SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
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Item 17 ☐ Item 18 ☐
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CONVENTIONS THAT APPLY TO THIS ANNUAL REPORT
Unless otherwise indicated and except where the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report on Form 20-F to:
|●||“we,” “us,” “our company,” “our” or “JinkoSolar” refer to JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd., a Cayman Islands holding company, its current and former subsidiaries for the relevant periods;|
|●||“2009 Long Term Incentive Plan” refers to the 2009 Long Term Incentive Plan adopted on July 10, 2009, which was subsequently amended and restated;|
|●||“2014 Equity Incentive Plan” refers to the 2014 Equity Incentive Plan adopted on August 18, 2014;|
|●||“2017”, “2018” and “2019” refers to our fiscal years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively;|
|●||“ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares, and “ADRs” refers to the American depositary receipts evidencing our ADSs;|
|●||“CE” refers to CE certification, a verification of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance issued by SGS Taiwan Ltd. certifying compliance with the principal protection requirement of Directive 2004/108/EC of the European Union and EN 61000-6-3:2001+A11:2004 and EN 61000-6-1:2001 standards;|
|●||“CQC” refers to the certificate issued by China Quality Certification Centre certifying that our solar modules comply with IEC 61215:2005 and IEC 61730-2:2004 standards;|
|●||“DG projects” refers to distributed generation solar power projects, including ground-mounted distributed generation projects and rooftop distributed generation projects;|
|●||“EPC” refers to engineering, procurement and construction;|
|●||“Euro,” “EUR” or “€” refers to the legal currency of the European Union;|
|●||“FIT” refers to feed-in tariff(s), the government guaranteed and subsidized electricity sale price at which solar power projects can sell to the national power grids. FIT in China is set by the central government consisting of the applicable national government subsidies paid from the Renewable Energy Development Fund, as well as the desulphurized coal benchmark electricity price paid by State Grid;|
|●||“ground-mounted projects” refers to solar power projects built on the ground, consisting of ground-mounted DG projects and utility-scale projects;|
|●||“ground-mounted DG projects” refers to small-scale ground-mounted projects with capacity less than or equal to 20 MW and 35 kV or lower grid connection voltage grade (except in the northeastern regions, where connection voltage must be 66 kV or lower) and with a substantial portion of the electricity generated to be consumed within the substation area of the grid connection points;|
|●||“Haining Jinko” refers to Jinko Power Technology (Haining) Co., Ltd, one of our wholly-owned subsidiaries in the PRC;|
|●||“JET” refers to the certificate issued by Japan Electrical Safety & Environment Technology Laboratories certifying that our modules comply with IEC 61215:2005, IEC 61730-1:2004 and IEC 61730-2:2004 standards;|
|●||“Jiangxi Desun” refers to Jiangxi Desun Energy Co., Ltd., an entity in which our founders and substantial shareholders, Xiande Li, Kangping Chen and Xianhua Li, each holds more than 10%, and collectively hold 73%, of the equity interest;|
|●||“Jiangxi Jinko” refers to Jinko Solar Co., Ltd., our wholly-owned operating subsidiary incorporated in the PRC;|
|●||“JinkoPower” refers to Jinko Power Technology Co., Ltd., formerly known as Jiangxi JinkoSolar Engineering Co., Ltd., previously one of our indirect subsidiaries, and its subsidiaries;|
|●||“Jiangxi Materials” refers to Jiangxi Photovoltaic Materials Co., Ltd., our wholly-owned operating subsidiary incorporated in the PRC by Jiangxi Jinko on December 1, 2010;|
|●||“JinkoSolar Power” refers to JinkoSolar Power Engineering Group Limited;|
|●||“JIS Q 8901” refers to the certificate for the Japanese market from TÜV that demonstrates that a company’s management system ensures the highest standards of reliability in their products;|
|●||“JPY” refers to Japanese Yen;|
|●||“kV” refers to kilovolts;|
|●||“kWh” refers to kilowatt hour(s);|
|●||“local grid companies” refers to the subsidiaries of the State Grid in China;|
|●||“long-term supply contracts” refers to our polysilicon supply contracts with terms of one year or above;|
|●||“MCS” refers to MCS certificate of factory production control issued by British Approvals Board for Telecommunications certifying that the production management system of our certain types of solar panels complies with MCS005 Issue 2.3 and MCS010 Issue 1.5 standards;|
|●||“NEA” refers to the National Energy Administration in China;|
|●||“NYSE” or “New York Stock Exchange” refers to the New York Stock Exchange Inc.;|
|●||“OEM” refers to an original equipment manufacturer who manufactures products or components that are purchased by another company and retailed under that purchasing company’s brand name;|
|●||“PRC” or “China” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for purposes of this annual report, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau;|
|●||“PV” refers to photovoltaic;|
|●||“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of China;|
|●||“shares” or “ordinary shares” refers to our ordinary shares, par value US$0.00002 per share;|
|●||“State Grid” refers to State Grid Corporation of China and the local grid companies;|
|●||“TÜV” refers to TÜV certificates, issued by TÜV Rheinland Product Safety GmbH certifying that certain types of our solar modules comply with IEC 61215:2005, EN 61215:2005, IEC 61730-1:2004, IEC 61730-2:2004, EN 61730-1:2007 and EN 61730-2:2007 standards;|
|●||“UL” refers to the certificate issued by Underwriters Laboratories Inc., to certify that certain types of our solar modules comply with its selected applicable standards;|
|●||“US$,” “dollars” or “U.S. dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States;|
|●||“utility-scale projects” refers to ground-mounted projects that are not ground-mounted DG projects;|
|●||“watt” or “W” refers to the measurement of electrical power, where “kilowatt” or “kW” means one thousand watts, “megawatts” or “MW” means one million watts and “gigawatt” or “GW” means one billion watts;|
|●||“Xinjiang Jinko” refers to Xinjiang Jinko Solar Co., Ltd., one of our wholly-owned subsidiaries in the PRC;|
|●||“Yuhuan Jinko” refers to Yuhuan Jinko Solar Co., Ltd., one of our wholly-owned subsidiaries in the PRC; and|
|●||“Zhejiang Jinko” refers to Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co., Ltd., formerly Zhejiang Sun Valley Energy Application Technology Co., Ltd., a solar cell supplier incorporated in the PRC which has been our wholly-owned subsidiary since June 30, 2009.|
Names of certain companies provided in this annual report are translated or transliterated from their original Chinese legal names.
Discrepancies in any table between the amounts identified as total amounts and the sum of the amounts listed therein are due to rounding.
This annual report on Form 20-F includes our audited consolidated financial statements for 2017, 2018 and 2019 and as of December 31, 2018 and 2019.
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION
Our Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The following table presents the selected consolidated financial information of our company. The selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and the selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2018 and 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, which are included in this annual report beginning on page F-1. The selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2016, and the selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2015, 2016 and 2017 are derived from our audited financial statements not included in this annual report, after giving effect, for 2015, to the reclassification of deferred tax assets and deferred tax liabilities on adoption of ASU 2015-17, “Income Tax (Topic 740): Balance sheet Classification of Deferred Taxes. The selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with, and are qualified in their entirety by reference to, our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” included elsewhere in this annual report. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, or U.S. GAAP. The historical results are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected in any future periods. On January 1, 2018, we adopted new revenue guidance ASC Topic 606, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers” (“ASC Topic 606”), by applying the modified retrospective method to those contracts that were not completed as of January 1, 2018. Results for reporting periods beginning on or after January 1, 2018 are presented under ASC Topic 606, while prior period amounts are not adjusted and continue to be reported in accordance with our historical accounting practices under ASC Topic 605 “Revenue Recognition”. We adopted ASC Topic 842, Leases (“ASC Topic 842”) using the modified retrospective transition method with an effective date of January 1, 2019. Consequently, prior periods have not been recast and the disclosures required under ASC Topic 842 are not provided for dates and periods before January 1, 2019.
(in thousands, except share, per share and per ADS data)
Consolidated Statements of Operations:
Cost of revenues
Total operating expenses
Income from operations
Interest expenses, net
Exchange gain/(loss), net
Other income/(expense), net
(in thousands, except share, per share and per ADS data)
Gain/(loss) on disposal of subsidiaries
Change in fair value of foreign exchange forward contracts
Change in fair value of foreign exchange options
Change in fair value of interest rate swap
Change in fair value of warrant liability
Change in fair value of convertible senior notes and call option
Convertible senior notes issuance costs
Income from continuing operations before income taxes
Income tax expense
Equity in income/(loss) of affiliated companies
Income from continuing operations, net of tax
Gain on disposal of discontinued operations before income taxes
Income from discontinued operations before income taxes
Income tax expense, net
Income from discontinued operations, net of tax
Less: Net (loss)/income attributable to non-controlling interests from continuing operations
Less: Net income attributable to non-controlling interests from discontinued operations
Less: Accretion to redemption value of redeemable non-controlling interests of discontinued operations
Net income attributable to JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd.’s ordinary shareholders
Net income attributable to JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd.’s ordinary shareholders per share from continuing operations
(in thousands, except share, per share and per ADS data)
Net income attributable to JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd.’s ordinary shareholders per ADS(1) from continuing operations
Net income/(loss) attributable to JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd.’s ordinary shareholders per share from discontinued operations
Net income/(loss) attributable to JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd.’s ordinary shareholders per ADS from discontinued operations
Weighted average ordinary shares outstanding
Weighted average ADS outstanding
(1) Each ADS represents four ordinary shares.
As of December 31,
Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
Restricted short-term investments
Account receivable, net – related parties
Accounts receivable, net – third parties
Notes receivable – related parties
Notes receivable, net – third parties
Advances to suppliers – related parties
Advances to suppliers, net – third parties
Total current assets
Project assets, net
Property, plant and equipment, net
As of December 31,
Land use rights, net
Accounts payable – related parties
Accounts payable – third parties
Notes payable – third parties
Accrued payroll and welfare expenses
Advance from related parties
Advance from third parties
Bonds payable and accrued interests
Short-term borrowings (including current portion of long-term borrowings, and failed sale-leaseback financing)
Total current liabilities
Convertible senior notes
Redeemable non-controlling interests
Total JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd. shareholders’ equity
Total liabilities, redeemable non-controlling interests and shareholders’ equity
Outstanding shares as of the year end
Exchange Rate Information
We publish our consolidated financial statements in Renminbi. The conversion of Renminbi into U.S. dollars in this annual report is solely for the convenience of readers. The exchange rate refers to the exchange rate as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to Renminbi in this annual report were made at a rate of RMB6.9618 to US$1.00, the noon buying rate in effect as of December 31, 2019. The Renminbi is not freely convertible into foreign currency. We make no representation that any Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate, the rates stated below, or at all. On April 17, 2020, the exchange rate, as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board, was RMB7.0711 to US$1.00.
|B.||Capitalization and Indebtedness|
|C.||Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds|
Our business, financial condition and results of operations are subject to various changing business, competitive, economic, political and social conditions in China and worldwide. In addition to the factors discussed elsewhere in this annual report, the following are some of the important factors that could adversely affect our operating results, financial condition and business prospects, and cause our actual results to differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statements.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Our future growth and profitability depend on the demand for and the prices of solar power products and the development of photovoltaic technologies.
The rate and extent of market acceptance for solar power depends on the availability of government subsidies and the cost-effectiveness, performance and reliability of solar power relative to conventional and other renewable energy sources. Changes in government policies towards solar power and advancements in PV, technologies could significantly affect the demand for solar power products.
Demand for solar power products is also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as energy supply, demand and prices, as well as regulations and policies governing renewable energies and related industries. For example, in June 2016, the FIT in China for utility-scale projects was significantly reduced. As a result, subsequent to a strong demand in the first half of 2016, the domestic market was almost frozen and the competition in the global market also intensified in the second half of 2016. Meanwhile, in the United States, another major solar market of ours, the solar PV projects faced great uncertainties under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump because it is believed that his administration favors traditional energy industries. The current international political environment, including existing and potential changes to United States and China trade and tariffs policies, have resulted in uncertainty surrounding the future of the global economy. There are also uncertainties associated with the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, since the referendum in June 2016. The global solar module production capacity exceeded demand in 2019, which further intensified competition over pricing. Consequently, the average selling price of our solar modules, which represented 95.8% of our total revenue in 2019, decreased from 2018 to 2019.
Any reduction in the price of solar modules will have a negative impact on our business and results of operations, including our margins. As a result, we may not continue to be profitable on a quarterly or annual basis. In addition, if demand for solar power products weakens in the future, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
The reduction, modification, delay or elimination of government subsidies and other economic incentives in solar energy industry may reduce the profitability of our business and materially adversely affect our business.
We believe that market demand for solar power and solar power products in the near term will continue to substantially depend on the availability of government incentives because the cost of solar energy currently exceeds, and we believe will continue to exceed in the near term, the cost of conventional fossil fuel energy and certain non-solar renewable energy, particularly in light of the low level of oil prices in recent years. Examples of government sponsored financial incentives to promote solar energy include subsidies from the central and local governments, preferential tax rates and other incentives. The availability and size of such subsidies and incentives depend, to a large extent, on political and policy developments relating to environmental concerns and other macro-economic factors. Moreover, government incentive programs are expected to gradually decrease in scope or be discontinued as solar power technology improves and becomes more affordable relative to other types of energy. Negative public or community response to solar energy projects could adversely affect the government support and approval of our solar energy business. Adverse changes in government regulations and policies relating to solar energy industry and their implementation, especially those relating to economic subsidies and incentives, could significantly reduce the profitability of our business and materially adversely affect the state of the industry.
We received government grants totaling RMB147.9 million, RMB52.2 million and RMB63.0 million (US$9.1 million) for 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, which included government grants for our production scale expansion, technology upgrades, export market development and solar power project development. We cannot assure you that we will continue to receive government grants and subsidies in future periods at a similar level or at all.
As a substantial part of our operations are in the PRC, the policies and regulations adopted by the PRC government towards the solar energy industry are important to the continuing success of our business. Although there has been regulatory support for solar power generation such as subsidies, preferential tax treatment and other economic incentives in recent years, future government policies may not be as supportive. The PRC central government may reduce or eliminate existing incentive programs for economic, political, financial or other reasons. In addition, the provincial or local governments may delay the implementation or fail to fully implement central government regulations, policies or initiatives. Until the solar energy industry becomes commercially profitable without subsidies, a significant reduction in the scope or the discontinuation of government incentive programs in the PRC or other jurisdictions could materially and adversely affect market demand for our products and negatively impact our revenue and profitability.
Besides the PRC, various foreign governments have used policy initiatives to encourage or accelerate the development and adoption of solar power and other renewable energy sources, including certain countries in Europe, notably Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and Spain; certain countries in Asia, including Japan, India and South Korea; countries in North America, such as the United States and Canada; as well as Australia. Examples of government-sponsored financial incentives to promote solar power include capital cost rebates, FIT, tax credits, net metering and other incentives to end-users, distributors, project developers, system integrators and manufacturers of solar power products.
Governments may reduce or eliminate existing incentive programs for political, financial or other reasons, which will be difficult for us to predict. Reductions in FIT programs may result in a significant fall in the price of and demand for solar power and solar power products. For example, subsidies have been reduced or eliminated in some countries such as China, Germany, Italy, Spain and Canada. In May 2018, the National Development and Reform Commission of China (the “NDRC”), the Ministry of Finance and the NEA issued a joint notice temporarily halting subsidies for utility-scale solar projects, slashing the quota on distributed solar projects which are eligible for subsidies in 2018 and greatly reducing FIT. The German market represents a major portion of the European solar market for ground-mounted systems and a stable residential and commercial rooftop market. The first subsidy-free grid parity projects were connected to the grid in 2020, which act as a driver for the additional market growth. Starting from 2011, major export markets for solar power and solar power products such as Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom continued to reduce their FIT as well as other incentive measures. For example, from 2012 to 2019, the Japanese government cut down its FIT from JPY40 to JPY24 for projects below 10 KW and from JPY42 to JPY14 for projects above 10 KW.
In 2019, we generated 82.5% of our total revenue from overseas markets, and North America, Asia Pacific (except China which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan) and Europe represented 25.4%, 24.6% and 17.5% of our total revenue, respectively. As a result, any significant reduction in the scope or discontinuation of government incentive programs in the overseas markets, especially where our major customers are located, could cause demand for our products and our revenue to decline and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. In addition, the announcement of a significant reduction in incentives in any major market may have an adverse effect on the trading price of our ADSs.
We are exposed to significant guarantee liabilities and if the debtors default, our financial position would be materially and adversely affected.
In connection with our disposal of JinkoPower—a downstream business—in 2016, we entered into a master service agreement with JinkoPower, where we agreed to provide a guarantee for JinkoPower’s financing obligations under certain of its loan agreements entered into within a three-year period from October 2016, amounted to RMB2.6 billion (US$377.4 million) as of December 31, 2019. In addition, we give guarantees to certain of our related parties. As of December 31, 2019, we had liabilities associated with guarantees to related parties of RMB72.0 million (US$10.3 million). In the event that JinkoPower or the relevant related parties (as the case may be) fail to perform their respective obligations or otherwise default under the relevant loan agreements or other contracts, we will become liable for their respective obligations under those loan agreements or other contracts, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition.
We require a significant amount of cash to fund our operations and future business developments. If we cannot obtain additional funding on terms satisfactory to us when we need it, our growth prospects and future profitability may be materially adversely affected.
We require a significant amount of cash to fund our operations, including payments to suppliers for our polysilicon feedstock. We may also require additional cash due to changing business conditions or other future developments, including any investments or acquisitions we may decide to pursue, as well as our research and development activities in order to remain competitive.
Our working capital was RMB411.0 million (US$59.0 million) as of December 31, 2019. Our management believes that our cash position as of December 31, 2019, the cash expected to be generated from operations, and funds available from borrowings under our credit facilities will be sufficient to meet our working capital and capital expenditure requirements for at least the next 12 months from April 24, 2020, the date of issuance of our consolidated financial statements for 2019 included in this annual report.
Our ability to obtain external financing is subject to a number of uncertainties, including:
|●||our future financial condition, results of operations and cash flow;|
|●||the general condition of the global equity and debt capital markets;|
|●||regulatory and government support, such as subsidies, tax credits and other incentives;|
|●||the continued confidence of banks and other financial institutions in our company and the solar power industry;|
|●||economic, political and other conditions in the PRC and elsewhere; and|
|●||our ability to comply with any financial covenants under the debt financing.|
Any additional equity financing may be dilutive to our shareholders and any debt financing may require restrictive covenants. Additional funds may not be available on terms commercially acceptable to us. Failure to manage discretionary spending and raise additional capital or debt financing as required may adversely impact our ability to achieve our intended business objectives. See “—Our substantial indebtedness could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Uncertainty about the future of LIBOR may adversely affect our business.
LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, is widely used as a reference for setting interest rates on loans globally. We have used LIBOR as a reference rate on our US$473.2 million credit facilities. Combined we had borrowings of US$401.3 million outstanding on these facilities as of December 31, 2019.
On July 27, 2017, the Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates the LIBOR, announced that it intends to stop persuading or compelling banks to submit rates for the calculation of LIBOR to the administrator of LIBOR after 2021. In June 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority asked banks and markets to stop using the LIBOR as a basis for pricing contracts. These announcements indicate that the continuation of LIBOR on the current basis cannot and will not be guaranteed after 2021. It is impossible to predict whether and to what extent banks will continue to provide LIBOR submissions to the administrator of LIBOR or whether any additional reforms to LIBOR may be enacted in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. At this time, no consensus exists as to what rate or rates may become accepted alternatives to LIBOR and it is impossible to predict the effect of any such alternatives on the value of LIBOR based securities and variable rate loans or other financial arrangements, given LIBOR’s role in determining market interest rates globally. Uncertainty as to the nature of alternative reference rates and as to potential changes or other reforms to LIBOR may adversely affect LIBOR rates and other interest rates. In the event that a published LIBOR rate is unavailable after 2021, the value of such securities, loans or other financial arrangements may be adversely affected, and, to the extent that we are the issuer of or obligor under any such instruments or arrangements, our cost thereunder may increase. Currently, the manner and impact of this transition and related developments, as well as the effect of these developments on our funding costs, investment and trading securities portfolios and business, is uncertain, which may adversely affect our business, prospects, liquidity, capital resources, financial performance or financial condition.
The oversupply of solar cells and modules in the solar industry may cause substantial downward pressure on the prices of our products and reduce our revenue and earnings.
In 2011, the solar industry experienced oversupply across the value chain, and by the end of the year, solar module, cell and wafer pricing all decreased. Demand for solar products remained soft in 2012 and at the end of 2012, solar module, cell and wafer pricing had all further decreased. Although the global economy has improved since 2013, demand for solar modules in Europe fell significantly in 2013. As a result, many solar power producers that typically purchase solar power products from manufacturers like us were unable or unwilling to expand their operations.
Our average module selling price decreased from 2018 to 2019. Continued increases in solar module production in excess of market demand may result in further downward pressure on the price of solar cells and modules, including our products. Increasing competition could also result in us losing sales or market share. If we are unable, on an ongoing basis, to procure silicon, solar wafers and solar cells at reasonable prices, or mark up the price of our solar modules to cover our manufacturing and operating costs, our revenue and gross margin will be adversely impacted, either due to higher costs compared to our competitors or due to inventory write-downs, or both. In addition, our market share may decline if our competitors are able to price their products more competitively.
We face risks associated with the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of our products internationally and the construction and operation of our overseas manufacturing facilities, and if we are unable to effectively manage these risks, our ability to expand our business abroad may be restricted.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, we generated 62.8%, 73.6% and 82.5%, respectively, of our total revenue from export sales. We also have manufacturing facilities in the United States and Malaysia. As our global expansion strategies continue to evolve and in order to stay cost-efficient, we have decided to fulfill the demand for our solar products in South Africa through other overseas manufacturing facilities, and closed our manufacturing facility in South Africa in the fourth quarter of 2017. In January 2018, we entered into a master solar module supply agreement (the “Master Agreement”) with NextEra Energy, Inc., or NextEra. Under the Master Agreement, as amended in March 2018, we will supply NextEra up to 2,750 MW of high-efficiency solar modules over four years. In conjunction with the Master Agreement, we established our first U.S. factory in Jacksonville, Florida, which commenced production in the third quarter of 2018 and reached full production capacity of 400 MW in the first half of 2019. We plan to continue to increase manufacturing and sales outside China and expand our customer base overseas.
The manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of our products internationally, as well as the construction and operation of our manufacturing facilities outside of China may expose us to a number of risks, including those associated with:
Our manufacturing capacity outside China requires us to comply with different laws and regulations, including national and local regulations relating to production, environmental protection, employment and the other related matters. Due to our limited experience in doing business in the overseas markets, we are unfamiliar with local laws, regulation and policies. Our failure to obtain the required approvals, permits, licenses, filings or to comply with the conditions associated therewith could result in fines, sanctions, suspension, revocation or non-renewal of approvals, permits or licenses, or even criminal penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
As we enter into new markets in different jurisdictions, we will face different business environments and industry conditions, and we may spend substantial resources familiarizing ourselves with the new environment and conditions. To the extent that our business operations are affected by unexpected and adverse economic, regulatory, social and political conditions in the jurisdictions in which we have operations, we may experience project disruptions, loss of assets and personnel, and other indirect losses that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. For instance, our manufacturing facility in the United States may expose us to various risks, including, among others, failure to obtain the required approvals, permits or licenses, or to comply with the conditions associated therewith, failure to procure economic incentives or financing on satisfactory terms, and failure to procure construction materials, production equipment and qualified personnel for the manufacturing facility in a timely and cost-effective manner. Any of these events may increase the related costs, or impair our ability to run our operations in the future on a cost effective basis, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We are subject to anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by the U.S. government. We are also subject to safeguard investigation and other foreign trade investigations initiated by the U.S. government and anti-dumping investigation and safeguard investigations initiated by governments in our other markets.
Our direct sales to the U.S. market accounted for 15.3%, 10.9% and 25.4% of our total revenues in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. In 2011, SolarWorld Industries America Inc., a solar panel manufacturing company in the United States, filed anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions with the United States Department of Commerce (the “U.S. Department of Commerce”) and United States International Trade Commission (the “U.S. International Trade Commission”) against the Chinese solar industry, accusing Chinese producers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“CSPV”) cells, whether or not assembled into modules, of selling their products (i.e., CSPV cells or modules incorporating these cells) in the United States at less than fair value, and of receiving financial assistance from the Chinese governments that benefited the production, manufacture, or exportation of such products. JinkoSolar was on the list of the solar companies subject to such investigations by the U.S. Department of Commerce. On November 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it launched the anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty investigation into the accusations. On December 7, 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order. As a result, cash deposits were required to pay on import into the United States of the CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules from China. The announced cash deposit rates applicable to us were 13.94% (for anti-dumping) and 15.24% (for countervailing). The actual anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty rates at which entries of covered merchandise are finally assessed may differ from the announced deposit rates because they are subject to the subsequent administrative reviews by U.S. Department of Commerce.
In January 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the first administrative review of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules, from China. In July 2015, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the final results of this first administrative review, according to which the anti-dumping and countervailing rates applicable to us were 9.67% and 20.94%, respectively. Such rates apply as the final rates on the import into the United States of the CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules from China, from May 25, 2012 to November 30, 2013 for dumping, and from March 26, 2012 to December 31, 2012 for countervailing, respectively. Such rates were the cash deposit rates applicable to us from July 14, 2015. In February 2015 and February 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the second administrative and the third administrative review of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules, from China, respectively. The U.S. Department of Commerce issued the final results of the second administrative review in June and July of 2016 and the final results of the third administrative review in July 2017. As we were not included in the second and the third administrative review, the rates applicable to us remained at 9.67% (for anti-dumping) and 20.94% (for countervailing) after this review. In February 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the fourth administrative review of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules, from China. In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce published the final results of the fourth administrative review. As we were not included in this anti-dumping administrative review, the anti-dumping deposit rates applicable to us remained at 9.67%. The countervailing deposit rates applicable to us were 13.20% after this review. On October 30, 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce amended the final results of the fourth countervailing administrative review. As a result, the countervailing deposit rates applicable to us were 10.64% after this amendment. In November 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission initiated five-year reviews to determine whether revocation of the anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders with respect to CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules from China, would likely lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury. In March 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce determined that revocation of the countervailing order would likely lead to continuation or recurrence of a net countervailable subsidy. In March 2019, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that revocation of the countervailing order would likely lead to the continuation or recurrence of countervailable subsidies. In February 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the fifth administrative review of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules, from China. In July and August 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the final results of the fifth administrative review, according to which the anti-dumping and countervailing deposit rates applicable to us were 4.06% and 12.76%, respectively. In December 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce amended the final results of the fifth countervailing administrative review. As a result, the countervailing deposit rate applicable to us was 12.7% after this amendment. In March 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the sixth administrative review of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules, from China. The sixth administrative reviews are pending as of the date of this annual report, and therefore, the final anti-dumping and countervailing rates applicable to us are subject to change.
In 2013, SolarWorld Industries America Inc. filed a separate petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission resulting in the institution of new anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations against import of certain CSPV products from China. The petitions accused Chinese producers of such certain CSPV modules of dumping their products in the United States and receiving countervailable subsidies from the Chinese government. This action excluded from its scope the CSPV cells, whether or not assembled into modules, from China. In February 2015, following the affirmative injury determination made by U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order. As a result, the final cash deposits were required to pay on import into the United States of the CSPV modules assembled in China consisting of CSPV cells produced in a customs territory other than China. The announced cash deposit rates applicable to us were 65.36% (for anti-dumping) and 38.43% (for countervailing). The actual anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty rates at which entries of covered merchandise are finally assessed may differ from the announced deposit rates because they are subject to the administrative reviews by the U.S. Department of Commerce. In April 2016 and April 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the first and the second administrative reviews of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV modules assembled in China consisting of CSPV cells produced in a customs territory other than China, respectively. In July and September 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the final results of this first administrative review. The second administrative reviews of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order were rescinded by the U.S. Department of Commerce in August 2017 and November 2017, respectively. In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated the third administrative reviews of the anti-dumping duty order and countervailing duty order with respect to CSPV modules assembled in China consisting of CSPV cells produced in a customs territory other than China. The final results of the third administrative reviews are still pending as of the date of this annual report. We were not included in this third administrative reviews, therefore, the cash deposit rates applicable to us remained at 65.36% (for anti-dumping) and 38.43% (for countervailing). In January 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission initiated five-year reviews to determine whether revocation of the anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders with respect to CSPV modules assembled in China, consisting of CSPV cells produced in a customs territory other than China, would likely lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury. The final results of the five-year reviews are still pending as of the date of this annual report.
In May 2017, U.S. International Trade Commission initiated global safeguard investigation to determine whether CSPV cells (whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products) were being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or the threat thereof, to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported articles (“Section 201 Investigation”). The Section 201 Investigation was not country specific. They involved imports of the products under investigation from all sources, including China. In September 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted affirmatively in respect of whether imports of CSPV cells (whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products) were causing serious injury to domestic producers of CSPV products. On January 22, 2018, the U.S. President made the final decision to provide a remedy to the U.S. industry, and the CSPV cells/modules concerned were subject to the safeguard measures established in the U.S. President’s final result, which included that the CSPV cells and modules imported would be subject to additional duties of 30%, 25%, 20% and 15% from the first year to the fourth year, respectively, except for the first 2.5 GW of all imported CSPV cells concerned in each of those four years, which are excluded from the additional tariff. It is believed that the costs of solar power projects in the United States may increase and the demand for solar PV products in the United States may be adversely impacted due to the decision of the White House under the Section 201 Investigation. Although we opened our manufacturing facility in the United States, and the products manufactured in such facility will not be subject to tariffs, we will still be subject to tariffs if we ship our products from our manufacturing facilities overseas into the United States. Our imports of solar cells and modules into the United States were subject to the duties imposed by Section 201 Investigation starting from February 2018. Accordingly, our business and profitability of these products may be materially and adversely impacted by the decision of the White House under the Section 201 Investigation.
In August 2017, the United States Trade Representative initiated an investigation pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (the “Trade Act”), to determine whether acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation were actionable under the Trade Act (“Section 301 Investigation”). The findings from the United States Trade Representative with the assistance of the interagency Section 301 committee showed that the acts, policies, and practices of the Chinese government related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation were unreasonable or discriminatory and burdened or restricted the U.S. commerce. On March 22, 2018, the U.S. President directed his administration to take a range of actions responding to China’s acts, policies, and practices involving the unfair and harmful acquisition of U.S. technology. These actions included imposing an additional duty of 25% on products from China in aerospace, information and communication technology, and machinery. On April 3, 2018, the United States Trade Representative proposed a list of products from China which would be subject to the additional duty. In June and July 2018, the United States Trade Representative proposed three lists of products of from China which were worth approximately US$250 billion (US$34 billion for List 1, US$16 billion for List 2 and US$200 billion for List 3), among which, products on List 1 and List 2 would be imposed a 25% additional duty and products on List 3 would be imposed a 10% additional duty. Certain of our production equipment and raw materials exported from China to be used in our new manufacturing facility in the United States and our solar PV products exported from China were covered by these three lists. In July, August and September 2018, the United States Trade Representative published that the Customs and Border Protection would begin to collect additional duties on the products exported from China on List 1 on July 6, 2018, those on List 2 on August 23, 2018 and those on List 3 on September 24, 2018, respectively. On March 5, 2019, the United States Trade Representative determined that the rates of additional duty for the products on List 3 would remained at 10% until further notice. On May 9, 2019, the United States Trade Representative determined to increase the rates of additional duty for the products on List 3 from 10% to 25% with an effective date on May 10, 2019. In August 2019, the United States Trade Representative determined to impose an additional 10% duty on the fourth list of products of Chinese origin with an annual aggregate trade value of approximately US$300 billion (“List 4”). Certain of our production equipment and raw materials of Chinese origin to be used in our new manufacturing facility in the United States were covered by List 4. The tariff subheadings under List 4 were separated into two lists with different effective dates: the list set forth in annex A of the notice issued by the United States Trade Representative became effective on September 1, 2019; and the list set forth in annex C of the notice became effective on December 15, 2019. On August 30, 2019, the United States Trade Representative determined to increase the rate of additional duty for the products covered by List 4 from 10% to 15%. On December 18, 2019, the United States Trade Representative determined to suspend indefinitely the imposition of additional 15% duty on products covered by annex C of List 4. On January 15, 2020, the United States Trade Representative determined to reduce the rate of the additional duty on products covered by annex A of List 4 from 15% to 7.5% , which became effective on February 14, 2020. The lists of products, which the United States Trade Representative may further revise, may affect the solar industry and the operation of our new manufacturing facility in the United States.
Our direct sales to the European market accounted for 7.9%, 7.9% and 17.5% of our total revenue in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. On June 6, 2013, the European Union imposed provisional anti-dumping duty on the solar panels originating in or consigned from China, including JinkoSolar’s products, at the starting rate of 11.8% until August 5, 2013, and followed by an increased rate averaging 47.6%.
On July 27, 2013, the European Union and Chinese trade negotiators announced that a price undertaking had been reached pursuant to which Chinese manufacturers, including JinkoSolar, would limit their exports of solar panels to the European Union and for no less than a minimum price, in exchange for the European Union agreeing to forgo the imposition of anti-dumping duties on these solar panels from China. The offer was approved by the European Commission on August 2, 2013. The China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (the “CCCME”), was responsible for allocating the quota among Chinese export producers, and JinkoSolar had been allocated a portion of the quota. Solar panels imported exceeding the annual quota will be subject to anti-dumping duties. On December 5, 2013, the European Council announced its final decision imposing definitive anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of CSPV cells and modules originating in or consigned from China. An average duty of 47.7%, consisting of the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, was applied for a period of two years beginning on December 6, 2013 to Chinese solar panel exporters who cooperated with the European Commission’s investigations. On the same day, the European Commission announced its decision to confirm the acceptance of the price undertaking offered by Chinese export producers, including JinkoSolar, with CCCME in connection with the anti-dumping proceeding and to extend the price undertaking to the anti-subsidy proceeding, which would exempt them from both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties. Since November 17, 2016, we have officially withdrawn from the European Union price undertaking agreement.
In May 2015, the European Commission initiated an investigation concerning the possible circumvention of anti-dumping measures and countervailing measures imposed on imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) originating in or consigned from China by imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) consigned from Malaysia and Taiwan, whether declared as originating in Malaysia and Taiwan or not (“Anti-circumvention Investigations”). In February 2016, the European Commission made definitive result of this Anti-circumvention Investigations. According to the definitive results, the 53.4% of the anti-dumping duty and 11.5% of the countervailing duty were applicable to the imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) originating in or consigned from the People’s Republic of China, was extended to imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) consigned from Malaysia and Taiwan whether declared as originating in Malaysia and in Taiwan or not.
In December 2015, the European Commission initiated expiry reviews of the existing countervailing measures and anti-dumping measures applicable to imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) originating in or consigned from the People’s Republic of China. Such expiry reviews would determine whether the existing countervailing measures and anti-dumping measures would expire or continue to apply. In March 2017, the European Commission made final determination to continue the existing countervailing measures and anti-dumping measures for another 18 months.
In March 2017, the European Commission initiated a partial interim review of the anti-dumping and countervailing measures applicable to imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) originating in or consigned from China. Such partial interim review examined whether the then existing anti-dumping and countervailing measures, including European Union price undertaking agreement, can still be considered as an appropriate form for the measures. In September 2017, the European Commission determined that the price undertaking would be replaced with a new variable duty minimum import price and a new measure to the Chinese companies that withdrew voluntarily from price undertaking without any non-compliance issues, including certain Chinese affiliates of us.
In October 2016, Jinko Solar Technology Sdn.Bhd, our manufacturing facility in Malaysia, lodged a request to European Commission for an exemption from the anti-dumping and countervailing measures extended to imports of CSPV modules and key components, including solar cells, consigned from Malaysia and Taiwan, despite the declaration of their originations. In November 2017, the European Commission concluded that Jinko Solar Technology Sdn.Bhd fulfilled the criteria laid down in the basic anti-dumping Regulation and basic anti-subsidy Regulation and would be exempted from such extended measures.
The European Union is one of the most important markets for solar products. Anti-dumping, countervailing duties or both imposed on imports of our products into the European Union could materially adversely affect our affiliated European Union import operations, increase our cost of selling into the European Union, and adversely affect our European Union export sales.
