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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
 
 
FORM
20-F
 
 
(Mark One)
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021.
OR
 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report ___________
For the transition period from _________ to ___________
Commission file number:
001-39177
 
 
LIZHI INC.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
N/A
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
Yangcheng Creative Industry Zone,
No. 309 Middle Huangpu Avenue,
Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510655,
People’s Republic of China
(Address of principal executive offices)
Ms. Chengfang Lu
Acting Chief Financial Officer
Tel: +86 (20) 3866-4265
E-mail:
luchengfang@lizhi.fm
Yangcheng Creative Industry Zone,
No. 309 Middle Huangpu Avenue,
Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510655,
Republic of China People’s Republic of China
(Name, Telephone,
E-mail
and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
 
 
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of each class
 
Trading
Symbol
 
Name of each exchange
on which registered
American depositary shares, each ADS represents 20 Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share
 
LIZI
 
The Nasdaq Global Market
Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share
*
 
N/A
 
The Nasdaq Global Market
 
*
Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing of the American depositary shares on the Nasdaq Global Market.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
 
 
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.
As of February 28, 2022, there were 1,014,356,010 ordinary
shares outstanding, being the sum of
 
783,141,010
 
Class A ordinary shares (excluding 9,020,630 Class A ordinary shares held by Kastle Limited) and 231,215,000 Class B ordinary shares.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Yes  ☐            
No  ☒
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Yes  ☐            No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Yes
  ☒            No  ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation
S-T
(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes  ☒    No  ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a
non-accelerated
filer or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act.
 
Large
a
ccelerated
f
iler
 
  
Accelerated filer
 
 
Non-accelerated
f
iler
 
           
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
Emerging growth company
 
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards † provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  
 
The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
 
 
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
 
 
U.S. GAAP
 
 
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board
 
 
Other
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.
☐  Item 17            ☐  Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act).
Yes  ☐            
No  
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.

Yes  ☐            
No
  ☐
 
 
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
    
Page
 
     1  
     3  
     4  
ITEM 1.
  IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS      4  
ITEM 2.
  OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE      4  
ITEM 3.
  KEY INFORMATION      4  
ITEM 4.
  INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY      70  
ITEM 4A
  UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS      103  
ITEM 5.
  OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS      103  
ITEM 6.
  DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES      124  
ITEM 7.
  MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS      133  
ITEM 8.
  FINANCIAL INFORMATION      134  
ITEM 9.
  THE OFFER AND LISTING      135  
ITEM 10.
  ADDITIONAL INFORMATION      135  
ITEM 11.
  QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK      145  
ITEM 12.
  DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES      146  
     148  
ITEM 13.
  ITEM DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES      148  
ITEM 14.
  MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS      148  
ITEM 15.
  CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES      149  
ITEM 16.A.
  AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT      150  
ITEM 16.B.
  CODE OF ETHICS      150  
ITEM 16.C.
  PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES      151  
ITEM 16.D.
  EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES      151  
ITEM 16.E.
  PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS      151  
ITEM 16.F.
  CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT      151  
ITEM 16.G.
  CORPORATE GOVERNANCE      151  
ITEM 16.H.
  MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE      152  
ITEM 16.I.
  DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS      152  
     152  
ITEM 17.
  FINANCIAL STATEMENTS      152  
ITEM 18.
  FINANCIAL STATEMENTS      152  
ITEM 19.
  EXHIBITS      152  
 
1

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION
Except where the context otherwise indicates and for the purpose of this annual report only:
“ACG” refers to animation, comics and games;
“AI” refers to artificial intelligence;
“active users” or “users” is used interchangeably in this annual report and refers to users who visited our platforms at least once in a given period, measured by the number of mobile devices that launched our mobile apps in a given period. The number of active users is calculated by treating each distinguishable mobile device as a separate user even though some individuals may access our platforms using more than one mobile device and multiple individuals may access our services using the same mobile device. An active user is not necessarily a registered user, since one does not have to register with our apps in order to access our audio content;
“ADSs” refers to the American depositary shares, each representing 20 of our Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
“average total mobile MAUs” refers to the average monthly number of active users across our platforms and apps in a given period, calculated by dividing (i) the sum of mobile active users for each month of such period, by (ii) the number of months in the same period;
“audio entertainment mobile MAUs” refers to the number of active users who have accessed our audio entertainment products in a given month on our apps;
“audio entertainment paying user” refers to a paying user that has purchased virtual items for our audio entertainment products at least once during the relevant period on our apps;
“average audio entertainment paying users” refers to the monthly average number of audio entertainment paying users in a given period on our apps, calculated by dividing (i) the total number of audio entertainment paying users in each month of such period by (ii) the number of months in the same period;
“average total monthly paying users” refers to the monthly average number of paying users in a given period across our platforms and apps, calculated by dividing (i) the total number of paying users in each month of such period by (ii) the number of months in the same period;
“China” or “PRC” refer to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purpose of this annual report only, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau;
“Class A ordinary shares” refers to our Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
“Class B ordinary shares” refers to our Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
“Founders” refers to Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai, Mr. Ning Ding and the entities that hold shares on behalf of and are controlled by Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai and Mr. Ning Ding, as Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai and Mr. Ning Ding so designate;
“guild” refers to an organized group of hosts that recruit, manage, train and support its member hosts;
“host” and “content creator” refer to a user who has posted a podcast or hosted an audio entertainment program on our apps;
“MAUs” refers to the number of active users in a given month across our platforms and apps;
“MENA” refers to the Middle East and North Africa;
 
1

Table of Contents
“ordinary shares” refers to our Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
“paying user” refers to an user that has purchased virtual items or subscribed for paid podcasts at least once during the relevant period. A paying user is not necessarily a unique user, however, as a unique user may set up multiple user accounts on our platforms. The number of paying users we present in this annual report may not be equal to the number of unique individuals who actually purchase or consume virtual items or subscribe for paid podcasts on our platforms for any given period;
“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of the PRC;
“Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association” refers to the second amended and restated memorandum and articles of association of our company adopted on October 23, 2019 which has become effective upon our initial public offering;
“total mobile MAUs” refers to the number of active users across our platforms and apps in a given month;
“US$,” “dollars” or “U.S. dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States; and
“We,” “us,” “our company,” and “our,” refer to LIZHI INC., its subsidiaries and, in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial information, its variable interest entities (“ VIEs”). As described elsewhere in this annual report, we do not own the VIEs, and the results of the VIEs’ operations only accrue to us through contractual arrangements between the VIEs, and the VIEs’ nominee shareholders, and certain of our subsidiaries. Accordingly, in appropriate contexts we will describe the VIEs’ activities separately from those of our direct and indirect owned subsidiaries and our use of the terms “we,” “us,” and “our” may not include the VIEs in those contexts.
We have made rounding adjustments to some of the figures included in this annual report. Accordingly, numerical figures shown as totals or percentages may not be an arithmetic calculation of the figures that preceded them.
Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to Renminbi in this annual report are made at RMB6.3726 to US$1.00, the exchange rate set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board on December 30, 2021. We make no representation that any Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate, the rates stated below, or at all. On April 15, 2022, the noon buying rate for Renminbi was RMB6.3705 to US$1.00.
 
2

Table of Contents
FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This annual report contains statements that constitute forward-looking statements. Many of the forward- looking statements contained in this annual report can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “expect,” “should,” “plan,” “intend,” “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 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 of various factors, including, but not limited to, those identified under the section entitled “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factors” in this annual report. These risks and uncertainties include factors relating to:
our goals and growth strategies;
our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;
relevant government policies and regulations relating to our business and industry;
our expectation regarding the use of proceeds from our initial public offering in January 2020;
general economic and business condition in China and overseas countries and regions where we operate;
assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing;
the length and severity of the recent
COVID-19
outbreak and its impact on our business and industry;
any recurrence of the
COVID-19
pandemic and scope of related government orders and restrictions and the extent of the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic on the global economy
other factors that may affect our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations; and
other risk factors discussed under “Item 3. Key
Information-3.D.
Risk Factors.”
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.
 
3

Table of Contents
PART I
 
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
Our Corporate Structure and Contractual Arrangements
Our Company, a Cayman Islands holding company, conducts operations in China through its PRC subsidiaries and the VIEs. However, we and our direct and indirect subsidiaries do not, and it is virtually impossible for them to, have any equity interests in the VIEs in practice as current PRC laws and regulations restrict foreign investment in companies that engage in value-added telecommunication services and other internet related business. As a result, we depend on certain contractual arrangements with the VIEs to operate a significant portion of our business. This structure allows us to exercise effective control over the VIEs, and is designed to replicate substantially the same economic benefits as would be provided by direct ownership. The VIEs are owned by certain nominee shareholders, not us. All of these nominee shareholders are also beneficial owners and directors of the Company. Investors in our ADSs are purchasing equity securities of a Cayman Islands holding company rather than equity securities issued by our subsidiaries and the VIEs. Investors who are
non-PRC
residents may never directly hold equity interests in the VIEs under current PRC laws and regulations.
Beijing Hongyiyichuang Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“Hongyi Technology”) and Guangzhou Tiya Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“Guangzhou Tiya”) (our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China) are considered foreign-invested enterprises, or WFOEs. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, our WFOEs conduct our business in China mainly through Guangzhou Lizhi Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“Guangzhou Lizhi”) and Guangzhou Huanliao Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“Guangzhou Huanliao”), the VIEs, and their respective subsidiaries, based on a series of contractual arrangements by and among our WFOEs, the VIEs and the respective shareholders of the VIEs.
Our corporate structure involves unique risks to investors in the ADSs. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the amount of revenues generated by the VIEs accounted for 99.9%, 96.7% and 93.0%, respectively, of our total net revenues. As of December 31, 2020 and 2021, total assets of the VIEs, excluding amounts due from other companies in the Group, equaled to 61.1% and 39.8% of our consolidated total assets as of the same dates, respectively. Our contractual arrangements with the VIEs have not been tested in court. If the PRC government deems that our contractual arrangements with the VIEs do not comply with PRC regulatory restrictions on foreign investment in the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to material penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations or otherwise significantly change our corporate structure. We and our investors face significant uncertainty about potential future actions by the PRC government that could affect the legality and enforceability of the contractual arrangements with the VIEs and, consequently, significantly affect our ability to consolidate the financial results of the VIEs and the financial performance of our company as a whole. Our ADSs may decline in value or become worthless if we are unable to effectively enforce our contractual control rights over the assets and operations of the VIEs that conduct a significant portion of our business in China. See “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factor—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure” for detailed discussion.
We face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties as a company based in and primarily operating in China. The PRC government has significant authority to exert influence on the ability of a China-based company, like us, to conduct its business, accept foreign investments or be listed on a U.S. stock exchange. For example, we face risks associated with regulatory approvals of offshore offerings, anti-monopoly regulatory actions, cybersecurity and data privacy, as well as the lack of inspection from the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, on our auditors. The PRC government may also intervene with or influence our operations as the government deems appropriate to further regulatory, political and societal goals. The PRC government has recently published new policies that significantly affected our industry and we cannot rule out the possibility that it will in the future further release regulations or policies regarding our industry that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any such action, once taken by the PRC government, could cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or in extreme cases, become worthless.
 
