SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
ITEM 11. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
ITEM 12. DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES
ITEM 14. MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS
ITEM 16. D. EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES
ITEM 16. E. PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS
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:
|●||“AD” refers to autonomous driving.|
|●||“ADAS” refers to advanced driver assistance system;|
|●||“ADRs” refer to the American depositary receipts that evidence the ADSs;|
|●||“ADSs” refer to our American depositary shares, each of which represents one Class A ordinary share;|
|●||“AI” refers to artificial intelligence;|
|●||“BEVs” refer to battery electric passenger vehicles;|
|●||“China” or the “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purpose of this annual report only, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;|
|●||“Class A ordinary shares” refer to our Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.00025 per share;|
|●||“Class B ordinary shares” refer to our Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.00025 per share;|
|●||“Class C ordinary shares” refer to our Class C ordinary shares, par value US$0.00025 per share;|
|●||“EVs” refer to electric passenger vehicles;|
|●||“FOTA” refers to firmware over-the-air;|
|●||“ICE” refers to internal combustion engine;|
|●||“NEVs” refer to new energy passenger vehicles;|
|●||“NIO,” “we,” “us,” “our company,” and “our” refer to NIO Inc., our Cayman Islands holding company and its subsidiaries, and its consolidated variable interest entity as of the date of this annual report, and depending on the context, may also refer to Shanghai Anbin Technology Co., Ltd., which is no longer our consolidated variable interest entity as of March 31, 2021, and its subsidiaries;|
|●||“Ordinary shares” refer to our Class A ordinary shares, Class B ordinary shares and Class C ordinary shares, each of par value US$0.00025 per share;|
|●||“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of China; and|
|●||“US$,” “dollars” or “U.S. dollars” refer to the legal currency of the United States.|
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.
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 these forward-looking statements by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “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 and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:
|●||our goals and growth strategies;|
|●||the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;|
|●||our future business development, financial condition and results of operations;|
|●||the expected growth of the electric vehicles industry in China;|
|●||our expectations regarding demand for and market acceptance of our products and services;|
|●||our expectations regarding our relationships with customers, contract manufacturers, component suppliers, third-party service providers, strategic partners and other stakeholders;|
|●||competition in our industry;|
|●||relevant government policies and regulations relating to our industry; and|
|●||assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.|
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 electric vehicles 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 adverse effect on our business and the market price of our ADSs. In addition, the rapidly evolving nature of the electric vehicles 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.
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION
A. Selected Financial Data
Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The following selected consolidated statements of comprehensive loss 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 statements of comprehensive loss data for the year ended December 31, 2016 and 2017, the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018, and the selected consolidated cash flow data for the year ended December 31, 2016 and 2017 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,
(in thousands, except for per share data)
Selected Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Loss:
Cost of sales:(2)
Total cost of sales
Research and development(2)
Selling, general and administrative(2)
Other operating loss
Total operating expenses
Loss from operations
Shares of losses of equity investee
Other income/(loss), net
Loss before income tax expenses
Income tax expenses
Accretion on convertible redeemable preferred value
Accretion on redeemable non-controlling interests to redemption value
Net loss attributable to non-controlling interests
Net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders of NIO Inc.
Other comprehensive (loss)/income
Foreign currency translation adjustments, net of nil tax
Total other comprehensive (loss)/income
Total comprehensive loss
Accretion on convertible redeemable preferred shares to redemption value
Accretion on redeemable non-controlling interests to redemption value
Net loss attributable to non-controlling interests
Comprehensive loss attributable to ordinary shareholders of NIO Inc.
Weighted average number of ordinary shares used in computing net loss per share
Basic and diluted
Net loss per share attributable to ordinary shareholders
Basic and diluted
|(1)||We began generating revenues in June 2018, when we began making deliveries and sales of the ES8. We currently generate revenues from vehicle sales and other sales.|
|(2)||Share-based compensation expenses were allocated in cost of sales and operating expenses as follows:|
For the Year Ended December 31,
Cost of sales
Research and development expenses
Selling, general and administrative expenses
The following table presents our selected consolidated balance sheet data as of the dates indicated.
As of December 31,
(in thousands, except for share data)
Selected Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
Long-term restricted cash
Property, plant and equipment, net
Total mezzanine equity
Total shareholders’ (deficit)/equity
Total shares outstanding
The following table presents our selected consolidated cash flow data for the years indicated.
For the Year Ended December 31,
Selected Consolidated Cash Flow Data:
Net cash (used in)/provided by operating activities
Net cash provided by/(used in) investing activities
Net cash provided by financing activities
Effects of exchange rate changes on cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash
Net increase/(decrease) in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash
Cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash at the beginning of year
Cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash at the end of year
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D. Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Our ability to develop and manufacture a car of sufficient quality and appeal to customers on schedule and on a large scale is still evolving.
Our future business depends in large part on our ability to execute on our plans to develop, manufacture, market and sell our electric vehicles. We plan to manufacture our vehicles in higher volumes than our present production capabilities.
Our continued development and manufacturing of our vehicles, the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, and the ET7, and our future vehicles are and will be subject to risks, including with respect to:
|●||our ability to secure necessary funding;|
|●||the equipment we use being able to accurately manufacture the vehicle within specified design tolerances;|
|●||compliance with environmental, workplace safety and similar regulations;|
|●||securing necessary components on acceptable terms and in a timely manner;|
|●||delays in delivery of final component designs to our suppliers, or delays in the development and delivery of our core technologies and new vehicle models, such as our NIO Autonomous Driving, or NAD, and technologies for battery packs;|
|●||our ability to attract, recruit, hire and train skilled employees;|
|●||delays or disruptions in our supply chain;|
|●||our ability to maintain solid partnership with our manufacturing partners and suppliers; and|
|●||other delays in manufacturing and production capacity expansion, and cost overruns.|
We began making deliveries of the seven-seater ES8 in June 2018, the six-seater ES8 in March 2019 and the ES6 in June 2019. In December 2019, we launched our third volume manufactured electric vehicle, the EC6, and the all-new ES8 with more than 180 product improvements. We began making deliveries of the all- new ES8 in April 2020, and making deliveries of the EC6 in September 2020. In January 2021, we launched our fourth volume manufactured electric vehicle, the ET7, and we estimated to start delivery of our flagship smart electric sedan NIO ET7 in the first quarter of 2022. Our vehicles may not meet customer expectations and our future models may not be commercially viable.
Historically, automobile customers have expected car manufacturers to periodically introduce new and improved vehicle models. In order to meet these expectations, we may be required to introduce new vehicle models and enhanced versions of existing vehicle models. To date we have limited experience designing, testing, manufacturing, marketing and selling our electric vehicles and therefore cannot assure you that we will be able to meet customer expectations.
Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and growth prospects.
We have not been profitable, and have only recently started to generate positive cash flows from operation.
We have not been profitable since our inception, and have only recently started to generate positive cash flows from operation. We incurred net losses of RMB9,639.0 million, RMB11,295.7 million and RMB5,304.1 million (US$812.9 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. In addition, although we generated positive cash flows from operation in 2020, we had negative cash flows from operating activities of RMB7,911.8 million and RMB8,721.7 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively. We have made significant up-front investments in research and development, service network and sales and marketing to rapidly develop and expand our business. We expect to continue to invest significantly in research and development and sales and marketing, and potentially in production capacity expansion, to further develop and expand our business, and these investments may not result in an increase in revenue or positive cash flow on a timely basis, or at all.
We may not generate sufficient revenues or we may incur substantial losses for a number of reasons, including lack of demand for our vehicles and services, increasing competition, challenging macro-economic environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other risks discussed herein, and we may incur unforeseen expenses, or encounter difficulties, complications and delays in generating revenue or achieving profitability. If we are unable to achieve profitability, we may have to reduce the scale of our operations, which may impact our business growth and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, our continuous operation depends on our capability to improve operating cash flows as well as our capacity to obtain sufficient external equity or debt financing. If we do not succeed in doing so, we may have to limit the scale of our operations, which may limit our business growth and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in temporary closure of many corporate offices, retail stores, manufacturing facilities and factories across China and the world. In early 2020, in response to intensifying efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Chinese government took a number of actions, which included, among others, extending the Chinese New Year holiday, quarantining and otherwise treating individuals in China who had contracted COVID-19, asking residents to remain at home and to avoid gathering in public. While such restrictive measures have been gradually lifted, our business has been and could continue to be adversely impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although COVID-19 has been largely controlled in China, there have been occasional outbreaks in several cities. To the extent we have service centers and vehicle delivery centers in these locations, we are susceptible to factors adversely affecting one or more of these locations as a result of COVID-19. Our results of operations have been and could continue to be adversely affected to the extent the COVID-19 pandemic or any other epidemic harms the Chinese economy in general. We have experienced and may continue to experience impacts to certain of our customers and/or suppliers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic occurring in one or more of these locations, which have materially and adversely affected our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. In addition, our operations have experienced and may continue to experience disruptions, such as temporary closure of our offices and/or those of our customers or suppliers and suspension of services, resulting in a reduction of vehicles manufactured and in turn fewer vehicles delivered, which have and may continue to materially and adversely affected our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. Further, to the extent the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affects our business and financial results, it has and may continue to have the effect of heightening many of the other risks described in this annual report, such as those relating to our level of indebtedness, our need to generate sufficient cash flows to service our indebtedness and our ability to comply with the covenants contained in the agreements that govern our indebtedness.
As a result of COVID-19, normal economic life throughout China was sharply curtailed and there were disruptions to normal operation of businesses in various areas, including the manufacturing and sales of vehicles in China. In addition, the ongoing global pandemic may adversely affect the supply chains, which in turn may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations. The global pandemic, especially the situation in Europe, may also delay the execution of our overseas market expansion plan. Currently, the vaccines are not widely accessible to the public. Relaxation of restrictions on economic and social life may lead to new cases which may lead to the re-imposition of restrictions. As a result, the duration of such business disruption and the resulting financial and operational impact on us cannot be reasonably estimated at this time. The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic may further impact our business and financial performance will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and largely beyond our control. Even if the economic impact of COVID-19 gradually recedes, the pandemic will have a lingering, long-term effect on business activities and consumption behavior. There is no assurance that we will be able to adjust our business operations to adapt to these changes and the increasingly complex environment in which we operate.
We have a limited operating history and face significant challenges as a new entrant into our industry.
We were formed in 2014 and began making deliveries to the public of our first volume manufactured vehicle, the seven-seater ES8, in June 2018. We began making deliveries of our second volume manufactured electric vehicle, the ES6, in June 2019. We began making deliveries of the all-new ES8 in April 2020, and our third volume manufactured vehicle, the EC6, in September 2020. In January 2021, we launched our fourth volume manufactured electric vehicle, the ET7, and we estimate to start delivery of our flagship smart electric sedan NIO ET7 in the first quarter of 2022.
You should consider our business and prospects in light of the risks and challenges we face as a new entrant into our industry, including, among other things, with respect to our ability to:
|●||design and produce safe, reliable and quality vehicles on an ongoing basis;|
|●||build a well-recognized and respected brand;|
|●||establish and expand our customer base;|
|●||successfully market not just our vehicles but also our other services, including our service package, energy package and other services we provide;|
|●||properly price our services, including our power solutions and service package and successfully anticipate the take-rate and usage of such services by users;|
|●||improve and maintain our operational efficiency;|
|●||maintain a reliable, secure, high-performance and scalable technology infrastructure;|
|●||attract, retain and motivate talented employees;|
|●||anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions, including technological developments and changes in competitive landscape; and|
|●||navigate an evolving and complex regulatory environment.|
If we fail to address any or all of these risks and challenges, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
We have limited experience to date in high volume manufacturing of our electric vehicles. We cannot assure you that we will be able to develop efficient, automated, cost-efficient manufacturing capability and processes, and reliable sources of component supply that will enable us to meet the quality, price, engineering, design and production standards, as well as the production volumes required to successfully mass market the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, the ET7, and future vehicles.
Furthermore, our vehicles are highly technical products that will require maintenance and support. If we were to cease or cut back operations, even years from now, buyers of our vehicles from years earlier might encounter difficulties in maintaining their vehicles and obtaining satisfactory support. We also believe that our service offerings, including user confidence in our ability to provide our power solutions and honor our obligations under our service package will be key factors in marketing our vehicles. As a result, consumers will be less likely to purchase our vehicles now if they are not convinced that our business will succeed or that our operations will continue for many years. Similarly, suppliers and other third parties will be less likely to invest time and resources in developing business relationships with us if they are not convinced that our business will succeed.
Manufacturing in collaboration with partners is subject to risks.
We have entered into an arrangement with Jianghuai Automobile Group Co., Ltd., or JAC, for the manufacturing of our vehicles, initially the ES8, for five years starting from May 2016. In April 2019 and March 2020, we entered into manufacturing cooperation agreements with JAC for the manufacturing of the ES6 and the EC6, respectively. The ES8, ES6 and EC6 are manufactured in partnership with JAC at its Hefei manufacturing plant. As of the date of this annual report, we are in the process of negotiating with JAC for the manufacturing arrangements of the ET7. JAC is a major state-owned automobile manufacturer in China and it constructed such Hefei manufacturing plant for the production of the ES8 (with a modified production line for the ES6 and EC6) and potentially ET7 and other future vehicles with us. Pursuant to our arrangement with JAC with respect to the ES8, ES6 and EC6, we pay JAC for each vehicle produced on a per-vehicle basis monthly for the first three years. Collaboration with third parties for the manufacturing of vehicles is subject to risks with respect to operations that are outside our control. We could experience delays to the extent our partners do not meet agreed upon timelines or experience capacity constraints. There is risk of potential disputes with partners, and we could be affected by adverse publicity related to our partners whether or not such publicity is related to their collaboration with us. Our ability to successfully build a premium brand could also be adversely affected by perceptions about the quality of our partners’ vehicles. In addition, although we are involved in each step of the supply chain and manufacturing process, given that we also rely on our partners to meet our quality standards, there can be no assurance that we will successfully maintain quality standards.
In addition, for the first 36 months after the start of production, which commenced on April 10, 2018, to the extent the Hefei manufacturing plant incurs any operating losses, we have agreed to compensate JAC for such operating losses. Cooperation after the first 36 months will be subject to further negotiation between the parties. As of December 31, 2020, we had paid JAC a total of RMB1,233.9 million, including RMB455.5 million as compensation for losses incurred since 2018 and RMB778.4 million for manufacturing and processing fees. If we continue to be obligated to compensate JAC for any losses, our results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected, particularly if such losses are incurred as a result of lower than anticipated sales volume.
We are currently in the process of renewing our overall arrangement with JAC for the manufacturing of our vehicles, which original arrangement is currently set to expire in May 2021. We may be unable to enter into new agreements or extend existing agreements with JAC and other third-party manufacturing partners on terms and conditions acceptable to us and therefore may need to contract with other third parties or significantly add to our own production capacity. There can be no assurance that in such event we would be able to partner with other third parties or establish or expand our own production capacity to meet our needs on acceptable terms or at all. The expense and time required to complete any transition, and to assure that vehicles manufactured at facilities of new third-party partners comply with our quality standards and regulatory requirements, may be greater than anticipated. Any of the foregoing could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
The unavailability, reduction or elimination of government and economic incentives or government policies which are favorable for electric vehicles and domestically produced vehicles could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, operating results and prospects.
Our growth depends significantly on the availability and amounts of government subsidies, economic incentives and government policies that support the growth of new energy vehicles. Favorable government incentives and subsidies in China include one-time government subsidies, exemption from vehicle purchase tax, exemption from license plate restrictions in certain cities, preferential utility rates for charging facilities and more. Changes in government subsidies, economic incentives and government policies to support NEVs could adversely affect our results of our operations.
China’s central government provides subsidies for purchasers of certain NEVs until 2022 and reviews and further adjusts the subsidy standard on an annual basis. The 2019 subsidy standard, effective from March 26, 2019, reduced the amount of national subsidies and canceled local subsidies, resulting in a significant reduction in the total subsidy amount applicable to the ES8 and ES6 as compared to 2018. The 2020 subsidy standard, effective from April 23, 2020, reduces the base subsidy amount in general by 10% for each NEV, sets subsidies for 2 million vehicles as the upper limit of annual subsidy scale; and provides that national subsidy shall only apply to an NEV with the sale price under RMB300,000 or compatible with battery swapping. We believe that our sales performance of ES8, ES6 and EC6 in 2019 and 2020 was negatively affected by the reduction in the subsidy standard to some extent. The current 2021 subsidy standard, effective from January 1, 2021, reduced by 20% as compared to the 2020 subsidy standard. Further, the 2022 subsidy standard are expected to be reduced by 30% as compared to the standard of 2021.
Our vehicles sales may also be impacted by government policies such as tariffs on imported cars and foreign investment restrictions in the industry. The tariff in China on imported passenger vehicles (other than those originating in the United States of America) was reduced to 15% starting from July 1, 2018. As a result, pricing advantage of domestically manufactured vehicles could be diminished. There used to be certain limit on foreign ownership of automakers in China, but for automakers of NEVs, such limit was lifted in 2018. Further, pursuant to the currently effectively Special Administrative Measures for Market Access of Foreign Investment (2020 Version), or the 2020 Negative List, which came into effect on July 23, 2020, the limit on foreign ownership of automakers for ICE passenger vehicles will be lifted by 2022. As a result, foreign NEV competitors could build wholly-owned facilities in China without the need for a domestic joint venture partner. These changes could affect the competitive landscape of the NEV industry and reduce our pricing advantage, which may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Such negative influence and our undermined sales performance resulted therefrom could continue. Furthermore, China’s central government provides certain local governments with funds and subsidies to support the roll-out of a charging infrastructure. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Favorable Government Policies Relating to New Energy Vehicles in the PRC.” These policies are subject to change and beyond our control. We cannot assure you that any changes would be favorable to our business. Furthermore, any reduction, elimination, delayed payment or discriminatory application of government subsidies and economic incentives because of policy changes, the reduced need for such subsidies and incentives due to the perceived success of electric vehicles, fiscal tightening or other factors may result in the diminished competitiveness of the alternative fuel vehicle industry generally or our electric vehicles in particular. Any of the foregoing could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our vehicles may not perform in line with customer expectations.
