SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
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☐ Item 17 ☐ Item 18
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VASTA PLATFORM LIMITED
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Presentation of Financial and Other Information||1|
|ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS||8|
|A. Directors and Senior Management||8|
|ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE||8|
|A. Offer Statistics||8|
|B. Method and Expected Timetable||8|
|ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION||8|
|B. Capitalization and Indebtedness||8|
|C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds||8|
|D. Risk Factors||8|
|ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY||45|
|A. History and Development of the Company||45|
|B. Business Overview||50|
|C. Organizational Structure||91|
|D. Property, Plant and Equipment||92|
|ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS||93|
|ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS||93|
|A. Operating Results||93|
|B. Liquidity and Capital Resources||107|
|C. Research and Development, Patents and Licenses, Etc.||110|
|D. Trend Information||110|
|E. Critical Accounting Estimates||111|
|ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES||112|
|A. Directors and Senior Management||112|
|C. Board Practices||116|
|E. Share Ownership||119|
|F. Disclosure of a registrant’s action to recover erroneously awarded compensation||119|
|ITEM 7. MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS||120|
|A. Major Shareholders||120|
|B. Related Party Transactions||121|
|C. Interests of Experts and Counsel||124|
|ITEM 8. FINANCIAL INFORMATION||124|
|A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information||124|
|B. Significant Changes||125|
|ITEM 9. THE OFFER AND LISTING||125|
|A. Offering and Listing Details||125|
|B. Plan of Distribution||125|
|D. Selling Shareholders||126|
|F. Expenses of the Issue||126|
|ITEM 10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION||126|
|A. Share Capital||126|
|B. Memorandum and Articles of Association||126|
|C. Material Contracts||135|
|D. Exchange Controls||135|
|F. Dividends and Paying Agents||138|
|G. Statement by Experts||138|
|H. Documents on Display||138|
|I. Subsidiary Information||138|
|J. Annual Report to Security Holders||138|
|ITEM 11. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK||138|
|ITEM 12. DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES||139|
|A. Debt Securities||139|
|B. Warrants and Rights||139|
|C. Other Securities||139|
|D. American Depositary Shares||139|
|ITEM 13. DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES||140|
|ITEM 14. MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS||140|
|A. Material Modifications to Instruments||140|
|B. Material Modifications to Rights||140|
|C. Withdrawal or Substitution of Assets||140|
|D. Change in Trustees or Paying Agents||140|
|E. Use of Proceeds||140|
|ITEM 15. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES||140|
|A. Disclosure Controls and Procedures||140|
|B. Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting||141|
|C. Attestation Report of the Registered Public Accounting Firm||141|
|D. Changes in Internal Control over Financial Reporting||141|
|ITEM 16. RESERVED||141|
|ITEM 16A. AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT||141|
|ITEM 16B. CODE OF ETHICS||141|
|ITEM 16C. PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES||141|
|ITEM 16D. EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES||142|
|ITEM 16E. PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS||142|
|ITEM 16F. CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT||143|
|ITEM 16G. CORPORATE GOVERNANCE||143|
|ITEM 16H. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE||149|
|ITEM 16I. DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS||149|
|ITEM 17. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||150|
|ITEM 18. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||150|
|ITEM 19. EXHIBITS||150|
|INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||F-1|
Unless otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all references in this annual report to “Vasta” or the “Company”, “we”, “our”, “ours”, “us” or similar terms refer to Vasta Platform Limited, together with its subsidiaries.
The term “Brazil” refers to the Federative Republic of Brazil and the phrase “Brazilian government” refers to the federal government of Brazil. “Brazilian Central Bank” refers to the Brazilian Central Bank (Banco Central do Brasil). References in the annual report to “real”, “reais” or “R$” refer to the Brazilian real, the official currency of Brazil and references to “U.S. dollar”, “U.S. dollars” or “US$” refer to U.S. dollars, the official currency of the United States.
All references to the “Companies Act” are to the Cayman Islands’ Companies Act (As Revised) as the same may be amended from time to time, unless the context otherwise requires.
All references to “IFRS” are to International Financial Reporting Standards, as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board, or the IASB.
Vasta was incorporated on October 16, 2019, as a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability duly registered with the Registrar of Companies of the Cayman Islands.
We maintain our books and records in Brazilian reais, the presentation currency for our financial statements and also the functional currency of our operations in Brazil. We prepare our annual consolidated financial statements in accordance with IFRS, as issued by the IASB. Unless otherwise noted, our financial information presented herein is stated in Brazilian reais, our reporting currency.
All references herein to “the audited consolidated financial statements” are to the financial statements described above as the case may be, included elsewhere in this annual report.
Our fiscal year end on December 31. References in this annual report to a fiscal year, such as “fiscal year 2022”, relate to our fiscal year ended on December 31 of that calendar year.
Our Incorporation and Corporate Reorganization
We are a Cayman Islands exempted company incorporated with limited liability on October 16, 2019 for purposes of undertaking our initial public offering, or IPO, and, at the time, we were fully owned by Cogna Educação S.A. (“Cogna”).
On October 11, 2018, Saber, a subsidiary of Cogna (formerly known as Kroton Educacional S.A.), our parent company, and a Brazilian publicly-listed company in the Novo Mercado segment of B3 S.A. – Brasil, Bolsa, Balcão, or B3, with no controlling shareholder, acquired control over Somos Educação S.A., or Somos Educação, and together with its subsidiaries, the “Somos Group”, for R$6.3 billion, which we refer to herein as the “Acquisition”. Following the Acquisition, Cogna began managing Somos Group’s K-12 curriculum businesses and since October 2019 Cogna has adopted the Vasta brand for its B2B K-12 business, representing the combination of the K-12 curriculum businesses held by the Predecessors. Upon the Acquisition, the Somos Group, along with Pitágoras, came under the indirect common control of Cogna (and with the completion of the corporate reorganization (as defined below), came under the direct control of Vasta.
In this annual report, we refer to the reorganization of our K-12 B2B business and the structuring of related subsidiaries (including the Contribution (as defined below)) under Vasta as the “corporate reorganization”.
At the time of our incorporation, Cogna indirectly held a 100% ownership interest in the Somos Group and, together with its wholly owned subsidiary, EDE, a 100% ownership interest in Saber (7.44% held directly, with the other 92.56% held indirectly). Saber directly and indirectly held a 100% ownership interest in Somos Educação, which in turn held the Somos Group’s K-12 curriculum business. Also, Saber held the K-12 business operated as Pitágoras. In addition, before the implementation of the corporate reorganization, Somos Group carried out activities or owned assets or liabilities that were not within the scope of Vasta’s business. Such activities, assets or liabilities were segregated from Somos Group into Cogna prior to the consummation of our initial public offering, through corporate and contractual arrangements which included spin-offs, incorporations, capital reductions, purchase and sale of assets and assignment of liabilities, as well as capitalization of debts among the entities of the Somos Group, Saber, Cogna, EDE and other subsidiaries of Cogna.
On December 17, 2019, following a capital increase approved at Saber’s general shareholders meeting, Cogna increased its equity interest in Saber upon the capitalization into Saber of indebtedness due by Saber to it, in the amount of R$5.5 billion. As of December 17, 2019, Cogna directly held a 63.87% ownership interest in Saber and continued to hold the remaining 36.13% ownership interest indirectly, for a 100.0% direct and indirect ownership interest.
On December 31, 2019, following the spin-off of the Pitágoras K-12 business from Saber and the merger of the related assets and liabilities into Somos Sistemas de Ensino S.A., or Somos Sistemas, Cogna became the direct owner of a 100% ownership interest in Somos Sistemas. As of December 31, 2019, Cogna directly held a 62% ownership interest in Saber and continued to hold the remaining 38% ownership interest indirectly.
Prior to the consummation of our initial public offering, Cogna entered into a contribution agreement with us, by which 100% of the shares issued by Somos Sistemas held by Cogna was contributed into Vasta’s share capital, or the Contribution. The Contribution was accounted for at historical book value, in return for new Class B common shares that were issued by Vasta in a one-to-58 exchange for the shares of Somos Sistemas contributed to us. After the Contribution, Somos Sistemas became wholly owned by Vasta, which, in its turn, continued to be fully controlled by Cogna.
Until the Contribution of Somos Sistemas’ shares to us, we had not commenced operations and had only nominal assets and liabilities and no material contingent liabilities or commitments. Following the Contribution, Saber continued to own and operate, directly or through other subsidiaries, certain K-12 businesses as a subsidiary of Cogna, including the sales of textbooks under the PNLD (Programa Nacional do Livro e do Material Didático), which were separated from Vasta’s business.
After accounting for the new Class A common shares that were issued and sold by us in our initial public offering, we had a total of 83,011,585 common shares issued and outstanding immediately following our initial public offering, 64,436,093 of these shares were Class B common shares beneficially owned by Cogna (which held 97.1% of the combined voting power of our outstanding Class A and Class B common shares), and 18,575,492 of these shares were Class A common shares beneficially owned by investors purchasing in our initial public offering (which held 2.8% of the combined voting power of our outstanding Class A and Class B common shares).
Initial Public Offering
On July 31, 2020, we carried out our initial public offering, consisting of 18,575,492 Class A common shares issued and sold by us. The public offering price was US$19.00 per Class A common share. We received net proceeds of US$333.5 million, after deducting R$19.4 million in underwriting discounts and commissions.
Share Repurchase Program
On August 13, 2021, our board of Directors approved our first share repurchase program, or the Repurchase Program. Under the Repurchase Program, we are entitled to repurchase up to 1,000,000 Class A common shares in the open market, based on prevailing market prices, or in privately negotiated transactions, over a period that began on August 17, 2021, continuing until the earlier of the completion of the repurchase or February 17, 2022, depending upon market conditions. We concluded the Repurchase Program on December 10, 2021, using our existing funds to finance the repurchase, and on December 31, 2022, we had a balance of R$23.9 million or 1,000,000 Class A common shares in treasury.
Acquisition of Editora De Gouges (Editora Eleva S.A.).
On February 22, 2021, our wholly owned subsidiary, Somos Sistemas, entered into a sale and purchase agreement to acquire, subject to certain conditions precedent, Editora Eleva S.A., or Editora Eleva, a K-12 education platform provider, from Eleva Educação S.A., or Eleva Educação. As consideration for such acquisition, we will pay a purchase price amounting to R$611.5 million, subject to certain price adjustments, in installments over a 5-year period (each installment adjusted by the positive variation of the CDI index). The consummation of the acquisition of Editora Eleva was completed in October 29, 2021.
Acquisition of Phidelis
On January 14, 2022, we acquired the companies Phidelis Tecnologia Desenvolvimento de Sistemas Ltda. and MVP Consultoria e Sistemas Ltda. (“Phidelis”), when the control over the entity was transferred upon completion of the conditions precedent established on the share purchase agreement.
We will pay a total purchase price in the amount of R$22.0 million, comprised of (i) R$8.9 million in cash, paid on the acquisition date, (ii) R$7.6 million to be paid in annual installments over the course of two years, and (iii) a variable R$5.5 million, with the achievement of performance linked to net revenue of the years 2023 and 2024 to be paid in three annual installments between 2023 and 2026. Both fixed and variable payment to be adjusted by the variation of Extended National Consumer Price Index (“IPCA”) in the period.