4

Table of Contents
Permissions Required from the PRC Authorities for Our Operations
We conduct our business primarily through our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and their subsidiaries. Our operations in China are governed by PRC laws and regulations. As of the date of this annual report, our PRC subsidiaries and the VIEs have obtained the requisite licenses and permits from the PRC government authorities that are material for the business operations of our holding company, the VIEs in China, including, among others, the ICP License and the Internet Culture Operating License. Given the uncertainties of interpretation and implementation of relevant laws and regulations and the enforcement practice by relevant government authorities, we may be required to obtain additional licenses, permits, filings or approvals for the functions and services of our platform in the future. For more detailed information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry— If we fail to obtain or maintain the required licenses and approvals or if we fail to comply with laws and regulations applicable to our industry, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.”
Furthermore, in connection with our issuance of securities to foreign investors, under current PRC laws, regulations and regulatory rules, as of the date of this annual report, we, our PRC subsidiaries and the VIEs, (i) are not required to obtain permissions from the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, (ii) are not required to go through cybersecurity review by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, and (iii) have not received or been denied such requisite permissions by any PRC authority.
However, the PRC government has recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over offerings that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers. For more detailed information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—The approval, filing or other requirements of the China Securities Regulatory Commission or other PRC government authorities may be required under PRC law in connection with our issuance of securities overseas.”
Cash Flows through Our Organization
Under relevant PRC Laws and regulations, we are permitted to provide funding from the proceeds of our offshore fund raising activities to our PRC subsidiaries only through loans or capital contributions, and to the VIEs only through loans.
As of December 31, 2021, LIZHI Inc. had made cumulative capital contributions of US$57.5 million to our PRC subsidiaries through intermediate holding company, and were accounted as long-term investments of LIZHI Inc.. These funds have been used by our PRC subsidiaries and the VIEs for their operations. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the VIEs transferred nil, RMB5.9 million and RMB26.4 million (US$4.1 million), respectively, to our PRC subsidiaries as payment of service fees.
Hongyi Technology and Guangzhou TIYA, our PRC subsidiaries, maintained certain personnel for research and development and general and administrative functions to support the operations of the VIEs.
Apart from services charges and loans among the VIEs and our PRC subsidiaries, there were no other assets transferred between the VIEs and Non-VIEs in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
 
5

Table of Contents
As advised by our PRC legal counsel, for any amounts owed by the VIEs to our PRC subsidiaries under the VIE agreements, unless otherwise required by PRC governmental authorities, we are able to settle such amounts without limitations under the current effective PRC laws and regulations, provided that the VIEs have sufficient funds to do so. LIZHI Inc. has not previously declared or paid any cash dividend or dividend in kind, and has no plan to declare or pay any dividends in the near future on our shares or the ADSs representing our ordinary shares. We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to operate and expand our business. See “Item 8.—Financial Information—8.A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Dividend Policy.”
For the purpose of illustration, the below table reflects the hypothetical taxes that might be required to be paid within China, assuming that: (i) we have taxable earnings, and (ii) we determine to pay a dividend in the future:
 
    
Taxation Scenario
(1)
 
    
Statutory Tax and Standard Rates
 
Hypothetical pre-tax earnings
(2)
     100
Tax on earnings at statutory rate of 25%
     -25
Net earnings available for distribution
     75
Withholding tax at standard rate of 10%
(3)
     -7.5
Net distribution to Parent/Shareholders
     67.5
Notes:
 
(1)
The tax calculation has been simplified for the purpose of this example. The hypothetical book pre-tax earnings amount, which does not consider timing differences, is assumed to equal the taxable income in the PRC.
(2)
Under the terms of agreements, technical development and technical service fees are charged by our PRC subsidiaries to the VIEs. For all the periods presented, these fees are recognized as cost of revenues, research and development expenses of the VIEs, with a corresponding amount as service income by our PRC subsidiaries and eliminated in consolidation. For income tax purposes, our PRC subsidiaries and the VIEs file income taxes on a separate company basis. The fees paid are recognized as a tax deduction by the VIEs and as income by our PRC subsidiaries and are tax neutral.
(3)
China’s Enterprise Income Tax Law imposes a withholding income tax of 10% on dividends distributed by a Foreign Invested Enterprises (“FIE”) to its immediate holding company outside of China. A lower withholding income tax rate of 5% is applied if the FIE’s immediate holding company is registered in Hong Kong or other jurisdictions that have a tax treaty arrangement with China, subject to a qualification review at the time of the distribution. For the purpose of this hypothetical example, this table has been prepared based on a taxation scenario under which the full withholding tax would be applied.
The table above has been prepared under the assumption that all profits of the VIEs will be distributed as fees to our PRC subsidiaries under tax neutral contractual arrangements. If in the future, the accumulated earnings of the VIEs exceed the fees paid to our PRC subsidiaries, or if the current and contemplated fee structure between the intercompany entities is determined to be non-substantive and disallowed by Chinese tax authorities, we have other tax-planning strategies that can be deployed on a tax neutral basis.
Should all tax planning strategies fail, the VIEs could, as a matter of last resort, make a non-deductible transfer to our PRC subsidiaries for the amounts of the stranded cash in the VIEs. This would result in the double taxation of earnings: one at the VIE level (for non-deductible expenses) and one at the PRC subsidiary level (for presumptive earnings on the transfer). Such a transfer and the related tax burdens would reduce our after-tax income to approximately 50.6% of the pre-tax income. Our management is of the view that the likelihood that this scenario would happen is remote.
 
6

Table of Contents
Condensed Consolidating Schedule
The following tables present the summary statements of operations for our Company’s WFOEs, the VIEs and other entities for the periods presented.
 
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2019  
    
L
IZHI INC.
   
O
ther
Subsidiaries
   
W
FOEs
   
V
IEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
E
limination
    
C
onsolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Third-party revenues
     —         1,129       —         1,179,468       —          1,180,597  
Inter-company revenues
(1)
     —         —         —         —         —         
—  
 
Cost of revenues
     —         (3,957     (1,078     (905,120     —          (910,155
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
 
Gross profit
  
 
—  
 
 
 
(2,828
 
 
(1,078
 
 
274,348
 
 
 
—  
 
  
 
270,442
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
 
Selling and marketing expenses
     —         (3,054     (640     (204,856     —          (208,550
General and administrative expenses
     —         (1,986     (4,900     (38,828     —          (45,714
Research and development expenses
     —         (12     (2,803     (155,200     —          (158,015
Loss from subsidiaries and the VIEs
(2)
     (132,947     (125,293     (116,891     —         375,131        —    
(Loss)/income from non-operations
     (10     226       1,019       7,645       —          8,880  
Loss before income tax expenses
     (132,957     (132,947     (125,293     (116,891     375,131        (132,957
Less: income tax expenses
     —         —         —         —         —          —    
Net loss
    
(132,957
)
 
   
(132,947
)
 
   
(125,293
)
 
   
(116,891
)
 
 
 
375,131
 
    
(132,957
)
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to LIZHI INC.’s ordinary shareholders
    
(
1,073,143
)
 
   
(132,947
)
 
   
(125,293
)
 
   
(116,891
)
 
 
 
375,131
 
    
(
1,073,143
)
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
 
 
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2020  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Third-party revenues
     —         45,315       4,056       1,453,537       —         1,502,908  
Inter-company revenues
(1)
     —         —         26,941       2,653       (29,594     —    
Cost of revenues
     —         (27,860     (6,125     (1,115,806     15,113       (1,134,678
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Gross profit
  
 
—  
 
 
 
17,455
 
 
 
24,872
 
 
 
340,384
 
 
 
(14,481
 
 
368,230
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Selling and marketing expenses
     (1,554     (8,466     —         (132,714     —         (142,734
General and administrative expenses
     (14,321     (519     (7,770     (66,246     —         (88,856
Research and development expenses
     —         (719     (5,864     (233,227     14,481       (225,329
Loss from subsidiaries and the VIEs
(2)
     (67,158     (73,707     (84,441     —         225,306       —    
Income/(loss) from non-operations
     849       (203     (504     7,362       —         7,504  
Loss before income tax expenses
     (82,184     (66,159     (73,707     (84,441     225,306       (81,185
Less: income tax expenses
     —         (999     —         —         —         (999
Net loss
  
 
(82,184
 
 
(67,158
 
 
(73,707
 
 
(84,441
 
 
225,306
 
 
 
(82,184
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to LIZHI INC.’s ordinary shareholders
  
 
(236,250
 
 
(67,158
 
 
(73,707
 
 
(84,441
 
 
225,306
 
 
 
(236,250
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
7

Table of Contents
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2021  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Third-party revenues
     —         137,299       10,109       1,972,106       —         2,119,514  
Inter-company revenues
(1)
     —         —         9,568       3,652       (13,220     —    
Cost of revenues
     —         (110,101     (11,714     (1,391,598     10,908       (1,502,505
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Gross profit
  
 
—  
 
 
 
27,198
 
 
 
7,963
 
 
 
584,160
 
 
 
(2,312
 
 
617,009
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Selling and marketing expenses
     (1,452     (34,941     (667     (349,144     —         (386,204
General and administrative expenses
     (17,558     (12,019     (2,121     (72,919     —         (104,617
Research and development expenses
     —         (1,774     (13,678     (251,566     2,312       (264,706
Loss from subsidiaries and the VIEs
(2)
     (109,046     (86,280     (81,551     —         276,877       —    
Income/(loss) from non-operations
     806       (854     3,774       7,918       —         11,644  
Loss before income tax expenses
     (127,250     (108,670     (86,280     (81,551     276,877       (126,874
Less: income tax expenses
     —         (376     —         —         —         (376
Net loss
  
 
(127,250
 
 
(109,046
 
 
(86,280
 
 
(81,551
 
 
276,877
 
 
 
(127,250
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to LIZHI INC.’s ordinary shareholders
  
 
(127,250
 
 
(109,046
 
 
(86,280
 
 
(81,551
 
 
276,877
 
 
 
(127,250
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
(1)
It represents the inter-company service charged among the WFOEs and the VIEs. The cost of the charges is reflected in the “Cost of revenues” and “Research and development expenses” of the WFOEs and the VIEs. All amounts are eliminated in consolidation.
(2)
It represents the elimination of the investment loss among LIZHI Inc., other subsidiaries, WFOEs, and the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries.
The following tables present the summary balance sheet data for our Company’s WFOEs, the VIEs and other entities as of the dates presented.
 
     As of December 31, 2020  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Cash and cash equivalents
     145,268       18,175       3,037       148,979       —         315,459  
Short term investment
     —         —         —         73,022       —         73,022  
Restricted cash
     —         —         —         3,695       —         3,695  
Accounts receivable, net
     —         —         5,719       2,642       —         8,361  
Prepayments and other current assets
     2,605       2,276       1,300       13,190       —         19,371  
Amounts due from Lizhi Group Companies
(1)
     174,425       113,095       247,997       500       (536,017     —    
Property, equipment and leasehold improvement, net
     —         1       175       34,342       —         34,518  
Intangible assets, net
     —         —         —         2,929       —         2,929  
Deficit in subsidiaries and the VIEs
(2)
     (116,312     (119,967     (370,163     —         606,442       —    
Lease assets
     —         —         441       3,841       —         4,282  
Other
non-current
assets
     1,470       —         —         711       —         2,181  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total assets
  
 
207,456
 
 
 
13,580
 
 
 
(111,494
 
 
283,851
 
 
 
70,425
 
 
 
463,818
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Accounts payable
     —         3,056       1,225       73,986       —         78,267  
Deferred revenue
     —         775       —         16,226       —         17,001  
Salary and welfare benefits payable
     1,678       —         3,146       88,464       —         93,288  
Taxes payable
     —         999       251       4,559       —         5,809  
Short term borrowing
     —         —         —         39,508       —         39,508  
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities
     4,058       3,452       1,978       41,559       —         51,047  
Lease liabilities
     —         —         167       4,129       —         4,296  
Other
non-current
liabilities
     5,411       —         —         —         —         5,411  
Amounts due to Lizhi Group Companies
(1)
     27,118       121,610       1,706       385,583       (536,017     —    
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total liabilities
  
 
38,265
 
 
 
129,892
 
 
 
8,473
 
 
 
654,014
 
 
 
(536,017
 
 
294,627
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total shareholders’ equity/(deficit)
(2)
  
 
169,191
 
 
 
(116,312
 
 
(119,967
 
 
(370,163
 
 
606,442
 
 
 
169,191
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity/(deficit)
  
 
207,456
 
 
 
13,580
 
 
 
(111,494
 
 
283,851
 
 
 
70,425
 
 
 
463,818
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
8

Table of Contents
     As of December 31, 2021  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Cash and cash equivalents
     224,779       70,761       46,204       191,549       —         533,293  
Restricted cash
     —         1,132       —         3,023       —         4,155  
Accounts receivable, net
     —         —         6,457       1       —         6,458  
Prepayments and other current assets
     3,417       7,222       2,720       20,245       —         33,604  
Amounts due from Lizhi Group Companies
(1)
     278,553       104,372       208,549       197       (591,671     —    
Property, equipment and leasehold
improvement, net
     —         2,497       2,314       28,580       —         33,391  
Intangible assets, net
     —         —         —         2,245       —         2,245  
Deficit in subsidiaries and the
VIEs
(2)
     (223,293     (203,024     (453,641     —         879,958       —    
Lease assets
     —         11,420       7,868       9,653       —         28,941  
Other
non-current
assets
     —         —         —         799       —         799  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total assets
  
 
283,456
 
 
 
(5,620
 
 
(179,529
 
 
256,292
 
 
 
288,287
 
 
 
642,886
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Accounts payable
     —         5,898       4,256       70,639       —         80,793  
Deferred revenue
     —         1,539       —         19,118       —         20,657  
Salary and welfare benefits payable
     1,330       288       5,253       116,204       —         123,075  
Taxes payable
     —         624       —         4,940       —         5,564  
Short term borrowing
     —         —         —         68,999       —         68,999  
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities
     3,021       4,372       3,290       42,803       —         53,486  
Lease liabilities
     —         12,408       8,698       9,899       —         31,005  
Other
non-current
liabilities
     4,452       —         —         —         —         4,452  
Amounts due to Lizhi Group Companies
(1)
     19,798       192,544       1,998       377,331       (591,671     —    
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total liabilities
  
 
28,601
 
 
 
217,673
 
 
 
23,495
 
 
 
709,933
 
 
 
(591,671
 
 
388,031
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total shareholders’ equity/(deficit)
(2)
  
 
254,855
 
 
 
(223,293
 
 
(203,024
 
 
(453,641
 
 
879,958
 
 
 
254,855
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity/(deficit)
  
 
283,456
 
 
 
(5,620
 
 
(179,529
 
 
256,292
 
 
 
288,287
 
 
 
642,886
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
(1)
It represents the elimination of inter-company balances among LIZHI Inc., other subsidiaries, WFOEs, the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries.
(2)
It represents the elimination of the investment among LIZHI Inc., other subsidiaries, WFOEs, the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries.
The VIEs hold assets with no carrying value in the consolidated balance sheet that are important to the Company’s ability to produce revenue (referred to as unrecognized revenue-producing assets). Unrecognized revenue-producing assets held by the VIEs mainly include the ICP License and the Internet Culture Operating License. Recognized revenue-producing assets held by the VIEs include copyrights, trademarks and domain names.
 
