SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
the fiscal year ended
For the transition period from ________________ to ________________
Date of event requiring this shell company report
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(Address of principal executive offices)
Chief Executive Officer
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital stock or common stock as of the close of business covered by the annual report.
aggregate of 187,376,337 ordinary shares, representing
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer”, and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer ☐||Accelerated filer ☐||Emerging
growth company |
an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant
has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided
pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness
of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered
public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
|☒||International Financial Reporting Standards |
as issued by the International Accounting
Standards Board ☐
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.
☐ Item 17 ☐ Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.
☐ Yes ☐ No
EBANG INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS INC.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS||1|
|A.||Directors and senior management||1|
|ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE||1|
|B.||Method and expected timetable||1|
|ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION||1|
|B.||Capitalization and indebtedness||1|
|C.||Reasons for the offer and use of proceeds||1|
|ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY||56|
|A.||History and development of the company||56|
|D.||Property, plants and equipment||87|
|ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS||88|
|ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS||88|
|B.||Liquidity and capital resources||104|
|C.||Research and development, patents and licenses, etc.||106|
|E.||Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates||106|
|ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES||107|
|A.||Directors and senior management||107|
|ITEM 7. MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS||116|
|B.||Related party transactions||116|
|C.||Interests of experts and counsel||117|
|ITEM 8. FINANCIAL INFORMATION||117|
|A.||Consolidated statements and other financial information||117|
|ITEM 9. THE OFFER AND LISTING||117|
|A.||Offer and listing details||117|
|B.||Plan of distribution||118|
|F.||Expenses of the issue||118|
|ITEM 10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION||118|
|B.||Memorandum and articles of association||118|
|F.||Dividends and paying agents||130|
|G.||Statement by experts||130|
|H.||Documents on display||130|
|ITEM 11. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK||131|
|ITEM 12. DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES||131|
|B.||Warrants and rights||131|
|D.||American Depositary Shares||131|
|ITEM 13. DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES||132|
|B.||Arrears and delinquencies||132|
|ITEM 14. MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS||132|
|ITEM 15. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES||133|
|A.||Disclosure controls and procedures||133|
|B.||Management’s annual report on internal control over financial reporting||133|
|C.||Attestation report of the registered public accounting firm||134|
|D.||Changes in internal control over financial reporting||134|
|ITEM 16. [RESERVED]||134|
|ITEM 16A. Audit committee financial expert||134|
|ITEM 16B. Code of ethics||134|
|ITEM 16C. Principal accountant fees and services||134|
|ITEM 16D. Exemptions from the listing standards for audit committees||135|
|ITEM 16E. Purchases of equity securities by the issuer and affiliated purchasers||135|
|ITEM 16F. Change in registrant’s certifying accountant||135|
|ITEM 16G. Corporate governance||135|
|ITEM 16H. Mine safety disclosure||135|
|ITEM 16I. Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections||135|
|ITEM 17. Financial statements||136|
|ITEM 18. Financial statements||136|
|ITEM 19. Exhibits||136|
|Index to Consolidated Financial Statements||F-1|
This annual report on Form 20-F contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Many of the forward-looking statements contained in this annual report can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “expect,” “should,” “plan,” “intend,” “will,” “estimate” and “potential,” among others.
Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places in this annual report and include, but are not limited to, statements regarding Ebang International Holdings Inc. and its subsidiaries’ (the “Company,” “we,” “us,” or “our”) intent, belief or current expectations. Forward-looking statements are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements due to various factors, including, but not limited to, those identified under the section “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk factors” in this annual report. These risks and uncertainties include factors relating to:
|●||our goals and strategies;|
|●||our business and operating strategies and plans for the development of existing and new businesses, ability to implement such strategies and plans and expected time;|
|●||our future business development, financial condition and results of operations;|
|●||expected changes in our revenues, costs or expenditures;|
|●||our dividend policy;|
|●||our expectations regarding demand for and market acceptance of our products and services;|
|●||our expectations regarding our relationships with customers and business partners;|
|●||the trends in, expected growth in and market size of the blockchain industry and the telecommunications industry in China and globally;|
|●||our ability to maintain and enhance our market position;|
|●||our ability to continue to develop new technologies and/or upgrade our existing technologies;|
|●||developments in, or changes to, laws, regulations, governmental policies, incentives and taxation affecting our operations, in particular in the blockchain industry and the telecommunications industry;|
|●||relevant governmental policies and regulations relating to our businesses and industry;|
|●||competitive environment, competitive landscape and potential competitor behavior in our industry; overall industry outlook in our industry;|
|●||our ability to attract, train and retain executives and other employees;|
|●||the development of the global financial and capital markets;|
|●||fluctuations in inflation, interest rates and exchange rates;|
|●||general business, political, social and economic conditions in China and the overseas markets we have business;|
|●||the length and severity of the recent COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on our business and industry;|
|●||assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing; and|
|●||other factors discussed under “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk factors” in this annual report.|
Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake any obligation to update them in light of new information or future developments or to release publicly any revisions to these statements in order to reflect later events or circumstances or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
|A.||Directors and senior management|
ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
|B.||Method and expected timetable|
ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION
|B.||Capitalization and indebtedness|
|C.||Reasons for the offer and use of proceeds|
Our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected if any of the risks described below occur. As a result, the market price of our Class A ordinary shares, par value HK$0.001 per share (the “Class A Ordinary Shares”) could decline, and you could lose all or part of your investment. This annual report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. See “Forward-Looking Statements.” The risks below are not the only ones facing the Company. Additional risks not currently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also adversely affect us. The following risk factors have been grouped as follows:
|a)||Risks relating to conducting business in China;|
|b)||Risks relating to our cryptocurrency, blockchain and mining related businesses;|
|c)||Risks relating to our business operations;|
|d)||Risks relating to our securities; and|
Summary of Key Risks
Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, discussed in more detail below. These risks include, among others, the following key risks:
|●||It is now illegal to engage in digital asset transactions including Bitcoin mining operations in China, the ruling of which may adversely affect us|
|●||Changes in China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition|
|●||Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to you and us|
|●||Our corporate structure may restrict our ability to receive dividends from, and transfer funds to, our PRC operating subsidiaries, which could restrict our ability to act in response to changing market conditions in a timely manner|
|●||We may be subject to the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and dividends payable to our foreign investors and gains on the sale of our Class A ordinary shares by our foreign investors may become subject to PRC tax|
|●||We are subject to risks associated with legal, political or other conditions or developments regarding holding, using or mining of Bitcoins, which could negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial position|
|●||The current regulatory environment in foreign markets, and any adverse changes in that environment, could have a material adverse impact on our blockchain products business and our cryptocurrency exchange and financial service platform businesses|
|●||The future development and growth of cryptocurrency is subject to a variety of factors that are difficult to predict and evaluate. If cryptocurrency does not grow as we expect, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected|
|●||Our results of operations have been and are expected to continue to be significantly impacted by the fluctuation of cryptocurrency prices, especially the price of Bitcoin|
|●||We have derived and may continue to derive a significant portion of our revenues from our Bitcoin mining machines business. If the market for Bitcoin mining machines ceases to exist or diminishes significantly, our business, results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected|
|●||The industries in which we operate and which we intend to operate in the future are characterized by constant changes. If we fail to continuously innovate and to provide products that meet the expectations of our customers, we may be unable to attract new customers or retain existing customers, and hence our business and results of operations may be adversely affected|
|●||We face risks associated with the expansion of our blockchain products business operations overseas and if we are unable to effectively manage such risks, our business growth and profitability may be negatively affected|
|●||We may not successfully develop, market or launch any future cryptocurrency exchanges or online brokerages or continue operating our existing cryptocurrency exchanges|
|●||Our intellectual property rights are valuable, and any inability to protect them could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition|
|●||We rely on a limited number of third parties to fabricate our ASIC chips, and IC packaging and testing services|
|●||We have been involved, and may continue to be involved, in disputes, claims or proceedings arising from our operations or class actions from time to time, which could result in significant liabilities and reputational harm and could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations|
|●||We have and may increasingly become a target for public scrutiny, including complaints to regulatory agencies, negative media coverage, and malicious allegations, all of which could severely damage our reputation and materially and adversely affect our business and prospects|
|●||The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by auditor who might not be fully inspected by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and, as such, you may be deprived of the benefits of such inspection|
|●||Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our Class A ordinary shares for return on your investment|
|●||You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law and conduct our operations primarily in emerging markets|
|●||Our dual-class voting structure will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares may view as beneficial|
|●||We are a “controlled company” within the meaning of the Nasdaq Rules, and, as a result, can rely on exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that provide protection to shareholders of other companies|
|●||We are an emerging growth company within the meaning of the Securities Act and may take advantage of certain reduced reporting requirements|
|●||We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to United States domestic public companies|
|●||We have in the past incurred and continue to incur losses and negative cash flows from operating activities, and we may not achieve or sustain profitability|
Risks Relating to Conducting Business in China
It is now illegal to engage in digital asset transactions including Bitcoin mining operations in China, the ruling of which may adversely affect us
China has now taken harsh regulatory action to ban cryptocurrency mining operations and to severely restrict the right to acquire, own, hold, sell or use these Bitcoin assets or to exchange them for fiat currency. Such restrictions may adversely affect us as the large-scale use of digital assets as a means of exchange is presently confined to certain regions globally. Ongoing and future regulatory actions may impact our ability to continue to operate, and such actions could affect our ability to continue as a going concern or to pursue our business strategy at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects or operations.
On May 21, 2021, the Financial Stability and Development Committee of the State Council in China proposed to “crack down on Bitcoin mining and trading.” However, it was not until September 15, 2021, as described below, that all digital asset transactions were banned in China. In May 2021, local governments began to issue corresponding measures in succession to respond to the central government, including Xinjiang Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture Development and Reform Commission issuing a notice on the immediate shutdown of enterprises engaged in cryptocurrency mining on June 9, 2021. On June 18, 2021, according to the public media report - Sichuan Provincial Development and Reform Commission and Sichuan Energy Bureau issued a notice on the shutdown of cryptocurrency mining projects with the deadline of June 25, 2021. On September 3, 2021, the newly issued Notification of Overhauling the Mining Activity of Cryptocurrency (or the Notification No. 1283) banned all new cryptocurrency operations in China and set forth penalties on a going forward basis for all of the PRC. On September 15, 2021, the People's Bank of China, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, the State Administration for Market Regulation, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange jointly issued the Circular on Further Preventing and Disposing of Risks in Virtual Currency Trading and Speculation (Yin Fa  No.237), which clarified that virtual currency-related business activities in China and the provision of services by an overseas virtual currency exchange to a Chinese resident via the Internet will be considered as illegal financial activities.
In consideration of the PRC government’s attitude and our intentional business plan, we will not conduct any cryptocurrency mining operations or cryptocurrency trading operations in mainland PRC. We do not have any mining operation in the PRC and have halted all mining machine custody business in China in April 2021. While we do not believe the PRC governmental authorities will seek to impose retroactive fines, penalties or sanctions, there can be no assurance they may not seek to do so. Any such regulations, if implemented, will cause us to incur additional compliance costs and have a material adverse effect on our future business operations.
There are risks to foreign investors in Chinese companies
The Chinese government implements the management systems of pre-establishment national treatment and negative list for foreign investment. Pre-establishment national treatment refers to the treatment given to foreign investors and their investments during the investment access stage, which is not lower than that given to their domestic counterparts; negative list for foreign investment refers to special administrative measures for the restricted or prohibited access of foreign investment in specific fields as stipulated by the Chinese government.
Pursuant to the Special Administrative Measures for Foreign Investment Access (2021 Edition), or the 2021 Edition Negative List, issued by The Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (the “MOFCOM”) and the National Development and Reform Commission (the “NDRC”) on December 27, 2021, which came into effect on January 1, 2022, our business does not fall into the Negative List. However, the 2021 Edition Negative List regulates that “Fields not mentioned in the Negative List for Foreign Investment Access shall be subject to administration under the principle of consistency for domestic and foreign investments. The relevant provisions of the Negative List for Market Access shall apply to domestic and foreign investors on a unified basis.”
In addition, based on the Negative List for Market Access (2022) which became effective on March 12, 2022, “the Catalogue for Guidance on Industrial Restructuring shall be included in the Negative List for Market Access”; plus, according to the Decision of the State Council on Promulgating and Implementing the “Temporary Provisions on Promoting Industrial Structure Adjustment,” valid from December 2, 2005, “In principle, the ‘Guidance Catalogue for the Industrial Structure Adjustment “shall apply to various types of enterprises inside China.” “The industries of the eliminated category under the ‘Guidance Catalogue for the Industrial Structure Adjustment’ shall apply to the foreign investment enterprises.” and “Investments are prohibited from being contributed to projects under the eliminated category.” Furthermore, the NDRC released on December 30, 2021 its No. 49 Decree, announcing that the Decision of the National Development and Reform Commission on Amending the Guiding Catalog for Industrial Restructuring (2019 Version) (the “Amended Catalog”). The Amended Catalog added ‘virtual currency mining activities’ to the eliminated category of ‘1. outdated production processing and equipment’ under the original Catalog. Therefore, the foreign investment enterprises are prohibited from virtual currency activities and our mining machine custody business are banned in China as well.
Changes in China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition
Substantially all of our revenues were and, in a foreseeable future, are expected to be derived in China, and most of our operations, including all of our manufacturing, is conducted in China. Accordingly, our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition may be influenced to a significant degree by political, economic and social conditions in China generally and by continued economic growth in China as a whole. The Chinese economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the degree of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. Although the PRC government has implemented measures emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, the reduction of state ownership of productive assets and the establishment of improved corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of productive assets in China is still owned by the government. In addition, the Chinese government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The Chinese government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth 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 Chinese economy has experienced significant growth over the past decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy, and the rate of growth has been slowing since 2012. The Chinese government has implemented various measures to encourage economic growth and guide the allocation of resources. Some of these measures may benefit the overall Chinese economy but may have a negative effect on us. For example, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations. In addition, in the past the Chinese government has implemented certain measures, including interest rate increases, to control the pace of economic growth. These measures may cause decreased economic activity in China, and since 2012, and in particular in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, China’s economic growth slowed down. Any prolonged slowdown in the Chinese economy may reduce the demand for our products and services and materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
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 legal system is evolving rapidly, but its current slate of laws may not be sufficient to cover all aspects of the economic activities in China, including such activities that relate to or have an impact on our business. Implementation and interpretations of laws, regulations and rules are not always undertaken in a uniform matter (some of which can change rapidly with little advance notice) 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 in a timely manner or at all) that may have a retroactive effect. As a result, we may not always be aware of any potential violation of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Such uncertainties, including unpredictability towards 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.
In addition, the PRC governmental authorities may intervene or influence our operations at any time, or may exert more control over offerings conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers, which could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer Class A ordinary shares to investors and cause the value of such shares to significant decline or be worthless.
We may be subject to recently announced Measures from the Cyberspace Administration of China concerning the collection of data and required to obtain clearance from the Cybersecurity Administration of China
The Cybersecurity Review Measures (2021) was officially released to the public on December 28, 2021, and became effective on February 15, 2022. According to the Cybersecurity Review Measures (2021) (the “Cybersecurity Measures”), to go public abroad, an online platform operator who possesses the personal information of more than 1 million users shall declare to the Office of Cybersecurity Review for cybersecurity review.
Currently, we have not been involved in any investigations on cybersecurity review initiated by the Cybersecurity Administration of China (the “CAC”) or related governmental regulatory authorities, and we have not received any inquiry, notice, warning, or sanction in such respect. As a result, we currently believe we would not be required to obtain clearance from the CAC regarding our listing in the United States under the Cybersecurity Measures because (i) we have not been involved in any investigations on cybersecurity review initiated by the CAC or related governmental regulatory authorities, and we have not received any inquiry, notice, warning, or sanction in such respect, as well as (ii) we have never set an online platform for any user in China and we have not been an online platform operator in China. However, if the CAC requires us to obtain clearance or permissions pursuant to the Cybersecurity Measures or other applicable laws and regulations promulgated by competent authorities in the future, we would file an application with CAC immediately and seek to obtain the clearance or permissions from the CAC as required since we are not willing to be subject to any inquiry, notice, warning, or sanction in such respect which might make a negative impact on our business operations or financial condition. Therefore, compliance with the Cybersecurity Measures, as well as additional laws, regulations and guidelines that the Chinese government promulgates in the future may entail significant expenses and could materially affect our business.
A severe or prolonged downturn in China’s economy and political tensions between the United States and China could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations
The global macroeconomic environment is facing challenges, including the continuing uncertainty regarding the duration and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chain disruptions, the recent inflation in the United States and the foreign and domestic government sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of its recent invasion of Ukraine. The growth of China’s economy has slowed down since 2012 and the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19 in China has resulted in a severe disruption of social and economic activities in China, which has resulted in a further significant slowdown of China’s economy in 2020 and may continue beyond. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—The global coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has caused significant disruptions in our business, which we expect may continue to materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.” 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. There have been concerns over unrest and terrorist threats in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, which have resulted in market volatility.
There have been concerns on the relationship between China and other countries, including the surrounding Asian countries and the United States. In particular, there have been heightened tensions in international economic relations between the United States and China. The U.S. government has recently imposed, and has recently proposed to impose additional, new, or higher tariffs on certain products imported from China to penalize China for what the U.S. government characterizes as unfair trade practices. China has responded by imposing, and proposing to impose additional, new, or higher tariffs on certain products imported from the United States. Following mutual retaliatory actions for months, on January 15, 2020, the United States and China entered into the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China as a phase one trade deal, effective on February 14, 2020. It remains unclear what impact these tariff negotiations may have or what further actions the two countries may take. Moreover, political tensions between the United States and China have escalated as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the PRC National People’s Congress’ decision on Hong Kong national security legislation. Rising political tensions could reduce levels of trades, investments, technological exchanges and other economic activities between the two major economies, which would have a material adverse effect on global economic conditions and the stability of global financial markets. Any of the circumstances would have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors— Risks Relating to Our Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Mining Related Businesses—We plan to increase our export of mining machines to the United States and the European Union in the future, which may be subject to high tariff rates resulting from protectionism trade policies, and as a result, our future sales volumes, profitability and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.”
Furthermore, as part of a continued regulatory focus in the United States on access to audit and other information currently protected by national law, in particular China’s, on December 18, 2020, U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act into law, which requires the SEC to propose rules within 90 days after its enactment to prohibit securities of any registrant from being listed on any of the U.S. securities exchanges or traded “over the counter” if the auditor of the registrant’s financial statements is not subject to PCAOB inspection for three consecutive years after the law becomes effective. The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act and any proposed SEC rules may have a material and adverse impact on the stock performance of China-based companies listed in the United States. In addition, the recent market panics over the global outbreak of COVID-19 materially and negatively affected the global financial markets in March 2020, which may cause potential slowdown of the global economy. 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 and the political tensions between the United States and China may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Increases in labor costs and enforcement of stricter labor laws and regulations in the PRC and our additional payments of statutory employee benefits may adversely affect our business and profitability
The average wage in China has increased in recent years and is expected to continue to grow. The average wage level for our employees has also increased in recent years. We expect that our labor costs, including wages and employee benefits, will continue to increase. Unless we are able to pass on these increased labor costs to our customers, our profitability and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, we have been subject to stricter regulatory requirements in terms of entering into labor contracts with our employees and paying various statutory employee benefits, including pensions, housing funds, 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.
Pursuant to PRC laws and regulations, companies registered and operating in China are required 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. We have not fully paid social insurance and housing provident funds for all of our employees due to inconsistency in implementation or interpretation of the relevant PRC laws and regulations among government authorities in the PRC and, in some cases, voluntary decisions by the relevant employees. Recently, as the PRC government enhanced its enforcement measures relating to social insurance collection, we may be required to make up the contributions for our employees, and may be further subjected to late fees payment and administrative fines, which may materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. As the interpretation and implementation of labor-related laws and regulations are still evolving, we cannot assure you that our current employment practices do not and will not violate labor-related laws and regulations in China, which may subject us to labor disputes or government investigations. In addition, we may incur additional expenses in order to comply with such laws and regulations, which may adversely affect our business and profitability.
We may be adversely affected by inflation or labor shortage in China
In recent years, the PRC economy has experienced periods of rapid expansion and highly fluctuating rates of inflation. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the year-over-year percent changes in the consumer price index for December 2019, 2020 and 2021 were increases of 4.5%, 0.2% and 1.5%, respectively. Although we have not been materially affected by inflation in the past, we may be affected if PRC experiences higher rates of inflation in the future. It is uncertain when the general price level may increase or decrease sharply in the future. Moreover, the significant economic growth in China has resulted in a general increase in labor costs and shortage of low-cost labor. Inflation may cause our production cost to continue to increase. If we are unable to pass on the increase in production cost to our customers, we may suffer a decrease in profitability and a loss of customers and our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Our corporate structure may restrict our ability to receive dividends from, and transfer funds to, our PRC operating subsidiaries, which could restrict our ability to act in response to changing market conditions in a timely manner
We are a Cayman Islands holding company and a certain portion of our operations are conducted through our operating subsidiaries. The ability of our operating subsidiaries to make dividend and other payments to us may be restricted by factors that include changes in applicable foreign exchange and other laws and regulations.
In particular, under the PRC law, each of our PRC operating subsidiaries may only pay dividends after 10% of its net profit has been set aside as reserve funds, unless such reserves have reached at least 50% of its registered capital. In addition, the profit available for distribution from our PRC operating subsidiaries is determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the PRC. This calculation may differ if it were performed in accordance with U.S. GAAP. As a result, we may not have sufficient distributions from our PRC operating subsidiaries to enable necessary profit distributions to our shareholders in the future, which would be based upon our financial statements prepared under U.S. GAAP.
Distributions by our PRC operating subsidiaries to us other than as dividends may be subject to governmental approval and taxation. Any transfer of funds from our company to our PRC operating subsidiaries, either as a shareholder loan or as an increase in registered capital, is subject to registration or approval of PRC governmental authorities, including the relevant administration of foreign exchange and/or the relevant examining and approval authority. These limitations on the free flow of funds between us and our PRC subsidiaries could restrict our ability to act in response to changing market conditions in a timely manner.
We may be subject to EIT on our worldwide income if our company or any of our subsidiaries were considered a PRC “resident enterprise” under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, or the EIT Law
Under the EIT Law and its implementation rules, enterprises established outside of the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC are considered a “resident enterprise” and will be subject to EIT at a rate of 25% on their worldwide income. The implementation rules under EIT define the term “de facto management bodies” as “establishments that carry out substantial and overall management and control over the production, operation, personnel, accounting, properties, etc. of an enterprise.” The State Administration of Taxation of the PRC, or the SAT promulgated the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or Circular 82, on April 22, 2009, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a Chinese-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise is located in the PRC. On July 27, 2011, the SAT issued the Measures for Administration of Income Tax of Chinese Controlled Resident Enterprises Incorporated Overseas (Trial), or Circular 45, to supplement Circular 82 and other tax laws and regulations. Circular 45 clarifies certain issues relating to resident status determination. Although Circular 82 and Circular 45 apply only to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC group companies and not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners, the determining criteria set forth in Circular 82 and Circular 45 may reflect the SAT’s general position on how the “de facto management body” test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises or individuals or foreign enterprises. A substantial majority of our senior management team is located in China. If our company or any of our subsidiaries were considered to be a PRC “resident enterprise,” we would be subject to EIT at a rate of 25% on our worldwide income, which could materially reduce our net income.
Dividends payable to our foreign investors and gains on the sale of our Class A ordinary shares by our foreign investors may become subject to PRC tax
Under the EIT Law and its implementation regulations issued by the State Council, a 10% PRC withholding tax is applicable to dividends payable to investors that are non-resident enterprises, which do not have an establishment or place of business in the PRC or which have such establishment or place of business but the dividends are not effectively connected with such establishment or place of business, to the extent such dividends are derived from sources within the PRC. Similarly, any gain realized on the transfer of our Class A ordinary shares by such investors is also subject to PRC tax at a current rate of 10%, subject to any reduction or exemption set forth in applicable tax treaties or under applicable tax arrangements between jurisdictions, if such gain is regarded as income derived from sources within the PRC. If we are deemed a PRC resident enterprise, dividends paid on our Class A ordinary shares, and any gain realized from the transfer of our Class A ordinary shares, would be treated as income derived from sources within the PRC and would as a result be subject to PRC taxation. Furthermore, if we are deemed a PRC resident enterprise, dividends payable to individual investors who are non-PRC residents and any gain realized on the transfer of our Class A ordinary shares by such investors may be subject to PRC tax at a current rate of 20%, subject to any reduction or exemption set forth in applicable tax treaties or under applicable tax arrangements between jurisdictions. If we or any of our subsidiaries established outside China are considered a PRC resident enterprise, it is unclear whether holders of our Class A ordinary shares would be able to claim the benefit of income tax treaties or agreements entered into between China and other countries or areas. If dividends payable to our non-PRC investors, or gains from the transfer of our Class A ordinary shares by such investors, are deemed as income derived from sources within the PRC and thus are subject to PRC tax, the value of your investment in our Class A ordinary shares may decline significantly.
PRC regulations relating to investments in offshore companies by PRC residents may subject our PRC-resident beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiaries to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiaries or limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits
In July 2014, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange of the PRC, or SAFE, promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Control on Domestic Residents’ Offshore Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, which replaces the previous SAFE Circular 75. SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents, including PRC individuals and PRC corporate entities, to register with SAFE or its local branches in connection with their direct or indirect offshore investment activities. SAFE Circular 37 is applicable to our shareholders who are PRC residents and may be applicable to any offshore acquisitions that we may make in the future.
Under SAFE Circular 37, PRC residents who make, or have prior to the implementation of SAFE Circular 37 made, direct or indirect investments in offshore special purpose vehicles, or SPVs, are required to register such investments with SAFE or its local branches. In addition, any PRC resident who is a direct or indirect shareholder of an SPV, is required to update its registration with the local branch of SAFE with respect to that SPV, to reflect any material change. Moreover, any subsidiary of such SPV in China is required to urge the PRC resident shareholders to update their registration with the local branch of SAFE to reflect any material change. If any PRC resident shareholder of such SPV fails to make the required registration or to update the registration, the subsidiary of such SPV in China may be prohibited from distributing its profits or the proceeds from any capital reduction, share transfer or liquidation to the SPV, and the SPV may also be prohibited from making additional capital contributions into its subsidiaries in China. In February 2015, SAFE promulgated a Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Foreign Exchange Administration Policy on Direct Investment, or SAFE Notice 13. Under SAFE Notice 13, applications for foreign exchange registration of inbound foreign direct investments and outbound direct investments, including those required under SAFE Circular 37, must be filed with qualified banks instead of SAFE. Qualified banks should examine the applications and accept registrations under the supervision of SAFE. We have used commercially reasonable efforts to notify PRC residents or entities who directly or indirectly hold shares in our Cayman Islands holding company and who are known to us as being PRC residents to complete the foreign exchange registrations. However, we may not be informed of the identities of all the PRC residents or entities holding direct or indirect interest in our company, nor can we compel our beneficial owners to comply with SAFE registration requirements. We cannot assure you that all other shareholders or beneficial owners of ours who are PRC residents or entities have complied with, and will in the future make, obtain or update 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.
Furthermore, as these foreign exchange and outbound investment related regulations are relatively new and their interpretation and implementation has been constantly evolving, it is unclear how these regulations, and any future regulation concerning offshore or cross-border investments and transactions, will be interpreted, amended and implemented by the relevant government authorities. For example, we may be subject to a more stringent review and approval process with respect to our foreign exchange activities, such as remittance of dividends and foreign-currency-denominated borrowings, which may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. We cannot assure you that we have complied or will be able to comply with all applicable foreign exchange and outbound investment related regulations. In addition, if we decide to acquire a PRC domestic company, we cannot assure you that we or the owners of such company, as the case may be, will be able to obtain the necessary approvals or complete the necessary filings and registrations required by the foreign exchange regulations. This may restrict our ability to implement our acquisition strategy and could adversely affect our business and prospects.
We and our shareholders face uncertainties with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises or other assets attributed to a Chinese establishment of a non-Chinese company, or immovable properties located in China owned by non-Chinese companies
In February 2015, SAT issued a Public Notice Regarding Certain Corporate Income Tax Matters on Indirect Transfer of Properties by Non-Tax Resident Enterprises, or SAT Public Notice 7. SAT Public Notice 7 extends its tax jurisdiction to transactions involving transfer of other taxable assets through offshore transfer of a foreign intermediate holding company. In addition, SAT Public Notice 7 provides clear criteria for assessment of reasonable commercial purposes and has introduced safe harbors for internal group restructurings and the purchase and sale of equity through a public securities market. SAT Public Notice 7 also brings challenges to both foreign transferor and transferee (or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer) of taxable assets. In October 2017, SAT issued the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Issues Concerning the Withholding of Non-resident Enterprise Income Tax at Source, or SAT Bulletin 37, which came into effect on December 1, 2017. The SAT Bulletin 37 further clarifies the practice and procedure of the withholding of non-resident EIT. Where a non-resident enterprise transfers taxable assets indirectly by disposing of the equity interests of an overseas holding company, which is an indirect transfer, the non-resident enterprise as either transferor or transferee, or the PRC entity that directly owns the taxable assets, may report such Indirect Transfer to the relevant tax authority. 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 other than transfer of shares acquired and sold on public markets may be subject to EIT, 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%. Both the transferor and the transferee may be subject to penalties under PRC tax laws if the transferee fails to withhold the taxes and the transferor fails to pay the taxes.
We face uncertainties as to the reporting and other implications of certain past and future transactions that involve PRC taxable assets, such as offshore restructuring, sale of the shares in our offshore subsidiaries and investments. Our company may be subject to filing obligations or taxed if our company is transferor in such transactions and may be subject to withholding obligations if our company is transferee in such transactions, under SAT Public Notice 7 or SAT Bulletin 37, or both.
We are subject to PRC restrictions on currency exchange
Some of our revenues and expenses are denominated in Renminbi. The Renminbi is currently convertible under the “current account,” which includes dividends, trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, but not under the “capital account,” which includes foreign direct investment and loans, including loans we may secure from our onshore subsidiaries. Currently, certain of our PRC subsidiaries may purchase foreign currency for settlement of “current account transactions,” including payment of dividends to us, without the approval of the SAFE by complying with certain procedural requirements. However, the relevant PRC governmental authorities may limit or eliminate our ability to purchase foreign currencies in the future for current account transactions. Foreign exchange transactions under the capital account remain subject to limitations and require approvals from, or registration with, the SAFE and other relevant PRC governmental authorities. Since a part of our future net income and cash flow will be denominated in Renminbi, any existing and future restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to utilize cash generated in Renminbi to fund our business activities outside of the PRC or pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of our Class A ordinary shares, and may limit our ability to obtain foreign currency through debt or equity financing for our subsidiaries.
If the custodians or authorized users of our controlling non-tangible assets, including chops and seals, fail to fulfill their responsibilities, or misappropriate or misuse these assets, our business and operations may be materially and adversely affected
Under PRC law, legal documents for corporate transactions, including agreements and contracts such as the leases and sales contracts that our business relies on, are executed using the chop or seal of the signing entity or with the signature of a legal representative whose designation is registered and filed with the relevant local branch of the market supervision administration.
In order to maintain the physical security of our chops and the chops of our PRC entities, we generally store these items in secured locations accessible only by the authorized personnel of each of our PRC subsidiary and consolidated entities. Although we monitor such authorized personnel, there is no assurance such procedures will prevent all instances of abuse or negligence. Accordingly, if any of our authorized personnel misuse or misappropriate our corporate chops or seals, we could encounter difficulties in maintaining control over the relevant entities and experience significant disruption to our operations. If a designated legal representative obtains control of the chops in an effort to obtain control over any of our PRC subsidiary or consolidated entities, we, our PRC subsidiaries or consolidated entities would need to pass a new shareholder or board resolution to designate a new legal representative and we would need to take legal 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.