In September 2018, the European Commission decided not to extend trade defense measures on solar panels from China. The European Union anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures applicable to imports of CSPV modules and key components (i.e. cells) originating in or consigned from China expired on September 3, 2018.
In December 2014, Canada initiated the anti-dumping and countervailing investigations on imports of CSPV modules from China. In June 2015, the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) found that the CSPV modules under investigation had been dumped and subsidized. In July 2015, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal found that the dumping and subsidizing of the above-mentioned goods had not caused injury, but were threatening to cause injury to the domestic industry. As a result, import into Canada of our CSPV modules under investigation from China was subject to the anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The countervailing duty rate (RMB per Watt) applicable to Jiangxi Jinko and Zhejiang Jinko are 0.028 and 0.046, respectively. For anti-dumping duties, CBSA had set normal value for the imported CSPV modules and the anti-dumping duty would be the difference between the export price and normal value if the export price is lower the normal value. No anti-dumping duties would apply if the export price is equal or more than the normal value.
In May 2014, Australian Anti-dumping Commission initiated anti-dumping investigation against CSPV modules imported from China. In October 2015, the Australian Anti-dumping Commission decided to terminate this investigation and decided no imposition of any anti-dumping duty on imported CSPV modules from China. However, in January 2016, the Australian Anti-dumping Commission resumed this investigation.
In October 2016, Australian Anti-dumping Commission made final determination to uphold its original results, i.e. to terminate the investigation and decided no imposition of any anti-dumping duty on imported CSPV modules from China.
In July 2016, Turkish Ministry of Economy initiated anti-dumping investigation against photovoltaic panels and modules classified in Turkish Customs Tariff Code 8541.40.90.00.14, from China. In July 2017, Turkish Ministry of Economy made the final affirmative result of this investigation, pursuant to which import into Turkey of our CSPV panels and modules under investigation from China would be subject to the anti-dumping duty. The anti-dumping duty applicable to us was US$20 per m2.
In July 2017, the Department of Commerce of India initiated anti-dumping investigation concerning imports of solar cells whether or not assembled partially or fully in modules or panels or on glass or some other suitable substrates originating in or exported from mainland China, Taiwan and Malaysia. Such investigation was terminated in March 2018 by the Department of Commerce of India as requested by Indian Solar Manufacturers Association, representing applicants of the domestic industry.
In December 2017, the Directorate General of Safeguards of India initiated a safeguard investigations concerning imports of “solar cells whether or not assembled in modules or panels” (“PUC”) into India to protect the domestic producers of like and directly competitive articles (to the solar cells whether or not assembled in modules or panels) from serious injury/threat of serious injury caused by such increased imports (the “India Safeguard Investigations”). The India Safeguard Investigations were not country specific and involved imports for the products under investigation from all sources, including China. In January 2018, the Directorate General of Safeguards Customs and Central Excise recommended a provisional safeguard duty to be imposed at the rate of 70% ad valorem on the imports of PUC falling under Customs Tariff Item 85414011 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 from all countries, including PRC and Malaysia, except some developing countries. In May 2018, Indian central government overruled the Directorate General of Safeguards Customs and Central Excise’s recommendation of provisional safeguard duty at the rate of 70% ad valorem on the imports of PUC. On July 16, 2018, Directorate General of Trade Remedies published the final findings of Safeguard Investigations and recommended to impose the safeguard duty for a period of two years. As of July 30, 2018, Ministry of Finance of India issued a Notification No. 01/2018-Customs (SG) to impose safeguard duty at the following rate effective from July 30, 2018:
Nothing contained in this notification shall apply to imports of PUC from countries notified as developing countries vide notification no.19/2016-custom (NT) dated February 5, 2016 except PRC and Malaysia.
In March 2020, the Directorate General of Trade Remedies of India initiated a review examining the need for continued imposition of safeguards duty on imports of solar cells whether or not assembled in modules or panels into India. The result of the review is pending as of the date of this annual report.
Imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing orders in one or more markets may result in additional costs to us, our customers or both, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects.
Volatility in the prices of silicon raw materials makes our procurement planning challenging and could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
The prices of polysilicon, the essential raw material for solar cell and module products and silicon wafers have been subject to significant volatility. Historically, increases in the price of polysilicon had increased our production costs. Since the first half of 2010, as a result of the growth of newly available polysilicon manufacturing capacity worldwide, there has been an increased supply of polysilicon, which has driven down its price and the price of its downstream products. Since the second half of 2011, the prices of polysilicon and silicon wafers further fell significantly. From 2011 to 2012, the prices of solar products declined, and prices began to stabilize in the first half of 2013. From 2013 to 2017, the price of polysilicon slightly fluctuated. However, the price of polysilicon decreased in 2018 and 2019.
We expect that the prices of virgin polysilicon feedstock may continue to be subject to volatility, making our procurement planning challenging. For example, if we refrain from entering into fixed-price, long-term supply contracts, we may miss the opportunities to secure long-term supplies of virgin polysilicon at favorable prices if the spot market price of virgin polysilicon increases significantly in the future. On the other hand, if we enter into more fixed-price, long-term supply contracts, we may not be able to renegotiate or otherwise adjust the purchase prices under such long-term supply contracts if the spot market price declines. As a result, our cost of silicon raw materials could be higher than that of our competitors who source their supply of silicon raw materials through floating-price arrangements or spot market purchases. To the extent we may not be able to fully pass on higher costs and expenses to our customers, our profit margins, results of operations and financial condition may be materially adversely affected.
We may not be able to obtain sufficient silicon raw materials in a timely manner or on commercially reasonable terms, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, our five largest suppliers accounted for 72.5%, 56.4% and 55.9%, respectively, of our total silicon purchases by value. In 2017, four of our suppliers individually accounted for more than 10%, and our largest supplier accounted for 23.9% of our total silicon purchases by value. In 2018, three of our suppliers individually accounted for more than 10%, and our largest supplier accounted for 15.5% of our total silicon purchases by value. In 2019, one of our suppliers individually accounted for more than 10%, and our largest supplier accounted for 23.3% of our total silicon purchases by value.
Although the global supply of polysilicon has increased significantly, we may experience interruption to our supply of silicon raw materials or late delivery in the future for the following reasons, among others:
Our failure to obtain the required amounts of silicon raw materials in a timely manner and on commercially reasonable terms could increase our manufacturing costs and substantially limit our ability to meet our contractual obligations to our customers. Any failure by us to meet such obligations could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, ability to retain customers, market share, business and results of operations and may subject us to claims from our customers and other disputes. Furthermore, our failure to obtain sufficient silicon raw materials would result in under-utilization of our production facilities and an increase in our marginal production costs. Any of the above events could have a material adverse effect on our growth, profitability and results of operations.
The loss of, or a significant reduction in orders from, any of our customers could significantly reduce our revenue and harm our results of operations.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, sales to our top five customers represented 21.8%, 20.5% and 23.6% of our total revenue, respectively. In 2019, our largest customer accounted for 7.0% of our total revenue. In 2018, our largest customer accounted for 7.2% of our total revenue. In 2017, our largest customer accounted for 5.7% of our total revenue. Our relationships with our key customers for solar modules have been developed over a relatively short period of time and are generally in nascent stages. Our key module customers include Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Swinterton Builder, NextEra and Sustainable Power Group. We cannot assure you that we will be able to continue to generate significant revenue from these customers or that we will be able to maintain these customer relationships. In addition, we purchase solar wafers and cells and silicon raw materials through toll manufacturing arrangements that require us to make significant capital commitments to support our estimated production output. In the event our customers cancel their orders, we may not be able to recoup prepayments made to suppliers, which could adversely influence our financial condition and results of operations. The loss of sales to any of these customers could also have a material and adverse effect on our business, prospects and results of operations.
We manufacture a majority of our products in four locations in China, which exposes us to various risks relating to long-distance transportation of our silicon wafers and solar cells in the manufacturing process.
The geographical separation of our manufacturing facilities in China necessitates constant long-distance transportation of substantial volumes of our silicon wafers and solar cells between Jiangxi Province, Zhejiang Province, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Sichuan Province. We produce silicon wafers in Jiangxi, Xinjiang and Sichuan, solar cells in Zhejiang, and solar modules in Jiangxi and Zhejiang. As a result, we transport a substantial volume of our silicon wafers and solar cells within China.
The constant long-distance transportation of a large volume of our silicon wafers and solar cells may expose us to various risks, including (i) increases in transportation costs, (ii) loss of our silicon wafers or solar cells as a result of any accidents that may occur in the transportation process, (iii) delays in the transportation of our silicon wafers or solar cells as a result of any severe weather conditions, natural disasters or other conditions adversely affecting road traffic, and (iv) disruptions to our production of solar cells and solar modules as a result of delays in the transportation of our silicon wafers and solar cells. Any of these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Prepayment arrangements to our suppliers for the procurement of silicon raw materials expose us to the credit risks of such suppliers and may also significantly increase our costs and expenses, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity.
Our supply contracts generally include prepayment obligations for the procurement of silicon raw materials. As of December 31, 2019, we had RMB2.52 billion (US$362.3 million) of advances to our suppliers. We generally do not receive collateral to secure such payments for these contracts, and even if we do, the collateral we received is deeply subordinated and shared with all other customers and other senior lenders of the suppliers.
Our prepayments, secured or unsecured, expose us to the credit risks of our suppliers, and reduce our chances of obtaining the return of such prepayments in the event that our suppliers become insolvent or bankrupt. Moreover, we may have difficulty recovering such prepayments if any of our suppliers fails to fulfill its contractual delivery obligations to us. Accordingly, a default by our suppliers to whom we have made substantial prepayment may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. For example, in January 2013, we notified Wuxi Zhongcai Technological Co. Ltd. (“Wuxi Zhongcai”), one of our former polysilicon providers, to terminate our long-term supply agreement, in response to adverse developments in Wuxi Zhongcai’s business. In February 2013, we became involved in two lawsuits with Wuxi Zhongcai over the supply agreement. We provided full provision for the RMB93.2 million of the outstanding balance of prepayments to Wuxi Zhongcai in 2012. We received final judgements from the Supreme People’s Court for the two lawsuits in January and February 2019, respectively, which provide that, among others, Wuxi Zhongcai shall fully return our prepayments and interests accrued thereon. In December 2019, we entered into a settlement agreement for the enforcement of the Supreme People’s Court’s final judgements with Wuxi Zhongcai, Wuxi Zhongcai Group Co., Ltd., the parent company of Wuxi Zhongcai, Wuxi Zhongcai New Materials Co., Ltd. and Yuanqing Zhou, the legal representative of Wuxi Zhongcai. According to the settlement agreement, Wuxi Zhongcai and Wuxi Zhongcai Group Co., Ltd. will return our prepayments and interests by the end of June 2020 while Wuxi Zhongcai New Materials Co., Ltd. and Yuanqing Zhou are jointly and severally liable for Wuxi Zhongcai’s obligations under the settlement agreement. As of the date of this annual report, we have received the first payment of RMB52.5 million (US$7.5 million) from Wuxi Zhongcai. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal and Administrative Proceedings.”
Decreases in the price of solar power products, including solar modules, may result in additional provisions for inventory losses.
We typically plan our production and inventory levels based on our forecasts of customer demand, which may be unpredictable and can fluctuate materially. Recent market volatility has made it increasingly difficult for us to accurately forecast future product demand trends. Due to the decrease in the prices of solar power products, including solar modules, which have been our principal products since 2010, we recorded inventory provisions of RMB313.7 million, RMB220.2 million and RMB135.9 million (US$19.5 million) in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. If the prices of solar power products continue to decrease, the carrying value of our existing inventory may exceed its market price in future periods, thus requiring us to make additional provisions for inventory valuation, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial position and results of operations.
Shortage or disruption of electricity supply may adversely affect our business.
We consume a significant amount of electricity in our operations. With the rapid development of the PRC economy, demand for electricity has continued to increase. There have been shortages or disruptions in electricity supply in various regions across China, especially during peak seasons, such as the summer, or when there are severe weather conditions. We cannot assure you that there will not be disruptions or shortages in our electricity supply or that there will be sufficient electricity available to us to meet our future requirements. Shortages or disruptions in electricity supply and any increases in electricity costs may significantly disrupt our normal operations, cause us to incur additional costs and adversely affect our profitability.
We face intense competition in solar power product markets. If we fail to adapt to changing market conditions and to compete successfully with existing or new competitors, our business prospects and results of operations would be materially adversely affected.
The markets for solar power products are intensely competitive. We compete with manufacturers of solar power products such as Trina Solar Ltd., Canadian Solar Inc., Longi Green Energy Technology Co., Ltd. and JA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd., in a continuously evolving market. Certain downstream manufacturers, some of which are also our customers and suppliers, have also built out or expanded their silicon wafer, solar cell, or solar module production operations.
Some of our current and potential competitors have a longer operating history, stronger brand recognition, more established relationships with customers, greater financial and other resources, a larger customer base, better access to raw materials and greater economies of scale than we do. Furthermore, some of our competitors are integrated players in the solar industry that engage in the production of virgin polysilicon. Their business models may give them competitive advantages as these integrated players place less reliance on the upstream suppliers, downstream customers or both.
The solar industry faces competition from other types of renewable and non-renewable power industries.
The solar industry faces competition from other renewable energy companies and non-renewable power industries, including nuclear energy and fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. Technological innovations in these other forms of energy may reduce their costs or increase their safety. Large-scale new deposits of fossil fuel may be discovered, which could reduce their costs. Local governments may decide to strengthen their support for other renewable energy sources, such as wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal and ocean power, and reduce their support for the solar industry. The inability to compete successfully against producers of other forms of power would reduce our market share and negatively affect our results of operations.
Technological changes in the solar power industry could render our products uncompetitive or obsolete, which could reduce our market share and cause our revenue and net income to decline.
The solar power industry is characterized by evolving technologies and standards. These technological evolutions and developments place increasing demands on the improvement of our products, such as solar cells with higher conversion efficiency and larger and thinner silicon wafers and solar cells. Other companies may develop production technologies that enable them to produce silicon wafers, solar cells and solar modules with higher conversion efficiencies at a lower cost than our products. Some of our competitors are developing alternative and competing solar technologies that may require significantly less silicon than crystalline silicon wafers and solar cells, or no silicon at all. Technologies developed or adopted by others may prove more advantageous than ours for commercialization of solar power products and may render our products obsolete. As a result, we may need to invest significant resources in research and development to maintain our market position, keep pace with technological advances in the solar power industry, and effectively compete in the future. Our failure to further refine and enhance our products and processes or to keep pace with evolving technologies and industry standards could cause our products to become uncompetitive or obsolete, which could materially adversely reduce our market share and affect our results of operations.
Existing regulations and policies and changes to these regulations and policies may present technical, regulatory and economic barriers to the purchase and use of solar power products, which may significantly reduce demand for our products.
The market for electricity generation products is heavily influenced by government regulations and policies concerning the electric utility industry, as well as by policies adopted by electric utility companies. These regulations and policies often relate to electricity pricing and technical interconnection requirements for customer-owned electricity generation. In a number of countries, these regulations and policies are being modified and may continue to be modified. Customer purchases of, or further investment in the research and development of, alternative energy sources, including solar power technology, could be deterred by these regulations and policies, which could result in a significant reduction in the demand for our products. For example, without a regulatory mandated exception for solar power systems, utility customers may be charged interconnection or standby fees for putting distributed power generation on the electric utility grid. These fees could increase the cost of and reduce the demand for solar power, thereby harming our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, we anticipate that solar power products and their installation will be subject to oversight and regulation in accordance with national and local regulations relating to building codes, safety, environmental protection, utility interconnection, and metering and related matters. Any new government regulations or utility policies pertaining to solar power products may result in significant additional expenses to the users of solar power products and, as a result, could eventually cause a significant reduction in demand for our products.
We may face termination and late charges and risks relating to the termination and amendment of certain equipment purchases contracts. Our reliance on equipment and spare parts suppliers may also expose us to potential risks.
We transact with a limited number of equipment suppliers for all our principal manufacturing equipment and spare parts, including our silicon ingot furnaces, squaring machines, wire saws, diffusion furnaces, firing furnaces and screen print machine. We may rely on certain major suppliers to provide a substantial portion of the principal manufacturing equipment and spare parts as part of our expansion plan in the future. If we fail to develop or maintain our relationships with these and other equipment suppliers, or should any of our major equipment suppliers encounter difficulties in the manufacturing or shipment of its equipment or spare parts to us, including due to natural disasters or otherwise fail to supply equipment or spare parts according to our requirements, it will be difficult for us to find alternative providers for such equipment on a timely basis and on commercially reasonable terms. As a result, our production and result of operation could be adversely affected.
Selling our products on credit terms may increase our working capital requirements and expose us to the credit risk of our customers.
To accommodate and retain customers in the negative market environment, many solar module manufacturers, including us, make credit sales and extend credit terms to customers, and this trend is expected to continue in the industry. Most of our sales are made on credit terms and we allow our customers to make payments after a certain period of time subsequent to the delivery of our products. Our accounts receivable turnover were 77 days, 93 days and 85 days in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Correspondingly, we recorded provisions for accounts receivable of RMB264.7 million, RMB256.6 million and RMB318.2 million (US$45.7 million) as of December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Based on our ongoing assessment of the recoverability of our outstanding accounts receivable, we may need to continue to provide for doubtful accounts and write off overdue accounts receivable we determine as not collectible.
Selling our products on credit terms has increased, and may continue to increase our working capital requirements, which may negatively affect our liquidity. We may not be able to maintain adequate working capital primarily through cash generated from our operating activities and may need to secure additional financing for our working capital requirements, which may not be available to us on commercially acceptable terms or at all.
In addition, we are exposed to the credit risk of customers to which we have made credit sales in the event that any of such customers becomes insolvent or bankrupt or otherwise does not make timely payments. For example, we sell our products on credit to certain customers in emerging or promising markets in order to gain early access to such markets, increase our market share in existing key markets or enhance the prospects of future sales with rapidly growing customers. There are high credit risks in doing business with these customers because they are often small, young and high-growth companies with significant unfunded working capital, inadequate balance sheets and credit metrics and limited operating histories. If these customers are not able to obtain satisfactory working capital, maintain adequate cash flow, or obtain construction financing for the projects where our solar products are used, they may be unable to pay for products they have ordered from us or for which they have taken delivery. Our legal recourse under such circumstances may be limited if the customers’ financial resources are already constrained or if we wish to continue to do business with these customers.
We are exposed to various risks related to legal or administrative proceedings or claims that could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and reputation, and may cause loss of business.
