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As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 19, 2010

Registration No. 333-168096

 

 

 

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

AMENDMENT NO. 1 TO

FORM F-1

REGISTRATION STATEMENT

Under

The Securities Act of 1933

 

 

AMBOW EDUCATION HOLDING LTD.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

 

Cayman Islands   8200   Not Applicable

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(Primary Standard Industrial

Classification Code Number)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification Number)

 

 

18th Floor, Building A, Chengjian Plaza, No.18,

BeiTaiPingZhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing

100088

People’s Republic of China

Telephone: +86 (10) 6206-8000

(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of Registrant’s principal executive offices)

 

 

C T Corporation System

111 Eighth Avenue

New York, New York 10011

(212) 894-8940

(Name, address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of agent for service)

 

 

Copies to:

 

Carmen Chang, Esq.

Richard A. Kline, Esq.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Professional Corporation

650 Page Mill Road

Palo Alto, California 94304

(650) 493-9300

 

Michelle W. Edwards, Esq.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Professional Corporation

38 th Floor, Jin Mao Tower

88 Century Boulevard

Pudong, Shanghai 200121

People’s Republic of China

+86 (21) 6165-1700

 

Chris K.H. Lin, Esq.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

35 th Floor, ICBC Tower

Three Garden Road

Central, Hong Kong

+852 2514-7600

 

 

Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public:     As soon as practicable after the effective date of this Registration Statement.

If any of the securities being registered on this Form are to be offered on a delayed or continuous basis pursuant to Rule 415 under the Securities Act of 1933, check the following box.   ¨

If this Form is filed to register additional securities for an offering pursuant to Rule 462(b) under the Securities Act, please check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.   ¨

If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(c) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.   ¨

If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(d) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.   ¨

 

 

CALCULATION OF REGISTRATION FEE

 

 

 

Title of each class of

securities to be registered

   Proposed maximum aggregate
offering price(1)(2)
   Amount of
registration fee(3)

Class A Ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share(4)

   US$138,000,000    US$9,840

 

 

 

(1)   Includes (a) shares that may be purchased by the underwriters pursuant to an over-allotment option, and (b) ordinary shares initially offered and sold outside the United States that may be resold from time to time in the United States either as part of their distribution or within 40 days after the later of the effective date of this Registration Statement and the date the shares are first bona fide offered to the public. The shares are not being registered for the purpose of sales outside the United States.
(2)   Estimated solely for the purpose of calculating the registration fee in accordance with Rule 457(o) under the Securities Act of 1933.
(3)   The registration fee was paid by the Registrant on July 14, 2010.
(4)   American depositary shares issuable upon deposit of the ordinary shares registered hereby will be registered under a separate registration statement on Form F-6 (Registration No. 333-            ). Each American depositary share represents              ordinary shares.

 

 

The Registrant hereby amends this Registration Statement on such date or dates as may be necessary to delay its effective date until the Registrant shall file a further amendment which specifically states that this Registration Statement shall thereafter become effective in accordance with Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or until the Registration Statement shall become effective on such date as the Securities and Exchange Commission acting pursuant to said Section 8(a) may determine.

 

 

 


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The information in this preliminary prospectus is not complete and may be changed. Neither we nor the selling shareholders may sell these securities until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is effective. This preliminary prospectus is not an offer to sell these securities and it is not soliciting an offer to buy these securities in any jurisdiction where the offer or sale is not permitted.

 

Subject to completion, dated             .

Prospectus

         American Depositary Shares

representing                      Class A Ordinary Shares

LOGO

Ambow Education Holding Ltd.

This is an initial public offering of American depositary shares, or ADSs, representing Class A ordinary shares of Ambow Education Holding Ltd., or Ambow. Ambow is offering                      ADSs, and the selling shareholders identified in this prospectus are offering an additional                      ADSs. We will not receive any proceeds from the sale of ADSs by the selling shareholders. Each ADS represents                      Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share. The estimated initial public offering price will be between US$             and US$             per ADS.

Following this offering, our outstanding share capital will consist of Class A and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares have the same rights except for voting and conversion rights. Each Class A ordinary share is entitled to one vote, and each Class B ordinary share is entitled to ten votes and is convertible at any time into one Class A ordinary share. Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances.

Prior to this offering, there has been no public market for our ADSs or ordinary shares. We have been approved for listing our ADSs on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “AMBO”.

 

       Per ADS    Total

Initial public offering price

   US$                 US$             

Underwriting discounts and commissions

   US$      US$  

Proceeds to Ambow, before expenses

   US$      US$  

Proceeds to the selling shareholders, before expenses

   US$      US$  
 

Ambow has granted the underwriters an option for a period of 30 days to purchase up to              additional ADSs.

Investing in our ADSs involves a high degree of risk. See “ Risk factors ” beginning on page 16.