The M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for some acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China
The Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Companies by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, adopted by six PRC regulatory agencies in August 2006 and amended in June 2009, and some other regulations and rules concerning mergers and acquisitions established additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time consuming and complex, including requirements in some instances that shall obtained an approval from the Ministry of Commerce, or the MOFCOM, in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. Moreover, the Anti-Monopoly Law requires that the MOFCOM shall be notified in advance of any concentration of undertaking if certain thresholds are triggered. In addition, the Safety Review System for Merger and Acquisition of Domestic Companies by Foreign Investors issued by the MOFCOM that became effective in September 2011 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 the rules prohibit any activities attempting 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 above-mentioned regulations and other relevant rules to complete such transactions could be time consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval from the MOFCOM or its local counterparts may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
We face regulatory uncertainties in China that could restrict our ability to grant share incentive awards to our employees or consultants who are PRC citizens
Pursuant to the Notices on Issues concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in a Stock Incentive Plan of an Overseas Publicly-Listed Company issued by SAFE on February 15, 2012, or Circular 7, a qualified PRC agent (which could be the PRC subsidiary of the overseas-listed company) is required to file, on behalf of “domestic individuals” (both PRC residents and non-PRC residents who reside in China for a continuous period of not less than one year, excluding the foreign diplomatic personnel and representatives of international organizations) who are granted shares or share options by the overseas-listed company according to its share incentive plan, an application with SAFE to conduct SAFE registration with respect to such share incentive plan, and obtain approval for an annual allowance with respect to the purchase of foreign exchange in connection with the share purchase or share option exercise. Such PRC individuals’ foreign exchange income received from the sale of shares and dividends distributed by the overseas listed company and any other income shall be fully remitted into a collective foreign currency account in China, which is opened and managed by the PRC domestic agent before distribution to such individuals. In addition, such domestic individuals must also retain an overseas entrusted institution to handle matters in connection with their exercise of share options and their purchase and sale of shares. The PRC domestic agent also needs to update registration with SAFE within three months after the overseas-listed company materially changes its share incentive plan or make any new share incentive plans.
We have adopted our Amended and Restated 2020 Share Incentive Plan (the “2020 Plan”), effective upon the completion of our initial public offering, and our 2021 Share Incentive Plan (the “2021 Plan”), effective upon shareholder approval at the 2021 annual general meeting of shareholders held on December 15, 2021. As of the date of this annual report, we have granted 6,550,000 restricted share awards under the 2020 Plan and we did not grant any awards under the 2021 Plan. We may grant share incentive awards under both or either plan in the future. When we do, from time to time, we need to apply for or update our registration with SAFE or its local branches on behalf of our employees or consultants who receive options or other equity-based incentive grants under the 2020 Plan, 2021 Plan or future share incentive plans we may adopt or material changes in such plan(s). However, we may not always be able to make applications or update our registration on behalf of our employees or consultants who hold any type of share incentive awards in compliance with Circular 7, nor can we ensure you that such applications or update of registration will be successful. If we or the participants of our share incentive plan(s) who are PRC citizens fail to comply with Circular 7, we and/or such participants of our share incentive plan(s) may be subject to fines and legal sanctions, there may be additional restrictions on the ability of such participants to exercise their share options or remit proceeds gained from sale of their shares into China, and we may be prevented from further granting share incentive awards under our share incentive plan(s) to our employees or consultants who are PRC citizens.
Our Hong Kong subsidiaries could become subject to the direct oversight of the PRC government at any time if the National laws of mainland China are applied to Hong Kong
The national laws of the PRC (the “National Laws”), including, but not limited to (i) the Cybersecurity Review Measures which became effective on February 15, 2022; and (ii) approval by the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (“CSRC”) or any other Chinese regulatory authority to approve or permit our offering of securities in the U.S., do not currently apply to our Hong Kong subsidiaries, except for those set forth below. However, due to the uncertainty of the PRC legal system and changes in laws, regulations or policies, including how these laws, regulations or policies would be interpreted or implemented, and the national laws applicable in Hong Kong, the Basic Law might be revised in the future.
Pursuant to Article 18 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC (the “Basic Law”), “The laws in force in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be the Basic Law, the laws previously in force in Hong Kong as provided for in Article 8 of this Law, and the laws enacted by the legislature of the Region. National laws shall not be applied in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region except for those listed in Annex III to the Basic Law. The laws listed therein shall be applied locally by way of promulgation or legislation by the Region. Also, regarding the Annex III and several Instruments of the Basic Law, National Laws, which have applied in Hong Kong until now are as following:
Resolution on the Capital, Calendar, National Anthem and National Flag of the PRC; Resolution on the National Day of the PRC; Declaration of the Government of the PRC on the Territorial Sea; Nationality Law of the PRC; Regulations of the PRC Concerning Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities; Law of the PRC on the National Flag; Regulations of the PRC Concerning Consular Privileges and Immunities; Law of the PRC on the National Emblem; Law of the PRC on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone; Law of the PRC on Garrisoning the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Law of the PRC on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf; Law of the PRC on Judicial Immunity from Compulsory Measures Concerning the Property of Foreign Central Banks; and Law of the PRC on the National Anthem; Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The CSRC released, on December 24, 2021, the Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Domestic Companies Offering Securities for Overseas Listing (Revision Draft for Comments) (the “Provisions”) and the Administrative Measures for the Filing of Domestic Companies Seeking Overseas Securities Offering and Listing (the “Measures”) for public comment. According to the Provisions and Measures, “Domestic companies that seek to offer and list securities in overseas markets shall fulfill the filing procedure with the securities regulatory agency under the State Council and report relevant information;” and “An overseas offering and listing is prohibited under any of the following circumstances: (1) if the intended securities offering and listing falls under specific clauses in national laws and regulations and relevant provisions prohibiting such financing activities.” Furthermore, the Cybersecurity Review Measures (2021) was officially released to the public on December 28, 2021 and became effective on February 15, 2022. According to the Cybersecurity Review Measures (2021), “To go public abroad, an online platform operator who possesses the personal information of more than 1 million users shall declare to the Office of Cybersecurity Review for cybersecurity review.”
As of the date of this annual report, we have two wholly-owned subsidiaries and operating entities established in Hong Kong, Ebang Communications (HK) Technology Limited, or HK Ebang Communications, principally for the trading of blockchain chips; and HongKong Ebang Digital Technology Limited, or HK Ebang Digital, principally for cryptocurrency exchange businesses. Neither entities have established any subsidiary or branch in PRC or have committed any business operations in PRC. For additional information, see “Item 4. Information of the Company – C. Organizational Structure.”
Based on the aforementioned Basic Law, our Hong Kong subsidiaries are not subject to the Cybersecurity Measures and the Provisions and the Measures. However, due to the uncertainty of the PRC legal system and changes in laws, regulations or policies, including how these laws, regulations or policies would be interpreted or implemented, the national laws applicable in Hong Kong in the Basic Law might be revised in the future. Therefore, we cannot assure you that we will not be affected by the foregoing or relevant laws, regulations or policies in the future. If there are any changes to the foregoing laws, regulations and policies, or if any new laws, regulations, and policies, etc., would be published, we would manage to comply with the changed laws, regulations and policies. However, we could not guarantee that the relevant laws, regulations, or policies would not be applied retroactively, so we might face penalties, and our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Risks Relating to Our Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Mining Related Businesses
We are subject to risks associated with legal, political or other conditions or developments regarding holding, using or mining of Bitcoins, which could negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial position
Our customers are based globally. As such, changes in government policies, taxes, general economic and fiscal conditions, as well as political, diplomatic or social events, expose us to financial and business risks. In particular, changes in domestic or overseas policies and laws regarding holding, using and/or mining of Bitcoins could result in an adverse effect on our business operations and results of operations. Moreover, if any domestic or international jurisdiction where we operate or sell our Bitcoin mining machines prohibits or restricts Bitcoin mining activities, we may face legal and other liabilities and will experience a material loss of revenue.
There are significant uncertainties regarding future regulations pertaining to the holding, using or mining of Bitcoins, which may adversely affect our results of operations. While Bitcoin has gradually gained more market acceptance and attention, it is anonymous and may be used for black market transactions, money laundering, illegal activities or tax evasion. As a result, governments may seek to regulate, restrict, control or ban the holding, use mining holding of Bitcoins. In addition, due to compliance risk, cost, government regulation or public pressure, banks and financial institutions may not provide banking services, or may cut off services, to businesses that provide cryptocurrency-related services or that accept cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoins, as payment. Our existing policies and procedures for the detection and prevention of money laundering and terrorism-funding activities through our business activities have only been adopted in recent years and may not completely eliminate instances in which we or our products may be used by other parties to engage in money laundering and other illegal or improper activities. We cannot assure you that there will not be a failure in detecting money laundering or other illegal or improper activities which may adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
With advances in technology, cryptocurrencies are likely to undergo significant changes in the future. It remains uncertain whether Bitcoin will be able to cope with, or benefit from, those changes. In addition, as Bitcoin mining employs sophisticated and high computing power devices that need to consume large amounts of electricity to operate, future developments in the regulation of energy consumption, including possible restrictions on energy usage in the jurisdictions where we sell our products, may also affect our business operations and the demand for our current Bitcoin mining machines. There has been negative public reaction to the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining, particularly the large consumption of electricity, and governments of various jurisdictions have responded. For example, pursuant to the Notification No. 1283, new virtual currency mining projects are forbidden to apply for electricity facility installation, and the electricity facility installation shall be strictly reviewed. It is not permissible to supply power to virtual currency mining enterprises in any name, and all applications for electricity facility installation projects in progress shall be stopped. In the United States, certain local governments of the state of Washington have discussed measures to address the environmental impacts of Bitcoin-related operations, such as the high electricity consumption of Bitcoin mining activities. Any legislation and increased regulation regarding climate change could impose significant costs on us and our suppliers, including costs related to increased energy requirements, capital equipment, environmental monitoring and reporting, and other costs to comply with such regulations. Specifically, imposition of a carbon tax or other regulatory fee in a jurisdiction where we operate or on electricity that we purchase could result in substantially higher energy costs, and due to the significant amount of electrical power required to operate cryptocurrency mining machines, could in turn put our facilities at a competitive disadvantage. Any future climate change regulations could also negatively impact our ability to compete with companies situated in areas not subject to such limitations. Given the political significance and uncertainty around the impact of climate change and how it should be addressed, we cannot predict how legislation and regulation will affect our financial condition, operating performance and ability to compete. Furthermore, even without such regulation, increased awareness and any adverse publicity in the global marketplace about potential impacts on climate change by us or other companies in our industry could harm our reputation. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
The current regulatory environment in foreign markets, and any adverse changes in that environment, could have a material adverse impact on our blockchain products business and our cryptocurrency exchange and financial service platform businesses
We currently export our products to various overseas markets, have established two cryptocurrency trading exchanges, and we intend to further develop our business and operations in overseas jurisdictions in the future to provide cryptocurrency trading related services to cryptocurrency communities, including, but not limited to, Singapore, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States. Our blockchain products business and planned cryptocurrency and financial services platform businesses could therefore be significantly affected by regulatory developments in jurisdictions outside the PRC, including the United States and other jurisdictions.
Certain aspects of business are subject to extensive laws, rules, regulations, policies and legal and regulatory guidance, including those governing securities, commodities, cryptocurrency asset custody, exchange and transfer, data governance, data protection, cybersecurity and tax. Many of these legal and regulatory regimes were adopted prior to the advent of the Internet, mobile technologies, cryptocurrency assets and related technologies. As a result, they do not contemplate or address unique issues associated with the crypto economy, are subject to significant uncertainty, and vary widely across federal, state and local laws, including the PRC and international jurisdictions. These legal and regulatory regimes, including the laws, rules and regulations thereunder, evolve frequently and may be modified, interpreted and applied in an inconsistent manner from one jurisdiction to another, and may conflict with one another. Moreover, the complexity and evolving nature of certain aspects of our business and the significant uncertainty surrounding the regulation of the crypto economy require us to exercise our judgement as to whether certain laws, rules and regulations apply to us, and it is possible that governmental bodies and regulators may disagree with our conclusions. In addition, governmental authorities that oversee certain aspects of the cryptocurrency markets, including those in the United States and other jurisdictions, have taken actions based on current laws and regulations, and are likely to continue to issue new laws, rules and regulations governing the cryptocurrency industry in which we currently operate and may operate in the future. As a result, and as discussed further in “- We are subject to risks associated with legal, political or other conditions or developments regarding holding, using or mining of Bitcoins, which could negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial position,” existing and future regulations affecting the mining, holding, using, or transferring of cryptocurrencies may adversely affect our future business operations and results of operations, could subject us to significant fines and other regulatory consequences, and could result in our or our customers’ liability for activities conducted by our customers.
As described under “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulatory Overview of United States,” United States federal and state securities laws may specifically limit our ability and the ability of our customers to use our blockchain and telecommunications products where these operations are conducted in connection with cryptocurrencies that are considered “securities” for purposes of United States laws. We have designed new chips for mining cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin, and the likely status of these cryptocurrencies as securities could limit distributions, transfers, or other actions involving such cryptocurrencies, including mining, in the United States. For example, the distribution of cryptocurrencies to miners through the mining process could be deemed to involve an illegal offering or distribution of securities subject to United States federal or state laws. In addition, miners on cryptocurrency networks could, under certain circumstances, be viewed as statutory underwriters or as “brokers” subject to regulation under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. This could require us or our customers to change, limit, or cease their mining operations, register as broker-dealers and comply with applicable laws, or be subject to penalties, including fines, or other regulatory consequences. In addition, we could face liability for facilitating their illegal activities.
Further, if Bitcoin, Ethereum, or any other supported cryptocurrency asset is deemed to be a security under any United States federal, state, or foreign jurisdiction, or in a proceeding in a court of law or otherwise, it may have adverse consequences for such supported cryptocurrency asset, which could adversely affect our business, prospects, operations or financial condition. For instance, all transactions in such supported cryptocurrency asset would have to be registered with the SEC or other foreign authority, or conducted in accordance with an exemption from registration, which could severely limit its liquidity, usability and transactability. Moreover, the networks on which such supported cryptocurrency assets are utilized may be required to be regulated as securities intermediaries, and subject to applicable rules, which could effectively render the network impracticable for its existing purposes. Further, it could draw negative publicity and a decline in the general acceptance of the cryptocurrency asset. Also, it may make it difficult for such supported cryptocurrency asset to be traded, cleared, and custodied as compared to other cryptocurrency asset that are not considered to be securities. Specifically, even if transactions in a cryptocurrency asset were registered with the SEC or conducted in accordance with an exemption from registration, the current intermediary-based framework for securities trading, clearance and settlement is not consistent with the operations of the cryptocurrency asset market. For example, under current SEC guidance, cryptocurrency asset securities cannot be held on behalf of customers by broker-dealers that also support custody of traditional securities; and the SEC has not permitted public permissionless blockchain-based clearance and settlement systems for securities.
In addition, cryptocurrencies are subject to additional U.S. laws and regulations related to transactions in commodities as enforced by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, and to money transmission, money service business, anti-money laundering, and know-your-customer activities as enforced by the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, and by state governments. We or our customers could be subject to regulatory restrictions or regulatory actions based on these laws and regulations.
Under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, a company may fall within the definition of an investment company under section 3(c)(1)(A) thereof if it is or holds itself out as being engaged primarily, or proposes to engage primarily in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities, or under section 3(a)(1)(C) thereof if it is engaged or proposes to engage in business of investing, reinvesting, owning, holding, or trading in securities, and owns or proposes to acquire “investment securities” (as defined) having a value exceeding 40% of its total assets (exclusive of government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis. There is no authoritative law, rule or binding guidance published by the SEC regarding the status of digital assets as “securities” or “investment securities” under the Investment Company Act. Although we believe that we are not engaged in the business of investing, reinvesting, or trading in investment securities, and we do not hold ourselves out as being primarily engaged, or proposing to engage primarily, in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities, to the extent the digital assets which we own or otherwise acquire may be deemed “securities” or “investment securities” by the SEC or a court of competent jurisdiction, we may meet the definition of an investment company. If we fall within the definition of an investment company under the Investment Company Act, we would be required to register with the SEC. If an investment company fails to register, it likely would have to stop doing almost all business, and its contracts would become voidable. Generally non-U.S. issuers may not register as an investment company without an SEC order.
Cryptocurrency is a recent technological innovation and the regulatory schemes to which cryptocurrency and the related exchange may be subject have not been fully explored or developed by foreign jurisdictions. Thus, cryptocurrency faces an uncertain regulatory landscape in many foreign jurisdictions. Various foreign jurisdictions may from time to time adopt laws, regulations or directives that affect our cryptocurrency businesses. Due in part to its international nature and the nascent stage of regulation, along with the limited experience with cryptocurrency, and language barriers between international journalists, translators and regulators, information regarding the regulation of cryptocurrency in various jurisdictions may be incomplete, inaccurate or unreliable. As both the regulatory landscape develops and journalistic familiarity with cryptocurrency increases, mainstream media’s understanding of cryptocurrency and the regulation thereof may improve. As we enter into the markets in Australia, Singapore, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States, we have retained local regulatory counsels and expect to continue to monitor the local regulations regarding cryptocurrency and financial service platforms.
We expect that regulations governing our current and planned business operations will vary from country to country as well as within countries. We cannot assure you that we will be familiar with local laws and regulations at all times when we establish cryptocurrency and financial services platform businesses or develop any other business and operations in a foreign country. An increase in the regulation of such operations may affect our proposed businesses by increasing compliance costs or prohibiting certain or all of our proposed activities. In addition, existing and proposed laws and regulations can delay or impede the development of new products, result in negative publicity, decrease demand for our products, require significant management time and attention, and subject us to claims or other remedies, including fines or demands that we modify or cease existing business practices.
Furthermore, any action brought against us or our customers by a foreign regulator, or by an individual in a private action, based on foreign law could cause us or our customers to incur significant legal expenses and divert our management’s attention from the operation of the business. If our or our customers’ operations are found to be in violation of any laws and regulations, we or they may be subject to penalties associated with the violation, including civil and criminal penalties, damages and fines. This could in turn require us to curtail or cease all or some operations. Regulatory action or regulatory change could also decrease demand for our products and services, which would be harmful to the success of our business.
The future development and growth of cryptocurrency is subject to a variety of factors that are difficult to predict and evaluate. If cryptocurrency does not grow as we expect, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected
Cryptocurrency assets built on blockchain technology were only introduced in 2008 and remain in the early stages of development. In addition, different cryptocurrency assets are designed for different purposes. Bitcoin, for instance, was designed to serve as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, while Ethereum was designed to be a smart contract and decentralized application platform. Many other cryptocurrency networks, ranging from cloud computing to tokenized securities networks, have only recently been established. The further growth and development of any cryptocurrency assets and their underlying networks and other cryptographic and algorithmic protocols governing the creation, transfer, and usage of cryptocurrency assets represent a new and evolving paradigm that is subject to a variety of factors that are difficult to evaluate, including:
|●||many cryptocurrency networks have limited operating histories, have not been validated in production, and are still in the process of developing and making significant decisions that will affect the design, supply, issuance, functionality, and governance of their respective cryptocurrency assets and underlying blockchain networks, any of which could adversely affect their respective cryptocurrency assets;|
|●||many cryptocurrency networks are in the process of implementing software upgrades and other changes to their protocols, which could introduce bugs, security risks, or adversely affect the respective cryptocurrency networks;|
|●||several large networks, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, are developing new features to address fundamental speed, scalability, and energy usage issues. If these issues are not successfully addressed, or are unable to receive widespread adoption, it could adversely affect the underlying cryptocurrency assets;|
|●||security issues, bugs, and software errors have been identified with many cryptocurrency assets and their underlying blockchain networks, some of which have been exploited by malicious actors. There are also inherent security weaknesses in some cryptocurrency assets, such as when creators of certain cryptocurrency networks use procedures that could allow hackers to counterfeit tokens. Any weaknesses identified with a cryptocurrency asset could adversely affect its price, security, liquidity, and adoption. If a malicious actor or botnet (a volunteer or hacked collection of computers controlled by networked software coordinating the actions of the computers) obtains a majority of the compute or staking power on a cryptocurrency network, as has happened in the past, it may be able to manipulate transactions, which could cause financial losses to holders, damage the network’s reputation and security, and adversely affect its value;|
|●||the development of new technologies for mining, such as improved ASICs, or changes in industry patterns, such as the consolidation of mining power in a small number of large mining farms, could reduce the security of blockchain networks, lead to increased liquid supply of cryptocurrency assets, and reduce a crypto’s price and attractiveness;|
|●||if rewards and transaction fees for miners or validators are not sufficiently high to attract and retain miners, a cryptocurrency network’s security and speed may be adversely affected, increasing the likelihood of a malicious attack;|
|●||the governance of many decentralized blockchain networks is by voluntary consensus and open competition, and many developers are not directly compensated for their contributions. As a result, there may be a lack of consensus or clarity on the governance of any particular cryptocurrency network, a lack of incentives for developers to maintain or develop the network, and other unforeseen issues, any of which could result in unexpected or undesirable errors, bugs, or changes, or stymie such network’s utility and ability to respond to challenges and grow; and|
|●||many cryptocurrency networks are in the early stages of developing partnerships and collaborations, all of which may not succeed and adversely affect the usability and adoption of the respective cryptocurrency assets.|
Various other technical issues have also been uncovered from time to time that resulted in disabled functionalities, exposure of certain users’ personal information, theft of users’ assets, and other negative consequences, and which required resolution with the attention and efforts of their global miner, user, and development communities. If any such risks or other risks materialize, and in particular if they are not resolved, the development and growth of cryptocurrency may be significantly affected and, as a result, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
Future developments regarding the treatment of cryptocurrency assets for U.S. and foreign tax purposes could adversely impact our business
Due to the new and evolving nature of cryptocurrency assets and the absence of comprehensive legal and tax guidance with respect to cryptocurrency asset products and transactions, many significant aspects of the U.S. and foreign tax treatment of transactions involving cryptocurrency assets, such as the purchase and sale of cryptocurrency assets on our platform, as well as the provision of staking rewards and other cryptocurrency asset incentives, are uncertain, and it is unclear whether, when and what guidance may be issued in the future on the treatment of cryptocurrency asset transactions for U.S. and foreign income tax purposes.
In 2014, the IRS released Notice 2014-21, discussing certain aspects of “virtual currency” for U.S. federal income tax purposes and, in particular, stating that such virtual currency (i) is “property,” (ii) is not “currency” for purposes of the rules relating to foreign currency gain or loss, and (iii) may be held as a capital asset. In 2019, the IRS released Revenue Ruling 2019-24 and a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” (which have been periodically updated), that provide additional guidance, including guidance to the effect that, under certain circumstances, hard forks of digital currencies are taxable events giving rise to ordinary income and guidance with respect to the determination of the tax basis of virtual currency. However, this guidance does not address other significant aspects of the U.S. federal income tax treatment of cryptocurrency assets and related transactions.
There continues to be uncertainty with respect to the timing, character and amount of income inclusions for various cryptocurrency asset transactions including, but not limited to lending and borrowing cryptocurrency assets, staking rewards and other cryptocurrency asset incentives that we offer. Although we believe our treatment of cryptocurrency asset transactions for federal income tax purposes is consistent with existing guidance provided by the IRS and existing U.S. federal income tax principles, because of the rapidly evolving nature of cryptocurrency asset innovations and the increasing variety and complexity of cryptocurrency asset transactions and products, it is possible the IRS and various U.S. states may disagree with our treatment of certain cryptocurrency asset offerings for U.S. tax purposes, which could adversely affect our customers and the vitality of our business and platforms.
There can be no assurance that the IRS, the U.S. state revenue agencies or other foreign tax authorities, will not alter their respective positions with respect to cryptocurrency assets in the future or that a court would uphold the treatment set forth in existing guidance. It also is unclear what additional guidance may be issued in the future on the treatment of existing cryptocurrency asset transactions and future cryptocurrency asset innovations for purposes of U.S. tax or other foreign tax regulations. Any such alteration of existing IRS, U.S. state and foreign tax authority positions or additional guidance regarding cryptocurrency asset products and transactions could result in adverse tax consequences for holders of cryptocurrency assets and could have an adverse effect on the value of cryptocurrency assets and the broader cryptocurrency assets markets. Future technological and operational developments that may arise with respect to cryptocurrency assets may increase the uncertainty with respect to the treatment of cryptocurrency assets for U.S. and foreign tax purposes. The uncertainty regarding tax treatment of cryptocurrency asset transactions impacts our customers, and could impact our business, both domestically and abroad.
Our results of operations have been and are expected to continue to be significantly impacted by the fluctuation of cryptocurrency prices, especially the price of Bitcoin
Our mining machines are currently designed primarily for Bitcoin mining. The demand for, and pricing of, our mining machines are therefore affected by the expected economic returns of Bitcoin mining activities, which in turn are primarily driven by, among other factors, the Bitcoin price. The price of Bitcoin has experienced significant fluctuations over its short existence and may continue to fluctuate significantly in the future. According to Bitcoin.com, Bitcoin prices ranged from approximately US$7,174 per coin as of December 31, 2019, US$28,968 per coin as of December 31, 2020, to US$47,394 per coin as of December 31, 2021. According to the same source, from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, the highest Bitcoin price was approximately US$67,492 per coin and the lowest was US$29,962 per coin. Bitcoin prices began to pick up in the second quarter of 2019, and we recorded a revenue of $109.1 million in 2019. After the outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of 2019, there was a sudden panic in the global market. Although the price of Bitcoin increased significantly in October 2020, raw material shortages extended into the end of 2020, caused by uncertain international economic conditions and strained supply chains in various countries, which in turn had a negative impact on our business and operating results. We recorded revenue of US$19 million in 2020. Since 2021, the price of Bitcoin has maintained at a high level with volatility, and enterprises have also actively resumed production globally, with investors returning to digital currency and blockchain investment. Our sales volume has increased significantly compared with the previous year, with a revenue of $51 million in 2021.
We expect our results of operations to continue to be affected by cryptocurrency prices and shortage of raw materials caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as we generated 82.4%, 42.3% and 77.3% of our revenue from sales of our Bitcoin mining machines and related accessories in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, and 14.4%, 48.1% and 5.5% from provision of mining machine hosting services in the same periods, respectively. With the launch of our two cryptocurrency exchange platforms, and our plan to develop and operate future cryptocurrency exchange platforms and/or online brokerage, we anticipate that we will generate an increasing amount of our total revenue from transaction fees on our platforms and/or online brokerages in connection with the purchase, sale, and trading of cryptocurrency assets by our customers. To date, we have not generated significant revenue from these products and services; most of which will also fluctuate based on the price of cryptocurrency assets. As such, any declines in the volume of cryptocurrency assets transactions, the price of cryptocurrency assets, or market liquidity for cryptocurrency assets generally will likely have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition. We cannot assure you that the Bitcoin price or Bitcoin network transaction fees will remain high enough to sustain the demand for our Bitcoin mining machines or that cryptocurrency prices will not decline significantly in the future. At the same time, if transaction fees increase to such an extent as to discourage users from using cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange, it may decrease the transaction volume of the cryptocurrency network and may affect the demand for our Bitcoin mining machines, hosting services, cryptocurrency exchange and online brokerage businesses. Furthermore, fluctuations in cryptocurrency prices, especially in Bitcoin price, can have an immediate impact on the trading price of our Class A ordinary shares even before our financial performance is affected, if at all.
In addition to the market volatility, various other factors, mostly beyond our control, could impact cryptocurrency prices. For example, the usage of cryptocurrency in the retail and commercial marketplace is relatively low in comparison with the usage for speculation, which contributes to cryptocurrency price volatility. Renowned persons, including social media influencers, may also publicly discuss their holdings (or the holdings of companies with which they are affiliated) of cryptocurrency or their intent to buy or sell large quantities of cryptocurrency. At a minimum, these public statements delivered through social media, such as Twitter, may cause cryptocurrency prices to experience significant volatility.
In addition, any shortage of power supply due to government control measures or other reasons, and any increase in energy costs, would raise the costs of Bitcoin mining. This in turn could affect our customers’ expected economic return for mining activities and the demand for and pricing of our current Bitcoin mining machines and future hosting services.
Furthermore, fluctuations in the Bitcoin price may affect the value of our inventory as well as the provision we make to the inventory as we manage our inventory based on, among others, the sales forecast of our Bitcoin mining machines. As we generally increase our procurement volume and stock up finished goods for the launch of new products or we expect a surge of demand of Bitcoin mining machines, a significant drop in the Bitcoin price can lead to a lower expected sales price and excessive inventory, which in turn will lead to impairment losses with respect to such inventory. For example, in 2019 and 2020, as a result of the significant drop in the Bitcoin price, we recorded write-downs for the potentially obsolete, slow-moving inventory and lower of cost or market adjustment of US$6.3 million and US$3.6 million in cost of revenues, respectively, which in turn had a significant negative impact on our profitability. In 2021, we also recorded write-downs for the potentially obsolete, slow-moving inventory and lower of cost or market adjustment of US$2.2 million for the same reason. If the Bitcoin price drops significantly in the future, we may need to make similar write-downs again. To the extent that we are able to sell such inventory above its carrying value, our gross profit may also be inflated by such write down.
The Bitcoin price drop also adversely impacted the ability of our customers who purchased our Bitcoin mining products to make payments. We offered sales on credit to some of our customers in response to the Bitcoin price drop in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and may continue to offer credit sales when the Bitcoin price drops significantly. Additionally, if the Bitcoin price drops significantly in the future, we may need to offer to certain of our customers price concession, even if we generally do not offer a price concession to customers. See “Management’s discussion and analysis on financial condition and results of operations—Critical Accounting Policies—Revenue recognition” for details. We did not provide price concession to customers in 2019, 2020 and 2021. However, we cannot assure you that we will not provide such price concession in the future. If we provide any price concession to our customers in the future, our revenues and results of operations may be adversely affected.
We have derived and may continue to derive a significant portion of our revenues from our Bitcoin mining machines business. If the market for Bitcoin mining machines ceases to exist or diminishes significantly, our business, results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected
We have generated, and expect to generate in the foreseeable future, a significant portion of our revenues from sales of our Bitcoin mining machines. Sales of our Bitcoin mining machines and related accessories accounted for 82.4%, 42.3% and 77.3% of our revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. Revenues from provision of mining machine hosting services also accounted for 14.4%, 48.1% and 5.5% of our revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. If the market for Bitcoin mining machines ceases to exist or diminishes significantly, we would experience a significant loss of sales, cancelation of orders, or loss of customers for our Bitcoin mining machines. Adverse factors that may affect the market for Bitcoin mining machines include:
|●||Another cryptocurrency, especially one that is not created using the same mining processes as Bitcoin, displaces Bitcoin as the mainstream cryptocurrency, thereby causing Bitcoin to lose value or become worthless, which could adversely affect the sustainability of our business.|
|●||Bitcoin fails to gain wide market acceptance and fails to become a generally accepted medium of exchange in the global economy due to certain inherent limitations to cryptocurrencies.|
|●||Over time, the reward for Bitcoin mining will decline in terms of the amount of Bitcoin awarded, which may reduce the incentive to mine Bitcoin. Specifically, a recent halving event occurred in May 2020, and Bitcoins are expected to be fully mined out by the year of 2140. Therefore, Bitcoin mining machines may become less productive as the available rewards for Bitcoin mining continue to decrease.|
If we cannot maintain the scale and profitability of the sales of our Bitcoin mining machines and, at the same time, successfully expand our business in other application markets, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects will suffer. Furthermore, excess inventory, inventory markdowns, brand image deterioration and margin squeeze caused by declining economic returns for miners or pricing competition for our Bitcoin mining machines could all have a material and adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The industries in which we operate and which we intend to operate in the future are characterized by constant changes. If we fail to continuously innovate and to provide products that meet the expectations of our customers, we may be unable to attract new customers or retain existing customers, and hence our business and results of operations may be adversely affected
The industries in which we operate and intend to operate in the future are characterized by constant changes, including rapid technological evolution, continual shifts in customer demands, frequent introductions of new products and solutions and constant emergence of new industry standards and practices. Thus, our success will depend, in part, on our ability to respond to these changes in a cost-effective and timely manner. To maintain the relevancy of our products and to continue to broaden and enhance our product portfolio for delivering the most effective products to our customers, we have actively invested in product planning and research and development. The process of developing and marketing new products is inherently complex and involves significant uncertainties, including the following:
|●||our product planning efforts may fail resulting in the development or commercialization of new technologies or ideas;|
|●||our research and development efforts may fail to translate new product plans into commercially feasible products;|
|●||our new technologies or new products may not be well received by consumers;|
|●||we may not have adequate funding and resources necessary for continual investments in product planning and research and development;|
|●||our products may become obsolete due to rapid advancements in technology and changes in consumer preferences; and|
|●||our newly developed technologies may not be protected as proprietary intellectual property rights.|
Any failure to anticipate the next-generation technology roadmap or changes in customer preferences or to timely develop new or enhanced products in response could result in decreased revenue and market share. In particular, we may experience difficulties with product design, product development, marketing or certification, which could result in excessive research and development expenses and capital expenditure, delays or prevent our introduction of new or enhanced products. Furthermore, our research and development efforts may not yield the expected results, or may prove to be futile due to the lack of market demand.