9

Table of Contents
The following tables present the summary cash flow data for our Company’s WFOEs, the VIEs and other entities for the periods presented.
 
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2019  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Net cash used in operating activities
(1)
  
 
(6,622
 
 
(7,858
 
 
(8,258
 
 
(73,015
 
 
—  
 
 
 
(95,753
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Investments in and loans to Group companies
(2)
     (1,395     (22,066     (38,854     —         62,315       —    
Other investing activities
     —         —         (206     (29,164     —         (29,370
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net cash used in investing activities
  
 
(1,395
 
 
(22,066
 
 
(39,060
 
 
(29,164
 
 
62,315
 
 
 
(29,370
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Capital contribution and loans received from Group companies
(2)
     —         1,395       22,066       38,854       (62,315     —    
Cash transferred from subsidiaries to parent company for reorganization
     10,434       (10,434     —         —         —         —    
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net cash generated from/(used in) financing activities
  
 
10,434
 
 
 
(9,039
 
 
22,066
 
 
 
38,854
 
 
 
(62,315
 
 
—  
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2020  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Net cash (used in)/generated from operating activities
(1)
  
 
(7,745
 
 
29,684
 
 
 
632
 
 
 
17,425
 
 
 
—  
 
 
 
39,996
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Investments in and loans to Group companies
(2)
     (120,281     (129,130     (148,751     —         398,162       —    
Other investing activities
     —         —         —         (94,559     —         (94,559
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net cash used in investing activities
  
 
(120,281
 
 
(129,130
 
 
(148,751
 
 
(94,559
 
 
398,162
 
 
 
(94,559
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Capital contribution and loans received from Group companies
(2)
     —         120,281       129,130       148,751       (398,162     —    
Cash transferred from subsidiaries to parent company for reorganization
     16,683       (16,683     —         —         —         —    
IPO and other financing activities
     259,045       —         —         39,001       —         298,046  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net cash generated from financing activities
  
 
275,728
 
 
 
103,598
 
 
 
129,130
 
 
 
187,752
 
 
 
(398,162
 
 
298,046
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2021  
    
LIZHI INC.
   
Other
Subsidiaries
   
WFOEs
   
VIEs and

VIEs’

Subsidiaries
   
Elimination
   
Consolidated
 
    
(RMB in thousands)
 
Net cash (used in)/generated from operating activities
(1)
  
 
(15,728
 
 
(27,949
 
 
20,974
 
 
 
(17,723
 
 
—  
 
 
 
(40,426
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Investments in and loans to Group companies
(2)
     (83,661     —         (3,222     —         86,883       —    
Other investing activities
     —         (222     —         52,323       —         52,101  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Cash repayment from Group companies
     —         —         25,415       —         (25,415     —    
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net cash (used in)/generated from investing activities
  
 
(83,661
 
 
(222
 
 
22,193
 
 
 
52,323
 
 
 
61,468
 
 
 
52,101
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Capital contribution and loans received from Group companies
(2)
     —         83,661       —         3,222       (86,883     —    
Cash repayment to Group companies
     —         —         —         (25,415     25,415       —    
Follow-on
public offering and other financing activities
     183,191       —         —         29,491       —         212,682  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net cash generated from financing activities
  
 
183,191
 
 
 
83,661
 
    —      
 
7,298
 
 
 
(61,468
 
 
212,682
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
(1)
For the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, cash paid by the VIEs to our PRC subsidiaries for technical development service fees were nil, RMB5.9 million and RMB26.4 million (US$4.1 million), respectively.
 
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(2)
Represents the investment in and loans to WFOEs and other subsidiaries by the Parent, and intercompany loans among WFOEs, other subsidiaries, and VIEs, and the elimination among them. The Parent transfers cash to other subsidiaries by making capital contributions or providing loans, and other subsidiaries transfer cash to the WFOEs by making capital contributions or providing loans to them. The WFOEs also have intercompany loans with certain VIEs as part of our cash management program.
3.A. [Reserved]
3.B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
Not applicable.
3.C. Reason for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
Not applicable.
3.D. Risk Factors
Summary Risk Factors
You should carefully consider all of the information in this annual report before making an investment in the ADSs. Below please find a summary of the principal risks and uncertainties we face, organized under relevant headings. In particular, as we are a China-based company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, you should pay special attention to subsections headed “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China” and “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure.”
Our business is subject to a number of risks, including risks that may prevent us from achieving our business objectives or may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, and prospects. These risks are discussed more fully below and include, but are not limited to, risks related to:
 
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Risks Related to Doing Business in China
 
   
Uncertainties with respect to PRC laws and regulations, including uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws, and sudden or unexpected changes in policies, laws and regulations in China, could have a material and adverse effect on our business and results of operations, limit the legal protections available to you and us or otherwise adversely affect us.
 
   
Regulation and censorship of information disseminated over the mobile and internet in China may adversely affect our business and subject us to liability for content on our platforms.
 
   
Adverse changes in global or China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
Our business is subject to complex and evolving Chinese and international laws and regulations, including those regarding data privacy and cybersecurity. Many of these laws and regulations are subject to change and uncertain interpretation.
 
   
The PRC government’s significant oversight and discretion over our business operation could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our ADSs.
 
   
Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms and other Anti-monopoly laws and regulations may result in governmental investigations or enforcement actions, litigation or claims against us and could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
Our ADSs will be delisted and prohibited from trading in the
over-the-counter
market under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, if the PCAOB continues to be unable to inspect or fully investigate auditors located in China. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued the HFCAA Determination Report, according to which our auditor is subject to the determinations that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely. Under the current law, delisting and prohibition from
over-the-counter
trading in the U.S. would take place in 2024. If this happens there is no certainty that we will be able to list our ADS or shares on a
non-U.S.
exchange or that a market for our shares will develop outside of the U.S. The delisting of our ADSs, or the threat of their being delisted, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment.
 
   
The potential enactment of the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act would decrease the number of
non-inspection
years from three years to two, thus reducing the time period before our ADSs will be prohibited from
over-the-counter
trading or delisted. If this bill were enacted, our ADS could be delisted from the exchange and prohibited from
over-the-counter
trading in the U.S. in 2023.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
 
   
If we fail to retain our existing users, to keep them engaged, to further grow our user base or to increase paying ratio, our business, operation, profitability and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
 
   
The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.
 
   
Our content monitoring system may not be effective in preventing misconduct by our platforms’ users and misuse of our platforms and such misconduct or misuse may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
We may fail to offer attractive audio content on our platforms.
 
   
We have limited experience in international markets. If we fail to meet the challenges presented by our expansion overseas, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
 
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Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
 
   
There are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future PRC laws, regulations, and rules relating to the agreements that establish the VIE structure for our operations in China, including potential future actions by the PRC government, which could affect the enforceability of our contractual arrangements with the VIEs and, consequently, significantly affect the financial condition and results of operations performance of Lizhi. If the PRC government finds such agreements
non-compliant
with relevant PRC laws, regulations and rules, or if these laws, regulations and rules or their interpretation thereof change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in the VIEs.
 
   
Any failure by the VIEs or their shareholders to perform their obligations under our contractual arrangements with them would have a material adverse effect on our business.
 
   
The approval, filing or other requirements of the China Securities Regulatory Commission or other PRC government authorities may be required under PRC law in connection with our issuance of securities overseas.
 
   
We rely on contractual arrangements with the VIEs and their shareholders for our operations in China, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership.
 
   
We may lose the ability to use and enjoy assets held by the VIEs and their subsidiaries that are important to our business if the VIEs and their subsidiaries declare bankruptcy or become subject to a dissolution or liquidation proceeding.
Risks Related to our American Depositary Shares
 
   
Our ADSs have experienced and may continue to experience price and volume fluctuations regardless of our operating performance, which could lead to costly litigation for us and make an investment in us less appealing.
 
   
Under our dual-class share structure with different voting rights, holders of Class B ordinary shares have complete control of the outcome of matters put to a vote of shareholders, which may limit ability of holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs may view as beneficial.
 
   
The dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may adversely affect the trading market for our ADSs.
 
   
The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to direct the voting of the underlying Class A ordinary shares which are represented by your ADSs.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
Uncertainties with respect to PRC laws and regulations, including uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws, and sudden or unexpected changes in policies, laws and regulations in China, could have a material and adverse effect on our business and results of operations, limit the legal protections available to you and us or otherwise adversely affect us.
The PRC legal system is based on written statutes where prior court decisions have limited value as precedents. Our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and our WFOEs, are subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign-invested enterprises as well as various Chinese laws and regulations generally applicable to companies incorporated in China. However, since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system continues to rapidly evolve, the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules are not always uniform and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties.
 
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From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC 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 legal protection we enjoy than in more developed legal systems.
The PRC government has significant oversight and discretion over the conduct of our business and may intervene with or influence our operations as the government deems appropriate to further regulatory, political and societal goals. The PRC government has recently published new policies that adversely affected our industry and our business, and we cannot rule out the possibility that it will in the future further release regulations or policies regarding our industry that could further adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, the PRC government has also recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over securities offerings and other capital markets activities that are conducted overseas and foreign investment in China-based companies like us. Any such action, once taken by the PRC government, could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or in extreme cases, become worthless.
However, as there are still regulatory uncertainties in this regard, we cannot assure you that we will be able to comply with new laws and regulations in all respects, and we may be ordered to rectify, suspend or terminate any actions or services that are deemed illegal by the regulatory authorities and become subject to material penalties, which may materially harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules that may have retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Such uncertainties, including uncertainty over the scope and effect of our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights, could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.
Regulation and censorship of information disseminated over the mobile and internet in China may adversely affect our business and subject us to liability for content on our platforms.
Internet companies in China are subject to a variety of existing and new rules, regulations, policies, and license and permit requirements. In connection with enforcing these rules, regulations, policies and requirements, relevant government authorities may suspend services by, or revoke licenses of, any internet or mobile content service provider that is deemed to provide illicit content online or on mobile devices, and such activities may be intensified in connection with any ongoing government campaigns to eliminate prohibited content online. For example, in 2016, the Office of the Anti-Pornography and Illegal Publications Working Group, the State Internet Information Office, the MIIT, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Public Security jointly launched a “Clean Up the Internet 2016” campaign. Based on publicly available information, the campaign aims to eliminate pornographic information and content in the internet information services industry by, among other things, holding liable individuals and corporate entities that facilitate the distribution of pornographic information and content. Publicly traded companies voluntarily initiated self-investigations to filter and remove content from their websites and cloud servers. Furthermore, as of the date of this annual report, two more campaigns, the “Clean Up the Internet 2021”and “Clean Up the Internet 2022”, have then been launched, which are reported to be aiming at, among others, rectifying a number of illegal activities in the internet information services industry.
We endeavor to eliminate illicit content from our platforms. We have made substantial investments in resources, including artificial intellectual technology to work together with a team of specialized individuals, to monitor content that users post on our platforms and the way in which our users engage with each other through our platforms. We use a variety of methods to ensure our platforms remains a healthy and positive experience for our users. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Content Monitoring System.” Although we employ these methods to filter content posted on our platforms, we cannot be sure that our internal content control efforts will be sufficient to remove all content that may be viewed as indecent or otherwise
non-compliant
with PRC law and regulations. Government standards and interpretations as to what constitutes illicit online content or behavior are subject to interpretation and may change in a manner that could render our current monitoring efforts insufficient. The Chinese government has wide discretion in regulating online activities and, irrespective of our efforts to control the content on our platforms, government campaigns and other actions to reduce illicit content and activities could subject us to negative press or regulatory challenges and sanctions, including fines, suspension or revocation of our licenses to operate in China or a suspension or ban on our mobile or online platforms, including suspension or closure of one or more parts of or our entire business. Further, our senior management could be held criminally liable if we are deemed to be profiting from illicit content on our platforms. Although our business and operations have not been materially and adversely affected by government campaigns or any other regulatory actions in the past, we cannot assure you that our business and operations will be immune from government actions or sanctions in the future. If government actions or sanctions are brought against us, or if there are widespread rumors that government actions or sanctions have been brought against us, our reputation could be harmed, we may lose users and customers, our revenues and results of operation may be materially and adversely affected and the value of our ADSs could be dramatically reduced.
 