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or passed on the adequacy or accuracy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

 

J.P. Morgan    Goldman Sachs (Asia) L.L.C.
Macquarie Capital    Signal Hill

                    , 2010


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LOGO

 


Table of Contents

Table of contents

 

     Page

Prospectus summary

   1

Risk factors

   16

Forward-looking statements

   56

Use of proceeds

   58

Dividends and dividend policy

   60

Capitalization

   61

Dilution

   64

Exchange rate information

   66

Selected consolidated financial data

   67

Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations

   70

Recent developments

   118

Our industry

   120

Business

   125

Our corporate structure

   145

Regulation

   157

Management

   171

Principal and selling shareholders

   184

Related party transactions

   187

Description of share capital

   191

Description of American depositary shares

   203

Shares eligible for future sale

   213

Taxation

   216

Enforceability of civil liabilities

   223

Underwriting

   225

Expenses relating to this offering

   232

Legal matters

   232

Experts

   232

Industry and market data

   233

Where you can find more information

   233

Index to consolidated financial statements

   F-1

 

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Prospectus summary

This summary highlights selected information contained elsewhere in this prospectus. This summary does not contain all the information you should consider before investing in our ADSs. You should read the entire prospectus carefully, including “Risk factors,” and our consolidated financial statements and notes to those consolidated financial statements, on page F-1, before making an investment decision.

Our business

We are a leading national provider of educational and career enhancement services in China. Our business addresses two critical demands in China’s education market, the desire for students to be admitted into top secondary and post-secondary schools, and the desire for graduates of those schools to obtain more attractive jobs. We offer consistently high-quality, individualized services and products through our combined online and offline delivery model powered by our proprietary technologies and robust infrastructure. Our regional service hubs, comprised of our five K-12 schools, 96 tutoring centers, two colleges and 16 career enhancement centers as of March 31, 2010, combined with our distributors, enable us to provide our services and products to students in 30 out of the 31 provinces and autonomous regions within China, which we believe will serve as a solid foundation for our future growth.

We are capitalizing on four significant trends in the educational and career enhancement services market in China:

 

 

Rapid growth in disposable household income combined with a continuing focus and increasing spending by families on their children’s educational services;

 

 

Intense competition in the education sector and job market in China;

 

 

Rapid economic growth and increasing hiring needs of existing and new companies doing business in China, which poses significant challenges for employers trying to match their hiring needs with the skill sets of graduating students looking for career opportunities; and

 

 

The increased availability and utilization of learning technologies to supplement the traditional education delivery model.

Our educational services cover grades K-12, focusing on both K-12 programs and tutoring services, including test preparation. We provide results-oriented services and products customized to regional curriculum requirements and individual student needs to help students enhance academic results, including those on ZhongKao and GaoKao admission tests, the results of which are of primary importance in determining which students will be admitted into top high school and university programs. We refer to these K-12 programs and tutoring services with standards-based curriculum that enable students to improve their academic results and educational opportunities as “ Better Schools .” Our Better Schools programs are mainly offered through our educational regional service hubs.

Our career enhancement services target students at universities, colleges and community colleges and recent graduates of these institutions. We provide these students and recent graduates with “hands-on training” for professional skills and soft skills like leadership and teamwork. In addition, we partner with leading international vocational training content providers,

 

 

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corporations and universities to provide practical project-based training to enhance students’ overall competitiveness and ability to obtain better employment opportunities after graduation. We refer to these career enhancement services programs that facilitate post-secondary students obtaining more attractive employment as well as our college programs as “ Better Jobs .” Our Better Jobs programs are mainly offered through our career enhancement regional service hubs, which are strategically located in key economic centers across China where there is a high concentration of companies in high-growth industries.

When we refer to educational regional service hubs or career enhancement regional service hubs we mean a management concept located in an area where we have deployed our regional management, core infrastructure and educational resources to manage and support our schools and learning centers in the surrounding region.

From our inception in 2000 through 2003, we focused on building our technology foundation by designing our proprietary software and technology solutions to provide educational and career enhancement services. We believe our technology foundation is fundamentally important for us to provide our services with consistent high quality across geographies in the long-run. From 2004 to 2007, we focused on building our nationwide services platform by deploying our services and products through sales agents, which enabled us to reach a large target customer base, build our Ambow brand and increase awareness of our products and services in a capital efficient way. As a result of the successful implementation of the aforementioned strategy, the registered users of our software products or services grew throughout this period: from approximately 400 in 2004 to approximately 170,000 in 2007. By the end of 2007, our registered users had reached a critical mass, we had proven that our services and products built upon our proprietary technology were effective and well received by students and our brand and services became well known in the industry and among our target customers. At the beginning of 2008, we considered it to be the opportune time to establish physical regional service hubs to capture further business opportunities and provide our services and products through both offline classroom teaching and online delivery platform to our target customers in our directly-operated schools and learning centers. We have established these physical regional service hubs primarily by acquiring top-tier K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, which we believe enhances the Ambow brand as a premium educational and career enhancement service provider.