Phidelis is a platform of academic and financial management for K-12 schools, providing (i) software licensing and development, and (ii) messaging, retention, enrollment and default management for schools and students. In addition to aggregating a digital solution and bringing in new clients, Phidelis’s team will support the development of Vasta’s digital services platform.
For more information on other acquisitions, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company—Recent Developments”.
Investment in Educbank
On July 19, 2022, we acquired a minority interest in Educbank Gestão de Pagamentos Educacionais S.A., or Educbank. Our investment, through our subsidiary Somos, totaled R$87.7 million, for a 45% interest in Educbank, to be paid in four cash installments according to the growth of students served by Educbank. We will have the right to appoint two members (out of six) to the board of directors of Educbank.
Educbank is the first financial ecosystem dedicated to K-12 schools, intended to expand access to quality education in Brazil, through services’ management and financial support to educational institutions by providing payment guaranty to school tuitions. We believe this investment will enable us to capture value potential in the following years, by entering the market for K-12 tuitions payment means, which has a Total Payment Volume (“TPV”) of over R$70 billion per year. Educbank’s services complement our digital services platform, which provides access to data, management tools and now working capital management, releasing time for school partners to focus on delivering education.
Financial Information in U.S. Dollars
Solely for the convenience of the reader, we have translated some of the real amounts included in this annual report from Reais into U.S. dollars. You should not construe these translations as representations by us that the amounts actually represent these U.S. dollar amounts or could be converted into U.S. dollars at the rates indicated. Unless otherwise indicated, we have translated real amounts into U.S. dollars using a rate of R$5.218 to US$1.00, the commercial selling rate for U.S. dollars at December 31, 2022 as reported by the Brazilian Central Bank. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Result—Exchange Rates” for more detailed information regarding translation of Reais into U.S. dollars and for historical exchange rates for the Brazilian real.
Special Note Regarding Non-GAAP Financial Measures
Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Net (Loss) Profit, Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Cash Conversion Ratio
This annual report presents our Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Net (Loss) Profit, Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Cash Conversion Ratio information for the convenience of investors. Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Net (Loss) Profit, Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Cash Conversion Ratio are the key performance indicators used by us to measure financial operating performance. Our management believes that these Non-GAAP financial measures provide useful information to investors and shareholders. We also use these measures internally to establish budgets and operational goals to manage and monitor our business, evaluate our underlying historical performance and business strategies and to report our results to the board of directors.
We calculate Adjusted EBITDA as Loss for the year plus/minus: (a) income tax and social contribution; (b) net finance result; (c) depreciation and amortization; (d) share-based compensation expenses, mainly due to the grant of additional shares to Somos’ employees in connection with the change of control of Somos to Cogna (for further information refer to note 24 to the audited consolidated financial statements); (e) Bonus IPO, which refers to bonus paid to certain executives and employees based on restricted share units and (f) expenses with contractual termination of employees due to organizational restructuring. We understand that such adjustments are relevant and should be considered when calculating our Adjusted EBITDA, which is a practical measure to assess our operational performance that allows us to compare it with other companies that operate in the same segment.
We calculate Adjusted Net (Loss) Profit as the Loss for the year as presented in our Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income adjusted by the same Adjusted EBITDA items, further added by (a) Amortization of intangible assets from Business Combination; (b) reversal of tax contingencies incurred prior to the acquisition of Somos-Anglo; and (c) tax effect of 34% generated by the aforementioned adjustments.
We calculate Free Cash Flow as the net cash flows from operating activities as presented in the statement of cash flows of our financial statements less cash flows required for: (i) acquisition of property and equipment; (ii) addition to intangible assets; and (iii) payment for lease liabilities. We consider Free Cash Flow to be a liquidity measure, therefore, we adjust our Free Cash Flow metric with amounts that directly impacted the cash flows in the period in addition to the operating activities. The Free Cash Flow measure provides useful information to management and investors about the amount of cash generated by our operations, deducting for investments in property and equipment to maintain and grow our business.
We calculate Adjusted Cash Conversion Ratio as the Free Cash Flow divided by Adjusted EBITDA for the relevant period.
We understand that, although Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Net (Loss) Profit, Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Cash Conversion Ratio are used by investors and securities analysts in their evaluation of companies, these measures have limitations as analytical tools, and you should not consider them in isolation or as substitutes for analysis of our results of operations as reported under IFRS. Additionally, our calculations of Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Net (Loss) Profit, Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Cash Conversion Ratio may be different from the calculation used by other companies, including our competitors in the education services industry, and therefore, our measures may not be comparable to those of other companies.
For a reconciliation of our non-GAAP financial measures, see “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Result—Reconciliations for Non-GAAP Financial Measures”.
Special Note Regarding ACV Bookings
This annual report presents our ACV Bookings for the convenience of investors. This operating metric is not prepared in accordance with IFRS. ACV Bookings is a non‑accounting managerial metric and represents our partner schools’ commitment to pay for our solutions offerings. We believe it is a meaningful indicator of demand for our solutions. In particular, we believe ACV Bookings is a helpful metric because it is designed to show amounts that we expect to be recognized as revenue from subscription services for the 12‑month period between October 1 of one fiscal year through September 30 of the following fiscal year. We generally deliver our educational materials to our schools for their convenience in the last calendar quarter of each year, so that our schools can prepare their classes in advance prior to the start of the following school year in January. As a result, our results of operations for the last quarter of a given fiscal year contain revenue relating to the following school year relating to the content that has been delivered prior to the start of the new fiscal year. Therefore, ACV Bookings conveys information that has predictive value for subsequent months, and which may not be as clearly conveyed or understood by simply analyzing our revenue in our statements of income, especially in view of our recent growth.
We define ACV Bookings as the revenue we would expect to recognize from a partner school in each school year, based on the number of students who have contracted our services, or “enrolled students”, that will access our content at such partner school in such school year. We calculate ACV Bookings by multiplying the number of enrolled students at each school with the average ticket per student per year; the related number of enrolled students and average ticket per student per year are each calculated in accordance with the terms of each contract with the related school. Although our contracts with our schools are typically for 4‑year terms, we record one year of revenue under such contracts as ACV Bookings. For example, if a school enters into a 4‑year contract with us to provide one of our Core & EdTech platform solutions (such as learning systems or PAR) to 100 students for a contractual fee of US$100 per student per year, we record US$10,000 as ACV Bookings, not US$40,000. ACV Bookings are calculated based on the sum of actual contracts signed during the sales period and assumes the historical rates of returned goods from customers for the preceding 24-month period. Since the actual rates of returned goods from sales during the period may be different from the historical average rates and the actual volume of merchandise ordered by our customers may be different from the contracted amount, the actual revenue recognized during each period of a sales cycle may be different from the ACV Bookings for the respective sales cycle. Our reported ACV Bookings are subject to risks associated with, among other things, economic conditions and the markets in which we operate, including risks that our contracts may be canceled or adjusted.
Market Share and Other Information
This annual report contains data related to economic conditions in the market in which we operate. The information contained in this annual report concerning economic conditions is based on publicly available information from third-party sources that we believe to be reasonable. Market data and certain industry forecast data used in this annual report were obtained from internal reports and studies, where appropriate, as well as estimates, market research, publicly available information (including information available from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission website) and industry publications. We obtained the information included in this annual report relating to the industry in which we operate, as well as the estimates concerning market shares, through internal research, public information and publications on the industry prepared by official public sources, such as the Brazilian Central Bank, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística), or IBGE, the Brazilian Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação), or MEC, the Anísio Teixeira National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais Anísio Teixeira), or INEP, the School Census (Censo Escolar), the NCES, and the Brazilian Economic Institute of Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Instituto Brasileiro de Economia da Fundação Getúlio Vargas), or FGV/IBRE as well as private sources, such as the report by Oliver Wyman that was commissioned by us.
Industry publications, governmental publications and other market sources, including those referred to above, generally state that the information they include has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but that the accuracy and completeness of such information is not guaranteed. Except as disclosed in this annual report, none of the publications, reports or other published industry sources referred to in this annual report were commissioned by us or prepared at our request. Except as disclosed in this annual report, we have not sought or obtained the consent of any of these sources to include such market data in this annual report.
We have made rounding adjustments to some of the figures included in this annual report. Accordingly, numerical figures shown as totals in some tables may not be an arithmetic aggregation of the figures that preceded them.
This annual report on Form 20-F contains statements that constitute forward-looking statements. Many of the forward-looking statements contained in this annual report can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “anticipate”, “believe”, “could”, “expect”, “should”, “plan”, “intend”, “is designed to”, “may”, “predict”, “continue” “estimate” and “potential”, or the negative of these words, among others.
Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places in this annual report and include, but are not limited to, statements regarding our intent, belief or current expectations. Forward-looking statements are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements due to various factors, including, but not limited to, those identified under the section entitled “Risk Factors” in this annual report. These risks and uncertainties include factors relating to:
Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake any obligation to update them in light of new information or future developments or to release publicly any revisions to these statements in order to reflect later events or circumstances or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
Summary of Risk Factors
This section is intended to be a summary of more detailed discussions contained elsewhere in this annual report. The risks described below are not the only ones we face. Our business, results of operations or financial condition could be harmed if any of these risks materializes and, as a result, the trading price of our Class A common shares could decline.
Summary of Risks Factors Relating to Our Business and Industry
Summary of Risks Relating to Brazil
Summary of Risk Factors Relating to Our Class A Common Shares
Certain Factors Relating to Our Business and Industry
We face significant competition, the possibility of new competitors and potential substitutes for every product or service we offer and in each geographic region in which we operate. If we fail to compete efficiently, we may lose market share and our profitability may be adversely affected.
We compete with other educational platforms and suppliers of educational content. Our existing competitors and potential new competitors may offer similar or better educational solutions or substitutes in comparison to those we offer. In addition, existing and potential competitors may have access to more resources, be more prestigious or enjoy a better reputation in the academic community or may charge lower prices. To compete effectively we may be required to reduce the prices of our educational products and solutions, increase our operating expenses or look for new market opportunities to retain and/or attract new customers. As a result, our revenue and profitability may decrease. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to compete successfully with our current or future competitors. In addition, we have observed a trend of increasing consolidation in certain segments of the primary and secondary education markets in Brazil. If this trend intensifies (as has occurred in the higher education market in Brazil) we may face increasing competition in the markets in which we operate. If we are unable to maintain our competitive position or otherwise respond to competitive pressures effectively, we may lose our market share, our profits may decrease, and we may be adversely affected.
We may not be able to update, improve or offer the content and products of our Core & EdTech Platform and Digital Platform efficiently, at an acceptable price and within the necessary timeframes.
Our Core & EdTech platform is intended to offer a complete package of educational solutions to address core curriculum requirements as well as complementary curricula such as English instruction and socio-emotional content, preparing students for entry into the most prestigious universities in Brazil and abroad, and offering a complete solution for personal and academic development. Our Digital Platform also offers our partner schools a suite of back-office services. In order to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, we must constantly update our portfolio of products, services and solutions, including through the adoption of new technologies. We may not be able to adapt and update our products and services or develop new solutions quickly enough to provide our customers, their students and our students the solutions required by changing demands in the markets in which we operate. If we are unable to respond adequately to these demands due to financial restrictions, technological changes or other factors, our capacity to attract and retain customers and students may be adversely affected, damaging our reputation and our business.