Our vehicles, including the ES8, ES6, EC6 and ET7, may not perform in line with customers’ expectations. For example, our vehicles may not have the durability or longevity of other vehicles in the market, and may not be as easy and convenient to repair as other vehicles in the market. Any product defects or any other failure of our vehicles to perform as expected could harm our reputation and result in adverse publicity, lost revenue, delivery delays, product recalls, product liability claims, harm to our brand and reputation, and significant warranty and other expenses, and could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, operating results and prospects.
In addition, the range of our vehicles on a single charge declines principally as a function of usage, time and charging patterns as well as other factors. For example, a customer’s use of his or her electric vehicle as well as the frequency with which he or she charges the battery can result in additional deterioration of the battery’s ability to hold a charge.
Furthermore, our vehicles may contain defects in design and manufacture that may cause them not to perform as expected or that may require repair. We have delivered our vehicles with certain features of our NIO Pilot ADAS system initially disabled, and subsequently turned on some of these features. We activated most of the announced functions of the NIO Pilot in 2019 and 2020, and plan to continue to explore more features of the NIO Pilot system in 2021. We cannot assure you that our NIO Pilot system will ultimately perform in line with expectations. Our vehicles use a substantial amount of software code to operate and software products are inherently complex and often contain defects and errors when first introduced. While we have performed extensive internal testing on our vehicles’ software and hardware systems, we have a limited frame of reference by which to evaluate the long-term performance of our systems and vehicles. There can be no assurance that we will be able to detect and fix any defects in the vehicles prior to their sale to consumers. If any of our vehicles fail to perform as expected, we may need to delay deliveries, initiate product recalls and provide servicing or updates under warranty at our expense, which could adversely affect our brand in our target markets and could adversely affect our business, prospects and results of operations.
Any delays in the manufacturing and launch of the commercial production vehicles in our pipeline could have a material adverse effect on our business.
We generally target to launch a new model every year in the near future as we ramp up our business. Automobile manufacturers often experience delays in the design, manufacture and commercial release of new vehicle models. We are planning to target a broader market with our future vehicles, and to the extent we need to delay the launch of our vehicles, our growth prospects could be adversely affected as we may fail to grow our market share. We also plan to periodically perform facelifts or refresh existing models, which could also be subject to delays. Furthermore, we rely on third-party suppliers for the provision and development of many of the key components and materials used in our vehicles. To the extent our suppliers experience any delays in providing us with or developing necessary components, we could experience delays in delivering on our timelines. Any delay in the manufacture or launch of the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, the ET7, or future models, including in the build out of the manufacturing facilities in China for these models or due to any other factors, or in refreshing or performing facelifts to existing models, could subject us to customer complaints and materially and adversely affect our reputation, demand for our vehicles, results of operations and growth prospects.
In addition, to the extent the Hefei manufacturing plant incurs any operating losses, we have agreed to compensate JAC for such operating losses. As of December 31, 2020, we had paid JAC a total of RMB1,233.9 million, including RMB455.5 million as compensation for losses incurred since 2018 and RMB778.4 million for manufacturing and processing fees. If we are obligated to compensate JAC for any losses, our results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected, particularly if such losses are incurred as a result of lower than anticipated sales volume. We expect that our sales volume and the ability of the Hefei manufacturing plant to achieve profitability will be significantly affected by our ability to timely bring new vehicles to market.
We may face challenges providing our power solutions.
We provide our users with comprehensive power solutions. We install home chargers for users where practicable, and provide other solutions including battery swapping, supercharging, charging through publicly accessible charging infrastructure and charging using our fast-charging vans. Our users are able to use our NIO One Click for Power valet charging service where their vehicles are picked up, charged and then returned.
We have very limited experience in the actual provision of our power solutions to users and providing these services is subject to challenges, including the challenges associated with sorting out the logistics of rolling out our network and teams in appropriate areas, inadequate capacity or over capacity of our services in certain areas, security risks or risk of damage to vehicles during One Click for Power valet services and the potential for lack of user acceptance of our services. In addition, although the Chinese government has supported the roll-out of a public charging network, the current number of charging infrastructures is generally considered to be insufficient. We also face uncertainties with regard to governmental support and public infrastructure as we roll out our power solutions, including whether we can obtain and maintain access to sufficient charging infrastructure, whether we can obtain any required permits and land use rights and complete any required filings, and whether the government support in this area may discontinue.
Furthermore, given our limited experience in providing power solutions, there could be unanticipated challenges which may hinder our ability to provide our solutions or make the provision of our solutions costlier than anticipated. To the extent we are unable to meet user expectations or experience difficulties in providing our power solutions, our reputation and business may be materially and adversely affected.
We may face challenges providing the Battery as a Service.
On August 20, 2020, we introduced the Battery as a Service, or BaaS, which allows users to purchase electric vehicles and subscribe the usage of battery packs separately. If users opt to purchase an ES8, ES6, EC6 or ET7 model and subscribe to use the 70kWh battery pack under the BaaS, they can enjoy an RMB70,000 deduction off the original vehicle purchase price and pay a monthly subscription fee of RMB980 for the battery pack. On November 6, 2020, we launched the 100kWh battery pack with battery update plans. If users opt to purchase an ES8, ES6, EC6 or ET7 and subscribe for the 100kWh battery pack under the BaaS, they can purchase the vehicle without the battery pack while paying a monthly subscription fee of RMB1,480. Users who currently apply the 70kWh battery pack with the intention to upgrade their batteries can choose to either purchase a 100kWh battery pack for permanent upgrades or pay a monthly subscription fee of RMB880 for a flexible upgrade package.
Under the BaaS, we sell a battery pack to the Battery Asset Company, and the user subscribes to the usage of the battery pack from the Battery Asset Company. The service we provide to our users under the BaaS relies, in part, on the smooth operation of and stability and quality of service delivered by the Battery Asset Company, which we cannot guarantee. We invested in the Battery Asset Company with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited, or CATL, Hubei Science Technology Investment Group Co., Ltd. and a subsidiary of Guotai Junan International Holdings Limited, which we refer to as the Battery Asset Company Investors in this annual report. As a result, we only have limited control over the business operations of the Battery Asset Company. If it fails in providing high-quality services to our users, we will suffer from negative customer reviews and even returns of products or services. If the Battery Asset Company is unable to obtain future financings from the Battery Asset Company Investors or other third parties to meet its operational needs, it may not be able to continue purchasing batteries from us and leasing them to our users, or otherwise maintain its healthy and sustainable operations. On the other hand, if the Battery Asset Company bears a significant rate of customer default on its payment obligations, its results of operations and financial performance may be materially impacted, which will in turn reduce the value of our and the Battery Asset Company Investors’ investments in the Battery Asset Company. In addition, in furtherance of the BaaS, we agreed to provide guarantee to the Battery Asset Company for the default in payment of monthly subscription fees from users, while the maximum amount of guarantee that can be claimed shall not be higher than the accumulated service fees we receive from the Battery Asset Company. As the BaaS user base is expanding, if an increased number of default occurs, our results of operations and financial performance will be negatively affected.
Our services may not be generally accepted by our users. If we are unable to provide good customer service, our business and reputation may be materially and adversely affected.
We aim to provide users with a good customer service experience, including by providing our users with access to a full suite of services conveniently through our mobile application and vehicle applications. In addition, we seek to engage with our users on an ongoing basis using online and offline channels, in ways which are non-traditional for automakers. We are also expanding our service scope to meet our users’ evolving demands. For example, in January 2021, we launched NIO Certified, our official used car business, where our users can sell their NIO vehicles to us and we will resell them for value. We have established a nationwide used vehicle business network, covering services including vehicle inspection, evaluation, acquisition and sales. In addition, we have also recently started to offer auto financing arrangements to our users directly through our subsidiaries. New service offerings will subject us to unknown risks. We cannot assure you that our services, including our energy package and service package, our used car service, our auto financing services or our efforts to engage with our users using both our online and offline channels, will be successful, which could impact our revenues as well as our customer satisfaction and marketing.
Our servicing will partially be carried out through third parties certified by us. Although such servicing partners may have experience in servicing other vehicles, we and such partners have very limited experience in servicing our vehicles. Servicing electric vehicles is different from servicing ICE vehicles and requires specialized skills, including high voltage training and servicing techniques. There can be no assurance that our service arrangements will adequately address the service requirements of our users to their satisfaction, or that we and our partners will have sufficient resources to meet these service requirements in a timely manner as the volume of vehicles we deliver increases.
In addition, if we are unable to roll out and establish a widespread service network, user satisfaction could be adversely affected, which in turn could materially and adversely affect our sales, results of operations and prospects.
We have received only a limited number of reservations for the ES8, the ES6, the EC6 and the ET7, all of which are subject to cancellation.
Intention orders and reservations for our vehicles are subject to cancellation by the customer until delivery of the vehicle. We have experienced cancellations in the past. Notwithstanding the non-refundable deposits we charge for the reservations, our users may still cancel their reservations for many reasons outside of our control. The potentially long wait from the time a reservation is made until the time the vehicle is delivered could also impact user decisions on whether to ultimately make a purchase, due to potential changes in preferences, competitive developments and other factors. If we encounter delays in the delivery of the ES8, ES6, EC6, ET7, or future vehicles, we believe that a significant number of reservations may be cancelled. As a result, no assurance can be made that reservations will not be cancelled and will ultimately result in the final purchase, delivery, and sale of the vehicle. Such cancellations could harm our financial condition, business, prospects and operating results.
The automotive market is highly competitive, and we may not be successful in competing in this industry.
The China automotive market is highly competitive. We have strategically entered into this market in the premium EV segment and we expect this segment will become more competitive in the future as additional players enter into this segment. We compete with international competitors, including Tesla. Our vehicles also compete with ICE vehicles in the premium segment. Many of our current and potential competitors, particularly international competitors, have significantly greater financial, technical, manufacturing, marketing and other resources than we do and may be able to devote greater resources to the design, development, manufacturing, distribution, promotion, sale and support of their products. We expect competition in our industry to intensify in the future in light of increased demand and regulatory push for alternative fuel vehicles, continuing globalization and consolidation in the worldwide automotive industry. Factors affecting competition include, among others, product quality and features, innovation and development time, pricing, reliability, safety, fuel economy, customer service and financing terms. Increased competition may lead to lower vehicle unit sales and increased inventory, which may result in downward price pressure and adversely affect our business, financial condition, operating results and prospects. Our ability to successfully compete in our industry will be fundamental to our future success in existing and new markets and our market share. There can be no assurance that we will be able to compete successfully in our markets. If our competitors introduce new cars or services that successfully compete with or surpass the quality or performance of our cars or services at more competitive prices, we may be unable to satisfy existing customers or attract new customers at the prices and levels that would allow us to generate attractive rates of return on our investment.
Furthermore, our competitive advantage as the company with the first-to-market and leading premium EV volume-manufactured domestically in China will be severely compromised if our competitors begin making deliveries earlier than expected, or offer more favorable price than we do.
We may also be affected by the growth of the overall China automotive market. While sales of the premium segment of the passenger vehicles in China increased in 2020, overall automobile sales in China declined 6.8% during the year. If demand for automobiles in China continues to decrease, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.
We may face challenges in expanding our business and operations internationally and our ability to conduct business in international markets may be adversely affected by legal, regulatory, political and economic risks.
We face challenges and risks associated with expanding our business and operations globally into new geographic markets. New geographic markets may have competitive conditions, user preferences, and discretionary spending patterns that are more difficult to predict or satisfy than our existing markets. In certain markets, we have relatively little operating experience and may not benefit from any first-to-market advantages or otherwise succeed. We may also face protectionist policies that could, among other things, hinder our ability to execute our business strategies and put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to domestic companies. Local companies may have a substantial competitive advantage because of their greater understanding of, and focus on, the local users, as well as their more established local brand names, requiring us to build brand awareness in that market through greater investments in advertising and promotional activity. International expansion may also require significant capital investment, which could strain our resources and adversely impact current performance, while adding complexity to our current operations. We are subject to PRC law in addition to the laws of the foreign countries in which we operate. If any of our overseas operations, or our associates or agents, violate such laws, we could become subject to sanctions or other penalties, which could negatively affect our reputation, business and operating results.
In addition, we may face operational issues that could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and results of operations, if we fail to address certain factors including, but not limited to, the following:
|●||lack of acceptance of our products and services, and challenges of localizing our offerings to appeal to local tastes;|
|●||conforming our products to regulatory and safety requirements and charging and other electric infrastructures;|
|●||failure to attract and retain capable talents with international perspectives who can effectively manage and operate local businesses;|
|●||challenges in identifying appropriate local business partners and establishing and maintaining good working relationships with them;|
|●||availability, reliability and security of international payment systems and logistics infrastructure;|
|●||challenges of maintaining efficient and consolidated internal systems, including technology infrastructure, and of achieving customization and integration of these systems with the other parts of our technology platform;|
|●||challenges in replicating or adapting our company policies and procedures to operating environments different from that of China;|
|●||national security policies that restrict our ability to utilize technologies that are deemed by local governmental regulators to pose a threat to their national security;|
|●||the need for increased resources to manage regulatory compliance across our international businesses;|
|●||compliance with privacy laws and data security laws and compliance costs across different legal systems;|
|●||heightened restrictions and barriers on the transfer of data between different jurisdictions;|
|●||differing, complex and potentially adverse customs, import/export laws, tax rules and regulations or other trade barriers or restrictions related compliance obligations and consequences of non-compliance, and any new developments in these areas;|
|●||business licensing or certification requirements of the local markets;|
|●||challenges in the implementation of BaaS and other innovative business models in countries and regions outside of China;|
|●||exchange rate fluctuations; and|
|●||political instability and general economic or political conditions in particular countries or regions, including territorial or trade disputes, war and terrorism.|
Failure to manage these risks and challenges could negatively affect our ability to expand our business and operations overseas as well as materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our industry and its technology are rapidly evolving and may be subject to unforeseen changes. Developments in alternative technologies or improvements in the internal combustion engine may materially and adversely affect the demand for our electric vehicles.
We operate in China’s electric vehicle market, which is rapidly evolving and may not develop as we anticipate. The regulatory framework governing the industry is currently uncertain and may remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. As our industry and our business develop, we may need to modify our business model or change our services and solutions. These changes may not achieve expected results, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and prospects.
Furthermore, we may be unable to keep up with changes in electric vehicle technology and, as a result, our competitiveness may suffer. Our research and development efforts may not be sufficient to adapt to changes in electric vehicle technology. As technologies change, we plan to upgrade or adapt our vehicles and introduce new models in order to provide vehicles with the latest technology, in particular digital technologies, which could involve substantial costs and lower our return on investment for existing vehicles. There can be no assurance that we will be able to compete effectively with alternative vehicles or source and integrate the latest technology into our vehicles, against the backdrop of our rapidly evolving industry. Even if we are able to keep pace with changes in technology and develop new models, our prior models could become obsolete more quickly than expected, potentially reducing our return on investment.
Developments in alternative technologies, such as advanced diesel, ethanol, fuel cells or compressed natural gas, or improvements in the fuel economy of the internal combustion engine, may materially and adversely affect our business and prospects in ways we do not currently anticipate. For example, fuel which is abundant and relatively inexpensive in China, such as compressed natural gas, may emerge as consumers’ preferred alternative to petroleum based propulsion. Any failure by us to successfully react to changes in existing technologies could materially harm our competitive position and growth prospects.
We may be unable to adequately control the costs associated with our operations.
We have required significant capital to develop and grow our business, including developing the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, and the ET7, as well as building our brand. We expect to incur significant costs which will impact our profitability, including research and development expenses as we roll out new models and improve existing models, raw material procurement costs and selling and distribution expenses as we build our brand and market our vehicles. In addition, we may incur significant costs in connection with our services, including providing power solutions and honoring our commitments under our service package. Our ability to become profitable in the future will not only depend on our ability to successfully market our vehicles and other products and services but also to control our costs. If we are unable to cost efficiently design, manufacture, market, sell and distribute and service our vehicles and services, our margins, profitability and prospects will be materially and adversely affected.
We could experience cost increases or disruptions in supply of raw materials or other components used in our vehicles.
We incur significant costs related to procuring raw materials required to manufacture and assemble our vehicles. We use various raw materials in our vehicles including aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, non-ferrous metals such as copper, lithium, nickel as well as cobalt. The prices for these raw materials fluctuate depending on factors beyond our control, including market conditions and global demand for these materials, and could adversely affect our business and operating results. Our business also depends on the continued supply of battery cells for our vehicles. Battery cell manufacturers may refuse to supply electric vehicle manufacturers to the extent they determine that the vehicles are not sufficiently safe. We are exposed to multiple risks relating to availability and pricing of quality lithium-ion battery cells. These risks include:
|●||the inability or unwillingness of current battery cell manufacturers to build or operate battery cell manufacturing plants to supply the numbers of lithium-ion cells required to support the growth of the electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle industry as demand for such cells increases;|
|●||disruption in the supply of cells due to quality issues or recalls by the battery cell manufacturers; and|
|●||an increase in the cost of raw materials, such as lithium, nickel and cobalt, used in lithium-ion cells.|
Furthermore, currency fluctuations, tariffs or shortages in petroleum and other economic or political conditions may result in significant increases in freight charges and raw material costs. Substantial increases in the prices for our raw materials or components would increase our operating costs, and could reduce our margins. In addition, a growth in popularity of electric vehicles without a significant expansion in battery cell production capacity could result in shortages which would result in increased costs in raw materials to us or impact of prospects.
We are dependent on our suppliers, many of whom are our single source suppliers for the components they supply.
The ES8, ES6, EC6 and ET7 each uses a great amount of purchased parts from suppliers, many of whom are currently our single source suppliers for these components, and we expect that this will be similar for any future vehicle we may produce. The supply chain exposes us to multiple potential sources of delivery failure or component shortages. While we obtain components from multiple sources whenever possible, similar to other automobile manufacturers, many of the components used in our vehicles are purchased by us from a single source. To date, we have not qualified alternative sources for most of the single sourced components used in our vehicles and we generally do not maintain long-term agreements with our single source suppliers. For example, while several sources of the battery cell we have selected for the ES8 are available, we have fully qualified only one supplier for these cells.
