The committee is also in charge of communicating with borrowers who raise disputes or complaints in person, if necessary, in order to explain and appease the situation. The Sentage Operating Companies engage third-party legal counsels, who assist the Sentage Operating Companies with regulation and policy interpretation.

 

Compliance Management

 

If borrowers find the Sentage Operating Companies’ repayment and collection methods and the conduct of the Sentage Operating Companies’ in-house specialists unacceptable and believe that such methods and conduct infringe upon their rights, they may initiate lawsuits against us alleging improper conduct and violations of law. As of the date of the annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies have not been involved in any lawsuit initiated by customers.

 

If a customer determines that the Sentage Operating Companies failed to comply with the Sentage Operating Companies’ quality assurance obligations under the contract between the Sentage Operating Companies and such customer, such customer may penalize the Sentage Operating Companies monetarily or rescind the contract if the breach is severe. As of the date of the annual report, none of the customers to whom the Sentage Operating Companies have provided services has penalized us monetarily or rescinded contracts with the Sentage Operating Companies.

 

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The Sentage Operating Companies take allegations seriously and have developed a systematic approach to avoid potential allegations. If an in-house specialist believes that a borrower is likely to initiate a lawsuit based on his/her interaction with the borrower, he/she is required to report the case to the respective quality assurance team. The quality assurance personnel then contact the borrower directly and seeks to address the borrower’s concern in order to reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit. Once notified of the potential lawsuit, the management team will immediately conduct a preliminary investigation to verify the allegations. If the allegations are not substantiated and the customer is notified of the findings, the customer may attempt to communicate with the borrower directly. If the allegations are substantiated, the Sentage Operating Companies and the customers will both attempt to communicate with the borrower. Based on the information the Sentage Operating Companies receive from the borrower, the Sentage Operating Companies may undertake certain actions to rectify the problem, including to compensate the borrower after negotiation with the customers, and/or to demote or terminate the responsible in-house specialist in accordance with the Sentage Operating Companies’ compliance policies.

 

In an effort to avoid potential allegations, the Sentage Operating Companies carefully assign cases to the in-house specialists, monitor employees’ conduct according to the compliance policies during the repayment and collection management process, and implement proper training to continuously educate the employees about the Sentage Operating Companies’ compliance policies and government rules and regulations. For details on the effects of the in-house specialists’ conduct on business, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industries—Our employees and collection specialists of third-party agencies may violate the Sentage Operating Companies’ compliance policies and government rules and regulations during the repayment and collection management process.”

 

In-House Team and Third-Party Business Partners

 

To maximize the effectiveness of the Sentage Operating Companies’ loan repayment and collection management efforts, the in-house team, which includes service representatives and collection specialists, is organized based on levels of seniority and specific areas of expertise. The in-house team members are organized by work groups based on client coverage, with each work group under the supervision of a senior team member, who in turn report to a single senior manager responsible for the work group. As the in-house team members are assigned to different stages of the repayment and collection management process, they are able to familiarize with clients’ specific needs and requirements, enhance operational efficiency and service quality, and become specialized experts in their signed stages.

 

If delinquency exceeds three months, the Sentage Operating Companies outsource loan collection services to reputable and local licensed third-party loan collection agencies, whose performance is supervised and evaluated by the Sentage Operating Companies under a monitoring system. Specifically, these third-party agencies collect past-due loans through various collection efforts such as professional skip-tracing and on-site visits based on specific guidelines established by the Sentage Operating Companies’ management team and set forth in a third-party service agreement. After the first six months of delinquency, if all the previous efforts to recover past-due loans remain unsuccessful, and after having received the customers’ express authorizations, the Sentage Operating Companies then engage reputable third-party law firms and initiate judicial proceedings against the delinquent borrower on behalf of the customers. Once the Sentage Operating Companies start their collaboration with a collection agency or a law firm, their management actively monitors and reviews their performance and service quality on an ongoing basis. The Sentage Operating Companies’ management received analyses, including collection activities and litigation progress, from the in-house team to evaluate the results of the efforts of the collection agency or the law firm. Based on their internal guidelines, the Sentage Operating Companies’ management may move certain loans from one third-party agency to another if it anticipates that this will result in an increase in collection. For details of their approaches to quality assurance, see “—Quality Assurance.”  

 

As of the date of this annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies partnered with 5 third-party collection agencies and 7 law firms. The Sentage Operating Companies entered into standard service agreements with the collection agencies and law firms, pursuant to which the Sentage Operating Companies are obligated to pay service fees to them after they have satisfied their performance obligations. A customer is not responsible for the service fees payable to third-party collection agencies and law firms. The actual loan amount a customer will receive at the end of the repayment and collection process is the entire repaid and collected loan amount.

 

Customers, Loans, and Services Fee

 

The existing loan repayment and collection management engagements were completed by the end of 2021.

 

With a team of experienced loan management professionals, the Company plans to continue its consumer loan repayment and collection management business by expanding its client base and collaborating with third-party financial institutions. As of the date of the annual report, although the Sentage Operating Companies are in active conversation with a number of prospective customers, the Sentage Operating Companies have not secured a new source of revenue to replace the loss of the Sentage Operating Companies’ current engagements. The Sentage Operating Companies plan to charge prospective clients on a commission basis. The Sentage Operating Companies believe the Sentage Operating Companies’ proven track record, industry reputation, integrated repayment and collection management approach, and centralized management sets solid foundation for the Sentage Operating Companies to develop relationships with prospective clients. However, the Sentage Operating Companies cannot guarantee the success of such business plan.

 

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Loan Recommendation Service

 

Business Model and Recommendation Process

 

As part of the strategy to diversify and expand the product and service offerings, the Sentage Operating Companies started the loan recommendation service in June 2019. Leveraging the advanced credit assessment and risk management capabilities, the Sentage Operating Companies carefully evaluate applications and supporting materials submitted by individual borrowers and recommend those borrowers deemed qualified to funding partners, who in return directly provide funds to borrowers recommended by the Sentage Operating Companies. The Sentage Operating Companies endeavor to provide a transparent, seamless, and convenient recommendation process for both borrowers and funding partners, while safeguarding their respective interests. During the period from the Sentage Operating Companies’ business launch to December 31, 2019, the Sentage Operating Companies steadily expanded the scale of the Sentage Operating Companies’ loan recommendation business and reached US$260,388 in revenue. For the fiscal year 2020, the Sentage Operating Companies’ funding partners had approved loans to borrowers recommended by the Sentage Operating Companies in the aggregate amount of RMB744.269 million (approximately US$107.91 million) and the Sentage Operating Companies earned $2,087,717 recommendation service revenue. For the fiscal year 2021, the Sentage Operating Companies’ funding partners had approved loans to borrowers recommended by the Sentage Operating Companies in the aggregate amount of RMB256.85million (approximately US$39.82million) and the Sentage Operating Companies earned $1,177,822 recommendation service revenue. For the fiscal year 2022, the Sentage Operating Companies’ funding partners had approved loans to borrowers recommended by the Sentage Operating Companies in the aggregate amount of nil and the Sentage Operating Companies earned nil recommendation service revenue.

 

The length of the recommendation process from reviewing a borrower application to making a loan recommendation is typically completed within five business days. Once a prospective borrower submits their application to the Sentage Operating Companies, the Sentage Operating Companies adopt a rigorous selection process to assess their qualifications and minimize the borrower’s default risk, use an asset-driven, disciplined risk management approach to minimize the borrower’s default risk and mitigate the impact of the borrower’s default. After completing the Sentage Operating Companies’ review, the Sentage Operating Companies recommend qualified borrowers directly to the Sentage Operating Companies’ funding partners. For details, refer to “—Step 3: Loan Recommendation” and “—Users and PartnersFinancial Institutional Partners.”

 

The typical borrowing cost payable by borrowers includes (i) interest payable to the funding partners; (ii) service fee charged by us or third-party referral partners, (iii) prepayment fee, if applicable, and (iv) penalty fee for late payment, if applicable. Subject to changes made by the Sentage Operating Companies’ funding partners, principal and interests are usually repaid on a monthly basis. Funding partners approve the prepayments and set the rate of repayment fees. Borrowers are subject to penalty fees for late payment. Repayment fees and penalty fees are directly paid to the Sentage Operating Companies’ funding partners.

 

The following diagram illustrates the transaction process through which the Sentage Operating Companies offer loan recommendation services:

 

 

 

 

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Step 1: Screening

 

Either through business contacts or word-of-mouth referral, a potential borrower applicant with needs for a mortgage may contact us over the phone and through email. A member of the Sentage Operating Companies’ credit assessment team will present an overview of mortgage products available, recommendation procedures, and assessment criteria and approval standards, learn about the borrower’s background, and briefly discuss whether his or her financing needs can be met with the mortgage products available.

 

After the initial screening, the credit assessment team will either decline or allow the applicant to apply based on available information. At this stage, approximately 30% of loan recommendation applications are being rejected.

 

Step 2: Application

 

Borrower applicants who passed the preliminary screening will need to fill out the application forms at the Sentage Operating Companies’ headquarters in Shanghai City, China and provide the Sentage Operating Companies with basic information, including but not limited to identification documents and other requested personal information, such as PRC ID card details, a mobile phone number, educational level, information related to employment status, and bank account details. Because only applicants who are able to collateralize qualified properties are considered, the Sentage Operating Companies require them to submit a copy of ownership certificate at this stage. The prospective borrower will also be guided to authorize the Sentage Operating Companies to gain access to their credit history and other information from external sources. For more details on the information the Sentage Operating Companies collect from potential borrowers, see “Credit Assessment and Risk Management—Data Collection and Verification.”

 

After reviewing a borrower applicant’ materials, the credit assessment team will determine if the borrower applicant qualifies under the internal review guidelines. The Sentage Operating Companies’ team will either decline or further process the loan recommendation application. At this stage, the Sentage Operating Companies typically decline approximately 30% of all borrower applications.

 

Step 3: Credit Assessment and Risk Management

 

The Sentage Operating Companies conduct credit assessments for those applicants whom the Sentage Operating Companies have selected after the preliminary review. The rigorous, comprehensive review process involves information collection, verification, and analysis through various sources, as well as a multidimensional real estate appraisal. Specifically, the credit assessment team evaluates the applicant’s credit history, liquidity, and other criteria to develop a borrower profile that is measured against the internal review guidelines and measures. Additionally, they analyze title reports, credit reports, real estate holdings, disclosures, and legal reviews to ensure that the applicant is deemed credit worthy. The Sentage Operating Companies pay extra attention to evaluating the value, conditions, risks, and the market of the property the applicant is able to collateralize. For an applicant to receive the Sentage Operating Companies’ recommendation, the Sentage Operating Companies require that the appointed in-house appraiser and risk-management team both recommend his or her property as qualified collateral in their opinion and report.

 

After the review, the Sentage Operating Companies’ credit assessment team may approve or decline the borrower application. Borrower applicants are notified of the results, and successful applicants proceed to the loan recommendation stage. At this stage, approximately 10% to 15% of all loan recommendation applications submitted were rejected. For details of the credit assessment process, see “—Credit Assessment and Risk Management.”

 

Step 4: Loan Recommendation

 

The Sentage Operating Companies recommend qualified borrowers directly to funding partners. The funding partners, after completing their internal risk assessment and loan approval procedures, make the final credit decisions and directly fund borrowers with mortgage suitable for borrower’s financial situation. For fiscal years 2020, 2021 and 2022, approximately 90%, 100% and nil borrowers we recommended were accepted by the funding partners.

 

Credit Assessment and Risk Management

 

The Sentage Operating Companies have devised and implemented a systematic credit assessment model and an asset-driven, disciplined risk management approach to minimize a borrower’s default risk and mitigate the impact of default. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies’ assessment model and risk management capabilities not only enable us to select high-quality borrowers whose financial conditions and personal background meet the Sentage Operating Companies selection criteria, but also protect the funding partners against lending more than they might be able to recover in the case of default. The Sentage Operating Companies apply the same disciplined review process to all types of loan recommendation applications. The Sentage Operating Companies’ asset-driven risk management philosophy encompasses property-level due diligence, including ownership certificate and related document review, local market liquidity analysis, trend assessment, and a rigorous appraisal process. In addition, the Sentage Operating Companies perform individual borrower due diligence, including personal information review and verification. We believe the ability to access, process, and analyze an extensive amount of public and proprietary information regarding the borrower and their collateral offers the Sentage Operating Companies a differentiated perspective and risk management ability. The Sentage Operating Companies’ mission is to provide the best-in-class credit assessment and risk management, all within a streamlined, transparent, and compliant workflow process.

 

Master Review Policy

 

The Sentage Operating Companies operate under a documented master review policy, which outlines the standard credit assessment guidelines and risk management procedures. The guidelines and procedures were developed, and are continually reviewed, by the senior management team comprised of individuals with over 15 years of experience managing real estate loans. The Sentage Operating Companies revise these guidelines and procedures from time to time based on mortgage performance feedback provided by the funding partners and as market conditions change. We believe the guidelines and procedures are key differentiators compared to our peers, as they facilitate both speed and consistency of execution.

  

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Information Collection, Verification, and Fraud Detection

 

The Sentage Operating Companies utilize a proprietary information system to store and process comprehensive information gathered through various sources, including the database, government and Internet sources, and third-party data providers, supplemented by the manual input of data collected through on-site inspections and other means of offline verification.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies collect information about borrowers, which typically include age, education level, marital status, employment, credit history, and bank transaction history. For information the Sentage Operating Companies collect for real estate appraisal, refer to “—Real Estate Appraisal and Review.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies make every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information the Sentage Operating Companies collect, and to safeguard the privacy of such information. For example, the Sentage Operating Companies collaborate with third parties to verify the applicant’s identity by confirming his or her name, ID number and mobile number. The Sentage Operating Companies also cross examine data they collect from different outside sources to verify data provided by applicants. The Sentage Operating Companies require all the applicants to provide us a letter of guaranty which guarantees the authenticity of all the information provided by them. For applicants who intend to use a mortgage to finance their businesses, the Sentage Operating Companies verify their loan purposes by requiring them to submit contracts and supporting documents.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies combat fraud through advanced analytical methods, based on the information the Sentage Operating Companies collect, as well as working with the third-party data providers to access centralized databases of confirmed fraud cases, which serves as a critical and highly effective cross check of their own analyses. In addition, to effectively combat against fraudulent activities, the Sentage Operating Companies have adopted internal policies that prohibit the employees from facilitating fraudulent activities with borrowers or any other third-party.

 

Real Estate Appraisal and Review

 

The foundation of the Sentage Operating Companies’ risk management is real estate appraisal. The Sentage Operating Companies require a current real estate appraisal on all properties that borrowers intend to collateralize. The valuation process is led by the in-house appraisers who have received rigorous training and have years of experience evaluating a wide range of commercial and residential properties in Shanghai City, China. By leveraging their appraisal expertise and extensive knowledge of the local market, the Sentage Operating Companies are able to factor different risks associated with the properties into the appraisal process. Such process enables borrowers to obtain the loan amount that accurately corresponds to the value of their properties and properly reflects the local market liquidity.

 

The in-house appraisers first undertake a rigorous due diligence process involving intensive data collection, review, and analysis, to ensure that they understand the state of the market and the risk-reward profile of the property. Specifically, they utilize the historical data, as well as verified, reputable third-party data sources to identify market trends, comparable sales, and other relevant real estate data including government regulations and environmental concerns. The in-house appraisers then conduct a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the property, through which they notice and examine conditions that might adversely affect the property’s value, including but not limited to, location, neighborhood, type, facing direction, floor plan and size, needed repair, decoration style, etc. To enhance the quality of the appraisal, the Sentage Operating Companies often order property inspection reports to better understand the property’s physical condition. After consolidating information collected through various channels, the in-house appraisers compare the property with comparable sales based on a set of factors selected to assess specific features of the property and its market conditions. To ensure the reliability of the appraisal result, the Sentage Operating Companies also consult property values estimated by licensed, reputable third-party real estate appraisers. Currently, the Sentage Operating Companies have maintained long-term partnerships with several third-party appraisers, which are recognized as AAA (i.e. the highest level) appraisal institutions by the China Appraisal Society and have consistently provided appraisal-related services to leading banks and other financial institutions across the nation during the last several decades.

 

For commercial properties, i.e. properties with strong earning ability, the in-house appraisals adopt an income capitalization approach in addition to the original appraisal. Specifically, the in-house appraisers determine an estimate of gross income, expenses, net operating income and appropriate cap rate of the property based on available information. The estimate is then used to adjust the Sentage Operating Companies’ valuation results in the original appraisal.

  

The Sentage Operating Companies ask the in-house appraisers to provide an opinion for each real estate appraisal, which is submitted to the risk management team to review. The risk management team then analyzes the property based on the appraisal opinion, along with all other relevant data, and concludes their findings in an internal review report. Throughout the appraisal process, the management team constantly monitor the in-house appraisers’ performance and evaluate their performance based on the institutional finding partners’ feedback on the quality of the appraisal opinions.

 

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The Sentage Operating Companies generally avoid lending on properties that are special purpose in nature. Currently the Sentage Operating Companies require properties to be in Shanghai City, China, where the Sentage Operating Companies’ headquarters are located. In the future, as the Sentage Operating Companies aim to expand the Sentage Operating Companies’ presence into first-tier cities in China, qualified properties in these cities will be acceptable collateral to us.

 

Mortgage Products Offered by the Funding Partners

 

The mortgages borrowers obtain through the loan recommendation services typically have the following characteristics:

 

Mortgage Size and Type

 

The mortgage loans borrowers obtain through the recommendation services originate in principal amounts ranging from RMB1 million (approximately US$140,841) to RMB20 million (approximately US$2.82 million). The Sentage Operating Companies use a number of credit assessment procedures and risk management measures to verify prospective borrowers’ loan purposes, including certifications from prospective borrowers, business contract and document review, external information verification sources, and other checks. For more detail on information verification, see “—Credit Assessment and Risk Management—Information Collection, Verification, and Fraud Detection.”

 

Property Types

 

Mortgages borrowers obtained through the Sentage Operating Companies’ loan recommendation services are typically secured by the following property types:

 

Residential Traditional apartment buildings, duplexes, condominiums and other properties zoned for living or dwelling
   
Commercial Commercial property occupied by professional or business offices and other properties zoned for profit generation

 

The Sentage Operating Companies generally avoid special-purpose properties such as assisted-living facilities. For fiscal years 2020, 2021 and 2022, residential properties constituted the major collateral type, representing approximately 97%, 100%, and 0%, respectively, of all the mortgages borrowers have obtained through the Sentage Operating Companies’ recommendation and commercial properties represented the remaining 3% and 0%, respectively.

 

Geography

 

Currently, the Sentage Operating Companies only consider qualified properties located in Shanghai City, China as acceptable collateral. We believe that the Sentage Operating Companies’ strategic choice on the geographical location allows us to provide high-quality appraisal services by leveraging the team’s extensive knowledge of the local market and stable business partnerships the Sentage Operating Companies have built with reputable local third-party appraisers and other service providers. Such strategy ensures that borrowers are able to obtain the loan amount that accurately corresponds to the value of their properties and properly reflects the local market liquidity. It also protects the funding partners against lending more than they might be able to recover in the case of default.

 

Third-Party Guarantee

 

Depending on funding partners’ specific requirements, some of the mortgages are guaranteed by third-party guarantors.

  

Principal Amount

 

The Sentage Operating Companies do not determine the principal amount, which is entirely decided by the funding partners. However, the funding partners do rely on credit assessment results, appraisal opinions, and other information provided by us. The principal amount is determined by, among other factors, the borrower’s creditworthiness, the value of the property, the strength of the local market, etc. Subject to funding partners’ specific requirements and valuation metrics, property value is typically the driving factor determining the principal amount. Among all the mortgages borrowers have obtained through the Sentage Operating Companies’ recommendation, the principal amount of mortgages secured by residential properties typically equals 50% to 70% of the estimated property value, whereas the principal amount of mortgages secured by commercial properties typically does not exceed more than 50% of the estimated property value.