We depend significantly on IT systems and are subject to risks related to technological change. Any failure to maintain and support customer facing services, systems, and platforms, including addressing quality issues and executing timely release of new products and enhancements, could negatively impact our revenue and reputation.
IT systems are essential to our operations and growth as our content is available through an integrated online Content & EdTech Platform and we depend on the uninterrupted function of our online platform to deliver our products and services. Our IT systems and tools may become obsolete or inadequate for delivering our Content & EdTech Platform, whether due to rapidly evolving network protocols or new developments in network hardware, or we may face difficulty in staying abreast of and adapting to technological changes in the education sector.
We use complex proprietary IT systems and products, which Cogna shares with us, to support our business activities, including customer-facing systems, back-office processing and infrastructure. We also contract with datacenter service providers to host certain aspects of our platform and content. Our operations depend, in part, on the ability of our providers to protect their facilities against damage or interruption caused by natural disasters, power cuts, telecommunications breakdowns, criminal acts and similar events. Peak traffic, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, vandalism or sabotage, facility shutdowns on short notice, or other unforeseen problems relating to our service providers’ facilities, could result in prolonged interruptions in the availability of our platform, which could lead to customer dissatisfaction, damaging our reputation and our business.
Additionally, a failure to upgrade our technology, features, content, software systems, security infrastructure, network infrastructure, or other infrastructure associated with our platform could harm our business. Adverse consequences could include unanticipated disruptions, slower response times, bugs, degradation in levels of customer support, impaired quality of users’ experiences of our educational platform and delays in reporting accurate financial information.
In addition, we face risks associated with unauthorized access to our systems, including by hackers and due to failures of our electronic security measures. These unauthorized entries into our systems can result in the theft of proprietary or sensitive information or cause interruptions in the operation of our systems. During the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, we detected certain attempts to breach the security of our IT systems, all of which were unsuccessful. Moreover, we continuously monitor potential vulnerabilities in our IT and data systems and strive to improve security. Current unfinished initiatives in this regard include: (i) a disaster recovery system for our data centers; (ii) implementation of the Secure Development program; and (iii) a continuous monitoring program for our Secure Ambient program.
Moreover, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have increased the number of employees working remotely and we continue to allow remote work even after the pandemic. This will require us to continue relying on remote-access information technology systems, which increases the risk of unavailability of our systems and infrastructure, disruption of telecommunications services, widespread system failures, and exposes us to increased vulnerability to cyberattacks could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business may be adversely impacted. As a result, we may be forced to incur considerable expenses to protect our systems from electronic security breaches and to mitigate our exposure to technological problems and interruptions. The theft of data from our customers may subject us to significant fines and penalties, adversely affecting our results of operations and damaging our reputation.
Our revenue depends on sales of educational content, products and services to our customers, and any setback in customer relations could cause us significant harm.
The success of our business depends on maintaining good customer relationships, developing new relationships and expanding our customer network, which includes private K-12 schools, their students and parents, among others. Any deterioration in customer relations, including due to early cancellation or non-renewal of agreements with our customers, could damage our reputation, adversely affect our ability to grow and significantly harm our business.
Our agreements with partner schools provide for fines and penalties in the event of early termination. However, there can be no assurance that such partner schools will pay such fines in the event of early termination and our customers may seek relief in court proceedings to contest the term of such agreements or the payment of such fines. We could also be forced to seek legal remedies in the event of early termination of our agreements in order to enforce the payment of such fines, though there can be no assurance that we would be successful in connection with any such legal proceedings, and we could incur significant costs attempting to enforce our rights. Such costs, considered in addition to the lost revenue from terminated contracts, could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
We employ a customer support team to provide educational assistance and training for students and educators at our partner schools to help them maximize the results they obtain from using our Content & EdTech Platform. Our customer support team must carry out frequent site visits in an effort to build positive relationships and strengthen our ties with our partner schools. In addition, our Livro Fácil e-commerce has its own customer service structure, which serves mostly families but is also integrated with the schools’ relationship centers. If we do not provide our customers with efficient and effective support, maintain appropriate customer satisfaction levels or hire personnel in number sufficient to address our customers’ needs, our ability to operate and expand our business could be adversely affected.
Our Content & EdTech Platform and Digital Platform are technologically complex, and potential defects in our platforms or in updates to our platforms can be difficult or even impossible to fix.
Our Content & EdTech Platform and Digital Platform are technically complex products, and, when first introduced to customers or when upgraded through new versions, may contain software or hardware defects that are difficult to be detected and corrected. The existence of defects and delays in correcting them can have adverse effects, such as, cancellation of contracts, delays in the receipt of payment, poor functioning of our platforms and their content, failure to acquire new customers, or misuse of our platforms by third parties.
We test new versions and upgrades to our Content & EdTech Platform and Digital Platform, but we cannot assure that all defects related to platform updates can be identified before, or even after a new version of our platforms are made available. The correction of defects can be time-consuming, expensive and difficult. Errors and security breaches of our products could expose us to product liability claims and damage our reputation, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our growth may have a negative effect on the successful expansion of our business, on our people management, and on the increase in complexity of our software and platforms.
We are currently experiencing a period of expansion and are facing a number of expansion related issues, such as the acquisition and retention of experienced and talented personnel, cash flow management, corporate culture and internal controls, among others. These issues and the significant amount of time spent on addressing them may result in the diversion of our management’s attention from other business issues and opportunities. In addition, we believe that our corporate culture and values are critical to our success, and we have invested a significant amount of time and resources building them. If we fail to preserve our corporate culture and values, our ability to recruit, retain and develop personnel and to effectively implement our strategic plans may be harmed.
We must constantly update our software and platforms, enhance and improve our billing and transaction and other business systems, and add and train new software designers and engineers, as well as other personnel to help us with the increased use of our platforms and the new solutions and features we regularly introduce. This process is time intensive and expensive and may lead to higher costs in the future. Furthermore, we may need to enter into relationships with various strategic partners, such as online service providers and other third parties necessary to our business. The increased complexity of managing multiple commercial relationships could lead to execution problems that can affect current and future revenue, and operating margins.
We cannot assure you that our current and planned platforms, systems, products, procedures and controls, personnel and third-party relationships will be adequate to support our future operations. In addition, our current expansion has placed a significant strain on management and on our operational and financial resources, and this strain is expected to continue. Our failure to manage growth effectively could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business depends on the success of our brands and our ability to attract and retain customers could be adversely affected due to events or conditions that damage our reputation or the image of our brands.
We believe that market awareness of our brands has contributed significantly to the success of our business. Maintaining and enhancing our brands is crucial to our efforts to maintain and grow our customer network. We also depend significantly on the efforts of our sales force and our marketing channels, including online advertising, marketing research tools, social media and word of mouth. Failure to maintain and enhance our brand recognition could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition. We have devoted significant resources to our brand promotion efforts and to training our sales team in recent years, but we cannot assure you that these efforts will be successful. Our ability to attract new customers and retain our existing customers depends on our investments in our brands, on our marketing efforts and the success of our sales team, and the perceived value of our services in comparison with our competitors. If customers fail to distinguish our brands and the content we offer from our competitors, this may lead to decreased sales and revenue, lower margins or a decline in the market share of our brands. If our marketing initiatives are unsuccessful or become less effective, if we are unable to further enhance our brand recognition, if we incur excessive marketing and promotion expenses, or if our brand image is negatively impacted by any negative publicity, or if our customers misuse our brands in a way that results in a poor general perception of our brands, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Our business is subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may cause our operating results to vary from quarter‑to‑quarter and adversely impact our working capital and liquidity throughout the year, adversely affecting our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our main deliveries of printed and digital materials to our customers occur in the last quarter of each year (typically in November and December), and in the first quarter of each subsequent year (typically in February and March), and revenue is recognized when the customers obtain control over the materials. In addition, the printed and digital materials we provide in the fourth quarter are used by our customers in the following school year and, therefore, our fourth quarter results reflect the growth in the number of our students from one school year to the next, leading to higher revenue in general in our fourth quarter compared with the preceding quarters in each year. Consequently, in aggregate, the seasonality of our revenues generally produces higher revenues in the first and fourth quarters of our fiscal year. In addition, we generally bill our customers during the first half of each school year (which starts in January), which generally results in a higher cash position in the first half of each year compared to the second half.
A significant part of our expenses is also seasonal. Due to the nature of our business cycle, we need significant working capital, typically in September or October of each year, in order to cover costs related to production and inventory accumulation, selling and marketing expenses, and delivery of our teaching materials at the end of each year in preparation for the beginning of each school year. As a result, these operating expenses are generally incurred between September and December of each year.
Accordingly, due to the timing of sales and delivery of our educational products, services and content, and the timing of university entrance exams, we expect that our revenue and operating results will continue to exhibit quarterly fluctuations. These seasonal fluctuations could result in volatility and adversely affect our liquidity and cash flows. As our business grows, these seasonal fluctuations may become more pronounced. As a result, we believe that sequential quarterly comparisons of our financial results may not provide an accurate assessment of our financial situation.
In addition, our cash flows are affected by our customer conversion rate, which is measured from the moment of first contact with a customer or when a customer enters our target list (that is, when our commercial team identifies contracts nearing termination or when customers raise complaints or dissatisfaction with their service level) until formalizing an agreement, which generally takes three to four months. As part of our sales efforts, we incur significant expenditures, including expenses related to revision of credit terms and collaterals with main customers, commercial efforts to maintain frequent and meaningful interactions with certain target customers, including through meetings dedicated to evaluating and testing our platform, promotional events for our target customers, distribution of product samples, guided tours of our business units, and exhibitions at industry fairs. These costs also generate quarterly fluctuations in our cash flows, which could result in annual volatility and have an adverse effect on our liquidity. As our business grows, or if our business were to stop growing or we lost customers, these fluctuations could become more pronounced.
Our working capital needs have increased and may well continue to increase as our business expands. If we do not increase our cash flow generation or gain access to additional capital, either through credit lines or other sources of capital, which may not be available on satisfactory terms or in adequate amounts, our cash and cash equivalents may decrease, which will have a negative impact on our liquidity and capital resources. In addition, if we do not have sufficient working capital, we may not be able to pursue our growth strategy, respond to competitive pressures or fund key strategic initiatives, which could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We could be subject to risks related to inventory management.
We are exposed to significant inventory management risks, which could adversely affect our operating results due to the continued effects of events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic on global supply chains and inflation, such as: (1) rapid changes in product cycles; (2) changes in consumer tastes as a result growth in online learning; (3) changes in consumer demand and consumption patterns; (4) seasonality caused by new school closures as a response to potential virus outbreaks; and (5) launch of new products delayed as a result of school closures. We may not forecast seasonality and product and consumer trends in a manner to accurately manage our inventory needs, and demand for products could change significantly between the time we build our stock of inventory and the time we deliver our products.