Furthermore, qualifying alternative suppliers or developing our own replacements for certain highly customized components of the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, and the ET7, such as the air suspension system and the steering system, may be time-consuming and costly. Any disruption in the supply of components, whether or not from a single source supplier, could temporarily disrupt production of our vehicles until an alternative supplier is fully qualified by us or is otherwise able to supply us the required material. There can be no assurance that we would be able to successfully retain alternative suppliers or supplies on a timely basis, on acceptable terms or at all. Changes in business conditions, force majeure, governmental changes and other factors beyond our control or which we do not presently anticipate, could also affect our suppliers’ ability to deliver components to us on a timely basis. For example, the current global supply constraint of semiconductors has negatively impacted our production activity and volume, as a result of which, we temporarily suspended the vehicle production activity in the JAC-NIO manufacturing plant in Hefei for five working days starting from March 29, 2021 and we produced fewer vehicles in March 2021 than we had previously anticipated without the impact of semiconductor shortage. Our production activity and results of operations may be further impacted should the semiconductor shortage continue. Any of the foregoing could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our business and prospects depend significantly on our ability to build our NIO brand. We may not succeed in continuing to establish, maintain and strengthen the NIO brand, and our brand and reputation could be harmed by negative publicity regarding our company or products.
Our business and prospects are heavily dependent on our ability to develop, maintain and strengthen the “NIO” brand. If we do not continue to establish, maintain and strengthen our brand, we may lose the opportunity to build a critical mass of customers. Promoting and positioning our brand will likely depend significantly on our ability to provide high quality vehicles and services and engage with our customers as intended and we have limited experience in these areas. In addition, we expect that our ability to develop, maintain and strengthen the NIO brand will depend heavily on the success of our user development and branding efforts. Such efforts mainly include building a community of online and offline users engaged with us through our mobile application, NIO Houses, NIO Spaces as well as other branding initiatives such as our annual NIO Day, Formula E team sponsorship, and other automotive shows and events. Such efforts may be non-traditional and may not achieve the desired results. To promote our brand, we may be required to change our user development and branding practices, which could result in substantially increased expenses, including the need to use traditional media such as television, radio and print. If we do not develop and maintain a strong brand, our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results will be materially and adversely impacted.
In addition, if incidents occur or are perceived to have occurred, whether or not such incidents are our fault, we could be subject to adverse publicity. In particular, given the popularity of social media, including WeChat/Weixin in China, any negative publicity, whether true or not, could quickly proliferate and harm consumer perceptions and confidence in our brand. Furthermore, there is the risk of potential adverse publicity related to our manufacturing or other partners, whether or not such publicity related to their collaboration with us. Our ability to successfully position our brand could also be adversely affected by perceptions about the quality of our partners’ vehicles.
In addition, from time to time, our vehicles are evaluated and reviewed by third parties. Any negative reviews or reviews which compare us unfavorably to competitors could adversely affect consumer perception about our vehicles.
Our business depends substantially on the continuing efforts of our executive officers, key employees and qualified personnel, and our operations may be severely disrupted if we lose their services.
Our success depends substantially on the continued efforts of our executive officers and key employees. If one or more of our executive officers or key employees were unable or unwilling to continue their services with us, we might not be able to replace them easily, in a timely manner, or at all. As we build our brand and become more well-known, the risk that competitors or other companies may poach our talent increases. Our industry is characterized by high demand and intense competition for talent and therefore we cannot assure you that we will be able to attract or retain qualified staff or other highly skilled employees. In addition, because our electric vehicles are based on a different technology platform than traditional ICE vehicles, individuals with sufficient training in electric vehicles may not be available to hire, and we will need to expend significant time and expense training the employees we hire. We also require sufficient talent in areas such as software development. Furthermore, as our company is relatively young, our ability to train and integrate new employees into our operations may not meet the growing demands of our business, which may materially and adversely affect our ability to grow our business and our results of operations.
If any of our executive officers and key employees terminates his or her services with us, our business may be severely disrupted, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected and we may incur additional expenses to recruit, train and retain qualified personnel. We have not obtained any “key person” insurance on our key personnel. If any of our executive officers or key employees joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose customers, know-how and key professionals and staff members. To the extent permitted by laws, each of our executive officers and key employees has entered into an employment agreement and a non-compete agreement with us. However, if any dispute arises between our executive officers or key employees and us, the non-competition provisions contained in their non-compete agreements may not be enforceable, especially in China, where these executive officers reside, on the ground that we have not provided adequate compensation to them for their non-competition obligations, which is required under relevant PRC laws.
Our future growth is dependent on the demand for, and upon consumers’ willingness to adopt, electric vehicles.
Demand for automobile sales depends to a large extent on general, economic, political and social conditions in a given market and the introduction of new vehicles and technologies. As our business grows, economic conditions and trends will impact our business, prospects and operating results as well.
Demand for our electric vehicles may also be affected by factors directly impacting automobile prices or the cost of purchasing and operating automobiles, such as sales and financing incentives, prices of raw materials and parts and components, cost of fuel and governmental regulations, including tariffs, import regulation and other taxes. Volatility in demand may lead to lower vehicle unit sales, which may result in further downward price pressure and adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results.
In addition, the demand for our vehicles and services will highly depend upon the adoption by consumers of new energy vehicles in general and electric vehicles in particular. The market for new energy vehicles is still rapidly evolving, characterized by rapidly changing technologies, competitive pricing and competitive factors, evolving government regulation and industry standards and changing consumer demands and behaviors.
Other factors that may influence the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles, and specifically electric vehicles, include:
|●||perceptions about electric vehicle quality, safety, design, performance and cost, especially if adverse events or accidents occur that are linked to the quality or safety of electric vehicles, whether or not such vehicles are produced by us or other manufacturers;|
|●||perceptions about vehicle safety in general, in particular safety issues that may be attributed to the use of advanced technology, including electric vehicle and regenerative braking systems;|
|●||the limited range over which electric vehicles may be driven on a single battery charge and the speed at which batteries can be recharged;|
|●||the decline of an electric vehicle’s range resulting from deterioration over time in the battery’s ability to hold a charge;|
|●||concerns about electric grid capacity and reliability;|
|●||the availability of new energy vehicles, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles;|
|●||improvements in the fuel economy of the internal combustion engine;|
|●||the availability of service for electric vehicles;|
|●||the environmental consciousness of consumers;|
|●||access to charging stations, standardization of electric vehicle charging systems and consumers’ perceptions about convenience and cost to charge an electric vehicle;|
|●||the availability of tax and other governmental incentives to purchase and operate electric vehicles or future regulation requiring increased use of nonpolluting vehicles;|
|●||perceptions about and the actual cost of alternative fuel; and|
Any of the factors described above may cause current or potential customers not to purchase our electric vehicles and use our services. If the market for electric vehicles does not develop as we expect or develops more slowly than we expect, our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results will be affected.
We depend on revenue generated from a limited number of models and in the foreseeable future will be significantly dependent on a limited number of models.
Our business currently depends substantially on the sales and success of a limited number of models that we have launched. Historically, automobile customers have come to expect a variety of vehicle models offered in a manufacturer’s fleet and new and improved vehicle models to be introduced frequently. In order to meet these expectations, we plan in the future to introduce on a regular basis new vehicle models as well as enhance versions of existing vehicle models. To the extent our product variety and cycles do not meet consumer expectations, or cannot be produced on our projected timelines and cost and volume targets, our future sales may be adversely affected. Given that for the foreseeable future our business will depend on a single or limited number of models, to the extent a particular model is not well-received by the market, our sales volume could be materially and adversely affected. This could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results.
We are subject to risks related to customer credit.
We provided our users with the option of a battery payment arrangement, where users can make battery payments in installments. For the ES8 ordered before January 15, 2019, there is an RMB100,000 deduction in the purchase price and users adopting this arrangement pay RMB1,280 per month, payable over 78 months. For the ES8, ES6 and EC6 ordered between January 16, 2019 and August 19, 2020, there is an RMB100,000 deduction in the purchase price and users adopting this arrangement pay RMB1,660 per month, payable over 60 months. We are exposed to the creditworthiness of our users since we expect them to make monthly payments for vehicle batteries under the battery payment arrangement. To the extent our users fail to make payments on-time, our results of operations may be adversely affected.
We may become subject to product liability claims, which could harm our financial condition and liquidity if we are not able to successfully defend or insure against such claims.
We may become subject to product liability claims, which could harm our business, prospects, operating results and financial condition. The automotive industry experiences significant product liability claims and we face inherent risk of exposure to claims in the event our vehicles do not perform as expected or malfunction resulting in property damage, personal injury or death. Our risks in this area are particularly pronounced given we have limited field experience of our vehicles. A successful product liability claim against us could require us to pay a substantial monetary award. Moreover, a product liability claim could generate substantial negative publicity about our vehicles and business and inhibit or prevent commercialization of our future vehicle candidates which would have a material adverse effect on our brand, business, prospects and operating results. Any insurance coverage might not be sufficient to cover all potential product liability claims. Any lawsuit seeking significant monetary damages may have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and financial condition.
Our vehicles are subject to motor vehicle standards and the failure to satisfy such mandated safety standards would have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results.
All vehicles sold must comply with various standards of the market where the vehicles were sold. In China vehicles must meet or exceed all mandated safety standards. Rigorous testing and the use of approved materials and equipment are among the requirements for achieving such standards. Vehicles must pass various tests and undergo a certification process and be affixed with the CCC certification, before receiving delivery from the factory, being sold, or being used in any commercial activity, and such certification is also subject to periodic renewal. The seven-seater ES8 and the six-seater ES8 received the CCC certification in December 2017 and January 2019, respectively. The ES6, the new-ES8 and the EC6 received the CCC certification in April 2019, December 2019 and August 2020, respectively. The ET7 has not yet undergone the CCC certification but must be certified prior to mass production. The process of obtaining the CCC certification typically requires four to five months. We plan to complete this process and obtain the CCC certification for the ET7 before delivery, which is estimated to commence in the first quarter of 2022. Furthermore, the government carries out the supervision and scheduled and unscheduled inspection of certified vehicles on a regular basis. In the event that our certifications fail to be renewed upon expiry, a certified vehicle has a defect resulting in quality or safety accidents, or consistent failure of certified vehicles comply with certification requirements is discovered during follow-up inspections, the CCC may be suspended or even revoked. With effect from the date of revocation or during suspension of the CCC, any vehicle that fails to satisfy the requirements for certification may not continue to be delivered, sold, imported or used in any commercial activity. Failure by us to have the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, the ET7 or any future model electric vehicle satisfy motor vehicle standards would have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results.
We may be subject to risks associated with autonomous driving technology.
Through NIO Pilot and NAD, we provide enhanced ADAS and plan to offer higher level of autonomous driving functionalities, and through our research and development, we continually update and improve our autonomous driving technology. Autonomous driving technologies are subject to risks and from time to time there have been accidents associated with such technologies. The safety of such technologies depends in part on user interaction and users may not be accustomed to using such technologies. To the extent accidents associated with our autonomous driving systems occur, we could be subject to liability, government scrutiny and further regulation. Any of the foregoing could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and growth prospects.
We may be compelled to undertake product recalls or take other actions, which could adversely affect our brand image and financial performance.
Recalls of our vehicles can cause adverse publicity, damage to our brand and liability for costs. In June 2019, we identified problems with certain battery packs on ES8 vehicles following safety incidents occurred in Shanghai and other locations in China. We then voluntarily recalled 4,803 ES8s, and replaced the batteries in the NIO battery swap network equipped with the malfunctioned modules. We undertook to compensate all users who had incurred property losses as a result of incidents caused by battery quality issues. In the future, we may at various times, voluntarily or involuntarily, initiate a recall if any of our vehicles, including any systems or parts sourced from our suppliers, prove to be defective or non-compliant with applicable laws and regulations. Such recalls, whether voluntary or involuntary or caused by systems or components engineered or manufactured by us or our suppliers, could involve significant expense and could adversely affect our brand image in our target markets, as well as our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Our distribution model is different from the predominant current distribution model for automobile manufacturers, which makes evaluating our business, operating results and future prospects difficult.
Our distribution model is not common in the automotive industry today. We plan to conduct vehicle sales directly to users rather than through dealerships, primarily through our mobile application, NIO Houses and NIO Spaces. Furthermore, generally all vehicles are made to order. This model of vehicle distribution is relatively new and unproven, and subjects us to substantial risk as it requires, in the aggregate, significant expenditures and provides for slower expansion of our distribution and sales systems than may be possible by utilizing the traditional dealer franchise system. For example, we will not be able to utilize long established sales channels developed through a franchise system to increase our sales volume. Moreover, we will be competing with companies with well established distribution channels. Our success will depend in large part on our ability to effectively develop our own sales channels and marketing strategies. Implementing our business model is subject to numerous significant challenges, including obtaining permits and approvals from government authorities, and we may not be successful in addressing these challenges.
The lead time in fulfilling our orders could lead to cancelled orders. Our aim for the fulfilling speed is 21 to 28 days from the order placement date to delivery to users. If we are unable to achieve this target, our customer satisfaction could be adversely affected, harming our business and reputation.
Our financial results may vary significantly from period-to-period due to the seasonality of our business and fluctuations in our operating costs.
Our operating results may vary significantly from period-to-period due to many factors, including seasonal factors that may have an effect on the demand for our electric vehicles. Demand for new cars in the automotive industry in general typically declines over the summer season, while sales are generally higher in the fourth quarter and spring time, especially from October to December and from March to April each year. Our limited operating history makes it difficult for us to judge the exact nature or extent of the seasonality of our business. Also, any unusually severe weather conditions in some markets may impact demand for our vehicles. Our operating results could also suffer if we do not achieve revenue consistent with our expectations for this seasonal demand because many of our expenses are based on anticipated levels of annual revenue.
We also expect our period-to-period operating results to vary based on our operating costs which we anticipate will increase significantly in future periods as we, among other things, design, develop and manufacture our electric vehicles and electric powertrain components, build and equip new manufacturing facilities to produce such components, open new NIO Houses and NIO Spaces, increase our sales and marketing activities, and increase our general and administrative functions to support our growing operations.
As a result of these factors, we believe that period-to-period comparisons of our operating results are not necessarily meaningful and that these comparisons cannot be relied upon as indicators of future performance. Moreover, our operating results may not meet expectations of equity research analysts or investors. If this occurs, the trading price of our ADSs could fall substantially either suddenly or over time.
If our vehicle owners customize our vehicles or change the charging infrastructure with aftermarket products, the vehicle may not operate properly, which may create negative publicity and could harm our business.
Automobile enthusiasts may seek to “hack” our vehicles to modify their performance which could compromise vehicle safety systems. Also, customers may customize their vehicles with after-market parts that can compromise driver safety. We do not test, nor do we endorse, such changes or products. In addition, the use of improper external cabling or unsafe charging outlets can expose our customers to injury from high voltage electricity. Such unauthorized modifications could reduce the safety of our vehicles and any injuries resulting from such modifications could result in adverse publicity which would negatively affect our brand and harm our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results.
We are subject to risks related to the investment in NIO China.
In February 2020, we entered into a collaboration framework agreement with the municipal government of Hefei, Anhui province, where our main manufacturing hub is located. Subsequently from April to June 2020, we entered into definitive agreements, as amended and supplemented, or the Hefei Agreements, for investments in NIO China with a group of investors, which we refer to as the Hefei Strategic Investors in this annual report. Under the Hefei Agreements, the Hefei Strategic Investors agreed to invest an aggregate of RMB7 billion in cash into NIO Holding Co., Ltd. (previously known as NIO (Anhui) Holding Co., Ltd.), or NIO China, a legal entity wholly owned by us pre-investment. We agreed to inject our core businesses and assets in China, including vehicle research and development, supply chain, sales and services and NIO Power, or together as the Asset Consideration, valued at RMB17.77 billion in total, into NIO China, and invest RMB4.26 billion in cash into NIO China. For more information, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Certain Other Cooperation Arrangements—Hefei Strategic Investors” included elsewhere in this annual report. For more information on the provisions of the Hefei Agreements, please refer to exhibits 4.30 to 4.38 of this annual report.
Pursuant to the Hefei Agreements, NIO China will establish its headquarters in the Hefei Economic and Technological Development Area, or HETA, where our main manufacturing hub is located, for its business operations, research and development, sales and services, supply chain and manufacturing functions. We will collaborate with the Hefei Strategic Investors and HETA to develop NIO China’s business and to support the accelerated development of the smart electric vehicle sectors in Hefei in the future.
Subsequent to the entry into the Hefei Agreements, the cash contribution obligations of us and the Hefei Strategic Partners have all been fulfilled and we have exercised the agreed-upon redemption right and capital increase right. In addition, in February 2021, we, through one of our wholly-owned subsidiaries, also purchased from two of the Hefei Strategic Investors an aggregate of 3.305% equity interests in NIO China for a total consideration of RMB5.5 billion and subscribed for newly increased registered capital of NIO China at a subscription price of RMB10.0 billion. As a result of these transactions, as of the date of this annual report, the registered capital of NIO China is approximately RMB6.167 billion, and we hold 90.360% controlling equity interests in NIO China. We are fulfilling our other obligations, including injecting the Asset Consideration into NIO China, in accordance with the Hefei Agreements.
Our collaboration with the Hefei Strategic Investors and HETA and our investment in NIO China are subject to a number of other risks, many of which are beyond our control. If any of the risks materializes, the business of NIO China and our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected, which could adversely affect the price of our ADSs. For example, we may not be able to perform our contractual obligations under the Hefei Agreements due to reasons beyond our control. As a result, we may be subject to liabilities and obligations under the Hefei Agreements and may not be able to achieve the expected benefits of the investment. We may need to obtain additional financing to fund our contractual obligations under the Hefei Agreements and such financing may not be available in the amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all.
