Sina 20-F 2011
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 000-30698
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
37F, Jin Mao Tower
88 Century Boulevard, Pudong
Shanghai 200121, China
(Address of principal executive offices)
Contact Person: Chief Financial Officer
Phone: +8610 8262 8888
Facsimile: +8610 8260 7166
Address: 20/F Beijing Ideal International Plaza
No. 58 Northwest 4th Ring Road
Haidian District, Beijing, 100080, Peoples 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.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act.
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act.
(Title of Class)
As of December 31, 2010, there were 61,774,706 shares of the registrants ordinary shares outstanding, $0.133 par value.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. þ Yes o 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 o No þ
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 þ No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 229.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes o No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of large accelerated filer, accelerated filer and smaller reporting company in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Indicate by check mark which basis for accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financing statements included in this filing: U.S. GAAP þ
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board o Other o
Indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow. o Item 17 þ 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 o No þ
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this annual report, except where the context otherwise requires and for purposes of this annual report only:
INFORMATION REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements. These statements relate to future events or our future financial performance. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terminology such as may, will, should, expect, plan, anticipate, believe, estimate, predict, potential or continue, the negative of such terms or other comparable terminology. These statements are only predictions. Actual events or results may differ materially.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Moreover, neither we nor any other person assumes responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the forward-looking statements. We undertake no duty to update any of the forward-looking statements after the date of this report to conform such statements to actual results or to changes in our expectations.
Readers are also urged to carefully review and consider the various disclosures made by us which attempt to advise interested parties of the factors which affect our business, including without limitation the disclosures made under the caption Risk Factors included herein.
Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers
Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable
Item 3. Key Information
A. Selected Financial Data
The selected consolidated statements of operation data presents the results for the five years ended December 31, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. The Companys historical results do not necessarily indicate results expected for any future periods. The selected consolidated financial data below should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and notes thereto, Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects below, and the other information contained in this Form 20-F.
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D. Risk Factors
Due to the relatively new and evolving market in which we operate, we cannot predict whether we will meet internal or external expectations of future performance.
Our primary market is in China, where the operating environment is less predictable and mature than those of developed economies and where the Internet industry is still relatively new and fast evolving. We believe our future success depends on our ability to significantly grow our revenues from new and existing products, business models and sales channels. However, market data on our business, especially on emerging products, business models and sales channels, are often limited, unreliable or nonexistent. Accordingly, our prospects must be considered in light of the risks, expenses and difficulties frequently encountered by companies in a relatively new and fast changing market and with a limited operating history. These risks include our ability to:
Due to the relatively new and evolving market in which we operate and our limited operating history, our historical year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter trends may not provide a good indication of our future performance. For certain business lines, we have experienced high growth rates in the past and there may be expectations that these growth rates will continue. For other business lines, we have experienced declining trends. Our operating results have in the past fallen below the expectations of industry analysts and investors and may do so again in the future. Our stock price may decline significantly as a result of not meeting internal or external expectations of future performance.
You should not place undue reliance on our financial guidance, nor should you rely on our quarterly operating results as an indication of our future performance, because our results of operations are subject to significant fluctuations.
We may experience significant fluctuations in our quarterly operating results due to a variety of factors, many of which are outside our control. Significant fluctuations in our quarterly operating results could be caused by any of the factors identified in this section, including but not limited to our ability to retain existing users, attract new users at a steady rate and maintain user satisfaction; the announcement or introduction of new or enhanced services, content and products by us or our competitors; significant news events that increase traffic to our websites; technical difficulties, system downtime or Internet failures; demand for advertising space from advertisers; seasonality of the advertising market; the amount and timing of operating costs and capital expenditures relating to expansion of our business, operations and infrastructure; operators policies; governmental regulation; seasonal trends in Internet use; a shortfall in our revenues relative to our forecasts and a decline in our operating results due to our inability to adjust our spending quickly; and general economic conditions and economic conditions specific to the Internet, wireless, e-commerce and the Greater China market. As a result of these and other factors, you should not place undue reliance on our financial guidance, nor should you rely on quarter-to-quarter comparisons of our operating results as indicators of likely future performance. Our quarterly revenue and earnings per share guidance is our best estimate at the time we provide guidance. Our operating results may be below our expectations or the expectations of public market analysts and investors in one or more future quarters. If that occurs, the price of our ordinary shares could decline and you could lose part or all of your investment.
We are relying on advertising sales as a significant part of our future revenues, but the online advertising market is subject to many uncertainties, which could cause our advertising revenues to decline.
The online advertising market is new and evolving rapidly in China. Many of our current and potential advertisers have limited experience with the Internet as an advertising medium, have not traditionally devoted a significant portion of their advertising expenditures or other available funds to web-based advertising, and may not find the Internet to be effective for promoting their products and services relative to traditional print and broadcast media. If the Internet does not become more widely accepted as a medium for advertising, our ability to generate increased revenue could be negatively affected. Our ability to generate and maintain significant advertising revenues will depend on a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including but not limited to:
Our current and potential advertising clients have limited experience using the Internet for advertising purposes and historically have not devoted a significant portion of their advertising budgets to online advertising. We may not be successful in getting our current and potential advertisers to increase their budgets for online advertising.
In 2010, approximately 85% of our advertising revenues were derived from the automobile, information technology, Internet services, fast-moving consumer goods, financial and telecommunication sectors. If there is a downturn in advertising spending, especially in these sectors, our results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our share price could suffer.
Our growth in advertising revenues will also depend on our ability to increase the advertising space on our network and develop new advertising inventory offerings, such as those tied to video content and user-generated content in social media or social networking environments and performance-based inventories. If we fail to increase our advertising space at a sufficient rate or fail to develop new advertising inventory offerings that achieve market acceptance, our growth in advertising revenues could be hampered and our share price may drop significantly. Further, the increasing usage of Internet advertising blocking software may result in a decrease of our advertising revenues as the advertisers may choose not to advertise on the Internet if Internet advertising blocking software is widely used.
If our microblog Weibo fails to achieve success as expected, our share performance could suffer significantly and your investment in our shares may be adversely affected.
We have not yet focused our efforts to monetize Weibo. Weibo has both social media and social networking features and, thus, is subject to competition from producers of both types of services and potential new types of online networking services. Monetization has been a challenge for the other social media and networking services, and it could be a challenge for us as well. We cannot guarantee that the monetizing methods adopted by other social media and networking sites will work with Weibo. In our efforts to build scale and increase user base and user stickiness, we expect to significantly increase investment in Weibo in areas such as marketing, technology and infrastructure, which may cause our profitability to significantly decline. In addition, we cannot assure you that the investments we make will result in increased Weibo users and traffic. If our monetization efforts are not successful, then our investment in Weibo could significantly depress our profitability, and if we are unsuccessful in growing Weibos user base and traffic, our stock performance could be materially adversely affected, the price of our ordinary shares could decline and you could lose part or all of your investment.
The social media and networking sector is highly competitive in China. The major portals, including Tencent, Sohu and Netease, offer similar products that compete with us for users, traffic, and content and marketing resources. In addition, there are many websites that specialize in developing social media or social networking services, including Renren.com, Kaixin001.com, hainei.com, 51.com and 159.com. We may be unable to compete successfully against these competitors or new market entrants, which may adversely affect our financial performance.
In addition, government regulation and censorship of information disseminated over the Internet in China may adversely affect our ability to operate Weibo. See Even if we are in compliance with Chinese governmental regulations relating to licensing and foreign investment prohibitions, the Chinese government may prevent us from advertising or distributing content that it believes is inappropriate and we may be liable for such content or we may have to stop profiting from such content. below for details. Although we attempt to monitor the content posted on Weibo, we may not always be able to effectively control or restrict the content generated or placed on Weibo by our users. The Chinese government may choose to unexpectedly tighten its Internet censorship. If the Chinese authority has any concern about dissemination of information via microblog, Weibo could be impaired or even ordered to shut down.
Furthermore, we may be subject to claims based on the user-generated content posted on Weibo. See We may be subject to litigation for user-generated content provided on our websites, which may be time-consuming to defend. below for more details.
We are relying on MVAS for a significant portion of our future revenues. Our MVAS revenues have experienced an overall decline and may decrease further in the future.
For 2010 and 2009, MVAS revenues accounted for 22% and 33% of our total net revenues, respectively. Short messaging service (SMS) and interactive voice response system (IVR) revenues accounted for approximately 46% and 25%, respectively, of our MVAS revenues for 2010. If users do not adopt our MVAS at a sufficient rate, or if our SMS or IVR revenues fail to grow, our overall MVAS revenue growth could be negatively affected. Our MVAS revenues declined from 2005 through 2007 and again in 2010 and may decline in the future. Factors that may prevent us from maintaining or growing our MVAS revenues include:
In addition to the above, we are relying on new MVAS, such as multimedia messaging service (MMS), color ring back tone (CRBT), KJAVA/BREW and wireless application protocol (WAP), as a significant part of our future revenue growth for MVAS. However, the current market size for these new MVAS is relatively small and adoption rates are still relatively low for these services compared to SMS and IVR services. We cannot assure you that our new MVAS offerings will be accepted by the market or, in light of evolving and/or unclear policies and regulations, will meet the requirements of operator policies and government regulations upon release. If revenues from these services do not grow significantly, our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could be materially and adversely affected, the price of our ordinary shares could decline and you could lose part or all of your investment.
With respect to MVAS, we rely on China Mobile, China Unicom and other operators for marketing, service delivery, billing and payment collection, and we may be negatively affected by changes which they may make suddenly and unilaterally.
Our MVAS offerings depend mainly on cooperation arrangements with China Mobile and China Unicom. In addition, we have arrangements with China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom). We rely on the operators in the following ways: utilizing their network and gateway to recruit and provide MVAS to subscribers; utilizing their billing systems to charge the fees to our subscribers through the subscribers mobile phone bill; utilizing their collection services to collect payments from subscribers; and relying on their infrastructure development to further develop new products and services. As of December 31, 2010, we offered our MVAS pursuant to relationships with 31 provincial and local subsidiaries of China Mobile and 12 provincial subsidiaries of China Unicom. As we have limited bargaining power against the operators, we may enter into cooperation agreements on terms that are unfavorable to us. The operators may also unilaterally terminate or amend the agreements at any time. If China Mobile, China Unicom or other operators choose not to continue the cooperation arrangements with us or if they unilaterally amend the cooperation arrangements with terms significantly unfavorable to us, our MVAS revenues and operating profitability could be materially and negatively affected.
In the past, operators have made sudden and unexpected changes in their policies, processes and systems, which have harmed, and may continue to harm, our business. For example:
Our operators could make further changes at any time, including, but not limited to, requiring SPs to use the operators customer service and/or marketing service and charging for these services; requiring SPs to migrate their MVAS to an operators platform and increase the fees charged for using the operators platform; changing their fee structure or billing method in a way that would require us to delay the recognition of MVAS revenues from an accrual basis to when actual billing is received; implementing new billing rules, such as reducing MVAS fees that can be charged to users; disallowing SPs to bill certain inactive users and limiting the amount of MVAS fees that can be billed; requiring SPs to absorb end customer bad debts; issuing new rules on how WAP SPs are placed on their browsers, which significantly determines WAP revenues; refusing to pay SPs for services delivered; and limiting the product offerings of SPs by working directly with content providers to launch competing services or giving exclusive rights to certain SPs to offer certain MVAS. Any change in policy, process or system by the operators could result in a material reduction of our MVAS revenues.
China Mobile, China Unicom and other operators have in the past increased the fees charged for providing their services and may do so again in the future. If they choose to increase such fees, our gross margin for MVAS and our operating profitability may be negatively impacted. These operators have generally retained a certain percentage of the fees for value-added services we provided to our users via their platform for fee collection. In addition, they charge transmission fees for some products such as SMS and MMS on a per message basis, and the rates of such transmission fees vary for different products and message volume. For 2010, we received on average 71% and 77% of the amount we charged to our users via the China Mobile platform and the China Unicom platform, respectively, after they deducted the fees for collection and transmission.
Our MVAS revenues could be negatively impacted if China Mobile, China Unicom or other operators restrict MVAS to be charged on a monthly subscription basis or disallow us to charge monthly fees for users who do not use our service in a particular month. For 2010, approximately 13% of our MVAS revenues were derived from monthly subscription products, which mainly consist of SMS and MMS.
In the past, China Mobile and China Unicom imposed penalties on MVAS providers for violating certain operating policies relating to MVAS. In some cases, they stopped making payments to certain SPs for severe violations. To date, the accrued penalties we have received have been insignificant in dollar amounts, but it is difficult to determine the specific conduct that might be interpreted as violating such operating policies. Additionally, operators may unilaterally revise their arrangements with us at any time, which could result in us breaching the new terms and being subject to fines. In the future, if China Mobile, China Unicom or other operators impose more severe penalties on us for policy violations, our revenues from MVAS and operating results may be negatively impacted.
We are potentially subject to liability and penalty for delivering inappropriate content through our MVAS. One of the violations cited in the notice for temporary termination of our IVR service at the end of July 2004 was that we had provided inappropriate content to our mobile subscribers through our IVR service. The definition and interpretation of inappropriate content in many cases are vague and subjective. We are not sure whether operators including China Mobile and China Unicom or the Chinese government will find our other mobile content inappropriate and therefore prevent us from operating the MVAS relating to such content in the future. If they prevent us from offering such services, our revenues from MVAS may suffer significantly.
A portion of our MVAS revenues is currently estimated based on our internal records of billings and transmissions for the month, adjusted for prior period confirmation rates from operators and prior period discrepancies between internal estimates and confirmed amounts from operators. Historically, there have been no significant true up adjustments to our estimates. If there was no consistent confirmation rates trend or if there were continuous significant true up adjustments to our estimates under the new billing platforms, we will need to rely on the billing statements from the operators to record revenues. Due to the time lag of receiving the billing statements, our MVAS revenues may fluctuate with the collection of billing statements if we were to record our MVAS revenues when we receive the billing statements. For example, if an operator switches payment to SPs from estimated collection from users to actual collection, such policy change may cause us to delay the recognition of these revenues until we receive the actual billings and/or until we have reliable information to make such revenue estimates. For the fourth quarter of 2010, approximately 27% of our MVAS revenues were estimated at period end.
In the past, China Mobile has requested resettlement of billings that were settled in previous periods and on which payments have been made to us. We have accrued for such credits to revenues based on a rolling history and the true-ups between the accrued amounts and actual credit memos issued have not been significant. However, there is no guarantee that China Mobile or other operators will not request resettlement of previously received payments. If China Mobile or other operators request resettlement of billings for a previous period at amounts significantly larger than our credit memo accrual based on historical patterns, our operating results, financial position and cash flow may be severely impacted.
If China Mobiles, China Unicoms or other operators systems encounter technical problems, if they refuse to cooperate with us or if they do not provide adequate service, our MVAS offerings may cease or be severely disrupted, which could have a significant and adverse impact on our operating results.
The markets for Internet and MVAS services are highly competitive, and we may be unable to compete successfully against new entrants and established industry competitors, which could reduce our market share and adversely affect our financial performance.
The Chinese market for Internet content and services is competitive and rapidly changing. Barriers to entry are relatively low, and current and new competitors can launch new websites or services at a relatively low cost. Many companies offer Chinese language content and services, including informational and community features, fee-based services, email and e-commerce services in the Greater China market that may be competitive with our offerings. In addition, providers of Chinese language Internet tools and services may be acquired by, receive investments from or enter into other commercial relationships with large, well-established and well-financed Internet, media or other companies. We also face competition from providers of software and other Internet products and services. In addition, we compete with entities that sponsor or maintain high-traffic websites or provide an initial point of entry for Internet users, such as portals, social media and social networking services, and search sites.
Our competitors include existing or emerging PRC Internet portals as well as vertical websites competing in a specific niche such as automobile, finance and IT information. Our competitors in these areas include Baidu.com, Inc. (Baidu), Tencent Holdings Limited (Tencent), Netease.com, Inc. (Netease), TOM Online, Inc. (TOM Online), Sohu.com Inc. (Sohu), ifeng.com, Hexun, East Money, China Finance Online, PCAuto, Auto Home and PCOnline. Many of these companies are large, well-capitalized entities that currently offer, and could further develop or acquire, content and services that compete with those that we offer. Companies such as these may have greater financial and technical resources, better brand recognition, more developed sales and marketing networks, more customers, stronger government relationships and more extensive operating histories. As a result, such companies may be able to quickly provide competitive services and obtain a significant number of customers.
We expect that as Internet usage in Greater China increases and the Greater China market becomes more attractive to advertisers and for conducting e-commerce, large global competitors, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) (MSN), Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo!), eBay Inc. (eBay), Google, Inc. (Google) and America Online Inc. (AOL), may increasingly focus their resources on the Greater China market. Some of these global Internet companies may partner with domestic organizations to penetrate the PRC market. We also compete for advertisers with traditional media companies, such as newspapers, television networks and radio stations that have a longer history of use and greater acceptance among advertisers. Although new media companies, such as those in outdoor media, more directly compete with traditional media, such as television, they ultimately compete with us to convert advertisers from traditional media to new media. These competitors include Focus Media Holding Limited (Focus), Air Media Group Inc., Vision China Media Inc. and other China-based private or public new media advertising companies.
There is significant competition among MVAS providers. A large number of independent MVAS providers, such as Kongzhong Corporation (Kongzhong), Tencent, TOM Online, Hurray! Holding Co., Ltd. (Hurray), Sohu and Linktone Ltd. (Linktone), compete against us. We may be unable to continue to grow our revenues from these services in this competitive environment. In addition, the major operators in China, including China Mobile and China Unicom, have entered the business of content development. Any of our present or future competitors may offer MVAS that provide significant technology, performance, price, creativity or other advantages over those offered by us, and therefore achieve greater market acceptance than us.
Our other areas of focus for future growth include WAP portal, search, online video and Web 2.0 services. We also face intense competition from domestic and international companies in these areas. The main competitors for our WAP portal include Tencent, Kongzhong and WAP portals operated by mobile telecom operators such as China Mobiles Monternet. The main competitors for our search service include Baidu, Yahoo!/Alibaba, Google, Microsoft (Bing), Tencent (Soso) and Netease (Youdao). The main competitors for our instant messaging service include Tencent (QQ), Microsoft (MSN Messenger) and Yahoo! China (Yahoo Messenger)/Alibaba. Web 2.0 companies are defined as those that offer tools to: (1) generate traffic through user-generated content, such as microblogs, social networks, blogs, video podcasting, blogs and albums; (2) allow users to communicate, such as instant messaging and email, and/or (3) allow users to personalize individual sites and virtual communities, such as space and group. Our competition in online video and other Web 2.0 services include public companies such as Baidu, Tencent, Netease, Sohu, Youku, Renren.com Microsoft (MSN), Shanda (Shanda Literature), and Giant (51.com) as well as private companies such as 56.com, Tudou, Ku6, PP Live, PP Stream, Bokee, Blogbus, Poco, Blogcn, Hexun, Kaixin001.com and hainei.com in China and international players such as YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. Many of our competitors have a longer history of providing these online services and currently offer a greater breadth of products that may be more popular than our online offerings. Many of these companies are focused solely on one area of our business and are able to devote all of their resources to that business line and can more quickly adapt to changing technology and market conditions. These companies may therefore have a competitive advantage over us with respect to these business areas. A number of our current and potential future competitors may have greater financial and other resources than we have, may be able to more quickly react to changing consumer requirements and demands, may deliver competitive services at lower prices or with more desirable features and
functionalities, may continue to compete at a steep loss and may market more effectively to certain user audiences. Increased competition could result in reduced page views and unique visitors, loss of market share and revenues and lower profit margins.
Our business is highly sensitive to the strength of our brands in the marketplace, and we may not be able to maintain current or attract new users, customers and strategic partners for our products and offerings if we do not continue to increase the strength of our brands and develop new brands successfully in the marketplace.
Our operational and financial performance is highly dependent on our strong brands in the marketplace. Such dependency will increase further as the number of Internet and mobile users as well as the number of market entrants in China grows. In order to retain existing and attract new Internet users, advertisers, mobile customers and strategic partners, we may need to substantially increase our expenditures for creating and maintaining brand awareness and brand loyalty. Consequently, we will need to grow our revenues at least in the same proportion as any increase in brand spending to maintain our current levels of profitability.
There have been negative press coverage about the Company based on untrue or unsubstantiated rumors in the past, and the Company has taken affirmative steps to address such coverage. However, we cannot assure you that we will always be able to diffuse negative press coverage about the Company to the satisfaction of our investors, users, advertisers, customers and strategic partners. If we are unable to diffuse negative press coverage about the Company, our brands may suffer in the marketplace and our operational and financial performances may be negatively impacted as a result.
Our financial results could be adversely affected by China Real Estate Information Corporation (CRIC) and other equity investments.
We report our ownership in CRIC using the equity method of accounting starting from October 1, 2009 and, as such, our net income is impacted by CRICs performance. For 2010, we recorded $13.1 million in income from equity investment in CRIC, which is reported one quarter in arrears. If CRICs financial results decline, it will negatively impact our financial results. Furthermore, we will not be able to report our quarter and annual results until we have obtained CRICs results. A delay in CRICs reporting could adversely affect our reporting schedule and cause the market to react negatively to our stock. CRICs real estate business is subject to risks that may be different than those that affect our business. Potential risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to:
Further information regarding these and other risks can be found in CRICs filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC). Sina assumes no obligation to update CRICs risks factors.
We periodically review our equity investments, including CRIC, for impairment. If we conclude that any of these investments are impaired, we determine whether such impairment is other-than-temporary. Factors we consider to make such determination include the duration and severity of the impairment, the reason for the decline in value, the potential recovery period, and our intent to sell, or whether it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell, the investment before recovery. If any impairment is considered other-than-temporary, we will write down the asset to its fair value and take a corresponding charge to our Consolidated Statement of Operations. At the end of 2010, $39.3 million of our equity investments were in privately-held companies, which may not have the resources nor level of controls in place like public companies to timely and accurately provide updates about their company to us. Furthermore, many of our investments are at an early, pre-revenue stage of development, and their impairment may be difficult to access as market information on Internet-related startups are not readily available. Consequently, we may not receive information about our investments on a timely basis to properly account for them. We are unable to control these factors and an impairment charge recognized by us, especially untimely recorded, will unfavorably impact our results. In 2010, we recognized an impairment charge of $128.6 million on investment in CRIC.
Majority ownership and control of the board of directors of CRIC by affiliates of E-House (China) Holding Limited (E-House) may limit our ability to influence CRIC.
In October 2009, we contributed our online real estate business to CRIC in exchange for approximately 33% of the total outstanding ordinary shares of CRIC. As of December 31, 2010, our ownership interest in CRIC accounted for approximately 34% of the total outstanding ordinary shares of CRIC. E-House owns over 50% of total outstanding ordinary shares of CRIC. As a result, for the foreseeable future, E-House will have the ability to elect a majority of the directors to the board of directors of CRIC. In such cases, the directors designated by E-House have the power to approve a particular matter requiring a majority vote
despite the fact that our representatives may vote against the matter. Conversely, with respect to any matter requiring a majority vote, the directors designated by E-House may disapprove a particular matter despite the fact that our representatives may vote in favor of that matter.
If we are unable to keep up with the rapid technological changes of the Internet industry, our business may suffer.
The Internet industry is experiencing rapid technological changes. For example, with the advances of search engines, Internet users may choose to access information through search engines instead of web portals. With the advent of Web 2.0, the interests and preferences of Internet users may shift to user-generated content, such as blogs, microblog/social networking services and video podcasting. As broadband becomes more accessible, Internet users may demand content in pictorial, audio-rich and video-rich format. With the development of 2.5G and the issuance of 3G licenses in China, mobile users may shift from the current predominant text messaging services to newer applications, such as multimedia messaging services, mobile commerce, music, photo and video downloads, and mobile games. Our future success will depend on our ability to anticipate, adapt and support new technologies and industry standards. If we fail to anticipate and adapt to these and other technological changes, our market share and our profitability could suffer.
If we fail to successfully develop and introduce new products and services, our competitive position and ability to generate revenues could be harmed.
We are developing new products and services. The planned timing or introduction of new products and services is subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual timing may differ materially from original plans. Unexpected technical, operational, distribution or other problems could delay or prevent the introduction of one or more of our new products or services. Moreover, we cannot be sure that any of our new products and services will achieve widespread market acceptance or generate incremental revenue. If our efforts to develop, market and sell new products and services to the market are not successful, our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could be materially adversely affected, the price of our ordinary shares could decline and you could lose part or all of your investment.
Our investment in Web 2.0 services (such as microblog and online video), WAP portal and e-commerce may not be successful.
Web 2.0 services, such as microblog, Social Networking Services and other online communities, blog, online video search and WAP portal are currently some of the fastest growing online services in China. We have invested and intend to expand in these areas. For example, we developed our own search engine, and we have invested heavily in Web 2.0 services, such as microblog, blog, instant messaging, online video and online communities. Some of our competitors have entered these markets ahead of us and have achieved significant market positions. Our main competitors in Web 2.0 services, search and WAP portal include Baidu, Tencent, Netease, Sohu, Google, Youku, Renren.com, Kongzhong China mobile (Monternet and 139.com), Giant (51.com) and Microsoft (MSN) and private companies such as 56.com, Tudou, Ku6, PP Live, PP Stream, Bokee, Blogbus, Yahoo!/Alibaba, China Mobiles subsidiaries, Monternet and 139.com, Hexun, Kaixin001.com, and hainei.com.
We have also invested and plan to continue to invest in other technological products and tools, such as building online game and music platforms to complement our existing Internet service offerings. Our competitors in these areas tend to be more specialized in their specific markets and may have access to greater resources, which may give them a competitive advantage over us. We cannot assure you that we will succeed in these markets despite our investment of time and funds to address these markets. If we fail to achieve a significant position in these markets, we could fail to realize our intended returns in these investments. Moreover, our competitors who succeed may enjoy increased revenues and profits from an increase in market share in any of these specific markets, and our results and share price could suffer as a result.
More individuals are using devices other than personal computers to access the Internet. If users of these devices do not widely adopt versions of our web technology, products, or operating systems developed for these devices, our business could be adversely affected.
The number of individuals who access the Internet through devices other than personal computers, including mobile phones, handheld computers, such as the iPad and other tablets, television and other devices, has increased significantly and the trend is expected to continue. We expect mobile traffic to be a significant contributor to our overall traffic growth. The operating systems, software, resolution, functionality, and memory associated with some alternative devices make the use of our products and services through such devices more difficult and less compelling to users, manufacturers, or distributors of alternative devices. Each manufacturer may have unique technical standards for its devices, and our products and services may not work or be viewable on these devices as a result. We have limited experience to date in operating versions of our products and services developed or optimized for users of alternative devices, such as iPhone and Android devices, or in designing alternative devices. As new devices and new platforms continue to be released, it is difficult to predict the problems we may encounter in developing versions of our products and services for use on these alternative devices and we may need to devote significant resources to create, support, and maintain our offerings on such devices. If we are unable to attract and retain a substantial number of alternative device manufacturers, distributors, and users to our products and services, or if we are slow to develop products and technologies that are more compatible with alternative devices, we will fail to capture a significant share of an increasingly important portion of the market for online services, which could adversely affect our business.
New technologies could block our advertisements, our mobile applications, including Weibo, news and other application-based clients which would harm our business.
Technologies have been developed that can disable the display of our advertisement and that provide tools to users to opt out of our advertising products. Most of our revenues are derived from fees paid to us by advertisers in connection with the display of advertisements on webpages to our users. In addition, our traffic in the mobile environment is significantly dependent on content viewing via mobile application clients, such as iPhone, iPad and Android. As a result, such technologies and tools, for personal computers or mobile environments, could adversely affect our overall traffic and operating results.
Our business and growth could suffer if we are unable to hire and retain key personnel who are in high demand.
We depend on the continued contributions of our senior management and other key employees, many of whom are difficult to replace. The loss of the services of any of our executive officers or other key employees could harm our business. Competition for qualified talent in China is intense. Our future success is dependent on our ability to, attract significant qualified employees at a fast pace and retain existing key employees. If we are unable to do so, our business and growth including Weibo, may be materially and adversely affected. Our need to significantly increase qualified employees and retain key employees may cause us to materially increase compensation related costs, including stock based compensation.
The PRC Labor Contract Law and its implementing rules may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
The PRC Labor Contract Law became effective and was implemented on January 1, 2008. The Labor Contract Law has reinforced the protection for employees who, under the PRC Labor Contract Law, have the right, among others, to have written labor contracts, to enter into labor contracts with no fixed terms under certain circumstances, to receive overtime wages and to terminate or alter terms in labor contracts. Furthermore, the Labor Contract Law establishes additional restrictions and increases the costs involved with dismissing employees. As the Labor Contract Law is relatively new, there remains significant uncertainty as to its interpretation and application by the PRC Government. In the event that we decide to significantly reduce our workforce, the Labor Contract Law could adversely affect our ability to do so in a timely and cost effective manner, and our results of operations could be adversely affected. In addition, for employees whose contracts include non-competition terms, the Labor Contract Law requires employers to pay monthly compensation after such employment ends, which will increase employers operating expenses.
Our strategy of acquiring complementary assets, technologies and businesses may fail and may result in equity or earnings dilution.
As part of our business strategy, we have acquired and intend to continue to identify and acquire assets, technologies and businesses that are complementary to our existing business. In January 2003 we acquired Memestar Limited, an MVAS company; in March 2004, we acquired Crillion Corporation, an MVAS company; in October 2004, we acquired Davidhill, an instant messaging technology platform; and in recent years, we made several purchases of small companies. Acquired businesses or assets may not yield the results we expect. In addition, acquisitions could result in the use of substantial amounts of cash, potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, significant amortization expenses related to intangible assets and exposure to potential unknown liabilities of the acquired business. Moreover, the cost of identifying and consummating acquisitions, and integrating the acquired businesses into ours, may be significant, and the integration of acquired business may be disruptive to our business operations. In addition, we may have to obtain approval from the relevant PRC governmental authorities for the acquisitions and comply with any applicable PRC rules and regulations, which may be costly. In the event our acquisitions are not successful, our financial condition and results of operation may be materially adversely affected.
We may not be able to manage our expanding operations effectively, which could harm our business.
We have expanded rapidly by acquiring companies, entering into joint ventures and forming strategic partnerships. These new businesses, joint ventures and strategic partnerships provide various services such as MVAS, instant messaging and worldwide web search. We anticipate continuous expansion in our business, both through further acquisitions and internal growth, as we address growth in our customer base and market opportunities. In addition, the geographic dispersion of our operations as a result of acquisitions and overall internal growth requires significant management resources that our locally-based competitors do not need to devote to their operations. In order to manage the expected growth of our operations and personnel, we will be required to improve and implement operational and financial systems, procedures and controls, and expand, train and manage our growing employee base. Further, our management will be required to maintain and expand our relationships with various other websites, Internet and other online service providers and other third parties necessary to our business. We cannot assure you that our current and planned personnel, systems, procedures and controls will be adequate to support our future operations. If we are not successful in establishing, maintaining and managing our personnel, systems, procedures and controls, our business will be materially and adversely affected.
We may be adversely affected by the complexity, uncertainties and changes in PRC regulation of Internet business and companies, including limitations on our ability to own key assets such as our website.
The Chinese government heavily regulates the Internet sector, including the legality of foreign investment in the Chinese Internet sector, the existence and enforcement of content restrictions on the Internet and the licensing and permit requirements for companies in the Internet industry. Because some of the laws, regulations and legal requirements with regard to the Internet are relatively new and evolving, their interpretation and enforcement involve significant uncertainties. In addition, the Chinese legal system is based on written statutes, so prior court decisions can only be cited for reference but have little precedential value. As a result, in many cases it is difficult to determine what actions or omissions may result in liability. Issues, risks and uncertainties relating to Chinas government regulation of the Chinese Internet sector include the following:
The interpretation and application of existing Chinese laws, regulations and policies, the stated positions of relevant PRC authorities and possible new laws, regulations or policies have created substantial uncertainties regarding the legality of existing and future foreign investments in, and the businesses and activities of, Internet businesses in China, including our business. See Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties below for more details.