In addition, when we start selling new products, we may not be able to establish favorable relationships with new suppliers, develop the right products or accurately forecast demand. The acquisition of certain types of inventories can be time-consuming and may require significant prepayments, which may not be refundable. Finally, we have a broad selection and high volume of inventory of certain products, and we may not be able to sell sufficient quantities of these products, leading to obsolescence losses. Our failure to adequately manage our inventory for any of the reasons mentioned above could adversely affect business and results of operations.
While our businesses are managed and financed independently from our parent company, Cogna, we are party to a cost-sharing agreement for certain administrative expenses, and an increase in the amounts we pay to Cogna might be disproportional to the benefits we receive and could affect our performance. In addition, we share certain logistics-related expenses with Cogna, and the reimbursement to us by Cogna for such shared expenses may not be sufficient to meet our actual costs.
We are party to a cost-sharing agreement with Cogna for certain administrative expenses, such as those related to corporate, legal and accounting activities, which we refer to as overhead expenses. Under this cost-sharing agreement, we are required to pay our proportional share of overhead expenses based on our revenue as a share of the Cogna group’s aggregate revenue. Cogna may incur increased overhead expenses in the course of its operations that cannot be allocated directly in a unique operation within the Cogna group and may not be directly related to our operations, whether due to increased acquisition activities, as part of corporate restructurings, or for operations generally, which would result in an increase in the overhead expenses we would be required to pay under the cost sharing agreement, and a corresponding increase in our general and administrative expenses, without corresponding benefits to our operations, which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
Moreover, we share certain logistics-related expenses with Cogna, and there may be cases in the future in which the reimbursement of such shared expenses that may be paid to us by Cogna may not be sufficient to cover expenses actually incurred by us in respect of logistics services benefitting Cogna, which would cause us to bear a disproportionate share of such expenses, thereby having an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Misuse of our brands or other actions carried out by other companies controlled by our parent company, Cogna, may damage our business and our reputation due to certain of our brands being shared with other businesses controlled by Cogna.
Several of our brands are shared between us, Cogna and other companies that are controlled by Cogna, which operate in different markets from ours (such as postsecondary education and the operation of certain other K-12 curriculum business separate from ours), and the misuse of these shared brands or actions taken by such companies could negatively affect our reputation, which could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations. In November and December 2019, we entered into certain brand sharing agreements with Cogna, but these agreements may not assure uninterrupted and conflict-free use of our brands. If we lose the right to use these brands or become subject to restrictions in the use of our brands, our business and results of operations could be adversely affected. Some of the brands we will use in our business are owned by subsidiaries of Cogna, for which we were granted a license to use pursuant to certain agreements. Nevertheless, such agreements may not ensure uninterrupted use of these brands and do not guarantee that we will not be subject to future conflict related to the use of these brands. Any conflict that arises out of the use of our brands could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Failure to protect or enforce our intellectual property and other proprietary rights could adversely affect our business and financial condition and results of operations.
We rely and expect to continue to rely on a combination of trademark, copyright, patent and trade secret protection laws, as well as confidentiality, intellectual property license and assignment agreements with our employees, consultants and third parties with whom we have relationships to protect our intellectual property and proprietary rights. As of the date of this annual report, we did not have issued patents or patent applications pending in or outside Brazil. We are party to approximately 3,000 agreements with third party authors with respect to educational content. We own approximately 525 trademark registrations, including the trademarks and logos of “Vasta”, “Somos Educação”, “Editora Atica”, “Editora Scipione”, “Atual Editora”, “Sistema Anglo de Ensino”, “PAR Plataforma Educacional”, “Sistema Maxi de Ensino”, “English Stars”, “Rede Cristã de Educação”, “Plurall” and “MindMakers”, among others. We also have approximately 40 pending trademark applications in Brazil and four in the United States for trademarks “Vasta”, “Vasta Educação” and “Somos Educação”, and unregistered trademarks that we use to promote our brands. We also have the right to use trademark registrations for “Pitágoras” (owned by a subsidiary of Cogna) and “Saraiva” (owned by Saraiva Gestão de Marcas S.A., a company jointly owned by Cogna and third parties who are not controlled by us nor by Cogna). As of the date of this annual report, we owned approximately 130 registered domain names in Brazil. From time to time, we expect to file additional copyright, trademark and domain names applications in Brazil and abroad. Nevertheless, these applications may not be approved or otherwise provide the full protection we seek. The dismissal of any of our trademark applications may impact our business. Third parties may challenge any copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property and proprietary rights owned or held by us. Third parties may knowingly or unknowingly infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate our copyrights, trademarks and other proprietary rights and we may not be able to prevent infringement, misappropriation or other violation without substantial expense to us.
Furthermore, we cannot guarantee that:
If we pursue litigation to assert our intellectual property or proprietary rights, an adverse decision in any of these legal actions could limit our ability to assert our intellectual property or proprietary rights, limit the value of our intellectual property or proprietary rights or otherwise negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. If the protection of our intellectual property and proprietary rights is inadequate to prevent use or misappropriation by third parties, the value of our brands and other intangible assets may be diminished, competitors may be able to more effectively mimic our service and methods of operations, the perception of our business and service to customers and potential customers may become confused in the marketplace and our ability to attract and retain customers may be adversely affected.
We may in the future be subject to intellectual property claims, which are costly to defend and could harm our business, financial condition and operating results.
Because of the large number of authors that participate in our publications, from time to time, third parties may allege in the future that we or our business infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate their intellectual property or proprietary rights, including with respect to our publications. We cannot guarantee that we are party to enforceable agreements with all the counterparties that have purportedly assigned copyrights or other intellectual property rights to us, in which case we could be subject to legal proceedings and the payment of significant fines for unauthorized use of intellectual property. In addition, many companies, including various “non-practicing entities” or “patent trolls”, are devoting significant resources to developing or acquiring patents that could potentially affect many aspects of our business. There are numerous patents that broadly claim means and methods of conducting business on the Internet. We have not exhaustively searched patents related to our technology. In addition, the publishing industry has been, and we expect in the future will continue to be, the target of counterfeiting and piracy. We may implement measures in an effort to protect against these potential liabilities that could require us to spend substantial resources. Any costs incurred as a result of liability or asserted liability relating to sales of unauthorized or counterfeit educational materials could harm our business, reputation and financial condition.
Third parties may initiate litigation against us without warning. Others may send us letters or other communications that make allegations without initiating litigation. We may elect not to respond to the communication if we believe it is without merit or we may attempt to resolve disputes out of court by electing to pay royalties or other fees for licenses or out-of-court settlements in unforeseeable amounts. If we are forced to defend ourselves against intellectual property claims, whether they are with or without merit or are determined in our favor, we may face costly litigation, diversion of technical and management personnel, inability to use our current website or inability to market our service or merchandise our products. As a result of a dispute, we may have to develop non infringing technology, including partially or fully revise any publication that infringes intellectual property rights, enter into licensing agreements, adjust our merchandising or marketing activities or take other actions to resolve the claims. These actions, if required, may be unavailable on terms acceptable to us or may be costly or unavailable. If we are unable to obtain sufficient rights or develop non infringing intellectual property or otherwise alter our business practices, as appropriate, on a timely basis, our reputation or our brands, our business and our competitive position may be adversely affected and we may be subject to an injunction or be required to pay or incur substantial damages and/or fees and/or royalties.
Most of our services are provided using proprietary software and our software is mainly developed by our employees, who do not specifically assign to us their copyrights over the software and we are unable to assure that we have adequate agreements with all of our employees to provide for the assignment of software rights. While applicable law establishes that employers shall have full title over rights relating to software developed by their employees, we could be subject to lawsuits by former employees claiming ownership of such software. As a result, we may be required to obtain licenses of such software, incurring costs relating to payments of royalties and/or damages and we may be forced to cease the use of such software. If we are unable to use certain of our proprietary software as a result of any of the foregoing or otherwise, this could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, we use open-source software in connection with certain of our products and services. Companies that incorporate open-source software into their products have, from time to time, faced claims challenging the ownership of open-source software and/or compliance with open-source license terms. As a result, we could be subject to suits by parties claiming ownership of what we believe to be open-source software or noncompliance with open-source licensing terms. Some open-source software licenses require users who distribute or use open-source software as part of their software to publicly disclose all or part of the source code to such software and/or make available any derivative works of the open-source code on unfavorable terms or at no cost. Any requirement to disclose our proprietary source code or pay damages for breach of contract could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The quality of the teaching content we deliver to our customers depends to a significant degree on the quality of our publishers and of the content we purchase. Any issues related to obtaining this content or regarding the quality of this content may have an adverse effect on our business.
The educational content and materials we provide are a combination of content developed by our in-house production team and content purchased from certain independent authors and publishers with whom we have contractual relationships. However, we may not be able to maintain our contractual relationships with independent authors or publishers if, for instance, (1) such authors leave us to join our competitors; (2) they no longer accept our contractual conditions, particularly those in relation to copyright; or (3) they choose to publish their content independently. If we are not able to replace such authors or publishers or if we are unable to renew the agreements that we currently have with them on terms that are favorable to us, our business could be adversely affected. In addition, delays in the delivery of content from authors may have an impact on our annual content creation schedule.
A lack of publishers, qualified employees, independent authors or satisfactory purchased content, or any decrease in the quality of the content produced or purchased, whether actual or perceived, or any significant increase in the cost of hiring or retaining qualified personnel or of acquiring content from independent authors or publishers, would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Additionally, our content production process requires significant coordination between different teams, as well as qualified personnel with appropriate training in order to ensure that we maintain the quality of our educational content and that we are able to successfully implement additional functions and technology delivery. We may not be able to retain, recruit or train qualified employees or obtain educational content that meets our standards, which could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
If our partner schools are unable to maintain educational quality, we may be adversely affected.
Our partner schools and their students are regularly assessed and classified under the terms of applicable educational laws and regulations. If the schools, programs or students from our partner schools receive lower scores from year to year on any of their assessments, including on the Index for Development in Primary and Secondary Education (Índice de Desenvolvimento da Educação Básica), or IDEB, and on the National High School Exam (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio), or ENEM, or if there is any drop in the acceptance rates of the students from our partner schools into prestigious universities, we may be negatively affected by perceptions of a decline in the educational quality of our Content & EdTech Platform, which could adversely affect our reputation and, as a result, our operating results and financial condition.
We intend to expand our operations to the public school segment in Brazil, which may not be successful and which will expose us to additional risks.
Starting in the first half of 2023, we plan to begin offering our products and services to clients in the public sector, in addition to our existing private school client base. We believe that our broad portfolio of core content solutions, digital platform and complimentary services will allow us to access a public school market in need of the solutions we have developed over the years. Accordingly, we have taken certain steps to (i) create what we believe to be an attractive portfolio of products and services, focused on state secretariats for education; (ii) allocate managerial and financial resources for this new business initiative; and (iii) implement certain business-generating and marketing strategies for the public sector.
However, we have a limited operating history for the new business in the public school segment, as it has not been an area of focus of our business historically. Different rules and regulations may apply to the contracts we may enter into with federal, state or municipal public schools, which could expose us to risks that we are not ordinarily used to, including with respect to the education strategy adopted at different levels of government and any applicable special purchase regimes, payment retention rights of governmental counterparties and restrictions in the participation in public bidding processes. As a result, we may not develop or continue to grow as expected, we may not generate a sufficient level of revenues in line with our forecasts, and operating a new business unit may distract our management from our core business unit, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
For more information on our plans to expand our business into the public school sector, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company—Recent Developments—New Business Unit”.