 

Term and Interest Rate

 

Depending on the types of funding partners, a borrower’ specific loan purpose, and the value of the borrower’s collateralized property, mortgage term ranges from one year to ten years. The mortgage interest rate is entirely decided by the funding partners.

 

The typical mortgage in the Sentage Operating Companies’ product portfolio provides a fixed-rate, interest-only term. As of April 22, 2023, all the mortgages borrowers have obtained through the Sentage Operating Companies’ recommendation had an initial loan term of 24 to 36 months with an interest rate of 6% to 8%.

 

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Borrowers and Partners

 

Borrowers

 

The Sentage Operating Companies aim to serve individual business owners who are able to collateralize qualified properties. The number of borrowers who have used the loan recommendation services has been growing rapidly.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ value proposition to individual business owners is convenient access to various mortgage products offered by the Sentage Operating Companies’ network of funding partners. Specifically, due to fast-evolving commercial environment, limited planning abilities, and the lack of a nationwide credit rating system in China, these business owners have limited credit access through traditional financial institutions and lack alternative borrowing channels with reasonable cost. The Sentage Operating Companies also strive to provide them a transparent, easily navigable recommendation process through a comprehensive range of customized services. At the initial stage of the Sentage Operating Companies’ recommendation process, the Sentage Operating Companies provide clear documentation requirements and recommend different funding sources and mortgage products to borrowers based on their personal background and specific financing needs. The Sentage Operating Companies take time to explain terms and conditions of specific mortgage products in details and assist borrowers in application material preparation. Throughout the recommendation process, the Sentage Operating Companies endeavor to serve as the intermediary between borrowers and funding partners to resolve any confusion or misunderstanding caused by information mismatch.

 

For prospective borrowers the Sentage Operating Companies acquired through business contacts, the Sentage Operating Companies do not directly charge them any fees. Instead, the Sentage Operating Companies’ referral partners first charge borrowers service fees for their referral. The Sentage Operating Companies then charge the referral partners a commission as a percentage of the loan amount pursuant to the service agreements between us and the referral partners. Referral partners typically pay us commission fees within 30 days after funding partners provide loans to borrowers. For the remaining prospective borrowers, we directly charge them service fees pursuant to the Sentage Operating Companies’ service agreements with such prospective borrowers. The service fee is charged as a percentage of the loan amount. A borrower pays us the service fee in a lump sum upon receiving the proceeds of the mortgage from a funding partner.

 

All the borrowers are geographically concentrated in Shanghai City, China. In the future, as the Sentage Operating Companies expand the presence into first-tier cities in China, the Sentage Operating Companies will consider prospective borrowers who are able to collateralize qualified properties in these cities.

 

Business Partners

 

Funding Partners

 

The Sentage Operating Companies provide loan recommendation services to individual borrowers and work with a group of funding partners with whom the Sentage Operating Companies have established long-term business partnerships. The Sentage Operating Companies do not provide funds to each borrower, nor do they get funds from the funding partners. The Sentage Operating Companies only serve as an intermediary between borrowers and the funding partners to facilitate the borrowing process. Funding partners are financial institutions that provide loans to borrowers. Funding partners in China can be commercial banks, small loan companies, pawnshops, trust companies, and asset management companies. The funding partners the Sentage Operating Companies work with are required to be fully compliant and licensed financial institutions with stable financial resources, which are recognized by the Chinese government. The Sentage Operating Companies can match different borrowers with the funding partners according to each borrower’s qualifications, such as the value of its collaterals, its business cash flow, financial credit status, and repayment schedules. Currently, the Sentage Operating Companies do not maintain any cooperative contracts with any funding partners. The Sentage Operating Companies are not substantially dependent upon any agreements with any of these funding partners.

 

Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies leverage the advanced credit assessment and risk management capabilities to select high-quality borrower applicants whose financial conditions and personal background meet the selection criteria, estimate the value of their property through a rigorous appraisal process, and recommend qualified borrower applicants to the funding institutional partners. After receiving recommendations, the funding partners may elect to underwrite mortgages based on their own risk appetites.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies continuously work on strengthening the cooperation with funding partners and organically expanding their network of funding partners. For the fiscal year 2021, the funding partners had approved loans to borrowers recommended by us in the aggregate amount of RMB256.85million (approximately US$39.82 million). In the past, all the financial institution funding partners are commercial banks, the majority of which are reputable national and regional banks. In the future, the Sentage Operating Companies plan to expand and diversify the funding partner base by seeking opportunities to collaborate with other kinds of institutions and organizations, including pawnshops, micro-lending companies, etc.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies establish relationships with the funding partners through word-of-mouth referrals and referrals made by the shareholders and management team members, many of whom have established extensive connections in the financial industry based on their professional experience.

 

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The funding partners choose to partner with the Sentage Operating Companies for access to the Sentage Operating Companies’ borrower applicants base, enhanced credit assessment and risk management capabilities, and other services, including borrower and product matching. The Sentage Operating Companies’ value proposition is further magnified by the repeat lending and cross-selling opportunities the Sentage Operating Companies provide to them. Once borrowers are connected to funding partners through the Sentage Operating Companies’ services, funding partners will be able to extend more loans and sell other financial products to such borrowers. The Sentage Operating Companies do not receive any fees or commissions on such additional loan products. Historically, the Sentage Operating Companies have delivered value in the form of a delinquency rate of zero percent for the funding partners. However, there is no guarantee that the Sentage Operating Companies will maintain a low default rate in the future, as the Sentage Operating Companies only recently started the loan recommendation business and the default rate may change as the mortgage loans granted to borrowers the Sentage Operating Companies recommended become more seasoned. As the Sentage Operating Companies have built their industry credibility and earned trust from funding partners based on the proven track record, they are currently exploring the possibility to provide new services to them, such as post-origination services. Although subject to regulations on loan recommendation services, their business model does not subject us to the relevant local regulatory requirements that are applicable to online lending platforms since the Sentage Operating Companies do not provide online financing intermediary services. We believe that the Sentage Operating Companies’ strengthened cooperation with funding partners allows us to sustainably grow their business and mitigate the negative impact brought by the continuing challenging regulatory environment in China.

 

Other Partners

 

  Borrower acquisition. The Sentage Operating Companies leverage cooperation with referral partners to acquire borrowers. As of the date of this annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies do not maintain any cooperative contracts with any third-party referral partners. A referral partner first charges a borrower service fee for its referral pursuant to their service agreement. The Sentage Operating Companies then charge the referral partner a commission as a percentage of the loan amount pursuant to the service agreement between us and the referral partner. For more details on the Sentage Operating Companies’ collaboration with referral partners, see “—Borrowers.” Currently, the Company does not maintain any cooperative contracts with any referral partners. The Sentage Operating Companies are not substantially dependent upon any agreements with any of these referral partners.

 

  Property Appraisal. To ensure the reliability of their appraisal result, the Sentage Operating Companies consult property values estimated by licensed and reputable third-party real estate appraisers. The Sentage Operating Companies currently maintain long-term partnerships with several third-party appraisers which are recognized as AAA (i.e. the highest level) appraisal institutions by the China Appraisal Society. Currently, the Sentage Operating Companies do not maintain any cooperative contracts with any third-party appraisers. The Sentage Operating Companies are not substantially dependent upon any agreements with any of these third-party appraisers.

 

  Data. In addition to publicly available sources, the Sentage Operating Companies use services provided by technology companies, such as Tianyancha and Qichacha, to access larger borrower databases. In the future, the Sentage Operating Companies also plan to work with other technology service providers to further expand the database and diversify the verification channels, which allow them to enhance the credit assessment model and optimize the operational efficiency. Currently, the Sentage Operating Companies do not maintain any cooperative contracts with any one of these service providers. The Sentage Operating Companies are not substantially dependent upon any agreements with any of these service providers.

 

Prepaid Payment Network Services

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ Business Model

 

The Sentage Operating Companies started providing prepaid payment network services in August 2019, offering seamless, convenient and reliable payment services to merchants across different industries. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies offer prepaid cards to individual consumers who, after purchasing such prepaid cards from us, will be able to buy goods and services offered by the merchant customers with their prepaid cards and recharge such cards online. The proceeds generated from the actual sales of the prepaid card are deposited into an escrow account designated and monitored by the PBOC. Leveraging the partnership with NetsUnion, the Sentage Operating Companies’ prepaid card payment services enable qualified merchants selected by us after rigorous internal review to accept prepaid-card payments using traditional payment terminals. The Sentage Operating Companies provide merchant customers with payment-related technology consulting and support services and prepaid card payment services. The Sentage Operating Companies charge merchant customers two separate fees for each kind of services the Sentage Operating Companies provide. For details on services the Sentage Operating Companies provide and fees they charge, see “—Technology Consulting and Support Services,” “—Prepaid Card Payment Services,” and “—Our Customers—Pricing.”

 

The payment service business enables the Sentage Operating Companies to develop a deep understanding of customers’ needs and will allow them to provide merchants with continuously improving services and technologies. For fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022, revenue generated from the prepaid payment network services, consisted of technology consulting and support fees, was US$432,958, US$928,565, and US$ 161,372 respectively.

 

Technology Consulting and Support Services

 

For any merchant customer who need payment-related technical consulting and support, the Sentage Operating Companies provide a tailored payment solution to the merchant customer, interface its internal system with the prepaid card payment system, and offer personnel training to ensure that the merchant’s staff know how to properly operate such system. For details on the technology consulting and support services the Sentage Operating Companies charge, see “—Our Customers—Pricing.”

 

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Prepaid Card Payment Services

 

For any merchant customers who need prepaid card payment services, the Sentage Operating Companies collect and process information necessary for prepaid card issuance and authorize transaction requests after verifying transaction information. The Sentage Operating Companies also conduct the necessary know-your-client, or KYC, and other due diligence review of cardholders and merchant customers in order to assess and mitigate fraud risks based on the information the Sentage Operating Companies collect from them. For details on the technology consulting and support services the Sentage Operating Companies charge, see “—Our Customers—Pricing.”

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ Role in the Prepaid Card Payment Value Chain

 

From the front end, non-cash transactions involving prepaid cards between merchants and consumers seem simple and direct as consumers pay for the goods and/or services while merchants accept consumers’ payment and offer such goods and/or services. However, such transactions are far more complicated when looking from the back end and cannot be completed in the absence of the interactions among different parties involved. The Sentage Operating Companies act as a payment service provider and play an essential role in the prepaid payment network value chain. The diagram below illustrates the payment process for the payment services and the role of each participant involved:

 

 

 

Payment Process:

 

  (1) A consumer interested in the prepaid cards can submit his or her prepaid card application either online or at the offline operating center.

 

  (2) The Sentage Operating Companies issue the prepaid card to the consumer after reviewing and approving his or her application. The Sentage Operating Companies accept those consumers whose personal background information and financial conditions meet the selection criteria. For more details on information we review and verify, see “—Risk Management and Internal Control—Prepaid Card Applicants’ Information Verification.” The monetary value of the prepaid card is equal to the total amount the consumer paid us along with his or her application. The proceeds generated from the actual sales of the prepaid card are deposited into an escrow account designated and monitored by the PBOC, and funds in the escrow account will only be transferred out of the account when they are used for prepaid card payments.

 

  (3) The consumer initiates a payment to a merchant to purchase goods and/or services that such merchant offers.

 

  (4) The consumer generates a payment request by swiping, tapping or inserting his or her prepaid card on a payment terminal.

 

  (5) The Sentage Operating Companies, as payment service provider, process the consumer’s payment request. The Sentage Operating Companies also verify the payment information as the prepaid card issuer. Once the verification of the payment is completed, the Sentage Operating Companies will approve the transaction and send a notification of approval to NetsUnion.

  

  (6) NetsUnion, after verifying the payment information through its internal procedures, sends the payment result to the merchant and settles the fund in the escrow account to the merchant’s account in the receiving bank. If the merchant pays the service fee on a per-transaction basis, NetsUnion settles the fund in the escrow account net of the service fee. If the merchant pays the entire service fee upfront before the Sentage Operating Companies start providing services, NetsUnion settles the original fund in the escrow account. For details on the service fee the Sentage Operating Companies charge, see “—Our Customers—Pricing.” NetsUnion’s responsibilities include connecting and switching transactions among payment service providers, issuers, and merchants, and enabling payment authorization. NetsUnion does not charge any fees for payments it processes.

 

  (7) The merchant confirms receipt of the payment.

 

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Customer Onboarding

 

First, prospective merchant customers apply to open an account on the Sentage Operating Companies’ platform. After reviewing application materials, the Sentage Operating Companies onboard the customers and connect them to NetsUnion. Once connected, customers can enjoy the safe and fast payment services and receive consumers’ payments made with prepaid cards issued by us. For details on the transaction process and the Sentage Operating Companies’ role in the prepaid payment network value chain, see “—Prepaid Card Payment Services— Our Role in the Prepaid Payment Network Value Chain.”

 

To ensure the quality of the customer profile and minimize the business risk, the Sentage Operating Companies conduct due diligence to assess prospective customers with the following steps.

 

  Merchant assessment. The Sentage Operating Companies’ direct sales force is mainly responsible for sourcing new merchants. They identify and select prospective merchants usually by conducting an on-site inspection to evaluate the merchant’s operations, financial condition and credit standing.

 

  Collecting application materials. The Sentage Operating Companies’ customers need to submit application materials either online or at the Sentage Operating Companies’ offline operating center. The Sentage Operating Companies collect customers’ application materials and information according to the internal checklist. For instance, the Sentage Operating Companies collect copies of their business licenses, valid identification documents of legal representatives or the persons-in-charge, bank account opening certificates, pictures of their business premises and other relevant certification documents.

 

  Customer approval. The Sentage Operating Companies adopt a stringent approach and implement know-your-customer internal procedures, including (i) verifying the accuracy of information in application materials; (ii) checking the customer against the Sentage Operating Companies’ internal and industry blacklists; (iii) conducting necessary inspections to verify the authenticity of application materials; and (iv) determining the customer’s risk rating according to the internal policies and relevant regulations.

 

Customers

 

The Sentage Operating Companies connect the corporate customers with their consumers in various industries. As of the date of the annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies have 12 customers, which are Shandong Ciyun Information Technology Co., Ltd., Hengyu international trade (Qingdao) Co., Ltd., Qingdao Zhanhongyu Network Technology Co., Ltd., Qingdao Henhai Co. Ltd., Qingdao Tongsheng Property Management Co.Ltd., Qingdao Qianheyi Trading Co. Ltd., Rizhao You Grain City Electronic Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai Hai shang Ming Zhu Film Co. Ltd., Fuan Information Technology (Qingdao) Co. Ltd., Qingdao Kece Innovation Consulting Service Co., Ltd.Anhui Yuzhilan Education Software Technology Co., Ltd. and Qingdao Nuolizhi Enterprise Management Co., Ltd. The Sentage Operating Companies plan to work with midsized supermarkets, shopping malls, and online platforms. The Sentage Operating Companies believe that by reaching corporate customers of various sizes, the Sentage Operating Companies can build a solid foundation to expand the service base and provide more diversified financial solutions that fit into more payment scenarios.

 

The Value Proposition

 

The merchant customers choose the Sentage Operating Companies because the Sentage Operating Companies are a licensed prepaid card issuer capable of offering multipurpose prepaid cards and a licensed payment service provider. In order to issue multipurpose prepaid cards, which can be used to purchase goods and services from a diverse group of merchants across industries and regions, and provide related payment services, a service provider must obtain a third-party payment license that allows such activities. As a result of the tightened control imposed by the PBOC over payment licenses, it has become much harder to obtain such licenses from relevant regulatory bodies in China. A license applicant must undergo a time-consuming application process, be able to pay an expensive application fee, and satisfy stringent standards adopted by the regulatory bodies. In light of the strong entry barriers, the payment license is a unique asset that distinguishes us from competitors. Without such license, a prepaid issuer can issue only single-purpose prepaid cards, which are limited to purchasing goods and services provided by the card issuer or companies related to the card issuer.

 

Contract Terms

 

The Sentage Operating Companies enter into a standard contract with each merchant customer for the services. The term of the Sentage Operating Companies’ agreements with payment service customers is normally one year, which automatically renews at the end of each term. Each party reserves the right to terminate the agreement at any time with 30 days’ written notice to the other party.

 

Pricing

 

The Sentage Operating Companies charge merchant customers technology consulting and support fees for designing tailored payment solutions, interfacing their internal systems with the prepaid card payment system, and providing their staff with relevant operation training. Depending on the estimated annual transaction amount agreed by us and the particular merchant customer, the technology consulting and support fee ranges from RMB100,000 (approximately US$14,474) to RMB300,000 (approximately US$43,423). The merchant pays us the entire technology consulting and support fee upfront after it enters into the service agreement with us and before the Sentage Operating Companies start providing services.

 

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The Sentage Operating Companies charge merchants fees for payment services, including, but not limited to, collecting and processing information necessary for prepaid card issuance and authorizing transaction requests after verifying transaction information. Depending on factors including demand for payment services, market trends and conditions, and the regulatory environment for the third-party payment services industry in China, the payment service fee is equal to either (i) 0.3% to 0.5% of each transaction amount or (ii) 0.2% of the estimated annual transaction amount. Merchant customers may choose which payment method it prefers. If the merchant pays the service fee on a per-transaction basis, for each transaction for which the merchant uses the payment services, NetsUnion settles the fund in the escrow account designated and monitored by the PBOC net of the service fee to the merchant’s account in the receiving bank. Alternatively, the merchant pays the entire service fee upfront after it enters into the service agreement with us and before the Sentage Operating Companies start providing services. NetsUnion does not charge any fees for payments it processes.

  

Customer Services

 

Leveraging the advanced technologies, the Sentage Operating Companies have established a lean and productive customer service team specialized in handling customer relationships. Customers can reach the customer service team through email, hotlines, social media accounts, and their website.

 

Each customer request, enquiry or complaint is recorded and assigned a specific case reference. Each of the customer service assistant is responsible for the cases assigned to them and will follow up until the case is closed or resolved to the customers’ satisfaction. The Sentage Operating Companies’ policy requires that the customer service personnel must respond to each customer complaint within one business day and address the relevant issues within three to four business days. As of the date of this annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies achieved a zero customer-complaint report rate, which is a measure of the dissatisfaction of the services as reported by customers.

 

Sales and Marketing

 

The Sentage Operating Companies promote the business through direct marketing. Currently, the business covers Qingdao City, Shandong Province in China. The Sentage Operating Companies’ in-house marketing department, which consists of experienced professionals, is responsible for coordinating the direct marketing efforts. To promote the sales, the Sentage Operating Companies are exploring opportunities to develop strategic partnerships with independent third-party sales agents, placing online advertisements with selected high-traffic social media platforms and high-traffic searching engines, and launching referral programs.

 

Collaboration with NetsUnion

 

NetsUnion is a clearing platform for internet and other network payments in China. According to the PBOC, after June 30, 2018, third-party payment service providers, including prepaid payment network service providers, are required to channel internet payments via NetsUnion, rather than banks’ payment gateways.

 

In July 2019, the Sentage Operating Companies became a member of NetsUnion, and entered into a network access agreement with it. Under the agreement, NetsUnion is responsible for channeling payment information from us to merchants and providing clearing services regarding the corresponding payment transactions. NetsUnion does not charge any fees for payments it processes. Under the network access agreement, the Sentage Operating Companies are required to comply with NetsUnion’s membership rules and fulfil the obligations in deterring money laundering and terrorist financing pursuant to the applicable laws and regulations. The Sentage Operating Companies are obligated to indemnify NetsUnion for any losses caused by fictitious, inaccurate, incomplete, illegal or invalid transactions the Sentage Operating Companies facilitate. NetsUnion is obligated to compensate the direct losses that arise from failures of its system. The Sentage Operating Companies’ agreement with NetsUnion does not have a term; instead, as long as the Sentage Operating Companies’ third-party payment license is valid and the Sentage Operating Companies conduct business activities related to payment services, the agreement with NetsUnion remains in effect.