Litigation in general can be expensive, lengthy and disruptive to normal business operations. Moreover, the results of complex legal proceedings are difficult to predict. We and/or our directors and officers may be involved in allegations, litigation or legal or administrative proceedings from time to time.
In July 2008, Jiangxi Jinko entered into a long-term supply agreement with Wuxi Zhongcai, a producer of polysilicon materials. Jiangxi Jinko provided a prepayment of RMB95.6 million pursuant to such contract. Wuxi Zhongcai subsequently halted production as a result of the adverse changes in the polysilicon market. In February 2013, Jiangxi Jinko sued Wuxi Zhongcai in Shangrao City Intermediate People’s Court for the refund of the outstanding balance of our prepayment of RMB93.2 million after deducting delivery made to Jiangxi Jinko by an affiliate of Wuxi Zhongcai. In February 2013, Wuxi Zhongcai sued Jiangxi Jinko in Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court for RMB2.7 million for breaching the contract by failing to make allegedly required payments and rejected the refund of the prepayment of RMB95.6 million to Jiangxi Jinko. In December 2015, Jiangxi Jinko made an alternation of the claim under which it requested the refund of the prepayment of RMB93.2 million, the interests accrued from such prepayment, and the liquidated damages in the amount of RMB93.2 million. In January 2016, Wuxi Zhongcai also changed the complaint, in which it claimed for the liquidated damages amounting to RMB102.0 million and the losses suffered from the termination of the agreement in the amount of RMB150.0 million, and rejected the refund of the prepayment of RMB95.6 million to Jiangxi Jinko. Shanghai High People’s Court ruled on both lawsuits in June 2017. In Jiangxi Jinko v. Wuxi Zhongcai, the court sided with Wuxi Zhongcai and denied Jiangxi Jinko’s complaint. In Wuxi Zhongcai v. Jiangxi Jinko, the court decided that Wuxi Zhongcai shall retain the balance of our prepayment in the amount of RMB93.2 million and the remaining claims of Wuxi Zhongcai were denied. Jiangxi Jinko appealed both court decisions. Wuxi Zhongcai appealed the decision on Wuxi Zhongcai v. Jiangxi Jinko. We provided full provision for the RMB93.2 million of the outstanding balance of prepayments to Wuxi Zhongcai in 2012. We received final judgements for the two lawsuits from the Supreme People’s Court in January and February 2019, respectively, which provide that, among others, Wuxi Zhongcai shall fully return our prepayments and interests accrued thereon. In December 2019, we entered into a settlement agreement for the enforcement of the Supreme People's Court's final judgements with Wuxi Zhongcai, Wuxi Zhongcai Group Co., Ltd., the parent company of Wuxi Zhongcai, Wuxi Zhongcai New Materials Co., Ltd. and Yuanqing Zhou, the legal representative of Wuxi Zhongcai. According to the settlement agreement, Wuxi Zhongcai and Wuxi Zhongcai Group Co., Ltd. will return our prepayments and interests by the end of June 2020 while Wuxi Zhongcai New Materials Co., Ltd. and Yuanqing Zhou are jointly and severally liable for Wuxi Zhongcai's obligations under the settlement agreement. As of the date of this annual report, we have received the first payment of RMB52.5 million (US$7.5 million) from Wuxi Zhongcai.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, we decided to fulfill the demand for our solar products in South Africa through other overseas manufacturing facilities, and closed our manufacturing facility in South Africa. In December 2017, the South African Revenue Services (“SARS”), issued a letter of demand in terms of the Customs and Excise Act (the “Act”). The demand was for the amount of approximately ZAR573.1 million (US$42.4 million) against JinkoSolar (Pty) Ltd. SARS alleged that JinkoSolar (Pty) Ltd’s importation of certain components for the manufacturer of solar panels and the rebate of customs duty did not comply with the Act. We were of the view that SARS’ decision to persist with the letter of demand for the amounts in question was without any legal basis and intended on vigorously defending JinkoSolar (Pty) Ltd against all these claims. JinkoSolar (Pty) Ltd submitted an application to SARS for the suspension of payment for the amount demanded. In February 2018, JinkoSolar (Pty) Ltd lodged an internal appeal in terms of sections 77A–77F of the Act against the decision of SARS to claim the amounts demanded and the basis thereof to the Customs National Appeals Committee of South Africa. In December 2018, Jiangxi Jinko transferred 100% equity interest in Jinko Solar Investment (Pty) Ltd to an independent third party, at which point both Jinko Solar Investment (Pty) Ltd and its subsidiary JinkoSolar (Pty) Ltd were no longer our affiliated companies and their financial results were no longer consolidated into our consolidated financial statements.
In November 2018, one of our customers in Singapore (the “Singapore Customer”) filed two Notices of Arbitration (“NoAs”) in two arbitrations with Arbitration No. ARB374/18/PPD (“ARB 374”) and Arbitration No. ARB375/18/PPD (“ARB 375”), respectively, against Jinko Solar Import & Export Co., Ltd. (“Jinko IE”) at Singapore International Arbitration Centre. These NoAs were subsequently amended by the Singapore Customer, and Jinko IE received the amended Notices of Arbitration from the Singapore Customer on December 20, 2018. The Singapore Customer claimed respectively in ARB 374 and ARB 375 that the photovoltaic solar modules supplied by Jinko IE to the Singapore Customer under the purchase agreement dated December 25, 2012 (“2012 Contract”) and January 28, 2013 (“2013 Contract”) were defective. The Singapore Customer sought, inter alia, orders that Jinko IE replace the modules and/or that Jinko IE compensate the Singapore Customer for any and all losses sustained by the Singapore Customer as a result of the supply of allegedly defective modules. In January 2019, Jinko IE issued its responses to the NoAs in ARB 374 and ARB 375, disputing the Singapore Customer’s reliance on the arbitration clauses in the 2012 Contract and the 2013 Contract, denying all claims raised by the Singapore Customer, and disputing that the Singapore Customer was entitled to the reliefs claimed in the arbitrations. An arbitration tribunal was constituted on September 5, 2019 which decided on January 4, 2020 that the Singapore Customer shall submit its statement of claim no later than June 4, 2020 and Jinko IE shall submit its statement of defense no later than five months after Singapore Customer’s submission of statement of claim. The Singapore Customer has not submitted its statement of claim as of the date of this annual report. The arbitrations are still in the preliminary stage and it is difficult to provide an in-depth assessment of the Singapore Customer’s claims. We believe that Jinko IE has reasonable grounds to challenge the Singapore Customer’s claims in the arbitrations on jurisdiction and liability and will vigorously defend against the claims made by the Singapore Customer. Information available prior to issuance of the financial statements did not indicate that it is probable that a liability had been incurred at the date of the financial statements and we are also unable to reasonably estimate the range of any liability or reasonably possible loss, if any.
In March 2019, Moura Fábrica Solar – Fabrico e Comércio de Painéis Solares, Lda. (“MFS”) submitted a request for arbitration at International Chamber of Commerce (Case No. 24344/JPA) against Projinko Solar Portugal, Unipessoal Lda (“Projinko”) in connection with dispute arising out of (i) a business unit lease agreement (the “Business Unit Lease Agreement”) entered into on August 23, 2013 between MFS and Jinko Solar (Switzerland) AG (“Jinko Switzerland”), (ii) an assignment agreement dated May 26, 2014, whereby Jinko Switzerland assigned and transferred to Projinko all rights, title, interest, liabilities and obligations under the Business Unit Lease Agreement, and (iii) an amendment agreement relating to the Business Unit Lease Agreement dated December 29, 2015 (the Business Unit Lease Agreement, the assignment agreement and the amendment agreement are collectively referred to as “Lease Agreements”). In order to ensure the performance of parties’ respective obligations under the Lease Agreements, a guarantee from the parent company of MFS, Acciona Energia, S.A.U. and a bank guarantee was granted in favor of Projinko, and a guarantee from the parent company of Projinko, Jiangxi Jinko, and a bank guarantee was also granted in favor of MFS. The notice of request for arbitration had not been duly and effectively served by MFS to Projinko. In July 2019, MFS submitted a request at International Chamber of Commerce to join Jinko Switzerland and Jiangxi Jinko as two additional parties, alleging they were indispensable to the current dispute and claiming against Projinko, Jiangxi Jinko and Jinko Switzerland recovery of two drawdowns by Projinko under the bank guarantee in the amount of €1,965,170 and €846,604.41, respectively, with the interests thereon as well as economic damages suffered by MFS as a result thereof.
In September 2019, Jiangxi Jinko and Jinko Switzerland submitted to the International Chamber of Commerce that they rejected to arbitrate any dispute with MFS and were not bound by valid and effective arbitration agreement with MFS; Jiangxi Jinko and Jinko Switzerland also opposed the constitution of an arbitration tribunal and the jurisdiction of any arbitration tribunal that may be constituted in the present case. As of the date of this annual report, the arbitration tribunal has been constituted and the arbitration is still in the preliminary stage. We believe Projinko, Jiangxi Jinko and Jinko Switzerland have reasonable grounds to challenge MFS’ claim in the present case, and will vigorously defend against the claim made by MFS.
In March 2019, Hanwha Q CELLS (defined below) filed patent infringement lawsuits against our company and a number of our subsidiaries.
(i) On March 4, 2019, Hanwha Q CELLS USA Inc. and Hanwha Q CELLS & Advanced Materials Corporation (collectively, “Plaintiffs A”) filed suit against JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd and several of its subsidiary entities, i.e. JinkoSolar (U.S.) Inc, Jinko Solar (U.S.) Industries Inc, Jinko Solar Co., Ltd, Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co., Ltd and Jinko Solar Technology Sdn.Bhd (collectively “Respondents”) at the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”). In the complaint, it was alleged that certain photovoltaic solar cells and modules containing these solar cells supplied by the Respondents infringed U.S. Patent No. 9,893,215 purportedly owned by Hanwha Q CELLS & Advanced Materials Corporation and Plaintiffs A requested a permanent limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order be issued against the Respondents’ allegedly infringing products. On March 5, 2019, Hanwha Q CELLS & Advanced Materials Corporation filed a suit against the Respondents before the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (“District Court”) alleging that certain photovoltaic solar cells and modules containing these solar cells supplied by the Respondents infringed U.S. Patent No. 9,893,215 allegedly owned by Hanwha Q CELLS & Advanced Materials Corporation and sought reliefs including compensation for alleged infringement activities, enhanced damages and reasonable attorney fees. On April 9, 2019, the ITC published the Notice of Institution on Federal Register. On April 15, 2019, the District Court granted our motion to stay the court litigation pending final resolution of the ITC. On May 3, 2019, the Respondents submitted their response to the complaint of Plaintiffs A to the ITC requesting ITC among other things to deny all relief requested by Plaintiffs A. On September 13, 2019, the Respondents filed motion for summary determination of non-infringement with ITC. On April 10, 2020, the administrative law judge issued the initial determination granting the Respondents’ motion for summary determination of non-infringement. The administrative law judge’s initial determination will be reviewed by the ITC within 45 days after its issuance date.
(ii) On March 4, 2019, Hanwha Q CELLS GmbH (“Plaintiff B”), filed a patent infringement claim against JinkoSolar GmbH before the Düsseldorf Regional Court in Germany alleging that certain photovoltaic solar cells and modules containing these solar cells supplied by JinkoSolar GmbH infringed EP2 220 689 purportedly owned by Plaintiff B. On April 10, 2019, JinkoSolar GmbH filed the first brief with the court stating JinkoSolar GmbH would defend itself against the complaint. On September 9, 2019, JinkoSolar GmbH filed its statement of defense with the court (the “Statement of Defense”), requesting that the claim be dismissed and that Plaintiff B to bear the costs of the legal dispute. On March 3, 2020, Plaintiff B filed its reply to the Statement of Defense with the court. On April 20, 2020, JinkoSolar GmbH filed its rejoinder with the court commenting on Plaintiff B’s reply on March 3, 2020. The main hearing of the case was scheduled in May 2020.
(iii) On March 12, 2019, Hanwha Q CELLS & Advanced Materials Corporation and Hanwha Q CELLS Australia Pty Ltd (“Plaintiffs C”, together with Plaintiffs A and Plaintiff B, “Hanwha Q CELLS Plaintiffs”) filed suit at Federal Court of Australia (“FCA”) against Jinko Solar Australia Holdings Co. Pty Ltd (“Jinko AUS”). It was alleged that certain photovoltaic solar cells and modules containing these solar cells supplied by Jinko AUS infringed Australian Patent No. 2008323025 purportedly owned by Plaintiffs C. The FCA served Jinko AUS as the Respondent and the first case management hearing was held on April 12, 2019. The FCA heard the application, and made orders for the conduct of the proceeding at the first case management hearing, following which Jinko AUS submitted its defense and cross-claim to Plaintiffs C’s statement of claim on July 22, 2019. Shortly before the second case management hearing which was held on October 2, 2019, Plaintiffs C requested an amendment to Australian Patent No. 2008323025 (“Amendment Application”), following which FCA directed Plaintiffs C to give discovery and produce documents in respect to the Amendment Application. The third case management hearing was held on December 13, 2019, after which Jinko AUS submitted particulars of opposition to the Amendment Application and requested for further and better discovery in respect to the Amendment Application (“Discovery Request”).
We believe that Hanwha Q CELLS Plaintiffs’ claims in all the above-mentioned cases are lacking legal merit, and will vigorously defend against the claims made by them. We are considering all legal avenues including challenging the validity of U.S. Patent No. 9,893,215 (“the ‘215 Patent”), EP 2 220 689 and Australian Patent No. 2008323025 (collectively, the “Asserted Patents”), and demonstrating our non-infringement of the Asserted Patents. Information available prior to issuance of the financial statements did not indicate that it is probable that a liability had been incurred at the date of the financial statements and we are also unable to reasonably estimate the range of any liability or reasonably possible loss, if any. On June 3, 2019, we filed a petition for inter partes review (“IPR”) of the 215 Patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Appeal Board (“PTAB”). IPR is a trial proceeding conducted at the PTAB to review the patentability of one or more claims in a patent. On December 10, 2019, the PTAB instituted the IPR proceedings of the patentability of claims 12-14 of the 215 patent claims in view of prior art.
In addition, failure to maintain the integrity of internal or customer data could result in harm to our reputation or subject us to costs, liabilities, fines or lawsuits.
Regardless of the merits, responding to allegations, litigation or legal or administration proceedings and defending against litigation can be time-consuming and costly, and may result in us incurring substantial legal and administrative expenses, as well as divert the attention of our management. Any such allegations, lawsuits or proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business operations. Further, unfavorable outcomes from these claims or lawsuits could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may continue to undertake acquisitions, investments, joint ventures or other strategic alliances, and such undertakings may be unsuccessful.
We may continue to grow our operations through acquisitions, participation in joint ventures or other strategic alliances with suppliers or other companies in China and overseas along the solar power industry value chain in the future. Such acquisitions, participation in joint ventures and strategic alliances may expose us to new operational, regulatory, market and geographical risks as well as risks associated with additional capital requirements and diversion of management resources. Our acquisitions may expose us to the following risks:
|●||There may be unforeseen risks relating to the target’s business and operations or liabilities of the target that were not discovered by us through our legal and business due diligence prior to such acquisition. Such undetected risks and liabilities could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations in the future.|
|●||There is no assurance that we will be able to maintain relationships with previous customers of the target, or develop new customer relationships in the future. Loss of our existing customers or failure to establish relationships with new customers could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.|
|●||Acquisitions will generally divert a significant portion of our management and financial resources from our existing business and the integration of the target’s operations with our existing operations has required, and will continue to require, significant management and financial resources, potentially straining our ability to finance and manage our existing operations.|
|●||There is no assurance that the expected synergies or other benefits from any acquisition or joint venture investment will actually materialize. If we are not successful in the integration of a target’s operations, or are otherwise not successful in the operation of a target’s business, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue from its operations to recover costs and expenses of the acquisition.|
|●||Acquisition or participation in new joint venture or strategic alliance may involve us in the management of operation in which we do not possess extensive expertise.|
The materialization of any of these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be subject to non-competition or other similar restrictions or arrangements relating to our business.
We may from time to time enter into non-competition, exclusivity or other restrictions or arrangements of a similar nature as part of our sales agreements with our customers. Such restrictions or arrangements may significantly hinder our ability to sell additional products, or enter into sales agreements with new or existing customers that plan to sell our products, in certain markets. As a result, such restrictions or arrangements may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In October 2016, we entered into a side agreement with JinkoPower and the investors of JinkoPower, pursuant to the non-compete provisions of which we undertake not to develop any downstream solar power project with a capacity of over 2 MW in China after the disposition of our equity interest in JinkoPower in the fourth quarter of 2016. This non-competition covenant may adversely affect our growth prospects in China.
In September 2017, we provided a non-compete commitment to JinkoPower where we undertake to cease developing new downstream solar projects. In addition, for our existing offshore downstream solar power projects that we are constructing and will connect to the grid, we undertake to endeavor to cause those projects to be transferred to JinkoPower, its subsidiaries or other qualified third parties, to the extent that such transfers will not contravene with applicable laws and regulations and that we are able to obtain written consent of the relevant contracting parties for those projects. This non-competition undertaking may adversely affect our operating results.
The NEA released a “Technology Top Runner” program in 2017, which has more stringent technology standards than other “Top Runner” programs, to promote solar projects using higher-efficiency modules (requiring a conversion efficiency rate of 18.9% or above for monocrystalline solar cells and 18.0% or above for multicrystalline solar cells) and most advanced technologies (especially breakthrough technologies that have not reached the stage of mass production). In order to promote our high-efficiency modules and cutting-edgy N-type battery technologies, (i) we and JinkoPower jointly established Poyang Luohong Power Co., Ltd. (“Poyang Luohong”), a PRC company, in the third quarter of 2018, in which we then held 51% equity interest and had made capital contribution of RMB98 million in cash as of December 31, 2018, and (ii) we formed a bidding consortium with JinkoPower to bid for “Technology Top Runner” solar projects, and had won a 250 MW “Technology Top Runner” solar project in Shangrao, Jiangxi Province (the “Technology Top Runner Project”). We supplied N-type monocrystalline modules to this project, whose conversion efficiency is even higher than our P-type monocrystalline PERC modules. The Technology Top Runner Project was developed by Poyang Luohong. We sold all of our equity interest in Poyang Luohong to an independent third party, and filed the change of ownership with Shangrao Market Supervision Administration on December 17, 2019. We currently do not have plans to develop solar projects in China or overseas. As of December 31, 2019, we did not own any solar project in China, and we had only one solar power project in operation and one project under construction outside China.
