Form 20-F
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Table of Contents
 
 
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
 
 
FORM
20-F
 
 
(Mark One)
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
OR
 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from                  to                 .
OR
 
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report 
                                    
Commission file number: 001-39216
 
 
Huize Holding Limited
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
 
 
N/A
(Translation of Registrant’s Name Into English)
Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)
5/F, Building
3-4
,
Shenzhen Animation Park, Yuehai Road, Nanhai Avenue,
Nanshan District, Shenzhen 518052, People’s Republic of China
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
Ronald Tam
5/F, Building
3-4
,
Shenzhen Animation Park, Yuehai Road, Nanhai Avenue,
Nanshan District, Shenzhen 518052, People’s Republic of China
Telephone: +86 755 3689 9088
E-mail:
tanguohao@huize.com
(Name, Telephone, Email and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of Each Class
 
Trading
Symbol
 
Name of Each Exchange
On Which Registered
American depositary shares (each representing 20 Class A common shares, par value US$0.00001 per share) Class A common shares, par value US$0.00001 per share*
*Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on the Nasdaq Global Market of American depositary shares.
 
HUIZ
 
Nasdaq Global Market
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
 
 
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report:
As of December 31, 2020, there were (i) 888,506,366 Class A common shares issued and outstanding, par value US$0.00001 per share, and (ii) 150,591,207 Class B common shares issued and outstanding, par value US$0.00001 per share.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    ☐  Yes    ☒  No
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.    ☐  Yes    ☒  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    ☒  Yes    ☐  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation
S-T
(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    ☒  Yes    ☐  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a
non-accelerated
filer, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act.
 
Large accelerated filer      Accelerated filer     Non-accelerated filer  
           
                 Emerging growth company  
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13
 
(a) of the Exchange Act.  
†The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accountant firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
 
        U.S. GAAP  ☒           International Financial Reporting Standards as issued             Other  ☐                
            by the International Accounting Standards Board  ☐              
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.    ☐  Item 17    ☐  Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act).  ☐  Yes      No
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.    ☐  Yes    ☐  No
 
 
 

Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
     1  
     3  
       4  
ITEM 1.
       4  
ITEM 2.
       4  
ITEM 3.
       4  
ITEM 4.
       53  
ITEM 4.A.
       83  
ITEM 5.
       83  
ITEM 6.
       99  
ITEM 7.
       109  
ITEM 8.
       111  
ITEM 9.
       112  
ITEM 10.
       112  
ITEM 11.
       122  
ITEM 12.
       123  
       125  
ITEM 13.
       125  
ITEM 14.
       125  
ITEM 15.
       126  
ITEM 16.A.
       127  
ITEM 16.B.
       127  
ITEM 16.C.
       127  
ITEM 16.D.
       128  
ITEM 16.E.
       128  
ITEM 16.F.
       129  
ITEM 16.G.
       129  
ITEM 16.H.
       129  
       130  
ITEM 17.
       130  
ITEM 18.
       130  
ITEM 19.
       130  
 
 
i

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INTRODUCTION
In this annual report on Form
20-F,
or this annual report, except where the context otherwise requires and for purposes of this annual report only:
 
   
“ADRs” are to the American depositary receipts which may evidence the ADSs;
 
   
“ADSs” are to the American depositary shares, each of which represents 20 Class A common shares;
 
   
“China” or the “PRC” are to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report only, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;
 
   
“Class A common shares” are to our Class A common shares, par value $0.00001 per share, carrying one vote per share;
 
   
“Class B common shares” are to our Class B common shares, par value $0.00001 per share, carrying 15 votes per share;
 
   
“common shares” are to our Class A common shares and Class B common shares, par value US$0.00001 per share;
 
   
“GWP” are to gross written premiums, which include first year premiums and renewal premiums where applicable;
 
   
“insurer partners” are to the insurance companies we work with who underwrite insurance products on our platform;
 
   
“insurance clients” are to purchasers of insurance products we distribute through our platform; for travel insurance products, travel agencies usually purchase policies for multiple individuals, and we count each purchasing travel agency as an insurance client, and each such individual protected by any single policy as an insured;
 
   
“insured” are to individuals that are insured under insurance policies; when calculating the number of insured for any given period, we eliminate duplicates so that an insured protected by more than one policy during the period would be counted as one insured for such period; when calculating the cumulative number of insured, we eliminate duplicates so that an insured protected by more than one policy through our platform would be counted as one insured;
 
   
“our VIE” are to Shenzhen Huiye Tianze Investment Holding Co., Ltd.;
 
   
“our WFOE” are to Zhixuan International Management Consulting (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd.;
 
   
“RMB” and “Renminbi” are to the legal currency of China;
 
   
“US$,” “U.S. dollars,” “$,” and “dollars” are to the legal currency of the United States;
 
   
“we,” “us,” “our company” and “our” are to Huize Holding Limited, our Cayman Islands holding company and, where the context requires, includes its subsidiaries, its consolidated variable interest entity and the subsidiaries of the consolidated variable interest entity.
When disclosing our operating matrix, we only took into consideration our business operation in mainland China. An insurance product with a term that is longer than one year is categorized as a long-term insurance product. An independent platform refers to a platform that is not affiliated with insurance companies or other insurance industry participants.
 

Table of Contents
Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to Renminbi in this annual report are made at a rate of RMB6.5250 to US$1.00, the exchange rate in effect as of December 31, 2020 as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. We make no representation that any Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate, or at all.
 
2

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FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This annual report contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current expectations and views of future events. These forward looking statements are made under the “safe-harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, including those listed under “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors,” may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.
You can identify some of these forward-looking statements by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “is/are likely to,” “potential,” “continue” or other similar expressions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include statements relating to:
 
   
our mission, goals and strategies;
 
   
our future business development, financial conditions and results of operations;
 
   
the expected growth of insurance industry in China;
 
   
our expectations regarding demand for and market acceptance of our products and services;
 
   
our expectations regarding our relationships with insurance clients, insurance companies and other partners;
 
   
competition in our industry;
 
   
our proposed use of proceeds; and
 
   
relevant government policies and regulations relating to our industry.
These forward-looking statements involve various risks and uncertainties. Although we believe that our expectations expressed in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, our expectations may later be found to be incorrect. Our actual results could be materially different from our expectations. Other sections of this annual report include additional factors that could adversely impact our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties emerge from time to time and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. You should read thoroughly this annual report and the documents that we refer to with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from, or worse than, what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
This annual report contains certain data and information that we obtained from various government and private publications. Statistical data in these publications also include projections based on a number of assumptions. The insurance industry may not grow at the rate projected by market data, or at all. Failure of this market to grow at the projected rate may have a material and adverse effect on our business and the market price of the ADSs. In addition, the rapidly evolving nature of this industry results in significant uncertainties for any projections or estimates relating to the growth prospects or future condition of our market. Furthermore, if any one or more of the assumptions underlying the market data are later found to be incorrect, actual results may differ from the projections based on these assumptions. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.
The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this annual report. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. You should read this annual report and the documents that we refer to in this annual report and exhibits to this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect.
 
3

Table of Contents
PART I.
 
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
 
A.
Selected Financial Data
Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The following selected consolidated statements of comprehensive (loss)/income data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020, selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 and selected consolidated cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. The following selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 and selected consolidate cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2018 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this annual report. Our historical results do not necessarily indicate results expected for any future periods. The selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with, and are qualified in their entirety by reference to, our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” below. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, or U.S. GAAP.
 
   
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
US$
 
   
(in thousands, except for percentages, share and per share
data)
 
Summary Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive (Loss)/Income
         
Operating revenue
         
Brokerage income
    251,556       503,547       982,124       1,215,434       186,273  
Other income
    11,776       5,281       11,195       4,788       734  
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total operating revenue
 
 
263,332
 
 
 
508,828
 
 
 
993,319
 
 
 
1,220,222
 
 
 
187,007
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Operating costs and expenses
         
Cost of revenue
(1)
    (164,750     (316,397     (629,531     (813,507     (124,675
Other cost
    (1,919     (1,905     (1,837     (2,846     (437
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total operating costs
 
 
(166,669
 
 
(318,302
 
 
(631,368
 
 
(816,353
 
 
(125,112
Selling expenses
(1)
    (104,980     (94,613     (164,665     (230,438     (35,316
General and administrative expenses
(1)
    (41,877     (46,177     (161,816     (150,207     (23,020
Research and development expenses
(1)
    (50,107     (24,944     (33,831     (49,135     (7,530
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total operating costs and expenses
 
 
(363,633
 
 
(484,036
 
 
(991,680
 
 
(1,246,133
 
 
(190,978
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Operating (loss)/profit
 
 
(100,301
 
 
24,792
 
 
 
1,639
 
 
 
(25,911
 
 
(3,971
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Other income/(expenses)
         
Interest income/(expenses)
    655       (27,111     (190     (1,157     (177
Unrealized exchange income/(loss)
    36       (354     362       (9     (1
Investment income
    811             718       137       21  
Others, net
    1,171       4,569       12,676       10,177       1,559  
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
(Loss)/profit before income tax, and share of income of equity method investee
 
 
(97,628
 
 
1,896
 
 
 
15,205
 
 
 
(16,763
 
 
(2,569
Income tax expense
    (406     (278     (57     (1,768     (271
Share of income/(loss) of equity method investee
    989       1,310       (180     239       37  
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net (loss)/profit
 
 
(97,045
 
 
2,928
 
 
 
14,968
 
 
 
(18,292
 
 
(2,803
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net profit/(loss) attributable to
non-controlling
interests
 
 
128
 
 
 
(224
 
 
66
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net (loss)/profit attributable to Huize Holding Limited
 
 
(97,173
 
 
3,152
 
 
 
14,902
 
 
 
(18,292
 
 
(2,803
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Redeemable preferred shares redemption value accretion
    (26,474     (29,118     (32,854     (4,274     (655
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Allocation to redeemable preferred shares
    47,934       (1,558     (7,431     1,074       165  
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to common shareholders
 
 
(75,713
 
 
(27,524
 
 
(25,383
 
 
(21,492
 
 
(3,293
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Weighted average number of common shares used in computing net (loss)/profit per share
         
Basic and diluted
    445,272,000       445,272,000       452,445,068       963,817,614       963,817,614  
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss per share attributable to common shareholders
         
Basic and diluted
    (0.17     (0.06     (0.06     (0.02     (0.00
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
4

Table of Contents
 
(1)
Share-based compensation expenses were allocated in operating costs and expenses as follows:
 
    
Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2017
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Cost of revenue
     26        9        43        410        63  
Selling expenses
     196        110        6,514        10,642        1,631  
General and administrative expenses
     386        726        87,980        40,820        6,256  
Research and development expenses
     203        122        421        381        58  
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total
  
 
811
 
  
 
967
 
  
 
94,958
 
  
 
52,253
 
  
 
8,008
 
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
The following table presents our selected consolidated balance sheet data as of the dates indicated:
 
   
As of December 31,
 
   
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
US$
 
   
(in thousands)
 
Summary Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
         
Cash and cash equivalents
    12,261       6,640       88,141       404,618       62,010  
Restricted cash (including amounts of the consolidated VIE of RMB27,992, RMB145,599 thousand, RMB161,186 thousand and RMB217,950 thousand as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively)
    28,019       145,631       161,186       324,330       49,706  
Accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful accounts
    70,690       108,434       180,393       232,589       35,646  
Long-term investments
    17,765       21,575       23,395       46,084       7,063  
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total assets
 
 
165,777
 
 
 
334,084
 
 
 
508,805
 
 
 
1,335,976
 
 
 
204,747
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Accounts payable (including amounts of the consolidated VIE and its subsidiaries without recourse to the Company of RMB15,220 thousand, RMB72,989 thousand, RMB124,441 thousand and RMB227,532 thousand as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively)
    15,453       73,448       124,441       227,532       34,871  
Insurance premium payables (including amounts of the consolidated VIE and its subsidiaries without recourse to the Company of RMB101,694 thousand, RMB114,447 thousand, RMB125,587 thousand and RMB187,219 thousand as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively)
    101,694       114,447       125,587       187,219       28,693  
Other payables and accrued expenses (including amounts of the consolidated VIE and its subsidiaries without recourse to the Company of RMB25,522 thousand, RMB60,599 thousand, RMB37,678 thousand and RMB39,421 thousand as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively)
    26,036       36,908       30,211       31,153       4,774  
Payroll and welfare payable (including amounts of the consolidated VIE and its subsidiaries without recourse to the Company of RMB17,017 thousand, RMB31,850 thousand, RMB43,831 thousand and RMB52,564 thousand as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively)
    17,017       31,850       43,993       63,919       9,796  
Income taxes payable (including amounts of the consolidated VIE and its subsidiaries without recourse to the Company of RMB206 thousand, RMB206 thousand, RMB206 thousand and RMB2,440 thousand as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively)
    445       250       206       2,440       374  
Total liabilities
 
 
183,919
 
 
 
297,549
 
 
 
362,831
 
 
 
867,293
 
 
 
132,919
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total mezzanine equity
 
 
367,228
 
 
 
421,773
 
 
 
454,627
 
 
 
—  
 
 
 
—  
 
Total shareholders’ (deficit)/equity
 
 
(385,370
 
 
(385,238
 
 
(308,653
 
 
468,683
 
 
 
71,828
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total liabilities, mezzanine equity and shareholders’ (deficit)/equity
 
 
165,777
 
 
 
334,084
 
 
 
508,805
 
 
 
1,335,976
 
 
 
204,747
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
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The following table sets forth our selected consolidated cash flow data for the years indicated:
 
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
    
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Summary Consolidated Cash Flow Data:
          
Net cash (used in)/ provided by operating activities
     (85,349     66,853       118,024       137,666       21,098  
Net cash provided by/(used in) investing activities
     57,767       (3,554     (6,927     (31,078     (4,763
Net cash provided by/(used in) financing activities
     22,988       48,572       (14,079     383,053       58,706  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Effect of exchange rate changes on cash and cash equivalents
     (234     120       38       (10,020     (1,536
Net (decrease)/ increase in cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash
     (4,828     111,991       97,056       479,621       73,505  
Total cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash at beginning of the year
     45,108       40,280       152,271       249,327       38,211  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash at end of the year
     40,280       152,271       249,327       728,948       111,716  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
B.
Capitalization and Indebtedness
Not applicable.
 
C.
Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
Not applicable.
 
D.
Risk Factors
Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry
We operate in the emerging, rapidly evolving and highly competitive online insurance product and service industry, which makes it difficult to predict our future prospects. Our historical operating and financial results may not be indicative of future performance.
We operate in China’s online insurance product and service industry, which is rapidly evolving and may not develop as we anticipate. This industry is relatively new, and business models continue to evolve. The regulatory framework governing the insurance industry is also developing and may remain uncertain in the near future. As our business develops and in response to the evolving client needs and market competition, we will continue to introduce new insurance products and services, improve our existing products and services, or adjust and optimize our business model. In response to new regulatory requirements or industry standards, or in connection with the introduction of new products, we may impose more rigorous risk management system and/or policies, which may negatively affect the growth of our business. Any significant change to our business model may not achieve expected results and may have a material and adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations. It is therefore difficult to effectively predict our future prospects.
 
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The risks and challenges we encounter or may encounter in this emerging, dynamic and competitive market may have impacts on our business and prospects. These risks and challenges include our ability to, among other things:
 
   
navigate in an evolving and complex regulatory environment;
 
   
grow our insurance client base in a cost-efficient manner;
 
   
develop and launch diversified and distinguishable products to effectively address the evolving needs of our insurance clients;
 
   
develop and maintain relationships with our existing business partners and attract new business partners;
 
   
enhance and maintain the recognition of our brand;
 
   
enhance our risk management capabilities;
 
   
maintain a reliable, secure, high-performance and scalable technology infrastructure;
 
   
attract, retain and motivate talented employees; and
 
   
anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions, including technological developments and changes in the competitive landscape.
If we fail to educate business partners and clients about the value of our platform and services, if the market for our products and services does not develop as we expect, if we fail to address the needs of our target clients, or if we are not able to effectively tackle other risks and challenges that we may encounter, our business and results of operations may be harmed.
Our businesses are highly regulated, and the administration, interpretation and enforcement of the laws, regulations and regulatory requirements currently applicable to us are unclear, evolving and involve uncertainties.
Non-compliance
with applicable laws, regulations and regulatory requirements or failure to respond to legal and regulatory changes may materially and adversely affect our business and prospects.
We operate in a highly regulated industry in China, and the regulatory regime continues to evolve. The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, or the CBIRC, has extensive authority to supervise and regulate the insurance industry in China. Since the online insurance product and service industry in China has emerged and keeps evolving rapidly, the CBIRC has been enhancing its supervision over this industry in recent years, and new laws, regulations and regulatory requirements have been promulgated and implemented from time to time. We face challenges brought by these new laws, regulations and regulatory requirements, as well as significant uncertainties in the interpretation and application thereof. Moreover, there exist uncertainties as to how the regulatory environment might change.
 
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China’s insurance regulatory regime is undergoing significant changes. Further development of regulations applicable to us may result in additional restrictions on our business operations or more intensive competition in this industry. We might be required to spend significant time and resources in order to comply with any material changes in the regulatory environment, which could trigger significant changes to the competitive landscape of our industry and we may lose some or all of our competitive advantages during this process. We may change the insurance product mix we offer on our platform in response to changing market demands following any change of regulatory requirements. We may have to add to our product mix insurance products that we have little experience with, or reduce or cease the offering of insurance products that used to be popular on our platform, either of which may adversely affect our results of operations. For example, CBIRC changed the upper limit for the predetermined interest rate for annuity insurance from 4.025% to 3.5% in August 2019 and subsequently, in November 2019, suggested insurance companies terminating the sale of their high-interest rate annuity insurance products. In response to that, we started to scale up the distribution of annuity insurance products on our platform in October 2019. Although the first-year insurance brokerage commission fee rate we charge on annuity insurance products is typically lower than that of critical illness insurance products, making distributing annuity insurance products less profitable in the short term, we believe offering annuity insurance products will expand our insurance client reach and therefore bring positive results of operations in the long term. In addition, in October 2019, the CBIRC promulgated the Health Insurance Management Measures, which became effective on December 1, 2019, allowing premium adjustment mechanisms to be included in medical insurance policy terms, which enables insurance companies to provide more diversified long-term medical insurance products. Consequently, potential clients of critical illness insurance products might turn to long-term medical insurance products that may become available on market, resulting in a slowdown in the growth of critical illness insurance products sales on our platform.
In November 2020, the Circular on Matters concerning the Use of the Illness Definitions for Critical Illness Insurance and the Definition of Illness under Critical Illness Insurance was promulgated, reclassifying the definition of illness under critical illness insurance and expanding the scope of certain diseases. Given that the reclassification is deemed to be less favorable for insurance clients, in order to keep our long-term critical illness insurance products competitive, we may need to invest in developing more attractive products to retain our existing insurance clients and expand our insurance client base. Additionally, in January 2021, the CBIRC issued the Notice on Further Regulating Matters Concerning Internet Life Insurance Business (Draft for Comment) to various insurance companies. The notice aims to further regulate the operation of internet life insurance business by insurance companies and require exclusive management of internet life insurance products. If this notice becomes effective in the future, the offering of internet insurance products and the commission fee rate will be subject to uncertainties, which may have adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial conditions. The attention of our management team could be diverted to the efforts to cope with an evolving regulatory or competitive environment. Meanwhile, staying compliant with the restriction may result in limitation to our business scope, limitation to our product and service offerings, and reduction in our attraction to clients. As a result, our business and results of operations might be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, there are uncertainties regard to how the changing laws, regulations and regulatory requirements would apply to our business. The CBIRC and its local counterparts have wide discretion in administration, interpretation and enforcement of these laws, regulations and regulatory requirements, as well as the authority to impose regulatory sanctions on industry participants. In certain circumstances it may be difficult to determine which actions or omissions may be deemed to be in violation of applicable laws, regulations or regulatory requirements. For example, as part of our marketing efforts, we have in the past offered potential insurance clients small amounts of cash rewards to encourage their engagement with our platform before they purchased insurance products. Such amounts were deductible from the premiums payable should such potential clients subsequently purchase insurance products on our platform. It is unclear whether such arrangement might be deemed as additional benefits offered to insurance clients other than those benefits stipulated in the insurance contracts, which is prohibited under relevant PRC laws and regulations. As of the date of this annual report, we no longer offer these cash rewards, but there is no guarantee that our practice in the past would not subject us to administrative measures with retrospective effect to be taken by regulatory authorities. Furthermore, misconduct of our insurer partners, user traffic channels or other business partners in violation of any of these laws, regulations or regulatory requirements might subject us to fines, civil or criminal liabilities, being required to modify or terminate part or all of our business operations or even being disqualified from providing services to our insurer partners or insurance clients. The occurrence of any of the above could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
 
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Moreover, Chinese regulatory authorities may conduct various reviews and inspections on our business operations from time to time, which could cover a broad range of aspects, including financial reporting, tax reporting, internal control and compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. If any
non-compliance
incidents in our business operation are identified, we may be required to take certain rectification measures in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, or we may be subject to other regulatory actions such as administrative penalties. For example, the CBIRC and its local counterparts have conducted several inspections, reviews and inquiries on us and identified certain
non-compliance
incidents in our business operation, risk management and internal control, including incidents with respect to settlement of insurance premiums through and our cooperation with user traffic channels that do not meet regulatory requirements. In particular, (i) we have in the past misused funds in the insurance premium accounts; and (ii) some of our business partners, including certain travel agencies and user traffic channels lacking relevant licenses or approvals, have in the past collected a small portion of insurance premiums on our behalf. According to relevant PRC laws, insurance brokerage companies like us are required to set up separate accounts to receive and hold the insurance premiums they receive from insurance clients on behalf of insurance companies and are prohibited from using or misusing such funds. Failure to comply with such regulatory requirements may subject us to making rectifications, warnings, fines, or further, revocation of our License for Operating Insurance Brokerage Services, or the Insurance Brokerage Licence, in the case where regulatory authorities consider such action as a material violation. In addition, entities that do not hold licenses required by PRC regulatory authorities are not allowed to collect insurance premiums on behalf of us under relevant PRC laws and regulations. We have taken remedial measures to rectify the aforementioned
non-compliance
incidents. As of the date of this annual report, we have returned all of the insurance premiums that we had misused in the past, and we have terminated cooperation with entities that do not hold the relevant licenses required for collecting insurance premiums on our behalf. We plan to adopt a more rigorous internal control system to manage our cooperation with unlicensed business partners with regard to the collection of insurance premiums on our behalf.
We are in the process of rectifying all
non-compliance
incidents that we are aware of under the unclear and changing regulatory environment. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to fully rectify all
non-compliance
incidents in a timely manner or fully satisfy the regulatory requirements, or we will not be subject to any future regulatory reviews and inspections where other
non-compliance
incidents might be identified, which might materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We incurred operating losses and net losses in the past, and we may not be able to
return and stay profitable in the future.
In 2017, we had net loss of RMB97.0 million and operating loss of RMB100.3 million. We generated net profit of RMB2.9 million and RMB15.0 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and had net loss of RMB18.3 million (US$2.8 million) in 2020. We generated operating profit of RMB24.8 million and RMB1.6 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and had operating loss of RMB25.9 million (US$4.0 million) in 2020. We cannot assure you that we will return and remain profitable in the future. We anticipate that our operating costs and expenses will increase in the foreseeable future as we continue to grow our business, acquire new clients and further develop our insurance product and service offering and increase brand recognition. These efforts may prove more costly than we currently anticipate, and we may not succeed in increasing our revenue sufficiently to offset these higher expenses. There are other factors that could negatively affect our financial condition. For example, if we fail to compete successfully with our existing or potential competitors, or if our tailor-made insurance products are not accepted by the market as we expect, we will receive lower-than-expected insurance brokerage income, and our financial results will be adversely affected. If regulatory authorities promulgate new laws, regulations and regulatory requirements that limit our business operations, especially with regard to our fee or cost model, our results of operations will suffer. As a result of the foregoing and other factors, our net profit margins may decline or we may incur net losses again in the future and may not be able to maintain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis.
 