In connection with this investment, NIO China granted certain minority shareholders’ rights to the Hefei Strategic Investors, including, among others, the right of first refusal, co-sale right, preemptive right, anti-dilution right, redemption right, liquidation preference and conditional drag-along right. You would not enjoy these preferential rights or treatment through investing in our ADSs and the underlying ordinary shares. Exercise of these preferential rights by the Hefei Strategic Investors may also adversely affect your investment in our Company.
In particular, the Hefei Strategic Investors may require us to redeem the shares of NIO China they hold under various circumstances, at a redemption price equal to the total amount of the investment price of the Hefei Strategic Investors plus an investment income calculated at a compound rate of 8.5% per annum upon the occurrence of certain events. If any of the triggering events of redemption occurs, we will need substantial capital to redeem the shares of NIO China held by the Hefei Strategic Investors. If we do not have adequate cash available or cannot obtain additional financing, or our use of cash is restricted by applicable law, regulations or agreements governing our current or future indebtedness, we may not be able to redeem shares of NIO China when required under the Hefei Shareholders Agreement, which would constitute an event of default under the Hefei Shareholders Agreement and subject us to liabilities.
In addition, before NIO China completes its potential qualified initial public offering, without the prior written consent of the Hefei Strategic Investors, we may not directly or indirectly transfer, pledge or otherwise dispose of NIO China’s shares to a third party that may result in our shareholding in NIO China falling below 60%. Without the prior written consent of the Hefei Strategic Investors, we have the right to directly or indirectly transfer, pledge or otherwise dispose of no more than 15% of NIO China’s shares.
Because we will inject the core businesses and assets into NIO China, the Hefei Strategic Investors will have senior claims over the assets of NIO China compared to NIO China’s other shareholders (i.e., our other subsidiaries) when a liquidation event of NIO China occurs. As a result, holders of our ADSs will be structurally subordinated to the Hefei Strategic Investors, which may negatively affect the value of the investment of ADS holders in our company. We may not have sufficient funding to repay our existing debts. Furthermore, the Hefei Strategic Investors will have voting rights with respect to various significant corporate matters of NIO China and its consolidated entities, such as change in NIO China’s corporate structure, change of its core business and amendment to its articles of association, which may significantly limit our ability to make certain major corporate decisions with regard to NIO China. Any of the foregoing could materially adversely affect your investment in our ADSs.
Our business plans require a significant amount of capital. In addition, our future capital needs may require us to issue additional equity or debt securities that may dilute our shareholders or introduce covenants that may restrict our operations or our ability to pay dividends.
We will need significant capital to, among other things, conduct research and development and expand our production capacity as well as roll out our power and servicing network and our NIO Houses and NIO Spaces. As we ramp up our production capacity and operations we may also require significant capital to maintain our property, plant and equipment and such costs may be greater than anticipated. We expect our capital expenditures to continue to be significant in the foreseeable future as we expand our business, and that our level of capital expenditures will be significantly affected by user demand for our products and services. The fact that we have a limited operating history means we have limited historical data on the demand for our products and services. As a result, our future capital requirements may be uncertain and actual capital requirements may be different from those we currently anticipate. We plan to seek equity or debt financing to finance a portion of our capital expenditures. Such financing might not be available to us in a timely manner or on terms that are acceptable, or at all. Our substantial amount of currently outstanding indebtedness may also affect our ability to obtain financing in a timely manner and on reasonable terms.
Our ability to obtain the necessary financing to carry out our business plan is subject to a number of factors, including general market conditions and investor acceptance of our business plan. These factors may make the timing, amount, terms and conditions of such financing unattractive or unavailable to us. If we are unable to raise sufficient funds, we will have to significantly reduce our spending, delay or cancel our planned activities or substantially change our corporate structure. We might not be able to obtain any funding, and we might not have sufficient resources to conduct our business as projected, both of which could mean that we would be forced to curtail or discontinue our operations.
In addition, our future capital needs and other business reasons could require us to issue additional equity or debt securities or obtain a credit facility. The sale of additional equity or equity-linked securities could dilute our shareholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased debt service obligations and could result in operating and financing covenants that would restrict our operations or our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.
We retain certain information about our users and may be subject to various privacy and consumer protection laws.
We use our vehicles’ electronic systems to log information about each vehicle’s use, such as charge time, battery usage, mileage and driving behavior, in order to aid us in vehicle diagnostics, repair and maintenance, as well as to help us customize and optimize the driving and riding experience. Our users may object to the use of this data, which may harm our business. Possession and use of our user’s driving behavior and data in conducting our business may subject us to legislative and regulatory burdens in China and other jurisdictions that could require notification of any data breach, restrict our use of such information and hinder our ability to acquire new customers or market to existing customers. If users allege that we have improperly released or disclosed their personal information, we could face legal claims and reputational damage. We may incur significant expenses to comply with privacy, consumer protection and security standards and protocols imposed by laws, regulations, industry standards or contractual obligations. If third parties improperly obtain and use the personal information of our users, we may be required to expend significant resources to resolve these problems.
Failure of information security and privacy concerns could subject us to penalties, damage our reputation and brand, and harm our business and results of operations.
We face significant challenges with respect to information security and privacy, including the storage, transmission and sharing of confidential information. We transmit and store confidential and private information of our car buyers, such as personal information, including names, accounts, user IDs and passwords, and payment or transaction related information.
We are required by PRC law to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, availability and authenticity of the information of our users, customers and distributors, which is also essential to maintaining their confidence in our vehicles and services. We have adopted strict information security policies and deployed advanced measures to implement the policies, including, among others, advanced encryption technologies. However, advances in technology, an increased level of sophistication and diversity of our products and services, an increased level of expertise of hackers, new discoveries in the field of cryptography or others can still result in a compromise or breach of the measures that we use. If we are unable to protect our systems, and hence the information stored in our systems, from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction, such problems or security breaches could cause a loss, give rise to our liabilities to the owners of confidential information or even subject us to fines and penalties. In addition, complying with various laws and regulations could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices, including our data practices, in a manner adverse to our business.
In addition, we may need to comply with increasingly complex and rigorous regulatory standards enacted to protect business and personal data in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. For example, the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, which became effective on May 25, 2018. The GDPR imposes additional obligations on companies regarding the handling of personal data and provides certain individual privacy rights to persons whose data is stored. Compliance with existing, proposed and recently enacted laws (including implementation of the privacy and process enhancements called for under GDPR) and regulations can be costly; any failure to comply with these regulatory standards could subject us to legal and reputational risks.
We generally comply with industry standards and are subject to the terms of our own privacy policies. Compliance with any additional laws could be expensive, and may place restrictions on the conduct of our business and the manner in which we interact with our customers. Any failure to comply with applicable regulations could also result in regulatory enforcement actions against us, and misuse of or failure to secure personal information could also result in violation of data privacy laws and regulations, proceedings against us by governmental entities or others, damage to our reputation and credibility and could have a negative impact on revenues and profits.
Significant capital and other resources may be required to protect against information security breaches or to alleviate problems caused by such breaches or to comply with our privacy policies or privacy-related legal obligations. The resources required may increase over time as the methods used by hackers and others engaged in online criminal activities are increasingly sophisticated and constantly evolving. Any failure or perceived failure by us to prevent information security breaches or to comply with privacy policies or privacy-related legal obligations, or any compromise of security that results in the unauthorized release or transfer of personally identifiable information or other customer data, could cause our customers to lose trust in us and could expose us to legal claims. Any perception by the public that online transactions or the privacy of user information are becoming increasingly unsafe or vulnerable to attacks could inhibit the growth of online retail and other online services generally, which may reduce the number of orders we receive.
Our warranty reserves may be insufficient to cover future warranty claims which could adversely affect our financial performance.
For the initial owner of the ES8, the ES6, the EC6, and the ET7, we provide an extended warranty, subject to certain conditions. In addition to the warranty required under the relevant PRC law, we also provide (i) a bumper-to-bumper three-year or 120,000-kilometer warranty, (ii) for critical EV components (battery pack, electrical motors, power electrical unit and vehicle control unit) an eight-year or 120,000-kilometer warranty, and (iii) a two-year or 50,000 kilometer warranty covering vehicle repair, replacement and refund. Our warranty program is similar to other vehicle manufacturer’s warranty programs intended to cover all parts and labor to repair defects in material or workmanship in the body, chassis, suspension, interior, electric systems, battery, electric powertrain and brake system. We plan to record and adjust warranty reserves based on changes in estimated costs and actual warranty costs. However, because we did not start making delivery of the ES8 until June 2018, of the ES6 until June 2019 and of the EC6 until September of 2020, and will not start making deliveries of the ET7 until the first quarter in 2022, we have little experience with warranty claims regarding our vehicles or with estimating warranty reserves. As of December 31, 2020, we had warranty reserves in respect of our vehicles of RMB952.9 million (US$146.0 million). We cannot assure you that such reserves will be sufficient to cover future claims. We could, in the future, become subject to a significant and unexpected warranty claims, resulting in significant expenses, which would in turn materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We may need to defend ourselves against patent or trademark infringement claims, which may be time-consuming and would cause us to incur substantial costs.
Companies, organizations or individuals, including our competitors, may hold or obtain patents, trademarks or other proprietary rights that would prevent, limit or interfere with our ability to make, use, develop, sell or market our vehicles or components, which could make it more difficult for us to operate our business. From time to time, we may receive communications from holders of patents or trademarks regarding their proprietary rights. Companies holding patents or other intellectual property rights may bring suits alleging infringement of such rights or otherwise assert their rights and urge us to take licenses. Our applications and uses of trademarks relating to our design, software or artificial intelligence technologies could be found to infringe upon existing trademark ownership and rights. In addition, if we are determined to have infringed upon a third party’s intellectual property rights, we may be required to do one or more of the following:
|●||cease selling, incorporating certain components into, or using vehicles or offering goods or services that incorporate or use the challenged intellectual property;|
|●||pay substantial damages;|
|●||seek a license from the holder of the infringed intellectual property right, which license may not be available on reasonable terms or at all;|
|●||redesign our vehicles or other goods or services; or|
|●||establish and maintain alternative branding for our products and services.|
In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us and our failure or inability to obtain a license to the infringed technology or other intellectual property right, our business, prospects, operating results and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected. In addition, any litigation or claims, whether or not valid, could result in substantial costs, negative publicity and diversion of resources and management attention.
We may not be able to prevent others from unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.
We regard our trademarks, service marks, patents, domain names, trade secrets, proprietary technologies and similar intellectual property as critical to our success. We rely on trademark and patent law, trade secret protection and confidentiality and license agreements with our employees and others to protect our proprietary rights.
We have invested significant resources to develop our own intellectual property. Failure to maintain or protect these rights could harm our business. In addition, any unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties may adversely affect our current and future revenues and our reputation.
Implementation and enforcement of PRC intellectual property-related laws have historically been deficient and ineffective. Accordingly, protection of intellectual property rights in China may not be as effective as in the United States or other countries with more developed intellectual property laws. Furthermore, policing unauthorized use of proprietary technology is difficult and expensive. We rely on a combination of patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret laws and restrictions on disclosure to protect our intellectual property rights. Despite our efforts to protect our proprietary rights, third parties may attempt to copy or otherwise obtain and use our intellectual property or seek court declarations that they do not infringe upon our intellectual property rights. Monitoring unauthorized use of our intellectual property is difficult and costly, and we cannot assure you that the steps we have taken or will take will prevent misappropriation of our intellectual property. From time to time, we may have to resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, which could result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources.
As our patents may expire and may not be extended, our patent applications may not be granted and our patent rights may be contested, circumvented, invalidated or limited in scope, our patent rights may not protect us effectively. In particular, we may not be able to prevent others from developing or exploiting competing technologies, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business operations, financial condition and results of operations.
As of December 31, 2020, we had 2,654 issued patents and 1,397 patent applications pending. For our pending application, we cannot assure you that we will be granted patents pursuant to our pending applications. Even if our patent applications succeed and we are issued patents in accordance with them, it is still uncertain whether these patents will be contested, circumvented or invalidated in the future. In addition, the rights granted under any issued patents may not provide us with meaningful protection or competitive advantages. The claims under any patents that issue from our patent applications may not be broad enough to prevent others from developing technologies that are similar or that achieve results similar to ours. The intellectual property rights of others could also bar us from licensing and exploiting any patents that issue from our pending applications. Numerous patents and pending patent applications owned by others exist in the fields in which we have developed and are developing our technology. These patents and patent applications might have priority over our patent applications and could subject our patent applications to invalidation. Finally, in addition to those who may claim priority, any of our existing or pending patents may also be challenged by others on the basis that they are otherwise invalid or unenforceable.
We have limited insurance coverage, which could expose us to significant costs and business disruption.
We have limited liability insurance coverage for our products and business operations. A successful liability claim against us due to injuries suffered by our users could materially and adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and reputation. In addition, we do not have any business disruption insurance. Any business disruption event could result in substantial cost to us and diversion of our resources.
We have a significant amount of debt, including our convertible senior notes, that are senior in capital structure and cash flow, respectively, to our shareholders. Satisfying the obligations relating to our debt could adversely affect the amount or timing of distributions to our shareholders or result in dilution.
As of December 31, 2020, we had RMB5,938.3 million (US$910.1 million) in total long-term borrowings outstanding, consisting primarily of (i) our 4.50% convertible senior notes due 2024; (ii) our convertible senior notes due 2022 issued in September 2019 to an affiliate of Tencent Holdings Limited; and (iii) our long-term bank debt, excluding the current portions of (iii) that are due within one year from December 31, 2020. Meanwhile, as of December 31, 2020, we had RMB1,550.0 million (US$237.5 million) in total short-term borrowings. In January 2021, we also issued US$750 million aggregate principal amount of 0.00% convertible senior notes due 2026, or the 2026 Notes, and US$750 million aggregate principal amount of 0.50% convertible senior notes due 2027, or the 2027 Notes.
In February 2019, we issued US$750 million aggregate principal amount of 4.50% convertible senior notes due 2024, or the 2024 Notes. The 2024 Notes are unsecured debt and are not redeemable by us prior to the maturity date except for certain changes in tax law. In accordance with the indenture governing the 2024 Notes, or the 2024 Notes Indenture, holders of the 2024 Notes may require us to purchase all or any portion of their notes on February 1, 2022 at a repurchase price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the 2024 Notes to be repurchased, plus accrued and unpaid interest. Holders of the 2024 Notes may also require us, upon a fundamental change (as defined in the 2024 Notes Indenture), to repurchase for cash all or part of their 2024 Notes at a fundamental change repurchase price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the 2024 Notes to be repurchased, plus accrued and unpaid interest. In connection with the issuance of the 2024 Notes, we entered into capped call transactions and zero-strike call option transactions. Shortly after the pricing of the 2026 Notes and the 2027 Notes in January 2021, we entered into separate and individually privately negotiated agreements with certain holders of the 2024 Notes to exchange approximately US$581.7 million principal amount of the outstanding 2024 Notes for ADSs (each, a "2024 Notes Exchange" and collectively, the "2024 Notes Exchanges"). The 2024 Notes Exchanges closed on January 15, 2021. In connection with the 2024 Notes Exchanges, we also entered into agreements with certain financial institutions that are parties to our existing capped call transactions (which we had entered into in February 2019 in connection with the issuance of the 2024 Notes) shortly after the pricing of the 2026 Notes and the 2027 Notes to terminate a portion of the relevant existing capped call transactions in a notional amount corresponding to the portion of the principal amount of such 2024 Notes exchanged. In connection with such terminations of the existing capped call transactions, we received deliveries of ADSs in such amounts as specified pursuant to such termination agreements on January 15, 2021.
In September 2019, each of an affiliate of Tencent Holdings Limited and Mr. Bin Li, our chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, subscribed for US$100 million principal amount of convertible notes, each in two equally split tranches, collectively the Affiliate Notes. The Affiliate Notes issued in the first tranche matured in 360 days from the issuance date, bore no interest, and required us to pay a premium at 2% of the principal amount at maturity. The Affiliate Notes issued in the second tranche will mature in three years from the issuance date, bear no interest, and require us to pay a premium at 6% of the principal amount at maturity. The 360-day Affiliate Notes are convertible into our Class A ordinary shares (or ADSs) at a conversion price of US$2.98 per ADS at the holder's option from the 15th day immediately prior to maturity, and the three- year Affiliate Notes are convertible into our Class A ordinary shares (or ADSs) at a conversion price of US$3.12 per ADS at the holder's option from the first anniversary of the issuance date. The holders of the three-year Affiliate Notes will have the right to require us to repurchase for cash all of the convertible notes or any portion thereof on February 1, 2022. As of December 31, 2020, the 360-day Affiliate Notes issued to each of an affiliate of Tencent Holdings Limited and Mr. Bin Li have been converted to Class A ordinary shares and the three-year Affiliate Notes issued to the wholly owned company of Mr. Bin Li have been converted to ADSs.
In February and March 2020, we issued and sold convertible notes in an aggregate principal amount of US$435 million due 2021, or the 2021 Notes, to several unaffiliated Asia based investment funds. The 2021 Notes bore zero interest. The holders of the 2021 Notes issued in February 2020 have the right to convert either all or part of the principal amount of the 2021 Notes into our Class A ordinary shares (or ADSs), prior to maturity and (a) from the date that is six months after the issuance date, at a conversion price of US$3.07 per ADS, or (b) upon the completion of a bona fide issuance of equity securities of our company for fundraising purposes, at the conversion price derived from such equity financing. The holders of the 2021 Notes issued in March 2020 have the right to convert either all or part of the principal amount of the 2021 Notes into our Class A ordinary shares (or ADSs), prior to maturity and from September 5, 2020, at a conversion price of US$3.50 per ADS, subject to certain adjustments. As of December 31, 2020, all of the 2021 Notes have been converted to ADSs.