Our substantial indebtedness could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We typically require a significant amount of cash to meet our capital requirements, including the expansion of our production capacity, as well as to fund our operations. As of December 31, 2019, we had RMB9.05 billion (US$1.30 billion) in outstanding short-term borrowings (including the current portion of long-term bank borrowings and failed sale-leaseback financing) and RMB1.59 billion (US$227.8 million) in outstanding long-term bank borrowings (excluding the current portion of long-term bank borrowings and failed sale-leaseback financing).
In November 2014, we signed a US$20.0 million two-year credit agreement with Wells Fargo Bank, National Association (“Wells Fargo”), the term of which was later extended to November 2022. The credit limit was raised to US$40.0 million in June 2015 and further to US$60.0 million in July 2016 through amendments to the credit agreement. Borrowings under the credit agreement would be used to support our working capital and business operations in the United States.
In May 2015, we signed a US$20.0 million three-year bank facility agreement with Barclay Bank, which was subsequently raised to US$40.0 million, to support our working capital and business operations. The term of this bank facility has been extended to March 2021.
In September 2016, we signed a US$25.0 million two-year bank facility agreement with Malayan Banking Berhad, the term of which has been extended to September 2020, to support our working capital and business operations in Malaysia.
In May 2017, we provided a guarantee due April 2019 for a loan of Sweihan PV Power Company P.J.S.C, our equity investee, for developing overseas solar power projects, in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding US$42.9 million.
In July 2017, we issued medium-term notes of RMB300.0 million due July 2020 for working capital purposes, all of which were redeemed in July 2019.
In July 2017, we entered into a four-year financial lease in the amount of RMB600.0 million to support the improvement of our production efficiency.
In July 2018, we signed a JPY5.30 billion syndicated loan agreement with a bank consortium led by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation to provide working capital and support for our business operations in Japan. The loan was upsized to JPY6.70 billion after annual review in June 2019.
In May 2019, we issued convertible senior notes of US$85 million in aggregate principal amount due 2024 to support capital expenditure and supplement working capital. The notes will mature on June 1, 2024 and the holders will have the right to require us to repurchase for cash all or any portion of their notes on June 1, 2021. The interest rate is 4.5% per annum payable semi-annually, in arrears.
In September 2019, we signed an RMB100 million one-year bank facility agreement with Malayan Banking Berhad, the term of which is renewable annually, to supplement our working capital.
We may not have sufficient funds available to meet our payment obligations in light of the amount of bank borrowings due in the near term future. This level of debt and the imminent repayment of our notes and other bank borrowings could have significant consequences on our operations, including:
|●||reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions and other general corporate purposes as a result of our debt service obligations, and limiting our ability to obtain additional financing;|
|●||limiting our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, and increasing our vulnerability to, changes in our business, the industry in which we operate and the general economy; and|
|●||potentially increasing the cost of any additional financing.|
Any of these factors and other consequences that may result from our substantial indebtedness could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations as well as our ability to meet our payment obligations under our debt.
In addition, we are exposed to various types of market risk in the normal course of business, including the impact of interest rate changes. As of December 31, 2019, RMB1.15 billion (US$165.0 million) of our long-term borrowings bears interest at variable rates, generally linked to market benchmarks such as the benchmark interest rate issued by local banks. Any increase in interest rates would increase our finance expenses relating to our variable rate indebtedness and increase the costs of refinancing our existing indebtedness and issuing new debt. Furthermore, since the majority of our short-term borrowings came from Chinese banks, we are exposed to lending policy changes by the Chinese banks. If the Chinese government changes its macroeconomic policies and forces Chinese banks to tighten their lending practices, or if Chinese banks are no longer willing to provide financing to solar power companies, including us, we may not be able to extend our short-term borrowings or make additional borrowings in the future.
We may also incur gain or loss in relation to our change in the fair value of our financial instruments. The change in fair value of financial instruments may fluctuate significantly from period to period due to factors that are largely beyond our control, and may result in us recording substantial gains or losses as a result of such changes. As a result of the foregoing, you may not be able to rely on period to period comparisons of our operating results as an indication of our future performance.
Our failure to maintain sufficient collateral under certain pledge contracts for our short-term loans may materially adversely affect our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
As of December 31, 2019, we had short-term borrowings (including the current portion of long-term bank borrowings and failed sale-leaseback financing) of RMB9.05 billion (US$1.30 billion), including the current portion of long-term bank borrowings and failed sale-leaseback financing, secured by certain of our inventory with net book value of RMB258.7 million (US$37.2 million), land use rights, property, plant and equipment with total net book value of RMB2.33 billion (US$334.7 million), and account receivables of RMB1.20 billion (US$172.4 million). We cannot assure you that we will not be requested by the pledgees to provide additional collateral to bring the value of the collateral to the level required by the pledgees if our inventory depreciates in the future. If we fail to provide additional collateral upon request, the pledgees will be entitled to require the immediate repayment of the outstanding bank loans. In addition, the pledgees may auction or sell the inventory. Furthermore, we may be subject to liquidated damages pursuant to relevant pledge contracts. Although the pledgees have conducted regular site inspections on our inventory since the pledge contracts were executed, they have not requested us to provide additional collateral or take other remedial actions. However, we cannot assure you the pledgees will not require us to provide additional collateral in the future or take other remedial actions or otherwise enforce their rights under the pledge contracts and loan agreements. If any of the foregoing occurs, our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.
We rely principally on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our principal operating subsidiaries, and limitations on their ability to pay dividends to us could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We are a holding company and rely principally on dividends paid by our principal operating subsidiaries, including Jiangxi Jinko and Zhejiang Jinko, for cash requirements. Applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations permit payment of dividends by our PRC subsidiaries only out of their retained earnings, if any, determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards. Our PRC subsidiaries are required to set aside a certain percentage of their after-tax profit based on PRC accounting standards each year as reserve funds for future development and employee benefits, in accordance with the requirements of relevant laws and provisions in their respective articles of associations. The percentage should not be less than 10%, unless the reserve funds reach 50% of our registered capital. In addition, under PRC laws, our PRC subsidiaries are prohibited from distributing dividends if there is a loss in the current year. As a result, our PRC subsidiaries may be restricted in their ability to transfer any portion of their net income to us whether in the form of dividends, loans or advances. Any limitation on the ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends to us could materially adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our businesses, pay dividends or otherwise fund and conduct our business.
Any failure to maintain effective internal control could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and the market price of the ADSs.
The SEC, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”), adopted rules requiring most public companies to include a management report on such company’s internal control over financial reporting in its annual report, which contains management’s assessment of the effectiveness of our company’s internal control over financial reporting. In addition, when a company meets the SEC’s criteria, an independent registered public accounting firm must report on the effectiveness of our company’s internal control over financial reporting.
Our management and independent registered public accounting firm have concluded that our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2019 was effective. However, we cannot assure you that in the future our management or our independent registered public accounting firm will not identify material weaknesses during the Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act audit process or for other reasons. In addition, because of the inherent limitations of internal control over financial reporting, including the possibility of collusion or improper management override of controls, material misstatements due to error or fraud may not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. As a result, if we fail to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting or should we be unable to prevent or detect material misstatements due to error or fraud on a timely basis, investors could lose confidence in the reliability of our financial statements, which in turn could harm our business, results of operations and negatively impact the market price of the ADSs, and harm our reputation. Furthermore, we have incurred and expected to continue to incur considerable costs and to use significant management time and other resources in an effort to comply with Section 404 and other requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Failure to achieve satisfactory production volumes of our products could result in higher unit production costs.
The production of silicon wafers, solar cells, solar modules and recovered silicon materials involves complex processes. Deviations in the manufacturing process can cause a substantial decrease in output and, in some cases, disrupt production significantly or result in no output. From time to time, we have experienced lower-than-anticipated manufacturing output during the ramp-up of production lines. This often occurs during the introduction of new products, the installation of new equipment or the implementation of new process technologies. As we bring additional lines or facilities into production, we may operate at less than intended capacity during the ramp-up period. In addition, the decreased demand in global solar power product market, including the demand for solar modules, may also cause us to operate at less than intended capacity. This would result in higher marginal production costs and lower output, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Demand for solar power products may be adversely affected by seasonality.
Demand for solar power products tends to be weaker during the winter months partly due to adverse weather conditions in certain regions, which complicate the installation of solar power systems, our operating results may fluctuate from period to period based on the seasonality of industry demand for solar power products. Our sales in the first quarter of any year may also be affected by the occurrence of the Chinese New Year holiday during which domestic industrial activity is normally lower than that at other times. Such fluctuations may result in the underutilization of our capacity and increase our average costs per unit. In addition, we may not be able to capture all of the available demand if our capacity is insufficient during the summer months. As a result, fluctuations in the demand for our products may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Unsatisfactory performance of or defects in our products may cause us to incur additional expenses and warranty costs, damage our reputation and cause our sales to decline.
Our products may contain defects that are not detected until after they are shipped or inspected by our customers.
Our silicon wafer sales contracts normally require our customers to conduct inspection before delivery. We may, from time to time, allow those of our silicon wafer customers with good credit to return our silicon wafers within a stipulated period, which normally ranges from 7 to 15 working days after delivery, if they find our silicon wafers do not meet the required specifications. Our standard solar cell sales contract requires our customer to notify us within 7 days of delivery if such customer finds our solar cells do not meet the specifications stipulated in the sales contract. If our customer notifies us of such defect within the specified time period and provides relevant proof, we will replace those defective solar cells with qualified ones after our confirmation of such defects.
Our solar modules are typically sold with a 10-year warranty for material and workmanship and a 25-year (30-year for dual glass module) linear power output warranty against the maximum degradation of the actual power output for each year after the warranty start date. If a solar module is defective during the relevant warranty period, we will either repair or replace the solar module. As we continue to increase our sales to the major export markets, we may be exposed to increased warranty claims.
In May 2011, we engaged PowerGuard Specialty Insurance Services (“PowerGuard”), a firm specialized in unique insurance and risk management solutions for the wind and solar energy industries, to provide insurance coverage for the product warranty services of our solar modules worldwide effective from May 1, 2011. Since May 2011, we have been renewing the insurance policy upon its expiration in every May. The policy offers back-to-back coverage through a maximum of ten-year limited product defects warranty, as well as a 25-year (30-year for dual glass module) linear warranty against degradation of module power output from the time of delivery.
If we experience a significant increase in warranty claims, we may incur significant repair and replacement costs associated with such claims. In addition, product defects could cause significant damage to our market reputation and reduce our product sales and market share, and our failure to maintain the consistency and quality throughout our production process could result in substandard quality or performance of our products. If we deliver our products with defects, or if there is a perception that our products are of substandard quality, we may incur substantially increased costs associated with returns or replacements of our products, our credibility and market reputation could be harmed and our sales and market share may be materially adversely affected.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could adversely affect our results of operations.
We derive a substantial portion of our sales from international customers and a significant portion of our total revenue have been denominated in foreign currencies, particularly, Euros and U.S. dollars. Our export sales represented 62.8%, 73.6% and 82.5% of our total revenue in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. As a result, we may face significant risks resulting from currency exchange rate fluctuations, particularly, among Renminbi, Euros and U.S. dollars. For example, we expect our revenue and gross margin to be adversely affected by the recent appreciation of Renminbi against U.S. dollars, as a substantial portion of our sales are denominated in U.S. dollars. Furthermore, we have outstanding debt obligations, and may continue to incur debts from time to time, denominated and repayable in foreign currencies. We incurred a foreign-exchange loss of RMB114.3 million in 2017, a foreign exchange gain of RMB33.7 million in 2018, and a foreign exchange gain of RMB8.8 million (US$1.3 million) in 2019. We cannot predict the impact of future exchange rate fluctuations on our results of operations and may incur net foreign currency losses in the future.
Our consolidated financial statements are expressed in Renminbi. The functional currency of our principal operating subsidiaries, Jiangxi Jinko and Zhejiang Jinko, is also Renminbi. To the extent we hold assets denominated in Euros or U.S. dollars, any appreciation of Renminbi against the Euro or U.S. dollar could reduce the value of our Euro-or U.S. dollar-denominated consolidated assets. On the other hand, if we decide to convert our Renminbi amounts into Euros or U.S. dollars for business purposes, including foreign debt service, a decline in the value of Renminbi against the Euro or U.S. dollar would reduce the Euro or U.S. dollar equivalent amounts of the Renminbi we convert. In addition, a depreciation of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar could reduce the U.S. dollar equivalent amounts of our financial results and the dividends we may pay in the future, if any, all of which may have a material adverse effect on the price of our ADSs.
Since June 2010, the Renminbi has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. On November 30, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund completed the regular five-year review of the basket of currencies that make up the Special Drawing Right (the “SDR”), and decided that with effect from October 1, 2016, Renminbi will be a freely usable currency and will be included in the SDR basket as a fifth currency, along with the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the RMB has depreciated significantly in the backdrop of a surging U.S. dollar and persistent capital outflows of China. With the development of the foreign exchange market and progress towards interest rate liberalization and Renminbi internationalization, the PRC government may in the future announce further changes to the exchange rate system and we cannot assure you that the Renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future. Any currency exchange losses we recognize may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert Renminbi into foreign currency.
Limited hedging transactions are available in China to reduce our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. Although we have entered into a number of foreign-exchange forward contracts and foreign exchange options with local banks to manage our risks associated with foreign-exchange rates fluctuations, we cannot assure you that our hedging efforts will be effective. Our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert Renminbi into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Our operating history may not be a reliable predictor of our prospects and future results of operations.
We commenced processing recoverable silicon materials in June 2006, and manufacturing silicon wafers in 2008. We commenced producing solar cells in July 2009 following our acquisition of Zhejiang Jinko, which has manufactured solar cells since June 2007, and we commenced producing solar modules in August 2009. We commenced our solar power generation and solar system integration service business in late 2011.
Although our revenue experienced significant growth in the past, we cannot assure you that our revenue will increase at previous rates or at all, or that we will be able to continue to operate profitably in future periods. We also experienced net losses in each quarter from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2013. Our operating history may not be a reliable predictor of our future results of operations, and past revenue growth experienced by us should not be taken as indicative of the rate of revenue growth, if any, that can be expected in the future. We believe that period to period comparisons of our operating results and our results for any period should not be relied upon as an indication of future performance.
Our operations are subject to natural disasters, adverse weather conditions, operating hazards, environmental incidents and labor disputes.
We may experience earthquakes, floods, mudslides, snowstorms, typhoon, power outages, labor disputes or similar events beyond our control that would affect our operations. Our manufacturing processes involve the use of hazardous equipment, such as furnaces, squaring machines and wire saws. We also use, store and generate volatile and otherwise dangerous chemicals and waste during our manufacturing processes, which are potentially destructive and dangerous if not properly handled or in the event of uncontrollable or catastrophic circumstances, including operating hazards, fires and explosions, natural disasters, adverse weather conditions and major equipment failures, for which we cannot obtain insurance at a reasonable cost or at all.
In addition, our silicon wafer and solar module production and storage facilities are located in close proximity to one another in the Shangrao Economic Development Zone in Jiangxi Province, and our solar cell production and storage facilities are located in close proximity to one another in Haining, Zhejiang Province. The occurrence of any natural disaster, unanticipated catastrophic event or unexpected accident in either of the two locations could result in production curtailments, shutdowns or periods of reduced production, which could significantly disrupt our business operations, cause us to incur additional costs and affect our ability to deliver our products to our customers as scheduled, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, such events could result in severe damage to property, personal injuries, fatalities, regulatory enforcement proceedings or our being named as a defendant in lawsuits asserting claims for large amounts of damages, which in turn could lead to significant liabilities.
Our Haining facility suspended operation from September 17, 2011 to October 9, 2011 due to an environmental incident. Occurrences of natural disasters, as well as accidents and incidents of adverse weather in or around Shangrao, Haining and Penang in the future may result in significant property damage, electricity shortages, disruption of our operations, work stoppages, civil unrest, personal injuries and, in severe cases, fatalities. Such incidents may result in damage to our reputation or cause us to lose all or a portion of our production capacity, and future revenue anticipated to be derived from the relevant facilities.
Our founders collectively have significant influence over our management and their interests may not be aligned with our interests or the interests of our other shareholders.
As of the date of this annual report, our founders, Xiande Li who is our chairman, Kangping Chen who is our director and chief executive officer, and Xianhua Li who is our director, beneficially owned 12.9%, 8.9% and 3.5%, respectively, or 25.1% in the aggregate, of our outstanding ordinary shares. If the founders act collectively, they will have a substantial influence over our business, including decisions regarding mergers, consolidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, election of directors, dividend policy and other significant corporate actions. They may take actions that are not in the best interest of our company or our securities holders. For example, this concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could deprive our shareholders of the opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and might reduce the price of our ADSs. On the other hand, if the founders are in favor of any of these actions, these actions may be taken even if they are opposed by a majority of our other shareholders, including you and those who invest in ADSs. In addition, under our current articles of association, the quorum required for the general meeting of our shareholders is two shareholders entitled to vote and present in person or by proxy or, if the shareholder is a corporation, by its duly authorized representative representing not less than one-third in nominal value of our total issued voting shares. As such, a shareholders resolution may be passed at our shareholders meetings with the presence of our founders only and without the presence of any of our other shareholders, which may not represent the interests of our other shareholders, including holders of ADSs.
We have limited insurance coverage and may incur losses resulting from product liability claims, business interruption or natural disasters.
We are exposed to risks associated with product liability claims in the event that the use of our products results in property damage or personal injury. Since our products are ultimately incorporated into electricity generating systems, it is possible that users could be injured or killed by devices that use our products, whether as a result of product malfunctions, defects, improper installations or other causes. Due to our limited operating history, we are unable to predict whether product liability claims will be brought against us in the future or to predict the impact of any resulting adverse publicity on our business. The successful assertion of product liability claims against us could result in potentially significant monetary damages and require us to make significant payments. Our product liability insurance coverage is limited and we may not have adequate resources to satisfy a judgment in the event of a successful claim against us. In addition, we do not carry any business interruption insurance. As the insurance industry in China is still in its relatively early stage of development, even if we decide to take out business interruption coverage, such insurance available in China offers limited coverage compared with that offered in many other countries. Any business interruption or natural disaster could result in substantial losses and diversion of our resources and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The grant of employee share options and other share-based compensation could adversely affect our net income.