A significant increase in late payment and/or default in the payment of amounts due to us by our customers and a significant increase in attrition rates of students among our customers may adversely affect our revenue and cash flow.
Our customers may face financial difficulties and, in certain cases, insolvency or bankruptcy. A decrease in our customers’ revenues (due to a decline in enrollment as a result of a decrease in disposable income of families enrolled at our partner schools) could have an adverse effect on the ability of our existing and prospective customers to pay our tuition fees and/or trigger an increase in attrition rates. A significant increase in late payment or default by our customers could have a material adverse effect on our revenue and cash flow, thereby affecting our ability to meet our obligations. As of December 31, 2022, our impairment losses on trade receivables balance was R$69.5 million, an increase of R$23.0 million from R$46.5 million on December 31, 2021. As of December 31, 2021, our impairment losses on trade receivables balance was R$46.5 million, an increase of R$14.4 million from R$32.1 million on December 31, 2020. Our impairment losses on trade receivables as of December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020 represented 5.5%, 4.9% and 3.2% of our net revenue from sales and services as of each period-end, respectively. An increase in the rate of impairment losses, or other defaults by our customers, could have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
In addition, any increase in the student attrition rates among our customers could have an adverse effect on our operating results. Any significant changes in our projected student attrition rate and/or in failure to re-enroll students may affect our partner schools’ enrollment figures, as well as their ability to recruit and enroll new students, could have a material adverse effect on our projected revenue and operating results.
In addition, part of our revenue has come from the sale of education solutions to municipal governments within several states of Brazil, and such public entities may delay payments or even default in payment. Any such payment delay or default would result in further delays in our receipt of payment, as we would be required to seek a special judicial order (precatórios) under Brazilian law to enforce our rights to receive payment. This special judicial order is a formalization of a payment due by the Brazilian Public Treasury issued as a consequence of a final or unappealable judicial decision. Furthermore, enforcement for the collection of debts due by the Public Treasury are not processed by the attachment of assets owned by the public entities, but by the issuance of a payment order for the inclusion of the debt in the public budget, further delaying the timing of any payment. Late payments or defaults by such public entities could have a material adverse effect on our revenue and cash flow.
If our growth rate decelerates significantly, our future prospects and financial results would be adversely affected, preventing us from achieving profitability.
We believe that our growth depends on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, our ability to:
We may not be successful in achieving the above objectives. Any slowdown in the demand from students, partner schools or customers for our products and services caused by changes in customer preferences, failure to maintain our brands, inability to expand our portfolio of products or services, changes in the Brazilian or global economy, taxes, competition or other factors may lead to a decrease in revenue or growth and our financial results and future prospects could be negatively affected. We expect that we will continue to incur significant expenses as a result of our efforts to continue growing, and if we cannot increase our revenue at a faster rate than the increase in our expenses, we will not be able to achieve profitability.
We may be subject to penalties under Law 12,846/2013 or the Brazilian Anti-Corruption Law, the Federal Administrative Procedural Law, the Administrative Improbity Law and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the FCPA, if our employees engage in any conduct prohibited by these laws.
We have in the past engaged in, and continue to maintain, relationships with a number of public entities, both through contracts and public tenders, including under the PNLD (in which Vasta no longer participates, as this operation is now carried out through another subsidiary of Cogna), through the provision of services and the sale of products, solutions and educational content to public entities (including in connection with the sale of educational content to public entities for the purpose of obtaining licenses and permits required for our operations (such as operating permits, fire inspections and education sector regulatory licenses, among others). Moreover, we intend to expand our business into the public school segment in Brazil and, as a result, we expect to become regular participants in public tenders and government contracts, which could cause increased public scrutiny relating to compliance with bidding processes regulations, such as the bidding law (Lei de Licitações) and the Federal Administrative Procedural Law (Lei de Processo Administrativo Federal), and anti-corruption laws in Brazil and other applicable jurisdictions.
We train our employees to comply with the rules set forth in the code of conduct and anti-corruption manual of Cogna, which set out policies and rules for proper dealings with public officials for purposes of our compliance with the Brazilian Anti-Corruption Law, the Federal Administrative Procedural Law, the Administrative Improbity Law and the FCPA. However, there can be no assurance that all of our employees and agents acting on our behalf who may have contact with public officials will fully comply with our policies, or that our policies will be fully effective in preventing non-compliance with applicable law, which could lead to our failure to comply with the Brazilian Anti-Corruption Law, the Federal Administrative Procedural Law, the Administrative Improbity Law or the FCPA. Any conduct by our employees or agents with public officials in any manner that fails to comply with Cogna’s code of conduct, the anti-corruption manual, the Brazilian Anti-Corruption Law, the Federal Administrative Procedural Law, the Administrative Improbity Law and the FCPA could lead to government investigations, judicial and/or administrative proceedings, fines, penalties, loss of regulatory licenses, disgorgement of profits, loss of tax benefits and damage to our reputation and image, any of which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Certain students enrolled at our partner schools may not generate meaningful revenue because of the reutilization of printed teaching materials.
In recent years, we have seen a growing increase in the reuse of printed teaching materials by families who use the same printed material for more than one child, even though we update these materials annually, which has an adverse effect on our revenue. We call this phenomenon “sales drop” or “reuse”. Because the reuse of materials results from family behavior combined with the list of materials adopted by our partner schools, we are unable to control or mitigate the sales drop effect. We cannot predict any future sales drop or its potential impact on our revenue and operating results.
The Saraiva brand is owned by Saraiva Gestão de Marcas S.A., a company that is jointly owned by our parent company, Cogna, and third parties that are not part of the Cogna group. Any conflict with these parties could have a negative effect on our business.
We have the right to use the Saraiva brand until December 28, 2040 for some of Vasta’s textbooks and literary works, in the context of our publishing operations. The Saraiva brand accounted for 36%, 25% and 26% of the net revenue from sales and services of our textbook revenues in 2022, 2021 and 2020, respectively. In terms of net revenue from sales and services, the Saraiva brand accounted for 8.2%, in 2022, 6% in 2021 and 6% in 2020. Saraiva Gestão de Marcas S.A. is jointly owned by Cogna and third parties who are not controlled by us or Cogna. These parties may have interests that conflict with ours, which might lead to disputes that could adversely affect our ability to use the Saraiva brand. We cannot assure that these parties’ interests will align with ours or that our interests would prevail in any dispute regarding the use of the Saraiva brand. This potential conflict of interest could adversely affect the reputation or performance of the Saraiva brand, or our ability to use the Saraiva brand, which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations. In addition, the third party who jointly owns Saraiva Gestão de Marcas S.A., is currently subject to a bankruptcy proceeding in Brazilian courts. We cannot guarantee that there will not be any impact on the Saraiva brand in the course of this proceeding or if this party were subject to liquidation.
Changes in our or our customers’ current regulatory environment could have an adverse effect on us.
Currently, although we are subject to the requirements of the National Common Curriculum Base (Base Nacional Comum Curricular), or BNCC, we are not directly regulated by the Brazilian Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação), or MEC, nor are we subject to any governmental regulations imposed by the National Education Council (Conselho Nacional de Educação), or CNE, or by the Board of Primary and Secondary Education (Conselho de Educação Básica), or CEB. We are also subject to certain regulations related to bidding processes in connection with the sale of educational content to public entities, such as the bidding law (Lei de Licitações) and the Federal Administrative Procedural Law (Lei de Processo Administrativo Federal). In addition, we are subject to bidding regulations enacted by SESI, in connection with the sale of educational content to the SESI. If we or our customers become subject to new laws and regulations, we may incur additional costs in order to comply with the new legislation and this may have an adverse impact on our business. In addition, if we are required to comply with additional laws and regulations, there is a risk that we may not do so fully or satisfactorily, and this could result in possible legal or administrative proceedings against us, which could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, our business and results of operations.
We use third party service providers in our logistics services to ship all of our collections of printed teaching materials and a failure by our service providers to perform efficiently would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our delivery of printed books and other educational content to schools is a seasonal activity, with a cycle that usually begins with the creation and review of content from April to July, the purchase of printing services from August to October, and physical delivery of printed books from November to January. We have expanded our operations rapidly since we first began our activities. As our size increases, so does the size and complexity of our logistics operation.
We generally require a high volume of deliveries in November and December, which requires a significant degree of inventory, supply management and management of our relationship and coordination with printers. Our customers place key value on the timely delivery of printed materials. Consequently, failure to comply with deadlines, inadequate logistics planning, disruption at distribution centers, poor inventory management, and the failure to meet customer expectations, launch new products, or respond to rapidly changing customer preferences, could have an adverse effect on our reputation, increase returns of our materials or cause inventory losses and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Virtually our entire inventory of our printed teaching materials is stored in rented warehouse facilities operated by us and delivered by third party carriers that undertake the distribution of all physical teaching materials. If our logistics service providers do not fulfill their obligations to deliver teaching materials to our customers in a timely manner, or if a significant number of deliveries are incomplete or contain assembly errors, our business, operating results and operations could be adversely affected. In addition, natural disasters, fires, power outages, work stoppages or other unexpected catastrophic events, particularly during the period between August and October, when we expect to receive most of the instructional materials for the school year and we have not yet delivered these materials to our customers, could significantly disrupt our ability to deliver our products and operate our business. If we were to lose a significant portion of our inventory, or if our warehouse facilities or distribution centers suffer any significant damage, we could fail to meet our delivery obligations and our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.
We have a significant amount of debt and may incur additional debt in the future. Our payment obligations under our debt may limit our available resources and the terms of debt instruments may limit our flexibility in operating our business.
As of December 31, 2022, we had total outstanding bonds and financing of R$842.9 million compared to R$831.2 million as of December 31, 2021, comprising (i) private debentures issued by Somos Sistemas to Saber and Cogna (as creditors) bearing interest at an average annual rate of CDI plus 1.0% and CDI plus 2.4%, with semi-annual coupon payments and a bullet repayment at maturity in August 2023 and September 2025; and (ii) debentures issued by Somos Sistemas to third parties bearing interest at an average annual rate of CDI plus 2.3%, with semi-annual coupon payments and a bullet repayment at maturity in August 2024. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Indebtedness”. Most of our indebtedness is linked to the CDI. Changes in Brazilian macroeconomic conditions can adversely affect the CDI. Fluctuations in the inflation rate and rate indices can increase the cost of our indebtedness that is linked to the CDI and may have a material adverse effect on our financial position and result of operations. Subject to the limitations under the terms of our existing debt, we may incur additional debt, secure existing or future debt or refinance our debt. In particular, we may need to incur additional debt to fund our activities, and the terms of this financing may not be attractive for us.
We may be required to use a substantial portion of our cash flows to pay the principal and interest on our indebtedness. These payments will reduce the funds available for working capital, capital expenditures and other corporate purposes and will limit our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital or making capital expenditures for expansion plans and other investments, which may in turn limit our ability to implement our business strategy. Our significant debt may also increase our vulnerability to downturns in our business, in our industry or in the economy as a whole and may limit our flexibility in terms of planning or reacting to changes in our business and in the industry and could prevent us from taking advantage of business opportunities as they arise. We cannot guarantee that our business will generate sufficient cash flow from operations or that future financing will be available in sufficient amounts or on favorable terms to enable us to make timely and necessary payments under the terms of our indebtedness or to fund our activities.