Increasing mining difficulty and decreasing mining rewards could result in downward pressure on the expected economic returns on Bitcoin mining
The difficulty of Bitcoin mining, or the amount of computational resources required for a set amount of reward for recording a new block, directly affects the expected economic returns for Bitcoin miners, which in turn affects the demand for our Bitcoin mining machines. Bitcoin mining difficulty is a measure of how much computing power is required to record a new block, and it is affected by the total amount of computing power in the Bitcoin network. The Bitcoin algorithm is designed so that one block is generated, on average, every ten minutes, no matter how much computing power is in the network. Thus, as more computing power joins the network, and assuming the rate of block creation does not change (remaining at one block generated every ten minutes), the amount of computing power required to generate each block and hence the mining difficulty increases. In other words, based on the current design of the Bitcoin network, Bitcoin mining difficulty would increase together with the total computing power available in the Bitcoin network, which is in turn affected by the number of Bitcoin mining machines in operation. For example, Bitcoin mining difficulty would increase based on increases in the total computing power available in the Bitcoin network, which is in turn affected by the number of Bitcoin mining machines in operation. From January 2017 to December 2020, Bitcoin mining difficulty increased by approximately 72 times, according to BTC.com. As a result, a strong growth in sales of our Bitcoin mining machines can contribute to further growth in the total computing power in the network, thereby driving up the difficulty of Bitcoin mining and resulting in downward pressure on the expected economic return of Bitcoin mining and the demand for, and pricing of, our products.
In addition, the number of Bitcoins awarded for solving a block in the blockchain halves approximately every four years until the estimated complete depletion of Bitcoin by around the year 2140. In each of 2013, 2014 and 2015, approximately 25 Bitcoins were awarded for each block solved. The number of Bitcoins awarded for solving a block halved in 2016 to 12.5 Bitcoins per block, and halved again in May 2020 to 6.25 Bitcoins per block. We have experienced declined demand for Bitcoin mining machines since the Bitcoin halving event in May 2020 as the mining rewards were slashed and the expected economic returns on Bitcoin mining was adversely affected.
Aside from mining rewards, transaction fees are another form of incentive for participation in Bitcoin verification processes. Bitcoin users may offer to pay a discretionary Bitcoin transaction fee to the network member who solves the block and adds that user’s transaction to the blockchain to incentivize prioritizing that user’s transaction. Transaction fees are discretionary, so if the transaction fees were to become the only or primary income for Bitcoin mining activities in the future, the expected economic returns from Bitcoin mining and therefore the demand for our products will decrease significantly, which will result in a significant negative impact on our business and results of operations.
Our business growth is dependent on the development of blockchain technology and applications, particularly in the field of Bitcoin
We derive our revenue predominantly from our blockchain products business. The development of blockchain technology is still in a relatively early stage, and there can be no assurance that blockchain applications, including those in the fields of cryptocurrencies and other areas such as artificial intelligence, will gain wide market acceptance. Any blockchain application may become redundant or obsolete with the introduction of new competing technologies or products. If market acceptance or confidence in blockchain technology is lost or reduced for any reason, such as due to cybersecurity issues, the demand for our existing or future blockchain products may decline.
Our blockchain products business depends significantly on the development of cryptocurrency applications, in particular, Bitcoin applications, as all of our mining machines are currently designed for Bitcoin mining. The cryptocurrency market is rapidly and continuously evolving. Any actual or perceived adverse development in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies can significantly affect market demand for mining activities, mining machines and cryptocurrency transactions. In addition, any event or rumor that generates negative publicity for the cryptocurrency market could hinder the development and reduce market acceptance of cryptocurrency applications. Under such circumstances, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
If we are unable to manage our growth or execute our strategies effectively, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected
We are in the process of developing integrated circuits (the “ICs”) for mining other cryptocurrencies in order to adapt our future models of mining machines to other cryptocurrencies promptly and efficiently when all the Bitcoins have been discovered or Bitcoin is replaced by other cryptocurrencies as the mainstream cryptocurrency. We began to provide mining machine hosting services in 2017 and intend to leverage our experience in the mining machine industry to establish mining farms and provide cryptocurrency trading-related services to the cryptocurrency community in order to diversify our offerings. We have halted all mining machine custody services in the PRC at the end of April 2021, and we are in the process of locating and/or constructing compliant mining farms in North America and Europe. As of the date of this annual report, we have established two cryptocurrency exchange platforms outside the PRC; have received registration approval from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) as a digital currency exchange and acquired a company with an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) for engaging in financial services in Australia; have received the Trust or Company Service Providers (TCSP) license and approval to provide company and trust service business in Hong Kong; and we are in the process of obtaining relevant licenses and approvals for our subsidiaries in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas and New Zealand to engage in cryptocurrency trading. We also intend to set up a cryptocurrency exchange platform and/or online brokerage services in the United States. We may fail to successfully execute our expansion plan due to our limited resources and other reasons beyond our control. For example, the gain we obtain from running mining farms may not cover their operating expenses due to a prolonged depression of cryptocurrency prices, and our cryptocurrency trading related services may be unable to compete effectively with other similar services already available to the cryptocurrency community. Should we fail to successfully manage our growth or implement our strategies, the resources we allocate to the new business lines will be wasted, and our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Each of our subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Bahamas, New Zealand and the United States have a limited operating history, which makes it hard for us to evaluate their ability to generate revenue through operations, and to date, each of them has not generated significant revenue from any commercially available blockchain-based products or services
Our subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Bahamas, New Zealand and the United States were recently formed from August 2020 to November 2021 for the purpose of establishing our cryptocurrency exchanges and online brokerages. Their limited operating history and the relative immaturity of the blockchain industry make it difficult for us to evaluate their current business and future prospects. They have encountered, and will continue to encounter, risks and difficulties frequently experienced by growing companies in rapidly developing and changing industries, including challenges in forecasting accuracy, determining appropriate uses of their limited resources, gaining market acceptance, managing a complex and evolving regulatory landscape and developing new products. These subsidiaries’ current or future operating model may require changes in order for them to scale their operations efficiently and be successful. Investors in our securities should consider the business and prospects of our overseas subsidiaries in these countries in light of the risks and difficulties they face as early-stage companies focused on developing products in the field of financial technology.
We may not successfully develop, market or launch any future cryptocurrency exchanges or online brokerages or continue operating our existing cryptocurrency exchanges
In April 2021, we launched our first self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform Ebonex and in February 2022, we launched another self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform, also branded Ebonex, in Australia. As of the date of this annual report, both cryptocurrency exchange platforms have only been accessed and/or utilized by a small number of users and have not generated significant revenue. In December 2021 and March 2022, we have received registration approval from the AUSTRAC as a digital currency exchange and acquired a company with an AFSL for engaging in financial services in Australia. In September and December 2021, we have received the TCSP License and approval from the Companies Registry of Hong Kong, which will allow us to engage in company and trust service business in Hong Kong. In January 2022, we have received registration approval as a Trust Company by the Companies Registry of Hong Kong, which will allow us to engage in trust related business in Hong Kong. We are in the process of obtaining relevant licenses and approvals for our subsidiaries in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas and New Zealand to engage in cryptocurrency trading and we are at an initial preparatory stage of executing our plan to launch blockchain-enabled financial business or online brokerages in the United States. There is no guarantee that we will receive any additional required approvals and licenses for our proposed business in such jurisdictions in a timely manner or on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, or that we will commence the proposed business as planned, or at all. Additionally, as we have limited experience in operating the proposed business, we will need to obtain additional management, regulatory compliance technical expertise and devote substantial time and effort to these initiatives, which may not be as profitable as we expected or at all. We also need to obtain additional capital resources to pursue development of cryptocurrency exchanges or online brokerages, and we may not be successful in raising that capital. In addition, we may face relevant restrictions from existing and future regulations in connection with our expansion into this line of business. While we have been closely monitoring the development of the relevant regulations and have been in communication with regulatory authorities, this business initiative may not be viable due to regulatory concerns. Our plan to develop, market or launch any future cryptocurrency exchanges or online brokerages or to continue operating our existing cryptocurrency exchanges may suffer significant delays in our efforts and may ultimately not be successful. It is possible that the launch of our future cryptocurrency exchanges and/or online brokerages may never occur, and even if the proposed business is successfully developed, it is possible that it will not be accessed or utilized by a sufficient number of users or will otherwise not achieve viable business scale or market acceptance.
We depend on major mobile operating systems and third-party platforms for the distribution of certain products. If Google Play, the Apple App Store, or other platforms prevent customers from downloading our apps, our ability to grow may be adversely affected
We rely upon third-party platforms for the distribution of certain products and services. Our Ebonex apps are provided to eligible users as free applications through both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and are also accessible via mobile and traditional websites. The Google Play Store and Apple App Store are global application distribution platforms and the main distribution channels for our apps. As such, the promotion, distribution, and operation of our apps are subject to the respective platforms’ terms and policies for application developers, which are very broad and subject to frequent changes and re-interpretation. Further, these distribution platforms often contain restrictions related to cryptocurrency assets that are uncertain, broadly construed, and can limit the nature and scope of services that can be offered. If our products are found to be in violation of any such terms and conditions, we may no longer be able to offer our products through such third-party platforms. There can be no guarantee that third-party platforms will continue to support our product offerings, or that customers will be able to continue to use our products. Any changes, bugs, technical or regulatory issues with third-party platforms, our relationships with mobile manufacturers and carriers, or changes to their terms of service or policies could degrade our products’ functionalities, reduce or eliminate our ability to distribute our products, give preferential treatment to competitive products, limit our ability to deliver high quality offerings, or impose fees or other charges, any of which could affect our product usage and harm our business.
Our intellectual property rights are valuable, and any inability to protect them could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition
Our business depends in large part on our proprietary technology and our brand. We rely on, and expect to continue to rely on, a combination of patent, trademark, trade dress, domain name, copyright, and trade secrets, as well as confidentiality and license agreements with our employees, contractors, consultants, and third parties with whom we have relationships, to establish and protect our brand and other intellectual property rights. However, our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights may not be sufficient or effective. Our proprietary technology and trade secrets could be lost through misappropriation or breach of our confidentiality and license agreements, and any of our intellectual property rights may be challenged, which could result in them being narrowed in scope or declared invalid or unenforceable. There can be no assurance that our intellectual property rights will be sufficient to protect against others offering products, services, or technologies that are substantially similar to ours and that compete with our business. As a result, we may be forced into an adverse price competition that reduces our profit margin.
Our ability to successfully defend intellectual property challenges from competitors and other parties may depend, in part, on our ability to counter-assert our patents defensively. Effective protection of our intellectual property may be expensive and difficult to maintain, both in terms of application and registration costs as well as the costs of defending and enforcing those rights. As we have grown, we have sought to obtain and protect our intellectual property rights in an increasing number of countries, a process that can be expensive and may not always be successful. In some instances, patent applications or patents may be abandoned or allowed to lapse, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in a relevant jurisdiction. Further, intellectual property protection may not be available to us in every country in which our products and services are available. For example, some foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. In addition, many countries limit the enforceability of patents against certain third parties, including government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, patents may provide limited or no benefit. We may also agree to license our patents to third parties as part of various patent pools and open patent projects. Those licenses may diminish our ability, though, to counter-assert our patents against certain parties that may bring claims against us. Even when we are able to obtain intellectual property rights protections, there is no guarantee that we will be able to effectively enforce our rights. In this respect, we may incur expenses and efforts to monitor and enforce our intellectual property rights. Infringement of our intellectual property rights and the resulting diversion of resources to protect such rights through litigation or other means could also adversely affect our profitability.
If Bitcoin is replaced by other cryptocurrencies as the mainstream cryptocurrency, we will lose the market for our current mining machines and our results of operations will be materially and adversely affected
Although we have begun to develop new chips for mining other cryptocurrencies, all of our revenue from sales of cryptocurrency mining machines was generated from the sale of mining machines designed for Bitcoin mining in 2019, 2020 and 2021. We face the risk that other cryptocurrencies could replace Bitcoin as the largest cryptocurrency, which may in turn negatively impact the value of Bitcoin and diminish interest in mining Bitcoin. Acceptance of Bitcoin may decline due to various reasons such as the following:
|●||potential changes in Bitcoin’s algorithms or source code may negatively impact user acceptance;|
|●||patches, upgrades, attacks or hacking of Bitcoin’s infrastructure may undermine user interest or confidence;|
|●||usage of Bitcoin for illicit or illegal activities by bad actors may erode public perception of Bitcoin; or|
|●||hacking, fraud or other problems with Bitcoin exchanges, wallets or other related infrastructure may negatively impact user confidence.|
If fewer people accept Bitcoin currency or fewer merchants accept Bitcoin as a payment method, Bitcoin may decline in value. Although Bitcoin is currently the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, a substantial amount of Bitcoin-related transactions may be speculation-related and a technological breakthrough in the form of a better cryptocurrency is a continuous threat. Other cryptocurrencies may be designed with algorithms that are not compatible with the kind of computing done by application-specific integrated circuit (“ASIC”) chip mining machines. If such a cryptocurrency were to become dominant, our existing technological know-how may not be applicable in creating hardware for participants in that cryptocurrency network, and we may face greater competition from new players. In addition, since the value of and support for Bitcoin depend entirely on the community using it, any disagreement between the users may result in the splitting of the network to support other cryptocurrencies and the users may sell all their Bitcoins and switch to other cryptocurrencies. As a result, our mining machines and our results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
We rely on a limited number of third parties to fabricate our ASIC chips, which are the core technology used in our mining machines
The ASIC chip is the key component of a mining machine as it determines the efficiency of the device. Currently, only a small number of wafer foundries in the world are capable of producing the highly sophisticated silicon wafers used for ASIC chips. Therefore, the ability to source high-quality wafers is a major barrier to entry for new entrants and has provided us with a great competitive advantage in the market.
In 2019, 2020 and 2021, all of our ASIC wafers were fabricated by Samsung. We principally purchased ASIC chips either directly from Samsung or through intermediaries that purchased from Samsung. However, this arrangement does not guarantee that Samsung will reserve foundry capacity for us, which we believe is in line with market arrangements with other wafer foundries. As such, there are risks that Samsung may be unable to accept our purchase orders or continue their supply of ASIC wafers to us. Such changes may result in delays to our production, which could negatively affect our reputation and results of operations.
In order to reduce our reliance on Samsung, we have established working relations with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Limited, or TSMC, since November 2017. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to continue to source ASIC wafers from Samsung or TSMC on the same or similar terms or in a timely manner, or start to source ASIC wafers from other suppliers. In addition, replacing a supplier may require that we divert attention and resources away from our business. We may also suffer lower gross profit margins if we fail to pass on any additional costs to our customers. As a result, a change in our relationship with Samsung or TSMC could have a significant negative impact on our business, financial condition and results of operation.
We depend on a limited number of suppliers to allocate to us a portion of their manufacturing capacity sufficient to meet our needs, to produce products of acceptable quality and at acceptable final test yields, and to deliver those products to us on a timely basis and at acceptable prices. These suppliers may raise prices or may be unable to meet our required capacity for any reason, such as shortages or delays in the shipment of semiconductor equipment or raw materials required to manufacture our ICs. In particular, we have experienced a global shortage in semiconductors beginning 2021, which may have adversely impacted the production activity and capacity of our third-party foundry partners. If these third-party foundry partners fail to succeed in their technology migration or secure enough semiconductors, they will not be able to deliver to us qualified ICs in a sufficient amount, which will significantly affect our technological advancement and shipment of Bitcoin mining machines. This could in turn result in lost sales and have a material adverse effect on our relationships with our customers and on our business and financial condition. In addition, our business relationships with the suppliers may deteriorate. For example, in November 2019, we brought a legal action against a then-major supplier for breach of contract for delivering defective products. Under such circumstances, we may not be able to obtain the required capacity and would have to seek alternative suppliers, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Moreover, it is possible that other customers of these suppliers that are larger and/or better financed than we are, or that have long-term contracts with them, may receive preferential treatment in terms of capacity allocation or pricing. In addition, if we do not accurately forecast our capacity needs, these suppliers may not have available capacity to meet our immediate needs or we may be required to pay higher costs to fulfill those needs, either of which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In particular, the production of our ASICs may require advanced IC fabrication technologies. Foundries other than Samsung or TSMC, however, might not have sufficient production capacity for such technologies, or at all, to meet our requirements. This may expose us to risks associated with engaging new foundries. For example, using foundries with which we have not established relationships could expose us to potentially unfavorable pricing, unsatisfactory quality or insufficient capacity allocation.
Other risks associated with the concentration of third-party foundry suppliers include limited control over delivery schedules and quality assurance, lack of capacity in periods of excess demand, unauthorized use of our intellectual property and limited ability to manage inventory and parts. In particular, although we have entered into confidentiality agreements with our third-party foundry suppliers for the protection of our intellectual property, it may not protect our intellectual property with the same degree of care as we use to protect our intellectual property. If we fail to properly manage any of these risks, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. Moreover, if Samsung or TSMC suffers any damage to its facilities, suspends manufacturing operations, loses benefits under material agreements, experiences power outages or computer virus attacks, lacks sufficient capacity to manufacture our products, encounters financial difficulties, is unable to secure necessary raw materials from its suppliers or suffers any other disruption or reduction in efficiency, we may encounter supply delays or disruptions. Further, the recent trade disputes between Japan and South Korea could materially and adversely affect Samsung’s supply of ASIC wafers. In July 2019, Japan decided to restrict exports to South Korea of certain materials used in memory chips. Such measures created massive pressures on the production activities of Samsung. If such trade tensions continue escalating without a resolution and Samsung cannot secure alternative supply of key materials that are banned by Japan, Samsung’s ability to supply us with adequate ASIC wafers, which are the core components of our mining machines, may be jeopardized, and as a result, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We rely on a limited number of third parties for IC packaging and testing services
Fabrication of IC chips requires specialized services to process the silicon wafers into IC chips by packaging them and to test their proper functioning. We rely on a limited number of production partners for such packaging and testing services. We have worked closely with world-class outsourced semiconductor assembly and test, or OSAT, companies on a limited number of specialized production partners exposes us to a number of risks, including difficulties in finding alternate suppliers, capacity shortages or delays, lack of control or oversight in timing, quality or costs, and misuse of our intellectual property. If any such problems arise with our OSAT partners, we may experience delays in our production and delivery timeline, inadequate quality control of our products or excessive costs and expenses. As a result, our financial condition, results of operation, reputation and business may be adversely affected.
Failure at tape-out or failure to achieve the expected final test yields for our ASIC chips could negatively impact our results of operations
The tape-out process is a critical milestone in our business. A successful tape-out means all the stages in the design and verification process of our ASIC chips have been completed, and the chip design is ready to be sent for manufacturing. The tape-out process requires considerable investment in time and resources and close cooperation with the wafer foundry, and repeated failures can significantly increase our costs, lengthen our product development period and delay our product launch. If the tape-out or testing of a new ASIC chip design fails, either as a result of design flaws by our research and development team or problems with production or the testing process by the wafer foundry, we may incur considerable costs and expenses to fix or restart the design process. Such obstacles may decrease our profitability or delay the launch of new products.
Once tape-out is successful, the ASIC design is sent for manufacturing, and the final test yield is a measurement of the production success rate. The final test yield is a function of both product design, which is developed by us, and process technology, which typically belongs to a third-party foundry, such as Samsung and TSMC in our case. Low final test yields can result from a product design deficiency or a process technology failure or a combination of both. As such, we may not be able to identify problems causing low final test yields until our product designs go to the manufacturing stage, which may substantially increase our per unit costs and delay the launch of new products.
For example, if either Samsung or TSMC experiences manufacturing inefficiencies or encounters disruptions, errors or difficulties during production, we may fail to achieve acceptable final test yields or experience product delivery delays. We cannot guarantee that Samsung and TSMC will be able to develop, obtain or successfully implement process technologies needed to manufacture future generations of our mining machines on a timely basis. Moreover, during the periods in which foundries are implementing new process technologies, their manufacturing facilities may not be fully productive. A substantial delay in the technology transitions to smaller geometry process technologies could have a material and adverse effect on us, particularly if our competitors transition to such technologies before us.
In addition, resolution of yield problems requires cooperation among us, Samsung or TSMC, and packaging and testing partners. We cannot assure you that the cooperation will be successful and that any yield problem can be fixed.
If any person, institution or a pool of them acting in concert obtains control of more than 50% of the processing power active on the Bitcoin network, such person, institution or a pool of them could prevent new transactions from gaining confirmations, halt payments between users, and reverse previously completed transactions, which would erode user confidence in Bitcoin
If the award of Bitcoins for solving blocks and transaction fees for recording transactions are not sufficiently high to incentivize miners, miners may cease expending processing power to solve blocks. Miners ceasing operations would reduce the collective processing power on the Bitcoin network, which would adversely affect the confirmation process for transactions and make the Bitcoin network more vulnerable to any person, institution or a pool of them which has obtained over 50% control over the computing power on the Bitcoin network. In such event, such person, institution or a pool of them could prevent new transactions from gaining confirmation, halt payments between users, and reverse previously completed transactions. Such changes or any reduction in confidence in the confirmation process or processing power of the Bitcoin network may erode user confidence in Bitcoin, which would decrease the demand for our products.
The decentralized nature of cryptocurrency may be subject to challenges, which could negatively affect our results of operations
A key reason for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to have attracted many new and committed users in a short period of time is its decentralized nature, or the lack of control by a central authority. However, there are divergent views on the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies. For example, there are claims that most of the actual services and businesses built within the cryptocurrency ecosystem are in fact centralized since they are run by specific people, in specific locations, with specific computer systems, and that they are susceptible to specific regulations. Individuals, companies or groups, as well as cryptocurrency exchanges that control vast amounts of cryptocurrency can affect cryptocurrency’s market prices. Furthermore, mining equipment production and mining pool locations may become centralized. The concerns or skepticism about the decentralized nature of Bitcoin may cause customers to lose confidence in the cryptocurrency industry’s prospects. This in turn could adversely affect the market demand for our mining machines, the operation of our cryptocurrency exchanges and our business. Furthermore, the possibility that a person or a coordinated group of people may gain more than 50% control of the process power active on Bitcoin and be able to manipulate transactions, despite the intended decentralized structure, may also erode confidence in Bitcoin. Our business, prospects and results of operations therefore may adversely be affected by the divergent views on the decentralized nature of Bitcoin.
Change of Bitcoin algorithms and mining mechanisms may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations
Our ASIC chips are designed for proof-of-work, or POW, mechanism, which the Bitcoin network uses to validate Bitcoin transactions. Many within the Bitcoin community believe that POW is a foundation within Bitcoin’s code that would not be changed. However, there have been debates on mechanism change to avoid the “de facto control” by a great majority of the network computing power. With the possibility of a change in rule or protocol of the Bitcoin network, if our Bitcoin mining machines cannot be modified to accommodate any such changes, our mining machines will not be able to meet customer demand, and the results of our operations will be significantly affected. For more details, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Mining Related Businesses—The administrators of the Bitcoin network’s source code could propose amendments to the Bitcoin network’s protocols and software that, if accepted and authorized by the Bitcoin network’s community, could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Mining Related Businesses—The acceptance of Bitcoin network software patches or upgrades by a significant, but not overwhelming, percentage of the users and miners in the Bitcoin network could result in a “fork” in the blockchain, resulting in the operation of two separate networks that cannot be merged. The existence of forked blockchains could erode user confidence in Bitcoin and could adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.”
We face risks associated with the expansion of our blockchain products business operations overseas and if we are unable to effectively manage such risks, our business growth and profitability may be negatively affected
We intend to grow our blockchain products business in part by expanding our sales network and operations internationally. Currently, we mainly rely on our production partners in South Korea and Taiwan, including Samsung and TSMC, for the fabrication, testing and packaging of our ASICs. Any significant deterioration in the cross-strait relationship may have a negative impact on the ability of our production partners in Taiwan to fulfill their contractual obligations and ship the ASICs to us, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Our expansion plans also include possibly establishing an assembly facility and offices for sales, research and development and other operations in the United States; and we are at an initial preparatory stage of establishing other cryptocurrency exchange platforms in Hong Kong and overseas. Any significant deterioration in the relationship between China and any of these countries and region may have a material and adverse effect on our proposed business operations in these jurisdictions. However, there are risks associated with such global expansion plans, including:
|●||high costs of investment to establish a presence in a new market and manage international operations;|
|●||competition in unfamiliar markets;|
|●||foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations;|
|●||regulatory differences and difficulties in ensuring compliance with multi-national legal requirements and multi-national operations;|
|●||changes in economic, legal, political or other local conditions in new markets;|
|●||our limited customer base and limited sales and relationships with international customers;|
|●||competitors in the overseas markets may be more dominant and have stronger ties with customers and greater financial and other resources;|
|●||challenges in managing our international sales channels effectively;|
|●||difficulties in and costs of exporting products overseas while complying with the different commercial, legal and regulatory requirements of the overseas markets in which we offer our products;|
|●||difficulty in ensuring that our customers comply with the sanctions imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, on various foreign states, organizations and individuals;|
|●||inability to obtain, maintain or enforce intellectual property rights;|
|●||inability to effectively enforce contractual or legal rights or intellectual property rights in certain jurisdictions under which we operate; and|
|●||governmental policies favoring domestic companies in certain foreign markets or trade barriers including export requirements, tariffs, taxes and other restrictions and charges. In particular, a worldwide trend in favor of nationalism and protectionist trade policy and the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China as well as other potential international trade disputes could cause turbulence in international markets. These government policies or trade barriers could increase the prices of our products and make us less competitive in such countries.|
If we are unable to effectively manage such risks, we may encounter difficulties in our overseas expansion plans and our business, reputation, results of operations and financial condition may be impaired.
We plan to increase our export of mining machines to the United States and the European Union in the future, which may be subject to high tariff rates resulting from protectionism trade policies, and as a result, our future sales volumes, profitability and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected
Historically, only a small portion of our mining machines were exported to the United States. Going forward we plan to increase our export of mining machines to the U.S. market. However, the United States and China have recently been involved in controversy over trade barriers in China that have threatened a trade war between these two countries, and have implemented or proposed to implement tariffs on certain imported products. Although the United States had not announced any trade policies that may directly impact the export of our mining machines as of the date of this annual report, we cannot accurately predict whether any anti-dumping duties, tariffs or quota fees will be imposed on our mining machines by the United States in the future. Any export requirements, tariffs, taxes and other restrictions and charges imposed by the United States on our mining machines could significantly increase our customers’ purchase costs of our mining machines and make our mining machines less competitive in the U.S. market. As a result, our future sales volumes, profitability and results of operations could be adversely affected.
In addition, we also intend to increase our export of mining machines to the European Union in the future. However, the worldwide populism trend that calls for protectionism trade policy and potential international trade disputes could cause turbulence in the international markets. These government policies or trade barriers could increase the prices of our mining machines and cause us to lose our sales and market share to our competitors in these countries.
Our blockchain customers rely on a steady and inexpensive power supply for operating mining farms and running mining hardware. Failure to access a large quantity of power at reasonable costs could significantly increase their operating expenses and adversely affect their demand for our mining machines
Many of our blockchain customers engage in the cryptocurrency mining business. Cryptocurrency mining consumes a significant amount of energy power to process the computations and cool down the mining hardware. Therefore, a steady and inexpensive power supply is critical to cryptocurrency mining. There can be no assurance that the operations of our blockchain customers will not be affected by power shortages or an increase in energy prices in the future. In particular, the power supply could be disrupted by natural disasters, such as floods, mudslides and earthquakes, or other similar events beyond the control of our customers. Further, certain of our customers may experience power shortages due to seasonal variations in the supply of certain types of power such as hydroelectricity. Power shortages, power outages or increased power prices could adversely affect mining farm businesses of our blockchain customers and reduce the expected market demand for our mining machines significantly. Under such circumstances, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, as we intend to establish and operate mining farms to provide hosting services for third parties and engage in proprietary Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency mining activities to mine cryptocurrencies for ourselves in the near future, any increase in energy prices or a shortage in power supply in locations where our future mining farms are located may increase our potential mining costs and reduce the expected economic returns from our proprietary mining operation significantly.
The average selling prices of certain products may decrease from time to time due to technological advancement and we may not be able to pass onto our suppliers such decreases, which may in turn adversely affect our profitability
The IC design industry is characterized by rapid launches of new products, continuous technological advancements and changing market trends and customer preferences, all of which translate to a shorter life cycle and a decrease in the average selling prices of products over time. For example, the average selling price per unit for our E12 Bitcoin mining machines decreased from US$681 in 2020 to US$482 in 2021, and the average selling price per TH/s decreased from US$15 in 2020 to US$11 in 2021. Because we compete in the environment of rapidly-evolving technology advancement and market trends and developments of the IC design industry, we cannot assume you that we will be able to pass on any decrease in average selling prices of our products to our suppliers. If the average selling prices of our products unusually or significantly decrease and such decreases cannot be offset by a corresponding decrease in the prices of the principal components of our products, our gross profit margins may be materially and adversely affected, which in turn, may adversely affect our profitability.
We may not be able to price our products at our desired margins as a result of any decrease in our bargaining power or changes in market conditions
We set prices for our mining machines and telecommunication products based on a number of internal and external factors, such as the cost of production, the technological contents of our products, market conditions, and competition we face. Our ability to set favorable prices at our desired margins and to accurately estimate costs, among other factors, has a significant impact on our profitability. We cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain our pricing or bargaining power or that our gross profit margin will not be driven down by market conditions or other factors. If we see higher pricing pressure due to intensified competition from other manufacturers as our competitors’ products may be more technologically advanced or energy-efficient, decreases in prices to our customers in the end market or any other reasons, or if we otherwise lose bargaining power due to weaker demand for our products, we may need to reduce the prices and lower the margins of our products and we may even be unable to continue to market our products at all. Moreover, we may not be able to accurately estimate our costs or pass on all or part of any increase in our costs of production, in particular the costs of raw materials, components and
Shortages in, or rises in the prices of, the components of our mining machines may adversely affect our business
Given the long production period to manufacture, assemble, and deliver certain components and products, problems could arise in planning production and managing inventory levels that could seriously interrupt our operations, including the possibility of defective parts, an increase in component costs, delays in delivery schedules, and shortages of components. In addition to ASIC chips, the components we use for our mining machines include printed circuit boards, or PCBs, other electronic components, fans, and aluminum casings. The production of our mining machines also requires certain ancillary equipment and components such as controllers, power adaptors, and connectors. The production of our current products depends on obtaining adequate supplies of these components on a timely basis and at competitive prices. We do not typically maintain large inventory of the components, and rather purchase them on an “as-needed” basis from various third-party component manufacturers that satisfy our quality standards and meet our production requirements. We may have to turn to less reputable suppliers if we cannot source adequate components from our regular suppliers. Under such circumstances, the quality of the components may suffer and could cause performance issues in our mining machines.
Shortages of components could result in reduced production or delays in production, as well as an increase in production costs, which may negatively affect our ability to fulfill orders or make timely shipments to blockchain customers, as well as our customer relationships and profitability. Component shortages may also increase our costs of goods sold because we may be required to pay higher prices for components in short supply, or redesign or reconfigure products to accommodate for the substitute components, without being able to pass such cost to our blockchain customers. As a result, our business, results of operations and reputation could be materially and adversely affected by any product defects.
Cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets, and to a lesser extent, a cryptocurrency blockchain itself, may suffer from hacking and fraud risks, which may adversely erode user confidence in cryptocurrencies, and adversely impact our brand and reputation and our business, operating results, and financial condition
Cryptocurrency transactions are entirely digital and, as with any virtual system, face risk from hackers, malware and operational glitches. For example, hackers can target cryptocurrency exchanges, wallets, and custodians to gain unauthorized access to the private keys associated with the wallet addresses where cryptocurrencies are stored. Cryptocurrency transactions and accounts are not insured by any type of government program and cryptocurrency transactions generally are permanent by design of the networks. Certain features of cryptocurrency networks, such as decentralization, the open source protocols, and the reliance on peer-to-peer connectivity, may increase the risk of fraud or cyber-attack by potentially reducing the likelihood of a coordinated response. Cryptocurrencies have suffered from hacking risks and several cryptocurrency exchanges and miners have reported cryptocurrency losses, which highlight concerns over the security of cryptocurrencies and in turn affect the demand and the market price of cryptocurrencies. In addition, while cryptocurrencies use private key encryption to verify owners and register transactions, fraudsters and scammers may attempt to sell false cryptocurrencies. The techniques used to obtain unauthorized, improper, or illegal access to systems and information (including customers’ personal data and cryptocurrency assets), disable or degrade services, or sabotage systems are constantly evolving, may be difficult to detect quickly, and often are not recognized or detected until after they have been launched against a target. Additionally, certain threats are designed to remain dormant or undetectable until launched against a target and we may not be able to implement adequate preventative measures. These risks may adversely affect the operation of the cryptocurrency network which would erode user confidence in cryptocurrencies, or in the use of technology to conduct financial transactions, which could negatively impact us, including the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures and technology infrastructure in our cryptocurrency exchange platforms and the demand for our mining machines.