In January 2021, we issued US$750 million aggregate principal amount of 0.00% convertible senior notes due 2026, or the 2026 Notes, and US$750 million aggregate principal amount of 0.50% convertible senior notes due 2027, or the 2027 Notes. The 2026 Notes and the 2027 Notes are unsecured debt. Prior to August 1, 2025, in the case of the 2026 Notes, and August 1, 2026, in the case of the 2027 Notes, the 2026 Notes and the 2027 Notes, as applicable, will be convertible at the option of the holders only upon satisfaction of certain conditions and during certain periods. Holders may convert their 2026 Notes or 2027 Notes, as applicable, at their option at any time on or after August 1, 2025, in the case of the 2026 Notes, or August 1, 2026, in the case of the 2027 Notes, until the close of business on the second scheduled trading day immediately preceding the relevant maturity date. Upon conversion, we will pay or deliver to such converting holders, as the case may be, cash, ADSs, or a combination of cash and ADSs, at our election. The initial conversion rate of the 2026 Notes is 10.7458 ADSs per US$1,000 principal amount of such 2026 Notes. The initial conversion rate of the 2027 Notes is 10.7458 ADSs per US$1,000 principal amount of such 2027 Notes. The relevant conversion rate for such series of the 2026 Notes and the 2027 Notes is subject to adjustment upon the occurrence of certain events. Holders of the 2026 Notes and the 2027 Notes may require us to repurchase all or part of their 2026 Notes and 2027 Notes for cash on February 1, 2024, in the case of the 2026 Notes, and February 1, 2025, in the case of the 2027 Notes, or in the event of certain fundamental changes, at a repurchase price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the 2026 Notes or the 2027 Notes to be repurchased, plus accrued and unpaid interest, if any, to, but excluding, the relevant repurchase date. In addition, on or after February 6, 2024, in the case of the 2026 Notes, and February 6, 2025, in the case of the 2027 Notes, until the 20th scheduled trading day immediately prior to the relevant maturity date, we may redeem the 2026 Notes or the 2027 Notes, as applicable for cash subject to certain conditions, at a redemption price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the 2026 Notes or the 2027 Notes to be redeemed, plus accrued and unpaid interest, if any, to, but excluding, the relevant optional redemption date. Furthermore, we may redeem all but not part of the 2026 Notes or the 2027 Notes in the event of certain changes in the tax laws.
Satisfying the obligations of all these indebtedness and interest liabilities could adversely affect the amount or timing of any distributions to our shareholders. We may choose to satisfy, repurchase, or refinance any of these liabilities through public or private equity or debt financings if we deem such financings available on favorable terms. If we do not have adequate cash available or cannot obtain additional financing, or our use of cash is restricted by applicable law, regulations or agreements governing our current or future indebtedness, we may not be able to repurchase any of these notes when required under the respective transaction documents, which would constitute an event of default under the respective transaction documents. An event of default could also lead to a default under other agreements governing our current and future indebtedness, and if the repayment of such other indebtedness were accelerated, we may not have sufficient funds to repay the indebtedness and repurchase any of these notes or make cash payments upon conversion of any of these notes. In addition, the holders of any of these notes may convert their notes to a number of our ADSs in accordance with the respective transaction documents. Any conversion will result in immediate dilution to the ownership interests of existing shareholders and such dilution could be material. Lastly, we are exposed to interest rate risk related to our portfolio of investments in debt securities and the debt that we have issued. Among other things, some of our bank loans carry floating interest, and increases in interest rates would result in a decrease in the fair value of our outstanding debt. In the event that we incur a decrease in the fair value of our outstanding debt, our financial performance will be adversely affected.
We may seek to obtain future financing through the issuance of debt or equity, which may have an adverse effect on our shareholders or may otherwise adversely affect our business.
If we raise funds through the issuance of additional equity or debt, including convertible debt or debt secured by some or all of our assets, holders of any debt securities or preferred shares issued will have rights, preferences and privileges senior to those of holders of our ordinary shares in the event of liquidation. The terms of the convertible notes we issued do not restrict our ability to issue additional debt. If additional debt is issued, there is a possibility that once all senior claims are settled, there may be no assets remaining to pay out to the holders of ordinary shares. In addition, if we raise funds through the issuance of additional equity, whether through private placements or public offerings, such an issuance would dilute ownership of our current shareholders that do not participate in the issuance. If we are unable to obtain any needed additional funding, we may be required to reduce the scope of, delay, or eliminate some or all of, our planned research, development, manufacturing and marketing activities, any of which could materially harm our business.
Furthermore, the terms of any additional debt securities we may issue in the future may impose restrictions on our operations, which may include limiting our ability to incur additional indebtedness, pay dividends on or repurchase our share capital, or make certain acquisitions or investments. In addition, we may be subject to covenants requiring us to satisfy certain financial tests and ratios, and our ability to satisfy such covenants may be affected by events outside of our control.
The terms of the convertible notes we issued could delay or prevent an attempt to take over our company.
The terms of the 2024 Notes, Affiliate Notes, 2026 Notes and 2027 Notes require us to repurchase the respective Notes in the event of a fundamental change. A takeover of our company would constitute a fundamental change. This could have the effect of delaying or preventing a takeover of our company that may otherwise be beneficial to our shareholders.
We are or may be subject to risks associated with strategic alliances or acquisitions.
We have entered into and may in the future enter into strategic alliances, including joint ventures or minority equity investments, with various third parties to further our business purpose from time to time. These alliances could subject us to a number of risks, including risks associated with sharing proprietary information, non-performance by the third party and increased expenses in establishing new strategic alliances, any of which may materially and adversely affect our business. We may have limited ability to monitor or control the actions of these third parties and, to the extent any of these strategic third parties suffers negative publicity or harm to their reputation from events relating to their business, we may also suffer negative publicity or harm to our reputation by virtue of our association with any such third party.
In addition, we may acquire additional assets, products, technologies or businesses that are complementary to our existing business. In addition to possible shareholder approval, we may have to obtain approvals and licenses from relevant government authorities for the acquisitions and to comply with any applicable PRC laws and regulations, which could result in increased delay and costs, and may derail our business strategy if we fail to do so. Furthermore, past and future acquisitions and the subsequent integration of new assets and businesses into our own require significant attention from our management and could result in a diversion of resources from our existing business, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our operations. Acquired assets or businesses may not generate the financial results we expect. Acquisitions could result in the use of substantial amounts of cash, potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, the occurrence of significant goodwill impairment charges, amortization expenses for other intangible assets and exposure to potential unknown liabilities of the acquired business. Moreover, the costs of identifying and consummating acquisitions may be significant.
If we fail to manage our growth effectively, we may not be able to market and sell our vehicles successfully.
We have expanded our operations, and as we ramp up our production, further significant expansion will be required, especially in connection with potential increased sales, providing our users with high-quality servicing, providing power solutions, expansion of our NIO House and NIO Space network and managing different models of vehicles. Our future operating results depend to a large extent on our ability to manage this expansion and growth successfully. Risks that we face in undertaking this expansion include, among others:
|●||managing a larger organization with a greater number of employees in different divisions;|
|●||controlling expenses and investments in anticipation of expanded operations;|
|●||establishing or expanding design, manufacturing, sales and service facilities;|
|●||implementing and enhancing administrative infrastructure, systems and processes; and|
|●||addressing new markets and potentially unforeseen challenges as they arise.|
Any failure to manage our growth effectively could materially and adversely affect our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition.
We have granted, and may continue to grant options and other types of awards under our share incentive plan, which may result in increased share-based compensation expenses.
We adopted share incentive plans in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, which we refer to as the 2015 Plan, the 2016 Plan, the 2017 Plan and the 2018 Plan, respectively, in this annual report, for the purpose of granting share-based compensation awards to employees, directors and consultants to incentivize their performance and align their interests with ours. The 2018 Plan became effective as of January 1, 2019. We recognize expenses in our consolidated statement of income in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Under our share incentive plans, we are authorized to grant options and other types of awards. Under the 2015 Plan, the 2016 Plan and the 2017 Plan, the maximum numbers of Class A ordinary shares which may be issued pursuant to all awards are 46,264,378, 18,000,000 and 33,000,000, respectively. Under the 2018 Plan, a maximum number of 23,000,000 Class A ordinary shares may be issued pursuant to all awards. This amount should automatically increase each year by the number of shares representing 1.5% of the then total issued and outstanding share capital of our company as of the end of each preceding year. As of December 31, 2020, awards to purchase an aggregate amount of 79,318,499 Class A ordinary shares under the 2015 Plan, the 2016 Plan, the 2017 Plan and the 2018 Plan had been granted and were outstanding, excluding awards that were forfeited or cancelled after the relevant grant dates. As of December 31, 2020, our unrecognized share-based compensation expenses amounted to RMB1,013.0 million (US$155.2 million).
We believe the granting of share-based awards is of significant importance to our ability to attract and retain key personnel and employees, and we will continue to grant share-based 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.
Furthermore, perspective candidates and existing employees often consider the value of the equity awards they receive in connection with their employment. Thus, our ability to attract or retain highly skilled employees may be adversely affected by declines in the perceived value of our equity or equity awards. Furthermore, there are no assurances that the number of shares reserved for issuance under our share incentive plans will be sufficient to grant equity awards adequate to recruit new employees and to compensate existing employees.
If we do not appropriately maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, we may be unable to accurately report our financial results and the market price of our ADSs may be adversely affected.
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, an independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of the company’s internal control over financial reporting.
In connection with the preparation and external audit of our consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2019, we and our independent registered public accounting firm identified one material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting and concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was ineffective as of December 31, 2019. The material weakness identified was that we do not have sufficient competent financial reporting and accounting personnel with an appropriate understanding of U.S. GAAP to (i) design and implement formal period-end financial reporting policies and procedures to address complex U.S. GAAP technical accounting issues and (ii) prepare and review our consolidated financial statements and related disclosures in accordance with U.S. GAAP and the financial reporting requirements set forth by the SEC.
Following the identification of the material weakness, we have taken measures to remedy the material weakness. Our management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2020 after the remediation. For details on these initiatives, please see “Item 15. Controls and Procedures—Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting.” In addition, our independent registered public accounting firm has audited the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020, as stated in its report, which appears on page F-2 of this annual report on Form 20-F.
In the future, our management may conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is not effective. 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 with adverse opinion 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 implement and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our consolidated 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 listed securities. Furthermore, we may need to incur additional costs and use additional management and other resources as our business and operations further expand or in an effort to remediate any significant control deficiencies that may be identified in the future. 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.
If our suppliers fail to use ethical business practices and comply with applicable laws and regulations, our brand image could be harmed due to negative publicity.
Our core values, which include developing high quality electric vehicles while operating with integrity, are an important component of our brand image, which makes our reputation sensitive to allegations of unethical business practices. We do not control our independent suppliers or their business practices. Accordingly, we cannot guarantee their compliance with ethical business practices, such as environmental responsibilities, fair wage practices, and compliance with child labor laws, among others. A lack of demonstrated compliance could lead us to seek alternative suppliers, which could increase our costs and result in delayed delivery of our products, product shortages or other disruptions of our operations.
Violation of labor or other laws by our suppliers or the divergence of an independent supplier’s labor or other practices from those generally accepted as ethical in the markets in which we do business could also attract negative publicity for us and our brand. This could diminish the value of our brand image and reduce demand for our electric vehicles if, as a result of such violation, we were to attract negative publicity. If we, or other manufacturers in our industry, encounter similar problems in the future, it could harm our brand image, business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition.
If we update our manufacturing equipment more quickly than expected, we may have to shorten the useful lives of any equipment to be retired as a result of any such update, and the resulting acceleration in our depreciation could negatively affect our financial results.
We and JAC have invested and expect to continue to invest significantly in what we believe is state of the art tooling, machinery and other manufacturing equipment for the product lines where the vehicles are manufactured, and we depreciate the cost of such equipment over their expected useful lives. However, manufacturing technology may evolve rapidly, and we or JAC may decide to update our manufacturing process with cutting-edge equipment more quickly than expected. Moreover, as our engineering and manufacturing expertise and efficiency increase, we or JAC may be able to manufacture our products using less of our installed equipment. The useful life of any equipment that would be retired early as a result would be shortened, causing the depreciation on such equipment to be accelerated, and to the extent we own such equipment, our results of operations could be negatively impacted.
The construction and operation of our manufacturing facilities are subject to regulatory approvals or filings and may be subject to changes, delays, cost overruns or may not produce expected benefits.
In 2017, we signed a framework agreement with the Shanghai Jiading government and its authorized investment entity to build and develop our own manufacturing facility in Jiading, Shanghai. In 2019, we agreed with the related contractual parties to cease construction of this planned manufacturing facility and terminate this development project, due to government policies that allow collaborative manufacturing between traditional automotive manufacturers and companies with a focus on research, development and design of new energy vehicles.
In February 2020, we entered into a collaboration framework agreement with the municipal government of Hefei, Anhui province, where our main manufacturing hub is located. Subsequently from April to June 2020, we entered into definitive agreements, as amended and supplemented, for investments in NIO China. Pursuant to the definitive agreements, we will collaborate with the Hefei Strategic Investors and HETA to develop NIO China’s business and to support the accelerated development of the smart electric vehicle sectors in Hefei in the future. In February 2021, we, through NIO China, entered into a further collaboration framework agreement with the municipal government of Hefei, Anhui province, pursuant to which Hefei government and NIO China agreed in principle to jointly build a world-class industrial campus to support the development and innovations of the smart electric vehicle industry and related supply chains led by NIO China. In addition, Hefei government and its associated parties plan to re-invest their returns from the equity investments in NIO China to support the further cooperation in Hefei.
Under PRC law, construction projects are subject to broad and strict government supervision and approval procedures, including but not limited to project approvals and filings, construction land and project planning approvals, environment protection approvals, pollution discharge permits, work safety approvals, fire protection approvals, and the completion of inspection and acceptance by relevant authorities. Some of the construction projects being carried out by us are undergoing necessary approval procedures as required by law. As a result, the relevant entities operating such construction projects may be subject to administrative uncertainty, and construction projects in question may be subject to fines or the suspension of use of such projects. Failure to complete the construction projects on schedule and within budget, and failure to obtain necessary approvals or any incompliance with relevant government supervision could have a material adverse impact on our operations, and we may not be able to find commercially reasonable alternatives.
Our vehicles make use of lithium-ion battery cells, which have been observed to catch fire or vent smoke and flame.
The battery packs that we produce make use of lithium-ion cells. On rare occasions, lithium-ion cells can rapidly release the energy they contain by venting smoke and flames in a manner that can ignite nearby materials as well as other lithium-ion cells. In June 2019, certain safety incidents resulting from the battery packs on ES8 vehicles occurred in Shanghai and other locations in China. We then voluntarily recalled 4,803 ES8s, and replaced the batteries in the NIO battery swap network equipped with the malfunctioned modules. While we have designed the battery pack to passively contain any single cell’s release of energy without spreading to neighboring cells, and have taken measures to enhance the safety of our battery designs, a field or testing failure of our vehicles or other battery packs that we produce could occur in the future, which could subject us to lawsuits, product recalls, or redesign efforts, all of which would be time-consuming and expensive. Also, negative public perceptions regarding the suitability of lithium-ion cells for automotive applications or any future incident involving lithium-ion cells such as a vehicle or other fire, even if such incident does not involve our vehicles, could seriously harm our business.
In addition, we store a significant number of lithium-ion cells at our facilities. Any mishandling of battery cells may cause disruption to the operation of our facilities. While we have implemented safety procedures related to the handling of the cells, a safety issue or fire related to the cells could disrupt our operations. Such damage or injury could lead to adverse publicity and potentially a safety recall. Moreover, any failure of a competitor’s electric vehicle or energy storage product may cause indirect adverse publicity for us and our products. Such adverse publicity could negatively affect our brand and harm our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results.
Interruption or failure of our information technology and communications systems could impact our ability to effectively provide our services.
We aim to provide our users with an innovative suite of services through our mobile application. In addition, our in-car services depend, to a certain extent, on connectivity. The availability and effectiveness of our services depend on the continued operation of our information technology and communications systems. Our systems are vulnerable to damage or interruption from, among other adverse effects, fire, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, power loss, telecommunications failures, computer viruses, computer denial of service attacks or other attempts to harm our systems. Our data centers are also subject to break-ins, sabotage, and intentional acts of vandalism, and to potential disruptions. Some of our systems are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning cannot account for all eventualities. Any problems at our data centers could result in lengthy interruptions in our service. In addition, our products and services are highly technical and complex and may contain errors or vulnerabilities, which could result in interruptions in our services or the failure of our systems.
We are subject to anti-corruption, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, financial and economic sanctions and similar laws, and non-compliance with such laws can subject us to administrative, civil and criminal fines and penalties, collateral consequences, remedial measures and legal expenses, all of which could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and reputation.
We are subject to anti-corruption, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, financial and economic sanctions and similar laws and regulations in various jurisdictions in which we conduct activities, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, the U.K. Bribery Act 2010, and other anti-corruption laws and regulations. The FCPA and the U.K. Bribery Act 2010 prohibit us and our officers, directors, employees and business partners acting on our behalf, including agents, from corruptly offering, promising, authorizing or providing anything of value to a “foreign official” for the purposes of influencing official decisions or obtaining or retaining business or otherwise obtaining favorable treatment. The FCPA also requires companies to make and keep books, records and accounts that accurately reflect transactions and dispositions of assets and to maintain a system of adequate internal accounting controls. The U.K. Bribery Act also prohibits non-governmental “commercial” bribery and soliciting or accepting bribes. A violation of these laws or regulations could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and reputation.
We have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies and state-owned affiliated entities in the ordinary course of business. We have also entered into joint ventures and/or other business partnerships with government agencies and state-owned or affiliated entities. These interactions subject us to an increased level of compliance-related concerns. We are in the process of implementing policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance by us and our directors, officers, employees, representatives, consultants, agents and business partners with applicable anti-corruption, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, financial and economic sanctions and similar laws and regulations. However, our policies and procedures may not be sufficient and our directors, officers, employees, representatives, consultants, agents, and business partners could engage in improper conduct for which we may be held responsible.
Non-compliance with anti-corruption, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering or financial and economic sanctions laws could subject us to whistleblower complaints, adverse media coverage, investigations, and severe administrative, civil and criminal sanctions, collateral consequences, remedial measures and legal expenses, all of which could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and reputation. In addition, changes in economic sanctions laws in the future could adversely impact our business and investments in our shares.