 

Risk Management and Internal Control

 

The Sentage Operating Companies are subject to various risks in the operations. For details on risks the Sentage Operating Companies are subject to, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industries.” The Sentage Operating Companies have established a dynamic, technology-driven risk management system and adopted relevant policies and procedures, which we consider suitable for the business operation. The Sentage Operating Companies also continue to monitor and review the risk management and internal control systems in order to quickly adapt to changes in market conditions, product and service offerings, and the regulatory environment.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies have an independent risk management committee dedicated to the prepaid payment network business line. Led by the risk management committee, the risk management and internal control team is responsible for verifying information, preventing and detecting any sign of fraud and money laundering, and monitoring the daily implementation of each department’s internal control procedures and measures.

 

Prepaid Card Applicants’ Information Verification

 

Prepaid card applicants will need to provide us with basic information, including, but not limited to, identification documents and other requested personal information, such as PRC ID card details, a mobile phone number, educational level, and information related to employment status.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies make every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information the Sentage Operating Companies collect, as well as safeguard the privacy of such information. For example, the Sentage Operating Companies collaborate with third parties to verify the applicant’s identity by confirming his or her name, ID number and mobile number. The Sentage Operating Companies also cross-examine data the Sentage Operating Companies collect from different outside sources to verify data provided by applicants.

 

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Fraud

 

The Sentage Operating Companies have fraud risk management policies and procedures in place to govern the business operation. The Sentage Operating Companies leverage the data analytics capacities to detect fraud risk in the payment services through the real-time transaction risk monitoring and fraud risk analysis systems. The Sentage Operating Companies’ multi-faceted and effective fraud management system automatically aggregates data relating to fraud in the database. Built upon the large database collected via the own platform, the system is able to assess the probability of suspicious activities. The Sentage Operating Companies have established a dedicated fraud detection team. The team regularly tests and refines anti-fraud rules to tackle new developments and trends, which allows us to quickly respond to emerging fraudulent threats and identify unknown fraud patterns. Based on the risk assessment results of the system, the team also conducts onsite investigation, administering a series of tests on suspicious account users.

 

Money laundering

 

The Sentage Operating Companies have established internal control policies and procedures to monitor and report any suspected money laundering activities as part of the due diligence and risk assessment procedures. The Sentage Operating Companies have developed a risk management system that facilitates the customer due diligence procedures and is deigned to identify and intercept suspicious transactions. The Sentage Operating Companies continuously analyze suspicious patterns and trends of completed transactions, update the list of suspicious recipients, and refine the algorithm. The Sentage Operating Companies also provide education and training to the staff on anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing. In addition, the Sentage Operating Companies have an anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing committee to monitor compliance with the relevant laws and regulations. The Sentage Operating Companies submit reports to the PBOC on suspicious transactions the Sentage Operating Companies identified and relevant customer identity information in accordance with the relevant regulatory requirements. As of the date of this annual report, the Sentage Operating Companies have not encountered any incident where the Sentage Operating Companies failed to screen and report merchants identified as suspected money launderer to the PBOC.

 

Infrastructure and Information Technology

 

The Sentage Operating Companies are currently applying for copyrights in the PRC for the proprietary technology systems, which include the information system and account management system. The Sentage Operating Companies’ internal management system is copyrighted and its registration was completed on April 26, 2020. As of April 22, 2023, the Sentage Operating Companies had a team of 3 full-time employees to monitor and maintain the information technology and infrastructure. To promote the long-term business growth, the Sentage Operating Companies’ technology team focuses on ensuring that the technology systems, operating centers, financial systems, and security protocols are well established, reviewed, tested and continuously strengthened.

 

  IT Infrastructure. We believe the Sentage Operating Companies have built a secure, efficient, and cost-effective infrastructure to provide strong computing ability in the system. As of April 22, 2023, the information technology infrastructure included 15 servers, which form a strong server network with speedy processing capability. The infrastructure has been fully integrated with the computer environments and business requirements to serve as a powerful engine for the products and services.

 

  Information System. We believe the ability to access and use data is essential to the operations. The Sentage Operating Companies’ centralized computer-based information system supports the core processing and analytics functions of the business lines under a set of integrated databases. It is designed to be both replicable and scalable to accommodate the internal growth. Supported by the set of databases, the information system can efficiently process and analyze high volumes of data, securely store the data on a cloud server, and provide each of the departments with convenient access to data. The information system empowers us to generate comprehensive reports and achieve data visualization from accessible data to support the management’s instant decision-making to cope with the evolving competitive landscape.

 

When used for loan repayment and collection management, the information system screens out outdated borrower information on the record and merges borrower information in order to detect any repeating activity pattern and map potential relationships among borrowers based on the information the Sentage Operating Companies are authorized to use. The information system also strengthens the borrower profiling function by enabling the operating portal to categorize borrowers and facilitate repayment and collection assignment based on non-personally identifiable information such as location, gender, the composition of loans, and past-due period.

 

To enhance the credit assessment and risk management capabilities in the loan recommendation process, the Sentage Operating Companies have built a comprehensive credit profile in the information system for each borrower and constantly update the profile with new information the Sentage Operating Companies have collected through various internal and external verification resources. Leveraging the behavior analytics capabilities, the Sentage Operating Companies are able to consolidate and analyze information of each profile to estimate borrowers’ credit needs and assess delinquency risk.

 

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The Sentage Operating Companies’ sophisticated data insights and data analytics capabilities have driven the rapid growth of the prepaid payment network business line. Through comprehensive merchant profiling, the Sentage Operating Companies are able to quickly and accurately identify risks associated with potential clients, captures fraud signals from a massive amount of data regarding user behaviors, analyze them in real time, and intercepts abnormal transactions at an early stage. Theses abilities are crucial in reducing the transaction loss rate and gaining valuable insights into the clients’ businesses.

 

  Internal Management System. The Sentage Operating Companies aim to leverage the proprietary internal management system, which is currently used for the loan repayment and collection management business, to optimize the operational efficiency and achieve workflow automation. Under the system, the operating portal digitizes and standardizes the repayment and collection management process by consolidating skip tracing tools, borrower profiles, repayment records, and other functions under one platform. The Sentage Operating Companies use the operating portal for, among other things, case assignment, portfolio management, collection activity management, and repayment management. We believe that the system affords the in-house team sufficient operational support to efficiently perform tasks related to loan repayment and collection management.

 

  Account Management System. The Sentage Operating Companies have developed a proprietary account management system, which the Sentage Operating Companies currently use to provide the prepaid payment network services, to facilitate centralized management of customers’ accounts and related information. This system consolidates and manages all the customers’ account information, including procedures and standards for customers’ account opening. It tracks the balances of customer accounts, allowing more transparent management of funds movements. The system is built upon the extensive experience of serving a diverse customer base. The Sentage Operating Companies update the system on a regular basis in order to continuously improve its reliability, efficiency and compatibility with the services and evolving regulatory requirements.

 

  Backup System. The Sentage Operating Companies maintain two independent full capacity network servers in two separate locations. If one server experiences technical difficulties or outage, network operations immediately switches to the other server to ensure uninterrupted network services to the employees.

 

  Security System. To protect the databases from unauthorized access, the Sentage Operating Companies configure the system with multiple layers of security modules. The Sentage Operating Companies’ security system monitors and records the entire process of data access, showing us in real-time the identity of users accessing the system and channels through which the users access the system. Furthermore, through periodically reviewing the operation history, examining USB/external hard drives, and implementing security measures for the internal management system, the Sentage Operating Companies are able to manage and restrict employees’ access to personal and financial information. In addition, the Sentage Operating Companies have installed a firewall which monitors and controls incoming and outgoing traffic and automatically takes reactive measures against any information security threats.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ data security and management capabilities have been certified by various national standards, including (i) the Level 3 Certification of Information System Protection, (ii) the Safety Certification on Payment Facilities for Non-Financial Institution, and (iii) the Account Data Security Standard evaluation.

 

  Technology Upgrade. The Sentage Operating Companies actively develop new software and explore greater use of technology to manage data resources. The Sentage Operating Companies will continue to improve the current information technology and infrastructure, which in turn is expected to enable us to utilize the technology and data resources more efficiently. See “—Our Strategies” for a detailed discussion of the technology upgrades.

 

Privacy Protection

 

The Sentage Operating Companies are dedicated to privacy protection of the clients during all phases of the businesses. The Sentage Operating Companies have access to a significant amount of data that could be considered as confidential, including operational data and personal information of the clients and other parties. The Sentage Operating Companies consider the protection of such confidential information to be important. The Sentage Operating Companies adopted a strict internal data policy to protect confidential information at all levels. This policy establishes day-to-day data use requirements, data and information classifications, data encryption requirements, back-up requirements, approval procedures and user rights for confidential information. This policy also specifies the methods in which data must be stored, such as in encrypted format and with backup. The Sentage Operating Companies require each of the employees to agree in writing to abide by the data policy and to protect the confidentiality of the data.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies use a variety of technologies to protect data with which the Sentage Operating Companies are entrusted and have a team of data security professionals dedicated to the ongoing review and monitoring of data security practices. For example, the Sentage Operating Companies store all collection related data in encrypted format and strictly limit the number of personnel who can access those servers that store such data. The Sentage Operating Companies also utilize firewall to protect against potential attacks or unauthorized access. The Sentage Operating Companies endeavor to deploy security enhancements across all the business lines to ensure data protection. Since the inception, the Sentage Operating Companies have not experienced any material information breach or other system failure which could have led to the loss of confidential information. 

 

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Competition

 

The industries in which the Sentage Operating Companies are operating are competitive and evolving. With respect to loan repayment and collection management and loan recommendation, the Sentage Operating Companies compete with market players such as traditional financial institutions, small loan companies, e-commerce driven installment platforms, and other consumer finance platforms. For repayment and collection management, the Sentage Operating Companies’ major competitors include China Data Group (Suzhou) Limited, M&Y Global Services, and Promisechina (Shanghai) Investment Co., Ltd. For loan recommendation, the Sentage Operating Companies primarily compete with institutions such as Shanghai Qingpu Real Estate Investment Property Co., Ltd, Shanghai Hongkou Real Estate Service Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Yangpu Public Housing Asset Management Co., Ltd. With respect to prepaid payment network services, the Sentage Operating Companies primarily compete with other third-party payment service providers in China, including Shandong Chenglian Card Payment Co., Ltd., Qingdao Baisentong Payment Co., Ltd., and Shandong Feiyin Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd.

  

Some of the larger competitors have significantly more financial, technical, marketing and other resources than the Sentage Operating Companies do and may be able to devote greater resources to the development, promotion, sale and support of their development. The competitors may also have more extensive borrower bases, greater brand recognition and brand loyalty and broader partner relationships than us. We believe that the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to compete effectively for borrowers and partners depend on many factors, including the variety of the Sentage Operating Companies’ products and services, user experience on the Sentage Operating Companies’ platform, effectiveness of the Sentage Operating Companies’ risk management, the Sentage Operating Companies’ technological capabilities, the risk-adjusted returns offered to customers, the partnership with third parties, the marketing and selling efforts and the strength and reputation of the Sentage Operating Companies’ brand.

 

Furthermore, as the business grows, Sentage Operating Companies face significant competition for highly skilled personnel, including management, engineers, product managers and risk management personnel. The success of the growth strategies depends in part on the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to retain existing personnel and add additional highly skilled employees.

 

Intellectual Property

 

We regard the Sentage Operating Companies’ copyrights, domain names, and trademark as critical to our success, and the Sentage Operating Companies rely on trade secret law and confidentiality clauses in employment agreements with their employees and others to protect their proprietary rights. The Sentage Operating Companies are currently applying for copyrights for their proprietary technology systems, which include the information system and account management system. To date, the Sentage Operating Companies have not experienced a material misappropriation of the intellectual property. Despite their efforts to protect the property rights, third parties may attempt to use, copy, obtain, or distribute the proprietary technology. The Sentage Operating Companies cannot be certain that the steps they have taken or will take in the future will prevent misappropriation of the technology and intellectual property rights. For a description of the risks related to the intellectual property rights, see “Item 3. D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industries— We may not be able to prevent others from unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.”

 

As of the date of this annual report, Qingdao Buytop owns the trademark Buytop, effective from February 21, 2014 to February 20, 2034, and the domain name www.buytoppay.com, effective from December 16, 2016 to December 16, 2023. Daxin Zhuohui owns the copyrighted internal management system, which became effective on April 26, 2020.

 

Properties and Facilities

 

The corporate headquarters is in Shanghai City, China, where we lease two office spaces with an area of approximately 170.59 square meters (approximately 1,836 square feet) and an area of approximately 185 square meters (approximately 1,991 square feet), as of December 31, 2022. The term of the two leases are from November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2024, and from July 20, 2022 to March 19, 2023, respectively. The monthly rental fee is approximately US$8,426 and US$ 3,292.06, correspondingly. The headquarters serve as the center of management, human resources, and administrative activities, as well as the operation center of the loan repayment and collection management and loan recommendation businesses. In addition to the headquarters in Shanghai, the Sentage Operating Companies also lease office space in Qingdao City, Shandong Province, China for the prepaid payment network operations. The office space of the office in Qingdao City has an area of approximately 143 square meters (approximately 1,540 square feet). The term of the lease is from December 1, 2022 to November 30, 2023, and the monthly rental fee is approximately US$1,812.

 

We believe that the Sentage Operating Companies will be able to obtain adequate facilities, principally through leasing, to accommodate the future expansion plans.

 

Seasonality

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ businesses are not affected by seasonality.

 

Insurance

 

The Sentage Operating Companies provide social security insurance including pension insurance, unemployment insurance, work-related injury insurance and medical insurance for the employees. The Sentage Operating Companies do not maintain business interruption insurance or general third-party liability insurance, nor do the Sentage Operating Companies maintain product liability insurance or key-man insurance. The Sentage Operating Companies consider the insurance coverage to be sufficient and in line with market practice for the business operations in China. 

 

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PRC REGULATIONS

 

This section sets forth a summary of the principal PRC laws, regulations, and rules relevant to our business and operations in China.

 

Regulations on Loan Repayment and Collection Management Services

 

Currently, the PRC has not adopted any laws or regulations directly regulating independent loan repayment and collection management service providers. As an intermediary service provider, we are subject to the PRC contract law as codified in the PRC Civil Code, discussed in detail as below and its specific provisions regulating contracts for intermediary services.

 

Regulations on Loan Recommendation Services

 

Overview

 

Under the current PRC regulatory regime, the legal definition and regulatory principles of loan recommendation services and specific regulatory requirements regarding the services have not been clarified in any relevant promulgated laws or regulations. However, the following laws and regulations, as well as other new regulatory proposals, may be applicable to governmental authorities’ supervision of loan recommendation services and the loan recommendation industry.

 

Regulations Related to Private Lending and Intermediation 

 

In accordance with the PRC Civil Code, promulgated in May 2020 and effective as of January 1, 2021, a contract for intermediary services is a contract under which the intermediary reports to the client on opportunities for the conclusion of contracts or supplies intermediary services relating to the conclusion of contracts, and the client pays remuneration to the intermediary. The intermediary shall provide the client with a strictly truthful account of all matters relating to the conclusion of any contract. Where the intermediary deliberately conceals important matters relating to the conclusion of contracts or supplies a false account of the situation, to the detriment of the client’s interests, the intermediary shall not demand the payment of remuneration and shall also be liable to provide compensation for any losses sustained. In addition, the PRC Civil Code requires that the interest rates charged under a loan agreement must not violate the applicable provisions of the PRC laws and regulations.

 

In accordance with the Provisions on the Supreme People’s Court on Application of Laws to the Hearing of Private Lending Cases (《最高人民法院关于审理民间借贷案件适用法律若干问题的规定》) (“the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2015”) issued by the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC on August 6, 2015, which came into effect on September 1, 2015, private lending is defined as financing between individuals, legal entities and other organizations. Loans funded by financial institutions which are licensed by financial regulatory authorities are not private lending transactions. Besides, the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2015 provides that agreements between the lender and borrower on loans with annual interest rates below 24% are valid and enforceable; as to loans with annual interest rates between 24% and 36%, if the interest on the loans has already been paid to the lender, and so long as such payment has not damaged the interest of the state, the community and any third parties, the courts will turn down the borrower’s request to demand the return of the interest payment; if the annual interest rate of a private loan is higher than 36%, the excess will be void. When the borrower requests the lender to return such amount above 36% that has been paid, the People’s Court should support it..

 

The Decisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Revising the Provisions on Several Issues concerning the Application of Law in the Trial of Private Lending Cases (最高人民法院关于修改《关于审理民间借贷案件适用法律若干问题的规定》的决定) (the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2020), promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court on August 19, 2020 and came into effect on August 20, 2020, stipulates that if the lender requests the borrower to pay interests at the interest rate specified in the contract, the interest rate shall not exceed the market quote rate for one-year loan announced monthly by the National Inter-bank Funding Center, namely Loan Prime Rate (“LPR”), taking effect from August 20,2019 as authorized by the People’s Bank of China. If a lending activity occurs before August 20, 2019 and a lawsuit is filed after August 20, 2020, its interest rate shall be four times of the quoted market interest rate of one-year loans at the time of the plaintiff’s lawsuit to determine the protected interest rate ceiling. While, if a lending activity occurs between August 20, 2019 and August 20, 2020 and the lawsuit is filed after August 20, 2020, its interest rate shall be four times of the quoted interest rate of the one-year loan market at the time of the lending behavior to determine the protected upper limit.

 

In accordance with the Provisions on the Supreme People’s Court on Application of Laws to the Hearing of Private Lending Cases (Revised for the Second Time in 2020) (《最高人民法院关于审理民间借贷案件适用法律若干问题的规定(2020年第二次修正)》) (“the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2020”) amended by the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC on December 29, 2020, which came into effect on January 1, 2021. If a private lending lawsuit is filed after August 20, 2020, the lending activity is before August 20, 2020, and the interest from the date of the lending act to August 19, 2020 shall be calculated according to the judicial interpretation at the time of the lending act; the interest portion from August 20, 2020 to the date of loan repayment shall be capped at four times the one-year loan market quoted interest rate at the time of the lawsuit.

 

Our loan recommendation business of connecting borrowers and lenders constitutes an intermediary service, and our contracts with lenders and borrowers are intermediary contracts defined under the PRC Civil Code. Article 1 of the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2020 stipulates that private lending is defined as financing between individuals, legal entities and other organizations and such provisions shall not apply to disputes arising from related financial services, such as disbursement of loans, provided by financial institutions and their branches established with the approval of the financial regulatory authorities to engage in loan businesses. Since our funding partners in loan recommendation business are commercial banks in China, the disputes related to loan recommendation arising from funding partners and borrowers shall not be regulated by the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2020. However, the disputes arising from the existing loan that we recommended before the end of 2017 shall comply with the Private Lending Judicial Interpretations 2015 and 2020. Even if the individual lenders of the existing loans we recommended before the end of 2017 are required to lower the interest rate of the loans to quadruple one-year LPR by the regulatory authorities or the courts, our business operation will not be affected. Because we have already collected our service fee and there is no explicit provisions that require us to return to borrowers the amount of our service fee that exceeds the quadruple one-year LPR.

 

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Regulations on Illegal Fund-Raising

 

The Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning the Penalty on Illegal Fund-Raising was issued by the General Office of the State Council in July 2007, and the Regulation on the Prevention and Disposition of Illegal Fund-raising Practices was promulgated by the State Council in December 2020 and became effective on May 1, 2021, explicitly prohibit illegal public fund-raisings. In accordance with the aforementioned regulations, the following are the key elements of illegal public fund-raising: (i) the pooling of funds from unspecified objects, (ii) by promise to repay principal and interest or provide other investment returns, (iii) without the permit of the financial administrative department under the State Council in accordance with law or in violation of financial regulations of the State.

 

In December 2010, the Supreme People’s Court promulgated the Judicial Interpretations to Issues Concerning Applications of Laws for Trial of Criminal Cases on Illegal Fund-Raising, which sets up the criteria, criminal charges and the punishment on illegal fund-raising. On February 23, 2022, the Supreme People’s Court published the “Promulgated Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Specific Application of Law in the Trial of Criminal Cases of Illegal Fundraising”, which became effective on March 1 2022 as an amendments to the 2010 judicial interpretation.