In order to comply with PRC regulatory requirements, we operate our main businesses through companies with which we have contractual relationships but in which we do not have controlling ownership. If the PRC government determines that our agreements with these companies are not in compliance with applicable regulations, our business in the PRC could be adversely affected.
The Chinese government restricts foreign investment in Internet-related and MVAS businesses, including Internet access, distribution of content over the Internet and MVAS. Accordingly, we operate our Internet-related and MVAS businesses in China through several VIEs that are PRC domestic companies owned principally or completely by certain of our PRC employees or PRC employees of our directly-owned subsidiaries. We control these companies and operate these businesses through contractual arrangements with the respective companies and their individual owners, but we have no equity control over these companies. Such restrictions and arrangements are prevalent in other PRC companies we have acquired. See Item 4.C. Organizational Structure.
We cannot be sure that the PRC government would view our operating arrangements to be in compliance with PRC licensing, registration or other regulatory requirements, including without limitation the requirements described in the MII Circular 2006, with existing policies or with requirements or policies that may be adopted in the future. If we are determined not to be in compliance, the PRC government could levy fines, revoke our business and operating licenses, require us to discontinue or restrict our operations, restrict our right to collect revenues, block our website, require us to restructure our business, corporate structure or operations, impose additional conditions or requirements with which we may not be able to comply, impose restrictions on our business operations or on our customers, or take other regulatory or enforcement actions against us that could be harmful to our business. We may also encounter difficulties in obtaining performance under or enforcement of related contracts. For example, as part of the contractual arrangements described above, our relevant subsidiaries and the employee shareholders of the VIEs entered into equity pledge agreements pursuant to which the employee shareholders of the VIEs pledged their respective equity interests in the VIEs to our respective subsidiaries. According to the PRC Property Rights Law, such pledges will only be effective upon registration with the relevant local office for the administration for industry and commerce. Before a successful registration of the equity pledges, we cannot assure you that the effectiveness of such pledges can be recognized in PRC courts if disputes arise regarding the pledged equity interests or that our subsidiaries interests as pledgee will prevail over those of third parties. The Company is in the process of obtaining the relevant registrations.
We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs for our China operations, which may not be as effective in providing control over these entities as direct ownership.
Because PRC regulations restrict our ability to provide Internet content and MVAS directly in China, we are dependent on our VIEs in which we have little or no equity ownership interest and must rely on contractual arrangements to control and operate these businesses. These contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing control over these entities as direct ownership. For example, the VIEs could fail to take actions required for our business or fail to maintain our China websites despite their contractual obligation to do so. These companies are able to transact business with parties not affiliated with us. If these companies fail to perform under their agreements with us, we may have to rely on legal remedies under Chinese law, which we cannot be sure would be available. In addition, we cannot be certain that the individual equity owners of the VIEs would always act in the best interests of SINA, especially if they leave SINA.
Substantially all profits generated from our VIEs are paid to our subsidiaries in China through related party transactions under contractual agreements. We believe that the terms of these contractual agreements are in compliance with the laws in China. Due to the uncertainties surrounding the interpretation of the transfer pricing rules relating to related party transactions in China, it is possible that in the future tax authorities in China may challenge the prices that we have used for related party transactions among our entities in China. In the event the tax authorities challenge our VIE structure, we may be forced to restructure our business operation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Even if we are in compliance with Chinese governmental regulations relating to licensing and foreign investment prohibitions, the Chinese government may prevent us from advertising or distributing content that it believes is inappropriate and we may be liable for such content or we may have to stop profiting from such content.
China has enacted regulations governing Internet access and the distribution of news and other information. In the past, the Chinese government has stopped the distribution of information over the Internet or through MVAS that it believes to violate Chinese law, including content that it believes is obscene, incites violence, endangers national security, is contrary to the national interest or is defamatory. In addition, we may not publish certain news items, such as news relating to national security, without permission from the Chinese government. Furthermore, the Ministry of Public Security has the authority to cause any local Internet service provider to block any websites maintained outside China at its sole discretion. Even if we comply with Chinese governmental regulations relating to licensing and foreign investment prohibitions, if the Chinese government were to take any action to limit or prohibit the distribution of information through our network or via our MVAS, or to limit or regulate any current or future content or services available to users on our network, our business could be significantly harmed.
Because the definition and interpretation of prohibited content is in many cases vague and subjective, it is not always possible to determine or predict what and how content might be prohibited under existing restrictions or restrictions that might be imposed in the future. At the end of July 2004, our IVR service was temporarily terminated by China Mobile for violating certain operating procedures. One of the violations cited in the notice for temporary termination was that we had provided inappropriate content to our mobile subscribers through our IVR service. We are not sure whether operators including China Mobile and China Unicom or the Chinese government will find our other mobile content inappropriate and therefore prevent us from operating the MVAS relating to such content in the future. If they prevent us from offering such services, our profit from MVAS will suffer.
In January 2005, SARFT, which regulates radio and television stations in China, issued a notice prohibiting commercials for MVAS related to fortune-telling from airing on radio and television stations. SARFT or other Chinese government authorities may prohibit the marketing of other MVAS via a channel we depend on to generate revenues, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows.
We are also subject to potential liability for content on our websites that is deemed inappropriate and for any unlawful actions of our subscribers and other users of our systems. Furthermore, we are required to delete content that clearly violates the laws of China and report content that we suspect may violate Chinese law. It is difficult to determine the type of content that may result in liability for us, and if we are wrong, we may be prevented from operating our websites.
Our business may be adversely affected if we cannot obtain an online payment service license
On June 14, 2010, the Peoples Bank of China (the PBOC) issued the Non-Financial Institutions Payment Services Regulation Measures (the Payment Measures), which went into effect on September 1, 2010. The Payment Measures require all non-financial institutions engaged in any online payment services to obtain an online payment service license from the PBOC within a one-year grace period starting September 1, 2010. Failure to obtain an online payment service license will lead to the termination of the right to provide online payment services. We are in the process of applying for an online payment service license. However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain the required license. If we cannot obtain the license, our business, including e-commerce online games and eReading may be adversely affected.
We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could cause us to be less competitive.
We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and trade secret laws and restrictions on disclosure to protect our intellectual property rights. Despite our efforts to protect our proprietary rights, unauthorized parties may attempt to copy or otherwise obtain and use our technology. Monitoring unauthorized use of our products is difficult and costly, and we cannot be certain that the steps we have taken will prevent misappropriation of our technology, particularly in foreign countries where the laws may not protect our proprietary rights as fully as in the United States. From time to time, we may have to resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, which could result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources.
We may be exposed to infringement claims by third parties, which, if successful, could cause us to pay significant damage awards.
Third parties may initiate litigation against us alleging infringement of their proprietary rights. In the event of a successful claim of infringement and our failure or inability to develop non-infringing technology or license the infringed or similar technology on a timely basis, our business could be harmed. In addition, even if we are able to license the infringed or similar technology, license fees could be substantial and may adversely affect our results of operations.
The high cost of Internet access could hinder the growth of Internet users in China and thus hamper the expansion of our user base.
The cost of Internet access might prevent some users from accessing the Internet and thus cause the growth of Internet users to decelerate. Such deceleration may adversely affect our ability to continue to expand our user base and increase our attractiveness to online advertisers.
If we fail to scale our systems proportionally with the growing Internet population in China, our website traffic growth could be adversely affected.
The traffic in China has experienced significant growth during the past few years. Effective bandwidth and server storage space at Internet data centers in large cities such as Beijing are scarce. If we were unable to increase our online content and service delivering capacity accordingly, we may not be able to continuously grow our website traffic and the adoption of our products may be hindered, which could adversely impact our business and stock price.
Our operations could be disrupted by unexpected network interruptions caused by system failures, natural disasters or unauthorized tampering with our systems.
The continual accessibility of websites and the performance and reliability of our network infrastructure are critical to our reputation and our ability to attract and retain users, advertisers and merchants. Any system failure or performance inadequacy that causes interruptions in the availability of our services or increases the response time of our services could reduce our appeal to advertisers and consumers. Factors that could significantly disrupt our operations include: system failures and outages caused by fire, floods, earthquakes, power loss, telecommunications failures and similar events; software errors; computer viruses, break-ins and similar disruptions from unauthorized tampering with our computer systems; and security breaches related to the storage and transmission of proprietary information, such as credit card numbers or other personal information.
We have limited backup systems and redundancy. In the past, we experienced an unauthorized tampering of the mail server of our China websites which briefly disrupted our operations. Future disruptions or any of the foregoing factors could damage our reputation, require us to expend significant capital and other resources and expose us to a risk of loss or litigation and possible liability. We do not carry sufficient business interruption insurance to compensate for losses that may occur as a result of any of these events. Accordingly, our revenues and results of operations may be adversely affected if any of the above disruptions should occur.
We have contracted with third parties to provide content and services for our portal network and MVAS and we may lose users and revenues if these arrangements are terminated.
We have arrangements with a number of third parties to provide content and services to our websites. In the area of content, we have relied and will continue to rely on third parties for the majority of the content that we publish under the SINA brand. Although no single third-party content provider is critical to our operations, if these parties fail to develop and maintain high-quality and successful media properties, or if a large number of our existing relationships are terminated, we could lose users and advertisers and our brand could be harmed.
In addition, the Chinese government has the ability to restrict or prevent state-owned media from cooperating with us in providing certain content to us, which will result in a significant decrease of the amount of content we can publish on our websites. We may lose users if the Chinese government chooses to restrict or prevent state-owned media from cooperating with us, in which case our revenues will be impacted negatively.
In the area of web-based services, we have contracted with various third-party providers for our principal Internet connections. If we experience significant interruptions or delays in service, or if these agreements terminate or expire, we may incur additional costs to develop or secure replacement services and our relationship with our users could be harmed.
A substantial part of our non-advertising revenues is generated through MVAS where we depend on mobile network operators for services delivery and payment collection. If we are unable to continue these arrangements, our MVAS could be severely disrupted or discontinued. Furthermore, we are highly dependent on these mobile service providers for our profitability in that they can choose to increase their service fees at will.
We depend on a third partys proprietary and licensed advertising serving technology to deliver advertisements to our network. If the third party fails to continue to support its technology or if its services fail to meet the advertising needs of our customers and we cannot find an alternative solution on a timely basis, our advertising revenues could decline.
Increases in competition and market prices for professionally produced content may have an adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
We have recently experienced significant fee increases from some of our content providers in the areas of sports and entertainment video content and other professionally produced content. Competition for quality content for online advertising is intense in China. We are seeing well-capitalized competitors, both private and newly listed companies, who operate on a net-loss basis. If we are unable to secure a large portfolio of quality content due to prohibitive cost, or if we are unable to manage our content acquisition costs effectively and generate sufficient revenues to outpace the increase in content spending, our financial condition and results of operation may be adversely affected.
Concerns about the security of e-commerce transactions and confidentiality of information on the Internet may reduce use of our network and impede our growth.
A significant barrier to e-commerce and communications over the Internet in general has been a public concern over security and privacy, especially the transmission of confidential information. If these concerns are not adequately addressed, they may inhibit the growth of the Internet and other online services generally, especially as a means of conducting commercial transactions. If a well-publicized Internet breach of security were to occur, general Internet usage could decline, which could reduce traffic to our destination sites and impede our growth.
The law of the Internet remains largely unsettled, which subjects our business to legal uncertainties that could harm our business.
Due to the increasing popularity and use of the Internet and other online services, it is possible that a number of laws and regulations may be adopted with respect to the Internet or other online services covering issues such as user privacy, pricing,
content, copyrights, distribution, antitrust and characteristics and quality of products and services. Furthermore, the growth and development of the market for e-commerce may prompt calls for more stringent consumer protection laws that may impose additional burdens on companies conducting business online. The adoption of additional laws or regulations may decrease the growth of the Internet or other online services, which could, in turn, decrease the demand for our products and services and increase our cost of doing business.
Moreover, the applicability to the Internet and other online services of existing laws in various jurisdictions governing issues such as property ownership, sales and other taxes, libel and personal privacy is uncertain and may take years to resolve. For example, new tax regulations may subject us or our customers to additional sales and income taxes. Any new legislation or regulation, the application of laws and regulations from jurisdictions whose laws do not currently apply to our business, or the application of existing laws and regulations to the Internet and other online services could significantly disrupt our operations or subject us to penalties.
We may be subject to claims based on the content we provide over our network and the products and services sold on our network, which, if successful, could cause us to pay significant damage awards.
As a publisher and distributor of content and a provider of services over the Internet, we face potential liability for defamation, negligence, copyright, patent or trademark infringement and other claims based on the nature and content of the materials that we publish or distribute; the selection of listings that are accessible through our branded products and media properties, or through content and materials that may be posted by users in our classifieds, message board, chat room services, microblog, blog, video podcasting and other areas on our websites; losses incurred in reliance on any erroneous information published by us, such as stock quotes, analyst estimates or other trading information; unsolicited email, lost or misdirected messages, illegal or fraudulent use of email or interruptions or delays in email service; and product liability, warranty and similar claims to be asserted against us by end users who purchase goods and services through SINA Mall and any future e-commerce services we may offer.
We may incur significant costs in investigating and defending any potential claims, even if they do not result in liability. Although we carry general liability insurance, our insurance may not cover potential claims of this type and may not be adequate to indemnify us against all potential liabilities.
We may be subject to litigation for user-generated content provided on our websites, which may be time-consuming to defend.
User-generated content (UGC) has become an important source of content to draw traffic to our website. Our UGC platforms, including microblog, blog, video podcasting, audio streaming and album, are open to the public for posting. Although we have required our users to post only decent and unobtrusive materials and have set up screening procedures, a third party may still find UGC postings on our website offensive and take action against us in connection with the posting of such information. As with other companies who provide UGC on their websites, we have had to deal with such claims in the past and anticipate that such claims will increase as UGC becomes more popular in China. Any such claim, with or without merit, could be time-consuming and costly to defend, and may result in litigation and divert managements attention and resources.
We may have to register our encryption software with Chinese regulatory authorities, and if they request that we change our encryption software, our business operations could be disrupted as we develop or license replacement software.
Pursuant to the Regulations for the Administration of Commercial Encryption promulgated at the end of 1999, foreign and domestic Chinese companies operating in China are required to seek approval from the Office of the State for Cipher Code Administration (OSCCA), the Chinese encryption regulatory authority, for the commercial encryption products they use; companies operating in China are allowed to use only commercial cipher code products approved by OSCCA and are prohibited to use self-developed or imported cipher code products without approval. In addition, all cipher code products shall be produced by those producers appointed and approved by OSCCA. In December 2005, OSCCA further released a series of rules, effective January 1, 2006, regulating many aspects of commercial cipher code products in detail, including development, production and sales.
Because these regulations do not specify what constitutes a cipher code product, we are unsure as to whether or how they apply to us and the encryption software we utilize. We may be required to register, or apply for permits with OSCCA for, our current or future encryption software. If Chinese regulatory authorities request that we register our encryption software or change our current encryption software to an approved cipher code product produced by an appointed producer, it could disrupt our business operations.
Privacy concerns may prevent us from selling demographically targeted advertising in the future and make us less attractive to advertisers.
We collect personal data from our user base in order to better understand our users and their needs and to help our advertisers target specific demographic groups. If privacy concerns or regulatory restrictions prevent us from selling demographically targeted advertising, we may become less attractive to advertisers. For example, as part of our future advertisement delivery system, we may integrate user information such as advertisement response rate, name, address, age or email address, with third-party databases to generate comprehensive demographic profiles for individual users. In Hong Kong, however, we would be in violation of the Hong Kong Personal Data Ordinance unless individual users expressly consented to this integration of their personal information. The ordinance provides that an Internet company may not collect information about its users, analyze the information for a profile of the users interests and sell or transmit the profiles to third parties for direct marketing purposes without the users consent. If we are unable to construct demographic profiles of Internet users because they refuse to give consent, we will be less attractive to advertisers and our business could suffer.
We must rely on the Chinese government to develop Chinas Internet infrastructure and, if it does not develop this infrastructure, our ability to grow our business could be hindered.
The telecommunications infrastructure in China is not well developed. Although private sector ISPs exists in China, almost all access to the Internet is accomplished through ChinaNet, Chinas primary commercial network, which is owned and operated by China Telecom under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of MII. Although the Chinese government has announced plans to aggressively develop the national information infrastructure, we cannot assure you that this infrastructure will be timely developed. We have experienced slower response time and suffered outages in the past due to equipment and software downtime as well as bandwidth issues with operators. Although these instances have not had a material adverse effect on the Companys business, such instances could have a material impact on its business in the future. In addition, we have no guarantee that we will have access to alternative networks and services in the event of any disruption or failure. If the necessary infrastructure standards or protocols or complementary products, services or facilities are not timely developed by the Chinese government, the growth of our business could be hindered.
Political and economic conditions in Greater China and the rest of Asia are unpredictable and may disrupt our operations if these conditions become unfavorable to our business.
We expect to continue to derive a substantial percentage of our revenues from the Greater China market. Changes in political or economic conditions in the region are difficult to predict and could adversely affect our operations or cause the Greater China market to become less attractive to advertisers, which could reduce our revenues. We maintain a strong local identity and presence in each of the regions in the Greater China market and we cannot be sure that we will be able to effectively maintain this local identity if political conditions were to change. The growth rate of the Chinese economy, and neighboring economies, slowed significantly in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Economic reforms in the region could also affect our business in ways that are difficult to predict. For example, since the late 1970s, the Chinese government has been reforming the Chinese economic system to emphasize enterprise autonomy and the utilization of market mechanisms. Although we believe that these reform measures have had a positive effect on the economic development in China, we cannot be sure that they will be effective or that they will benefit our business.
Future outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1 flu (Swine flu), Avian flu or other widespread public health problems could adversely affect our business.
Future outbreaks of SARS, Swine flu, Avian flu or other widespread public health problems in China and surrounding areas, where most of our employees work, could negatively impact our business in ways that are hard to predict. Prior experience with the SARS virus suggests that a future outbreak of SARS, Swine flu, Avian flu or other widespread public health problems may lead public health authorities to enforce quarantines, which could result in closures of some of our offices and other disruptions of our operations. A future outbreak of SARS, Swine flu, Avian flu or other widespread public health problems could result in the reduction of our advertising and fee-based revenues.
We have limited business insurance coverage.
The insurance industry in China is still young and the business insurance products offered in China are limited. We do not have any business liability or disruption insurance coverage for our operations. Any business disruption, litigation or natural disaster may cause us to incur substantial costs and divert our resources.
Our significant amount of deposits in certain banks in China may be at risk if these banks go bankrupt or otherwise do not have the liquidity to pay us during our deposit period.
As of December 31, 2010, we had approximately $597.0 million in cash and bank deposits, such as time deposits (with terms generally up to twelve months) and bank notes, with large domestic banks in China. The remaining cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments were held by financial institutions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. The terms of these deposits are, in general, up to twelve months. Historically, deposits in Chinese banks are secure due to the state policy on protecting depositors interests. However, China promulgated a new Bankruptcy Law in August 2006, which came into effect on June 1, 2007, which contains a separate article expressly stating that the State Council may promulgate implementation measures for the bankruptcy of Chinese banks based on the Bankruptcy Law. Under the new Bankruptcy Law, a Chinese bank may go bankrupt. In addition, since Chinas concession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), foreign banks have been gradually permitted to operate in China and have been strong competitors against Chinese banks in many aspects, especially since the opening of RMB business to foreign banks in late 2006. Therefore, the risk of bankruptcy or illiquidity of those Chinese banks in which we have deposits has increased. In the event of bankruptcy or illiquidity of any one of the banks which holds our deposits, we are unlikely to claim our deposits back in full since we are unlikely to be classified as a secured creditor based on PRC laws.
If tax benefits available to us in China are reduced or repealed, our results of operations could suffer significantly and your investment in our shares may be adversely affected.
We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands where no income taxes are imposed for business operated outside of the Cayman Islands. We have operations in four tax jurisdictions including China, the U.S., Hong Kong and Taiwan. For the U.S., Hong Kong and Taiwan, we have incurred net accumulated operating losses for income tax purposes. We believe that it is more likely than not that these net accumulated operating losses will not be utilized to offset taxable income in the future and hence we have not recognized income tax benefits for these locations. We do not expect that we will record any income tax provisions for our operations in the U.S., Hong Kong and Taiwan in the foreseeable future.
We generated substantially all our net income from our China operations. Our China operations are conducted through various subsidiaries and VIEs.
Due to our operation and tax structures in the PRC, we have entered into technical and other service agreements between our directly-owned subsidiaries and our VIEs in the PRC. We incur a business tax of up to 5% when our directly-owned subsidiaries receive the fees from the VIEs pursuant to such service agreements, which we include in our operating expenses as the cost of transferring economic benefit generated from these VIEs. Due to the uncertainties surrounding the interpretation of the tax transfer pricing rules relating to related party transactions in the PRC, it is possible that tax authorities in the PRC might in the future challenge the transfer prices that we used for the related party transactions among our entities in the PRC.
Beginning January 1, 2008, the new Enterprise Income Tax Law (the EIT Law) and the Implementing Rules of the EIT Law (the Implementing Rules) approved by the State Council became effective in China, which require, among other things, enterprises in China to submit their annual enterprise income tax returns together with a report on transactions with their affiliates to the relevant tax authorities. The EIT Law and the Implementing Rules emphasize the arms length basis for transactions between related entities. If PRC tax authorities were to determine that our transfer pricing structure were not on an arms length basis and therefore constitute a favorable transfer pricing, they could request that our VIEs adjust their taxable income upward for PRC tax purposes. Such a pricing adjustment could adversely affect us by increasing our VIEs tax expenses, which could subject our VIEs to late payment fees and other penalties for underpayment of taxes, and/or could result in the loss of tax benefits available to our subsidiaries in China.
The EIT Law supplemented by the Implementing Rules supersedes the previous Income Tax Law for Foreign-Invested Enterprises and Foreign Enterprises (the Previous IT Law) and unifies the enterprise income tax rate for foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) and domestic enterprises at 25%. High and new technology enterprises will continue to enjoy a preferential tax rate of 15%, but must meet the criteria defined under the EIT Law and related regulations. The EIT Law provides for a five-year transitional period for certain entities that enjoyed a favorable income tax rate of less than 25% and/or a preferential tax holiday under the Previous IT Law and were established before March 16, 2007, during which period the applicable enterprise income tax rate shall gradually increase to 25%. In addition, the EIT Law provides grandfather treatment for high and new technology enterprises that received special tax holidays under the Previous IT Law, which allows them to continue to enjoy their tax holidays until expiration provided that specific conditions are met. In December 2010, three of our subsidiaries in China were qualified as high and new technology enterprises under the EIT Law. In addition, certain VIEs in China enjoy a favorable income tax rate of less than 25%. According to the EIT Law and the Administration Measures for Recognition of High and new Technology Enterprises, which were jointly promulgated by the Ministry of Science & Technology, the Ministry of Finance, and the State Administration of Taxation on April 14, 2008, the high and new technology enterprise status of our three subsidiaries is subject to an annual review and may be overturned by the Municipal Science & Technology Commission in the future. The EIT Law is relatively new and implementation practices are still
being defined. If tax benefits available to us as high and new technology enterprises in China are reduced or repealed, our net effective tax rate may increase to as high as 25%.
The EIT Law also provides that an enterprise established under the laws of a foreign country or region but whose de facto management body is located in the PRC be treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes and consequently be subject to the PRC income tax at the rate of 25% for its global income. The Implementing Rules of the EIT Law merely defines the location of the de facto management body as the place where the exercising, in substance, of the overall management and control of the production and business operation, personnel, accounting, properties, etc., of a non-PRC company is located. Based on a review of surrounding facts and circumstances, we do not believe that it is likely that our operations outside the PRC should be considered a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, due to limited guidance and implementation history of the EIT Law, if SINA is treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes, we will be subject to PRC tax on worldwide income at a uniform tax rate of 25% retroactive to January 1, 2008.
Dividends payable to us by our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to PRC withholding taxes and dividends distributed to our non-PRC investors and gains realized by our non-PRC shareholders from the transfer of our shares may be subject to PRC withholding taxes under the EIT Law.
The EIT Law imposes a 10% withholding income tax on dividends generated on or after January 1, 2008 and distributed by a resident enterprise to its foreign investors, if such foreign investors are considered as non-resident enterprise without any establishment or place within China or if the received dividends have no connection with such foreign investors establishment or place within China, unless such foreign investors jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. Such withholding income tax was exempted under the Previous IT Law. The Cayman Islands, where we are incorporated, does not have such tax treaty with China. According to the arrangement between Mainland China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion in August 2006, dividends paid by an FIE to its foreign investors in Hong Kong will be subject to withholding tax at a rate of no more than 5% (if the foreign investor owns directly at least 25% of the shares of the FIE). The State Administration of Taxation further promulgated a circular, or Circular 601, on October 27, 2009, which provides that tax treaty benefits will be denied to conduit or shell companies without business substance and that a beneficial ownership analysis will be used based on a substance-over-form principle to determine whether or not to grant the tax treaty benefits. A majority of our subsidiaries in China are directly invested in and held by Hong Kong registered entities. If we are regarded as a non-resident enterprise and our Hong Kong entities are regarded as resident enterprises, then our Hong Kong entities may be required to pay a 10% withholding tax on any dividends payable to us. If our Hong Kong entities are regarded as non-resident enterprises, then our subsidiaries in China will be required to pay a 5% withholding tax for any dividends payable to our Hong Kong entities provided that specific conditions are met. However, it is still unclear at this stage whether Circular 601 applies to dividends from our PRC subsidiaries paid to our Hong Kong subsidiaries and if our Hong Kong subsidiaries were not considered as beneficial owners of any dividends from their PRC subsidiaries, the dividends payable to our Hong Kong subsidiaries would be subject to withholding tax at a rate of 10%. In either case, the amount of funds available to us, including the payment of dividends to our shareholders, could be materially reduced. In addition, because there remains uncertainty regarding the concept of the place of de facto management body, if we are regarded as a PRC resident enterprise, under the EIT Law, any dividends to be distributed by us to our non-PRC shareholders will be subject to PRC withholding tax. We also cannot guarantee that any gains realized by such non-PRC shareholders from the transfer of our shares will not be subject to PRC withholding tax. If we are required under the EIT Law to withhold PRC income tax on our dividends payable to our non-PRC shareholders or any gains realized by our non-PRC shareholders from transfer of the shares, their investment in our shares may be materially and adversely affected. The current policy approved by our Board allows us to distribute PRC earnings offshore only if we do not have to pay a dividend tax. Such policy may require us to reinvest all earnings made since 2008 onshore indefinitely or be subject to a significant withholding tax should our policy change to allow for earnings distribution offshore.
We may be subject to a significant withholding tax should equity transfers by our non-China tax resident enterprises be determined to have been done without a reasonable business purpose.
In December 2009, the State Administration of Tax in China issued a circular on strengthening the management of proceeds from equity transfers by non-China tax resident enterprises and requires foreign entities to report indirect sales of China tax resident enterprises. If the existence of the overseas intermediary holding company is disregarded due to lack of reasonable business purpose or substance, gains on such sale are subject to PRC withholding tax.
We believe that there was reasonable business purpose for the merger of China Online Housing Technology Corporation (COHT) with CRIC, which was to realize the business synergy created by the merger to form a real estate information services platform both online and offline with diversified revenue streams, serving both real estate businesses and consumers. The merger of COHT with CRIC was made with the intent to vertically integrate the selling of real estate data and consulting services (B2B) with online advertising (B2C) and to leverage the strength of CRICs offline resources with SINAs online strengths. Together, COHT and CRIC became a real estate information, consulting and advertising space in China. The simultaneous initial public offering allowed the combined company to raise additional capital to fund its future growth. Due to limited guidance and implementation history of the new circular, significant judgment is required in the determination of a reasonable business purpose for an equity transfer by our non-China tax resident entity by considering factors, including but not limited to, the form and substance of the arrangement, time of establishment of the foreign entity, relationship between each step of the arrangement, relationship between each component of the arrangement, implementation of the arrangement and the changes in the financial position of all parties involved in the transaction. Although we believe that it is more likely than not the said transaction would be
determined as one with a reasonable business purpose, should this not be the case, we would be subject to a significant withholding tax that could materially and adversely impact our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us bind our subsidiaries and VIEs in China.
We are a holding company and do not have any assets or conduct any business operations in China other than our investments in our entities in China, including SINA.com Technology (China) Co., Ltd. (STC), SINA Technology (China) Co., Ltd. (SNTC), Beijing New Media Information Technology Co. Ltd., Beijing SINA Advertising Co. Ltd., SINA (Shanghai) Management Co. Ltd., Shanghai SINA Advertising Co. Ltd., Fayco Network Technology Development (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd., and our VIEs. As a result, if our non-China operations require cash from China, we would depend on dividend payments from our subsidiaries in China for our revenues after they receive payments from our VIEs in China under various services and other arrangements. We cannot make any assurance that our subsidiaries in China can continue to receive the payments as arranged under our contracts with those VIEs. To the extent that these VIEs have undistributed after-tax net income, we will have to pay tax on behalf of the employees when we try to distribute the dividends from these local entities in the future. Such withholding individual income tax rate is 20%. In addition, under Chinese law, our subsidiaries are only allowed to pay dividends to us out of their distributable earnings, if any, as determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. Moreover, our Chinese subsidiaries are required to set aside at least 10% of their respective after-tax profit each year, if any, to fund certain mandated reserve funds, unless these reserves have reached 50% of their registered capital. These reserve funds are not payable or distributable as cash dividends.
The Chinese government also imposes controls on the convertibility of RMB into foreign currencies and the remittance of currency out of China in certain cases. We have experienced and may continue to experience difficulties in completing the administrative procedures necessary to obtain and remit foreign currency. See Currency fluctuations and restrictions on currency exchange may adversely affect our business, including limiting our ability to convert Chinese renminbi into foreign currencies and, if Chinese renminbi were to decline in value, reducing our revenues and profits in U.S. dollar terms. If we or any of our subsidiaries are unable to receive all of the revenues from our operations through these contractual or dividend arrangements, we may be unable to effectively finance our operations or pay dividends on our ordinary shares.
Currency fluctuations and restrictions on currency exchange may adversely affect our business, including limiting our ability to convert Chinese renminbi into foreign currencies and, if Chinese renminbi were to decline in value, reducing our revenues and profits in U.S. dollar terms.
Our reporting currency is the U.S. dollar and our operations in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan use their respective local currencies as their functional currencies. The majority of our revenues derived and expenses incurred are in Chinese RMB with a relatively small amount in New Taiwan dollars, Hong Kong dollars and U.S. dollars. We are subject to the effects of exchange rate fluctuations with respect to any of these currencies. For example, the value of the RMB depends to a large extent on Chinese government policies and Chinas domestic and international economic and political developments, as well as supply and demand in the local market. Starting July 2005, the Chinese government changed its policy of pegging the value of Chinese RMB to the U.S. dollar. Under the new policy, Chinese RMB has fluctuated within a narrow and managed band against a basket of certain foreign currencies. As a result of this policy change, Chinese RMB appreciated approximately 6.4%, less than 1.0% and 3.0% against the U.S. dollar in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively. It is possible that the Chinese government will adopt a more flexible currency policy, which could result in more significant fluctuations of Chinese RMB against the U.S. dollar. We can offer no assurance that Chinese RMB or any other foreign currency will be stable against the U.S. dollar.