In particular, our cryptocurrency exchange business involves the collection, storage, processing, and transmission of confidential information, customer, employee, service provider, and other personal data, as well as information required to access customer assets. We have built our reputation on the premise that our platforms offer customers a secure way to purchase, store, and transact in cryptocurrency assets. As a result, any actual or perceived security breach of our cryptocurrency exchange platforms or our third-party partners may:
|●||harm our reputation and brand;|
|●||result in our systems or services being unavailable and interrupt our operations;|
|●||result in improper disclosure of data and violations of applicable privacy and data protection laws;|
|●||result in significant regulatory scrutiny, investigations, fines, penalties, and other legal, regulatory, and financial exposure;|
|●||cause us to incur significant remediation costs;|
|●||lead to theft or irretrievable loss of our or our customers’ fiat currencies or cryptocurrency assets;|
|●||reduce customer confidence in, or decreased use of, our products and services;|
|●||divert the attention of management from the operation of our business;|
|●||result in significant compensation or contractual penalties from us to our customers or third parties as a result of losses to them or claims by them; and|
|●||adversely affect our business and operating results.|
Although we have developed systems and processes designed to protect the data we manage, prevent data loss and other security breaches, effectively respond to known and potential risks, and expect to continue to expend significant resources to bolster these protections, there can be no assurance that these security measures will provide absolute security or prevent breaches or attacks. As of the date of this annual report, we have not experienced breaches of our security measures, however, we may experience in the future, breaches of our security measures due to human error, malfeasance, insider threats, system errors, vulnerabilities, or other irregularities. Certain types of cyberattacks could harm us even if our systems are left undisturbed. Unauthorized parties may attempt, to gain access to our systems and facilities, as well as those of our customers, partners, and third-party service providers, through various means, including hacking, social engineering, phishing, and attempting to fraudulently induce individuals (including employees, service providers, and our customers) into disclosing usernames, passwords, payment card information, or other sensitive information, which may in turn be used to access our information technology systems and customers’ cryptocurrency assets. Threats can come from a variety of sources, including criminal hackers, hacktivists, state-sponsored intrusions, industrial espionage, and insiders. Certain threat actors may be supported by significant financial and technological resources, making them even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. We may also acquire other companies that expose us to unexpected security risks or increase costs to improve the security posture of the acquired company. Further, there has been an increase in such activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, our costs and the resources we devote to protecting against these advanced threats and their consequences may continue to increase over time.
From time to time, we may encounter technical issues in connection with the integration of supported cryptocurrency assets and changes and upgrades to their underlying networks, which could adversely affect our business
In order to support any supported cryptocurrency assets, a variety of front and back-end technical and development work is required to implement our wallet, custody, trading, staking and other solutions for our customers, and to integrate such supported cryptocurrency assets with our existing technical infrastructure. For certain cryptocurrency assets, a significant amount of development work is required and there is no guarantee that we will be able to integrate successfully with any existing or future cryptocurrency assets. In addition, such integration may introduce software errors or weaknesses into our platforms, including our existing infrastructure. Even if such integration is initially successful, any number of technical changes, software upgrades, soft or hard forks, cybersecurity incidents, or other changes to the underlying blockchain network may occur from time to time, causing incompatibility, technical issues, disruptions, or security weaknesses to our platforms. If we are unable to identify, troubleshoot and resolve any such issues successfully, we may no longer be able to support such cryptocurrency assets, our customers’ assets may be frozen or lost, the security of our hot, warm, or cold wallets may be compromised, and our platforms and technical infrastructure may be affected, all of which could adversely impact our business.
Failure to comply with anti-corruption and anti-money laundering laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) and similar laws associated with our activities outside of the United States, could subject us to penalties and other adverse consequences
We operate an international business and may have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or state-owned or affiliated entities. We are subject to the FCPA, and other applicable anti-corruption and anti-money laundering laws in certain countries in which we conduct activities. The FCPA prohibits providing, offering, promising, or authorizing, directly or indirectly, anything of value to government officials, political parties, or political candidates for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or securing any improper business advantage. In addition, U.S. public companies are required to maintain records that accurately and fairly represent their transactions and have an adequate system of internal accounting controls.
In many foreign countries, including countries in which we may conduct business, it may be a local custom that businesses engage in practices that are prohibited by the FCPA, or other applicable laws and regulations. We face significant risks if we or any of our directors, officers, employees, contractors, agents or other partners or representatives fail to comply with these laws and governmental authorities in the United States and elsewhere could seek to impose substantial civil and/or criminal fines and penalties which could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, operating results, prospects and financial condition.
Any violation of the FCPA, other applicable anti-corruption laws, or anti-money laundering laws could result in whistleblower complaints, adverse media coverage, investigations, loss of export privileges, severe criminal or civil sanctions and, in the case of the FCPA, suspension or debarment from U.S. government contracts, any of which could have a materially adverse effect on our reputation, business, operating results, prospects and financial condition. In addition, responding to any enforcement action or internal investigation related to alleged misconduct may result in a significant diversion of management’s attention and resources and significant defense costs and other professional fees.
There is a lack of liquid markets for cryptocurrencies, and blockchain/Bitcoin-based assets are susceptible to potential manipulation
Cryptocurrencies that are represented and trade on a ledger-based platform may not necessarily benefit from viable trading markets. Stock exchanges have listing requirements and vet issuers, requiring them to be subjected to rigorous listing standards and rules; and monitor investors transacting on such platform for fraud and other improprieties. These conditions may not necessarily be replicated on a distributed ledger platform, depending on the platform’s controls and other policies. The laxer a distributed ledger platform is about vetting issuers of cryptocurrency assets or users that transact on the platform, the higher the potential risk for fraud or the manipulation of the ledger due to a control event. These factors may decrease liquidity or volume or may otherwise increase volatility of investment securities or other assets trading on a ledger-based system, which may adversely affect us. Such circumstances could have a material adverse effect on our ability to continue as a going concern or to pursue our business strategy at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects or operations and potentially the value of any Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies we acquire or hold for our own account and harm investors.
Cryptocurrencies face significant scaling obstacles that can lead to high fees or slowed transaction settlement times, and attempts to increase the transaction processing capacity may not be effective
Many cryptocurrency networks face significant scaling challenges. A number of solutions have been promoted recently to resolve this problem, including segregated witness, Lightening Network and the introduction of Bitcoin Cash. However, there is no assurance that the cryptocurrencies community will accept these solutions or these solutions will effectively resolve these problems.
As the use of cryptocurrency networks increases without a corresponding increase in throughput of the networks, average fees and settlement times can increase significantly. Bitcoin’s network, for example, has been, at times, at capacity, which has led to very high transaction fees. Increased fees and decreased settlement speeds could preclude certain use cases for Bitcoins (e.g., micropayments), and can reduce demand for and the market price of Bitcoins, which could adversely affect the market demand for our mining machines. There is no guarantee that any of the mechanisms in place or being explored for increasing the scale of settlement of Bitcoin transactions will be effective, or how long they will take to become effective, which could adversely affect the market demand for our mining machines.
The administrators of the Bitcoin network’s source code could propose amendments to the Bitcoin network’s protocols and software that, if accepted and authorized by the Bitcoin network’s community, could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition
The Bitcoin network is based on a cryptographic, algorithmic protocol that governs the end-user-to-end-user interactions between computers connected to the Bitcoin network. A loosely organized group can propose amendments to the Bitcoin network’s source code through one or more software upgrades that alter the protocols and software that govern the Bitcoin network and the properties of Bitcoins, including the irreversibility of transactions and limitations on the mining of new Bitcoins. To the extent that a significant majority of the users and miners on the Bitcoin network install such software upgrade(s), the Bitcoin network would be subject to new protocols and software that may render our mining machines less desirable, which in turn may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. If less than a significant majority of the users and miners on the Bitcoin network install such software upgrade(s), the Bitcoin network could “fork.”
The acceptance of Bitcoin network software patches or upgrades by a significant, but not overwhelming, percentage of the users and miners in the Bitcoin network could result in a “fork” in the blockchain, resulting in the operation of two separate networks that cannot be merged. The existence of forked blockchains could erode user confidence in Bitcoin and could adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition
Bitcoin is based on open source software and has no official developer or group of developers that formally controls the Bitcoin network. Any individual can download the Bitcoin network software and make any desired modifications, which are proposed to users and miners on the Bitcoin network through software downloads and upgrades. However, miners and users must consent to those software modifications by downloading the altered software or upgrade implementing the changes; otherwise, the changes do not become part of the Bitcoin network. Since the Bitcoin network’s inception, changes to the Bitcoin network have been accepted by the vast majority of users and miners, ensuring that the Bitcoin network remains a coherent economic system. However, a developer or group of developers could potentially propose a modification to the Bitcoin network that is not accepted by a vast majority of miners and users, but that is nonetheless accepted by a substantial population of participants in the Bitcoin network. In such a case, a fork in the blockchain could develop and two separate Bitcoin networks could result, one running the pre-modification software program and the other running the modified version. An example is the introduction of Bitcoin Cash in mid-2017. This kind of split in the Bitcoin network could erode user confidence in the stability of the Bitcoin network, which could negatively affect the demand for our mining machines.
Our Bitcoin mining machines use open source software and hardware as their basic controller system, which may subject us to certain risks
We use open source software and hardware in our Bitcoin mining machines. For example, our mining machine controller open source software needs to be installed on open source, which serves as the basic controller system for our mining machines, and we expect to continue to use open source software and hardware in the future. We may face claims from others claiming ownership of, or seeking to enforce the terms of, an open source license, including by demanding the release of the open source software, derivative works or our proprietary source code that was developed using such software. These claims could also result in litigation, requiring us to purchase a costly license or to devote additional research and development resources to change our technologies, either of which would have a negative effect on our business and operating results. In addition, if the license terms for the open source software we utilize change, we may be forced to re-engineer or discontinue our solutions or incur additional costs.
Bitcoin mining activities are energy-intensive, which may restrict the geographic locations of miners
Bitcoin mining activities are inherently energy-intensive and electricity costs account for a significant portion of the overall mining costs. The availability and cost of electricity will restrict the geographic locations of mining activities. Any shortage of electricity supply or increase in electricity cost in a jurisdiction may negatively impact the viability and the expected economic return for Bitcoin mining activities in that jurisdiction, which may in turn decrease the sales of our Bitcoin mining machines in that jurisdiction.
Because there has been limited precedent set for financial accounting of Bitcoin and other Bitcoin assets, the determination that we have made for how to account for Bitcoin assets transactions may be subject to change
Because there has been limited precedent set for the financial accounting of cryptocurrencies and related revenue recognition and no official guidance has yet been provided by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the PCAOB or the SEC, it is unclear how companies may in the future be required to account for Bitcoin transactions and assets and related revenue recognition. A change in regulatory or financial accounting standards could result in the necessity to change our accounting methods and restate our financial statements. Such a restatement could negatively impact our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operation. Such circumstances would also have a material adverse effect on our ability to continue as a going concern or to pursue our business strategy at all, which would potentially have a material adverse effect on the value of any cryptocurrencies we hold or expects to acquire for our own account and harm investors.
Other Risks Relating to Our Business Operations
The global coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has caused significant disruptions in our business, which we expect may continue to materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition
The outbreak of COVID-19 has spread throughout the world. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global pandemic. There has been and continues to be widespread infection in the United States with a second wave now appearing in China and elsewhere, with the potential for catastrophic impact. Mandatory business closures have had catastrophic impacts on worldwide economies of uncertain duration. This global outbreak has also caused market panics, which materially and negatively affected the global financial markets, such as the plunge of global stocks on major stock exchanges in March 2020. Such disruption and the potential slowdown of the world’s economy in 2020 and beyond could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition. We and our customers experienced and may continue to experience significant business disruptions and suspension of operations due to quarantine measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, which have caused and may continue to cause shortages in the supply of raw materials, reduction in our production capacity, increase in the likelihood of default from our customers and product delivery delays. The pandemic has also led to great volatility in the Bitcoin price, which has adversely affected and may continue to negatively affect the demand for our mining machines both in terms of the price and the quantity.
Our business operation was also disrupted, and may continue to be disrupted, if any of our employees are suspected of having contracted any contagious disease or condition, since it could require our employees to be quarantined, self-isolated or our offices and production to be closed down and disinfected. We have taken a series of measures in response to the outbreak to protect our employees, including, among others, temporary closure of some offices, remote working arrangements for our employees and travel restrictions or suspension. All of these had, and may continue to, have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition in the near term.
Our third-party manufacturers, suppliers, sub-contractors and customers have been and will continue to be disrupted by worker absenteeism, quarantines, restrictions on employees’ ability to work, office and factory closures, disruptions to ports and other shipping infrastructure, border closures, or other travel or health-related restrictions. Depending on the magnitude of such effects on our supply chain, shipments of parts from our manufacturers and suppliers, have been and may continue to be delayed. Supply chain disruptions could therefore negatively impact our operations.
The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination programs remains to be verified worldwide, including against variants of the virus. The sweeping nature of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it extremely difficult to predict how the company’s business and operations will be affected in the longer run. So far, the likely overall economic impact of the pandemic is widely viewed as highly negative to the global economy.
We are closely monitoring the development of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuously evaluating any further potential impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition, which we believe will depend on the duration and degree of the pandemic. If the outbreak persists or escalates, we may be subject to further negative impact on our business operations and financial condition.
High customer concentration exposes us to all of the risks faced by our major customers and may subject us to significant fluctuations or declines in revenues
Our customers include both enterprises and individuals. A limited number of our major customers, however, have contributed a significant portion of our revenues in the past. Our revenue from the top three largest customers accounted for approximately 34%, 50% and 50% of our total revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. Our revenue from the top ten largest customers accounted for approximately 58%, 91% and 81% of our total revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Although we continually seek to diversify our customer base, we cannot assure you that the proportion of the revenue contribution from these customers to our total revenues will decrease in the near future. We offer credit sales to our major, long-term customers. Dependence on a limited number of major customers will expose us to the risks of substantial losses and may increase our account receivables and extend its turn over days if any of them reduces or even ceases business collaborations with us. Specifically, any one of the following events, among others, may cause material fluctuations or declines in our revenues and have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects:
|●||an overall decline in the business of one or more of our significant customers;|
|●||the decision by one or more of our significant customers to switch to our competitors;|
|●||the reduction in the prices of our mining machines agreed by one or more of our significant customers; or|
|●||the failure or inability of any of our significant customers to make timely payment for our services.|
If we fail to maintain relationships with these major customers, and if we are unable to find replacement customers on commercially desirable terms or in a timely manner or at all, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
We have been involved, and may continue to be involved, in disputes, claims or proceedings arising from our operations or class actions from time to time, which could result in significant liabilities and reputational harm and could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations
We have been, and in the future may continue to be, involved in disputes, claims or proceedings arising out of our operations. For example, we are currently involved in several ongoing civil actions in relation to our sales of mining machines, among others, to a customer and our procurement of ASIC wafers from a supplier. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview —Legal Proceedings.” In addition, we may have disagreements with regulatory bodies in the course of our operations, which may subject us to administrative proceedings and unfavorable orders, directives or decrees that may result in financial losses. Ongoing disputes, claims or proceedings may divert our management’s attention and consume their time and our other resources.
In the past, shareholders of public companies have often brought securities class action suits against an issuer following periods of instability in the market price of an issuer’s securities, or after the publication of third-party research reports. In April 2021, a negative research report was published about us by Hindenburg Research (the “Hindenburg Report”). Subsequently in April and July of 2021, two securities class action lawsuits were filed against us and our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer in the U.S. District Courts, of which complaints relied extensively on the Hindenburg Report. Both class actions were voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs in July and October 2021, respectively. As of the date of this annual report, we are not aware of any other lawsuits threatened or filed against us based on the Hindenburg Report or any alleged violation of securities laws. We cannot assure you that there would not be any future claims against us or that we would successfully defend against them. Any such suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation, result in share price volatility and a loss of customers, and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. Even if claims do not result in litigation or are resolved in our favor, these claims, and the time and resources necessary to resolve them, could divert the resources of our management and require significant expenditures, which could prevent us from competing effectively and could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, any disputes, claims or proceedings which are initially not of material importance may escalate and become important to us, due to a variety of factors, such as the facts and circumstances of the cases, the likelihood of loss, the monetary amount at stake and the parties involved. As of the date of this annual report, we are not able to quantify the likelihood or amount of exposure from any of these potential actions.
Negative publicity arising from disputes, claims or proceedings may damage our reputation and adversely affect the image of our brands and products. In addition, if any verdict or award is rendered against us, we could be required to pay significant monetary damages, assume other liabilities and even to suspend or terminate the related business ventures or projects. Consequently, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
We are exposed to credit risks and concentration of credit risks in relation to defaults from counterparties
There are credit risks associated with our business. In particular, a drop in the Bitcoin price may also result in lower economic returns for mining activities of our blockchain customers and adversely affect their businesses and financial conditions, which may further affect their credit profiles and their ability to settle our accounts receivables. Although we generally require our blockchain customers to make full payment for our mining machines before delivery of products, in 2018 we began offering credit sales to customers in China. As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, our net accounts receivable was US$8.1 million and US$7.2 million and US$9.9 million, respectively, and we recorded allowance for doubtful accounts of US$1.8 million, US$4.8 million and US$4.6 million as of the same dates.
In addition, we also face concentration of credit risks associated with our business. Our exposure to credit risk is influenced mainly by the individual characteristics of each customer as well as the industry or country in which the customers operate and is concentrated on a few customers. As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, 15%, 24% and 13% of our total accounts receivables were due from one of our customers, respectively, and approximately 42%, 53% and 37% of our accounts receivables were attributable to three of our customers, respectively.
Although we monitor our exposure to credit risk on an ongoing basis and make periodic judgment on impairment of overdue receivables based on the likelihood of collectability, we cannot assure you that all of our counterparties are creditworthy and reputable and will not default on payments in the future. If we encounter significant delays or defaults in payment by our customers or are otherwise unable to recover our accounts receivables, our cash flow, liquidity and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
The businesses that we are pursuing through certain of our subsidiaries’ initiatives are novel and subject to technical, operational, financial, regulatory, legal, reputational and marketing risks and we cannot assure you that such acquisitions or strategic alliances may be successfully implemented
We have and may continue to acquire interests in various businesses, including financial technology companies, broker-dealers, and digital currency transfer and payment businesses. We have limited experience with the operation of such businesses. In some countries the licensing requirements and regulations expressly cover companies engaged in digital currency activities; in others it is not clear whether or how the existing laws and regulations apply to digital currency activities. Licenses and registrations that we may be required to obtain may subject us to various anti-money laundering, know-your-customer, record-keeping, reporting and capital and bonding requirements, limitations on the investment of customer funds, and inspection by regulatory agencies. These are areas in which we do not have substantial experience and which are subject to the risks of new and novel businesses, including technical, operational, financial, regulatory, legal and reputational risks, as well as the risk that we may be unable to market, license or sell our technology successfully or profitably. The occurrence of any such risks, any such penalties, or even allegations of criminal or civil misconduct, could have a material adverse effect on us and on our financial results and business.
We may look for other potential acquisitions or strategic alliances in the future to expand our business. However, we may not be able to find suitable acquisition candidates, complete acquisitions on favorable terms, if at all, or integrate any acquired business, products or technologies into our operations. If we do complete acquisitions, they may be viewed negatively by customers or investors and they may not enable us to strengthen our competitive position or achieve our goals. In addition, any acquisitions that we make could lead to difficulties in integrating personnel, technologies and operations from the acquired businesses and in retaining and motivating key personnel from these businesses. Moreover, acquisitions may disrupt our ongoing operations, divert management from day-to-day responsibilities and increase our expenses. Future acquisitions may reduce our cash available for operations and other uses, and could result in increases in amortization expenses related to identifiable intangible assets acquired, potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities or the incurrence of debt. We cannot predict the number, timing or size of future acquisitions, or the effect that any such acquisitions might have on our operating results.
Our prepayments to suppliers may subject us to counterparty risk associated with such suppliers and negatively affect our liquidity
We are required to prepay some of our suppliers before the service is provided to secure the supplier’s production capacity. As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the outstanding balance of prepayments we made to our third-party foundry partners amounted to US$1.1 million, US$0.2 million, and US$1.1 million, respectively. The amount of our prepayments may significantly increase as we continue to pursue technological advancement. We are subject to counterparty risk exposure to our suppliers. Any failure by our suppliers to perform their contract obligations on a timely manner and/or with our requested quality may result in us not being able to fulfill customers’ orders accordingly. In such event, we may not be able to regain the prepayment in a timely manner or in full, even though our suppliers are obligated to return such prepayments under specified circumstances as previously agreed upon. Furthermore, if the cash outflows for the prepayments significantly exceed the cash inflows during any period, our future liquidity position will be adversely affected.
If we experience difficulty in collecting our trade receivables, our liquidity, financial condition and results of operations would be negatively impacted.
We derive our revenues from the sale of products and are subject to counterparty risks such as our customer’s inability to pay. As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, our trade receivables amounted to US$8.1 million, US$7.2 million, and US$9.9 million, respectively. There can be no assurance that we will be able to collect our trade receivables on a timely basis, and our trade receivable turnover days may increase, which in turn could materially and adversely affect our liquidity, financial condition and results of operations.
If we fail to maintain appropriate inventory levels in line with the approximate level of demand for our products, we could lose sales or face excessive inventory risks and holding costs
To operate our business successfully and meet our customers’ demands and expectations, we must maintain a certain level of finished goods inventory to ensure immediate delivery when required. We are also required to maintain an appropriate level of raw materials for our production. However, forecasts are inherently uncertain. If our forecasted demand is lower than what eventually transpires, we may not be able to maintain an adequate inventory level of our finished goods or produce our products in a timely manner, and we may lose sales and market share to our competitors. On the other hand, we may also be exposed to increased inventory risks due to accumulated excess inventory of our products or raw materials, parts and components for our products. Excess inventory levels may lead to increases in inventory holding costs, risks of inventory obsolescence and provisions for write-downs, which will materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In order to maintain an appropriate inventory level of finished goods and raw materials to meet market demand, we adjust our procurement amount and production schedule from time to time based on customers’ orders and anticipated demand. We also carry out an inventory review and an aging analysis on a regular basis. We make provision for obsolete and slow-moving inventory of raw materials and finished goods that are no longer suitable for use in production or sale. However, we cannot guarantee that these measures will always be effective and that we will be able to maintain an appropriate inventory level. We may also be exposed to the risk of holding excessive inventory, including older generation mining machines that are less marketable as well as older ASIC chips which may increase our inventory holding costs and subject us to the risk of inventory obsolescence or write-offs, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. For example, we recorded write-down for the potentially obsolete, slow-moving inventory and lower of cost or market adjustment of US$6.3 million, US$3.6 million and US$2.2 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. If we cannot maintain an appropriate inventory level, we may lose sales and market share to our competitors.
We require various approvals, licenses, permits and certifications to operate our business. If we fail to obtain or renew any of these approvals, licenses, permits or certifications, it could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations
In accordance with the laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which we operate, we are required to maintain various approvals, licenses, permits and certifications in order to operate our business or engage in the business we plan to enter into. Complying with such laws and regulations may require substantial expenses, any non-compliance may expose us to liability. In the event of that government authorities consider us to be in non-compliance, we may have to incur significant expenses and divert substantial management time to rectify the incidents. If we fail to obtain all the necessary approvals, licenses, permits and certifications, we may be subject to fines, sanctions, revocation of licenses or permits to operate our business, or the suspension of operations of the facilities that do not have the requisite approvals, licenses, permits or certifications, which would adversely affect our reputation, business and results of operations. See “Regulation” for further details on the requisite approvals license permits and certifications.
We have previously made sales to Iran, which is subject to sanctions, and our interactions with a blockchain may expose us to SDN and other regulations administered by the United States
Iran is subject to a comprehensive sanctions program administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, and shipments of products subject to the Export Administration Regulations promulgated by the Bureau of Industry and Security, or BIS, in the Commerce Department are also subject to restrictions. In 2016 and 2017, we engaged in transactions that included the sale and/or delivery of our products to Iran under circumstances that may involve breaches of U.S. sanctions and export control laws. On August 2, 2018, we disclosed these transactions to both OFAC and BIS by our submission of Voluntary Self Disclosures, or VSDs. On January 25, 2019, BIS closed the VSD with a Warning Letter and no penalty. On March 4, 2019, OFAC closed the VSD with a Cautionary Letter and no penalty.
OFAC requires us to not conduct business with persons named on its specially designated nationals (“SDN”) list. However, because of the pseudonymous nature of blockchain transactions we may inadvertently and without our knowledge engage in transactions with persons named on OFAC’s SDN list or from countries on OFAC’s sanctioned countries’ list. While we have implemented internal control measures to mitigate our risk exposure to international sanctions, sanctions laws and regulations are constantly evolving, new persons and entities are regularly added to the list of SDN list, and we may not be adequately capable of determining the ultimate identity of the individual with whom we transact with respect to selling cryptocurrency assets. Further, new requirements or restrictions could come into effect which might increase the scrutiny on our business or result in one or more of our business activities being deemed to have violated sanctions. To the extent government enforcement authorities enforce these and other laws and regulations that are impacted by decentralized distributed ledger technology, or if they were to determine that any of our future activities constitutes a violation of the sanctions they impose or provides a basis for a sanctions designation of us, we may be subject to investigation, administrative or court proceedings, and civil or criminal monetary fines and penalties, all of which could harm our reputation and affect the value of our ordinary shares.
We had historically experienced a decrease in our telecommunications business and if we are unable to continue to operate our telecommunications business successfully, we may suspend or cease our telecommunication business entirely
Revenues from our telecommunications business were US$3.3 million, US$1.6 million and US$8.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. In December 2020, we sold all our equity ownership in Hangzhou Yiquansheng Communication Technology Co., Ltd., which provided technology services in the telecommunication sector and had incurred losses since its incorporation, to an affiliate controlled by Mr. Dong Hu, our chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer. Our telecommunications business will likely continue to be driven by the development of the communications industry in China, government policies, technological changes, user preference, and many other factors beyond our control. There is no guarantee that we will be able to maintain the competitiveness of our products or continue to operate our telecommunications business successfully as a key source of revenue. If we fail to grow our telecommunications business organically, we may suspend or cease such business line entirely.
Any disruption in our business relationship with our major telecommunications products customers as a result of market consolidation or otherwise will adversely affect our sales and market share in the telecommunications market
The telecommunications industry has experienced and may continue to experience significant consolidation. The merger and expansion of participants will enable them to maximize their economies of scale to provide more competitive prices and invest a larger amount of resources into research and development. Our telecommunication products are primarily sold to major telecommunications service providers and institutional customers in China. Consolidation of our customers may mean that we could lose out in price and non-price competition and lead to a significant reduction of market share. As a result, our business and results of operations in the telecommunications market could be materially and adversely affected.
We typically engage third-party agents to manage certain aspects of our business dealings with telecommunications products customers, and our business relationship with them may be adversely affected by any actual or perceived misconduct of our agents, over whom we have limited control. For example, in 2018, a local court in China convicted an employee of a major telecommunications products customer for taking bribes from a group of business partners, including our agents, and as a result, we have been blacklisted by such customer until the end of 2020. Although we are no longer blacklisted by such customer due to lapse of time, any future disruption of our business relationship with major telecommunications products customers could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
The telecommunications industry is subject to extensive and evolving laws and regulations
We may be directly or indirectly affected by changes in government regulations relating to the telecommunications and broadcast industries in the PRC or the U.S. Failure to comply with the relevant laws and regulations could subject us to severe penalties, which could have a significant impact on our cash flow. Moreover, the change of laws and regulations may render our current products illegal and require us to invest additional resources into the research and development of new products in compliance with the laws. As a result, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected. For example, in January 2021 the New York Stock Exchange LLC, or NYSE announced to delist three Chinese telecommunication companies based on guidance that the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control provided to the NYSE. We are uncertain whether such actions will have further impact on our business or the Chinese telecommunication industry in general.
Our customers are also subject to laws and regulations applicable to the telecommunications and broadcast industries in the PRC. As they change their products to adapt to any change of telecommunications and broadcast laws, this may also require us to modify our products to fit their new products. Such modified or newly adopted laws and regulations could, directly or indirectly, affect the pricing, distribution and required standards of our telecommunications products and services and may have a material adverse impact on our business.
If we fail to maintain an effective quality control system, our business could be materially and adversely affected
We place great emphasis on product quality and adhere to stringent quality control measures and have obtained quality control certifications for our products. To meet our customers’ requirements and expectations for the quality and safety of our products, we have adopted a stringent quality control system to ensure that every step of the production process is strictly monitored and managed. Failure to maintain an effective quality control system or to obtain or renew our quality standards certifications may result in a decrease in demand for our products or cancellation or loss of purchase orders from our customers. Moreover, our reputation could be impaired. As a result, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The quality of our products and services relies on third party suppliers and service providers we engage. If we fail to provide satisfactory services or maintain their service levels, it could materially and adversely affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations
We rely on third-party suppliers and service providers to provide quality products and services to customers, and our brand and reputation may be harmed by actions taken by them that are beyond our control. Despite the measures we have taken to ensure the quality of products and services provided by third-party suppliers and service providers, to the extent that there are manufacturing defects beyond our control, or our third-party suppliers and service providers are unable to maintain the efficiency of their production facilities, supply sufficient components or raw materials in a timely manner, or provide satisfactory services to our customers, we may suffer reputational damage, and our brand image, business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Our production facilities may be unable to maintain efficiency, encounter problems in ramping up production or otherwise have difficulty meeting our production requirements
Our future growth will depend upon our ability to maintain efficient operations at our existing production facilities and our ability to expand our production capacity as needed. The average utilization rate of our SMT production lines was 81.7%, 40.1%, 34.7% for 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. The utilization rate of our production facilities depends primarily on the demand for our products and the availability and maintenance of our equipment but may also be affected by other factors, such as the availability of employees, a stable supply of electricity, seasonal factors and changes in environmental laws and regulations. In order to meet our customers’ demands and advancements in technology, we maintain and upgrade our equipment periodically. The pandemic in 2021 continued to negatively affect our production facilities and the utilization rate of our production facilities in 2021. If the pandemic continues or we are unable to maintain our production facilities’ efficiency, we may be unable to fulfill our purchase orders in a timely manner, or at all. This would negatively impact our reputation, business and results of operations.
As we continue to grow and expand our business, we expect to acquire additional production lines and possibly a new production facility to increase our production capacity. If we are unable to acquire the necessary equipment or production facility at an acceptable price, or at all, we may not be successful in achieving our business expansion plans.
We have not obtained the construction works commencement permit and the real property ownership certificate for our production facility in Wuhai, and as a result, our production activities, business, results of operations and prospects may be materially and adversely affected if we are required to rectify this incident
To construct a production facility, we must obtain permits, licenses, certificates and other approvals from the relevant administrative authorities at various stages of land acquisition and construction. Obtaining such approvals may require substantial expense, and any non-compliance may expose us to liability.
As of the date of this annual report, we have not obtained the construction works commencement permit for the construction work carried out in our production facility in Wuhai, and as a result, we had not obtained the real property ownership certificate for this production facility. As advised by our PRC legal advisors, we may be required by relevant PRC government authority to rectify this incident or may be subject to monetary penalties, which may disrupt our schedule of development and production activities to be carried out on this production facility. Although we do not expect any material obstacle in obtaining the real property ownership certificate for this production facility and the relevant governmental authority permits us to carry out production activities during the period of application for real property ownership certificate, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain such certificate as soon as we expected or that we will not be required to suspend production in the future.