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Our cooperation with user traffic channels are subject to changes in the regulatory requirements.
We leverage our user traffic channels to convert their user traffic to our insurance clients. On December 7, 2020, the CBIRC published the Regulatory Measures for Online Insurance Business, or the Online Insurance Measures, which became effective on February 1, 2021 and replaced the Interim Regulatory Measures for Online Insurance Business, promulgated by the predecessor of CBIRC on July 22, 2015. The Online Insurance Measures changed regulatory requirements for online insurance business in various aspects. For example, it sets a higher standard for insurance institutions and online industry participants to improve IT infrastructure and cybersecurity protection. In particular, insurance institutions engaged in online insurance business shall have IT systems that are equipped with the insurance sales or insurance application function, and are certified as Safety Level III Computer Information Systems. The Online Insurance Measures requires online insurance transactions being conducted through online surfaces operated by insurance institutions only. Under the Online Insurance Measures, our user traffic channels or other business partners who are neither insurance companies nor insurance intermediaries are forbidden to conduct online insurance business, including but not limited to: (i) providing insurance product consulting services; (ii) comparing insurance products, conducting trial calculation of premium or quotation comparison; (iii) designing insurance application plans for policyholders; (iv) going through insurance application procedures; and (v) collecting premiums. Furthermore, insurance institutions shall not, in internet insurance sales or brokerage activities, pay commission fee or remuneration directly or in a disguised way to any person who has not carried out practice registration with it. Pursuant to the Online Insurance Measures, insurance institutions shall (i) make corresponding rectifications regarding system development, marketing and publicity, sales management and information disclosure by May 2021, (ii) complete the rectification of other problems such as business and operation by August 2021, and (iii) complete the certification of the cybersecurity graded protection for their self-running network platform by February 2022. Our system was certified as Safety Level III Computer Information System on January 15, 2020. We are in the process of proactively making rectifications in accordance with the Online Insurance Measures, including changing our cooperative business model and terminating our cooperation with some user traffic channels that do not meet regulatory requirements. However, we cannot assure you that we or the user traffic channels we work with will be able to fully rectify in a timely manner or fully satisfy these regulatory requirements, the failure of which may subject us or the user traffic channels to warnings, fines, confiscation of illegal gains and revocation of licenses, which will materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
In addition, as of the date of this annual report, some of our user traffic channels have not obtained the ICP license or had not completed necessary filings or registrations with relevant authorities as required by applicable laws or regulations, the lack of which may result in termination of their internet-based businesses by regulatory authorities. Furthermore, some of our user traffic channels had failed to disclose legally required information to insurance clients on their platforms. Although we have notified the relevant user traffic channels to rectify the situation, there is no assurance that they will be able to rectify the situation and become compliant with regulatory requirements in a timely fashion, or at all. Our user traffic channels who have not been registered with regulatory authorities or have not obtained necessary licenses, or who have failed to disclose legally required information to clients may not be able to continue their cooperation with us, which may reduce the number of new clients attracted to our platform, and our cooperation with these user traffic channels may subject us to fines. As a result, our business, financial performance and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Furthermore, under our agreements with certain insurer partners, we are not allowed to distribute their insurance products through user traffic channels that fail to comply with relevant online insurance regulatory requirements. Therefore, we may breach the agreements with them if we distribute their insurance products through unregistered user traffic channels, which might subject us to defaulting liabilities and adversely affect our financial condition.
Failure to obtain, renew, or retain licenses, permits or approvals may affect our ability to conduct or expand our business.
We are required to obtain applicable licenses, permits and approvals from different PRC regulatory authorities in order to conduct or expand our business. Various governmental authorities in the PRC have promulgated various regulations on the insurance business and internet-based services, including regulations requiring an Insurance Brokerage License and an ICP License. We have obtained, renewed and maintained our Insurance Brokerage License and our ICP License as required by the PRC regulatory authorities. However, there is no assurance that the PRC regulatory authorities will not issue new regulations governing the internet or the insurance product and service industry that might require us to obtain additional licenses, permits or approvals for our current or future business operations, which may materially and adversely our business operations and financial condition.
 
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If we fail to source, design and develop insurance products catering to the evolving needs of insurance clients, we may not be able to retain existing insurance clients or attract new insurance clients to our online platform.
Our future growth depends on our ability to continue to attract new insurance clients and to generate new purchases from existing clients. We must stay abreast of emerging client preferences and product trends that will appeal to existing and potential insurance clients. Our platform makes personalized recommendations of insurance products to clients based on their needs, and offers a comprehensive suite of services to ensure a smooth and efficient insurance experience. We also develop insurance products in cooperation with our insurer partners to meet the evolving needs of insurance clients. Our ability to provide these products and services is dependent on our insurance expertise and our market data analytical capabilities. However, there is no assurance that the insurance products and services that we design and develop together with our insurer partners will cater to the needs of potential or existing insurance clients, sustain for a period of time that we expect them to, or be welcomed or accepted by the market at all. If insurance clients cannot find their desired products on our platform at attractive prices and terms, or find their experience with us dissatisfactory, they may lose trust in us and turn to other channels for their insurance needs, which in turn may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We leverage our user traffic channels to attract new insurance clients to our platform and incur significant costs on paying our user traffic channels service fees.
In addition to growing our client base organically, we also cooperate with our user traffic channels to convert their user traffic to client base of our platform. Our agreements with user traffic channels are generally one to three years subject to renewal. We believe that we generally maintain good relationships with our user traffic channels. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain long-term cooperative relationship with them. If our user traffic channels terminate their cooperation with us, do not renew their agreements with us, choose to work with our competitors, or terminate their cooperation with us due to regulatory requirements, we may lose potential clients and our business and results of operations will be negatively affected. In addition, if our user traffic channels lose influence over their traffic or otherwise fail to effectively convert their users to our clients, our business and results of operations may suffer.
Furthermore, we have incurred significant expenses on paying our user traffic channels service fees and advertisement fees. If certain of our existing user traffic channels require higher rates of service fees or we fail to negotiate favorable terms with them or find new user traffic channels, our client acquisition costs may increase, and our results of operations may be adversely affected.
Any harm to our brand, failure to maintain and enhance our brand recognition, or failure to do so in a cost-effective manner may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We believe that the recognition and reputation of our “Huize” brand among our insurance clients, insurer partners, user traffic channels and other industry participants have contributed significantly to the growth and success of our business. Maintaining and enhancing the recognition and reputation of our brand are critical to our business and competitiveness. Many factors, some of which are beyond our control, are important to maintain and enhance our brand. These factors include our ability to:
 
   
provide compelling products and insurance experience to clients;
 
   
maintain or improve satisfaction with our client services;
 
   
increase brand awareness through marketing and brand promotion activities;
 
   
maintain the reliability of our online platform and technology-based systems;
 
   
preserve our reputation and goodwill in the event of any negative publicity on us, our partners or the industry in general; and
 
   
maintain our cooperative relationships with business partners.
If we are unable to maintain our reputation, enhance our brand recognition or increase positive awareness of our online platform, products and services, it may be difficult to maintain and grow our client base, and our business and growth prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
Furthermore, if we are unable to conduct our branding and marketing activities cost-effectively, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. We have incurred expenses on a variety of different sales and marketing efforts designed to enhance our brand recognition and increase sales of insurance products on our platform. Our marketing and promotional activities may not be well received by clients and may not achieve anticipated results. Marketing approaches and tools in insurance market in China are evolving. This further requires us to enhance our marketing approaches and experiment with new marketing methods to keep pace with industry developments and consumer preferences, which may not be as cost-effective as our marketing activities in the past and may lead to significantly higher marketing expenses in the future. Failure to refine our existing marketing approaches or to introduce new effective marketing approaches in a cost-effective manner could impact our revenues and profitability.
 
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We depend on our cooperation with our insurer partners. Our business may be negatively affected if our insurer partners do not continue their relationship with us or if their operations fail.
Our relationship with insurer partners is crucial to our success. We generate a substantial portion of our revenues from commission fees paid by insurer partners. Certain insurer partners have accounted for a significant portion of our revenues in the past. Our five largest insurer partners in terms of operating revenue contribution aggregately accounted for 59.0%, 60.7% and 63.0% of our total operating revenue in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. While we continually seek to diversify our insurer partners, there can be no assurance that the concentration will decrease. Our ability to attract clients depends on the quantity and quality of insurance products offered by insurer partners on our platform. We provide intelligent underwriting services and integrated solutions to our insurer partners. Our arrangements with our insurer partners are typically not exclusive, and they may have similar arrangements with our competitors. If insurer partners are dissatisfied with our services and solutions or find us ineffective in enhancing their profitability, they may terminate their relationships with us and decide to cooperate with our competitors.
Moreover, insurance companies we work with may develop their own technology capabilities to serve insurance clients online. There can be no assurance that we can maintain relationships with our existing insurer partners on commercially desirable terms. If we fail to prove that our technology capabilities could help improve their operating efficiency or are otherwise valuable to them, our business, financial performance and prospects will be materially and adversely affected.
Furthermore, if our insurer partners or the reinsurance companies they partner with fail to properly fulfill their obligations as insurers under the insurance policies sold on our platform, our clients may lose faith in our platform. If our insurer partners or the reinsurance companies they partner with become insolvent, our clients may not be able to realize the protection expected from the insurance policies, which will negatively affect our reputation and results of operations.
We may not be able to ensure the accuracy and completeness of product information and the effectiveness of our recommendation of insurance products on our platform.
Our insurance clients rely on the insurance product information we provide on our platform. While we believe that such information is generally accurate, complete and reliable, there can be no assurance that the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information can be maintained in the future. We had in the past failed to provide legally required disclosure on our platform to the attention of our clients, including how we are paid as an insurance broker, and whether we or our senior management are related parties of our insurer partners and other insurance institutions. If we provide any inaccurate or incomplete information on our platform due to either our own fault or that of our insurer partners, or we fail to present accurate or complete information of any insurance products which could lead to our clients’ failure to get the protection or us being warned or punished by regulatory authorities, our reputation could be harmed and we could experience reduced user traffic to our platform, which may adversely affect our business and financial performance.
We may not be able to recommend suitable insurance products to our clients. Our search and recommendation engine may fail to function properly. The data provided to us by our clients, insurer partners and user traffic channels may not be accurate or up to date. Our professional consultation team may not fully understand the clients’ insurance needs and recommend suitable products to them. If our clients are recommended insurance products that do not suit their protection needs, they may lose trust in our platform. Meanwhile, our insurer partners may find our recommendation ineffective. Our insurance clients and insurer partners may consequently be reluctant to continue to use our platform, and our insurer partners may be hesitant to continue to partner with us. As a result, our business, reputation, financial performance and prospects will be materially and adversely affected.
 
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Our business is subject to intense competition, and we may fail to compete successfully against existing or new competitors, which may reduce demand for our services, reduce operating margins, and further result in loss of market share, departures of qualified employees and increased capital expenditures.
The online independent insurance service industry in China is intensely competitive. Our current or potential competitors include (i) other online independent insurance product and service platforms, (ii) traditional insurance intermediaries, (iii) online direct sales channels of large insurance companies, (iv) major internet companies that have commenced insurance distribution businesses, and (v) other online insurance technology companies. New competitors may emerge at any time. Some of our competitors also offer their insurance products on our platform, so they both compete and cooperate with us. Existing or potential competitors may have substantially greater brand recognition and possess more financial, marketing and research resources than we do. Our competitors may introduce platforms with more attractive products, content and features, or services or solutions with competitive pricing or enhanced performance that we cannot match. Some of our competitors may have more resources to develop or acquire new technologies and react quicker to changing requirements of clients and insurance companies. In addition, our target insurance clients, PRC residents with potential insurance needs, may seek insurance products and services in well-equipped and developed neighboring insurance markets. We may fail to compete effectively with our competitors and industry participants in neighboring insurance markets, even if we take initiatives in developing our insurance service capabilities in these neighboring insurance markets, which may reduce demand for our services, result in loss of market share, and further result in reduction of operating margins and departures of qualified employees.
The proper functioning of our internet platform and technology infrastructure is essential to our business. Any disruption to our IT systems and infrastructure could materially affect our ability to maintain the satisfactory performance of our platform and deliver consistent services to our users.
The reliability, availability and satisfactory performance of our IT systems are critical to our success, our ability to attract and retain clients and our ability to maintain a satisfactory user experience and client service. Our servers may be vulnerable to computer viruses, traffic spike that exceeds the capacity of our servers, electricity power interruptions, physical or electronic
break-ins
and similar disruptions, which could lead to system interruptions, website slowdown and unavailability, delays in transaction processing, loss of data, and the inability to accept and fulfill client orders. We have not experienced system interruptions that materially affected our operations in the past, but we can provide no assurance that we will not experience unexpected interruptions in the future. We can provide no assurance that our current security mechanisms will be sufficient to protect our IT systems and technology infrastructure from any third-party intrusions, electricity power interruptions, viruses and hacker attacks, information and data theft, and other similar activities. Any such future occurrences could damage our reputation and result in a material decrease in our revenues.
We have identified deficiencies in our information technology system relating to (i) lack of necessary management and supervision of super user/administrative accounts, and (ii) lack of formal management control during program development and change process. We have engaged risk assurance advisors to help us design and implement IT controls necessary for us, including updating our IT security policy, enhancing management of IT system and database. However, there can be no assurance that the foregoing deficiencies can be cured in a timely and cost-effective manner. We may identify other deficiencies in the future, which may require us to expend significant resources to remediate.
Additionally, we are constantly upgrading our platform and infrastructure to comply with regulatory requirements and provide increased scale, improved performance and additional
built-in
functions and additional capacities. For example, on June 22, 2020, the CBIRC issued the Notice on Regulating the Traceability Management of Internet Insurance Sales, which came into effect from October 1, 2020 and provides that insurance institutions shall conduct retrospective review and management of internet insurance sales, and shall immediately suspend online insurance sales if they fail to comply with those requirements by the time the notice came into force. As of October 1, 2020, we had made rectifications in accordance with this notice. Furthermore, on January 5, 2021, the CBIRC promulgated the Measures for the Regulation of Informatization of Insurance Intermediaries, which aims to improve informatization of insurance intermediaries and stipulates regulatory requirements in respect of the construction and management of the informatization, IT system and information security. It provides that insurance intermediaries shall make self-examination accordingly and complete the rectifications by February, 2022. As of the date of this annual report, we are in the process of making self-examination and rectifications. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete rectifications in a timely manner or fully satisfy the regulatory requirements. In addition, rectifying, maintaining and upgrading our technology infrastructure require significant investment of time and resources, including adding new hardware, updating software, and recruiting and training new engineering personnel. During updates, our systems may experience interruptions, and the new technologies and infrastructures may not be fully integrated with the existing systems timely, or at all. Any failure to maintain and improve our technology infrastructure could result in unanticipated system disruptions, slower response times, impaired quality of user experience and delays in reporting accurate operating and financial information, which, in turn, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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Failure to prevent cybersecurity breaches will materially and adversely affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations.
The massive volume of data that we process and store makes us or third party service providers who host our servers an attractive target and potentially vulnerable to cyber-attacks, computer viruses, physical or electronic
break-ins
or similar disruptions. While we have taken steps to protect our database, our security measures could be breached. Because techniques used to sabotage or obtain unauthorized access to systems change frequently and generally are not recognized until they are launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate preventative measures. Any accidental or willful security breaches or other unauthorized access to our platform could cause confidential information to be stolen and used for criminal purposes. Security breaches or unauthorized access to confidential information could also expose us to liability related to the loss of the information, time-consuming and expensive litigation and negative publicity. If security measures are breached because of third-party action, employee error, malfeasance or otherwise, or if design flaws in our technology infrastructure are exposed and exploited, our relationships with users and insurer partners could be severely damaged, we could incur significant liability and our business and operations could be adversely affected. The PRC Network Security Law promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, effective on June 1, 2017, stipulates that a network operator, including internet information services providers among others, must adopt technical measures and other necessary measures in accordance with applicable laws and regulations as well as compulsory national standards to safeguard the safety and stability of network operations, effectively respond to network security incidents, prevent illegal and criminal activities, and maintain the integrity, confidentiality and availability of network data. Recently, the CBIRC has enhanced its supervision and has promulgated many regulation measures and requirements towards cybersecurity of online insurance business. While we have adopted comprehensive measures to comply with the applicable laws, regulations and standards, there can be no assurance that such measures will be effective. If we were found by the regulatory authorities to have failed to comply with the relevant regulatory requirements, we would be subject to warnings, fines, confiscation of illegal gains, revocation of licenses, suspension of our platform or even criminal liabilities and our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.
Our business generates and processes a large amount of data. Any failure to protect the confidential information of third parties or improper use or disclosure of such data may subject us to liabilities imposed by data privacy and protection laws and regulations, negatively impact our reputation, and deter our clients from using our online platform.
Our platform stores and processes certain personal and other sensitive data provided by insurance clients, and we make certain personal information provided by clients or third party data providers available to insurer partners with user consent. There are numerous laws regarding privacy and the storing, sharing, use, disclosure and protection of personally identifiable information and data. Specifically, personally identifiable and other confidential information is increasingly subject to legislation and regulations in PRC and numerous foreign jurisdictions. PRC government authorities have enacted a series of laws and regulations relating to the protection of privacy and personal information, under which internet service providers and other network operators are required to clearly indicate the purposes, methods and scope of any information collection and usage, to obtain appropriate user consent and to establish user information protection systems with appropriate remedial measures. However, this regulatory framework for privacy issues in China and worldwide is currently evolving and is likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. We cannot assure you that our existing privacy and personal protection system and technical measures will be considered sufficient under applicable laws and regulations. We could be adversely affected if legislation or regulations in China are expanded to require changes in business practices or privacy policies, or if the PRC governmental authorities interpret or implement their legislation or regulations in ways that negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition to laws, regulations and other applicable rules regarding privacy and privacy advocacy, industry groups or other private parties may propose new and different privacy standards. Because the interpretation and application of privacy and data protection laws and privacy standards are still uncertain, it is possible that these laws or privacy standards may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our practices. Any inability to adequately address privacy concerns, even if unfounded, or to comply with applicable privacy or data protection laws, regulations and privacy standards, could result in additional cost and liability for us, damage our reputation, inhibit the use of our platform and harm our business.
 
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Our practices may become inconsistent with new laws or regulations concerning data protection, or the interpretation and application of existing consumer and data protection laws or regulations, which is often uncertain and in flux. If so, in addition to the possibility of fines, this could result in an order requiring that we change our practices, which could have an adverse effect on our business and operating results. For example, the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), which came into effect on May 25, 2018, includes operational requirements for companies that receive or process personal data of residents of the European Economic Area. The GDPR establishes new requirements applicable to the processing of personal data, affords new data protection rights to individuals and imposes penalties for serious data breaches. Individuals also have a right to compensation under the GDPR for financial or
non-financial
losses. Although we do not conduct any business in the European Economic Area, in the event that residents of the European Economic Area access our platform and input protected information, we may become subject to provisions of the GDPR.
The sophisticated and innovative technologies we use for the operation of our business are new and require continuous developments and upgrades. We cannot assure you that these technologies will fully support our business.
We regard technology as critical to our ability to provide high-quality products and superior client services. We have invested substantial resources in developing the sophisticated and innovative technology systems that we use for our daily operations. We expect these technologies to support the smooth performance of key functions in our platform, such as searching for and finding suitable insurance products, intelligent underwriting, and claim application and settlement. To adapt to evolving client needs, requirements of insurer partners, and emerging industry trends, we may need to develop other new technologies or upgrade existing platform and systems. If our efforts to invest in the development of new technologies or the upgrade of existing technologies are unsuccessful, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, the maintenance and processing of various operating and financial data is essential to our data analytical capabilities and the
day-to-day
operation of our business. Our ability to provide products and services and to conduct
day-to-day
business operations depend, in part, on our ability to maintain and make timely and cost-effective enhancement and upgrade to our technology and introduce innovative functions which can meet changing business and operational needs. Failure to do so could put us at a disadvantage to our competitors and cause economic losses. We can provide no assurance that we will be able to keep up with technological improvements or that the technology developed by others will not render our services less competitive or attractive.
Negative publicity about us, our shareholders, insurer partners, user traffic channels and individual and institutional promoters that we cooperate with, and other participants in the insurance industry may harm our brand and reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results.
Our brand and reputation are critical to our business and competitiveness. Factors that are vital to our reputation include but are not limited to our ability to:
 
   
recommend suitable insurance products to users;
 
   
provide effective and smooth insurance experience to insurance clients;
 
   
enhance risk management capabilities;
 
   
innovate and improve the products and services we provide;
 
   
effectively manage and resolve complaints from users and insurer partners; and
 
   
effectively protect private information and data.
 