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Adverse changes in global or China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our revenues are substantially sourced from China. Accordingly, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects are influenced by economic, political and legal developments in China. Economic reforms begun in the late 1970s have resulted in significant economic growth. However, any economic reform policies or measures in China may from time to time be modified or revised. China’s economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including with respect to the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past 40 years, growth has been uneven across different regions and among different economic sectors and the rate of growth has been slowing.
China’s economic conditions are sensitive to global economic conditions. The global financial markets have experienced significant disruptions since 2008 and the United States, Europe and other economies have experienced periods of recession. The global macroeconomic environment is facing new challenges and 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. Recent international trade disputes, including tariff actions announced by the United States, the PRC and certain other countries, and the uncertainties created by such disputes may cause disruptions in the international flow of goods and services and may adversely affect the Chinese economy as well as global markets and economic conditions. There have also been concerns about the economic effect of the military conflicts and political turmoil or social instability in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and other places. Recently, the Russia-Ukraine war has caused, and continues to intensify, significant geopolitical tensions in Europe and across the global. The resulting sanctions are expected to have significant impacts on the economic conditions of the targeted countries and markets. Any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global economy may adversely affect the Chinese economy which in turn may adversely affect our business and operating results.
The PRC government exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through strategically allocating resources, controlling the payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. Although the PRC economy has grown significantly in the past decade, that growth may not continue, as evidenced by the slowing of the growth of the PRC economy since 2012. Any adverse changes in economic conditions in China, in the policies of the PRC government or in the laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China. Such developments could adversely affect our business and operating results, lead to reduction in demand for our services and adversely affect our competitive position.
Currently there is no law or regulation specifically governing virtual asset property rights and therefore it is not clear what liabilities, if any, online platform operator may have for virtual assets.
While participating on our platforms, our users acquire, purchase and accumulate some virtual assets, such as gifts or certain status. Such virtual assets can be important to users and have monetary value and, in some cases, are sold for actual money. In practice, virtual assets can be lost for various reasons, often through unauthorized use of the user account of one user by other users and occasionally through data loss caused by delay of network service, network crash or hacking activities. Currently, there is no PRC law or regulation specifically governing virtual asset property rights (except for online game virtual currency and single purpose commercial prepaid cards). As a result, there is uncertainty as to who the legal owner of virtual assets is, whether and how the ownership of virtual assets is protected by law, and whether an operator of online platform such as us would have any liability, whether in contract, tort or otherwise, to users or other interested parties, for loss of such virtual assets. Based on recent PRC court judgments, the courts have typically held online platform operators liable for losses of virtual assets by platform users, and ordered online platform operators to return the lost virtual items to users or pay damages and losses if the online platform operators fail to fulfill their obligations as the service provider. In case of a loss of virtual assets, we may be sued by our users and held liable for damages, which may negatively affect our reputation and business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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Our business is subject to complex and evolving Chinese and international laws and regulations, including those regarding data privacy and cybersecurity. Many of these laws and regulations are subject to change and uncertain interpretation.
We are required by privacy and data protection laws in China and other jurisdictions, including, without limitation, the PRC Cyber Security Law, to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information of our users, third-party agents, content providers and other data, which is also essential to maintaining their confidence in our services. However, the interpretation and application of such laws in China and elsewhere are often uncertain and in flux.
Regulatory authorities in China have implemented and are considering a number of legislative and regulatory proposals concerning cybersecurity and data protection. The interpretation and application of cybersecurity, information security, privacy and data protection laws in China are often uncertain and in flux. It is possible that existing or newly-introduced laws and regulations, or their interpretation, application or enforcement, could significantly affect our business practice and force us to change our business practices. For example, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, promulgated the Cyber Security Law in November 2016, which requires network operators to perform certain functions related to cyber-security protection and strengthened network information management through taking technical and other necessary measures as required by laws and regulations to safeguard the operation of networks, respond to network security effectively, prevent illegal and criminal activities, and maintain the integrity and confidentiality and usability of network data. The Cyber Security Law further provides that personal information and important data collected and generated by operators of critical information infrastructure in the course of their operations in the PRC should be stored in the PRC, and the law imposes heightened regulation and additional security obligations on critical information infrastructures operator. In addition, in June 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China promulgated the Data Security Law, which took effect on September 1, 2021. The Data Security Law introduces a data classification and hierarchical protection system based on the importance of data and provides a national security review procedure for those data activities, which may affect national security and imposes export restrictions on certain data and information. In July 2021, certain PRC regulatory authorities issued Opinions on Strictly Cracking Down on Illegal Securities Activities in Accordance with the Law, which were available to the public on July 6, 2021 and further emphasized to strengthen the cross-board regulatory collaboration, to improve relevant laws and regulations on data security, cross-border data transmission, and confidential information management. Furthermore, on August 20, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China promulgated the Personal Information Protection Law, which provides detailed rules on how to handle personal information and sets forth legal responsibilities.
On December 28, 2021, the CAC, the NDRC, the MIIT, and several other PRC governmental authorities jointly issued the Cybersecurity Review Measures, or the Cybersecurity Review Measures, which took effect on February 15, 2022. Pursuant to Cybersecurity Review Measures, in addition to “critical information infrastructure operators”, network platform operators engaging in data processing activities that affect or may affect national security are subject to cybersecurity review under the Cybersecurity Review Measures. On November 14, 2021, the CAC published Measures on Network Data Security Management (Draft for Comment), or the Draft Measures for Internet Data Security, which provides that data processors conducting certain activities must apply for cybersecurity review, including, among others, merger, reorganization or separation of Internet platform operators that have acquired a large number of data resources related to national security, economic development or public interests affects or may affect national security and listing abroad of data processors processing over one million users’ personal information. The Draft Measures for Internet Data Security also provides that data processors processing important data or going public overseas shall conduct an annual data security assessment by themselves or entrust a data security service institution to do so. The Draft Measures for Internet Data Security have not been adopted and it remains unclear whether the formal version adopted in the future will have any further material changes, it is uncertain how the measures will be enacted, interpreted or implemented and how they will affect us. We cannot predict the impact of the draft measures, if any, at this stage. If a final version of the Draft Measures for Internet Data Security is adopted, we may be subject to review when conducting data processing activities and annual data security assessment and may face challenges in addressing its requirements and make necessary changes to our internal policies and practices in data processing. In addition, if the enacted version of the Draft Measures for Internet Data Security mandates clearance of cybersecurity review and other specific actions to be completed by China-based companies that have been listed on overseas stock exchange, such as us, we face uncertainties as to whether we could obtain such clearance in a timely manner, or at all. Any failure or delay in the completion of the cybersecurity review procedures may prevent us from using or providing certain network products and services, and may result in penalties, including fines, suspension of business and revocation of required licenses, and our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
 
 
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Compliance with the above PRC laws and regulations including the Cyber Security Law, the Cybersecurity Review Measures and the Data Security Law, as well as additional laws and regulations that PRC regulatory bodies may enact in the future, including laws and regulations regarding the cybersecurity, information security, privacy and data protection, may result in additional expenses to us and subject us to negative publicity, which could harm our reputation and business operations. There are also uncertainties with respect to how such laws and regulations will be implemented and interpreted in practice. PRC regulators, including the Department of Public Security, the MIIT, the SAMR and the CAC, have been increasingly focused on regulation in the areas of data security and data protection, and are enhancing the protection of privacy and data security by rule-making and enforcement actions at central and local levels. We expect that these areas will receive greater and continued attention and scrutiny from regulators and the public going forward, which could increase our compliance costs and subject us to heightened risks and challenges associated with data security and protection.
While we have taken various measures to comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding cybersecurity, information security, privacy and data protection in China, we cannot assure you that the measures we have taken or will take are adequate under the Cyber Security Law, and we may be held liable in the event of any breach of the relevant requirements under the Cyber Security Law or other relevant laws and regulations. Any failure or perceived failure by us to prevent information security breaches or to comply with data security and privacy policies or related legal obligations, or any compromise of security that results in the unauthorized use, release or transfer of personally identifiable information or other data, could cause our users to lose trust in us and could expose us to legal claims or penalties. Any perception by the public that privacy of user information or data security are becoming increasingly unsafe or vulnerable to attacks could inhibit the growth of our products and services generally. We may also be held liable in the event of any breach of general clauses on our compliance with such statutory requirements as well as some other specific requirements related to data protection under the relevant contracts. We may have to spend much more personnel cost and time evaluating and managing these risks and challenges in connection with our products and services in the ordinary course of our business operations, and cooperated and will keep cooperating in the future with the competent regulators in these respects. If further changes in our business practices are required under China’s evolving regulatory framework for the protection of information in cyberspace, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected. If we are unable to manage these risks, we could become subject to penalties, including fines, suspension of business and revocation of required licenses, and our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The PRC government’s significant oversight and discretion over our business operation could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our ADSs.
We conduct our business primarily through our subsidiaries, the VIEs and their subsidiaries in China. Our operations in China are governed by PRC laws and regulations. The PRC government has significant oversight and discretion over the conduct of our business, and it may influence our operations, which could result in a material adverse change in our operation and/or the value of our ADSs. Also, the PRC government has recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over offerings that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers. For example, on July 6, 2021, the relevant PRC government authorities made public the Opinions on Strictly Scrutinizing Illegal Securities Activities in accordance with the Law, or the Opinions. These opinions emphasized the need to strengthen the administration over illegal securities activities and the supervision on overseas listings by China-based companies and proposed to take effective measures, such as promoting the construction of relevant regulatory systems to deal with the risks and incidents faced by China-based overseas-listed companies. On December 28, 2021, the CAC issued the measures for Cybersecurity Review, or the Cybersecurity Review Measures 2021, which required that, among others, network platform operators holding over one million users’ personal information shall apply with the cybersecurity Review Office for a cybersecurity review before any listing in a foreign country. On November 14, 2021, the CAC released the Regulations on the Network Data Security, or the Draft Regulations, for public comments, which stipulates, among others, that a prior cybersecurity review is required for listing abroad of data processors which process over one million users’ personal information, and the listing of data processors in Hong Kong which affects or may affect national security. Since the Draft Regulations are in the process of being formulated and the Opinions and the Cybersecurity Review Measures 2021 remain unclear on how it will be interpreted, amended and implemented by the relevant PRC governmental authorities, it remains uncertain how PRC governmental authorities will regulate overseas listing in general and whether we are required to obtain any specific regulatory approvals from the CSRC, CAC or any other PRC governmental authorities for our offshore offerings. If the CSRC, CAC or other regulatory agencies later promulgate new rules or explanations requiring that we obtain their approvals for our future offshore offerings, we may be unable to obtain such approvals in a timely manner, or at all, and such approvals may be rescinded even if obtained. Any such circumstance could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless. In addition, implementation of industry-wide regulations directly targeting our operations could cause the value of our securities to significantly decline. Therefore, investors of our company and our business face potential uncertainty from actions taken by the PRC government affecting our business.
 
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Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms and other Anti-monopoly laws and regulations may result in governmental investigations or enforcement actions, litigation or claims against us and could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In recent years, PRC Anti-monopoly enforcement agencies have strengthened enforcement under the PRC Anti-monopoly Law. In March 2018, the SAMR was formed as a new governmental agency to take over, among other things, the anti-monopoly enforcement functions from the relevant departments under the MOFCOM, the NDRC and the SAIC (the predecessor of the SAMR), respectively. Since its inception, the SAMR has continued to strengthen anti-monopoly enforcement. In December 2018, the SAMR issued the Notice on Anti-monopoly Enforcement Authorization, which grants authorities to its province-level branches to conduct anti-monopoly enforcement within their respective jurisdictions. In November 2021, the National Anti-monopoly Bureau was inaugurated by the State Council, which aims to further implement the fair competition policies, and strengthen anti-monopoly supervision in the PRC, especially to strengthen oversight and law enforcement in areas involving platform economy, innovation, science and technology, information security and people’s livelihood.
The PRC anti-monopoly regulators may also issue implementation rules or guidelines from time to time to reinforce their regulation on certain industrial sectors. In February 2021, the Anti-monopoly Committee of the State Council published the Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms. This guideline prohibits monopolistic conduct such as entering into monopoly agreements, abusing market dominance and concentration of undertakings that may have the effect to eliminate or restrict competition in the field of platform economy. More specifically, the Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms outlines certain practices that may, if without justifiable reasons, constitute abuse of a dominant position, including without limitation, discriminating customers in terms of pricing and other transactional conditions using big data and analytics, coercing counterparties into exclusivity arrangements, using technology means to block competitors’ interface, using bundle services to sell services or products, and compulsory collection of users’ unnecessary data. The Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms further expressly states that concentration involving VIE will also be subject to antitrust filing requirements, and therefore will also fall within the scope of the antitrust review. In addition, Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms reinforces antitrust merger review for internet platform related transactions to safeguard market competition. Since the Anti-monopoly Guidelines for Internet Platforms is relatively new and may be subject to interpretation by the regulators in the process of implementing such guidelines, we cannot assure you that our business operations will comply with such regulation in all respects, and any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with such regulation may result in governmental investigations, fines and/or other sanctions on us. Furthermore, on October 23, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued a discussion draft of the amended Anti-monopoly Law, which proposes to increase the fines for illegal concentration of business operators to no more than ten percent of its last year’s sales revenue if the concentration of business operator has or may have an effect of excluding or limiting competitions; or a fine of up to RMB5 million if the concentration of business operator does not have an effect of excluding or limiting competition. The draft also proposes that the relevant authority shall investigate a transaction where there is any evidence that the concentration has or may have the effect of eliminating or restricting competitions, even if such concentration does not reach the filing threshold. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Regulation.”
 