We rely on third-party logistics service providers to deliver our products. Disruption in logistics may prevent us from meeting customer demand and our business, results of operations and financial condition may suffer as a result
We engage third-party logistics service providers to deliver the ICs from our production partners to our assembly plant and our products from our warehouses to our customers. Disputes with or termination of our contractual relationships with one or more of our logistics service providers could result in delayed delivery of products or increased costs. There can be no assurance that we can continue or extend relationships with our current logistics service providers on terms acceptable to us, or that we will be able to establish relationships with new logistics service providers to ensure accurate, timely and cost-efficient delivery services. If we are unable to maintain or develop good relationships with our preferred logistics service providers, it may inhibit our ability to offer products in sufficient quantities, on a timely basis, or at prices acceptable to our consumers. If there is any breakdown in our relationships with our preferred logistics service providers, we cannot assure you that no interruptions in our product delivery would occur or that they would not materially and adversely affect our business, prospects and results of operations.
As we do not have any direct control over these logistics service providers, we cannot guarantee their quality of service. In addition, services provided by these logistics service providers could be interrupted by unforeseen events beyond our control, such as poor handling provided by these logistics service providers, natural disasters, pandemics, adverse weather conditions, riots and labor strikes. If there is any delay in delivery, damage to products or any other issue, we may lose customers and sales and our brand image may be tarnished.
We face intense industry competition
As a blockchain technology company, we operate in a highly competitive environment. Our competitors include companies that may have a larger market share, greater brand recognition, broader international customer base, greater financial resources or other competitive advantages. We anticipate that competition will increase as cryptocurrencies gain greater acceptance and more players join the market. Furthermore, we anticipate encountering new competition as we expand our sales and operations to new locations geographically and into wider applications of blockchain, cryptocurrency mining and mining farm operations, and cryptocurrency exchange and online brokerage businesses. We also compete in the communication network devices industry in China with respect to our telecommunications business. Some of our competitors in this industry include larger, more well-established companies with greater economies of scale and more bargaining power with suppliers.
Strong competition in the market may require us to lower our prices, increase our sales and marketing expenses or otherwise invest greater resources to maintain or gain market share as needed to adequately compete. Such efforts may negatively impact our profitability. If we are unable to effectively adapt to changes or developments in the competitive landscape, our business, financial conditions and results of operations may be adversely affected.
We may encounter difficulties in recruiting and retaining key personnel
Our future growth and success depend, to a significant extent, on the continuing service and contribution of our engineers and senior management personnel. Many of these key personnel are highly skilled and experienced and are difficult to recruit and retain, particularly as we seek to expand our business with respect to the mining machines. Competition for recruiting qualified personnel is intense and recruiting personnel with the combination of skills and attributes required to execute our business strategy may be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. As a result, the loss of any key personnel or failure to recruit, train or retain qualified personnel could have a significant negative impact on our operations.
We have and may increasingly become a target for public scrutiny, including complaints to regulatory agencies, negative media coverage, and malicious allegations, all of which could severely damage our reputation and materially and adversely affect our business and prospects
We have been a target for public scrutiny, including complaints to regulatory agencies, negative media coverage, and malicious allegations. For example, in October 2018, a group of individuals initiated a complaint against one of our blockchain customers, alleging that the funds that this customer used to purchase mining machines from Zhejiang Ebang Communication Technology Co., Ltd., or Zhejiang Ebang, one of our PRC subsidiaries, were illegal proceeds from commercial fraud committed by this customer. Although we believe that these allegations are not true, negative publicity surrounding this incident had adversely affected our reputation. Certain features of cryptocurrency networks, such as decentralization, independence from sovereignty and anonymity of transactions, create the possibility of heightened attention from the public, regulators and the media. Heightened regulatory and public concerns over us and cryptocurrency-related issues may subject us to additional legal and social responsibilities and increased scrutiny and negative publicity over these issues, due to our leading position in the industry. From time to time, these allegations, regardless of their veracity, may result in consumer dissatisfaction, public protests or negative publicity, which could result in government inquiry or substantial harm to our brand, reputation and operations.
Moreover, as our business expands and grows, both organically and through acquisitions of and investments in other businesses, domestically and internationally, we may be exposed to heightened public scrutiny in jurisdictions where we already operate as well as in new jurisdictions where we may operate. There is no assurance that we would not become a target for regulatory or public scrutiny in the future or that scrutiny and public exposure would not severely damage our reputation as well as our business and prospects.
In addition, cryptocurrency asset platforms are relatively new. Many of our cryptocurrency exchange competitors are unlicensed, unregulated, operate without supervision by any governmental authorities, and do not provide the public with significant information regarding their ownership structure, management team, corporate practices, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance. Since the inception of the crypto economy, numerous cryptocurrency assets platforms have also been sued, investigated, or shut down due to fraud, manipulative practices, business failure, security breaches and government mandated regulation. In many of these instances, customers of these platforms were not compensated or made whole for their losses. In addition, there have been reports that a significant amount of cryptocurrency asset trading volume on cryptocurrency asset platforms is fabricated and false in nature, with a specific focus on unregulated platforms located outside the United States. Such reports may indicate that the market for cryptocurrency asset platform activities is significantly smaller than otherwise understood. Negative perception, a lack of stability and standardized regulation in the crypto economy, and the closure or temporary shutdown of cryptocurrency asset platforms, and associated losses suffered by customers may reduce confidence in the crypto economy and result in greater volatility of the prices of assets, including significant depreciation in value. Any of these events could harm an adverse impact on our business.
Product defects resulting in a large-scale product recall or product liability claims against us could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and reputation
We manufacture products in accordance with internationally accepted quality standards and specifications provided by our customers. However, we cannot assure you that all products produced by us are free of defects. Consequently, any product defects identified by our customers or end users might erode our reputation and negatively affect our customer relationships and future business. Product defects may also result in product returns and large-scale product recalls or product liability claims against us for substantial damages. Such claims, irrespective of the outcomes or the merits, would likely be time-consuming and costly to defend and could divert significant resources and management attention. Furthermore, even if we are able to defend any such claim successfully, we cannot assure you that our customers will not lose confidence in our products or that our future relationships with our customers will not be damaged. As a result, our business, results of operations, reputation and brand image could be materially and adversely affected by any product defects.
Power shortages, labor disputes and other factors may result in constraints on our production activities
Historically, we have not experienced constraints on our production activities, including at our assembly plant, due to power shortages, labor disputes or other factors. However, there can be no assurance that our operations will not be affected by power shortages, labor disputes or other factors in the future, thereby causing material production disruptions and delays in our delivery schedule. In such event, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Cyber-security incidents, including data security breaches or computer viruses, could harm our business by disrupting our delivery of services, damaging our reputation or exposing us to liability
We receive, process, store and transmit, often electronically, the data of our customers and others, much of which is confidential. Unauthorized access to our computer systems or stored data could result in the theft, including cyber-theft, or improper disclosure of confidential information, and the deletion or modification of records could cause interruptions in our operations. These cyber-security risks increase when we transmit information from one location to another, including over the Internet or other electronic networks. Despite the security measures we have implemented, our facilities, systems and procedures, and those of our third-party service providers, may be vulnerable to security breaches, acts of vandalism, software viruses, misplaced or lost data, programming or human errors or other similar events which may disrupt our delivery of services or expose the confidential information of our customers and others. Any security breach involving the misappropriation, loss or other unauthorized disclosure or use of confidential information of our customers or others, whether by us or a third party, could subject us to civil and criminal penalties, have a negative impact on our reputation, or expose us to liability to our customers, third parties or government authorities. We are not aware of such breaches to date. Any of these developments could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we suffer failure or disruption in our information systems, our ability to effectively manage our business operations could be adversely affected
We use information systems to obtain, process, analyze and manage data crucial to our business such as our enterprise resource planning system. We use these systems to, among other things, monitor the daily operations of our business, maintain operating and financial data, manage our distribution network as well as manage our research and development activities, production operations and quality control systems. Any system damage or failure that interrupts data input, retrieval or transmission or increases service time could disrupt our normal operations. In particular, our operations could be disrupted if such damage or failure includes any security breach caused by hacking or cyber-security incidents, involves efforts to gain unauthorized access to our information or systems, or causes intentional malfunctions, loss or corruption of data, software or hardware, the intentional or inadvertent transmission of computer viruses and similar events or third-party actions. There can be no assurance that we will be able to effectively handle a failure of our information systems, or that we will be able to restore our operational capacity in a timely manner to avoid disruption to our business. The occurrence of any of these events could adversely affect our ability to effectively manage our business operations and negatively impact our reputation.
We may be subject to liability in connection with industrial accidents at our manufacturing facilities
Due to the nature of our operations, we are subject to the risks of potential liability associated with industrial accidents at our production facilities. We cannot assure you that industrial accidents, whether due to malfunction of equipment or other reasons, will not occur in the future at our production facilities. Under such circumstances, we may be subject to employee claims for compensation or penalties imposed by relevant government authorities and may suffer damage to our reputation. In addition, we may experience interruptions in our operations or may be required to change the manner in which we operate, as a result of governmental investigations or the implementation of safety measures due to accidents. Any of the foregoing events could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We currently do not have insurance coverage covering all risks related to our business and operations
We do not maintain insurance policies covering all of our business risks, such as risks relating to properties, receivables, goods in transit and public liability. There is no assurance that the insurance coverage we do have would be sufficient to cover our potential losses. See the section headed “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview——Insurance” for more information on the insurance policies maintained by us. In the event there is any damage to these items, we would have to pay for the difference ourselves where our cash flow and liquidity could be negatively affected.
If we fail to comply with labor, work safety or environmental regulations, we could be exposed to penalties, fines, suspensions or action in other forms
Our operations are subject to the labor, work safety and environmental protection laws and regulations promulgated by the PRC government. These laws and regulations require us to pay social insurance, maintain safe working conditions and adopt effective measures to control and properly dispose of solid waste and other environmental pollutants. We could be exposed to penalties, fines, suspensions or actions in other forms if we fail to comply with these laws and regulations. The laws and regulations in the PRC may be amended from time to time and changes in those laws and regulations may cause us to incur additional costs in order to comply with the more stringent rules. In the event that changes to existing laws and regulations require us to incur additional compliance costs or require costly changes to our production process, our costs could increase and we may suffer a decline in sales for certain products, as a result of which our business, financial conditions and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The determination of the fair value changes of our financial assets measured at fair value through profit or loss requires the use of estimates that are based on unobservable inputs, and therefore inherently involves a certain degree of uncertainty
We use significant unobservable inputs, such as discount rate, expected rate of return, expected volatility and risk-free interest rate, in valuing our financial assets measured at fair value through profit or loss including bank wealth management products. The fair value change of financial assets at fair value through profit or loss may affect our financial position and results of operations. Accordingly, such determination requires us to make significant estimates, which may be subject to material changes, and therefore inherently involves a certain degree of uncertainty. Factors beyond our control such as general economic condition and changes in market interest rates may influence and cause adverse changes to the estimates we use and thereby affect the fair value of our financial assets measured at fair value through profit or loss, which in return may adversely affect our results of operation and financial condition.
The loss of any member of our senior management team, or our failure to attract, train and retain qualified personnel, especially our design and technical personnel, could impair our ability to grow our business and effectively execute our business strategy.
Since our inception, the growth and expansion of our business operations have been dependent upon the business strategies and foresight of our senior management. Our future success depends, in large part, on the continued contributions of our senior management team, specifically Mr. Dong Hu.
In addition, our future success depends on our ability to retain, attract and incentivize qualified personnel, including our management, sales, marketing, finance and especially research and development personnel. As the driver of our technological and product innovations, our research and development personnel represent a very significant asset of ours. As the technology in the semiconductor and blockchain industries are advancing at a quick pace, there is an increasing need for skilled engineers. Many companies across the world are struggling to find suitable candidates for their research and development positions. The process of hiring employees with the combination of skills and characteristics required to implement our strategy can be extremely competitive and time-consuming. We cannot assure you that we will be able to attract adequate personnel as we continue to pursue our business strategies.
Moreover, we cannot assure you that we will be able to retain key existing employees. The loss of any of our founder, senior management or research and development team members could harm our ability to implement our business strategies and respond to the rapidly changing market conditions in which we operate, or could result in other operating risks. The loss of one or more of our key employees, especially our key design and technical personnel, or our inability to retain, attract and motivate qualified design and technical personnel, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our corporate actions are significantly influenced by our principal shareholders, including Dong Hu, our chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, who have the ability to exert significant influence over important corporate matters that require approval of shareholders while their interests may differ from those of the other shareholders. This may deprive you of the opportunity to receive a premium for your Class A Ordinary Shares and materially reduce the value of your investment.
Our share capital is designated into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares, par value HK$0.001 per share (“Class B ordinary shares”). Each Class A ordinary share is entitled to one vote and each Class B ordinary share is entitled to twenty (20) votes at general meetings of our shareholders. Dong Hu, our chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, beneficially owns 100% of our Class B ordinary shares, representing approximately 87.01% of the aggregate voting power of our issued and outstanding share capital as of December 31, 2021. However, the interests of our chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer may differ from the interests of other shareholders. This concentration of ownership and the protective provisions in our second amended and restated articles of association (the “Articles”) may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the dual effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and reducing the price of our Class A ordinary shares. We may not be able to enter into other transactions that could be beneficial to us without the consent of our chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer. As a result of the foregoing, the value of your investment could be materially reduced.
Our deferred tax assets are subject to accounting uncertainties
In the application of our accounting policies, our management is required to make judgments, estimates and assumptions about the carrying amounts of certain assets and liabilities that are not readily apparent from other sources. The estimates and associated assumptions are based on historical experience and other factors that are considered to be relevant. Therefore, actual results may differ from these accounting estimates. As of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the carrying value of our total deferred tax assets was US$8.54 million, US$0 and US$0, respectively. Based on our accounting policies, deferred tax assets are recognized to the extent that it is probable that future taxable profits will be available against which the temporary differences can be utilized. The realization of a deferred tax asset mainly depends on our management’s estimate as to whether sufficient future profits will be available in the future. Management’s assessment is constantly reviewed and additional deferred tax assets are recognized if it becomes probable that future taxable profits will allow the deferred tax assets to be recovered. If sufficient future taxable profits are not expected to be generated or are less than expected, a material reversal of deferred tax assets may arise in future periods.
Any change or discontinuation of preferential tax treatment we currently enjoy would increase our tax charge
Our PRC subsidiaries are subject to the PRC corporate income tax at a standard rate of 25% on their taxable income, but in 2019, 2020 and 2021, preferential tax treatment was available to three (3) of our PRC subsidiaries. Zhejiang Ebang obtained the “high-tech enterprise” tax status in November 2017, which reduced its statutory income tax rate to 15% from November 2017 to November 2020. Zhejiang Ebang further re-applied and obtained the “high-tech enterprise” tax status in December 2020. Hangzhou Dewang Information Technology Co., Ltd., or Hangzhou Dewang, obtained the “high-tech enterprise” tax status in November 2018, which reduced its statutory income tax rate to 15% from November 2018 to November 2021. Hangzhou Dewang further re-applied and obtained the “high-tech enterprise” tax in December 2021. In addition, Zhejiang Ebang Information Technology Co., Ltd., or Ebang IT, obtained the “high-tech enterprise” tax status in December 2021, which reduced its statutory income tax rate to 15% from December 2021 to December 2023.
We cannot assure you that the PRC policies on preferential tax treatments will not change or that the current preferential tax treatments we enjoy or will be entitled to enjoy will not be canceled. Moreover, we cannot assure you that our PRC subsidiaries will be able to renew the same preferential tax treatments upon expiration. If any such change, cancelation or discontinuation of preferential tax treatment occurs, the relevant PRC subsidiaries will be subject to the PRC enterprise income tax, or EIT, at a rate of 25% on taxable income. As a result, the increase in our tax charge could materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
The audit report included in this annual report is prepared by an auditor who might not be fully inspected by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and, as such, you may be deprived of the benefits of such inspection
Our financial statements have been audited by MaloneBailey, LLP, an independent registered public accounting firm that is headquartered in the United States with offices in Beijing and Shenzhen, China. MaloneBailey, LLP is a firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), or the PCAOB, and is required by the United States laws to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB to assess its compliance with the laws of the United States and professional standards.
Because we have substantial operations within the PRC and the PCAOB might be unable to conduct full inspections of the work of our independent registered public accounting firm as it relates to those operations without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our independent registered public accounting firm might not be inspected fully by the PCAOB. This lack of PCAOB inspections in the PRC prevents the PCAOB from regularly evaluating our independent registered public accounting firm’s audits and its quality control procedures. As a result, investors may be deprived of the benefits of PCAOB inspections, lose confidence in our reported financial information and procedures and the quality of our financial statements.
As part of a continued regulatory focus in the United States on access to audit and other information currently protected by national law, in particular China, in June 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced bills in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and passed requiring the SEC to maintain a list of issuers for which the PCAOB is not able to inspect or investigate an auditor report issued by a foreign public accounting firm. The proposed Ensuring Quality Information and Transparency for Abroad-Based Listings on our Exchanges (EQUITABLE) Act prescribes more stringent disclosure requirements for these issuers and, beginning in 2025, the delisting from U.S. national securities exchanges, such as the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (“Nasdaq”), of issuers included on the SEC’s list for three consecutive years. On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or HFCAA, which includes requirements similar to those in the EQUITABLE Act requiring the SEC to identify issuers whose audit reports are prepared by auditors that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate because of restrictions imposed by non-U.S. authorities. HFCAA would also require public companies on the SEC’s list to certify that they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government and make certain additional disclosures on foreign ownership and control of such issuers in their SEC filings. HFCAA was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2020 and was signed into law by the U.S. President on December 18, 2020. HFCAA would amend the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to require the SEC to prohibit securities of any U.S.-listed companies from being listed on any of the U.S. securities exchanges, such as Nasdaq, or traded “over-the-counter”, if the registrant’s financial statements have been audited by an accounting firm branch or office that is not subject to PCAOB inspection for a period of three consecutive years after the Kennedy Bill becomes effective. On March 24, 2021, the SEC announced that it had adopted interim final amendments to implement the foregoing certification and disclosure requirements and that it was seeking public comment on the issuer identification process as well as the submission and disclosure requirements. On December 2, 2021, the SEC adopted amendments to finalize rules implementing the HFCAA, which requires the SEC to prohibit an issuer’s securities from trading on any U.S. national securities exchange and in the over-the-counter market, if the auditor is not subject to PCAOB inspections for three consecutive years. In March 2022, the SEC identified five Chinese companies which the PCAOB was unable to inspect and could be subject to delisting from U.S. exchanges if they fail to comply with the HFCAA’s auditing requirements for three consecutive years; in April 2022, the SEC added another twelve Chinese companies to such delisting watchlist. Accordingly, our securities may be prohibited from trading on the Nasdaq or other U.S. stock exchange if our auditor is not inspected by the PCAOB for three consecutive years, and this ultimately could result in our Class A ordinary shares being delisted.
Furthermore, on June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act which, if enacted, would amend the HFCAA to reduce the number of non-inspection years from three to two years, and thus would reduce the time before our securities may be prohibited from trading or be delisted. On September 22, 2021, the PCAOB adopted a final rule implementing HFCAA, which provides a framework for the PCAOB to use when determining, as contemplated under HFCAA, whether the Board is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued PCAOB Rule 6100 Board Determinations Under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act to notify the SEC that it was unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and in Hong Kong because of the positions taken by authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Our independent registered public accounting firm, MaloneBailey, LLP, has been inspected by the PCAOB on a regular basis and is not among the PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in China and Hong Kong that are subject to PCAOB's determination issued on December 16, 2021 of having been unable to inspect or investigate completely. However, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law (last amended in December 2019), no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigations or evidence collection activities in China. Accordingly, without the consent of the competent PRC securities regulators and relevant authorities, no organization or individual may provide the documents and materials relating to securities business activities to overseas parties. As a result, the audit working papers of our financial statements may not be inspected by the PCAOB without the approval of the PRC authorities, since the audit work was carried out by MaloneBailey, LLP with the collaboration of their China-based offices. The market prices of our Class A ordinary shares could be adversely affected, or our Class A ordinary shares may be delisted, as a result of possible negative impacts under the HFCAA if the PCAOB is unable to inspect auditors with a presence in China.
We incur significant costs and demands upon management and accounting and finance resources as a result of complying with the laws and regulations affecting public companies; if we fail to maintain proper and effective internal controls, our ability to produce accurate and timely financial statements and otherwise make timely and accurate public disclosure could be impaired, which could harm our operating results, our ability to operate our business and our reputation
As a public reporting company, we are required to, among other things, maintain a system of effective internal control over financial reporting. Ensuring that we have adequate internal financial and accounting controls and procedures in place so that we can produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis is a costly and time-consuming effort that needs to be re-evaluated frequently. Substantial work will continue to be required to further implement, document, assess, test and remediate our system of internal controls. As of December 30, 2021, our disclosure controls and procedures were not effective and management determined that we did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting due to certain material weaknesses. Management is undertaking actions to remediate the material weaknesses, but there is no assurance they will be remediated this year. See “Item 15. Control and Procedures—Internal Control Over Financial Reporting.”
If our internal control over financial reporting or our disclosure controls are not effective, we may be unable to issue our financial statements in a timely manner, we may be unable to obtain the required audit or review of our financial statements by our independent registered public accounting firm in a timely manner or we may be otherwise unable to comply with the periodic reporting requirements of the SEC, our ordinary shares listing on Nasdaq could be suspended or terminated and our share price could materially suffer. In addition, we or members of our management could be subject to investigation and sanction by the SEC and other regulatory authorities and to shareholder lawsuits, which could impose significant additional costs on us and divert management attention.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could affect our results of operations and reduce the value of your investment
We primarily operate in China. Our reporting currency is denominated in U.S. dollars. We are exposed to currency risks primarily through sales and purchases which give rise to receivables, payables and cash balances that are denominated in a currency other than the functional currency of the operations to which the transaction relates. We are therefore subject to the risk of fluctuations in the exchange rate of U.S. dollars against Australian dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Renminbi, South Korean won and Euros. The value of U.S. dollars against Australian dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Renminbi, South Korean won and Euros fluctuates and is subject to changes resulting from the PRC government’s policies and depends to a large extent on domestic and international economic and political developments, as well as supply and demand in the local market. With the development of the foreign exchange market and progress toward interest rate liberalization and Renminbi internationalization, the PRC government may in the future announce further changes to the exchange rate system, and we cannot assure you that Renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against Australian dollars, Hong Kong dollars, South Korean won, U.S dollars or Euros in the future.
We incurred a foreign exchange gain of US$5.7 million and US$1.8 million in 2019 and 2021, and a foreign exchange loss of US$0.3 million in 2020, We had currency translation losses of US$1.2 million in 2019, recognized in other comprehensive loss, and currency translation gains of US$2.0 million and US$1.0 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Such currency translation gains or losses resulted from exchange differences on translation of financial statements of our entities using currencies other than U.S. dollars as their functional currencies, net of nil tax.
In addition, should Renminbi appreciate against other currencies, the value of the proceeds from any future financings, which are to be converted from U.S. dollars or other currencies into Renminbi, would be reduced and might accordingly hinder our business development due to the reduced amount of funds raised. On the other hand, in the event of devaluation of Renminbi, the dividend payments of our company, which are to be paid in U.S. dollars after conversion of the distributable profit denominated in Renminbi, would be reduced. Hence, substantial fluctuation in the currency exchange rate of Renminbi may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and the value of your investment in our Class A ordinary shares.
Risks Relating to Our Securities
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our Class A ordinary shares for return on your investment
We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should not rely on an investment in the Class A ordinary shares 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, among other things, our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiary, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in our Class A ordinary shares will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of the Class A ordinary shares. There is no guarantee that the Class A ordinary shares will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the Class A ordinary shares. You may not realize a return on your investment in our Class A ordinary shares and you may even lose your entire investment in our Class A ordinary shares.
There can be no assurance that we will not be classified as a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes for any taxable year, which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders of our Class A ordinary shares and related warrants
A non-U.S. corporation, such as our company, will be classified as a “passive foreign investment company,” or PFIC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes for any taxable year if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income for such year consists of certain types of “passive” income or the “income test”; or (2) at least 50% of the value of its assets (generally based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets) during such year is attributable to assets that produce passive income or are held for the production of passive income, or the “asset test.” Based on the current and expected composition of our income and assets and value of our assets and projections as to the value of our Class A ordinary shares, we do not presently expect to be a PFIC for the current taxable year. However, no assurance can be given in this regard because the determination of whether we are or will become a PFIC for any taxable year is a fact-intensive inquiry made on an annual basis that depends, in part, upon the composition of our income and assets, which may change over time if we expand and diversify our product offerings. Fluctuations in the market price of our Class A ordinary shares may cause us to be or become a PFIC for the current or subsequent taxable years because the value of our assets for the purpose of the asset test may be determined by reference to the market price of our Class A ordinary shares (which has been and may continue to be volatile). The composition of our income and assets may also be affected by how, and how quickly, we use our liquid assets and the cash.
If we were to be or become a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder (as defined in “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations”) holds our Class A ordinary shares or warrants, certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to such U.S. Holder. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations—Passive Foreign Investment Company Rules.”
Our Articles contain anti-takeover provisions that could have a material adverse effect on the rights of holders of our Class A ordinary shares
Our Articles contain provisions to limit the ability of others to acquire control of our company or cause us to engage in change-of-control transactions. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transaction. Our board of directors has the authority, without further action by our shareholders, to issue preferred shares in one or more series and to fix their designations, powers, preferences, privileges, and relative participating, optional or special rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions, including dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our ordinary shares. Preferred shares could be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control of our company or make removal of management more difficult. If our board of directors decides to issue preferred shares, the price of our Class A ordinary shares may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our Class A ordinary shares may be materially and adversely affected.
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law and conduct our operations primarily in emerging markets
We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by our Articles, the Companies Act (Revised) of the Cayman Islands and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against the directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedent in some jurisdictions in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands have a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.
Shareholders of Cayman Islands exempted companies like us have no general rights under Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders of these companies. Our directors have discretion under our Articles to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder motion or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.
Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, differ significantly from requirements for companies incorporated in other jurisdictions such as the United States. If we choose to follow home country practice in the future, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would under rules and regulations applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
In addition, we conduct substantially all of our business operations in emerging markets, including China, and substantially all of our directors and senior management are based in China. The SEC, U.S. Department of Justice, or the DOJ, and other authorities often have substantial difficulties in bringing and enforcing actions against non-U.S. companies and non-U.S. persons, including company directors and officers, in certain emerging markets, including China. Additionally, our public shareholders may have limited rights and few practical remedies in emerging markets where we operate, as shareholder claims that are common in the United States, including class action securities law and fraud claims, generally are difficult or impossible to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in many emerging markets, including China. For example, in China, there are significant legal and other obstacles for the SEC, the DOJ and other U.S. authorities to obtaining information needed for shareholder investigations or litigation. Although the competent authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, the regulatory cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the United States has not been efficient in the absence of a mutual and practical cooperation mechanism. According to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law which became effective in March 2020, no foreign securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC. Accordingly, without the consent of the competent PRC securities regulators and relevant authorities, no organization or individual may provide the documents and materials relating to securities business activities to foreign securities regulators.
As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by management, members of the board of directors or controlling shareholders than they would as public shareholders of a company incorporated in the United States.
As a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from Nasdaq listing standards; these practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we complied fully with the relevant listing standards
As a Cayman Islands company listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, we are subject to the Nasdaq Stock Market listing standards (“Nasdaq Rules”). However, the Nasdaq Rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from the Nasdaq Rules. We currently follow home country practice in lieu of the requirements under the Nasdaq Rules with respect to certain corporate governance standards. For example, based on home country practice, we are not required to seek shareholder approval for issuance of 20% or more of our outstanding ordinary shares or voting power in a private offering (as defined by Nasdaq Rules) and we are not required to host an annual general meeting of shareholders each year. Accordingly, our shareholders may not be provided with the benefits of certain corporate governance requirements of the Nasdaq Rules.
Cayman Islands economic substance requirements may have an effect on our business and operations
Pursuant to the International Tax Cooperation (Economic Substance) Act (Revised) of the Cayman Islands, or the ES Act, that came into force on January 1, 2019, a “relevant entity” is required to satisfy the economic substance test set out in the ES Act. A “relevant entity” includes an exempted company incorporated in the Cayman Islands as is our company. Based on the current interpretation of the ES Act, we believe that our company, Ebang International Holdings Inc., is a pure equity holding company since it only holds equity participation in other entities and only earns dividends and capital gains. Accordingly, for so long as our company, Ebang International Holdings Inc., is a “pure equity holding company,” it is only subject to the minimum substance requirements, which require us to (1) comply with all applicable filing requirements under the Companies Act, Cap. 22 (Act 3 of 1961, as consolidated and revised) of the Cayman Islands; and (2) has adequate human resources and adequate premises in the Cayman Islands for holding and managing equity participations in other entities. However, there can be no assurance that we will not be subject to more requirements under the ES Act. Uncertainties over the interpretation and implementation of the ES Act may have an adverse impact on our business and operations.
Our dual-class voting structure will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares may view as beneficial
We have a dual-class share structure such that our ordinary shares consist of Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while the sole holder of Class B ordinary shares is entitled to 20 votes per share. Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holder thereof, while Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances. Upon any sale, transfer, assignment or disposition of any Class B ordinary shares by a holder thereof to any non-affiliate of such holder, each of such Class B ordinary shares will be automatically and immediately converted into one Class A ordinary share.
Mr. Dong Hu, our founder, chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, beneficially owns all of our issued Class B ordinary shares. These Class B ordinary shares constituted approximately 24.9% of our total issued and outstanding share capital and 86.9% of the aggregate voting power of our total issued and outstanding share capital as of April 28, 2022. As a result of the dual-class share structure and the concentration of ownership, Mr. Dong Hu has a considerable influence over matters such as decisions regarding mergers and consolidations, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. He may take actions that are not in the best interest of us or our other shareholders. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the effect of depriving our other shareholders of the opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of our Class A ordinary shares. This concentrated control will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions that holders of Class A ordinary shares may view as beneficial.
In addition, certain shareholder advisory firms have announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices, including the S&P 500, to exclude companies with multiple classes of shares and companies whose public shareholders hold no more than 5% of total voting power from being added to such indices. Several shareholder advisory firms have also announced their opposition to the use of multiple class structures. As a result, the dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may prevent the inclusion of our Class A ordinary shares in such indices and may cause shareholder advisory firms to publish negative commentary about our corporate governance practices or otherwise seek to cause us to change our capital structure. Any such exclusion from indices could result in a less active trading market for our Class A ordinary shares. Any actions or publications by shareholder advisory firms critical of our corporate governance practices or capital structure could also adversely affect the value of our Class A ordinary shares.
We are a “controlled company” within the meaning of the Nasdaq Rules, and, as a result, can rely on exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that provide protection to shareholders of other companies
We are a “controlled company” as defined under the Nasdaq Rules as Mr. Dong Hu, our founder, chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, owns more than 50% of our total voting power. For so long as we remain a controlled company under that definition, we are permitted to elect to rely, and may rely, on certain exemptions from corporate governance rules. As a result, you may not have the same protection afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to these corporate governance requirements.
Certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable
We are a Cayman Islands company and the majority of our assets are located outside of the United States. The most significant portion of our operations is conducted in China. In addition, a majority of our current directors and officers are nationals and residents of countries other than the United States. Substantially all of the assets of these persons may be located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.
We are an emerging growth company within the meaning of the Securities Act and may take advantage of certain reduced reporting requirements
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”), and we may take advantage of certain exemptions from requirements applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies including, most significantly, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 for so long as we are an emerging growth company until the fifth anniversary from the date of our initial listing.
The JOBS Act also provides that an emerging growth company does not need to comply with any new or revised financial accounting standards until such date that a private company is otherwise required to comply with such new or revised accounting standards. However, we have elected to “opt out” of this provision and, as a result, we will comply with new or revised accounting standards as required when they are adopted for public companies. This decision to opt out of the extended transition period under the JOBS Act is irrevocable.
We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to United States domestic public companies
Because we are a foreign private issuer under the Exchange Act, we are exempt from certain provisions of the securities rules and regulations in the United States that are applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, including:
|●||the rules under the Exchange Act requiring the filing of quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K with the SEC;|
|●||the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act;|
|●||the sections of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their stock ownership and trading activities and liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time; and|
|●||the selective disclosure rules by issuers of material nonpublic information under Regulation FD.|
We have and plan to continue to file an annual report on Form 20-F within four months of the end of each fiscal year. In addition, we publish our results on a semi-annual basis through press releases, distributed pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Press releases relating to financial results and material events will also be furnished to the SEC on Form 6-K. However, the information we are required to file with or furnish to the SEC will be less extensive and less timely than that required to be filed with the SEC by U.S. domestic issuers. As a result, you may not be afforded the same protections or information that would be made available to you were you investing in a U.S. domestic issuer.