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Any negative publicity about the foregoing or other aspects of our company, including but not limited to our directors, management, shareholders, business, legal compliance, financial condition or prospects, whether with merit or not, could severely compromise our reputation and harm our business and operating results. In addition, regulatory inquiries or investigations, lawsuits initiated against us, employee misconduct, among other things, could also result in negative publicity on us. Furthermore, negative publicity with respect to our business partners or the industry in which we operate may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Our business model may be replicated by other online insurance distributors or product and service platforms, and internet companies and traditional insurance companies aiming to engage in online insurance distribution business.
The leading Chinese internet companies have experienced the fast-moving internet development in China in past decades and have demonstrated their strong capacities in client-centric and efficiency driven business development and innovation. We are operating in an emerging industry, and we may be exposed to uncertainties and risks. Given the large amount of data and strong capacity of technological development the leading Chinese internet companies have, we believe it is possible that these companies can develop their insurance business to compete with us in a short period of time. In addition, we have seen certain traditional insurance companies and other insurance service providers enter the online insurance service market in order to take advantage of the soaring opportunities emerged from online ecosystems. Considering these internet companies’ strong abilities in promoting their products through their existing abundant online channels and the potential of traditional insurance companies and other insurance service providers to convert their offline resources and clients online, we may face severe competition in the near future from these potential competitors. Moreover, given that terms of insurance product are relatively transparent, our competitors can copy the insurance products we design and develop together with our insurer partners soon after they are launched, possibly at lower prices than what we offer. If we fail to continue to upgrade our insurance product offerings that meet market demand quickly, we may not be able to keep our edge in the competition, and our business and results of operations will be negatively affected.
Because the brokerage income we earn on the sale of insurance products is based on premiums, and commission fee rates agreed between us and our insurer partners, any decrease in these premiums or commission fee rates may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
We are engaged in the insurance brokerage business and derive revenues primarily from commission fees paid by the insurer partners whose insurance policies our clients purchase. The commission fee rates are set by insurer partners or negotiated between insurer partners and us, and are based on the premiums that the insurer products charge. Commission fee rates and premiums can change based on the prevailing economic, regulatory, taxation and competitive factors that affect our insurer partners. These factors, which are not within our control, include the capacity of insurer partners to place new business, profits of insurer partners, consumer demand for insurance products, the availability of comparable products from other insurance companies at lower costs, and the availability of alternative insurance products, such as government benefits and self-insurance plans, to consumers. In addition, premium rates for certain insurance products are tightly regulated by the CBIRC. Because we do not determine, and cannot predict, the timing or extent of premium or commission fee rate changes, we cannot predict the effect any of these changes may have on our operations. Any decrease in premiums or commission fee rates may significantly affect our profitability.
We rely on the multi-dimensional data we collect to enhance our business performance and results, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to accumulate or access sufficient data in the future or to analyze the data effectively, the lack of which may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We highly rely on our data in every step of the entire insurance value chain, including research and development of our insurance products, risk management, claim settlement, and client services. We develop our proprietary technologies on top of cloud computing infrastructures of third-party providers to automate and streamline the various processes in our operations, support our
day-to-day
business analytics and provide periodic or real-time applications in supporting our large amount of transactions and executing our strategies. We have made substantial investments in ensuring the effectiveness of our data analytics that supports our rapid growth and enables us to provide efficient services to insurance clients. We cannot assure you that we will be able to continually collect and retain sufficient data, or improve our data technologies to satisfy our operating needs. Failure to do so will materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
 
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Failure to maintain accuracy in actuarial statistics, assisting in underwriting, and proposing pricing of insurance products to insurer partners could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We operate an intelligent underwriting system where we code underwriting criteria set by insurers in our system and the system automatically generates eligibility for purchasing insurance products. For customized insurance products we designed and developed together with our insurer partners, we conduct actuarial and propose pricing range to our insurer partners. Therefore, we rely heavily on the accuracy in actuarial statistics and capabilities in accurate underwriting and proposing pricing of products we offer to conduct our business, including recording and processing our operational and financial data and effectively executing our business plans through accurate actuarial analysis and pricing modeling. The proper functioning of our actuarial analysis, statistical analysis, products pricing suggestion, risk management, financial control, accounting, client database, client service and other data processing systems is highly critical to our business and our ability to compete effectively. We rely on our dedicated talents with actuarial expertise to conduct actuarial analysis, and we rely on our research and development team to enhance our data capabilities to perform pricing modeling. We cannot guarantee you that we will be able to continue to upgrade our technology and maintain our capacity and accuracy, or to successfully retain our employees with actuarial expertise or to hire new ones. Failure of maintaining such capacity and accuracy could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
A significant portion of the total GWP we facilitate is contributed by a limited number of insurance products. If we cannot continue to offer these insurance products on our platform for any reason or the popularity of these products declines, the GWP we facilitate and consequently our brokerage income, may decrease and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
A significant portion of the total GWP we facilitate is from a limited number of popular insurance products, primarily our tailor-made long-term life and health insurance products. In 2020, the top five insurance products in terms of GWP contribution aggregately accounted for 29.4% of the total GWP we facilitated, as compared to 31.2% in 2019. We believe the concentration was partially due to the comprehensive protection coverage with reasonable policy terms making these tailor-made insurance products more attractive than others. Although we plan to continue to diversify our product offerings, launch more tailor-made insurance products, expand our client base and generate brokerage income from a wider variety of insurance products, we cannot guarantee you that we will be able to succeed, and that such concentration will decrease. If we cannot continue to offer these popular insurance products for any reason or the popularity of these products decline, our brokerage income may decrease and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We have in the past sold insurance products on our platform through institutional promoters lacking operating license, and individual promoters who were registered with other insurance institutions or who were not registered with any insurance institutions, which may subject us to potential regulatory risks and may cause breaches of our agreements with insurer partners.
Through
www.jumi18.com
,
www.qixin18.com
and
www.xiebao18.com
, we have in the past engaged institutional promoters lacking insurance operating licenses, and individual promoters whose practice registrations were registered with insurance institutions other than us or who were not registered with any insurance institutions, to promote insurance products we offer on our platform. In return, we paid those promoters service fees. Our cooperation with institutional promoters lacking insurance operating licenses may subject us to regulatory risks, and thus as of the date of this annual report, we have terminated our cooperation with such institutional promoters. Under relevant PRC laws and regulations, professional insurance intermediaries like us must complete practice registrations for individual promoters as our representatives or agents. Historically, for those individual promoters who had a relatively short history of cooperation with us, or who contributed a less significant portion of GWP facilitated on our platform, we did not complete all their practice registrations with us. As of the date of this annual report, we have terminated the cooperation with individual promoters that have not been registered with us. However, we may be subject to administrative orders to rectify these historical
non-compliance
incidents or further, administrative penalties imposed by the regulatory authorities retrospectively, and if so, our business and results of operations might be materially and adversely affected.
 
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In addition, under relevant PRC laws and regulations, an individual insurance agent or insurance broker can only act within the scope of authority granted by the insurance institution that he/she is registered with. Furthermore, an individual insurance agent who sells life insurance products is only eligible to register with and act as the agent of just one licensed insurance company. Consequently, there exist potential regulatory risks with regard to individuals whose activities went beyond the above restrictions in transactions completed for us in the past, and if the regulatory authorities take retrospective actions against us on those transactions, we may be subject to administrative orders for rectifications, administrative penalties or other actions imposed by the regulatory authorities, which will negatively affect our business and results of operations. Moreover, other insurance institutions with which these individuals are registered may take legal actions against us on the ground of unfair competition or breach of contract, where applicable, for transactions these individuals completed for us in the past. As of the date of this annual report, there has been no such action taken or threatened against us. However, we cannot assure you that we will not face such legal actions in the future. Any such legal actions, regardless of merit, could be expensive and time-consuming to deal with, and could divert resources and the management’s attention from the operation of our business. If we are found liable in any such legal actions, we might be required to pay substantial amounts of damages to these insurance institutions and our business and reputation will suffer.
Furthermore, under our agreements with certain insurer partners, we should not delegate any of our rights or obligations as their insurance service provider to any third party. These insurer partners may consider our cooperation with third-party insurance agents as a breach of their agreements with us, which may subject us to liabilities under the agreements and damage our cooperative relationships with these insurer partners, and in turn adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Our business operation in Hong Kong had been noncompliant with applicable laws and regulations.
In the past, the operations of our Hong Kong subsidiary, Hong Kong Smart Choice Ventures Limited, or Hong Kong Smart Choice, had certain
non-compliance
incidents under applicable Hong Kong laws and regulations. Hong Kong Smart Choice, a company that is not a licensed insurance broker in Hong Kong, had engaged certain third parties to provide insurance advisory services to clients, which may be deemed as an offense under the Insurance Ordinance of Hong Kong and may subject Hong Kong Smart Choice to fines or even criminal liabilities. If Hong Kong Smart choice is punished by Hong Kong regulatory authorities, we may bear economic losses, our Hong Kong operations may be partially or wholly suspended, and our reputation, business, results of operations and our financial conditions will suffer. In addition, Hong Kong Smart Choice has in the past held an equity interest in Full Run Insurance Broker Limited, or Full Run, which had been noncompliant with applicable Hong Kong laws and regulations, including carrying out solicitation activities without being authorized and failing to comply with certain corporate governance requirements under the Hong Kong law. Although Hong Kong Smart Choice disposed of its equity interest in Full Run in July 2019, we cannot assure you that Hong Kong Smart Choice will not bear economic loss related to Full Run’s noncompliance during the period when it was a shareholder of Full Run, which will in turn negatively affect our reputation, business, results of operations and our financial conditions will suffer.
We have in the past made claim payments to insurance clients at our own discretion under our agreements with insurer partners.
Prior to early 2019, pursuant to our agreements with certain property & casualty insurer partners, we provided claim payment services to insurance clients for small amount claim applications to expedite the claim settlement and thus enhance user experience. For insurance clients who submitted claim applications on Xiao Ma Claim, previously known as Ding Dong Claim under certain
pre-determined
amounts, we made advance payments directly to insurance clients, and subsequently claim these payments from our insurer partners. For claim applications that either exceed these amounts, or that we disagreed to pay, we defer the applications to our respective insurance partners to process. According to the PRC law, only licensed insurance companies are eligible to determine the final amounts for claim settlement. Therefore, the claim settlement process we applied through Xiao Ma Claim prior to early 2019 may be considered as activities exceeding our business scope, and may subject us to fines and warnings by PRC regulatory authorities. We are in the process of amending our agreements with most of the relevant insurer partners with regard to our claim settlement procedures to ensure that our insurer partners have the sole discretion in determining whether to approve claim applications and the final amounts for claim settlement. However, we cannot guarantee you that our past practice will not expose us to penalties or other regulatory actions, the occurrence of which may negatively affect our reputation, business and results of operations.
In addition, for claim applications that we have made advance payments, our insurer partners may reject reimbursement to us, which will adversely affect our financial condition. If it takes longer time for these insurance partners to reimburse us than we expect, we will be subject to greater pressure on our cash flow, which will adversely affect our results of operations and financial conditions.
 
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If we cannot manage the growth of our business or execute our strategies effectively, our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
We continue to experience rapid growth in our business, which will continue to place significant demands on our management, operational and financial resources. We may encounter difficulties as we expand our operations, data and technology, sales and marketing, and general and administrative functions. We expect our expenses to continue to increase in the future as we acquire more users, launch new technology development projects and build additional technology infrastructure. Continued growth could also strain our ability to maintain the quality and reliability of our platform and services, develop and improve our operational, financial, legal and management controls, and enhance our reporting systems and procedures. Our expenses may grow faster than our revenues, and our expenses may be greater than we anticipate. We may expand into geographic areas where we do not have experience with local regulations or regulators or where local market conditions are unfavorable for our business model. Managing our growth will require significant expenditures and allocation of valuable management resources. If we fail to achieve the necessary level of efficiency in our organization as it grows, our business, operating results and financial condition could be harmed.
Acquisitions, strategic alliances and investments could be difficult to integrate, disrupt our business and lower our results of operations and the value of your investment.
We may enter into selected strategic alliances and potential strategic acquisitions that are complementary to our business and operations, including opportunities that can help us further improve our technology system. These strategic alliances with third parties could subject us to a number of risks, including risks associated with sharing proprietary information,
non-performance
or default by counterparties, and increased expenses in establishing these new alliances, any of which may materially and adversely affect our business. We may have limited ability to control or monitor the actions of our strategic partners. To the extent a strategic partner suffers any negative publicity as a result of its business operations, our reputation may be negatively affected by virtue of our association with such party.
Strategic acquisitions and subsequent integrations of newly acquired businesses would require significant managerial and financial resources and could result in a diversion of resources from our existing business, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our growth and business operations. Acquired businesses or assets may not generate expected financial results immediately, or at all, and may incur losses. The cost and duration of integrating newly acquired businesses could also materially exceed our expectations, which could negatively affect our results of operation. In addition, certain shareholders operate similar insurance product and service platforms like we do and there remain potential conflicts of interest. If any of such conflicts of interest are not resolved in our favor, we could lose opportunities in strategic acquisitions and alliances, and our business, financial condition and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.
Our success depends on the continued efforts of our senior management. If one or more of our key executives were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, our business may be severely disrupted.
Our business operations depend on the continued services of our senior management, particularly our
co-founders
and the executive officers named in this annual report. While we have provided different incentives to our management, we cannot assure you that we can continue to retain their services. If one or more of our key executives were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to find suitable replacements, our future growth may be constrained, our business may be severely disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, although we have entered into confidentiality and
non-competition
agreements with our management, there is no assurance that any member of our management team will not join our competitors or form a competing business. If any dispute arises between our current or former officers and us, we may have to incur substantial costs and expenses in order to enforce such agreements in China or we may not be able to enforce them at all. If we are not able to agree on satisfactory severance arrangements with any departing officer or resolve any resulting disputes, we would incur additional time and expenses in handling such matters and our management team’s attention may be diverted.
 
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If we are unable to recruit, train and retain qualified personnel, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
We believe our future success depends on our continued ability to attract, develop, motivate and retain qualified and skilled employees. Competition for personnel with expertise in insurance, sales and marketing, technology and risk management is extremely intense in China. We may not be able to hire and retain these personnel at compensation levels consistent with our existing compensation and salary structure. Some of the companies with which we compete for experienced employees have greater resources than we have and may be able to offer more attractive terms of employment. In addition, we invest significant time and resources in training our employees, which increases their value to competitors who may seek to recruit them. If we fail to retain our employees, we could incur significant expenses in hiring and training new employees, and our ability to serve insurance clients and insurer partners could diminish, resulting in a material adverse effect to our business.
If our user traffic channels, other business partners or employees engage in any misconduct or cause errors to occur in our system, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
We are exposed to many types of operational risks, including the risk of misconduct and errors by our user traffic channels, other parties we collaborate with and by our employees. Our business depends on our employees and/or business partners to interact with clients and provide various services in relation to the purchase of insurance products. Misconduct could include making misrepresentations when marketing or selling insurance products to clients, hiding or falsifying material information in relation to insurance contracts, colluding with applicants, insureds, or beneficiaries to obtain insurance benefits, failing to disclose legally required information to clients, engaging in false claims or otherwise not complying with laws and regulations or our internal policies or procedures. Any of the aforementioned misconduct by parties we cooperate with may cause potential liabilities of us, and further subject us to regulatory actions and penalties. If any third parties that are important to our operations are sanctioned by regulatory actions, our business operations will be disrupted or otherwise negatively affected.
We could also be negatively impacted if an operational breakdown or failure in the processing of transactions occurred, whether as a result of human errors, purposeful sabotage or fraudulent manipulation of our operations or systems. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct or errors by employees or business partners, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses. If any of our employees or business partners fail to follow our rules and procedures when interacting with clients, we could be liable for damages and subject to regulatory actions and penalties. Any of these occurrences could result in our diminished ability to operate our business, inability to attract users, reputational damage, regulatory intervention and financial harm, which could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any failure to protect our intellectual property could harm our business and competitive position.
We regard our software registrations, trademarks, patents, domain names,
know-how,
proprietary technologies and similar intellectual property as critical to our success, and we rely on a combination of intellectual property laws and contractual arrangements, including confidentiality and
non-compete
agreements with our employees and others to protect our proprietary rights. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Intellectual Property.” Despite these measures, any of our intellectual property rights could be challenged, invalidated, circumvented or misappropriated, or such intellectual property may not be sufficient to provide us with competitive advantages. In addition, because of the rapid pace of technological change in our industry, parts of our business rely on technologies developed or licensed by third parties, and we may not be able to obtain or continue to obtain licenses and technologies from these third parties on reasonable terms, or at all.
Implementation and enforcement of PRC laws relating to intellectual property have historically been deficient and ineffective. Accordingly, protection of intellectual property rights in China may not be as effective as that in the United States or other developed jurisdictions. Statutory laws and regulations are subject to judicial interpretation and enforcement and may not be applied consistently due to the lack of clear guidance on statutory interpretation. Confidentiality, invention assignment and
non-compete
agreements may be breached by counterparties, and there may not be adequate remedies available to us for any such breach. Accordingly, we may not be able to effectively protect our intellectual property rights or to enforce our contractual rights in China. Preventing any unauthorized use of our intellectual property is difficult and costly and the steps we take may be inadequate to prevent the misappropriation of our intellectual property. In the event that we resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, such litigation could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our managerial and financial resources. We can provide no assurance that we will prevail in such litigation. In addition, our trade secrets may be leaked or otherwise become available to, or be independently discovered by, our competitors. To the extent that our employees or consultants use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related
know-how
and inventions. Any failure in protecting or enforcing our intellectual property rights could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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We may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, which may be expensive to defend and may disrupt our business and operations.
We cannot be certain that our operations or any aspects of our business do not or will not infringe upon or otherwise violate trademarks, patents, copyrights,
know-how
or other intellectual property rights held by third parties. We may be from time to time in the future subject to legal proceedings and claims relating to the intellectual property rights of others. In addition, there may be third-party trademarks, patents, copyrights,
know-how
or other intellectual property rights that are infringed by our products, services or other aspects of our business without our awareness. Holders of such intellectual property rights may seek to enforce such intellectual property rights against us in China, the United States or other jurisdictions. If any third-party infringement claims are brought against us, we may be forced to divert management’s time and other resources from our business and operations to defend against these claims, regardless of their merits.
Additionally, the application and interpretation of China’s intellectual property right laws and the procedures and standards for granting trademarks, patents, copyrights,
know-how
or other intellectual property rights in China are still evolving and are uncertain, and we cannot assure you that PRC courts or regulatory authorities would agree with our analysis. If we were found to have violated the intellectual property rights of others, we may be subject to liability for our infringement activities or may be prohibited from using such intellectual property, and we may incur licensing fees or be forced to develop alternatives of our own. As a result, our business and financial performance may be materially and adversely affected.
Our operations depend on the performance of the internet infrastructure and telecommunications networks in China.
Almost all access to the internet in China is maintained through state-owned telecommunication operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. We primarily rely on a limited number of telecommunication service providers to provide us with data communications capacity through local telecommunications lines and internet data centers to host our servers. We have limited access to alternative networks or services in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems with China’s internet infrastructure or the fixed telecommunications networks provided by telecommunication service providers. With the expansion of our business, we may be required to upgrade our technology and infrastructure to keep up with the increasing traffic on our platform. We cannot assure you that the internet infrastructure and the fixed telecommunications networks in China will be able to support the demands associated with the continued growth in internet usage.
In addition, we have no control over the costs of the services provided by telecommunication service providers. If the prices we pay for telecommunications and internet services rise significantly, our financial performance may be adversely affected. Furthermore, if internet access fees or other charges to internet users increase, our user traffic may decline and our business may be harmed.
Our future growth depends on the further acceptance of the internet as an effective platform for disseminating insurance products and content.
The internet, and particularly the mobile internet, has gained increasing popularity in China as a platform for insurance products and content in recent years. However, certain participants in the industry, especially traditional insurance companies, and many insurance clients have limited experience in handling insurance products and content online, and some insurance clients may have reservations about using online platforms. For example, clients may not find online content to be reliable sources of insurance product information. Some insurance companies and reinsurance companies may not believe online platforms are secure for risk assessment and risk management. Others may not find online platforms effective when promoting and providing their products and services, especially to targeted clients in lower-tier cities or rural areas. If we fail to educate clients, insurance companies and reinsurance companies about the value of our platform and our products and services, our growth will be limited and our business, financial performance and prospects may be materially and adversely affected. The further acceptance of the internet and particularly the mobile internet as an effective and efficient platform for insurance products and content is also affected by factors beyond our control, including negative publicity and restrictive regulatory measures. If online and mobile networks do not achieve adequate acceptance in the market, our growth prospects, results of operations and financial condition could be harmed.
 