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We may be involved in investigations, inquiries, claims, complaints or other administrative requirements in relation to anti-monopoly laws and regulations in the PRC from time to time. In the case of our failure or perceived failure to comply with these laws and regulations and new legislations or guidelines to be promulgated from time to time, governmental agencies and regulators may, among other things, prohibit or rescind our acquisitions, divestitures, or combinations, impose significant fines or penalties, require divestiture of certain of our assets, or impose other restrictions that limit or require us to modify our operations. Any anti-monopoly related lawsuit, regulatory investigations or administrative proceedings initiated against us could also result in our being subject to regulatory actions and constraints on our investments and acquisitions, which could include forced termination of any agreements or transactions, required divestitures, and business practices or significant fines.
Moreover, any incompliance or associated inquiries, investigations and other governmental actions may divert significant management time and attention and our financial resources, bring negative publicity, subject us to liabilities or administrative penalties, and materially and adversely affect our financial conditions, results of operations, and business prospects.
Under the PRC enterprise income tax law, we may be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise,” which could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our shareholders and ADS holders and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
Under the PRC enterprise income tax law that became effective on January 1, 2008 and last amended on December 29, 2018, an enterprise established outside the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC is considered a “resident enterprise” for PRC enterprise income tax purposes and is generally subject to a uniform 25% enterprise income tax rate on its worldwide income. On April 22, 2009, the State Taxation Administration, or the SAT, issued the Circular Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Overseas Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprise on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or SAT Circular 82, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a
PRC-controlled
enterprise that is incorporated offshore is located in China. Further to SAT Circular 82, on August 3, 2011, the SAT issued the Administrative Measures of Enterprise Income Tax of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Resident Enterprises (Trial), or SAT Bulletin 45, which became effective on September 1, 2011, to provide more guidance on the implementation of SAT Circular 82.
According to SAT Circular 82, an offshore incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be considered a PRC tax resident enterprise by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its worldwide income only if all of the following conditions are met: (a) the senior management and core management departments in charge of its daily operations function have their presence mainly in the PRC; (b) its financial and human resources decisions are subject to determination or approval by persons or bodies in the PRC; (c) its major assets, accounting books, company seals, and minutes and files of its board and shareholders’ meetings are located or kept in the PRC; and (d) not less than half of the enterprise’s directors or senior management with voting rights habitually reside in the PRC. SAT Bulletin 45 provides further rules on residence status determination, post-determination administration as well as competent tax authorities procedures.
Although SAT Circular 82 and SAT Bulletin 45 apply only to offshore incorporated enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise group and not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners, Fangda Partners, our legal counsel as to PRC law, has advised us that the determination criteria set forth therein may reflect SAT’s general position on how the term “de facto management body” could be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises, individuals or foreigners.
We do not meet all of the conditions set forth in SAT Circular 82. Therefore, we believe that we should not be treated as a “resident enterprise” for PRC tax purposes even if the standards for “de facto management body” prescribed in the SAT Circular 82 applied to us. For example, our minutes and files of the resolutions of our board of directors and the resolutions of our shareholders are maintained outside the PRC.
 
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However, it is possible that the PRC tax authorities may take a different view. Fangda Partners, our legal counsel as to PRC law, has advised us that if the PRC tax authorities determine that our Cayman Islands holding company or any British Virgin Islands or Hong Kong subsidiary is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes, its world-wide income could be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 25%, which could reduce our net income. In addition, we will also be subject to PRC enterprise income tax reporting obligations. Although dividends paid by one PRC tax resident to another PRC tax resident should qualify as
“tax-exempt
income” under the enterprise income tax law, we cannot assure you that dividends paid by our PRC subsidiaries to us or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries will not be subject to a 10% withholding tax if we or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries were treated as a PRC resident enterprise, as the PRC foreign exchange control authorities, which enforce the withholding tax on dividends, and the PRC tax authorities have not yet issued guidance with respect to the processing of outbound remittances to entities that are treated as resident enterprises for PRC enterprise income tax purposes.
If we are treated as a resident enterprise,
non-PRC
resident ADS holders and shareholders may also be subject to PRC withholding tax on dividends paid by us and PRC tax on gains realized on the sale or other disposition of ADSs or ordinary shares, if such income is sourced from within the PRC. The tax would be imposed at the rate of 10% in the case of
non-PRC
resident enterprise ADS holders and shareholders and 20% in the case of
non-PRC
resident individual ADS holders and shareholders. In the case of dividends, we would be required to withhold the tax at source. Although our holding company is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, it remains unclear whether dividends received and gains realized by our
non-PRC
resident ADS holders and shareholders will be regarded as income from sources with the PRC if we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise. Any PRC tax liability may be reduced under applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements, but it is unclear whether our
non-PRC
ADS holders and shareholders would be able to obtain the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise. Any such PRC tax liability will reduce the returns on your investment in our ADSs.
There are uncertainties with respect to indirect transfers of PRC taxable properties.
We face uncertainties on the reporting and consequences on private equity financing transactions, private share transfers and share exchange involving the transfer of shares in our company by
non-resident
investors. According to the Notice on Several Issues Concerning Enterprise Income Tax for Indirect Share Transfer by
Non-PRC
Resident Enterprises, issued by the State Taxation Administration on February 3, 2015, or SAT Circular 7, an “indirect transfer” of assets of a PRC resident enterprise, including a transfer of equity interests in a
non-PRC
holding company of a PRC resident enterprise, by
non-PRC
resident enterprises may be
re-characterized
and treated as a direct transfer of PRC taxable properties, if such transaction lacks reasonable commercial purpose and was undertaken for the purpose of reducing, avoiding or deferring PRC enterprise income tax. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, and tax filing or withholding obligations may be triggered, depending on the nature of the PRC taxable properties being transferred. According to SAT Circular 7, “PRC taxable properties” include assets of a PRC establishment or place of business, real properties in the PRC, and equity investments in PRC resident enterprises, in respect of which gains from their transfer by a direct holder, being a
non-PRC
resident enterprise, would be subject to PRC enterprise income taxes. When determining if there is a “reasonable commercial purpose” of the transaction arrangement, factors to be taken into consideration include: whether the main value of the equity interest of the relevant offshore enterprise derives from PRC taxable properties; whether the assets of the relevant offshore enterprise mainly consists of direct or indirect investment in China or if its income mainly derives from China; whether the offshore enterprise and its subsidiaries directly or indirectly holding PRC taxable properties have a real commercial nature which is evidenced by their actual function and risk exposure; the duration of existence of the business model and organizational structure; the replicability of the transaction by direct transfer of PRC taxable properties; and the tax situation of such indirect transfer outside China and its applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements. In respect of an indirect offshore transfer of assets of a PRC establishment or place of business of a foreign enterprise, the resulting gain is to be included with the annual enterprise filing of the PRC establishment or place of business being transferred, and would consequently be subject to PRC enterprise income tax at a rate of 25%. Where the underlying transfer relates to PRC real properties or to equity investments in a PRC resident enterprise, which is not related to a PRC establishment or place of business of a
non-resident
enterprise, a PRC enterprise income tax at 10% would apply, subject to available preferential tax treatment under applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements, and the party who is obligated to make the transfer payments has the withholding obligation. Where the payer fails to withhold any or sufficient tax, the transferor shall declare and pay such tax to the competent tax authority by itself within the statutory time limit. Currently, SAT Circular 7 does not apply to the sale of shares or ADSs by investors through a public stock exchange where such shares or ADSs were acquired in a transaction on a public stock exchange.
 
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We cannot assure you that the PRC tax authorities will not, at their discretion, adjust any capital gains and impose tax return filing and withholding or tax payment obligations and associated penalties with respect to any internal restructuring, and our PRC subsidiaries may be requested to assist in the filing. Any PRC tax imposed on a transfer of our shares not through a public stock exchange, or any adjustment of such gains would cause us to incur additional costs and may have a negative impact on the value of your investment in our company.
Implementation of the labor laws and regulations in China may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Pursuant to the Labor Contract Law of PRC that took effect in January 2008, its implementation rules that took effect in September 2008 and its amendment that took effect in July 2013, employers are subject to stricter requirements in terms of signing labor contracts, minimum wages, paying remuneration, determining the term of employees’ probation and unilaterally terminating labor contracts. Due to lack of detailed interpretative rules and uniform implementation practices and broad discretion of the local competent authorities, it is uncertain as to how the labor contract law and its implementation rules will affect our current employment policies and practices. Our employment policies and practices may violate the labor contract law or its implementation rules, and we may thus be subject to related penalties, fines or legal fees. Compliance with the labor contract law and its implementation rules may increase our operating expenses, in particular our personnel expenses. In the event that we decide to terminate some of our employees or otherwise change our employment or labor practices, the labor contract law and its implementation rules may also limit our ability to effect those changes in a desirable or cost-effective manner, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations. On October 28, 2010, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the PRC Social Insurance Law, or the Social Insurance Law, which became effective on July 1, 2011 and was last amended in December 2018. According to the Social Insurance Law, employees must participate in pension insurance, work-related injury insurance, medical insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance and the employers must, together with their employees or separately, pay the social insurance premiums for such employees.
We expect our labor costs to increase due to the implementation of these new laws and regulations. As the interpretation and implementation of these new laws and regulations are still evolving, we cannot assure you that our employment practice will at all times be deemed in full compliance with labor-related laws and regulations in China, which may subject us to labor disputes or government investigations. If we are deemed to have violated relevant labor laws and regulations, we could be required to provide additional compensation to our employees and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
We have accrued in the financial statements but not made full contributions to the social insurance plans and the housing provident fund for employees as required by the relevant PRC laws and regulations. As of the date of this annual report, we are not aware of any notice from regulatory authorities or any claim or request from these employees in this regard.
Further, labor disputes, work stoppages or slowdowns at our company or any of our third-party service providers could significantly disrupt our daily operation or our expansion plans and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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China’s M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for certain 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 Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, and other recently adopted 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. For example, the M&A Rules require that MOFCOM be notified in advance of any
change-of-control
transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise, if (i) any important industry is concerned, (ii) such transaction involves factors that impact or may impact national economic security, or (iii) such transaction will lead to a change in control of a domestic enterprise which holds a famous trademark or PRC time-honored brand. Moreover, the PRC Anti-Monopoly Law promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress effective 2008 requires that transactions which are deemed concentrations and involve parties with specified turnover thresholds (i.e., during the previous fiscal year, (i) the total global turnover of all operators participating in the transaction exceeds RMB10 billion and at least two of these operators each had a turnover of more than RMB400 million within China, or (ii) the total turnover within China of all the operators participating in the concentration exceeded RMB2 billion, and at least two of these operators each had a turnover of more than RMB400 million within China) must be cleared by the anti-monopoly enforcement authority before they can be completed. In addition, in 2011, the General Office of the State Council promulgated a Notice on Establishing the Security Review System for Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, also known as Circular 6, which officially established a security review system for mergers and acquisitions of domestic enterprises by foreign investors. Further, MOFCOM promulgated the Regulations on Implementation of Security Review System for the Merger and Acquisition of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, effective 2011, to implement Circular 6. Under Circular 6, a security review is required for mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors having “national defense and security” concerns and mergers and acquisitions by which foreign investors may acquire the “de facto control” of domestic enterprises with “national security” concerns. Under the foregoing MOFCOM regulations, MOFCOM will focus on the substance and actual impact of the transaction when deciding whether a specific merger or acquisition is subject to security review. If MOFCOM decides that a specific merger or acquisition is subject to a security review, it will submit it to the Inter- Ministerial Panel, an authority established under Circular 6 led by the National Development and Reform Commission, and MOFCOM under the leadership of the State Council, to carry out security review. The regulations prohibit foreign investors from bypassing the security review by structuring transactions through trusts, indirect investments, leases, loans, control through contractual arrangements or offshore transactions. There is no explicit provision or official interpretation stating that the merging or acquisition of a company engaged in the internet content business requires security review, and there is no requirement that acquisitions completed prior to the promulgation of the Security Review Circular are subject to MOFCOM review.
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 MOFCOM or its local counterparts may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions. We believe that it is unlikely that our business would be deemed to be in an industry that raises “national defense and security” or “national security” concerns. However, MOFCOM or other government agencies may publish explanations in the future determining that our business is in an industry subject to the security review, in which case our future acquisitions in China, including those by way of entering into contractual control arrangements with target entities, may be closely scrutinized or prohibited.
PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us or otherwise expose us to liability and penalties under PRC law.
The SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Relating to Domestic Resident’s Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, in July 2014 that requires PRC residents or entities to register with SAFE or its local branch in connection with their establishment or control of an offshore entity established for the purpose of overseas investment or financing. In addition, such PRC residents or entities must update their SAFE registrations when the offshore special purpose vehicle undergoes material events relating to any change of basic information (including change of such PRC citizens or residents, name and operation term), increases or decreases in investment amount, transfers or exchanges of shares, or mergers or divisions. According to the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Policies for the Foreign Exchange Administration of Direct Investment released on February 13, 2015 by the SAFE, local banks will examine and handle foreign exchange registration for overseas direct investment, including the initial foreign exchange registration and amendment registration, under SAFE Circular 37 from June 1, 2015.
 