 

Through our loan recommendation business, we provide loan recommendation services to connect qualified borrowers with prospective lenders, who are our funding partners. Our services do not involve raising funds from borrowers or the lenders.

 

Future Regulation Development Related to Loan Recommendation Services

 

The State Council released the Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Standardized and Healthy Development of the Platform Economy (《关于促进平台经济规范健康发展的指导意见》) on August 1, 2019, which requires the implementation and improvement of comprehensive and prudent supervision of financial platforms, promotes the establishment and improvement of a new regulatory mechanism tailored to specific features of financial platforms, and promotes a fair, competitive market environment for financial platforms. The Research Group of China Institute of Inclusive Finance at Remin University of China believes that the opinions provide a clear regulatory framework for governmental authorities to regulate loan recommendation services.

 

In accordance with the opinions, the research group believes that the central regulatory authorities, such as CBRC, shall supervise the overall the regulation of loan recommendation services on a macro level, formulating nationwide unified regulatory principles, and provide specific regulatory requirements, which shall be implemented by other governmental authorities at lower level.

 

As the interpretation of the aforementioned regulation is still being debated and there has not been official promulgation and implementation of any law or regulation specifically addressing regulatory issues surrounding loan recommendation services, the opinions as discussed above do not have an adverse impact our loan recommendation business. However, in light of the evolving and developing nature of the regulatory regime regarding loan recommendation services, it is probable that the Chinese government will adopt regulations and policies that may temporarily restrain the scale and growth of our loan recommendation services in the future.

 

Regulations on Third-Party Payment Services, which Include Prepaid Payment Network Services

 

Overview

 

In China, a payment institution shall be subject to the supervision and management by PBOC in accordance with relevant law and regulations. Non-financial institutions and individuals shall not engage in any kind of third-party payment business without the approval of the PBOC. The PBOC shall, under the supervision of the State Council, implement monetary policies, perform its functions, take precautions against systematic financial risks, and maintain financial stability of the general economic environment in China.

 

The Payment & Clearing Association of China (“PCAC”), approved by the State Council and Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (“Ministry of Civil Affairs”), is a self-disciplined organization of the PRC payment and clearing service industry. The operations of the PCAC are governed by the PBOC. Its purpose is to ensure various payment institutions’ compliance with the industry standards of the payment and clearing service industry.

 

Payment License

 

In accordance with the Administrative Measures of People’s Bank of China on Payment Services Provided by Non-financial Institutions (Order of the People’s Bank of China (2010) No. 2, “Order No.2”) (中国人民银行令[2010]第2号《非金融机构支付服务管理办法》) promulgated by the PBOC on June 14, 2010 and amended in 2020, the payment services of non-financial institutions in the PRC refers to all or part of the following transfer services of monetary capital, which are provided by non-financial institutions as an intermediary between payees and payers: (i) online payment; (ii) issuance and acceptance of prepaid card; (iii) bank card acceptance; and (iv) other payment services as specified by the PBOC. Online payment refers to the act of transferring monetary capital between payers and payees through public and private networks, including money transfer, payment via the Internet, payment by mobile phone, payment by fixed-line telephone, digital television payment, etc. Prepaid cards refer to the advanced value issued for the purpose of making profit and used to purchase commodities or services of business entities beyond the issuer, including prepaid cards issued in the form of physical card and digital password. The bank card acceptance refers to the act of collecting monetary capital for business activities involving bank cards through terminals of point-of-sells (POS).

 

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Pursuant to Order No.2, to provide payment services, a non-financial institution shall obtain a “Payment License” to qualify as a paying institution. A paying institution shall conduct operation activities within the business scope approved in the “Payment License” and may not carry out any business beyond the approved scope nor outsource its payment business to other parties. A paying institution may not assign, lease, or lend the “Payment License.”

 

According to our Payment License and the approved business scope of the Payment License, we are allowed to provide prepaid cards payment services and related business services. Our Payment License was issued by the PBOC on July 20, 2017. The Payment License is valid from July 20, 2017 to July 19, 2022. On June 27, 2022, the PBOC renewed our Payment License, which is valid until July 19, 2027.

 

Regulations on Foreign Investment in the Payment Services

 

According to Order No. 2, subject to the State Council’s approval, the PBOC shall stipulate requirements for the business scope of a foreign-invested payment institution and the qualifications and the capital contribution ratio of the payment institution’ foreign investors. According to the Announcement No. 7 of the People’s Bank of China (2018) (中国人民银行公告(2018)第7号《关于外商投资支付机构有关事宜公告》) (“No. 7 Announcement”), which was issued by the PBOC and became effective on March 19, 2018, upon the State Council’s approval, the relevant requirements of the foreign-invested payment institutions include the following: (I) An overseas institution intending to provide electronic payment services for domestic transactions and cross-border transactions of domestic entities in the PRC shall establish a foreign-invested enterprise in the PRC and obtain a Payment License in accordance with the criteria and procedures stipulated in Order No. 2 of the PBOC. (II) A foreign-invested payment institution shall possess a secured and standardized business system and a disaster recovery system in the PRC, so the payment institution is able to independently complete payment transactions; (III) Storage, processing and analysis of personal information and financial information collected and generated in the PRC by a foreign-invested payment institution shall be carried out in China. Where it is necessary to transmit such information overseas for the purpose of processing cross-border transactions, the transmission shall comply with relevant laws and administrative regulations and requirements of relevant regulatory authorities. The foreign-invested payment institution shall require the overseas institution to satisfy its confidentiality obligations and obtain information owners’ consents. (IV) A foreign-invested payment institution must ensure that its corporate governance, routine business operation, risk management, fund processing, deposit of reserves and contingency arrangements comply with the regulatory requirements of the PBOC regarding non-bank payment institutions.

 

No. 7 Announcement only sets out the general requirements for overseas institutions applying for Payment Licenses, but has not promulgated any detailed requirements and measures for domestic institutions which already obtained Payment Licenses and, through internal reorganization, have become foreign-invested payment institutions. Qingdao Buytop, the VIE, already obtained its Payment License prior to entering into a series of VIE Agreements with Sentage WFOE. Although we believe that No.7 Announcement does not have any material adverse impact on the overall business of Qingdao Buytop, there are uncertainties as to how Announcement No.7 will be interpreted and implemented.

 

Regulations on Prepaid Cards Business of Payment Institutions

 

Order No. 2 regulates the prepaid cards (issued by magnetic stripe, chip and other technologies in the form of cards, passwords, etc.) issued by non-financial institutions for profit purpose and used by card owners to purchase goods and(or) services provided by parties other than the card issuer into the regulatory scope of the payment system. Because we issue prepaid cards and provide prepaid card related services, through the VIE entity, Qingdao Buytop, order No.2 applies to us.

 

In accordance with Implementation Rules for the Administrative Measures on Payment Services Provided by Non-financial Institutions (《非金融机构支付服务管理办法实施细则》) introduced by PBOC on December 1, 2010, and revised on June 2, 2020, January 1, 2021, and September 1, 2021, the prepaid cards stated in Order No. 2 do not include the following types: (i) prepaid cards used for the payment of social security only; (ii) prepaid cards used for public transport only; (iii) prepaid cards used for the payment of telephone and other telecommunication charges only; and (iv) prepaid cards issued to purchase the card issuer’s commodities and services.

 

The Notice on Regulating the Management of Commercial Prepaid Cards, which was issued by the PBOC, the Ministry of Supervision of the People’s Republic of China, and Other Departments, and shared by the General Office of the State Council on May 23, 2011, (GBF [2011] No.25, “Notice No.25”) (《国务院办公厅转发人民银行监察部等部门关于规范商业预付卡管理意见的通知》), sets forth regulatory bodies’ opinions on strengthening the regulatory administration over issuers of commercial prepaid cards, enforcing financial discipline, preventing financial risks, and promoting anti-corruption and promoting transparent governance. Notice No.25 has confirmed the classification of commercial prepaid cards specified in the implementation rules specified above and approved the category-based supervision of prepaid cards. Pursuant to Notice No.25, prepaid cards are further divided into two categories based on the characteristics of non-financial institution issuers, including (i) multi-purpose prepaid cards, which can be used across regions, industries, and legal persons, and (ii) single-purpose prepaid cards, which can be used to purchase goods and services provided by the enterprise acting as the card issuer or other commercial enterprises affiliated with the card issuer. Pursuant to Notice No.25, the PBOC shall strengthen supervision over the opening and use of deposit accounts designated for the provision of multi-purpose prepaid cards. The Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and relevant commerce administration authorities shall take effective measures to supervise prepayment funds involving single-purpose prepaid cards and prevent relevant risks.

 

On September 27, 2012, the PBOC promulgated the Administrative Measures for Prepaid Cards Business of Payment Institutions (Announcement of the People’s Bank of China [2012] No.12, “Announcement No.12”) (《支付机构预付卡业务管理办法》), which fully implemented the real name registration system, non-cash card purchase system, and quota issuance system for prepaid card business of payment institutions in accordance with the requirements of Notice No.25. Pursuant to Announcement No.12, the PBOC and its branches shall carry out off-site supervision and on-site inspection of payment institutions’ prepaid card business activities, internal control system, and risk management capabilities in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. A payment institution shall obtain the “Payment License” issued and approved by the PBOC in order to engage in the business of “issuing and(or) accepting prepaid cards.” Payment institutions shall strictly implement regulatory provisions pertaining to managing payment institution clients’ funds and fulfill their obligations related to anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing.

 

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Our Payment License issued by the PBOC satisfies the Payment License requirement of Announcement No. 12. We have obtained qualifications necessary for providing prepaid payment network services, which is a subcategory of third-party payment services, in accordance with existing laws, regulations and regulatory requirements regarding third-party payment services in China. In light of the evolving and changing nature of the payment industry, it is probable that we will still need to obtain other permits or approvals for our prepaid payment network services business in the future.

 

Regulations on Detection and Authentication Management of Payment Business System

 

The Regulations on Inspection and Verification of Non-financial Institutions Payment Service Business System (《非金融机构支付服务业务系统检测认证管理规定》) was promulgated by the PBOC on June 16, 2011. The regulations came into effect on the same day. The regulations specified, among other requirements, safety and management requirements for third-party payment institution business system and communication system. Pursuant to the regulations, the PBOCs is responsible for approving and managing regulatory activities related to inspecting and verifying the qualifications of payment institutions. Certification institutions, which are approved by relevant regulatory authorities and certified and authorized by the PBOC, are qualified to inspect the business system of third-party payment institutions and issue certifications for those qualified payment institutions after the inspection.

 

Through the VIE entity, Qingdao Buytop, we own the Technical Certification of Payment Service Facilities of Non-banking Payment Institutions (registration number: CFNR201801370551), which was issued by Beijing Zhongjin Guosheng Authentication Co., Ltd., on May 8, 2018 for three years, which was subsequently renewed to be valid until December 4, 2023.

 

Regulations on Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing

 

The Anti-Money Laundering Law of the People’s Republic of China (“Anti-Money Laundering Law”)(《中华人民共和国反洗钱法》) was promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on October 31, 2006 and came into force on January 1, 2007. The Anti-Money Laundering Law stipulates that specific non-financial institutions shall take precautionary and monitoring measures and comply with their anti-money laundering obligations. The Anti-Money Laundering Law includes establishing a sound client identification system, client identification information and transaction record-keeping system, block transaction and suspicious transaction reporting system. According to Order No. 2 of PBOC, a payment institution that has obtained the Payment License, such as the VIE entity, Qingdao Buytop, shall comply with applicable regulations in the Anti-Money Laundering Law and fulfill its anti-money laundering obligations. The PBOC and its branches shall conduct on-site and non-site inspections on the payment institution to periodically review and evaluate anti-money laundering measures the payment institution has taken to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering Law.

 

Measures for Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing of Payment Institutions (“YF Decree No. 54”)( 银发54号令《支付机构反洗钱和反恐怖融资管理办法》), promulgated by the PBOC on March 5, 2012, came into force on the same day. YF Decree No. 54 stipulates that a payment institution which has obtained the Payment License shall carry out the obligations of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing in accordance with the law. The main aspects include client identification, client identification information, transaction record-keeping, suspicious transaction reports, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing surveys, etc. The Management Measure on Large and Suspicious Transactions “Yin Fa No. 3”) (银发3号令《金融机构大额交易和可疑交易报告管理办法》), which was amended in 2018, was promulgated by the PBOC on December 28, 2016 and came into effect on July 1, 2017. Yin Fa No. 3 stipulates that payment institutions shall fulfill their obligations of reporting large transactions and suspicious transactions and formulate internal management systems and operational regulations and procedures for reporting large transactions and suspicious transactions to establish a sound monitoring system for large transactions and suspicious transactions.

 

The Administrative Measures for the Reporting of Major Events by Non-bank Payment Institutions

 

On July 20 2021,The People’s Bank of China Promulgated “the Administrative Measures for the Reporting of Major Events by Non-bank Payment Institutions”, which became effective on September, 1 2021. This measure requires that Branch offices of the PBC shall, in concert with the payment institutions (including branch companies) within their respective jurisdictions, establish a reporting mechanism for major events. This measure requires payment institutions to report each major event in a timely, truthful, accurate, and complete manner, and also defines the situation of the scope of major event risk or emergency occurs. When relative major event happens, the company, as a Non-bank Payment Institution, shall submit a written report to the local branch office of The People’s Bank of China within a certain period. If the Non-bank Payment Institution did not report in the manner of this measure, the People’s Bank of China or any of its branch offices shall order it to make rectification within a prescribed time limit and may take regulatory measures, such as regulatory notice, and may impose punishments on it in accordance with the Administrative Measures on Payment Services Provided by Non-Financial Institutions, and a warning or a fine of between 10,000 yuan and 30,000 yuan may be given.

 

Depository Measures for Clients’ Provisions of Non-bank Payment Institutions

 

On January 19, 2021, People’s Bank of China promulgated “Depository Measures for Clients’ Provisions of Non-bank Payment Institutions”, which became effective on March 1, 2021. This measure regulates the centralized depository of customer reserves after the centralized deposit of reserves. The provisions on the storage, use and transfer of reserve funds have been refined by this measure. This measure also clarified the corresponding reserve management responsibilities of the People’s Bank of China and its branches, clearing institutions, and reserve banks, set the penalty standards for customer reserve violations, and strengthened the supervision of customer reserve funds. The clients’ provisions received by non-bank payment institutions shall be directly deposited in full amount to the People’s Bank of China or qualified commercial banks. The clients’ provisions received directly by non-bank payment institutions due to the issuance of prepaid cards or the top up of prepaid cards shall be deposited in a unified manner into the accounts for centralized deposit and management of provisions through the dedicated deposit accounts for prepaid cards. The clients’ provisions can only be used for the payment service entrusted by clients and other circumstances as prescribed by these Measures.

 

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Notice on Further Preventing and Dealing with Speculation Risks in Virtual Currency Trading

 

On September 15 2019, the People’s Bank of China, and other relevant PRC governmental authorities jointly promulgated “Notice on Further Preventing and Dealing with Speculation Risks in Virtual Currency Trading”, which became effective on the same day. According to the measure, the business activities related to virtual currencies are illegal financial activities. Financial institutions and non-banking payment institutions shall not provide account opening, fund transfer or clearing and settlement services for the business activities related to virtual currencies, or include virtual currencies into the scope of collaterals, nor shall they carry out insurance business related to virtual currencies, or include virtual currencies into the scope of insurance liability. Any violation of laws and regulations detected shall be reported to the relevant authorities in a timely manner. The company should not provide any service in accordance with virtual currency.

 

Data Security Law of the People’s Republic of China

 

Regulations relating to Information Security and Privacy Protection

 

Internet content in China is regulated and restricted from a state security standpoint. On December 28, 2000, the SCNPC enacted the Decisions on Maintaining Internet Security (《全国人民代表大会常务委员会关于维护互联网安全的决定》), later amended on August 27, 2009, which subject violators to criminal punishment in China for any effort to: (1) use the Internet to market fake and substandard products or carry out false publicity for any commodity or service; (2) use the Internet for the purpose of damaging the commercial goodwill and product reputation of any other person; (3) use the Internet for the purpose of infringing on the intellectual property of any person; (4) use the Internet for the purpose of fabricating and spreading false information that affects the trading of securities and futures or otherwise jeopardizes the financial order; or (5) create any pornographic website or webpage on the Internet, provide links to pornographic websites, or disseminate pornographic books and magazines, movies, audio-visual products, or images. Pursuant to the Administrative Measures for the Security Protection of Computer Information Networks Linked to the Internet (《计算机信息网络国际联网安全保护管理办法》) which was promulgated by the Ministry of Public Security (the “MPS”) on December 16, 1997 and later amended and became effective on January 8, 2011, the Internet is prohibited to be used in ways which, among other things, would result in a leakage of state secrets or a spread of socially destabilizing content. On December 13, 2005, the MPS promulgated the Provisions on the Technical Measures for the Protection of the Security of the Internet (《互联网安全保护技术措施规定》) which require internet service providers to take proper measures including anti-virus, data back-up and other related measures, to keep records of certain information about its users (including user registration information, log-in and log-out time, IP address, content and time of posts by users) for at least 60 days, and to detect illegal information, stop transmission of such information, and keep relevant records. If an internet information service provider violates these measures, the MPS and the local public security bureaus may recommend that the original certificate examination, approval and issuing organizations revoke its operating license and shut down its websites. Pursuant to the Circular of the MPS, the State Secrecy Bureau, the State Cipher Code Administration and the Information Office of the State Council on Printing and Distributing the Administrative Measures for the Graded Protection of Information Security (《公安部、国家保密局、国家密码管理局、国务院信息化工作办公室关于印发〈信息安全等级保护管理办法〉的通知》) which was promulgated on June 22, 2007, the state shall, by formulating nationally effective administrative norms and technical standards for the graded protection of information security, organize citizens, legal persons and other organizations to grade information systems and protect their security, and supervise and administer the graded protection work. The security protection grade of an information system may be classified into the five grades. To newly build an information system of Grade II or above, its operator or user shall, within 30 days after it is put into operation, handle the record-filing procedures at the local public security organ at the level of municipality divided into districts or above of its locality.

 

PRC governmental authorities have enacted laws and regulations on internet use to protect personal information from any unauthorized disclosure. On December 28, 2012, the SCNPC promulgated the Decision on Strengthening Network Information Protection (《关于加强网络信息保护的决定》), which became effective on the same day, to enhance the legal protection of information security and privacy on the Internet. On July 16, 2013, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PRC (the “MIIT”) promulgated the Provisions on Protection of Personal Information of Telecommunication and Internet Users (《电信和互联网用户个人信息保护规定》) to regulate the collection and use of users’ personal information in the provision of telecommunication services and internet information services in China. Telecommunication business operators and internet service providers are required to establish its own rules for collecting and use of users’ information and cannot collect or use users’ information without users’ consent. Telecommunication business operators and internet service providers are prohibited from disclosing, tampering with, damaging, selling or illegally providing others with, collected personal information.

 

On June 10 2021, Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the “Data Security Law of the People’s Republic of China”, (《中华人民共和国个人信息保护法》),, which became effective on September 1 2021. The law requires data collection to be carried out in a lawful and proper manner and stipulates that for data protection purposes, data processing activities must be carried out based on a hierarchical protection system of data classification and data security. According to this law, The outbound security management of important data collected and generated by operators of critical information infrastructure during their operations within the territory of the People’s Republic of China shall be governed by the provisions of the Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China, which is Conduct security assessments in accordance with the measures formulated by the national cybersecurity and informatization department in conjunction with the relevant departments of the State Council. Measures for the security management of the exit of important data collected and generated by other data processors during their operations within the territory of the People’s Republic of China shall be formulated by the national cybersecurity and informatization department in conjunction with the relevant departments of the State Council. Currently, China has not promulgated clear approval rules or assessment requirements for the security management of data export by “other data processors”. Therefore, we currently do not need to conduct security assessments or seek approval from relevant authorities under the Data Security Law.