The income statements of our China, Hong Kong and Taiwan operations are translated into U.S. dollars at the average exchange rates in each applicable period. To the extent the U.S. dollar strengthens against foreign currencies, the translation of these foreign currency denominated transactions results in reduced revenues, operating expenses and net income for our international operations. Similarly, to the extent the U.S. dollar weakens against foreign currencies, the translation of Chinese RMB, Hong Kong Dollar and New Taiwan Dollar denominated transactions results in increased revenues, operating expenses and net income for our international operations. We are also exposed to foreign exchange rate fluctuations as we convert the financial statements of our foreign subsidiaries into U.S. dollars in consolidation. If there is a change in foreign currency exchange rates, the conversion of the foreign subsidiaries financial statements into U.S. dollars will lead to a translation gain or loss which is recorded as a component of other comprehensive income. In addition, we have certain assets and liabilities that are denominated in currencies other than the relevant entitys functional currency. Changes in the functional currency value of these assets and liabilities create fluctuations that will lead to a transaction gain or loss. We have not entered into agreements or purchased instruments to hedge our exchange rate risks, although we may do so in the future. The availability and effectiveness of any hedging transaction may be limited and we may not be able to successfully hedge our exchange rate risks.
Although Chinese governmental policies were introduced in 1996 to allow the convertibility of Chinese RMB into foreign currency for current account items, conversion of Chinese RMB into foreign exchange for most of the capital items, such as
foreign direct investment, loans or securities, requires the approval of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE. These approvals, however, do not guarantee the availability of foreign currency. We cannot be sure that we will be able to obtain all required conversion approvals for our operations or that Chinese regulatory authorities will not impose greater restrictions on the convertibility of Chinese RMB in the future. Because a significant amount of our future revenues may be in the form of Chinese RMB, our inability to obtain the requisite approvals or any future restrictions on currency exchanges could limit our ability to utilize revenue generated in Chinese RMB to fund our business activities outside China, or to repay non-RMB-denominated obligations, including our debt obligations, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operation.
We have $99 million of zero-coupon, convertible, subordinated notes due 2023, or possibly earlier upon a change of control, which we may not be able to repay in cash and could result in dilution of our basic earnings per share.
In July 2003, we issued $100 million of zero coupon convertible subordinated notes due July 15, 2023. As of December 31, 2010, the outstanding balance of our convertible notes was $99 million. On July 15 annually from 2007 to 2013, and on July 15, 2018, or upon a change of control, holders of the notes may require us to repurchase all or a portion of the notes for cash. In addition, each $1,000 principal amount of the notes is convertible into 38.7741 shares of our ordinary shares prior to July 15, 2023 if the sale price of our ordinary shares issuable upon conversion of the notes reaches a specified threshold or specified corporate transactions have occurred. One of the conditions for conversion of the notes to SINA ordinary shares is that the market price of SINA ordinary shares reaches a specified threshold for a defined period of time. The specified thresholds are (i) during the period from issuance to July 15, 2022, if the sale price of SINA ordinary shares, for each of any five consecutive trading days in the immediately preceding fiscal quarter, exceeds 115% of the conversion price per ordinary share, and (ii) during the period from July 15, 2022 to July 15, 2023, if the sale price of SINA ordinary shares on the previous trading day is more than 115% of the conversion price per ordinary share. For the three months ended March 31, 2011, the sale price of SINA ordinary shares exceeded the threshold set forth in item (i) above for the required period of time. Therefore, the notes are convertible into SINA ordinary shares during the three months ending June 30, 2011. Upon a conversion, we may choose to pay the purchase price of the notes in cash, ordinary shares, or a combination of cash and ordinary shares. We may not have enough cash on hand or have the ability to access cash to pay the notes if holders ask for repayment on the various put dates, or upon a change of control, or at maturity. In addition, the purchase of our notes with our ordinary shares or the conversion of the notes into our ordinary shares could result in dilution of our basic earnings per share.
Changes to accounting pronouncements or taxation rules or practices may adversely affect our reported results of operations or how we conduct our business.
A change in accounting pronouncements or taxation rules or practices can have a significant effect on our reported results and may even affect our reporting of transactions completed before the change is effective. For example, we adopted accounting guidance on stock-based compensation starting January 1, 2006. This guidance requires us to measure compensation costs for all stock-based compensation at fair value and take compensation charges equal to that value. The method that we use to determine the fair value of share options is based upon, among other things, the volatility of our ordinary shares. The method that we use to determine the fair value of restricted share units is based upon the market price of our ordinary shares on the date of the grant. The price of our ordinary shares has historically been volatile. Therefore, the requirement to measure compensation costs for all stock-based compensation under this guidance could negatively affect our profitability and the trading price of our ordinary shares. This guidance and the impact of expensing on our reported results could also limit our ability to continue to use share options or other share-based instruments as an incentive and retention tool, which could, in turn, hurt our ability to recruit employees and retain existing employees. Other new accounting pronouncements or taxation rules, such as accounting guidance on uncertain tax positions, the EIT Law in China which was effective January 1, 2008, and various interpretations of accounting pronouncement or taxation practice have been adopted and may be adopted in the future. These accounting standard and tax regulation changes, future changes and the uncertainties surrounding current practices and implementation procedures may adversely affect our reported financial results or the way we conduct our business.
We may be required to record a significant charge to earnings if we are required to reassess our goodwill or other amortizable intangible assets arising from acquisitions.
We are required under GAAP to review our amortizable intangible assets for impairment when events or changes in circumstances indicate the carrying value may not be recoverable. Goodwill is required to be tested for impairment annually, or more frequently, if facts and circumstances warrant a review. Factors that may be considered a change in circumstances indicating that the carrying value of our amortizable intangible assets may not be recoverable include a decline in stock price and market capitalization and slower or declining growth rates in our industry. We may be required to record a significant charge to earnings in our financial statements during the period in which any impairment of our goodwill or amortizable intangible assets is determined.
Our MVAS business declined in 2010. We used the income approach with market approach to test the reasonableness of our assessment of mobile goodwill and the assumptions used were based on the information available to us at the time. Further decline in the performance of our mobile operations, in the price over earnings multiples of our peers in the MVAS industry and other factors may require us to record a significant charge to earnings if an impairment were determined at a future date. As of December 31, 2010, goodwill related to our MVAS operation was approximately $68.9 million, other goodwill and intangible assets were approximately $16.7 million. No impairment charge for goodwill and other intangible assets was recognized in 2010.
While we believe that we currently have adequate internal control procedures in place, we are still exposed to potential risks from legislation requiring companies to evaluate controls under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
Under the supervision and with the participation of our management, we have evaluated our internal controls systems in order to allow management to report on, and our registered independent public accounting firm to attest to, our internal controls, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. We have performed the system and process evaluation and testing required in an effort to comply with the management certification and auditor attestation requirements of Section 404. As a result, we have incurred additional expenses and a diversion of managements time. If we are not able to continue to meet the requirements of Section 404 in a timely manner or with adequate compliance, we might be subject to sanctions or investigation by regulatory authorities, such as the SEC or the NASDAQ. Any such action could adversely affect our financial results and the market price of our ordinary shares.
Our stock price has been historically volatile and may continue to be volatile, which may make it more difficult for you to resell shares when you want at prices you find attractive.
The trading price of our ordinary shares has been and may continue to be subject to considerable daily fluctuations. During the twelve months ended December 31, 2010, the closing sale prices of our ordinary shares on the NASDAQ Global Select Market ranged from $32.00 to $76.36 per share. Our stock price may fluctuate in response to a number of events and factors, such as quarterly variations in operating results, announcements of technological innovations or new products and media properties by us or our competitors, changes in financial estimates and recommendations by securities analysts, the operating and stock price performance of other companies that investors may deem comparable, new governmental restrictions or regulations and news reports relating to trends in our markets. In addition, the stock market in general, and the market prices for China-related and Internet-related companies in particular, have experienced extreme volatility that often has been unrelated to the operating performance of such companies. These broad market and industry fluctuations may adversely affect the price of our ordinary shares, regardless of our operating performance.
The Chinese legal system has inherent uncertainties that could limit the legal protections available to you.
Our contractual arrangements with our VIEs in China are governed by the laws of the PRC. Chinas legal system is based upon written statutes. Prior court decisions may be cited for reference but are not binding on subsequent cases and have limited value as precedents. Since 1979, the Chinese legislative bodies have promulgated laws and regulations dealing with economic matters such as foreign investment, corporate organization and governance, commerce, taxation and trade. However, because these laws and regulations are relatively new, and because of the limited volume of published decisions and their non-binding nature, the interpretation and enforcement of these laws and regulations involve uncertainties, and therefore you may not have legal protections for certain matters in China.
You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments or bringing original actions in China based on United States or other foreign laws against us.
We conduct our operations in China and a significant portion of our assets is located in China. In addition, some of our directors and executive officers reside within China, and substantially all of the assets of these persons are located within China. As a result, it may not be possible to effect service of process within the United States or elsewhere outside China upon those directors or executive officers, including with respect to matters arising under U.S. federal securities laws or applicable state securities laws. Moreover, our PRC counsel has advised us that Chinese courts recognize and enforce judgments of foreign courts based on treaties on recognizing and enforcing each others judgments or the reciprocal principle with foreign countries. China does not have treaties with the U.S. and some other countries that provide for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments of courts. As a result, recognition and enforcement in China of judgments of a court in these jurisdictions may be difficult or impossible.
We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse U.S. tax consequences to U.S. investors.
As explained below, we may be classified as a passive foreign investment company (a PFIC) for U.S. federal income tax purposes for the current or a future taxable year. In the event we are determined to be a PFIC, our stock may become less attractive to U.S. investors, thus negatively impacting the price of our stock.
Generally, if for any taxable year 75% or more of our gross income is passive income, or at least 50% of the value of our assets (based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets during a taxable year) is attributable to assets that are held for the production of, or produce, passive income, we would be characterized as a PFIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes. To determine if at least 50% of our assets are held for the production of, or produce, passive income, we may use the market capitalization method of determining the value of our assets. Under the market capitalization method, the total asset value of a company is considered to equal the fair market value of its outstanding shares plus its outstanding indebtedness on a relevant testing date. Because the market price of our ordinary shares is likely to fluctuate and may be volatile, and the market price may affect the determination of whether we will be considered a PFIC, there can be no assurance that we will not be considered a PFIC for any taxable year. If we are characterized as a PFIC for any year, our U.S. shareholders may suffer adverse tax consequences, including having gains realized on the sale of our ordinary shares treated as ordinary income, rather than capital gain, the loss of the preferential rate applicable to any dividends received on our ordinary shares by non-corporate investors who are U.S. Holders, as defined under Item 10E Taxation United States Federal Taxation, and having potential interest charges apply to any dividends or the proceeds of share sales.
Our executive officers have substantial influence over us and could delay or prevent a change in corporate control.
Our executive officers, together with their affiliates, beneficially control, in the aggregate, approximately 8.7% of our outstanding ordinary shares as of May 25, 2011. As a result, these shareholders, acting together, would have the ability to influence the outcome of matters submitted to our shareholders for approval, including the election of directors and any merger, consolidation or sale of all or substantially all of our assets. In addition, these shareholders, acting together, would have the ability to influence the management and affairs of our company. Accordingly, this concentration of ownership might harm the market price of our ordinary shares by:
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and SINAs shareholder rights plan may discourage our acquisition by a third party, which could limit our shareholders opportunity to sell their shares at a premium.
Our Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association include provisions that could limit the ability of others to acquire control of us, modify our structure or cause us to engage in change in control transactions. These provisions could have the effect of depriving shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of us in a tender offer or from otherwise engaging in a merger or similar transaction with us.
For example, our Board of Directors has the authority, without further action by our shareholders, to issue up to 3,750,000 preference shares in one or more series and to fix the powers and rights of these shares, including dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our ordinary shares. Preference shares could thus be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control or make removal of management more difficult. In addition, if the Board of Directors issues preference shares, the market price of our ordinary shares may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our ordinary shares may be adversely affected. Similarly, the Board of Directors may approve the issuance of debentures convertible into voting shares, which may limit the ability of others to acquire control of us.
In addition, we have adopted a shareholder rights plan pursuant to which our existing shareholders would have the right to purchase ordinary shares from the Company at half the market price then prevailing in the event a person or group acquires more than 10% of our outstanding ordinary shares on terms our Board of Directors does not approve. As a result, such rights could cause substantial dilution to the holdings of the person or group which acquires more than 10%. Accordingly, the shareholder rights plan may inhibit a change in control or acquisition and could adversely affect a shareholders ability to realize a premium over the then prevailing market price for the ordinary shares in connection with such a transaction.
Item 4. Information on the Company
A. History and Development of the Company
SINA Corporation was founded in March 1999 through the merger of Beijing SINA Information Technology Co. Ltd. and California-based SINANET.com. In April 2000, the Company completed its initial public offering and was listed on the NASDAQ market. SINA, a Cayman Islands corporation, is headquartered in Shanghai, China and has offices throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the U.S. SINAs principal place of operations is located at 20/F Beijing Ideal International Plaza, No. 58 Northwest 4th Ring Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 100080, Peoples Republic of China. The telephone number of SINA at this address is +8610 8262 8888.
The primary focus of SINAs operations is in China, where the majority of the Companys revenues is derived. SINAs business operations in China are conducted primarily through wholly-owned subsidiaries, including SINA.com Technology (China) Co. Ltd., SINA Technology (China) Co. Ltd., Beijing New Media Information Technology Co. Ltd., Beijing SINA Advertising Co. Ltd., SINA (Shanghai) Management Co. Ltd., Shanghai SINA Advertising Co. Ltd., Fayco Network Technology Development (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd., T.CN Corporation and significant VIEs, including Beijing SINA Internet Information Service Co., Ltd., Guangzhou Media Message Technologies, Inc., Beijing Star-Village Online Cultural Development Co., Ltd., Shenzhen Wang Xing Technology Co., Ltd. and Beijing SINA Infinity Advertising Co., Ltd.
From 1999 to 2001, SINAs growth was mainly driven by the online advertising business, which generated the majority of the Companys revenues. In late 2001, SINA began offering MVAS under arrangements with third-party mobile operators in the PRC and had experienced significant growth in MVAS revenues up until 2004. Starting in 2005, the MVAS business was repeatedly disrupted by changes in operator policies. On the advertising side, the Company has experienced growth in recent years, except for 2009, when China was impacted by the global financial crisis. The Company has grown organically and through acquisitions, partnerships and investments in recent years. For example, SINA acquired Memestar Limited, an MVAS company, in 2003, Crillion Corporation, an MVAS company, in 2004 and Davidhill Capital Inc., an instant messaging company, in 2004. In 2008, SINA spun off its real estate and home decoration channels into its subsidiary China Online Housing Technology Corporation (COHT) and sold a 34% interest to E-House. In October 2009, SINA injected its online real estate advertising business into a majority-owned subsidiary and exchanged its interest in COHT for a 33% interest in CRIC upon CRICs listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. In March 2011, SINA purchased 19% of the issued and outstanding shares of Mecox Lane Limited (Mecox Lane), an online apparel and accessories company with offline presence.
B. Business Overview
SINA is an online media company and MVAS provider in the Peoples Republic of China and for the global Chinese communities. With a branded network of localized websites targeting Greater China and overseas Chinese, the Company provides services mainly through SINA.com (online news and content), Weibo.com (microblog) and SINA Mobile (MVAS). Through these businesses and properties and other business lines, SINA offers an array of services including region-focused online portals, MVAS, microblog, blog, video and music streaming, photo sharing, online games, email, search, classified listings, fee-based services, e-commerce and enterprise e-solutions. The Company generates the majority of its revenues from online advertising and MVAS offerings and, to a lesser extent, from fee-based services.
SINA offers distinct and targeted content on each of its region-specific websites and a range of complementary offerings designed to broaden its user base and increase user traffic. The Company aims to become the media platform of choice for Internet users to research and retrieve information, share opinions and build social networks and for businesses to market and promote their products and services. SINA offers a range of complementary offerings, all centered on its core online media business, that are intended to enhance the attractiveness of its portal and microblogging properties and strengthen its reach in the Chinese online community.
SINAs primary focus is on the China market. The success of our business is tied to the size and vitality of Chinas economy. In a study published by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, Chinas gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 grew 10.3% year-on-year to $5.9 trillion, making it the second largest economy in the world. According to the survey by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the number of Internet users in China grew 19.1% year-over-year to 457 million at the end of 2010. The large user base makes China an attractive market for the Company to expand its product offerings and to grow its revenue streams. According to the latest survey by CNNIC, 98% of the Internet users in China have access to broadband. The large broadband coverage creates opportunities for the online industry, particularly in the areas of audio and video-based services,
such as online music and video streaming and rich media/video advertising. In addition, based on a January 2011 report issued by MII, the number of mobile phone users in China increased 15.0% year-over-year to 859 million at the end of 2010 and mobile users with 3G capabilities grew 282% year-over-year to 47 million. According to MIIs May 2011 report, the number of mobile phone users in China reached 890 million at the end of March 2011, and mobile users with 3G capabilities grew 32% quarter-over-quarter to 62 million. Many Internet users in China today do not have 24/7 access to the Internet, as their access is limited to computers at work and Internet cafés. The increasing adoption of 3G, smart phones and tablet computing in China could further shift content consumption in China from traditional media onto the Internet.
Properties and Product Offerings
SINA provides advertising, non-advertising and free services through SINA.com, Weibo.com and SINA Mobile. Advertising revenues relate to online advertising revenues mostly derived from SINA.com. Non-advertising revenues include MVAS revenues and license fees from CRIC. Revenues from other businesses, such as online games, enterprise solutions and eReading, are also recorded under non-advertising revenues. In 2010, the Company reorganized its product development groups into the Weibo group and the SINA Products group. The Weibo group supports the development of our microblogging platform, while the SINA Products group supports the development of all other online services. The following table presents an overview of SINAs business groups, service offerings and revenue categories:
Properties and Services
SINAs portal is an online brand advertising property. SINA employs a multi-pronged sales strategy that targets both short-term revenue opportunities such as banner advertising campaigns, as well as longer-term, higher-value contracts that include integrated marketing packages. The Companys advertising product offerings consist of banner, button, text-link and in-stream video advertisements that appear on pages within the SINA network, channel and promotional sponsorships, and advertising campaign design and management services.
The Companys primary target client base for advertising and sponsorships consists of global corporations doing business in Greater China and domestic companies in each of the regions in which SINA operates, to which the Company sells from both its corporate and regional headquarters. Global corporations are typically Fortune 1000 companies that employ a global approach to their branding, marketing and communications programs. Regional companies consist of medium to large companies that are focused on specific geographic and demographic markets and smaller companies whose markets are within a local territory.
SINAs portal network consists of four destination websites dedicated to its users across the globe: Mainland China (www.sina.com.cn), Taiwan (www.sina.com.tw), Hong Kong (www.sina.com.hk), and overseas Chinese in North America (www.sina.com). Each destination site consists of Chinese-language news and content organized into interest-based channels. The sites offer extensive community and communication services and sophisticated web navigation capability through SINA search and directory services.
SINA.com offers a variety of free interest-based channels that provide region-focused format and content. The most popular channels include:
SINA News. SINA News aggregates feeds from news providers, bringing together content from media companies, such as CCTV, China Beijing TV Station (BTV), China News, Agence France-Presse (AFP), Associated Press, Reuters, Getty Images, China Daily, Nanfang Daily Group, Beijing News, Xinhua Net and Xinhua News Agency. Through SINA News, users have easy access to breaking news coverage from multiple sources and points of view.
SINA Sports. SINA Sports offers multimedia news and information on a wide range of sporting events from home and abroad. SINA Sports features domestic and international soccer matches, National Basketball Association (NBA) games, general sports as well as coverage of world-famous sports stars and teams.
SINA Auto. SINA Auto offers the latest automobile-related news and service information to provide car buyers and automobile enthusiasts with the most current information on automotive pricing, reviews and featured guides.
SINA Finance. SINA Finance provides business news coverage and personal finance columns. SINA Finance also offers stock quotes from the major exchanges around the world, including U.S., Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges, as well as breaking news from individual listed companies and market trend analysis.
SINA Entertainment. SINA Entertainment contains extensive coverage of local and international entertainment news and events, including dining, movies, television programs, plays, operas, as well as popular and classical music.
SINA eLadies. SINA eLadies serves as an interactive platform for fashion-conscious users to share comments and ideas on a range of topics, such as health, cosmetics and beauty. SINA eLadies also provides real-time coverage of major world fashion events, bringing users the latest on styles and trends.
SINA Luxury. SINA Luxury caters to the increasing demand for luxury goods and high-end services in China. SINA Luxury covers a variety of luxurious topics including wines, cigars, top-brand apparels and accessories as well as services aimed at high net worth populations.
SINA Technology. SINA Technology provides updates on recent activities of high-tech corporations as well as industry trends in China and on technology markets worldwide.
SINA Digital. Spun off from SINA Technology in July 2008, SINA Digital offers in-depth reviews of digital products, including mobile phones, desktops and notebook computers, digital cameras, MP3 players and televisions. Product search and software download services are also provided on this channel.
SINA Tools. Launched in November 2008, SINA Tools provides Internet users with a wide range of practical online tools, such as weather forecasts, metric conversion, Internet connection speed testing, online translation and digital map service that allows users to search for businesses, addresses and places of interest.
SINA Collectibles. Launched in November 2010, SINA Collectibles provides information and updates on antiques and other collectibles such as arts, coins and stamps. It also offers information on investment ideas, exhibitions and auctions and features interviews with antique connoisseurs and famous art critics.
SINA Video. SINA Video is an online video platform that provides high-quality, easy-to-use interactive video products. SINA Video is divided into various vertical categories, including News, Entertainment, Music, Sports, Financial, Life, VIP Chat, Movie Premieres and SINA TV. The latter includes streaming of a broad range of television programs both in real time and on an on-demand basis. SINA Video also includes SINA Podcasting, a video-sharing platform that allows users to upload, publish and manage their audio-visual information.
SINA Music. SINA Music is an integrated music community platform that is built on our license agreements with the largest global and domestic music labels, such as Time Warner, Sony Music, EMI and Rock Music. This platform provides music lovers with free on-demand streaming of CD-quality, licensed songs and music videos, information and updates from the music industry, theme-based online communities and live broadcasts of music concerts.
SINA WAP. SINA WAP is a mobile portal offering a world of free information and entertainment. Users can access the latest information around the world and perform web searches via mobile phone.
Launched in 2009, SINAs microblogging platform Weibo enables its users to follow the hottest topics being discussed online as well as discussions related to people they know. Weibo accounts consist of celebrities, commercial enterprises, government entities and grass root Internet users, who may send feeds in the form of text (up to 140 Chinese characters) and multimedia (photo, video and music) content to their opted-in followers. Weibo users may view feeds from accounts that they follow, via search results or by topical content pages. Weibo can be a powerful individual distribution media, because it allows users to redistribute a feed to their followers with added commentary. An interesting feed that is redistributed several times enables the original author to virally reach users beyond the authors first degree of followers, leveraging on the network of the authors followers followers several degrees away. Users may write and view Weibo feeds from Weibo.com or on partner websites. In addition, Weibo may be accessed through mobile Internet and mobile applications, such as those built for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Designed as a multi-device product, Weibo enables Chinese communities to participate in open discussions on PCs and mobile devices around the world, allowing easier and more frequent interactions, expediting the spread of information and elevating the social media and networking experience to a different level.
SINAs MVAS, launched in April 2002, allows users to receive news and information, download ring tones, mobile games and pictures, and participate in dating and friendship communities. SINA has established content partnerships with certain international record companies to provide music and photo downloads. MVAS is sold on a monthly subscription or pay-per-message basis. SINA relies on mobile operator systems, such as China Mobiles Monternet platform and China Unicoms UNI-Info platform, to deliver its MVAS and bill end users. SINA MVAS can be ordered via SINA.com or through mobile phones.
SINAs competitive advantage in MVAS comes from its online and offline marketing channels. As a leading online media company in China, SINA leverages its large number of unique users and online content portfolio. Offline, SINA has a large local sales team that covers the majority of the provinces and municipalities in China as well as a significant presence in local TV, radio and print advertising. SINA also works closely with provincial operators to jointly promote its MVAS offerings.
SINAs MVAS can be categorized into three main categories: news and information, community, and multimedia downloads:
SINA provides its MVAS mainly through the following product lines:
SINA SMS. As many mobile phones are able to display and send text in Chinese, SINA developed a suite of short messaging services that includes user-customized information subscription, personal greetings, customized mobile phone screen decoration, personalized ring tones and mobile games.
SINA IVR. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) refers to voice-activated information retrieval services. Users can obtain information via their mobile phones by dialing a list of fixed numbers and following a set of pre-recorded messages. Sample services include weather forecasting and data searching. IVR offers applications in the areas of interactive games and professional products.
SINA KJAVA. SINA KJAVA provides graphic and animated MVAS products on China Mobiles K-Java mobile platform. KJAVA covers a full range of services, including mobile games, animation and videos, portable tools and news updates.
SINA MMS. Using general packet radio service (GPRS) technology, MMS enables users to download color pictures and sophisticated ring tones, as well as transmit more data per message. SINA MMS multimedia functionalities enable content and information exchanges in the form of text, graphics, audio and data.
SINA CRBT. CRBT refers to the ring tone heard by the callers prior to the call being answered. SINAs CRBT service gives mobile phone users the option to customize their ring back tone based on popular songs and special sound effects.
SINA WAP. SINAs WAP services use GPRS technology to provide users with news and other topical information, multimedia downloads, dating and community services and mobile search services.
SINA Game. SINA Game serves as an interactive platform that provides users with downloads and gateway access to popular online games, information and updates on popular online and PC games and value-added application tools, all aimed at enhancing the overall multimedia community experiences of Chinas online game players.
SINA eReading. SINA eReading is a one-stop shop for book reviews as well as complimentary and fee-based online book reading. It also features information and updates on hot social and cultural topics and interviews with writers and famous opinion leaders.
SINA.net. SINA.net serves as an enterprise solutions platform to assist businesses and government bodies to more effectively engage, communicate and transact with their target audiences via the Internet. SINA.net provides businesses and government bodies with e-marketing and e-government solutions including search, corporate email and e-commerce.
SINA e-Commerce. SINA currently offers SINA Mall (http://mall.sina.com.cn), an online shopping website, on its Chinese Mainland and North America websites. Based on SINAs proprietary technology platform, SINA Mall enables both international and local companies to transact business.
SINA Blog. Launched in 2005, SINA Blog has become a popular platform for Chinese bloggers to read and publish original writings. Building on SINAs brand prestige and large user traffic, SINA Blog offers a platform for celebrities to maintain a direct dialog with their fans.
SINA Album. Launched in July 2007, SINA Album is a photo-sharing platform where users can upload, store, download and share their photos. It also supports social media functions such as commenting on the photos and tagging friends.
SINA Email. SINA Email services include Free Email, VIP Mail and Corporate Email for enterprise users. SINA Mail supports both POP3 and SMTP access and provides users with year-round anti-spam and anti-virus protection.
SINA UC. Apart from the traditional text-based instant messaging, SINA UC also provides users with audio and video-based instant messaging tools to enable multimedia social experiences.
SINA iAsk. SINA iAsk is a proprietary search technology that offers knowledge-based search, community-based search and niche search covering a variety of topical areas. As an intelligent interactive search engine with natural language processing technology, SINA iAsk categorizes search subjects into areas of news, pictures, music, knowledge, and video. SINA iAsk offers an interactive Q&A platform and personalized features such as search by local content (maps, entertainment and travel). SINA iAsk also powers SINAs mobile search engine. From 2007 to mid 2010, SINA outsourced its web page search to Google under a revenue-sharing arrangement. In March 2010, Google began redirecting its searches from Google.cn to Google.com.hk, which resulted in service outages and other limitations for some SINA users. With the expiration of the arrangement with Google in 2010, the licensing of Google search was not renewed.
SINA Post. As part of SINAs classified advertising service, SINA Post was launched in 2005 to allow free posting of advertisements for individual and enterprise users. SINAs proprietary classified search technology allows users to find data and information.
SINA BBS. SINA BBS hosts topic-specific discussion forums in Chinese language.
SINA Group. SINA Group builds on existing SINA community services, such as SINA Blog, to create user-maintained and supported online communities.
SINA has developed strategic relationships with a range of content, service, application and distribution partners in order to serve users more effectively and to extend its brand and services to a broader audience.
The goal of SINAs content partnerships is to provide its users with an extensive offering of Chinese-language content. SINA contracts with content partners to display their content on one or more of its websites free of charge or in exchange for a share of revenue, a licensing fee, and access to SINA-generated content or a combination of these arrangements. Some of SINAs leading content providers include the NBA, English Premier League, National Football League, PGA Tour, CCTV, BTV, Xinhua News Agency, China News, AFP, Associated Press, Reuters, Getty Images, China Daily, Nanfang Daily Group, Xinhua Net and Beijing News. For its mobile content, SINA has established content partnerships with certain international record companies to provide image and music downloads.
Application and Service Partnerships
The goal of SINAs application and service partnerships is to ensure that its users have access to user-friendly, reliable and scalable communication and search tools. Because many of SINAs prospective partners have traditionally focused on non-
Chinese speaking markets, SINAs internal engineering and development teams often work closely with them to localize their solutions for the Chinese-language market.
SINAs infrastructure allows users to access its products and services, regardless of their geographical location. SINAs infrastructure is also designed to provide high-speed access by forwarding queries to its web hosting sites with greater resources or lower loads. The Companys web pages are generated, served and cached by servers hosted at various co-location web hosting sites in China, the U.S., Taiwan and Hong Kong. SINAs servers run on Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and Windows platforms using Apache, Squid, Nginx, and Lighttpd servers. These servers are primarily maintained at China Telecom and China Unicom branches in cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin, TNN in Taipei, Taiwan, AT&T in San Jose, California, as well as NTT in Hong Kong.
The Company believes that these hosting partners provide operating advantages, including an enhanced ability to protect their systems from power loss, break-ins and other potential external causes of service interruption. They provide continuous customer service, multiple connections to the Internet and a continuous power supply to their systems. In addition, SINA conducts online monitoring of its systems for accessibility, load, system resources, traffic, network-server intrusion and timeliness of content. SINAs mobile applications in China leverage the aforementioned web operation resources by utilizing the wireless infrastructure of China Mobile and China Unicom to provide MVAS to SINAs users. Nevertheless, the Company has experienced slower response time and suffered outages in the past due to equipment and software downtime as well as bandwidth issues with operators. Although these instances have not had a material adverse effect on the Companys business, such instances could have a material impact on its business in the future.
SINA has experienced seasonality in its online advertising business. Historically, the first calendar quarter has been the worst season for its advertising business due to the Chinese New Year holidays, and the fourth calendar quarter has been the best. Past performance may not be indicative of future trends, as the mix of advertising industry sectors, which may have different seasonality factors, may shift from quarter to quarter. Seasonality in our MVAS and other businesses is less apparent.
SINA operates in the market of online content and services for the global Chinese community. The industry can be classified as highly competitive and rapidly changing due to the fast growing market. As SINA expands its product offerings into areas, such as social media and networking, video, WAP portal, blog and instant messaging, it faces increasing competition from companies that are focused in the same space. In the social media and networking spaces, SINA competes with large, established portals, including Tencent, Sohu and Netease, as well as vertically focused players like Renren.com, Kaixin001.com, Hainei.com, 51.com and 159.com. In online video, SINAs competitors include Youku, Tudou, Qiyi (a subsidiary of Baidu), 56.com, Ku6, PP Live and PP Stream, as well as the video offerings of large portals. In the WAP (mobile) portal space, key competitors include Tencent and Kongzhong as well as WAP portals operated by mobile operators, such as China Mobiles Monternet. In blog, SINA competes with public companies, such as Baidu, Tencent, Netease, Sohu and Shanda Literature (a subsidiary of Shanda), as well as vertically focused websites, such as Bokee, Blogbus, Poco, Blogcn and Hexun. In instant messaging, SINA faces competition from the likes of Tencent (QQ), Microsoft (MSN Messenger) and Alibaba/Yahoo! China (Yahoo Messenger).
