|Item 1.Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers|
|Item 2.Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable|
|Item 3.Key Information|
|Item 4.Information on The Company|
|Item 4.A.Unresolved Staff Comments|
|Item 5.Operating and Financial Review and Prospects|
|Item 6.Directors, Senior Management and Employees|
|Item 7.Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions|
|Item 8.Financial Information|
|Item 9.The Offer and Listing|
|Item 10.Additional Information|
|Item 11.Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk|
|Item 12.Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities|
|Item 13.Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies|
|Item 14.Material Modifications To The Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds|
|Item 15.Controls and Procedures|
|Item 16.A.Audit Committee Financial Expert|
|Item 16.B.Code of Ethics|
|Item 16.C.Principal Accountant Fees and Services|
|Item 16.D.Exemptions From The Listing Standards for Audit Committees|
|Item 16.E.Purchases of Equity Securities By The Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers|
|Item 16.F.Change in Registrant's Certifying Accountant|
|Item 16.G.Corporate Governance|
|Item 16.H.Mine Safety Disclosure|
|Item 17.Financial Statements|
|Item 18.Financial Statements|
|Balance Sheet||Income Statement||Cash Flow|
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report ___________
For the transition period from ___________ to ___________
Commission file number:
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
People’s Republic of
(Address of principal executive offices)
1/F, Block A, Training Building,
65 Kejiyuan Road, Baiyang Jie Dao,
Economic Development District,
Hangzhou 310000, People’s Republic of China
(Address of principal executive offices)
People’s Republic of
Telephone: +86 139 0119 2404
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
representing one Class A ordinary share,
(The NASDAQ Global Select Market)
par value US$0.001 per share
par value US$0.001 per share
(The NASDAQ Global Select Market)*
Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on The NASDAQ Global Select Market of American depositary shares, each representing one Class A ordinary share.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report. As of December 31, 2020, there were
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
☐ Yes ⌧
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. ☐ Yes ⌧
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “accelerated filer,” “large accelerated filer” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer ☐
Accelerated filer ◻
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow. ☐ Item 17 ☐ Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.
☐ Yes ☐ No
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Our annual consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 have been audited by Marcum Bernstein & Pinchuk LLP in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). As previously disclosed in the Explanatory Note to our annual report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 2018 filed on April 24, 2020, our consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 have been restated. Our previously issued consolidated financial statements (and the related audit opinion) included in our annual reports on Form 20-F for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2017 should not be relied upon. The restatement of our financial statements (the “Restatement”) as of and for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 has resulted in certain changes to the Company’s consolidated financial statements previously issued.
We have not amended, and we do not intend to amend, our previously filed annual reports on Form 20-F or our quarterly financial statements attached as exhibits to our current reports on Form 6-K previously furnished to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). The financial information included in reports previously filed or furnished by us in the years from 2016 to 2019 is superseded by the applicable information in this annual report.
In this annual report, except where the context otherwise requires and for purposes of this annual report only:
|●||“we,” “us,” “our company,” “our” and “Tarena” refer to Tarena International, Inc., a Cayman Islands company, and its subsidiaries, and, in the context of describing our operations, risk factors and financial results, also include our variable interest entity;|
|●||“China” or “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purpose of this annual report only, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau;|
|●||“shares” or “ordinary shares” refers to our ordinary shares, par value US$0.001 per share, which include both Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares;|
|●||“ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares, each of which represents one Class A ordinary share;|
|●||“K-12” refers to the year before the first grade through the last year of high school;|
|●||“IT” refers to information technology;|
|●||“STEAM education” refers to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education;|
|●||“student enrollments” for a certain period refers to, for adult education, the total number of courses enrolled in by students during that period, including multiple courses enrolled in by the same student; for K-12 education, the total number of students who attended at least one paid lesson during that period or have deposit balances in their accounts at the end of that period;|
|●||“variable interest entity”, or “VIE,” refers to Beijing Tarena Jinqiao Technology Co., Ltd., which is a domestic PRC company in which we do not have any equity interests but whose financial results have been consolidated into our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP because we have effective financial control over, and Tarena International, Inc. is the primary beneficiary of, such company. As the context may require, “variable interest entities” or “VIEs” may also include Shanghai Tarena Software Technology Co., Ltd., which used to be a variable interest entity consolidated by us but was wound up in December 2016; and|
|●||all references to “RMB” or “Renminbi” refer to the legal currency of China; all references to “US$,” “dollars” and “U.S. dollars” refer to the legal currency of the United States.|
We present our financial results in RMB. We make no representation that any RMB or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate, or at all. The PRC government imposes control over its foreign currency reserves in part through direct regulation of the conversion of RMB into foreign exchange and through restrictions on foreign trade. This annual report contains translations of certain foreign currency amounts into U.S. dollars for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations of Renminbi into U.S. dollars were made at the rate at RMB6.5250 to US$1.00, the exchange rate as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in effect as of December 31, 2020 (except the cash dividend which is translated at the rate on the exercise date).
This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts are 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 these forward-looking statements by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “likely to” or other similar expressions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:
|●||our goals and growth strategies;|
|●||our expectations regarding demand for and market acceptance of our courses;|
|●||our ability to retain and increase our course and student enrollments;|
|●||our ability to maintain and increase the utilization rate of our learning centers;|
|●||our ability to offer new courses in existing and new subject areas;|
|●||our ability to replicate the success and growth of our adult education services to the K-12 education market;|
|●||our ability to maintain and increase the tuition fees of our courses;|
|●||our ability to deepen and expand our corporate employer relationships;|
|●||our ability to maintain our relationships with universities and colleges;|
|●||our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;|
|●||the expected growth of, and trends in, the markets for our services in China;|
|●||relevant government policies and regulations relating to our corporate structure, business and industry;|
|●||the potential impact of the COVID-19 to our business operation and the economy in China and elsewhere generally; and|
|●||assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.|
You should read thoroughly this annual report and the documents that we refer to in this annual report with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from and worse than what we expect. Other sections of this annual report include additional factors which 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. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
ITEM 1.IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
ITEM 2.OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
ITEM 3.KEY INFORMATION
|A.||Selected Financial Data|
The following selected consolidated statements of comprehensive income data (other than ADS data) for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. The following selected consolidated statements of comprehensive income data (other than ADS data) for the year ended December 31, 2016 and 2017 and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 and 2018 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements which are not included in this annual report. The following selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2016 has been derived from our unaudited consolidated financial statements which are not included in this annual report and has been prepared on the same basis as our audited consolidated financial statements and includes all adjustments, consisting only of normal and recurring adjustments, that we consider necessary for a fair presentation of our financial position and operating results for the year presented. Our historical results for any period are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any future period. The selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with, and are qualified in their entirety by reference to, our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” below. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP.
For the Year ended December 31,
(in thousands, except for share, per share and per ADS data)
Selected Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income Data:
Cost of revenues(1)
Selling and marketing expenses(1)
General and administrative expenses(1)
Research and development expenses(1)
Other income (loss)
Loss on foreign currency forward contract
Foreign currency exchange gains (loss)
Income/(loss) before income taxes
Net income/(loss) attributable to Class A and Class B ordinary shareholders
Cash dividend declared per share(2)
Weighted average number of class A and class B ordinary shares outstanding(3):
Earnings/(loss) per Class A ordinary share, and per Class B ordinary share(4)
Earnings/(loss) per ADS(5)
|(1)||Share-based compensation expenses were allocated in cost of revenues and operating expenses as follows:|
For the Year Ended December 31,
Cost of revenues
Sales and marketing expenses
General and administrative expenses
Research and development expenses
|(2)||On March 7, 2016, our board of directors approved for us to declare a cash dividend of RMB0.98 (US$0.15) per ordinary share to shareholders as of the close of trading on April 6, 2016. On February 28, 2017, our board of directors approved for us to declare a cash dividend of RMB1.10 (US$0.16) per ordinary share to shareholders as of the close of trading on March 27, 2017. On March 6, 2018, our board of directors approved for us to declare a cash dividend of RMB0.76 (US$0.12) per ordinary share to shareholders as of the close of business on April 5, 2018.|
|(3)||The weighted average number of ordinary shares represents the sum of the weighted average number of Class A and Class B ordinary shares. See Note 15 to our audited consolidated financial statements included in this annual report for additional information regarding the computation of the per share amounts and the weighted average numbers of Class A and Class B ordinary shares.|
|(4)||As holders of Class A and Class B ordinary shares have the same dividend right and the same participation right in our undistributed earnings, the basic and diluted earnings per Class A ordinary share and Class B ordinary share are the same for all the periods presented.|
|(5)||Each ADS represents one Class A ordinary share.|
The following table presents our selected consolidated balance sheet data as of the dates indicated.
As of December 31,
Selected Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
Time deposits, including non-current portion
Accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful accounts
Property and equipment, net
Deferred revenue, including non-current portion
Total equity (deficit) attributable to the shareholders of Tarena International, Inc.
Total equity (deficit)
|B.||Capitalization and Indebtedness|
|C.||Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds|
Risks Related to Our Audit Committee Investigation, Restatement of Our Consolidated Financial Statements, Internal Controls and Related Matters
We completed an audit committee investigation in the past, which required significant management time and attention, resulted in significant legal and other expenses, and led to the termination of a number of employees, including certain executive officers.
As previously disclosed, our Audit Committee undertook an independent investigation (the “Independent Investigation”) of our accounting practices and internal control over financial reporting related to revenue recognition with the assistance of independent advisors during 2019. We incurred significant costs in connection with the Audit Committee’s investigation, and our management team devoted significant time to the investigation.
We may receive inquiries from the SEC and other regulatory authorities regarding our restated financial statements or matters relating to our restatement, and we and our current and former directors and officers may be subject to future claims, investigations or proceedings. Any future inquiries from the SEC or other regulatory authorities, or future claims or proceedings as a result of the restatement or any related regulatory investigation will, regardless of the outcome, likely consume a significant amount of our internal resources and result in additional costs.
We have entered into indemnification agreements with our current and former directors and certain of our officers, and our articles of association require us, to the fullest extent permitted by Cayman Islands law, to indemnify each of our directors and officers who was or is a party or is threatened to be made a party to any threatened, pending or completed action, suit or proceeding by reason of the fact that he or she is or was a director or officer of the Company. Although we maintain insurance coverage in amounts and with deductibles that we believe are appropriate for our operations, our insurance coverage may not cover all claims that may be brought against us or our current and former directors and officers, and insurance coverage may not continue to be available to us at a reasonable cost. As a result, we have been and may continue to be exposed to substantial uninsured liabilities, including pursuant to our indemnification obligations, which could materially and adversely affect our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition.
Matters relating to or arising from the restatement and the Audit Committee’s investigation, including adverse publicity and potential concerns from our students, have had and could continue to have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
We have been and could continue to be the subject of negative publicity focusing on the restatement and adjustment of our financial statements, and we may be adversely impacted by negative reactions from our students or others with whom we do business. Concerns include the perception of the effort required to address our accounting and control environment, and the ability for us to be a long-term provider to our students. Continued adverse publicity and potential concerns from our customers could harm our business and have an adverse effect on our financial condition.
We identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting for 2019. Even though we have undertaken remedial steps to address the material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting and did not note or identify any deficiencies that we believe to be material weaknesses as of December 31, 2020, our ability to report our financial results accurately or to prevent fraud may be adversely affected, and investor confidence and the market price of the ADSs may be adversely affected, if we fail to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in the future.
Our independent registered public accounting firm has conducted an audit of our internal control over financial reporting. In the course of auditing our internal control, we and our independent registered public accounting firm identified certain material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2019. A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal controls, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of our annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The material weaknesses in our internal controls identified as of December 31, 2019 related to:
|a.||Failure to provide oversight for the system of internal control and failure to effectively consider the potential for fraud and non-compliance with laws and regulations in assessing risks to the achievement of objectives;|
|b.||Lack of sufficient requisite skills for the financial reporting under U.S. GAAP;|
|c.||Failure to align incentives and rewards with the fulfillment of internal control responsibilities in the achievement of objectives;|
|d.||Lack of sufficient controls designed and implemented for the credit approval, initiation, recording, allocation and cash collection with respect to revenue transactions;|
|e.||Lack of sufficient controls designed and implemented for authorization, validation and payment with respect to cost or expense transactions;|
|f.||Failure to evaluate and implement a mix of control activities, considering both manual and automated controls for other routine transactions;|
|g.||Lack of sufficient segregation of duties and appropriate skill or competence of control owners at certain control activity level; and|
|h.||Failure to develop control activities to restrict technology access right to authorized users commensurate their job responsibilities.|
As a result of the material weaknesses, management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was ineffective as of December 31, 2019. In addition, our independent registered public accounting firm attesting the effectiveness of our internal control and reported that our internal control over financial reporting was ineffective as of December 31, 2019.
During 2020, we have undertaken the remedial steps to address the material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting as set forth under “Item 15. Controls and Procedures—Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting—Management’s Plan for Remediation of Material Weaknesses.” Our management, with the participation of our chief executive officer and chief financial officer, conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of our company’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020. Based on this evaluation, we did not note or identify any deficiencies that we believe to be material weaknesses as of December 31, 2020.
Even though we did not note or identify any deficiencies that we believe to be material weaknesses as of December 31, 2020. Our ability to report our financial results accurately or to prevent fraud may be adversely affected, and investor confidence and the market price of the ADSs may be adversely affected, if we fail to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in the future.
Risks Relating to Our Business
We incurred net losses in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, and we may incur net losses again in the future.
While we have achieved positive net income between 2014 and 2016, we incurred net loss of RMB147 thousand, RMB592.2 million, RMB1,038.9 million and RMB771.2 million (US$118.2 million) in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. We cannot assure you that we will be able to generate net profits again in the future. Our ability to achieve profitability will depend in large part on our ability to increase our operating margin, either by growing our revenues at a rate faster than our operating expenses increase, or by reducing our operating expenses, especially our selling and marketing expenses, as a percentage of our net revenues. We intend to continue to invest in our branding and marketing activities to attract new students, improve our online learning modules to enhance student experience. We cannot assure you that we will be successful in these efforts, and we may continue to incur net losses for period of time in the future.
If we are not able to continue to attract students to enroll in our courses, our business and prospects will be materially and adversely affected.
The success of our business depends primarily on the number of students enrolled in our courses. Therefore, our ability to continue to attract students to enroll in our courses is critical to the continued success and growth of our business. This in turn will depend on several factors, including our ability to develop new courses and enhance existing courses to respond to changes in market trends and student demands, expand our learning center network and geographic footprint while keeping a high utilization rate of our facilities, manage our growth while maintaining consistent and high education quality, broaden our relationships with corporate employers and market our courses effectively to a broader base of prospective students, including young children as well as their parents. Furthermore, our ability to attract students also depends on our ability to provide educational content that is perceived as more effective than the standard curricula of universities in China in terms of practical job-oriented training and as complementary to standard curricula of primary and secondary schools in China. If we are unable to continue to attract students to enroll in our courses, our net revenues may decline, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to continue to recruit, train and retain qualified instructors and teaching assistants, who are critical to the success of our business and effective delivery of our education services to students.
Our instructors and teaching assistants are critical to maintaining the quality of our educational services and our reputation. We seek to hire highly qualified instructors with rich industry experience and strong teaching skills. As our K-12 education program continues to develop, we will need to recruit more teaching assistants. We recruit dedicated teaching assistants primarily from outstanding graduates of our courses. There is a limited pool of instructors and teaching assistants with these attributes, and we must provide competitive compensation packages to attract and retain them. We must also provide ongoing training to our instructors and teaching assistants to ensure that they stay abreast of changes in curriculum, student demands, industry standards and other trends necessary to teach and tutor effectively. We have not experienced major difficulties in recruiting, training or retaining qualified instructors and teaching assistants in the past. However, we may not always be able to recruit, train and retain enough qualified instructors and teaching assistants in the future to keep pace with our growth and maintain consistent education quality. A shortage of qualified teaching staff, a decrease in the quality of our teaching staff’s classroom performance, whether actual or perceived, or a significant increase in compensation to retain qualified instructors and teaching assistants would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we are not able to continually tailor our curriculum to market demand and enhance our courses to adequately and promptly respond to developments in the professional job market, our courses may become less attractive to students.
New trends in the global economy and rapid developments in the professional services industries may change the type of skills required for professionals in the marketplace. This requires us to continually develop, update and enhance our course materials to adapt to the needs of the professional job market in China. We may be unable to update our courses in a timely and cost-effective manner, or at all, to keep pace with changes in market requirements. Any inability to track and respond to these changes in a cost-effective and timely manner or to tailor our courses to the professional services markets in China would render our courses less attractive to students, which may materially and adversely affect our reputation and ability to continue to attract students and cause us to lose market share.
If we fail to develop and introduce new courses in anticipation of market demand in a timely and cost-effective manner, our competitive position and ability to generate revenues may be materially and adversely affected.
Since inception, our primary focus has been on providing IT professional education services. We have since expanded our course offerings to include non-IT training courses, such as digital art, online sales and marketing and accounting. We have also launched IT and non-IT training courses customized for young kids since December 2015, which primarily include computer programming and robotics programming. We intend to continue developing new courses in anticipation of market demand. The introduction of new courses is subject to risks and uncertainties. Unexpected technical, operational, logistical, regulatory or other problems could delay or prevent the introduction of one or more new courses. Moreover, we cannot assure you that any of these new courses will match the quality or popularity of those developed by our competitors, achieve widespread market acceptance or generate the desired level of income for our students.
Offering new courses requires us to make investments in content development, recruit and train additional qualified instructors and teaching assistants, increase marketing efforts and re-allocate resources away from other uses. We may have limited experience with the content of new courses and may need to modify our systems and strategies to incorporate new courses into our existing course offerings. In offering courses in new subject areas, we may face new risks and challenges that we are not familiar with. Furthermore, we may experience difficulties in recruiting or otherwise identifying qualified instructors to develop the content for these new courses. If we are unable to offer new courses in a timely and cost-effective manner, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.
We rely on K-12 computer programming, digital arts, K-12 robotics programming and java courses for a major part of our total net revenues, and a decrease in the popularity and usage of K-12 computer programming, digital arts, K-12 robotics programming and java courses would have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
A major part of our total net revenues is generated from the K-12 computer programming, digital arts, K-12 robotics programming courses and java courses. In 2020, K-12 computer programming, digital arts, K-12 robotics programming and java courses contributed to 20.6%, 16.8%, 15.7% and 13.8% of our total net revenues, respectively. The historical rapid growth of our business has been driven by the popularity and usage of Java technology and Adobe design, and we expect net revenues from these courses to continue to represent a substantial portion of our total net revenues in the near future. We believe our reliance on Java and digital art courses is mainly attributable to the wide adoption and popularity of Java technology and Adobe design. However, whether Java as a programming language or Adobe design technology as a digital art tool can maintain their popularity is beyond our control. Meanwhile, K-12 computer programming courses are increasingly popular and contribute to an increasing percentage of our net revenues. Any factor that materially and adversely affects student enrollment in our digital arts, Java or K-12 computer programming courses and K-12 robotics programming, such as a decrease in the popularity and usage of Adobe design, Java technology or K-12 computer programming would have a material adverse effect on business and our results of operations.
Our business depends on the market recognition of our brands, and if we are unable to maintain or enhance our brand recognition, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We believe that the market recognition of our “Tarena” and “TongchengTongmei” brands has significantly contributed to the success of our business and believe that maintaining and enhancing the reputation of these brands is critical to sustaining our competitive advantage. Our ability to maintain and enhance our brand recognition and reputation depends primarily on the perceived effectiveness and quality of our courses as well as the success of our marketing and promotion efforts. As we continue to grow and expand into new course areas, we may not be able to maintain the quality and consistency of our educational services as we did in the past. We have devoted significant resources to promoting our courses and brands in recent years, including internet-based marketing and advertising, traditional media advertising, press conference and product launch event. However, our marketing and promotion efforts may not be successful or may inadvertently negatively impact our brand recognition and reputation. For example, if any governmental authority or competitor publicly alleges that any of our advertisements are misleading, our brand reputation may be adversely impacted. If we are unable to maintain and further enhance our brand recognition and reputation and increase awareness of our courses, or if we incur excessive marketing and promotion expenses, our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. If we are unable to sustain our brand image, we may not be able to maintain premium tuition fees over our competitors, which may further exacerbate the extent of any adverse effect on our results of operations. Furthermore, any negative publicity relating to our company or our courses and services, regardless of its veracity, could harm our brand image and in turn materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations have been and may continue to be adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has spread rapidly to many parts of the world. Since the beginning of 2020, outbreaks of COVID-19 have resulted in the temporary closure of many corporate offices, retail stores, and manufacturing facilities across China. In early 2020, in response to intensifying efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Chinese government took a number of actions, which included extending the Chinese New Year holiday, quarantining individuals infected with or suspected of having COVID-19, prohibiting certain travels, encouraging employees of enterprises to work remotely from home, and cancelling public activities, among others.