As of the date of annual report, share options with respect to 9,194,356 ordinary shares have been granted to our directors, officers and employees pursuant to our 2009 Long Term Incentive Plan, and there are 113,336 ordinary shares issuable upon the exercise of outstanding options granted under the plan. As of the date of this annual report, share options with respect to 10,535,980 ordinary shares have been granted to our directors, officers and employees pursuant to our 2014 Equity Incentive Plan, and there are 4,441,952 ordinary shares issuable upon the exercise of outstanding options granted under the plan. U.S. GAAP requires us to recognize share-based compensation as compensation expense in the consolidated statement of operations based on the fair value of equity awards on the date of the grant, with the compensation expense recognized over the period in which the recipient is required to provide service in exchange for the equity award. If we grant more share options to attract and retain key personnel, the expenses associated with share-based compensation may adversely affect our net income. However, if we do not grant share options or reduce the number of share options that we grant, we may not be able to attract and retain key personnel.
Our lack of sufficient patent protection in and outside of China may undermine our competitive position and subject us to intellectual property disputes with third parties, both of which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We have developed various production process related know-how and technologies in the production of our products. Such know-how and technologies play a critical role in our quality assurance and cost reduction. In addition, we have implemented a number of research and development programs with a view to developing techniques and processes that will improve production efficiency and product quality. Our intellectual property and proprietary rights from our research and development programs will be crucial in maintaining our competitive edge in the solar power industry. As of the date of this annual report, we had 756 patents and 376 pending patent applications in China. Our patents’ validity is generally ten years. We plan to continue to seek to protect our intellectual property and proprietary knowledge by applying for patents for them. However, we cannot assure you that we will be successful in obtaining patents in China in a timely manner or at all. Moreover, even if we are successful, China currently affords less protection to a company’s intellectual property than some other countries, including the United States. We also use contractual arrangements with employees and trade secret protections to protect our intellectual property and proprietary rights. Nevertheless, contractual arrangements afford only limited protection and the actions we may take to protect our intellectual property and proprietary rights may not be adequate.
In addition, others may obtain knowledge of our know-how and technologies through independent development. Our failure to protect our production process, related know-how and technologies, our intellectual property and proprietary rights or any combination of the above may undermine our competitive position. Third parties may infringe or misappropriate our proprietary technologies or other intellectual property and proprietary rights. Policing unauthorized use of proprietary technology can be difficult and expensive. Litigation, which can be costly and divert management attention and other resources away from our business, may be necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights, protect our trade secrets or determine the validity and scope of our proprietary rights. We cannot assure you that the outcome of such potential litigation will be in our favor. An adverse determination in any such litigation will impair our intellectual property and proprietary rights and may harm our business, prospects and reputation.
We may be exposed to intellectual property infringement or misappropriation claims by third parties, which, if determined adversely to us, could cause us to pay significant damage awards and subject us to injunctions prohibiting sale of our products in certain markets.
Our success depends on our ability to use and develop our technology and know-how, and to manufacture and sell our recovered silicon materials, silicon wafers, solar cells and solar modules, develop solar power projects or otherwise operate our business in the solar industry without infringing the intellectual property or other rights of third parties. We may be subject to litigation involving claims of patent infringement or violation of intellectual property rights of third parties. The validity and scope of claims relating to solar power technology patents involve complex scientific, legal and factual questions and analyses and, therefore, may be highly uncertain. The defense and prosecution of intellectual property suits, patent opposition proceedings, trademark disputes and related legal and administrative proceedings can be both costly and time-consuming and may significantly divert our resources and the attention of our technical and management personnel. An adverse ruling in any such litigation or proceedings could subject us to significant liability to third parties, require us to seek licenses from third parties, to pay ongoing royalties, or to redesign our products or subject us to injunctions prohibiting the manufacture and sale of our products or the use of our technologies. Protracted litigation could also result in our customers or potential customers deferring or limiting their purchase or use of our products until resolution of such litigation.
Our business depends substantially on the continuing efforts of our founders, executive officers and key technical personnel, as well as our ability to maintain a skilled labor force. Our business may be materially adversely affected if we lose their services.
Our success depends on the continued services of our founders, Mr. Xiande Li, Mr. Kangping Chen and Mr. Xianhua Li, and other executive officers and key personnel. We do not maintain key-man life insurance on any of our founders, executive officers and key personnel. If one or more of our founders, executive officers and key personnel are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to readily replace them, if at all. As a result, our business may be severely disrupted and we may have to incur additional expenses in order to recruit and retain new personnel. In addition, if any of our executives joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose some of our customers. Each of our founders, executive officers and key personnel has entered into an employment agreement with us that contains confidentiality and non-competition provisions. However, if any dispute arises between our founders, executive officers or key personnel and us, we cannot assure you, in light of uncertainties associated with the PRC legal system, that these agreements could be enforced in China where most of our founders, executive officers and key personnel reside and hold most of their assets. See “—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system could have a material adverse effect on us” in this annual report.
Furthermore, recruiting and retaining capable personnel, particularly experienced engineers and technicians familiar with our products and manufacturing processes, is vital to maintain the quality of our products and improve our production methods. There is substantial competition for qualified technical personnel, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to attract or retain qualified technical personnel. If we are unable to attract and retain qualified employees, key technical personnel and our executive officers, our business may be materially adversely affected.
Compliance with environmentally safe production and construction and renewable energy development regulations can be costly, while non-compliance with such regulations may result in adverse publicity and potentially significant monetary damages, fines and suspension of our business operations.
We are required to comply with all national and local environmental protection regulations for our operations in China, the United States and Malaysia. For example, regulations on emission trading and pollution permits in Zhejiang Province allow entities to increase their annual pollution discharge limit by purchasing emissions trading credits. Entities that purchase emission credits can increase their annual discharge limit by registering the credits with the relevant environmental authorities and amending their pollution permits or obtaining new ones. We have entered into several emissions trading contracts to purchase credits to increase our annual discharge limit and registered all credits as required under a local regulation that became effective on October 9, 2010. However, as our business grows, we may increase our discharge level in the future and we cannot guarantee you that we will continue to be below our annual discharge limit. The penalties for exceeding the annual discharge limit may include corrective orders, fines imposed by the local environmental authority of up to RMB50,000 or, in extreme circumstances, revocation of our pollution permit. Some of our subsidiaries need to obtain and maintain pollution discharge permits, which are subject to renewal or extension on an annual basis or within a longer period. We cannot assure you that we are or will be able to renew or extend these permits in a timely manner or at all.
We use, store and generate volatile and otherwise dangerous chemicals and wastes during our manufacturing processes, and are subject to a variety of government regulations related to the use, storage and disposal of such hazardous chemicals and waste. In accordance with the requirements of the Regulations on the Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals, which became effective on March 15, 2002 and were amended on December 1, 2011 and December 7, 2013, we are required to engage state-qualified institutions to conduct the safety evaluation on our storage instruments related to our use of hazardous chemicals and file the safety evaluation report with the competent safety supervision and administration authorities every three years. In compliance with Jiaxing City environmental authority’s requests, we commenced efforts to meet their targets for hazardous chemical and wastes in May 2012. Environmental authorities of Haining City and Jiaxing City evaluated our efforts and confirmed that we satisfied their targets in September 2012. Moreover, we filed a report with the competent safety supervision and administration authorities and public security agencies concerning the actual storage situation of our hyper-toxic chemicals and other hazardous chemicals that constitute major of hazard sources.
Moreover, we are required to obtain construction permits before commencing constructing production facilities. We are also required to obtain the approvals from PRC environmental protection authorities before commencing commercial operations of our manufacturing facilities. We are also required to comply with renewable energy development regulations and directives for our operations in China. We commenced construction of a portion of our solar cell and solar module production facilities prior to obtaining the construction permits and commenced operations of certain of our production facilities prior to obtaining the environmental approvals for commencing commercial operation and completing the required safety evaluation procedure and we, through Poyang Luohong, a joint venture in which we then held 51% equity interest, had commenced the construction of the Technology Top Runner Project prior to obtaining the construction permits, land use certificates and certain other approvals. Although we have subsequently obtained all required environmental approvals covering all of existing production capacity except a portion of solar cell and solar module production capacity and we have disposed of all our equity interest in Poyang Luohong, we cannot assure you that we will not be penalized by the relevant government authorities for our non-compliance with the PRC environmental protection, safe production and construction regulations, including renewable energy development regulations and directives.
In late August 2011, our Haining facility experienced a suspected leakage of fluoride into a nearby small water channel due to extreme and unforeseen weather conditions. On September 15, 2011, residents of Hongxiao Village in proximity to the Haining facility gathered to protest the discharge. The Haining facility suspended production on September 17, 2011. We also took steps recommended by an environmental engineering firm licensed by the PRC government (“Licensed Engineers”). On September 28, 2011, a committee of experts (the “Experts Committee”) established by the Haining government approved a set of recommendations developed by the Licensed Engineers with our assistance and the Haining government to be implemented by us. On October 6, 2011, the Experts Committee, the Environmental Bureau of the Haining government and representatives of Hongxiao Village reviewed the steps taken by us based on the recommendations of the Experts Committee and provided their comments to JinkoSolar’s management. On October 9, 2011, the Experts Committee notified us that the Experts Committee was satisfied with the steps taken by us and we resumed production at the Haining facility. In 2012, we carried out a series of environmental protection efforts intended to ensure our compliance with relevant standards and requirements. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Environmental Matters.” In January 2013, Haining City environmental authority issued the “Environmental Management Compliance Certificate for 2012” to us, confirming our compliance with environmental requirements.
Although we will try to take measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future, we cannot assure you that our operations will not be disrupted by similar or other environmental incidents. In addition, the relevant authorities may issue more stringent environmental protection, safe production and construction regulations in the future that may impact our manufacturing facilities in China or abroad, and the costs of compliance with new regulations could be substantial. If we fail to comply with the future environmentally safe production and construction laws and regulations, we may be required to pay fines, suspend construction or production, or cease operations. Moreover, any failure by us to control the use of, or to adequately restrict the discharge of, dangerous substances could subject us to potentially significant monetary damages and fines or the suspension of our business operations.
We face risks related to health epidemics and other outbreaks. In particular, we were, and could be further, adversely affected by the global outbreak of COVID-19.
Our business could be adversely affected by the effects of novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”), Ebola virus disease, influenza A (“H1N1”), avian flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (“SARS”), or other epidemic outbreak.
In December 2019, a strain of COVID-19 was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China, which subsequently spread throughout China. The Chinese central government and local governments in Wuhan and other cities in China have introduced various temporary measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, such as extension of the Lunar New Year holidays and travel restrictions, which have impacted and could further impact national and local economy to different degrees. As the COVID-19 subsequently spreads globally, many governments in other countries and regions have also introduced travel restrictions, lock-down policies, suspension of business activities and other temporary measures. The global spread of the COVID-19 has created significant volatility and uncertainty, as well as economic disruption. Our production could be severely affected if our employees or the regions in which our facilities are located are affected by the COVID-19. For example, a facility could be closed by government authorities for a sustained period of time, some or all of our workforce could be unavailable due to quarantine, fear of catching the disease or other factors, and local, national or international transportation or other infrastructure could be affected, leading to delays or loss of production. In addition, our suppliers and customers are subject to similar risks, which could lead to a shortage of raw materials or a reduction in our customers’ demand for our products. We may have to decrease the selling price of our products to attract and retain customers if the demand for our products decreases. We rely on a variety of common carriers to transport our raw materials from our suppliers, and to transport products from us to our customers. Problems suffered by any of these common carriers could result in shipping delays, increased costs or some other supply chain disruption and could therefore have a material adverse effect on our operations. While it is unknown how long these conditions will last and what the complete financial effect will be to us, our supply of certain raw materials and logistics during the first quarter of 2020 was temporarily affected, causing some module shipments to be postponed to the second quarter of 2020. As a result, some of our customers delayed their payments, which temporarily affected our cash flow. In addition, our capacity utilization rate of certain overseas manufacturing facility has been temporarily affected as we have to limit the number of workers gathering at the facility pursuant to the instructions of the local authorities. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we implemented a number of initiatives to ensure business continuity, including ensuring the safety and health of our employees and minimizing the impact of the outbreak on production and delivery by stocking up on critical raw materials and optimizing production and logistics. The situation of the COVID-19 outbreak is very fluid and we are closely monitoring its impact on us. There may be further adverse impact on our operation, liquidity, financial condition and results of operations if the conditions last a sustained period of time and continue to develop globally.
In April 2009, an outbreak of influenza A caused by the H1N1 virus occurred in Mexico and the United States, and spread into a number of countries rapidly. There have also been reports of outbreaks of a highly pathogenic avian flu, caused by the H1N1 virus, in certain regions of Asia and Europe. In past few years, there were reports on the occurrences of avian flu in various parts of China, including a few confirmed human cases. In April 2013, there were reports of cases of H7N9 avian flu in southeast China, including deaths in Shanghai and Zhejiang Province. An outbreak of avian flu in the human population could result in a widespread health crisis that could adversely affect the economies and financial markets of many countries, particularly in Asia. Additionally, any recurrence of SARS, a highly contagious form of atypical pneumonia, similar to the occurrence in 2003 which affected China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and certain other countries, would also have similar adverse effects.
These outbreaks of contagious diseases and other adverse public health developments in China and around the world would have a material adverse effect on our business operations. These could include our ability to travel or ship our products outside China as well as temporary closure of our manufacturing facilities. Such closures or travel or shipment restrictions would severely disrupt our business operations and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. We have not adopted any written preventive measures or contingency plans to combat any future outbreak of avian flu, SARS or any other epidemic.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
We may fail to comply with laws and regulations regarding PV production in China.
On January 15, 2018, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China (the “MIIT”) promulgated the Standard Conditions of Photovoltaic Production Industry, or the Photovoltaic Production Rule, in place of its old version, which establishes a basic regulatory framework for PV production industry. The Photovoltaic Production Rule provides, among other matters, requirements in relation to the production layout, project establishment filing and enterprise qualification, requirements with regard to the production scale, product quality, cell efficiency, energy consumption and operational life span of various PV products, and requirements related to quality management and obtaining the pollution discharge permits and other environmental requirements. Our failure to comply with the Photovoltaic Production Rule and the laws and regulations related thereto could result in fines, sanctions, suspension, revocation or non-renewal of approvals, permits or licenses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We cannot assure you that we will be able to promptly and adequately respond to changes of laws and regulations, or that our employees and contractors will act in accordance with our internal policies and procedures. Failure to comply with such laws and regulations relating to PV production may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our auditor, like other independent registered public accounting firms operating in China, is not permitted to be subject to inspection by Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and consequently investors may be deprived of the benefits of such inspection.
Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issued the audit reports included elsewhere in this annual report, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), or PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance applicable professional standards. Our auditor is located in, and organized under the laws of, the PRC, which is a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities. In May 2013, PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or CSRC and the PRC Ministry of Finance, which establishes a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations undertaken by PCAOB, the CSRC or the PRC Ministry of Finance in the United States and the PRC, respectively. PCAOB continues to be in discussions with the CSRC, and the PRC Ministry of Finance to permit joint inspections in the PRC of audit firms that are registered with PCAOB and audit Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges.
On December 7, 2018, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a joint statement highlighting continued challenges faced by the U.S. regulators in their oversight of financial statement audits of U.S.-listed companies with significant operations in China. However, it remains unclear what further actions, if any, the SEC and PCAOB will take to address the problem.
This lack of PCAOB inspections in China prevents the PCAOB from fully evaluating audits and quality control procedures of our independent registered public accounting firm. As a result, we and investors in our ADSs are deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our independent registered public accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our stock to lose confidence in our audit procedures and reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
Proceedings instituted by the SEC against certain PRC-based accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
In December 2012, the SEC instituted administrative proceedings against the Big Four PRC-based accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, alleging that these firms had violated U.S. securities laws and the SEC’s rules and regulations thereunder by failing to provide to the SEC the firms’ audit work papers with respect to certain PRC-based companies that are publicly traded in the United States.
On January 22, 2014, the administrative law judge presiding over the matter rendered an initial decision that each of the firms had violated the SEC’s rules of practice by failing to produce audit papers and other documents to the SEC. The initial decision censured each of the firms and barred them from practicing before the SEC for a period of six months.
On February 6, 2015, the four China-based accounting firms each agreed to a censure and to pay a fine to the SEC to settle the dispute and avoid suspension of their ability to practice before the SEC and audit U.S.-listed companies. The settlement required the firms to follow detailed procedures and to seek to provide the SEC with access to Chinese firms’ audit documents via the CSRC. Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the four China-based accounting firms was deemed dismissed with prejudice four years after entry of the settlement. The four-year mark occurred on February 6, 2019. While we cannot predict if the SEC will further challenge the four China-based accounting firms’ compliance with U.S. law in connection with U.S. regulatory requests for audit work papers or if the results of such a challenge would result in the SEC imposing penalties such as suspensions, if the accounting firms are subject to additional remedial measures, our ability to file our financial statements in compliance with SEC requirements could be impacted. A determination that we have not timely filed financial statements in compliance with SEC requirements could ultimately lead to the delisting of our ADSs from NYSE or the termination of the registration of our ADSs under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of our ADSs in the United States.
The approval of the MOFCOM for or in connection with our corporate restructuring in 2007 and 2008 may be subject to revocation, which will have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and trading price of our ADSs.
On August 8, 2006, six PRC governmental and regulatory agencies, including the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (the “MOFCOM”), and the CSRC promulgated a rule entitled “Provisions Regarding Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors”, or Circular 10, which became effective on September 8, 2006 and was amended in June 2009. Article 11 of Circular 10 requires PRC domestic enterprises or domestic natural persons to obtain the prior approval of MOFCOM when an offshore company established or controlled by them proposes to merge with or acquire a PRC domestic company with which such enterprises or persons have a connected relationship.
On January 1, 2020, the Foreign Investment Law of the People’s Republic of China (the “Foreign Investment Law”) came into effect. On February 5, 2020, the MOFCOM stated in a reply to the public that the provisions in Circular 10 do not conflict with the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations should continue to apply. The MOFCOM will, in conjunction with the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations, study relevant issues related to Circular 10 and start relevant work at appropriate time to further improve the foreign mergers and acquisitions system under the framework of the Foreign Investment Law.