SINA also faces competition from vertical websites, who may have better focus and more resources dedicated to a topical area, such as Hexun, East Money, China Finance Online, PCAuto, Auto Home and PC Online. On MVAS, the Company competes with other service providers such as Kongzhong, TOM Online, Linktone and Hurray that specialize in MVAS as well as the large portals. As SINA continues to broaden its range of product offerings, it expects increasing competition from established players and possibly less well-known players in the coming years. Many of these competitors have greater financial resources and better brand recognition in their respective areas. In addition, certain companies, especially venture-backed start-ups, may be willing to compete for market share at the expense of significant operating losses.
Other online content/services companies, such as Baidu, Tencent, Netease, Sohu and TOM Online, compete with SINA for user traffic, advertising revenue, e-commerce transactions, MVAS and fee-based services. Industry consolidation may occur as the market for the Internet in China matures, which could result in increased competition. The Company also faces competition from international Internet companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace and AOL. With the gradual opening of the telecommunication sector resulting from Chinas entry into the World Trade Organization, the Company expects an increasing number of international portals and Internet companies to enter the Chinese online media industry. These companies may have greater brand recognition, financial resources and longer operating histories than SINA. The
Company also competes for advertisers with traditional media companies, including newspapers, television networks and radio stations that have a longer history of use and greater acceptance among advertisers. As rich-media format advertising becomes more popular to SINAs advertising mix, SINA may also see competition from outdoor media companies. In addition, providers of Chinese Internet tools and services may be acquired by, receive investments from, or enter into other commercial relationships with large, well-established and well-financed Internet, media or other companies.
SINAs ability to compete successfully depends on many factors, including the quality of its content, the breadth, depth and ease of use of its services, its sales and marketing efforts, the size and activeness of its user base, the coverage of desired user profile, and the performance of its technology. See also The markets for Internet and MVAS services are highly competitive, and we may be unable to compete successfully against new entrants and established industry competitors, which could reduce our market share and adversely affect our financial performance under the Risk Factors section.
Intellectual Property and Proprietary Rights
We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and trade secret laws and restrictions on disclosure to protect our intellectual property rights. Despite our efforts to protect our proprietary rights, unauthorized parties may attempt to copy or otherwise obtain and use our technology. Monitoring unauthorized use of our products is difficult and costly, and we cannot be certain that the steps we have taken will prevent misappropriation of our technology, particularly in foreign countries where the laws may not protect our proprietary rights as fully as in the United States. From time to time, we may have to resort to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, which could result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources.
In addition, third parties may initiate litigation against us alleging infringement of their proprietary rights. In the event of a successful claim of infringement and our failure or inability to develop non-infringing technology or license the infringed or similar technology on a timely basis, our business could be harmed. In addition, even if we are able to license the infringed or similar technology, license fees could be substantial and may adversely affect our results of operations. See We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could cause us to be less competitive and We may be exposed to infringement claims by third parties, which, if successful, could cause us to pay significant damage awards under the Risk Factors section.
Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties
The following description of PRC laws and regulations is based upon the opinions of lawyers from Jun He Law Offices, our PRC counsel. For a description of legal risks relating to our ownership structure and business, see Risk Factors.
The Chinese government has enacted an extensive regulatory scheme governing the operation of business with respect to the Internet, such as telecommunications, Internet information services, international connections to computer information networks, information security and censorship and administrative protection of copyright. Besides MII and SARFT, the various services of the PRC Internet industry are also regulated by various other governmental authorities, such as SAIC, the State Council Information Office (SCIO), the GAPP, the Ministry of Education (MOE), the MCPRC, the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Ministry of Public Security.
Among all the regulations, the Telecommunications Regulations of the Peoples Republic of China, or the Telecom Regulations, promulgated on September 25, 2000, is the primary governing law. The Telecom Regulations set out the general framework under which domestic Chinese companies such as SINAs subsidiaries and VIEs may engage in various types of telecommunications services in the PRC. They reiterate the long-standing principle that telecommunications service providers need to obtain operating licenses as a mandatory precondition to begin operation. The Telecom Regulations differentiate the telecommunications services into basic telecommunications services and value-added telecommunications services. Value-added telecommunications services are defined as telecommunications and information services provided through public networks. The Catalogue of Telecommunications Business, an attachment to the Telecom Regulations and updated by MIIs Notice on Adjusting the Catalogue of Telecommunications Business of April 1, 2003, categorizes various types of telecommunications and telecommunications-related activities into basic or value-added services.
On December 20, 2001, after Chinas formal entry into the WTO, the State Council promulgated the Regulations for the Administration of Foreign-Invested Telecommunications Enterprises, or the FITE Regulations, which became effective on January 1, 2002 and were amended by the State Council on September 10, 2008. The FITE Regulations stipulate that foreign-invested telecommunications enterprises, or FITEs, may undertake operations in basic telecom services and value-added telecom services. Currently, the foreign party to a value-added FITE may hold up to 50% of the equity, with no geographic restrictions on its operations. Before that, foreign investors were prohibited from investing in Internet content services. The PRC government has
not made any further commitment to loosen the regulation on FITEs, except for qualified Hong Kong Service Providers under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.
According to the Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Services described below, an enterprise must obtain a license for operating value-added telecommunication services to conduct Internet content service businesses. When the Internet content involves areas of news, education, medicine, health, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, which are regulated by MCPRC, MOE, MOH and other governmental authorities, respectively, the enterprise must also obtain permission from responsible national authorities.
PRC Corporate Structure
The Chinese government restricts foreign investment in Internet-related and MVAS businesses. Accordingly, we operate our Internet-related and MVAS businesses in China through our VIEs that are PRC domestic companies owned principally or completely by certain of our PRC employees or PRC employees of our directly-owned subsidiaries. For a list of our material directly-owned subsidiaries and VIEs in China, please see C. Organizational Structure below.
Foreign Investment in Value-added Telecom Services
The MII Circular 2006 was promulgated by MII on July 13, 2006. According to the MII Circular 2006, since the FITE Regulation went into effect, some foreign investors have, by means of delegation of domain names and license of trademarks, conspired with domestic value-added telecom enterprises to circumvent the requirements of FITE Regulations and have been engaged in value-added telecom services illegally.
In order to further intensify the administration of FITEs, the MII Circular 2006 provides that (i) any domain name used by a value-added telecom carrier shall be legally owned by such carrier or its shareholder(s); (ii) any trademark used by a value-added telecom carrier shall be legally owned by the carrier or its shareholder(s); (iii) the operation site and facilities of a value-added telecom carrier shall be installed within the scope as prescribed by operating licenses obtained by the carrier and shall correspond to the value-added telecom services that the carrier has been approved to provide; and (iv) a value-added telecom carrier shall establish or improve the measures of ensuring safety of network information. As to the companies which have obtained the operating licenses for value-added telecom services, they are required to conduct self-examination and self-correction according to the said requirements and report the result of such self-examination and self-correction to MII.
Accordingly, the ICP Company submitted the Self-Correction Scheme to MII on November 17, 2006. Under the Self-Correction Scheme, (i) the domain name www.sina.com.cn mainly used by the ICP Company shall be transferred from BSIT to the ICP Company, and (ii) the trademark SINA ((CHINESE CHARACTERS)) used by the ICP Company shall be transferred from BSIT to the ICP Company. According to the Certificate for Approval of Trademark Transfer issued by the Trademark Office of SAIC on September 28, 2008, the trademark SINA has already been transferred to the ICP Company. The domain name www.sina.com.cn has been transferred to the ICP Company as well.
Internet Information Services
The Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Services, or the ICP Measures, went into effect on September 25, 2000. Under the ICP Measures, any entity providing information to online Internet users must obtain an operating license from MII or its local branch at the provincial level in accordance with the Telecom Regulations described above. The ICP Measures further stipulate that entities providing online information services in areas of news, publishing, education, medicine, health, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment must obtain permission from responsible national and local authorities prior to applying for an operating license from MII or its local branch at the provincial or municipal level. Moreover, ICPs must display their operating license numbers in a conspicuous location on their websites. ICPs must police their websites to remove categories of harmful content that are broadly defined. This obligation reiterates Internet content restrictions set by other ministries over the past few years.
The ICP Company currently holds a Telecommunication and Information Services Operating License, which also permits the Company to operate bulletin board system or BBS, was issued on October 29, 2010 by MII with a validity term up to December 4, 2015 subject to annual inspection.
Beijing Star-Village Online Cultural Development Co., Ltd. (StarVI) currently holds a Telecommunication and Information Services Operating License, which was issued on October 29, 2010 by MII with a validity term up to December 4, 2015 subject to
annual inspection, authorizing the provision of business of information services excluding in areas of news, publishing, education, medicine, health, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and BBS.
Shenzhen Wang Xing Technology Co., Ltd. (Wangxing) currently holds a Value-Added Telecommunication Services Operating License issued on September 16, 2009 by MII with a validity term up to September 16, 2014 subject to annual inspection, authorizing the provision of nationwide Internet information services.
Online News Publishing
On November 6, 2000 and September 25, 2005, the Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Website Operation of News Publication Services and the Provisions for the Administration of Internet News Information Services, respectively, were jointly promulgated by SCIO and MII. The regulations stipulate that general websites set up by non-news organizations may list news released by certain governmental news agencies, if they satisfy the requirements set forth in the foregoing two regulations, but may not publish news items produced by themselves or news sources from elsewhere.
Before commencing news-publishing services, the above regulations also require the general websites of non-news organizations to be approved by SCIO after securing permission from SCIO at the provincial level. In addition, the general websites intending to publish the news released by the aforementioned news agencies must enter into agreements with the respective organizations, and file copies of such agreements with the relevant administration department.
On December 27, 2000, the Information Office of Beijing Peoples Government approved the ICP Company to develop online news publishing services. On June 6, 2006, SCIO issued to the ICP Company the Internet News Information Service License, which is subject to annual inspection. The ICP Company has passed the annual inspection for the year 2009.
Online Transmission of Audio-visual Programs
On July 6, 2004, SARFT promulgated the Measures for the Administration of Publication of Audio-visual Programs through Internet or Other Information Network, which apply to the opening, broadcasting, integration, transmission or download of audio-visual programs via Internet. An applicant who is engaged in the business of transmitting audio-visual programs shall apply for a license, which is to be issued by SARFT in accordance with the categories of business, receiving terminals, transmission networks, and other items. Validity term of the license is two years and can be renewed upon its expiration. Foreign invested enterprises are not allowed to engage in the above business. Moreover, the audio-visual programs of the news category published to the public through information network shall be limited to the programs produced and broadcasted by radio stations, television stations, radio television stations and approved news websites within the territory of China.
According to the Reply on Approvals for Beijing SINA Internet Information Service Co., Ltd. Engaging in the Business of Information Services Relating to Online Transmission of Audio-visual Programs issued by SARFT on October 17, 2004, the ICP Company has been approved to carry out the online transmission of audio-visual programs. The ICP Company currently holds a License for Online Transmission of Audio-visual Programs issued by SARFT on April 16, 2009, with a validity term up to April 16, 2012.
On December 20, 2007, SARFT and MII jointly promulgated the Administrative Provisions on Internet Audio-visual Program Service, or the Audio-visual Program Provisions, which went effective on January 31, 2008. The Audio-visual Program Provisions stipulates, among others, that any entity engaged in Internet audio-visual program service must obtain a License for Online Transmission of Audio-visual Programs issued by SARFT or register with SARFT. An applicant for engaging in Internet audio-visual program service must be a state-owned entity or a state-controlled entity with full corporate capacity, and the business to be carried out by the applicant must satisfy the overall planning and guidance catalogue for Internet audio-visual program service determined by SARFT. It is unclear based on the implement rules of the Audio-visual Program Provisions whether such requirements only apply to the new market entrants for operating Internet audio-visual program services or such requirements apply to both new applicants and entities that have already obtained the License for Online Transmission of Audio-visual Programs.
SARFT and MII later jointly held a press conference in February 2008 to answer questions with respect to the Audio-visual Program Provisions. In that press conference, SARFT and MII clarified that the websites that existed before the promulgation of the Audio-visual Program Provisions may, once they are registered with SARFT, continue operating the audio-visual services so long as those websites have not been in violation of the laws and regulations.
On March 31, 2009, SARFT promulgated the Notice on Strengthening the Administration of the Content of Internet Audio Visual Program, which reiterated the prohibition of certain types of Internet audio visual programs containing violence, pornography, gambling, terrorism or superstitious factors.
Production of Radio and Television Programs
On July 19, 2004, SARFT promulgated the Regulations for Administration on Production of Radio and Television Programs, or the Radio and TV Programs Regulations, which went into effect as of August 20, 2004. Under the Radio and TV Programs Regulations, any entities engaged in the production of radio and television programs are required to apply for a license from SARFT or its provincial branches.
On March 19, 2009, the ICP Company obtained a license for production of radio and television programs issued by Beijing Radio and Television Bureau. The validity term of such license is up to March 19, 2011 subject to annual inspection. On April 11, 2011, the ICP Company obtained a new license upon expiration of the old license. The validity of the new license is up to April 11, 2013.
On March 1, 2009, MII promulgated the Administrative Measures for the Licensing of Telecommunication Business Operations (New Administrative Measures), which superseded the Administrative Measures for Telecommunication Business Operating Licenses published in 2001 (Old Administrative Measures) on April 10, 2009. The New Administrative Measures, like the Old Administrative Measures, require an entity to obtain a business permit, which is divided into two categories license for basic telecom services and license for value-added telecom services, in order to operate a telecommunication business. Furthermore, a distinction is made as to whether a license for conducting value-added telecommunication services is granted for intra-provincial or trans-regional (inter-provincial) activities. An appendix to the license will detail the permitted activities to be conducted by the enterprise. An approved telecom service operator must conduct its business (basic or value-added) in accordance with the specifications recorded on its Telecom Service Operating License. However, there are still ambiguities regarding the interpretation and application of the FITE Regulations.
The ICP Company currently holds a Value-Added Telecommunication Services Operating License issued on July 7, 2009 by MII subject to annual inspection, authorizing nationwide provision of information service in value-added telecommunications services (excluding fixed line phone call information services and Internet information services). The validity term of this license is up to July 7, 2014. The ICP Company also holds a Value-Added Telecommunication Services Operating License issued by Beijing Communication Administration Bureau on March 10, 2008, with a validity term up to June 1, 2013, authorizing the ICP Company to provide MVAS in Beijing.
Guangzhou Media Message Technologies, Inc. (Xunlong) currently holds a Value-Added Telecommunication Services Operating License issued on December 9, 2010 by MII with a validity term up to September 16, 2014 subject to annual inspection, authorizing the provision of nationwide business of information services (excluding fixed line phone call information services and Internet information services).
StarVI currently holds a Value-Added Telecommunications Services Operating License issued on September 16, 2009 by MII with a validity term up to September 16, 2014 subject to annual inspection, authorizing the provision of nationwide business of information services (excluding fixed line phone call information services and Internet information services).
Wangxing currently holds a Value-Added Telecommunication Services Operating License issued on September 16, 2009 by MII with a validity term up to September 16, 2014 subject to annual inspection, authorizing the provision of nationwide business of information services (excluding fixed line phone call information services and Internet information services).
Beijing Western-net Network Technology Co., Ltd. currently holds a Value-Added Telecommunication Services Operating License issued on March 1, 2010 by MII with a validity term up to March 1, 2015 subject to annual inspection, authorizing the provision of nationwide business of information services (excluding fixed line phone call information services and Internet information services). According to the Confirmation Letter issued by Beijing Communication Administration Bureau, Beijing Western-net Network Technology Co., Ltd. has been approved to provide MVAS in Beijing.
Short Messaging Services
On April 29, 2004, MII issued the Notice on Certain Issues Regarding the Regulation of Short Messaging Services, or the SMS Notice. The SMS Notice confirms that all mobile communication companies shall provide SMS in cooperation with information service providers who have obtained relevant operating license for SMS. In addition, all mobile communication companies and information service providers shall highlight the fee standards, payment methods and ways of withdrawal in their advertisements for SMS services. For services based on monthly payment and subscription services, providers shall confirm with the users in
advance. Without such confirmation, it should be assumed that the user has withdrawn such requirement for services. The mobile communication companies and information service providers shall strictly comply with the service items as agreed upon with the users. The information service providers shall examine the contents of short messages, and no short message may contain contents forbidden by law.
On June 27, 2002, SPPA and MII jointly released the Provisional Rules for the Administration of Internet Publishing, or the Internet Publishing Rules, which define Internet publications as works that are either selected or edited to be published on the Internet or transmitted to end-users through the Internet for the purposes of browsing, reading, using or downloading by the general public. Such works mainly include content or articles formally published by press media such as: (i) books, newspapers, periodicals, audio-visual products and electronic publications; and (ii) literature, art and articles on natural science, social science, engineering and other topics that have been edited.
According to the Internet Publishing Rules, web portals like SINA are required to apply to and register with GAPP before distributing Internet publications.
In accordance with these rules, the ICP Company currently holds an Internet Publication License issued by GAPP on December 21, 2010, with a validity term up to December 31, 2014.
On May 10, 2003, the Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Online Culture were issued by MCPRC and went into effect on July 1, 2003 (these regulations were revised by MCPRC on July 1, 2004 and further revised and repromulgated on February 17, 2011). According to these regulations, commercial entities are required to apply to the relevant local branch of MCPRC for an Online Culture Operating Permit to engage in online games services.
On July 27, 2004, GAPP and the State Copyright Bureau jointly promulgated the Notice on Carrying out the Decision from the State Council Regarding the Approval of Electronic and Online Games Publications, or the Games Notice. According to the Games Notice, an Internet Publication License is required for publishing online games.
According to the Circular of the Ministry of Culture on Strengthening the Examination of Content of Online Games Products issued by MCPRC on May 14, 2004, the contents of any foreign online game products should be examined and approved by MCPRC before they are operated within China; and entities engaged in developing and operating domestic online games products should register with the MCPRC.
On November 13, 2009, MCPRC once again issued the Circular of the Ministry of Culture on Improving and Strengthening the Examination of Content of Online Games. According to this circular, offensive promotion and advertisement of online games, games propagating eroticism, gambling, violence, online games without the approval from MCPRC, and so on, are strictly prohibited.
On September 28, 2009, GAPP, the National Copyright Administration and the National Office of Combating Pornography and Illegal Publications jointly published the Notice Regarding the Consistent Implementation of the Stipulations on Three Provisions of the State Council and the Relevant Interpretations of the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform and the Further Strengthening of the Administration of Pre-examination and Approval of Internet Games and the Examination and Approval of Imported Internet Games or Circular 13. Circular 13 expressly prohibits foreign investors from participating in Internet game operating business via wholly owned, equity joint venture or cooperative joint venture investments in China, and from controlling and participating in such businesses directly or indirectly through contractual or technical support arrangements. In addition, according to circular 13, GAPPs approval is required for publishing any specific imported online games and any imported online game which is not examined and approved by GAPP is not allowed to be published online. It is not clear yet as to whether other PRC government authorities, such as the MOFCOM or MII will support GAPP to enforce the prohibition of the VIE model that Circular 13 contemplates.
On June 3, 2010, the MCPRC promulgated the Interim Measures for Administration of Online Games, or the Online Games Measures, which became effective on August 1, 2010. The Online Games Measures reiterate that any online games operator should obtain an Online Culture Operating Permit to engage in online game services. In addition, the contents of any imported online games should be examined and approved by MCPRC before they are operated within China, and any domestic online games should be registered with MCPRC.
The ICP Company currently holds an Internet Publication License issued by GAPP on December 21, 2010 with a validity term up to December 31, 2014 and an Online Culture Operating Permit issued by MCPRC on September 2, 2008, and with a validity
term up to September 2011.
Internet Medical, Health and Drug Information Services
On May 1, 2009, MOH promulgated Administrative Measures for Internet Medical and Health Information Services, which require an entity that provides Internet medical-and-health-related information services to obtain an approval letter from the health administrative departments at the provincial level and strictly prohibit the website from releasing any superstitious, pornographic or false information or publish any medical advertisements without examination and approval or provide on-line diagnosis or treatment services.
On August 18, 2010, Beijing Health Bureau issued an approval letter to the ICP Company to approve the ICP Company to provide medical-and-health-related information services. The validity term of this approval letter is up to August 16, 2012.
According to the Measures for the Administration of Internet Drug Information Services, issued by the State Drug Administration (SDA), on July 8, 2004, websites publishing drug-related information must obtain a license from SDA or its provincial departments.
The ICP Company obtained the approval for website publishing of drug-related information from Beijing Drug Administration (BDA) and SDA on December 20, 2001 and January 10, 2002, respectively, and has obtained a Qualification Certificate for Internet Drug Information Services issued by the BDA on December 7, 2009 with a validity term up to December 6, 2014.
Online Cultural Products
The Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Online Culture described above and the Notice on Issues Relating to Implementing the Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Online Culture issued by MCPRC on July 4, 2003 apply to entities engaged in activities related to online cultural products. Online cultural products are classified as: (i) online cultural products particularly developed for publishing via Internet, which include online music and video files (including video on demand and digital video broadcasting etc.), network games, online performing arts, online artworks, and online animation features and cartoons (including Flash animation); and (ii) online cultural products converted from audio and visual products, games, performing arts, artworks and animation features and cartoons, and published via Internet. Pursuant to these legislations, commercial entities are required to apply to MCPRC for an Online Culture Operating Permit if they intend to engage in any of the following types of activities for the purpose of making profits:
On July 30, 2010, MCPRC released a notice regarding the devolution of power on the administration of online culture operation, according to which the provincial counterparts of MCPRC should now be the competent authorities for issuing the Online Culture Operating Permits.
The ICP Company currently holds an Online Culture Operating Permit issued by MCPRC on September 2, 2008. The validity term of this permit is up to September 2011. StarVI currently holds an Online Culture Operating Permit issued by MCPRC on January 27, 2011. The validity term of this permit is up to December 31, 2014.
Regulations governing online advertising include:
According to the above regulations, an enterprise engaging in advertising business as specified in its business scope does not need to apply for an Advertising Operation License, provided that such enterprise is not a radio station, television station, newspaper or magazine publisher or any other entity as specified in laws or administrative regulations. As to placing advertisements on the Internet, such enterprise shall apply for a business scope of placing online advertisements on the name of the website and does not need to apply for the Advertising Operation License.
Beijing SINA Infinity Advertising Co., Ltd., a Chinese company controlled by us through a series of contractual arrangements (the IAD Company), has an approved business scope to carry out the design, production, agency and issuance of advertisements.
Beijing SINA Advertising Co., Ltd., a Chinese company wholly owned by our subsidiary SINA Hong Kong Limited, has an approved business scope to carry out the design, production, issuance and agency of advertisements.
Shanghai SINA Advertising Co., Ltd., a Chinese company wholly owned by our subsidiary SINA Hong Kong Limited, has an approved business scope to carry out the design, production, issuance and agency of advertisements.
The ICP Company has an approved business scope to issue Internet advertisements on the website www.sina.com.cn, therefore the ICP Company is allowed to carry out the business of placing advertisements on the website www.sina.com.cn.
Fujian SINA Information Services Co., Ltd, a Chinese company in which the ICP Company holds 70% equity interest, has an approved business scope to carry out the design, production, issuance and agency of advertisements.
Henan Bolang Information Services Co., Ltd, a Chinese company in which the ICP Company holds 51% equity interest, has an approved business scope to carry out the design, production, issuance and agency of advertisements.
International Connections for Computer Information Networks
Regulations governing international connections for PRC computer networks include:
According to the above regulations, any entity wishing to access international network connections for its computer information networks in the PRC must comply with the following requirements:
The companies described in C. Organizational Structure below are in proper compliance with these requirements.
Internet Mapping Services
On December 2, 1992, the National Peoples Congress approved and promulgated the Surveying and Mapping Law, which went into effect on July 1993. The Surveying and Mapping Law was amended on August 29, 2002 and the amendment became effective on December 1, 2002. According to the Surveying and Mapping Law, any entities engaged in surveying and mapping services should obtain a surveying and mapping qualification certificate and comply with the states surveying and mapping criteria. On May 10, 2010, the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping promulgated the Professional Criteria of Internet Mapping Services, specifying the professional criteria for providing Internet mapping services. The ICP Company has obtained a surveying and mapping qualification certificate on July 27, 2010.
On June 14, 2010, PBOC issued the Non-Financial Institutions Payment Services Regulation Measures, or the Payment Measures, which went into effect on September 1, 2010. The Payment Measures require all non-financial institutions engaged in any online payment services to obtain an online payment service license from the PBOC within a one-year grace period starting September 1, 2010. Failure to obtain an online payment service license will lead to the termination of the right to provide online payment services. We are in the process of applying for an online payment service license.
Information Security and Censorship
Laws and regulations governing information security and censorship include:
These laws and regulations specifically prohibit the use of Internet infrastructure where it may breach public security, provide content harmful to the stability of society or disclose state secrets. According to these laws and regulations, it is mandatory for Internet companies in the PRC to complete security-filing procedures and regularly update information security and censorship systems for their websites with the local public security bureau. In addition, the newly amended Law on Preservation of State Secrets which became effective on October 1, 2010, provides that whenever an Internet service provider detects any leakage of state secrets in the distribution of online information, it should stop the distribution of such information and report to the authorities of state security and public security. As per request of the authorities of state security, public security or state secrecy, the Internet service provider should delete any contents on its website that may lead to disclosure of state secrets. Failure to do so
on a timely and adequate basis may subject us to liability and certain penalties given by the State Security Bureau, Ministry of Public Security and/or MII or their respective local counterparts.
According to the Detailed Implementing Rules for the Measures for the Administration of Commercial Website Filings for the Record, promulgated by BAIC in July 2002, websites must comply with the following requirements:
The ICP Company successfully registered its websites with BAIC on December 23, 2002. Afterwards, SINAs electronic registration mark is prominently placed on its homepage.
In addition, the State Security Bureau (SSB) has issued regulations authorizing the blocking of access to any site it deems to be leaking state secrets or failing to comply with the relevant legislation regarding the protection of state secrets during online information distribution. Specifically, Internet companies in China with bulletin boards, chat rooms or similar services must apply for the approval of the SSB prior to operating such services. The ICP Company has established an internal security committee, adopted security maintenance measures, employed full-time BBS supervisors and has been exchanging information on a regular basis with the local public security bureau with regard to sensitive or censored information and websites. Thus, it is in full compliance with the governing legislation.
On October 7, 1999, the State Encryption Administration Commission published the Regulations for the Administration of Commercial Encryption, followed by the first Notice of the General Office of the State Encryption Administration Commission on November 8, 1999. Both of these regulations address the use of software in China with encryption functions. According to these regulations, purchase of encryption products must be reported. Violation of the encryption regulations may result in a warning, penalty, confiscation of the encryption product, or criminal liabilities.
On March 18, 2000, the Office of the State Commission for the Administration of Cryptography issued a public announcement regarding the implementation of those regulations. The announcement clarifies the encryption regulations as below:
In late 2005, the Administration Bureau of Cryptography further issued a series of regulations to regulate the development, production and sales of commercial encryption products, which all came into effect on January 1, 2006.
We believe that the companies described in C. Organizational Structure below are in proper compliance with these requirements. For the legal uncertainties associated with encryption software, please see We may have to register our encryption software with Chinese regulatory authorities, and if they request that we change our encryption software, our business operations could be disrupted as we develop or license replacement software in the Risk Factors section.
According to the Measures for the Administration of Educational websites and Online Education School released on July 5, 2000, to open educational websites and online education schools, application must be made to the administrative department overseeing education. Operation may begin only when it is inspected and approved by the administrative department. Educational websites and online education schools shall not operate without the approval of the administrative department overseeing education.
In compliance with the above regulation, the ICP Company obtained the aforementioned approvals from the Beijing Education Committee on March 21, 2002.
Administrative Protection of Internet Copyright
According to the Measures for the Administrative Protection of Internet Copyright implemented on May 30, 2005, acts of automatically providing such functions as uploading, storing, linking or searching works, audio or video products, or other contents through the Internet based on the instruction of an Internet content provider, without editing, amending or selecting any stored or transmitted content, and other acts of providing Internet information services shall be governed by the Copyright Law. A copyright administration department shall, when imposing administrative penalties upon the act infringing upon the right of communication through information network, apply the Measures for Imposing Copyright Administrative Penalties.
Where a copyright holder (individual or entity) finds any content communicated through the Internet infringes upon its copyright and sends a notice of claim to the Internet information service provider, the Internet information service provider shall immediately take measures to remove the relevant contents, and preserve the copyright holders notice of claim for six months. An Internet information service provider shall, after receipt of the copyright holders notice, record the contents of the provided information, the publishing time, and the Internet address or domain name. Where an Internet information service provider removes relevant content of an Internet content provider according to the notice of a copyright holder, the Internet content provider may deliver a counter-notice to both the Internet information service provider and the copyright holder, stating that the removed contents do not infringe upon the copyright. After the delivery of such counter-notice, the Internet information service provider may immediately reinstate the removed contents and shall not bear legal liability for such reinstatement
Where an Internet information service provider clearly knows an Internet content provider infringes others copyright through the Internet, or, although it does not clearly know such activity but fails to take measures to remove relevant contents upon receipt of the copyright owners notice, as a result, it damages public interests, the copyright administration department may, in accordance with the Copyright Law, order it to stop the tortious act, and impose administrative penalties. Where there is no evidence to indicate that an Internet information service provider clearly knows the facts of tort, or the Internet information service provider has taken measures to remove relevant contents upon receipt of the copyright owners notice, the Internet information service provider shall not bear the relevant liabilities.
The companies described in C. Organizational Structure below have taken measures to protect Internet copyright in pursuance of the specified procedures and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations mentioned above.
Foreign exchange regulation in China is primarily governed by the following regulations:
Under the Exchange Rules, RMB is convertible for current account items, including the distribution of dividends, interest payments, trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions. As for capital account items, such as direct investments, loans, security investments and the repatriation of investment returns, however, the reservation or conversion of foreign currency income is still subject to the approval of SAFE or its competent local branches; while for the foreign currency payments for capital account items, the SAFE approval is not necessary for the conversion of RMB except as otherwise explicitly provided by laws and regulations.
Under the Administration Rules, enterprises may only buy, sell or remit foreign currencies at banks that are authorized to conduct foreign exchange business after the enterprise provides valid commercial documents and relevant supporting documents and, in the case of certain capital account transactions, after obtaining approval from SAFE or its competent local branches. Capital investments by enterprises outside of China are also subject to limitations, which include approvals by the MOC, SAFE and the National Development and Reform Commission, or their respective competent local branches.
On October 21, 2005, SAFE issued the Circular on Several Issues concerning Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Residents to Engage in Financing and in Return Investments via Overseas Special Purpose Companies, or Circular No. 75, which went into effect on November 1, 2005. Circular No. 75 provides that if PRC residents use assets or equity interests in their PRC entities to establish offshore companies or inject assets or equity interests of their PRC entities into offshore companies for the purpose of overseas capital financing, they must register with local SAFE branches with respect to their investments in offshore companies. Circular No. 75 also requires PRC residents to file changes to their registration if their special purpose companies
undergo material events such as capital increase or decrease, share transfer or exchange, merger or division, long-term equity or debt investments, provision of guaranty to a foreign party, etc. SAFE further promulgated the Implementing Rules for Circular No. 75, or Circular No. 106, clarifying and supplementing the concrete operating rules that shall be followed during the implementation and application of Circular No. 75.