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We may not be able to obtain additional capital when desired, on favorable terms or at all.
We need to make continued investments in facilities, hardware, software, technological systems and to retain talents to remain competitive. Due to the unpredictable nature of the capital markets and our industry, there can be no assurance that we will be able to raise additional capital on terms favorable to us, or at all, if and when required, especially if we experience disappointing operating results. If adequate capital is not available to us as required, our ability to fund our operations, take advantage of unanticipated opportunities, develop or enhance our infrastructure or respond to competitive pressures could be significantly limited. If we do raise additional funds through the issuance of equity or convertible debt securities, the ownership interests of our shareholders could be significantly diluted. These newly issued securities may have rights, preferences or privileges senior to those of existing shareholders.
Our current risk management system may not be able to exhaustively assess or mitigate all risks to which we are exposed, which could negatively affect our business and results of operations.
We have established risk management, quality control and internal control systems, consisting of policies and procedures that we believe are appropriate for our business. However, the implementation of such policies and procedures may involve human error and mistakes. Moreover, we may be exposed to fraud or other misconduct committed by our employees, or other third parties, including but not limited to our clients and partners, or other events that are out of our control, that could adversely affect our product quality and reputation and subject us to financial losses and sanctions imposed by government authorities. As a result, despite our efforts to improve the aforementioned systems, we cannot assure you that our risk management, quality control and internal control systems are able to completely eliminate
non-compliance
matters or product defects.
Failure to deal effectively with any fraud perpetrated on our platform could harm our business.
We face risks with respect to fraudulent activities on our platform. We cannot guarantee that all of the transactions conducted on our platform with insurance clients are commercially fair. We cannot fully eliminate insurance fraud and reverse selection insurance behaviors. Although we have implemented various measures to detect and reduce the occurrence of fraudulent activities on our platform, there can be no assurance that these measures will be effective in combating fraudulent transactions or improving overall satisfaction among our insurance clients and insurer partners. In addition, illegal, fraudulent or collusive activities by our employees or third party agents could also subject us to liability and negative publicity. Any illegal, fraudulent or collusive activity could severely damage our brand and reputation as an operator of a trusted online platform, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our insurance coverage may not be adequate, which could expose us to significant costs and business disruptions.
We maintain certain insurance policies to safeguard us against risks and unexpected events, including insurance broker/agent practice liability insurance. We provide social security insurance including pension insurance, unemployment insurance, work-related injury insurance, maternity insurance and medical insurance for our employees in compliance with applicable PRC laws. We do not maintain business interruption insurance. We consider our insurance coverage to be sufficient for our business operations in China. However, we cannot assure you that our insurance coverage is sufficient to prevent us from any loss or that we will be able to successfully claim our losses under our current insurance policy on a timely basis, or at all. If we incur any loss that is not covered by our insurance policies, or the compensated amount is significantly less than our actual loss, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
 
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We may be subject to legal proceedings in the ordinary course of our business. If the outcomes of these proceedings are adverse to us, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may from time to time be involved in disputes with various parties involved in the development and sale of our products. These disputes may lead to protests or legal or other proceedings and may result in damage to our reputation, substantial costs to our operations, and diversion of our management’s attention. In addition, we may disagree with regulatory bodies in certain aspects in the course of our operations, which may subject us to administrative proceedings and unfavorable decrees that result in liabilities and cause delays to our properly developments. We have been involved in legal proceedings or disputes in the ordinary course of business. In addition, as we change our cooperation model or terminate cooperation with some of our user traffic channels and individual agents to meet regulatory requirements, we cannot assure you that dispute will not arise therefrom or any of these counterparties will not take legal actions against us. We cannot assure you that we will not be involved in any other major legal proceedings in the future. Any involvement on these disputes may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to renew our current leases or locate desirable alternatives for our facilities could materially and adversely affect our business.
Certain of our lease agreements have not been registered with the relevant PRC government authorities as required by PRC law, which will not affect the validity of these lease agreements but may expose us to potential fines if we fail to remediate after receiving any notice from the relevant PRC government authorities. In case of failure to register or file a lease, the parties to the unregistered lease may be ordered to make rectifications (which would involve registering such leases with the relevant authority) before being subject to penalties. The penalty ranges from RMB1,000 to RMB10,000 for each unregistered lease, the specific amount of which is at the discretion of the relevant authority. Out of the sixteen lease agreements we had as of the date of this annual report, we had not completed lease agreement registration for eleven properties, and our maximum exposure to penalties by relevant PRC authorities for failure of registration was approximately RMB110,000.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may be unable to accurately report our financial results.
We are subject to reporting obligations under the U.S. securities laws. The SEC, as required under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, adopted rules requiring every public company to include a management report on such company’s internal control over financial reporting in its annual report, which contains management’s assessment of the effectiveness of the company’s internal control over financial reporting. We were subject to such requirement starting from fiscal year 2019. In addition, once we cease to be an “emerging growth company,” as such term is defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (as amended by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015), or the JOBS Act, an independent registered public accounting firm for a public company must issue an attestation report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting.
In the course of auditing our consolidated financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, we identified one material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020. In accordance with reporting requirements set forth by the SEC, a “material weakness” is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of our company’s annual consolidated financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The material weakness identified relates to lack of sufficient and competent financial reporting and accounting personnel with appropriate knowledge of U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting requirements to formalize key controls over financial reporting and to prepare consolidated financial statements and related disclosures in accordance with U.S. GAAP and SEC financial reporting requirements. As a result of the identification of this material weakness, we have been taking measures to remedy this control deficiency. However, we can give no assurance that the implementation of these measures will be sufficient to eliminate this material weakness or any other material weakness or significant deficiency in our internal control over financial reporting will not be identified in the future. Our failure to implement and maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting could result in errors in our financial statements that could result in a restatement of our financial statements, cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations and cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which may result in volatility in and a decline in the market price of the ADSs.
 
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During the course of documenting and testing our internal control procedures, in order to satisfy the requirements of Section 404, we may identify other weaknesses and deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, as these standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404. Moreover, even if our management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm, after conducting its own independent testing, may issue a report that is qualified if it is not satisfied with our internal controls or the level at which our controls are documented, designed, operated or reviewed, or if it interprets the relevant requirements differently from us.
If we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could in turn limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations, and lead to a decline in the trading price of our ADSs. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions. We may also be required to restate our financial statements from prior periods.
We have granted and may continue to grant options, restricted share units and other types of awards under our share option plan, which may result in increased share-based compensation expenses.
We adopted a global share incentive plan in June 2019, which we refer to as the Global Plan, for the purpose of granting share-based compensation awards to employees, directors and consultants to incentivize their performance and align their interests with ours. We recognize expenses in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Under our Global Plan, we are authorized to grant options, restricted share units and other types of share incentive awards. As of February 28, 2021, the maximum aggregate number of common shares which may be issued pursuant to all awards under the Global Plan is 57,501,813 common shares, and 34,562,529 restricted shares and options to purchase a total of 16,105,174 common shares are outstanding. We adopted a 2019 share incentive plan in June 2019, which we refer to as the 2019 Plan. Under the 2019 Plan, the maximum number of common shares that may be issued is 20,351,945 common shares. As of February 28, 2021, no share incentive award is outstanding under the 2019 Plan. We believe the granting of share-based compensation is of significant importance to our ability to attract and retain key personnel and employees, and we will continue to grant share-based compensation to employees in the future. As a result, our expenses associated with share-based compensation may increase, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations. We may
re-evaluate
the vesting schedules, lockup period, exercise price or other key terms applicable to the grants under our currently effective share incentive plans from time to time. If we choose to do so, we may experience substantial change in our share-based compensation charges.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations have been, and may continue to be adversely affected by the
COVID-19
pandemic.
The
COVID-19
pandemic has created unique global and industry-wide challenges, including challenges to many aspects of our business. In early 2020, the
COVID-19
outbreak caused temporary closures of our offices and implementation of short-term measures for employees to work remotely from home in our headquarter and other offices in early 2020. We and our insurer partners and user traffic channels have been gradually recovering from the general shutdown and delay in commencement of operations in China since the second quarter of 2020. Even though our business is currently operational, our service capacity and operational efficiency has been and are still adversely affected by the
COVID-19
pandemic due to decreased productivity of our workforce as a result of work from home measures and the necessity to comply with various disease control protocols in our business facilities.
 
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The extent to which
COVID-19
impacts our financial position, results of operations and cash flows in 2021 will depend on the future developments of the pandemic, including new information concerning the global severity of and actions taken to contain the outbreak, which are highly uncertain and unpredictable. In addition, our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected to the extent that the
COVID-19
pandemic harms the Chinese economy in general. We cannot assure you that the
COVID-19
pandemic can be eliminated or contained in the near future, or at all, or a similar outbreak will not occur again.
Many of the quarantine measures in China have been relaxed as of the date of this annual report. However, our results of operations may still be adversely affected to the extent that the
COVID-19
pandemic continues to affect the Chinese economy in general. In addition, the longer-term trajectory of
COVID-19,
both in terms of scope and intensity of the pandemic, in China, together with its impact on the industry and the broader economy are still difficult to assess or predict and face significant uncertainties that will be difficult to quantify. Relaxation of restrictions on economic and social activities may also lead to new cases which may lead to
re-imposed
restrictions. If there is not a material recovery in the
COVID-19
situation, or the situation further deteriorates in China, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics and other outbreaks, which could significantly disrupt our operations.
In addition to the impact of
COVID-19,
our business could be materially and adversely affected by natural disasters, health epidemics or other public safety concerns affecting the PRC, and particularly Shenzhen. Natural disasters may give rise to server interruptions, breakdowns, system failures, technology platform failures or internet failures, which could cause the loss or corruption of data or malfunctions of software or hardware as well as adversely affect our ability to operate our platform and provide services and solutions. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of epidemics in China and globally, such as
COVID-19,
H1N1 flu, avian flu or another epidemic. Our business operations could be disrupted by any of these epidemics. In addition, our results of operations could be adversely affected to the extent that any health epidemic harms the Chinese economy in general. A prolonged outbreak of any of these illnesses or other adverse public health developments in China or elsewhere in the world could have a material adverse effect on our business operations. Such outbreaks could significantly impact the insurance industry, which could severely disrupt our operations and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Our headquarters are located in Shenzhen, where most of our management and employees currently reside. Most of our system hardware and
back-up
systems are hosted in facilities located in Shenzhen. Consequently, if any natural disasters, health epidemics or other public safety concerns were to affect Shenzhen, our operation may experience material disruptions, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business is subject to fluctuations, which makes our results of operations difficult to predict and may cause our quarterly results of operations to fall short of expectations.
Our quarterly revenues and other operating results have fluctuated in the past and may continue to fluctuate depending upon a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Each of our business lines may have different seasonality factors and the mix of our revenue source may shift from time to time. For life and health insurance products, we generally have more purchase orders in the first quarter of each year. On the other hand, for property & casualty insurance products we offer on our platform, mostly consisted of travel insurance products, we experience more purchase orders in the third quarter, and the first and fourth quarters of each year are the low season for travel insurance products. If the insurance product mix we offer on our platform changes, the fluctuation trend of our results of operations will change accordingly. We may also introduce promotional activities or enhance our marketing and branding efforts in ways that further cause our quarterly results to fluctuate and differ from historical patterns. In addition, our quarterly and annual revenues and costs and expenses as a percentage of our revenues may be significantly different from our historical or projected figures. For these reasons, comparing our operating results on a
period-to-period
basis may not be meaningful, and you should not rely on our historical results as an indication of our future performance because our fast growth in the past may have masked the seasonality that might otherwise be apparent in our results of operations. Our results of operations in future quarters may fall below expectations, which could cause the price of our ADSs to fall.
 
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A severe or prolonged downturn in Chinese or global economy could materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
COVID-19
had a severe and negative impact on the Chinese and the global economy in the first quarter of 2020. Whether this will lead to a prolonged downturn in the economy is still unknown. Even before the outbreak of
COVID-19,
the global macroeconomic environment was facing numerous challenges, including the
US-China
trade war, the end of quantitative easing and start of interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the economic slowdown in the Eurozone since 2014 and uncertainties over the impact of Brexit. The United States and China have recently been involved in controversy over trade barriers in China that threatened a trade war between the countries and have implemented or proposed to implement tariffs on certain imported products. Sustained tension between the United States and China over trade policies could significantly undermine the stability of the global and Chinese economy. There have been concerns over unrest and terrorist threats in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, which have resulted in market volatility in oil and other markets, and over the expansion of terrorist activities into Europe and other regions. There have also been concerns on the relationship between China and other countries, including the surrounding Asian countries, which may potentially have economic effects.
Economic conditions in China are sensitive to global economic conditions, as well as changes in domestic economic and political policies and the expected or perceived overall economic growth rate in China. Our business and operations are primarily based in China and substantially all of our revenues are derived from our operations in China. Accordingly, our financial results have been, and are expected to continue to be, affected by the economy and insurance industry in China. The growth rate of the Chinese economy had gradually slowed down since 2010, and the impact of
COVID-19
on the Chinese economy in 2020 is likely to be severe. China had a negative gross domestic product, or GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020, which broke the record of the continued GDP growth in China for the past decades. Any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global or Chinese economy may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Risks Relating to Our Corporate Structure
If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating certain of our operations in China do not comply with PRC regulations relating to insurance brokerage and the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations.
Due to the PRC legal restrictions on foreign ownership of internet-based business and qualification requirements on foreign investors in the insurance brokerage business, we rely on certain contractual arrangements with our VIE and its shareholders to conduct substantially all of our operations in China. For example, foreign investors are not allowed to own more than 50% of the equity interests in a value-added telecommunications service provider (except for
e-commerce,
domestic multi-party communication, storage and forwarding classes and call centers) under the Special Administrative Measures for Access of Foreign Investment (Negative List) (2020 Edition), which was promulgated on June 23, 2020 and implemented on July 23, 2020. and any such foreign investor must have experience in providing value-added telecommunications services overseas and maintain a good track record in accordance with the Administrative Provisions on Foreign-Invested Telecommunications Enterprises (revised in 2016), and other applicable laws and regulations.
We are a Cayman Islands exempted company and our WFOE is considered a foreign-invested enterprise. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, we conduct operations in China through an affiliated PRC entity, Shenzhen Huiye Tianze Investment Holding Co., Ltd., or Huiye Tianze. We have entered into a series of contractual arrangements with Huiye Tianze and its shareholders, which enable us to (i) exercise effective control over Huiye Tianze, (ii) receive substantially all of the economic benefits and bear the obligation to absorb substantially all of the losses of Huiye Tianze, and (iii) have an exclusive option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in or assets of Huiye Tianze when and to the extent permitted by PRC laws. Because of these contractual arrangements, we are deemed the primary beneficiary of Huiye Tianze and hence consolidate its financial results as our variable interest entity, or our VIE, under U.S. GAAP. For a detailed description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure.”
It is uncertain whether any new PRC laws or regulations relating to variable interest entity structures will be adopted or if adopted, what they would provide. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to you and us.”
 
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If the ownership structure, contractual arrangements and businesses of our PRC subsidiary, our VIE and its subsidiaries are found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, or our PRC subsidiary, our VIE or its subsidiaries fail to obtain or maintain any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities would have broad discretion to take action in dealing with such violations or failures, including:
 
   
revoking the business licenses and/or operating licenses of such entities;
 
   
shutting down our servers or blocking our website, or discontinuing or placing restrictions or onerous conditions on our operation through any transactions between our WFOE, our VIE and its subsidiaries;
 
   
imposing fines, confiscating the income from our WFOE, our VIE or its subsidiaries, or imposing other requirements with which we or our VIE may not be able to comply;
 
   
requiring us to restructure our ownership structure or operations, including terminating the contractual arrangements with our VIE and deregistering the equity pledge of our VIE, which in turn would affect our ability to consolidate, derive economic interests from, or exert effective control over our VIE; or
 
   
restricting or prohibiting our use of the proceeds from our initial public offering to finance our business and operations in China, and taking other regulatory or enforcement actions that could be harmful to our business.
Any of these actions could cause significant disruption to our business operations and severely damage our reputation, which would in turn materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If any of these occurrences results in our inability to direct the activities of our VIE that most significantly impact its economic performance, and/or our failure to receive the economic benefits from our VIE, we may not be able to consolidate the entity in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.
Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the newly enacted PRC Foreign Investment Law and its Implementation Regulations and how they may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance, business operations and financial results.
On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress approved the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The Foreign Investment Law embodies an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. However, since it is relatively new, uncertainties still exist in relation to its interpretation and implementation. For instance, under the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investment” refers to the investment activities directly or indirectly conducted by foreign individuals, enterprises or other entities in China but it does not explicitly stipulate the contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. On December 26, 2019, the State Council promulgated the Implementation Regulations on the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020. However, the Implementation Regulations on the Foreign Investment Law still remains silent on whether contractual arrangements should be deemed as a form of foreign investment. Though these regulations do not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, there is no assurance that foreign investment via contractual arrangements would not be interpreted as a type of foreign investment activities under the definition in the future. In addition, the definition contains a
catch-all
provision which includes investments made by foreign investors through means stipulated in laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, the Foreign Investment Law still leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions promulgated by the State Council to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. In any of these cases, it will be uncertain whether our contractual arrangements will be deemed to be in violation of the market access requirements for foreign investment under the PRC laws and regulations. Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. Failure to take timely and appropriate measures to cope with any of these or similar regulatory compliance challenges could materially and adversely affect our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.
 
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Cayman Islands economic substance requirements may have an effect on our business and operations.
Pursuant to the International Tax
Co-operation
(Economic Substance) Act (2021 Revision) (as amended) of the Cayman Islands (the “ES Act”), a “relevant entity” is required to satisfy the economic substance test set out in the ES Act. A “relevant entity” includes an exempted company incorporated in the Cayman Islands as is our company. Based on the current interpretation of the ES Act, we believe that our company, Huize Holding Limited, is a pure equity holding company since it only holds equity participation in other entities and only earns dividends and capital gains.
Accordingly, for so long as our company, Huize Holding Limited, is a “pure equity holding company”, it is only subject to the minimum substance requirements, which require us to (i) comply with all applicable filing requirements under the Companies Act, Cap. 22 (Act 3 of 1961, as consolidated and revised) of the Cayman Islands (the “Companies Act”); and (ii) has adequate human resources and adequate premises in the Cayman Islands for holding and managing equity participations in other entities. However, there can be no assurance that we will not be subject to more requirements under the ES Act. Uncertainties over the interpretation and implementation of the ES Act may have an adverse impact on our business and operations.
We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIE, and its shareholders for our operations in China, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control.
We have relied and expect to continue to rely on variable interest entity arrangements to conduct a significant part of our operations in China. We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIE and its shareholders to conduct a significant part of our operations in China. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure.” The shareholders of our VIE may not act in the best interests of our company or may not perform their obligations under these contracts. If we had direct ownership of our VIE, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to effect changes in the board of directors of our VIE, which in turn could implement changes, subject to any applicable fiduciary obligations, at the management and operational level. However, under the contractual arrangements, we would rely on legal remedies under PRC law for breach of contract in the event that our VIE and its shareholders did not perform their obligations under the contracts. These legal remedies may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over our VIE.
If our VIE or its shareholders fail to perform their obligations under the contractual arrangements, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend additional resources to enforce such arrangements. All the agreements under our contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in China. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The legal system in the PRC is not as developed as in some other jurisdictions, such as the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. Meanwhile, there are very few precedents and little formal guidance as to how contractual arrangements in the context of a variable interest entity should be interpreted or enforced under PRC law. There remain significant uncertainties regarding the ultimate outcome of such arbitration should legal action become necessary. In addition, under PRC law, rulings by arbitrators are final, parties cannot appeal the arbitration results in courts, and if the losing parties fail to carry out the arbitration awards within a prescribed time limit, the prevailing parties may only enforce the arbitration awards in PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which would require additional expenses and delay. In the event we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, or if we suffer significant delay or other obstacles in the process of enforcing these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our VIE, and our ability to conduct our business may be negatively affected. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to you and us.”
 
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The directors of our VIE may have potential conflicts of interest with us, and if any such conflicts of interest are not resolved in our favor, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
PRC laws and regulations provide that a director owes a fiduciary duty to the company to which he or she acts as a director. The directors of our VIE, including Mr. Cunjun Ma, our Chief Executive Officer, must act in good faith and in the best interests of our VIE and must not use his position for personal gains. On the other hand, as a director of our company, Mr. Cunjun Ma has a duty of care and loyalty to our company and to our shareholders as a whole under the Cayman Islands law. We control our VIE through contractual arrangements, and the business and operations of our VIE are closely integrated with our subsidiaries’ business and operations. Nevertheless, conflicts of interests for these individuals may arise due to their dual roles both as directors of our VIE and as directors of our company.
We cannot assure you that should any conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these individuals will act in the best interests of our company or such conflicts will be resolved in our favor. Currently, we do not have any arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these individuals and our company. If we cannot resolve any conflicts of interest or disputes between us and these individuals, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and subject us to substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.
Our ability to enforce the equity pledge agreements between us and the shareholders of our VIE may be subject to limitations based on PRC laws and regulations.
Pursuant to the equity pledge agreements relating to our VIE, shareholders of our VIE pledged their equity interests in our VIE to our WFOE to secure our VIE’s and its shareholders’ performance of the obligations and indebtedness under the Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement, Exclusive Option and Equity Custody Agreement. As of the date of this annual report, we have registered such equity pledges with the relevant local branch of the State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR. Under the Civil Code of the PRC , when an obligor fails to pay its debt when due, the pledgee may choose to either conclude an agreement with the pledger to obtain the pledged equity or seek payments from the proceeds of the auction or
sell-off
of the pledged equity. If our VIE fails to perform its obligations secured by the pledges under the equity pledge agreements, one remedy in the event of default under the agreements is to require the pledger to sell the equity interests in our VIE, as applicable, in an auction or private sale and remit the proceeds to our subsidiary in China, net of related taxes and expenses. Such an auction or private sale may not result in our receipt of the full value of the equity interests in our VIE. We consider it very unlikely that the public auction process would be undertaken since, in an event of default, our preferred approach would be to ask our WFOE that is a party to the Exclusive Option and Equity Custody Agreement to designate another PRC person or entity to acquire the equity interests in such VIE and replace the existing shareholders pursuant to the Exclusive Option and Equity Custody Agreement.
In addition, in the registration forms of the local branch of the SAMR for the pledges over the equity interests under the equity pledge agreements, the amount of registered equity interests pledged to our WFOE shall be designated as a fixed figure. The equity pledge agreements with the shareholders of our VIE provide that the pledged equity interest constitutes continuing security for any and all of the indebtedness, obligations and liabilities of our VIE under the relevant contractual arrangements, and therefore it is possible that the amount of registered equity interests cannot cover the secured obligation as a whole. However, there is no guarantee that a PRC court will not take the position that the amount listed on the equity pledge registration forms represents the full amount of the collateral that has been registered and perfected. If this is the case, the obligations that are supposed to be secured in the equity pledge agreements in excess of the amount listed on the equity pledge registration forms could be determined by the PRC court to be unsecured debt, which takes last priority among creditors and often does not have to be paid back at all. We do not have agreements that pledge the assets of our VIE and its subsidiaries for the benefit of us or our WFOE, although our VIE grants our WFOE options to purchase the assets of our VIE and its equity interests in its subsidiaries under the Exclusive Option and Equity Custody Agreement.
 
