Future sales or issuances, or perceived future sales or issuances, of substantial amounts of our ordinary shares or ADSs could adversely affect the price of our ADSs.
If our existing shareholders sell, or are perceived as intending to sell, substantial amounts of our ordinary shares or ADSs, including those issued upon the exercise of our outstanding stock options, the market price of our ADSs could fall. Such sales, or perceived potential sales, by our existing shareholders might make it more difficult for us to issue new equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and place we deem appropriate. Shares held by our existing shareholders may be sold in the public market in the future subject to the restrictions contained in Rule 144 and Rule 701 under the Securities Act and the applicable
agreements. If any existing shareholder or shareholders sell a substantial amount of ordinary shares after the expiration of the
period, the prevailing market price for our ADSs could be adversely affected.
In addition, certain of our shareholders or their transferees and assignees will have the right to cause us to register the sale of their shares under the Securities Act upon the occurrence of certain circumstances. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.
As our founder and
collectively hold a controlling interest in us, they 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 March 31, 2020, our founder, Mr. Qi Ji, who is also our executive chairman, our chief executive officer and our
Ms. Tong Tong Zhao and Mr. John Jiong Wu, in total beneficially own approximately 36.2% of our outstanding ordinary shares on an
basis. See “Item 7. Major Shareholders.” The interests of these shareholders may conflict with the interests of our other shareholders. Our founder and
have significant influence over us, including on matters relating to mergers, consolidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of us, which could deprive our shareholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of us or of our assets and might reduce the price of our ADSs. These actions may be taken even if they are opposed by our other shareholders, including holders of our ADSs.
ADS holders may not have the same voting rights as the holders of our ordinary shares and generally have fewer rights than our ordinary shareholders, and must act through the depositary to exercise those rights.
Holders of ADSs do not have the same rights as our ordinary shareholders and may only exercise voting and other shareholder rights with respect to the underlying ordinary shares in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Except as described in the deposit agreement, holders of our ADSs may not be able to exercise voting rights attaching to the shares evidenced by our ADSs on an individual basis. Holders of our ADSs appoint the depositary or its nominee as their representative to exercise the voting rights attaching to the shares represented by the ADSs. ADS holders may not receive voting materials in time to instruct the depositary to vote, and it is possible that they may not have the opportunity to exercise a right to vote and/or may lack recourse if the ADSs are not voted as you requested.
ADS holders may not be able to participate in rights offerings and may experience dilution of his, her or its holdings as a result.
We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. Under the deposit agreement for the ADSs, the depositary will not offer those rights to ADS holders unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the Securities Act, or exempt from registration under the Securities Act with respect to all holders of ADSs. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or underlying securities or to endeavor to cause such a registration statement to be declared effective. In addition, we may not be able to take advantage of any exemptions from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, holders of our ADSs may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in their holdings as a result.
ADS holders may be subject to limitations on transfer of their ADSs.
Our ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its transfer books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. In addition, the depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of ADSs generally when our books or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary deem it advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to, and we will, rely on exemptions from certain NASDAQ corporate governance standards applicable to U.S. issuers, including the requirement regarding the implementation of a nominations committee. This may afford less protection to holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
The NASDAQ Marketplace Rules in general require listed companies to have, among other things, a nominations committee consisting solely of independent directors. As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to, and we will, follow home country corporate governance practices instead of certain requirements of the NASDAQ Marketplace Rules, including, among others, the implementation of a nominations committee. The corporate governance practice in our home country, the Cayman Islands, does not require the implementation of a nominations committee. We currently intend to rely upon the relevant home country exemption in lieu of the nominations committee. As a result, the level of independent oversight over management of our company may afford less protection to holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
Our articles of association contain anti-takeover provisions that could have a material adverse effect on the rights of holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
Our amended and restated articles of association contain provisions that have potential to limit the ability of others to acquire control of our company or cause us to enter into
transactions. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of opportunities to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transaction.