Any unauthorized control or manipulation of our vehicles’ systems could result in loss of confidence in us and our vehicles and harm our business.
Our vehicles contain complex information technology systems. For example, our vehicles are designed with built-in data connectivity to accept and install periodic remote updates from us to improve or update the functionality of our vehicles. We have designed, implemented and tested security measures intended to prevent unauthorized access to our information technology networks, our vehicles and their systems. However, hackers may attempt in the future, to gain unauthorized access to modify, alter and use such networks, vehicles and systems to gain control of, or to change, our vehicles’ functionality, user interface and performance characteristics, or to gain access to data stored in or generated by the vehicle. Vulnerabilities could be identified in the future and our remediation efforts may not be successful. Any unauthorized access to or control of our vehicles or their systems or any loss of data could result in legal claims or proceedings. In addition, regardless of their veracity, reports of unauthorized access to our vehicles, their systems or data, as well as other factors that may result in the perception that our vehicles, their systems or data are capable of being “hacked,” could negatively affect our brand and harm our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results.
We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics and other outbreaks, which could significantly disrupt our operations.
Our business could be adversely affected by the effects of epidemics. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of epidemics in China and globally. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of epidemics in China and globally. Our business operations could be disrupted if any of our employees are suspected of having epidemics, since it could require our employees to be quarantined and/or our offices to be disinfected. In addition, our results of operations could be adversely affected to the extent that the outbreak harms the Chinese economy in general.
We are also vulnerable to natural disasters and other calamities. Although we have servers that are hosted in an offsite location, our backup system does not capture data on a real-time basis and we may be unable to recover certain data in the event of a server failure. We cannot assure you that any backup systems will be adequate to protect us from the effects of fire, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, power loss, telecommunications failures, break-ins, war, riots, terrorist attacks or similar events. Any of the foregoing events may give rise to 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 provide services on our platform.
Our revenues and financial results may be adversely affected by any economic slowdown in China as well as globally.
The success of our business ultimately depends on consumer spending. We derive substantially all of our revenues from China. As a result, our revenues and financial results are impacted to a significant extent by economic conditions in China and globally. The global macroeconomic environment is facing numerous challenges. The growth rate of the Chinese economy has gradually slowed down since 2010 and the trend may continue. Any slowdown could significantly reduce domestic commerce in China, including through the internet generally and through us. In addition, there is considerable uncertainty over the long-term effects of the expansionary monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including the United States and China. Unrest, terrorist threats and the potential for war in the Middle East and elsewhere may increase market volatility across the globe. There have also been concerns about the relationship between China and other countries, including the surrounding Asian countries, which may potentially have economic effects. In particular, there is significant uncertainty about the future relationship between the United States and China with respect to trade policies, treaties, government regulations and tariffs. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the economies of China, the United States and numerous other countries around the world, and is expected to result in a severe global recession. Economic conditions in China are sensitive to global economic conditions, as well as changes in domestic economic and political policies and the expected or perceived overall economic growth rate in China. Any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global or Chinese economy may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Sales of high-end and luxury consumer products, such as our performance electric vehicles, depend in part on discretionary consumer spending and are even more exposed to adverse changes in general economic conditions. In response to their perceived uncertainty in economic conditions, consumers might delay, reduce or cancel purchases of our electric vehicles and our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Shutdowns of the U.S. federal government could materially impair our business and financial condition.
Development of our product candidates and/or regulatory approval may be delayed for reasons beyond our control. For example, over the last several years the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the SEC, have had to furlough critical SEC and other government employees and stop critical activities. In our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets, such as through delaying the declaration of effectiveness of registration statements, and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.
Rising international political tension, including changes in U.S. and international trade policies, particularly with regard to China, may adversely impact our business and operating results.
The U.S. government has made statements and taken certain actions that may lead to potential changes to U.S. and international trade policies towards China. In January 2020, the “Phase One” agreement was signed between the United States and China on trade matters. However, it remains unclear what additional actions, if any, will be taken by the U.S. or other governments with respect to international trade agreements, the imposition of tariffs on goods imported into the U.S., tax policy related to international commerce, or other trade matters. While cross-border business may not currently be an area of our focus, any unfavorable government policies on international trade, such as capital controls or tariffs, may affect the demand for our products and services, impact the competitive position of our products or prevent us from selling products in certain countries. Moreover, many of the recent policy updates in the U.S., including the Clean Network project initiated by the U.S. Department of State in August 2020 and the Entity List regime maintained and regularly updated by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security, may have unforeseen implications for our business. If any new tariffs, legislation and/or regulations are implemented, or if existing trade agreements are renegotiated or, in particular, if the U.S. government takes retaliatory trade actions due to the recent U.S.-China trade tension, such changes could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Additionally, the United States and various foreign governments have imposed controls, export license requirements and restrictions on the import or export of technologies and products (or voiced the intention to do so), especially related to semiconductor, AI and other high-tech areas, which may have a negative impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. For instance, India has banned a large number of apps in 2020 out of national security concerns, many of which are China-based apps, escalating regional political and trade tensions.
Recent disruptions in the financial markets and economic conditions could affect our ability to raise capital.
In recent years, the United States and global economies suffered dramatic downturns as the result of a deterioration in the credit markets and related financial crisis as well as a variety of other factors including, among other things, extreme volatility in security prices, severely diminished liquidity and credit availability, ratings downgrades of certain investments and declining valuations of others. The United States and certain foreign governments have taken unprecedented actions in an attempt to address and rectify these extreme market and economic conditions by providing liquidity and stability to the financial markets. If the actions taken by these governments are not successful, the return of adverse economic conditions may cause a significant impact on our ability to raise capital, if needed, on a timely basis and on acceptable terms or at all.
There are uncertainties relating to our users trust arrangement involving a portion of our chairman’s shareholding in our company.
In conjunction with our pursuit of being a user enterprise and with the goal of building a deeper connection between NIO and our users, Mr. Bin Li, our chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, transferred certain of his ordinary shares to NIO Users Trust after the completion of the initial public offering of our ADSs on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2018. Currently, NIO Users Trust holds 12,189,253 Class A ordinary shares and 37,810,747 Class C ordinary shares through a holding company controlled by it. Mr. Li continues to retain the voting rights of these shares. In 2019, our user committee adopted the NIO Users Trust Charter by way of voting, and established a User Council to generally manage the operation of NIO Users Trust. In this way, our users have the opportunity to discuss and manage the use of the economic benefits from the shares in NIO Users Trust through the User Council consisting of members of our user community elected by our users. The User Council helps coordinate user activity in our community, and the current second User Council has decided to focus their work on user care, industry sub-communities, public welfare and environmental protection in 2021.
The current NIO Users Trust Charter provides certain mechanisms for the User Council to manage and supervise the operations of NIO Users Trust. There is no assurance that such current mechanisms for managing the operations of NIO Users Trust we have adopted are to the satisfaction of all of our users, or that such mechanisms will be carried out in the way it was intended. The User Council may not be able to achieve its intended work focus or carry out their work effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, the accounting implications to us of the arrangement of NIO Users Trust cannot presently be ascertained.
We and certain of our directors and officers have been named as defendants in several shareholder class action lawsuits, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation.
Several putative shareholder class action lawsuits have been filed against us and certain of our directors and officers. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings” for more details. We are currently unable to estimate the potential loss, if any, associated with the resolution of such lawsuits, if they proceed. We anticipate that we will continue to be a target for lawsuits in the future, including putative class action lawsuits brought by shareholders. There can be no assurance that we will be able to prevail in our defense or reverse any unfavorable judgment on appeal, and we may decide to settle lawsuits on unfavorable terms. Any adverse outcome of these cases, including any plaintiffs’ appeal of the judgment in these cases, could result in payments of substantial monetary damages or fines, or changes to our business practices, and thus have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation. In addition, there can be no assurance that our insurance carriers will cover all or part of the defense costs, or any liabilities that may arise from these matters. The litigation process may utilize a significant portion of our cash resources and divert management’s attention from the day-to-day operations of our company, all of which could harm our business. We also may be subject to claims for indemnification related to these matters, and we cannot predict the impact that indemnification claims may have on our business or financial results.
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
If the PRC government deems that our contractual arrangements with our variable interest entity do not comply with PRC regulatory restrictions on foreign investment in 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.
Foreign ownership of certain areas of businesses is subject to restrictions under current PRC laws and regulations. For example, foreign investors are not allowed to own more than 50% of the equity interests in a value-added telecommunication service provider (except e-commerce) or in a vehicle manufacturer which manufactures the whole vehicle pursuant to the 2020 Negative List.
We are a Cayman Islands exempted company and our PRC subsidiaries are considered foreign-invested enterprises. To comply with the applicable PRC laws and regulations, we had planned to conduct certain operations that were then subject to restrictions on foreign investment in China through Shanghai NIO Energy Automobile Co., Ltd., or NIO New Energy. NIO Co., Ltd. owns 50% equity interests in NIO New Energy. Our founders Bin Li and Lihong Qin, through holding equity interests in Shanghai Anbin Technology Co., Ltd. indirectly own 40% and 10%, respectively, of the equity interests in NIO New Energy. With respect to the 50% equity interests of NIO New Energy indirectly held by the founders, we had entered into a series of contractual arrangements with Shanghai Anbin Technology Co., Ltd., or Shanghai Anbin, and its shareholders, which enabled us to (i) ultimately exercise effective control over such 50% equity interests of NIO New Energy, (ii) receive 50% of substantially all of the economic benefits and bear the obligation to absorb 50% of substantially all of the losses of NIO New Energy, and (iii) have an exclusive option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in Shanghai Anbin when and to the extent permitted by PRC laws, as a result of which we indirectly owned all or part of such 50% equity interests in NIO New Energy. Because of the ownership of 50% equity interests of NIO New Energy and these contractual arrangements, we were the primary beneficiary of NIO New Energy and hence consolidated its financial results as our variable interest entity under U.S. GAAP. On March 31, 2021, NIO Co., Ltd., or NIO WFOE, and Shanghai Anbin Technology Co., Ltd., or Shanghai Anbin, and each shareholder of Shanghai Anbin entered into a termination agreement pursuant to which each of the contractual agreements among NIO WFOE, Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders terminated as of the date of the agreement. In addition, we have also entered into a series of contractual arrangements with Beijing NIO Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing NIO, and its shareholders that enable us to hold all the required Internet content provision service, or the ICP, and related licenses in China. For a detailed description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Agreements with the VIE and Its Shareholders.”
In the opinion of Han Kun Law Offices, our PRC legal counsel, (i) the ownership structures of NIO Co., Ltd. and our variable interest entity in China do not result in any violation of PRC laws and regulations currently in effect; and (ii) the contractual arrangements between our wholly-owned subsidiary NIO Co., Ltd., our variable interest entity and its shareholders governed by PRC laws will not result in any violation of PRC laws or regulations currently in effect. However, we have been advised by our PRC legal counsel that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future PRC laws, regulations and rules, and there can be no assurance that the PRC regulatory authorities will take a view that is consistent with the opinion of our PRC legal counsel. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Investment in China” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Our business may be significantly affected by the newly enacted Foreign Investment Law.” 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.
If the ownership structure, contractual arrangements and businesses of our PRC subsidiaries or our variable interest entity are found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, or our PRC subsidiaries or our variable interest entity 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 PRC subsidiaries and variable interest entity;|
|●||imposing fines, confiscating the income from our PRC subsidiaries or our variable interest entity, or imposing other requirements with which we or our variable interest entity may not be able to comply;|
|●||requiring us to restructure our ownership structure or operations, including terminating the contractual arrangements with our variable interest entity and deregistering the equity pledge of our variable interest entity, which in turn would affect our ability to consolidate, derive economic interests from, or exert effective control over our variable interest entity; or|
|●||restricting or prohibiting our use of the proceeds of any financing outside China 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 variable interest entity that most significantly impact their economic performance, and/or our failure to receive the economic benefits from our variable interest entity, we may not be able to consolidate the entities in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.
We rely on contractual arrangements with our variable interest entity and its shareholders to exercise control over our business, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control.
We have relied on contractual arrangements with Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders to conduct a portion of our operations in China. On March 31, 2021, the contractual agreements with Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders were terminated. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Agreements with the VIE and Its Shareholders” for more information. We have relied and expect to continue to rely on contractual arrangements with Beijing NIO and its shareholders to conduct a portion of our operations in China. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Agreements with the VIE and Its Shareholders.” The shareholders of Beijing NIO 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 variable interest entity, or VIE, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to control our VIE to exercise rights of shareholders 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 Beijing NIO 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 Beijing NIO.
If Beijing NIO 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, and rely on legal remedies under PRC laws, including contractual remedies, which may not be sufficient or effective. All of the agreements under our contractual arrangements are governed by and interpreted in accordance with PRC laws, and disputes arising from these contractual arrangements will be resolved through arbitration in China. However, the legal framework and system in China, in particularly those relating to arbitration proceedings, are 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 laws, 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 the PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which would require additional expenses and delay. If we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, or if we suffer significant delay or face other obstacles in the process of enforcing these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our variable interest entity, and our ability to conduct our business may be negatively affected. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related 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.”
Our ability to enforce the equity pledge agreements between us and our PRC variable interest entity’ shareholders may be subject to limitations based on PRC laws and regulations.
Pursuant to the equity interest pledge agreements between Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO, our current and past variable interest entities, and NIO Co., Ltd., our wholly owned PRC subsidiary, and the respective shareholders of Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO, each shareholder of Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO agrees to pledge its equity interests in Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO to our subsidiary to secure Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO’s performance of its obligations under the relevant contractual arrangements. The equity interest pledges of shareholders of each of Beijing NIO and Shanghai Anbin under its equity interests pledge agreement have been registered with the relevant local branch of State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR. In addition, in the registration forms of the local branch of the SAMR for the pledges over the equity interests under the equity interest pledge agreements, the aggregate amount of registered equity interests pledged to NIO Co., Ltd. represents 100% of the registered capital of Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO. On March 31, 2021, equity interest pledge agreement among NIO WFOE, Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders were terminated, and the deregistration of the equity interest pledges of shareholders of Shanghai Anbin under its equity interests pledge agreement that were previously registered with the relevant local branch of the SAMR was completed. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Agreements with the VIE and Its Shareholders” for more information.
The equity interest pledge agreements with our variable interest entity’s shareholders provide that the pledged equity interests shall constitute continuing security for any and all of the indebtedness, obligations and liabilities under all of the principal service agreements and the scope of pledge shall not be limited by the amount of the registered capital of that variable interest entity. However, a PRC court may 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 interest pledge agreements in excess of the amount listed on the equity pledge registration forms could be determined by the PRC court as unsecured debt, which typically takes last priority among creditors.
The shareholders of our variable interest entity may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
Our founders, Bin Li and Lihong Qin, own 80% and 20%, respectively, of the equity interests in our variable interest entities, Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO. On March 31, 2021, the contractual agreements with Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders were terminated. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Agreements with the VIE and Its Shareholders” for more information. As shareholders of Beijing NIO, they may have potential conflicts of interest with us. These shareholders may breach, or cause our variable interest entity to breach, or refuse to renew, the existing contractual arrangements we have with them and our variable interest entity, which would have a material and adverse effect on our ability to effectively control our variable interest entity and receive economic benefits from it. For example, the shareholders may be able to cause our agreements with Beijing NIO to be performed in a manner adverse to us by, among other things, failing to remit payments due under the contractual arrangements to us on a timely basis. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these shareholders will act in the best interests of our company or such conflicts will be resolved in our favor.
Currently, we do not have any arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these shareholders and our company. Each of Bin Li and Lihong Qin is also a director and executive officer of our company. We rely on Bin Li and Lihong Qin to abide by the laws of the Cayman Islands and China, which provide that directors owe a fiduciary duty to the company that requires them to act in good faith and in what they believe to be the best interests of the company and not to use their position for personal gain. There is currently no specific and clear guidance under PRC laws that addresses any conflict between PRC laws and the laws of Cayman Islands in respect of any conflict relating to corporate governance. If we cannot resolve any conflict of interest or dispute between us and the shareholders of Beijing NIO, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and subject us to substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.
Our contractual arrangements with our current and past variable interest entities may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and they may determine that we or our current or past variable interest entities owe additional taxes, which could negatively affect our financial condition.
Under applicable PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities within ten years after the taxable year when the transactions are conducted. The PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law requires every enterprise in China to submit its annual enterprise income tax return together with a report on transactions with its related parties to the relevant tax authorities. The tax authorities may impose reasonable adjustments on taxation if they have identified any related party transactions that are inconsistent with arm’s length principles. We may face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements between NIO Co., Ltd., our wholly-owned subsidiary in China, Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO, our current and past variable interest entities in China, and Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO’s shareholders were not entered into on an arm’s length basis in such a way as to result in an impermissible reduction in taxes under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, and adjust Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO’s income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in a reduction of expense deductions recorded by Shanghai Anbin and Beijing NIO for PRC tax purposes, which could in turn increase their tax liabilities without reducing NIO Co., Ltd.’s tax expenses. On March 31, 2021, the contractual agreements with Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders were terminated. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Agreements with the VIE and Its Shareholders” for more information. However, we may face the material and adverse tax consequences described above with respect to our contractual agreements with Shanghai Anbin and its shareholders when such agreements were effective. In addition, if NIO Co., Ltd. requests the shareholders of Beijing NIO to transfer their equity interests in NIO Co., Ltd. at nominal or no value pursuant to the contractual agreements, such transfer could be viewed as a gift and subject NIO Co., Ltd. to PRC income tax. Furthermore, the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment fees and other penalties on Beijing NIO for the adjusted but unpaid taxes according to the applicable regulations. Our financial position could be materially and adversely affected if either of our current and past variable interest entities’ tax liabilities increase or if either is required to pay late payment fees and other penalties.
We may lose the ability to use and benefit from assets held by our variable interest entity that are material to the operation of our business if our variable interest entity goes bankrupt or becomes subject to dissolution or liquidation proceedings.