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If our VIE and its subsidiaries becomes the subject of a bankruptcy or liquidation proceeding, we may lose the ability to use and enjoy their assets, which could reduce the size of our operations and materially and adversely affect our business.
We do not have priority pledges and liens against the assets of our VIE. If our VIE undergoes an involuntary liquidation proceeding, third-party creditors may claim rights to some or all of its assets and we may not have priority against such third-party creditors on the assets of our VIE. If our VIE liquidates, we may take part in the liquidation procedures as a general creditor under the PRC Enterprise Bankruptcy Law and recover any outstanding liabilities owed by our VIE to our WFOE under the applicable service agreement.
If the shareholders of our VIE were to attempt to voluntarily liquidate our VIE without obtaining our prior consent, we could effectively prevent such unauthorized voluntary liquidation by exercising our right to request the shareholders of our VIE to transfer all of their respective equity ownership interests to a PRC entity or an individual designated by us in accordance with the option agreement with the shareholders of our VIE. In addition, under the operation agreement signed by our WFOE, our VIE and its shareholders and according to the Civil Code of the PRC, the shareholders of our VIE do not have the right to issue dividends to themselves or otherwise distribute the retained earnings or other assets of our VIE without our consent. In the event that the shareholders of our VIE initiate a voluntary liquidation proceeding without our authorization or attempts to distribute the retained earnings or assets of our VIE without our prior consent, we may need to resort to legal proceedings to enforce the terms of the contractual arrangements. Any such litigation may be costly and may divert our management’s time and attention away from the operation of our business, and the outcome of such litigation will be uncertain.
Our contractual arrangements with our VIE may result in adverse tax consequences to us.
As a result of our corporate structure and the contractual arrangements among our WFOE, our VIE, its shareholders and us, we are effectively subject to the PRC value-added tax at rates from 3% to 6% and related surcharges on revenues generated by our subsidiary from our contractual arrangements with our VIE. The PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its Implementing Regulations require every enterprise in China to submit its annual enterprise income tax return together with a report on transactions with its affiliates or related parties to the relevant tax authorities. According to the Implementing Regulations of the Enterprise Income Tax Law, these transactions may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities within ten years after the taxable year during which the transactions are conducted. We may be subject to adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities were to determine that the contracts between us and our VIE were not on an arm’s length basis and therefore constitute a favorable transfer pricing arrangement. If this occurs, the PRC tax authorities could request that our VIE and any of its subsidiaries adjust their taxable income upward for PRC tax purposes. Such a pricing adjustment could adversely affect us by reducing expense deductions recorded by such VIE and thereby increasing the VIE’s tax liabilities, which could subject the VIE to late fees and other penalties for the underpayment of taxes. Our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected if our VIE’s tax liabilities increase or if either of them becomes subject to late payment fees or other penalties.
Contractual arrangements we have entered into among our WFOE, our VIE and its shareholders may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and they may determine that we or our VIE and its subsidiaries owe additional taxes, which could substantially reduce our consolidated net profit and the value of your investment.
Under applicable PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. We are not able to determine whether the contractual arrangements we have entered into among our WFOE, our VIE and its shareholders will be regarded by the PRC tax authorities as arm’s length transactions. We could face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements among our wholly-owned subsidiary in China, Zhixuan International Management Consulting (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., or our WFOE, our VIE, and our VIE’s shareholders were not entered into on an arm’s length basis or resulted in an impermissible reduction in taxes under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, and adjust our VIE’s income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in a reduction, for PRC tax purposes, of expense deductions recorded by our VIE, which could in turn increase their respective tax liabilities. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may impose late fees and other penalties on our VIE for the adjusted but unpaid taxes according to the applicable regulations. Our financial position could be materially and adversely affected if our VIE’s tax liabilities increase or if they are required to pay late fees and other penalties.
 
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We may rely principally on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our WFOE to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our WFOE to pay dividends to us could have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business.
We are a holding company, and we may rely principally on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our WFOE, which in turn relies on consulting and other fees paid to us by our VIE, for our cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to our shareholders and service any debt we may incur. If our WFOE incurs debt on its own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict its ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may require us to adjust our taxable income under the contractual arrangements our WFOE currently has in place with our variable interest entity in a manner that would materially and adversely affect its ability to pay dividends and other distributions to us.
Under PRC laws and regulations, our WFOE, as a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in the PRC, may pay dividends only out of its accumulated profits as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise such as our WFOE is required to set aside at least 10% of its accumulated
after-tax
profits after making up the previous year’s accumulated losses each year, if any, to fund certain statutory reserve funds, until the aggregate amount of such fund reaches 50% of its registered capital. At its discretion, it may allocate a portion of its
after-tax
profits based on PRC accounting standards to staff welfare and bonus funds. These reserve funds and staff welfare and bonus funds are not distributable as cash dividends.
Furthermore, if our WFOE and consolidated entities incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements.
In addition, the EIT Law and its implementation rules provide that withholding tax rate of 10% will be applicable to dividends payable by PRC companies to
non-PRC-resident
enterprises unless otherwise exempted or reduced according to treaties or arrangements between the PRC central government and governments of other countries or regions where the
non-PRC-resident
enterprises are incorporated.
Any limitation on the ability of our WFOE to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business. See also “—Risks Relating to Doing Business in China—The dividends we receive from our WFOE may be subject to PRC tax under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.”
PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of conversion of foreign currencies into Renminbi may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering to make loans to our WFOE and VIE or to make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries, which could materially and adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.
We are an offshore holding company conducting our operations in China through our WFOE, our VIE and its subsidiaries. We may make loans to our WFOE, our VIE and its subsidiaries, or we may make additional capital contributions to our WFOE.
Any loans to our WFOE, which are treated as Foreign Investment Enterprises, or FIEs, under PRC law, are subject to PRC regulations and foreign exchange loan registrations. For example, loans by us to our WFOE, our VIE and its subsidiaries to finance their activities cannot exceed statutory limits and must be registered with the local counterpart of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, or filed with SAFE in its information system. We may also provide loans to our consolidated affiliated entities or other domestic PRC entities, according to the Circular of the People’s Bank of China on Matters relating to the Comprehensive Macro-prudential Management of Cross-border Financing issued by the People’s Bank of China in January 2017, the Circular of the People’s Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Adjusting the Macro-prudential Regulation Parameter for Full-covered Cross-border Financing in March 2020 and the Circular of the People’s Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Adjusting Macro-prudential Regulation Parameter for Cross-border Financing of Enterprises in January 2021. The limit for the total amount of foreign debt is two times of their respective net assets. Moreover, any medium or long-term loan to be provided by us to our consolidated affiliated entities or other domestic PRC entities must also be filed and registered with the National Development and Reform Commission, or the NDRC. We may also decide to finance our PRC subsidiaries by means of capital contributions. These capital contributions must be recorded with the Ministry of Commerce, or MOFCOM, or its local counterpart.
 
 
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On March 30, 2015, SAFE issued the Circular of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Reforming the Administrative Approach Regarding the Settlement of the Foreign Exchange Capital of Foreign-invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 19, which took effect and replaced previous regulations effective on June 1, 2015. Pursuant to SAFE Circular 19, up to 100% of foreign currency capital of a foreign-invested enterprise may be converted into RMB capital according to the actual operation, and within the business scope, of the enterprise at its will. Although SAFE Circular 19 allows for the use of RMB converted from the foreign currency-denominated capital for equity investments in the PRC, the restrictions continue to apply as to FIEs’ use of the converted RMB for purposes beyond the business scope, for entrusted loans or for inter-company RMB loans. On June 9, 2016, SAFE promulgated the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Reforming and Standardizing the Foreign Exchange Settlement Management Policy of Capital Account, or SAFE Circular 16, effective on June 9, 2016, which reiterates some rules set forth in Circular 19, but changes the prohibition against using RMB capital converted from foreign currency-denominated registered capital of a foreign-invested company to issue RMB entrusted loans to a prohibition against using such capital to issue loans to
non-affiliated
enterprises. On October 23, 2019, the SAFE issued the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Further Facilitating Cross-border Trade and Investment, which, among other things, expanded the use of foreign exchange capital to domestic equity investment area.
Non-investment
foreign-funded enterprises are allowed to lawfully make domestic equity investments by using their capital on the premise without violation to prevailing special administrative measures for access of foreign investments (negative list) and the authenticity and compliance with the regulations of domestic investment projects. If our VIE requires financial support from us or our wholly owned subsidiary in the future and we find it necessary to use foreign currency-denominated capital to provide such financial support, our ability to fund our variable interest entity’s operations will be subject to statutory limits and restrictions, including those described above.
In light of the various requirements imposed by PRC regulations on loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies, including SAFE Circular 19, SAFE Circular 16 and other relevant rules and regulations, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the necessary government registrations or obtain the necessary government approvals on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans by us to our WFOE, our VIE or its subsidiaries or with respect to future capital contributions by us to our WFOE. If we fail to complete such registrations or obtain such approvals, our ability to use the proceeds we received from our initial public offering and to capitalize or otherwise fund our PRC operations may be negatively affected, which could materially and adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.
Risks Relating to Doing Business in China
Our ADSs may be delisted under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act if the PCAOB is unable to inspect auditors who are located in China. The delisting of our ADSs, or the threat of their being delisted, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment. Additionally, the inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections deprives our investors with the benefits of such inspections.
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCAA, was enacted on December 18, 2020. The HFCAA states if the SEC determines that we have filed audit reports issued by a registered public accounting firm that has not been subject to inspection by the PCAOB for three consecutive years beginning in 2021, the SEC shall prohibit our shares or ADSs from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over the counter trading market in the U.S.
Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance with the applicable professional standards. Since our auditor is located in China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditor is currently not inspected by the PCAOB.
 
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The SEC has not yet proposed rules relating to the implementation of the HFCAA. There could be additional regulatory or legislative requirements or guidance that could impact us if our auditor is not subject to PCAOB inspection. For example, on August 6, 2020, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, or the PWG, issued the Report on Protecting United States Investors from Significant Risks from Chinese Companies to the then President of the United States. This report recommended the SEC implement five recommendations to address companies from jurisdictions that do not provide the PCAOB with sufficient access to fulfill its statutory mandate. Some of the concepts of these recommendations were implemented with the enactment of the HFCAA. However, some of the recommendations were more stringent than the HFCAA. For example, if a company was not subject to PCAOB inspection, the report recommended that the transition period before a company would be delisted would end on January 1, 2022.
The SEC has announced that the SEC staff is preparing a consolidated proposal for the rules regarding the implementation of the HFCAA and to address the recommendations in the PWG report. It is unclear when the SEC will complete its rulemaking and when such rules will become effective and what, if any, of the PWG recommendations will be adopted. The implications of this possible regulation in addition the requirements of the HFCAA are uncertain. Such uncertainty could cause the market price of our ADSs to be materially and adversely affected, and our securities could be delisted or prohibited from being traded
“over-the-counter”
earlier than would be required by the HFCAA. If our securities are unable to be listed on another securities exchange by then, such a delisting would substantially impair your ability to sell or purchase our ADSs when you wish to do so, and the risk and uncertainty associated with a potential delisting would have a negative impact on the price of our ADSs.
The PCAOB’s inability to conduct inspections in China prevents it from fully evaluating the audits and quality control procedures of our independent registered public accounting firm. As a result, we and investors in our ordinary shares are deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our independent registered public accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to the PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our stock to lose confidence in our audit procedures and reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
In May 2013, the PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the CSRC and the PRC Ministry of Finance, which establishes a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations undertaken by the PCAOB in the PRC or by the CSRC or the PRC Ministry of Finance in the United States. The PCAOB continues to be in discussions with the CSRC and the PRC Ministry of Finance to permit joint inspections in the PRC of audit firms that are registered with the PCAOB and audit Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges.
Proceedings instituted by the SEC against five
PRC-based
accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act.
Starting in 2011 the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, were affected by a conflict between U.S. and Chinese law. Specifically, for certain U.S.-listed companies operating and audited in mainland China, the SEC and the PCAOB sought to obtain from the Chinese firms access to their audit work papers and related documents. The firms were, however, advised and directed that under Chinese law, they could not respond directly to the U.S. regulators on those requests, and that requests by foreign regulators for access to such papers in China had to be channeled through the CSRC.
 
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In late 2012, this impasse led the SEC to commence administrative proceedings under Rule 102(e) of its Rules of Practice and also under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 against the Chinese accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm. A first instance trial of the proceedings in July 2013 in the SEC’s internal administrative court resulted in an adverse judgment against the firms. The administrative law judge proposed penalties on the firms including a temporary suspension of their right to practice before the SEC, although that proposed penalty did not take effect pending review by the Commissioners of the SEC. On February 6, 2015, before a review by the Commissioner had taken place, the firms reached a settlement with the SEC. Under the settlement, the SEC accepts that future requests by the SEC for the production of documents will normally be made to the CSRC. The firms will receive matching Section 106 requests, and are required to abide by a detailed set of procedures with respect to such requests, which in substance require them to facilitate production via the CSRC. If they fail to meet specified criteria, the SEC retains authority to impose a variety of additional remedial measures on the firms depending on the nature of the failure. Remedies for any future noncompliance could include, as appropriate, an automatic
six-month
bar on a single firm’s performance of certain audit work, commencement of a new proceeding against a firm, or, in extreme cases, the resumption of the current proceeding against all four firms. The audit committee is aware of the policy restriction and regularly communicated with our independent auditor to ensure compliance. If additional remedial measures are imposed on the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, in administrative proceedings brought by the SEC alleging the firms’ failure to meet specific criteria set by the SEC with respect to requests for the production of documents, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In the event that the SEC restarts the administrative proceedings, depending upon the final outcome, listed companies in the United States with major PRC operations may find it difficult or impossible to retain auditors in respect of their operations in the PRC, which could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act, including possible delisting. Moreover, any negative news about any such future proceedings against these audit firms may cause investor uncertainty regarding China-based, U.S.-listed companies and the market price of our ordinary shares may be adversely affected.
If our independent registered public accounting firm was denied, even temporarily, the ability to practice before the SEC and we were unable to timely find another registered public accounting firm to audit and issue an opinion on our financial statements, our financial statements could be determined not to be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act. Such a determination could ultimately lead to the delisting of our ADSs from the Nasdaq or deregistration from the SEC, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of our ADSs in the United States.
Adverse changes in China’s economic, political and social conditions, as well as laws and government policies, may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
We conduct businesses in the PRC, and therefore our financial conditions and results of operations are subject to influences from PRC’s economic, political and social conditions to a great extent. The PRC economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many aspects, including, but not limited to, the degree of government involvement, control level of corruption, control of capital investment, reinvestment control of foreign exchange, allocation of resources, growth rate and development level.
For decades, the PRC government has implemented economic reform measures to utilize market forces in the development of the PRC economy. We cannot predict whether changes in the PRC’s economic, political and social conditions and in its laws, regulations and policies will have any adverse effect on our current or future business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, many of the economic reforms carried out by the PRC government are unprecedented or experimental and are expected to be refined and improved over time. This refining and improving process may not necessarily have a positive effect on our operations and business development. For example, the PRC government has in the past implemented a number of measures intended to slow down certain segments of the economy, including the real property industry, which the government believed to be overheating. These actions, as well as other actions and policies of the PRC government, could cause a decrease in the overall level of economic activity in the PRC and, in turn, have an adverse impact on our business and financial condition.
Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to you and us.
The PRC legal system is based on codified statutes and court decisions have limited precedential value. The PRC legal system is evolving rapidly, and the interpretation of many laws, regulations and rules may contain inconsistencies and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties.
 
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From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC judicial and administrative authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory provisions and contractual terms, it may be more difficult to predict the outcome of a judicial or administrative proceeding than that in more developed jurisdictions. Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based, in part, on government policies and internal rules, some of which are not published in a timely manner, or at all, but which may have retroactive effects. As a result, we may not always be aware of any potential violation of these policies and rules. Such unpredictability towards our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights could adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.
We may be adversely affected by the complexity, uncertainties and changes in PRC regulations of internet-related businesses and companies, and any lack of requisite approvals, licenses or permits applicable to our business may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
The PRC government extensively regulates the internet industry, including foreign ownership of, and the licensing and permit requirements pertaining to, companies in the internet industry. These internet-related laws and regulations are relatively new and evolving, and their interpretation and enforcement involve significant uncertainties. As a result, in certain circumstances it may be difficult to determine what actions or omissions may be deemed to be in violation of applicable laws and regulations.
We only have contractual control over our website and mobile app platform. We do not directly own the website and mobile app platform due to the restriction of foreign investment in businesses providing value-added telecommunications services in China, including internet information provision services. This may significantly disrupt our business, subject us to sanctions, compromise enforceability of related contractual arrangements, or have other harmful effects on us.
The evolving PRC regulatory system for the internet industry may lead to the establishment of new regulatory agencies. For example, in March 2018, the State Council announced the establishment of a new department, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, (with the involvement of the State Council Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT, and the Ministry of Public Security). The primary role of this new agency is to facilitate the policy-making and legislative development in this field, to direct and coordinate with the relevant departments in connection with online content administration and to deal with cross-ministry regulatory matters in relation to the internet industry, and the National Computer Network and Information Security Management Center was adjusted to be managed by the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission Office instead of the MIIT.
The interpretation and application of existing PRC laws, regulations and policies and possible new laws, regulations or policies relating to the internet industry have created substantial uncertainties regarding the legality of existing and future foreign investments in, and the businesses and activities of, internet businesses in China, including our business. We cannot assure you that we have obtained all the permits or licenses required for conducting our business in China or will be able to maintain our existing licenses or obtain new ones. If the PRC government considers that we were operating without the proper approvals, licenses or permits or promulgates new laws and regulations that require additional approvals or licenses or imposes additional restrictions on the operation of any part of our business, it has the power, among other things, to levy fines, confiscate our income, revoke our business licenses, and require us to discontinue our relevant business or impose restrictions on the affected portion of our business. Any of these actions by the PRC government may have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and results of operations.
We face uncertainties with respect to the enactment, interpretation and implementation of the Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for the Internet Platform Economy Sector.
On February 7, 2021, Anti-monopoly Commission of the State Council published the Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for the Internet Platform Economy Sector that aims at specifying some of the circumstances under which an activity of Internet platform may be identified as monopolistic act as well as setting out merger controlling filing procedures involving variable interest entities, which became effective on the same day. Due to the uncertainties associated with the evolving legislative activities and varied local implementation practices of anti-monopoly and competition laws and regulations in the PRC, it may be costly to adjust some of our business practice in order to comply with these laws, regulations, rules, guidelines and implementations, and any incompliance or associated inquiries, investigations and other governmental actions may divert significant management time and attention and our financial resources, bring negative publicity, subject us to liabilities or administrative penalties, and/or materially and adversely affect our financial conditions, operations and business prospects.
 
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Government control of currency conversion and future fluctuation of Renminbi exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition, and may reduce the value of, and dividends payable on, our Shares in foreign currency terms.
Substantially all our income, costs and expenses are denominated in Renminbi, which is not currently a completely freely convertible currency. A portion of these income must be converted into other currencies to meet our foreign currency obligations, including our payments of declared dividends, if any, for our Shares.
Under the PRC’s existing foreign exchange regulations, by complying with certain procedural requirements, we will be able to undertake current account foreign exchange transactions, including payment of dividends in foreign currencies without prior approval from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. However, the PRC government may take measures at its discretion in the future to restrict access to foreign currencies for capital account and current account transactions under certain circumstances. We may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our Shareholders if the PRC government restricts access to foreign currencies for current account transactions. Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, conversion of Renminbi is permitted, without prior approval from the SAFE, for current account transactions, including profit distributions, interest payments and expenditures from trade-related transactions, as long as certain procedural requirements are complied with. However, approval from and registration with the SAFE and other PRC regulatory authorities are required where Renminbi is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China for capital account transactions, which includes foreign direct investment and repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. These limitations could affect our ability to obtain foreign exchange through equity financing, or to obtain foreign exchange for capital expenditures.
The value of Renminbi against the HK dollar, the U.S. dollar and other currencies fluctuate, subject to change resulting from the PRC government’s policies, and depends to a large extent on domestic and international economic and political developments as well as supply and demand in the local market. It is difficult to predict how market forces or government policies may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the HK dollar, the U.S. dollar or other currencies in the future. In addition, the PBOC regularly intervenes in the foreign exchange market to limit fluctuations in Renminbi exchange rates and achieve policy goals.
Furthermore, the net proceeds from our initial public offering are deposited overseas in currencies other than Renminbi until we obtain necessary approvals from relevant PRC regulatory authorities to convert these proceeds into onshore Renminbi. If the net proceeds cannot be converted into onshore Renminbi in a timely manner, our ability to deploy these proceeds efficiently may be affected, as we will not be able to invest these proceeds on
RMB-denominated
assets onshore or deploy them in uses onshore where Renminbi is required, which may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments or bringing actions in China against us or our directors and management named in the annual report based on foreign laws.
We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands, we conduct substantially all of our operations in China and substantially all of our assets are located in China. In addition, all our senior executive officers reside within China for a significant portion of the time and most of them are PRC nationals. As a result, it may be difficult for you to effect service of process upon us or those persons inside mainland China. It may also be difficult for you to enforce in U.S. courts judgments obtained in U.S. courts based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws against us and our officers and directors as none of them currently resides in the United States or has substantial assets located in the United States. In addition, there is uncertainty as to whether the courts of the Cayman Islands or the PRC would recognize or enforce judgments of U.S. courts against us or such persons predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the securities laws of the United States or any state. Due to jurisdictional limitations, matters of comity and various other factors, the SEC, U.S. Department of Justice and other U.S. authorities may also experience difficulties in bringing and enforcing actions against us or our directors and officers, including in instances of fraud or other wrongdoing.
 
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The recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are provided for under the PRC Civil Procedures Law. PRC courts may recognize and enforce foreign judgments in accordance with the requirements of the PRC Civil Procedures Law based either on treaties between China and the country where the judgment is made or on principles of reciprocity between jurisdictions. China does not have any treaties or other forms of written arrangement with the United States that provide for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. In addition, according to the PRC Civil Procedures Law, the PRC courts will not enforce a foreign judgment against us or our directors and officers if they decide that the judgment violates the basic principles of PRC laws or national sovereignty, security or public interest. As a result, it is uncertain whether and on what basis a PRC court would enforce a judgment rendered by a court in the United States.
In addition, shareholder claims that are common in the United States, including class action securities law and fraud claims, may be difficult to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in China. Under the PRC Civil Procedures Law, foreign shareholders may originate actions based on PRC law against a company in China for disputes if they can establish sufficient nexus to the PRC for a PRC court to have jurisdiction, and meet other procedural requirements, including, among others, the plaintiff must have a direct interest in the case, and there must be a concrete claim, a factual basis and a cause for the suit. It will be, however, difficult for U.S. shareholders to originate actions against us in the PRC in accordance with PRC laws because we are incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands and it will be difficult for U.S. shareholders, by virtue only of holding the ADSs or our ordinary shares, to establish a connection to the PRC for a PRC court to have jurisdiction as required under the PRC Civil Procedures Law.
On July 14, 2006, the Supreme People’s Court of China and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region signed an Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters, or the 2006 Arrangement. Under such arrangement, where any designated People’s Court or any designated Hong Kong court has made an enforceable final judgment requiring payment of money in a civil and commercial case pursuant to a choice of court agreement, any party concerned may apply to the relevant People’s Court or Hong Kong court for recognition and enforcement of the judgment. On January 18, 2019, the Supreme Court of the People’s Republic of China and the Department of Justice under the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region signed the Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or the 2019 Arrangement. The 2019 Arrangement, for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters between the courts in mainland China and those in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, stipulates the scope and particulars of judgments, the procedures and ways of the application for recognition or enforcement, the review of the jurisdiction of the court that issued the original judgment, the circumstances where the recognition and enforcement of a judgment shall be refused, and the approaches towards remedies, among others. After a judicial interpretation has been promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court and the relevant procedures have been completed by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, both sides shall announce a date on which the 2019 Arrangement shall come into effect. The 2019 Arrangement shall apply to any judgment made on or after its effective date by the courts of both sides. The 2006 Arrangement shall be terminated on the same day when the 2019 Arrangement comes into effect. If a “written choice of court agreement” has been signed by parties according to the 2006 Arrangement prior to the effective date of the 2019 Arrangement, the 2006 Arrangement shall still apply. Although the 2019 Arrangement has been signed, its effective date has yet to be announced. Therefore, there are still uncertainties about the outcomes and effectiveness of enforcement or recognition of judgments under the 2019 Arrangement.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
The value of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is affected by changes in China’s political and economic conditions and by China’s foreign exchange policies, among other things. Since June 2010, Renminbi has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policies may impact the exchange rate between Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future.
To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars into Renminbi for capital expenditures and working capital and other business purposes, appreciation of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on Renminbi amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, if we decide to convert Renminbi into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our common shares, strategic acquisitions or investments or other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against Renminbi would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us.
 