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected many of our business activities, including delivering lectures at our learning centers, recruiting students and conducting our day-to-day business in 2020. As part of China’s nationwide efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, our classrooms in Beijing as well as our learning centers across China have underwent temporary yet prolonged closure from February 2020 to May 2020. Although we have arranged online webcasts for our students to study at home, which covered most of our adult students and K-12 students, we may not be able to achieve the same effectiveness and service quality without the disciplined and focused learning environment at our learning centers. Many of the quarantine measures within China have since been relaxed as of the date of this annual report, and we have gradually opened our learning centers and resumed our offline classes. However, our learning centers may be ordered to suspend classes and cancel offline activities again if China fails to fully contain COVID-19 or suffers a COVID-19 relapse.
In addition, we have experienced difficulty in recruiting students as we are unable to host regular seminars, information sessions and preparatory training camps for prospective students at our learning centers as usual as well as conducting other offline sales and marketing activities due to the general restrictions on travel and outdoor activities. We have arranged for online recruiting activities, such as conducting online promotional courses, but the effectiveness of such efforts is uncertain. Our ability to recruit students directly from cooperative universities and colleges is also negatively impacted as most universities and colleges have been closed in the first half of 2020. Even though most universities and colleges reopened in the second half of 2020, our ability to recruit students may not quickly or fully recover, or at all. The outbreak of COVID-19 in China also caused temporary closures of many of our offices, adjustment of operation hours and work-from-home arrangements in our Beijing headquarters and other offices in China during the first half of 2020.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in, and may intensify, global economic distress, and the duration and extent of the impact of COVID-19 outbreak is highly uncertain at this time. The extent to which it may affect our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows will depend on the future development of the outbreak, which is also highly uncertain and will depend on a number of factors, including the duration and severity of COVID-19, possibility of new waves in China and other countries, the development and progress of distribution of COVID-19 vaccine and other medical treatment, the potential change in consumer behavior due to the prolonged impact of COVID-19, the actions taken by government authorities to contain the outbreak and stimulate the economy to improve business condition, all of which are beyond our control. If the situation materially deteriorates in China or globally, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
We may not be able to maintain our high job placement rate for our adult students, which could harm our ability to attract student enrollments.
We gather data on post-course job placement rates by conducting surveys of our adult graduates. Based on the survey responses, we calculate the six-month post-course job placement rates for a month by dividing (i) the number of job-seeking students enrolled in such month who (A) successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded and (B) indicated that they had received employment offers within six months of graduation, by (ii) the total number of job-seeking students enrolled in such month who later successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded. We calculate the annual average six-month post-course job placement rate by averaging the rate of each month. Our average six-month post-course job placement rate for each of 2018, 2019 and 2020 was about 90%. When calculating such job placement rates for 2018, 2019 and 2020, a majority of the employment reported by relevant students was full-time employment, and a majority of the employment reported by relevant students was in the fields of their studies with us. All of the students enrolled in 2017 and 2018 who later successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded and who were job-seeking, have filled out our surveys. Among the students enrolled in 2017, 2018 and 2019, 86%, 88% and 96% of such students, respectively, graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded. Among the students enrolled in 2017, 2018 and 2019 who later successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded, 76%, 75% and 65% of such students, respectively, were deemed to be job-seeking students.
Our student job placement rate depends on a wide range of external and internal factors. External factors include the macroeconomic conditions, the performance of the professional services sector in China and the recruiting demand of corporate employers. Internal factors include our education quality, the efforts of our career services personnel, our ability to provide adequate staffing to achieve desired results and our relationships with corporate employers. A number of such external and internal factors are outside of our control. Our historical job placement rates have been high. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain our current level of job placement rate for our students in the future. Any decrease in our job placement rate could harm our ability to recruit students, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our K-12 education programs may not be successful due to our limited experience in providing education services to minors.
In December 2015, we launched our K-12 education programs under the brand name TongchengTongmei featuring IT training courses and non-IT training courses for K-12 students. In March 2016, we rolled out another K-12 education program to offer K-12 robotics programming courses. In 2017, we continued to roll out a new K-12 education course in coding mathematics to further diversify our course offerings in K-12 education. In 2018 and 2019, our computer coding and robotics programming courses were popular among our K-12 students and the revenues from K-12 computer programming courses exceeded 10% of our total revenues in 2019. In 2020, we launched Creative Programming Starter course which gained popularity among our K-12 students. Our K-12 education programs target students aged between three and eighteen, and are the most important part of our efforts to enter into the K-12 STEAM education market. As we have been primarily engaging in adult education programs since our inception, we have limited experience in providing education programs to minors, who have distinct learning preference and mentality as compared to adult students and require tailored courses and dedicated class management.
Our student enrollment rate could be impacted by the operations of academic K-12 education and tutoring service providers, given our target students have limited time and energy and they need to choose among different courses and programs. The K-12 education and tutoring market is highly competitive and the concept of STEAM education is relatively new in China. Students and their parents may prefer academic education and tutoring programs over our STEAM programs. We cannot assure you that we will be successful in competing for students, and if we fail, our financial status and results of operation will be adversely impacted.
Furthermore, we have incurred costs in establishing new learning centers due to the fast expansion of our K-12 education business recently, which we believe are essential to support our education programs in the future. If, however, we fail to utilize such new learning centers efficiently, or otherwise fully benefit from the investments we made, our financial status and result of operation will be adversely impacted.
If the level of performance by the students of our K-12 education program deteriorates or satisfaction with our services declines, our business, financial condition, results of operations and reputation could be adversely affected.
The success of our business depends on our ability to deliver a satisfactory learning experience and improved educational results. Although the courses provided under our K-12 education programs do not directly link to the academic performance of our students, their effectiveness could be evaluated by our students and their parents in an intuitive way by referring to the improvements in programming skills or performances in robotics competitions. The performance of our students in the IT training courses, non-IT training course, K-12 robotics programming and coding mathematics course will impact the acceptance of, and the student and parent satisfaction with, our courses.
Accidents or injuries suffered by our students, their parents or other people caused by us, or perceived to be caused by us may adversely affect our reputation, subject us to liability and cause us to incur substantial costs.
We have a large number of K-12 students and their parents on our premises to attend classes and/or use our facilities, and they may suffer accidents or injuries or other harm on our premises, including those caused by or otherwise arise from the actions of our employees. Although we have enhanced preventive measures to avoid such incidents, we cannot assure you that there will be no any incident in the future.
Other than the liability insurance for part of our adult students and travel insurance for our K-12 students participating in our camp or event-related travel, we do not carry liability insurance for most of our students at our learning centers. In the event of accidents or injuries or other harm caused or perceived to be caused by us, our facilities and/or services may be perceived to be unsafe, which may discourage prospective students from attending our classes and participate in our activities. We could also face claims alleging that we should be liable for the accidents or injuries, or we were negligent, provided inadequate supervision to our employees and therefore should be held jointly liable for harm caused by them. A material liability claim against us or any of our teachers or other employees could adversely affect our reputation, enrollment and revenues. Even if unsuccessful, such a claim could create unfavorable publicity, cause us to incur substantial expenses and divert the time and attention of our management.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by a downturn in the global or Chinese economy.
Because our student enrollment of our professional education courses may depend on our students’ and potential students’ levels of disposable income, perceived job prospects and willingness to spend, as well as the level of hiring demand of professional services positions, our business and prospects may be affected by economic conditions in China or globally. In addition, for our K-12 education programs, our student enrollment may depend on the disposable income and willingness to spend of the parents. The global macroeconomic environment is facing challenges, including the end of quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the economic slowdown in the Eurozone in 2014, the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and the impact of COVID-19 in 2020. It is unclear whether the Chinese economy will resume its high growth rate. The Chinese economy has slowed down in recent years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2020, China’s gross domestic product grew at a rate of 2.3%. There have also been concerns about the territorial disputes involving China in Asia and the economic effects, as well as the relationship between China and the U.S., including those resulting from the ongoing trade dispute between the two countries. Economic conditions in China, including the performance of the IT and other professional services industries, 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. A decline in the economic prospects of IT and other professionals could alter current or prospective students’ spending priorities and the recruiting demand from professional service industries. We cannot assure you that professional education spending in general or with respect to our course offerings in particular will increase, or not decrease, from current levels, or if the macroeconomic environment deteriorates, parents will continue to spend on STEAM education for their children. Therefore, a slowdown in China’s economy or the global economy may lead to a reduction in demand for education services, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
If we fail to successfully execute our growth strategies, our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
Our growth strategies include growing our student enrollments for existing courses, expanding our course offerings, further enhancing the quality of our education services and expanding our corporate employer network. We may not succeed in executing our growth strategies due to a number of factors, including, without limitation, the following:
|●||we may fail to market our courses in new markets or promote new courses in existing markets effectively;|
|●||we may not be able to replicate our successful business model in other geographic markets or in new course subject areas;|
|●||we may fail to identify new cities with sufficient growth potential to expand our network;|
|●||we may not be able to replicate the success and growth of our adult education services to the K-12 education market;|
|●||we may not be able to recruit and retain learning center managers, teaching assistants and other key personnel;|
|●||our analysis for selecting suitable new locations may not be accurate and the demand for our services at such new locations may not materialize or increase as rapidly as we expect;|
|●||we may fail to obtain the requisite licenses and permits necessary to open learning centers at our desired locations from local authorities;|
|●||we may not be able to continue to update our existing courses or offer new courses to adapt to changing market demand and technological advances; and|
|●||we may fail to achieve the benefits we expect from our expansion.|
If we fail to execute our growth strategies successfully, we may not be able to maintain our growth rate and our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected as a result.
We may not be able to manage our business expansion effectively, which could harm our financial condition and results of operations.
We plan to continue to expand our operations in different geographic areas as we address the growth of our customer base and market opportunities. We closed 54 non-performing learning centers for professional education services and opened 4 new centers in 2019. We closed 26 such non-performing learning centers and did not open any new centers in 2020. There were 130 and 104 learning centers for professional education services as of December 31, 2019 and 2020, respectively. We also significantly increased the number of our learning centers exclusively for K-12 education programs from 30 as of December 31, 2017 to 148 as of December 31, 2018, to 217 as of December 31, 2019 and further to 236 as of December 31, 2020. This expansion has resulted, and will continue to result, in substantial demands on our management, personnel and operational, technological and other resources. To manage the expected growth of our operations, we will be required to expand our existing operational, administrative and technological systems and our financial systems, procedures and controls and to expand training and management of our growing employee base. In addition, the geographic dispersion of our operations requires significant management resources. We cannot assure you that our current and planned personnel, systems, procedures and controls will be adequate to support our future operations, or that we will be able to effectively and efficiently manage the growth of our operations or recruit and retain qualified personnel to support our expansion. Any failure to effectively and efficiently manage our expansion may materially and adversely affect our ability to capitalize on new business opportunities, which in turn may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The growth of our business is in part dependent on our continuing access to a broad network of corporate employers.
We derive both direct benefits, such as increased enrollment driven by employer-specific customized courses, and indirect benefits, such as higher student job placement rate and strengthening of the Tarena brand, from our access to a large number of corporate employers. We believe our access to a large number of corporate employers in a wide range of industries is one of our core competitive strengths. If our access to these corporate employers were to become constrained or limited, or the benefits we derive from this access were to be diminished, whether by our own actions or actions of our competitors, our growth prospects and our business would be harmed.
Our success depends on the continuing efforts of our senior management team and other key personnel and our business may be adversely affected if we lose their services.
Our future success depends heavily upon the continuing services of our senior management team. If any member of our senior management team leaves us and we fail to effectively manage a transition to new personnel, or if we fail to attract and retain experienced and passionate instructors, regional managers and other key personnel on acceptable terms, our business, financial conditions and results of operations could be adversely affected. We will need to continue to hire additional personnel, especially qualified instructors and regional managers, as our business grows. A shortage in the supply of personnel with requisite skills or our failure to attract and retain high-quality executives or key personnel could impede our ability to increase revenues from our existing courses, to launch new course offerings and to expand our operations and would have an adverse effect on our business and financial results.
The operations of certain of our learning centers providing professional education services are, or may be deemed by relevant PRC government authorities to be, beyond their authorized business scope or without proper license or registration. If the relevant PRC government authorities take actions against such learning centers, our business and operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The principal regulations governing private education in China consist of the Education Law, the Private Education Law with its Amendment, and the Private Education Law Implementation Rules. See “Regulations—Regulations on Private Education—The Law for Promoting Private Education and its Implementation Rules.”
Under these PRC laws and regulations and related administrative requirements in effect, private schools are classified as either non-profit private schools or for-profit private schools, and private schools that provide education for academic credentials, pre-school education, training for self-study examinations preparation and other cultural education, as well as professional education including training for professional qualifications, are required to obtain a school permit before their registration as legal entities with competent authorities. For-profit private training institutions shall be regulated and governed with reference to the abovementioned rules. To provide professional education services as a for-profit private school, a company may, in the capacity of a school sponsor, establish a private school which obtains a school permit from competent human resources and social security authorities. After obtaining a school permit, private schools shall add the relevant professional education services in the authorized scope of business as specified in their business licenses, and complete the registration with the local branch of the State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR (formerly known as the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, or the SAIC). Under the Amendment to the Private Education Law and the Private Education Law Implementation Rules, a material change in a for-profit private school shall be approved by the competent education authorities or the authorities in charge of human resources and social security before it can be registered with the competent local branch of the SAMR. However, since the Amendment to the Private Education Law just became effective on September 1, 2017 and the relevant detailed rules by national and some of the local government authorities have not been officially issued, there remains uncertainties about the registration process for the newly established private schools (including the private training institutions, similarly hereinafter) or the re-registration process for pre-existing private schools. In practice, there still exists the following two ways to operate and provide the professional education services: (i) a private school which holds a school permit issued by the human resources and social security authorities could establish and operate learning centers within the approved regions to provide professional education services, provided that learning centers located outside the region of the registered address of the private schools shall be registered with original approving authorities; or (ii) a company with the relevant professional education services registered in its authorized scope of business as specified in its business licenses with the local branch of the SAMR could provide professional education services, which way has been widely used before the promulgation of the Amendment to the Private Education Law. In the latter way, a company with “professional education services” or an equivalent statement included in its approved scope of business can operate learning centers by itself or through its registered branches. However, many local government authorities have different views on the relevant rules and regulations and have adopted different practices in granting school permits to private schools or issuing business licenses to companies that provide professional education services. For example, in some cities, entities are permitted to include “professional education services” in their business scope as specified in their business licenses, but in certain other cities, entities are not permitted to, or are prohibited to, add “professional education services” or similar services in their business scope as specified in their business licenses according to the policies of the local branch of the SAMR.
We use both ways discussed above to establish our learning centers. As of December 31, 2020, we had a total of 340 learning centers, of which 49 were managed by schools and 291 were managed by our subsidiaries. Among the learning centers operated by our subsidiaries, 118 have neither professional education services nor education information related consultation as an authorized scope of business in the licenses of our subsidiaries or their registered branches operating these learning centers as of December 31, 2020, and these learning centers in the aggregate accounted for 27% of our student enrollments in 2020. We were not able to include professional education services in these companies’ authorized business scope mainly because the relevant local branch of SAMR have formulated general local policies prohibiting the inclusion of “professional education services” or similar services in the business scope of any entity. In addition, 59 learning centers operated by our subsidiaries only have “education information related consultation” rather than “professional education services” in their respective authorized scopes of business, and these learning centers in the aggregate accounted for 18.6% of our student enrollments in 2020. The difference between “educational services” and “education information related consultation” is not very clear under applicable PRC laws and regulations, and it is possible that the relevant PRC government authorities may determine that operating learning centers in the way as currently conducted by our relevant subsidiaries is beyond the scope of “education information related consultation.” For these learning centers, we have been communicating, and will continue to communicate, with the relevant local branch of the SAMR to expand the authorized business scope of the relevant subsidiaries to include “professional education services” or similar services. For regions where it becomes apparent that we will not be able to expand the authorized business scope of the relevant subsidiaries, we will also explore the possibility of obtaining approval from the competent authorities to set up private schools to take over the operations of the relevant subsidiaries. If the relevant PRC government authorities discover or determine that our subsidiaries operate beyond their authorized business scope, they may order the relevant subsidiaries to complete the registration for change of business scope within a given period, failing which each company is subject to a one-time fine of RMB10,000 to RMB100,000, or may be ordered to cease its operation. We have been fined once for RMB50,000 for conducting business outside the authorized business scope since 2011.
For our learning centers operated by schools, we are also required to obtain and maintain various licenses and permits and make filings for each learning center with the competent human resources and social security authorities and civil affairs authorities. As of December 31, 2020, 18 of our learning centers are operated by schools outside their registered address without being registered with the original approving authorities, which may subject us to fines of RMB10,000 to RMB50,000, confiscation of the gains derived from the noncompliant operations or the suspension of the noncompliant learning centers. These 18 learning centers in the aggregate accounted for 4.8% of our total student enrollments in 2020. As of the date of this annual report, all of our 46 schools have the school permit, among which 2 schools need to apply for updating their principal’s information. Separately, as of December 31, 2020, we have set up 15 schools registered as schools requiring “reasonable returns” provided in the Private Education Law. We are informed by the local human resources and social security authorities in some cities in China that they have stopped issuing new school permits temporarily before any detailed implementing rules being officially issued.
On August 10, 2018, the Ministry of Justice published the draft submitted for approval of the Amendment to the Regulations on the Implementation of the Private Education Promotion Law of the PRC, or the Draft Amendment to Private Education Promotion Regulations, to seek public comments. According to the Draft Amendment to Private Education Promotion Regulations, the private training institutions which provide activities aiming at quality promotion, personality development in the areas of linguistic competence, arts, physical activities, technology, as well as activities targeting at the cultural education for adults and non-degree continuing education are allowed to be registered as a legal person directly. The private training institutions which provide training for professional qualifications or skills shall obtain a school permit issued by the human resources and social security authorities and make filing with the education authorities. If such institutions use the internet technology to conduct training for professional qualifications or skills, they shall obtain the corresponding internet operating permit and make filing with the human resources and social security authorities at the provincial level where the institution is domiciled. However, it is uncertain when the Draft Amendment to Private Education Promotion Regulations would be signed into law and whether the final version would have any substantial changes. During such transitional period between the promulgation of the Amendment to the Private Education Law and the issuance of the relevant detailed rules by national and the local government authorities, the above uncertainties and local policies and practices have created certain obstacles for us to comply with all applicable rules and regulations for all of our local operations. We have been fined once for RMB155,000 for providing professional training without school permit. We may be subject to material fines or other penalties in relation to any non-compliance with licensing requirements in the past with respect to our learning centers operated by schools, if we fail to cure any non-compliance in a timely manner, we may be subject to fines, confiscation of the gains derived from our noncompliant operations or the suspension of our noncompliant learning centers, which may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operation.
The operations of certain learning centers providing after-school K-12 education programs are, or may be deemed by relevant PRC government authorities to be, beyond their authorized business scope or without proper license or registration. If the relevant PRC government authorities take actions against such learning centers, our business and operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The General Office of the State Council promulgated the Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Regulating the Development of Off-Campus Training Institutions, or Circular 80, on August 6, 2018. Circular 80 provides that after-school education institutions shall obtain school operation permits and business licenses. For courses of school academic subjects such as Chinese, mathematics, English, physics, chemistry and biology, the key information of such courses, including the specific subjects, course schedules, and course syllabi, shall be filed with the local education authorities and made public, and the course progress shall not surpass the same-period progress of local primary schools and secondary schools. Circular 80 further provides that after-school education institutions shall obtain approvals from local education authorities for opening new branches or learning centers. In addition, the MOE and other relevant authorities promulgated a series of notices in 2018 and 2019 to regulate the operation of the after-school education institutions, which emphasize and strengthen the same principle as provided in Circular 80.