As part of our contractual arrangements with our variable interest entity, the entity may in the future hold certain assets that are material to the operation of our business. If our variable interest entity goes bankrupt and all or part of its assets become subject to liens or rights of third-party creditors, we may be unable to continue some or all of our business activities, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Under the contractual arrangements, our variable interest entity may not, in any manner, sell, transfer, mortgage or dispose of their assets or legal or beneficial interests in the business without our prior consent. If our variable interest entity undergoes voluntary or involuntary liquidation proceedings, unrelated third-party creditors may claim rights to some or all of these assets, thereby hindering our ability to operate our business, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Related 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 HFCA Act, was enacted on December 18, 2020. The HFCA Act 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.
On March 24, 2021, the SEC adopted interim final rules relating to the implementation of certain disclosure and documentation requirements of the HFCA Act. We will be required to comply with these rules if the SEC identifies us as having a “non-inspection” year under a process to be subsequently established by the SEC. The SEC is assessing how to implement other requirements of the HFCA Act, including the listing and trading prohibition requirements described above.
The SEC may propose additional rules 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 fulfil its statutory mandate. Some of the concepts of these recommendations were implemented with the enactment of the HFCA Act. However, some of the recommendations were more stringent than the HFCA Act. 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 HFCA Act 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 HFCA Act 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 HFCA Act. 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 the “big four” 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 Exchange Act.
In late 2012, the SEC commenced administrative proceedings under Rule 102(e) of its Rules of Practice and also under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act against the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms (including our auditors). The Rule 102(e) proceedings initiated by the SEC relate to these firms’ inability to produce documents, including audit work papers, in response to the request of the SEC pursuant to Section 106 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as the auditors located in the PRC are not in a position lawfully to produce documents directly to the SEC because of restrictions under PRC law and specific directives issued by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC. The issues raised by the proceedings are not specific to our auditors or to us, but affect equally all audit firms based in China and all China-based businesses with securities listed in the United States.
In January 2014, the administrative judge reached an initial decision, or the Initial Decision, that the Chinese affiliates of “big four” accounting firms should be barred from practicing before the SEC for six months. Thereafter, the accounting firms filed a petition for review of the Initial Decision, prompting the SEC commissioners to review the Initial Decision, determine whether there had been any violation and, if so, determine the appropriate remedy to be placed on these audit firms.
In February 2015, the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms (including our auditors) each agreed to censure and pay a fine to the SEC to settle the dispute and avoid suspension of their ability to practice before the SEC and audit U.S. listed companies. The settlement requires the firms to follow detailed procedures and to seek to provide the SEC with access to the Chinese firms’ audit documents via the CSRC. If they failed to meet the specified criteria during a period of four years starting from the settlement date, the SEC retained authority to impose a variety of additional remedial measures on the firms depending on the nature of the failure. Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the four China-based accounting firms was deemed dismissed with prejudice four years after entry of the settlement. The four-year mark occurred on February 6, 2019. While we cannot predict if the SEC will further challenge the four China-based accounting firms’ compliance with U.S. law in connection with U.S. regulatory requests for audit work papers or if the results of such a challenge would result in the SEC imposing penalties such as suspensions. If additional remedial measures are imposed on the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In the event the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” become subject to additional legal challenges by the SEC or PCAOB, 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 Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Securities Exchange Act, and could result in delisting. Moreover, any negative news about the proceedings against these audit firms may cause investor uncertainty regarding China-based, United States-listed companies and the market price of our shares may be adversely affected. If our independent registered public accounting firm were denied, 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 to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
Changes in China’s political or social conditions or government policies could have a material and adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Substantially all of our revenues are expected to be derived in China in the near future and most of our operations, including all of our manufacturing, is conducted in China. Accordingly, our results of operations, financial condition and prospects are influenced by economic, political and legal developments in China. China’s economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including with respect to the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. The PRC government exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through strategically allocating resources, controlling the payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth over the past decades, that growth has been uneven across different regions and between economic sectors and may not continue, as evidenced by the slowing of the growth of the Chinese economy since 2012. Any adverse changes in economic conditions in China, in the policies of the Chinese government or in the laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China. Such developments could adversely affect our business and operating results, leading to reduction in demand for our services and solutions and adversely affect our competitive position.
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 a civil law system based on written statutes. Unlike the common law system, prior court decisions may be cited for reference but have limited precedential value.
Our PRC subsidiaries are foreign-invested enterprises and are subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign-invested enterprises as well as various Chinese laws and regulations generally applicable to companies incorporated in China. However, since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system continues to rapidly evolve, the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules are not always uniform and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties.
From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC administrative and court authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be more difficult to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of protection we enjoy than in more developed legal systems. Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules, some of which are not published on a timely basis or at all, and which may have a retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of any of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Such uncertainties, including uncertainty over the scope and effect of our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights, and any failure to respond to changes in the regulatory environment in China could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.
Our business may be significantly affected by the newly enacted Foreign Investment Law.
On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress promulgated the Foreign Investment Law, which has become effective on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the PRC Equity Joint Venture Law, the PRC Cooperative Joint Venture Law and the Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. Since the Foreign Investment Law is newly enacted, uncertainties still exist in relation to its interpretation and implementation. The Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify whether variable interest entities that are controlled via contractual arrangements would be deemed as foreign invested enterprises if they are ultimately “controlled” by foreign investors. However, it has a catch-all provision under definition of “foreign investment” to include investments made by foreign investors in China through means stipulated by laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, it still leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. There can be no assurance that our contractual arrangements will not be deemed to be in violation of the market access requirements for foreign investment under the PRC laws and regulations.
The Foreign Investment Law grants national treatment to foreign invested entities, except for those foreign invested entities that operate in industries deemed to be either “restricted” or “prohibited” in the “negative list” to be published. Because the “negative list” has yet been published, it is unclear as to whether it will differ from the 2020 Negative List currently in effect. The Foreign Investment Law provides that only foreign invested entities operating in foreign restricted or prohibited industries will require entry clearance and other approvals that are not required by PRC domestic entities or foreign invested entities operating in other industries. In the event that our variable interest entity through which we operate our business is not treated as domestic investment and our operations carried out through such variable interest entity are classified in the “restricted” or “prohibited” industry in the “negative list” under the Foreign Investment Law, such contractual arrangements may be deemed as invalid and illegal, and we may be required to unwind such contractual arrangements and/or dispose of such business.
Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions 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. In addition, the Foreign Investment Law provides that existing foreign invested enterprises established according to the existing laws regulating foreign investment may maintain their structure and corporate governance within five years after the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law, which means that we may be required to adjust the structure and corporate governance of certain of our PRC entities then. 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.
We may be adversely affected by the complexity, uncertainties and changes in PRC regulations on internet-related business, automotive businesses and other business carried out by our PRC subsidiaries.
We operate in the automotive and internet industry, both of which are extensively regulated by the PRC government. For example, the PRC government imposes foreign ownership restrictions and licensing and permit requirements for companies in the internet industry. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Investment in China” and “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Value-added Telecommunications Services.” Manufacturing of our vehicles is subject to extensive regulations in China. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations and Approvals Covering the Manufacturing of Pure Battery Electric Passenger Vehicles.” These 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 and furthermore, we cannot assure you that we have complied or will be able to comply with all applicable laws at all times. Consequently, we could face the risks of being subject to governmental investigations, orders by the competent authorities for rectification, administrative penalties or other legal proceedings.
Currently we rely on the contractual arrangements with Beijing NIO, our variable interest entity, to hold an ICP license, and separately own the relevant domain names and trademarks in connection with our internet services and operate our website and mobile application through NIO Co., Ltd. Our internet services may be treated as a value-added telecommunications business. If so, we may be required to transfer the domain names, trademark and the operations of the internet services from NIO Co., Ltd. to Beijing NIO, and we may also be subject to administrative penalties. Further, any challenge to the validity of these arrangements may significantly disrupt our business, subject us to sanctions, compromise enforceability of our contractual arrangements, or have other harmful effects on us. It is uncertain if Beijing NIO or NIO Co., Ltd. will be required to obtain a separate operating license for certain services carried out by us through our mobile application in addition to the valued-added telecommunications business operating licenses for internet content provision services, and if Beijing NIO will be required to supplement our current ICP license in the future.
In addition, our mobile applications are also regulated by the Administrative Provisions on Mobile Internet Applications Information Services, or the APP Provisions, promulgated by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, on June 28, 2016 and effective on August 1, 2016. According to the APP Provisions, the providers of mobile applications shall not create, copy, publish or distribute information and content that is prohibited by laws and regulations. However, we cannot assure that all the information or content displayed on, retrieved from or linked to our mobile applications complies with the requirements of the APP Provisions at all times. If our mobile applications were found to be violating the APP Provisions, we may be subject to administrative penalties, including warning, service suspension or removal of our mobile applications from the relevant mobile application store, which may materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
The interpretation and application of existing PRC laws, regulations and policies and possible new laws, regulations or policies relating to the internet industry, particularly the policies relating to value-added telecommunications services, have created substantial uncertainties regarding the legality of existing and future foreign investments in the businesses and activities of internet businesses in China, including our business.
Several PRC regulatory authorities, such as the SAMR, the NDRC, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT, and the MOFCOM, oversee different aspects of our operations, and we are required to obtain a wide range of government approvals, licenses, permits and registrations in connection with our operations. For example, certain filings must be made by automobile dealers through the information system for the national automobile circulation operated by the relevant commerce department within 90 days after the receipt of a business license. Furthermore, the NEV industry is relatively new in China, and the PRC government has not adopted a clear regulatory framework to regulate the industry. As some of the laws, rules and regulations that we may be subject to were primarily enacted with a view toward application to ICE vehicles, or are relatively new, there is significant uncertainty regarding their interpretation and application with respect to our business. For example, it remains unclear under PRC laws whether our charging vans need to be registered with related local traffic management authorities or obtain transportation operation licenses for their services, and whether we would be required to obtain any particular permit or license to be qualified to provide our charging services in cooperation with third-party charging stations. In addition, the PRC government may enact new laws and regulations that require additional licenses, permits, approvals and/or registrations for the operation of any of our existing or future business. As a result. We cannot assure you that we have all the permits, licenses, registrations, approvals and/or business license covering the sufficient scope of business required for our business or that we will be able to obtain, maintain or renew permits, licenses, registrations, approvals and/or business license covering sufficient scope of business in a timely manner or at all.
We may rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our PRC subsidiaries to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have, and any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to make payments to us could have a material and adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business.
We are a holding company, and we may rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our PRC subsidiaries 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. Current PRC regulations permit our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us only out of their accumulated after-tax profits upon satisfaction of relevant statutory conditions and procedures, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, each of our PRC subsidiaries is required to set aside at least 10% of its after-tax profits each year, if any, to fund certain reserve funds until the total amount set aside reaches 50% of its registered capital. As of December 31, 2020, most of our PRC subsidiaries and our variable interest entities at that time had not made appropriations to statutory reserves as our PRC subsidiaries and our variable interest entities at that time reported accumulated loss. For a detailed discussion of applicable PRC regulations governing distribution of dividends, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Dividend Distribution.” Additionally, if our PRC subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing their debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us. Furthermore, the PRC tax authorities may require our subsidiaries to adjust their taxable income under the contractual arrangements they currently have in place with our variable interest entity in a manner that would materially and adversely affect their ability to pay dividends and other distributions to us. See “—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—Our contractual arrangements with our current and past variable interest entities may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and they may determine that we or our current and past variable interest entities owe additional taxes, which could negatively affect our financial condition.” In addition, the incurrence of indebtedness by our PRC subsidiaries could result in operating and financing covenants and undertakings to creditors that would restrict the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us.
Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries 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 “—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.”
Increases in labor costs and enforcement of stricter labor laws and regulations in the PRC may adversely affect our business and our profitability.
China’s overall economy and the average wage in China have increased in recent years and are expected to grow. The average wage level for our employees has also increased in recent years. We expect that our labor costs, including wages and employee benefits, will increase. Unless we are able to pass on these increased labor costs to those who pay for our services, our profitability and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, we have been subject to stricter regulatory requirements in terms of entering into labor contracts with our employees, limitation with respect to utilization of labor dispatching, applying for foreigner work permits, labor protection and labor condition and paying various statutory employee benefits, including pensions, housing fund, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance to designated government agencies for the benefit of our employees. Pursuant to the PRC Labor Contract Law and its implementation rules, employers are subject to stricter requirements in terms of signing labor contracts, minimum wages, paying remuneration, determining the term of employee’s probation and unilaterally terminating labor contracts. In the event that we decide to terminate some of our employees or otherwise change our employment or labor practices, the PRC Labor Contract Law and its implementation rules may limit our ability to effect those changes in a desirable or cost-effective manner, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Companies registered and operating in China are required under the PRC Social Insurance Law (latest amended in 2018) and the Regulations on the Administration of Housing Funds (latest amended in 2019) to, apply for social insurance registration and housing fund deposit registration within 30 days of their establishment, and to pay for their employees different social insurance including pension insurance, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance to the extent required by law. However, certain of our PRC subsidiaries and VIE that do not hire any employees and are not a party to any employment agreement, have not applied for and obtained such registration, and instead of paying the social insurance payment on their own for their employees, certain of our PRC subsidiaries and VIE use third-party agencies to pay in the name of such agency. We could be subject to orders by the competent labor authorities for rectification and failure to comply with the orders may further subject us to administrative fines.
As the interpretation and implementation of labor-related laws and regulations are still evolving, our employment practices may violate labor-related laws and regulations in China, which may subject us to labor disputes or government investigations. We cannot assure you that we have complied or will be able to comply with all labor-related law and regulations including those relating to obligations to make social insurance payments and contribute to the housing provident funds. If we are deemed to have violated relevant labor laws and regulations, we could be required to provide additional compensation to our employees and our business, financial condition and results of operations will be adversely affected.
Furthermore, in order to control labor costs, we conducted a series of organizational restructuring to cut headcount in 2019, which we believe has negatively affected our reputation, brand image and our ability to retain the remaining qualified staff and skilled employees. We could undertake an organizational restructuring again in the future, the occurrence of which will pose negative implications on our competitive position, cost us qualified employees and subject us to potential employment lawsuits. Any of the above would negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations.
The conversion of RMB into foreign currencies, including U.S. dollars, is based on rates set by the People’s Bank of China. The RMB has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. The value of RMB 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. We cannot assure you that RMB will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between RMB and the U.S. dollar in the future.
Any significant appreciation or depreciation of RMB may materially and adversely affect our revenues, earnings and financial position, and the value of, and any dividends payable on, our ADSs in U.S. dollars. For example, to the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars we receive into RMB to pay our operating expenses, appreciation of RMB against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the RMB amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, a significant depreciation of RMB against the U.S. dollar may significantly reduce the U.S. dollar equivalent of our earnings, which in turn could adversely affect the price of our ADSs.
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 RMB into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of currency conversion may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of our offshore equity offerings to make loans to or 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.
Under PRC laws and regulations, we are permitted to utilize the proceeds of any financing outside China to fund our PRC subsidiaries by making loans to or additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries, subject to applicable government registration, statutory limitations on amount and approval requirements. For more details, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Exchange.” These PRC laws and regulations may significantly limit our ability to use Renminbi converted from the net proceeds of any financing outside China to fund the establishment of new entities in China by our PRC subsidiaries, to invest in or acquire any other PRC companies through our PRC subsidiaries, or to establish new variable interest entities in China. Moreover, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the necessary registrations or obtain the necessary government approvals on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans to our PRC subsidiaries or future capital contributions by us to our PRC subsidiaries. If we fail to complete such registrations or obtain such approvals, our ability to use the proceeds we received or expect to receive from our offshore offerings 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.
On December 26, 2017, the NDRC issued the Management Rules for Overseas Investment by Enterprises, or Order 11. On February 11, 2018, the Catalog on Overseas Investment in Sensitive Industries (2018 Edition), or the Sensitive Industries List was promulgated. Overseas investment governed by Order 11 refers to the investment activities conducted by an enterprise located in the territory of China either directly or via an overseas enterprise under its control through making investment with assets and equities or providing financing or guarantees in order to obtain overseas ownership, control, management rights and other related interests, and overseas investment by a PRC individual through overseas enterprises under his/her control is also subject to Order 11. According to Order 11, before being conducted, any overseas investment in a sensitive industry or any direct investment by a Chinese enterprise in a non-sensitive industry but with an investment amount over US$300 million requires approval from, or filing with, the NDRC, and for those non-sensitive investments indirectly by Chinese investors (including PRC individuals) with investment amounts over US$300 million need to be reported. However, uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation and application of Order 11, we are not sure whether our using of proceeds will be subject to Order 11. If we fail to obtain the approval, complete the filing or report our overseas investment with our proceeds (as the case may be) in a timely manner provided that Order 11 is applicable, we may be forced to suspend or cease our investment, or be subject to penalties or other liabilities, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
Governmental control of currency conversion may limit our ability to utilize our revenues effectively.
The PRC government imposes controls on the convertibility of Renminbi into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payments of current account items, such as profit distributions and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior approval from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, by complying with certain procedural requirements. However, approval from or registration with appropriate governmental authorities is required where Renminbi is to be converted into a foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses, such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Exchange.”
Since 2016, the PRC government has tightened its foreign exchange policies again and stepped up scrutiny of major outbound capital movement. More restrictions and a substantial vetting process have been put in place by SAFE to regulate cross-border transactions falling under the capital account. The PRC government may also restrict access in the future to foreign currencies for current account transactions, at its discretion. We receive substantially all of our revenues in RMB. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currencies to satisfy our foreign currency demands, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of our ADSs.
PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us or otherwise expose us or our PRC resident beneficial owners to liability and penalties under PRC law.
SAFE requires PRC residents or entities to register with SAFE or its local branch in connection with their establishment or control of an offshore entity established for the purpose of overseas investment or financing. In addition, such PRC residents or entities must update their SAFE registrations when the offshore special purpose vehicle undergoes certain material events. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Foreign Exchange—Offshore Investment.”
If our shareholders who are PRC residents or entities do not complete their registration with the local SAFE branches, our PRC subsidiaries may be prohibited from distributing their profits and any proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation to us, and we may be restricted in our ability to contribute additional capital to our PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with SAFE registration requirements could result in liability under PRC laws for evasion of applicable foreign exchange restrictions.