Certain data and information in this annual report were obtained from third-party sources and were not independently verified by us
This annual report contains certain data and information that have been derived from third-party reports, either commissioned by us or publicly accessible, and other publicly available sources. Statistical data in these sources of information also include projections based on a number of assumptions. The countries where we operate property markets may not grow at the rate projected by such statistical data, or at all. The failure of our industry to grow at the projected rate may have a material adverse effect on our business. In addition, the complex and changing nature of the broad macroeconomic factors discussed in this annual report may result 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 is later found to be incorrect, actual results may differ from the projections based on these assumptions.
We have not independently verified the data and information contained in such third-party publications and reports. Data and information contained in such third-party publications and reports may be collected using third-party methodologies, which may differ from the data collection methods used by us. In addition, these industry publications and reports generally indicate that the information contained therein was believed to be reliable, but do not guarantee the accuracy and completeness of such information. You should therefore not place undue reliance on such information.
General Risk Factors
We have in the past incurred and continue to incur losses and negative cash flows from operating activities, and we may not achieve or sustain profitability
We incurred a loss from operations of US$50.6 million and US$26.6 million in 2019 and 2020, respectively. We generated an income from operations of US$2.0 million in 2021. We incurred a gross loss of US$30.6 million and US$2.9 million in 2019 and 2020, and generated gross profit of US$29.2 million in 2021. We had negative cash flows from operating activities of US$13.3 million, US$15.8 million and US$14.1 million for 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. In addition, we have received significant non-recurring tax rebates from local governments in the past, but we cannot assure you that we will continue to receive significant tax rebates or other discretionary government grants in the future. Even if we are eligible for any additional tax rebates or other government grants, we cannot assure you of the timing and the amount of any such rebates or other grants. To the extent that we do not receive any additional tax rebates or other government grants, our financial condition could be materially and adversely affected. We cannot assure you that we will be able to generate net profit or positive cash flow from operating activities in the future. Our ability to achieve profitability will depend in large part on our ability to control expenses and manage our growth effectively, to achieve a more stable performance given the significant fluctuation and volatility of the Bitcoin price and Bitcoin mining machine business, and to maintain our competitive advantage in the Bitcoin markets. We expect to continue to make investments in the development and expansion of our business, which will place significant demands on our management and our operational and financial resources. Continuous expansion may increase the complexity of our business, and we may encounter various difficulties. We may fail to develop and improve our operational, financial and management controls, enhance our financial reporting systems and procedures, recruit, train and retain highly skilled personnel, or maintain customer satisfaction to effectively support and manage our growth. If we invest substantial time and resources to expand our operations but fail to manage the growth of our business and capitalize on our growth opportunities effectively, we may not be able to achieve profitability, and our business, results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected.
Our limited operating history and our volatile historical results of operations could make it difficult for us to forecast our business and assess the seasonality and volatility in our business
We began producing and selling our own brand mining machines in December 2016. We generated US$109.1 million, US$19.0 million and US$51.5 million in revenue in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. As we have suffered from the significant drop in the average Bitcoin price historically, we cannot assure you that we will be able to gain revenue growth or that we will not experience another significant decline.
As the market for Bitcoin mining machines is relatively nascent and still rapidly evolving, we cannot forecast longer-term demand or order patterns for our products. Because of our limited operating history and historical data, as well as the limited visibility into future demand trends for our products, we may not be able to accurately forecast our future total revenue and budget our operating expenses accordingly. As most of our expenses are fixed in the short-term or incurred in advance of anticipated total revenue, we may not be able to adjust our expenses in a timely manner in order to offset any shortfall in revenue.
Our business is subject to the varying order patterns of the Bitcoin mining machine market. In addition, many of the regions in which our products are purchased have varying holiday seasons that differ from traditional patterns observed by other semiconductor suppliers and these seasonal buying patterns can impact our sales. We have experienced fluctuations in orders during our limited operating history, and we expect such volatility to occur in the future. Our volatile historical results of operations could make it difficult to assess the impact of seasonal factors on our business. If we or any of our third-party manufacturing service providers are unable to increase production of new or existing products to meet any increases in demand due to seasonality or other factors, our total revenue would be adversely affected and our reputation with our customers may be damaged. Conversely, if we overestimate customer demand, we may reduce our orders or delay shipments of our products from units forecasted, and our total revenue in a particular period could be lower than expected.
Our business requires significant financial resources and we may need additional capital but may not be able to obtain it in a timely manner and on favorable terms or at all
We had negative cash flows from operating activities of US$13.3 million, US$15.8 million and US$14.1 million for 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. We have in the past financed our working capital needs primarily with our net cash from operating activities, capital contributions by shareholders and bank borrowings.
We may require additional cash resources due to the future growth, development and expansion of our business. Our future capital requirements may be substantial as we seek to expand our operations, diversify our product offering, and pursue acquisitions and equity investments. In addition, we incurred accrued payables of US$9.0 million and accounts payable of US$3.4 million as of December 31, 2021. If our cash resources are insufficient to satisfy our cash requirements, we may be required to seek to issue additional equity or debt securities or obtain new or expanded credit facilities or enter into additional factoring arrangements.
Our ability to obtain external financing in the future is subject to a variety of uncertainties, including our future financial condition, results of operations and cash flows and the liquidity of international capital and lending markets. In addition, our loan agreements may contain financial covenants that restrict our ability to incur additional indebtedness or to distribute dividends. Any indebtedness that we may incur in the future may also contain operating and financial covenants that could further restrict our operations. There can be no assurance that financing will be available in a timely manner or in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, or at all. A large amount of bank borrowings and other debt may result in a significant increase in interest expense while at the same time exposing us to increased interest rate risks. Equity financings could result in dilution to our shareholders, and the securities issued in future financings may have rights, preferences and privileges that are senior to those of our ordinary shares. Any failure to raise needed funds on terms favorable to us, or at all, could severely restrict our liquidity as well as have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Third parties have claimed and may, from time to time, assert or claim that we infringed their intellectual property rights and any failure to protect our intellectual property rights could have a material adverse impact on our business
We operate in an industry where participants own a large number of patents and other intellectual property rights that are material to operations and will vigorously pursue, protect and defend these rights. Our competitors or other third parties may allege to own intellectual property rights and interests that could potentially conflict with our own. It is difficult to monitor all of the patent applications and other intellectual property rights protection registrations or applications that may be filed in the PRC or in other relevant jurisdictions. If we offer products that may potentially infringe on such pending applications and the applications are granted, third parties may initiate intellectual infringement claims against us. For example, we are currently involved in an ongoing civil litigation claim against us and four other defendants in relation to potential infringement of intellectual property rights.
As we expand our operations with new products and into new markets, the chances of encountering infringement claims by third parties will increase. We may incur substantial costs in defending or settling such disputes and such actions could divert significant resources and management attention. In addition, some of our customer agreements in the future may require us to indemnify and defend our customers from third-party infringement claims and to pay damages in the case of adverse rulings. As such, claims of this sort also could harm our relationships with our customers and may deter future customers from doing business with us. If securities analysts and investors regard these announcements as negative, the market price of our Class A ordinary shares may decline. We do not know whether we could prevail in any such proceeding given the complex technical issues and inherent uncertainties involved in IP litigation. If any pending or future proceedings result in an adverse outcome, we could be required to:
|●||cease the manufacturing, use or sale of the infringing products, processes or technologies;|
|●||stop shipment to certain geographic areas;|
|●||pay substantial damages for infringement;|
|●||expend significant resources to develop non-infringing processes, technologies or products;|
|●||license technology from the third-party claiming infringement, which license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all;|
|●||cross-license our technology to a competitor in order to resolve an infringement claim, which could weaken our ability to compete with that competitor; or|
|●||pay substantial damages to our customers to discontinue their use of or replace infringing products sold to them with non-infringing products.|
Even if intellectual property claims do not result in litigation or are resolved in our favor, these claims, and the time and resources necessary to resolve them, could divert the resources of our management and require significant expenditures. Moreover, such claims, whether successful or not, may cause significant damage to our reputation and a loss of customers. Any of the foregoing could prevent us from competing effectively and could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
If we are unable to maintain or enhance our brand recognition, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected
Maintaining and enhancing the recognition, image and acceptance of our brand are important to our ability to differentiate our products from and to compete effectively with our peers. Our brand image, however, could be jeopardized if we fail to maintain high product quality, pioneer and keep pace with evolving technology trends, or timely fulfill the orders for our products. If we fail to promote our brand or to maintain or enhance our brand recognition and awareness among our customers, or if we are subject to events or negative allegations affecting our brand image or the publicly perceived position of our brand, our business, operating results and financial condition could be adversely affected.
If counterfeit products are sold under our brand names and trademarks, our reputation and financial results could be materially and adversely affected.
Third-party merchants and dealers are separately responsible for sourcing counterfeit products that are sold under our brand names and trademarks. Counterfeit products may be defective or inferior in quality as compared to authentic products. If our customers are not satisfied by counterfeit products sold under our brand names and trademarks, we may be subject to reputational damage. We believe our brand and reputation are important to our success and our competitive position. The discovery of counterfeit products sold under our brand names and trademarks may severally damage our reputation and cause customers to refrain from making future purchases from us, which would materially and adversely affect our business operations and financial results.
Any global systemic economic and financial crisis could negatively affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition
Our results of operations could be adversely affected by general conditions in the economy and financial markets, both in the PRC and globally, including conditions that are outside of our control, such as the continuing uncertainty regarding the duration and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chain disruptions, tensions in the relationship between the PRC and surrounding Asian countries, the recent inflation in the United States and the foreign and domestic government sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of its recent invasion of Ukraine. There were and could be in the future a number of domino effects from such turmoil on our business, including significant decreases in orders from our customers; insolvency of key suppliers resulting in product delays; inability of customers to obtain credit to finance purchases of our products and/or customer insolvencies; and counterparty failures negatively impacting our operations. Any systemic economic or financial crisis could cause revenues for the semiconductor industry as a whole to decline dramatically and could materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
We face risks of unexpected events, including natural disasters, acts of God and occurrence of epidemics, which could severely disrupt our business operations
Natural disasters, epidemics and other acts of God which are beyond our control may adversely affect the economy, infrastructure and livelihood of the people in China and in other territories in which we operate and may materially and adversely affect our operations, as our primary facilities and offices are located in China and we have other facilities and offices outside of China. Material damage to, or the loss of, such facilities due to fire, severe weather, flood, earthquake, or other acts of God or cause may not be adequately covered by proceeds of our insurance coverage and could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations. Any outbreaks of contagious disease, acts of war or terrorist attacks may cause damage or disruption to our business, our employees and our markets, any of which could adversely impact our business and results of operations.
The trading price of our Class A ordinary shares may be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors
The trading price of our Class A ordinary shares has been volatile since our Class A ordinary shares began to trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on June 26, 2020. The trading price of our Class A ordinary shares has previously and may in the future fluctuate widely due to factors beyond our control. This volatility may occur because of broad market and industry factors, like the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States as well as factors related to the cryptocurrency industry and pricing of cryptocurrencies generally. A number of Chinese companies have listed or are in the process of listing (or attempting to list) their securities on U.S. stock markets. The securities of some of these companies have experienced significant volatility, including price declines in connection with their initial public offerings. The trading performances of these Chinese companies’ securities after their offerings may affect the attitudes of investors toward Chinese companies listed in the United States in general and consequently may impact the trading performance of the Class A ordinary shares, regardless of our actual operating performance.
In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for the Class A ordinary shares may be highly volatile for factors specific to our own operations, including the following:
|●||variations in our revenues, earnings and cash flow;|
|●||changes in the operating performance or market valuations of other cryptocurrency related companies;|
|●||announcements of new investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships or joint ventures by us or our competitors;|
|●||announcements of new services and expansions by us or our competitors;|
|●||changes in financial estimates by securities analysts;|
|●||detrimental adverse publicity about us, our services or our industry;|
|●||additions or departures of key personnel;|
|●||fluctuations of exchange rates between Renminbi and the U.S. dollar;|
|●||release of lock-up or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding equity securities or sales of additional equity securities;|
|●||potential litigation or regulatory investigations; 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 the Class A ordinary shares will trade.
Additionally, 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 Class A ordinary shares. Volatility or a lack of positive performance in our Class A ordinary shares price may also adversely affect our ability to retain key employees, most of whom may be granted options or other equity incentives in the future.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our Class A ordinary shares, the market price for the Class A ordinary shares and trading volume could decline
The trading market for our Class A ordinary shares 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 Class A ordinary shares, the market price for our Class A ordinary shares 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 Class A ordinary shares to decline.
We will continue to incur increased costs as a public company, which could lower our profits or make it more difficult to run a business
As a public company, we have incurred significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company to ensure that we comply with the various requirements on corporate governance practices imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and Nasdaq Global Select Market. For example, we have increased the number of independent directors and adopt policies regarding internal controls and disclosure controls and procedures. We have also incurred additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. We expect that these rules and regulations will continue to cause us to incur elevated legal and financial compliance costs, devote substantial management effort to ensure compliance and make some corporate activities more time-consuming and costly. We are currently evaluating and monitoring developments with respect to these rules and regulations, and we cannot predict or estimate with any degree of certainty the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs.
ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
|A.||History and development of the company|
In January 2010, Mr. Dong Hu, our founder, chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, founded Zhejiang Ebang Communication Technology Co., Ltd., or Zhejiang Ebang, which established Ebang IT in August 2010, to conduct development and sales of communications network access devices and related equipment. In early 2014, in view of the burgeoning opportunities in the blockchain industry, we began to conduct research and feasibility studies on the blockchain business and develop blockchain computing equipment. In August 2015, Zhejiang Ebang was listed in China on the National Equities Exchange and Quotations Co., Ltd., or the NEEQ. In August 2016, we acquired 51.05% of the equity interest in Hangzhou Dewang through our capital injection in Hangzhou Dewang. In March 2018, Zhejiang Ebang was delisted from the NEEQ in preparation for the reorganization.
On May 17, 2018, we incorporated Ebang International Holdings Inc., our holding company, as an exempted company with limited liability in the Cayman Islands. In 2018, we underwent a series of corporate reorganizations for our initial public offering, including the incorporation of our company as the listing vehicle, incorporation of our oversea holding companies and issuance of shares to shareholders of Hangzhou Ebang Hongfa Technology Co., Ltd. (“Ebang Hongfa”) to reflect their respective shareholdings before the reorganization. We completed the reorganization in May 2018.
On June 26, 2020, our Class A ordinary shares commenced trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “EBON.” We raised approximately US$91.7 million in net proceeds after deducting underwriting commissions and the offering expenses payable by us from our initial public offering.
From August 2020 to November 2021, to expand our blockchain-enabled financial businesses globally, we established our subsidiaries in Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, New Zealand and the United States. As of the date of this annual report, we have established two cryptocurrency exchange platforms outside the PRC, received the Money Service Business License in Canada, received registration approval as a digital currency exchange in Australia, acquired a company with an AFSL for engaging in financial services in Australia, and received the TCSP license and approval to provide company and trust service business in Hong Kong.
Our principal executive offices are located at Building 7, No. 5, Nangonghe Road, Linping Street, Yuhang District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 571-8817-6197. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at Cricket Square, Hutchins Drive, P.O. Box 2681, Grand Cayman KY1-1111.
Investors should submit any inquiries to the address and telephone number of our principal executive offices. Our corporate website is http://www.ebang.com. Our agent for service of process in the United States is located at 122 East 42nd Street, 18th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10168, United States.
We are a global blockchain technology company with strong application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip design capability. With years of industry experience and expertise in ASIC chip design, we have become a global Bitcoin mining machine producer with steady access to wafer foundry capacity. With our licensed and registered entities in various jurisdictions, we intend to launch a professional, convenient and innovative digital asset financial service platform to expand into the upstream and the downstream of blockchain and cryptocurrency industry value chain.
Leveraging our deep understanding of the cryptocurrency industry and strong blockchain technology as applied to ASIC chip design, we strive to expand into the upstream and downstream markets of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry value chain to diversify our offerings and achieve a more stable financial performance. We intend to start with the cryptocurrency mining and farming business, and expand into the cryptocurrency trading exchange business. In April 2021, we launched our first self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform Ebonex and has since launched another self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform, also branded Ebonex, in Australia in February 2022. We believe our extensive experience in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry positions us well in our future endeavors. We intend to continue to concentrate our efforts in our cryptocurrency and blockchain related businesses in 2022.
In addition, we are at an initial preparatory stage of executing our plan to launch blockchain-enabled financial businesses to capture the growth opportunity along the value chain of the blockchain industry, specifically in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, New Zealand and the United States. Although we have not generated significant revenues from such businesses to date, we carefully selected these countries and/or regions because of what we believe to be a Fintech-friendly regulatory environment.
In August 2020, we established wholly-owned subsidiaries in Singapore and Canada in preparation for establishing cryptocurrency exchanges. In October 2020, we established a wholly-owned subsidiary in Australia to apply for an Australian financial services license with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (the Australian Government body that regulates the Australian financial services industry) and for registration with AUSTRAC (the Australian Government body that regulates Bitcoin exchanges). In June 2021, we established wholly-owned subsidiaries in the U.S. in preparation for establishing a cryptocurrency exchange and online brokerage services in the U.S. and accelerating the construction of compliant mining farms in North America. We carefully selected these countries and/or regions because of what we believe to be a Fintech-friendly regulatory environment. We are at an initial preparatory stage of executing our plan to launch blockchain-enabled financial business to capture the growth opportunity along the value chain of the blockchain industry. As of the date of this annual report, we have received the Money Service Business License from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, which will allow us to engage in foreign exchange trading, digital currency transferring and dealing in virtual currencies in Canada; registration approval from AUSTRAC as a digital currency exchange, which allows us to offer cryptocurrency exchange services in Australia; acquired a company with an AFSL for engaging in financial services in Australia; and the TCSP license and approval to provide company and trust service business in Hong Kong. In April 2021, we launched our first self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform Ebonex and has launched another self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform, also branded Ebonex, in Australia in February 2022. We are also in the process of obtaining relevant licenses and approvals for our subsidiaries in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas and New Zealand. If and once obtained, the licenses will allow us to operate cryptocurrency exchanges in such countries. Meanwhile, we are focused on application development, regulatory compliance and talent recruitment to ramp up execution of our new business plans for the expansion in these countries. We expect such ramp-up will support our future operations and our compliance with local rules and regulations. Our expenses to date to implement our new business plans, including establishing in Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, New Zealand and the United States, have been mainly on server rentals, application development, regulatory compliance, talent acquisition and offices rentals to set up cryptocurrency exchanges in the abovementioned countries. There is no guarantee that we will receive any additional required approvals and licenses for our proposed business in these countries in a timely manner or on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, or that we will commence the proposed business as planned, or at all. If our operations at these countries or our execution of business plan proves incorrect, we may incur additional expenses or losses.
Any restrictions imposed by a foreign government could force us to restructure operations, perhaps significantly, which could result in significant costs and inefficiencies that harm our profitability, or even cause us to cease operations in the applicable jurisdiction. Cryptocurrency is a recent technological innovation and the regulatory schemes to which cryptocurrency and the related exchange may be subject have not been fully explored or developed by foreign jurisdictions. Thus, cryptocurrency faces an uncertain regulatory landscape in many foreign jurisdictions. Various foreign jurisdictions may from time to time adopt laws, regulations or directives that affect our cryptocurrency businesses. Due in part to its international nature and the nascent stage of regulation, along with the limited experience with cryptocurrency, and language barriers between international journalists, translators and regulators, information regarding the regulation of cryptocurrency in various jurisdictions may be incomplete, inaccurate or unreliable. As both the regulatory landscape develops and journalistic familiarity with cryptocurrency increases, mainstream media’s understanding of cryptocurrency and the regulation thereof may improve. As we enter into the markets in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, New Zealand and the United States, we expect to continue to monitor the local regulations regarding cryptocurrency and financial service platforms and retain local regulatory counsels. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Mining Related Businesses—The current regulatory environment in foreign markets, and any adverse changes in that environment, could have a material adverse impact on our blockchain products business and our cryptocurrency exchange and financial service platform businesses,” “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—If we are unable to manage our growth or execute our strategies effectively, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors— We may not successfully develop, market or launch any future cryptocurrency exchanges or online brokerages or continue operating our existing cryptocurrency exchanges” for details of the associated risks.
Our Value Proposition
We design fabless ICs in the front-end and back-end, which are the major components of the IC product development chain. We currently dedicate our technology and expertise in IC design for our blockchain products business and telecommunication products business.
The following diagram illustrates the general process of IC design and production for our blockchain and telecommunications products businesses:
We independently design and develop our blockchain and telecommunications products in-house, including the design of proprietary ASIC chips for our cryptocurrency mining machines. Front-end IC design and back-end IC design are the key parts of the IC design process. We determine the parameters of the IC chip, establish the basic logic of the design, map out the initial plan for the physical layout, and conduct back-end verification on the design. Our strong design capability has ensured that we have achieved a 100% tape-out success rate to date. We then closely partner with industry-leading third-party suppliers to fabricate, test and package the IC products we design. Leveraging our long-established experience and know-how in producing telecommunications products, we have also established in-house production capabilities to conduct PCB assembly and system assembly for both mining machines and a wide range of telecommunications products. We believe our outstanding technical expertise and production experience in IC development chain enables us to continuously introduce ICs of higher performance and power efficiency for application in both the blockchain and telecommunications fields.
Currently, we have two self-developed cryptocurrency exchange platforms operating under the brand name Ebonex, and we support users to buy and/or sell digital assets through Ebonex. Our customers include retail users and institutions. We aim to establish a global blockchain financial service platform, with services to be provided to each countries and regions in which we operate.
Ebonex is based on our self-developed trading system, which provides a highly available, high-concurrency trade match service system. We have embedded robust anti-money laundering (“AML”), Know Your Customer (“KYC”), Know Your Transaction (“KYT”) and asset custody third-party services in Ebonex to protect user assets and ensure that users’ access meets regulatory standards. We believe users can experience stable system services, convenient deposits and withdrawals, smooth trading and diversified digital asset services on Ebonex. We are committed to building a world-leading comprehensive digital asset service platform to meet the asset service needs of cryptocurrency asset users worldwide while complying with the current laws, regulations, and legal standards to which we are subject, as well as additional laws, regulations and legal standards that may be introduced in the future.
Our Blockchain Products Business
Our blockchain products business is primarily comprised of Bitcoin mining machine sales, mining machine hosting services and cryptocurrency exchange services.
Bitcoin Mining Machine Products
Our technology and expertise in ASIC applications is primarily dedicated to our blockchain products business, which consists predominantly of the design, development, production and sales of our proprietary ASIC-based Bitcoin mining machines under the Ebit brand. Our Ebit Bitcoin mining machines feature our proprietary ASICs, and the ASICs are integrated with components procured by us.
Since the beginning of our ASIC designing business, we have successfully and independently completed the design of 14nm, 12nm, 10nm, 8nm, 7nm and 6nm ASIC chips. Our existing ASIC chips are targeted at solving Bitcoin’s cryptographic algorithms incorporating the latest technology. Since the launch of our first mining machine with 10nm ASIC chips in 2017, we have introduced mining machines with second generation 10nm ASIC chips in 2019 and mining machines with 8nm ASIC chips in 2020; and we have successfully and independently completed the design of 6nm ASIC chips and the design of a chip for simultaneous Litecoin and Dogecoin mining in 2021. We currently focus on developing our proprietary 5nm ASIC chips and mining machines for non-Bitcoin cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum. We will continue to devote significant resources to new innovations applying blockchain technology.
We have also designed our hardware architecture to optimize the computing power of our ASIC chips while efficiently consuming energy. This includes incorporating heat dissipation technology, such as high-grade aluminum cases and customized heat sinks and fans. All of our mining machine products incorporate built-in controllers so they can operate as standalone devices. Our products utilize automatic cluster management software system for intelligent tracking and monitoring of the operation status of the device, which provides convenience for large-scale set-ups with multiple devices. Our products are also configured to allow for simplified software and internet connection setup, thereby reducing installation and configuration time.
We continuously introduce new series of Bitcoin mining machines incorporating the latest development of ASIC design and process technology. We also produce and sell Bitcoin mining machine accessories and offer ancillary service to our customers to assist their operations.
Existing Mining Machine Products
The table below describes the key mining machine products that we have sold:
|Product||Release Date||Type of ASICs||Hash Rate|
|Ebit E9+||December 2016||14 nm||9 TH/s|
|Ebit E10||December 2017||10 nm||18 TH/s|
|Ebit E9.1||May 2018||10 nm||14 TH/s|
|Ebit E9.2||April 2018||10 nm||12 TH/s|
|Ebit E9.3||May 2018||10 nm||16 TH/s|
|Ebit E9.5||June 2019||10 nm||11.5 TH/s|
|Ebit E9i||July 2018||10 nm||13.5 TH/s|
|Ebit E9i+||September 2018||10 nm||13.5 TH/s|
|Product||Release Date||Type of ASICs||Hash Rate|
|Ebit E10.1||April 2019||10 nm||18 TH/s|
|Ebit E10.2||May 2019||10 nm||27 TH/s|
|Ebit E10.3||June 2019||10 nm||24 TH/s|
|Ebit E10.5||June 2019||10 nm||18 TH/s|
|Ebit E12||May 2019||10 nm||44 TH/s|
|Ebit E15||November 2020||8 nm||60 TH/s|
|Ebit E9.6||January 2021||10 nm||12 TH/s|
|Ebit E10B||April 2021||10 nm||32 TH/s|
|Ebit E10B||April 2021||10 nm||28 TH/s|
|Ebit E10C||April 2021||10 nm||25 TH/s|
The total volume of Bitcoin mining machines we sold was 290.0 thousand, 11.2 thousand and 67.7 thousand in 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively. The total computing power of Bitcoin mining machines we sold was 5.9 million Thash/s, 0.5 million Thash/s, and 1.5 million Thash/s in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. The average selling price per hash rate of Bitcoin mining machines we sold was US$15, US$16 and US$27 in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Mining Machine Products Under Development
Our current mining machine products are designed for Bitcoin mining. We are in the process of developing ASIC chips for a new generation of mining machines for Bitcoin mining, as well as mining machines for other cryptocurrencies. The table below shows products we have currently in development.
|Bitcoin mining machines|
|8 nm ASIC chip mining machine*||ASIC chip with higher hash rate than 10 nm ASIC chip||Design completed in 2019|
|7 nm ASIC chip mining machine*||ASIC chip with higher hash rate than 10 nm ASIC chip and 8 nm ASIC chip||Design completed in 2019|
|6 nm ASIC chip mining machine*||ASIC chip with better performance and efficiency than 7 nm ASIC chip||Design completed in 2021|
|5 nm ASIC chip mining machine||ASIC chip with better performance and efficiency than 7 nm ASIC chip||Under design|
|Other cryptocurrency mining machines|
|Mining machines for Litecoin/SimpleChain and DASH*||Each designed specifically for Litecoin/SimpleChain or DASH mining||Design completed in 2018|
|Mining machines for Monero, Zerocash, Siacoin/Decred and Bytom*||Each designed specifically for Monero, Zerocash, Siacoin/Decred or Bytom mining||Design completed in 2019|
|Mining machines for simultaneous Litecoin and Dogecoin mining*||Designed specifically for simultaneous Litecoin and Dogecoin mining||Design completed in 2021|
|Mining machines for Ethereum||Each designed specifically for Ethereum mining||Under design|
|*||We will further determine the timeline for launching these products based on market demands and conditions.|
Mining Machine Hosting Services
We began our mining machine hosting services in 2017 to diversify our offerings. Our mining machine hosting services enabled customers to operate their mining machines remotely in a cost-effective manner. We helped customers, who had purchased mining machines from us, set up and configurate their mining machines and monitored the daily operation of these mining machines on our hosting site where the utility cost was relatively low. We also provided routine maintenance services to our customers.
We entered into separate service agreements with buyers of our mining machines for the hosting services. We charged customers a hosting services fee, which is negotiated case by case and usually in proportion to the utility consumption of each customer’s mining machines that we host. We have halted all mining machine custody services in the PRC at the end of April 2021, and we are in the process of locating and/or constructing compliant mining farms in North America and Europe. Before we ceased such business, the revenues from our mining machine hosting services were US$2.8 million in 2021. The average service fee per kWh was generally US$0.04 per kWh in 2021.
Our Cryptocurrency Exchange Business
In April 2021, we launched our first self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform Ebonex and in February 2022, we launched another self-developed proprietary cryptocurrency exchange platform, also branded Ebonex, in Australia. We plan to launch additional trading platforms in the jurisdictions into which we are expanding. All core technologies of Ebonex are independently and completely developed by us with our own independent intellectual property rights. Ebonex strictly prohibits domestic resident users in China, as well as individuals and institutions in sanctioned countries, to open accounts and trade. As of December 31, 2021, no revenue has been generated from the operations of Ebonex.
We invest heavily in compliance tools. In addition to robust AML, KYC, and KYT programs, we have introduced professional service providers, such as real-time account reconciliation platforms, digital asset custodians, biometric digital KYC platforms, financial market data and infrastructure providers, and liquidity providers, in Ebonex to meet regulatory requirements, protect user assets and ensure smooth trading experience. These features also allow us to quickly adapt to emerging threats in the crypto economy, build scenarios and typologies around specific transaction types, and gives us the flexibility to support new products and services.
Our ultimate objective through our Ebonex platform is to provide secure, fast, efficient and stable multi-currency and multi-mode trading services to a global audience. We have increased our investment in marketing and sales, and have assembled a dedicated marketing and growth team in our regions of operation. We expect that we will obtain more cryptocurrency exchange users and institutional users in the countries and/or regions where we operate in the future. With the expansion of our operations and marketing activities, we have begun to attract users and generate revenue from user transactions.
Our Telecommunications Business
We entered the telecommunications business in 2010. Our communications network devices mainly focus on the access layer, which is the entry point for providing access to the telecommunications network for end users. Our products are broadly grouped under the following product lines, as well as related parts and accessories:
|●||Fiber-Optic Communication Access Devices. Our fiber-optic communication access devices are mainly used by telecommunications service providers in access network server rooms. Our fiber-optic communication access devices are also designed to provide enterprises with a differentiated smart terminal solution for communication access with a view to fulfilling client needs in terms of cost and user experience. The main products we offer under our fiber-optic communication access devices product line include multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) fiber-optic access network devices, multi-service access platform (MSAP) integrated business access devices and wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) fiber-optic devices.|
|●||Enterprise Convergent Terminals. Our enterprise convergent terminal products are designed to provide complete informatization service for enterprises, from smart terminal to smart pipeline and cloud computing. The main products we offer under our enterprise convergent terminal product line include gigabit passive optical network (GPON), enterprise cloud gateway devices, Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) access devices and business enterprise smart wireless access devices.|
Blockchain Products Business
Our customer base for sales of our Ebit mining machines is comprised of both enterprises and individual buyers. We generally do not enter into long term agreements with our mining machine customers. Sales are typically made on one-off sales contract or purchase order bases. Generally, we either require prepayment in full or offer alternate payment plans for customers to prepay a certain percentage with the remainder to be settled after delivery of the products and we have extended credit sales to certain customers since 2018. Substantially all of the customers of our mining machine hosting services before we halted such services in the PRC were customers who have purchased our mining machines.
In 2019, 2020 and 2021, a significant portion of our mining machine customers were located in China. All of our mining machines are distributed through direct sales. Nevertheless, we do not restrict resales of our mining machine products by our customers, so some of our customers in China may resell purchased products to end users or other buyers located in overseas markets. Our revenues generated from sales to customers in China represent 87.5%, 99.8% and 100.0% of our total revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. Our revenues from sales to customers outside of China/sales of mining machines delivered to overseas end users, such as customers/users in North America, Central Asia and the Southeast Asia, represent 12.5%, 0.2% and 0.0% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Our blockchain product business also includes cryptocurrency exchange business. Our target users mainly include retail users as well as institutions. By providing them with digital asset services and infrastructure, we generate revenue through fees and commissions including transaction commissions, handling fees, transaction spreads, system implementation fees, revenue sharing, and service fees.