Our K-12 education programs were launched in December 2015, which include IT training courses and non-IT training courses, were operated through our 236 learning centers in 53 cities in China as of December 31, 2020, as well as through the internet. According to the rules mentioned above, our learning centers providing K-12 education programs may be deemed as after-school education institutions which are required to obtain school operation permits and business licenses. In addition, the coding mathematics course organized under IT-training courses of TongchengTongmei may be regarded as the courses of school academic subjects, which are required to be filed with the local education authorities and the progress of which shall not surpass the same-period progress of local primary schools and secondary schools. As of December 31, 2020, 13 of our leaning centers has obtained school operation permits from the local education authorities for our after-school kid education programs, and 124 have either professional education services or education information related consultation as an authorized scope of business in the licenses of our subsidiaries or their registered branches operating these learning centers. However, since the Circular 80 just became effective on August 6, 2018, there remains uncertainties about the registration process with respect to after-school K-12 education programs, and the filing process with respect to the courses of school academic subjects with some local education authorities. We have been communicating and will continue to communicate, with the competent provincial education regulatory authorities to obtain school operation permits and filings with respect to the courses of school academic subjects. Although we have not been subject to any material fines or other penalties in relation to any non-compliance with licensing and filing requirements in the past with respect to our learning centers providing after-school K-12 education programs, if we fail to cure any non-compliance in a timely manner, we may be subject to fines, confiscation of the gains derived from our noncompliant operations or the suspension of our noncompliant learning centers, which may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operation.
In addition, according to the Draft Amendment to Private Education Promotion Regulations, if private training institutions use the internet technology to conduct training and educational activities, they shall obtain the corresponding internet operating permit and make filing with the education authorities at the provincial level where the institution is domiciled. However, it is uncertain when the Draft Amendment to Private Education Promotion Regulations would be signed into law and whether the final version would have any substantial changes. According to the Implementation Opinions on Regulating Online After-School Training, or the Online After-School Training Opinions, promulgated by the MOE jointly with certain other PRC government authorities and effective on July 12, 2019, the academic subjects online after-school training institutions for primary and secondary school students shall file with the competent provincial education regulatory authorities before October 31, 2019 and that such education regulatory authorities shall, jointly with other provincial government authorities, review such filings and the qualifications of the academic subjects online after-school training institutions submitting such filings. After receiving the rectification opinion from relevant regulatory authorities, the academic subjects online after-school training institutions shall complete rectification and resubmit their materials before the end of June 2020. The Online After-School Training Opinions also impose a series of new regulatory requirements, including (i) each class shall not last longer than 40 minutes and shall be taken at intervals of not less than 10 minutes; (ii) live streaming courses provided to students receiving compulsory education shall not end later than 9:00 p.m.; (iii) where fees are charged based on the number of classes, fees are not allowed to be collected in a lump sum for more than 60 classes, and where fees are charged based on the length of the course, the fees shall not be collected for a course length of more than three months; and (iv) instructors are required to obtain the necessary teacher qualification licenses. As of the date of this annual report, we have not received any rectification opinion from relevant regulatory authorities, or been subject to penalties imposed by the relevant government authorities for alleged failure of us to comply with the Online After-School Training Opinions, and we have been communicating and will continue to communicate, with the competent provincial education regulatory authority to complete such filings, but we cannot assure you that we will complete such filing and comply with other regulatory requirements under the Online After-School Training Opinions and its related local rules in a timely manner. If we fail to cure any non-compliance in a timely manner, we may be subject to fines, confiscation of the gains derived from our noncompliant operations or the suspension of our noncompliant disciplinary online after-school training, which may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operation.
We may lose market share and our financial results may be materially and adversely affected, if we fail to compete effectively with our present and future competitors or to adjust effectively to changing market conditions and trends.
The professional education services market in China is fragmented, rapidly evolving and highly competitive. We face competition in our offered courses and in many of the geographic markets in which we operate. As the IT professional education market in China matures, there is increased demand for highly specialized IT labor, and we may face competition from IT professional education providers that offer specialized training programs targeting certain niche job markets in the IT industry. In the future, we may also face competition from new entrants into the Chinese IT professional education market. As we expand beyond IT education into other fields of professional education, we also face competition for student enrollment from existing online and offline providers of professional education services, as well as smaller regional professional education services providers in China. Furthermore, we also face competition from other K-12 education service providers.
Some of our competitors may be able to devote more resources than we can to the development, promotion and provision of their education services and respond more quickly than we can to changes in student needs, market trends or new technologies. In addition, some of our competitors may be able to respond faster to changes in student preferences in some of our geographic markets and engage in price-cutting strategies. For our K-12 education programs, some of our competitors may have more experiences in designing courses based on minor’s preferences, mentality and learning curve. We cannot assure you that we will be able to compete successfully against current or future competitors. If we are unable to maintain our competitive position or otherwise respond to competitive pressure effectively, we may be forced to reduce our tuition fees and lose our market share, which will adversely impact our financial results.
Our business and financial results may be materially and adversely affected if we are unable to maintain our cooperative relationships with financing service providers for student loans.
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, a substantial portion of our students relied on loans provided or arranged by a number of financing service providers to pay our tuition fees. In 2018, we collaborated with well-known personal financing service providers such as Baidu Small Loan Co., Ltd., Bank of China Consumer Finance Co., Ltd. and Beijing Ronglian Shiji Information Technology Co., Ltd., whereby they assisted our students in obtaining loans to pay for our tuition fees. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, 45.6%, 52.3% and 15.0% of our students received loans provided or arranged by financing service providers to pay for our tuition fees.
Our financing service partners have full discretion in deciding whether or not to extend or arrange for loans to a particular student. Furthermore, macroeconomic conditions in China may force the financing service providers to decrease or eliminate the amount of credit available for our students, making it difficult for our prospective students to afford our education. In addition, if the default rates on the loans provided or arranged by these and other financing service providers were to increase, they may raise the interest rates on the student loans, making such financing options less attractive to our students. If our cooperative relationships with the financing service providers are damaged or lost, or if the financing service providers significantly increase their interest rates, our business and financial results would be adversely affected.
If we fail to protect our intellectual property rights, we may lose our competitive advantage and our brands and operations may suffer.
We consider our copyrights, trademarks, trade names and domain names invaluable to our ability to continue to develop and enhance our brand recognition. Unauthorized use of our copyrights, trademarks, trade names and domain names may damage our reputation and brands. Our major brand names and logos are registered trademarks in China. Our proprietary curricula and course materials, together with our Tarena Teaching System, or TTS, are protected by copyrights. However, preventing copyright, trademark and trade name infringement or misuse could be difficult, costly and time-consuming, particularly in China. The measures we take to protect our copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights are currently based upon a combination of trademark and copyright laws in China and may not be adequate to prevent unauthorized uses. Furthermore, application of laws governing intellectual property rights in China is uncertain and evolving, and could involve substantial uncertainties to us. There had been several incidents in the past where third parties used our “Tarena” brand without our authorization, and we had to resort to litigation to protect our intellectual property rights. These proceedings were all resolved in our favor and our brand and business were not materially harmed. However, if we are unable to adequately protect our trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property rights in the future, we may lose our competitive advantage, our brand name may be harmed and our business may suffer materially. Furthermore, our management’s attention may be diverted by violations of our intellectual property rights, and we may be required to enter into costly litigation to protect our proprietary rights against any infringement or violation.
We may be subject to intellectual property rights claims or other claims which could result in substantial costs and diversion of our financial and management resources away from our business.
We cannot assure you that our course materials, other educational contents or other intellectual properties developed or used by us do not or will not infringe upon patents, valid copyrights or other intellectual property rights held by third parties. We have, and may from time to time be subject to legal proceedings and claims relating to the intellectual property of others. In addition, some of our employees were previously employed at other companies, including our current and potential competitors. To the extent these employees are involved in content development at our company similar to content development in which they have been involved at their former employers, we may become subject to claims that such employees or we may have used or disclosed trade secrets or other proprietary information of the former employers of our employees. In addition, our competitors may file lawsuits against us. If any such claim arises in the future, litigation or other dispute resolution proceedings may be necessary to retain our ability to offer our current and future course materials or other content, which could result in substantial costs and diversion of our financial and management resources. Furthermore, if we are found to have violated the intellectual property rights of others, we may be enjoined from using such intellectual property rights, incur additional costs to license or develop alternative intellectual property rights and be forced to pay fines and damages, any of which may materially and adversely affect our business.
We recruit a significant portion of our students directly from our network of cooperative universities and colleges. If we lose these relationships, or the benefits we derive from these relationships diminish, our growth and our business may be harmed.
As of December 31, 2020, we established various kinds of cooperative relationships with 665 universities and colleges in China. We enroll a significant percentage of our students directly from these universities and colleges through jointly offered majors, university recruiting promotional events and other marketing approaches as agreed by our university partners. If our relationships with any of these universities and colleges were to be damaged or lost, or the benefits we derive from these relationships were to be diminished, whether by our own actions, actions of one or more governmental entities or actions of our competitors, our growth and our business may be harmed.
Failure to control rental costs, obtain leases at desired locations at reasonable prices or protect our leasehold interests could materially and adversely affect our business.
A majority of our offices and learning centers are located on leased premises. At the end of each lease term we must negotiate an extension of the lease. If we are not able to negotiate an extension on terms acceptable to us, we will be forced to move to a different location, or the rent may increase significantly. This could disrupt our operations and adversely affect our profitability. All of our leases are subject to renewal at market prices, which could result in a substantial rent increase each renewal period. We compete with many other businesses for sites in certain highly desirable locations. As a result, we may not be able to obtain new leases at desirable locations or renew our existing leases on acceptable terms or at all, which could adversely affect our business. As of December 31, 2020, we had received from our lessors copies of title certificates or proof of authorization to lease the properties to us for all leased properties. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain copies of title certificates or proof of authorization to lease any properties that we may lease in the future or the title to these properties we currently lease or any properties that we may lease in the future will not be otherwise challenged. Furthermore, several of our leased properties are owned by universities or built on allocated land in China. Such properties may not be legally leased to us under PRC law. Our leasehold interest in these properties may be challenged by relevant PRC governmental authorities to be invalid, and we may be forced to move out of such premises. In addition, we have not registered most of our lease agreements with relevant PRC governmental authorities as required by PRC law, and although failure to do so does not in itself invalidate the leases, we may not be able to defend these leases against bona fide third parties. As of the date of this annual report, we are not aware of any actions, claims or investigations being contemplated by governmental authorities against us or our lessors with respect to the defects in our leased real properties or any challenges by third parties to our use of these properties. However, if any of our leases are terminated as a result of challenges by third parties or governmental authorities for lack of title certificates or proof of authorization to lease, we may not be able to protect our leasehold interest and may be forced to relocate the affected learning centers and incur additional expenses relating to such relocation. If we fail to find suitable replacement sites in a timely manner or on terms acceptable to us, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Our accounts receivable have been relatively high. Inability to collect our accounts receivable on a timely basis, if at all, could materially and adversely affect our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
Understanding the difficulty for recent college graduates to afford the tuition fees of our courses, we offered qualified students the post-graduation tuition payment option beginning in 2006, which led to our relatively high accounts receivable. As of December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020, our outstanding accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful accounts, were RMB52.1 million, RMB32.2 million and RMB33.0 million (US$5.1 million), respectively. Although we conduct financial evaluations of our students applying to use our post-graduation tuition payment option, we do not require collateral or other security from our students. Adverse changes in the macroeconomic environment and the earnings capacity of our students may negatively impact our ability to collect our accounts receivable. Furthermore, as time passes, it might be more difficult for us to collect historical accounts receivables. Our bad debt allowance amounted nil, RMB2.3 million and RMB9.2 million (US$1.4 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our balance of bad debt allowance amounted RMB2.3 million and RMB9.2 million (US$1.4 million) as of December 31, 2019 and 2020, respectively. There is no guarantee that our bad debt allowance expense will not increase in the following years. Our inability to collect our accounts receivable on a timely basis, if at all, could cause our bad debt allowance to increase in the future, and materially and adversely affect our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
Furthermore, we have extended loans with one-year terms to certain of our employees to support their personal needs. As of December 31, 2020, our outstanding accounts receivable for such loans was RMB20.4 million (US$3.1 million). We have no receivables due from any of our directors and officers. If we cannot collect such outstanding accounts receivable in a timely manner, or at all, our financial condition, liquidity and result of operations will be adversely impacted, and any legal proceedings initiated to collect such receivables may adversely impact our relationship with such employees.
Capacity constraints of our learning centers could cause us to lose students to our competitors.
Our learning centers are limited in size and number of classrooms. We may not be able to admit all students who would like to enroll in our courses due to the capacity constraints of our learning centers. If we fail to expand our physical capacity as quickly as the demand for our classroom-based services grows, we could lose potential students to our competitors, which could adversely affect our results of operations and business prospects. As we further expand our K-12 education programs, we may face more intense capacity challenges. Furthermore, the investment in the expansion of learning centers can be costly, which may have adverse impact on our gross margin, if we can manage to make such investments at all.
We may not be able to recoup the capital expenditures or investments we make to expand and upgrade our teaching, administrative, research and other capabilities.
We purchased two office buildings in Beijing for an aggregate price of RMB231.9 million in 2016. The office buildings are mainly for teaching purpose, and to a lesser extent for an administrative function. We also purchased a building in Qingdao and another one in Haikou for an aggregate price of RMB49.6 million in 2016. The purpose of these two buildings is for teaching purposes as learning centers to accommodate the growing demand in local market and enjoy local favorable policies. We may continue to invest in our teaching, administrative, research and other capabilities as our business further develops. Although we will evaluate the feasibility of each property purchase for the good of business operation, we are likely to incur costs associated with these investments earlier than some of the anticipated benefits and the return on these investments may be lower, or may develop more slowly, than we expect. We may not be able to recover our capital expenditures or investments, in part or in full, or the recovery of these capital expenditures or investments may take longer than expected. As a result, the carrying value of the related assets may be subject to an impairment charge, which could adversely affect our profitability.
Our strategy of investments and acquiring complementary businesses and assets may fail.
As part of our business strategy, we have pursued, and intend to continue to pursue, selective strategic investments and acquisitions of businesses and assets that complement our existing business. Investments and acquisitions involve uncertainties and risks, including:
|●||potential ongoing financial obligations and unforeseen or hidden liabilities, including liability for infringement of third-party copyrights or other intellectual property;|
|●||failure to achieve the intended objectives, benefits or revenue-enhancing opportunities;|
|●||costs and difficulties of integrating acquired businesses and managing a larger business;|
|●||potentially significant goodwill impairment charges;|
|●||high acquisition and financing costs;|
|●||possible loss of key employees of a target business;|
|●||potential claims or litigation regarding our board’s exercise of its duty of care and other duties required under applicable law in connection with any of our significant acquisitions or investments approved by the board;|
|●||diversion of resources and management attention; and|
|●||in the case of acquisitions of businesses or assets outside of China, the need to integrate operations across different business cultures and languages and to address the particular economic, currency, political, and regulatory risks associated with specific countries.|
Any failure to address these risks successfully may have a material and adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Investments and acquisitions may require a significant amount of capital investment, which would decrease the amount of cash available for working capital or capital expenditures. In addition, if we use our equity securities to pay for investments and acquisitions, we may dilute the value of our ADSs and the underlying ordinary shares. If we borrow funds to finance investments and acquisitions, such debt instruments may contain restrictive covenants that could, among other things, restrict us from distributing dividends. Moreover, acquisitions may also generate significant amortization expenses related to intangible assets. We may also incur impairment charges to earnings for investments and acquired businesses and assets which are determined to be impaired, and recognize the proportional share of the net losses of the investees to the extent of the amount of the investments for the equity method investments.
The geographic concentration of our learning centers may unfavorably impact our operations.
We derive a substantial portion of our net revenues from our entities in Beijing. Revenue derived from the entities in Beijing accounted for 13.5%, 13.8% and 17.2% of our net revenues in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. As a result of this geographic concentration, our results of operations are significantly affected by economic conditions in Beijing. Furthermore, any natural disaster or health epidemics affecting the Beijing regions could significantly impact our operations. Although we have been and will be exploring opportunities of setting up additional learning centers in second tier or third-tier cities, we expect that we will continue to derive a substantial portion of our net revenues from Beijing in the near future. Deterioration in economic conditions and the professional services industries in these markets could decrease the demand for our courses, which in turn could negatively impact our operations and business prospects.
Our historical financial and operating results may not be indicative of future performance.
Although we commenced operations in 2002, our significant business growth and expansion began in 2009, and certain of our courses, especially our K-12 education courses, were only developed in recent years. Our business and our prospects must be evaluated in light of the risks and uncertainties encountered by companies at a comparable stage of development. In addition, the professional education services market in China is still at an early stage of development, which makes it difficult to evaluate our business and future prospects. Furthermore, our results of operations may vary from period to period in response to a variety of other factors, including general economic conditions and regulations, government actions pertaining to the professional education services sector in China, changes in spending on professional education services, our ability to control cost of revenues and operating expenses, and non-recurring charges incurred in connection with acquisitions or other extraordinary transactions or under unexpected circumstances. Due to the above factors, some of which are beyond our control, our historical financial and operating results may not be indicative of our future performance and you should not rely on our past results or our historic growth rates as indicators of our future performance.
Uncertainty resulting from the non-binding proposal letter and other related matters may adversely affect our business.
On December 8, 2020, we received a preliminary non-binding proposal letter, or the Proposal Letter, from Mr. Shaoyun Han, our founder and chairman of the board of directors, to acquire all of our outstanding Class A ordinary shares that are not already owned by Mr. Han and his affiliates for a purchase price of $4.00 per ADS, or US$4.00 per Class A ordinary share, in cash. On December 10, 2020, our board of directors formed a special committee consisting of two independent directors, Mr. Arthur Lap Tat Wong, as the chairman of the special committee, and Mr. Hon Sang Lee, to evaluate and consider the Proposal Letter. On December 30, 2020, we announced that the special committee has retained Duff & Phelps, LLC as its independent financial advisor and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP as its U.S. legal counsel to assist it in this process. As of the date of this annual report, no decisions have been made with respect to the Proposal Letter or any alternative strategic option that we may pursue. There can be no assurance that any definitive offer will be received, that any definitive agreement will be executed relating to the transaction contemplated by the Proposal Letter or that any other transaction will be approved or consummated. Moreover, the proposal or any alternative strategic option, whether or not consummated, presents a risk of diverting management focus, employee attention and resources from other strategic opportunities and from operational matters. Also, certain events and developments relating to the proposal may increase the volatility of the trading price of the ADSs. Furthermore, we could be subject to potential lawsuits in connection with the proposed transaction.
Our ability to broadcast our lectures live and to offer online learning modules on TTS depends upon the performance and reliability of our systems and the internet infrastructure and telecommunications networks in China.
We deliver live broadcasts of our lectures via a dedicated network provided by China Telecom and China Unicom to terminals located in selected learning centers with high student enrollment and via public internet infrastructure to other learning centers. Any unscheduled service interruption of the internet infrastructure and telecommunications networks in China could cause us to be unable to deliver these live broadcasts, forcing us to resort to using pre-recorded lectures in the event of such service interruptions. Our inability to broadcast live lectures during service interruptions may damage the quality of our education and student experience, which may hurt our reputation and negatively impact our financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, our gross profit and net income could be adversely affected if the prices that we pay for telecommunications and internet services rise significantly.
Our ability to offer online learning modules also depends on the performance and reliability of the internet infrastructure in China. Disruptions to the internet infrastructure of China may deny our students access to the learning functionalities on our TTS or TMOOC.cn, which may hinder students from effectively learning our education contents. Furthermore, increases in the traffic on TTS or TMOOC.cn could also strain the capacity of our existing computer systems, which could lead to slower response times or system failures. This would cause a disruption or suspension in our course offerings, which would hurt our brands and reputation and negatively affect our revenue growth. We may need to incur additional costs to improve our systems in order to accommodate increased demand if we anticipate that our systems cannot handle higher traffic volume in the future.
We have limited insurance coverage for our operations in China.
Insurance companies in China currently do not offer as extensive an array of insurance products as insurance companies do in more developed economies. We have determined that the risks of disruption or liability from our business, the loss or damage to our fixed assets, including our equipment and office furniture, the cost of insuring for these risks, and the difficulties associated with acquiring such insurance on commercially reasonable terms render it commercially impractical for us to have such insurance. We maintain property insurance policy covering two of our buildings in Yizhuang, Beijing for losses due to disasters, including fire, earthquake, flood. we do not have any other business interruption, litigation or property insurance coverage for our operations in China. Any uninsured occurrence of personal injury, loss or damage to fixed assets, or litigation or business disruption may result in the incurrence of substantial costs and the diversion of resources, which could have an adverse effect on our operating results.
Our business is subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may cause our operating results to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. This may result in volatility in and adversely affect the price of our ADSs.
We have experienced, and expect to continue to experience, seasonal fluctuations in our net revenues and results of operations, primarily due to seasonal changes in student enrollment. Historically, our courses tend to have the largest student enrollment, cash collection and net revenues in the third and fourth quarters. We generally generate less tuition fees in the first quarter of each year due to the Chinese New Year holiday. Our expenses, however, do not necessarily correspond to changes in our student enrollment and net revenues. We make investments in marketing and promotion, instructor recruitment and training and course development throughout the year. We expect quarterly fluctuations in our net revenues and results of operations to continue. These fluctuations could result in volatility and adversely affect the price of our ADSs. As our net revenues grow, these seasonal fluctuations may become more pronounced.