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The reporting currency of our company is the Renminbi. However, the functional currency of our consolidated operating subsidiaries and variable interest entity is the Renminbi and substantially all of their revenues and expenses are denominated in Renminbi. Fluctuations in exchange rates, primarily those involving the U.S. dollar, may affect the relative purchasing power of these proceeds. In addition, appreciation or depreciation in the value of the Renminbi relative to the U.S. dollar would affect our financial results reported in U.S. dollar terms without giving effect to any underlying change in our business or results of operations. Fluctuations in the exchange rate will also affect the relative value of earnings from, and the value of any U.S. dollar-denominated investments we make in the future.
Very limited hedging options are available in China to reduce our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. To date, we have not entered into any hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to foreign currency exchange risk. While we may decide to enter into hedging transactions in the future, the availability and effectiveness of these hedges may be limited and we may not be able to adequately hedge our exposure or at all. In addition, our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert Renminbi into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
PRC regulations relating to investments in offshore companies by PRC residents may subject our
PRC-resident
beneficial owners or our WFOE to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into our WFOE or limit our WFOE’s ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits.
PRC residents are required to file or obtain the certificates of outbound investment from, or register with, regulatory authorities when investing in offshore companies. According to administrative measures for the outbound investment by PRC entities promulgated by the NDRC and MOFCOM, PRC entities shall obtain the approval or file with the NDRC and MOFCOM when investing in offshore companies, and shall update or apply for amendment in respect to the certificates, filings or registrations in the event of any significant changes with respect to the offshore investment. SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control on Domestic Residents’ Offshore Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, on July 4, 2014, which replaced the former circular commonly known as “SAFE Circular 75” promulgated by SAFE on October 21, 2005. SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents (including individuals and entities) to register with local branches of SAFE in connection with their direct establishment or indirect control of an offshore entity, for the purpose of overseas investment and financing, with such PRC residents’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests, referred to in SAFE Circular 37 as a “special purpose vehicle.” SAFE Circular 37 further requires amendment to the registration in the event of any significant changes with respect to the special purpose vehicle, such as increase or decrease of capital contributed by PRC individuals, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material event. In the event that a PRC resident holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to fulfill the required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that special purpose vehicle may be prohibited from making profit distributions to the offshore parent and from carrying out subsequent cross-border foreign exchange activities, and the special purpose vehicle may be restricted in its ability to contribute additional capital into its PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC law for evasion of foreign exchange controls. According to the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Policies for the Foreign Exchange Administration of Direct Investment released on February 13, 2015 by SAFE, local banks will examine and handle foreign exchange registration for overseas direct investment, including the initial foreign exchange registration and amendment registration, under SAFE Circular 37 from June 1, 2015.
As of the date of this annual report, all of our beneficial owners who are PRC individuals have completed their initial registration or amendment of such registration under SAFE Circular 37, and our shareholders who are PRC entities have completed SAFE registration under relevant foreign exchange regulations. We have notified and requested all of our shareholders to comply with, or notify their beneficial owners who are PRC residents to comply with applicable PRC regulations, including the requirements of NDRC and MOFCOM and their filing obligation under SAFE Circular 37 and other implementation rules. Nevertheless, we do not have control over our beneficial owners and there can be no assurance that all of our
PRC-resident
beneficial owners will at all times comply with such requirements and obligations. In addition, we cannot assure you that all of our shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC residents will in the future update or apply for amendment with respect to the certificates, filings or registrations in the event of any significant changes with respect to the offshore investment. The failure of our beneficial owners who are PRC residents to register or amend certificates, filings or registrations in a timely manner pursuant to applicable PRC regulations, or the failure of future beneficial owners of our company who are PRC residents to comply with the registration procedures set forth in applicable PRC laws and regulations, may subject such beneficial owners or our WFOE to fines and legal sanctions. Failure to register or comply with relevant requirements may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital to our WFOE and limit our WFOE’s ability to distribute dividends to our company or conduct other foreign exchange transactions. These risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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Failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee share ownership plans or share option plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.
Pursuant to the Notice on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plan of Overseas Publicly Listed Company, issued by SAFE in February 2012, employees, directors, supervisors and other senior management participating in any stock incentive plan of an overseas publicly listed company who are PRC citizens or who are
non-PRC
citizens residing in China for a continuous period of not less than one year, subject to a few exceptions, are required to register with SAFE through a domestic qualified agent, which could be a PRC subsidiaries of such overseas listed company, and complete certain other procedures. We and our directors, executive officers and other employees who are PRC citizens or who reside in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year and who have been granted restricted shares, restricted share units or options will be subject to these regulations if those employees exercise such restricted shares, restricted share units or options. Separately, SAFE Circular 37 also requires certain registration procedures to be completed if those employees exercise restricted shares, restricted share units or options before listing. Failure to complete the SAFE registrations may subject them to fines and legal sanctions and may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital into our wholly foreign-owned subsidiaries in China and limit these subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to us. We also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional incentive plans for our directors and employees under PRC law.
In addition, the State Administration of Taxation, or the SAT has issued certain circulars concerning employee share options or restricted shares. Under these circulars, the employees working in the PRC who exercise share options or are granted restricted share units will be subject to PRC individual income tax. Our WFOE have obligations to file documents related to employee share options or restricted shares with relevant tax authorities and to withhold individual income taxes of those employees who exercise their share options. If our employees fail to pay or we fail to withhold their income taxes according to relevant laws and regulations, we may face sanctions imposed by the tax authorities or other PRC government authorities.
Failure to make adequate contributions to various employee benefit plans as required by PRC regulations may subject us to penalties.
Companies operating in China are required to participate in various government-mandated employee benefit contribution plans, including certain social insurance, housing funds and other welfare plans, open and register accounts for social insurance accounts and housing funds, and contribute in their own names to the plans in amounts equal to certain percentages of salaries, including bonuses and allowances, of employees up to a maximum amount specified by the local government from time to time at locations where companies operate our businesses. The requirements of employee benefit contribution plans have not been implemented consistently by the local governments in China given the different levels of economic development in different geographical areas.
As of the date of this annual report, certain PRC subsidiaries of our VIE had not made adequate social insurances and housing fund contributions for their employees, failed to open and register the accounts for social insurance and housing funds or engage third-party agencies to make contributions in such agencies’ names to such employee benefit plans. We may be required to make up the contributions for these welfare plans as well as late fees and fines. If we are subject to investigations or penalties related to
non-compliance
with labor laws, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
 
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Inflation and increases in labor costs in China could negatively affect our profitability and growth.
The economy in China has experienced increases in inflation and labor costs in recent years. As a result, average wages in the PRC are expected to continue to increase. In addition, we are required by PRC laws and regulations to pay various statutory employee benefits, including pension, housing fund, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance to designated government agencies for the benefit of our employees. The relevant government agencies may examine whether an employer has made adequate payments to the statutory employee benefits, and those employers who fail to make adequate payments may be subject to late payment fees, fines and/or other penalties. We expect that our labor costs, including wages and employee benefits, will continue to increase. Unless we are able to control our labor costs or pass on these increased labor costs to our users by increasing the fees for our services, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Any failure by us or our third-party service providers to comply with applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations could damage our reputation.
In collaboration with our third-party service providers, we have adopted various policies and procedures, such as internal controls and “know-your-client” procedures, for anti-money laundering purposes. The Guidelines on Promoting the Healthy Development of Internet Finance Industry, or the Fintech Guidelines purports, among other things, to require internet financial service providers, including us, to comply with certain anti-money laundering requirements, including:
 
   
the establishment of a borrower identification program;
 
   
the monitoring and reporting of the suspicious transaction;
 
   
the preservation of borrower information and transaction records; and
 
   
the provision of assistance to the public security department and judicial authority in investigations and proceedings in relation to anti-money laundering matters.
There is no assurance that our anti-money laundering policies and procedures will protect us from being exploited for money laundering purposes or that we will be deemed to be in compliance with applicable anti-money laundering implementing rules, if and when adopted, given that our anti-money laundering obligations in the Fintech Guidelines. Any new requirement under money laundering laws could increase our costs and may expose us to potential sanctions if we fail to comply.
We have not been subject to fines or other penalties, or suffered business or other reputational harm, as a result of actual or alleged money laundering activities in the past. However, our policies and procedures may not be completely effective in preventing other parties from using us, any of third-party service providers as a conduit for money laundering (including illegal cash operations) without our knowledge. If we were to be associated with money laundering (including illegal cash operations), our reputation could suffer and we could become subject to regulatory fines, sanctions or legal enforcement, including being added to any “blacklists” that would prohibit certain parties from engaging in transactions with us, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Even if we and our third-party service providers comply with the applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations, we and our third-party service providers may not be able to fully eliminate money laundering and other illegal or improper activities in light of the complexity and the secrecy of these activities. Any negative perception of the industry, such as that arises from any failure of other insurance service providers to detect or prevent money laundering activities, even if factually incorrect or based on isolated incidents, could compromise our image, undermine the trust and credibility we have established and negatively impact our financial condition and results of operations.
 
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China’s M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for some acquisitions of PRC companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China.
A number of PRC laws and regulations have established procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities in China by foreign investors more time consuming and complex. In addition to the Anti- monopoly Law itself, these include the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, adopted by six PRC regulatory agencies in 2006 and amended in 2009, and the Rules of the Ministry of Commerce on Implementation of Security Review System of Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the Security Review Rules, promulgated in 2011. These laws and regulations impose requirements in some instances that the Ministry of Commerce be notified in advance of any
change-of-control
transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. In addition, the Anti-Monopoly Law requires that the Ministry of Commerce be notified in advance of any concentration of undertaking if certain thresholds are triggered. Moreover, the Security Review Rules specify that mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors that raise “national defense and security” concerns and mergers and acquisitions through which foreign investors may acquire de facto control over domestic enterprises that raise “national security” concerns are subject to strict review by the Ministry of Commerce, and prohibit any attempt to bypass a security review, including by structuring the transaction through a proxy or contractual control arrangement. In the future, we may grow our business by acquiring complementary businesses. Complying with the requirements of the relevant regulations to complete such transactions could be time consuming, and any required approval processes, including approval from the Ministry of Commerce, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
We face uncertainties with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises by their
non-PRC
holding companies.
We face uncertainties regarding the reporting on and consequences of previous private equity financing transactions involving the transfer and exchange of shares in our company by
non-resident
investors.
In February 2015, the SAT issued the Bulletin on Issues of Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Transfers of Assets by
Non-PRC
Resident Enterprises, or SAT Bulletin 7, as amended in 2017. Pursuant to this bulletin, an “indirect transfer” of assets, including equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise, by
non-PRC
resident enterprises may be
re-characterized
and treated as a direct transfer of PRC taxable assets, if such arrangement does not have a reasonable commercial purpose and was established for the purpose of avoiding payment of PRC enterprise income tax. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax. According to SAT Bulletin 7, “PRC taxable assets” include assets attributed to an establishment in China, immovable properties located in China, and equity investments in PRC resident enterprises, in respect of which gains from their transfer by a direct holder, being a
non-PRC
resident enterprise, would be subject to PRC enterprise income taxes. When determining whether there is a “reasonable commercial purpose” of the transaction arrangement, features to be taken into consideration include: whether the main value of the equity interest of the relevant offshore enterprise derives from PRC taxable assets; whether the assets of the relevant offshore enterprise mainly consist of direct or indirect investment in China or if its income mainly derives from China; whether the offshore enterprise and its subsidiary directly or indirectly holding PRC taxable assets have real commercial nature which is evidenced by their actual function and risk exposure; the duration of existence of shareholders, the business model and organizational structure; the information about the payment of due income tax outside China on indirect transfer of Chinese taxable property; the substitutability between indirect investment by equity transferor, indirect transfer of Chinese taxable property and direct investment, direct transfer of Chinese taxable property; Chinese tax conventions or arrangements applicable to the proceeds from indirect transfer of Chinese taxable property; and other relevant factors. In respect of an indirect offshore transfer of assets of a PRC establishment, the resulting gain is to be included with the enterprise income tax filing of the PRC establishment or place of business being transferred, and would consequently be subject to PRC enterprise income tax at a rate of 25%. Where the underlying transfer relates to the immovable properties located in China or to equity investments in a PRC resident enterprise, which is not related to a PRC establishment or place of business of a
non-resident
enterprise, a PRC enterprise income tax of 10% would apply, subject to available preferential tax treatment under applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements, and the party who is obligated to make the transfer payments has the withholding obligation. SAT Bulletin 7 does not apply to transactions of sale of shares by investors through a public stock exchange where such shares were acquired from a transaction through a public stock exchange.
 
 
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There are uncertainties as to the application of SAT Bulletin 7. We face uncertainties as to the reporting and other implications of certain past and future transactions where PRC taxable assets are involved, such as offshore restructuring, sale of the shares in our offshore subsidiaries or investments. Our company may be subject to filing obligations or taxed if our company is transferor in such transactions, and may be subject to withholding obligations if our company is transferee in such transactions under SAT Bulletin 7. For transfer of shares in our company by investors that are
non-PRC
resident enterprises, our WFOE may be requested to assist in the filing under SAT Bulletin 7. As a result, we may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with SAT Bulletin 7 or to request the relevant transferors from whom we purchase taxable assets to comply with these circulars, or to establish that our company should not be taxed under these circulars, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The dividends we receive from our WFOE may be subject to PRC tax under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Under the applicable PRC tax laws in effect before January 1, 2008, dividend payments to foreign investors made by foreign-invested enterprises in China were exempt from PRC withholding tax. Pursuant to the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, however, dividends generated after January 1, 2008 and payable by a foreign-invested enterprise in China to its foreign investors are subject to a 10% withholding tax, unless any such foreign investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. We are a Cayman Islands holding company and substantially all of our income may come from dividends we receive from our WFOE. Since there is currently no such tax treaty between China and the Cayman Islands, dividends we receive from our WFOE will generally be subject to a 10% withholding tax, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
If we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise for PRC income tax purposes, such classification could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our
non-PRC
shareholders or ADS holders.
Prior to January 1, 2008, dividends payable to
non-PRC
investors were exempted from withholding tax. The PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules provide that PRC enterprise income tax at the rate of 10% will generally be applicable to dividends derived from sources within the PRC and received by
non-PRC
enterprise shareholders. Similarly, gains derived from the transfer of shares by such shareholders are also subject to PRC enterprise income tax if such gains are regarded as income derived from sources within the PRC. Since there remain uncertainties regarding the interpretation and implementation of the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules, it is uncertain whether, if we are regarded as a PRC resident enterprise, any dividends to be distributed by us to our
non-PRC
shareholders and ADS holders which are enterprises would be subject to any PRC withholding tax. If we are required under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law to withhold PRC income tax on our dividends payable to our
non-PRC
enterprise shareholders and ADS holders, or if gains on the disposition of our shares by such holders are subject to the EIT Law, your investment in our common shares or ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.
If the custodians or authorized users of controlling
non-tangible
assets of our company, including our corporate chops and seals, fail to fulfill their responsibilities, or misappropriate or misuse these assets, our business and operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Under PRC law, legal documents for corporate transactions, including contracts such as consulting service agreements we enter into with wealth management product providers, which are important to our business, are executed using the chops (a Chinese stamp or seal) or seals of the signing entity, or with the signature of a legal representative whose designation is registered and filed with the relevant branch of the SAMR.
 
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Although we usually utilize chops to enter into contracts, the designated legal representatives of each of our WFOE and consolidated entities have the power to enter into contracts on behalf of such entities without chops and bind such entities. All designated legal representatives of our WFOE and consolidated entities have signed employment undertaking letters with us or our WFOE and consolidated entities under which they agree to abide by various duties they owe to us. In order to maintain the physical security of our chops and the chops of our PRC entities, we generally store these items in secured locations accessible only by the authorized personnel of each of our WFOE and consolidated entities. Although we monitor such authorized personnel, there is no assurance such procedures will prevent all instances of abuse or negligence. Accordingly, if any of our authorized personnel misuse or misappropriate our corporate chops or seals, we could encounter difficulties in maintaining control over the relevant entities and experience significant disruption to our operations. If a designated legal representative obtains control of the chops in an effort to obtain control over any of our WFOE or consolidated entities, we, our WFOE or consolidated entities would need to pass a new shareholder or board resolution to designate a new legal representative and we would need to take legal actions to seek the return of the chops, apply for new chops with the relevant authorities, or otherwise seek legal redress for the violation of the representative’s fiduciary duties to us, which could involve significant time and resources and divert management attention away from our regular business. In addition, the affected entity may not be able to recover corporate assets that are sold or transferred out of our control in the event of such a misappropriation if a transferee relies on the apparent authority of the representative and acts in good faith.
Risks Relating to Our ADSs
The trading price of our ADSs has been and may continue to be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.
Since our ADSs became listed on the Nasdaq Global Market on February 11, 2020, the trading price of our ADSs been subject to side fluctuations. In 2020, the trading prices of our ADS on the Nasdaq Global Market have ranged from US$5.03 to US$14.49 per ADS. The trading price of other Chinese companies’ securities, including internet-based companies, may affect the attitudes of investors toward Chinese companies listed in the United States, which consequently may impact the trading performance of our ADSs, regardless of our actual operating performance. In addition, any negative news or perceptions about inadequate corporate governance practices or fraudulent accounting, corporate structure or matters of the Chinese companies may also negatively affect the attitudes of investors towards Chinese companies in general, including us, regardless of our conduct. The trading price of our ADSs may fluctuate widely due to factors beyond our control. This may happen because of broad market and industry factors, including the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States. In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for our ADSs may be volatile for factors specific to our own operations, including the following:
 
   
variations in our net revenues, earnings and cash flow;
 
   
our or our competitors’ announcements of new investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, or joint ventures;
 
   
our or our competitors’ announcements of new products and services and expansions;
 
   
changes in financial estimates by securities analysts;
 
   
failure on our part to realize monetization opportunities as expected;
 
   
additions or departures of key personnel;
 
   
release of
lock-up
or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding equity securities or sales of additional equity securities;
 
   
detrimental negative publicity about us, our management, our competitors or our industry;
 
   
regulatory developments affecting us or our industry; and
 
   
actual or potential litigation or regulatory investigations.
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the trading volume and price of the ADSs.
 
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In the past, shareholders of public companies have often brought securities class action suits against those companies following periods of instability in the market price of their securities. If we were involved in a class action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit, which could harm our results of operations. Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our ADSs, the market price for our ADSs and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for the ADSs will be influenced by research or reports that industry or securities analysts publish about our business. If one or more analysts who cover us downgrade the ADSs, the market price for the ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which, in turn, could cause the market price or trading volume for the ADSs to decline.
Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of our ADSs.
Short selling is the practice of selling securities that the seller does not own but rather has borrowed from a third party with the intention of buying identical securities back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the value of the securities between the sale of the borrowed securities and the purchase of the replacement shares, as the short seller expects to pay less in that purchase than it received in the sale. As it is in the short seller’s interest for the price of the security to decline, many short sellers publish, or arrange for the publication of, negative opinions regarding the relevant issuer and its business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a security short. These short attacks have, in the past, led to selling of shares in the market.
Public companies listed in the United States that have a substantial majority of their operations in China have been the subject of short selling. Much of the scrutiny and negative publicity has centered on allegations of a lack of effective internal control over financial reporting resulting in financial and accounting irregularities and mistakes, inadequate corporate governance policies or a lack of adherence thereto and, in many cases, allegations of fraud. As a result, many of these companies are now conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations and, in the interim, are subject to shareholder lawsuits and/or SEC enforcement actions.
We may be the subject of unfavorable allegations made by short sellers in the future. Any such allegations may be followed by periods of instability in the market price of our common shares and ADSs and negative publicity. If and when we become the subject of any unfavorable allegations, whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, we could have to expend a significant amount of resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend ourselves. While we would strongly defend against any such short seller attacks, we may be constrained in the manner in which we can proceed against the relevant short seller by principles of freedom of speech, applicable federal or state law or issues of commercial confidentiality. Such a situation could be costly and time-consuming and could distract our management from growing our business. Even if such allegations are ultimately proven to be groundless, allegations against us could severely impact our business operations and shareholders’ equity, and the value of any investment in our ADSs could be greatly reduced or rendered worthless.
Our dual-class voting structure will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A common shares and the ADSs may view as beneficial.
We have a dual-class common share structure. Our common shares are divided into Class A common shares and Class B common shares. Holders of Class A common shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B common shares are entitled to 15 votes per share. Each Class B common share is convertible into one Class A common share at any time by the holder thereof, while Class A common shares are not convertible into Class B common shares under any circumstances. Upon any sale, transfer, assignment or disposition of Class B common shares by a holder thereof to any person or entity that is not an affiliate of such holder, such Class B common shares shall be automatically and immediately converted into an equal number of Class A common shares.
 