On August 29, 2008, the Notice of the General Affairs Department of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on the Relevant Operating Issues concerning the Improvement of the Administration of Payment and Settlement of Foreign Currency Capital of Foreign-funded Enterprises, or Circular 142, was promulgated by SAFE. Pursuant to Circular 142, the foreign currency capital of FIEs, after being converted to RMB, can only be used for doing business within the business scope approved by relevant governmental authorities, and shall not be used for domestic equity investment except as otherwise explicitly provided by laws and regulations. In addition, FIEs may not change how they use such capital without SAFEs approval, and may not in any case use such capital to repay RMB loans if they have not used the proceeds of such loans.
On November 19, 2010 SAFE promulgated a circular, or Circular 59 which requires the authenticity of settlement of net proceeds from offshore offerings to be closely examined and the net proceeds to be settled in the manner described in the offering documents. Circular 142 and Circular 59 may significantly limit our ability to transfer the net proceeds from this offering to our PRC subsidiaries and convert the net proceeds into RMB, which may adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business in the PRC.
On March 16, 2007, the National Peoples Congress approved and promulgated the EIT Law. On December 6, 2007, the State Council approved the Implementing Rules. Both the EIT Law and its Implementing Rules became effective on January 1, 2008. Under the EIT Law and the Implementing Rules, which superseded the Previous IT Law, the enterprise income tax rate for both domestic companies and FIEs is unified at 25%. On December 26, 2007, the State Council promulgated the Circular on Implementation of Enterprise Tax Transition Preferential Policy, or the Preferential Policy Circular. The EIT Law, its Implementing Rules and the Preferential Policy Circular provide a five-year transitional period for certain entities that had enjoyed a favorable income tax rate of less than 25% under the Previous IT Law and were established before March 16, 2007, during which period the applicable enterprises income tax rate shall gradually increase to 25%.
On April 14, 2008, the Administration Measures for Recognition of High and New Technology Enterprises, or the Recognition Measures, were jointly promulgated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, and the State Administration of Taxation, which sets out the standards and process for granting the high and new technology enterprises status. According to the EIT Law and its Implementing Rules as well as the Recognition Measures, enterprises which have been granted the high and new technology enterprises status shall enjoy a favorable income tax rate of 15%. As of December 2010, three of our subsidiaries have obtained the Certificate for High and New Technology Enterprises, evidencing their high and new technology enterprises status. Therefore, the said companies are entitled to enjoy a favorable tax rate under the EIT Law.
The EIT Law also provides that an enterprise established under the laws of a foreign country or region but whose de facto management body is located in the PRC be treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes and consequently be subject to the PRC income tax at the rate of 25% for its global income. The Implementing Rules of the EIT Law merely defines the location of the de facto management body as the place where the exercising, in substance, of the overall management and control of the production and business operation, personnel, accounting, properties, etc., of a non-PRC company is located. The State Tax Administration issued the Circular regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or Circular 82, on April 22, 2009. Circular 82 provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the de facto management body of a Chinese-controlled offshore-incorporated enterprise is located in China. Although Circular 82 only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises, not companies like us, the determining criteria set forth in Circular 82 may reflect the State Administration of Taxations general position on how the de facto management body test should be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises or individuals. Based on a review of surrounding facts and circumstances, the Company does not believe that it is likely that its operations outside of the PRC should be considered a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, due to limited guidance and implementation history the EIT Law, should SINA be treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes, the Company will be subject to PRC tax on worldwide income at a uniform tax rate of 25% retroactive to January 1, 2008.
The EIT Law also imposes a withholding income tax of 10% on dividends distributed by an FIE to its immediate holding company outside of China if such immediate holding company is considered a non-resident enterprise without any establishment or place within China or if the received dividends have no connection with the establishment or place of such immediate holding company within China, unless such immediate holding companys jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. Such withholding income tax was exempted under the Previous IT Law. The Cayman Islands, where the Company is incorporated, does not have such tax treaty with China. According to the Arrangement between Mainland China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion in August 2006, dividends paid by a foreign-invested enterprise in China to its direct holding company in Hong Kong will be subject to withholding tax at a rate of no more than 5% (if the foreign investor owns directly at least 25% of the shares of the FIE). The State Administration of Taxation further promulgated a circular, or Circular 601, on October 27, 2009, which provides that tax treaty benefits will be denied to conduit or shell companies without business substance and that a beneficial ownership analysis will be used based on a substance-over-form principle to determine whether or not to grant the tax treaty benefits. A majority of our subsidiaries in China are directly held by our Hong Kong subsidiaries. If we are regarded as a non-resident enterprise and our Hong Kong subsidiaries are regarded as resident enterprises, then our Hong Kong subsidiaries may be required to pay a 10% withholding tax on any dividends payable to us. If our Hong Kong entities are regarded as non-resident enterprises, then our PRC subsidiaries may be required to pay a 5% withholding tax for any dividends payable to our Hong Kong subsidiaries, however, it is still unclear at this stage whether Circular 601 applies to dividends from our PRC subsidiaries paid to our Hong Kong subsidiaries and if our Hong Kong subsidiaries were not considered as beneficial owners of any dividends from their PRC subsidiaries, the dividends payable to our Hong Kong subsidiaries would be subject to withholding tax at a rate of 10%.
The EIT Law and its Implementation Rules have made an effort to scrutinize transactions between related parties. Pursuant to the EIT Law and its Implementation Rules, the tax authorities may impose mandatory adjustment on tax due to the extent a related party transaction is not in line with arms-length principle or was entered into with a purpose to reduce, exempt or delay the payment of tax. On January 8, 2009, the State Administration of Taxation issued the Implementation Measures for Special Tax Adjustments (Trial), which sets forth tax-filing disclosure and documentation requirements, clarify the definition of related party, guide the selection and application of transfer pricing methods, and outline the due process procedures for transfer pricing investigation and assessment.
On December 10, 2009, the State Administration of Taxation issued a circular on Strengthening the Administration of Enterprise Income Tax Collection on Income Derived from Equity Transfer by Non-resident Enterprise, or Circular 698. Pursuant to Circular 698, non-resident enterprises should declare any direct transfer of equity interest of PRC resident enterprises and pay taxes in accordance with the EIT Law and relevant laws and regulations. For an indirect transfer, if the effective tax rate for the transferor (a non-PRC-resident enterprise) is lower than 12.5% under the law of the jurisdiction of the direct transferred target, the transferor is required to submit relevant transaction materials to PRC tax authorities for review. If such indirect transfer is determined by PRC tax authorities to be a transaction without any reasonable business purpose other than for the purpose of tax avoidance, the gains derived from such transfer will be subject to PRC income tax.
In addition to the above, after the EIT Law and its Implementing Rules were promulgated, the State Administration of Taxation released several regulations to stipulate more details for carrying out the EIT Law and its Implementing Rules. These regulations include:
Labor and Work Safety
The Labor Law of the PRC, or the Labor Law, which was effective on January 1, 1995, provides basic protections for employees, e.g. employment contracts shall be concluded if labor relationships are to be established between employers and employees; employers cannot compel employees to work beyond the time limit and shall provide wages which are not lower than local standards on minimum wages to the employees punctually; employers shall establish and improve their systems for labor safety and sanitation and strictly abide by applicable PRC rules and standards on labor safety and sanitation; and female employees and juvenile employees are given special protection.
On June 29, 2007, the National Peoples Congress of China enacted the Labor Contract Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008. On September 18, 2008, the State Council further promulgated the Regulations on Implementation of the Labor Contract Law. Compared to the Labor Law, the Labor Contract Law and its implementing regulations impose more restrictions on employers and have been deemed to potentially increase labor costs for employers to terminate employment relationship with employees. Such restrictions include specific provisions related to fixed term employment contracts, temporary employment, probation, consultation with the labor union and employee assembly, employment without a contract, dismissal of employees, compensation upon termination and overtime work, and collective bargaining. According to the Labor Contract Law and its implementing regulations, an employer is obliged to sign an unlimited term employment contract with an employee if the employer intends to renew employment relationship with such employee after two consecutive fixed term employment contracts. The employer also has to pay a compensation fee to the employee if the employer terminates the unlimited term labor contract,
unless an employee refuses to extend an expired employment contract under terms which are the same or more favorable than those in the expired contract. Compensation is also required when the labor contract expires. Further, under the Regulations on Paid Annual Leave for Employees, which became effective on January 1, 2008, employees who have worked more than one year for an employer are entitled to a paid vacation ranging from 5 to 15 days, depending on their length of service. Employees who waive such vacation time at the request of employers shall be compensated for three times their normal salaries for each waived vacation day.
The laws and regulations governing the labor relations and work safety also include:
For a description of how the unsettled nature of Chinese regulations may affect our business, please see Even if we are in compliance with Chinese governmental regulations relating to licensing and foreign investment prohibitions, the Chinese government may prevent us from advertising or distributing content that it believes is inappropriate and we may be liable for such content or we may have to stop profiting from such content. in the Risk Factors section.
C. Organizational Structure
SINA is the parent company of our group and conducts business operations in China through wholly-owned and partially-owned subsidiaries and VIEs. Below are the significant wholly-owned subsidiaries held by SINA:
In compliance with the PRCs foreign investment restrictions on Internet information services and other laws and regulations, we conduct all our Internet information services, advertising and MVAS in China via the following significant domestic VIEs:
The capital investment in these VIEs is funded by SINA through SINAs wholly and partially-owned subsidiaries and recorded as interest-free loans to the employees. As of December 31, 2010, the total amount of interest-free loans to the employee shareholders of the VIEs listed above and the other inactive VIEs was $17.6 million. Under various contractual agreements, employee shareholders of the VIEs are required to transfer their ownership in these entities to our subsidiaries in China when permitted by PRC laws and regulations or to our designees at any time for the amount of outstanding loans, and all voting rights of the VIEs are assigned to our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China. Our subsidiaries in China have the power to appoint all directors and senior management personnel of the VIEs. Through our subsidiaries in China, we have also entered into exclusive technical agreements and other service agreements with the VIEs, under which these subsidiaries provide technical services and other services to the VIEs in exchange for substantially all net income of the VIEs. In addition, our employee shareholders of the VIEs have pledged their shares in the VIEs as collateral for non-payment of loans or for fees on technical and other services due to us.
Although we have been advised by our PRC counsel, Jun He Law Offices, that our arrangements with the VIEs are valid under current PRC laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that we will not be required to restructure our organization structure and operations in China to comply with changing and new PRC laws and regulations. Restructuring of our operations may result in
disruption of our business. If PRC tax authorities were to determine that our transfer pricing structure was not done on an arms length basis and therefore constitutes a favorable transfer pricing, they could request that our VIEs adjust their taxable income upward for PRC tax purposes. Such a pricing adjustment may not reduce the tax expenses of our subsidiaries but could adversely affect us by increasing our VIEs tax expenses, which could subject our VIEs to late payment fees and other penalties for underpayment of taxes and/or could result in the loss of tax benefits available to our subsidiaries in China. Any of these measures may result in adverse tax consequences to us and adversely affect our results of operations.
D. Property, Plant and Equipment
The majority of our operations are in China, where we have offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Our principal sales, marketing and development facilities are located on premises comprising approximately 25,000 square meters in Beijing, China. We also have sales and marketing operations at satellite offices in certain provinces of China. We lease office facilities under non-cancelable operating leases with various expiration dates through 2013. Our servers are primarily maintained at China Telecom and China Unicom in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as in other cities throughout China. We also have servers located at various Internet data centers in Taipei, San Jose (California) and Hong Kong.
Item 4A. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects
This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act, as amended including, without limitation, statements regarding our expectations, beliefs, intentions or future strategies that are signified by the words expect, anticipate, intend, believe, the negative of such terms or other comparable terminology. All forward-looking statements included in this document are based on information available to us on the date hereof, and we undertake no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. We caution you that our business and repetitive financial performance are subject to substantial risks and uncertainties, including the factors identified in Item 3. Key Information D. Risk Factors, that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements.
We are an online media company and MVAS provider in China and for the global Chinese communities. Advertising and MVAS are currently our major sources of revenues, and we derive the majority of these revenues from our operations in China.
Our advertising business in China has been robust in recent years because of strong local economy, growth in Internet users and the shift of advertising budgets from traditional media to online media. Our advertising revenues in 2010 were boosted in part by the coverage of the World Cup, as well as continuing improvement of the business climate in China. For 2010, our MVAS revenues declined from the previous year, as a result of operator policy changes. Although mobile revenues stabilized in the last three quarters of 2010, our MVAS business will continue to be susceptible to the policy environment set by operators in China.
In October 2009, prior to CRICs listing on the NASDAQ, we spun off SINAs online real estate advertising business into our majority-owned subsidiary COHT and merged it with CRIC (the Transaction) to form an online and offline real estate information and consulting platform in China. As a result of the spin off, we stopped consolidating the financial results of COHT on October 1, 2009, and began to account for our interest in CRIC, which was 34% as of December 31, 2010, using the equity method of accounting. Income from equity investment in CRIC, which is recorded one quarter in arrears, totaled $13.1 million for 2010. We expect equity income from CRIC to make up a material portion of our future net income, the growth of which will depend in part on the ability of CRIC to grow its net income. In addition, the Company entered into certain license agreements with CRIC. The fair value of these license agreements were measured at $187.4 million and was recognized as deferred revenue and amortized on a straight line basis over the contract period of ten years. The amortized deferred revenue for 2010 and 2009 were $18.7 million and $4.7 million, respectively.
Other factors affecting our future growth include: (1) our ability to increase awareness of our brand and continue to build user loyalty; (2) our ability to attract a larger audience to our network; and (3) our ability to attract new advertisers and increase the average spending of our existing advertisers. The performance of our advertising business also depends on our ability to react to risks and challenges, including:
In order to support the development of our microblog Weibo and other initiatives, including expanding online video offerings, grow our online user base and user traffic, and attract new advertisers and partners, we expect to significantly increase our investments in product development and partnership expansion, expand the content and services on our network and procure more bandwidth and network equipment. We also expect to significantly increase our marketing efforts to drive greater brand awareness to our users, advertisers and partners. These investment increases may cause our gross margin and operating margin to significantly decline from 2010.
Our MVAS business rebounded in 2009, resulting mainly from a relatively stable operating environment following years of abrupt changes in operator policies and government regulations. However, new operator policies were introduced in late 2009 and early 2010, resulting in a decline of our MVAS business in 2010. We believe policy changes from operators will continue to be a key risk for our MVAS business in the near future. Our ability to cope with sudden operator policy changes and stabilize our MVAS revenues are dependent on our ability to quickly react with new services or through new channels that meet the requirements of the new policies and are accepted by the market. The changing operator policies coupled with the fierce competition in the MVAS space have caused our MVAS business to experience declining gross margins in recent years. This trend may continue. However, we believe it is important for the Company to continue operation in MVAS business, because mobile Internet will be a significant opportunity for us, especially with the increasing adoption of 3G, smartphone handsets and tablets in China. Our relationships with mobile operators and other partners in the MVAS business as well as the expertise that we have gained on the mobile environment in China will be instrumental in developing SINAs mobile Internet business.
As of December 31, 2010 and 2009, our accumulated earnings were $571.4 million and $590.5 million, respectively. Our total cash, cash equivalent and short-term investments as of December 31, 2010 and 2009 were $882.8 million and $821.5 million, respectively. We have funded our operations and capital expenditures primarily using the $97.5 million raised through the sale of preference shares, the $68.8 million raised from the sale of ordinary shares in the initial public offering, the $97.3 million raised from the sale of zero-coupon, convertible, subordinated notes in July 2003 and the $180.0 million raised from a private equity placement of our ordinary shares in November 2009, as well as cash generated from operations and the exercise of stock options. We repurchased approximately 2.5 million SINA ordinary shares in the open market for total consideration of $50 million during the first quarter of 2009. We intend to continue our investment in the development and enhancement of our products, content and services, as well as investment in sales and marketing. If we are unable to generate sufficient net income from our operations in the future, we may have to finance our operations from the current funds available or seek equity or debt financing.
Critical Accounting Policies, Judgments and Estimates
The discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations are based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with GAAP. The preparation of these consolidated financial statements requires us to make estimates, judgments and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities. On an on-going basis, we evaluate our estimates and judgment areas, including those related to revenues, customer programs and incentives, bad debts, equity investments, intangible assets and goodwill, stock-based compensation, income taxes, advertising expenses, estimated useful lives of assets, foreign currency, contingencies and litigation. Our estimates are based on historical experience and various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. These estimates form the basis for our judgments about the carrying values of assets and liabilities that are not readily apparent from other sources. Actual results may differ materially from such estimates under different assumptions or conditions. For further information on our critical accounting policies, see the discussion in the section titled Recent Accounting Pronouncements below and Note 2 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
We believe the following critical accounting policies affect the more significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements:
Allowance for doubtful accounts
The Company maintains an allowance for doubtful accounts which reflects its best estimate of amounts that potentially will not be collected. The Company determines the allowance for doubtful accounts based on factors such as historical experience, credit-worthiness and age of receivable balances. If the financial condition of the Companys customers were to deteriorate and result in an impairment of their ability to make payments, or if the operators decide not to pay the Company, additional allowances may be required which could materially impact our financial position and results of operations. Allowances for doubtful accounts charged to income were $1.2 million, $5.3 million and $3.5 million for the years ended December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively.
Property and Equipment
Property and equipment are stated at historical cost less accumulated depreciation and amortization. Depreciation is computed using the straight-line method over the estimated useful lives of the assets, generally from three to five years. Judgment is required to determine the estimated useful lives of assets, especially for computer equipment, including determining how long existing equipment can function and when new technologies will be introduced at cost-effective price points to replace existing equipment. Changes in these estimates and assumptions could materially impact our financial position and results of operations.
Impairment of goodwill and long-lived assets
We test goodwill for impairment at the reporting unit level (operating segment or one level below an operating segment) on an annual basis, or more frequently, if facts and circumstances warrant a review. We make judgments about goodwill whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that an impairment in the carrying value of goodwill may exist. The timing of an impairment test may result in charges to our Consolidated Statements of Operations in the current reporting period that could not have been reasonably foreseen in prior periods. Application of a goodwill impairment test requires judgment including the identification of reporting units, assigning assets and liabilities to the reporting units, assigning goodwill to reporting units and estimating the fair value of each reporting unit. Changes in these estimates and assumptions could materially affect the determination of fair value of each reporting unit which could trigger impairment. More conservative assumptions of the anticipated future benefits from these reporting units could result in impairment charges, which would decrease net income and result in lower asset values on our consolidated balance sheet. Conversely, less conservative assumptions could result in smaller or no impairment charges, higher net income and higher asset values. See Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on goodwill.
Long-lived assets and certain identifiable intangible assets to be held and used are reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of such assets may not be recoverable. Determination of recoverability is based on an estimate of undiscounted future cash flows resulting from the use of the asset and its eventual disposition. Measurement of any impairment loss for long-lived assets and certain identifiable intangible assets that management expects to hold or use is based on the amount by which the carrying value exceeds the fair value of the asset. Changes in these estimates and assumptions could materially impact our financial position and results of operations.
Equity investments are comprised of investments in publicly-traded companies and privately-held companies. We account for our common stock equivalent equity investments in entities over which we have significant influence but do not own a majority equity interest or otherwise control using the equity method. For equity investments over which we do not have significant influence, the cost method of accounting is used. For equity investments in shares that are not common stock or in-substance common stock and that do not have readily determinable fair value, the cost method accounting is used. The Company accounts for its investment in CRIC using the equity method of accounting. Following the acquisition date, we record our share of the results of CRIC one quarter in arrears within earnings in equity interests.
We assess our equity investments for other-than-temporary impairment by considering factors including, but not limited to, stock prices of public companies in which we have an equity investment, current economic and market conditions, operating performance of the companies, including current earnings trends and undiscounted cash flows, and other company-specific information, such as recent financing rounds. The fair value determination, particularly for investments in privately-held companies, requires significant judgment to determine appropriate estimates and assumptions. Changes in these estimates and assumptions could affect the calculation of the fair value of the investments and the determination of whether an identified impairment is other-than-temporary. If an impairment is considered other-than-temporary, the Company will write down the asset to its fair value and take the corresponding charge to the Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Our marketable securities are held as available for sale and are reported at fair value. The treatment of a decline in the fair value of an individual security is based on whether the decline is other-than-temporary. Significant judgment is required to assess whether the impairment is other-than-temporary. Our judgment of whether an impairment is other-than-temporary is based on an assessment of factors including our ability and intent to hold the individual security, severity of the impairment, expected duration of the impairment and forecasted recovery of fair value. Changes in the estimates and assumptions could affect our judgment of whether an identified impairment should be recorded as an unrealized loss in the equity section of our consolidated balance sheets or as a realized loss in the Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Our advertising revenues are derived principally from online advertising and, to a lesser extent, sponsorship arrangements. Online advertising arrangements allow advertisers to place advertisements on particular areas of our websites, in particular formats and over particular periods of time. Sponsorship arrangements allow advertisers to sponsor a particular area on our websites in exchange for a fixed payment over the contract period. While the majority of our revenue transactions contain standard business terms and conditions, there are certain transactions that contain non-standard business terms and conditions. In addition, we have certain sales transactions that involve multiple element arrangements (arrangements with more than one deliverable) that may include placement on specific properties. As a result, significant contract interpretation is sometimes required to determine the appropriate accounting for these transactions including: (1) how the consideration of an arrangement should be allocated among potential multiple elements; (2) when to recognize revenue on the deliverables; and (3) whether all elements of the arrangement have been delivered. Changes in judgments on these assumptions and estimates could materially impact the timing or amount of revenue recognition.
We mainly rely on third-party operators for billing, collection and transmission of our MVAS to our users. We also rely on other service providers to provide content and to distribute MVAS or other services for us. Revenues are recorded on a gross basis when most of the gross indicators are met, such as we are considered the primary obligor in the arrangement, design and develop (in some cases with the assistance of third-parties) the MVAS, have reasonable latitude to establish price, have discretion in selecting the operators to offer our MVAS, provide customer services related to the MVAS and take on the credit risks associated with the transmission fees. Conversely, revenues are recorded on a net basis when most of the gross indicators are not met. The determination of whether we are the primary obligor for a particular type of service is subjective in nature and is based on an evaluation of the terms of the arrangement. If the terms of the arrangement with operators were to change and cause the gross indicators not being met, we would have to record our MVAS revenues on a net basis. In 2010, approximately 96% of our MVAS revenues were recorded on a gross basis. Consequently, recording MVAS revenues on a net basis would cause a significant decline in our total net revenues, but should not have a significant impact on our gross profit.
Due to the time lag between when the services are rendered and when the operator billing statements are received, MVAS revenues are estimated based on our internal records of billings and transmissions for the month, adjusting for prior periods confirmation rates with operators and prior periods discrepancies between internally estimated revenues and actual revenues confirmed by operators. The confirmation rate applied to the estimation of revenue is determined at the lower of the latest confirmation rate available and the average of six months of historical rates if such historical average is available. If we have not yet received confirmation rates for six months, revenues would be deferred until billing statements are received from the operators. If subsequent billing statements from the operators differ significantly from managements estimates, our revenues could be materially impacted.
In the past, one of the operators has requested resettlement of billings that were settled in prior periods and on which payments have been received. We have accrued for such credits to revenue based on a historical rolling average and the true-ups between accrued amounts and actual credit memos issued have not been material. If operators request for a resettlement of billings for previous periods at an amount significantly higher than historical average, our revenues could be materially impacted.
Changes in judgments on assumptions and estimates stated above for MVAS revenues could materially impact the timing and/or amount of revenue recognition.
In addition to the above, our revenue recognition policy requires an assessment as to whether collection is reasonably assured, which requires us to evaluate the creditworthiness of our customers.
Advertising expenses consist primarily of costs for promotion of corporate image, product marketing and direct marketing. We expense all advertising costs as incurred and classify these costs under sales and marketing expense. The nature of our direct marketing activities is such that they are intended to acquire subscribers for subscription-based and usage-based MVAS. We expense all such direct marketing expenses.
Stock-based compensation cost is measured at the grant date based on the estimated fair value of the award and is recognized as an expense on a straight-line basis, net of estimated forfeitures, over the requisite service period, which is generally the vesting period. We use the Black-Scholes option pricing model to determine the estimated fair value of share options. The determination of the estimated fair value of stock-based compensation awards on the grant date using an option-pricing model is affected by our stock price as well as assumptions regarding a number of complex and subjective variables, including our expected stock price volatility over the term of the awards, actual and projected employee share option exercise behaviors, risk-free interest rate and expected dividends. Shares of our subsidiaries, which do not have quoted market prices, were valued based on the income approach, if a revenue model had been established, or the market approach, the results of which were considered with that of other approaches, including the replacement cost method, to assess reasonableness. Determination of estimated fair value of our subsidiaries required complex and subjective judgments due to their limited financial and operating history, unique business risks and limited public information on companies in China similar to ours. If different assumptions were used for estimating stock-based compensation expense or if a different valuation method was used, the change in our stock-based compensation expense could materially affect our gross profit, operating income, net income attributable to SINA and net income per share attributable to SINA.
Furthermore, we are required to estimate forfeitures at the time of grant and record stock-based compensation expense only for those awards that are expected to vest. If actual forfeitures differ materially from our estimated forfeitures, we may need to revise those estimates used in subsequent periods.
See Note 12 to Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding stock-based compensation.
We use the asset and liability method of accounting for income taxes. Under this method, income tax expense is recognized for the amount of taxes payable or refundable for the current year. In addition, deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the expected future tax consequences of temporary differences between the financial reporting and tax bases of assets and liabilities and for operating losses and tax credit carryforwards. Management is required to make assumptions, judgments and estimates to determine our current provision for income taxes and our deferred tax assets and liabilities and any valuation allowance to be recorded against a deferred tax asset. Our judgments, assumptions and estimates relative to the current provision for income tax take into account current tax laws, our interpretation of current tax laws and possible outcomes of current and future audits conducted by foreign and domestic tax authorities. Changes in tax law or our interpretation of tax laws and the resolution of current and future tax audits could significantly impact the income taxes recorded in our Consolidated Statements of Operations. Our assumptions, judgments and estimates related to the value of a deferred tax asset take into account predictions of the amount and category of future taxable income, such as income from operations. Actual operating results and the underlying amount and category of income in future years could render our current assumptions, judgments and estimates of recoverable net deferred taxes inaccurate. Any of the assumptions, judgments and estimates mentioned above could cause our actual income tax obligations to differ from our estimates and, thus, materially impact our financial position and results of operations.
In order to assess uncertain tax positions, the Company applies a more likely than not threshold and a two-step approach for the tax position measurement and financial statement recognition. Under the two-step approach, the first step is to evaluate the tax position for recognition by determining if the weight of available evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the position will be sustained, including resolution of related appeals or litigation processes, if any. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount that is more than 50% likely of being realized upon settlement.
In accordance with accounting guidance, undistributed earnings of a subsidiary are presumed to be transferred to the parent company and are subject to withholding taxes, unless the parent company has evidence of specific plans for reinvestment of undistributed earnings of a subsidiary that demonstrate that remittance of the earnings will be postponed indefinitely. The current policy adopted by the Companys Board of Directors allows the Company to distribute PRC earnings offshore only if the Company does not have to pay a dividend tax. Based on the EIT Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008, such policy would require the Company to indefinitely reinvest all earnings made in China since 2008 onshore or be subject up to 10% in withholding tax should it decides to distribute earnings accumulated since 2008 offshore.
Our reporting currency and functional currency are the U.S. dollar and our subsidiaries and VIEs in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan use their respective local currencies as their functional currencies. An entitys functional currency is the currency of the primary economic environment in which the entity operates. Management must use judgment in determining an entitys functional currency, assessing economic factors including cash flow, sales price, sales market, expense, financing and inter-company transactions and arrangements. Impact from exchange rate changes related to transactions denominated in currencies other than the functional currency is recorded as a gain and loss in our Consolidated Statements of Operations, while impact from exchange rate changes related to translating a foreign entitys financial statements from its functional currency to our reporting currency, the U.S. dollar, is disclosed and accumulated in a separate component under the equity section of our consolidated balance sheets. Translation gains or losses are not released to net income unless the associated net investment has been sold, liquidated or substantially liquidated. Management uses judgment in determining the timing of recognition of translation gains or losses. Such determination requires assessing whether translation gains or losses were derived from the sale or complete or substantially complete liquidation of an investment in a foreign entity. Different judgments or assumptions resulting in a change of functional currency or timing of recognition of foreign exchange gains or losses may materially impact our financial position and results of operations.
We account for nonmonetary transactions based on ASC 845-10 Exchanges of Nonmonetary Assets, which requires the assets exchanged to be based on fair value unless one of the three conditions is met: (1) the fair value of the asset relinquished or received cannot be determined (within reasonable limits), (2) there is an exchange of inventory for inventory that will be sold in the same line of business to facilitate sales to customers, or (3) the transaction lacks commercial substance. The determination of fair value requires significant judgment in estimates and assumptions. Changes in these estimates and assumptions could materially affect the calculation of the fair value.
Disposal of a business
We account for the disposal of a business by recognizing a gain or loss measured as the difference between the aggregate of (1) the fair value of any consideration received, (2) the fair value of any retained noncontrolling investment in the former business at the date the business is deconsolidated and (3) the carrying amount of any noncontrolling interest in the former business (including any accumulated other comprehensive income attributable to the noncontrolling interest) at the date the business is deconsolidated; and (4) the carrying amount of the former businesss assets and liabilities. The determination of fair value requires significant judgment in estimates and assumptions. Changes in these estimates and assumptions could materially affect the calculation of the fair value.
Recent accounting pronouncements
In October 2009, the Financial Accounting Standard Board (the FASB) issued new guidance on revenue recognition for arrangements with multiple deliverables and certain revenue arrangements that include software elements. By providing another alternative for determining the selling price of deliverables, the guidance for arrangements with multiple deliverables will allow companies to allocate arrangement consideration in multiple deliverable arrangements in a manner that better reflects the transactions economics and will often result in earlier revenue recognition. The new guidance modifies the fair value requirements of previous guidance by allowing best estimate of selling price in addition to vendor-specific objective evidence (VSOE) and other vendor objective evidence (VOE, now referred to as TPE standing for third-party evidence) for determining the selling price of a deliverable. A vendor is now required to use its best estimate of the selling price when VSOE or TPE of the selling price cannot be determined. In addition, the residual method of allocating arrangement consideration is no longer permitted under the new guidance. The new guidance for certain revenue arrangements that include software elements removes non-software components of tangible products and certain software components of tangible products from the scope of existing software revenue guidance, resulting in the recognition of revenue similar to that for other tangible products. The new guidance is effective for fiscal years beginning on or after June 15, 2010. We do not expect adoption of this new guidance will have material impact on the consolidated financial statements.
In December 2010, the FASB issued revised guidance on When to Perform Step 2 of the Goodwill Impairment Test for Reporting Units with Zero or Negative Carrying Amounts. The revised guidance specifies that an entity with reporting units that have carrying amounts that are zero or negative is required to assess whether it is more likely than not that the reporting units goodwill is impaired. If the entity determines that it is more likely than not that the goodwill of one or more of its reporting units is impaired, the entity should perform Step 2 of the goodwill impairment test for those reporting unit(s). Any resulting goodwill
impairment should be recorded as a cumulative-effect adjustment to beginning retained earnings in the period adoption. Any goodwill impairments occurring after the initial adoption of the revised guidance should be included in earnings as required by Section 350-20-35. The revised guidance is effective for fiscal years, and interim periods within those years, beginning after December 15, 2010. We do not expect adoption of this new guidance will have material impact on the consolidated financial statements.