Higher labor costs and inflation in China may adversely affect our business and our profitability.
Labor costs in China have risen in recent years. We employed 10,181 employees in China as of December 31, 2020. The increases in labor cost may erode our profitability and materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, PRC government have promulgated some new laws and regulations to enhance labor protection in recent years, such as the Labor Contract Law and the Social Insurance Law, which are also expected to cause our labor costs to increase. As the interpretation and implementation of these new laws and regulations are still evolving, our employment practice may not be at all times be deemed in compliance with the new laws and regulations. If we are subject to severe penalties or incur significant liabilities in connection with labor disputes or investigation, our business and profitability may be adversely affected.
Although we have not in the past been materially affected by inflation since our inception, we can provide no assurance that we will not be affected in the future by higher rates of inflation in China.
We have granted share-based awards and may grant more share-based awards in the future, which may materially reduce our net income.
We adopted a share plan in 2008, or the 2008 Plan, that permits granting of options to purchase our ordinary shares, restricted shares (or share appreciation rights or other similar awards) and rights to purchase restricted shares. Under the 2008 Plan, the maximum aggregate number of ordinary shares that may be issued pursuant to all awards under our share plan is 8,184,990 shares. In February 2014, we adopted a 2014 share incentive plan, or the 2014 Plan. Pursuant to the 2014 Plan, we may issue options, restricted shares and restricted share units to our qualified employees, directors and consultants on a regular basis. The maximum aggregate number of shares which may be issued pursuant to all awards under the 2014 Plan, or the Award Pool, is 1,833,696, provided that the shares reserved in the Award Pool shall be increased on the first day of each calendar year, commencing with January 1, 2015, if the unissued shares reserved in the Award Pool on such day account for less than 2% of the total number of shares issued and outstanding on a fully-diluted basis on December 31 of the immediately preceding calendar year, as a result of which increase the shares unissued and reserved in the Award Pool immediately after each such increase shall equal 2% of the total number of shares issued and outstanding on a fully-diluted basis on December 31 of the immediately preceding calendar year. As a result of grants and potential future grants under the 2008 Plan and the 2014 Plan, we have incurred and will continue to incur share-based compensation expenses. As of December 31, 2020, the unrecognized compensation cost related to unvested options and non-vested shares amounted to RMB13.4 million and RMB14.8 million, respectively, which will be recognized over a weighted average period of 1.42 years and 2.63 years, respectively. Expenses associated with share-based compensation awards granted under our share plan may materially reduce our future net income. However, if we limit the size of grants under our share plan to minimize share-based compensation expenses, we may not be able to attract or retain key personnel.
Any natural catastrophes, severe weather conditions, health epidemics and other extraordinary events could severely disrupt our business operations.
The occurrence of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods, typhoons, tsunamis or any acts of terrorism may result in significant property damages as well as loss of revenues due to interruptions in our business operations. In addition to COVID-19, health epidemics such as outbreaks, Zika, Ebola, avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or the influenza A (H1N1), and severe weather conditions such as snow storm and hazardous air pollution, as well as the government measures adopted in response to these events, could require the temporary closure of our offices and learning centers and quarantines of our employees.
Furthermore, our ability to broadcast live lectures and provide our education services through TTS or TMOOC.cn depends on the continuing operation of our technology system, which is vulnerable to damage or interruption from natural catastrophes and other extraordinary events. Our disaster recovery planning cannot account for every conceivable possibility. Any damage to or failure of our technology system could result in interruptions in our services, and our brands could be damaged if students believe our systems are unreliable. Such disruptions could severely interfere with our business operations and adversely affect our results of operations.
Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure
If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for holding our ICP license do not comply with applicable PRC laws and regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties.
Prior to 2012, we conducted a substantial portion of our operations through our consolidated VIEs and their subsidiaries and schools. On January 30, 2012, the PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (amended) became effective, which listed professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. On April 10, 2015, the new PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (amended) became effective, which listed non-accredited professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. On July 28, 2017, the new PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (amended) became effective, which listed non-accredited professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. On January 27, 2021, the new Catalog of Industries for Encouraged Foreign Investment (2020 Edition) became effective, which listed non-accredited professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. In light of such change of law, starting from the second half of 2012, we began to transfer the operations, including related assets and liabilities, of our consolidated VIEs to Tarena Technologies Inc., or Tarena Tech, and its subsidiaries and schools. All of our learning center operations of VIEs had been transferred to Tarena Tech and its subsidiaries and schools before 2018, while in 2019, 3 of our learning centers which provide online education services, were transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose and 3 schools were newly set up through our VIE.
In December 2016, we wound up Shanghai Tarena, one of our VIEs. Pursuant to the Provisions on Administration of Foreign Invested Telecommunications Enterprises promulgated by the State Council on December 11, 2001, as amended on September 10, 2008 and February 6, 2016, the ultimate foreign equity ownership in a value-added telecommunications services provider may not exceed 50%. Moreover, for a foreign investor to acquire any equity interest in a value-added telecommunication business in China, it must satisfy a number of stringent performance and operational experience requirements, including demonstrating good track records and experience in operating value-added telecommunication business overseas. Foreign investors that meet these requirements must obtain approvals from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT and the Ministry of Commerce, or the MOFCOM, or their authorized local counterparts, which retain considerable discretion in granting approvals. Pursuant to publicly available information, the PRC government has issued telecommunications business operating licenses to only a limited number of foreign-invested companies, all of which are Sino-foreign joint ventures engaging in the value-added telecommunication business. Although the Special Administrative Measures for Access of Foreign Investment (Negative List) (2020 Edition), or the Negative List, jointly issued by the NDRC and the MOFCOM on June 23, 2020 and effective from July 23, 2020, and Circular 196 promulgated by the MIIT in June 2015 allows a foreign investor to own up to 100% of the total equity interest in e-commerce business, domestic multi-party communication, storage and forwarding classes and call centers, we have not engaged in any such business. Due to the foreign ownership restriction on internet content and other value-added telecommunication services, we operate our TMOOC.cn and goto211.com websites through our VIE, Beijing Tarena, and such two websites have been included in the permitted operation scope under the ICP license held by Beijing Tarena. Beijing Tarena is 70% owned by Mr. Shaoyun Han, our founder and chairman, and 30% owned by Mr. Jianguang Li, our independent director. Mr. Han and Mr. Li are both PRC citizens. We entered into a series of contractual arrangements with Beijing Tarena and its shareholders, which enable us to:
|●||exercise effective financial control over Beijing Tarena;|
|●||receive substantially all of the economic benefits and bear the obligation to absorb substantially all of the losses of Beijing Tarena; and|
|●||have an exclusive option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in Beijing Tarena when and to the extent permitted by PRC law.|
Because of these contractual arrangements, we are the primary beneficiary of Beijing Tarena and consolidate its financial results in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. For a detailed discussion of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure.”
Han Kun Law Offices, our PRC legal counsel, is of the opinion that (i) the ownership structure of Beijing Tarena and Tarena Tech will not result in any violation of PRC laws or regulations currently in effect; and (ii) the contractual arrangements among Tarena Tech, Beijing Tarena and its shareholders governed by PRC law are valid, binding and enforceable, and will not result in any violation of PRC laws or regulations currently in effect. There are, however, substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current or future PRC laws and regulations concerning foreign investment in the PRC, and their application to and effect on the legality, binding effect and enforceability of the contractual arrangements. In particular, we cannot rule out the possibility that PRC regulatory authorities, courts or arbitral tribunals may in the future adopt a different or contrary interpretation or take a view that is inconsistent with the opinion of our PRC legal counsel. It is uncertain whether any new PRC laws or regulations relating to VIE will be adopted or if adopted, what they would provide. On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress approved the Foreign Investment law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020. Under the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investment” refers to the investment activities directly or indirectly conducted by foreign individuals, enterprises or other entities in China. Although the PRC Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, there is no assurance that foreign investment via contractual arrangement would not be interpreted as a type of indirect foreign investment activities under the definition of “foreign investment” in the future. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—Regulations on Value–Added Telecommunications Services—The Foreign Investment Law” and “—Risks Relating to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the newly enacted PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.”
If we or Beijing Tarena is found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, or such arrangement is determined as illegal and invalid by the PRC court, arbitral tribunal or regulatory authorities, or fail to obtain, maintain or renew any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities would have broad discretion to take action in dealing with such violations or failures, including:
|●||revoking the business and operating licenses of our PRC subsidiaries and Beijing Tarena;|
|●||discontinuing or restricting the conduct of any transactions between our PRC subsidiaries and Beijing Tarena;|
|●||imposing fines, confiscating the income from Beijing Tarena, or imposing other requirements with which we or Beijing Tarena may not be able to comply; or|
|●||requiring us to restructure our ownership structure or operations, including terminating the contractual arrangements with Beijing Tarena and deregistering the equity pledges of Beijing Tarena.|
We launched our TMOOC.cn online learning platform in March 2015 to cover a broader customer base. TMOOC.cn features sample lecture videos and class materials covering our course subjects. We offer our part-time class students the opportunity to complete a portion of lessons online using TMOOC.cn. TMOOC.cn is also important for our marketing efforts. Therefore, the imposition of any of these penalties could result in a material and adverse effect on our ability to provide online education services and conduct our marketing and promotional activities through TMOOC.cn. Beijing Tarena has added our TMOOC.cn website under its ICP license.
If the relevant PRC authorities determine that we can no longer own and operate certain of our learning centers through our PRC subsidiaries, we may need to restructure the ownership and operation of these learning centers (including possibly transferring these learning centers to our consolidated VIE), our business may be disrupted and we may be exposed to increased risks associated with the contractual arrangements relating to our consolidated VIE.
Prior to 2012, we operated a substantial portion of our learning centers through our consolidated VIE and their subsidiaries and schools. After the PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries became effective on January 30, 2012, amended in 2015 and 2017 and replaced by the new Catalog of Industries for Encouraged Foreign Investment (2020 Edition) on January 27, 2021, non-accredited foreign investment in professional education services is now “encouraged” in China and there is no limitation with respect to maximum percentage of foreign ownership in a company conducting business in this area.
In light of such change of law, starting from the second half of 2012, we began to transfer the operations, including related assets and liabilities, of our consolidated VIEs to our wholly-owned subsidiary, Tarena Tech, and its subsidiaries. All of our learning center operations of VIEs had been transferred to Tarena Tech and its subsidiaries and schools before 2018, while in 2018, one of our learning centers was transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose; while in 2019, 3 of our learning centers which provide online education services, were transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose and 3 schools were newly set up through our VIE. As of December 31, 2020, we operated 48 of our learning centers through private schools owned by subsidiaries of Tarena Tech. These 48 learning centers in the aggregate accounted for 35.1% of our adult student enrollments and accounted for 4.2% of our K-12 student enrollments in 2020, respectively.
However, there are still uncertainties under current PRC laws as to whether a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (such as Tarena Tech) is allowed to indirectly invest in and own private schools through its PRC subsidiaries. On the one hand, the Catalog of Industries for Encouraged Foreign Investment (2020 Edition) encourages and permit 100% foreign ownership of non-accredited professional training business in China and the Private Education Law does not expressly prohibit a subsidiary of a foreign-invested enterprise from investing in private schools. On the other hand, according to the Private Education Law, Chinese-foreign cooperation in operating schools is specifically governed by the Regulations on Operating Chinese-foreign Schools and its implementing rules, which requires specific approvals from those governmental authorities in charge of either human resources and social security or education and requires any foreign party to such Chinese-foreign cooperation in operating schools to be an educational institution with relevant experience in providing educational services outside of China. In addition, the Regulations on Operating Chinese-foreign Schools prohibits foreign institutions or individuals from independently establishing schools which provide educational services mainly for Chinese citizens in China. In practice, different local authorities have different views and administrative policies on whether foreign institutions or individuals are permitted to use their direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiary incorporated in China to establish a school under the Private Education Law without violating the Regulations on Operating Chinese-foreign Schools. As of December 31, 2020, 45 private schools sponsored by our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China have obtained private school operating permits, and based on the results of verbal inquiries with the relevant governmental authorities of human resources and social security or education, we believe that the relevant government authorities have not challenged and are unlikely to challenge the ownership structure of our schools. However, if the relevant PRC government authorities determine in the future that we can no longer own and operate our schools and their related learning centers through our PRC subsidiaries, which are considered ineligible to act as sponsors of private schools, we may need to transfer these schools and the related learning centers to our consolidated VIE, which may severely disrupt our business and expose us to increased risks associated with the contractual arrangements relating to our consolidated VIE. See “—Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure.” If we fail to restructure the ownership and operation of these schools or otherwise accommodate requests from the relevant PRC human resources and social security or education regulatory authorities in a timely manner or to their satisfaction, we may be subject to fines, the suspension or ceasing of our operations or other penalties, which may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Any failure by Beijing Tarena or its shareholders to perform their obligations under our contractual arrangements with them would have an adverse effect on our business.
If Beijing Tarena or its shareholders fail to perform their obligations under their contractual arrangements with us, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend additional resources to enforce such arrangements. We may also have to rely on legal remedies under PRC law, including seeking specific performance or injunctive relief, and claiming damages, which we cannot assure you will be effective. For example, if the shareholders of Beijing Tarena were to refuse to transfer their equity interest in Beijing Tarena to us or our designee if we exercise the exclusive option agreements pursuant to these contractual arrangements, or if they were otherwise to act in bad faith toward us, then we may have to take legal actions to compel them to perform their contractual obligations.
All the agreements under our contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in China. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The legal system in the PRC is not as developed as in some other jurisdictions, such as the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. Under PRC law, if the losing parties fail to carry out the arbitration awards within a prescribed time limit, the prevailing parties may only enforce the arbitration awards in PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which would require additional expenses and delay. In the event we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective financial control over Beijing Tarena, and our ability to conduct our business may be negatively affected.
If we had direct ownership of Beijing Tarena, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to effect changes in the board of directors of Beijing Tarena, which in turn could effect changes, subject to any applicable fiduciary obligations, at the management level. However, under the current contractual arrangements, we rely on the performance by Beijing Tarena and its shareholders of their obligations under the contracts to exercise control over Beijing Tarena. Therefore, our contractual arrangements with Beijing Tarena may not be as effective in ensuring our control over the relevant portion of our business operations as direct ownership would be.
The shareholders of Beijing Tarena may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
We have designated individuals who are PRC nationals to be the shareholders of Beijing Tarena. The equity interests of Beijing Tarena are held by Mr. Shaoyun Han and Mr. Jianguang Li. The interests of these individuals as the shareholders of Beijing Tarena may differ from the interests of our company as a whole. These shareholders may breach, or cause Beijing Tarena to breach, or refuse to renew, the existing contractual arrangements we have with them and Beijing Tarena, which would have a material and adverse effect on our ability to effectively control Beijing Tarena. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these shareholders will act in the best interests of our company or such conflicts will be resolved in our favor.
Currently, we do not have any arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these shareholders and our company, except that we could exercise our purchase option under the purchase option agreement with these shareholders to request him to transfer all of his equity ownership in Beijing Tarena to a PRC entity or individual designated by us. We rely on Mr. Shaoyun Han and Mr. Jianguang Li, who are both our directors and who owe a fiduciary duty to our company, to comply with the terms and conditions of the contractual arrangements. Such fiduciary duty requires directors to act in good faith and in the best interests of the company and not to use their positions for personal gains. If we cannot resolve any conflict of interest or dispute between us and the shareholders of Beijing Tarena, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and subject us to substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.
Our contractual arrangements with our consolidated VIE may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities, and a finding that we owe additional taxes could substantially reduce our consolidated net income and the value of your investment.
Under PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. We could face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements among Tarena Tech and our consolidated VIE did not represent an arms-length price and adjust our consolidated VIE’ income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in a reduction, for PRC tax purposes, of expense deductions recorded by our consolidated VIE, which could in turn increase their tax liabilities without reducing our tax liabilities. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment fees and other penalties to our consolidated VIE for under-paid taxes. Our consolidated net income may be materially and adversely affected if our tax liabilities increase or if we are found to be subject to late payment fees or other penalties.
If Beijing Tarena becomes the subject of a bankruptcy or liquidation proceeding, we may lose the ability to use and enjoy its assets, which could materially and adversely affect our business.
Due to foreign ownership restrictions in the online value-added telecommunications business, we hold our ICP license through contractual arrangements with Beijing Tarena as well as its shareholders. As part of these arrangements, Beijing Tarena holds assets that are important to the operation of our business, including the domain name and ICP license for our goto211.com, 61it.cn and TMOOC.cn websites.
We do not have priority pledges and liens against Beijing Tarena’s assets. As a contractual and property right matter, this lack of priority pledges and liens has remote risks. If Beijing Tarena undergoes an involuntary liquidation proceeding, third-party creditors may claim rights to some or all of its assets and we may not have priority against such third-party creditors on Beijing Tarena’s assets. If Beijing Tarena liquidates, we may take part in the liquidation procedures as a general creditor under the PRC Enterprise Bankruptcy Law and recover any outstanding liabilities owed by Beijing Tarena to Tarena Tech under the applicable service agreements. To ameliorate the risks of an involuntary liquidation proceeding initiated by a third-party creditor, we closely monitor the operations and finances of Beijing Tarena through carefully designed budgetary and internal controls to ensure that Beijing Tarena is well capitalized and is highly unlikely to trigger any third party monetary claims in excess of its assets and cash resources. Furthermore, Tarena Tech has the ability, if necessary, to provide financial support to Beijing Tarena to prevent such an involuntary liquidation.
If the shareholders of Beijing Tarena were to attempt to voluntarily dissolve or liquidate Beijing Tarena without obtaining our prior consent, we could effectively prevent such unauthorized voluntary liquidation by exercising our right to request Beijing Tarena’s shareholders to transfer all of their equity ownership interest to a PRC entity or individual designated by us in accordance with the exclusive option agreements with the shareholders of Beijing Tarena. In the event that the shareholders of Beijing Tarena initiate a voluntary liquidation proceeding without our authorization or attempts to distribute the retained earnings or assets of Beijing Tarena without our prior consent, we may need to resort to legal proceedings to enforce the terms of the contractual agreements. Any such legal proceeding may be costly and may divert our management’s time and attention away from the operation of our business, and the outcome of such legal proceeding would be uncertain. The uncertainties in legal proceedings to enforce the terms of the contractual agreements are mainly caused by PRC laws that prohibit domestic companies holding ICP licenses from assisting foreign investors in conducting value-added telecommunications business in China. Under the MIIT Circular, a domestic company that holds an ICP license is prohibited from leasing, transferring or selling the license to foreign investors in any form, and from providing any assistance, including providing resources, sites or facilities, to foreign investors that conduct value-added telecommunications business illegally in China.
If the custodians or authorized users of our controlling non-tangible assets, including chops and seals, fail to fulfill their responsibilities, or misappropriate or misuse these assets, our business and operations could be materially and adversely affected.
In China, legal documents for corporate transactions, including agreements and contracts such as the leases and sales contracts that our business relies on, are typically executed using the chop or seal of the signing entity or with the signature of a legal representative whose designation is registered and filed with the relevant local branch of the SAMR. We generally execute legal documents by affixing chops or seals, rather than having the designated legal representatives sign the documents.
We have three major types of chops—corporate chops, contract chops and finance chops. We use corporate chops generally for documents to be submitted to government agencies, such as applications for changing business scope, directors or company name, and for legal letters. We use contract chops for executing leases and commercial contracts. We use finance chops generally for making and collecting payments, including but not limited to issuing invoices. Use of corporate chops and contract chops must be approved by our legal department and administrative department, and use of finance chops must be approved by our finance department. The chops of our subsidiaries and our consolidated VIE are generally held by the relevant entities so that documents can be executed locally. Although we usually utilize chops to execute contracts, the registered legal representatives of our PRC subsidiaries and our consolidated VIE have the apparent authority to enter into contracts on behalf of such entities without chops, unless such contracts set forth otherwise. All designated legal representatives of our PRC subsidiaries and our consolidated VIE have signed employment agreements with us under which they agree to abide by duties they owe to us.