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If our shareholders who are PRC residents or entities do not complete their registration with the local SAFE branches, our PRC subsidiaries may be prohibited from distributing their profits and proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation to us, and we may be restricted in our ability to contribute additional capital to our PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the SAFE registration described above could result in liability under PRC laws for evasion of applicable foreign exchange restrictions. We have requested PRC residents who, to our knowledge, hold direct or indirect interest in us to make the necessary applications, filings and amendments as required under SAFE regulations. However, we may not at all times be fully aware or informed of the identities of all our shareholders or beneficial owners that are required to make such registrations, and we cannot compel our beneficial owners to comply with SAFE registration requirements. As a result, we cannot assure you that all of our shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC residents or entities have complied with, and will in the future make or obtain any applicable registrations or approvals required by, SAFE regulations. Failure by such shareholders or beneficial owners to comply with SAFE regulations, or failure by us to amend the foreign exchange registrations of our PRC subsidiaries, could subject us to fines or legal sanctions, restrict our overseas or cross-border investment activities, limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to make distributions or pay dividends or affect our ownership structure, which could adversely affect our business and prospects.
PRC regulation of direct investment and loans by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or limit us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering to make additional capital contributions or loans to our PRC subsidiaries.
We are an offshore holding company conducting our operations in China through our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and their subsidiaries. We may make loans to our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and their subsidiaries, or we may make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries.
Any capital contributions or loans that we, as an offshore entity, make to our PRC subsidiaries, including from the proceeds of our initial public offering, are subject to PRC regulations. For example, none of our loans to a PRC subsidiary can exceed the difference between its total amount of investment and its registered capital approved under relevant PRC laws, or certain amount calculated based on elements including capital or net assets and the cross-border financing leverage ratio and the loans must be registered with the local branch of SAFE and the competent development and reform commission in case of any debts of more than one year. Our capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries must be approved by or filed with the MOFCOM or its local counterpart.
On March 30, 2015, SAFE issued the Circular on the Reforming of the Management Method of the Settlement of Foreign Currency Capital of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 19, which took effect on June 1, 2015. On October 23, 2019, SAFE issued the Circular of Further Facilitating Cross-border Trade and Investment, or SAFE Circular 28, which took effect on October 23, 2019. Under SAFE Circular 19 and Circular 28, a foreign-invested enterprise, within the scope of business, may choose to convert its registered capital from foreign currency to RMB on a discretionary basis, and the RMB capital so converted can be used for equity investments within PRC, provided that certain requirements and procedures shall be complied with, which will be regarded as the reinvestment of foreign- invested enterprise. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations Related to Foreign Exchange.”
In light of the various requirements imposed by PRC regulations on loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the necessary registration or obtain the necessary approval on a timely basis, or at all. If we fail to complete the necessary registration or obtain the necessary approval, our ability to make loans or equity contributions to our PRC subsidiaries may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our PRC subsidiaries’ liquidity and its ability to fund its working capital and expansion projects and meet its obligations and commitments.
Our PRC subsidiaries and PRC VIEs are subject to restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements.
We are a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, our subsidiaries and the VIEs (including their subsidiaries) located in the PRC have not paid dividends. However, the payment of dividends by our PRC subsidiaries and PRC VIEs is an important source of income for us to meet our financing need, and such payment is and may be subject to various restrictions. Current PRC regulations permit our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us only out of their accumulated
after-tax
profits upon satisfaction of relevant statutory condition and procedures, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, each of our PRC subsidiaries is required to set aside at least 10% of its accumulated profits each year, if any, to fund certain surplus or reserve funds until the total amount set aside reaches 50% of its registered capital. As of December 31, 2021, we had not made appropriations to statutory surplus fund or general reserve fund as our subsidiaries and the VIEs (including their subsidiaries) reported accumulated loss. Furthermore, if our PRC subsidiaries, the VIEs and their subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements. In addition, the EIT Law, and its implementation rules provide that withholding tax rate of 10% will be applicable to dividends payable by Chinese companies to
non-PRC-resident
enterprises unless otherwise exempted or reduced according to treaties or arrangements between the PRC central government and governments of other countries or regions where the
non-PRC-resident
enterprises are incorporated.
 
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Our ADSs will be delisted and prohibited from trading in the
over-the-counter
market under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, if the PCAOB continues to be unable to inspect or fully investigate auditors located in China. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued the HFCAA Determination Report, according to which our auditor is subject to the determinations that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely. Under the current law, delisting and prohibition from
over-the-counter
trading in the U.S. would take place in 2024. If this happens there is no certainty that we will be able to list our ADS or shares on a
non-U.S.
exchange or that a market for our shares will develop outside of the U.S. The delisting of our ADSs, or the threat of their being delisted, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment.
Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), or the PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance with the applicable professional standards. Since our auditor is located in China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditor is not currently inspected by the PCAOB.
This lack of the PCAOB inspections in China prevents the PCAOB from fully evaluating audits and quality control procedures of our independent registered public accounting firm. As a result, we and investors in our ordinary shares are deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our independent registered public accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to the PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our stock to lose confidence in our audit procedures and reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
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, the HFCAA has been signed into law on December 18, 2020. The HFCAA states if the SEC determines that we have filed audit reports issued by a registered public accounting firm that has not been subject to inspection for the PCAOB for three consecutive years beginning in 2021, the SEC shall prohibit our shares or ADS from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over-the counter trading market in the U.S.
On September 22, 2021, the PCAOB adopted Rule 6100 to establish a framework for making determinations under the HFCAA that whether the PCAOB 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 (“PCAOB Rule 6100”). PCAOB Rule 6100 establishes the manner of the PCAOB’s determinations; the factors the PCAOB will evaluate and the documents and information the PCAOB will consider when assessing whether a determination is warranted; the form, public availability, effective date and duration of such determinations; and the process by which the PCAOB will reaffirm, modify or vacate any such determinations. The SEC approved PCAOB Rule 6100 on November 5, 2021.
 
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On December 2, 2021, the SEC adopted final amendments to its rules implementing the HFCAA (the “Final Amendments”). The Final Amendments clarify how the requirements apply to variable interest entities. Second, the Final Amendments include requirements to disclose information, including the auditor name and location, the percentage of shares of the issuer owned by governmental entities, whether governmental entities in the applicable foreign jurisdiction with respect to the auditor has a controlling financial interest with respect to the issuer, the name of each official of the Chinese Communist Party who is a member of the board of the issuer, and whether the articles of incorporation of the issuer contains any charter of the Chinese Communist Party. The Final Amendments also establish procedures the SEC will follow in identifying issuers and prohibiting trading by certain issuers under the HFCAA.
On December 16, 2021, PCAOB issued the HFCAA Determination Report, according to which our auditor is subject to the determinations. In March 2022, the SEC issued “Conclusive list of issuers identified under the HFCAA” indicating that certain companies are now formally subject to the delisting provisions if they remain on the list for three consecutive years. We anticipate being added to the list shortly after the filing of this annual report on Form
20-F.
Accordingly, the SEC shall prohibit our shares or ADS from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over-the-counter trading market in the U.S. in 2024. This date would be accelerated to 2023, if the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act becomes law.
This legislation or other efforts to increase U.S. regulatory access to audit information could cause investor uncertainty for affected issuers, including us, and the market price of the ADSs could be adversely affected. Additionally, whether the PCAOB will be able to conduct inspections of our auditors before the issuance of our financial statements on Form
20-F
for the year ended December 31, 2023, which is due by April 30, 2024, or at all, is subject to substantial uncertainty and depends on factors out of our and our auditor’s control. If our auditor is unable to be inspected in time, we will be delisted from the Nasdaq and our ADSs will not be permitted for trading
“over-the-counter”
either. Such a delisting would substantially impair your ability to sell or purchase our ADSs when you wish to do so, and the risk and uncertainty associated with delisting would have a negative impact on the price of our ADSs. Also, such a delisting would significantly affect our ability to raise capital on terms acceptable to us, or at all, which would have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and prospects.
The potential enactment of the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act would decrease the number of
non-inspection
years from three years to two, thus reducing the time period before our ADSs will be prohibited from
over-the-counter
trading or delisted. If this bill were enacted, our ADS could be delisted from the exchange and prohibited from
over-the-counter
trading in the U.S. in 2023.
On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed a bill known as the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, to amend Section 104(i) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (15 U.S.C. 7214(i)) 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 two consecutive years, instead of three consecutive years as currently enacted in the HFCAA. On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America Competes Act of 2022 which includes the exact same amendments as the bill passed by the Senate. The America Competes Act however includes broader range of legislation not related to the HFCAA in response to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed by the Senate in 2021. The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will need to agree on amendments to these respective bills to align the legislation and pass their amended bills before the President can sign into law. It is unclear when the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will resolve the differences in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and the America Competes Act of 2022 bills currently passed, or when the U.S. President will sign on the bill to make the amendment into law, or at all. In the case that the bill becomes the law, it could reduce the time period before our ADSs will be delisted from the exchange and prohibited from
over-the-counter
trading in the U.S. from 2024 to 2023.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
If we fail to retain our existing users, to keep them engaged, to further grow our user base or to increase paying ratio, our business, operation, profitability and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
The size of our user base and the level of our user engagement are critical to our success. We generate substantially all of our net revenues from virtual gift sales for our audio entertainment. Therefore, our success in monetization primarily depends on our ability to maintain and increase the size of our user base and user engagement level. If our user base decreases or stops growing, our users become less active or interested, or the quality and quantity of our paying user base deteriorate, it is probable that they would spend less on our platforms or access our platforms less often in general. As a result, our business, financial condition and results of operations will be materially and adversely impacted.
 
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Maintaining and improving the current size of user base and level of user engagement are critical to our continued success. To do so, we would have to ensure, among other things, that we adequately and timely respond to changes in user preferences, attract and retain popular hosts, continue to provide user-friendly experience and improve user experience, and curate our hosts to offer new and high-quality features and content that attract new users while keep the existing users interested. There is no guarantee that we could meet all of these goals. A number of factors could negatively affect user retention, growth and engagement, including if:
 
   
we fail to provide sufficient, high-quality user-generated audio content that keep our users interested and draw them to our platforms;
 
   
we are unable to provide user-friendly experience to our hosts or users or continue innovating our products to improve user experience;
 
   
we fail to identify key changes in user preferences in a timely manner or effectively respond to the changing user preferences;
 
   
we fail to keep pace with changes in technologies;
 
   
technical or other problems prevent us from delivering our services in a rapid and reliable manner or otherwise adversely affect the user experience;
 
   
we fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations, including those related to illegal or inappropriate content;
 
   
our hosts fail to keep our users engaged with our services or platforms;
 
   
we suffer from negative publicity, fail to maintain our brand or if our reputation is damaged;
 
   
we fail to address user concerns related to privacy and communication, safety, security or other factors; and
 
   
there are adverse changes in our services that are mandated by, or that we elect to make to address, legislation, regulations, government mandates or app store policies.
The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
The PRC government has closely regulated the online audio and entertainment platforms in the past and may continue to tighten the regulation and control on those platforms. In accordance with the Notice on Further Regulating the Order of Online Audio-Visual Program Dissemination, which was issued by State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and became effective on March 16, 2018, online program service providers are forbidden to illegally seize, edit and adapt audio-visual programs, and online program service providers shall enhance management of certain audio-visual programs and naming and sponsorship of programs on their platforms. The provincial press, publication, radio and television administrative authorities shall supervise the local audio-visual program websites to further improve the program content monitoring system and ensure the online program service providers to fully implement the relevant requirements.
In August 2018, the National Office of Anti-Pornography and Illegal Publication, or the NOAPIP, the MIIT, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the National Radio and Television Administration and the Cyberspace Administration of China jointly issued the Notice on Strengthen the Management of Live Streaming Service, which required a real-name registration system for users to be put in place by live streaming service providers. Under this real-name registration system, we validate the identity information of the registered users primarily based on their mobile numbers. Currently, we are not required to obtain information such as legal names, citizen identification cards or other personal information during the registration process to validate the identify information of our users who are not a host. However, the PRC government may further tighten the real- name registration requirements or require us to implement a more thorough compulsory real-name registration system for all users on our platforms in the future. If we were required to implement a more rigid real-name registration system for users on our platforms, potential users may be deterred from registering with our platforms, which may in turn negatively affect the growth of our user base and prospect. Furthermore, on June 1, 2021, the Law of the PRC on the Protection of Minors (2020 Revision) took effect, which provides that, among others, live streaming service providers are not allowed to provide minors under age 16 with an online live streaming host account registration service, and must obtain the consent from parents or other guardians and verify the identity of the minors before allowing minors aged 16 or above to register live streaming host accounts.
 
