This excerpt taken from the SOHU 10-Q filed Aug 8, 2006.
If our current ownership structure is found to be in violation of existing or future PRC laws, rules or regulations regarding the legality of foreign investment in the PRC value-added telecommunication operations, we could be subject to severe penalties.
We conduct our value-added telecommunication operations solely in the PRC through our indirect wholly owned subsidiaries, Beijing ITC, Sohu Era, Sohu Software, Go2Map Software and Sogou Technology (or collectively PRC subsidiaries), and VIEs Beijing Sohu, High Century, Sohu Entertainment, Sohu Internet, Goodfeel, Huohu, Tu Xing Tian Xia, Feng Yang Tian Lang and Sogou Information (or collectively VIEs). We are a Delaware corporation, while Sohu Hong Kong, our indirect wholly owned subsidiary and the parent company of Beijing ITC, Sohu Era and Sohu Software is a Hong Kong corporation and a foreign person under PRC law. In order to meet ownership requirements under PRC law which restrict or prohibit wholly foreign owned enterprises, or WFOEs, from operating in certain industries such as Internet information, wireless, Internet access, and certain other industries, our VIEs are companies incorporated in the PRC and owned by Dr. Zhang and certain other employees of Sohu, rather than by Sohu.
The PRC began several years ago to regulate its Internet sector by making pronouncements or enacting regulations regarding the legality of foreign investment in the PRC Internet sector and the existence and enforcement of content restrictions on the Internet. We believe that our current ownership structure complies with all existing PRC laws, rules and regulations. There are, however, substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation of current PRC value-added telecommunication operations laws and regulations. In addition, new PRC telecommunication and foreign exchange laws and regulations were recently adopted. Accordingly, it is possible that the PRC government may ultimately take a view contrary to ours.
In addition, under the agreement reached in November 1999 between the PRC and the United States concerning the United States support of Chinas entry into the World Trade Organization, or WTO, foreign investment in PRC Internet services are to be liberalized to allow for 30% foreign ownership in key telecommunication services, including PRC Internet ventures, for the first year after Chinas entry into the WTO, 49% in the second year and 50% thereafter. China officially entered the WTO on December 11, 2001. However, the implementation of Chinas WTO accession agreements is still subject to various conditions.
Accordingly, it is possible that the relevant PRC authorities could, at any time, assert that any portion or all of the Sohu PRC subsidiaries and Sohu VIEs existing or future ownership structure and businesses violate existing or future PRC laws, regulations or policies. It is also possible that the new laws or regulations governing the PRC telecommunication sector that have been adopted or may be adopted in the future will prohibit or restrict foreign investment in, or other aspects of, any of our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs current or proposed businesses and operations. In addition, any such new laws and regulations may be retroactively applied to us and our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs.
If we or any of our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs were found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, the relevant PRC authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violation, including, without limitation, the following:
We may rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by Sohu.com Limited, our wholly owned subsidiary, to fund any cash requirements we may have. We may not be able to obtain cash from distributions to the extent such distributions are restricted by PRC law or future debt covenants. For any dividend received by Sohu.com Inc., it would be subject to US tax at 34% to 35%.
We are a holding company with no operating assets other than investments in Chinese operating entities, including Beijing ITC, Sohu Era, Sohu Software, Go2Map Software, Sogou Technology and Sohu New Media, through an intermediate holding company, Sohu.com Limited, our wholly-owned subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, and our VIEs, Beijing Sohu, High Century, Sohu Entertainment, Sohu Internet, Goodfeel, Huohu, Tu Xing Tian Xia, Feng Yang Tian Lang and Sogou Information. We may need to rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by Sohu.com Limited for our cash requirements in excess of any cash raised from investors and retained by us. If Beijing ITC, Sohu Era, Sohu Software, Go2Map Software, Sogou Technology and Sohu New Media incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict Beijing ITCs, Sohu Eras, Sohu Softwares, Go2Map Softwares, Sogou Technologys and Sohu New Medias ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us. In addition, PRC legal restrictions permit payment of dividends by Beijing ITC, Sohu Era, Sohu Software, Go2Map Software, Sogou Technology and Sohu New Media only out of their net income, if any, determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. Under PRC law, Beijing ITC, Sohu Era, Sohu Software, Go2Map Software, Sogou Technology and Sohu New Media are also required to set aside 10% of their net income each year to fund certain reserve funds until these reserves equal 50% of the amount of paid-in capital. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends. Furthermore, dividends received by Sohu.com Inc. would be subject to taxation at United States tax rates of 34% or 35%. We do not expect any dividends or other distributions on equity from Sohu.com Limited in the foreseeable future.