Since our cryptocurrency exchange is in the early stages of operation and has only had a short history, as of December 31, 2021, we have not generated revenue from such operations. However, we believe that with our experience in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, continuous research and development, and technology accumulation, as well as the expansion of our marketing and operation activities, we will further drive our competitive position and obtain relevant operating revenue in the near future.
Our telecommunications products are mainly sold in China under the brand name “EBANG” through direct sales. Our customer base for our telecommunications products primarily includes major telecommunications service providers in China.
We do not have any long-term or exclusive agreement with our telecommunications product customers. Sales to our enterprises customers are generally made on one-off sales contract or purchase order bases with a credit period of one to nine months. We generally enter into framework agreement with the major telecommunications service providers in China with a credit period up to one year. We typically require payments to be made in installments upon delivery of the products. We encourage our sales representatives to negotiate shorter credit periods to reduce our credit risk.
Research and Development
We have historically and continue to place strong emphasis on research and development. We consider research and development capability as a crucial factor to our success and our ability to develop innovative and competitive products to meet the technological requirements of customers. As of December 31, 2021, our research and development team comprised of 107 employees, or approximately 40.8% of our total number of employees, based across our offices in China. Our research and development expenses were US$6.6 million in 2021.
Our research and development team is overseen by our Chairman and CEO, Mr. Dong Hu. Within our research and development team, we have a specialized ASIC chip design team focused on designing ASIC chips for the development of cutting-edge mining machine products and for other blockchain research and development projects that utilize ASIC chips. The other members of our research and development team focus on non-ASIC aspects of mining machine products, telecommunications products and new applications for blockchain technology.
Within our blockchain product business, we have established a professional research and analysis team to track and analyze the development and changes of users, and digital asset market changes to support our blockchain product business development. Through such team’s tireless efforts, we launched our self-developed cryptocurrency exchange platform Ebonex, to provide secure, fast, efficient and stable trading services in multiple currencies and modes for users thereof.
As part of our business strategy to expand into other markets, in addition to developing more advanced mining machines for cryptocurrency mining, we are currently undertaking several new research and development projects in the blockchain technology sector. Those projects include online brokerage and custody operations based on cryptocurrency exchanges and digital asset technology infrastructure solutions including Software as a service (“SaaS”) and over-the-counter services. Our research and development team tracks, evaluates and anticipates the latest industry developments and customers’ needs in determining our research and development project focus and new product roadmap. These initiatives enable us to continuously improve our research and development capabilities and technology reserves in blockchain and digital assets, and transform them into competitive products and services.
Our Fabless Model
We do not directly manufacture ICs used for our products. Instead, we utilize what is known as a fabless model, whereby we conduct front-end and back-end designs of our IC chips, which are then manufactured, packaged and tested by world-class wafer foundry and OSAT partners we cooperate with. Under the fabless model, we are able to leverage the expertise of industry leaders that are certified by the ISO in such areas as fabrication, assembly, quality control and assurance, reliability and testing. In addition, the fabless model allows us to avoid many of the significant costs and risks associated with owning and operating various fabrication and packaging and testing facilities. Our fabrication partner is responsible for procurement of the majority of the raw materials used in the production of our ICs. As a result, we can focus our resources on research and development, product design and additional quality assurances.
We primarily work with an IC fabrication partner to ascertain their production resource that can be allocated to us before we place an order according to our business need. After we place our orders, and once they accept our orders, we are required to prepay in full in order to secure production capacity. Subject to sufficient production capacity, wafers were delivered in an average of approximately three to four months from the time we placed our order prior to the global outbreak of COVID-19; however, since such outbreak, we have experienced production capacity shortages and shipment delays from the IC fabrication partner.
We principally purchased wafers for our ASIC chips from Samsung, and also began to work with TSMC in 2017 on the development of a new ASIC chip and established a relationship and are in discussions with two other major wafer foundries in order to diversify our supplier sources and to gain access to additional capacity for future ASIC chips. We will seek to procure wafers from either or both of these two wafer foundries in the event that our current suppliers are unable to accept or fulfil our purchase orders or otherwise continue supply us wafers. While we continue to seek opportunities to improve our supply chain, we face concentration risks, as we currently depend on two suppliers for our wafers. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—we rely on a limited number of third parties to fabricate our ASIC chips, which are the core technology used in our mining machines.”
Packaging and Testing
After the wafers are manufactured, they are shipped to an OSAT company for packaging into IC chips, which are then tested to ensure the required quality assurance procedures are all met. Properly tested IC chips are then delivered to our production facilities for mounting and assembly.
We procure IC packaging and testing services from leading OSAT companies, including STATS ChipPAC. In 2018, in order to keep up with our increasing production demand, we began working with PTI. STATS ChipPAC is controlled by Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. and its various subsidiaries, or JCET, which along with PTI are among the largest OSAT companies in the world.
We have in-house capabilities to produce our blockchain and telecommunications products at our production facilities. These include PCB assembly to create the mounted circuit boards once the IC chips have been manufactured, and general assembly to integrate the circuit boards with other components and parts for assembling the final products.
We procure certain raw materials, components and parts, such as electronic components, metal cases, cables, antennae and packaging materials, which are used by us for the assembly of PCBs and our final products. We typically maintain three or four different suppliers for most of our raw materials, components and parts. We generally place purchase orders with our suppliers based on our estimated purchase orders and production schedule. The lead time for procurement was generally one to four months prior to the global outbreak of COVID-19; however, since such outbreak, we have experienced raw material shortages and shipment delays from our suppliers. We are typically required to pay our suppliers before or upon delivery of the raw materials, components and parts. We closely monitor the quality of all raw materials provided by our suppliers to ensure that all raw materials comply with the stringent requirements of our customers. For more information, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Quality Control.”
We outsource some of our production to third-party subcontractors in order to meet additional capacity needs. We currently maintain a working relationship with approximately four to five third-party subcontractors for PCB and general system assembly. The terms of our subcontracting arrangement are set out in individual written work orders, and the amount of work outsourced is determined on an as-needed basis. To maintain our product standards, we institute strict quality control measures with our third-party subcontractors. These measures include requiring product testing at various stages of production and utilizing our proprietary software to record and report the quality testing results.
We operate one production facility in Hangzhou, Zhejiang with a gross floor area of 7,344 square meters. It houses three SMT production lines and two general assembly lines, as of December 31, 2021. Our production facility in Wuhai, Inner Mongolia with a gross floor area of 14,200.26 square meters ceased operations by the end of April 2021 and used to house one SMT production line and one general assembly line.
SMT production lines are responsible for PCB assembly, which is a key process for both our mining machine and telecommunications products. The maximum output volume of our in-house production facilities is largely dictated by the production capacity of our SMT production lines in Hangzhou. The average utilization rate of our SMT production lines was 81.7%, 40.1% and 34.7% for 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
We outsource some of our SMT production activities to third-party subcontractors in order to meet additional capacity needs. For the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, our outsourced productive SMT production volume amounted to approximately 69.2%, 8.4% and 27.4% of our total in-house and outsourced productive SMT production volume, respectively.
We plan to expand our production capacity by constructing a new production facility in Yuhang District, Hangzhou and installing two additional new SMT production lines in place of the two older SMT production lines. We commenced the construction of our new production facility toward the end of 2019 and expect to commence its operation by the first half of 2022.
We place great emphasis on the importance of quality control in every aspect of our business. We produce our products in accordance with our strict quality control system and quality standards. We obtained all the material quality control certifications in the PRC for our products or production facilities. From sourcing of raw materials, production, delivery and installation, each stage of the production process is subject to our quality control procedures for both in-house production and outsourced third-party production.
We have implemented various quality-control checks into our production process and the IC fabrication process by our production partners. In addition, we provide timely and effective after-sales services and support to our users. We have quality control personnel based at each of our production facilities. They are part of our production department and are led by our quality control supervisor. The quality control team is primarily responsible for monitoring the quality of procurement raw materials, production process and finished products and supervising the product testing. We have our own on-site quality control staff to inspect each stage of the production process. The quality control staff inspects semi-finished products at various stages of the production process to ensure their compliance with our internal quality control standards and measures. This helps us detect defects during the production process and take steps to rectify those defects, where appropriate. For outsourced production, we require that all third-party contractors utilize a software system we provide to track, test and record each product made for us using unique identifying barcodes on the products so that we can review the testing results of their products. Our third-party contractors also agree to allow us to conduct sample testing of their products and random spot checks of their facilities. We require final testing on the products before their delivery to our customers to ensure the products meet the specifications and requirements of its customers.
After-Sales Services and Warranties
We provide installation services of communication network devices to our customers depending upon the products purchased and the type of customer. Our mining machines are configured by the end-users using our instruction manual.
For our mining machines, we provide a six-month warranty for the overall machine and a one-year warranty for the power supplies. During the warranty period, we provide maintenance and after-sale services, which include technical support, equipment repair and maintenance. In connection with warranty service, the customer will courier the hardware to us, and we will ship the machine back to the customer once repairs are completed. Our service hotline is available seven days a week between 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and we offer on-site maintenance services as needed.
For our telecommunications products, we typically provide a 12 to 36-month warranty depending on the type of customer and product. During the warranty period, we provide maintenance and after-sale services, which include technical support, system and network resting, equipment repair and maintenance. Our service hotline is available seven days a week between 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and we offer on-site maintenance services as needed.
Sales and Marketing
Historically, the marketing of our blockchain products was done through word of mouth, press releases of our product launches and exhibitions when we launch a new product. Certain of our available products are also advertised on our website which is updated periodically. From time to time, we maintain a presence on social media in order to raise awareness of our brand. We have not relied heavily on sales force for advertising and marketing of our blockchain products, as most of our customers approach us proactively.
For our telecommunications products, we obtain supplier contracts through bidding processes held by the major telecommunications service providers in China, in order to become an approved supplier. We set up sales offices in the provinces with large distribution scale according to the winning bids. Our sales offices also serve the surrounding provinces to form an effective sales network.
We compete primarily with the other major mining machine producers, and potentially with any new players which may overcome the high barriers of entry, in particular in technology and access to wafer foundry capacity. We seek to compete in technology and service quality with our competitors.
Our competitors also include many well-known domestic and international players in blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, ranging from large, established financial incumbents to smaller, early-stage financial technology providers and companies native to the crypto economy, such as decentralized exchanges. We expect that competition in the cryptocurrency industry will continue to be intense as we compete not only with existing players that have been focused on Bitcoin mining, cryptocurrency farming and cryptocurrency trading related service providers, but also new entrants that include well-established players in the semiconductor industry, and players who were not predisposed to this industry in the past. We also expect that we may face competition from existing and new non-cryptocurrency blockchain application providers. In the IC industry, we expect to face competition from existing and new players that are more established than us. Some of these competitors may also have stronger brand names, greater access to capital, longer histories, longer relationships with their suppliers or customers and more resources than we do.
We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark, patent and other proprietary technology and contractual restrictions on disclosure to protect our intellectual property rights. We enter into relevant confidentiality agreements or provisions with our employees and certain customers and suppliers and rely on such confidentiality agreements or provisions and other protection of our technical know-how to maintain our technical advantages in our products and design.
As of the date of this annual report, we have registered 54 patents, 9 IC layout designs and 61 software copyrights, with an additional 29 patent applications in the PRC. Our key intellectual property achievements include multiple generations of ASIC chips.
On November 27, 2020, we obtained an exclusive license of a key patent in the Bitcoin mining industry, which license granted us with the exclusive right to use the patent in South Korea and export the product from South Korea to other countries. On January 1, 2022, we obtained another license which granted us with the right to use the patent in the United States and export the product from the United States to other countries. The core of this patent is AsicBoost, a method that can increase performance of Bitcoin mining by about 20%. The performance gain is achieved through a high-level optimization of the Bitcoin mining algorithm which allows for drastic reduction in gate count on the mining chip.
Despite our efforts to protect our proprietary rights, unauthorized parties may attempt to copy or otherwise obtain and use our technology. Monitoring unauthorized use of our technology is difficult and costly, and we cannot be certain that the steps we have taken will prevent misappropriation of our technology. 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.
Through the use of licensing arrangements, we utilize various technologies, software and other intellectual property that were developed by third parties. During the course of product design and manufacturing, we incorporate certain third-party technologies or implement technical or commercial standards, practices or intellectual property which require licenses from wafer foundries. These licenses allow us to use or access the wafer foundries’ technologies and intellectual property rights in connection with the making of photomask for our ASIC chips. We have also purchased licenses for various design software from third parties to conduct our IC chip design. These license grants were usually perpetual and irrevocable on a project-by-project basis. Third parties may initiate litigation against us alleging infringement of their proprietary rights or breach of a licensing agreement or declaring their non-infringement of our intellectual property rights. If third parties prevail on such claims, and if we fail to develop non-infringing technology or license the infringed or similar technology or cure the breach on a timely basis, our business could be harmed. Moreover, even if we are able to license the infringed or similar technology, license fees could be substantial and may adversely affect our results of operations.
See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—We may face difficulties in protecting our intellectual property rights” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Third parties have claimed and may, from time to time, assert or claim that we infringed their intellectual property rights and any failure to protect our intellectual property rights could have a material adverse impact on our business.”
Besides the PRC government-mandated social insurance and housing provident fund schemes and motor vehicle insurance, we do not maintain any insurance covering our properties, equipment, inventory or employees, and we do not carry any business interruption or product liability insurance or any third-party liability insurance to cover claims in respect of personal injuries or any damages arising from accidents on our properties or in relation to our operations. We believe that our insurance coverage is adequate and is in line with industry practice.
We have received GB/T24001-2016/ISO 14001:2015 environmental management system certification, which is valid until September 11, 2024 and subject to renewal. Due to the nature of our business, our operational activities do not directly generate industrial pollutants, and we did not incur significant cost for compliance with applicable environmental protection laws and regulations in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
We may from time to time be subject to various legal, arbitration or administrative proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business, such as proceedings in respect of disputes with suppliers or customers and labor disputes. As of the date of this annual report, we are party to the following legal, arbitration or administrative proceedings, regulatory inquiries or investigations made or pending that we believe are material to our business and results:
On January 29, 2019, we filed a civil action in the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court against one of our customers. The defendant had purchased from us, and we had delivered, 90,000 mining machines for a total price of RMB453.6 million (approximately US$65.1 million) pursuant to an executed sales contract. The defendant has paid RMB380 million (approximately US$54.5 million), and we were seeking the payment of the balance of RMB73.6 million (approximately US$10.6 million) plus interest and legal expenses. On August 15, 2019, the defendant filed a counterclaim against us, primarily alleging incompletion of delivery of products and seeking return of the payment of the alleged undelivered products plus interest and legal expenses. On October 15, 2020, the Zhejiang High People’s Court ruled that this case shall be tried in the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court. On December 30, 2021, the court dismissed the counterclaim and rendered a judgement in our favor where it held the defendant should pay the outstanding balance of RMB73.6 million (approximately US$10.6 million) within 10 days of the date of such judgement. On March 22, 2022, we received a decision from Zhejiang High People’s Court that the defendant’s appeal was deemed to be automatically withdrawn due to the defendant failed to pay the case acceptance fee.
On March 18, 2019, we filed a civil action in the Baoshan Intermediate People’s Court against one of our customers. The defendant had purchased from us, and we had delivered, 10,000 mining machines for a total price of RMB50.4 million (approximately US$7.2 million). The defendant has paid RMB20 million (approximately US$2.9 million), and we were seeking the payment of the outstanding balance of RMB30.4 million (approximately US$4.4 million). On September 23, 2019, the defendant filed a counterclaim against us, primarily alleging failure to deliver products and seeking return of the payment of the alleged undelivered products plus interest and legal expenses. On December 29, 2020, the court dismissed the counterclaim and rendered a judgement in our favor where it held that the defendant should pay the outstanding balance of RMB30.4 million (approximately US$4.4 million) within 30 days of the date of such judgement. On January 12, 2021, we received a notice from the Baoshan Intermediate People’s Court that the defendant had appealed such judgement to Yunnan High People’s Court. On January 29, 2022, Yunnan High People’s Court reversed the judgement made by Baoshan Intermediate People’s Court dated December 29, 2020 and sent the case back to Baoshan Intermediate People’s Court for retrial. As of the date of this annual report, the case is still pending before the high court.
On November 22, 2019, we brought a claim in the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court against one of our customers and the ultimate beneficial owner of the mining machines in connection with our sales of 80,000 mining machines for an amount of RMB 403.2 million (approximately US$57.9 million) pursuant to a sales contract and a supplementary contract, alleging that the defendants only paid RMB12.5 million (approximately US$1.8 million) of the total balance and seeking full payment of the outstanding RMB282.2 million (approximately US$40.5 million) balance plus interest and hold both defendants jointly and severally liable. We subsequently withdrew such claim in order to amend the pleading and add one more defendant. On December 8, 2020, the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court approved such withdrawal. On December 24, 2020, we filed a new claim in the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court based on the same cause of action. On August 23, 2021, an agreement between the Company, the defendants, the third party, and the guarantor for the third party, were reached and have come into effect following a mediation by the court. The result of mediation is as follows:
|●||All parties confirmed that the Company has delivered 80,000 mining machines involved in this case, of which 24,000 mining machines have been paid for. The rest of 56,000 mining machines will be paid by the third party in the amount of RMB272 million. On August 20, 2021, the third party paid RMB20 million. The third party will pay the remaining in installments as follows: (i) RMB10 million by September 15, 2021, (ii) RMB76 million by December 31, 2021, (iii) RMB136 million by May 30, 2022, and (iv) RMB30 million by July 31, 2022.|
|●||If the third party fails to make the payment in full and on time in any such installment, the Company has the right to directly apply to the People’s Court for enforcement of all the outstanding payments and liquidate damages of the third party. The guarantor assumes joint and several liabilities for all the aforementioned debts of the third party.|
|●||All parties confirmed there is no other disputes related to this sales contract. The defendant and the third party released and discharged the Company of and from any and all liabilities and claims related to the sale of the mining machines.|
On November 19, 2019, we filed a civil action in the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Court of First Instance against a then-major supplier, alleging breach of contract for delivering defective products and seeking damages in the sum of US$25.1 million plus interest and costs. As of the date of this annual report, the case is still under review by the court.
On April 8, 2021, a securities class action lawsuit was filed against the Company and its Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer captioned Tommie Zaker v. Ebang International Holdings Inc., Dong Hu, and Lei Chen (Case No. 1:21-cv-03060-KPF) (U.S.D.C. S.D.N.Y.) (the “Litigation”). The complaint in the Litigation, which relied extensively on a report published online on April 6, 2021 by third party Hindenburg Research, a widely-known short-selling firm, alleged false or misleading statements and omissions in violation of United States securities laws. The Litigation was on behalf of persons that purchased or acquired our Class A ordinary shares between June 26, 2020 and April 5, 2021, a period of volatility in our Class A ordinary shares, as well as volatility in the price of Bitcoin. A second class action lawsuit was filed on April 20, 2021, substantially identical, entitled Konstantin Zeva v. Ebang International Holdings Inc., Dong Hu, and Lei Chen (Case No. 2:21-cv-09859-JXN-LDW) (U.S.D.C. N.J.) (the “NJ Litigation”). On July 23, 2021, the lead plaintiff in the NJ Litigation filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, which dismissed all claims in the NJ Litigation. On July 29, 2021, Judge Julien Xavier Neals signed an Order confirming the voluntary dismissal and closing the NJ Litigation. On October 1, 2021, the lead plaintiff in the Litigation filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, which dismissed all claims in the Litigation. On October 4, 2021, Judge Katherine Polk Failla signed an Order confirming the voluntary dismissal and closing the Litigation.
Regulatory Overview of the PRC
We are engaged in the research and development, production and sales of blockchain and telecommunications products in the PRC. The following sets forth a summary, which does not purport to be complete, of the relevant PRC regulatory authorities and PRC laws, regulations and government policies that are applicable to our business operations in the PRC.
Competent Regulatory Authorities
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PRC, or the MIIT, and its departments are in charge of the industrial and information technology sectors at the national level. The MIIT formulates and directs the implementation of industrial sector planning, industrial policies and standards; monitors the daily operations of industrial sector; promotes the development and independent innovation of major technical equipment; manages the communications industry, guiding and advancing the construction of information technology infrastructures; and coordinates the safeguarding of national information technology security, while in charging of the approval of network access licenses (including trial), telecommunications business operation licenses, specifications and standards for organizational implementation software and system integration services, and radio transmission equipment type approval certificates. The local Commissions of Economy and Information Technology are the competent authorities in charge of the industrial and information technology sectors at the local level.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the PRC is in charge of mandatory product certification activities, and the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the PRC, or the CNCA, is in charge of the organization, implementation, supervision, management and overall coordination of mandatory product certification activities at the national level. The local Quality and Technology Supervision Bureaus and various Entry and Exit Inspection and Quarantine Offices are responsible for the supervision, management and enforcement of mandatory product certification activities in their relevant local areas.
The National Copyright Administration of the PRC is in charge of the management of software copyright registration. The Copyright Protection Center of China and its local software registration offices are responsible for software registration.
The MOFCOM and its local bureaus are responsible for supervising and managing the establishment of overseas companies for foreign investment.
The NDRC and its local bureaus are responsible for providing macro guidance, comprehensive services and overall supervision over outbound investments.
The General Administration of Customs of the PRC, or the PRC Customs, and its local bureaus are responsible for the supervision of import and export trade, registration of customs declaration enterprises, approvals of bonded premises, and other relevant matters.
SAFE and its local bureaus are responsible for the supervision and management of foreign exchange receipts and payments or foreign exchange operational activities carried out by PRC institutions and individuals, and foreign exchange receipts and payments or foreign exchange operational activities carried out in the PRC by foreign institutions and individuals.
The State Administration of Work Safety and its local bureaus are responsible for the supervision and management of work safety activities.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the PRC and its local bureaus are responsible for the management of environmental protection activities, while the local bureaus also supervise and manage the protection of resources, prevention of pollution and other matters on environmental protection in the local areas.
The China Semiconductor Industry Association is a national industrial and non-profit social organization, consisting of entities, experts and other related enterprises and institutions engaged in the manufacturing, design, scientific research, development, operation, application and education of integrated circuits, semiconductor discrete devices, semiconductor materials and equipment.
Regulations and Government Policies Relating to the IC and Blockchain Industries
Pursuant to the Circular on Prevention of Risks Associated with Bitcoin, or the Circular, jointly promulgated by the People's Bank Of China, or the PBOC, the MIIT, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the CSRC and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission on December 3, 2013, Bitcoin shall be considered a kind of virtual commodity in nature, which does not have the same legal status with fiat currencies and shall not be used and circulated in the market as currency. This circular also provides that financial institutions and payment institutions shall not engage in businesses related to Bitcoin.
Pursuant to the Announcement on Prevention of Risks from Offering and Financing of Cryptocurrencies promulgated by seven PRC governmental authorities including the PBOC on September 4, 2017, illegal activities in offering and financing of cryptocurrencies, including initial coin offerings (ICOs), are forbidden in the PRC because such activities may be considered to constitute illegal offering of securities or illegal fundraising. This announcement further provides that financial institutions and payment institutions shall not engage in businesses related to cryptocurrency offering or financing transactions.
There is no prohibition under PRC laws and regulations currently in effect on the possession of Bitcoin by PRC citizens and organizations.
Purchase and running of computing hardware by PRC citizens or organizations for the purpose of Bitcoin mining in China do not violate any PRC laws and regulations currently in effect. PRC citizens and organizations are not prohibited from engaging in Bitcoin mining activities in China. Design, production, sale (including both wholesale and retail) of computing hardware used for Bitcoin mining, including BPUs, in China, or sale (including both wholesale and retail) or export of such computing hardware from China, do not violate any provisions of any PRC laws and regulations currently in effect, provided that such activities shall comply with the general regulatory rules in relation to the administration of industry and commerce registration, taxation, fire control and environmental protection and the relevant policies and requirements imposed by any PRC governmental authorities.
As demonstrated by the Circular of the State Council on Printing and Distributing Policies for Encouraging the Development of the Software and IC Industries issued on June 24, 2000, the PRC continues to enact policies encouraging new and advanced technology and supporting the software and IC industries.
On January 28, 2011, the State Council issued the Circular of the State Council on Printing and Distributing Policies for Further Encouraging the Development of the Software Industry and the Integrated Circuit Industry, or the Circular, which aims to formulate a series of policies for the purposes of further optimizing development environment for the software industry and integrated circuit industry, increasing the quality and the level of industry development and cultivating a number of influential and strong leading enterprises in these industries. The Circular addresses topics including fiscal tax policies, investment and financing policies, research and development policies, import and export policies, talent policies, intellectual property policies and market policies.
On June 24, 2014, the State Council issued the Outline for Promoting the Development of the National Integrated Circuit Industry, which highlights that great efforts shall be put on the development of the IC design industry. By focusing on the industrial chain of key areas and strengthening IC design, software development, system integration, collaborative innovation in contents and services, the goal is to drive the development of the manufacturing industry through the rapid growth of the design industry.
On June 8, 2015, the NDRC issued the Notice on Implementing Major Engineering Packages in Emerging Industries. The Notice highlights the efforts in developing IC construction infrastructures, focusing on enhancing the level of advanced technology, design industry concentration ratio and industrial chain supporting ability, selecting areas with more mature technology, good industrial base and wide application potential, and accelerating the industrialization of high performance IC products.
On May 4, 2016, the Ministry of Finance of the PRC, the SAT, NDRC and the MIIT, jointly released the Notice on Enterprise Income Tax Preferential Policies for Software and IC Enterprises. This Notice specifically stipulates the preferential policies on EIT related to IC manufacturing enterprises, IC design enterprises, software enterprises, key software enterprises within the national planning layout and IC design enterprises.
On December 15, 2016, the State Council issued the Notice of the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Informatization. This notice highlights the need to strengthen the layout of strategic innovative technologies, including blockchain technology, as well as others such as enhanced quantum communications, future networks, brain-like computing, artificial intelligence, holographic display, virtual display, big data cognitive analysis, new nonvolatile storage, driverless vehicles and gene editing.
On July 8, 2017, the State Council issued the Notice on Issuing New Generation AI Development Plan. This notice points out that advancing the integration of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence and establishing a new social credit system will significantly minimize the cost and risk of interpersonal communications.
In August 2017, the State Council issued the Guidance on Further Expanding and Upgrading Information Consumption Potential for Sustained Release of Domestic Demand, which highlights and encourages the use of open source code to develop personalized software and the launch of trial applications using new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence.
In October 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued the Guiding Opinions on Actively Promoting Supply Chain Innovation and Application, which highlights and promotes the research of using emerging technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence to establish a credit evaluation mechanism based on supply chain.
In November 2017, the State Council issued the Guiding Opinions on Deepening Internet + Advanced Manufacturing Industry to Develop Industrial Internet which promotes the research and exploration of applications of emerging technologies in industrial Internet, such as edge computing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and blockchain technology.
On May 21, 2021, the Financial Stability and Development Committee of the State Council in China proposed to “crack down on Bitcoin mining and trading.” However, it was not until September 15, 2021, as described below, that all digital asset transactions were banned in China.
In May 2021, local governments began to issue corresponding measures in succession to respond to the central government, including Xinjiang Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture Development and Reform Commission issuing a notice on the immediate shutdown of enterprises engaged in cryptocurrency mining on June 9, 2021.
On June 18, 2021, according to the public media report - Sichuan Provincial Development and Reform Commission and Sichuan Energy Bureau issued a notice on the shutdown of cryptocurrency mining projects with the deadline of June 25, 2021. On September 3, 2021, the newly issued Notification of Overhauling the Mining Activity of Cryptocurrency (or the Notification No. 1283) banned all new cryptocurrency operations in China and set forth penalties on a going forward basis for all of the PRC.
Pursuant to the Circular on Further Preventing and Disposing of Risks in Virtual Currency Trading and Speculation (Yin Fa  No.237) promulgated by ten PRC governmental authorities including the PBOC on September 15, 2021, virtual currency-related business activities in China and the provision of services by an overseas virtual currency exchange to a Chinese resident via the Internet will be considered as illegal financial activities.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Industry Qualifications
Pursuant to the Telecommunications Regulations of the PRC issued on September 25, 2000 and last amended on February 6, 2016 and the Administrative Measures for the Network Access of Telecommunications Equipment issued on May 10, 2001 and last amended on September 23, 2014, the State implements a network access system that covers telecommunications terminal equipment, wireless communications equipment and network interconnection equipment connected to public telecommunications networks. A network access license issued by the MIIT shall be obtained for telecommunications equipment implementing network access. Without a network access license, such equipment is not allowed to be connected to a public telecommunications network for use nor to be sold domestically.
Pursuant to the Regulations on Administration of Mandatory Product Certification issued on July 3, 2009 and effected on September 1, 2009, producers, sellers or importers of products included in the product catalog shall entrust a certification agency designated by the CNCA to certify the products produced, sold or imported thereby.
Pursuant to the Regulations of the PRC for the Administration of Radio Operation promulgated on September 11, 1993, last amended on November 11, 2016 and effected on December 1, 2016, in addition to micro-power short-range radio transmitting equipment, any other radio transmitting equipment that is manufactured or imported for sale or use domestically shall apply to the state authority in charge of radio regulation for approval.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Work Safety
The Work Safety Law of the PRC, issued on June 29, 2002, last amended on June 10, 2021, and effective September 1, 2021, provides that production and operation entity must comply with the Work Safety Law and other laws and regulations related to work safety, strengthen work safety management, establish and improve a work safety responsibility system and work safety rules and systems for all employees, increase efforts to guarantee the input of funds, materials, technology, and personnel in work safety, improve work safety conditions, strengthen standardization and informatization of work safety, construct a dual prevention mechanism consisting of graded management and control of safety risks and examination and control of potential risks, improve the risk prevention and resolution mechanism, raise work safety levels, and ensure work safety. Production and business operation entities shall have the conditions for work safety as specified in this law and relevant laws, regulations, national standards or industrial specifications. Production and business operation entities that do not have such conditions are not allowed to engage in production or operation activities. Breach of the Work Safety Law of the PRC will incur various penalties, according to the specific circumstances.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Product Quality
Pursuant to the Product Quality Law of the PRC (2018 Version), issued and promulgated on February 22, 1993, last amended on and effective December 29, 2018, producers shall be responsible for the quality of their products. Product quality shall satisfy the following requirements: no unreasonable danger to personal safety and the safety of property shall exist; where there are national or industry standards for protection of health, personal safety and the safety of property, such standards shall be complied with. If the products of a producer or seller do not comply with the national or industry standards for protection of health or personal safety or the safety of property, orders shall be issued to cease their production or sale and products that have been illegally produced or sold shall be confiscated. A fine shall be imposed equal to an amount greater than the value of the products that have been illegally produced or sold (hereafter including products already sold and goods not yet sold) but less than three times the value of the products; where there is illegal income, the illegal income shall be confiscated; where the circumstances are serious, the business license shall be revoked; where the case constitutes a crime, criminal liability shall be pursued in accordance with law. If a producer or a seller is found to mix impurities or imitations into products, or to pass fake goods off as genuine ones or shoddy products as good ones or sub-standard products as standard ones, such producer or seller shall be ordered to stop production or selling; the products illegally produced or sold shall be confiscated and a fine not less than 50% of but not more than three times the value of the products illegally produced or sold shall be imposed concurrently; if there are illegal proceeds, such proceeds shall be confiscated concurrently; if the circumstances are serious, the business license shall be revoked; if the case constitutes a crime, criminal liability shall be investigated in accordance with the law.
Pursuant to the PRC Regulations on Administration of Radio Operation, issued on September 11, 1993, last amended on November 11, 2016 and effective December 1, 2016, the manufacture or import of radio transmission devices that are required to obtain approval must meet the provisions of the relevant laws, national standards and relevant regulations of the state authority in charge of radio regulation and comply with the technical standards regarding approved radio transmission devices. The approval number shall be labeled on the devices. The competent authorities for radio regulation may order anyone who violates this regulation by manufacturing or importing radio transmission devices to be sold or used domestically without obtaining the requisite approval to rectify and may impose a fine between RMB50,000 and RMB200,000; for those refusing to rectify, authorities may confiscate the radio transmission devices that have not obtained approval and impose a fine between RMB200,000 and RMB1,000,000.