 

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Cybersecurity Review Measures

 

On November 7, 2016, the SCNPC published the Cyber Security Law of the PRC (《中华人民共和国网络安全法》), or the Cyber Security Law, which took effect on June 1, 2017 and requires network operators to perform certain functions related to cyber security protection and the strengthening of network information management. For instance, under the Cyber Security Law, network operators of key information infrastructure shall store within the territory of the PRC all the personal information and important data collected and produced within the territory of PRC and their purchase of network products and services that may affect national securities shall be subject to national cybersecurity review.

 

On April 13, 2020, the Cyberspace Administration of China and other departments issued Cybersecurity Review Measures (《网络安全审查办法》), which took effect on June 1, 2020, to provide for more detailed rules regarding cybersecurity review requirements. On July 10, 2021, the CAC issued the Circular on Seeking Comments on Cybersecurity Review Measures (Revised Draft for Comments) (the “Review Measures Draft”).

 

On July 10, 2021, the CAC issued the Circular on Seeking Comments on Cybersecurity Review Measures (Revised Draft for Comments) (the “Review Measures Draft”) (《网络安全审查办法(修订草案征求意见稿)》), which required, among others, in addition to any “critical information infrastructure operators (“CIIOs”),” any “data processor” controlling personal information of no less than one million users which seeks to list in a foreign stock exchange should also be subject to cybersecurity review.

 

On November 14, 2021, the CAC published the Network Internet Data Protection Draft Regulations (draft for comments), (《网络数据安全管理条例(征求意见稿)》), and accepted public comments until December 13, 2021. The Network Internet Data Protection Draft Regulations provides that data processors refer to individuals or organizations that autonomously determine the purpose and the manner of processing data. If a data processor that processes the personal data of more than one million users intends to list overseas, it shall apply for a cybersecurity review. In addition, data processors that process important data or are listed overseas shall carry out an annual data security assessment on their own or by engaging a data security services institution, and the data security assessment report for the prior year should be submitted to the local cyberspace affairs administration department before January 31 of each year.

 

Later on, December 28, 2021, the CAC and other relevant PRC governmental authorities jointly promulgated the Cybersecurity Review Measures Transfer (《网络安全审查办法》), which took effect on February 15, 2022. The Cybersecurity Review Measures provide that, in addition to CIIOs that intend to purchase Internet products and services, net platform operators engaging in data processing activities that affect or may affect national security must be subject to cybersecurity review by the Cybersecurity Review Office of the PRC. According to the Cybersecurity Review Measures, a cybersecurity review assesses potential national security risks that may be brought about by any procurement, data processing, or overseas listing. The Cybersecurity Review Measures require that an online platform operator which possesses the personal information of at least one million users must apply for a cybersecurity review by the CAC if it intends to be listed in foreign countries.

 

On July 7, 2022, the CAC published the Measures for the Security Assessment of Outbound Data Transfer (《数据出境安全评估办法》), which effected on September 1, 2022. The measures apply to the security assessment of important data and personal information collected and generated during operation within the territory of the People’s Republic of China and transferred abroad by a data handler. According to the Measures, if a data handler transfers data abroad under any of the following circumstances, it shall file to the State Cyberspace Administration for security assessment via the Province Cyberspace Administration: (i) a data handler who transfers important data to abroad; (ii) a critical information infrastructure operator, or a data handler processing the personal information of more than 1 million individuals transfers personal information to abroad;(iii) since January 1 of the previous year, a data handler cumulatively transferred abroad the personal information of more than 100,000 individuals, or the sensitive personal information of more than 10,000 individuals, or;(iv) other circumstances where the security assessment for the outbound data transfer is required by the State Cyberspace Administration. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factor— Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Recent greater oversight by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, over data security, particularly for companies seeking to list on a foreign exchange, could adversely impact our business and our offering.”

 

Our PRC legal counsel, has advised us that, based on its understanding of the Cyber Security Law, we are not a network operator and not subject to the requirements imposed to network operators under the Cyber Security Law. However, as a non-network operator, like any individual or organization, we have an obligation under the Cyber Security Law not to acquire personal information by stealing or through other illegal means, or illegally sell or provide personal information to any other person. As of the date of this annual report, we are in material compliance with the Cyber Security Law, and this law has not had a significant impact on our business operations. However, our PRC legal counsel has further advised us that there are uncertainties as to how the Cyber Security Law will be interpreted or amended by competent authorities in the future.

 

Regulations Relating to Employment, Social Insurance and Housing Provident Fund

 

Employment

 

According to the PRC Labor Law, or the Labor Law, which was promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, or the SCNPC, on July 5, 1994, came into effect on January 1, 1995, and was amended on August 27, 2009 and December 29, 2018, an employer shall develop and improve its rules and regulations to safeguard the rights of its employees. An employer shall establish and develop labor safety and health systems, stringently implement national protocols and standards on labor safety and health, get employees to receive labor safety and health education, guard against labor accidents and reduce occupational hazards. Labor safety and health facilities must comply with the relevant national standards. An employer must provide employees with the necessary labor protection gear that complies with labor safety and health conditions stipulated under national regulations, and provide regular health examinations for employees that are engaged in work with occupational hazards. Employees engaged in special operations must receive specialized training and obtain pertinent qualifications. An employer shall develop a vocational training system. Vocational training funds shall be set aside and used in accordance with national regulations, and vocational training for employees shall be carried out systematically based on the actual conditions of the Company.

 

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The Labor Contract Law of the PRC, which was promulgated by the SCNPC on June 29, 2007, amended on December 28, 2012, and came into effect on July 1, 2013, combined with the Implementation Regulations on Labor Contract Law, which was promulgated and became effective September 18, 2008, regulate the parties to labor contracts, namely employers and employees, and contain specific provisions relating to the terms of labor contracts. Under the Labor Contract Law and the Implementation Regulations on Labor Contract Law, a labor contract must be made in writing. An employer and an employee may enter into a fixed-term labor contract, an un-fixed term labor contract, or a labor contract that concludes upon the completion of certain work assignments, after reaching agreement upon due negotiations. An employer may legally terminate a labor contract and dismiss its employees after reaching agreement upon due negotiations with its employees or by fulfilling the statutory conditions. Where a labor relationship has already been established without a written labor contract, the written labor contracts shall be entered into within one month from the date on which the employee commences working.

 

 Social Insurance

 

The Law on Social Insurance of the PRC, which was promulgated on October 28, 2010, and became effective on July 1, 2011 and was amended on December 29, 2018, has established social insurance systems of basic pension insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance, work injury insurance and basic medical insurance, and has elaborated in detail the legal obligations and liabilities of employers who do not comply with relevant laws and regulations on social insurance.

 

According to the Interim Regulations on the Collection and Payment of Social Insurance Premiums, the Regulations on Work Injury Insurance, the Regulations on Unemployment Insurance and the Trial Measures on Employee Maternity Insurance of Enterprises, enterprises in the PRC shall provide benefit plans for their employees, which include basic pension insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance, work injury insurance and basic medical insurance. An enterprise must provide social insurance by going through social insurance registration with local social insurance authorities or agencies, and shall pay or withhold relevant social insurance premiums for or on behalf of employees.

 

Housing Provident Fund

 

According to the Administrative Regulations on the Administration of the Housing Provident Fund, which was promulgated and became effective on April 3, 1999, and was amended on March 24, 2002 and March 24, 2019, housing provident fund contributions paid and deposited both by employees and their unit employer shall be owned by the employees.

 

A unit employer shall undertake registration of payment and deposit of the housing provident fund in the housing provident fund management center and, upon verification by the housing provident fund management center, open a housing provident fund account on behalf of its employees in a commissioned bank. Employers shall timely pay and deposit housing provident fund contributions in the full amount and late or insufficient payments shall be prohibited. With respect to unit employers who violate the regulations hereinabove and fail to complete housing provident fund payment and deposit registrations or open housing provident fund accounts for their employees, such unit employers shall be ordered by the housing provident fund administration center to complete such procedures within a designated period. Those who fail to complete their registrations within the designated period shall be subject to a fine of between RMB10,000 and RMB50,000. When unit employers are in breach of these regulations and fail to pay deposit housing provident fund contributions in the full amount as they fall due, the housing provident fund administration center shall order such unit employers to pay within a prescribed time limit, failing which an application may be made to a people’s court for compulsory enforcement.

 

Regulations relating to Foreign Investment

 

On December 27, 2021, the Special Administrative Measures for the Access of Foreign Investment (Negative List) (外商投资准入特别管理措施(负面清单) (2021年版)) (the “Negative List 2021”), which was promulgated by NDRC and MOFCOM and became effective on January 1, 2022, replaced the Negative List 2020. Industries listed in the Negative List 2021 are divided into two categories with respect to foreign investment: restricted and prohibited. Industries not listed in the Negative List are generally deemed as falling under a third “permitted” category and are generally open to foreign investment unless otherwise specifically restricted by other PRC regulations.

 

Our principal businesses are precluded from the Negative List 2021 and is thus within a permitted industry for foreign investment.

 

Regulations relating to Foreign-Owned Enterprises

 

The establishment, operation and management of corporate entities in China are governed by the Company Law of the PRC (《中华人民共和国公司法》) (the “PRC Company Law”), which was promulgated by the SCNPC on December 29, 1993 and last amended and became effective on October 26, 2018. Under the PRC Company Law, companies are generally classified into two categories, i.e., limited liability companies and joint stock limited companies. The PRC Company Law also applies to foreign-invested limited liability companies. According to the PRC Company Law, any stipulations by other PRC laws governing foreign investment shall prevail over the PRC Company Law.

 

Pursuant to the Law on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises of the PRC (《中华人民共和国外资企业法》) (the “Law on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises of the PRC”), which was promulgated by the SCNPC on April 12, 1986, last amended on September 3, 2016 and became effective on October 1, 2016, where the establishment of wholly foreign-owned enterprises does not involve the implementation of special access administrative measures prescribed by the state, the establishment, breakup, merger, or any other major change and the operation period of such enterprises are subject to record-filing administration.

 

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The Implementing Rules for the Law on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises of the PRC (《中华人民共和国外资企业法实施细则》) (the “Implementing Rules on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises”) was promulgated by the State Council on December 12, 1990, then was amended on April 12, 2001 and February 19, 2014, and became effective on March 1, 2014. According to the Implementing Rules on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises, industries in which the establishment of wholly foreign-owned enterprises is prohibited or restricted shall be regulated in accordance with the provisions of the State about foreign investment orientation and the Catalogue.

 

The Law on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises of the PRC and the Implementing Rules on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises have been repealed by the Foreign Investment Law of the PRC (《中华人民共和国外商投资法》 (the “Foreign Investment Law”), which was adopted by the National People’s Congress on March 15, 2019 and came into effect on January 1, 2020. According to the Foreign Investment Law, the State shall implement the management systems of pre-establishment national treatment and negative list for foreign investment. The pre-establishment national treatment refers to the treatment given to foreign investors and their investments during the investment access stage, which is not lower than that given to their domestic counterparts. The negative list refers to special administrative measures for the access of foreign investment in specific fields as stipulated by the State. The State shall give national treatment to foreign investment beyond the negative list. The organization form, institutional framework and standard of conduct of a foreign-funded enterprise shall be subject to the provisions of the PRC Company Law and the Partnership Enterprise Law of the PRC (《中华人民共和国合伙企业法》) and other laws. Foreign investors shall not invest in any field forbidden by the negative list for access of foreign investment. For any field restricted by the negative list, foreign investors shall conform to the investment conditions as required in the negative list, and fields not included in the negative list shall be managed under the principle that domestic investment and foreign investment shall be treated uniformly.

 

The Law on Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures of the PRC (《中华人民共和国中外合资经营企业法》), the Law on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises of the PRC (《中华人民共和国外资企业法》) and the Law on Sino-Foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures of the PRC (《中华人民共和国中外合作经营企业法》) were repealed simultaneously when the Foreign Investment Law came into effect on January 1, 2020, and foreign-funded enterprises which were established in accordance with such laws before the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law may retain their original organization forms and other aspects for five years upon the implementation hereof.

 

Regulations on Tax

 

Corporate Income Tax

 

According to the Corporate Income Tax Law of the People’s Republic of China (《企业所得税法》), corporate income tax shall be payable by a resident enterprise for income derived from or accruing in or outside China, and the tax rate shall be 25%.

 

In accordance with the Notice of the State Council on Implementation of Transitional Corporate Income Tax Incentives (《关于实施企业所得税过渡优惠政策的通知》) issued on December 26, 2007, enterprises which had benefited from the tax rate preferential policies provided by the former corporate income tax law shall be gradually subject to the new statutory tax rate scheme over a five-year period commencing on the first day of implementing the Corporate Income Tax Law of the People’s Republic of China (the “Corporate Income Tax Law”), which became effective on January 1, 2008. For enterprises which were entitled to regular corporate income tax exemption and reduction incentives shall, following the implementation of the Corporate Income Tax Law, continue to be entitled to such tax incentives until such exemption and incentive periods expire pursuant to previous tax laws and relevant administrative regulations. For enterprises which did not previously enjoy tax reduction incentives due to non-profitability, the tax incentive period specified in the notice shall commence in 2008.

 

According to the Corporate Income Tax Law of the People’s Republic of China (《企业所得税法》), enterprises lawfully incorporated pursuant to the laws of a foreign country (region) but whose actual management functions are conducted in China will need to pay corporate income tax for income derived from or accruing in or outside China.

 

In accordance with the regulations on corporate income tax, the 25% corporate income tax rate is applicable to the VIEs, including Daxin Wealth, Daxin Zhuohui, Zhenyi and Qingdao Buytop.

 

Value-Added Tax (the “VAT”) and Business Tax

 

Pursuant to the Provisional Regulations on Value-Added Tax of the PRC (《中华人民共和国增值税暂行条例》), or the VAT Regulations, which were promulgated by the State Council on December 13, 1993, and amended on November 10, 2008, February 6, 2016, and November 19, 2017, respectively, and the Implementation Rules of the Provisional Regulations on Value Added Tax of the PRC (《中华人民共和国增值税暂行条例实施细则》) promulgated by the Ministry of Finance of the People’s Republic of China (“MOF”) on December 25, 1993 and amended on December 15, 2008 and October 28, 2011, respectively, entities and individuals that sell goods or labor services of processing, repair or replacement, sell services, intangible assets, or immovables, or import goods within the territory of the People’s Republic of China are taxpayers of value-added tax. The VAT rate is 17% for taxpayers selling goods, labor services, or tangible movable property leasing services or importing goods, except otherwise specified; 11% for taxpayers selling goods, labor services, or tangible movable property leasing services or importing goods, except otherwise specified; 6% for taxpayers selling services or intangible assets.

 

In accordance with the Notice of the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation on Full Launch of the Pilot Scheme on Levying Value-added Tax in Place of Business Tax (《财政部、国家税务总局关于全面推开营业税改征增值税试点的通知》), which was released by MOF and State Administration of Taxation of People’s Republic of China (“SAT”) on March 23, 2016 and became effective on May 1, 2016, the pilot scheme on levying value-added tax in place of business tax shall be launched nation-wide. All business tax taxpayers in the construction industry, real estate industry, financial industry, living service industry, etc., shall be included in the scope of the pilot scheme and subject to value-added tax instead of business tax.

 

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In accordance with the applicable regulations on VAT, a 6% VAT rate is applicable to the VIEs, Daxin Wealth, Daxin Zhuohui, Zhenyi and Qingdao Buytop.

 

Stamp Duty

 

In accordance with the Stamp Duty Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国印花税法》), which was released by Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on June 10, 2022 and became effective on July 1, 2022, any entities and individuals who make taxable documents and conduct securities transactions within the territory of the People’s Republic of China are taxpayers of stamp duty and shall pay stamp duty in accordance with the provisions of this law. All entities and individuals who make taxable documents outside the territory of the People’s Republic of China to be used within the territory of the People’s Republic of China shall pay stamp duty in accordance with the provisions of this law. The term “taxable documents” refers to the contracts, property transfer documents and business account books listed in the Schedule of Stamp Duty Items and Stamp Duty Law of the People’s Republic of China.

 

Our PRC subsidiary and VIEs in the PRC have completed tax registration and timely paid taxes in accordance with applicable taxation laws and regulations in the PRC.

 

Regulations on Foreign Exchange

 

General Administration of Foreign Exchange

 

According to the Regulations on the Control of Foreign Exchange (《中华人民共和国外汇管理条例》), which were promulgated by the State Council on January 29, 1996, came into effect on April 1, 1996, and were amended on January 14, 1997, and August 5, 2008, payments for transactions that take place within the PRC must be made in RMB. Unless otherwise approved, PRC companies may not repatriate foreign currency payments received from abroad or retain the same abroad. RMB is convertible into other currencies for current account items, such as trade-related receipts and payments and payment of interest and dividends. The conversion of RMB into other currencies and remittance of the converted foreign currency outside the PRC for of capital account items, such as direct equity investments, loans and repatriation of investment, requires the prior approval from the SAFE or its local office. According to regulations on foreign exchange settlement of FIEs, they may retain foreign exchange in accounts with designated foreign exchange banks under the current account items subject to a cap set by the SAFE or its local office. Foreign exchange proceeds under the current accounts may be either retained or sold to a financial institution engaged in settlement and sale of foreign exchange pursuant to relevant SAFE rules and regulations. For foreign exchange proceeds under the capital accounts, approval from the SAFE is generally required for the retention or sale of such proceeds to a financial institution engaged in settlement and sale of foreign exchange.

 

SAFE Circular No. 21

 

On May 10, 2013, the SAFE promulgated the Circular of the SAFE on Printing and Distributing the Administrative Provisions on Foreign Exchange in Domestic Direct Investment by Foreign Investors and Relevant Supporting Documents (《外国投资者境内直接投资外汇管理规定》) (“SAFE Circular No. 21”), which was amended on December 31, 2019. It provided for and simplified the operational steps and regulations on foreign exchange matters related to direct investment by foreign investors, including foreign exchange registration, account opening and use, receipt and payment of funds, and settlement and sales of foreign exchange.

 

SAFE Circular No. 59

 

Pursuant to the Circular of the SAFE on Further Improving and Adjusting Foreign Exchange Administration Policies for Direct Investment (《国家外汇管理局关于进一步改进和调整直接投资外汇管理政策的通知》), promulgated by SAFE on November 19, 2012, which became effective on December 17, 2012, and was further amended on May 4, 2015, approval is not required for opening a foreign exchange account and depositing foreign exchange into the accounts relating to the direct investments. SAFE Circular No. 59 also simplified foreign exchange-related registration required for the foreign investors to acquire the equity interests of Chinese companies and further improve the administration on foreign exchange settlement for FIEs.

 

SAFE Circular No. 13

 

Pursuant to the Circular on Further Simplifying and Improving the Foreign Currency Management Policy on Direct Investment (《国家外汇管理局关于进一步简化和改进直接投资外汇管理政策的通知》), effective from June 1, 2015, which cancels the administrative approvals of foreign exchange registration of direct domestic investment and direct overseas investment and simplifies the procedure of foreign exchange-related registration, the investors shall register with banks for direct domestic investment and direct overseas investment.

 

SAFE Circular No. 16

 

In accordance with the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Policies for Reforming and Regulating the Control over Foreign Exchange Settlement under the Capital Account (《国家外汇管理局关于改革和规范资本项目结汇管理政策的通知》), which was released by SAFE on June 9, 2016, except financial institutions, domestic enterprises (including Chinese-funded enterprises and foreign-invested enterprises) may complete foreign exchange settlement for their foreign debts at their discretion. Based on business operation conditions and in light of relevant regulations and policies, domestic institutions may settle their foreign exchange receipts with banks under the capital account entitled to discretionary settlement. Domestic institutions may, at their discretion, settle up to 100% of their foreign exchange receipts under the capital account for the time being. SAFE may adjust the aforesaid proportion in due time in light of the balance of payment.