In December 2010, the FASB issued revised guidance on the Disclosure of Supplementary Pro Forma Information for Business Combinations. The revised guidance specifies that if a public entity presents comparative financial statements, the entity should disclose revenue and earnings of the combined entity as though the business combination(s) that occurred during the current year had occurred as of the beginning of the comparable prior annual reporting period only. The revised guidance also expands the supplemental pro forma disclosures to include a description of the nature and amount of material, nonrecurring pro forma adjustments directly attributable to the business combination included in the reported pro forma revenue and earnings. The revised guidance is effective prospectively for business combinations for which the acquisition date is on or after the beginning of the first annual reporting period beginning on or after December 15, 2010. We do not expect adoption of this new guidance will have material impact on the consolidated financial statements.
A. Operating Results
Total net revenues increased 12% year-over-year in 2010 and decreased 3% year-over-year in 2009. The increase from 2009 to 2010 represented an increase in advertising revenues partially offset by a decrease in non-advertising revenues. The decrease from 2008 to 2009 was mainly due to the year-over-year decrease in advertising partially offset by an increase in non-advertising revenues. Advertising revenues as a percentage of total net revenues increased to 72% in 2010 from 64% in 2009 and 70% in 2008, while MVAS revenues decreased to 22% in 2010 from 33% in 2009 and 28% in 2008.
Advertising. Advertising revenues increased 28% year-over-year in 2010. This growth was primarily due to successful coverage of the 2010 World Cup as well as the continuing improvement of the business climate in China. Substantially all of our advertising revenues are generated from China. Our top ten customers in the aggregate accounted for approximately 19%, 16% and 17% of our advertising revenues in the PRC in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Automobile, fast-moving consumer goods, financial, telecommunication, information technology and internet services were our top advertising sectors in 2010, accounting for approximately 85% of total advertising revenues.
We spun off our online real estate advertising business and merged it with CRIC in October 2009. Subsequent to the spin off, we stopped consolidating real estate advertising revenues. Real estate advertising revenues constituted approximately 12% of our total advertising revenues for 2009.
Non-advertising. Non-advertising revenues consist of MVAS and, to a lesser extent, amortized deferred revenues and fee-based revenues.
MVAS revenues decreased 28% year-over-year in 2010 and increased 16% year-over-year in 2009. The year-over year decline in MVAS revenues in 2010 primarily resulted from China Mobile implementing a series of policy changes, including the suspension of WAP billing, limiting the service offerings and partnerships allowed for each SMS service code, preventing television and radio promotion of certain IVR products and requiring additional notices and customer confirmations in the MVAS ordering process in late 2009 and early 2010. The year-over-year increase in MVAS revenues in 2009 was mainly due to relatively more stable operator policies, government regulations and business environment.
Revenues from 2.0G products, including SMS, IVR and CRBT, decreased 23% year-over-year in 2010 after increasing 32% year-over-year in 2009. Revenues from SMS accounted for 46%, 45% and 33% of MVAS revenues in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Revenues from IVR were 25%, 23% and 25% of MVAS revenues in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Revenues
from SMS and IVR revenues declined 27% and 19%, respectively, in 2010 as a result of China Mobile implementing a series of policy changes. For 2009, revenues from SMS and IVR grew 60% and 2% year-over-year, respectively. The year-over-year change in product mix between SMS and IVR in 2009 mostly reflected the allocation of promotional activities to maximize the return on our marketing efforts.
Revenues from 2.5G products decreased 39% and 11% in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Revenues from KJAVA accounted for 19%, 12% and 10% of MVAS revenues in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. KJAVA revenues grew 10% year over year in 2010 mainly due to increased game offerings and sales promotion. Revenues from MMS accounted for 6%, 8% and 17% of MVAS revenues in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. MMS revenues declined 48% in 2010, resulting from operator policy changes and decreased marketing effort. Revenues from WAP accounted for less than 1%, 9% and 11% of MVAS revenues in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. WAP revenues dropped 98% in 2010, as a result of China Mobile suspending billing to WAP customers.
In the past, operators have made significant changes to their policies on MVAS in accordance with policy derivatives from MII. The policy changes by the operators have significantly reduced our ability to acquire new MVAS subscribers and increased the churn rate of our existing monthly MVAS subscribers. In addition, our MVAS business has been impacted by other regulatory bodies in China, such as SARFT. The key policy changes made by operators in recent years include the following:
Mobile operators, such as China Mobile and China Unicom, and governmental bodies, such as MII and SARFT, may announce additional measures or regulations in the future, which may adversely impact our results of operations, cash flows and financial condition. We are in the process of developing and promoting new products that we believe are not subject to recent policy and regulations changes made by operators and governmental bodies. However, there is no guarantee that we will be able to develop any such new products, that any such products will achieve market acceptance or that such products will not be affected by future changes in rules and regulations.
Other non-advertising revenues
Other non-advertising revenues include amortized deferred revenues and fee-based services, such as paid email services and causal games. In conjunction with the sale of our online real estate business to CRIC in October 2009, we signed certain license agreements with CRIC. The fair value of these license agreements were measured at $187.4 million, which was recognized as deferred revenue and amortized on a straight-line basis over the contract period of ten years. Amortized deferred revenues were $18.7 million and $4.7 million in 2010 and 2009, respectively.
Costs of revenues
Costs of revenues increased 6% and 5% year-over-year in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Costs of advertising revenues increased 16% in 2010, while the costs of MVAS revenues declined 13%. The changes in costs are generally consistent with the revenue
changes in the two categories. Costs of advertising revenues for 2009 were flat from the prior year, as we implemented cost control in light of the decline in advertising revenues. Costs of MVAS revenues for 2009 increased 18%, reflecting the increase in MVAS revenues and increasing competitive landscape.
Advertising. Costs of advertising revenues consist primarily of expenses associated with the production of our websites, including fees paid to third parties for Internet connection, content and services, payroll-related costs, stock-based compensation and equipment depreciation expense. Costs of advertising revenues also include the business taxes on advertising sales in the PRC. Business taxes, net of business tax refund received, surcharges and cultural business construction fees, levied on advertising sales in China, in aggregate equalized approximately 8.5% of our advertising revenues generated in China.
Costs of advertising revenues increased 16% year-over-year in 2010. The increase in costs of advertising revenues in 2010 was due to an increase in content fees of $7.9 million, business taxes of $4.9 million, direct labor cost of $3.3 million and third-party advertisement production cost of $2.4 million. These increases were partially offset by a $2.4 million reduction in stock-based compensation. Content fees increased in 2010 mainly resulting from the purchase of 2010 World Cup coverage and NBA content. Business taxes and advertisement production costs increased as a function of higher revenues. The higher direct labor cost was due to headcount and salary increases.
Costs of advertising revenues was basically flat from 2008 to 2009, Internet connection costs increased $4.2 million in 2009, stock-based compensation increased $2.2 million ($0.5 million of the increase related to a private equity placement of SINA shares to New-Wave Investment Holding Company Limited (New-Wave), third-party production costs increased $1.6 million and direct labor costs increased $0.6 million, offset by a $5.2 million reduction in content fees (mostly related to 2008 Beijing Olympics content) and a $3.5 million decrease in business taxes, attributable to lower advertising revenues.
Non-advertising. Costs of non-advertising revenues mainly consist of the fees paid to mobile operators for billing, transmissions and collection of MVAS revenues, fees or royalties paid to MVAS content and service providers and business taxes and surcharges levied in the PRC, which are approximately 3.3% for mobile-related revenues and 5.5% for other non-advertising revenues.
Costs of MVAS revenues decreased 13% year-over-year in 2010 and increased 18% in 2009. The decrease in costs of MVAS revenues in 2010 was due to $6.3 million less fees paid to content and service providers, as a result of a decline in MVAS revenues. Compared to 2008, fees paid to content and service providers in 2009 increased $5.3 million while fees paid to operators increased $3.2 million. The increase in fees paid to content and service providers as well as operators reflects the increase in MVAS revenues and increasing competitive landscape.
Costs of other non-advertising revenues also include costs for providing fee-based services.
Overall gross margin improved two percentage points in 2010 and declined three percentage points in 2009.
Advertising. The improvement in advertising gross margin in 2010 was due to the increase in revenues without a proportional increase in costs. In addition, stock-based compensation declined in 2010. The decline in advertising gross margin in 2009 was mainly due to the decrease in advertising revenues without a proportionate decrease in costs. Stock-based compensation for 2010, 2009 and 2008 accounted for approximately 1%, 2% and 1% of our advertising revenues, respectively. We expect to increase our investment in absolute dollars in web content, especially in video, Internet connection and production costs to stay competitive in the market, which may cause our advertising gross margin to decline.
Non-advertising. The majority of the costs associated with non-advertising revenues are variable costs. Gross margin for non-advertising revenues for 2010 was 53%, a decline of two percentage points from 2009 and 2008. Gross margin for MVAS for 2010 was 42%, a decline of ten percentage points from 2009. Gross margin for MVAS from 2008 to 2009 declined two percentage points. These year-over-year declines were mainly driven the increases in fees paid to mobile operators and third-party
content and service providers, as well as the decrease in WAP revenue, which were recognized on a net basis after deducting the fee paid to mobile operators.
Operating expenses decreased 15% year-over-year in 2010 and increased 13% in 2009.
Sales and marketing. Sales and marketing expenses consist of payroll, commissions and other employee-related expenses, advertising and promotional expenditures and business travel expenses. Sales and marketing as a percentage of net revenues was 19% in 2010, compared to 24% in 2009 and 22% in 2008. The decline in sales and marketing expenses from 2009 to 2010 both as a percentage of net revenues and in absolute dollars was primarily due to lower stock-based compensation costs and lower marketing expenditures overall. Compared to 2009, stock-based compensation decreased $3.6 million. The higher stock-based compensation in 2009 included 1.5 million in expenses related to the private equity financed shares issued to management and costs related to the accelerated vesting of certain restricted share units granted to key managers and employees. Compared to 2009, MVASs marketing expenses declined $3.5 million due to operator policy changes and marketing expenditure for the online real estate advertising business falling $1.3 million to zero in 2010 after the real estate advertising business spin off. Compared to 2008, stock-based compensation increased $3.9 million and payroll-related expenses increased $2.1 million, while corporate branding spending and MVAS promotions decreased $0.6 million in 2009. We expect sales and marketing expenses to increase in absolute dollars in the near future.
Product development. Product development expenses consist primarily of payroll-related expenses incurred for the enhancements to and maintenance of our websites as well as costs associated with new product development and enhancements for products such as microblog, blog and video podcasting. Compared to 2009, stock-based compensation decreased $2.3 million, partially offset by an increase in payroll-related expenses of $2.2 million. Similar to sales and marketing, the higher stock-based compensation in product development expenses for 2009 was related to the private equity financed shares ($0.8 million) and accelerated vesting of certain employee restricted share units. The higher payroll-related expenses resulted from new hires as well as pay raises. Compared to 2008, payroll-related expenses increased $1.7 million and stock-based compensation increased $2.1 million in 2009. We expect product development expenses to continue to increase in absolute dollars in the near future.
General and administrative. General and administrative expenses consist primarily of payroll-related costs, stock-based compensation, professional service fees and provisions for doubtful accounts. Our general and administrative expenses also include expenses relating to the transfer of the economic benefits generated from our VIEs in the PRC to our subsidiaries. Compared to 2009, stock-based compensation decreased $11.6 million and bad debt expense decreased $4.0 million. Similar to sales and marketing, the higher stock-based compensation in 2009 was related to the private equity financed shares ($7.9 million impact) and accelerated vesting of certain employee restricted share units. The lower bad debt expense was due to better collections, resulting in a lower bad debt rate and reversal in bad debt allowance arising from the receipt of payments previously written off. Compared to 2008, stock-based compensation increased $10.9 million, provision for allowance for doubtful accounts increased $1.8 million and payroll-related expenses increased $0.6 million in 2009. These were partially offset by the reduction in expenses relating to the transfer of the economic benefits generated from our VIEs in the PRC to our subsidiaries of $5.8 million and professional fees of $1.6 million. We expect general and administrative expenses to increase in absolute dollars in the near future.
Amortization of intangible assets. Amortizable intangible assets include purchased technology, database and software. In the fourth quarter of 2009, we launched a new UC Instant Messaging platform that was completely organically developed to replace the previously acquired platform. The use of the previously acquired technology UC Instant Messaging platform was discontinued as of March 31, 2010. As such, we charged $2.4 million in amortization expenses in the fourth quarter of 2009 and in the first quarter of 2010. Our real estate related database was disposed as a result of the sale of our online real estate business to CRIC. See Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information on intangible assets, including estimates of amortization expenses for future periods.
Interest and other income, net
Compared to 2009, our cash was placed in more liquid bank deposits, which had lower interest yields. Compared to 2008, interest income decreased in 2009 as a result of a significant drop in interest rates despite higher balances of cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments.
Other income consists primarily of net currency transaction gain or loss. We recorded a net currency transaction gain (loss) of $1.3 million, ($0.1 million) and $3.3 million for 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Net currency transaction gains were mainly a result of the Chinese RMB appreciating against the U.S. dollar.
Earnings from equity investments, net
In October 2009, we spun off our online real estate advertising business and merged it with CRIC. Beginning on October 1, 2009, we stopped consolidating the financial results of COHT and instead account for our interest in CRIC using the equity method of accounting. Our earnings from equity investment in CRIC, which is reported one quarter in arrears was $13.1 million for 2010.
Gain on sale of business and impairment in equity investment
The following summarizes other non-operating income items:
In April 2008, we sold a 34% interest of our restructured online real estate advertising business COHT to E-House and recorded a gain of $3.1 million from the step up of our sold interests to fair value. Subsequently, in October 2009, we spun off COHT to merge it with CRIC and exchange it for an approximately 33% interest in CRIC. In the fourth quarter of 2009, we recorded a one-time gain of $376.6 million from this transaction. Our interest in the equity of CRIC was valued at $572.0 million based on its initial public offering price of $12.0 per American Depository Share. In 2010, based on an other-than-temporary impairment assessment, we recorded a $128.6 million charge to write down our equity investment in CRIC to its fair value. We determined the fair value of our investment in CRIC as of December 31, 2010, based on a closing stock price of $9.60. See Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information.
Income tax expense
Based on our current operating structure and preferential tax treatments available to us in China, the effective income tax rate for our China operations in 2010 was 8%, compared to 10% in 2009 and 13% in 2008. The lower effective tax rate for our PRC operations in 2010 as compared to 2009 was primarily due to additional tax holidays received from a newly established subsidiary
in Shanghai. The lower effective tax rate of our PRC operations for 2009 as compared to 2008 was primarily due to lower provision of repatriation tax for earnings in VIEs and an additional tax holiday obtained by one of our subsidiaries.
Prior to January 1, 2008, our subsidiaries and VIEs were governed by the Previous IT Law. Under the Previous IT Law, our subsidiaries and VIEs were generally subject to enterprise income taxes at a statutory rate of 33% (30% state income tax plus 3% local income tax) or 15% for qualified high and new technology enterprises. In addition to a preferential statutory rate, some of our high and new technology subsidiaries were entitled to special tax holidays of three-year tax exemption followed by three years at a 50% reduction in the tax rate, commencing the first operating year.
Effective January 1, 2008, the EIT Law in China supersedes the Previous IT Law and unifies the income tax rate for domestic enterprises and FIEs at 25%. The EIT Law provides a five-year transitional period for certain entities that enjoyed a favorable income tax rate of less than 25% and/or a preferential tax holiday under the Previous IT Law and were established before March 16, 2007, to gradually increase their rates to 25%. In addition, high and new technology enterprises continue to enjoy a preferential tax rate of 15%. The EIT Law also provides grandfather treatment for high and new technology enterprises that received special tax holidays under the Previous IT Law to continue to enjoy their tax holidays until expiration provided that specific conditions are met. As of December 2010, three of our subsidiaries were qualified as high and new technology enterprises under the new EIT Law.
The EIT Law also provides that an enterprise established under the laws of a foreign country or region but whose de facto management body is located in the PRC be treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes and consequently be subject to the PRC income tax at the rate of 25% for its global income. The Implementing Rules of the EIT Law merely defines the location of the de facto management body as the place where the exercising, in substance, of the overall management and control of the production and business operation, personnel, accounting, properties, etc., of a non-PRC company is located. Based on a review of surrounding facts and circumstances, we do not believe that it is likely that our operation outside of the PRC should be considered a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, due to limited guidance and implementation history of the EIT Law, should we be treated as a resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes, we will be subject to PRC tax on worldwide income at a uniform tax rate of 25% retroactive to January 1, 2008.
The EIT Law also imposes a withholding income tax of 10% on dividends distributed by an FIE to its immediate holding company outside of China, if such immediate holding company is considered as a non-resident enterprise without any establishment or place within China or if the received dividends have no connection with the establishment or place of such immediate holding company within China, unless such immediate holding companys jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a different withholding arrangement. Such withholding income tax was exempted under the Previous IT Law. The Cayman Islands, where the Company incorporated, does not have such tax treaty with China. According to the arrangement between Mainland China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion in August 2006, dividends paid by a foreign-invested enterprise in China to its direct holding company in Hong Kong will be subject to withholding tax at a rate of no more than 5% (if the foreign investor owns directly at least 25% of the shares of the FIE). The State Administration of Taxation further promulgated a circular, or Circular 601, on October 27, 2009, which provides that tax treaty benefits will be denied to conduit or shell companies without business substance and that a beneficial ownership analysis will be used based on a substance-over-form principle to determine whether or not to grant the tax treaty benefits. A majority of our FIEs operations in China are invested and held by Hong Kong registered entities. If we are regarded as a non-resident enterprise and our Hong Kong subsidiaries are regarded as resident enterprises, then our Hong Kong subsidiaries may be required to pay a 10% withholding tax on any dividends payable to us. If our Hong Kong entities are regarded as non-resident enterprises, then our PRC subsidiaries may be required to pay a 5% withholding tax for any dividends payable to our Hong Kong subsidiaries, however, it is still unclear at this stage whether Circular 601 applies to dividends from our PRC subsidiaries paid to our Hong Kong subsidiaries and if our Hong Kong subsidiaries were not considered as beneficial owners of any dividends from their PRC subsidiaries, the dividends payable to our Hong Kong subsidiaries would be subject to withholding tax at a rate of 10%. In accordance with accounting guidance, all undistributed earnings are presumed to be transferred to the parent company and are subject to the withholding taxes. Based on the subsequently issued interpretation of the new EIT, Article 4 of Cai Shui (2008) Circular No. 1, dividends on earnings prior to 2008 but distributed after 2008 are not subject to withholding income tax. The current policy approved by our Board allows us to distribute PRC earnings offshore only if we do not have to pay a dividend tax. Such policy may require us to reinvest all earnings made since 2008 onshore indefinitely or be subject to a significant withholding tax should our policy change to allow for earnings distribution offshore. As of December 31, 2010, the Company did not record any withholding tax on the retained earnings of its FIEs in the PRC as the Company intends to reinvest its earnings to further expand its business in China, and its FIEs do not intend to declare dividends on the retained earnings made since 2008 to their immediate foreign holding companies.
The Companys VIEs are wholly owned by the Companys employees and controlled by the Company through various contractual agreements. To the extent that these VIEs have undistributed earnings, the Company will accrue appropriate expected tax associated with repatriation of such undistributed earnings.
In December 2009, the State Administration of Tax in China issued a circular on strengthening the management of proceeds from equity transfers by non-China tax resident enterprises and requires foreign entities to report indirect sales of China tax resident enterprises. If the existence of the overseas intermediary holding company is disregarded due to lack of reasonable business purpose or substance, gains on such sale are subject to PRC withholding tax. The Company believes that there was reasonable business purpose for the merger of COHT with CRIC, which was to realize the business synergy created by the merger to form a real estate information services platform both online and offline with diversified revenue streams, serving both real estate businesses and consumers. The simultaneous initial public offering allowed the combined company to raise additional capital to fund its future growth. Due to limited guidance and implementation history of the circular, significant judgment is
required in the determination of a reasonable business purpose for an equity transfer by our non-China tax resident entity by considering factors, including but not limited to, the form and substance of the arrangement, time of establishment of the foreign entity, relationship between each step of the arrangement, relationship between each component of the arrangement, implementation of the arrangement and the changes in the financial position of all parties involved in the transaction. Although the Company believes that it is more likely than not the said transaction would be determined as one with a reasonable business purpose, should this not be the case, the Company would be subject to a significant withholding tax that could materially and adversely impact its financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
For further information on our tax structures and inherent risks see If tax benefits available to us in China are reduced or repealed, our results of operations could suffer significantly and your investment in our shares may be adversely affected. under Risk Factors in Part I Item 3.D. See also Note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion on income taxes.
B. Liquidity and Capital Resources
We have funded our operations and capital expenditures primarily using the $97.5 million raised through the sale of preference shares, the $68.8 million raised from the sale of ordinary shares in the initial public offering , the $97.3 million raised from the sale of zero-coupon, convertible, subordinated notes in July 2003 and the $180.0 million raised from the private equity placement of SINA ordinary shares to New-Wave in November 2009, as well as cash generated from operations and the exercise of stock options.
On July 7, 2003, we issued $100 million aggregate amount of zero-coupon, convertible, subordinated notes (the Notes) due 2023 in a private offering, which resulted in net proceeds to us of approximately $97.3 million. The Notes were issued at par and bear no interest. The Notes are convertible into our ordinary shares, upon satisfaction of certain conditions, at an initial conversion price of $25.79 per share, subject to adjustments for certain events. Upon conversion, we have the right to deliver cash in lieu of ordinary shares, or a combination of cash and ordinary shares. During 2007, one million dollars of the Notes were converted as SINA ordinary shares. We may redeem for cash all or part of the Notes on or after July 15, 2012, at a price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the Notes. The purchasers may require us to repurchase all or part of the Notes for cash on July 15 annually from 2007 through 2013, and on July 15, 2018, and upon a change of control, at a price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the Notes. We filed a Registration Statement on Form S-3 for the resale of the Notes and the ordinary shares issuable upon conversion of the Notes, which Registration Statement is no longer effective.
One of the conditions for conversion of the Notes to SINA ordinary shares is that the sale price (defined as closing per share sales price) of SINA ordinary shares reaches a specified threshold for a defined period of time. The specified thresholds are (i) during the period from issuance to July 15, 2022, if the sale price of SINA ordinary shares, for each of any five consecutive trading days in the immediately preceding quarter, exceeds 115% of the conversion price per ordinary share, and (ii) during the period from July 15, 2022 to July 15, 2023, if the sale price of SINA ordinary shares on the previous trading day is more than 115% of the conversion price per ordinary share. The closing price of our ordinary shares on December 31, 2010, the last trading day of 2010, was $68.82. For the quarter ended March 31, 2011, the sale price of SINA ordinary shares exceeded 115% of the conversion price per ordinary share for five consecutive trading days. The Notes are therefore convertible into SINA ordinary shares for the quarter ending June 30, 2011 in accordance with threshold (i) described above. Upon a purchasers election to convert the Notes in the future periods, we have the right to deliver cash in lieu of ordinary shares, or a combination of cash and ordinary shares.
In the fourth quarter of 2008, the Board authorized, but did not obligate, the Company to repurchase up to $100 million of the Companys ordinary shares on an opportunistic basis. Stock repurchases under this program may be made through open market purchases, in negotiated transactions off the market, in block trades pursuant to a 10b5-1 plan, which would give a third party independent discretion to make purchases of the Companys ordinary shares, or otherwise and in such amounts as we deem appropriate. In 2009, we repurchased an aggregate of 2,454,956 shares in the open market, at an average price of $20.37 for a total consideration of $50.0 million. The repurchase program expired at the end of 2009.
In September 2009, we entered into a definitive agreement for a private equity placement of SINAs ordinary shares with New-Wave. At the closing in November 2009, we received gross proceeds of $180.0 million and New-Wave received 5,608,612 ordinary shares in SINA. We filed a Registration Statement on Form F-3 for, among other things, the resale of the ordinary shares issued in the private equity placement.
As of December 31, 2010, we had $882.8 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. Subsequent to December 31, 2010, we had issued 3.7 million new common shares to settle conversion requests equivalent to $96.1 million in convertible bond and the liability corresponding was extinguished. We believe that our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments balance is sufficient to fund our operating activities, capital expenditures and other obligations for at least the next twelve months. However, we may decide to enhance our liquidity position or increase our cash reserve for future acquisitions via additional capital and/or finance funding. The issuance and sale of additional equity would result in further dilution to our shareholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased fixed obligations and could result in operating covenants that would restrict our operations. We cannot assure you that financing will be available in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all.
The following tables set forth the movements of our cash and cash equivalents for the periods presented.
Net cash provided by operating activities for 2010 was $116.6 million. This was attributable to our net loss of $19.3 million, adjusted by non-cash write-down of equity investment value of $128.6 million, non-cash income from equity investment, net, of $12.6 million and non-cash expenses including stock-based compensation of $13.4 million, depreciation of $13.6 million, allowance for doubtful accounts of $1.2 million, amortization of intangible assets of $3.3 million, and a net decrease in cash from working capital items of $10.8 million. The net decrease in working capital items was mainly due to the increase in accrued liabilities, such as content fees, business taxes payable, sales rebate, marketing expenses and accounts receivable, partially offset by the decrease in deferred revenue. The increase in accounts receivable resulted from the increase in our advertising sales while the decrease in deferred revenue reflecting the related amortization recorded.
Net cash provided by operating activities for 2009 was $98.1 million. This was attributable to our net income of $412.3 million, adjusted by non-cash related gains on sales of business and equity investment, net, of $375.1 million and non-cash related expenses including stock-based compensation of $33.4 million, depreciation of $15.3 million, allowance for doubtful accounts of $5.3 million, amortization of intangible assets of $4.4 million, the realized foreign exchange gains from liquidated subsidiaries of $2.0 million and a net increase in cash from working capital items of $0.7 million. The net increase in working capital items was mainly due to the increase in accrued liabilities, such as content fees, bandwidth costs, sales commissions, bonuses and marketing expenses and deferred revenues, offset by the increase in accounts receivable, prepaid expenses and other current assets.
Net cash provided by operating activities for 2008 was $114.0 million. This was attributable to our net income of $81.2 million, adjusted by non-cash related expenses including depreciation of $16.0 million, stock-based compensation of $14.3 million, allowance for doubtful accounts of $3.5 million, amortization of intangible assets of $1.6 million and a net increase in cash from working capital items of $1.6 million, offset by the unrealized foreign exchange gains from liquidated subsidiaries of $2.0 million and gains from the sale of business and equity investments of $2.4 million. The net increase in working capital items was mainly due to the increase in accrued liabilities, such as content fees, bandwidth costs, sales commissions, bonuses and marketing expenses, deferred revenues and income tax payable, partially offset by the increase in account receivables that resulted from the significant increase in our advertising revenues.
Net cash used in investing activities for 2010 was $235.9 million. This was a result of the purchase of short-term investments of $558.2 million, equipment purchases of $20.9 million, and investments and prepayments on investments of $55.8 million, partially offset by the maturities of short-term investments of $399.0 million.
Net cash provided by investing activities for 2009 was $111.7 million. Cash from the maturities of short-term investments was $191.6 million. This was offset by the purchase of short-term investments of $45.7 million, investments and prepayments on
investments of $17.1 million, sales of interest in subsidiary of $11.6 million, equipment purchases of $4.9 million and cash paid for acquisition of intangible assets of $0.6 million.
Net cash used in investing activities for 2008 was $24.0 million. This was due to the purchase of short-term investments of $154.0 million, equipment purchases of $18.8 million and purchase of additional interest in a private company of $2.0 million, offset by the maturities of short-term investments of $150.9 million.
Net cash provided by financing activities for 2010 was $12.0 million. Cash from the issuance of ordinary shares relating to the exercise of share options was $12.5 million while payments of other financing activities were $0.5 million.
Net cash provided by financing activities for 2009 was $155.3 million. Cash from the issuance of ordinary shares was $205.1 million comprising $180.0 million from the private equity placement of SINA ordinary shares to New-Wave and $25.4 million from the exercise of share options. Cash from noncontrolling interest shareholders capital contribution was $0.8 million. These were offset by the repurchase of ordinary shares pursuant to the repurchase program of $50.1 million and $0.5 million of payments for other financing activities.
Net cash provided by financing activities for 2008 was $12.4 million. Proceeds from the exercise of share options was $10.5 million and capital contribution from E-House was $2.5 million while payments for other financing activities were $0.6 million.
C. Research and Development, Patents and Licenses, etc.
D. Trend Information
Other than as disclosed elsewhere in this annual report, we are not aware of any trends, uncertainties, demands, commitments or events for the period from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 that are reasonably likely to have a material adverse effect on our net revenues, income, profitability, liquidity or capital resources, or that caused the disclosed financial information to be not necessarily indicative of future operating results or financial conditions.
E. Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
We have not entered into any financial guarantees or other commitments to guarantee the payment obligations of any unconsolidated third parties. In addition, we have not entered into any derivative contracts that are indexed to our shares and classified as shareholders equity, or that are not reflected in our consolidated financial statements. Furthermore, we do not have any retained or contingent interest in assets transferred to an unconsolidated entity that serves as credit, liquidity or market risk support to such entity. Moreover, we do not have any variable interest in any unconsolidated entity that provides financing, liquidity, market risk or credit support to us or engages in leasing, hedging or research and development services with us.
F. Contractual Obligations
The following table sets forth our contractual obligations as of December 31, 2010:
Operating lease obligations include the commitments under the lease agreements for our office premises. We lease office facilities under non-cancelable operating leases with various expiration dates through 2013. Rental expenses for the years ended December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008 were $8.4 million, $7.6 million and $6.5 million, respectively. Based on the current rental lease agreements, future minimum rental payments required as of December 31, 2010 are $5.5 million, $8.2million and $4.9 million for the years ending December 31, 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. The majority of the commitments are from our office lease agreements in China.
Purchase commitments mainly include minimum commitments for Internet connection fees associated with website production, content fees associated with website production and MVAS, advertising serving services and marketing activities.
Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees
A. Directors and Senior Management
The following table provides information with respect to our executive officers and directors as of March 31, 2011:
Charles Chao has served as a director and Chief Executive Officer since May 2006. Mr. Chao has served as our President since September 2005 and as our Chief Financial Officer from February 2001 to May 2006. Mr. Chao served as our Co-Chief Operating Officer from July 2004 to September 2005. Mr. Chao served as our Executive Vice President from April 2002 to June 2003. From September 1999 to January 2001, Mr. Chao served as our Vice President, Finance. Prior to joining us, Mr. Chao served as an experienced audit manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, an accounting firm. Mr. Chao is currently a director of Focus, an out-of-home media and advertising network company, NetDragon Websoft Inc., a company providing technology for online gaming, CRIC and several private companies. Mr. Chao holds a Master of Professional Accounting degree from University of Texas at Austin, an M.A. in Journalism from University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Journalism from Fudan University in Shanghai, China.
Herman Yu has served as the Companys Chief Financial Officer since August 2007. Mr. Yu has served as our Acting Chief Financial Officer from May 2006 to August 2007 and Vice President and Corporate Controller from September 2004 to May 2006. Prior to joining SINA, Mr. Yu worked at Adobe Systems, as the Corporate Marketing Controller from June 2001 to September 2004 and as the Chief Auditor from January 1999 to May 2001. Mr. Yu also held various finance and accounting management positions at Cadence Design Systems, Inc. and VeriFone, Inc. Mr. Yu began his career with Arthur Andersen and is a California Certified Public Accountant. Mr. Yu is currently a director of Qunar.com, a travel search company, Lashou.com, an online group buying company, and Mecox Lane. Mr. Yu holds a Masters of Accountancy from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Economics from the University of California.
Hong Du has served as the Companys Chief Operating Officer since February 2008. Ms. Du joined the Company in November 1999 and worked in the Business Development department until April 2004. From May 2004 to January 2005, Ms. Du served as Deputy General Manager of 1Pai.com, a joint venture between SINA and Yahoo! Ms. Du rejoined the Company in January 2005 and served as our General Manager of Sales Strategy from January 2005 to March 2005, General Manager of Sales from April 2005 to August 2005, Vice President of Sales from September 2005 to February 2007, and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing from February 2007 to February 2008. Ms. Du is currently a director of CRIC. Ms. Du holds a B.S. in Applied Chemistry from Harbin Institute of Technology and an M.S. in MIS from San Francisco State University.