For example, our board of directors has the authority, without further action by our shareholders, to issue preferred shares in one or more classes or series and to fix their designations, powers, preferences, and relative participating, optional or other rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions, including, without limitation, dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption privileges and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our ordinary shares, in the form of ADSs or otherwise. In the event these preferred shares have better voting rights than our ordinary shares, in the form of ADSs or otherwise, they could be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control of our company or make removal of management more difficult. If our board of directors decides to issue preferred shares, the price of our ADSs may decline and the voting and other rights of the holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.
The provisions of our articles of association may encourage potential acquirers to negotiate with us and allow our board of directors the opportunity to consider alternative proposals in the interest of maximizing shareholder value. However, these provisions may also discourage acquisition proposals or delay or prevent a change in control that could be beneficial to holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through the U.S. federal courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law, conduct substantially all of our operations in China and the majority of our officers reside outside the United States
We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands, and conduct substantially portion of our business and operations in China through our subsidiaries in China. Most of our officers reside outside the United States and some or all of the assets of those persons are located outside of the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the Cayman Islands or in China in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind outside the Cayman Islands or China, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to effect service of process upon, or to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. There is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will generally recognize and enforce a judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction for a liquidated sum, other than a sum payable in respect of taxes, fines, penalties or similar fiscal or revenue obligations, and which was neither obtained in a manner nor is of a kind enforcement of which is contrary to natural justice or the public policy of the Cayman Islands and which is not inconsistent with a Cayman Islands judgment in respect of the same matters and which is not impeachable on grounds of fraud, without retrial on the merits under the common law by an action commenced on the judgment in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands. A judgment of a court of another jurisdiction may be reciprocally recognized or enforced if the jurisdiction has a treaty with China or if judgments of the PRC courts have been recognized before in that jurisdiction, subject to the satisfaction of other requirements. However, China does not have treaties providing for the reciprocal enforcement of judgments of courts with Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and most other Western countries.
Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association and by the Companies Law (2020 Revision) and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take legal action against our directors and us, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from English common law, which has persuasive, but not binding, authority on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedents in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws as compared to the United States, and provides significantly less protection to investors. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action before the federal courts of the United States.
As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests through actions against our management, directors or major shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States.
We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequences for U.S. Holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares.
Based on our financial statements and relevant market and shareholder data, we believe that we should not be treated as a passive foreign investment company (a “PFIC”) for U.S. federal income tax purposes with respect to the 2018 and 2019 taxable years. In addition, based on our audited financial statements and our current expectations regarding the value and nature of our assets, the sources and nature of our income, and relevant market and shareholder data, we do not anticipate becoming a PFIC for our 2020 taxable year. The application of the PFIC rules is subject to ambiguity in several respects and, in addition, we must make annual separate determinations each year as to whether we are a PFIC (after the close of each taxable year). The determination of whether we are or will become a PFIC will depend in part upon the value of our goodwill and other intangible assets (which will depend upon the market price of our ADSs from time to time, which may be volatile). Among other matters, if our market capitalization declines, we may be or become a PFIC for the current or future taxable years. It is also possible that the Internal Revenue Service may challenge our classification or valuation of our goodwill and other intangible assets, which may result in our company being or becoming a PFIC for the current or one or more future taxable years. Accordingly, we cannot assure you of our PFIC status for our current taxable year ending December 31, 2020 or for any future taxable year. If we were treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder held an ADS or an ordinary share, certain adverse United States federal income tax consequences could apply to the U.S. Holder (as defined herein). For a more detailed discussion of United States federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders, see “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—U.S. Federal Income Taxation—Passive Foreign Investment Company.”