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We also do not have full control over the behaviors of our hosts and users and the content generated by them, and therefore cannot assure you that our platforms would not be misused by others to engage in illegal or inappropriate activities. Due to the uncertainty of the evolving regulatory regime in the PRC, we may be subject to tightened implementation of applicable regulations in the future and additional restrictive measures may be imposed upon our platforms. Such evolving changes in regulatory regime may adversely affect our results of operations. Accordingly, we may be required to change our business strategies, substantially change the functions of our products, impose restrictions on user behaviors and content creation, or adjust our monetization methods. Also, we cannot assure you that our new products or features will meet the requirements of governmental authorities in China in a timely manner, or at all.
We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.
Certain hosts are able to attract a large follower base. Hosts are rewarded usually for their high-quality content, which are the primary contributors to user stickiness on our platforms and are hard to be replicated by other hosts. Certain of our top hosts received a large portion of their virtual gifts from a limited number of paying users.
Although we have signed contracts with some of our hosts or guilds that contain
non-compete
clauses, popular hosts may still choose to depart us when their contract period ends, and their departure may cause a corresponding decline in our user base. Sometimes, our hosts may leave us to join a competing platform, whereas hosts from a competing platform may also choose to join us, in both of which scenarios legal and commercial dispute may arise. These disputes may distract management and impose additional costs on us. Departures of our hosts, particularly popular hosts, will have a negative impact on our user retention and reputation which may be material to our operations. To retain popular hosts, we must devise better compensation schemes, improve our monetization capabilities and help the popular hosts reach a wider audience. Although we strive to improve ourselves in these respects, we cannot guarantee that our hosts will not leave us even if we do our best to retain them. We launched a short-term incentive program in the third quarter of 2019 to provide additional shared revenue to the hosts to encourage content creation, enhance user spending and attract more hosts and users to our new podcasts and interactive audio products and features. Such program has been gradually scaled down since February 2020.
We may continue to launch such incentive programs at our discretion in the future. However, we cannot assure you that such incentive program will achieve the anticipated effect, or be effective at all. Our competitors may adopt similar incentive programs, and the incentive activities we provide to hosts may become less attractive, thereby impairing the effectiveness of our incentive program. Even if we continue to implement such incentive activities in the future, there is no guarantee that we will be able to attract or retain hosts through these activities. We may terminate such short-term incentive activities in the future, which may discourage hosts from engaging with users on our platforms and therefore have an adverse impact on our results of operations. In the event we
re-launch
such incentive program in the future, there will be no assurance that it will achieve the anticipated effect to attract talents and enhance user spending.
Meanwhile, we strive to discover and cultivate promising hosts. We cannot guarantee that the performance metrics and technology we use to track promising hosts will enable us to identify future popular hosts. We have developed AI technologies to identify the audio content that may become a hit and discover those hosts with unique and high-quality content. Then we train those hosts with necessary skillsets and, sometimes via guilds, promote those hosts on our platforms. Some of the hosts we identify as promising may turn out to be underperforming, and we may also fail to spot truly promising hosts in early stages of their career. In addition to a waste of resources, either one of these scenarios could prevent us from cultivating top hosts, which could weaken our core competitive strength against competing platforms and thus cause an outflow of users to those platforms.
 
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Our content monitoring system may not be effective in preventing misconduct by our platforms’ users and misuse of our platforms and such misconduct or misuse may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our platforms allow hosts to publish and users to listen to podcasts, participate in audio entertainment activities and engage in interactions with each other. Our audio entertainment provides a virtual space for our users and hosts to discuss, share, comment and express themselves. Because we do not have timely or sufficient control over the activities conducted by our hosts and users and the content generated by them, our platforms may be misused by others to engage in illegal or inappropriate activities, or other activities that require permits, license or approval from the governmental authorities. If any illegal or unauthorized content is found on or linked to our platforms, we as the service provider may be held liable for infringement of the rights of our hosts or users or violation of relevant PRC laws and regulations. The government may impose other legal sanctions against us, including, in serious cases, suspending or revoking the licenses needed to operate our platforms.
We have deployed
AI-based
technologies supplemented by a team primarily consisting of staff outsourced from third parties, to monitor content for any illegal, fraudulent or inappropriate content or activities on our platforms. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview— Content Monitoring System.” If our AI system fails to interpret true and improper meaning of certain content, or if our monitoring team draws incorrect decision as to legality of certain content, illegal or unauthorized content may become accessible to our users via our platforms and expose us to various risks which may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. Despite our efforts to monitor content on our platforms and the actions of the hosts and users, our platforms were previously subject to restrictive measures taken by the government authority in the past for insufficient monitoring system. As a result of such incidents, we have adopted a more stringent content monitoring system to meet the tightened regulatory standards and to screen and remove all inappropriate content stored on our platforms. See “—The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.” However, we cannot assure you that our content monitoring system is sufficient to detect all improper or illegal content or activities in the future. We can neither assure you that we will not be subject to fines and other penalties in the future for improper or illegal content or activities on our platforms.
We may also face tortious liabilities to third party for infringement of their rights. See “—We may be liable for intellectual property infringement relating to intellectual properties of third parties, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects” and “—We may be held liable for information or content displayed on, retrieved from or linked to our platforms, if such content is deemed to violate any PRC laws or regulations, or for improper or fraudulent activities conducted on our platforms, and PRC authorities may impose legal sanctions on us and our reputation may be damaged.”
We may fail to offer attractive audio content on our platforms.
In response to users’ growing interests, we have been devoted to expanding and diversifying our content offerings. If we fail to continue to expand and diversify our audio content offerings, identify trending and popular genres, or maintain the quality of our content, we may experience decreased user traffic and engagement, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, we largely rely on our hosts to create high-quality audio content as almost all of our audio content offerings are generated by users. We have in place a revenue sharing mechanism to encourage hosts to supply content that are attractive to our users. However, we may not be able to provide the most competitive compensation to hosts under this mechanism. We launched a short-term incentive program in the third quarter of 2019 to provide additional shared revenue to the hosts to encourage content creation, enhance user spending and attract more hosts and users to our new podcasts and interactive audio products and features, while it was gradually scaled down such program since February 2020.
We cannot guarantee you that the hosts attracted to our platforms due to the short-term incentive program will remain active after we terminate such program. For details, please refer to “—We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.” If we fail to observe the latest trends and timely guide hosts and guilds accordingly, or fail to attract or maintain a good relationship with hosts who are capable of creating content based on popular genres, or if hosts fail to produce popular content, our users number may decline and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
 
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We have incurred net losses in the past, and we may continue to incur losses in the future.
In 2019, 2020 and 2021, we incurred a net loss of RMB133.0 million, RMB82.2 million and RMB127.3 million (US$20.0 million), respectively. Our net loss has decreased in 2020 as compared to 2019 and increased in 2021 as compared to 2020. We may continue to be unprofitable or incur further net losses for the foreseeable future. The time it will take for us to eventually achieve profitability hinges on our ability to grow rapidly in a cost-effective way, and we may not be able to grow this way successfully.
Our ability to sustain profitability is affected by various external factors, many of which are beyond our control, such as the continual development of online audio and entertainment in China. We cannot assure you that we will be able to improve profitability in the future.
We may again incur losses in the near future due to our continued investment in services, products, technologies, research and development and our continued sales and marketing initiatives. Changes in the macroeconomic and regulatory environment or competitive dynamics and our inability to respond to these changes in a timely and effective manner may also impact our profitability. Accordingly, we cannot assure you that our company will turn profitable in the short term.
Our limited operating history with a relatively new business model in a relatively new market could make it difficult to evaluate our business and growth prospects.
Our LIZHI App commenced operations in 2013 and we have experienced a rapid growth in the number of total mobile MAUs, paying users and net revenue since 2017. However, our growth in the recent years may not be indicative of our future performance, as our operating results represent a limited size of samples of operating results and may be hard to be repeated in the future.
Many of the elements of our business are unique and evolving. The markets for online audio platforms are relatively new and rapidly developing and are subject to significant challenges, especially in terms of maintaining a stable paying user base and attracting new paying users, as well as complying with changes in regulatory requirements on online audio content and social interactions. There is no guarantee that we may succeed in adapting to such changes in the markets.
As the online audio industry in China is relatively young, there are few proven methods of projecting user demand or available industry standards on which we can rely. Some of our current monetization methods are relatively recent innovations of the online audio industry and their long-term sustainability have not been tested. Meanwhile, we have explored and will continuously explore new monetization methods and client retention strategies, which may or may not be a success. Due to the initial success of the interactive audio products, we plan to continue to strengthen and expand our interactive audio product offerings. Since December 2020, we collaborated with a number of automobile manufacturers in China including XPeng Motors, Li Auto, and WM Motor, as well as various Internet of Vehicles platforms in China, including BYD DiLink, Tencent WeScenario, Huawei Mobile Services for Car and Huawei HarmonyOS. Currently, our
in-car
audio product together with our extensive audio content are available on certain models of such automobile companies via their
in-car
audio systems. In October 2020, we launched TIYA App in the United States, a voice-based social networking app, and are in the process of developing other social networking products and features. In January 2021, we also launched the LIZHI Podcast app, a new podcast app to provide high-quality curated podcast content drawn from our extensive content library built over the years as well as new podcasts to be provided by selected content creators. Currently, users can access our content library via LIZHI App and LIZHI Podcast app installed on their mobile devices as well as via our
in-car
audio products. We cannot assure you that our efforts will continue to achieve satisfactory results. Neither could we assure you that our ongoing and future attempts to innovate our communities and monetize our users will always be successful, profitable or accepted, and therefore the income potential of our business is difficult to gauge. In addition, any new and experimental products that we may develop and launch in the future may not be well received by our targeted users and may be affected by adverse industry trends such as evolving development, interpretation and implementation of applicable laws and regulations. See “— The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.”
 
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Our growth prospects should be considered in light of the risks and uncertainties that fast-growing early-stage companies with limited operating history in an evolving industry may encounter, including, among others, risks and uncertainties regarding our ability to:
 
   
develop new monetization methods;
 
   
provide new content that is appealing to our users;
 
   
adapt to and comply with the evolving regulatory framework on online audio and entertainment;
 
   
compete with other innovative forms of entertainment for our users’ time;
 
   
maintain stable relationships with popular hosts;
 
   
expand to new geographic markets with high growth potential; and
 
   
cope with the
COVID-19
and its impact on our business, operation and financial condition.
Addressing these risks and uncertainties will require significant capital expenditures and allocation of valuable management and employee resources. For risks related to the
COVID-19,
see “— We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.”
If we fail to successfully address any of the above risks and uncertainties, the size of our user base, our revenue and operating margin may decline.
We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.
The outbreak of the
COVID-19
pandemic and subsequent outbreaks driven by new variants of
COVID-19
have brought uncertainties and interruptions to China’s macroeconomics and the global economy and may have adverse effects on our operations. The Chinese government as well as many other countries in the world have taken various measures to constrain the outbreak. The
COVID-19
pandemic has caused, and may continue to cause, companies in China, including us, to implement temporary adjustment of work schemes allowing employees to work from home and other measures that may impact our operation. We prioritize the health and safety of our employees, and have taken various preventative and quarantine measures across the Company soon after the outbreak. As a result of the
COVID-19
outbreak and its continued influence, our normal work schedule and results of operations may continue to be subject to potential adverse impact caused by
COVID-19,
and our revenues for the periods during which the
COVID-19
pandemic continues to have an impact may be difficult to predict. In addition, the disposable income of certain of our users may decrease or have decreased as a result of the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic, which may also adversely affect our performance. Over the course of 2020 and 2021, since various measures that the Chinese government implemented to constrain the
COVID-19
outbreak had been gradually relaxed, many aspects of daily life in China gradually returned to normal routine for certain period of time, while regional breakouts has continued to occur from time to time and respective control measures would apply. However, the situation in China and other countries and regions is still evolving, bringing with it unprecedented levels of macroeconomic disruption and uncertainties across the globe. For instance, recently certain areas or cities in China have tightened the
COVID-19
quarantine policies including measures such as lockdown restrictions. The extent to which
COVID-19
impacts our results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including the possibility of a resurgence of the
COVID-19
outbreak in China, the duration and severity of the pandemic, the actions taken to contain the virus or treat its impact, the development and efficiency of vaccine programs and other actions taken by governments, companies and individuals in response to the virus and resulting economic disruption.
If we fail to obtain or maintain the required licenses and approvals or if we fail to comply with laws and regulations applicable to our industry, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
The internet industry in China is highly regulated, which requires certain licenses, permits, filings and approvals to conduct and develop business. Currently, the VIEs have obtained valid ICP License for provision of internet information services, Internet Culture Operation License for operating online music products and online performances, Radio and Television Program Production and Operating Permit for producing radio program through our PRC VIEs. We have also been accepted to register on National Internet Visual-Audio Platform System.
 