In order to maintain the physical security of our chops, we generally store them in secured locations accessible only to the department heads of the legal, administrative or finance departments. Our designated legal representatives generally do not have access to the chops. Although we monitor our employees, including the designated legal representatives of our PRC subsidiaries and our consolidated VIE, the procedures may not be sufficient to prevent all instances of abuse or negligence. There is a risk that our employees or designated legal representatives could abuse their authority, for example, by binding the relevant subsidiary or consolidated VIE with contracts against our interests, as we would be obligated to honor these contracts if the other contracting party acts in good faith in reliance on the apparent authority of our chops or signatures of our legal representatives. If any designated legal representative obtains control of the chop in an effort to obtain control over the relevant entity, we would need to have a shareholder or board resolution to designate a new legal representative and to take legal action to seek the return of the chop, apply for a new chop with the relevant authorities, or otherwise seek legal remedies for the legal representative’s misconduct. If any of the designated legal representatives obtains and misuses or misappropriates our chops and seals or other controlling intangible assets for whatever reason, we could experience disruption to our normal business operations. We may have to take corporate or legal action, which could involve significant time and resources to resolve while distracting management from our operations.
Risks Relating to Doing Business in China
Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections 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. The overall effect of legislation over the past three decades has significantly increased the protections afforded to various forms of foreign or private-sector investment in China. Our PRC subsidiaries are subject to various PRC laws and regulations generally applicable to companies in China. However, since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system continues to rapidly evolve, the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules are not always uniform and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involve uncertainties.
From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC administrative and court authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory terms, it may be more difficult to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy than in more developed legal systems. 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) some of which may have retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until some time after the violation. Such uncertainties, including uncertainty 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.
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 business operations are conducted 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 and by continued economic growth in China as a whole.
China’s 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 PRC government has implemented measures since the late 1970s emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, the reduction of state ownership of productive assets, and the establishment of improved corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of productive assets in China is still owned by the PRC government. In addition, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also exercises significant control over the PRC economic growth through allocating resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy, and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies.
While China’s economy has experienced significant growth over the past decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy, and the rate of growth has been slowing. Some of the government 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. Any stimulus measures designed to boost the Chinese economy may contribute to higher inflation, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
COVID-19 had a severe and negative impact on the Chinese and the global economy in 2020. Whether this will lead to a prolonged downturn in the economy is still unknown. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the global macroeconomic environment was facing numerous challenges. The growth rate of the Chinese economy has gradually slowed in recent years and the trend may continue. There is considerable uncertainty over the long-term effects of the expansionary monetary and fiscal policies which had been adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including the United States and China, even before 2020. Unrest, terrorist threats and the potential for war in the Middle East and elsewhere may increase market volatility across the globe. There have also been concerns about the relationship between China and other countries, including the surrounding Asian countries, which may potentially have economic effects. In particular, there is significant uncertainty about the future relationship between the United States and China with respect to trade policies, treaties, government regulations and tariffs. 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 may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Affected 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 on January 1, 2008, as amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018, an enterprise established outside the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC is considered a PRC “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 Circular 82, issued in April 2009, as amended in January 2014 and December 2017, 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. Circular 82 also clarified that dividends and other income paid by such “resident enterprises” will be considered to be PRC source income, subject to PRC withholding tax, currently at a rate of 10%, when recognized by shareholders that are non-PRC resident enterprises. Further to Circular 82, the SAT issued a bulletin, known as Bulletin 45, which took effect on September 1, 2011, to provide more guidance on the implementation of Circular 82 and clarify the reporting and filing obligations of such “Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated resident enterprises.” Bulletin 45 provides procedures and administrative details for the determination of PRC resident enterprise status and administration on post-determination matters. Although both Circular 82 and Bulletin 45 only apply to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises and there are currently no further rules or precedents governing the procedures and specific criteria for determining “de facto management body” for a company like ours, or PRC enterprise groups, not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreign individuals like us, the determining criteria set forth in Circular 82 and 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 enterprise status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises, PRC enterprise groups or by PRC or foreign individuals.
We do not believe that Tarena International, Inc. meets all of the conditions above and thus we do not believe that Tarena International, Inc. is a PRC resident enterprise, despite the fact that all of the members of our management team as well as the management team of our offshore holding company are located in China. However, if the PRC tax authorities determine that Tarena International, Inc. is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes, 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. Second, although dividends paid by one PRC tax resident to another PRC tax resident should qualify as “tax-exempt income” under the EIT Law, we cannot assure you that such dividends will not be subject to a 10% withholding tax, as the PRC foreign exchange control authorities, which enforce the withholding tax on dividends, and the PRC tax authorities have not yet issued guidance with respect to the processing of outbound remittances to entities that are not controlled by any PRC enterprise or enterprise group and treated as resident enterprises for PRC enterprise income tax purposes.
Finally, dividends we pay to our non-PRC enterprise shareholders and gains derived by our non-PRC shareholders from the sale of our shares may become subject to a 10% PRC withholding tax. In addition, future guidance may extend the withholding tax to dividends we pay to our non-PRC individual shareholders and gains derived by such shareholders from transferring our shares. In addition to the uncertainty in how the new “resident enterprise” classification could apply, it is also possible that the rules may change in the future, possibly with retroactive effect. If PRC income tax were imposed on gains realized through the transfer of our ADSs or ordinary shares or on dividends paid to our non-resident investors, the value of the investment in our ADSs or ordinary shares may be materially and adversely affected. Furthermore, our ADS holders whose jurisdictions of residence have tax treaties or arrangements with China may not qualify for benefits under such tax treaties or arrangements.
We face uncertainty regarding the PRC tax reporting obligations and consequences for certain indirect transfers of our operating company’s equity interests. Enhanced scrutiny over acquisition transactions by the PRC tax authorities may have a negative impact on potential acquisitions we may pursue in the future.
In connection with the EIT Law, the Ministry of Finance and the SAT jointly issued a Circular 59 in April 2009, and the SAT issued a Circular 698 in December 2009. Both Circular 59 and Circular 698 became effective retroactively on January 1, 2008.
On February 3, 2015, the SAT issued a Public Notice 2015 No.7, or Public Notice 7, to supersede the existing tax rules in relation to the Indirect Transfer under Circular 698. Under Public Notice 7, where a non-resident enterprise conducts an “indirect transfer” by transferring the equity interests in a PRC “resident enterprise” or other taxable assets indirectly by disposing of the equity interests in an overseas holding company, the non-resident enterprise, being the transferor, may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, if the indirect transfer is considered to be an abusive use of company structure without reasonable commercial purposes. In addition, Public Notice 7 provides clear criteria on how to assess reasonable commercial purposes and introduces safe harbor scenarios applicable to internal group restructurings. However, it also brings challenges to both the foreign transferor and transferee of the Indirect Transfer as they have to make self-assessment on whether the transaction should be subject to PRC tax and to file or withhold the PRC tax accordingly. Since Public Notice 7 was recently promulgated and it is unclear how this set of measures, and any future implementation rules thereof, will be interpreted, amended and implemented by the relevant governmental authorities. Where non-resident investors were involved in our private equity financing, if such transactions were determined by the tax authorities to lack reasonable commercial purpose, we and our non-resident investors may become at risk of being taxed under Public Notice 7 and may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with Public Notice 7 or to establish that we should not be taxed under Public Notice 7, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations or the non-resident investors’ investments in us.
In October 2017, the SAT promulgated the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Matters Concerning Withholding of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises at Source, or SAT Circular 37, which provides certain changes to the current withholding regime, repeals and replaces all other provisions under Circular 698 and amends certain provisions in Public Notice 7. For example, SAT Circular 37 requires that the transferor shall declare to the competent tax authority for payment of tax within seven (7) days after the tax payment obligation comes into being if the withholding agent fails to withhold the tax due or withhold the tax due in full. However, according to SAT Circular 37, if the withholding agent fails to withhold and remit the income tax payable, or is unable to perform its obligation in this regard, as long as the non-resident enterprise that earns the income 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.
By promulgating and implementing these circulars, the PRC tax authorities have enhanced their scrutiny over the direct or indirect transfer of equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise by a non-resident enterprise. The PRC tax authorities have the discretion under Circular 59, Public Notice 7 and SAT Circular 37 to make adjustments to the taxable capital gains based on the difference between the fair value of the equity interests transferred and the cost of investment. We may pursue acquisitions in the future that may involve complex corporate structures. If we are considered a non-resident enterprise under the EIT Law and if the PRC tax authorities make adjustments under Circular 59 or Public Notice 7 or SAT Circular 37, our income tax costs associated with such potential acquisitions will be increased, which may have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, the State Administration of Taxation promulgated Administrative Measures on the General Anti-Avoidance Rule (Trial), or GAAR Measures, on December 12, 2014, which shows the authority’s intention to fight against tax avoidance scheme that is adopted to obtain unwarranted tax benefit without reasonable commercial purpose. A press release, made by the State Administration of Taxation to clarify certain issues relating to the application of the GAAR Measures, stated that the GAAR Measures may be applicable if any general tax-avoidance scheme exists in the offshore indirect transfer of equity interests. Since GAAR Measures was recently promulgated and it is unclear how this set of measures, and any future implementation rules thereof, will be interpreted, amended and implemented by the relevant governmental authorities, we cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operation, future acquisitions or strategy.
We face risks and uncertainties with respect to the licensing requirement for internet audio-video programs, radio or television programs production and operation, internet publication, human resources intermediary service and filling requirement for commercial franchise.
In December 2007, the State Administration of Press Publication Radio Film and Television, or SAPPRFT, the predecessor of Administration of Radio and Television newly established in April 2018, and the MIIT, issued the Administrative Measures Regarding Internet Audio-Video Program Services, or the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, which became effective on January 31, 2008. Among other things, the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures stipulate that no entities or individuals may provide internet audio-video program services without a “License for Disseminating Audio-Video Programs through Information Network” issued by SAPPRFT or its local bureaus or completing the relevant registration with SAPPRFT or its local bureaus, and only entities wholly owned or controlled by the PRC government may engage in the production, editing, integration or consolidation, and transmission to the public through the internet, of audio-video programs, or the provision of audio-video program uploading and transmission services. In February 2008, SAPPRFT and MIIT jointly held a press conference in response to inquiries related to the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, during which SAPPRFT and MIIT officials indicated that providers of audio-video program services established prior to the promulgation date of the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures that do not have any regulatory non-compliance records can re-register with the relevant government authorities to continue their current business operations. After the conference, the two authorities published a press release that confirmed the above guidelines. There are still significant uncertainties relating to the interpretation and implementation of the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, in particular, the scope of “Internet Audio-Video Programs.”
Furthermore, on April 1, 2010, SAPPRFT promulgated the Test Implementation of the Tentative Categories of Internet Audio-Visual Program Services, or the Categories, which clarified the scope of internet audio-video programs services. According to the Categories, there are four categories of internet audio-visual program services which are further divided into seventeen sub-categories. The third sub-category to the second category covers the making and editing of certain specialized audio-video programs concerning, among other things, educational content, and broadcasting such content to the general public online.
We transmit our audio-video educational programs through our TTS system and TMOOC.cn to enrolled course participants. In addition, we provide audio-video program uploading and transmission services. As a result, we may be subject to the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures. If the governmental authorities determine that our provision of lecture videos on TTS and/or TMOOC.cn falls within the Internet Audio-Video Program Measures, we may not be able to obtain the License for Disseminating Audio-Video Programs through Information Network. If this occurs, we may become subject to significant penalties, fines, legal sanctions or an order to suspend our use of audio-video content, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. In addition, a producer or operator of radio or television programs is required to obtain a Radio and Television Program Production and Operation License under the PRC laws and regulations. We have obtained a Radio and Television Program Production and Operation License on June 27, 2019 for the audio-video educational programs on our TTS system, which is held by Beijing Tarena.
Furthermore, we offer videos of lectures on our website of TMOOC.cn. Governmental authorities may determine our online content services fall within the scope of “internet publishing,” and therefore require us to apply for an Internet Publishing License, which we have not obtained from SAPPRFT. We may not be able to obtain such a license if we are requested to obtain one in the future, and we may therefore become subject to penalties, fines, legal sanctions or be ordered to suspend the video content on the website, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Pursuant to the Provisions on the Administration of Human Resources Markets issued by SAIC in 2001 and as amended in 2005, 2015 and 2019, respectively, a human resources service intermediary refers to any entity which provides intermediary services for employers and any potential employees, and no entity may provide such services without a License for Human Resources Service. Any internet information service provider which provides intermediary services for employers and any potential employees via internet shall obtain such license. In addition, the Interim Regulations for the Human Resources Market, or the Interim Regulations, issued by the State Council in June 2018 further clarifies the requirements of human resources service licensing and filing. In accordance with the Interim Regulations, any commercial human resources service provider engaging in employment introduction information services or internet human resources information services for employers and individuals shall obtain a License for Human Resources Service and any commercial human resources service provider engaging in collection and release of human resources information shall complete the necessary filing with competent human resources and social security authorities.
In January 2015, we launched a self-developed job search website called Job Show (www.jobshow.cn), which serves as a dedicated open platform for our students and other job-seeking candidates to connect with corporate employers more effectively. Although we have not entered into any agreement with corporate employers or any job-seeking candidates, we source and list job opportunities from both IT and non-IT employers in China through the website, which may be deemed as a human resources service intermediary. If the relevant PRC government authorities determine that we shall obtain a License for Human Resources Services for the operation of Job Show and we fail to obtain such license, they may order us to cease such activities and if there is any illegal income, we may be subject confiscation of the illegal income and a fine of more than RMB10,000 and less than RMB50,000. If the relevant PRC government authorities determine that we shall filed with the competent authority for engaging in human resources services activities and we fail to complete such filings on time, the competent authority shall order us to correct, or we may be subject a fine more than RMB5,000 and less than RMB10,000 if such correction is not made. Shanxi Zhimujiang Human Resource Management Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tarena Tech, has obtained a License for Human Resources Services on April 29, 2019 for the job intermediary activities, and we are going to engaging in job intermediary activities through this company.
In addition, The State Council promulgated the Administrative Regulations on Commercial Franchise, or Franchise Regulations, on February 6, 2007. The MOFCOM promulgated the Administrative Measures on Filing of Commercial Franchise, or the Franchise Filling Measures, on April 30, 2007, as amended on December 12, 2011. Under these regulations, “franchise operations” refer to a license by an enterprise owner of registered trademarks, enterprise logos, patents, proprietary technologies or other business resources, or franchisor, to another business operator, the franchisee, to use such business resources owned by the franchisor through a contractual arrangement, where the franchisee operates the business according to a uniform business model stipulated under the contract and pay the franchisor franchising fees. A franchisor shall file with the MOFCOM or its local office within 15 days from the date of entering into a franchise contract with a franchisee for the first time. We have 45 franchisees for K-12 education program and 2 franchisees for adult professional education program in 2020. However, we have not filed with MOFCOM or its local office for the franchise operations regarding adult education program as of the date of this annual report, and we have been communicating, and will continue to communicate with the competent authority to complete such filling. If we fail to complete such filing, the competent authority may order us to complete such filling within a stipulated period and we may be subject to a fine between RMB10,000 and RMB50,000. If we still fail to complete such filing within a stipulated period, we may be subject to a fine between RMB50,000 and RMB100,000, and a public announcement may be issued against us.
PRC regulations establish complex approval procedures for some acquisitions of PRC companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China. The transfers of our learning centers from our consolidated VIE to our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China may be subject to such approval procedures, in which case we may need to restructure the ownership and operation of the affected learning centers, and as a result we may be exposed to increased risks associated with the contractual arrangements relating to our consolidated VIE.
Six PRC regulatory agencies promulgated regulations effective in September 2006 and amended in June 2009 that are commonly referred to as the M&A Rules. The M&A Rules establish procedures and requirements that could make some acquisitions of PRC companies by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex, including requirements in some instances that the MOFCOM be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. In addition, national security review rules issued by the PRC governmental authorities in 2011 require acquisitions by foreign investors of domestic companies engaged in military-related or certain other industries that are crucial to national security to be subject to prior security review. Moreover, the Anti-Monopoly Law requires that the MOFCOM shall be notified in advance of any concentration of undertaking if certain thresholds are triggered. We may expand our business in part by acquiring complementary businesses. Complying with the requirements of the M&A Rules, security review rules and other PRC regulations to complete such transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval from the MOFCOM, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
In addition, in accordance with the M&A Rules, approval of the MOFCOM is required for acquisitions of PRC domestic enterprises by foreign companies that are established or controlled by PRC domestic companies, enterprises or individuals related to the target PRC domestic enterprises, or “Related Party Acquisitions,” and the parties are not allowed to evade such requirements through investment by foreign investment enterprises in China or other ways. Although M&A Rules have become effective since September 2006, we are not aware of any precedent of approval by the MOFCOM of any Related Party Acquisition conducted by PRC domestic individuals. Starting from the second half of 2012, we began to transfer our operations, including related assets and liabilities, of our consolidated VIEs to our wholly-owned subsidiary, Tarena Tech, and its subsidiaries, either through transferring the companies that operate learning centers or that sponsor the schools, or through changing the schools’ sponsors. All of our learning center operations of VIEs had been transferred to Tarena Tech and its subsidiaries and schools before 2018, while in 2018, one of our learning centers was transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose; while in 2019, 3 of our learning centers which provide online education services, were transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose and 3 schools were newly set up through our VIE. As Mr. Shaoyun Han is a shareholder of both Tarena and our consolidated VIEs, even though the transfers of the companies from our consolidated VIEs to our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China are not “acquisitions by foreign investors of PRC domestic enterprises” under the M&A Rules, and Tarena Tech, our wholly foreign invested enterprise in PRC, was converted into a wholly foreign invested enterprise before the effective date of M&A Rules, the requirement for an approval from the MOFCOM may still be required for such transfers because of the above anti-evasion clause. Furthermore, it is unclear whether our transfers of the schools, which are not enterprises, from subsidiaries of our consolidated VIEs to our wholly-owned subsidiaries, could be regarded as Related Party Transactions under the M&A Rules. If the MOFCOM determines that our previous transfers of learning centers from our consolidated VIEs to our wholly-owned subsidiaries are Related Party Transactions under the M&A Rules and we fail to obtain the MOFCOM’s approvals on such transfers, the effectiveness of such transfers may be challenged and we may need to transfer these companies and schools, including the related learning centers, back to our consolidated VIE. Under such circumstances, our business may be disrupted and we may be exposed to increased risks associated with the contractual arrangements relating to our consolidated VIE. See “—Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure.”
PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiaries, or otherwise expose us to liability and penalties under PRC law.
The PRC State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or the SAFE, has promulgated regulations, including the Notice on Relevant Issues Relating to Domestic Residents’ Investment and Financing and Round-Trip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular No. 37, effective on July 4, 2014, and its appendixes, that require PRC residents, including PRC institutions and individuals, to register with local branch of SAFE in connection with their direct establishment or indirect control of an offshore entity, for the purpose of overseas investment and financing, with such PRC residents’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests, referred to in SAFE Circular No. 37 as a “special purpose vehicle.” SAFE Circular No. 37 further requires an amendment to the registration in the event of any significant changes with respect to the special purpose vehicle, such as an increase or decrease of capital contributed by PRC individuals, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material events. In the event that a PRC shareholder holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to fulfill the required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that special purpose vehicle may be prohibited from making profit distributions to the offshore parent and from carrying out subsequent cross-border foreign exchange activities, and the special purpose vehicle may be restricted in their ability to contribute additional capital into its PRC subsidiary. Further, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC law for foreign exchange evasion, including (i) the requirement by SAFE to return the foreign exchange remitted overseas within a period specified by SAFE, with a fine of up to 30% of the total amount of foreign exchange remitted overseas and deemed to have been evasive and (ii) in circumstances involving serious violations, a fine of no less than 30% of and up to the total amount of remitted foreign exchange deemed evasive. Furthermore, the persons-in-charge and other persons at our PRC subsidiaries who are held directly liable for the violations may be subject to criminal sanctions. On February 28, 2015, SAFE promulgated a Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Foreign Exchange Administration Policy on Direct Investment, or SAFE Notice 13, which became effective on June 1, 2015. In accordance with SAFE Notice 13, entities and individuals are required to apply for foreign exchange registration of foreign direct investment and overseas direct investment, including those required under the SAFE Circular No. 37, with qualified banks, instead of SAFE. The qualified banks, under the supervision of SAFE, directly examine the applications and conduct the registration.
These regulations apply to our direct and indirect shareholders who are PRC residents and may apply to any offshore acquisitions or share transfers that we make in the future if our shares are issued to PRC residents. We have requested PRC residents who we know currently hold direct or indirect interests in our company to make the necessary applications, filings and amendments as required under SAFE Circular No. 37 and other related rules.