Pursuant to the Regulation of Telecommunications of the PRC (2016 Version) (issued and effective on February 6, 2016), anyone who violates the provisions of this regulation in lowering product quality or performance after obtaining the telecommunications equipment network access license shall be subject to punishment by the product quality supervision authorities pursuant to the provisions of the relevant laws and administrative regulations.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Industry Standards
The Measures on Administration of Information System Integration and Service Qualification Identification (Interim) is the industrial regulation as recognized by the China Information Technology Industry Federation, targeting information systems integration and service qualification identification. In particular, information system integration qualification is the objective evaluation standard for enterprises engaged in information systems integration and service comprehensive ability and level. According to the Notice on the Management of Computer Information System Integration Industry issued by the MIIT on December 29, 2018 and became effective on the same day, information system integration qualification was expressly cancelled by the State Council in 2014.
The Technical Requirements for Access Network Multi-service Access Platform, or MSAP, is a communications industrial standard on access network multi-service access platform, stipulating MSAP system’s requirements in network location and function model. In addition, the Safety of Information Technology Equipment (Part 1) and the Radio Disturbance Limits and Measurement Methods for Information Technology Equipment is the national standard of information technology equipment.
The Technical Requirements and Test Methods of Lightning Resistibility for Telecommunications Terminal Equipment is the industry standard for telecommunications equipment.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Other Business Areas
Pursuant to the Foreign Trade Law of the PRC, issued on May 12, 1994, last amended on and effective November 7, 2016, foreign trade operators engaged in import or export of goods or technologies shall file records with the foreign trade department of the State Council or its authorized agencies, unless otherwise stipulated by the laws, administrative regulations or the foreign trade department of the State Council. Specific measures for record filing shall be stipulated by the foreign trade department of the State Council. PRC Customs shall not process import and export declaration and clearance formalities for foreign trade operators who have not filed records in accordance with the provisions.
Pursuant to the Regulation on Administration of Foreign Exchange of the PRC promulgated by the State Council on January 29, 1996 and last amended on and effective August 5, 2008, other regulations issued by SAFE and other relevant government authorities, Renminbi is freely convertible into other currencies for current account items such as trade related receipts and payments, interest payments and dividends; as for capital account items such as direct investment, loans and portfolio investment, the prior approval of SAFE is required to convert Renminbi into other currencies and transfer the converted currencies out of the PRC. Transactions in the PRC are subject to payment in Renminbi. Pursuant to relevant regulations and laws, after a domestic company gets listed overseas, if any of its domestic shareholders intends to increase or decrease overseas shares, the domestic shareholder shall handle overseas shareholding registration formalities with the local foreign exchange authority within twenty working days prior to the intended share increase or decrease.
Pursuant to the Notice on Administration of Foreign Exchange Involved in Offshore Investment, Financing and Round-Trip Investment Conducted by Domestic Residents Through Special Purpose Vehicles, which was promulgated by SAFE and went into effect on July 4, 2014, prior to making capital contribution in a special purpose vehicle by a PRC resident using its legitimate assets or interests in the PRC or overseas, the PRC resident shall apply to the foreign exchange bureau for completion of foreign exchange registration formalities for overseas investments. A “domestic entity” referred to in this notice shall mean enterprise and institutional legal persons and any other economic organizations established in the PRC pursuant to the law; a “PRC resident individual” shall mean a PRC citizen holding a PRC resident identity document, military personnel identity document or armed police personnel identity document, and any foreign individual who does not hold a PRC identity document but normally resides in the PRC due to economic reasons.
Pursuant to the Notice on Further Simplification and Improvement of Foreign Exchange Administration Policies for Direct Investment, promulgated by SAFE on February 13, 2015 and effective June 1, 2015, two administrative approval matters, including foreign exchange registration approval under domestic direct investment and foreign exchange registration approval under overseas direct investment, shall be reviewed and processed directly by banks. SAFE and its local bureaus shall implement indirect supervision through the foreign exchange registration with banks for direct investment.
Pursuant to the Notice of SAFE on Reforming the Mode of Management of Settlement of Foreign Exchange Capital of Foreign-Funded Investment Enterprises promulgated on March 30, 2015 and effective June 1, 2015, and the Notice of SAFE on Reforming and Regulating the Policies for Administration of Foreign Exchange Settlement under the Capital Account promulgated on and effective June 9, 2016, the system of voluntary foreign exchange settlement is implemented for the foreign exchange earnings of foreign exchange capital of foreign-invested enterprises. Foreign exchange capital in a foreign-invested enterprise capital account, for which the monetary contribution has been confirmed by SAFE (or for which the monetary contribution has been registered for account entry), may be settled at a bank as required by the actual management needs of the enterprise. The voluntary settlement ratio of foreign-invested enterprise foreign exchange capital projects has been temporarily set at 100%. SAFE may make adjustments to the said ratio at appropriate times based on the status of the international balance of payments. In addition, foreign exchange earnings under capital projects and the Renminbi funds obtained from the exchange settlements thereof shall not be used by foreign-invested enterprises for the following purposes: (1) direct or indirect payments of expenditures exceeding its business scope or those being prohibited by the laws and regulations of the PRC; (2) direct or indirect uses in securities investments or investments other than capital-protected banking products (except as otherwise expressly provided); (3) issuance of loans to non-affiliated enterprises (excluding those that are expressly permitted within their business scope); and (4) construction or purchase of real estate not for personal use (except for real estate enterprises).
In March 2019, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the PRC passed the Foreign Investment Law of the People’s Republic of China, or the Foreign Investment Law. Among other things, the Foreign Investment Law defines the “foreign investment” as the investment activities in China conducted by foreign individuals, enterprises and other organizations, or the Foreign Investors, in a direct or indirect manner. The PRC governmental authorities will administrate foreign investment by applying the principal of pre-entry national treatment together with a negative list, to be specific, the Foreign Investors are prohibited from making any investments in the fields catalogued into prohibited industries for foreign investment based on the negative list, while they are allowed to make investments in the restricted industries provided that all the requirements and conditions as set forth in the negative list have been satisfied; when the Foreign Investors make investments in the fields other than those included in the negative list, the national treatment principle shall apply.
Pursuant to the Special Administrative Measures for Foreign Investment Access (2021 Edition), or the 2021 Edition Negative List, issued by the MOFCOM and the NDRC on December 27, 2021 which came into effect on January 1, 2022, our business does not fall into the negative list and is permitted for foreign investment. However, the 2021 Edition Negative List regulates that “Fields not mentioned in the Negative List for Foreign Investment Access shall be subject to administration under the principle of consistency for domestic and foreign investments. The relevant provisions of the Negative List for Market Access shall apply to domestic and foreign investors on a unified basis.”
In addition, based on the Negative List for Market Access (2022), “the Catalogue for Guidance on Industrial Restructuring shall be included in the Negative List for Market Access”; plus, according to the Decision of the State Council on Promulgating and Implementing the “Temporary Provisions on Promoting Industrial Structure Adjustment,” valid from December 2, 2005, “In principle, the ‘Guidance Catalogue for the Industrial Structure Adjustment “shall apply to various types of enterprises inside China.” “The industries of the eliminated category under the ‘Guidance Catalogue for the Industrial Structure Adjustment’ shall apply to the foreign investment enterprises.” and “Investments are prohibited from being contributed to projects under the eliminated category.” What’s more, the NDRC released on December 30, 2021 its No. 49 Decree, announcing that the Decision of the National Development and Reform Commission on Amending the Guiding Catalog for Industrial Restructuring (2019 Version) (the “Amended Catalog”). The Amended Catalog added ‘virtual currency mining activities’ to the eliminated category of ‘1. outdated production processing and equipment ’under the original Catalog.”. Therefore, the foreign investment enterprises are prohibited from virtual currency activities and our Bitcoin mining business are banned in China as well.
Pursuant to the Measures for Administration of Overseas Investment of Enterprises promulgated by the NDRC on December 26, 2017 and effective March 1, 2018, investors shall perform procedures such as overseas investment project approval and filing, report relevant information, and cooperate in supervision and inspections when they conduct overseas investments. Projects subject to approval by the NDRC are sensitive projects developed by investors, either directly or through their control of overseas enterprises. Projects subject to filing are non-sensitive projects directly developed by investors, in which the investors directly invest assets or equities, or provide financing or guarantees.
Pursuant to the Measures for Administration of Overseas Investment Management promulgated on September 6, 2014 and effective October 6, 2014, filing and approval are managed by the MOFCOM and its provincial bureaus in light of the different circumstances of overseas investments of enterprises. Approval is required for enterprises conducting overseas investments involving sensitive countries and regions or sensitive industries. Filing will be administered for enterprises conducting overseas investments in other circumstances.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Environmental Protection
Pursuant to the Environmental Protection Law of the PRC issued on December 26, 1989, amended on April 24, 2014 and effective January 1, 2015, entities that cause environmental pollution and other public nuisances shall adopt effective measures to prevent the pollution of and hazards caused to the environment. Construction projects shall be equipped with constructional environmental protection facilities, which must be simultaneously designed, built and put into operation with the main part of the construction. Enterprises discharging pollutants must report to and register with the relevant authorities in accordance with the provisions of the competent environmental protection authority under the State Council. The competent environmental protection authority shall record unlawful environmental acts of enterprises in the social credit file, and disclose information in a timely manner. Enterprises and other producers and operators unlawfully discharging pollutants shall be fined and ordered to take corrective measures. For those refusing to make corrections, the competent authority may, starting from the day after the date of ordering correction, continuously impose daily fines based on the sum of the original fine. Enterprises and other producers and operators, which discharge pollutants exceeding the pollutant discharge standard or key pollutant gross discharge control thresholds, may be ordered by the competent environmental protection authority above the provincial level to take measures such as restricting production, suspending production and rectification. Serious cases may be reported to and approved by the competent government authority, resulting in orders of suspension or shutdown of operations.
Pursuant to the Environmental Impact Assessment Law of the PRC issued on October 28, 2002, amended on and effective December 29, 2018, the PRC government implemented an environmental impact evaluation system, which classifies and manages the environmental impact evaluation of construction projects based on the degree of environmental impact caused by construction projects.
Pursuant to the Administrative Regulations on Environmental Protection in Construction Projects promulgated on November 11, 1998 and amended on July 16, 2017, construction projects are classified and environmental impact reports, environmental impact statements or environmental impact registration forms shall be compiled based on the extent of environmental impact of construction projects. For a construction project for which an environmental impact report or environmental impact statement is prepared, its matching environmental protection facilities may go into production or be delivered for use only after they pass the acceptance check; and they may not go into production or be delivered for use if no acceptance check is made for them or they fail to pass the acceptance check. Where a construction project goes into production or is delivered for use without the completion of construction of matching environmental protection facilities required for the construction project, without going through acceptance checks or without passing the acceptance checks in violation of the provisions hereof, or fraud is committed in the acceptance check of the environmental protection facilities, the competent administrative department of environmental protection at or above the county level shall order the construction unit to effect rectification within a specified time limit and impose a fine of more than RMB 200,000 but less than RMB 1 million against it; if it fails to effect rectification within the time limit, a fine of more than RMB 1 million but less than RMB 2 million shall be imposed; the person in charge who is held directly liable and other liable persons shall be subject to a fine of more than RMB 50,000 but less than RMB 200,000; if material environmental pollution or ecological damage is caused, the construction unit will be ordered to stop production or use of the construction project, or be ordered to close down upon approval by the people’s government with the authority of approval.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Taxation
Enterprise Income Tax
Pursuant to the EIT Law promulgated on March 16, 2007, amended on and effective December 29, 2018, and the Regulation on Implementation of the Enterprise Income Tax Law of the PRC, or the EIT Implementation Rules, issued on December 6, 2007 and amended on and effective April 23, 2019, EIT shall be applicable at a uniform rate of 25% to all resident or non-resident enterprises. EIT shall be payable by a resident enterprise for income sourced within or outside the PRC. EIT shall be payable by a non-resident enterprise, for income sourced within the PRC by its institutions or premises established in the PRC, and for income sourced outside the PRC for which the institutions or premises established in the PRC have a de facto relationship. Where the non-resident enterprise has no institutions or premises established in the PRC or has income bearing no de facto relationship with the institution or premises established, EIT shall be payable by the non-resident enterprise only for income sourced within the PRC.
Pursuant to the Administrative Measures on the Accreditation of High and New Technology Enterprises accredited high and new technology may make declarations under and benefit from tax concession policies in accordance with relevant regulations including the EIT Law and the EIT Implementation Rules, the Law of the PRC on Administration of Levying and Collection of Taxes and the Regulation of Implementation of the Law of the PRC on Administration of Levying and Collection of Taxes.
Pursuant to the Notice on Enterprise Income Tax Policies for Further Encouraging the Development of Software and Integrated Circuit Industries, IC production enterprises with an IC production line below 0.8 micrometer (inclusive), after accreditation, shall be entitled to a tax concession period beginning in the profit-making year that is prior to December 31, 2017, for which EIT shall be exempted for the first and second years and be reduced by 50% in the third to fifth years. In addition, IC production enterprises with an IC production line below 0.25 micrometer or an investment of over RMB8 billion, after accreditation, shall be entitled to a reduced EIT tax rate at 15%, and, for those with an operation period of over 15 years, the tax concession period shall be deemed to start from the profit-making year prior to December 31, 2017, for which EIT shall be exempted in the first to fifth years and be reduced by 50% in the sixth to tenth years. As for IC design enterprises newly established within the PRC and eligible software enterprises, upon accreditation, the tax concession period shall be deemed to start from the profit-making year prior to December 31, 2017, for which EIT shall be exempted for the first and second years and be reduced by 50% in the third to fifth years.
Pursuant to the Provisional Regulation on Value-Added Tax of the PRC (“VAT Provisional Regulation”) promulgated by the State Council, as amended on November 10, 2008, February 6, 2016 and November 19, 2017 and effective November 19, 2017, all entities and individuals in the PRC engaging in the sales of goods, provision of processing services, repairs and replacement services, sales services, intangible assets, real estate and the importation of goods are required to pay value added tax, or VAT. According to VAT Provisional Regulation, taxpayers that sell goods, labor services or tangible personal property leasing services or import goods and do not fall within the scope as specified in Item 2, Item 4 and Item 5 of Article 2 of VAT Provisional Regulation shall be subject to a 17% tax rate; taxpayers that sell transport services, postal services, basic telecommunications services, construction services, or real property leasing services, sell real property, transfer the land use right, or sell or import the goods listed below shall be subject to an 11% tax rate: (1) such agricultural products as grain, edible vegetable oil, and common salt; (2) tap water, heat supply, air-conditioning, hot water, gas, liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, dimethyl ether, methane and civil-use coal products; (3) books, newspapers, magazines, audio-visual products, and electronic publications; (4) feeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural machineries and mulching films; and (5) other goods specified by the State Council; taxpayers that sell services or intangible assets and do not fall within the scope as specified in Item1, Item 2 and Item 5 of Article 2 of VAT Provisional Regulation shall be subject to a 6% tax rate.
Pursuant to the Notice on Value-Added Tax Policies of Software Products released by the Ministry of Finance and the SAT on October 13, 2011, a general taxpayer who sells self-developed and self-produced software products, VAT shall be collected at a tax rate of 17% and the refund-upon-collection policy shall be applied to the part VAT in excess of 3% of their actual tax burden.
According to the Circular of the Ministry of Finance and the SAT on Adjusting Value-added Tax Rates promulgated on April 4, 2018, and effective May 1, 2018, where a taxpayer engages in a taxable sales activity for the value-added tax purpose or imports goods, the previous applicable 17% and 11% tax rates are lowered to 16% and 10% respectively.
According to the Circular on Policies to Deepen Value-added Tax Reform promulgated by the Ministry of Finance, the SAT, and the General Administration of Customs on March 20, 2019, and effective April 1, 2019, where a taxpayer engages in a taxable sales activity for the value-added tax purpose or imports goods, the previous applicable 16% and 10% tax rates are lowered to 13% and 9% respectively.
According to Announcement of the Ministry of Finance and the State Taxation Administration to Further Step up the Application of End-of-Period Excess Input Value-Added Tax Credit Refund Policies issued by the Ministry of Finance and the SAT on March 21, 2022 and effective on April 1, 2022, Starting from the tax filing period of April 2022, an eligible enterprise in the manufacturing and other sectors may apply to the competent tax authority for a refund of its incremental VAT credit amount; starting from the tax filing period of July 2022, an eligible medium-sized enterprise in the manufacturing and other sectors may apply to the competent tax authority for a lump-sum refund of its existing VAT credit amount; and starting from the tax filing period of October 2022, an eligible large enterprise in the manufacturing and other sectors may apply to the competent tax authority for a lump-sum refund of its existing VAT credit amount.
Tax on Dividends
Pursuant to the EIT Law and the EIT Implementation Rules, except as otherwise provided by relevant tax treaties with the PRC government, dividends paid by foreign-invested investment enterprises to foreign investors which are non-resident enterprises and which have not established or operated premises in the PRC, or which have established or operated premises but where their income has no de facto relationship with such establishment or operation of premises shall be subject to a withholding tax of 10%. Pursuant to the Arrangement between Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income entered into between the PRC government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, where the beneficial owner is a company directly holding at least 25% of the equity interest of the company paying the dividends, the tax charged shall not exceed 5% of the distributed dividends. In any other case, the tax charged shall not exceed 10% of the distributed dividends.
Pursuant to the Announcement on Issues Relating to “Beneficial Owner” in Tax Treaties promulgated by the SAT on February 3, 2018 and came effective April 1, 2018, a “beneficial owner” shall mean a person who has ownership and control over the income, and the rights and property from which the income is derived. Upon the determination of the “beneficial owner” status of a resident of the treaty counterparty who needs to enjoy the tax treaty benefits (hereinafter referred to as the “applicant”), a comprehensive analysis shall be conducted taking into account the actual conditions of the specific case. In general, the following factors are unfavorable for the determination of “beneficial owner” status of an applicant: (1) the applicant is obligated to pay 50% or more of the income, within 12 months from its receipt, to a resident of a third country (region), where the term “obligated” includes agreed obligations and de facto payment for which there is no agreed obligation; (2) the business activities undertaken by the applicant do not constitute substantive business activities, where substantive business activities shall include manufacturing, distribution and management activities of a substantive nature, the determination of whether the business activities undertaken by the applicant are of a substantive nature shall be based on the functions actually performed and the risks borne, and investment holding management activities of a substantive nature undertaken by the applicant may constitute substantive business activities (where the applicant undertakes investment holding management activities which do not constitute substantive business activities, and simultaneously undertakes other business activities, if such other business activities are not sufficiently significant, these shall not constitute substantive business activities); (3) the treaty counterparty country (region) does not levy, or exempts tax on the relevant income, or levies tax but with a very low actual tax rate; (4) in addition to the loan contract based on which interest is derived and paid, there exists other loans or deposit contracts between the creditor and the third party, of which factors such as the amount, interest rate and date of execution are similar; and (5) in addition to the transfer contract for rights to use such as copyright, patent, technology, from which the royalties are derived and paid, there exists other transfer contracts for rights to use or ownership in relation to copyright, patent, technology between the applicant and a third party.
Pursuant to the Notice of the SAT on the Relevant Issues Concerning the Implementation of Dividend Clauses in Tax Treaties promulgated by the SAT and effective February 20, 2009, all of the following conditions shall be satisfied before the concession tax rate in a tax treaty can be enjoyed: (1) the tax resident obtaining dividends shall be restricted to the company as provided in the tax treaty; (2) among all the ownership equity interests and voting shares of the PRC resident company, the proportion directly owned by the tax resident complies with the prescribed proportions under the tax treaty; and (3) the proportion of the equity interests of the PRC resident company directly owned by such tax resident complies with, at all times within the twelve months before obtaining the dividends, the proportions specified in the tax treaty.
Pursuant to the Announcement of the State Taxation Administration on Issuing the Administrative Measures for Entitlement to Treaty Benefits for Non-resident Taxpayers promulgated by the SAT on October 14, 2019 and effective January 1, 2020, entitlement to treaty benefits for non-resident taxpayers shall be handled by means of “self-judgment of eligibility, declaration of entitlement, and retention of relevant materials for future reference”. Where non-resident taxpayers judge by themselves that they meet the conditions for entitlement to treaty benefits, they may obtain such entitlement themselves at the time of making tax declarations, or at the time of making withholding declarations via withholding agents. At the same time, they shall collect, gather and retain relevant materials for future reference in accordance with the provisions of these Measures, and shall accept the follow-up administration of tax authorities. Relevant information proving the status of “beneficial owner” shall be retained in the case of entitlement to dividends, interest and treaty benefits of royalty clauses.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Labor and Social Security
Pursuant to the Labor Law of the PRC promulgated on July 5, 1994 and amended on and effective December 29, 2018, companies must negotiate and enter into employment contracts with their employees based on the principle of fairness. Companies must establish and strengthen an employment hygiene system, strictly implement the national labor safety and health rules and standards, deliver occupational health and safety education to employees, prevent work-related accidents, and reduce occupational hazards. In addition, employers and employees shall purchase social insurances and pay for social insurance fees in compliance with applicable PRC laws.
The Labor Contract Law of the PRC, which was promulgated on June 29, 2007 and subsequently amended on December 28, 2012 and effective July 1, 2013, serves as the primary law regulating the labor contract relationship between companies and employees. Pursuant to this law, an employment relationship is established between the employer and the worker since the day of employment. The employer shall execute a written employment contract with the worker. Furthermore, to safeguard the legal rights and interests of workers, the way to calculate compensation for the probation period and for damages shall be subject to the provisions of the law.
Social Security and Housing Provident Fund
As required under the Social Insurance Law of the PRC promulgated on October 28, 2010, and amended on and effective December 29, 2018, the Regulation on Work-Related Injury Insurance promulgated on April 27, 2003, amended on December 20, 2010 and effective January 1, 2011, the Provisional Measures on Insurance for Maternity of Employees promulgated on and effective December 14, 1994 and implemented on January 1, 1995, and the Regulation on Administration of Housing Provident Funds promulgated on April 3, 1994 and last amended on and effective March 24, 2019, employers and employees within the PRC shall pay for social insurance fees and housing provident funds in compliance with applicable PRC laws.
Laws and Regulations Relating to Intellectual Property
Pursuant to the Trademark Law of the PRC promulgated on August 23, 1982, amended on April 23, 2019 and effective November 1, 2019 and the Regulation on Implementation of the Trademark Law of the PRC promulgated on August 3, 2002, amended on April 29, 2014 and effective May 1, 2014, the right to the exclusive use of a registered trademark is limited to the approved trademark registration, and to goods for which the use of the trademark has been approved. The period of validity of registered trademarks lasts for ten years from the day of registration approval. Absent the authorization by the owner of the registered trademark, the use of the registered trademark or a similar trademark on the same category of goods or similar goods constitutes an infringement of the right to exclusive use of the registered trademark. The infringer shall, in accordance with the relevant regulations, cease the infringement activities, take correction actions, and compensate for losses.
Pursuant to the Patent Law of the PRC promulgated on March 12, 1984, last amended on December 27, 2008 and effective October 1, 2009, and the Rules for the Implementation of the Patent Law of the PRC amended on January 9, 2010 and effective February 1, 2010, after the grant of the patent right for inventions and utility models, except otherwise regulated under the Patent Law, no entity or individual may, without the authorization of the patent owner, exploit such patent, that is to manufacture, use, offer to sell, sell or import the patented product, or use the patented process, and use, offer to sell, sell or import products directly obtained from such patented process, for production or business purposes. After the patent right is granted for a design, no unit or individual shall, without the authorization of the patent owner, exploit such patent, that is to manufacture, offer to sell, sell, or import any product containing such patented design for production or business purposes. Where infringement has been established, the infringer shall, in accordance with the relevant regulations, be ordered to cease the infringement activities, take corrective actions, and compensate for losses.
Pursuant to the Copyright Law of the PRC promulgated on September 7, 1990, last amended on November 11, 2020, and effective June 1, 2021, works of PRC citizens, legal persons or unincorporated organizations shall, regardless of whether they have been published, be entitled to the copyright pursuant to this law. Works include written works; oral works; musical, dramatic, opera, dance, acrobatic and artistic works; visual arts, architectural works; photographic works; audiovisual works; graphical works and modeling works such as engineering design graphs, product design graphs, maps and schematic diagrams; computer software; and other intellectual achievements that meet the characteristics of works.
Pursuant to the Regulation on Protection of Computer Software promulgated on December 20, 2001, last amended on January 30, 2013 and effective date on March 1, 2013, software copyright is conferred on the software development completion date. The protection period for a software copyright of a legal person or other organizations lasts for 50 years, concluding on the day of December 31 in the 50th year after the initial release of the software. However, in the case where the software has not been released within 50 years from its development completion date, protection shall no longer be offered by these regulations. A software copyright holder may register with competent software registration authority under the State Council Copyright Administrative Department. Registration certification documents issued by the competent software registration authority serve as the prima facie proof of such registration.
IC Layout Designs
Pursuant to the Regulation on the Protection of Integrated Circuit Layout Designs promulgated on April 2, 2001 and implemented on October 1, 2001, and the Protection of Integrated Circuit Layout Designs Regulations Implementing Rules promulgated on September 18, 2001 and effective October 1, 2001, layout design proprietary right holders enjoy the following proprietary rights: to duplicate the whole or any part of the protected layout designs that is original; to make commercial use of the protected layout designs, ICs containing such layout designs, or items containing such ICs.
Regulatory Overview of Australia
We are engaged in cryptocurrencies and foreign exchange business in Australia. Our corporate entities engaged in these businesses were established and registered in Australia and have adopted measures to ensure compliance with its regulatory obligations.
Existing regulatory framework on foreign exchange and crypto assets
While the regulation of foreign exchange business has long been settled in Australia, the same cannot be said for cryptocurrency. In any event, cryptocurrencies or digital currencies, and cryptocurrency exchanges are legal in Australia.
Financial products and services offered in Australia are generally regulated by imposing obligations on the sellers or distributors of the product. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) oversee different aspects of the foreign exchange and crypto asset ecosystem of Australia and at this stage, there is currently no clear, holistic policy that directly regulates crypto assets (cryptocurrencies/digital currencies) or Crypto Asset Secondary Service Providers (CASSP) in Australia.
It can be said at this stage that the existing regulatory framework for crypto assets is composed of a patchwork of obligations drawn from various parts of Australian laws: the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act), Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act), and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
In essence, if the crypto asset is a financial product and a designated service, it will fall within the ambit of the Corporations Act and the AML/CTF Act, but if it is not a financial product, then it is considered a consumer product subject to the Australian Consumer Law under the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Government bodies and laws on foreign exchange and crypto assets and exchanges
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) are the two (2) primary regulators of foreign exchange contracts and crypto assets and exchanges.
ASIC and the Corporations Act and the ASIC Act
ASIC is the government regulator for among others, corporations, financial markets, and the financial services industry of Australia and administers the Corporations Act and the ASIC Act, which embody the regulatory obligations on the industry it supervises. ASIC imposes the requirement to hold an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) before engaging in financial services (in relation to financial products) in Australia.
We hold an AFSL that authorizes us to deal in and provide general financial product advice in relation to among others, foreign exchange contracts e.g. FX Forward and Options Contracts, and non-cash payment products (NCP).
While there have been no changes recently to the laws governing foreign exchange contracts, NCP products have received some attention in relation to crypto or digital assets. An NCP is described as an arrangement through which a party makes payments, or causes payments to be made, other than by the physical delivery of Australian or foreign currency. Examples include stored value cards, electronic cash and direct debit services.
An intermediary that arranges for the issue of an NCP facility may need an AFS License or be a Representative of an AFS licensee. However, just because a crypto asset is what is used to complete a transaction does not necessarily mean that the crypto asset is an NCP facility as it will depend on the rights and obligations associated with the asset.
According to ASIC’s INFO 225, if the asset provides the holder with a right to use the asset to make a payment, it is likely to be an NCP facility. An arrangement is also likely to be an NCP if for example a person offers an arrangement where payments can be made using a crypto asset but fiat currency is sent to recipients.
Australian Financial Services License (AFSL)
As an AFS Licensee engaged in financial services in Australia, in particular, advising and dealing in foreign exchange contracts and non-cash payment products, we are subject to general obligations under the Corporations Act, including among others, providing financial services efficiently, honestly and fairly; having in place adequate arrangements for the management of conflicts of interest; complying with our license conditions and financial services laws; having adequate human, financial and technological resources; maintaining a dispute resolution system for retail clients; and ensuring that our representatives are adequately trained and competent. Additionally, we must have adequate risk management systems in place. ASIC requires all AFS Licensees to have their compliance arrangements in relation to these obligations to be audited on an annual basis.
ASIC initiatives concerning crypto assets
The Australian government has publicly stated that it is committed to ensuring that consumers can buy, sell, and store crypto assets using Australian crypto asset secondary service providers.
In October 2021, ASIC amended Information Sheet (INFO 225) in relation to crypto assets to help understand the obligations under the Corporations Act and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (ASIC Act).
Based on INFO 225, Australian laws apply where the crypto asset is promoted or sold in Australia, including from offshore. As such, the use of offshore or decentralized structures does not mean that Australian laws do not apply or can be ignored and encourages entities to build their products and services in a way that complies with the intention of the laws in place to safeguard consumers and the integrity of financial markets in Australia.
Furthermore, INFO 225 provides that it is incumbent on issuers to determine if issuing the crypto asset fall within the definition of a ‘financial product’ under the Corporations Act and if so, the need to hold an AFSL will apply and the product will be regulated by ASIC.
Whether a crypto asset is considered a financial product depends on its use, as primarily defined in section 763A of the Corporations Act.
With regards to the ASIC Act, it prohibits engagement in misleading or deceptive conduct in the course of operating a crypto asset business whether a financial product is involved or not.
AUSTRAC and the AML/CTF Act
AUSTRAC is the Australian Government agency responsible for preventing, detecting, and responding to criminal abuse of the financial system to protect the Australian community from serious and organized crime. AUSTRAC also regulates certain business activities in the financial, bullion and gambling sectors. These business activities are called designated services and have been identified because they pose a risk for money laundering and terrorism financing.
Presently, Australia’s crypto currency regulations under the AML/CTF Act and regulations, require digital currency exchanges (DCE) to register with AUSTRAC. The regulations require entities acting as exchanges, or providing registrable exchange type services, to identify and verify their users, maintain records, and comply with government AML/CTF reporting obligations.
One of our business entities in Australia has been registered as a Digital Currency Exchange Provider with AUSTRAC and complies with the regulatory obligations imposed by AUSTRAC under the Anti Money-Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act), including among others, having an AML/CTF Program; identifying the types of money laundering and terrorist financing risks that may be faced by the business and the consequences of non-compliance; reporting on suspicious matters, threshold transactions (where physical currency is accepted or paid out is AUD10,000 or more); and keeping records for the prescribed period.
Australian Government recent regulatory objectives for crypto assets
The Australian government is committed to ensuring that consumers can engage (buy, sell, and store) crypto assets using Australian CASSP with confidence and has announced in October 2021 that it intends to regulate the digital asset market by imposing a licensing (marketing and financial services) regime.
As articulated by the Australian government, the proposed licensing regime is designed to provide a framework for minimum standards of conduct, including for custody of private keys and the suitability of key persons to be operating secondary service provider businesses (through fit and proper person tests).
These changes will provide regulatory clarity and give confidence to both consumers and businesses.
On March 21, 2022, the Australian Government issued a “policy paper” advising that it intends to:
|1.||Establish a market licensing regime for crypto exchanges – aimed to ensure sure that consumers can trust the exchanges they use to buy cryptocurrencies; and|
|2.||Introduce custody arrangements for cryptocurrency exchanges – aimed to ensure that crypto investors who hold their crypto on exchange can always access their money by introducing custody requirements for crypto assets.|
The policy paper named the following existing Government initiatives, all drawing on benefits of innovation in Australia.
|●||The Government Digital Economy Strategy is designed to position Australia to be a top 10 digital economy and society by 2030 through AUD1.2 billion of strategic investment.|
|●||The National Blockchain Roadmap 2020-2025 highlights the potential of blockchain technology across the Australian economy.|
|●||AUD60 million in funding to the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre (DFCRC) to bring together fintech, industry, research, regulatory stakeholders to capitalize on the financial sector transformation arising from the digitization of assets.|
|●||The Blockchain Pilot Grants program provided AUD5.6 million to two blockchain projects.|
|●||The Australian Border Force has undertaken a successful blockchain trial to digitize trade processes.|
|●||Implemented an anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing framework for crypto asset secondary service providers via AUSTRAC’s digital currency exchange register.|
|●||Commitment to investigating the feasibility of a central bank digital currency, the potential of Decentralised Autonomous Organisations and reviewing the taxation of digital transactions and assets.|
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)