In addition, if we were to default on any of our debt, we could be required to make immediate repayment, other debt facilities may be cross-defaulted or accelerated, and we may be unable to refinance our debt on favorable terms at all, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial position. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Indebtedness” for a summary of the conditions that could result in an acceleration of our indebtedness.
Our ability to utilize certain tax credits may be limited.
As of December 31, 2022, we had accumulated tax losses carryforwards of R$422.2 million which are available as offsetting credits against future taxable profits compared to R$307.3 million as of December 31, 2021. Our ability to use these accumulated tax losses as offsetting credits depends on our future taxable income, which could have a material adverse effect on our operating results. The Company's historical tax losses is driven mainly by the tax amortization of goodwill and the amortization of intangibles generated by the business combination originated in 2018. In accordance with Brazilian tax regulation, tax losses carryforwards have a limitation for use to a 30% of taxable profit generated in the year and does not expire. According with the Company´s estimate, the realization of deferred tax asset is expected to start in 2026, after the end of amortization of goodwill for tax purposes and intangibles generated by business combination originated in 2018, and is expected to be utilized over an extended period of time. The Company’s income tax and social contribution loss carryforwards are primarily the result of tax amortization of goodwill and the amortization of certain intangibles recognized related to the business combination in 2018. In accordance with Brazilian tax regulation, tax loss carryforwards have a limitation for use of 30% of taxable profit generated in each year and do not expire. The tax benefit is expected to be realized over an estimated 6 year period beginning in 2026. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Critical Accounting Estimates”.
PAR, or “Partnership” (Parceria), is part of our business model, and is focused on long-term agreements through the use of textbooks rather than learning systems. If we are not able to implement this product successfully, our business would be materially adversely affected.
PAR, which is focused on long-term agreements using textbooks, is a product designed to bring the same level of profitability and loyalty as our learning systems. In 2022, 2021 and 2020, revenues from PAR Platform contracts accounted for 11.3%, 16.6% and 14.6%, respectively, of our total ACV Bookings (subscription business). In order for us to increase PAR’s profitability in line with that of our learning systems, we must increase the number of contracts for textbook sales with schools and families by providing a product offering that is economically attractive to schools and families, seeking to reduce or eliminate the reuse of printed teaching materials. At present, around 88% of PAR Platform contracts remain as adhesion contracts, in which sales are not made directly to partner schools and families, which means the schools and families purchase printed teaching materials through a number of channels, including distributors, bookstores and third-party e-commerce, as well as reuse materials in many cases. In case we are not able to establish a specific stock keeping unit and, therefore, not able to guarantee that our PAR-related materials are exclusively sold directly from our partner schools or from us, we may be exposed to partial revenue loss as a result of the reuse of printed materials sold in previous cycles (secondary market). Currently, our estimated revenue from PAR Platform contracts already considers the average market reuse of printed materials, which assumes students can buy the material through other channels and the historical reuse of printed materials. An increase in the sales of reused printed materials may intensify the negative impacts on our revenues. We estimate that an inability to maintain exclusive control over PAR-related materials represents foregone revenue of approximately R$0.50 for every R$1.00 in PAR-related products expected to be sold, based on the contribution we estimate from Vasta’s publishing operations. Effectively, new sales are reduced due to the reuse of books such that, for each 100 students that adopt PAR-related material, 50 students purchase a new book, and 50 students reuse old material. This effect has had, and is expected to continue to have, an adverse effect on our revenue and results of operations. We account for this effect in our estimates and forecasts for PAR-related revenues.
Our results may be negatively affected by the return rates on our textbooks.
To increase the availability of our textbooks for purchase by schools and students, our textbook sales (both through PAR Platform and as spot sales) are carried out through numerous channels, such as bookstores, schools, large retailers, distributors and e-commerce sellers. Each of these distribution channels has a unique return policy, which can result in returns ranging from 10% to 50% of the total purchased amount during a given sales cycle. Our textbook sales are concentrated during the period from November to March. From April to June, the sales channels can return any unsold inventory to us. We are unable to assure that future return rates will be consistent with historical return rates. An increase in the volume of returns in excess of our expectations could have an adverse effect on our results of operation and financial condition.
We may not be successful in implementing our cross-selling and up-selling strategy with our current base of partner schools.
Part of our growth strategy consists of increasing the number of segments in which we operate in our partner schools, for example by expanding our services and educational solutions for elementary school and kindergarten to schools that only purchase our solutions for high school (up-sell). We also seek to expand the uptake by our partner schools of our supplementary courses, such as English language instruction or solutions for socio-emotional instruction (cross-sell). If we are unable to effectively sell these additional course offerings to our existing partner schools, for instance because of other competitors already entrenched with the school, we may not be able to grow our business at our projected rates, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be unable to convert spot market book sales into long-term contracts, either through the adoption of our learning systems or PAR Platform solutions, which could have an adverse effect on our future growth.
Traditionally, certain schools with which we have done business choose to buy only selected books from us in the “spot book market”. These schools do not have long term contracts with us, and we are unable to predict how their spot purchases will impact our revenue. Part of our growth strategy is based on converting spot book market sales into long-term contracts by having the relevant school adopt one of our learning systems or PAR. If we are unable to convert spot market sales into long-term contracts, we may not meet our growth targets, which could have an adverse effect on our prospects, our revenue and cash flow.
Part of our strategy is based on entering new markets and implementing new businesses, including solutions through our Digital Platform. We may not be successful in exploiting these opportunities, which may have an adverse effect on our business.
Many of the markets where we plan to operate, such as academic and financial ERP and student acquisition solutions, are new to us and our organizational skills in these markets have not yet been tested. In addition, we may have incorrectly estimated the total size of new markets or our ability to penetrate such markets or engage in new businesses, such as increased offering of solutions through our Digital Platform. In addition, we may face competition from existing participants or new entrants in the market in which our Digital Platform operates, including in the digital school office, digital marketing and family relations services, and our competitors may have greater resources than we do or may offer more attractive products or services. If we are unsuccessful in entering new markets or in implementing new businesses, we may incur costs that we are unable to recoup and our image and reputation may be adversely affected, which could have an adverse effect on our results of operation and financial position.
We may not be able to expand our complementary education portfolio in line with our business strategy.
We currently have educational solutions for English instruction and the teaching of socio-emotional skills, which can be offered during normal school hours or after school. We plan to develop and/or acquire new services and products to expand our portfolio of these complementary education solution. We may not be able to develop products and solutions in an effective way, they may not be accepted by our customers and by the market, or we may not develop the internal capabilities to produce such products and services. Additionally, we may not be able to acquire companies operating such new services and businesses on favorable terms, or we may incur risks of integrating acquired assets. If we are unable to expand our complementary education solution due to any of the foregoing factors, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
Price increases and changing business conditions for the purchase of paper, a global commodity, may have a significant impact on us due to our reliance on a high volume of printed materials.
Paper prices and postage rates are difficult to predict and control. Paper is a commodity, and its price may be influenced by fluctuations in exchange rates and commodity prices and may be subject to significant volatility. Our third-party printing service providers may adjust their rates to account for any changes in paper prices, and although historically we have been able to obtain favorable pricing as a result of volume discounts, particularly after our significant recent growth, there is no assurance that we will continue to obtain favorable prices in the future. We cannot predict with certainty the magnitude of future price changes for paper, postage and printing and publishing in general, and we may not be able to pass these increases on to our customers, which may have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations, given the importance of paper suppliers to our business. Additionally, we could be materially affected as a result of any contractual or legal issue with our paper suppliers or any delay in the delivery of our printed books and other educational content to partner schools, which could cause schools to delay payments due to us, or lead schools to terminate their contract with us, which would have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
There is no assurance that our partner schools will honor their contractual obligations, or that the number of students actually enrolled at partner schools corresponds to the number of students reported by the schools.
We generally enter into agreements with the schools that subscribe to our content and services, however, partner schools may try to avoid their obligations under their agreements with us, even with an effective contract in place, and we may be subject to additional costs and expenses in an effort to enforce our rights, which would have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
In addition, when partner schools enter into agreements with us, they report to us the number of students enrolled at their school who will use our products and services. However, we cannot assure you that the number of students reported by a specific partner school in a specific segment is the actual number of students enrolled, as we do not audit this number, and our expected revenue may be adversely affected by inaccurate reporting, which could have a material adverse effect on us, our reputation and results of operation.
The printing market is heavily concentrated, and increases in rates, changes in business conditions, or any disruptions to the service of our third-party printing service providers could significantly affect us.
Our production of printed learning materials is outsourced to printers with whom we have contracts. We are subject to delays in the graphic production of our material, errors in production or even the bankruptcy of our partner printing companies, which could cause damage to our image with our customers and to our operating results.
In addition, increases in the rates of the third-party printing service providers that produce our printed educational materials could have a negative impact on our results if we are unable to fully pass on these cost increases to our customers. Finally, the printing market is a heavily concentrated one, which may reduce our bargaining power and result in less favorable rates, with an adverse effect on our business.
We depend on our subsidiaries’ financial results, and we may be adversely affected if the performance of our subsidiaries is not positive or if Brazil imposes legal restrictions on, or imposes taxes on, the distribution of dividends by subsidiaries.
We are a pure holding company, and our activities are carried out by our subsidiaries. Our material assets are our direct and indirect equity interests in our subsidiaries. We are, therefore, dependent upon payments, dividends and distributions from our subsidiaries for funds to pay our holding company’s operating and other expenses, to comply with our financial obligations and to potentially pay future cash dividends or distributions, if any, to holders of our Class A common shares. The amount of any dividends or distributions which may be paid to us from time to time will depend on many factors including, for example, such subsidiaries’ results of operations and financial condition; limits on dividends under applicable law; their constitutional documents; documents governing any indebtedness; applicability of tax treaties; and other factors which may be outside our control. Furthermore, exchange rate fluctuation will affect the U.S. dollar value of any distributions our subsidiaries (which are mostly located in Brazil) make with respect to our equity interests in those subsidiaries. See “—Risks Relating to Brazil—Exchange rate instability may have adverse effects on the Brazilian economy, our business and the trading price of our Class A common shares”, and “—The ongoing economic uncertainty and political instability in Brazil, including as a result of ongoing corruption investigations, may harm us and the price of our Class A common shares”. There is no guarantee that the cash flow and profits of our controlled companies will be sufficient for us to comply with our financial obligations and pay dividends or interest on shareholders’ equity to our shareholders, or that the Brazilian federal government will not impose legal restrictions on, or impose taxes on, the distribution of dividends by our subsidiaries.
Any change in the tax treatment of our business or the loss or reduction in tax benefits on the sale of books (including digital books and e-readers) could materially adversely affect us.