We have used our best efforts to notify all of our shareholders who are PRC citizens and hold interests in us to register with the local SAFE branch and/or qualified banks as required under SAFE Circular No. 37 and SAFE Notice 13. However, in practice, different local SAFE branches and/or qualified banks may have different views and procedures on the application and implementation of SAFE regulations. Therefore, we cannot assure you that they can successfully amend their foreign exchange registrations with the local SAFE branch and/or qualified banks in full compliance with applicable laws. In addition, we may not be informed of the identities of all the PRC residents holding direct or indirect interest in our company, and we cannot provide any assurances that these PRC residents will comply with our request to make or obtain any applicable registrations or comply with other requirements required by SAFE Circular No. 37, SAFE Notice 13 or other related rules. A failure by any of our current or future shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC residents to comply with the SAFE regulations may subject us to fines or other legal sanctions, restrict our cross-border investment activities, limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to make distributions or pay dividends or affect our ownership structure, which could adversely affect our business and prospects.
Furthermore, it is unclear how these regulations, and any future regulation concerning offshore or cross-border transactions, will be interpreted, amended and implemented by the relevant government authorities. We cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operations or future strategy. For example, we may be subject to a more stringent review and approval process with respect to our foreign exchange activities, such as remittance of dividends and foreign-currency-denominated borrowings, which may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if we decide to acquire a PRC domestic company, either we or the owners of such company, as the case may be, may not be able to obtain the necessary approvals or complete the necessary filings and registrations required by the foreign exchange regulations. This may restrict our ability to implement our acquisition strategy and could adversely affect our business and prospects.
Failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee share ownership plans or share option plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.
In February 2012, SAFE promulgated the Notices on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plans of Overseas Publicly-Listed Companies, or the Stock Option Rules. Under the Stock Option Rules and other relevant rules and regulations, PRC residents who participate in stock incentive plan in an overseas publicly-listed company are required to register with SAFE or its local branch and complete certain other procedures. Participants of a stock incentive plan who are PRC residents must retain a qualified PRC agent, which could be a PRC subsidiary of the overseas publicly-listed company or another qualified institution selected by the PRC subsidiary, to conduct the SAFE registration and other procedures with respect to the stock incentive plan on behalf of its participants. The participants must also retain an overseas entrusted institution to handle matters in connection with their exercise of stock options, the purchase and sale of corresponding stocks or interests and fund transfers. In addition, the PRC agent is required to amend the SAFE registration with respect to the stock incentive plan if there is any material change to the stock incentive plan, the PRC agent or the overseas entrusted institution or other material changes. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—Regulations on Stock Incentive Plans.” We and our PRC employees who have been granted share options and restricted share units are subject to these regulations and we have completed the registrations of our stock incentive plans, namely the 2008 Plan and the 2014 Plan, with the local SAFE as required by PRC law. Failure of our PRC share option holders or restricted shareholders to complete their SAFE registrations may subject these PRC residents to fines and legal sanctions and may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital into our PRC subsidiaries, limited our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to us, or otherwise materially and adversely affect our business.
PRC regulation of direct investment and loans by offshore holding companies to PRC entities and governmental control of currency conversion may delay or limit us from using the proceeds of offshore offerings to make additional capital contributions or loans to our PRC subsidiaries.
Any capital contributions or loans that we, as an offshore entity, make to our PRC subsidiaries are subject to PRC regulations. Under PRC laws and regulations, we are permitted to utilize the proceeds from offshore offerings to fund our existing PRC subsidiaries only through loans or capital contributions or to establish new PRC subsidiaries, subject to applicable government registration and approval requirements. None of our loans to a PRC subsidiary can exceed the difference between its total amount of investment and its registered capital approved under relevant PRC laws or two and a half times of the net assets provided in the latest audited financial report of such PRC subsidiary, as applicable, and the loans must be registered with the local branch of SAFE. Our capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries or establishment of new PRC subsidiaries shall be recorded with the MOFCOM or its local counterpart. We cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the necessary registration or obtain the necessary approval on a timely basis, or at all. If we fail to complete the necessary registration or obtain the necessary approval, our ability to make loans or equity contributions to our PRC subsidiaries may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our PRC subsidiaries’ liquidity and their ability to fund their working capital and expansion projects and meet their obligations and commitments.
On March 30, 2015, the SAFE promulgated Circular 19, which expands a pilot reform of the administration of the settlement of the foreign exchange capitals of foreign-invested enterprises nationwide. Circular 19 allows all foreign-invested enterprises established in the PRC to use their foreign exchange capitals to make equity investments and removes certain other restrictions provided under previous laws and regulations promulgated by the SAFE for these enterprises. However, Circular 19 continues to prohibit foreign-invested enterprises from, among other things, using the Renminbi fund converted from its foreign exchange capitals for expenditure beyond its business scope, and providing entrusted loans or repaying loans between non-financial enterprises. On June 9, 2016, the SAFE promulgated Circular 16, the application scope of which expands from only the capital of foreign-invested enterprises to the capital, foreign debt proceeds and proceeds from overseas public offering. Furthermore, Circular 16 allows foreign-invested enterprises to use their foreign exchange capitals under capital account to the extent permitted by the relevant laws and regulations, and removes certain prohibitions on using the Renminbi fund converted from the foreign exchange capitals under Circular 19, such as prohibitions on providing loans to the affiliated enterprises of such foreign-invested enterprises or repaying loans between non-financial enterprises. Violations of SAFE Circular 19 and Circular 16 could result in severe monetary or other penalties. On October 23, 2019, the SAFE issued the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Further Facilitating Cross-border Trade and Investment, which, among other things, expanded the use of foreign exchange capital to domestic equity investments. Non-investment foreign-funded enterprises are allowed to lawfully make domestic equity investments by using capital funds on the premise without violation to prevailing special administrative measures for access of foreign investments (negative list) and the authenticity and compliance with the regulations of domestic investment projects.
Our PRC subsidiaries are subject to restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements.
We are a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. We may need dividends and other distributions on equity from our PRC subsidiaries to satisfy our liquidity requirements. Current PRC regulations permit our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us only out of their accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, our PRC subsidiaries are required to set aside at least 10% of their respective accumulated profits each year, if any, to fund certain reserve funds until the total amount set aside reaches 50% of their respective registered capital. Our PRC subsidiaries may also allocate a portion of its after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards to employee welfare and bonus funds at their discretion. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends. Furthermore, if our PRC subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments to us. Any limitation on the ability of our subsidiaries to distribute dividends to us or may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements.
In addition, the EIT Law, and its implementation rules provide that withholding tax rate of up to 10% will be applicable to dividends payable by Chinese companies to non-PRC-resident enterprises unless otherwise exempted or reduced according to treaties or arrangements between the PRC central government and governments of other countries or regions where the non-PRC-resident enterprises are incorporated.
We may not be able to obtain certain treaty benefits on dividends paid to us by our PRC subsidiary through our Hong Kong Subsidiary.
Under the EIT Law and its implementation rules, dividends generated from retained earnings from a PRC company and distributed to a foreign parent company are subject to a withholding tax rate of 10% unless the foreign parent’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a preferential withholding arrangement. Pursuant to the Arrangement between Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income, or the Hong Kong Tax Treaty, which became effective on December 8, 2006, a company incorporated in Hong Kong, such as Tarena HK, will be subject to withholding income tax at a rate of 5% on dividends it receives from its PRC subsidiary if it holds a 25% or more interest in that particular PRC subsidiary, or 10% if it holds less than a 25% interest in that subsidiary. Pursuant to the Notice of the SAT on the Issues concerning the Application of the Dividend Clauses of Tax Agreements, or Circular 81, the 5% withholding tax rate does not automatically apply and certain requirements must be satisfied, including without limitation that (a) the Hong Kong enterprise must be the beneficial owner of the relevant dividends; and (b) the Hong Kong enterprise must directly hold at least 25% share ownership in the PRC enterprise during the 12 consecutive months preceding its receipt of the dividends. However, a transaction or arrangement entered into for the primary purpose of enjoying a preferential tax treatment should not be a reason for the application of the preferential tax treatment under the Hong Kong Tax Treaty. If a taxpayer inappropriately is entitled to such preferential tax treatment, the competent tax authority has the power to make appropriate adjustments. According to the Circular on Several Issues regarding the “Beneficial Owner” in Tax Treaties, which was issued on February 3, 2018 by the SAT and has taken effect from April 1, 2018, or Circular 9, when determining the applicant’s status of the “beneficial owner” regarding tax treatments in connection with dividends, interests or royalties in the tax treaties, several factors, including without limitation whether the applicant is obligated to pay more than 50% of his or her income in twelve months to residents in a third country or region, whether the business operated by the applicant constitutes the actual business activities, and whether the counterparty country or region to the tax treaties levies any tax or grants tax exemption on relevant incomes or levies tax at an extremely low rate, will be taken into account, and such determination will be analyzed according to the actual circumstances of the specific cases. Circular 9 further provides that applicants who intend to prove his or her status of the “beneficial owner” shall submit the relevant documents to the relevant tax authority according to the Administrative Measures for Tax Convention Treatment for Non-resident Taxpayers, or Circular 60, which was replaced and repealed by Administrative Measures for Non-Resident Taxpayers to Enjoy Treatments under Tax Treaties, or Circular 35. Circular 60 provides that non-resident enterprises are not required to obtain pre-approval from the relevant tax authority in order to enjoy the reduced withholding tax rate. Instead, non-resident enterprises and their withholding agents may, by self-assessment and on confirmation that the prescribed criteria to enjoy the tax treaty benefits are met, directly apply the reduced withholding tax rate, and file necessary forms and supporting documents when performing tax filings, which will be subject to post-tax filing examinations by the relevant tax authorities. Circular 35, which was issued in October 2019 by the SAT and became effective on January 1, 2020, sets forth similar rules with Circular 60 that non-resident enterprises and their withholding agents shall enjoy treaty benefit by means of “self-judgment of eligibility, declaration of entitlement, and retention of relevant materials for future reference.” However, if a competent tax authority finds out that it is necessary to apply the general anti-tax avoidance rules, it may start general investigation procedures for anti-tax avoidance and adopt corresponding measures for subsequent administration. As a result, although our PRC subsidiary, Tarena Hangzhou, is currently wholly owned by our Hong Kong subsidiary, Tarena HK, we cannot assure you that we would be entitled to the tax treaty benefits and enjoy the favorable 5% rate applicable under the Hong Kong Tax Treaty on dividends. If Tarena HK cannot be recognized as the beneficial owner of the dividends to be paid by Tarena Hangzhou to us, such dividends will be subject to a normal withholding tax of 10% as provided by the EIT Law. Besides, according to Circular 81 and Circular 35, if the relevant tax authorities consider the transactions or arrangements we have are for the primary purpose of enjoying a preferential tax treatment, the relevant tax authorities may adjust the preferential withholding tax in the future.
Discontinuation or revocation of any of the preferential tax treatments and government subsidies or imposition of any additional taxes and surcharges could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our PRC subsidiaries are incorporated in the PRC and governed by applicable PRC tax laws and regulations. The EIT Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008 and as amended on December 29, 2018 and its Implementing Rules, which became effective on January 1, 2008 and as amended on December 29, 2018 and April 23, 2019, respectively, have adopted a uniform statutory enterprise income tax rate of 25% to all enterprises in China including foreign-invested enterprises. The EIT Law and its implementation rules also permit qualified “high and new technology enterprises,” or HNTEs, to enjoy a preferential enterprise income tax rate of 15% upon filing with relevant tax authorities. The qualification as a HNTE generally has a valid term of three years and the renewal of such qualification is subject to review by the relevant authorities in China. Tarena Tech obtained its HNTE certificate in 2009 and renewed its HNTE certificate in 2012, 2015 and again in 2018, and is eligible to enjoy a preferential tax rate of 15% until the fourth quarter of 2021. If Tarena Tech fails to maintain its HNTE qualification or renew its qualification when its current term expires, its applicable enterprise income tax rate may increase to 25%, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, Tarena Hangzhou, one of our PRC subsidiaries, was established in 2013 and is qualified as a “newly established software enterprise,” which entitles it to two years of full tax exemption followed by three years of 50% tax exemption, commencing from the year in which its taxable income is greater than zero, which was 2014. Tarena Hangzhou no longer has the 50% tax exemption since the beginning of 2019. Tarena Hangzhou has also received financial subsidies from PRC local government authority in 2013, 2015 and 2016. In 2016, Tarena Hangzhou acquired Hanru Education & Technology Co., Ltd., or Hanru Hangzhou, which was qualified as an eligible software enterprise and entitled to a full tax exemption of two years followed by a 50% tax exemption of three years, commencing from 2016. In addition, Hanru Hangzhou obtained its HNTE certificate in 2019 and has started to enjoy a preferential tax rate of 15% in 2021.
Preferential tax treatments and financial subsidies are subject to review and may be adjusted or revoked at any time in the future. The discontinuation of any preferential tax treatments or financial subsidies or imposition of any additional taxes could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
It may be difficult for overseas regulators to conduct investigation or collect evidence within China.
Shareholder claims or regulatory investigations that are common in jurisdictions outside China are difficult to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in China. For example, in China, there are significant legal and other obstacles to providing information needed for regulatory investigations or litigation initiated outside China. Although the authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, such cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the United States or other jurisdictions may not be efficient in the absence of a mutual and practical cooperation mechanism. Furthermore, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law, or Article 177, which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC, and without the consent by the Chinese securities regulatory authorities and the other competent governmental agencies, no entity or individual may provide documents or materials related to securities business to any foreign party. While detailed interpretation of or implementation rules under Article 177 have yet to be promulgated, the inability of an overseas securities regulator to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within China and the potential obstacles for information provision may further increase difficulties you face in protecting your interests. See also “—Risks Related to Our ADSs—You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law” for risks associated with investing in us as a Cayman Islands company.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
The value of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is affected by, among other things, changes in China’s political and economic conditions and China’s foreign exchange policies. The PRC government changed its decade-old policy of pegging the value of the RMB to the U.S. dollar in 2005. However, the People’s Bank of China regularly intervenes in the foreign exchange market to limit fluctuations in Renminbi exchange rates and achieve policy goals. Since June 2010, the RMB has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. In August 2015, the People’s Bank of China changed the way it calculates the mid-point price of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar, requiring the market-makers who submit for reference rates to consider the previous day’s closing spot rate, foreign-exchange demand and supply as well as changes in major currency rates. On November 30, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the regular five-year review of the basket of currencies that make up the Special Drawing Right, or the SDR, and decided that with effect from October 1, 2016, Renminbi is determined to be a freely usable currency and will be included in the SDR basket as a fifth currency, along with the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound. In 2018, the RMB has depreciated significantly in the backdrop of a surging U.S. dollar and persistent capital outflows of China. With the development of the foreign exchange market and progress towards interest rate liberalization and Renminbi internationalization, the PRC government may in the future announce further changes to the exchange rate system and we cannot assure you that the Renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. 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.
Significant revaluation of the RMB may have a material and adverse effect on your investment. For example, to the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars into RMB for capital expenditures and working capital and other business purposes, appreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the RMB amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, if we decide to convert our RMB into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our ordinary shares or ADSs or for other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the RMB would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us. In addition, appreciation or depreciation in the value of the RMB relative to U.S. dollars would affect the U.S. dollar equivalent of our earnings, regardless of any underlying change in our business or results of operations.
In January 2016, we entered into a foreign currency forward contract with China Merchants Bank Co., Ltd. The notional amounts of the foreign currency forward contracts were RMB564.1 million and the settlement date was on May 19, 2016. We incurred a loss of RMB12.9 million as a result of such forward foreign currency contract in 2016. The contract expired in May 2017, and we have not entered into any new foreign currency forward contract since then. Due to the fluctuation in the exchange rate between U.S. dollars and RMB, we may decide to enter into additional foreign currency contract 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 Renminbi into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the newly enacted PRC Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.
On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress approved the PRC Foreign Investment Law, or the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The Foreign Investment Law embodies an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. However, since it is relatively new, uncertainties still exist in relation to its interpretation and implementation. For instance, under the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investment” refers to the investment activities directly or indirectly conducted by foreign individuals, enterprises or other entities in China. Though the Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, there is no assurance that foreign investment via contractual arrangement would not be interpreted as a type of indirect foreign investment activities under the definition of “foreign investment” in the future. In addition, the definition contains a catch-all provision which includes investments made by foreign investors through means stipulated in laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, it still leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions promulgated by the State Council to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. In any of these cases, it will be uncertain whether our contractual arrangements will be deemed to be in violation of the market access requirements for foreign investment under the PRC laws and regulations. In addition, the Supreme People’s Court issued Certain Opinions Concerning the Application of the Foreign Investment Law on December 16, 2019, or the Foreign Investment Law Judicial Interpretations, which provides that investment contract in relation to the investment by foreign investor in a field which is prohibited from foreign investment under the Negative List may be invalidated by the courts. Although we believe contractual arrangements would not be deemed as “investment contract” under the Foreign Investment Law Judicial Interpretations, we cannot assure you that the PRC courts would take the same view as ours. Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. Failure to take timely and appropriate measures to cope with any of these or similar regulatory compliance challenges could materially and adversely affect our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.
The tension in international trade and rising political tension, particularly between U.S. and China, may adversely impact our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Although cross-border business may not be an area of our focus, if we plan to expand our business internationally in the future, any unfavorable government policies on international trade, such as capital controls or tariffs, may affect the demand for our products and services, impact our competitive position, or prevent us from being able to conduct business in certain countries. If any new tariffs, legislation, or regulations are implemented, or if existing trade agreements are renegotiated, such changes could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations. Recently, there have been heightened tensions in international economic relations, such as the one between the United States and China. The U.S. government has recently imposed, and has recently proposed to impose additional, new, or higher tariffs on certain products imported from China to penalize China for what it characterizes as unfair trade practices. China has responded by imposing, and proposing to impose additional, new, or higher tariffs on certain products imported from the United States. Following mutual retaliatory actions for months, on January 15, 2020, the United States and China entered into the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China as a phase one trade deal, effective on February 14, 2020. It remains unclear what additional actions, if any, will be taken by the U.S. or other governments with respect to international trade, tax policy related to international commerce, or other trade matters.
The situation is further complicated by the political tensions between the United States and China that escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of the PRC National People’s Congress’ decision on Hong Kong national security legislation, sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of Treasury on certain officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the central government of the PRC and the executive orders issued by U.S. President in August 2020 that prohibit certain transactions with certain China-based companies and their respective subsidiaries. Against this backdrop, China has implemented, and may further implement, measures in response to the changing trade policies, treaties, tariffs and sanctions and restrictions against Chinese companies initiated by the U.S. government. Rising trade and political tensions could reduce levels of trade, investments, technological exchanges and other economic activities between China and other countries, which would have an adverse effect on global economic conditions, the stability of global financial markets, and international trade policies.
Although the direct impact of the current international trade and political tension, and any escalation of such tension, on the online retail industry in China is uncertain, the negative impact on general, economic, political and social conditions may adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Relating to Our ADSs
The trading prices of our ADSs have fluctuated and may be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.
The trading prices of our ADSs have fluctuated since we first listed our ADSs. The trading prices of our ADSs may continue to fluctuate and be volatile due to factors beyond our control. This may happen because of broad market and industry factors, like the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States. In recent years, the widespread negative publicity of alleged fraudulent accounting practices and poor corporate governance of certain U.S. public companies with operations in China were believed to have negatively affected investors’ perception and sentiment towards companies with connection with China, which significantly and negatively affected the trading prices of some companies’ securities listed in the U.S. Any similar negative publicity or sentiment may affect the performances of our ADSs. A number of PRC companies have recently listed or are in the process of listing their securities on U.S. stock markets. The securities of some of these companies have experienced significant volatility, including price declines in connection with their initial public offerings. The trading performances of these PRC companies’ securities after their offerings may affect the attitudes of investors toward PRC companies listed in the United States in general and consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs, regardless of our actual operating performance. Furthermore, the stock market in general has experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of companies like us. These broad market and industry factors may materially reduce the market price of our ADSs, regardless of our operating performance.
In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for our ADSs may be highly volatile for factors specific to our own operations, including the following:
|●||the financial projections that we may choose to provide to the public, any changes in those projections or our failure for any reason to meet those projections;|
|●||variations in our net revenues, net income and cash flow;|
|●||announcements of new investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, or joint ventures;|
|●||announcements of new services and expansions by us or our competitors;|
|●||changes in financial estimates by securities analysts;|
|●||additions or departures of key personnel;|
|●||release of lock-up or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding equity securities or sales of additional equity securities;|
|●||potential litigation, regulatory investigations or other legal proceedings involving us; and|
|●||detrimental negative publicity about us or our industry.|
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and price at which our ADSs will trade.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our ADSs, the market price for our ADSs and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our ADSs is influenced by research or reports that industry or securities analysts publish about our business. If one or more analysts who cover us downgrade our ADSs or publish unfavorable research about us, the market price for our ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause the market price or trading volume for our ADSs to decline.
Our dual class share structure with different voting rights will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.