 
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As of February 28, 2021, Mr. Cunjun Ma, the chairman of our board of directors and our chief executive officer, beneficially owns an aggregate of 150,591,207 Class B common shares, which represents 71.7% of our total voting power. Together with 145,443,446 Class A common shares the voting power of which has been delegated to Mr. Cunjun Ma, Mr. Cunjun Ma will be able to exercise in aggregate 76.4% of our total voting power. Therefore, Mr. Cunjun Ma has decisive influence over matters requiring shareholders’ approval, including election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or sale of our company or our assets. This concentrated control will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions that holders of our Class A common shares and the ADSs may view as beneficial.
The dual-class structure of our common shares may adversely affect the trading market for the ADSs.
S&P Dow Jones and FTSE Russell have previously announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices, including the S&P 500, to exclude companies with multiple classes of shares and companies whose public shareholders hold no more than 5% of total voting power from being added to such indices. In addition, several shareholder advisory firms have announced their opposition to the use of multiple class structures. As a result, the dual class structure of our common shares may prevent the inclusion of the ADSs representing our Class A common shares in such indices and may cause shareholder advisory firms to publish negative commentary about our corporate governance practices or otherwise seek to cause us to change our capital structure. Any such exclusion from indices could result in a less active trading market for the ADSs representing our Class A common shares. Any actions or publications by shareholder advisory firms critical of our corporate governance practices or capital structure could also adversely affect the value of the ADSs.
The sale or availability for sale of substantial amounts of our ADSs could adversely affect their market price.
Sales of substantial amounts of our ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could adversely affect the market price of our ADSs and could materially impair our ability to raise capital through equity offerings in the future. We cannot predict what effect, if any, market sales of securities held by our significant shareholders or any other shareholder or the availability of these securities for future sale will have on the market price of our ADSs.
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our ADSs for return on your investment.
We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should not rely on an investment in our ADSs as a source for any future dividend income.
Pursuant to our articles of association, our board of directors has absolute discretion as to whether to declare dividends subject to the requirements of the Companies Act. Our articles of association provides that dividends may be declared and paid out of the profits of our company, realized or unrealized, or from any reserve set aside from profits which the directors determine is no longer needed. Dividends may also be declared and paid out of share premium account or any other fund or account which can be authorized for this purpose in accordance with the Companies Act. Under the Companies Act, no distribution or dividend may be paid out of the share premium account unless, immediately following the date on which the distribution or dividend is proposed to be paid, the company shall be able to pay its debts as they fall due in the ordinary course of business. Even if our board of directors decides to declare and pay dividends, the timing, amount and form of future dividends, if any, will depend on, among other things, our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, we receive from our WFOE, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in our ADSs will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of our ADSs. There is no guarantee that our ADSs will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs. You may not realize a return on your investment in our ADSs and you may even lose your entire investment in our ADSs.
 
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You may not have the same voting rights as the holders of our Class A common shares and may not receive voting materials in time to be able to exercise your right to vote.
Holders of our ADSs do not have the same rights as our registered shareholders. As a holder of ADSs, you will not have any direct right to attend general meetings of our shareholders or to cast any votes at such meetings. You will only be able to exercise the voting rights that are carried by the underlying Class A common shares represented by your ADSs indirectly by giving voting instructions to the depositary in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under the deposit agreement, you may vote only by giving voting instructions to the depositary. If we instruct the depositary to ask for your instructions, then upon receipt of your voting instructions, the depositary will try, as far as practicable, to vote the underlying Class A common shares represented by your ADSs in accordance with your instructions. If we do not instruct the depositary to ask for your instructions, the depositary may still vote in accordance with instructions you give, but it is not required to do so. You will not be able to directly exercise your right to vote with respect to the underlying Class A common shares represented by your ADSs unless you withdraw the shares and become the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date for the general meeting. Under our memorandum and articles of association, the minimum notice period required to be given by our company to our registered shareholders for convening a general meeting is ten clear days.
When a general meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient advance notice of the meeting to withdraw the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs and become the registered holder of such shares to allow you to vote directly with respect to any specific matter or resolution to be considered and voted upon at the general meeting. In addition, under our memorandum and articles of association, for the purposes of determining those shareholders who are entitled to attend and vote at any general meeting, our directors may close our register of members and fix in advance a record date for such meeting, and such closure of our register of members or the setting of such a record date may prevent you from withdrawing the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs and becoming the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date, so that you would not be able to attend the general meeting or to vote directly. If we ask for your instructions, the depositary will notify you of the upcoming vote and will arrange to deliver our voting materials to you. We have agreed to give the depositary at least 30 days’ prior notice of shareholder meetings. Nevertheless, we cannot assure you that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote the underlying Class A common shares represented by your ADSs. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for their manner of carrying out your voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to direct how the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs are voted and you may have no legal remedy if the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you requested.
The depositary will give us a discretionary proxy to vote the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs if you do not give voting instructions to the depositary to direct how the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs are voted, except in limited circumstances, which could adversely affect your interests.
Under the deposit agreement for the ADSs, if you do not give voting instructions to the depositary to direct how the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs are voted, the depositary will give us a discretionary proxy to vote the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs at shareholders’ meetings unless:
 
   
we have failed to timely provide the depositary with notice of meeting and related voting materials;
 
   
we have instructed the depositary that we do not wish a discretionary proxy to be given;
 
   
we have informed the depositary that there is substantial opposition as to a matter to be voted on at the meeting;
 
   
a matter to be voted on at the meeting would have a material adverse impact on shareholders; or
 
   
the voting at the meeting is to be made on a show of hands.
The effect of this discretionary proxy is that if you do not give voting instructions to the depositary to direct how the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs are voted, you cannot prevent the Class A common shares underlying your ADSs from being voted, except under the circumstances described above. This may make it more difficult for shareholders to influence the management of our company. Holders of our Class A common shares are not subject to this discretionary proxy.
 
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Your right to participate in any future rights offerings may be limited, which may cause dilution to your holdings.
We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. However, we cannot make rights available to you in the United States unless we register both the rights and the securities to which the rights relate under the Securities Act or an exemption from the registration requirements is available. Under the deposit agreement, the depositary will not make rights available to you unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the Securities Act or exempt from registration under the Securities Act. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or securities or to endeavor to cause such a registration statement to be declared effective and we may not be able to establish a necessary exemption from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, you may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in your holdings.
You may not receive cash dividends if the depositary decides it is impractical to make them available to you.
The depositary will pay cash dividends on the ADSs only to the extent that we decide to distribute dividends on our Class A common shares or other deposited securities, and we do not have any present plan to pay any cash dividends on our Class A common shares in the foreseeable future. To the extent that there is a distribution, the depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on our Class A common shares or other deposited securities after deducting its fees and expenses. You will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of Class A common shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary may, at its discretion, decide that it is inequitable or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. For example, the depositary may determine that it is not practicable to distribute certain property through the mail, or that the value of certain distributions may be less than the cost of mailing them. In these cases, the depositary may decide not to distribute such property to you.
We and the depository are entitled to amend the deposit agreement and to change the rights of ADS holders under the terms of such agreement, and we may terminate the deposit agreement, without the prior consent of the ADS holders.
We and the depository are entitled to amend the deposit agreement and to change the rights of the ADS holders under the terms of such agreement, without the prior consent of the ADS holders. We and the depositary may agree to amend the deposit agreement in any way we decide is necessary or advantageous to us. Amendments may reflect, among other things, operational changes in the ADS program, legal developments affecting ADSs or changes in the terms of our business relationship with the depositary. In the event that the terms of an amendment are disadvantageous to ADS holders, ADS holders will only receive 30 days’ advance notice of the amendment, and no prior consent of the ADS holders is required under the deposit agreement. Furthermore, we may decide to terminate the ADS facility at any time for any reason. For example, terminations may occur when we decide to list our shares on a
non-U.S.
securities exchange and determine not to continue to sponsor an ADS facility or when we become the subject of a takeover or a going-private transaction. If the ADS facility will terminate, ADS holders will receive at least 90 days’ prior notice, but no prior consent is required from them. Under the circumstances that we decide to make an amendment to the deposit agreement that is disadvantageous to ADS holders or terminate the deposit agreement, the ADS holders may choose to sell their ADSs or surrender their ADSs and become direct holders of the underlying Class A common shares, but will have no right to any compensation whatsoever.
ADSs holders may not be entitled to a jury trial with respect to claims arising under the deposit agreement or relating to our shares or the ADSs, which could result in less favorable outcomes to the plaintiff(s) in any such action.
The deposit agreement governing the ADSs representing our Class A common shares provides that, to the fullest extent permitted by law, ADS holders waive the right to a jury trial of any claim that they may have against us or the depositary arising out of or relating to our Class A common shares, our ADSs or the deposit agreement, including any claim under the U.S. federal securities laws.
 
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If we or the depositary opposed a jury trial demand based on the waiver, the court would determine whether the waiver was enforceable based on the facts and circumstances of that case in accordance with the applicable state and federal law. To our knowledge, the enforceability of a contractual
pre-dispute
jury trial waiver in connection with claims arising under the federal securities laws has not been finally adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court. However, we believe that a contractual
pre-dispute
jury trial waiver provision is generally enforceable, including under the laws of the State of New York, which govern the deposit agreement, by a federal or state court in the City of New York, which has
non-exclusive
jurisdiction over matters arising under the deposit agreement. In determining whether to enforce a contractual
pre-dispute
jury trial waiver provision, courts will generally consider whether a party knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived the right to a jury trial. We believe that this is the case with respect to the deposit agreement and our ADSs. It is advisable that you consult legal counsel regarding the jury waiver provision before entering into the deposit agreement.
If you or any other holders or beneficial owners of ADSs bring a claim against us or the depositary in connection with matters arising under the deposit agreement or our ADSs, including claims under federal securities laws, you or such other holder or beneficial owner may not be entitled to a jury trial with respect to such claims, which may have the effect of limiting and discouraging lawsuits against us or the depositary. If a lawsuit is brought against us or the depositary under the deposit agreement, it may be heard only by a judge or justice of the applicable trial court, which would be conducted according to different civil procedures and may result in different outcomes than a trial by jury would have had, including results that could be less favorable to the plaintiff(s) in any such action.
Nevertheless, if this jury trial waiver provision is not permitted by applicable law, an action could proceed under the terms of the deposit agreement with a jury trial. No condition, stipulation or provision of the deposit agreement or ADSs serves as a waiver by any holder or beneficial owner of ADSs or by us or the depositary of compliance with any substantive provision of the U.S. federal securities laws and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder.
You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.
Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its books at any time or from time to time when it deems it expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. The depositary may close its books from time to time for a number of reasons, including in connection with corporate events such as a rights offering, during which time the depositary needs to maintain an exact number of ADS holders on its books for a specified period. The depositary may also close its books in emergencies, and on weekends and public holidays. The depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of the ADSs generally when our share register or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary thinks it is advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
Certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.
We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. We conduct our operations outside the United States and substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States. In addition, substantially all of our directors and executive officers and the experts named in this annual report reside outside the United States, and most of their assets are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against them in the United States in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands, the PRC or other relevant jurisdiction may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.
 
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You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law.
We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by, among other things, our memorandum and articles of association, the Companies Act and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against our directors, actions by our minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors to us under the Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedent in some jurisdictions in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.
Under Cayman Islands law, the notice of registered office is a matter of public record. A list of the names of the current directors and alternate directors (if applicable) are made available by the Registrar of Companies in the Cayman Islands for inspection by any person on payment of a fee. The register of mortgages is open to inspection by creditors and members. Shareholders of Cayman Islands companies like us have no general rights under the Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records, or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders of these companies. Our directors have discretion under our articles of association to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder motion or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.
Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, differ significantly from requirements for companies incorporated in other jurisdictions such as the United States. We may in the future rely on home country practice with respect to our corporate governance. If we choose to follow home country practice in the future, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would under rules and regulations applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
As a result of all of the above, public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by our management, members of our board of directors or our controlling shareholders than they would as public shareholders of a company incorporated in the United States.
You must rely on the judgment of our management as to the use of the net proceeds from our initial public offering, and such use may not produce income or increase our ADS price.
Our management will have considerable discretion in the application of the net proceeds received by us. You will not have the opportunity, as part of your investment decision, to assess whether proceeds are being used appropriately. The net proceeds may be used for corporate purposes that do not improve our efforts to achieve or maintain profitability or increase our ADS price. The net proceeds from our initial public offering may be placed in investments that do not produce income or that lose value.
It may be difficult for overseas regulators to conduct investigation or collect evidence within China.
Shareholder claims or regulatory investigation that are common in the United States generally are difficult to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in China. For example, in China, there are significant legal and other obstacles to providing information needed for regulatory investigations or litigations initiated outside China. Although the authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, such cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the Unities States may not be efficient in the absence of mutual and practical cooperation mechanism. Furthermore, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law, which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the PRC territory. While detailed interpretation of or implementation rules under Article 177 have yet to be promulgated, the inability for an overseas securities regulator to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within China may further increase the difficulties you face in protecting your interests. See also “—Risks Relating to Our ADSs— You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law” for risks associated with investing in us as a Cayman Islands company.
 
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Our memorandum and articles of association contains anti-takeover provisions that could discourage a third party from acquiring us and adversely affect the rights of holders of our Class A common shares and ADSs.
Our currently effective memorandum and articles of association contains certain provisions that could limit the ability of others to acquire control of our company, including a provision that grants authority to our board of directors to issue from time to time one or more series of preferred shares without action by our shareholders and to determine, with respect to any series of preferred shares, the terms and rights of that series. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders and ADS holders of the opportunity to sell their shares or ADSs at a premium over the prevailing market price by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transactions.
We are an emerging growth company and may take advantage of certain reduced reporting requirements.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the JOBS Act, and we may take advantage of certain exemptions from various requirements applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies including, most significantly, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 for so long as we are an emerging growth company. As a result, if we elect not to comply with such auditor attestation requirements, our investors may not have access to certain information they may deem important.
The JOBS Act also provides that an emerging growth company does not need to comply with any new or revised financial accounting standards until such date that a private company is otherwise required to comply with such new or revised accounting standards. Further, as an emerging growth company, we elect to use the extended transition period for complying with new or revised financial accounting standards.
We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to U.S. domestic public companies.
Because we qualify as a foreign private issuer under the Exchange Act, we are exempt from certain provisions of the securities rules and regulations in the United States that are applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, including:
 
   
the rules under the Exchange Act requiring the filing with the SEC of quarterly reports on Form
10-Q
or current reports on Form
8-K;
 
   
the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act;
 
   
the sections of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their stock ownership and trading activities and liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time; and
 
   
the selective disclosure rules by issuers of material
non-public
information under Regulation FD.
We are required to file an annual report on Form
20-F
within four months of the end of each fiscal year. In addition, we intend to publish our results on a quarterly basis as press releases, distributed pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Nasdaq Global Market. Press releases relating to financial results and material events will also be furnished to the SEC on Form
6-K.
However, the information we are required to file with or furnish to the SEC will be less extensive and less timely compared to that required to be filed with the SEC by U.S. domestic issuers. As a result, you may not be afforded the same protections or information that would be made available to you were you investing in a U.S. domestic issuer.
 
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As an exempted company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from the Nasdaq listing standards; these practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we complied fully with the Nasdaq listing standards.
As a Cayman Islands exempted company listed on the Nasdaq Global Market, we are subject to the Nasdaq Stock Market corporate governance listing standards. However, the Nasdaq Stock Market Rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from the Nasdaq Stock Market corporate governance listing standards. We may rely on home country practice with respect to our corporate governance. If we choose to follow home country practice in the future, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would enjoy under the Nasdaq Stock Market corporate governance listing standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
We are and may continue to be a “controlled company” within the meaning of the Nasdaq Stock Market Rules and, as a result, may rely on exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that provide protection to shareholders of other companies.
We are a “controlled company” as defined under the Nasdaq Stock Market Rules because Mr. Cunjun Ma, the chairman of our board of directors and our chief executive officer, owns more than 50% of our total voting power. For so long as we remain a controlled company under that definition, we are permitted to elect to rely, and may rely, on certain exemptions from corporate governance rules, including an exemption from the rule that a majority of our board of directors must be independent directors or that we have to establish a nominating committee and a compensation committee composed entirely of independent directors. As a result, you will not have the same protection afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to these corporate governance requirements.
There can be no assurance that we will not be a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes for any taxable year, which could subject United States investors in our ADSs or Class A common shares to significant adverse United States federal income tax consequences.
We will be classified as a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes for any taxable year if either (a) 75% or more of our gross income for such year consists of certain types of “passive” income or (b) 50% or more of the value of our assets (generally determined on the basis of a quarterly average) during such year is attributable to assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income (the “asset test”). Although the law in this regard is unclear, we intend to treat our VIE (including its subsidiaries) as being owned by us for United States federal income tax purposes because we exercise effective control over the operation of such entities and because we are entitled to substantially all of their economic benefits, and, as a result, we consolidate their results of operations in our consolidated financial statements. Assuming that we are the owner of our VIE (including its subsidiaries) for United States federal income tax purposes, and based upon our current and expected income and assets, including goodwill and other unbooked intangibles not reflected on our balance sheet, and the value of our ADSs, we do not presently expect to be a PFIC for the current taxable year or the foreseeable future.
Assuming that we are the owner of our VIE (including its subsidiaries) for United States federal income tax purposes, we do not believe we were a PFIC for the taxable year ended December 31, 2020, and based upon our current and projected income and assets, including goodwill and other unbooked intangibles not reflected on our balance sheet, and the value of our ADSs, we do not anticipate becoming a PFIC in the current taxable year or in the foreseeable future. While we do not expect to become a PFIC, because the value of our assets for purposes of the asset test may be determined by reference to the market price of our ADSs, fluctuations in the market price of our ADSs may cause us to become a PFIC for the current or subsequent taxable years. The determination of whether we will be or become a PFIC for any taxable year will also depend, in part, on the composition and classification of our income and assets. In addition, the composition of our income and assets will also be affected by how, and how quickly, we use our liquid assets. If we determine not to deploy significant amounts of cash for active purposes or if it were determined that we do not own the stock of our VIE for United States federal income tax purposes, our risk of being a PFIC may substantially increase. Because there are uncertainties in the application of the relevant rules and a
non-United
States corporation’s PFIC status for any taxable year is a factual determination made annually after the close of each taxable year, there can be no assurance that we will not be a PFIC for the current taxable year or any future taxable year.
 
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If we are a PFIC in any taxable year, a U.S. Holder (as defined in “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—United States Federal Income Tax Considerations”) may incur significantly increased United States federal income tax on gain recognized on the sale or other disposition of the ADSs or Class A common shares and on the receipt of distributions on the ADSs or Class A common shares to the extent such gain or distribution is treated as an “excess distribution” under the United States federal income tax rules, and such U.S. Holder may be subject to burdensome reporting requirements. Further, if we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder holds our ADSs or Class A common shares, we generally will continue to be treated as a PFIC for all succeeding years during which such U.S. Holder holds our ADSs or Class A common shares. For more information see “Taxation—United States Federal Income Tax Considerations—Passive Foreign Investment Company Considerations.”
We incur increased costs as a result of being a public company, particularly after we cease to qualify as an “emerging growth company.”
As a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we would not incur as a private company. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and the Nasdaq Global Market, impose various requirements on the corporate governance practices of public companies. As a company with less than US$1.07 billion in revenues for our last fiscal year, we qualify as an “emerging growth company” pursuant to the JOBS Act. An emerging growth company may take advantage of specified reduced reporting and other requirements that are otherwise applicable generally to public companies. These provisions include exemption from the auditor attestation requirement under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 in the assessment of the emerging growth company’s internal control over financial reporting and permission to delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until such time as those standards apply to private companies. However, we have elected to “opt out” of the provision that allow us to delay adopting new or revised accounting standards and, as a result, we will comply with new or revised accounting standards as required when they are adopted for public companies. This decision to opt out of the extended transition period under the JOBS Act is irrevocable.
Under these rules and regulations, as a public company, we may increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some corporate activities more time-consuming and costly. After we are no longer an “emerging growth company,” we expect to incur significant expenses and devote substantial management effort toward ensuring compliance with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the other rules and regulations of the SEC. For example, as a public company, we need to increase the number of independent directors and adopt policies regarding internal controls and disclosure controls and procedures. Operating as a public company also makes it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. In addition, we may incur additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. It may also be more difficult for us to find qualified persons to serve on our board of directors or as executive officers. We are currently evaluating and monitoring developments with respect to these rules and regulations, and we cannot predict or estimate with any degree of certainty the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs.
In the past, shareholders of a public company often brought securities class action suits against the company following periods of instability in the market price of that company’s securities. If we were involved in a class action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations, which could harm our results of operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit. Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
 
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ITEM 4.
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
 
A.
History and Development of the Company
Our founding team began operating an online insurance business under the “Huize” brand in 2006. Huize Insurance Brokerage Co., Ltd., or Huize Brokerage, formerly known as Shenzhen Huize Insurance Brokerage Co., Ltd., was established in 2011 in preparation for the launch of our platform. Mr. Cunjun Ma, the chairman of our board of directors and our chief executive officer, was our founder.
In 2014, Mr. Cunjun Ma established Shenzhen Huiye Tianze Investment Holding Co., Ltd., or Huiye Tianze, together with Focus Technology Co., Ltd. as a holding company in the PRC. Huiye Tianze acquired 100% shares of Huize Brokerage in 2014. Huiye Tianze subsequently established or acquired a series of wholly owned subsidiaries in the PRC, including Huize (Chengdu) Internet Technology Co., Ltd., Shenzhen Huize Shidai Co., Ltd., or Huize Shidai, and Shenzhen Zhixuan Wealth Investment Management Co., Ltd. We have been operating our business primarily through Huiye Tianze and its subsidiaries, including Huize Brokerage and Huize Shidai, since 2014.
When established, Huiye Tianze was initially owned by Mr. Cunjun Ma through his holding vehicle, and Focus Technology Co., Ltd. Huiye Tianze has completed four rounds of equity financing since its inception. In December 2014, Xiamen Siyuan Investment Management Co., Ltd. invested in Huiye Tianze. In January 2016, Mr. Cunjun Ma’s holding vehicle increased its shareholding in Huiye Tianze. In April 2016, several strategic investors, including, among others, Beijing La Ka La Internet Industrial Investment Fund LLP, Shenzhen Chuang Dong Fang Internet Financing Investment LLP and Jiaxing Weirong Investment Management Limited Partnership, invested in Huiye Tianze. In July 2016, Shenzhen Dachen Chuangkun Investment Limited Partnership invested in Huiye Tianze. In July 2018, Xinyu Dong Guang Yuan Investment Management Center LLP and Beijing La Ka La Investment Management Co., Ltd. invested in Huiye Tianze through purchasing a convertible bond issued by Huiye Tianze, a portion of which was converted to preferred shares in October 2018.
Our company, Huize Holding Limited, formerly known as Smart Choice Holding Limited, was established in 2014 by three shareholders: (i) Huidz Holding Limited, Mr. Cunjun Ma’s holding company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands; (ii) Crov Global Holding Limited, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, the investment vehicle of Focus Technology Co., Ltd., an
A-share
listed company; and (iii) SAIF IV Hong Kong (China Investments) Limited incorporated in Hong Kong. Huize Holding Limited established Smart Choice Ventures Limited in the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong Smart Choice Ventures Limited, or Hong Kong Smart Choice, in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Smart Choice subsequently established a wholly owned subsidiary in China, Zhixuan International Management Consulting (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., or our WFOE, in 2015.
In June 2019, in preparation of our initial public offering, we undertook a restructuring in order for shareholders of our VIE to own shares of our company, and we obtained control and became the primary beneficiary of Huiye Tianze by entering into a series of contractual arrangements with it and its shareholders through our WFOE. Due to the PRC legal restrictions on foreign ownership of internet-based businesses and qualifications requirements on foreign investors in the insurance brokerage business, we rely on these contractual arrangements to conduct a significant part of our operations in China. As a result of our direct ownership in our WFOE and the contractual arrangements with Huiye Tianze, or our VIE, and its shareholders, we are regarded as the primary beneficiary of our VIE, and we treat our VIE and its subsidiaries as our variable interest entities under U.S. GAAP. We have consolidated the financial results of our VIE and its subsidiaries in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. In June 2019, our VIE’s shareholders became shareholders of our company through their respective holding vehicles, and the shareholders’ rights and shareholding structure are substantially identical as the previous ones of our VIE.
On February 11, 2020, our ADSs commenced trading on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “HUIZ.” We raised approximately US$47.7 million in net proceeds from our initial public offering after deducting underwriting commissions and the offering expenses payable by us.
On April 15, 2020, our board of directors authorized a share repurchase program under which we may repurchase up to US$10 million of our outstanding American depositary shares over the next 12 months, subject to relevant rules under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and our insider trading policy. The share repurchases may be made from time to time in the open market at prevailing market prices, in privately negotiated transactions, in block trades and/or through other legally permissible means, depending on market conditions and in accordance with applicable rules and regulations. Our board of directors will review the share repurchase program periodically and may authorize adjustment of its terms and size. We expect to fund repurchases made under this program from our existing funds.
 