 

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SAFE Circular No. 19

 

The Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Reforming the Mode of Management of Settlement of Foreign Exchange Capital of Foreign-Funded Enterprises(《国家外汇管理局关于改革外商投资企业外汇资本金结汇管理方式的通知》), or the SAFE Circular No.19, which was promulgated by the SAFE on March 30, 2015, and became effective on June 1, 2015, provides that a foreign-invested enterprise may, according to its actual business needs, settle with a bank the portion of the foreign exchange capital in its capital account for which the relevant foreign exchange administration has confirmed monetary capital contribution rights and interests (or for which the bank has registered the injection of the monetary capital contribution into the account). Pursuant to the SAFE Circular No.19, for the time being, FIEs are allowed to settle 100% of their foreign exchange capitals on a discretionary basis; a foreign-invested enterprise shall truthfully use its capital for its own operational purposes within the scope of business; where an ordinary foreign-invested enterprise makes domestic equity investment with the amount of foreign exchanges settled, the invested enterprise shall first go through domestic re-investment registration and open a corresponding account for foreign exchange settlement pending payment with the foreign exchange administration or the bank at the place where it is registered.

 

Based on the foregoing, when setting up a new foreign-invested enterprise, the foreign invested enterprise shall register with the bank located at its registered place after obtaining the business license, and if there is any change in capital or other changes relating to the basic information of the foreign-invested enterprise, including without limitation any increase in its registered capital or total investment, the foreign invested enterprise shall register such changes with the bank located at its registered place after obtaining the approval from or completing the filing with competent authorities. Pursuant to the relevant foreign exchange laws and regulations, the above-mentioned foreign exchange registration with the banks will typically take less than four weeks upon the acceptance of the registration application. If we intend to provide funding to our WFOE through capital injection at or after their establishment, we shall register the establishment of and any follow-on capital increase in our wholly foreign owned subsidiaries, or the VIEs to operate in China, with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce or its local counterparts, file such via the Foreign Investment Comprehensive Management Information System (the “FICMIS”) and register such with the local banks for the foreign exchange related matters.

 

Offshore Investment

 

Circular No.37

 

Under the Circular of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration over the Overseas Investment and Financing and Round-trip Investment by Domestic Residents via Special Purpose Vehicles (《关于境内居民通过特殊目的公司境外投融资及返程投资外汇管理有关问题的通知》), or the SAFE Circular 37, issued by the SAFE and effective on July 4, 2014, PRC residents are required to register with the local SAFE branch prior to the establishment or control of an offshore special purpose vehicle, or SPV, which is defined as offshore enterprises directly established or indirectly controlled by PRC residents for offshore equity financing of the enterprise assets or interests they hold in China. An amendment to registration or subsequent filing with the local SAFE branch by such PRC resident is also required if there is any change in basic information of the offshore company or any material change with respect to the capital of the offshore company. At the same time, the SAFE has issued the Operation Guidance for the Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Administration over Round-trip Investment regarding the procedures for SAFE registration under the SAFE Circular 37, which became effective on July 4, 2014, as an attachment of Circular 37.

 

Under the relevant rules, any failure by any of our shareholders who is a PRC resident, or is controlled by a PRC resident, to comply with relevant requirements under these regulations could subject our SPV to restrictions imposed on foreign exchange activities, including restrictions on its ability to receive registered capital as well as additional capital from PRC resident shareholders, and contribute registered capital as well as additional capital to WFOE. If WFOE fails to obtain necessary registered capital within the approved business time limit, the industries and commercial administrative authorities might revoke its business license. Due to the failure by shareholders to complete the registration, WFOE’s ability to pay dividends or make distributions to our SPV is also restricted, and repatriation of profits and dividends derived from SPV by PRC residents to China are illegal. The offshore financing funds are also not allowed to be used in China. In addition, the failure of the PRC resident shareholders to complete the registration may subject the shareholders to fines less than RMB50,000, and the enterprises to fines less than RMB300,000.

 

These aforementioned regulations apply to our direct and indirect shareholders who are PRC residents and apply to any offshore acquisitions and share transfer that we may make in the future if our Ordinary Shares are issued to PRC residents. The Chinese resident shareholders of the Company, including Qiaoling Lu, the 100% owner of Unit Giant Limited, Yiheng Guo, the 100% owner of Mac Joy Limited, Hua Wang, the 100% owner of Cyber Sea Limited, and Jianxiu Li, the 100% owner of Better Always Limited, have completed the registration procedures in accordance with the regulations on foreign exchange.

 

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Regulations on Intellectual Property

 

Regulations on Trademark

 

The Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China (revised in 2019)(《中华人民共和国商标法(2019修订)》) promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on August 23, 1982 and respectively revised on February 22, 1993, October 27, 2001, August 30, 2013 and April 23, 2019, and the Regulation on the Implementation of the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China (revised in 2014) (《中华人民共和国商标法实施条例(2014修订)》) promulgated by the State Council on August 3, 2002 and revised on April 29, 2014, stipulate the application, examination and approval, renewal, alteration, transfer, use and invalidation of trademark registration, and protect the trademark rights entitled to trademark registrants.

 

In accordance with the trademark related regulations, the trademark, Buytop, has been legally registered by Qingdao Buytop in China and Qingdao Buytop has obtained the certificate for this trademark.

 

Regulations on Domain Names

 

The Administrative Measures on Internet Domain Names(《互联网域名管理办法》) promulgated by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on August 24, 2017, stipulate the regulations on Internet domain name services and undertaking related activities such as operation and maintenance.

 

In accordance with the domain names related regulations, the domain name, www.buytoppay.com, has been legally registered Qingdao Buytop,. Qingdao Buytop has obtained the certificate for its domain name.

 

Regulations Relating to Overseas Listings and Offerings

 

On December 24, 2021, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, issued Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments) (the “Administration Provisions”), and the Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments) (the “Measures”), of which the public comment period ended on January 23, 2022.

 

The Administration Provisions and Measures for overseas listings lay out specific requirements for filing documents and include unified regulation management, strengthening regulatory coordination, and cross-border regulatory cooperation. Domestic companies seeking to list abroad must carry out relevant security screening procedures if their businesses involve such supervision. Companies endangering national security are among those off-limits for overseas listings.

 

On February 17, 2023, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (the “CSRC”) released the Trial Administrative Measures of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (the “Trial Measures”), (《境内企业境外发行证券和上市管理试行办法》), and five supporting guidelines (collectively, the “Overseas Listings Rules”), which has become effective on March 31, 2023. On the same date of the issuance of the Overseas Listings Rules, the CSRC circulated No.1 to No.5 Supporting Guidance Rules, the Notes on the Overseas Listings Rules, the Notice on Administration Arrangements for the Filing of Overseas Listings by Domestic Enterprises and the relevant CSRC Answers to Reporter Questions on the official website of CSRC, or collectively, the Guidance Rules and Notice. The Overseas Listings Rules, together with the Guidance Rules and Notice, reiterate the basic supervision principles as reflected in the Administration Provisions and Measures by providing substantially the same requirements for filings of overseas offering and listing by domestic companies. Under the Overseas Listings Rules and the Guidance Rules and Notice, domestic companies conducting overseas securities offering and listing activities, either in direct or indirect form, shall complete filing procedures with the CSRC pursuant to the requirements of the Trial Measures within three working days following its submission of initial public offerings or listing application. The companies that have already been listed on overseas stock exchanges or have obtained the approval from overseas supervision administrations or stock exchanges for its offering and listing before March 31, 2023 and will complete their overseas offering and listing prior to September 30, 2023 are not required to make immediate filings for its listing yet need to make filings for subsequent offerings in accordance with the Overseas Listings Rules. The companies that have already submitted an application for an initial public offering to overseas supervision administrations prior to the effective date of the Overseas Listings Rules but have not yet obtained the approval from overseas supervision administrations or stock exchanges for the offering and listing may arrange for the filing within a reasonable time period and should complete the filing procedure before such companies’ overseas issuance and listing.

 

As of the date of this annual report, we have not received any formal inquiry, notice, warning, sanction, or any regulatory objection from the CSRC with respect to our listing or subsequent offerings. As the Overseas Listings Rules were newly published and there exists uncertainty with respect to the filing requirements and its implementation, if we are required to submit to the CRSC and complete the filing procedure of our subsequent overseas public offerings, we cannot be sure that we will be able to complete such filings in a timely manner. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with such filing requirements under the Overseas Listings Rules may result in forced corrections, warnings and fines against us and could materially hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer our securities.

 

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C. Organizational Structure

 

Sentage Holdings was incorporated as an exempted company with limited liability under the laws of the Cayman Islands on September 16, 2019.

 

Sentage Holdings owns 100% of the equity interests of Sentage Hongkong Limited (“Sentage HK”), a limited liability company formed under the laws of Hong Kong on September 25, 2019.

 

On December 17, 2019, Shanghai Santeng Technology Co., Ltd. (“Sentage WFOE”) was incorporated pursuant to PRC laws as a wholly foreign owned enterprise of Sentage HK.

 

Ms. Qiaoling Lu (the chairperson of the board of directors,the chief executive officer, and a major shareholder of the Company), Yiheng Guo (a director and a shareholder of the Company), Hua Wang (a beneficial shareholder of the Company), and Jianxiu Li (a beneficial shareholder of the Company), are the controlling shareholders of the following Sentage Operating Companies: (1) Daxin Wealth Investment Managem (ent (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (“Daxin Wealth”), formed in Shanghai City, China on August 13, 2014; (2) Daxin Zhuohui Financial Information Services (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (“Daxin Zhuohui”), formed in Shanghai City, China on January 9, 2015; and (3) Qingdao Buytop Payment Services Co., Ltd. (“Qingdao Buytop”), formed in Qingdao City, Shandong Province, China on August 4, 2009. (4) Zhenyi Information Technology (Shanghai) Co. Ltd, formed in Shanghai City, China on August 29, 2017. Daxin Wealth, Daxin Zhuohui, Qingdao Buytop, and Zhenyi were all formed as limited companies pursuant to PRC laws. Daxin Wealth and Daxin Zhuohui are primarily engaged in providing consumer loan repayment and collection management services. Daxin Zhuohui also provides loan recommendation services. Qingdao Buytop is primarily engaged in providing customers with prepaid payment network services. As of the date of this annual report, Zhenyi is not engaged in active business operation but is expected to provide us with technical and system development and support in the future.

 

The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure, including our subsidiaries and the VIEs, as of the date of this annual report.

 

 

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The VIE Agreements

 

Neither we nor our subsidiaries own any equity interest in any of the Sentage Operating Companies. Instead, we control and receive the economic benefits of each of the Sentage Operating Companies’ business operation through a series of VIE Agreements. Sentage WFOE, three of the Sentage Operating Companies (Daxin Wealth, Daxin Zhuohui, and Qingdao Buytop), and their respective shareholders entered into the VIE Agreements on March 9, 2020. Sentage WFOE, Zhenyi, and Zhenyi’s shareholders entered into the VIE Agreements on April 1, 2021.

 

The VIE structure is not used to provide contractual exposure to foreign investment in China-based companies where Chinese law prohibits direct foreign investment in the operating companies, rather we use the VIE structure because the Chinese laws and regulations affecting Sentage Operating Companies’ businesses are vague and unclear. Sentage Operating Companies engage in (i) consumer loan repayment and collection management service, (ii) loan recommendation service, and (iii) prepaid payment network service. According to “Administrative Measures of People’s Bank of China on Payment Services Provided by Non-financial Institutions” (“Order 2”) and “People’s Bank of China Announcement [2018] No. 7 — Announcement on Matters Relating to Foreign-funded Payment Organizations” (“Announcement No. 7”), those who engage in prepaid network services business within China need to go through a special legal approval procedure to obtain third-party payment licenses. Although the People’s Bank of China has loosened the requirements for foreign-invested enterprises to hold third-party payment licenses, the review procedure is still very strict in practice. At the same time, Chinese authorities have not yet made it clear whether to permit or prohibit foreign-invested enterprises to engage in prepaid network services, loan collection management and loan recommendation services, and there is a risk that Chinese authorities may prohibit direct foreign investment of such businesses. 

 

Under U.S. GAAP, we are deemed to have a controlling financial interest in, and be the primary beneficiary of, the VIEs for accounting purposes, because such contractual arrangements are designed so that the operations of the VIE are solely for the benefit of WFOE and, ultimately, the Company. As such, we have consolidated the VIE for accounting purposes. The VIE Agreements have not been tested in a court of law and may not be effective in providing control over the VIE, and we are subject to risks due to the uncertainty of the interpretation and application of the laws and regulations of the PRC, regarding the VIE, and the VIE structure, including, but not limited to, regulatory review of overseas listing of PRC companies through a special purpose vehicle, and the validity and enforcement of the contractual arrangements with the VIE. We are also subject to the risk that the PRC government could disallow the VIE structure, which would likely result in a material change in our operations and, as a result, the value of our Ordinary Shares may depreciate significantly or become worthless. See “ITEM 3.C Risk Factors – Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure.”  

 

Each of the VIE Agreements is described in detail below.

 

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Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement

 

Pursuant to the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement between the Sentage Operating Companies and Sentage WFOE, Sentage WFOE provides the Sentage Operating Companies with technical support, intellectual services and other management services relating to its day-to-day business operations and management, on an exclusive basis, utilizing its advantages in technology, human resources, and information. For services rendered to the Sentage Operating Companies by Sentage WFOE under the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement, Sentage WFOE is entitled to collect a service fee equal to the remaining amount of the Sentage Operating Companies’ profit before tax after deducting relevant costs and reasonable expenses.

 

The term of the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement remains effective unless the agreement is explicitly terminated by Sentage WFOE through written form or other means specified therein. The Sentage Operating Companies do not have the right to terminate that agreement unilaterally.

 

Sentage WFOE has absolutely authority relating to the management of the Sentage Operating Companies, including but not limited to decisions with regard to expense, salary raises and bonuses, hiring, firing, and other operational functions. The Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement does not prohibit related party transactions.

 

Equity Pledge Agreement

 

Under the Equity Pledge Agreement among Sentage WFOE and all the shareholders of Sentage Operating Companies (the “Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders”), the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders pledged all of their equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies to Sentage WFOE to guarantee the performance of the Sentage Operating Companies’ obligations under the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement, Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement, and Loan Contracts (collectively, the “Transaction Agreements”). Under the terms of the Equity Pledge Agreement, in the event that the Sentage Operating Companies or the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders breach their respective contractual obligations under the Transaction Agreements, Sentage WFOE, as pledgee, will be entitled to certain rights, including, but not limited to, the right to collect dividends generated by the pledged equity interests. The Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders also agreed that upon occurrence of any event of default, as set forth in the Equity Pledge Agreement, Sentage WFOE is entitled to dispose of the pledged equity interests in accordance with applicable PRC laws. The Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders further agreed not to dispose of the pledged equity interests or take any action that would prejudice Sentage WFOE’s interest.

 

The Equity Pledge Agreement is effective until the latest date of the following: (1) the secured debt in the scope of pledge is cleared off; (2) pledgees exercise their pledge rights pursuant to provisions and conditions of the Equity Pledge Agreement; and (3) pledgors transfer all the pledged equity interests to Pledgees according to the Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement, or other entity or individual designated by it.

 

The purpose of the Equity Pledge Agreement are to (1) guarantee the performance of the Sentage Operating Companies’ obligations under the Transaction Agreements, (2) make sure the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders do not transfer or assign the pledged equity interests, or create or allow any encumbrance that would prejudice Sentage WFOE’s interests without Sentage WFOE’s prior written consent, and (3) provide Sentage WFOE control over the Sentage Operating Companies. In the event the Sentage Operating Companies breach their contractual obligations under the Transaction Agreements, Sentage WFOE will be entitled to foreclose on the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders’ equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies and may (1) exercise its option to purchase or designate third parties to purchase part or all of their equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies and in this situation, Sentage WFOE may terminate the Equity Pledge Agreement and the other VIE Agreements after acquisition of all equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies or form a new VIE structure with the third parties designated by Sentage WFOE, or (2) dispose of the pledged equity interests and be paid in priority out of proceeds from the disposal in which the case the existing VIE structure will be terminated.

 

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Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement

 

Under the Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement, the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders irrevocably granted Sentage WFOE (or its designee) an exclusive option to purchase, to the extent permitted under PRC law, once or at multiple times, at any time, part or all of their equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies or the assets of the Sentage Operating Companies. The option price is the minimum amount to the extent permitted under PRC law.

 

Under the Exclusive Purchase Agreement, Sentage WFOE may at any time under any circumstances, purchase or have its designee purchase, at its discretion, to the extent permitted under PRC law, all or part of the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders’ equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies or the assets of the Sentage Operating Companies. The Exclusive Purchase Agreement, together with the Equity Pledge Agreement, the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement, Powers of Attorney, and Loan Contracts, enable Sentage WFOE to exercise effective control over the Sentage Operating Companies.

 

The Exclusive Purchase Agreement remains effective until all the equity or assets of the Sentage Operating Companies is legally transferred under the name of Sentage WFOE and/or other entity or individual designated by it.

 

Shareholders’ Powers of Attorney

 

Under each of the Powers of Attorney, the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders authorized Sentage WFOE to act on their behalf as their exclusive agent and attorney with respect to all rights as shareholders, including but not limited to: (a) attending shareholders’ meetings; (b) exercising all the shareholders’ rights, including voting, that shareholders are entitled to under the laws of China and the Articles of Association, including but not limited to the sale or transfer or pledge or disposition of shares in part or in whole; and (c) designating and appointing on behalf of shareholders the legal representative, the executive director, supervisor, the chief executive officer, and other senior management members of the Sentage Operating Companies.

 

The term of each of the Powers of Attorney is the same as the term of the Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement. The Powers of Attorney is irrevocable and continuously valid from the date of execution of the Powers of Attorney, so long as the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders are shareholders of the Sentage Operating Companies.

 

Loan Contracts

 

Each shareholder of the VIEs has entered into a loan contract with Sentage WFOE, with each contract taking effect from March 9, 2020. Under these loan contracts, Sentage WFOE provided each shareholder of the VIEs with a loan, free of interest, provided that if any of the shareholders of the VIEs fails to pay any sum pursuant to the schedule specified thereunder, a default interest shall be calculated at a daily rate of 0.1% until the shareholder fully repays such sum (including the default interest). The proceeds from the loans were used for purposes consented by Sentage WFOE. The loans can be repaid by transferring each shareholder’s respective equity interest in the VIEs pursuant to the Exclusive Purchase Option Agreements. Each of the loan contracts shall remain in effect until the day when Sentage WFOE exercises its exclusive option in accordance with the applicable Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement, unless otherwise terminated by Sentage WFOE when any shareholder of VIEs materially breaches the terms of such loan contracts.

 

 Spousal Consent

 

The spouse of each of the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders agreed, via a spousal consent, to the execution of the “Transaction Documents” including: (a) Exclusive Purchase Option Agreement entered into with Sentage WFOE and the Sentage Operating Companies; (b) Equity Pledge Agreement entered into with Sentage WFOE; (c) Powers of Attorney executed by the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholder, and (d) Loan Contracts entered into with Sentage WFOE, and the disposal of the equity interests of Sentage Operating Companies held by the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholder and registered in his or her name.

 

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The spouse of each of the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders further undertakes not to make any assertions in connection with the equity interests of Sentage Operating Companies, which are held by the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholder. The spouse of the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholder confirms that the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholder can perform, amend, or terminate the Transaction Documents without his or her authorization or consent. He or she undertakes to execute all necessary documents and take all necessary actions to ensure appropriate performance of the agreements.

 

The spouse of each of the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholders also undertakes that if he or she obtains any equity interest of Sentage Operating Companies which are held by the Sentage Operating Companies Shareholder for any reasons, he or she shall be bound by the Transaction Documents and the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement entered into among Sentage WFOE and the Sentage Operating Companies (as amended time to time) and comply with the obligations thereunder as a shareholder of the Sentage Operating Companies. For this purpose, upon Sentage WFOE’s request, he or she shall sign a series of written documents in substantially the same format and content as the Transaction Documents and Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement (as amended from time to time).