Our ordinary shares are divided into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B ordinary shares are entitled to ten votes per share, with Class A and Class B ordinary shares voting together as one class on all matters subject to a shareholders’ vote. As of February 28, 2021, our Class B ordinary shares represent 13% of our total outstanding ordinary shares on an as-converted basis and entitle their holders to 59.8% of our total voting power.
As a result of the dual class share structure and the concentration of ownership, holders of our Class B ordinary shares have substantial influence over our business, including decisions regarding mergers, consolidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. They may take actions that are not in the best interest of us or our other shareholders. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could deprive our shareholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of our ADSs. This concentrated control will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions that holders of Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial. For more information regarding our principal shareholders and their affiliated entities, see “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions.”
The sale or availability for sale of substantial amounts of our ADSs could adversely affect their market price.
Sales of substantial amounts of our ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could adversely affect the market price of our ADSs and could materially impair our ability to raise capital through equity offerings in the future. We cannot predict what effect, if any, market sales of securities held by our significant shareholders or any other shareholder or the availability of these securities for future sale will have on the market price of our ADSs. In addition, Talent Fortune Investment Limited, an affiliate of KKR & Co. L.P., is entitled to certain registration rights. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the public market, or the perception that such sales could occur, could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.
We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders of our ADSs or Class A ordinary shares.
A non-U.S. corporation, such as our company, will be classified as a passive foreign investment company (a “PFIC”) for U.S. federal income tax purposes for any taxable year, if either (i) 75% or more of its gross income for such year consists of certain types of “passive” income, or (ii) 50% or more of the value of its assets (based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets) during such year is attributable to assets that produce passive income or are held for the production of passive income (the “asset test”). A separate determination must be made after the close of each taxable year as to whether a non-U.S. corporation is a PFIC for that year. Passive income generally includes dividends, interest, royalties, rents, annuities, net gains from the sale or exchange of property producing such income and net foreign currency gains. For this purpose, cash and assets readily convertible into cash are categorized as passive assets and our unbooked intangibles associated with active business activity are taken into account as non-passive assets.
In addition, a non-U.S. corporation will be treated as owning a proportionate share of the assets and earning a proportionate share of the income of any other corporation in which we own, directly or indirectly, 25% or more (by value) of the stock. Although the law in this regard is unclear, we treat our VIE as being beneficially owned by us for U.S. federal income tax purposes because we control the entity’s management decisions, we are entitled to substantially all of the economic benefits associated with the entity, and, as a result, we consolidate the entity’s results of operations in our U.S. GAAP financial statements. If it was determined, however, that we are not the owner of the VIE for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we may be treated as a PFIC for the current taxable year and any subsequent taxable year.
Based on the market price of our ADSs and outstanding Class A ordinary shares, the value of our assets and the composition of our assets and income, we do not believe that we were a PFIC for our taxable year ended December 31, 2020 and we do not expect to be classified as a PFIC in the foreseeable future.
While we do not expect to become a PFIC, because the value of our assets for purposes of the asset test will generally be determined by reference to the market price of our ADSs or Class A ordinary shares, fluctuations in the market price of our ADSs or Class A ordinary shares may cause us to become a PFIC for the current or subsequent taxable years. The determination of whether we will be or become a PFIC will also depend, in part, on the composition of our income and assets, which will be affected by how, and how quickly, we use our liquid assets. Under circumstances where we determine not to deploy significant amounts of cash for active purposes, our risk of being classified as a PFIC may substantially increase. In addition, because there are uncertainties in the application of the relevant rules and because PFIC status is a fact-intensive determination made on an annual basis, there can be no assurance that we will not be a PFIC for the current or any future taxable year.
If we were treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder (defined below) held an ADS or a Class A ordinary share, certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to the U.S. Holder. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—United States Federal Income Taxation—Passive Foreign Investment Company Considerations.”
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law.
We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association, the Companies Act, Cap 22 (Law 3 of 1961, as consolidated and revised) of the Cayman Islands, and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against the directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedent in some jurisdictions in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have the standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.
The Cayman Islands courts are also unlikely:
|●||to recognize or enforce against us judgments of courts of the United States based on certain civil liability provisions of U.S. securities laws; and|
|●||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, public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by management, members of the board of directors or controlling shareholders than they would as public shareholders of a company incorporated in the United States.
Judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.
We are a Cayman Islands company and almost all of our assets are located outside of the United States. Substantially all of our current operations are conducted in China. In addition, most of our current directors and executive officers are nationals and residents of countries other than 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 United States federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.
The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to vote your Class A ordinary shares.
As a holder of our ADSs, you will only be able to exercise the voting rights with respect to the underlying Class A ordinary shares in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under the deposit agreement, you must vote by giving voting instructions to the depositary. Upon receipt of your voting instructions, the depositary will vote the underlying Class A ordinary shares in accordance with these instructions. You will not be able to directly exercise your right to vote with respect to the underlying shares unless you withdraw the shares. Under our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the minimum notice period required for convening a general meeting is ten calendar days. When a general meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient advance notice to withdraw the shares underlying your ADSs to allow you to vote with respect to any specific matter. If we ask for your instructions, the depositary will notify you of the upcoming vote and will arrange to deliver our voting materials to you. We cannot assure you that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote your shares. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for their manner of carrying out your voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to vote and you may have no legal remedy if the shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you requested.
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 qualify as a foreign private issuer under the Exchange Act, we are exempt from certain provisions of the securities rules and regulations in the United States that are applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, including:
|●||the rules under the Exchange Act requiring the filing with the SEC of quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K;|
|●||the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act;|
|●||the sections of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their share 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.|
The information we are required to file with or furnish to the SEC are less extensive and less timely as compared to that required to be filed with the SEC by United States domestic issuers. As a Cayman Islands company listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, we are subject to the NASDAQ Global Select Market corporate governance listing standards. However, NASDAQ Global Select Market rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from the NASDAQ Global Select Market corporate governance listing standards.
We relied on the exemption available to foreign private issuers for the requirement that it hold an annual general meeting of shareholders no later than December 31, 2020 in 2020. In this respect, we elected to follow home country practice and did not hold an annual general meeting of shareholders no later than December 31, 2020 in 2020. We may also continue to rely on this and other exemptions available to foreign private issuers in the future, and to the extent that we choose to do so in the future, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would under the NASDAQ Global Select Market corporate governance listing standards applicable to 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 United States domestic issuer.
You may not receive dividends or other distributions on our Class A ordinary shares and you may not receive any value for them, if it is illegal or impractical to make them available to you.
The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on Class A ordinary shares or other deposited securities underlying our ADSs, after deducting its fees and expenses. You will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of Class A ordinary shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible if it decides that it is unlawful or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. For example, it would be unlawful to make a distribution to a holder of ADSs if it consists of securities that require registration under the Securities Act but that are not properly registered or distributed under an applicable exemption from registration. The depositary may also determine that it is not feasible to distribute certain property through the mail. Additionally, the value of certain distributions may be less than the cost of mailing them. In these cases, the depositary may determine not to distribute such property. We have no obligation to register under U.S. securities laws any ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or other securities received through such distributions. We also have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution of ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or anything else to holders of ADSs. This means that you may not receive distributions we make on our ordinary shares or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical for us to make them available to you. These restrictions may cause a material decline in the value of our ADSs.
You may not be able to participate in rights offerings and may experience dilution of your holdings.
We may, from time to time, distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire securities. Under the deposit agreement, the depositary will not distribute rights to holders of ADSs unless the distribution and sale of rights and the securities to which these rights relate are either exempt from registration under the Securities Act with respect to all holders of ADSs, or are registered under the provisions of the Securities Act. The depositary may, but is not required to, attempt to sell these undistributed rights to third parties, and may allow the rights to lapse. We may be unable to establish an exemption from registration under the Securities Act, and we are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to these rights or underlying securities or to endeavor to have a registration statement declared effective. Accordingly, holders of ADSs may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution of their holdings as a result.
You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.
Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. The depositary may close its books from time to time for a number of reasons, including in connection with corporate events such as a rights offering, during which time the depositary needs to maintain an exact number of ADS holders on its books for a specified period. The depositary may also close its books in emergencies, and on weekends and public holidays. The depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of our ADSs generally when our share register or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary thinks it is advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
We incur increased costs as a result of being a public company, and we cannot predict or estimate the amount of additional future costs we may incur or the timing of such costs
As a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company, including additional costs associated with our public company reporting obligations. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and NASDAQ Global Select Market, impose various requirements on the corporate governance practices of public companies. Compliance with such rules and regulations have increased, and we expect such compliance to continue to increase, our legal and financial compliance costs and to make certain corporate activities more time-consuming and costly.
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. We have been investigated by several law firm in the U.S. for potential securities claims in the past. As of the date of this annual report, we believe the previous investigations did not substantiate or materialize into any lawsuits against us. In addition, we do not believe we are currently involved in any other securities class action suits. 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|
We began our operations in Beijing in September 2002 through Beijing Tarena Technology Co., Ltd. In November 2012, we changed the name of Beijing Tarena Technology Co., Ltd. to Tarena Technologies Inc., or Tarena Tech. Tarena International, Inc., an exempted company with limited liability, was incorporated in the Cayman Islands in October 2003 and became our ultimate holding company. We established Tarena Hong Kong Limited, or Tarena HK, as our wholly-owned subsidiary in October 2012. Tarena HK wholly owns Tarena Software Technology (Hangzhou) Co., Ltd., or Tarena Hangzhou, an entity that we established in January 2013.
On April 3, 2014, our ADSs began trading on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “TEDU.” We and certain selling shareholders sold a total of 15,300,000 ADSs, representing 15,300,000 Class A ordinary shares, at an initial offering price of $9.00 per ADS. Concurrently with our initial public offering, we also issued 1,500,000 Class A ordinary shares at a price of US$9.00 per share to New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. Ltd. through a private placement.
Prior to 2012, we conducted a substantial portion of our operations through our consolidated VIEs and their respective subsidiaries and schools. On January 30, 2012, the PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (amended) became effective, which listed professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. On April 10, 2015, the new PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (amended) became effective, which listed non-accredited professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. On July 28, 2017, the new PRC Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (amended) became effective, which listed non-accredited professional education service as an industry for which foreign investments are “encouraged” by the government. In light of such change of law, starting from the second half of 2012, we began to transfer the operations, including related assets and liabilities, of our consolidated VIEs to Tarena Tech and its subsidiaries and schools. All of our learning center operations of VIEs had been transferred to Tarena Tech and its subsidiaries and schools before 2018, while in 2018, one of our learning centers was transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose; while in 2019, 3 of our learning centers which provide online education services, were transferred back to our VIE for business operation purpose and 3 schools were newly set up through our VIE. In December 2016, we wound up Shanghai Tarena, one of our VIEs. We expect to continue to control and consolidate Beijing Tarena, which holds an Internet Content Provider license, or ICP license. Beijing Tarena has added our TMOOC.cn website under the ICP license held by Beijing Tarena. For a description of the risks relating to our corporate structure and the contractual arrangements we have entered into with our VIE, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure.”
In 2015, we invested RMB24.0 million in five PRC companies which are engaged in the provision of educational products and services. In 2016, we invested RMB12.8 million in three companies which are mainly engaged in the provision of educational products and services. In 2017, we invested RMB50.5 million in three companies which are mainly engaged in the provision of IT, educational products and services. In 2018, we invested RMB18.5 million in three companies which are mainly engaged in the provision of IT and educational products and services. In 2018, we acquired Wuhan Haoxiaozi Robot Technology Co., Ltd. (or “RTEC”), one of the largest K-12 robotics programming education service providers in Hunan and Hubei provinces in China. In 2019, we invested RMB10.0 million in one PRC company which is mainly engaged in investment management businesses.
The table below sets forth the respective revenues and assets of Tarena and our wholly-owned subsidiaries and our consolidated VIE as of the dates and for the periods indicated:
For the year
For the year
For the year
Tarena and its wholly-owned subsidiaries
|(1)||The percentages exclude the inter-company transactions and balances between Tarena and wholly-owned subsidiaries and the consolidated VIEs.|
|(2)||The net revenues from consolidated VIEs are immaterial and accounted for 0.0% due to rounding.|
We have dual headquarters in China. Our principal executive offices in Beijing are located at 6/F, No. 1 Andingmenwai Street, Litchi Tower, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100011, China, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 10 6213 5687. Our principal executive offices in Hangzhou are located at 1/F, Block A, Training Building, 65 Kejiyuan Road, Baiyang Jie Dao, Economic Development District, Hangzhou 310000, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 571 5602 0827. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the offices of Conyers Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, Cricket Square, Hutchins Drive, PO Box 2681, Grand Cayman KY1-1111, Cayman Islands.
On December 8, 2020, we received a preliminary non-binding proposal letter, or the Proposal Letter, from Mr. Shaoyun Han, our founder and chairman of the board of directors, to acquire all of the outstanding Class A ordinary shares of the Company that are not already owned by Mr. Han and his affiliates for a purchase price of $4.00 per American Depositary Share, or US$4.00 per Class A ordinary share, in cash. On December 10, 2020, our board of directors formed a special committee (the “Special Committee”) consisting of two independent directors, Mr. Arthur Lap Tat Wong, as the chairman of the Special Committee, and Mr. Hon Sang Lee, to evaluate and consider the Proposal Letter. On December 30, 2020, we announced that the Special Committee has retained Duff & Phelps, LLC as its independent financial advisor and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP as its U.S. legal counsel to assist it in this process. As of the date of this annual report, no decisions have been made with respect to the Proposal or any alternative strategic option that the Company may pursue.
SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC on www.sec.gov. You can also find information on our website https://ir.tedu.cn. The information contained on our website is not a part of this annual report.
We provide professional education and K-12 education services in China. Our core strength is in IT professional education services. We currently offer courses in 7 IT subjects, 3 non-IT subjects and 7 K-12 education programs.
For our adult students, our education platform combines live distance instruction, classroom-based tutoring and online learning modules. We deliver professional education lectures through a group of experienced and passionate instructors based in Beijing to a nationwide network of 104 directly managed learning centers in 45 cities in China as of December 31, 2020. For each class, instructors deliver lectures from one classroom in Beijing to students in the same classroom as well as to students at our learning centers across China via simultaneous webcast. To facilitate a disciplined and focused learning environment, we staff each classroom at our learning centers with one or two on-site teaching assistants to tutor and supervise students. We complement the live instruction and tutoring with our proprietary learning management system TTS. TTS has five core functions, featuring course content, examinations, student and teaching staff interaction tools, student management tools and an online student community. Through this education platform, we provide job-oriented education with measurable outcomes, as demonstrated by our high job placement rates and students’ academic performance. In addition to our TTS platform, we launched TMOOC.cn in March 2015, which offers not only regular teaching video contents, but also continuing education courses and job placement training courses, in order to cover a broader customer base. We offer our part-time class students the opportunity to complete a portion of lessons online using TMOOC.cn. TMOOC.cn is also important for our marketing efforts.
In December 2015, we launched new training programs TongchengTongmei featuring IT training courses and non-IT training courses for minors. In March 2016, we rolled out K-12 robotics programming courses. In 2017, we launched coding mathematics to further diversify our course offerings in K-12 education. These new programs target and contain curriculum that is customized for pre-school, primary to secondary school students aged between three and eighteen. Similar to programs designed for adult students, our courses for preschool, primary to high school students also adopted dual-teaching model. Students are taught by either live distance instructors or pre-recorded videos, with teaching assistants face-to-face in classrooms. In order to build a more vivid and concentrated learning environment, students will watch a series of interesting courseware videos step by step, led by on-site teaching assistants. These programs are partly delivered through the facilities of existing learning centers to improve the utilization of the facilities. Since 2016, we also set up standalone centers for K-12 education programs, which have further improved our brand recognition and teaching facilities and brought better learning experience for our students. As of December 31, 2020, there were 236 TongchengTongmei standalone learning centers covering 53 cities in China.
We have a strong commitment to career services for our adult training business. We had 504 career counselors as of December 31, 2020, who advise students through mandatory job skill seminars, one-on-one interview workshops and systematic career assessment and planning. We had 122 employer cooperation representatives as of December 31, 2020, who liaise closely with employers, alumni, human resources websites and other employment recruiters to maximize job opportunities for our students. In January 2015, we launched a self-developed job search website called Job Show (www.jobshow.cn), which serves as a dedicated open platform for our students and other job-seeking candidates to connect with corporate employers more effectively. Through Job Show, we source and list job opportunities from both IT and non-IT employers in China. We have a track record of producing qualified, job-ready candidates for many corporate employers in China, including Global Fortune 500 companies and leading technology companies.
We are a holding company with no material operations of our own. We conduct our operations primarily through our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China. We also control and consolidate a VIE, Beijing Tarena. Beijing Tarena has added our TMOOC.cn and 61it.cn website under the ICP license for goto211.com held by Beijing Tarena. Our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China are currently not eligible as wholly-owned foreign-invested enterprises to hold ICP licenses.
Our Education Platform
Our education platform combines three key components: live distance instruction, classroom-based tutoring and online learning modules.
Live distance instruction
From our headquarters in Beijing, our instructors deliver live courses primarily via live webcast to our learning centers across China. Students attending class watch live audio-video broadcasts of lectures delivered using streaming media and other internet-based technologies. Our full-time adult students typically watch live lectures for approximately five hours a day and work on practice exercises assigned by instructors for approximately two hours every day during the classroom sessions, which generally last from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. five days a week.
Our live broadcast method of lecture delivery ensures consistency in teaching quality across all our centers. All of our instructors to deliver the lecture through webcasting system are located in Beijing, where we centralize our training support. Our headquarter-level quality control department monitors the performance of each lecturer on a daily basis. We typically have multiple instructors for each course, with each instructor focusing on separate topic areas. We believe this allows our instructors to focus, and offer more in-depth teaching, on their specific areas of expertise within a subject.
Our students are generally required to physically attend classes at our learning centers. We believe physical attendance is important as it creates a disciplined and focused learning environment for students to effectively master the course content. Requiring students to physically attend classes also facilitates the delivery of personalized and systematic tutoring and job placement services to our students.
In terms of professional education programs, our classrooms are equipped with computers for each student, as well as projectors and other equipment necessary for the live broadcast of our lectures. Our classroom technology infrastructure allows students to interact with instructors online to receive help on course materials and to use online modules in TTS to take notes and conduct practice exercises.
Our learning centers function both as classrooms for delivering lectures and self-study rooms after class hours. As of December 31, 2020, we directly managed a total of 104 adult education learning centers in 45 major cities across China. Our learning centers for adults vary in terms of size, typically having between 7 and 15 classrooms, with each classroom typically able to host between 20 and 40 students. Learning centers for K-12 students vary in terms of size, ranging between approximately 300 and 700 square meters. The number of students vary according to different courses, with typically around 8 students in small classrooms and 15 students in large classrooms. In addition to the learning centers that we operate directly, we also have 45 franchisees for K-12 education program and 2 franchisees for adult education program in 2020. The franchise fee from such learning centers was immaterial in 2020.
Meanwhile, we have been actively establishing new learning centers to support the fast expansion of our K-12 education business. As of December 31, 2020, we directly managed a total of 236 learning centers in 53 cities across China solely for our K-12 education business.
In 2020, adult learning centers are distributed in 45 cities, and K-12 learning centers are distributed in 53 cities, with 57 cities in total, and the student enrollments of adult education and K-12 education were approximately 83,400 and 141,600, respectively. Approximately 56% of the adult students were from the following cities: Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guanghzou, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Zhengzhou and Kunming. Approximately 51% of the K-12 students were from the following cities: Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Kunming, Tianjin, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Shanghai and Chengdu.