However, we may not be informed of the identities of all the PRC residents or entities holding direct or indirect interests in our company, nor can we compel our beneficial owners to comply with SAFE registration requirements. As a result, we cannot assure you that all of our shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC residents or entities have complied with, and will in the future make or obtain any applicable registrations or approvals required by, SAFE regulations. Failure by such shareholders or beneficial owners to comply with SAFE regulations, or failure by us to amend the foreign exchange registrations of our PRC subsidiaries, could subject us to fines or legal sanctions, restrict our overseas or cross-border investment activities, limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to make distributions or pay dividends to us or affect our ownership structure, which could adversely affect our business and prospects.
China’s M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for certain 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 Rules on Acquisition of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, adopted by six PRC governmental and 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 MOFCOM be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. In addition, the Anti-Monopoly Law requires that the MOFCOM 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 MOFCOM, 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 MOFCOM, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
Any failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee stock incentive plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.
Under SAFE regulations, PRC residents who participate in a stock incentive plan in an overseas publicly listed company are required to register with SAFE or its local branches and complete certain other procedures. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations on Employment and Social Welfare—Employee Stock Incentive Plan.” We and our PRC resident employees who participate in our share incentive plans are subject to these regulations since we became a public company listed in the United States. If we or any of these PRC resident employees fail to comply with these regulations, we or such employees may be subject to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions. We also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional incentive plans for our directors, executive officers and employees under PRC law.
Discontinuation of any of the preferential tax treatments and government subsidies or imposition of any additional taxes and surcharges could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our PRC subsidiaries currently benefit from a number of preferential tax treatments. For example, our subsidiary, NIO Co., Ltd., is entitled to enjoy, after completing certain application formalities, a 15% preferential enterprise income tax from 2018 as it has been qualified as a “High New Technology Enterprise” under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and related regulations. The discontinuation of any of the preferential income tax treatment that we currently enjoy could have a material and adverse effect on our result of operations and financial condition. We cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain or lower our current effective tax rate in the future.
In addition, our PRC subsidiaries have received various financial subsidies from PRC local government authorities. The financial subsidies result from discretionary incentives and policies adopted by PRC local government authorities. For example, our subsidiary, XPT (Nanjing) E-Powertrain Technology Co., Ltd., has received subsidies of an aggregate of RMB7.49 million for the phase I construction of the Nanjing Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Center as of December 31, 2020. Local governments may decide to change or discontinue such financial subsidies at any time. The discontinuation of such financial subsidies or imposition of any additional taxes could adversely affect 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.
Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules, an enterprise established outside of the PRC with a “de facto management body” within the PRC is considered a PRC resident enterprise. The implementation rules define the term “de facto management body” as the body that exercises full and substantial control over and overall management of the business, productions, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. In 2009, the State Administration of Taxation issued a circular, known as Circular 82, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a PRC-controlled enterprise that is incorporated offshore is located in China. Although Circular 82 only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise groups, not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners like us, the criteria set forth in the circular may reflect the State Administration of Taxation’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of all offshore enterprises. According to Circular 82, an offshore incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its global income only if all of the following conditions are met: (i) the primary location of the day-to-day operational management is in the PRC; (ii) decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or are subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC; (iii) the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals, and board and shareholder resolutions, are located or maintained in the PRC; and (iv) at least 50% of voting board members or senior executives habitually reside in the PRC.
We believe that none of our entities outside of China is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body.” If the PRC tax authorities determine that we are a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, we will be subject to the enterprise income tax on our global income at the rate of 25% and we will be required to comply with PRC enterprise income tax reporting obligations. In addition, we may be required to withhold a 10% withholding tax from interest or dividends we pay to our shareholders that are non-PRC resident enterprises, including the holders of our ADSs. In addition, non-PRC resident enterprise shareholders (including our ADS holders) may be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 10% on gains realized on the sale or other disposition of our ADSs or ordinary shares, if such income is treated as sourced from within the PRC. Furthermore, if PRC tax authorities determine that we are a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, interest or dividends paid to our non-PRC individual shareholders (including our ADS holders) and any gain realized on the transfer of the ADSs or ordinary shares by such holders may be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 20% (which, in the case of interest or dividends, may be withheld at source by us), if such gains are deemed to be from PRC sources. These rates may be reduced by an applicable tax treaty, but it is unclear whether our non-PRC shareholders would be able to claim the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise.
We may not be able to obtain certain benefits under relevant tax treaty on dividends paid by our PRC subsidiaries to us through our Hong Kong subsidiary.
We are a holding company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands and as such rely on dividends and other distributions on equity from our PRC subsidiaries to satisfy part of our liquidity requirements. Pursuant to the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, a withholding tax rate of 10% currently applies to dividends paid by a PRC “resident enterprise” to a foreign enterprise investor, unless any such foreign investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for preferential tax treatment. Pursuant to the Arrangement between Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Tax Evasion on Income, such withholding tax rate may be lowered to 5% if a Hong Kong resident enterprise owns no less than 25% of a PRC enterprise. Furthermore, the Administrative Measures for Non-Resident Enterprises to Enjoy Treatments under Treaties, which became effective in January 2020, require non-resident enterprises to determine whether they are qualified to enjoy the preferential tax treatment under the tax treaties and file relevant report and materials with the tax authorities. There are also other conditions for enjoying the reduced withholding tax rate according to other relevant tax rules and regulations. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—People’s Republic of China Taxation.” As of December 31, 2020, most of our subsidiaries and variable interest entities at that time located in the PRC reported accumulated loss and therefore they had no retained earnings for offshore distribution. In the future, we intend to re-invest all earnings, if any, generated from our PRC subsidiaries for the operation and expansion of our business in China. Should our tax policy change to allow for offshore distribution of our earnings, we would be subject to a significant withholding tax. Our determination regarding our qualification to enjoy the preferential tax treatment could be challenged by the relevant tax authority and we may not be able to complete the necessary filings with the relevant tax authority and enjoy the preferential withholding tax rate of 5% under the arrangement with respect to dividends to be paid by our PRC subsidiaries to our Hong Kong subsidiary.
We face uncertainty with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises by their non-PRC holding companies.
In February 2015, the State Administration of Taxation, or the SAT, issued the Circular on Issues of Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Transfers of Assets by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises, or Circular 7. Circular 7 extends its tax jurisdiction to not only indirect transfers but also transactions involving transfer of other taxable assets, through the offshore transfer of a foreign intermediate holding company. In addition, Circular 7 provides certain criteria on how to assess reasonable commercial purposes and has introduced safe harbors for internal group restructurings and the purchase and sale of equity through a public securities market. Circular 7 also brings challenges to both the foreign transferor and transferee (or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer) of the taxable assets. Where a non-resident enterprise conducts an “indirect transfer” by transferring the taxable assets indirectly by disposing of the equity interests of an overseas holding company, the non-resident enterprise being the transferor, or the transferee, or the PRC entity which directly owned the taxable assets may report to the relevant tax authority such indirect transfer. Using a “substance over form” principle, the PRC tax authority may disregard the existence of the overseas holding company if it lacks a reasonable commercial purpose and was established for the purpose of reducing, avoiding or deferring PRC tax. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, and the transferee or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer is obligated to withhold the applicable taxes, currently at a rate of 10% for the transfer of equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise. On October 17, 2017, the SAT issued Circular on Issues of Tax Withholding regarding Non-PRC Resident Enterprise Income Tax, or Circular 37, which came into effect on December 1, 2017 and was amended on June 15, 2018. Circular 37 further clarifies the practice and procedure of the withholding of nonresident enterprise income tax.
We face uncertainties on the reporting and consequences of future private equity financing transactions, share exchanges or other transactions involving the transfer of shares in our company by investors that are non-PRC resident enterprises. The PRC tax authorities may pursue such non-PRC resident enterprises with respect to a filing or the transferees with respect to withholding obligations, and request our PRC subsidiaries to assist in the filing. As a result, we and non-PRC resident enterprises in such transactions may become at risk of being subject to filing obligations or being taxed under Circular 7 and Circular 37, and may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with them or to establish that we and our non-PRC resident enterprises should not be taxed under these regulations, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
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 are executed using the chops or seal 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.
Although we usually utilize chops to enter into contracts, the designated legal representatives of each of our PRC subsidiaries and variable interest entity have the apparent authority to enter into contracts on behalf of such entities without chops and bind such entities. All designated legal representatives of our PRC subsidiaries and variable interest entity are members of our senior management team who have signed employment agreements with us or our PRC subsidiaries and variable interest entity under which they agree to abide by various duties they owe to us. In order to maintain the physical security of our chops and chops of our PRC entities, we generally store these items in secured locations accessible only by the authorized personnel in the legal or finance department of each of our subsidiaries and variable interest entity. 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 PRC subsidiaries or variable interest entity, we or our PRC subsidiaries or variable interest entity would need to pass a new shareholders or board resolution to designate a new legal representative and we would need to take legal action 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.
Our leased property interest or entitlement to other facilities or assets may be defective or subject to lien and our right to lease, own or use the properties affected by such defects or lien challenged, which could cause significant disruption to our business.
Under PRC laws, all lease agreements are required to be registered with the local housing authorities. We presently lease several premises in China, some of which have not completed the registration of the ownership rights or the registration of our leases with the relevant authorities. Failure to complete these required registrations may expose our landlords, lessors and us to potential monetary fines. If these registrations are not obtained in a timely manner or at all, we may be subject to monetary fines or may have to relocate our offices and incur the associated losses.
Some of the ownership certificates or other similar proof of certain leased properties have not been provided to us by the relevant lessors. Therefore, we cannot assure you that such lessors are entitled to lease the relevant real properties to us. If the lessors are not entitled to lease the real properties to us and the owners of such real properties decline to ratify the lease agreements between us and the respective lessors, we may not be able to enforce our rights to lease such properties under the respective lease agreements against the owners. If our lease agreements are claimed as null and void by third parties who are the real owners of such leased real properties, we could be required to vacate the properties, in the event of which we could only initiate the claim against the lessors under relevant lease agreements for indemnities for their breach of the relevant leasing agreements. In addition, we may not be able to renew our existing lease agreements before their expiration dates, in which case we may be required to vacate the properties. We cannot assure you that suitable alternative locations are readily available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, and if we are unable to relocate our operations in a timely manner, our operations may be adversely affected.
Some of our PRC subsidiaries have incurred or will incur indebtedness and may, in connection therewith, create mortgage, pledge or other lien over substantive operating assets, facilities or equity interests of certain PRC subsidiaries as guarantee to their repayment of indebtedness or as counter guarantee to third-party guarantors which provide guarantee to our PRC subsidiaries’ repayment of indebtedness. In the event that the relevant PRC subsidiaries fail to perform their repayment obligations or such guarantors perform their guarantee obligations, claims may be raised to our substantive operating assets, facilities or equity interests of the PRC subsidiaries in question. If we cannot continue to own or use such assets, facilities or equity interests, our operation may be adversely affected.
Risks Related to Our ADSs and Our Trading Market
The trading prices of our ADSs have fluctuated and may be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.
The trading price of our ADSs has been volatile and has ranged from a low of US$2.11 to a high of US$57.20 between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The market price for our ADSs may continue to be volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to factors including, but not limited to, the following:
|●||actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly results of operations and cash flows;|
|●||changes in financial estimates by securities research analysts;|
|●||conditions in automotive markets;|
|●||changes in the operating performance or market valuations of other automotive companies;|
|●||announcements by us or our competitors of new products, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments;|
|●||addition or departure of key personnel;|
|●||fluctuations of exchange rates between RMB and the U.S. dollar;|
|●||litigation, government investigation or other legal or regulatory proceeding;|
|●||release of lock-up and other transfer restrictions on our ADSs, issuance of ADSs or ordinary shares upon conversion of the convertible notes we issued, or any ordinary shares or sales of additional ADSs;|
|●||any actual or alleged illegal acts of our shareholders or management;|
|●||any share repurchase program; and|
|●||general economic or political conditions in China or elsewhere in the world.|
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and price at which our ADSs will trade.
In addition, the stock market in general, and the market prices for companies with operations in China in particular, have experienced volatility that often has been unrelated to the operating performance of such companies. The securities of some China-based companies that have listed their securities in the United States have experienced significant volatility since their initial public offerings in recent years, including, in some cases, substantial declines in the trading prices of their securities. The trading performances of these companies’ securities after their offerings may affect the attitudes of investors towards Chinese companies listed in the United States in general, 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 other matters of other Chinese companies may also negatively affect the attitudes of investors towards Chinese companies in general, including us, regardless of whether we have engaged in any inappropriate activities. In particular, the global financial crisis and the ensuing economic recessions in many countries have contributed and may continue to contribute to extreme volatility in the global stock markets. These broad market and industry fluctuations may adversely affect the market price of our ADSs. Volatility or a lack of positive performance in our ADS price may also adversely affect our ability to retain key employees, most of whom have been granted options or other equity incentives.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our ADSs, the market price for our ADSs and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our ADSs 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 our ADSs, the market price for our ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause the market price or trading volume for our ADSs to decline.
Our triple-class voting structure will limit the holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs to influence corporate matters, provide certain shareholders of ours with substantial influence and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.
We have adopted a triple-class voting structure such that our ordinary shares consist of Class A ordinary shares, Class B ordinary shares and Class C ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares, Class B ordinary shares and Class C ordinary shares have the same rights other than voting and conversion rights. Each holder of our Class A ordinary shares is entitled to one vote per share, each holder of our Class B ordinary shares is entitled to four votes per share and each holder of our Class C ordinary shares is entitled to eight votes per share on all matters submitted to them for a vote. Our Class A ordinary shares, Class B ordinary shares and Class C ordinary shares vote together as a single class on all matters submitted to a vote of our shareholders, except as may otherwise be required by law. Each Class B ordinary share or Class C ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share, whereas Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares or Class C ordinary shares under any circumstances. Upon any transfer of Class B ordinary shares or Class C ordinary shares by a holder thereof to any person or entity which is not an affiliate of such holder, such Class B ordinary shares or Class C ordinary shares are automatically and immediately converted into the equal number of Class A ordinary shares.
As of the date of this annual report, Mr. Bin Li, our chairman and chief executive officer, together with his affiliates, beneficially own all of our issued Class C ordinary shares. The Tencent entities beneficially owned all of our issued Class B ordinary shares. Due to the disparate voting powers associated with our triple classes of ordinary shares, Mr. Li has considerable influence over important corporate matters. As of February 28, 2021, Mr. Li beneficially owned 39.3% of the aggregate voting power of our company through mobike Global Ltd. and Originalwish Limited, companies wholly owned by Mr. Li, and through NIO Users Limited, a holding company ultimately controlled by Mr. Li, whereas Tencent entities beneficially owned 17.5% of the aggregate voting power of our company through Mount Putuo Investment Limited, Image Frame Investment (HK) Limited, Huang River Investment Limited and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tencent Holding limited. Mr. Li has considerable influence over matters requiring shareholder approval, including electing directors and approving material mergers, acquisitions or other business combination transactions. This concentrated control will limit the ability of the holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs to influence corporate matters and could also discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transaction, which could have the effect of depriving the holders of our Class A ordinary shares and our ADSs of the opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over the prevailing market price. Moreover, Mr. Li may increase the concentration of his voting power and/or share ownership in the future, which may, among other consequences, decrease the liquidity in our ADSs.
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.
The sale or availability for sale of substantial amounts of our ADSs could adversely affect their market price.
Sales of substantial amounts of our ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could adversely affect the market price of our ADSs and could materially impair our ability to raise capital through equity offerings in the future. We cannot predict what effect, if any, market sales of securities held by our significant shareholders or any other shareholder or the availability of these securities for future sale will have on the market price of our ADSs. In addition, certain holders of our existing shareholders are entitled to certain registration rights, including demand registration rights, piggyback registration rights, and Form F-3 or Form S-3 registration rights. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act of 1933, or the Securities Act, would result in these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the public market, or the perception that such sales could occur, could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, the holders of our ADSs must rely on price appreciation of our ADSs for return on their 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.
Our board of directors has complete discretion as to whether to distribute dividends. 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 our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiaries, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return to ADS holders 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 ADS holders purchased the ADSs. Our ADS holders may not realize a return on their investment in our ADSs and they may even lose their entire investment in our ADSs.
The capped call and zero-strike call transactions may affect the value of our ADSs.
On January 30, 2019, in connection with the pricing of the 2024 Notes, we entered into capped call transactions with one or more of the initial purchasers and/or their respective affiliates and/or other financial institutions, or the Capped Call Option Counterparties. We entered into additional capped call transactions with the Capped Call Option Counterparties on February 15, 2019 and February 26, 2019, respectively. We used a portion of the net proceeds of the 2024 Notes to pay the cost of such transactions. The cap price of these capped call transactions is initially US$14.92 per ADS, representing a premium of approximately 100% to the closing price on the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, of our ADSs on January 30, 2019, which was US$7.46 per ADS, and is subject to adjustment under the terms of the capped call transactions. As part of establishing their initial hedges of the capped call transactions, the Capped Call Option Counterparties or their respective affiliates expect to trade the ADSs and/or enter into various derivative transactions with respect to our ADSs concurrently with, or shortly after, the pricing of the 2024 Notes. This activity could increase (or reduce the size of any decrease in) the market price of the ADSs or the 2024 Notes at that time. However, if any such capped call transactions fail to become effective, the Capped Call Option Counterparties may unwind their hedge positions with respect to the ADSs, which could adversely affect the market price of the ADSs. In addition, the Capped Call Option Counterparties or their respective affiliates may modify their hedge positions by entering into or unwinding various derivative transactions with respect to the ADSs, the 2024 Notes or our other securities and/or by purchasing or selling the ADSs, the 2024 Notes or our other securities in secondary market transactions following the pricing of the 2024 Notes and prior to the maturity of the 2024 Notes (and are likely to do so following any conversion of the 2024 Notes, if we exercise the relevant election under the capped call transactions, or repurchase of the 2024 Notes by us). This activity could also cause or avoid an increase or a decrease in the market price of our ADSs.