 

Corporate Information

 

Our principal executive offices are located at 501, Platinum Tower, 233 Taicang Rd, HuangPu, Shanghai City, the PRC, and our phone number is +86-21 5386 0209.

 

Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at Suite #4-210, Governors Square, 23 Lime Tree Bay Avenue, PO Box 32311, Grand Cayman KY1-1209, Cayman Islands, and the phone number of our registered office is +1-345-814-2857.

 

Our corporate website is www.sentageholdings.com. The information contained in, or accessible from, our website or any other website does not constitute a part of this annual report.

 

Our service process agent is Cogency Global Inc.

 

The SEC maintains a website at www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy, and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC using its EDGAR system.

 

ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

Not applicable.

 

ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

 

Overview

 

We, through the Sentage Operating Companies, are a financial service provider that offers a range of financial services across consumer loan repayment and collection management services, loan recommendation services, and prepaid payment network services in the PRC. Leveraging our deep understanding of the client base, strategic partner relationships, and proprietary valuation models and technologies, we are committed to working, through the Sentage Operating Companies, with the clients to understand their financial needs and challenges and offering customized services to help them meet their respective needs. We do not have equity interests in the Sentage Operating Companies, but their financial results have been consolidated by Sentage Holdings for accounting purposes in accordance with U.S. GAAP due to us having effective control over, and being the primary beneficiary of, these companies via the VIE Agreements. The VIE Agreements have not been tested in a court of law in China as of the date of this annual report.

 

We currently report our operating revenue, through the Sentage Operating Companies, from three main revenue streams, namely, (i) consumer loan repayment and collection management service fees, (ii) loan recommendation service fees, and (iii) prepaid payment network service fees.

 

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A. Operating Results

 

Major Factors Affecting Results of Operations

 

We believe the following key factors may affect the Sentage Operating Companies’ financial condition and results of operations:

 

Effectiveness of Risk Management

 

The success of the Sentage Operating Companies’ loan recommendation business relies heavily on their ability to effectively evaluate borrowers’ credit profiles, the likelihood of default, and the value of borrowers’ collateralized properties. The Sentage Operating Companies have devised and implemented a systematic credit assessment model and an asset-driven, disciplined risk management approach to minimize a borrower’s default risk and mitigate the impact of default. Specifically, the Sentage Operating Companies’ assessment model and risk management capabilities not only enable them to select high-quality borrowers whose financial conditions and personal background meet the selection criteria, but also protect the funding partners against lending more than they might be able to recover in the case of default. There can be no assurance that the risk management measures will allow the Sentage Operating Companies to identify or appropriately assess whether interest and principal payments due on a loan will be repaid when due, or at all, or whether the value of the mortgaged property will be sufficient to otherwise provide for recovery of such amounts. If the risk management approach is ineffective, or if the Sentage Operating Companies otherwise fail or are perceived to fail to manage the impact of default, the Sentage Operating Companies’ reputation and market share could be materially and adversely affected, which would severely impact their business and results of operations.

 

The Sentage Operating Companies’ Ability to Provide Consumer Loan Repayment and Collection Management Services Efficiently

 

The success of the Sentage Operating Companies’ consumer loan repayment and collection management business depends on their ability to manage the loan repayment and collection process efficiently.

 

The existing consumer loan repayment and collection management services were all completed by the end of 2021. We plan to provide loan repayment and collection management services, through the Sentage Operating Companies, to other online consumer finance companies and major commercial banks in China.

 

As of the date of this annual report, although the Sentage Operating Companies are in active conversation with a number of prospective clients, they have not secured a new source of revenue to replace the loss of our current engagements. If the Sentage Operating Companies are unable to maintain, develop, and expand their business or adapt to changing market needs as well as the current or future competitors are able to, or if the Sentage Operating Companies are unable to acquire a sufficient number of customers who need their services, they may not be able to generate the same amount of revenue and/or profits to sustain the operation of the consumer loan repayment and collection management business. As a result, the Sentage Operating Companies’ business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

The following are some of the main factors that may affect the results of our operations.

 

Ability to Acquire Prospective Borrowers Effectively and Increase Overall Loan Volume

 

The Sentage Operating Companies started the loan recommendation services in June 2019. The revenue growth in this business largely depends on our ability to acquire prospective borrowers effectively and increase the overall loan volume funded by the funding partners. We intend to continue to dedicate significant resources to the Sentage Operating Companies’ borrower acquisition efforts. If there are insufficient qualified loan requests, the funding partners may not want to collaborate with the Sentage Operating Companies further, which may result in borrowers being unable to obtain capital through the loan recommendation services and turning to other sources for their borrowing needs. In addition to the size of the prospective borrower base, the overall loan volume may be affected by several factors, including the Sentage Operating Companies’ brand recognition and reputation, the interest rates offered to borrowers relative to the market rates, the efficiency of the credit assessment process, the availability of our funding partners, the macroeconomic environment, and other factors. In connection with the introduction of new services or in response to general economic conditions, the Sentage Operating Companies may also impose more stringent borrower qualifications to ensure the quality of the recommended borrowers, which may negatively affect loan volume. If the Sentage Operating Companies are unable to attract qualified borrowers or if borrowers do not continue to use our loan recommendation services at the current rates and/or the Sentage Operating Companies are unable to increase the overall loan volume as we expect, the Sentage Operating Companies’ business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

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Ability to Expand the Prepaid Payment Network Services

 

We started to generate revenue from the Sentage Operating Companies’ prepaid payment network services in August 2019. Our revenue growth in this business largely depends on the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to develop and expand the client network. We believe that customer base is the core building block of the prepaid payment network service business, and the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to provide customers with satisfactory experience is critical to the success and continuous growth in the customer base. The Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to provide customers with satisfactory experience is subject to a number of factors, including the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to provide effective services, their ability to continuously innovate and improve their services to meet customer needs, and their access to and cooperation with the business partners. If the Sentage Operating Companies experience service disruptions, failures, or other issues, or, if they fail to deliver satisfactory and distinct customer experience, the Sentage Operating Companies may lose the customers and business partners, which could further lead to a decrease in the volume of transactions processed via the prepaid payment network services. As a result, the Sentage Operating Companies’ business, results of operations, and financial condition may be adversely affected.

 

Ability to Improve Operating Efficiency

 

Our business growth is dependent on the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to improve their operating efficiency, which is determined by the Sentage Operating Companies’ abilities to monitor and adjust costs and expenses. Specifically, we consider the Sentage Operating Companies’ ability to monitor and adjust staffing costs (including payroll and employee benefit expense), administrative expenses, and third-party cost essential to the success of our business.

 

As the client base expands and the Sentage Operating Companies enter into more service agreements with clients, which typically results in expanded work volume, the staffing costs are likely to rise. In contrast, other expenses, particularly those relating to administrative functions, are relatively fixed. For the consumer loan repayment and collection management services and loan recommendation services, the Sentage Operating Companies outsource certain tasks to third-party loan collection agencies or law firms and they collaborate with funding partners. As a result, the cost of third-party business partnership is likely to rise as the Sentage Operating Companies grow their business and expand the partnership network. If the staffing costs, administrative expenses, and third-party costs exceed our estimated budget and we are unable to increase our revenue as expected, our operational efficiency might decrease, having an adverse impact on our business, results of operation, and financial condition.

 

Ability to Compete Effectively

 

The industries the Sentage Operating Companies are in are highly competitive and evolving in China. With respect to consumer loan repayment and collection management services and loan recommendation services, they compete with market players such as traditional financial institutions, small loan companies, e-commerce driven installment platforms, and other consumer finance platforms. With respect to prepaid payment network services, the Sentage Operating Companies primarily compete with other third-party payment service providers in China. The competitors operate with different business models, have different cost structures or participate selectively in different market segments. They may ultimately prove to be more successful or more adaptable to new regulatory, technological and other developments. Some of the current and potential competitors have significantly more financial, technical, marketing and other resources than the Sentage Operating Companies do, and may be able to devote greater resources to the development, promotion, sale and support of their platforms. The competitors may also have longer operating histories, more extensive pool of borrowers, larger amounts of data, greater brand recognition and loyalty, and broader partner relationships than the Sentage Operating Companies do. The customers and clients make competitive determinations based upon qualifications, experience, performance, reputation, technology, customer relationships and ability to provide the relevant services in a timely, safe and cost-efficient manner. If the Sentage Operating Companies do not compete effectively, our operating results could be harmed.

 

General Condition of the Global or Chinese Economy

 

The rapid growth of the Chinese economy has slowed down since 2012 and this slowdown may continue in the future. There is considerable uncertainty over trade conflicts between the United States and China and the long-term effects of the expansionary monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including the United States and China. The withdrawal of these expansionary monetary and fiscal policies could lead to a contraction. There continue to be concerns over unrest and terrorist threats in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, which have resulted in volatility in oil and other markets. There are also concerns about the relationships between China and other Asian countries, which may result in or intensify potential conflicts in relation to territorial disputes. The eruption of armed conflict could adversely affect global or Chinese discretionary spending, either of which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, results of operation in financial condition. Economic conditions in China are sensitive to global economic conditions, as well as changes in domestic economic and political policies and the expected or perceived overall economic growth rate in China. Any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global or Chinese economy would likely materially and adversely affect the Sentage Operating Companies’ business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, continued turbulence in the international markets may adversely affect our ability to access capital markets to meet liquidity needs.

 

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Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization categorized it as a pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused lockdowns, travel restrictions, and closures of businesses across the globe. In early 2022, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 made its presence felt in China, especially in Jilin Province, Shenzhen and Shanghai where strict lockdowns were imposed. Sentage Operating Company’s business facility in Shanghai, China, was temporarily closed in April 2022 and resumed operation in the first week of June 2022. For the consumer loan repayment and collection management business, due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19, our prospective business partners were not able to start new cooperation with us and we were not able to generate any revenue for fiscal year 2022. For the loan recommendation services, which requires face-to-face interaction with potential customers, the temporary lock down from April 2022 to June 2022 severely impacted our ability to generate new business. Even after June 2022, due to the uncertainties caused by COVID-19, the demand from customers decreased sharply and the we were not able to generate any revenue for fiscal year 2022. For the prepaid payment network services, the revenue in 2022 declined sharply because decreased demand from customers due to the uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Although China relaxed the COVID-19 restrictions at the end of 2022, because the COVID-19 has deeply affected businesses and economy in China from 2020 to 2022, the extent of any future impact of COVID-19 on our operations remains highly uncertain and unpredictable.

 

Key Components of Results of Operations

 

Revenues

 

   2020   2021   2022 
   Amount   %   Amount   %   Amount   % 
Consumer loan repayment and collection management fees   1,074,734    29.9    156,062    6.9    -    - 
Loan recommendation service fees   2,087,717    58.1    1,177,822    52.1    -    - 
Prepaid payment network service fees   432,958    12.0    928,565    41.0    161,372    100.0 
Total operating revenue   3,595,409    100.0    2,262,449    100.0    161,372    100.0 

 

(1). Loan Repayment and Collection Management Services

 

Revenue from consumer loan repayment and collection management business accounted for 0%, 6.9% and 29.9% of the total revenue for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020, respectively. There was no revenue generated in the loan repayment and collection management services in fiscal year 2022, and the Sentage Operating Companies continue to explore new opportunities to engage new customers in 2023. These loans were consumer loan products ranging from 30,000 RMB (approximately $4,342) to 80,000 RMB (approximately US$11,579), with terms ranging from one year to four years. All the clients are individual customers who entered into service agreements with the Sentage Operating Companies. All these loans were facilitated through the offline loan recommendation services before November 2017. Since November 2017, the Sentage Operating Companies have not provided any intermediary services for any new customers due to changes in related governing regulations in China,. Pursuant to the service agreements entered with individual customers, customers authorized the Sentage Operating Companies to monitor and manage the repayment and collection process of outstanding loans for a fixed service fee, which was paid upfront by customers. The Sentage Operating Companies were required to monitor loans within loan term to ensure timely repayment of loans when they become due. Pursuant to the agreements with customers, loan repayment and collection management services were parts of bundled services offered to customers for a fixed fee and were not capable of being distinct because the Sentage Operating Companies were required to concurrently monitor and manage the repayment and collection process of outstanding loans to be entitled to receive a fixed service fee. As a result, loan management services and collection management services were not separately identifiable in the context of the contract and accordingly were treated as a bundled single performance obligation. There was no variable consideration in the contract. Once a specific loan was repaid on time, the service obligation related to such loan was satisfied. When a loan became delinquent, the Sentage Operating Companies were then required to assist in collection efforts for an extended service period of additional 12 months starting with the day when such loan becomes delinquent. No additional fee could be charged for collection management services provided to delinquent loans beyond the initial fixed fee agreed. If all or a part of the loan was still not repaid after all collection management efforts were exhausted within such required service period, our service obligation related to such loan was satisfied and the Sentage Operating Companies were not responsible for any loss from uncollectible loan.

 

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At the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year, the Sentage Operating Companies had a total of 5,229 outstanding service agreements from customers. During the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, the Sentage Operating Companies completed another 4,438 outstanding service agreements based on the contract terms, which brought the total number of outstanding service agreements as of December 31, 2020 to 791. During the fiscal year 2021, we completed another 791 outstanding service agreements based on the contract terms. The service agreements were fully completed in the year ended December 31, 2021. During fiscal year 2022, due the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19, our prospective business partners was not able to start new cooperation with us, resulting in the loss of revenue, which had an adverse impact on our business, results of operation, and financial condition.

 

(2). Loan Recommendation Services

 

Revenue from the loan recommendation business accounted for 0%, 52.1% and 58.1% of our total revenue for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020, respectively. During the fiscal year 2020, the Sentage Operating Companies successfully recommended 115 borrowers to the funding partners. During the fiscal year 2021, the Sentage Operating Companies successfully recommended 23 borrowers to the funding partners. During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Sentage Operating Companies was not able to provide Loan recommendation Services and was not able to generate revenue because the temporary COVID-19 lock down from April 2022 to June 2022 prevented the Sentage Operating Companies from face-to-face interactions with prospective customers during the peak season of this type of business.

 

(3). Prepaid Payment Network Services

 

Revenue from the prepaid payment network service business accounted for 100 %, 41.0% and 12.0% of our total revenue for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022,2021 and 2020, respectively. The Sentage Operating Companies started this service in August 2019 and only provided prepaid payment network consulting services to four customers in the fiscal year 2020. During the fiscal year 2021, the Sentage Operating Companies provided prepaid payment network consulting services to seven customers. During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Sentage Operating Companies provided prepaid payment network consulting services to four customers. Due to great changes in market orientation and demand, the company’s business is also undergoing rapid adjustment along with national policies, and the changes in the market. At present, all aspects of the market are gradually stabilizing. The Sentage Operating Companies plans to find new business directions by adjusting business plan accordingly.

 

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Operating expenses 

 

Our operating expenses primarily consist of the Sentage Operating Companies’ selling and marketing expenses and general and administrative expenses. Our selling expense primarily include expenses incurred for business travel, meals, outsourced collection agent fees and other expenses related to the sales and marketing activities. Our general and administrative expenses primarily include the legal fee, audit fee, employee salaries, welfare, and insurance expenses, business consulting expenses, travel and transportation expenses for our management team, meals and entertainment expenses, office rental expense, depreciation expenses, and office supply and utility expenses.

 

For the fiscal years ending December 31, 2022 and 2021, our selling, general and administrative expenses amounted to $2,732,379 and $3,041,415, respectively, a decreased of $ 309,036 or 10%. This decrease was primarily due to expenses related to our initial public offering incurred in fiscal 2021 while none incurred in fiscal year 2022.

 

Results of Operations

 

The following table sets forth a summary of our consolidated results of operations, for the period indicated. This information should be read together with our consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this annual report. The operating results in any period are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected for any future period.

 

   2020   2021   2022 
   Amount   %   Amount   %   Amount   % 
Summary Consolidated Statements of Operations:                        
Operating revenue                        
Consumer loan repayment and collection management fees   1,074,734    29.9    156,062    6.9    -    - 
Loan recommendation service fees   2,087,717    58.1    1,177,822    52.1    -    - 
Prepaid payment network service fees   432,958    12.0    928,565    41.0    161,372    100.0 
Total operating revenue   3,595,409    100.0    2,262,449    100.0    161,372    100.0 
                               
Operating expenses:                              
Selling, general and administrative expenses   1,414,979    39.4    3,041,415    134.4    2,732,379    1,693.2 
Total operating expenses   1,414,979    39.4    3,041,415    134.4    2,732,379    1,693.2 
                               
Income from operations   2,180,430    60.6    (778,966)   (34.4)   (2,571,007)   (1,593.2)
                               
Other income (expenses)   (354)   *    (56,931)   (2.5)   9,100    5.6 
                               
Income before income tax provision   2,180,076    60.6    (835,897)   (36.9)   (2,561,907)   (1,587.6)
                               
Provision for income taxes   592,701    16.5    257,344    11.4    -    - 
                               
Net (loss)/income   1,587,375    44.2    (1,093,241)   (48.3)   (2,561,907)   (1,587.6)

 

* Denotes percentages between (0.1%) and 0.1%.

 

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Year Ended December 31, 2022 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2021

 

Revenues

 

Total operating revenue decreased by $2,101,077, or 92.9%, to $161,372 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022 from $2,262,449 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. The decrease in our revenues was primarily due to the following reasons: a) the servicing agreements under the consumer loan repayment and collection management business were fully completed in fiscal 2021 and no related revenue was generated in fiscal year 2022; b) the Company didn’t generate any revenue from the loan recommendation services in fiscal year 2022 because the Company was not able to engage any new customers in the peak season of this type of business during the COVID-19 lock down starting from April to June 2022; and c) the revenue from prepaid payment network services decreased sharply due to the decreased demand by customers caused by the uncertainties COVID-19.

 

Other income (expenses)

 

Our other income (expense) consists primarily of bank fees, exchange gain or loss, impairment losses on assets, and gains and losses on the disposal of fixed assets. In fiscal year 2022, our net other income (expense) was $9,100, a decrease of $66,031 from net other income (expense) of $56,931 in fiscal year 2021. This was due to an additional asset impairment loss in fiscal 2021.

 

Provision for Income Taxes

 

Our provision for income taxes was nil in fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, a decrease of $257,343, or 100.0%, from $257,343 in fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. This was due to the fact that the company posted a loss and no deferred tax expense or benefit was recognized in fiscal 2022.

 

Net Income/(Loss) 

 

As a result of the foregoing, we reported a net loss of $2,561,907 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, representing a $1,468,666 decrease from the net income of $1,093,241 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021.

 

Year Ended December 31, 2021 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2020

 

Revenues

 

Total operating revenue decreased by $1,332,960, or 37.1%, to $2,262,449 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021 from $3,595,409 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020. The decrease in our revenues was primarily due to the fact that the outstanding servicing agreements under the consumer loan repayment and collection management business were fully completed in fiscal 2021 and revenues from this business were significantly reduced in 2021.

 

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Selling, general and administrative expenses

 

For the fiscal years ending December 31, 2021 and 2020, our selling, general and administrative expenses amounted to $3,041,415 and $1,414,979, respectively, an increase of $1,626,436 or 115%. This increase was mainly due to the fees incurred in connection with our initial public offering.

 

Other income (expenses)

 

Our other income (expense) consists primarily of bank fees, penalties, impairment losses on assets, and gains and losses on the disposal of fixed assets. In fiscal year 2021, our net other expense was $56,931, an increase of $56,577 from net other expense of $354 in fiscal year 2020. This is due to an additional asset impairment loss in fiscal 2021.

 

Provision for Income Taxes

 

Our provision for income taxes was $257,344 in fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, a decrease of $ 335,357, or 56.6%, from $592,701 in fiscal year ended December 31, 2020 due to our decreased taxable income.

 

Net Income/(Loss) 

 

As a result of the foregoing, we reported a net loss of $1,093,241 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, representing a $2,680,616 decrease from the net income of $1,587,375 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.

 

Taxation

 

Cayman Islands

 

We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Under the current law of the Cayman Islands, we are not subject to income or capital gains tax. In addition, dividend payments are not subject to withholding tax in the Cayman Islands.