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
4.A. History and Development of the Company
Powerhill was incorporated in accordance with the laws of the British Virgin Islands in December 2003, and commenced operation with midscale limited service hotels and commercial property development and management in 2005. Limited service hotels do not contain restaurants and all amenities are provided by the staff at the front desk or housekeeping. Powerhill conducted its operations through three wholly-owned subsidiaries in the PRC, namely Shanghai HanTing Hotel Management Group, Ltd., or Shanghai HanTing, HanTing Xingkong (Shanghai) Hotel Management Co., Ltd., or HanTing Xingkong, and Lishan Property (Suzhou) Co., Ltd., or Suzhou Property. In August 2006, Suzhou Property transferred its equity interests in three leased hotels to Shanghai HanTing in exchange for Shanghai HanTing’s equity interest in Shanghai Shuyu Co., Ltd., which was primarily engaged in the business of
and managing real estate properties in technology parks.
Our company was incorporated in the Cayman Islands in January 2007 under the name of China Lodging Group, Limited, or China Lodging. In February 2007, Powerhill transferred all of its ownership interests in HanTing Xingkong and Shanghai HanTing to China Lodging in exchange for preferred shares of China Lodging. After such exchange, each of HanTing Xingkong and Shanghai HanTing became a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Lodging. In addition, in February 2007, Powerhill and its subsidiary, Suzhou Property, were spun off in the form of a dividend distribution to the shareholders.
In 2007, China Lodging began our current business of operating and managing a multi-brand hotel group. In 2007, we first launched our economy hotel product,
, which was subsequently rebranded as
, targeting knowledge workers and value- and quality-conscious travelers. In the same year, we introduced our midscale limited service hotel product,
, which was subsequently rebranded first as
and then as
. In 2008, we launched our budget hotel product,
which was subsequently rebranded as
. In April 2007, China Lodging acquired Yiju (Shanghai) Hotel Management Co., Ltd. from Crystal Water Investment Holdings Limited, a British Virgin Islands company wholly owned by Mr. John Jiong Wu, a
of our company. In January 2008, China Lodging incorporated HanTing (Tianjin) Investment Consulting Co., Ltd. in China and in October 2008, established China Lodging Holdings (HK) Limited, or China Lodging HK, in Hong Kong, under which HanTing Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. was subsequently established in China in December 2008.
In March 2010, we completed our initial public offering. We issued and sold 10,350,000 ADSs, representing 41,400,000 of our ordinary shares at a public offering price of US$12.25 per ADS. Our ADSs have been listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market since March 26, 2010. Our ordinary shares are not listed or publicly traded on any trading markets.
In May 2012, we acquired a 51% equity interest in Starway HK, a midscale hotel chain and increased our hotel brands to four brands. In December 2013, we acquired the remaining 49% equity interest of Starway HK from
In addition, we launched
in October 2013, which was subsequently rebranded as
Manxin Hotel, Joya Hotel,
a new hotel brand targeting the upscale market, in December 2013, and
a new economy hotel brand,
in September 2014.
In November 2012, we changed the Chinese trade name of our company from “HanTing Hotel Group” to “HuaZhu Hotel Group”.
In late 2014, we established Chengjia Hotel Management Co., Ltd. (“Chengjia”) in Shanghai, which started operation in the second quarter of 2015. Since then, it has maintained a professional apartment service management team and provided apartment rental service that covers leases for a term from one month up to twelve months. In 2016, we sold Chengjia to Cjia, our equity investee. After the completion of restructuring of Cjia in 2018, all equity interests we held in Cjia were converted into the equity interests of China Cjia Group Limited (“Cjia Group)”. In 2019, Cjia Group repurchased certain number of its shares from us. As of December 31, 2019, we held approximately 15% equity interest in Cjia Group.
In December 2014, we entered into agreements with Accor to join forces in the
region to develop Accor brand hotels and to form an extensive and long-term alliance with Accor. The transactions with Accor were completed in the first quarter of 2016. Pursuant to the amended and restated master purchase agreement with Accor, we acquired from Accor (i) all of the issued and outstanding shares of certain wholly-owned subsidiaries of Accor engaged in the business of owning, leasing, franchising, operating and managing hotels under Accor brands in the midscale and economy market in the PRC, Taiwan and Mongolia, and (ii) approximately 28% of the issued and outstanding shares of AAPC LUB, a Hong Kong subsidiary of Accor that engages in the business of owning, leasing, franchising, operating and managing hotels under Accor brands (x) in the luxury and upscale market in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the PRC and Mongolia, and (y) in the midscale and economy market in Hong Kong and Macau and, pursuant to certain arrangements for specified brands, the PRC, Mongolia and Taiwan. Pursuant to the amended and restated securities purchase agreement, we issued 24,895,543 ordinary shares to Accor, which represented 9.0% of our ordinary shares outstanding after issuance, and granted to Accor a right to nominate one director to our board of
directors. In December 2019, Accor sold 14,332,376 of our ordinary shares to Gaoling Fund, L.P.