Online learning modules
Our live distance instruction and classroom-based tutoring are supplemented by our proprietary online learning modules featured on our TTS platform. TTS has the following five core functions:
|●||Course content. TTS contains lecture slides, key lecture video recordings, case studies, practice exercises and supplemental reading materials. In addition to recordings of past lectures, TTS also features exclusive online videos on key course materials. Students may view lecture videos using the computers at our learning centers. To foster effective learning of our course lecture materials, especially theoretical knowledge points, TTS features software development case studies and practice exercises. TTS contains supplemental reading materials on areas in which we have historically received frequent questions from students. TTS also allows students to download coding materials and study notes that they have prepared for reference in their future jobs.|
|●||Self-assessment examinations. TTS features daily and weekly interactive mock examinations to measure learning outcomes. Students use the mock exams to assess their learning results and gauge their grasp of course content. After students complete a self-assessment examination, TTS automatically provides students with detailed explanations on each of the exam questions.|
|●||Student and teaching staff interaction. TTS allows students to interact with instructors and teaching assistants. In class, students may raise questions for instructors and teaching assistants using the messaging tools on TTS. After class, students can post questions to the teaching assistants through the online question and answer board in TTS. To ensure the accuracy of responses and to identify questions of common interest, our instructors also actively review questions posted on TTS and regularly provide answers. Students are given the opportunity to provide feedback for each answer or tutorial service provided by teaching assistants using the evaluation functions on TTS.|
|●||Student management tools. TTS allows instructors to receive daily ratings and feedback from students. Instructors may then adjust their lecture pace and coverage of course materials each day. TTS enables teaching assistants to evaluate each student’s academic performance. The teaching assistant interface of TTS contains each student’s monthly performance test scores, as well as each student’s ranking within the class and nationally. Teaching assistants are required to follow-up with underperforming students regarding their academic status and to adopt concrete action plans with such students to improve their future performance. TTS also allows teaching assistants to monitor each student’s attendance and to log their daily tutoring activities.|
|●||Online student community. TTS serves as an online student community that fosters academic collaboration among students. We encourage students to post course-related articles and comments sharing their study experiences on the bulletin board forum.|
In addition to our TTS platform, we launched TMOOC.cn in March 2015 to cover a broader customer base. TMOOC.cn offers two types of online learning products: continuing education courses and job placement training courses. Continuing education courses, composed of a library of video clips that focus on on-the-job practical skills, target working professionals and others with continuing education needs. Job placement training courses are full-length programs that target job seekers. These recruitment-oriented courses are carefully chosen from existing courses at our learning centers and redesigned to be more suitable for the online learning environment. Users who finish all modules in a job placement training course and pass the relevant Tarena certification examination will receive the same job placement services that we offer to students at learning centers. We also offer our part-time class students the opportunity to complete a portion of lessons online using TMOOC.cn.
Our Course Offerings
Our courses provide students with practical education to prepare them for jobs in industries with significant growth potential and strong hiring demand. We also provide K-12 students with STEAM education to help them develop their logical thinking ability as well as their practical skills. We currently offer courses in 7 IT subjects, 3 non-IT subjects and 7 K-12 education programs.
For adult students we generally offer the following two types of classes in order to accommodate the different scheduling and training needs of our students:
|●||Full-time class. The term for a full-time class is typically four months and includes approximately 580 learning hours. Full-time classes are conducted in our learning centers. In 2020, approximately 61% of our enrolled students attended our full-time classes.|
|●||Part-time class. Part-time classes typically have terms of six to eight months. We offer a more flexible course schedule for our part-time class students given they typically have full time jobs. We offer our part-time class students the opportunity to complete a portion of lessons online by watching videos available on TTS through TMOOC.cn. In 2020, approximately 39% of our enrolled students attended our part-time classes.|
We have adopted stringent quality control procedures to ensure that we produce high-quality graduates. We use entrance exams to assess the level of our students. Prospective full-time students with low entrance exam scores are recommended to enroll in preparatory training camps. We have a total of four monthly closed-book performance tests to evaluate the learning status of our students. For underperforming students who have failed the first monthly performance test, we offer them the opportunity to re-take the first month classes at no extra cost. We believe physical class attendance is important, and students with low attendance rates are generally not given graduation certificates and job opportunities referrals at the end of our program.
Our full-time classes also include short-term, project-based training programs designed for college students to gain practical IT experience, which are not material for our business as a whole.
IT education courses
We offer education courses covering the following IT subjects:
Focus of Course Content
Programming for Windows and Linux-based desktop software and web-based software
Practical software testing and quality assurance training
Linux and network engineering
Linux operating system and network management technology
Hadoop, HBase, Hive, Zookeeper
Web front-end development
Python and AI full stack of software development
Designing, modeling, and implementing computer networks for reliability, performance, and security
Graduates of our IT education courses receive Tarena Certified Software Developer certificates, or TCSD certificates. Holders of TCSD certificates are qualified to obtain the intermediate-advanced software engineer certificate issued by the MIIT, for their respective field of study, subject to such graduates passing our internal examination. Graduates of our Java courses are granted ORACLE Certified Java Programmer certificates by ORACLE Corporation after passing the relevant exams. Our Linux and network engineering course graduates may sign up and take Red Hat certification exams directly at our learning centers. Graduates of our Network Engineer course are granted HUAIWEI Certifications after passing the relevant exams.
Non-IT education courses
We began offering courses in non-IT subjects in 2013. We launched our digital art course in February 2013, our online sales and marketing course in November 2013, our Computer-based design course in 2018 and our Visual effects-VFX course in 2019. The following table describes the non-IT courses that we currently offer:
Focus of Course Content
Latest Adobe user interface design technology for graphic, webpage and mobile sites design
Online sales and marketing
Search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and other internet based marketing, including microblog marketing
Comprehensive design courses, including main case design, deepening design, display design, furnishing design, hand-drawn CAD and professional CAD
Professional film and television Visual effects
Inactive in 2020. We plan to offer our computer-based design course again in 2021 after we adjust and refine our course offerings.
K-12 Education Programs
In December 2015, we launched new training programs under the brand name TongchengTongmei featuring IT training courses and non-IT training courses for K-12 students. In March 2016, we rolled out K-12 robotics programming courses. In 2017, we launched Graphical Intelligent Programming and NOI Informatics Olympiad to further diversify our course offerings in K-12 education. In 2018, we further adjusted our course offering of our TongchengTongmei programs. In 2018, we launched Python Artificial Intelligence and in 2019 we launched High level hardware programming for secondary school and Soft and hard programming enlightenment. In 2020, we launched the Creative Programming Starter course and STEAM education which can help children to develop their logical thinking skills and practical skills. We treat the TongchengTongmei programs as our main effort to enter into the K-12 STEAM education market, and a significantly growing part of our operation.
Focus of Course Content
Using LEGO WeDo2.0, EV3 teaching aids, taking into account engineering machinery and programming knowledge, design a variety of physical works close to life, combined with the standard teaching process, scientific teaching methods, so that children are exposed to technology from an early age
Graphical Intelligent Programming
Suitable for students from Kindergarten to elementary school students of grade 3, the progressive course consists of 3 Levels, using the Scratch programming platform to implement situational story programming, game animation programming and smart application programming.
NOI Informatics Olympiad
Suitable for elementary school students from grade 4 onwards and secondary school students, the course implements data structures and algorithms using the C++ language.
Python Artificial Intelligence
High level hardware programming for secondary school
Software and hardware programming class using python as the programming language. The software part uses PyQt5 to create the PC-side upper computer software: the hardware part uses STM32 self-developed main control board to control the deformable robot and a variety of hardware sensors through programming; the software and hardware are integrated to realize the interactive application.
Soft and hard programming enlightenment
Combined by LEGO WeDo 2.0 and Scratch programming, software and hardware, virtual and reality are perfectly integrated. In the course, through scene animation, game design and other vivid contents, children can fully grasp the foundation of artificial intelligence technology.
Creative Programming Starter
Using the building blocks and physical programming modules that children are interested in as carriers, with the goal of developing children’s understanding, application and re-creation abilities, using the building blocks to construct scenes and the physical programming modules to complete the task challenges, through the deep integration of building and programming, to achieve a true hand-brain combination, to comprehensively train children’s hands and brains to solve practical problems and help them acquire the ability to face the future society.
Compared with the curriculum for adult students, the IT and non-IT courses offered under the TongchengTongmei programs feature materials that are customized for young children. All of our K-12 education programs target and contain curriculum that is customized for pre-school, primary to high school students aged between three and eighteen. Similar to programs designed for adult students, our courses for preschool, primary to high school students also adopted dual-teaching model. Students are taught by either live distance instructors or pre-recorded videos, with teaching assistants face-to-face in classrooms. In order to build a more vivid and concentrated learning environment, students will watch a series of interesting courseware videos step by step, led by on-site teaching assistants.
Courses under TongchengTongmei programs typically have multiple levels, with each level consisting of 64 to 120 learning hours per year. Each session usually takes two to three hours depending on different level applicable. Depending on the age group, it generally takes approximately one year to complete each level. In 2020, our TongchengTongmei programs were offered in 53 cities in China. The revenue of online course and offline course in TongchengTongmei programs accounts for 14.2% and 85.8%, respectively. Online learning in small groups model is also available for election, of which the current enrollment is insignificant.
Our Teaching Staff
As of December 31, 2020, we employed 2,689 full-time instructors for both adult education and K-12 education. Most of our instructors for IT education courses have industry backgrounds in global and domestic technology companies. Instructors for non-IT education courses are typically experts or veterans in their respective specialized fields. Our instructors also provide us with unique access to a large pool of experts on industry trends that is especially valuable in our decision-making and development process for new courses. We believe we attract highly qualified instructors by virtue of our respected brands, our well-established teaching infrastructure and sales team and our competitive compensation.
We believe that developing and maintaining highly capable and motivated instructors is critical to our success. We seek qualified instructor candidates who have extensive industry experience or come from other professional education service providers. These candidates are subject to multiple rounds of interviews conducted by our director of teaching, vice-president for teaching and the chief executive officer. All instructors are required to undergo training in teaching skills and techniques. We require our instructors to regularly update their course materials to remain current with evolving employer needs, industry developments and other key trends necessary to teach effectively. We typically have a backup instructor assigned to each course to meet any emergency needs.
To align incentives, instructors receive bonuses based on students’ ratings and the number of class sessions taught, in addition to their base compensation.
Our teaching assistants
We believe that our dedicated teaching assistants are essential to the success of our education model. Our teaching assistants interact with and tutor our students on a daily basis, and are instrumental in facilitating a disciplined and focused learning environment. Each classroom is staffed with one or two teaching assistants, who attend lectures together with students. Teaching assistants are available during class hours to answer student questions in person, and after class hours to address inquiries online via TTS or on-site until 8:30 p.m. Teaching assistants are also responsible for offering focused tutoring services to underperforming students and continuously monitoring their academic results. Our teaching assistants are also one of the key factors of the operation of our K-12 education programs as we need our teaching assistants to guide our students throughout the course. We have adopted a comprehensive set of key performance indicators, or KPIs, to evaluate the performance of our teaching assistants. Such KPIs include student satisfaction, exam scores of students on monthly performance tests, the improvement of underperforming students and employment results after graduation, among other indicators.
We primarily seek teaching assistant candidates from our graduates who have demonstrated strong command of materials in the relevant subject areas. We provide necessary training to newly hired teaching assistants to tutor effectively. Our teaching assistants are frequently evaluated by students on the quality of their assistance. We had a total of 459 teaching assistants as of December 31, 2020.
Course Content Development
In addition to teaching, our instructors also develop the course content in their respective subject areas. We regularly update our existing courses, typically every six months, to stay abreast of the latest technology developments and industry trends. Our instructors are also responsible for producing practice exercises and exam questions for monthly performance tests to evaluate the effectiveness of our student self-assessment tests in TTS. We regularly engage in new course development in order to capture demands created by evolving job market and industry trends. We have a set of procedures for new course development. Prior to developing a new course, we gather market intelligence by collecting job market demand information to ensure that we are developing relevant and up-to-date courses. We conduct a series of surveys, each with clear parameters, to determine various aspects of the proposed new course. Once we gather enough market intelligence, we recruit, or identify from within Tarena, instructors with the appropriate industry and academic background to form a course-specific development task team. The development of our K-12 education program courses is mostly programming centered. In addition, we focus on leveraging our experience in IT courses, especially programming courses, to develop coding- and programming-based courses for our K-12 education programs.
All of our new courses are pilot tested in selected learning centers for student satisfaction, training practicality and employment outcomes. In 2018, we launched network engineer course. In 2019, we launched Visual effects-VFX course. In 2020, we launched Creative Programming Initiation course.
Our software research and development department is tasked with improving the technical performance and user experience of TTS.
The majority of our students of our adult IT and non-IT education courses are college students and graduates. In 2020, 66% of our enrolled students of such courses were either studying towards, or already held, a post-secondary degree. Our student enrollment in professional education courses reached approximately 83,400 in 2020, and our student enrollment in K-12 education programs reached approximately 141,600 in 2020.
We rely primarily on internet-based marketing to attract students and increase enrollments. We advertise on the internet using search engine keywords on leading search engines. We also use banners and other advertising placements on targeted sites, such as education portals, career sites and industry-specific websites. We actively monitor the effectiveness of our advertising and adjust marketing spending accordingly. Our learning centers also host seminars, information sessions and preparatory training camps for prospective students.
When a prospective student responds to our advertisements, an enrollment advisor generates a prospective student profile and advises the candidate, through online, telephone or a face-to-face meeting, on various aspects of our courses and educational experience.
To promote brand awareness, we place advertisements in industry trade publications and present at industry trade seminars and conventions. We also began to host our annual Tarena-Discovery Cup Chinese University Students Software Design Competition in April 2012. In 2015, we changed our logo from “Tarena Technology” to “Tarena Education” to better showcase our professional image in education.
We also encourage our students at schools to introduce their friends or classmates who are interested in taking professional education courses. Student referral has become one of the key channels we access to new students.
In addition to our marketing efforts and student referrals, we recruit a significant portion of our students directly from universities and colleges. As of December 31, 2020, we have cooperated with over 665 universities and colleges in China under one of the two following modes of cooperation:
|●||Joint-majors. We cooperate with 87 universities and colleges in China to offer joint-major degree programs in accordance with the higher education reform policies of each province. Our in-depth cooperation with these universities and colleges involve the recruitment services, management of students, course instruction and placement, so as to achieve the purpose of improving the course quality, placement rate and teaching quality of the universities and colleges, which integrate our selected courses into their standard undergraduate curriculum for students enrolled in such joint-major programs. Students can attend part of the courses in our established on-campus learning sites and part of the courses at our learning centers. By working with universities on such joint-majors programs, we have developed a strong bond with such partners, from which we believe we can benefit for recruitment and brand promotion.|
|●||Enrollment cooperation. We currently have enrollment cooperation with 665 universities and colleges in China. These universities and colleges allow us to organize marketing and promotional events on campus in order to attract students. We have also entered into framework agreements with certain of such universities to launch courses to be chosen by students on voluntary basis to enhance our brand awareness, and our university partners will also make recommendations of our professional education courses to senior students. Starting in 2018, we also collaborate with some of such universities to roll out our featured programs, providing students with the option to choose our courses embedded in their school curriculum in their first and second school years, while by gradation in their third or fourth year, students can decide if they will attend our full time courses and make payments separately.|
We had a total of 236 university cooperation representatives as of December 31, 2020. Our university cooperation representatives are responsible for establishing new and maintaining current cooperative relationships between us and universities in China.
Student job placement services
We have an effective job placement program for our adult students. Each learning center retains full-time career counselors who meet with students on the first day of class to discuss their career goals and to build an employment profile for each student. Our career counselors host a series of mandatory career development seminars for students throughout the term. During the final weeks of each course, our career counselors meet with students one-on-one to offer training on interview and résumé preparation. In addition to the scheduled career service activities, our career counselors are generally available to meet with students one-on-one during office hours. Our career counselors also monitor the employment results of our students and actively offer personalized assistance to students facing difficulties in securing job offers. We had a total of 507 career counselors as of December 31, 2020.
Each learning center offering courses for adult students also retains full-time employer cooperation representatives who routinely collaborate with employers, alumni, human resources websites and other employment recruiters to maximize opportunities for job placements. We had a total of 124 employer cooperation representatives as of December 31, 2020. We invite corporate employers to host recruiting events and interviews at our learning centers and offer students with interview opportunities across the country.
In January 2015, we launched a self-developed job search website called Job Show (www.jobshow.cn), which serves as a dedicated open platform for our students and other job-seeking candidates to connect with corporate employers more effectively. Through Job Show, we source and list job opportunities from both IT and non-IT employers in China.
We gather data on post-course job placement rates by conducting surveys of our graduates. Based on the survey responses, we calculate the six-month post-course job placement rates for a month by dividing (i) the number of job-seeking students enrolled in such month who (A) successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded and (B) indicated that they had received employment offers within six months of graduation, by (ii) the total number of job-seeking students enrolled in such month who later successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded. We calculate the annual average six-month post-course job placement rate by averaging the rate of each month. Our average six-month post-course job placement rate for each of 2018, 2019 and 2020 was about 90%. When calculating such job placement rates for 2018, 2019 and 2020, a majority of the employment reported by relevant students was full-time employment, and a majority of the employment reported by relevant students was in the fields of their studies with us. All of the students enrolled in 2017, 2018 and 2019 who later successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded and who were job-seeking, have filled out our surveys. Among the students enrolled in 2017, 2018 and 2019, 86%, 88% and 96% of such students, respectively, graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded. Among the students enrolled in 2018, 2019 and 2020 who later successfully graduated from our programs with graduation certificates awarded, 76%, 75% and 65% of such students, respectively, were deemed to be job-seeking students.
Our Network of Employers
We have a track record of producing job-ready and highly qualified candidates for many corporate employers. Our network of potential employers for our students include Global Fortune 500 companies, and leading technology, IT services and internet companies in China.
We offer the following recruiting services to corporate employers:
|●||General recruiting services. We offer corporate employers candidate referral services and other recruitment-related services. Once an employer communicates its hiring needs to us, we direct the relevant learning centers to produce a list of student candidates that meet the hiring criteria of such employer, and refer such candidates to the employer for interviews and assessments. We also offer space at our learning centers for employers to host recruiting events targeting our students and to conduct interviews.|
|●||Customized courses. We offer customized courses targeting specific employers with large demands for trained professionals. Prospective students for our customized courses generally undergo interviews conducted by the employers before the start of classes. In addition to our standard curriculum, students enrolled in customized courses must participate in additional training provided by employers at our learning centers. Such additional training is tailored according to the particular skill requirements of the employers. Successful graduates of our customized courses who have passed the relevant qualifying exams are granted job offers by the employers.|
While we currently do not generate any material revenue from any of our recruiting services for corporate employers, we believe such services enhance our brand recognition and are instrumental in our ability to help students achieve high job placement rates.
For our full-time classes for adult students, our standard tuition fees generally range from RMB20,800 to RMB23,800 per course. For our K-12 education programs, our standard tuition fees are between RMB8,000 and RMB19,200. Courses under K-12 education program typically are composed of multiple levels, with each level consisting of 64 to 120 learning hours in one year.
We primarily offer two payment options for our adult students, including one-time full payment upon enrollment and multiple payments within two months of enrollment. We also offer an option whereby qualified adult students can pay our tuition fees within a period of time after graduation. For students recruited through our joint-majors with universities and colleges, they pay tuition fees for their degrees directly to the universities and colleges, and we share a portion of such fees with the universities and colleges as tuition for our courses.
To assist our students in paying our tuition fees, we mainly offered the following three credit sources, namely Baidu Small Loan Co., Ltd., Bank of China Consumer Finance Co., Ltd. and Beijing Ronglian Shiji Information Technology Co., Ltd., to provide financing services for our students to make one-time, up-front tuition payments in 2020.
15% of our students enrolled in 2020 obtained financing from one of the 3 abovementioned sources. Such financing arrangements are bilateral in nature, and are carried out between our students and the respective financing institution directly.
Building a reliable, scalable and secure technology infrastructure is crucial to our ability to support our live lecture broadcasts, online TTS, TMOOC.cn and the various services that we provide to our students. We manage our lecture delivery system, TTS and TMOOC.cn using a combination of commercially available software and hardware systems. Since 2006, we have established a powerful online platform that enables thousands of students to simultaneously log onto our TTS and participate in activities online.
All of our servers and routers, including backup servers, are currently hosted at our learning centers or by third-party service providers in multiple cities in China. We regularly back up our databases. Our network administration department regularly monitors the performance of our websites and infrastructure to enable us to respond quickly to potential problems. We deliver live broadcast of audio and video of the lectures given in Beijing via the dedicated network of China Telecom and China Unicom to terminals located in selected learning centers with high student enrollment, and via public internet infrastructure to our other learning centers.
Seasonal fluctuations have affected, and are likely to continue to affect, our business. Historically, we typically generate the highest net revenues in the third and fourth quarters because of the increased student enrollments during summer vacation. We generally generate less tuition fees in the first quarter of each year due to the Chinese New Year holiday.
Our trademarks, copyrights, domain names, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights distinguish our courses and services from those of our competitors and contribute to our ability to compete in our target markets. We rely on a combination of copyright and trademark law, trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements with senior executive officers and most other employees, to protect our intellectual property rights. In addition, we require certain of our senior executive officers and other employees to enter into agreements with us under which they acknowledge that all inventions, utility models, designs, know-how, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property made by them within the scope of their employment with us, pursuant to job assignments or using our materials and technology, or during the two years after their employment that relates to their employment with us, are our property and they should assign the same to us if we so require. We also regularly monitor any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property rights.
As of December 31, 2020, we had registered 89 domain names relating to our business, including our www.tedu.cn, TMOOC.cn, jobshow.cn, www.IT61.cn and www.art61.cn websites, with the Internet Corporation f