 

Hong Kong

 

Entities incorporated in Hong Kong are subject to profits tax in Hong Kong at the rate of 16.5%.

 

PRC

 

According to the EIT Law, which was promulgated by the SCNPC on March 16, 2007, became effective on January 1, 2008, and was then amended on February 24, 2017, and the Implementation Rules of the EIT Law, which were promulgated by the State Council on December 6, 2007, and became effective on January 1, 2008, enterprises are divided into resident enterprises and non-resident enterprises. Resident enterprises pay enterprise income tax on their incomes obtained in and outside the PRC at the rate of 25%. Non-resident enterprises setting up institutions in the PRC pay enterprise income tax on the incomes obtained by such institutions in and outside the PRC at the rate of 25%. Non-resident enterprises with no institutions in the PRC, and non-resident enterprises with income having no substantial connection with their institutions in the PRC, pay enterprise income tax on their income obtained in the PRC at a reduced rate of 10%.

 

We are a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands and we gain substantial income by way of dividends paid to us from the PRC Operating Entities. The EIT Law and its implementation rules provide that China-sourced income of foreign enterprises, such as dividends paid by a PRC subsidiary to its equity holders that are non-resident enterprises, will normally be subject to PRC withholding tax at a rate of 10%, unless any such foreign investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a preferential tax rate or a tax exemption.

 

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Under the EIT Law, an enterprise established outside of China with a “de facto management body” within China is considered a “resident enterprise,” which means that it is treated in a manner similar to a Chinese enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes. Although the implementation rules of the EIT Law define “de facto management body” as a managing body that actually, comprehensively manage and control the production and operation, staff, accounting, property, and other aspects of an enterprise, the only official guidance for this definition currently available is set forth in SAT Notice 82, which provides guidance on the determination of the tax residence status of a Chinese-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise, defined as an enterprise that is incorporated under the laws of a foreign country or territory and that has a PRC enterprise or enterprise group as its primary controlling shareholder. Although Sentage Holdings does not have a PRC enterprise or enterprise group as our primary controlling shareholder and is therefore not a Chinese-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise within the meaning of SAT Notice 82, in the absence of guidance specifically applicable to us, we have applied the guidance set forth in SAT Notice 82 to evaluate the tax residence status of Sentage Holdings and its subsidiaries organized outside the PRC.

 

According to SAT Notice 82, a Chinese-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having a “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its worldwide income only if all of the following criteria are met: (i) the places where senior management and senior management departments that are responsible for daily production, operation and management of the enterprise perform their duties are mainly located within the territory of China; (ii) financial decisions (such as money borrowing, lending, financing and financial risk management) and personnel decisions (such as appointment, dismissal and salary and wages) are decided or need to be decided by organizations or persons located within the territory of China; (iii) main property, accounting books, corporate seal, the board of directors and files of the minutes of shareholders’ meetings of the enterprise are located or preserved within the territory of China; and (iv) one half (or more) of the directors or senior management staff having the right to vote habitually reside within the territory of China.

 

We believe that we do not meet some of the conditions outlined in the immediately preceding paragraph. For example, as a holding company, the key assets and records of Sentage Holdings, including the resolutions and meeting minutes of our board of directors and the resolutions and meeting minutes of our shareholders, are located and maintained outside the PRC. In addition, we are not aware of any offshore holding companies with a corporate structure similar to ours that has been deemed a PRC “resident enterprise” by the PRC tax authorities. Accordingly, we believe that Sentage Holdings and its offshore subsidiaries should not be treated as a “resident enterprise” for PRC tax purposes if the criteria for “de facto management body” as set forth in SAT Notice 82 were deemed applicable to us. However, as the tax residency status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body” as applicable to our offshore entities, we will continue to monitor our tax status.

 

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The implementation rules of the EIT Law provide that, (i) if the enterprise that distributes dividends is domiciled in the PRC or (ii) if gains are realized from transferring equity interests of enterprises domiciled in the PRC, then such dividends or gains are treated as China-sourced income. It is not clear how “domicile” may be interpreted under the EIT Law, and it may be interpreted as the jurisdiction where the enterprise is a tax resident. Therefore, if we are considered as a PRC tax resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes, any dividends we pay to our overseas shareholders which are non-resident enterprises as well as gains realized by such shareholders from the transfer of our shares may be regarded as China-sourced income and as a result become subject to PRC withholding tax at a rate of up to 10%. Dentons, our PRC counsel, is unable to provide a “will” opinion because it believes that it is more likely than not that we and our offshore subsidiaries would be treated as non-resident enterprises for PRC tax purposes because we do not meet some of the conditions outlined in SAT Notice 82. In addition, Dentons is not aware of any offshore holding companies with a corporate structure similar to ours that has been deemed a PRC “resident enterprise” by the PRC tax authorities as of the date of this annual report. Therefore, Dentons believes that it is possible but highly unlikely that the income received by our overseas shareholders will be regarded as China-sourced income. 

 

See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, we may be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise” for PRC enterprise income tax purposes. Such classification would likely result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our non-PRC shareholders and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.”

 

Currently, as resident enterprises in the PRC, the Sentage Operating Companies are subject to the enterprise income tax at the rate of 25%. The EIT is calculated based on the entity’s global income as determined under PRC tax laws and accounting standards. If the PRC tax authorities determine that Sentage Holdings is a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, we may be required to withhold a 10% withholding tax from dividends we pay to our shareholders that are non-resident enterprises. In addition, non-resident enterprise shareholders may be subject to a 10% PRC withholding tax on gains realized on the sale or other disposition of our Ordinary Shares, if such income is treated as sourced from within the PRC. It is unclear whether our non-PRC individual shareholders would be subject to any PRC tax on dividends or gains obtained by such non-PRC individual shareholders in the event we are determined to be a PRC resident enterprise. If any PRC tax were to apply to dividends or gains realized by non-PRC individuals, it would generally apply at a rate of 20% unless a reduced rate is available under an applicable tax treaty. However, it is also unclear whether our non-PRC shareholders would be able to claim the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise. There is no guidance from the PRC government to indicate whether or not any tax treaties between the PRC and other countries would apply in circumstances where a non-PRC company was deemed to be a PRC tax resident, and thus there is no basis for expecting how tax treaty between the PRC and other countries may impact non-resident enterprises.

 

B. Liquidity and Capital Resources

 

Cash Flows and Working Capital

 

The principal sources of liquidity have been from cash generated from operating and financing activities . As of December 31, 2020, 2021 and 2022, we had $140,382, $10,783,387 and $3,828,224 for cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash, respectively. Our cash and cash equivalents are primarily denominated in Renminbi and US dollars.

 

In assessing our liquidity, our management monitors and analyzes our cash on-hand, our ability to generate sufficient revenue sources in the future, and our operating and capital expenditure commitments. As of December 31, 2022, we had cash and restricted cash of approximately $3.8 million. Accounts receivable of approximately $0.4 million associated with services rendered for our prepaid payment network business and loan recommendation business has been billed to our customers but has not been collected as of the balance sheet dates. We also borrowed approximately $ 4,709, which was provided by our controlling shareholder, Ms. Qiaoling Lu, to support our working capital need. Ms. Qiaoling Lu will not seek repayment of her related party balance of $ 4,709 as of December 31, 2022 until at least 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements.

  

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Currently, we improve our liquidity and capital sources primarily through cash flows from operation and financial support from our principal shareholders. In order to fully implement our business plan and sustain continued growth, we may also need to raise capital from outside investors.

 

In light of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as discussed above, if we are required to operate in a challenging economic environment in China, if we incur unanticipated capital expenditures, or if we decide to accelerate our growth, we may need additional financing. We cannot guarantee, however, that additional financing, if required, would be available at all or on favorable terms. Such financing may include the use of additional debt or the sale of additional equity securities. Any financing which involves the sale of equity securities or instruments that are convertible into equity securities could result in immediate and possibly significant dilution to our existing shareholders.

 

In the coming years, we will be exploring other financing sources, such as raising additional capital by issuing shares of stock, to meet our cash needs. While facing uncertainties in regard to the size and timing of capital raises, we are confident that we can continue to meet operational needs solely by utilizing cash flows generated from our operating activities and working-capital funds provided by shareholders, as necessary.

 

The following table sets forth a summary of our cash flows for the periods presented:

 

   Years Ended December 31, 
   2020   2021   2022 
Net cash provided by (used in) operating activities  $465,210)  $(382,664)  $(6,662,609)
Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities   -    (5,519,977)   (34,346)
Net cash provided by (used in) financing activities   (585,859)   16,401,297    (173,162)
Effect of exchange rate change on cash and restricted cash   10,000    144,349    (85,046)
Net increase (decrease) in cash and restricted cash  $(110,649)  $10,643,005   $(6,955,163)
Cash and restricted cash, beginning of year   251,031    140,382    10,783,387 
Cash and restricted cash, end of year  $140,382   $10,783,387   $3,828,224 

 

Operating Activities

 

Net cash used in operating activities was $6,662,609 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, which primarily consisted of the following:

 

  Net loss of $ 2,561,907 for the fiscal year.

 

 

A decrease in Prepaid expenses and other current assets of $4,064,584. This is primarily due to a deposit of $3,570,000 paid by the Company in fiscal year 2022 for the commissioned acquisition of an e-commerce technology services business.

 

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Net cash used in operating activities was $385,664 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, which primarily consisted of the following:

 

  Net loss of $1,093,241 for the fiscal year.

 

  A decrease in accounts receivable of $763,240. The decreased was due to our provision of loan recommendation services and prepaid payment network services and, in connection with the two business lines, our performance obligation under our service agreements with clients had been fully satisfied. The majority of the receivables from our customers were collected as of 2021.12.31.

 

  A decrease in deferred revenue of $154,106. The decrease was due to the recognition of such amount as revenue when our performance obligation associated with our consumer loan repayment and collection management services had been satisfied during the 2021 fiscal year

 

Net cash provided by operating activities was $465,210 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, which primarily consisted of the following:

 

  Net income of $1,587,375 for the fiscal year.

 

  An increase in accounts receivable of $918,303. The increase was due to our provision of loan recommendation services and prepaid payment network services and, in connection with the two business lines, our performance obligation under our service agreements with clients had been fully satisfied. We had fully collected our accounts receivable by April 2021. The collected accounts receivable is available cash, which can be used as working capital for our business operation, if necessary.

 

  A decrease in deferred revenue of $1,056,406. The decrease was due to the recognition of such amount as revenue when our performance obligation associated with our consumer loan repayment and collection management services had been satisfied during the 2020 fiscal year.

 

Investing Activities 

 

Net cash used in investing activities amounted to $34,346 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, mainly includes to consisting primarily of purchases of software products.

 

Net cash used in investing activities amounted to $5,519,977 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, mainly includes to purchase a one-year note with principal of $5.5 million.

 

There was no cash used in investing activities in 2020 fiscal year.

 

Financing Activities

 

Net cash provided by financing activities amounted to $173,162 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, primarily the repayment of working capital of related parties $ 156,311.

 

Net cash provided by financing activities amounted to $16,401,297 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, primarily consisting of the proceeds from IPO in the amount of $16,912,053 and the repayment of working capital of related parties $ 1,276,641.

 

Net cash used in financing activities amounted to $585,859 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, primarily consisting of deferred initial public offering cost of $765,885 in connection with our intended IPO, and proceeds of $180,026 provided by related party as working capital.

 

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C. Research and Development, Patents and Licenses, etc.

 

See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business—Intellectual Property.”

 

D. Trend Information

 

Other than as disclosed elsewhere in this annual report, we are not aware of any trends, uncertainties, demands, commitments or events for the period from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 that are reasonably likely to have a material effect on our net revenues, income, profitability, liquidity or capital resources, or that would cause the disclosed financial information to be not necessarily indicative of future operating results or financial conditions.

 

E. Critical Accounting Estimates

 

We prepare our financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, which requires our management to make judgment, estimates and assumptions that affect our reporting of, among other things, assets and liabilities, contingent assets and liabilities and revenue and expenses. We continually evaluate these judgments, estimates and assumptions based on our own historical experience, knowledge and assessment of relevant current business and other conditions, our expectations regarding the future based on available information and various assumptions that we believe to be reasonable, which together form our basis for making judgments about matters that are not readily apparent from other sources. Since the use of estimates is an integral component of the financial reporting process, our actual results could differ from those estimates. Some of our accounting policies require a higher degree of judgment than others in their application.

 

The selection of critical accounting policies, the judgments and other uncertainties affecting the application of those policies and the sensitivity of reported results to changes in conditions and assumptions are factors that should be considered when reviewing our financial statements. We believe the following accounting policies involve the most significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our financial statements. You should read the following description of critical accounting policies, judgments and estimates in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and other disclosures included in this annual report.

 

Revenue Recognition

 

We adopted ASC 606, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers” for all periods presented. Consistent with the criteria of ASC 606, we follow five steps for its revenue recognition: (i) identify the contract(s) with a customer; (ii) identify the performance obligations in the contract; (iii) determine the transaction price; (iv) allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract; and (v) recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation. The primary sources of our revenues are as follows:

 

Revenue from consumer loan repayment and collection management services

 

Loans facilitated through the Sentage Operating Companies were consumer loan products ranging from 30,000 RMB (approximately $4,342) to 80,000 RMB (approximately US$11,579). Loan term ranges from one to four years.

 

All of the clients are individual customers who entered into service agreements with the Sentage Operating Companies. All of these loans were facilitated through the offline loan recommendation services before November 2017. Since November 2017, the Sentage Operating Companies have not provided any intermediary services for any new customers due to changes in related governing regulations in China, and they have been focusing on providing services related to consumer loan repayment and collection management to the customers. These consumer loan repayment and collection management services are a part of the service obligations in the service agreements with the customers. Pursuant to the Sentage Operating Companies’ agreements with customers, loan repayment and collection management services are parts of bundled services offered by the Sentage Operating Companies to customers for a fixed fee and are not capable of being distinct because the Sentage Operating Companies are required to concurrently monitor and manage the repayment and collection process of outstanding loans to be entitled to receive a fixed service fee. As a result, loan management services and collection management services are not separately identifiable in the context of the contract and accordingly are treated as a bundled single performance obligation. There is no variable consideration in the contract. Once a specific loan is repaid on time, the service obligation related to such loan is satisfied. If a loan becomes delinquent, the Sentage Operating Companies are then required to assist in collection efforts for an extended service period of additional 12 months starting with the day when such loan becomes delinquent. No additional fee can be charged for collection management services provided to delinquent loans beyond the initial fixed fee agreed. If all or a part of the loan is still not repaid after all collection management efforts are exhausted within such required service period, the Sentage Operating Companies’ service obligation related to such loan is satisfied and the Sentage Operating Companies are not responsible for any loss from an uncollectible.

 

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The Sentage Operating Companies’ loan repayment and collection management services primarily include reconciling borrower repayment record and sending payment reminder and notice periodically facilitating repayment upon maturity and collaborating with third-party collection agents and law firms in the event of delinquency, etc. Loan repayment and collection management fees received from the customers upfront are deferred first, and then ratably recognized as revenue over the loan terms or an extended service period of additional 12 months starting with the day when such loan becomes delinquent, as the Company performs designated services.

 

Revenue from services provided to borrower for loan recommendation

 

The Sentage Operating Companies started to provide borrower recommendation services where they recommend prospective borrowers to funding partners in June 2019. The Sentage Operating Companies’ performance obligations include making loan product recommendations to borrower applicants based on their specific needs, processing paperwork related to borrowers’ applications, evaluating credentials of borrower applicants, appraising borrowers’ properties to be collateralized through data analysis and on-site inspection, and recommending qualified borrowers to various funding partners for loan approval. The Sentage Operating Companies receive a service fee from a borrower if he or she is approved for a loan and such loan is then funded by one of the funding partners. The Sentage Operating Companies acquire borrowers through cooperating with third-party referral partners as well as through their own borrower development efforts. For borrowers acquired through cooperating with third-party referral partners, pursuant to the service agreement between the Sentage Operating Companies and the referral partners, referral partners first charge borrowers service fees for their referrals. The Sentage Operating Companies then charge the referral partners a commission ranging from 1.5% to 2% based on the loan proceeds disbursed to the borrowers. For borrowers developed directly by the Sentage Operating Companies, they charge the borrowers a service fee of 1.75% to 3% of the loan amount received by the borrowers. We recognize revenue at the point when the Sentage Operating Companies’ performance obligations are satisfied and the loan proceeds are disbursed to a specific borrower. For the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, we generated nil and $1,177,822 in revenue from the loan recommendation service, respectively.

 

Contract fulfillment costs associated with loan recommendation services primarily consist of employee salary, bonus and business travel costs incurred by the Sentage Operating Companies to fulfill their performance obligations. Contract fulfillment costs are only capitalized when the costs generate or enhance resources that will be used in satisfying future performance obligations of the contract and the costs are expected to be recovered. For fiscal years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021,contract fulfillment costs were not capitalized and were expensed as incurred, due to immateriality of such costs.

 

Revenue from prepaid payment network services

 

In 2012, Qingdao Buytop, was granted a third-party payment service license by the relevant authority in China. Qingdao Buytop started to provide prepaid payment network services to merchant customers in August 2019. Qingdao Buytop is licensed to issue generic and branded prepaid gift and debit cards and provide related services to various merchants, such as supermarket and department stores, etc. In connection with repaid payment network services, we expect to generate revenue from: (1) technology consulting and support services fees related to payment solution planning, design, and management; (2) prepaid card payment services fees related to issuance and use of prepaid cards. Technology consulting and support services are short-term in nature, with service period ranging from one to three months, and related service fees are recognized as revenue at point when payment solution, design and management services are rendered, completed and accepted by customers. For merchant customers who need prepaid card payment services such as collecting and processing information necessary for prepaid card issuance and authorizing transaction requests after verifying transaction information, Qingdao Buytop charge service fee equal to 0.3% to 0.5% of each transaction amount and recognize revenue at the point when the prepaid cards issued by merchant customers are used by their end user card holders. For the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, we earned $161,372 and $928,565 in revenue from providing technology consulting and support service to customers, respectively.

 

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Income Taxes

 

Income taxes are accounted for under the asset and liability method. Deferred income tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the future tax consequences attributable to temporary differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases, as well as operating loss and tax credit carryforwards, if any. Deferred income tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the periods in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. The effect on deferred income tax assets and liabilities of a change in tax rates or tax laws is recognized in the consolidated statements of comprehensive income in the period the change in tax rates or tax laws is enacted. We reduce the carrying amounts of deferred tax assets by a valuation allowance, if based on the available evidence, it is “more-likely-than-not” that such assets will not be realized. Accordingly, the need to establish valuation allowances for deferred tax assets is assessed at each reporting period based on a “more-likely-than-not” realization threshold. This assessment considers, among other matters, the nature, frequency and severity of current and cumulative losses, forecasts of futures profitability, the duration of statutory carryforward periods, and our experience with operating loss and tax credit carryforwards, if any, not expiring.

 

In the financial statements, we recognize the impact of a tax position if that position is “more likely than not” to prevail based on the facts and technical merits of the position. Tax positions that meet the “more likely than not” recognition threshold are measured at the largest amount of tax benefit that has a greater than fifty percent likelihood of being realized upon settlement. Changes in recognition or measurement are reflected in the period in which the change in judgement occurs. Interest and penalties recognized related to an unrecognized tax benefits are classified as income tax expense in the consolidated statements of comprehensive income.

 

ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES

 

A. Directors and Senior Management

 

The following table sets forth the name, age and position of each of our directors and executive officers as of the date of this annual report.

 

Name   Age   Position
Qiaoling Lu   43   Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Director
Jianhua Chen   47   Chief Financial Officer
Yiheng Guo   39   Director  
Michael JohnViotto (1)(2)(3)   71   Independent Director  
Angel Colon (1)(2)(3)   49   Independent Director  
Shengsong Wang (1)(2)(3)   67   Independent Director  

 

(1) Member of the Audit Committee