Tong Chen has served as the Companys Executive Vice President and Chief Editor since February 2007. In 1997, Mr. Chen took part in the founding of SRSnet.com, a division of Beijing Stone Rich Sight Information Technology Co., Ltd. (currently known as Beijing SINA Information Technology Co. Ltd.), one of our subsidiaries, and he formally joined the Company in March 1998. Mr. Chen served as host of our SRSnet.com Sports Salon from April 1997 to August 1998, Chief Editor of our News Center from September 1998 to June 1999, our Content Director from June 1999 to June 2000, Executive Deputy General Manager of our China operations from June 2000 to May 2002, our Vice President and Chief Editor from May 2002 to November 2003 and our Senior Vice President and Chief Editor from November 2003 to February 2007. Mr. Chen holds an M.B.A. from China-Europe International Business School, an M.A. in Journalism from Renmin University of China, an M.A. in Communications from Beijing Institute of Technology and a B.S. in electronic engineering from Beijing University of Technology.
Yan Wang has served as a director since May 2003 and is currently serving as our Chairman of the Board. Mr. Wang served as our Vice Chairman of the Board from May 2006 to May 2008. Previously, he served as our Chief Executive Officer from May
2003 to May 2006, our President from June 2001 to May 2003, our General Manager of China Operations from September 1999 to May 2001 and as our Executive Deputy General Manager for Production and Business Development in China from April 1999 to August 1999. In April 1996, Mr. Wang founded the SRSnet.com division of Beijing Stone Rich Sight Limited (currently known as Beijing SINA Information Technology Co. Ltd.), one of our subsidiaries. From April 1996 to April 1999, Mr. Wang served as the head of our SRS Internet Group. Mr. Wang holds a B.A. in Law from the University of Paris.
Pehong Chen has served as a director since March 1999. Mr. Chen has been the Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of the Board of Broadvision, Inc., a software applications company, since May 1993. Prior to founding Broadvision, Mr. Chen was Vice President of Multimedia Technology at Sybase, Inc., an enterprise software company, from 1992 to 1993. From 1989 to 1992, Mr. Chen founded and was president of Gain Technology, a multimedia software tools company, which was acquired by Sybase. Mr. Chen is currently a director of UFIDA Software Co., Ltd, a management software company. He received a B.S. in Computer Science from National Taiwan University, an M.S. in Computer Science from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley.
Lip-Bu Tan has served as a director since March 1999. Mr. Tan is the Founder and Chairman of Walden International, an international venture capital firm founded in 1984. Mr. Tan is also President and Chief Executive Officer of Cadence Design Systems, Inc., an EDA company. Mr. Tan is currently a director of Flextronics International Ltd., an electronics manufacturing services company, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., a foundry in China, Inphi Corporation, a provider of high-speed analog semiconductor solutions, and several other private companies. He holds an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.B.A. from the University of San Francisco and a B.S. from Nanyang University, Singapore.
Ter Fung Tsao has served as a director since March 1999. Mr. Tsao has served as Chairman of Standard Foods Corporation (formerly known as Standard Foods Taiwan Ltd.), a packaged food company, since 1986. Before joining Standard Foods Taiwan Ltd., Mr. Tsao worked in several positions within The Quaker Oats Company, a packaged food company, in the United States and Taiwan. Mr. Tsao received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, an M.S. in Sanitary Engineering from Colorado State University, and a Ph.D. in Food and Chemical Engineering from Colorado State University.
Yichen Zhang has served as a director since May 2002. Since 2003, Mr. Zhang has been the Chief Executive Officer of CITIC Capital Holdings Limited (CCHL, formerly known as CITIC Capital Markets Holdings Ltd.), a China-focused investment management and advisory firm. Prior to founding CITIC Capital, Mr. Zhang was an Executive Director of CITIC Pacific and President of CITIC Pacific Communications. He was previously a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch responsible for Debt Capital Market activities for the Greater China region. Mr. Zhang began his career at Greenwich Capital Markets in 1987 and became Bank of Tokyos Head of Proprietary Trading in New York in the early 1990s. Mr. Zhang returned to China in the mid 1990s and advised the Chinese Ministry of Finance and other Chinese agencies on the development of the domestic government bond market. Mr. Zhang is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Song-Yi Zhang has served as a director since April 2004. Mr. Zhang currently serves as the Chairman of Mandra Capital. In addition, he has been an Advisory Director of Morgan Stanley based in Hong Kong since December 2000. From November 1997 to November 2000, Mr. Zhang was a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley and served separately as a Managing Director in its Asia Mergers, Acquisitions, Restructuring and Divestiture Group and Co-head of its Asia Utilities/ Infrastructure Group. Mr. Zhang is currently a director of Hong Kong Energy, an alternative energy and software development company, Lumena Resource Corp., a thenardite products producer, and China Longyuan Power Group Corporation Limited, a wind power generation company. Mr. Zhang holds a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
There are no family relationships among any of the directors or executive officers of SINA Corporation. Our Board of Directors has determined that the following directors, representing a majority of our directors, are independent as defined under Nasdaq Marketplace Rule 5605(a)(2): Yan Wang, Pehong Chen, Lip-Bu Tan, Ter Fung Tsao, Yichen Zhang, and Song-Yi Zhang. We intend to maintain a majority of independent directors on the Board.
B. Amounts of Compensation Paid and Benefits Granted
In 2010, we paid an aggregate of approximately $1.2 million in cash compensation to our executive officers and non-employee directors as a group. Each non-employee director receives an annual cash retainer of $20,000, the Chair of the Audit Committee receives an additional annual cash retainer of $5,000 and the Chair of the Compensation Committee receives an additional annual cash retainer of $3,000. Currently, our employee directors are not entitled to any other cash compensation in addition to their employment compensation for serving on the Companys Board of Directors.
In 2010, we granted an aggregate of 36,000 restricted share units subject to service-based vesting to non-employee directors. Each non-employee director is granted 6,000 restricted share units subject to service-based vesting as of each annual general meeting. Our non-employee directors are not required to pay any consideration to the Company at the time of grant of a restricted share unit. The restricted share units are settled upon the achievement by our executive officers of the service-based vesting conditions prescribed by our Board of Directors. Restricted share units that do not vest as prescribed will be forfeited. In 2010, we granted at estimated fair value on grant date to our executive officers options of T.CN equivalent to approximately 5.7% of the subsidiarys ordinary shares on a fully diluted basis. These options vest over a four-year period and a term of seven years.
See Note 12 to Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion on stock-based compensation.
Share Incentive Plans
Our Board of Directors and shareholders approved the issuance of up to 10,000,000 ordinary shares pursuant to awards granted under the Amended and Restated 2007 Share Incentive Plan (Amended and Restated 2007 Plan). The Amended and Restated 2007 Plan, which permits the granting of share options, share appreciation rights, restricted share units and restricted shares, will terminate on August 1, 2015, unless it is terminated earlier by our Board of Directors. The maximum number of ordinary shares that may be granted subject to awards under the Amended and Restated 2007 Plan during any given fiscal year will be limited to 3% of the total outstanding shares of the Company as of the end of the immediately preceding fiscal year, plus any shares remaining available under the share pool for the immediately preceding fiscal year. Share options and share appreciation rights must be granted with an exercise price of at least 100% of the fair market value on the date of grant.
Upon its adoption on June 29, 2007, the Amended and Restated 2007 Plan replaced the Companys 1999 Stock Plan, 1999 Executive Stock Option Plan and 1999 Directors Stock Option Plan and, as a result, no additional awards could be made under such plans. For a brief description of the Companys 1999 Stock Plan, 1999 Executive Stock Option Plan and 1999 Directors Stock Option Plan, see Note 12 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
As of May 25, 2011, options and restricted share units for 719,817 ordinary shares are outstanding under the Amended and Restated 2007 Plan, and options to purchase 466,979 ordinary shares are outstanding under the Companys 1999 Stock Plan, and 1999 Directors Stock Option Plan.
The following table summarizes, as of May 25, 2011, the outstanding options and restricted share units that the Company granted to our directors, executive officers and other optionees in the aggregate:
The options granted to our executive officers generally have a term of 6 years, but are subject to earlier termination in connection with termination of continuous service to the Company. Generally, optionees may pay the exercise price via a cashless exercise procedure. Except for the options granted to Charles Chao, options granted to our executive officers vest over a four-year vesting period with 12.5% of the shares covered by the options vesting on the 6-month anniversary of the date of the grant and the remaining shares vesting ratably on a monthly basis over the remaining vesting period of the options. The options granted to Charles Chao vest over a three-year vesting period with 1/6th of the shares covered by the option vesting on the 6-month anniversary of the date of the grant and the remaining shares vesting ratably on a monthly basis over the remaining vesting period of the options. The restricted share units subject to service-based vesting that were granted to our executive officers and non-employee directors generally vest over a three to four-year period on a straight-line basis on each 6-month anniversary date.
Change in Control and Severance Agreements
Certain of our executive officers are entitled to receive cash payments and other benefits upon the occurrence of termination of employment or a change in control of the Company when certain conditions are satisfied. See Board Practices Potential Payments upon Termination or Change in Control below.
C. Board Practices
Terms of Directors and Executive Officers
Our Amended and Restated Articles of Association currently authorize a Board of not less than two directors and the classification of the Board into three classes serving staggered terms. At each annual general meeting, the terms of one class of directors will expire. The directors whose terms expire each year will be those who have been in office the longest since their last election. A director whose term is expiring will remain in office until the close of the meeting at which his or her term expires, and will be eligible for re-election at that meeting. Our Amended and Restated Articles of Association also provide that any newly appointed director shall hold office only until the next annual general meeting at which time such director shall be eligible for re-election by the shareholders.
We currently have seven members of the Board of Directors. All members of the Board, except for the CEO, serve a three-year term. The Board has designated our CEO as the managing director of the Company and, as such, has a permanent seat on the Board in accordance with our Amended and Restated Articles of Association. Assuming that the size of our board remains between 7 and 9 members, the Class I directors whose term will expire at our 2012 annual general meeting are Yan Wang and Song-Yi Zhang, the Class II directors whose terms will expire at our 2013 annual general meeting are Ter Fung Tsao and Yichen Zhang and the Class III directors whose terms will expire at our 2011 annual general meeting are Pehong Chen and Lip-Bu Tan. For the period during which each director has served on the Board, please refer to Item 6.A. Directors and Senior Management.
Our officers are elected by and serve at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Our Employment Agreement with our CEO, Charles Chao, dated July 31, 2009, has a term of three years and may be extended for an additional one-year period after the end of the original term. Our Employment Agreements with each of our other officers, Herman Yu, CFO, and Hong Du, COO, and Tong Chen, Executive Vice President & Chief Editor, all dated November 16, 2010, have a term of three years and may be extended for an additional one-year period after the end of the original term. For the period during which each officer has served in office, please refer to Item 6.A. Directors and Senior Management.
Our Audit Committee consists of Lip-Bu Tan, Ter Fung Tsao and Song-Yi Zhang. All members of the Audit Committee are independent directors under the standards set forth in Nasdaq Marketplace Rules 5605(c)(2)(A)(i) and (ii) and each of them is able to read and understand fundamental financial statements. In addition, the Board has determined that Lip-Bu Tan qualifies as an audit committee financial expert as defined in the instructions to Item 16A of the Form 20-F and has designated Lip-Bu Tan to serve as the audit committee financial expert for the Company. Lip-Bu Tan is independent under the standards set forth in Nasdaq Marketplace Rules 5605(c)(2)(A)(i) and (ii). Our Audit Committee is responsible for, among other things:
1. Appoint the independent accountant for ratification by the stockholders and approve the compensation of and oversee the independent accountant.
2. Confirm that the proposed audit engagement team for the independent accountant complies with the applicable auditor rotation rules.
3. Ensure the receipt of, and review, a written statement from the Companys independent accountant regarding the independent accountants independence in accordance with applicable requirements of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board regarding the independent accountants communications with the Audit Committee concerning independence.
4. Review with the Companys independent accountant any disclosed relationship or service that may impact the objectivity and independence of the accountant.
5. Pre-approve all audit services and permitted non-audit services to be provided by the independent accountant as required by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act).
6. Review the plan for and the scope of the audit and related services at least annually.
7. Review and discuss with finance management the Companys earnings press releases as well as earnings guidance provided to analysts.
8. Review the annual reports of the Company with finance management and the independent accountant prior to filing of the reports with the SEC.
9. Review with finance management and the independent accountant at the completion of the annual audit:
a. The Companys annual financial statements and related footnotes;
b. The independent accountants audit of the financial statements;
c. Any significant changes required in the independent accountants audit plan;
d. Any serious difficulties or disputes with management encountered by the independent accountant during the course of the audit; and
e. Other matters related to the conduct of the audit which are to be communicated to the Committee under generally accepted auditing standards.
Related Party and Relationship Disclosure
10. Ensure the receipt of, and review, a report from the independent accountant required by Section 10A of the Exchange Act.
11. Oversee the Companys compliance with SEC requirements for disclosure of accountants services and Audit Committee members and activities.
12. Review and approve all related party transactions other than compensation transactions.
Critical Accounting Policies & Principles and Key Transactions
13. Review with finance management and the independent accountant at least annually the Companys application of critical accounting policies and its consistency from period to period, and the compatibility of these accounting policies with generally accepted accounting principles, and (where appropriate) the Companys provisions for future occurrences which may have a material impact on the financial statements of the Company.
14. Oversee the Companys finance function, which may include the adoption from time to time of a policy with regard to the investment of the Companys assets.
15. Periodically discuss with the independent accountant, without Management being present, (i) their judgments about the quality, appropriateness, and acceptability of the Companys accounting principles and financial disclosure practices, as applied in its financial reporting, and (ii) the completeness and accuracy of the Companys financial statements.
16. Review and discuss with finance management all material off-balance sheet transactions, arrangements, obligations (including contingent obligations) and other relationships of the Company with unconsolidated entities or other persons, that may have a material current or future effect on financial condition, changes in financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, capital resources, capital reserves or significant components of revenues or expenses.
Internal Control and Related Matters
17. Oversee the adequacy of the Companys system of internal controls. Obtain from the independent accountant management letters or summaries on such internal controls. Review any related significant findings and recommendations of the independent accountant together with managements responses thereto.
18. Oversee the Companys Anti-Fraud and Whistleblower Program.
19. Perform annual self-assessment on Audit Committee effectiveness.
In addition to the above responsibilities, the Audit Committee shall undertake such other duties as the Board delegates to it or that are required by applicable laws, rules and regulations.
Finally, the Audit Committee shall ensure that the Companys independent accountant understand both (i) their ultimate accountability to the Board and the Audit Committee, as representatives of the Companys stockholders and (ii) the Boards and the Audit Committees ultimate authority and responsibility to select, evaluate and, where appropriate, replace the Companys independent accountant (or to nominate the outside accountant to be proposed for stockholder approval in any proxy statement).
Our Compensation Committee consists of Mr. Pehong Chen and Mr. Lip-Bu Tan. The members of the Compensation Committee are non-employee directors. Our Compensation Committee is responsible for establishing and monitoring the general compensation policies and compensation plans of the Company, as well as the specific compensation levels for executive officers. It also administers the granting of equity awards to executive officers under the Companys share incentive plans.
Potential Payments upon Termination or Change in Control
We have entered into contracts with our executive officers (with Mr. Charles Chao, our Chief Executive Officer, also being a director of the Company), which provide for potential payments upon termination or change in control.
Terms of Potential Payments Termination
We have entered into an employment agreement with our executive officers providing, among other things, that in the event that employment of such executive officer is terminated without cause or if a constructive termination occurs (either event, an Involuntary Termination), such executive officer shall be entitled to receive payment of severance benefits equal to his or her regular monthly salary for twelve months (or in the case of Mr. Chao, (i) eighteen months if the remaining term of his employment agreement (the Remaining Term) is more than or equal to eighteen months, (ii) the Remaining Term if the Remaining Term is less than eighteen months but more than twelve months, or (iii) twelve months if the Remaining Term is equal to or less than 12 months (the Severance Period)), provided that the executive officer executes a release agreement at the time of such termination. An amount equal to six months of such severance benefits shall be paid on the six-month anniversary of the termination date, and the remaining severance benefits shall be paid ratably over the following six-month period (or in the case of Mr. Chao, over the remaining Severance Period) in accordance with the Companys standard payroll schedule. Additionally, upon an Involuntary Termination, such executive officer will be entitled to receive any bonus earned as of the date of such termination, which amount shall be paid on the six-month anniversary of such executive officers termination date. The Company will also reimburse such executive officer over the twelve months following termination (or in the case of Mr. Chao, over the Severance Period) for health insurance benefits with the same coverage provided to such executive officer prior to his or her termination, provided that reimbursement for the first six months shall be paid on the six-month anniversary of such executive officers termination date and reimbursement for any remaining health insurance benefits shall be paid on the first day of each month during which such executive officer receives such health insurance benefits. Any unvested share options or shares of restricted stock held by such executive officer as of the date of his or her Involuntary Termination will vest as to that number of shares that such executive officer would have vested over the twelve-month period following his or her termination (or in the case of Mr. Chao, during the Severance Period) if he or she had continued employment with the Company through such period, and such executive officer shall be entitled to exercise any such share options through the date that is the later of (x) the 15th day of the third month following the date the share options would otherwise expire, or (y) the end of the calendar year in which the share options would otherwise expire. Such executive officer is not eligible for any severance benefits if his employment is terminated voluntarily or if he or she is terminated for cause.
In the event that an executive officer voluntarily elects to terminate his or her employment, he or she will receive payment(s) for all salary and unpaid vacation accrued as of the date of his termination of employment and his or her benefits will be continued in accordance with our then-existing benefits plans and policies in effect on the date of termination and in accordance with applicable law. In the event that an executive officers employment is terminated for cause, then he or she shall not be entitled to receive payment of any severance benefits, but he will receive payment(s) for all salary and unpaid vacation accrued as of the date of such termination and his or her benefits will be continued in accordance with our then-existing benefits plans and policies in effect on the date of termination and in accordance with applicable law.
In the event that an executive officers employment with the Company terminates as a result of his or her death or disability, such executive officers estate or representative will receive the amount of such executive officers target bonus for the fiscal year in which the death or disability occurs to the extent that the bonus has been earned as of the date of such death or disability, as determined by the Board of Directors or the Compensation Committee based on the specific corporate and individual performance targets established for such fiscal year.
Terms of Potential Payments Change in Control
In addition to the employment agreements described above, the Company has also entered into a change in control agreement with its executives. Under the change in control agreements, in general, a change in control shall be deemed to occur if (i) any person or entity acquires fifty percent or more of the combined voting power of the Companys outstanding securities, (ii) during any period of two consecutive years there is an unwelcome change in a majority of the members of our Board of Directors, (iii) we merge or consolidate with another organization (other than a merger where our shareholders continue to own more than fifty percent of the combined voting power and with the power to elect at least a majority of the Board of Directors), (iv) our shareholders approve a complete liquidation or an agreement for the sale or disposition of all or substantially all of the Companys assets or (v) there occurs any other event of a nature that would be required to be reported in response to Item 6(e) of Schedule 14A of Regulation 14A promulgated under the Exchange Act.
The change in control agreement provides for certain benefits in the event of a change in control as well as in the event of an involuntary termination after a change in control. Upon a change in control in which the successor corporation does not assume
outstanding options, all such options shall become fully vested and exercisable. In addition, if an executive officers employment with the Company terminates without cause or if he or she resigns for good reason (as such terms are defined in the change in control agreements) within 24 months following a change in control, such executive officer will receive a pro-rata amount of the full value of any targeted annual bonus for the year in which he or she terminates, the greater of 100% of his or her annual base salary and 100% of his or her targeted annual bonus for the year in which he or she terminates, reimbursement in full of the applicable insurance premiums for him or her and his or her eligible dependents for the first eighteen months that he or she and his or her dependents are eligible for health insurance coverage if a continuance of health insurance benefits are elected, continued D&O insurance coverage for six years after his or her termination, an acceleration of all stock awards that are unvested as of his or her termination date and a tax gross up for any excise tax imposed by Internal Revenue Code Section 4999. If the termination is by reason of death or disability within 24 months following a change in control, such executive officer will be entitled to continued payment of his or her full base salary at the rate then in effect on the date of termination for a period of one year from the date of termination. The change in control agreement also provides for a payment of an amount equal to the full value of the excise tax imposed by Section 4999 of the Internal Revenue Code should the executive officer be subject to the excise tax on golden parachute payments under the Internal Revenue Code.
Except as set forth in Item 6.B. Amounts of Compensation Paid and Benefits Granted, we have no service contracts with any of our directors that provide benefits to them upon termination.
As of December 31, 2010, we had approximately 3,600 full-time employees, approximately 3,500 of whom are employed in the PRC with the remaining employed in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan. From time to time we employ independent contractors to support our production, engineering, marketing and sales departments. The number of independent contractors employed during 2010 was not significant. Our Chinese employees are members of a labor association that represents employees with respect to labor disputes and other employee matters. To date, we have not experienced a work stoppage or a labor dispute that has interfered with our operations.
E. Share Ownership
The following table sets forth certain information that has been provided to the Company with respect to the beneficial ownership of our ordinary shares as of May 25, 2011 by:
Percentage of beneficial ownership is based on 65,866,693 ordinary shares outstanding as of May 25, 2011 together with options that are exercisable within 60 days from May 25, 2011 and shares issuable upon vesting of restricted share units within 60 days from May 25, 2011 for each shareholder. Beneficial ownership is determined in accordance with the rules of the SEC.
Except as otherwise indicated, the address of each person listed in the table is SINA Corporation, 20/F Beijing Ideal International Plaza, No. 58 Northwest 4th Ring Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100080, Peoples Republic of China, Attention: Corporate Secretary. The persons named in the table have sole voting and investment power with respect to all ordinary shares shown as beneficially owned by them, subject to community property laws where applicable.
For information regarding the options held by our directors and executive officers as well as the arrangements involving the employees in the capital of the Company, see Item 6.B. Compensation Share Incentive Plans.
Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions
A. Major Shareholders
For information regarding major shareholders, please refer to Item 6.E. Directors, Senior Management and Employees Share Ownership.
Our major shareholders do not have voting rights that are different from other shareholders.
As of May 25, 2011, approximately 65,866,693 ordinary shares, or 99.9% of our total outstanding ordinary shares, were held by 50 record shareholders in the United States, including approximately 99.9% held by Cede & Co. The number of beneficial owners of our ordinary shares in the United States is likely to be much larger than the number of record holders of our ordinary shares in the United States. We are not directly or indirectly controlled by another corporation, any foreign government or any other natural or legal person. We are not aware of any arrangement that may, at a subsequent date, result in a change in control of our company.
B. Related Party Transactions
Except for the transactions disclosed below in this Item 7B and Note 7 of our Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, since the beginning of 2008, there has not been, nor is there currently proposed, any transaction or series of similar transactions to which we were or are a party in which any director, executive officer or beneficial holder of more than 10% of any class of our voting securities or such persons immediate family members or controlled enterprises had or will have a direct or indirect material interest other than as described below and elsewhere in Part I hereof. It is our policy that future transactions between us and any of our directors, executive officers or related parties will be subject to the review and approval of our Audit Committee or other committee comprised of independent, disinterested directors.
Our Code of Ethics states that a conflict of interest may exist whenever a relationship of an employee, officer or director, or one of their family members, is inconsistent with the Companys best interests or could cause a conflict with job responsibilities. Under our Code of Ethics, if our employees, officers and directors have any question regarding whether a conflict of interest exists, they are required to consult with their immediate supervisor or the Compliance Officer of the Company. If they become aware of a conflict or potential conflict, they are required to bring it to the attention of their immediate supervisor or the Compliance Officer.
Our Insider Trading Policy applicable to all employees, officers and directors and their family members prohibits trading based on material, non-public information regarding the Company or disclosure of such information for trading in the Companys securities.
Potential criminal and civil liability and disciplinary actions for insider trading are set forth in our Insider Trading Policy. Our Chief Financial Officer serves as the Companys Insider Trading Compliance Officer for the implementation of our Insider Trading Policy. Our Insider Trading Policy is delivered to all new employees and consultants upon the commencement of their relationships with the Company and is circulated to all personnel at least annually.
In September 2009, the Company entered into a definitive agreement for a private equity placement of its ordinary shares with New-Wave, a British Virgin Islands company established and controlled by Charles Chao, the Companys Chief Executive Officer, and other members of the Companys management. Investors in New-Wave include certain key managers and employees of the Company, including without limitation, Charles Chao, Herman Yu, Hong Du, Tong Chen and Yan Wang, and several private equity funds, including without limitation, funds managed by CITIC Capital, whose Chief Executive Officer, Yichen Zhang, is a director of the Company. In November 2009, 5,608,612 ordinary shares were issued to New-Wave for the aggregate consideration of $180 million. The key managers and employees who have invested in New-Wave cannot effect a distribution of the Companys ordinary shares underlying their shareholding interest in New-Wave unless the holders of more than 50% of New-Waves ordinary shares have requested such a distribution and certain other conditions have been satisfied. The shareholding interest in New-Wave of each of the key managers or employees, other than Charles Chao, corresponds to a number of the Companys ordinary shares that, when aggregated with all other ordinary shares of the Company beneficially owned by such key managers or employees (including ordinary shares issuable upon exercise of options and vesting of restricted share units within 60 days from the date hereof), is less than one percent of the Companys total issued and outstanding ordinary shares. This transaction resulted in a $10.7 million of stock-based compensation expense, which reflects mostly the appreciation in fair value of the financed shares issued to management between the agreement date with New-Wave in September 2009, when the price was set, and the closing of the private equity financing two months later, which is determined as the measurement date for accounting purposes.
One of the Companys subsidiaries is a party to an agreement with Broadvision Inc. (Broadvision) whose Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Mr. Pehong Chen, is a director of SINA. Under the agreement, Broadvision provides HR information management hosting service, including software subscription, system upgrade and technical support. For 2010, 2009 and 2008, the Company paid Broadvision approximately $112,000, $114,000 and $72,000, respectively. There was no payable outstanding as of December 31, 2010.
PRC law currently limits foreign equity ownership of companies that provide certain Internet and MVAS related businesses. To comply with these PRC regulations, we operate our websites and provide certain online services in China through a series of contractual arrangements with our VIEs, which are PRC domestic companies, and their shareholders. Such contractual arrangements are as follows:
Employment and Compensation Agreements
We have entered into employment and compensation arrangements with our directors and executive officers as described in Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees above.
We have entered into indemnification agreements with our officers Charles Chao and Herman Yu and directors Yan Wang, Pehong Chen, Lip-Bu Tan, Ter Fung Tsao, Yichen Zhang, and Song-Yi Zhang containing provisions which may require us, among other things, to indemnify our officers and directors against certain liabilities that may arise by reason of their status or service as officers or directors, other than liabilities arising from willful misconduct of a culpable nature, and to advance their expenses incurred as a result of any proceeding against them as to which they could be indemnified.
Registration Rights Agreements
Some of our shareholders are entitled to have their shares registered by us for resale.
Transactions and Agreements with CRIC
On January 1, 2008, we started to reorganize our real estate and home furnishing channels and online real estate advertising business into a separate unit with its own legal entities, management team, advertising operations, systems and physical facilities. The reorganization was completed on April 1, 2008 with the formation of a joint venture, COHT, between us and CRIC. We contributed $2.5 million in cash, certain assets and liabilities and the rights to operate its real estate and home furnishing channels for a period of ten years. The rights include the licenses granted to COHT to use SINAs trademark, domain name, portal technologies and certain software. CRIC contributed $2.5 million in cash and a ten-year license to use the database in the CRIC system. We and CRIC beneficially owned 66% and 34% of COHT, respectively.
On July 23, 2009, we and CRIC entered into a share purchase agreement, as amended on September 29, 2009, pursuant to which CRIC acquired our 66% equity interest in COHT in exchange for CRIC issuing its ordinary shares to us. We and CRIC also entered into a shareholders agreement and a registration rights agreement on October 21, 2009. We and COHT entered into an amended and restated advertising agency agreement, a domain name and content license agreement, a trademark license agreement and a software license and support services agreement, which became effective immediately upon the closing of CRICs acquisition of our equity interests in COHT. Immediately after CRICs initial public offering in October 2009, COHT became a wholly-owned subsidiary of CRIC, while E-House and we became CRICs two largest shareholders, holding 50.04% and 33.35%, respectively, of CRICs total outstanding ordinary shares. During 2010, we acquired an additional 923,000 shares of CRICs shares through open market and held approximately 34% of CRICs total outstanding ordinary shares as of December 31, 2010.
Under the new advertising agency agreement, COHT continues to operate our existing real estate and home furnishing channels and develop a new real estate-related channel on sina.com.cn, and has the exclusive right to sell advertising to real estate, home furnishing and construction materials advertisers on our non-real estate channels, subject to certain limitations on the amount of advertising that may be sold by COHT and fees payable by COHT to us based on the amount of advertising sold. If COHT sells advertising on our non-real estate channels, it will pay us fees of approximately 15% of the revenues generated from these sales. For the year ended December 31, 2010, CRIC paid us a total amount of $6.8 million for online advertising agency fee. As of December 31, 2010, there were $2.0 million due from CRIC, representing online advertising agency fee payable to us.
Composition of the board. The shareholders agreement provides that CRICs board of directors shall consist of a maximum of eleven members, of which two will be designated by E-House and two will be designated by us. In the event that we or E-House no longer owns at least 20%, but still owns at least 10%, of CRICs issued and outstanding ordinary shares, we or E-House, as the case may be, will have the right to designate only one director to CRICs board of directors. In the event that we or E-House no longer owns at least 10% of CRICs issued and outstanding ordinary shares, we or E-House, as the case may be, shall have no right to nominate any director to the board. As long as E-House owns at least 10% of CRICs issued and outstanding ordinary shares and holds more ordinary shares than are held by us, E-House may, in its discretion, select an E-House director to serve as the chairman of the board.
Restrictions on transfer. The shareholders agreement provides for certain restrictions on the transfer of CRICs ordinary shares. For a 180-day lock up period commencing on the date of the agreement, neither E-House nor we shall transfer or grant or allow to be encumbered any lien with respect to any of CRICs ordinary shares held each party, except for a transfer to each partys respective affiliates or with prior written consent by all other shareholders under the shareholders agreement. Following
the lock up period, E-House or we may transfer CRICs ordinary shares pursuant to Rule 144 of the Exchange Act or a firm commitment underwritten public offering registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the Securities Act), in addition to the two types of transfers permitted in the lock up period. Other than these permitted transfers, E-House or we must give a right of first offer to each other shareholder under the agreement prior to transferring CRICs ordinary shares to third parties. However, neither party is allowed to, without the prior written consent of the other party, transfer or grant or allow to be encumbered that number of CRICs ordinary shares exceeding in aggregate 10% of CRICs share capital in a single transaction or series of transactions to any person other than a financial investor, so long as the other party owns at least 20% of CRICs issued and outstanding ordinary shares.
Registration Rights Agreement
CRIC entered into a registration rights agreement with us and E-House, pursuant to which CRIC has granted E-House and us certain registration rights with respect to CRICs ordinary shares owned by E-House and us.