We benefit from tax Law No. 10,865/04, as amended by Law No. 11,033/04, which provide that our tax rate on the sale of books is zero in respect of contributions to the social integration program tax (Programa de Integração Social, or PIS) and the social contributions on revenue tax (Contribuição para o Financiamento da Seguridade Social, or COFINS). The sale of books is also exempt by the Brazilian constitution from Brazilian municipal taxes, Brazilian services tax (Imposto Sobre Serviços, or ISS) and from the Brazilian tax on the circulation of goods, interstate and intercity transportation and communication services (Imposto sobre Operações relativas à Circulação de Mercadorias e sobre Prestações de Services de Transporte Interestadual e Intermunicipal e de Comunicação, or ICMS). If the Brazilian federal or state governments or any Brazilian municipality or tax authority decides to change or review the tax treatment of our activities or cancel or reduce the tax benefits applicable to the sale of our products (including digital books and e-readers) and/or challenge such treatment, and we are unable to pass any corresponding cost increase onto our customers, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected. Tax exemptions available to physical books have been extended to digital books based on a decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court issued on March 8, 2017. However, there is no assurance that the Brazilian Supreme Court will not change its position in the future in regard to the taxation of digital books, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We may pursue strategic acquisitions or investments. The failure of an acquisition or investment to be completed or to produce the anticipated results, or the inability to fully integrate an acquired company, could harm our business.
We may from time to time, as opportunities arise or economic conditions permit, acquire or invest in complementary companies or businesses as part of our strategy to expand our operations, including through acquisitions or investments that may be material in size and/or of strategic relevance. The success of an acquisition or investment will depend on our ability to make accurate assumptions regarding the valuation, operations, growth potential, integration and other factors related to that business. We cannot assure you that our acquisitions or investments will produce the results that we expect at the time we enter into, or complete a given transaction.
Any acquisition or investment involves a series of risks and challenges that could adversely affect our business, including due to a failure of such acquisition to contribute to our commercial strategy or improve our image. We may be unable to generate the expected returns and synergies on our investments. In addition, the amortization of acquired intangible assets could decrease our net profit and potential dividends. We may face challenges in integrating acquired companies, which may result in the diversion of our capital and our management’s attention from other business issues and opportunities. We may be unable to create and implement uniform and effective controls, procedures and policies, and we may incur increased costs for integrating systems, people, distribution methods or operating procedures. We may also be unable to integrate technologies of acquired businesses or retain key customers, executives and staff of the businesses acquired. In particular, we may face challenges in integrating staff working across different geographies and that may be accustomed to different corporate cultures, which would result in strained relations among existing and new personnel. We could also face challenges in negotiating favorable collective bargaining agreements with unions due to differences in the negotiating procedures used in different regions. Finally, we may pursue acquisitions where we acquire a majority stake in such acquisition, but with significant minority investors, or we may become minority investors in certain operations, wherein our ability to effectively control and manage the business may be limited. If we are unable to manage growth through acquisitions, our business and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.
We may also require approval from Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica), or CADE, or other regulatory authorities, in order to conduct certain acquisitions or investments for education companies exceeding or equivalent to annual gross revenue of R$75 million. CADE may not approve our future acquisitions or may condition approval of our acquisitions on our disposal of certain operations of our targeted acquisitions or could impose other restrictions on the operations and business of the target. Failure to obtain approval from CADE or other regulatory authorities for future acquisitions, or any conditional approvals of future acquisitions, may result in expenses that could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, in connection with any acquisition, we may face liabilities for contingencies related to, among others, (1) legal and/or administrative proceedings of the acquired company, including civil, regulatory, labor, tax, social security, environmental and intellectual property proceedings, and (2) financial, reputational and technical problems including those related to accounting practices, disclosures in financial statements and internal controls, as well as other regulatory issues. These contingencies may not have been identified prior to the acquisition and may not be sufficiently indemnifiable under the terms of the relevant acquisition agreement, which could have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition. Even if contingencies are indemnifiable under the relevant acquisition agreement, the agreed levels of indemnity may not be sufficient to cover actual contingencies as they materialize.
We may not be able to effectively implement our sales, marketing and advertising programs to attract and retain new customers.
In order to maintain and increase our revenue and margins, we need to continue to retain and attract new customers by means of the sales, marketing and advertising campaigns. A number of factors could adversely impact our ability to successfully implement our marketing campaigns, such as an inability of our sales team to effectively interact with potential clients, or potential clients do not find our products and services sufficient to meet their needs. If we are unable to successfully market our educational products and solutions, whether due to defects in our marketing tools and/or failure to adjust our strategy in order to meet the needs of current and potential customers, our ability to retain and attract new customers may be undermined, which would adversely affect our business and results of operations.
If we are unable to retain or replace our key personnel or are unable to attract, retain and develop other qualified employees, our business, financial situation and operating results may be adversely affected.
Part of our future success depends on the ability and efforts of a number of our key employees who have significant experience in our operations. Many of our key employees have been working for us over an extended period or have been specifically recruited by us on account of their experience and expertise in the sector. The loss of key personnel, including senior executives, members of the executive board, board members, key officers and managers, among others, and our inability to hire professionals with the same level of experience could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, in order to successfully compete and increase the number of customers, we need to attract, recruit, retain and develop talented employees generally, who can provide the required expertise across the entire spectrum of our needs for high quality products, services and educational content, including for sales and marketing. A number of our key employees have significant experience in our operations, and we must develop adequate succession plans to maintain continuity amidst the natural uncertainties of the labor force. The market for skilled staff is competitive, and we may not be successful in recruiting or retaining staff or we may not be able to effectively replace key employees who leave. We must also continue to hire additional staff to execute our strategic plans. Our efforts to retain and develop personnel may also result in significant additional expenses that could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We cannot guarantee that qualified employees will remain in our employment or that we will be able to attract and retain qualified personnel in the future. In particular, we may not be able to achieve the anticipated revenue growth by expanding our sales and marketing teams if we are not able to attract, develop and retain qualified sales and marketing personnel in the future. Any failure to retain or hire key personnel could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our management team’s interests may be focused on the short-term market price of our Class A common shares, which may not coincide with investors’ interests.
Our directors and executive officers, among others, may own shares in the company or be beneficiaries of our share-based compensation plans. We approved a restricted share unit plan in connection with our initial public offering. The maximum number shares that can be issued to beneficiaries under our restricted share unit plan may not exceed 3.0% of our share capital at any time.
Due to the issue of Class A common shares to members of our management team, a significant portion of these members’ compensation will be closely tied to our operating results and, more specifically, to the trading price of our Class A common shares, which may lead these individuals to run our business and manage our activities with an emphasis on generating short-term profits. As a result of these factors, our management team’s interests may not coincide with the interests of our other shareholders who have long-term investment objectives. Additionally, we cannot assure that Cogna’s and our management team’s interest will be aligned, or which party’s interest will prevail.
Moreover, our shareholders may experience dilution in their stakes in our capital stock and in the value of their investments if further shares are issued to honor share-based incentive plans for our management and employees.
In the case of further grants of stock options or restricted shares, our shareholders will be subject to further dilution. For additional information about our share option plan or restricted share plan, see “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—B. Compensation—Share Incentive Plan”.
Failure to prevent or detect a malicious cyber-attack on our systems and databases could result in a misappropriation of confidential information or access to highly sensitive information.
Cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated and pervasive. Across our business we hold large volumes of personally identifiable information including that of employees, partner schools, students, parents and legal guardians. Individuals may try to gain unauthorized access to our data in order to misappropriate such information for potentially fraudulent purposes, and our security measures may fail to prevent such unauthorized access. During the year ended December 31, 2022, we detected certain attempts to breach the security of our IT systems, all of which were unsuccessful. Moreover, we continuously monitor potential vulnerabilities in our IT and data systems and strive to improve security. Current unfinished initiatives in this regard include: (i) a disaster recovery system for our data centers; (ii) implementation of the Secure Development program; and (iii) a continuous monitoring program for our Secure Ambient program.
Our board of directors, assisted by our Audit and Risk Committee, as part of its regular review of our risk management practices, performs periodic reviews of cyber-security threats and related controls, including reviews of periodic penetration tests performed by independent third parties. However, we cannot assure that these reviews will successfully prevent against all cyber-attacks. A breach could result in a devastating impact on our reputation, with significant adverse effects on customer confidence and loyalty that could adversely affect our financial condition and the student experience. In addition, if we were unable to prove that our systems are properly designed to detect an intrusion, we could be subject to severe penalties under applicable laws and loss of existing or future business.
Failure to comply with data privacy regulations could result in reputational damage to our brands and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The nature of our business exposes us to risks related to possible shortcomings in data protection. Any perceived or actual unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information, whether through breach of our network by an unauthorized party, employee theft, misuse or error or otherwise, could harm our reputation, impair our ability to attract and retain our customers, or subject us to claims or litigation arising from damages suffered by individuals.
We are subject to the General Personal Data Protection Law (Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados) (as amended), or the LGPD. As a result of any failure to comply with the LGPD or occurrence of cybersecurity incidents, we may be subject to the following penalties: (1) legal notices and the required adoption of corrective measures, (2) fines of up to 2.0% of our company’s or our group’s revenue up to a limit of R$50.0 million per infraction, (3) disclosure of the violation after its occurrence is duly verified and confirmed, and (4) blocking and erasing the personal data involved in the violation.
Failure to comply with the rules for the protection of personally identifiable information, including the LGPD, could potentially lead to legal proceedings or could result in penalties, significant remediation costs, reputational damage, the cancellation of existing contracts and difficulty in competing for future business. In addition, we could incur significant costs in complying with relevant laws and regulations regarding the unauthorized disclosure of personal information, which may be affected by any changes to data privacy legislation at both the federal and state levels.
Material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting have been identified, and if we fail to establish and maintain proper and effective internal controls over financial reporting, our results of operations and our ability to operate our business may be harmed.
While part of our business has been operated in the past as part of publicly traded companies in Brazil (Cogna and Somos), our accounting personnel and other resources are not structured in a manner consistent with the requirements applicable to a public company listed in the United States. In connection with the audit of the consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2022, our external auditors obtained an understanding of the internal controls relevant to their audit in order to design audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of our internal controls in accordance with the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. During this process, material weaknesses in our internal controls over financial reporting as of December 31, 2022, were identified, which were communicated to management. A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of controls deficiencies, in internal controls over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. Material weakness have been identified related to the Company’s control environment, risk assessment, information and communication, and monitoring activities resulting in material weaknesses related to the ineffective design, implementation, and operation of (1) general information technology controls (GITCs) in the areas of user access, program change-management and computational operation over information technology systems and operational supporting systems that support the Company’s financial reporting processes, as well as the completeness and accuracy of reports used by the Company, which resulted in business process controls that are dependent on the affected GITCs also being considered ineffective because they could have been adversely impacted; and (2) failure of management review controls related to reconciliations, the consolidation, the financial statements, including applicability of required disclosures and the review and approval of journal entries.
We are adopting several measures that will improve our internal control over financial reporting, including increasing the depth and experience within our accounting and finance team, designing and implementing improved processes and internal controls. However, we cannot assure you that our efforts will be effective or prevent any future material weakness or significant deficiency in our internal control over financial reporting. For management´s remediation efforts related to identified material weakness see “Item 15. Controls and Procedures—B. Management´s annual report on internal control over financial reporting”.