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Due to the uncertainties of interpretation and implementation of existing and future laws and regulations, the licenses we held may not be sufficient to meet regulatory requirements, which may restrain our ability to expand our business scope and may subject us to fines or other regulatory actions by relevant regulators if our practice is deemed as violating relevant laws and regulations. As we further develop and expand our business scope, we may need to obtain additional qualifications, permits, approvals or licenses. Moreover, we may be required to obtain additional licenses or approvals if the PRC government adopts more stringent policies or regulations for our industry.
To expand our business scope and explore innovative business models, we have adopted and will continue to adopt various operating strategies and measures. Due to the uncertainties of interpretation and application of pertinent laws by the government authority, we cannot guarantee that such strategies and measures will not be challenged under PRC laws and regulations and if so, relevant PRC government authorities may issue warnings, order us to rectify our violating operations and impose fines on us. In the case of serious violations as determined by relevant authorities at their discretion, they may ban the violating operations, seize our equipment in connection with such operations, impose a fine or revoke the license, which may materially and adversely affect our business.
On May 14, 2019, the Internal Office of Department of Culture and Tourism issued a notice that local culture and tourism authority will no longer be in charge of issuing approvals for Internet Culture Operation License to companies with the business scope in online gaming and publication of virtual currency. It is not clear from this notice or other applicable laws and regulations whether a second government office will regulate the online gaming and publication of virtual currency by form of an approval license or other methods. Our Internet Culture Operation Licenses were respectively renewed in July 2019, October 2019, June 2020 and June 2021. We currently plan to apply for permit or approval on virtual currency operation from the applicable authority once the regulatory body is clarified.
Moreover, according to the Measures for Online Publication Service Administration, or Online Publication Measures, which was jointly promulgated by the SAPPRFT and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PRC, or the MIIT, came into effect on March 10, 2016, or Online Publication Measures, an Online Publishing Service License is required for the provision of online publishing services. Currently, we allow hosts to upload their recorded podcasts on our platforms, which may be considered as the “internet publications.” As of the date of this annual report, we have not obtained an Online Publishing Service License. However, we have been accepted to register on National Internet Visual-Audio Platform System and enterprises having obtained such registration in practice have been in the past tolerated by SAPPRFT to operate in online visual-audio business without such Online Publishing Service License. If the relevant PRC government authority decides that we are operating without the proper license, we may be subject to penalties such as shutting down of the website, deletion of all relevant online publications, confiscation of income and major equipment and special tools relating to podcasts operation, fines or other penalties. As the internet industry in China is still at a relatively early stage of development, new laws and regulations may be adopted from time to time to address new issues that come to the authorities’ attention. Considerable uncertainties still exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of existing and future laws and regulations governing our business activities. We cannot assure you that we will not be found in violation of any future laws and regulations or any of the laws or regulations currently in effect due to changes in the relevant authorities’ interpretation of these laws and regulations.
Considerable uncertainties exist in relation to the interpretation and implementation of existing and future laws and regulations governing online education businesses in China. For example, on April 7, 2021, the State Council published the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law for Promoting Private Education of the PRC (2021 revision), which became effective on September 1, 2021. It remains uncertain whether and how local governments would promulgate rules related to the licensing requirement applicable to online education services. Furthermore, on July 24, 2021, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council jointly promulgated the Opinions on Further Reducing Homework and
Off-Campus
Training Burden for Students in Compulsory Education Stage, or the Opinions. Pursuant to the Opinions, a series of restrictions have been imposed on training institutions providing subject-based after-school tutoring for students during compulsory education stage, or the disciplinary training institutions, including but not limited to (i) the existing disciplinary training institutions shall be registered as
non-profit
institutions in a unified manner; (ii) no disciplinary training institution may raise funds by listing on the stock market, and it shall be strictly prohibited from capitalization operation; (iii) a system for record-filing and supervision of training contents is imperative to be established; and
(iv) non-disciplinary
training institutions are strictly prohibited from engaging in disciplinary training or providing overseas education courses. Although we do not expect the audio content provided on our platform, such as certain audioized picture books, to fall under these regulatory requirements, there remains uncertainty as to how the new regulation will be implemented. If we were to be required to effect further operational adjustment by regulatory authorities for compliance reasons, our results of operations could be harmed. We may be found in violation of any future laws and regulations or the laws and regulations currently in effect due to changes in the relevant authorities’ interpretation of these laws and regulations. Failure to comply with these regulatory requirements or promptly complete filings or obtain the regulatory licenses may subject us to fines, regulatory orders to suspend our relevant operations or other regulatory and disciplinary sanctions. Any such penalties or changes in policies, regulations or enforcement by government authorities, may disrupt our operations and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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As of the date of this annual report, we have not been subject to any material penalties from the relevant government authorities for failure to obtain any licenses for our business operations in the past. We cannot assure you, however, that the government authorities will not do so in the future. In addition, we may be required to obtain additional license or permits, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to timely obtain, maintain or renew all the required licenses or permits or make all the necessary filings in the future. If we fail to obtain, hold or maintain any of the required licenses or permits or make the necessary filings on time or at all, we may be subject to various penalties, such as confiscation of the net revenues that were generated through the unlicensed activities, the imposition of fines and the discontinuation or restriction of our operations. Any such penalties may disrupt our business operations and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business depends on a strong brand, and any failure to maintain, protect and enhance our brand would hurt our ability to retain or expand our user and customer base, or our ability to increase their level of engagement.
In China, we market our key services under the brand “LIZHI”. Our business and financial performance are highly dependent on the strength and the market perception of our brand and services. A well-recognized brand is critical to increasing our user base and, in turn, facilitating our efforts to monetize our services and enhancing our attractiveness to customers. Since we operate in a highly competitive market, brand maintenance and enhancement directly affect our ability to maintain our market position. From time to time, we conduct marketing activities across various media to enhance our brand and to guide public perception of our brand and services, and may further increase our marketing expenditures in the future. Also, we must continuously exercise strict quality control of our platforms to ensure that our brand image is not tarnished by substandard products or services. We must also find ways to distinguish our platforms from those of our competitors. If for any reason we are unable to maintain and enhance our brand recognition, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our business, results of operations and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, we must actively protect and maintain the legal ownership of our trademarks under which we market our brand and operate our platforms and business. Any failure to register or maintain the registration of our trademarks in any geographic region in which we operate our business may result in an adverse and material effect on our operation and financial conditions. We currently have pending trademark applications that may be subject to governmental scrutiny or third-party objection. Although we have taken measures to reduce our risks of infringement, we cannot assure you that we would not be subject to trademark infringement claims due to such trademark uses by us, or that we have duly registered all the trademarks necessary for our operations with competent governmental authorities. We may also be subject to other intellectual property infringement claims. As competition intensifies and as litigation becomes a more common method for resolving commercial disputes in China, we face a higher risk of intellectual property infringement claims.
If we are unsuccessful in obtaining trademark protection for our trademarks, we may be required to change our brand names and may incur substantial costs in diverting the existing users and potential users to the entrance under a new name and may lose audience traffic to a material extent during the process. Any potential conflict over the usage of “LIZHI” brand may expose us to substantial legal costs and take up the time and energy of our management which could have been used on development of our business.
 
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We may not effectively achieve our rapid growth in the past or manage the associated expenditures, and our brand, business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We have experienced a period of significant rapid growth and expansion at the early stage of our development that impose a challenge on our management to maintain such growth in the future. In recent years we continued to actively expand and evolve our business operation in China and globally. However, given our limited operating history and the rapidly evolving market in which we operate, we may encounter difficulties as we establish and expand our operations, research and development, sales and marketing, and general and administrative capabilities. We cannot assure you that level of growth in the past will be sustainable or achieved at all in the future. We believe that our continued growth will depend on our ability to attract and retain users and high quality hosts, develop an infrastructure to service and support an expanding body of users and hosts, explore new monetization avenues, adapt to and comply with evolving regulatory framework, convert
non-paying
users to paying users, increase user engagement level and compete effectively in the online audio industry. We cannot assure you that we will be successful with any of the above.
To manage our growth and maintain profitability, we expect our costs and expenses to continue to increase in the future as we anticipate that we will need to continue to implement, from time to time, a variety of new and upgraded operational, informational and financial systems, procedures and controls on an
as-needed
basis. We will also need to further expand, train, manage and motivate our workforce and manage our relationships with hosts and users. All of these endeavors involve risks and will require substantial management efforts and skills and significant additional expenditures. Continued growth could end up straining our ability to maintain reliable service levels for all of our users and hosts, develop and improve our operational, financial, legal and management controls, and enhance our reporting systems and procedures. Managing our growth will require significant expenditures and the allocation of valuable management resources. If we fail to achieve the necessary level of efficiency in our organization as we grow, our business, operating results and financial condition could be harmed. In addition, the impact brought by the
COVID-19
pandemic on our business, operating results and financial condition in the foreseeable future is highly uncertain and cannot be predicted. See “— We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.”
Our existing revenue model may not remain effective and our business may suffer if we fail to successfully implement our monetization strategies.
Our apps are free to access, and we generate substantially all of our net revenues from virtual gift sales to users of our audio entertainment products. As a result, our revenue is affected by our ability to increase user engagement and convert
non-paying
users into paying users, which in turn depends on our ability to increase user base, cultivate and maintain hosts, and provide high-quality content and other services. If we are not successful in enhancing our ability to monetize our existing services or developing new approaches to monetization, we may not be able to maintain or increase our revenues and profits or recover any associated costs. We monitor market developments and may adjust our monetization strategies accordingly from time to time, which may result in decreases of our overall revenue or revenue contributions from some monetization channels. In addition, we may in the future introduce new services to further diversify our revenue streams, including services with which we have little or no prior development or operating experience. If these new or enhanced services fail to engage customers or platforms’ partners, we may fail to generate sufficient revenues to justify our investments, and our business and operating results may suffer as a result.
We mainly compete with other online audio and entertainment platforms. If we are unable to compete effectively, our business and operating results may be materially and adversely affected.
Our major competitors include other online audio and entertainment platforms with an established presence in the industry, and competition in our industry remains intense. As it is unlikely that users will listen to audio programs on two platforms simultaneously, and certain top hosts sign exclusive contracts with only one platform, we compete mainly for user traffic and top hosts. If we are not able to effectively compete with our competitors, our overall user base and level of user engagement may decrease, which may result in loss of top hosts to other platforms.
To better compete with competitors which may have more cash, traffic, technological advantages, top hosts, business networks and other resources than us, we may be required to spend additional resources, which may adversely affect our profitability. Furthermore, if we are involved in disputes with any of our competitors that result in negative publicity to us, such disputes, regardless of their veracity or outcome, may harm our reputation or brand image and in turn lead to reduced number of users and hosts. Our competitors may unilaterally decide to adopt a wide range of measures targeted at us, including approaching our top hosts, filing complaint against our platforms to remove our apps from application stores, or even attacking our platforms. Any legal proceedings or measures we take in response to competition and disputes with our competitors may be expensive, time-consuming and disruptive to our operations and divert our management’s attention.
 
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We believe that our ability to compete effectively depends upon many factors both within and beyond our control, including:
 
   
the popularity, usefulness, ease of use, performance and reliability of our services compared to those of our competitors, and the research and development abilities of us and our competitors;
 
   
the unique content, services, products and interactive community we offer on our platforms that distinguish ourselves from other competing platforms;