Demand registration rights. Following the date that is 180 days after the date of this agreement, both E-House and we have the right to demand that CRIC effect a registration covering the offer and sale of CRICs ordinary shares held by E-House or us. E-House and we are each entitled to an aggregate of three such registrations. CRIC, however, is not required to prepare and file (1) more than one demand registration statements in any 12-month period, or (2) any demand registration statement within 180 days following the date of effectiveness of any other registration statement. If the demand registration relates to an underwritten public offering and the managing underwriter advises in its reasonable opinion that the number of securities requested to be included in the demand registration exceeds the largest number which reasonably can be sold in such offering without having a material adverse effect on such offering, CRIC will include in such demand registration, up to the maximum offering size, following the order of priority: (1) the registrable securities that the requesting party proposes to register; (2) the registrable securities that any non-requesting party proposes to register; and (3) any securities CRIC proposes to register and any securities with respect to which any other security holder has requested registration.
Piggyback registration rights. If CRIC proposes to file a registration statement for an offering of its ordinary shares, other than in a transaction of the type referred to in Rule 145 under the Securities Act or to our employees pursuant to any employee benefit plan, then CRIC must offer E-House and us an opportunity to include in the registration all or any part of E-Houses and our registrable securities. If the piggyback registration relates to an underwritten public offering and the managing underwriter advises in its reasonable opinion that the number of securities requested to be included in the piggyback registration together with the securities being registered by CRIC or any other security holder exceeds the largest number which reasonably can be sold in such offering without having a material adverse effect on such offering, then (1) if CRIC initiated the piggyback registration, CRIC will include in such registration the securities we propose to register first, and allocate the remaining part of the maximum offering size to all other selling security holders on a pro rata basis; (2) if any holder of our securities initiated the piggyback registration, CRIC will include, up to the maximum offering size, first the securities such initiating security holder proposes to register, then the securities of any other selling security holders on a pro rata basis, and lastly the securities CRIC proposes to register.
Blackout periods. CRIC is entitled to two blackout periods, aggregating to no more than 120 days in any 12-month period, during which CRIC can defer the filing or effectiveness of a registration statement, if in the good faith judgment of its board of directors, CRIC would be required to disclose in the annual report information not otherwise then required by law to be publicly disclosed, and there is a likelihood that such disclosure, or any other action to be taken in connection with the annual report, would materially and adversely affect or interfere with any significant financing, acquisition, merger, disposition of assets, corporate reorganization or other material transaction of negotiations involving CRIC.
Expenses of registration. CRIC will pay all expenses relating to any demand or piggyback registration, except that either E-House or we shall bear and pay all (1) brokerage commissions, (2) commissions, fees, discounts, transfer taxes, stamp duties or expenses of any underwriter or placement agent applicable to registrable securities offered for its account, (3) fees and expenses of its counsel or other advisers, and (4) other out-of-pocket expenses.
Amended and Restated Advertising Agency Agreement
Under the amended and restated advertising agency agreement, which became effective in October 2009 upon the completion of CRICs acquisition of our online real estate business, COHT continues to operate SINAs existing real estate and home furnishing channels and will develop a new real estate-related channel on sina.com.cn, and has the exclusive right to sell to real estate, home furnishing and construction material advertisers on these three channels as well as SINAs other websites. If COHT sells advertising on SINAs websites other than these three channels, COHT is entitled to receive approximately 85% of the revenues generated from these sales. In addition, COHT authorizes SINA as its exclusive agent to sell non real estate advertising on its directly operated website and channels. COHT is also entitled to receive 85% of the revenues generated from these sales. The initial term of the amended and restated advertising agency agreement is ten years.
Domain Name and Content License Agreement
Under the domain name and content license agreement, which became effective upon CRICs acquisition of our online real estate business, SINA grants to COHT an exclusive license to use its three domain names, i.e., house.sina.com.cn, jiaju.sina.com.cn and construction.sina.com.cn, in connection with COHTs real estate Internet operations in China. In addition, SINA also grants to COHT an exclusive license to use all content whose copyrights are owned by SINA or owned by a third party provider but is sub-licensable by SINA without requiring payment of any additional fees. For other operating content, COHT is required to enter into an agreement with the owner independently and is responsible for the costs associated with procuring the content. The licenses are for an initial term of ten years and free of any additional fees.
Trademark License Agreement
Under the trademark license agreement, which became effective upon the completion of CRICs acquisition of our online real estate business, SINA grants to COHT a non-exclusive license to use three SINA trademarks and an exclusive license to use two SINA Leju trademarks in connection with COHTs real estate Internet operations in China through website located at www.leju.com and the channels located at house.sina.com.cn, jiaju.sina.com.cn and construction.sina.com.cn. The licenses are for an initial term of ten years and free of any additional fees.
Software License and Support Services Agreement
Under the software license and support services agreement, which became effective upon the completion of CRICs acquisition of our online real estate business, SINA grants to COHT a non-exclusive license to use (i) SINAs proprietary software including those used for Internet content publishing, advertising publishing, sales management, procurement reimbursement, financial management , flow statistics and monitoring, (ii) current software products and interfaces necessary to facilitate COHTs use of the current software products, (iii) the databases and compilations, (iv) its improvement to the licensed software and (v) related documentation and hardware, in connection with COHTs real estate Internet operations in China. SINA will also provide to COHT infrastructure necessary to operate its websites and facilitate its use of the licensed software. In addition, SINA will also provide COHT support services, including routine maintenance, technical support and hardware support. The licenses are for an initial term of ten years and free of any additional fees. However, to the extent that there are any reasonable, incremental costs for use of the licensed software.
C. Interests of Experts and Counsel
Item 8. Financial Information
A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information
We have appended consolidated financial statements at the end of this annual report filed as part of this Annual Report on Form 20-F.
As of December 31, 2010, there were no legal or arbitration proceedings that have had in the recent past, or to the Companys knowledge, may have, significant effects on the Companys financial position or profitability.
We have not declared nor paid any cash dividends on our ordinary shares in the past and have no plans to do so in the foreseeable future.
B. Significant Changes
Item 9. The Offer and Listing
A. Listing Details
Our ordinary shares have been quoted on the NASDAQ Global Select Market (formerly the NASDAQ National Market) system under the symbol SINA since April 13, 2000. The following table sets forth the high and low trading prices of our ordinary shares for (1) each year of the five most recent full financial years, (2) each of the four quarters of the two most recent full financial years and the subsequent period and (3) each of the most recent six months:
B. Plan of Distribution
Our ordinary shares have been quoted on the NASDAQ Global Select Market (formerly the NASDAQ National Market) system under the symbol SINA since April 13, 2000.
D. Selling Shareholders
F. Expenses of the Issue
Item 10. Additional Information
A. Share Capital
B. Memorandum and Articles of Association
We incorporate by reference into this Annual Report the description of our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association contained in the Companys registration statement on Form F-3, Registration No. 333-163990, filed on December 23, 2009.
C. Material Contracts
We have not entered into any material contracts for the two years immediately preceding the date of this Annual Report other than in the ordinary course of business and other than those described elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 20-F.
D. Exchange Controls
See Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties Classified Regulations Foreign Exchange. and Item 3. Key Information Risk Factors Restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us bind our subsidiaries and VIEs in China.
The following summary of the material Cayman Islands and United States federal income tax consequences of an investment in our ordinary shares is based upon laws and relevant interpretations thereof in effect as of the date of this annual report, all of which are subject to change. This summary does not deal with all possible tax consequences relating to an investment in our ordinary shares, such as the tax consequences under state, local and other tax laws.
Cayman Islands Taxation
According to Maples and Calder, our Cayman Islands counsel, the Cayman Islands currently levies no taxes on individuals or corporations based upon profits, income, gains or appreciation and there is no taxation in the nature of inheritance tax or estate duty. There are no other taxes likely to be material to us levied by the Government of the Cayman Islands except for stamp duties which may be applicable on instruments executed in, or brought within, the jurisdiction of the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands is not party to any double tax treaties. There are no exchange control regulations or currency restrictions in the Cayman Islands.
United States Federal Income Taxation
The following discussion describes the material U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders (defined below) under present law of an investment in the ordinary shares. This summary applies only to investors that hold the ordinary shares as capital assets and that have the U.S. dollar as their functional currency. This discussion is based on the tax laws of the U.S. as in effect on the date of this Form 20-F and on U.S. Treasury regulations in effect or, in some cases, proposed, as of the date of this Form 20-F, as well as judicial and administrative interpretations thereof available on or before such date. All of the foregoing authorities are subject to change, which change could apply retroactively and could affect the tax consequences described below.
The following discussion does not deal with the tax consequences to any particular investor or to persons in special tax situations such as:
U.S. Holders are urged to consult their tax advisors about the application of the U.S. federal tax rules to their particular circumstances as well as the state and local and foreign tax consequences to them of the purchase, ownership and disposition of ordinary shares.
The discussion below of the U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders will apply if you are the beneficial owner of ordinary shares and you are, for U.S. federal income tax purposes,
Taxation of Dividends and Other Distributions on the Ordinary Shares
Subject to the passive foreign investment company rules discussed below, the gross amount of all our distributions to you with respect to the ordinary shares (including any PRC taxes withheld if we are considered a PRC resident enterprise) will be included in your gross income as dividend income on the date of receipt by you, but only to the extent that the distribution is paid out of our current or accumulated earnings and profits (computed under U.S. federal income tax principles). The dividends will not be eligible for the dividends-received deduction allowed to corporations in respect of dividends received from other U.S. corporations.
With respect to non-corporate U.S. Holders (including individual U.S. Holders) for taxable years beginning before January 1, 2013, dividends may be taxed at the lower applicable capital gains rate (qualified dividend income) provided that (1) the ordinary shares are readily tradable on an established securities market in the U.S., (2) we are not a passive foreign investment company (as discussed below) for either our taxable year in which the dividend was paid or the preceding taxable year, and (3) certain holding period requirements are met. For this purpose, our ordinary shares, which are listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, will be considered to be readily tradable on an established securities market in the U.S. You should consult your tax advisor regarding the availability of the lower rate for dividends paid with respect to our ordinary shares.
Dividends will constitute foreign source income for foreign tax credit limitation purposes. If the dividends are qualified dividend income (as discussed above), the amount of the dividend taken into account for purposes of calculating the foreign tax credit limitation will be limited to the gross amount of the dividend, multiplied by the reduced rate divided by the highest rate of tax normally applicable to dividends. The limitation on foreign taxes eligible for credit is calculated separately with respect to specific classes of income. For this purpose, dividends distributed by us with respect to ordinary shares generally will constitute passive category income but could, in the case of certain U.S. Holders, constitute general category income.
To the extent that the amount of the distribution exceeds our current and accumulated earnings and profits, it will be treated first as a tax-free return of your tax basis in your ordinary shares, and to the extent the amount of the distribution exceeds your tax basis, the excess will be taxed as capital gain. We do not intend to calculate our earnings and profits for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Therefore, a U.S. Holder should expect that a distribution will be reported as a dividend.
Taxation of Disposition of Shares
You will recognize taxable gain or loss on any sale, exchange or other taxable disposition of an ordinary share equal to the difference between the amount realized (in U.S. dollars) for the ordinary share and your tax basis (in U.S. dollars) in the ordinary share. Subject to the passive foreign investment company rules discussed below, the gain or loss will be capital gain or loss. If you are a non-corporate U.S. Holder, including an individual U.S. Holder, who has held the ordinary share for more than one year, you will be eligible for reduced tax rates under current law. The deductibility of capital losses is subject to limitations. Any such gain or loss that you recognize generally will be treated as U.S. source income or loss (in the case of losses, subject to certain limitations).
Accordingly, if we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise and any PRC tax is imposed on gain from the disposition of an ordinary share, you may not be able to use any foreign tax credits generated unless you have other foreign source income for the applicable taxable year. If, however, we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise and you are eligible for the benefits of the income tax treaty between the United States and China, you may be eligible to treat the gain as foreign source income.
Passive Foreign Investment Company
Based on the market value of our ordinary shares, the composition of our assets and income and our operations, we believe that for our taxable year ended December 31, 2010, we were not a passive foreign investment company (PFIC) for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Our PFIC status for the current taxable year ending December 31, 2011 will not be determinable until its close, and, accordingly, there is no guarantee that we will not be a PFIC for the current taxable year (or any future taxable year). A non-U.S. corporation is considered a PFIC for any taxable year if either:
We will be treated as owning our proportionate share of the assets and earning our proportionate share of the income of any other corporation in which we own, directly or indirectly, more than 25% (by value) of the shares.
We must make a separate determination each year as to whether we are a PFIC. As a result, our PFIC status may change from year to year. The total value of our assets for purposes of the asset test generally will be calculated with reference to the market price of our ordinary shares. Accordingly, fluctuations in the market price of the ordinary shares may result in our being a PFIC for any year. If we are a PFIC for any year during which you hold ordinary shares, we will continue to be treated as a PFIC for all succeeding years during which you hold ordinary shares. However, if we cease to be a PFIC, provided that you have not made a mark-to-market election, as described below, you may avoid some of the adverse effects of the PFIC regime by making a deemed sale election with respect to the ordinary shares, as applicable.
If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which you hold ordinary shares, you will be subject to special tax rules with respect to any excess distribution that you receive and any gain you realize from a sale or other disposition (including a pledge) of the ordinary shares, unless you make a mark-to-market election as discussed below. Distributions you receive in a taxable year that are greater than 125% of the average annual distributions you received during the shorter of the three preceding taxable years or your holding period for the ordinary shares will be treated as an excess distribution. Under these special tax rules:
The tax liability for amounts allocated to years prior to the year of disposition or excess distribution cannot be offset by any net operating losses for such years, and gains (but not losses) realized on the sale of the ordinary shares cannot be treated as capital, even if you hold the ordinary shares as capital assets.
Alternatively, a U.S. Holder of marketable stock (as defined below) in a PFIC may make a mark-to-market election for such stock of a PFIC to elect out of the tax treatment discussed in the two preceding paragraphs. If you make a valid mark-to-market election for the ordinary shares, you will include in income each year an amount equal to the excess, if any, of the fair market value of the ordinary shares as of the close of your taxable year over your adjusted basis in such ordinary shares. You are allowed a deduction for the excess, if any, of the adjusted basis of the ordinary shares over their fair market value as of the close of the taxable year. However, deductions are allowable only to the extent of any net mark-to-market gains on the ordinary shares included in your income for prior taxable years. Amounts included in your income under a mark-to-market election, as well as
gain on the actual sale or other disposition of the ordinary shares, are treated as ordinary income. Ordinary loss treatment also applies to the deductible portion of any mark-to-market loss on the ordinary shares, as well as to any loss realized on the actual sale or disposition of the ordinary shares, to the extent that the amount of such loss does not exceed the net mark-to-market gains previously included for such ordinary shares. Your basis in the ordinary shares will be adjusted to reflect any such income or loss amounts. If you make such a mark-to-market election, tax rules that apply to distributions by corporations which are not PFICs would apply to distributions by us (except that the lower applicable capital gains rate would not apply).
The mark-to-market election is available only for marketable stock which is stock that is traded in other than de minimis quantities on at least 15 days during each calendar quarter (regularly traded) on a qualified exchange or other market, as defined in applicable Treasury regulations. We expect that the ordinary shares will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, which is a qualified exchange for these purposes, and, consequently, assuming that the ordinary shares are regularly traded, if you are a holder of ordinary shares, it is expected that the mark-to-market election would be available to you were we to become a PFIC.
If we are a PFIC, you must file United States Internal Revenue Service Form 8621 for each tax year in which you make a disposition of your ordinary shares, receive direct or indirect distributions on your ordinary shares or make a mark-to-market or deemed sale election mentioned above with respect to your ordinary shares. Legislation enacted on March 18, 2010 creates an additional annual filing requirement for tax years beginning on or after the date of enactment for U.S. persons who are shareholders of a PFIC. The legislation does not describe what information will be required to be included in the additional annual filing, but rather grants the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury authority to decide what information must be included in such annual filing.
If we are a PFIC for a given taxable year, then you should consult your tax advisor concerning the tax consequences to you of such PFIC status, the availability and consequences of making a mark-to-market election mentioned above and your annual filing requirements.
For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2012, a United States person that is an individual or estate, or a trust that does not fall into a special class of trusts that is exempt from such tax, is subject to a 3.8% tax on the lesser of (1) the United States persons net investment income for the relevant taxable year and (2) the excess of the United States persons modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year over a certain threshold (which in the case of individuals will be between $125,000 and $250,000, depending on the individuals circumstances). A United States persons net investment income will include its gross dividend income and its net gains from the disposition of stock, unless such dividends or net gains are derived in the ordinary course of the conduct of a trade or business (other than a trade or business that consists of certain passive or trading activities). If you are a United States person that is an individual, estate or trust, you are urged to consult your tax advisors regarding the applicability of the Medicare tax to your income and gains in respect of your investment in the ordinary shares.
Information with Respect to Foreign Financial Assets
Individuals who own specified foreign financial assets with an aggregate value in excess of $50,000 in taxable years beginning after March 18, 2010 will be required to file an information report with respect to such assets with their tax returns. Specified foreign financial assets include any financial accounts maintained by foreign financial institutions, as well as any of the following, but only if they are not held in accounts maintained by financial institutions: (i) stocks and securities issued by non-U.S. persons, (ii) financial instruments and contracts held for investment that have non-U.S. issuers or counterparties and (iii) interests in foreign entities. U.S. Holders that are individuals are urged to consult their tax advisors regarding the application of this reporting requirement to their ownership of ordinary shares.
Information Reporting and Backup Withholding
Dividend payments with respect to ordinary shares and proceeds from the sale, exchange or redemption of ordinary shares may be subject to information reporting to the Internal Revenue Service and possible U.S. backup withholding at a current rate of 28%. Backup withholding will not apply, however, to a U.S. Holder who furnishes a correct taxpayer identification number and makes any other required certification or who is otherwise exempt from backup withholding. U.S. Holders who are required to establish their exempt status must provide such certification on Internal Revenue Service Form W-9. U.S. Holders should consult their tax advisors regarding the application of the U.S. information reporting and backup withholding rules.
Backup withholding is not an additional tax. Amounts withheld as backup withholding may be credited against your U.S. federal income tax liability, and you may obtain a refund of any excess amounts withheld under the backup withholding rules by filing the appropriate claim for refund with the Internal Revenue Service and furnishing any required information.
F. Dividends and Paying Agents
G. Statement by Experts
H. Documents on Display
Our corporate Internet address is http://corp.sina.com.cn. We make available free of charge on or through our website our annual reports, quarterly reports, current reports, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. We may from time to time provide important disclosures to investors by posting them in the investor relations section of our website, as allowed by the SEC rules. Information contained on SINAs website is not part of this report or any other report filed with the SEC. You may read and copy any public reports we filed with the SEC at the SECs Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549. You may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. The SEC also maintains an Internet site http://www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information that we filed electronically.
I. Subsidiary Information
For a listing of our subsidiaries, see Item 4. Information on the Company C. Organizational Structure. and Exhibit 8.1.
Item 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Interest Rate and Security Market Risk
Our investment policy limits our investments of excess cash to government or quasi-government securities, high-quality corporate securities and bank-guaranteed products. We protect and preserve our invested funds by limiting default, market and reinvestment risk.
We had approximately $597.0 million in cash and bank time deposits (with terms up to twelve months) with large domestic banks in China. The remaining cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments were held by financial institutions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. Historically, deposits in Chinese banks are secure due to the state policy on protecting depositors interests. However, China promulgated a new Bankruptcy Law that came into effect on June 1, 2007, which contains a separate article expressly stating that the State Council may promulgate implementation measures for the bankruptcy of Chinese banks based on the Bankruptcy Law. Under the new Bankruptcy Law, a Chinese bank may go bankrupt. In addition, since Chinas concession to WTO, foreign banks have been gradually permitted to operate in China and have become serious competitors to Chinese banks in many aspects, especially since the opening of RMB business to foreign banks in late 2006. Therefore, the risk of bankruptcy on Chinese banks in which we hold cash and bank deposits has increased. In the event that a Chinese bank that holds our deposits goes bankrupt, we are unlikely to claim our deposits back in full since we are unlikely to be classified as a secured creditor to the bank under the PRC laws. For 2010, our interest income was $7.4 million and fluctuations of interest rates for Chinese RMB and U.S. dollars bank deposits can impact our financial results.
Our $99 million, zero-coupon, convertible, subordinated notes due 2023 bear no interest and are denominated in U.S. dollars. Therefore, there is no interest or foreign currency exchange risk associated with the outstanding notes.
Foreign Currency Exchange Rate Risk
The majority of our revenues derived and expenses and liabilities incurred are in Chinese RMB with a relatively small amount in New Taiwan dollars, Hong Kong dollars and U.S. dollars. Thus, our revenues and operating results may be impacted by exchange rate fluctuations in the currencies of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. See Currency fluctuations and restrictions on currency exchange may adversely affect our business, including limiting our ability to convert Chinese RMB into foreign currencies and, if RMB were to decline in value, reducing our revenues and profits in U.S. dollar terms in the Risk Factors section. We have not reduced our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations by using hedging transactions. While we may choose to do so in the future, the availability and effectiveness of any hedging transactions may be limited and we may not be able to successfully hedge our exchange rate risks. Accordingly, we may experience economic losses and negative impacts on earnings and equity as a result of foreign exchange rate fluctuations. In 2010, the foreign currency translation adjustments to our comprehensive income and net currency transaction gain were $10.6 million and $1.3 million, respectively. Below is a sensitivity
analysis on the impact of a change in the value of the Chinese RMB against the U.S. dollar assuming: (1) projected net income from operation in China equal to the year ended December 31, 2010, (2) projected net assets of the operation in China equal to the balances in Chinese RMB and U.S. dollar as of December 31, 2010 and (3) currency fluctuation occurs proportionately over the period:
As of December 31, 2010, our equity investments totaled $508.1 million. We periodically review our equity investments for impairment. If we conclude that any of these investments are impaired, we determine whether such impairment is other-than-temporary. Factors we consider to make such determination include the duration and severity of the impairment, the reason for the decline in value, the potential recovery period, and our intent to sell, or whether it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell, the investment before recovery. If any impairment is considered other-than-temporary, we will write down the asset to its fair value and take a corresponding charge to our Consolidated Statement of Operations. We are unable to control these factors and an impairment charge recognized by us will unfavorably impact our results.
In 2010, we recognized an impairment charge of $128.6 million on investment in CRIC. Based on a closing price of $9.60 on December 31, 2010, CRIC had a carrying value on our consolidated balance sheets of $466.5 million, representing approximately 29% of our total assets. CRIC ADS closed at $6.43 on May 25, 2011. We may be subjected to an investment loss if we had to or choose to sell our investment in CRIC at a price lower than its carrying value. Our short-term investment as of December 31, 2010 was $239.2 million, which is composed of bank time deposits.
Item 12. Description of Securities Other than Equity Securities
Item 13. Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies
Item 14. Material Modifications to the Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds
Item 15. Controls and Procedures
Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures
We carried out an evaluation, under the supervision and with the participation of management, including the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, of the effectiveness of the design and operation of our disclosure controls and procedures (as defined in Exchange Act Rule 13a-15(e)) as of the end of the period covered by this Annual Report on Form 20-F. Based upon that evaluation, the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer concluded that the Companys disclosure controls and procedures are effective.
Managements Annual Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting (as defined in Rules 13a-15(f) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended). Our management evaluated the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting based on criteria established in the framework in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. Based on this evaluation, our management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2010.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. In addition, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies and procedures may deteriorate.
PricewaterhouseCoopers Zhong Tian CPAs Limited Company, our independent registered public accounting firm, has audited the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2010, as stated in its report, which appears on page F-2 of this Form 20-F.
Changes in Internal Control over Financial Reporting
There were no changes in our internal control over financial reporting (as defined in Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) during the year ended December 31, 2010 that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.
Item 16A. Audit Committee Financial Expert
The Board has determined that Lip-Bu Tan qualifies as an audit committee financial expert as defined by the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission and has designated Lip-Bu Tan to serve as the audit committee financial expert for the Company. Lip-Bu Tan is independent as such term is used in Item 7(d)(3)(iv) of Schedule 14A under the Exchange Act.
Item 16B. Code of Ethics
The Company has adopted a Code of Ethics which applies to the Companys directors, officers and employees, including the Companys principal executive officer, principal financial officer and principal accounting officer. We have posted the code on our corporate website at www.corp.sina.com.cn.
Item 16C. Principal Accountant Fees and Services
The following table sets forth the aggregate fees billed by PricewaterhouseCoopers Zhong Tian CPAs Limited Company (PwC) and its affiliates, our independent auditor and principal accountant for the year ended December 31, 2010 and 2009:
The Audit Committees policy is to approve all audit and audit-related services. Permissible non-audit services are pre-approved according to fee amount threshold. Permissible non-audit services may include tax services and other services. Pre-approval is generally provided for up to one year and any pre-approval is detailed as to the particular service or category of services and is generally subject to an initial estimated budget. PwC and management are required to periodically report to the Audit Committee regarding the extent of services provided by PwC in accordance with this pre-approval, and the fees performed to date. The Audit Committee may also pre-approve particular services on a case-by-case basis.
Item 16D. Exemptions from the Listing Standards for Audit Committees
Item 16E. Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers
Item 16F. Change in Registrants Certifying Accountant
There is no change in the Companys certifying accountant during the Companys two most recent fiscal years or any subsequent interim period.
Item 16G. Corporate Governance
As a foreign private issuer (FPI) whose securities are listed the NASDAQ Global Market, we are permitted to follow certain home country corporate governance practices instead of the requirements of the NASDAQ Marketplace Rules (the NASDAQ Rules) pursuant to NASDAQ Rule 5615, which provides for such exemption to compliance with the NASDAQ Rule 5600 Series. We complied with during fiscal year 2010 and currently comply with the NASDAQ Rules.
Item 17. Financial Statements
We have elected to provide financial statements pursuant to Item 18.
Item 18. Financial Statements
The consolidated financial statements of SINA Corporation and its subsidiaries are included at the end of this Annual Report.
Item 19. Exhibits
The agreements filed as exhibits to this Annual Report on Form 20-F are included to provide you with information regarding their terms and are not intended to provide any other factual or disclosure information about the Company or the other parties to the agreements. The agreements may contain representations and warranties by each of the parties to the applicable agreement, and such representations and warranties have been made solely for the benefit of the other parties to the applicable agreement. The representations and warranties (i) may not be categorical statements of fact, but rather as a method of allocating the risk to one of the parties should such statements prove to be inaccurate, (ii) have been qualified by disclosures that were made to the other party in connection with the negotiation of the applicable agreement, which disclosures are not necessarily reflected in the agreement, (iii) may apply standards of materiality in a way that is different from what may be viewed as material by investors, and (iv) were made only as of the date of the applicable agreement or such other date or dates as may be specified in the agreement and are subject to more recent developments. Accordingly, these representations and warranties may not describe the actual state of affairs as of the date they were made or at any other time. Additional information about the Company may be found elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 20-F and the Companys other public filings, which are available without charge through the SECs website at http://www.sec.gov.
The registrant hereby certifies that it meets all of the requirements for filing on Form 20-F and that it has duly caused and authorized the undersigned to sign this Annual Report on its behalf.
Date: May 31, 2011
INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
To the Board of Directors and Shareholders of SINA Corporation:
In our opinion, the accompanying consolidated balance sheets and the related consolidated statements of operations, consolidated statements of shareholders equity and consolidated statements of cash flows present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of SINA Corporation and its subsidiaries at December 31, 2010 and December 31, 2009, and the results of their operations and their cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2010 in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. Also in our opinion, the Company maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2010, based on criteria established in Internal Control Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO). The Companys management is responsible for these financial statements, for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting, included in Managements Annual Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting appearing under Item 15. Our responsibility is to express opinions on these financial statements and on the Companys internal control over financial reporting based on our integrated audits. We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement and whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects. Our audits of the financial statements included examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements, assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, and evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. Our audit of internal control over financial reporting included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, and testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk. Our audits also included performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinions.
A companys internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A companys internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (i) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (ii) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (iii) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the companys assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
PricewaterhouseCoopers Zhong Tian CPAs Limited Company
Beijing, the Peoples Republic of China
May 31, 2011
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.
NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
SINA Corporation (SINA, we or the Company) is an online media company and MVAS provider in the Peoples Republic of China and for the global Chinese communities. With a branded network of localized websites targeting Greater China and overseas Chinese, the Company provides services mainly through SINA.com (online news and content), Weibo.com (microblog) and SINA Mobile (MVAS). Through these businesses and properties and other business lines, SINA offers an array of services, including region-focused online portals, MVAS, microblog, blog, video and music streaming, photo sharing, online games, email, search, classified listings, fee-based services, e-commerce and enterprise e-solutions. The Company generates the majority of its revenues from online advertising and MVAS offerings and, to a lesser extent, from fee-based services.
2. Significant Accounting Policies
Basis of presentation and Use of estimates
The preparation of the Companys consolidated financial statements is in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States (GAAP), which requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results could differ materially from such estimates. The Company believes the accounting for advertising and MVAS revenues, accounting for income taxes, assessment of impairment of goodwill and long-lived assets, allowances for doubtful accounts, assessment of impairment of equity investments, stock-based compensation, consolidation, determination of the estimated useful lives of assets, accounting for advertising expenses, and foreign currency represent critical accounting policies that reflect the more significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of its consolidated financial statements.
The consolidated financial statements include the accounts of the Company, its wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries and variable interest entities (VIEs) in which the Company is the primary beneficiary. All significant intercompany balances and transactions have been eliminated.
To comply with PRC laws and regulations, the Company provides substantially all of its Internet content and MVAS services in China via its VIEs. These VIEs are wholly or partially owned by certain employees of the Company. The capital for the VIEs are funded by the Company and recorded as interest-free loans to these PRC employees. These loans were eliminated with the capital of the VIEs during consolidation. Under various contractual agreements, employee shareholders of the VIEs are required to transfer their ownership in these entities to the Companys subsidiaries in China when permitted by PRC laws and regulations or to designees of the Company at any time for the amount of loans outstanding. All voting rights of the VIEs are assigned to the Company and the Company has the right to appoint all directors and senior management personnel of the VIEs. The Company has also entered into exclusive technical service agreements with the VIEs under which the Company provides technical and other services to the VIEs in exchange for substantially all net income of the VIEs. In addition, employee shareholders of the VIEs have pledged their shares in the VIEs as collateral for the non-payment of loans or for the technical and other services fees due to the Company. As of December 31, 2010, the total amount of interest-free loans to these PRC employees was $17.6 million and the aggregate accumulated losses of all VIEs were approximately $5.4 million, which have been included in the consolidated financial statements.
As of December 31, 2010, the total assets for the consolidated VIEs were $79.8 million, mainly comprising cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable and property and equipment. As of December 31, 2010, the total liabilities for the consolidated VIEs were $60.3 million, mainly comprising deferred revenue and accrued liabilities to suppliers and agents. These balances are reflected in SINAs consolidated financial statements with intercompany transactions eliminated.
Under the contractual arrangements with the VIEs, the Company has the power to direct activities of the VIEs and direct the transfer of assets out of its VIEs. Therefore the Company considers that there is no asset of VIEs that can be used only to settle obligations of VIEs, except for registered capital and PRC statutory reserves of VIEs amounting to a total of $24.9 million as of December 31, 2010. Since our VIEs are incorporated as limited liability companies under the PRC Company Law, creditors of our VIEs do not have recourse to the general credit of the Company. Liabilities of the consolidated VIEs totaled $60.3 million as of December 31, 2010, $44.0 million in accrued liabilities, $9.4 million in tax payable and $6.9 million in deferred revenue. There is currently no contractual arrangement that would require the Company to provide additional financial support to the VIEs. As the
Company is conducting certain businesses mainly through its VIEs, the Company may provide such support on a discretionary basis in the future, which could expose the Company to a loss.
The following is a summary of the Companys major VIEs:
The Company began to consolidate the ICP Company in October 2001. Xunlong and StarVI were acquired from Memestar Limited in January 2003 and the operating results for these two compani