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The SEC maintains a web site at
www.sec.gov
that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC using its EDGAR system.
See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects — B. Liquidity and Capital Resources — Capital Expenditures” for a discussion of our capital expenditures.
 
B.
Business Overview
We are an independent online insurance product and service platform in China. As a licensed insurance intermediary operating an online platform, we do not bear underwriting risks. We distribute on our platform insurance products underwritten by the insurance companies who cooperate with us, who we refer to as our insurer partners, and help them reach a large number of insurance clients. Our online platform offers digitalized insurance purchase experience and services through various internet and mobile internet channels. We primarily generate revenues from the insurance brokerage fees paid by our insurer partners.
We have accumulated a large insurance client base. As of December 31, 2020, we had cumulatively served 6.8 million insurance clients. A substantial portion of our insurance client base are the younger generation, particularly life and health insurance clients. In 2020, the average age of insurance clients who purchased life and health insurance products, excluding annuity insurance, through our platform was 32.7, while the average age of insurance clients who purchased annuity insurance products was 35.0.
In order to serve our clients’ protection needs, we offer a wide variety of insurance products with
easy-to-understand
terms and focusing on protection. Our products cover two major categories—life and health insurance products, and property & casualty insurance products. In 2020, we offered approximately 475 life and health insurance products and approximately 1,277 property & casualty insurance products. Our life and health insurance products contributed to 95.9% of our brokerage income in 2020. Our long-term life and health insurance products primarily consist of critical illness insurance products, typically offering a
lump-sum
payment to the insured if the insured is diagnosed with a major life-threatening illness as defined in the insurance policy. Starting from late 2019, we have been diversifying our insurance product offerings, such as starting to offer annuity insurance products, in order to attract a wider client demographics and serve our clients’ lifetime insurance needs. In 2020, our annuity insurance products contributed to 5.5% of our brokerage income.
We have established business cooperation with a large group of insurer partners. As of December 31, 2020, we cooperated with 75 insurer partners, representing a substantial portion of all licensed insurance companies in China. We empower our insurer partners to reach a massive and fragmented client base quickly, and enhance their insurance sales through our online platform. We have also integrated critical steps in the insurance policy distribution process, such as intelligent underwriting and
in-force
policy administration, in our system. In addition, we design and develop tailor-made insurance products together with our insurer partners. In 2020, approximately 42.7% of the GWP facilitated through our platform were contributed by tailor-made insurance products that we developed together with our insurer partners.
The cumulative number of insurance clients we served increased from approximately 5.3 million as of December 31, 2018 to approximately 6.3 million as of December 31, 2019, and further to approximately 6.8 million as of December 31, 2020. The GWP we facilitated increased from RMB941.0 million in 2018 to RMB2,014.3 million in 2019, and further to RMB3,019.9 million in 2020. We primarily generate revenues from the commission fees that we charge our insurer partners for facilitating insurance policies and generating premiums for them. Our total operating revenue increased from RMB508.8 million in 2018 to RMB993.3 million in 2019, and further to RMB1,220.2 million (US$187.0 million) in 2020. We generated net profit of RMB2.9 million and RMB15.0 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and have net loss of RMB18.3 million (US$2.8 million) in 2020.
 
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Our Online Platform
We hold a nation-wide insurance intermediary license and operate an independent online insurance product and service platform in China. On our platform, we provide insurance clients with a
one-stop
insurance experience. We distribute through our platform various insurance products underwritten by our insurer partners, some of which are products we designed and developed together with our insurer partners, and we do not assume underwriting risks ourselves. We offer easy interpretation and presentation of insurance policy terms to help insurance clients make informed decisions when purchasing insurance products. We provide services to insurance clients at various stages of the insurance transaction and
in-force
period to improve client experience and increase client stickiness. On our platform, we connect insurer partners efficiently with a massive base of insurance clients and enhance their insurance sales. The total number of the insured we served increased from approximately 41.8 million as of December 31, 2018 to approximately 53.2 million as of December 31, 2019, and further to approximately 57.6 million as of December 31, 2020.
Access to Our Online Platform for Insurance Clients
Insurance clients can access our online platform on internet and mobile internet, including our websites, our mobile app, our WeChat official account and our WeChat mini program.
Our Websites
We primarily operate three websites:
www.huize.com
,
www.qixin18.com
and
www.xiebao18.com
. Our main website is
www.huize.com
, through which we offer substantially all of our insurance products, manage our insurance clients and insurance policies, and provide client services. Our main website covers every stage of insurance transactions, including product search, policy interpretation, online live consultation, intelligent underwriting, product purchase, policy management and claim settlement.
www.qixin18.com
is a platform we developed to connect to and cooperate with our user traffic channels, where we provide them with order placement SaaS system, user account management system, and various
mobile-end
tools to enhance our user traffic channels’ efficiency in directing client
traffic.
www.xiebao18.com
primarily focuses on corporate insurance products and travel insurance products.
Mobile Platforms
In response to the prevalence of smartphone usage and smartphone users’ growing preference of acquiring information and conducting transactions on mobile devices, we have developed our “Huize Insurance” mobile app, and have established our official account and mini program on the WeChat platform.
“Huize Insurance” App
We launched our “Huize Insurance” app in November 2015 and December 2015 compatible to Android and iOS systems, respectively. Our “Huize Insurance” app offers similar functions and features as our main website catering to app users’ needs. For example, clients can seek advice from our insurance consultants on various questions such as adequacy of their insurance coverage, terms of specific insurance products, and their eligibility for specific insurance products.
WeChat Official Account and Mini-program
We launched our WeChat official account in March 2014. While our WeChat official account also offers insurance transaction service, it mainly focuses on providing insurance education to potential insurance clients. It provides users with convenient access to our main website and mobile app download page, and posts various surveys and other education content aimed at enhancing user awareness of insurance needs and deepening user understanding of insurance products.
We publish articles and reports through our WeChat official account regularly. The articles and reports cover a wide range of insurance-related topics, including, among others, discovery of suitable insurance products for users and their families, comparisons of insurance products within certain product categories, and recommendations of insurance products offered on our platform.
 
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As WeChat has become a daily communication and information acquisition tool for a massive base of smart phone users in China, we also launched a WeChat mini program in February 2017 to better reach and serve users on our WeChat platform. Our WeChat mini program covers most functions of our mobile app.
While we primarily serve our insurance clients through our online platform, we also provide insurance services to a small portion of insurance clients offline as a supplement to our online business.
Our Insurance Clients
We have a large and growing base of insurance clients. We define our insurance clients as purchasers of the insurance policies we distribute, including individual clients, who contribute to most of our revenues, and corporate clients. As of December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020, the cumulative number of our insurance clients was approximately 5.3 million, 6.3 million and 6.8 million, respectively. As we continue to expand our product offerings, enhance our brand recognition and reputation, and deepen our cooperation with insurer partners and user traffic channels, we expect our client base to continue to grow.
We focus on serving the younger generation who are relatively well-educated, tech-savvy, more willing to learn insurance related knowledge, and tend to enjoy online consumption and investment. In 2020, the average age of those who purchased life and health insurance products, excluding annuity insurance, through our platform was 32.7, while the average age of insurance clients who purchased annuity insurance products was 35.0.
We aim at serving lifetime insurance needs of our clients and their families. We believe that most insurance clients are attracted by our high quality product and service offerings after purchasing a first insurance policy on our platform. More importantly, the diversity of insurance products on our platform allows us to serve a variety of insurance clients at different stages of their lives.
Insurance experience offered by traditional industry participants is believed to be time-consuming. We are dedicated to providing
best-in-class
client experience, which helps transform the industry norm. Our platform provides insurance clients with easy discovery and convenient access to a wide spectrum of insurance products and seamless transaction process. We provide recommendations of products that we believe are suitable for our potential and existing insurance clients based on the information they provide and the data that our platform collects and analyzes. We offer insurance clients a secure environment under a trusted brand, where they can acquire useful insurance knowledge and information on personal and family insurance package planning. The comprehensive suite of client services we provide make the whole insurance experience simple and smooth. The superior client experience we offer enhances client loyalty and encourages repeat purchase.
Services to Insurance Clients
(1) Assistance in Finding the Right Product
 
   
Product information
We provide product information that is reader-friendly and easy to interpret, including illustrative graphics and case studies for each insurance product offered to facilitate clients’ understanding of policy terms. Moreover, if insurance clients still have questions after reading these materials, they can seek advice from our insurance consultation team or reach out to our client service representatives.
 
   
A broad selection of product offering
We offer various categories of insurance products on our platform. For each insurance product category, we offer a broad selection of insurance products, giving insurance clients adequate options to choose from. Therefore, we are able to serve insurance clients’ protection needs in different scenarios and at different life stages. Our broad product offering also allows us to recommend to clients insurance product portfolios, which are typically more cost-efficient compared with a simple combination of multiple insurance policies.
 
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Insurance product recommendation
For each client, our platform will generate a set of recommendations based on the client’s profile, information provided by the client and his/her browsing footprint on our platform, focusing on the client’s personal protection needs. Clients have the flexibility to browse through as many products as they wish, but with the significant number of insurance products available, our recommendation service plays a critical role in matching clients with the most suitable insurance products.
 
   
Consulting service
We employ insurance consultants with expertise in insurance industry and substantial experience to facilitate clients to make informed decisions when selecting insurance products. Each insurance consultant is required to complete mandatory trainings by experienced managers on subjects, such as insurance products knowledge and communication skills. Our insurance consultants are young professionals who empathically understand and click with our clients. Before selecting a product, clients can make an appointment for consultation on our platform, and our insurance consultants are expected to contact them by phone within one business day. Our insurance consultants are capable of not only answering basic questions on insurance products, but also analyzing clients’ risk profile and insurance needs, providing recommendations with respect to insurance products, and assisting clients and their families with insurance planning. After conducting a thorough assessment on the risks insurance clients and their families are exposed to, our insurance consultants recommend insurance products, and in some cases, insurance portfolio that provide comprehensive protection at competitive price, to insurance clients.
We empower our insurance consultants with our self-built digital tools, mainly including a vertical insurance database and client behavior tracking system. The database covers comprehensive information of insurance products available on the market, both online and offline. Insurance consultants can quickly retrieve product information from the database and present to clients comparison among insurance products. Our client behavior tracking system analyzes the clients’ browsing records and transaction records from various dimensions, and evaluates clients’ insurance needs and purchase preference. This allows our insurance consultants to predict clients’ concerns and queries before starting consultation sessions with clients, which substantially improves consulting efficiency. In 2020, we launched the AI Proposal application and a new version of consultant workstation, both of which are client service tools designed and applied in order to improve our service capabilities and the client experience we provide.
(2) Providing Superior Transaction Experience
 
   
Intelligent underwriting
We have built a proprietary intelligent underwriting system that automates the whole underwriting process with data analytical technology. For each insurance product, we code the underwriting criteria set by the insurer into our intelligent underwriting system, which allows the system to automatically evaluate whether a client is eligible for the product and whether the special terms in the insurance policy are triggered based on a series of set questions. As an insurance intermediary, we do not make underwriting decisions or bear underwriting risks by ourselves. We incur research and development expenses for the development of our intelligent underwriting system, and selling expenses for the labor costs related to our client service team.
The intelligent underwriting system greatly optimizes the insurance experience for the insurance clients, as it reduces the amount of paperwork needed, saves the efforts of talking to a human insurance adviser about the client’s medical history, and offers much faster digitalized policy processing. In addition, the codified criteria enables the assessment of a wide variety of
pre-existing
conditions, resulting in more accurate evaluation of a client’s eligibility and reducing the rate of rejection by insurance companies.
 
   
Claim application and settlement service
We act as the insurance clients’ trusted point of contact when risks covered by insurance policies realize. We assist insurance clients in the claim settlement process, but do not make claim decisions as an insurance intermediary. After receiving a claim settlement application from an insurance client, we review relevant materials provided by the client, assist with preparing necessary documents and information required to support the client’s claim, submit the claim with the insurer on the client’s behalf, and handle all communications with the insurer. We incur research and development expenses for the development of our claim settlement system, and selling expenses for the labor costs related to our client service team.
 
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Our expertise in the insurance industry equips us with a clear understanding in the claim requirements set by our insurer partners, thus allowing us to effectively help clients prepare all necessary documents. The long-term cooperative relationships we have established with our insurer partners and our rich experience in representing clients’ interests allow us to settle claims thoroughly and effectively for as fast as two days. Our insurance clients can track the claim settlement progress through our online platform.
 
   
Client service
In addition to the insurance consultants team, we also have a dedicated client service team in charge of addressing basic client queries and providing
all-round
client services. Our client service team help insurance clients navigate smoothly through the insurance transaction process, assist in claim application and settlement, and respond to client complaints to ensure client satisfaction. We choose our client services representatives from candidates who have good communication skills and high client service ethics, and we provide rigorous training to our new recruits. We conduct ongoing evaluations of our client service representatives and provide periodic training to develop their skills.
Upon receiving a piece of client complaint, our service representative will extract and go through chat records and transaction records of the client, reach out to the client by phone, and resolve the issue. As of December 31, 2020, we had not experienced any material client complaints or claims.
Our Insurer Partners
As of December 31, 2020, we cooperated with 75 insurer partners, including 42 life and health insurance companies, and 33 property & casualty insurance companies. Some of our insurer partners also cooperate with reinsurance companies to underwrite insurance products offered on our platform. Our five largest insurer partners in terms of operating revenue contribution aggregately accounted for 59.0%, 60.7% and 63.0% of our total operating revenue in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.
We typically enter into cooperative agreements for an initial term of one to three years with our insurer partners, some of which can be automatically renewed for certain period of time unless prior notice is provided by either party to terminate the agreement. Pursuant to the terms of such cooperative agreements, we market and present the insurance products underwritten by our insurer partners through online channels to potential insurance clients and facilitate the sales of such insurance products. We ensure the smooth operation of our platform. We collect premiums of the insurance products we facilitate and remit the premiums in full to the insurer partners on a monthly basis according to the cooperative agreements. Our insurer partners issue policies and provide settlement, and pay us commission fees based on a percentage of the premiums we facilitate. Both parties should keep all client information and data confidential and conduct their respective business in compliance with applicable laws, regulations and rules. Most insurer partners demand a threshold for the percentage of clients that renew their insurance policies in the 13th month of the insurance term. If we do not meet such threshold, the renewal brokerage commission will be adjusted to zero, or the insurer partners have the right to terminate their authorization for us to sell the relevant insurance products. Generally, in the event either party breaches the terms and provisions under the cooperative agreements, the
non-breaching
party is entitled to unilaterally terminate the agreement and receive damages for the loss incurred. We are not contractually required to provide additional services, such as intelligent underwriting,
in-force
policy administration and claim settlement services to the insurance clients we serve. We offer these services in order to enhance clients’ transaction experience that facilitates the maintenance and growth of our client base, which in turn strengthens our relationships with insurer partners.
We empower our insurer partners to improve their operational efficiency and acquire massive clients online. In addition, we offer superior, cost-effective client service solutions, enabling insurer partners to receive feedbacks to the insurance products they underwrite and complete digitalized claim settlement in a timely manner. Leveraging our data capabilities, our client segmentation and selection process helps insurer partners effectively grow their client base and manage risks.
 
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We provide a series of services to our insurer partners, including system integration and product design and development services. For each insurer partner, we offer technology support to adapt their system to our platform to ensure a smooth transaction process. An increasing number of insurer partners have integrated with our system, making our system more robust. We also proactively collaborate with those insurer partners that we have established a long and stable relationship with to design and develop insurance products together. For our cooperation in designing and developing insurance products, we present our product design ideas and pricing range suggestions to them after we have built a model and conducted actuarial, while the insurer partner files the product with the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission to ensure regulatory compliance before we launch such product on our platform.
Our Product Offerings
We offer two broad categories of insurance products: life and health insurance products and property & casualty insurance products, both of which contain products we designed and developed together with insurer partners. The insurance products we offer on our online platform are underwritten by our insurer partners. Our platform offered approximately 1,752 insurance products in 2020, including approximately 475 life and health insurance products, and approximately 1,277 property & casualty insurance products.
Below table sets forth the categories of insurance products we offered and
GWP
of each category in 2018, 2019 and 2020:
 
Type of Insurance Products
  
Sub-Category
  
GWP in 2018

(in RMB million)
    
GWP in 2019

(in RMB million)
    
GWP in 2020

(in RMB million)
 
Life and Health Insurance Products
   Long-term health insurance products      561.7        1,423.4        2,142.9  
   Short-term health insurance products      30.1        51.2        68.1  
   Life insurance products and annuity insurance products      64.4        336.5        676.9  
Property & casualty insurance products
        284.8        203.2        132.0  
Life and Health Insurance Products
The life and health insurance products listed on our platform include long-term health insurance products, short-term health insurance products, life insurance products and annuity insurance products. Our dedicated product design team with strong actuarial background design and develop tailor-made life and health insurance products to cater to client’s personal protection needs. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, we offered approximately 193, 279 and 475 life and health insurance products respectively. In 2020, the GWP we facilitated from our tailor-made life and health insurance products account for 44.0% of total GWP of our life and health insurance products we facilitated.
(1) Long-term Health Insurance Products
The long-term health insurance products on our platform, primarily consisting of critical illness insurance products, typically offer a
lump-sum
payment to the insured if the insured is diagnosed with one of the conditions or a major life-threatening illness as defined in the insurance policy. The amounts of claims for long-term health insurance products in China are typically specified in the insurance policies, rather than determined based on the actual medical expenses. The long-term health insurance products typically address insurance clients’ needs for both medical treatment and after-care services.
Taking advantage of our actuarial capabilities and our expertise in long-term health insurance products, we analyze clients’ potential insurance needs and design tailor-made insurance products accordingly. For a given new product idea, we build a model, conduct actuarial analysis, draw a preliminary price range, and proactively reach out to our insurer partners to discuss such product. After the cooperating insurer partner determines the final terms of the product, it files the product with the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission and then launch the product on our platform. The product design and development process typically takes approximately three months. Popular long-term health insurance products we designed and developed in 2020 included Darwin No.3 (达尔文3号).
 
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(2) Short-term Health Insurance Products
Short-term health insurance products we offer provide illness and disease insurance protections and medical benefits during a period that is usually shorter than one year from the effective date of the policy. In 2020, popular health insurance products on our platform include Children Outpatient Nuanbaobao 2020 Plus Insurance (少儿门诊暖宝保2020升级版).
(3) Life Insurance Products
We offer term life insurance products, whole life insurance products and annuity insurance products on our platform. The term life insurance products we offer provide life insurance for the insured for a specified time period or until the attainment of a certain age, in return for the periodic payment of fixed premiums over a
pre-determined
period, generally ranging from five to 20 years. In 2020, popular term life insurance products on our online platform include Ruitai Ruihe 2020 Term Life Insurance (瑞泰瑞和2020定期寿险) underwritten by Old Mutual-Guodian Life Insurance.
The whole life insurance products we offer provide life insurance for the insured’s entire life in exchange for the periodic payment of fixed premiums over a
pre-determined
period, generally ranging from five to 20 years, or until the insured reaches a certain age. The face amount of the policy is paid upon the death of the insured. In 2020, Whole life insurance products offered on our online platform include Shouhushen Whole Life Insurance (守护神终身寿险).
The annuity insurance products we offer pay annuity to the insured according to the time period as specified in the insurance policy and the amount received during the policy term. In 2020, popular annuity insurance products offered on our platform include Tian Tian Xiang Shang children annuity insurance (天天向上小儿年金险).
Property & Casualty Insurance Products
The property & casualty insurance products we distribute include travel insurance products, individual casualty insurance products and corporate liability insurance. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, we offered approximately 974, 1,073 and 1,277 property & casualty insurance products respectively.
(1) Travel Insurance Products
We aim to offer innovative and simple solutions for travelers covering every aspect of their travel plans. The travel insurance products we offer cover risks relating to international travel, domestic travel, and outdoor sports.
Most of our travel insurance products are customized scenario-based products. For example, for a tour group with members participating in various types of risky activities, we design different insurance policies depending on the specific activities each group member participates in. Through making the risks covered under each insurance policy specific, we make travel insurance products more cost-effective for insurance clients. In addition, we have the expertise to analyze the risks under each insurance policy, which effectively helps our insurer partners manage claims.
(2) Individual Casualty Insurance Products
The individual casualty insurance products we offer on our platform generally provide a guaranteed benefit in the event of death or disability of the insured as a result of an accident during the coverage period, which is typically less than one year. These products typically require only a single premium payment during the coverage period.