In connection with the amended and restated master purchase agreement and the amended and restated securities purchase agreement, we and Accor also entered into a number of additional agreements, including, among others: (i) a master brand agreement and brand franchise agreements, pursuant to which Accor granted to us exclusive franchise rights in respect of “
” and “
” in the PRC, Taiwan and Mongolia, and
franchise rights in respect of “
” and “
” in the PRC, Taiwan and Mongolia (AAPC LUB being the only other entity with
franchise rights in respect of “
” and “
” in the same territories); all hotels under these brands will continue to be managed under Accor’s brand standards and have all benefits of Accor’s international distribution and loyalty platforms, and will also participate in our loyalty and distribution platforms and benefit from our
support; (ii) a shareholders’ agreement in relation to the governance of AAPC LUB and our rights and obligations as shareholder of the company; (iii) a registration rights agreement in favor of Accor in respect of our ordinary shares that it acquired under the amended and restated securities purchase agreement; (iv) an amended and restated
agreement that sets out certain business restrictions on us and Accor, and imposes certain lockup and standstill restrictions on Accor with respect to our equity securities; and (v) a deed of voting and ROFR (“the Deed of Voting and ROFR”), pursuant to which, among other things, (x) Accor has a right of first refusal in respect of transfers of our securities by Qi Ji or his affiliates, and (y) we and Qi Ji agreed to procure the appointment of a nominee of Accor to our board of directors, subject to certain conditions; and our articles of association were also amended and restated effective as of January 25, 2016 to give effect to Accor’s rights as described in the foregoing. .
In May 2017, we completed the acquisition of all of the equity interests in Crystal Orange, which holds hotels under the brands
In November 2017, we issued US$475 million of Notes. The Notes will mature on November 1, 2022 and bear interest at a rate of 0.375% per annum, payable in arrears semi-annually on May 1 and November 1, beginning May 1, 2018. The Notes can be converted into our ADSs at an initial conversion rate of 5.4869, before the ADS split, subject to change, of our ADSs per US$1,000 principal amount of the Notes (equivalent to an initial conversion price of US$182.25 per ADS).
On May 25, 2018, we effected a
ADS split, pursuant to which each of our ADS represents one ordinary share.
On June 1, 2018, we changed our name to Huazhu Group Limited, or Huazhu.
In August 2018, we completed the acquisition in steps of 83% equity interest of Blossom Hill, which was engaged in the business of operating and managing hotels under
Blossom Hill Hotels & Resorts
brand in the upscale market in the PRC. As of December 31, 2019, we owned an aggregate of 99% equity interest in Blossom Hill after acquiring part of the remaining equity interest from the noncontrolling interest holders.
In January 2020, we completed the acquisition of all equity interest of Deutsche Hospitality, which was engaged in the business of operating and managing hotels under five brands, namely
Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts
, in Europe, the Middle East, Thailand and Africa.
Our principal executive offices are located at No. 2266 Hongqiao Road, Changning District, Shanghai 200336, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 (21) 6195-2011. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the offices of Cricket Square, Hutchins Drive, P.O. Box 2681, Grand Cayman,
Cayman Islands. Our agent for service of process in the United States is CT Corporation System, located at 28 Liberty Street, New York, New York 10005.
Investors should contact us for any inquiries through the address and telephone number of our principal executive offices. Our website is http://www.huazhu.com. The information contained on our website is not a part of this annual report.
SEC maintains an internet site (
), which contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding us that file electronically with the SEC.