We undertook a restructuring in 2007, or the 2007 Restructuring, and our founders and JinkoSolar Technology Limited, previously Paker Technology Limited (“JinkoSolar Technology”), obtained the approval of Jiangxi MOFCOM, for the acquisition of certain equity interest in Jiangxi Desun and the pledge by our founders of their equity interest in Jiangxi Desun to JinkoSolar Technology, or the 2007 acquisition and pledge. However, because our founders are PRC natural persons and they controlled both JinkoSolar Technology and Jiangxi Desun, the 2007 acquisition and pledge would be subject to Article 11 of Circular 10 and therefore subject to approval by MOFCOM at the central government level. To remedy this past non-compliance, we undertook another corporate restructuring in 2008, or the 2008 Restructuring, under which the share pledge was terminated on July 28, 2008 and JinkoSolar Technology transferred all of its equity interest in Jiangxi Desun to Long Faith Creation Limited (“Long Faith”), an unrelated Hong Kong company, on July 31, 2008. In addition, on November 11, 2008, we received written confirmation from Jiangxi MOFCOM in its reply to our inquiry that there had been no modification to the former approvals for the 2007 acquisition and pledge and JinkoSolar Technology’s transfer of its equity interest in Jiangxi Desun to Long Faith, and we might continue to rely on those approvals for further transactions. Nevertheless, we cannot assure you that MOFCOM will not revoke such approval and subject us to regulatory actions, penalties or other sanctions because of such past non-compliance. If the approval of Jiangxi MOFCOM for the 2007 acquisition and pledge were revoked and we were not able to obtain MOFCOM’s retrospective approval for the 2007 acquisition and pledge, Jiangxi Desun may be required to return the tax benefits to which only a foreign-invested enterprise was entitled and which were recognized by us during the period from April 10, 2007 to December 31, 2007, and the profit distribution to JinkoSolar Technology in December 2008 may be required to be unwound. Under an indemnification letter issued by our founders to us, our founders have agreed to indemnify us for any monetary losses we may incur as a result of any violation of Circular 10 in connection with the restructuring we undertook in 2007. We cannot assure you, however, that this indemnification letter will be enforceable under the PRC law, our founders will have sufficient resources to fully indemnify us for such losses, or that we will not otherwise suffer damages to our business and reputation as a result of any sanctions for such non-compliance.
Meanwhile, given the uncertainty with respect to what constitutes a merger with or acquisition of a PRC domestic enterprise and what constitutes circumvention of its approval requirements under the Circular 10, we cannot assure you that the 2008 Restructuring is in all respects compliance with Circular 10. If MOFCOM subsequently determines that its approval of the 2008 Restructuring was required, we may face regulatory actions or other sanctions by MOFCOM or other PRC regulatory agencies. Such actions may include compelling us to terminate the contracts between Jiangxi Desun and us, the limitation of our operating privileges in China, the imposition of fines and penalties on our operations in China, restrictions or prohibition on the payment or remittance of dividends by Jiangxi Jinko or others that may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, reputation and prospects, as well as the trading price of our ADSs.
Adverse changes in political and economic policies of the PRC government could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of the PRC, which could reduce the demand for our products and materially adversely affect our competitive position.
Our business is primarily based in the PRC and a portion of our sales are made in the PRC. Accordingly, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects are affected significantly by economic, political and legal developments in the PRC. The PRC economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including:
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While the PRC economy has grown significantly in the past 30 years, the growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy. The PRC government has implemented various measures to encourage economic growth and guide the allocation of resources. Some of these measures benefit the overall PRC economy, but may have a negative effect on us. For example, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations that are applicable to us.
The PRC economy has been transitioning from a planned economy to a more market-oriented economy. Although in recent years the PRC government has implemented measures emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, the reduction of state ownership of productive assets and the establishment of sound corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of the productive assets in China is still owned by the PRC government. The continued control of these assets and other aspects of the national economy by the PRC government could materially adversely affect our business. The PRC government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through allocating resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. We cannot predict whether changes in China’s political, economic and social conditions, laws, regulations and policies will have any material adverse effect on our current or future business, financial condition and results of operations.
Uncertainties and limitations with respect to the PRC legal system could have a material adverse effect on us.
We are incorporated in Cayman Islands and are subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign investment in China and, in particular, laws applicable to wholly foreign owned companies. The PRC legal system is based on written statutes. Prior court decisions have limited precedential value. Since 1979, PRC legislation and regulations have significantly enhanced the protections afforded to various forms of foreign investments in China. However, since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system continues to rapidly evolve, the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules are not always uniform and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involve uncertainties, which may limit legal protections available to us. For example, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce the legal protection that we enjoy either by law or contract. However, since PRC administrative authorities and courts have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be more difficult than in more developed legal systems to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy. These uncertainties may impede our ability to enforce the contracts we have entered into with our business partners, clients and suppliers. In addition, such uncertainties, including the inability to enforce our contracts, could materially adversely affect our business and operations. Furthermore, intellectual property rights and confidentiality protections in China may not be as effective as in the United States or other countries. Accordingly, we cannot predict the effect of future developments in the PRC legal system, including the promulgation of new laws, changes to existing laws or the interpretation or enforcement thereof, or the preemption of national laws by local regulations. In addition, due to jurisdictional limitations, matters of comity and various other factors, the SEC, U.S. Department of Justice and other U.S. authorities may be limited in their ability to pursue bad actors, including in instances of fraud, in the PRC. For example, there are significant legal and other obstacles to obtaining information needed for investigations or litigation in the PRC. Similar limitations apply to the pursuit of actions against individuals, including officers, directors and individual gatekeepers, who may have engaged in fraud or other wrongdoing. See "—It may be difficult to effect service of process on, or to enforce any judgments obtained outside the PRC against, us, our directors, or our senior management members who live inside the PRC." Moreover, local authorities in the PRC may be constrained in their ability to assist U.S. authorities and overseas investors. Furthermore, shareholder claims that are common in the U.S., including class action under securities laws and fraud claims, generally are difficult or impossible to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in the PRC. Investors in the PRC may not have the ability to seek certain legal remedies in U.S. courts as private plaintiffs, and may have to rely on domestic legal remedies that are available in the PRC. These uncertainties and limitations could limit the legal protections available to us and other foreign investors, including you. In addition, any litigation in China may be protracted and result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention.
PRC regulations may subject our future mergers and acquisitions activity to national security review.
In February 2011, General Office of the State Council of China (the “State Council”) promulgated Circular 6, a notice on the establishment of a security review system for mergers and acquisitions of domestic enterprises by foreign investors. Circular 6 became effective on March 4, 2011. To implement Circular 6, MOFCOM promulgated the MOFCOM Security Review Rules on August 25, 2011, which became effective on September 1, 2011. According to Circular 6 and the MOFCOM Security Review Rules, national security review is required to be undertaken to complete mergers and acquisitions (i) by foreign investors of enterprises relating to national defense and (ii) through which foreign investors may acquire de facto control of a domestic enterprise that could raise national security concerns. When determining whether to subject a specific merger or acquisition to national security review, the MOFCOM will look at the substance and actual impact of the transaction. Bypassing national security review by structuring transactions through proxies, trusts, indirect investments, leases, loans, control through contractual arrangements or offshore transactions by foreign investors is prohibited.
Under the framework of the Foreign Investment Law that came into effect on January 1, 2020, the scope of national security review expands from mergers and acquisitions to all foreign investment activities. According to Article 35 of the Foreign Investment Law, a security review system for foreign investment will be established in the country, under which the security review shall be conducted for any foreign investment affecting or having the possibility to affect national security. According to Article 40 of the Foreign Investment Law, where any country or region takes any discriminatory prohibitive or restrictive measures, or other similar measures against China in terms of investment, China may take corresponding measures against the said country or region in light of the actual conditions.
In addition, even if a merger or acquisition by foreign investors is not currently subject to national security review, or is determined to have no impact on national security after such review, it may still be subject to future review. A change in conditions (such as change of business activities, or amendments to relevant documents or agreements) may trigger the national security review requirement, then the foreign investor to the merger or acquisition must apply for the relevant approval with the MOFCOM.
Currently, there are no public provisions or official interpretations specifically providing that our current businesses fall within the scope of national security review and there is no requirement that foreign investors to those merger and acquisition transactions completed prior to the promulgation of Circular 6 take initiatives to submit such transactions to MOFCOM for national security review. However, as there is no clear statutory interpretation on the implementation of the security review system, there is no assurance that the relevant PRC regulatory authorities will have the same view as us when applying them. If our future merger and acquisition transactions and other indirect investments are subject to the national security review, the application of the national security review may further complicate our future merger and acquisition and investment activities, and our expansion strategy may be adversely affected as a result.
PRC regulations relating to overseas investment by PRC residents may restrict our overseas and cross-border investment activities and adversely affect the implementation of our strategy as well as our business and prospects.
On July 4, 2014, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange of China (the “SAFE”) issued the Circular on the Administration of Foreign Exchange Issues Related to Overseas Investment, Financing and Roundtrip Investment by Domestic Residents through Offshore Special Purpose Vehicles (the “SAFE Circular 37”), which replaced the former circular commonly known as “SAFE Circular 75” promulgated on October 21, 2005. The SAFE Circular 37 requires PRC residents to register with the competent local SAFE branch in connection with their direct establishment or indirect control of an offshore special purpose vehicle, for the purpose of overseas investment and financing, with such PRC residents’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests. The SAFE Circular 37 further requires amendment to the registration in the event of any significant changes with respect to the special purpose vehicle, such as increase or decrease of capital contribution by PRC individuals, share transfer or exchange, merger, division or other material event. In the event that a PRC shareholder holding interests in a special purpose vehicle fails to fulfill the required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that special purpose vehicle may be prohibited from making profit distributions to the offshore parent and from carrying out subsequent cross-border foreign exchange activities, and the special purpose vehicle may be restricted in its ability to contribute additional capital into its PRC subsidiary. Moreover, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC law for evasion of foreign exchange controls.
We believe that all of our beneficial owners who are PRC citizens or residents have completed their registrations with the competent local SAFE branch in accordance with the SAFE Circular 75 before the promulgation of SAFE Circular 37. However, we may not at all times be fully aware or informed of the identities of all of our beneficial owners who are PRC citizens or residents, and we may have little control over either our present or prospective direct or indirect PRC resident beneficial owners or the outcome of such registration procedures. We cannot assure you that the SAFE registrations of our present beneficial owners or future beneficial owners who are PRC citizens or residents have been or will be amended to reflect, among others, the shareholding information or equity investment as required by the SAFE Circular 37 and subsequent implementation rules at all times. The failure of these beneficial owners to comply with the registration procedures set forth in the SAFE Circular 37 may subject such beneficial owners and our PRC subsidiaries to fines and legal sanctions. Such failure may also result in restrictions on our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute profits to us or our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiaries or otherwise materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, it is unclear how the SAFE Circular 37 and any future regulation concerning offshore or cross-border transactions will be interpreted and implemented by the relevant PRC government authorities. We cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operations or future strategy.
On December 25, 2006, the People’s Bank of China promulgated the Measures for Administration of Individual Foreign Exchange, and on January 5, 2007, the SAFE promulgated relevant Implementation Rules. On February 15, 2012, the SAFE promulgated the Notice on Various Issues Concerning Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Equity Incentive Plans of Overseas Listed Companies (the “Stock Option Notice”). The Stock Option Notice terminated the Application Procedures of Foreign Exchange Administration of Domestic Individuals’ Participating in an Employee Stock Holding Plan or Stock Option Plan of an Overseas Listed Company issued by the SAFE on March 28, 2007. According to the Stock Option Notice, PRC citizens who are granted shares or share options by a company listed on an overseas stock market according to its employee stock holding plan or stock incentive plan are required to register with the SAFE or its local counterparts by following certain procedures.
We and our employees who are PRC citizens and individual beneficiary owners, or have been granted restricted shares or share options, are subject to the Individual Foreign Exchange Rules and its relevant implementation regulations. The failure of our PRC individual beneficiary owners and the restricted holders to complete their SAFE registrations pursuant to the SAFE’s requirement or the Individual Foreign Exchange Rules may subject these PRC citizens to fines and legal sanctions. It may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital into our PRC subsidiaries, and limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to us, or otherwise materially adversely affect our business.
On December 26, 2017, the NDRC promulgated the Administrative Measures for the Outbound Investment of Enterprises (the “new ODI Measure”), which took effect from March 1, 2018, and replaced the Administrative Measures for Approval and Record-filing on Overseas Investment Projects promulgated by the NDRC on April 8, 2014. The new ODI Measure will further enhance supervision of overseas investments through reports of seriously unfavorable events, inquiry letters and related supervision systems. Where PRC citizens make investments abroad through overseas enterprises under their control, the new ODI Measure will apply mutatis mutandis.
Besides overseas investments of PRC subsidiaries, all of our overseas investments may subject to supervision and inspection under the new ODI Measure, which may materially increase the complexity of regulatory compliance aspect of our overseas investments. However, the implementation and interpretation of the new ODI Measure are uncertain and will subject to the practice of the NDRC.
Our ability to access financing could be adversely affected by PRC regulations.
Laws, regulations and policies issued in the PRC may apply to our company. For example, the NDRC issued the NDRC Circular, which came into effect on September 14, 2015. The NDRC Circular requires domestic enterprises and/or their overseas controlled enterprises or branches to procure the registration of any issue of debt securities outside the PRC with the NDRC prior to such issue, and to notify the NDRC of the particulars of such issue within a prescribed timeframe after such issue. The NDRC’s acceptance of any application for registration is subject to the availability of a sufficient amount within the NDRC’s stipulated foreign debt aggregate quota (the “Aggregate Quota”). Registrations for issue of foreign debt may not be accepted by the NDRC for either administrative reasons or due to the Aggregate Quota having been fully utilized at the time of filing. There is also no assurance that any registration with the NDRC will not be revoked or amended in the future.
The application of relevant laws, regulations and policies issued in the PRC, such as the NDRC Circular, could therefore restrict our ability to raise debt financing and could also impose registration and reporting requirements that could affect our ability to raise debt financing in a timely manner.
Our China-sourced income is subject to PRC withholding tax under the CIT Law, and we may be subject to PRC corporate income tax at the rate of 25%.
We are a Cayman Islands holding company with a substantial part of our operations conducted through our operating subsidiaries in China. Under the Corporate Income Tax Law of the PRC (the “CIT Law”) which became effective on January 1, 2008 and was amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018, and the Regulation on the Implementation of the CIT Law (the “Implementation Rules of the CIT Law”) which became effective on January 1, 2008, China-sourced passive income of non-PRC tax resident enterprises, such as dividends paid by a PRC subsidiary to its overseas parent, is generally subject to a 10% withholding tax. Under an arrangement between China and Hong Kong, such dividend withholding tax rate is reduced to 5% if the beneficial owner of the dividends is a Hong Kong tax resident enterprise which directly owns at least 25% of the PRC company distributing the dividends and has owned such equity for at least 12 consecutive months before receiving such dividends. For example, as JinkoSolar Technology is a Hong Kong company and has owned 100% of the equity interest in Jiangxi Jinko and 25% of the equity interest in Zhejiang Jinko directly for more than 12 consecutive months to date, any dividends paid by Jiangxi Jinko and Zhejiang Jinko to JinkoSolar Technology will be entitled to a withholding tax at the reduced rate of 5% after obtaining approval from the competent PRC tax authority, provided that JinkoSolar Technology is deemed the beneficial owner of such dividends and that JinkoSolar Technology is not deemed to be a PRC tax resident enterprise as described below. However, according to the Circular of the State Taxation Administration on How to Understand and Identify a “Beneficial Owner” under Tax Treaties (“STA Circular 601”), effective on October 27, 2009, and the Announcement of the State Taxation Administration on the Determination of “Beneficial Owners” in the Tax Treaties (“STA Announcement 30”), effective on June 29, 2012, an applicant for treaty benefits, including benefits under the arrangement between China and Hong Kong on dividend withholding tax, that does not carry out substantial business activities or is an agent or a conduit company may not be deemed a “beneficial owner” of the PRC subsidiary and therefore, may not enjoy such treaty benefits. If JinkoSolar Technology is determined to be ineligible for such treaty benefits, any dividends paid by Jiangxi Jinko and Zhejiang Jinko to JinkoSolar Technology will be subject to the PRC withholding tax at a 10% rate instead of a reduced rate of 5%. On February 3, 2018, the State Taxation Administration of China (the “STA”) released Announcement of the State Taxation Administration on Issues concerning the “Beneficial Owner” in Tax Treaties (the “STA Announcement 9”) which replaced STA Circular 601 and STA Announcement 30. The STA Announcement 9 comprehensively updates the assessment principles for the determination of beneficial ownership under agreements between China and other jurisdictions for the avoidance of double taxation. The STA Announcement 9 has also tightened the first two unfavorable factors of STA Circular 601. This will be challenging for some non-resident taxpayers as their treaty benefits may be denied for the lack of beneficial ownership status.
The CIT Law, however, also provides that enterprises established outside China whose “de facto management bodies” are located in China are considered “PRC tax resident enterprises” and will generally be subject to the uniform 25% PRC corporate income tax rate as to their global income. Under the Implementation Rules of the CIT Law, “de facto management bodies” is defined as the bodies that have, in substance, overall management control over such aspects as the production and business, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. On April 22, 2009, the STA promulgated the Notice Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprises on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies (“STA Circular 82”). According to STA Circular 82, an offshore-incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China only if certain conditions are met. Despite of those conditions, as STA Circular 82 only applies to enterprises incorporated outside China controlled by PRC enterprises or a PRC enterprise, it remains unclear how the PRC tax authorities will determine the location of “de facto management bodies” for offshore enterprises that are controlled by individual PRC tax residents or non-PRC enterprises, as our company and JinkoSolar Technology. Therefore, it remains unclear whether the PRC tax authorities would regard our company or JinkoSolar Technology as PRC tax resident enterprises. If our company and JinkoSolar Technology are regarded by PRC tax authorities as PRC tax resident enterprises for PRC corporate income tax purposes, any dividends distributed from Jiangxi Jinko and Zhejiang Jinko to JinkoSolar Technology and ultimately to our company could be exempt from the PRC withholding tax, while our company and JinkoSolar Technology will be subject to the uniform 25% corporate income tax rate on our global income at the same time.