After our initial public offering, we became subject to the Sarbanes‑Oxley Act, which requires, among other things, that we establish and maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures. Under the current rules of the SEC, we are required to perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal controls over financial reporting to allow management to assess the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting as well as our disclosure controls and procedures starting on December 31, 2021. Further testing in 2022 has revealed additional deficiencies in our internal controls that are deemed to be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies and may render our internal controls over financial reporting ineffective.
We expect to incur additional accounting and auditing expenses and to spend significant management time in complying with these requirements. If we are not able to comply with these requirements in a timely manner, or if we or our management identifies additional material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting or in our disclosure controls and procedures, the market price of our Class A common shares may decline and we may be subject to investigations or sanctions by the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., or FINRA, or other regulatory authorities.
In addition, these new obligations will also require substantial attention from our senior management and could divert their attention away from the day‑to‑day management of our business. These cost increases and the diversion of management’s attention could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and operating results.
We may lose bargaining power with our customers if they organize themselves into negotiating blocs, which could have an adverse effect on our business.
Although the education market in Brazil is extremely fragmented, which reduces the bargaining power of individual schools, groups of schools could organize as blocs or syndicates in an attempt to negotiate lower prices for our services or greater benefits, products and services at the same price. If our schools organized as blocs in an attempt to negotiate lower prices, we would be required to devote additional resources to contract negotiations and could face additional challenges in providing cross-selling or up-selling opportunities to these schools. We could be forced to offer lower prices in connection with any such negotiations or provide bundled services at a discount in an effort to maintain and expand our market share. If we lose bargaining power with our customers, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to sell our products and services at profitable prices, which would adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Certain of our revenue depends on intermediaries such as large retailers and other distribution channels, and financial difficulties or poor service by these providers could adversely affect our revenue, reputation and results of operations.
We rely on certain intermediaries, such as large retailers and other distribution channels, to make our educational content and products and services available to parents and students. Consequently, a portion of our revenue depends on the level of service offered by these providers, which could depend on their financial and operational health, and their ability to provide adequate service to end consumers. If any of these intermediaries face solvency problems or are unable to provide services or fail to honor their financial commitments to us, our revenue, reputation and results of operations could be adversely affected.
We cannot assure that we have enforceable written contracts in place with all of our suppliers and other third parties with which we conduct business.
We have many suppliers and maintain business relations with a number of third parties. However, not all of our commercial relationships with third parties are formalized through written contracts. The absence of a written contract formalizing our commercial relationships could have an adverse effect on our business, as we may need the existence of written contracts to, among other things, substantiate our commercial relationship with the third party in court, defend ourselves against any litigation by the third party or enforce our rights against the third party in the event of a dispute. If we are subject to any conflicts with third parties with whom we do not maintain written contracts in force, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
We may face restrictions and penalties under the Consumer Defense Code in the future.
Brazil has a series of strict consumer defense laws, known as the Consumer Defense Code. These laws apply to every company in Brazil that provides products or services to Brazilian consumers. They include protection against misleading and specious advertising, protection against coercive or unfair commercial practices and protection in drafting and interpreting agreements, normally in the form of civil responsibilities and administrative penalties for violations. We may infringe or be accused of infringing the Consumer Defense Code, and incur penalties, and we may be unable to contest such penalties.
Penalties may be imposed by the branches of the Consumer Protection and Defense Foundation (Programa de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor), or PROCON, or by the National Consumer Department (Secretaria Nacional do Consumidor), or SENACON. Companies can reach agreements for complaints submitted by consumers to PROCON branches by paying an indemnity directly to the consumers or through a mechanism that allows them to adjust their conduct, called a Conduct Adjustment Agreement (Termo de Ajuste de Conduta), or TAC. Any indemnities or TACs could adversely affect our reputation and financial situation.
The public prosecutor’s office and public defenders in Brazil can also initiate investigations of alleged violations of consumer rights and demand that companies sign a TAC. Companies that fail to comply with TACs face potential enforcement procedures and other penalties such as fines, as provided for in each TAC. The public prosecutor’s office and public defenders in Brazil can also file public civil proceedings against companies that violate consumer rights or the rules of competition, to ensure strict compliance with the consumer defense laws and indemnities for any damage to consumers. In certain cases, we may also face investigations and/or sanctions by CADE, in the event that our commercial practices are accused of affecting competition in the markets where we operate or the consumers in these markets.
Other methods of entry of students into universities, other than university entrance exams or ENEM, could put our preparatory course business at risk.
Our preparatory courses are focused on preparing students to enter universities by means of specific entrance exams or through ENEM and are powerful lead-generation tools for our go-to-market strategy. These preparatory courses are specifically tailored in an effort to help students achieve success in entrance exams that are focused on specific criteria and aptitudes and are administered according to known methodologies. If universities were to change their admissions criteria to focus primarily on grades achieved in secondary school, demand for our preparatory courses could decline. Likewise, if universities used new or alternative entrance exams based on different content or testing methodologies, our existing preparatory courses may not be adequate in preparing students for any such new alternative entrance exams or alternative testing methodologies, and we may not be successful in adapting our existing courses (either in-person or long distance classes) at the pace needed to respond to such changes in exams or testing methodologies, or at all, which could impact the reputation of our preparatory courses and lead to a decrease in enrollment in our courses. We could also face challenges in adapting our courses in a cost-efficient manner, which could have an adverse impact on our business and results of operations. Any change in admissions practices for which we are unable to successfully adapt our current preparatory courses could cause a decline in enrollment in our courses, force us to lower our prices and/or result in increased costs, and would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are susceptible to the illegal or improper use of our Content & EdTech and Digital Platforms, which could expose us to liability and damage our business.
Our Content & EdTech and Digital Platforms are susceptible to unauthorized use, software license violations, copyright violations and unauthorized copying and distribution (whether by students, schools or others), theft, employee fraud and other similar infractions and violations. Such occurrences can harm our business and consequently negatively affect our operating results. We could be required to expend significant resources to police against and combat improper use of our Content & EdTech and Digital Platforms, and still may be unsuccessful in preventing against such occurrences or identifying those responsible for any such misuse. Any failure to adequately protect against any such illegal or improper use of our platforms could expose us to liability or reputational harm and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our operations and results may be negatively impacted by health crises, epidemics or pandemics.
Public health outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics, could materially adversely impact our business. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected our business, results of operations and financial condition, particularly in 2021 and 2020. School closures in Brazil impacted the number of schools and students that used our products, and the aggregate effect of other restrictive measures in Brazil resulted in a decrease in production of our learning materials, a temporary closure of our distribution centers (and reduced operations once reopened), and the cessation of operation of certain transportation companies for undetermined periods. The unemployment levels in Brazil increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a decrease in incomes which affected enrollment levels at our client schools. As a result, COVID-19 and the measures taken to address the pandemic, had an adverse effect on our business and results of operations. The potential impact of any future health outbreak, epidemic or pandemic, and the measures that may be taken to control such outbreak, cannot be predicted and are beyond our control and it is possible that any such future outbreak could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Climate change can create transition risks, physical risks and other risks that could adversely affect us.
Climate risk is as a transversal risk that can be an aggravating factor for the types of traditional risks that we manage in the ordinary course of business, including without limitation the risks described in this “Risk Factors” section. Based on the classifications used by Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, we consider that there are two primary sources of climate change related financial risks: physical and transition.
Physical risks resulting from climate change can be event-driven (acute) or long-term shifts (chronic) in climate patterns:
Transition risks refer to actions brought on to address mitigation and adaptation requirements related to climate change, and they can fall into various categories such as market, technology and market changes:
Our partner schools may be adversely affected by increased regulatory requirements going forward as a result of the increasing importance of environmental matters, which may indirectly affect our business. This and other changes in regulations in Brazil and international markets may expose us to increased compliance costs, limit our ability to pursue certain business opportunities and provide certain products and services, each of which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Unfavorable decisions in our legal or administrative proceedings may adversely affect us.
We are, and may be in the future, party to legal and administrative proceedings arising from the ordinary course of our business or from nonrecurring corporate, tax or regulatory events, involving our suppliers, students and faculty members, as well as from competition and tax authorities, especially with respect to civil, tax and labor claims. For instance, Somos Educação, which used to operate our K-12 business under the Anglo brand, is currently party to an administrative proceeding with the sellers of the Anglo business due to a dispute with the sellers regarding indemnities for certain contractual contingencies, for which we have classified the risk of losses as probable, possible and remote, in the amount of R$0.6 million that we understand to be their responsibility, and which are disputed by the sellers. However, we cannot assure that our position will prevail, and we could be subject to an adverse outcome in this proceeding, that, considered in the aggregate with other proceedings both known and unknown to us, could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. We cannot guarantee that the results of these proceedings will be favorable to us or that we have made sufficient provisions for liabilities that may arise as a result of these or other proceedings. Adverse decisions in material legal proceedings may adversely affect our results of operations, reputation and the price of our Class A common shares. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings”.
We may not be sufficiently protected by our parent company, Cogna, against potential liabilities arising from past business practices related to Somos Sistemas that could materialize in the future.
In connection with our corporate reorganization, on December 5, 2019, our subsidiary Somos Sistemas entered into an indemnification agreement with Cogna whereby the latter agreed to indemnify us for cash outflows related to contingencies that may arise due to events occurring prior to the corporate reorganization held by Cogna Group, for up to R$180.4 million, including for contingencies or lawsuits that may materialize after January 1, 2020 so long as the events for which such contingency arises occurred prior to January 1, 2020. However, this indemnity agreement does not prevent our assets being subject to certain legal restrictions, such as the freezing of our bank accounts, which could require additional reimbursements or further legal action to release our assets, and we cannot guarantee that the indemnifying party will take such actions on a timely basis, or at all, which could have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
We outsource certain labor, which may create an obligation on our part to pay certain labor and social security obligations.
We outsource certain labor, primarily for cleaning services, building renovations and surveillance, and contract with third party companies who provide the employees for these services. Because we benefit from the services provided by these outsourced workers, we may become liable under Brazilian law to pay certain labor and social security obligations for the benefit of these workers if the service provider companies providing such outsourced labor fail to comply with their labor and social security obligations on behalf of these workers, and we may also be fined by the relevant authorities. We may not have any recourse against the employers of these workers if they fail to meet their labor and social security obligations. We are unable to predict the potential size of any such liability. Any requirement to pay the labor and social obligations related to outsourced workers could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
We currently sell products and services to government agencies, which subjects us to certain penalties if we do not satisfactorily fulfill our agreements with government agencies or if the agreements are terminated early and we may be subject to liability for prior sales to government agencies in connection with activities undertaken in the past by our affiliates or subsidiaries of our parent company, Cogna.
We may be held responsible in the future for past business operations that we no longer undertake, such as the sale of teaching material to the federal government under the PNLD. We no longer do business under the PNLD, but we may be subject to certain liabilities, including in connection with applicable anti-corruption laws, for past dealings. While Cogna agreed to indemnify us against certain contingent liabilities, including certain past dealings with government agencies, as part of our corporate reorganization, there can be no assurance that the indemnification agreement with Cogna will fully protect us against potential legal proceedings or government actions, which could have an adverse effect on our business, our reputation, our financial condition