Dividends payable by us to our foreign investors and gains on the sale of our shares or ADSs may become subject to PRC corporate income tax liabilities.
The Implementation Rules of the CIT Law provide that (i) if the enterprise that distributes dividends is domiciled in China, or (ii) if gains are realized from transferring equity interests of enterprises domiciled in China, then such dividends or capital gains are treated as China-sourced income. It is not clear how “domicile” will be interpreted under the CIT Law. It may be interpreted as the jurisdiction where the enterprise is incorporated or where the enterprise is a tax resident. Therefore, if our company and our subsidiaries in Hong Kong are considered PRC tax resident enterprises for tax purposes, any dividends we pay to our overseas shareholders or ADS holders, as well as any gains realized by such shareholders or ADSs holders from the transfer of our shares or ADSs, may be viewed as China-sourced income and, as a consequence, be subject to PRC corporate income tax at 10% or a lower treaty rate. If we are required to withhold PRC income tax on dividends we pay to our overseas shareholders or ADS holders, or if you are required to pay PRC income tax on gains from the transfer of our shares or ADSs, the value of your investment in our shares or ADSs may be materially adversely affected.
Our ability to make distributions and other payments to our shareholders depends to a significant extent upon the distribution of earnings and other payments made by our subsidiaries in the PRC.
We conduct a substantial part of our operations through our operating subsidiaries in China. Our ability to make distributions or other payments to our shareholders depends on payments from these operating subsidiaries in China, whose ability to make such payments is subject to PRC regulations. Regulations in the PRC currently permit payment of dividends only out of accumulated profits as determined in accordance with accounting standards and regulations in China. According to the relevant PRC laws and regulations applicable to our operating subsidiaries in China and their respective articles of association, these subsidiaries are each required to set aside 10% of their after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards each year as statutory common reserves until the accumulative amount of these reserves reaches 50% of their registered capital. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends. As of December 31, 2019, these general reserves amounted to RMB689.7 million (US$99.1 million), accounting for 3.9% of the total registered capital of all of our operating subsidiaries in China. In addition, under the CIT Law and its Implementation Rules, dividends from our operating subsidiaries in China to us are subject to withholding tax to the extent that we are considered a non-PRC tax resident enterprise under the CIT Law. See “—Our China-sourced income is subject to PRC withholding tax under the CIT Law, and we may be subject to PRC corporate income tax at the rate of 25%.” Furthermore, if our operating subsidiaries in China incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us.
Restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to receive and use our revenue effectively.
Certain portions of our revenue and expenses are denominated in Renminbi. If our revenue denominated in Renminbi increases or expenses denominated in Renminbi decrease in the future, we may need to convert a portion of our revenue into other currencies to meet our foreign currency obligations, including, among others, payment of dividends declared, if any, in respect of our ADSs. Under China’s existing foreign exchange regulations, foreign currency under current account transactions, such as dividend payments and trade-related transactions are generally convertible. Accordingly, our operating subsidiaries in China are able to pay dividends in foreign currencies without prior approval from the SAFE, by complying with certain procedural requirements. On January 1, 2020, the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations came into effect. According to the Foreign Investment Law, a foreign investor may, in accordance with the law, freely transfer into or out of the PRC its contributions, profits, capital earnings, income from asset disposal, intellectual property rights royalties acquired, compensation or indemnity legally obtained, income from liquidation, etc., made or derived within the territory of the PRC in RMB or any foreign currency, subject to no illegal restriction by any entity or individual in terms of the currency, amount, frequency of such transfer into or out of the PRC, etc. The foreign exchange control in the field of foreign investment has been continuously relaxed. However, in practice, laws and regulations regarding the legality of foreign exchange projects still need to be followed. The SAFE issued the Circular on Further Promoting the Reform of Foreign Exchange Administration and Improving Examination of Authenticity and Compliance on January 26, 2017, pursuant to which the SAFE restated the procedures and reemphasized the bona-fide principle for banks to follow during their review of certain cross-border profit remittance. We cannot assure you that the PRC government would not take further measures in the future to restrict access to foreign currencies for current account transactions. Foreign exchange transactions by our operating subsidiaries in China under capital accounts continue to be subject to significant foreign exchange controls and require the approval of, or registration with, PRC governmental authorities. In particular, if one of our operating subsidiaries in China borrows foreign currency loans from us or other foreign lenders, these loans must be registered with the SAFE.
If we finance our subsidiaries in China by means of additional capital contributions, these capital contributions must be approved by certain government authorities, including the MOFCOM or its local counterparts. On August 29, 2008, the SAFE promulgated Circular 142, which used to regulate the conversion by a foreign-invested company of foreign currency into Renminbi by restricting how the converted Renminbi may be used. On March 30, 2015, the SAFE issued the Circular on Reforming the Administration Approach Regarding the Foreign Exchange Capital Settlement of Foreign-invested Enterprises (“Circular 19”), which became effective on June 1, 2015 and replaced Circular 142. Circular 19 provides that the conversion from foreign currency registered capital of foreign-invested enterprises into the Renminbi capital may be at foreign-invested enterprises’ discretion, which means that the foreign currency registered capital of foreign-invested enterprises for which the rights and interests of monetary contribution has been confirmed by the local foreign exchange bureau (or the book-entry of monetary contribution has been registered) can be settled at the banks based on the actual operational needs of the enterprises. However, Circular 19 does not materially change the restrictions on the use of foreign currency registered capital of foreign-invested enterprises that Circular 142 has set forth. On June 9, 2016, the SAFE promulgated the Circular on Reforming and Standardizing the Administrative Provisions on Capital Account Foreign Exchange (“Circular 16”), which applies to all domestic enterprises in China. Circular 19 and Circular 16 continue to prohibit foreign-invested enterprises from, among other things, spending Renminbi capital converted from its foreign currency registered capital on expenditures beyond its business scope. Therefore, Circular 19 and Circular 16 may significantly limit the ability of our operating subsidiaries in China to transfer and use Renminbi funds from its foreign currency denominated capital, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The expiration or reduction of tax incentives by the PRC government may have a material adverse effect on our operating results.
The CIT Law imposes a uniform tax rate of 25% on all PRC enterprises, including foreign-invested enterprises, and eliminates or modifies most of the tax exemptions, reductions and preferential treatments available under the previous tax laws and regulations. Under the CIT Law, enterprises that were established before March 16, 2007 and already enjoyed preferential tax treatments have (i) in the case of preferential tax rates, continued to enjoy such tax rates that were gradually increased to the new tax rates within five years from January 1, 2008 or, (ii) in the case of preferential tax exemptions or reductions for a specified term, continued to enjoy the preferential tax holiday until the expiration of such term.
Jiangxi Jinko, Jiangxi Materials, Zhejiang Jinko, Yuhuan Jinko and Haining Jinko were designated by the relevant local authorities as “High and New Technology Enterprises” and Xinjiang Jinko was designated by the relevant local authorities as “Enterprise in the Encouraged Industries” under the CIT Law. Jiangxi Jinko, Jiangxi Materials, Zhejiang Jinko and Xinjiang Jinko were subject to a preferential tax rate of 15% for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Zhejiang Jinko enjoyed the preferential tax rate of 15% in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2018, Zhejiang Jinko successfully renewed this qualification and enjoyed the preferential tax rate of 15% in 2018 and 2019. Zhejiang Jinko will continue to enjoy such rate in 2020. Jiangxi Jinko and Jiangxi Materials enjoyed the preferential tax rate of 15% in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and has successfully renewed this qualification for 2019, 2020 and 2021. Xinjiang Jinko was subject to a preferential tax rate of 15% for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Yuhuan Jinko and Haining Jinko enjoyed the preferential tax rate of 15% in 2019 and will continue to enjoy such rate in 2020 and 2021. However, we cannot assure you that Zhejiang Jinko, Jiangxi Jinko, Jiangxi Materials, Xinjiang Jinko, Yuhuan Jinko or Haining Jinko will continue to qualify as “High and New Technology Enterprises” or “Enterprise in the Encouraged Industries” when subject to reevaluation in the near future. In addition, there are uncertainties on how the CIT Law and its Implementation Rules will be enforced, and whether its future implementation will be consistent with its current interpretation. If the corporate income tax rates of some of our PRC subsidiaries increase, our financial condition and results of operations would be materially adversely affected.
According to the Provisional Regulation of the PRC on Value-Added Tax as amended on November 19, 2017 and its implementing rules, and the Announcement on Relevant Policies for Deepening Value-Added Tax Reform promulgated on March 20, 2019, effective from the date of April 1, 2019, gross proceeds from sales and importation of goods and provision of services are generally subject to a value-added tax (“VAT”) at 13%, instead of 16%, with exceptions for certain categories of goods that are taxed at a rate at 9%, instead of 10%.
The State Council promulgated the Circular of the State Council on Cleaning up and Standardizing Preferential Policies on Tax and Other Aspects (“Circular 62”), on November 27, 2014 in an effort to render the preferential policies on tax, non-tax income, fiscal expenditure, and other aspects of the local government consistent with the PRC central laws and regulations. According to the Circular 62, the local tax authorities shall conduct the special clean-up action, which leads to preferential policies violating PRC central laws and regulations being declared ineffective and repealed and preferential policies not violating PRC central laws and regulations being retained. In addition, the special clean-up action requires that all provincial governments and relevant authorities shall, prior to the end of March 2015, report the outcome of the special clean-up action in respect of preferential policies on tax and other aspects to the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Finance shall then forward the outcome to the State Council for final determination. On May 10, 2015, the State Council issued the Circular on Matters Relating to Preferential Policies for Tax and Other Aspects (“Circular 25”), which suspended the implementation of special clean-up action of Circular 62. Circular 25 provides that in respect of existing local preferential policies with specified time limit, such time limit shall still apply; if there is no specified time limit, the local governments shall have the discretion to set up a transitional period to adjust the policies. Furthermore, it provides that preferential tax policies stipulated in the agreements between local governments and enterprises remain valid and the implemented part of the policies shall not be retrospectively affected. However, it is not clear whether or not and when the special clean-up action will resume. The repeal of any preferential policy on tax and other aspects may materially adversely affect our financial condition and business operations.
We face uncertainty with respect to indirect transfers of equity interests in PRC tax resident enterprises by non-PRC holding companies.
Under the current PRC tax regulations, indirect transfers of equity interests and other properties of PRC tax resident enterprises by non-PRC holding companies may be subject to PRC tax. In accordance with the Announcement of the State Taxation Administration on Several Issues concerning the Enterprise Income Tax on the Indirect Transfers of Properties by Non-Resident Enterprises (“STA Announcement 7”), issued by the STA on February 3, 2015, if a non-PRC tax resident enterprise indirectly transfers equities and other properties of a PRC tax resident enterprise and such indirect transfer will produce a result identical or substantially similar to direct transfer of equity interests and other properties of the PRC tax resident enterprise, the non-PRC tax resident enterprise may be subject to PRC withholding tax at a rate up to 10%. The Announcement of the State Taxation Administration on Matters Concerning Withholding of Income Tax of Non-resident Enterprises at Source (“STA Announcement 37”), which was issued by the STA on October 17, 2017 and became effective on December 1, 2017, renovates the principles and procedures concerning the indirect equity transfer tax withholding for a non-PRC tax resident enterprise. Failure to comply with the tax payment obligations by a non-PRC tax resident will result in penalties, including full payment of tax owed, fines and default interest on those tax.
According to STA Announcement 7, where a non-resident enterprise indirectly transfers equity interests or other properties of PRC tax resident enterprises, (“PRC Taxable Property”) to avoid its tax liabilities by implementing arrangements without reasonable commercial purpose, such indirect transfer shall be re-characterized and recognized as a direct transfer of PRC Taxable Property. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer and attributable to PRC Taxable Property may be subject to PRC withholding tax at a rate of up to 10%. In the case of an indirect transfer of property of establishments of a foreign enterprise in the PRC, the applicable tax rate would be 25%. STA Announcement 7 also illustrates certain circumstances which would indicate a lack of reasonable commercial purpose. STA Announcement 7 further sets forth certain “safe harbors” which would be deemed to have a reasonable commercial purpose. As a general principle, the STA also issued the Administration of General Anti-Tax Avoidance (Trial Implementation) (“GATA”), which became effective on February 1, 2015 and empowers the PRC tax authorities to apply special tax adjustments for “tax avoidance arrangements.”
There is uncertainty as to the application of STA Announcement 7 as well as the newly issued STA Announcement 37 and GATA. For example, it may be difficult to evaluate whether or not the transaction has a reasonable commercial purpose, and such evaluation may be based on ambiguous criteria which have not been formally declared or stated by tax authorities. As a result, any of our disposals or acquisitions of the equity interests of non-PRC entities which indirectly hold PRC Taxable Property or any offshore transaction related to PRC Taxable Property, including potential overseas restructuring, might be deemed an indirect transfer under PRC tax regulations. Therefore, we may be at risk of being taxed under STA Announcement 7 and STA Announcement 37 and we may be required to expend valuable resources to comply with STA Announcement 7 and STA Announcement 37 or to establish that we should not be taxed thereunder, which may materially adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
As a foreign company, our acquisitions of PRC companies may take longer and be subject to higher level of scrutiny by the PRC government, which may delay or prevent any intended acquisition.
Circular 10 established additional procedures and requirements including the requirements that in certain instances foreign investors obtain MOFCOM’s approval when they acquire equity or assets of a PRC domestic enterprise. According to Article 35 of the Foreign Investment Law, a security review system for foreign investment will be established in the country, under which the security review shall be conducted for any foreign investment affecting or having the possibility to affect national security. According to Article 40 of the Foreign Investment Law, where any country or region takes any discriminatory prohibitive or restrictive measures, or other similar measures against the People’s Republic of China in terms of investment, the People’s Republic of China may take corresponding measures against the said country or region in light of the actual conditions. In the future, we may want to grow our business in part by acquiring complementary businesses, although we do not have plans to do so at this time. Complying with Circular 10 the Foreign Investment Law and other relevant regulations to complete these transactions could be time-consuming and costly, and could result in an extensive review by the PRC government and its increased control over the terms of the transaction, and any required approval processes may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
Our failure to make payments of statutory social welfare and housing funds to our employees could adversely and materially affect our financial condition and results of operations.
According to the relevant PRC laws and regulations, we are required to pay certain statutory social security benefits, including medical care, injury insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance and pension benefits, and housing funds, for our employees. Our failure to comply with these requirements may subject us to monetary penalties imposed by the relevant PRC authorities and proceedings initiated by our employees, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In line with local customary practices, we have made contributions to the social insurance funds which met the requirement of the local minimum wage standard, instead of the employees’ actual salaries as required, and have not made full contribution to the housing funds. We estimate the aggregate amount of unpaid social security benefits and housing funds to be RMB595.3 million (US$85.5 million) as of December 31, 2019. We may be required by the relevant PRC authorities to pay these statutory social security benefits and housing funds within a designated time period. In addition, an employee is entitled to seek compensation by resorting to labor arbitration at the labor arbitration center or filing a labor complaint with the labor administration bureau within a designated time period. We have made provisions for such unpaid social security benefits and housing funds of our former and current PRC subsidiaries. All employee participants in our share incentive plans who are domestic individual participants may be required to register with SAFE. We may also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional option plans for our directors and employees under PRC law.
All employees participating in our share incentive plans who are domestic individual participants may be required to register with SAFE. We may also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional option plans for our directors and employees under PRC law.
On February 15, 2012, SAFE released the Stock Option Notice, which superseded the Application Procedures of Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in an Employee Stock Holding Plan or Stock Option Plan of an Overseas-Listed Company, issued by SAFE in 2007. According to the Stock Option Notice, PRC individual participants include directors, supervisors, senior management personnel and other employees who are PRC citizens (which includes citizens of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) or foreign individuals who reside in the PRC for 12 months consecutively. Under the Stock Option Notice, PRC and foreign citizens who receive equity grants from an overseas listed company are required, through a PRC agent or PRC subsidiary of such listed company, to register with SAFE and complete certain other bank and reporting procedures. In addition, according to the Stock Option Notice, domestic individual participants must complete the registration with SAFE or its local branch within three days rather than 10 days from the beginning of each quarter.
Failure to comply with such provisions may subject us and the participants of our share incentive plans who are domestic individual participants to fines and legal sanctions and prevent us from further granting options under our share incentive plans to our employees, and we may become subject to more stringent review and approval processes with respect to our foreign-exchange activities, such as in regards to our PRC subsidiaries’ dividend payment to us or in regards to borrowing foreign currency, which could adversely affect our business operations.
It may be difficult to effect service of process on, or to enforce any judgments obtained outside the PRC against, us, our directors, or our senior management members who live inside the PRC.
Substantially all of our existing directors and senior management members reside in the PRC and a substantial part of our assets and the assets of such persons are located in the PRC. Accordingly, it may be difficult for investors to effect service of process on any of these persons or to enforce judgments obtained outside of the PRC against us or any of these persons. The PRC does not have treaties providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments awarded by courts in many developed countries, including the Cayman Islands, the United States and the United Kingdom. Therefore, the recognition and enforcement in the PRC of judgments of a court in any of these jurisdictions in relation to any matter not subject to a binding arbitration provision may be difficult or even impossible.
Higher labor costs and inflation in China may adversely affect our business and our profitability.
Labor costs in China have risen in recent years as a result of the enactment of new labor laws and social development. In addition, inflation in China has increased. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, consumer price inflation in China was 1.6%, 2.1% and 2.9% in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Because we purchase raw materials from suppliers in China, higher labor cost and inflation in China increases the costs of labor and raw materials we must purchase for manufacturing. It is possible that China’s inflation rates may rise further in 2017. As we expect our production staff to increase and our manufacturing operations to become more labor intensive when we commence silicon wafer and solar module production, rising labor costs may increase our operating costs and therefore negatively impact our profitability.
Because we source contractors and purchase raw materials in China, higher labor cost and inflation in China increases the costs of labor and raw materials we procure for production. In addition, our suppliers may also be affected by higher labor costs and inflation. Rising labor costs may increase our operating costs and partially erode the cost advantage of our China-based operations and therefore negatively impact our profitability.
Risks Related to Our ADSs
The market price for our ADSs has been volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.
The market price for our ADSs has been and may continue to be highly volatile and subject to wide fluctuations, which could result in substantial losses to investors. The closing prices of our ADSs ranged from US$10.10 to US$24.71 per ADS in 2019. The price of our ADSs may continue to fluctuate in response to factors including the following:
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