We deliver our wide range of educational and career enhancement services and products through our national, multi-channel delivery network, supported by our technology platform and protected by a combination of laws and regulations that protect trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, as well as confidentiality agreements and know-how, that has enabled us to develop standards-based, individualized curricula across our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. Since the beginning of 2008, we have made 23 separate acquisitions across our business segments through business combinations, and acquired the long-term operating right of one school, as part of our strategy to expand into new markets through the establishment of regional service hubs and to further drive our revenue growth by deploying our core competencies, including our technology infrastructure and expertises in management and the deployment of our services and products. We also sell our software products to our distributors who in turn sell these products to schools or their students. For these sales to distributors, we have no further obligation to the schools or their students in terms of the delivery of services.

 

 

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We have established alliances with tutoring centers and career enhancement training providers in attractive markets we have identified that we would like to enter in the near future. We provide a total solution package to these A+ Alliance partners, including teacher training, our IT infrastructure and our intelligent system, which combines our learning engine and robust content. The “A+” Alliances typically have a term of three years. We monitor the operational, management and financial performances of the alliance members and, if they meet our criteria, we may explore with certain of our A+ alliance members the option to convert them to our own schools and learning centers through business combinations upon terms to be agreed.

Through our directly-operated schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers and our distributors, we have significantly grown our net revenue, net income and student enrollments. Our net revenues increased from RMB318.9 million in 2007 to RMB508.4 million in 2008 to RMB902.0 million (US$132.1 million) in 2009 and from RMB176.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB260.3 million (US$38.1 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. We recorded net income of RMB34.2 million, RMB67.4 million, RMB138.0 million (US$20.2 million) and RMB3.0 million (US$0.4 million) in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and the three months ended March 31, 2010 respectively. Since the beginning of 2008, we have had in aggregate more than 950,000 student enrollments in our tutoring and career enhancement centers. Since the beginning of 2007, we have had in aggregate more than 500,000 registered users of our software products or services through our online services or as a result of our software sales through distributors and, under our old sales model, sales to students at our partner schools. As of March 31, 2010, we had more than 30,000 students enrolled in our K-12 schools and colleges. In 2008 and 2009, our K-12 schools had student enrollments that were above 85% of the aggregate capacity of the schools. Total capacity at our K-12 schools in 2008 and 2009 was 20,420 and 22,900 students, respectively. The students at our K-12 schools take standard course loads and their tuition is tied to the school semester or school year and not directly to their course loads within those periods. In 2008 and 2009, our two colleges, Applied Technology College and Beijing Century College, had government-imposed annual enrollment quota limits of an aggregate of 3,499 and 3,409 students, respectively. The total new student enrollments at Applied Technology College and Beijing Century College in 2008 and 2009 were an aggregate of 3,499 and 3,350, respectively. When we refer to student enrollments in this prospectus, we mean the total number of students enrolled in our K-12 schools and colleges and the total number of classes, tutoring sessions or training programs purchased by students in our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers as of the end of a particular academic period. For example, if one student enrolls in two separate tutoring classes or training programs, we count that as two student enrollments.

Our industry

China’s educational and career enhancement services market is comprised of several segments, including government-run public schools, private schools, tutoring programs, universities and colleges and career enhancement services, which are large and growing. China’s educational and career enhancement services market is fragmented today with no clear leader and a large number of smaller, niche players performing services and offering programs within one or a few of the segments.

Each of the segments within China’s educational and career enhancement services market has distinct characteristics. K-12 school education is predominantly offered by public and, to a lesser

 

 

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extent, private schools. These schools provide educational services and programs to their students with regionalized curriculum. Tutoring programs are increasingly run by private organizations focused on helping students achieve better grades in their schools and prepare for standardized tests for entrance into both high schools and universities. Career enhancement services are aimed at university, community college and vocational students and focus on preparing individuals to start their careers or enhance their career opportunities.

Common features of the disparate but related sectors within China’s educational and career enhancement services market include significant growth opportunities, demand driven by demographic trends and stiff competition for academic advancement, and a fragmented competitive landscape. These sectors are growing both in terms of absolute size and in terms of importance due to the following factors within China:

 

 

Rapid economic growth .    According to the International Monetary Fund, China was the 3rd largest economy in the world in 2008 in terms of gross domestic product, or GDP, which amounted to over $4.3 trillion in 2008 and is expected to grow to over $8.2 trillion by 2014. According to the International Monetary Fund, China’s Nominal GDP per capita has increased at a CAGR of 14.2% from approximately RMB7,828 in 2000 to approximately RMB22,647 in 2008, and is expected to continue to grow at a CAGR of 10.3% from 2008 to 2014.

 

 

Growth in disposable household income .    As a result of China’s rapid economic growth, Chinese consumers have greater amounts of disposable income and have significantly increased their spending.

 

 

Favorable demographic and urbanization trends .    According to the China Statistical Yearbook, in 2008 approximately 33.4% of China’s total population were between the ages of 5 and 29, an age group that ranges from school-age children to young and working adults who we believe are most likely to pursue educational opportunities and continuing career enhancement training and certification. According to statistics published by the Chinese Ministry of Education, or the MOE, in 2008 there were approximately 103 million students from 6 to 12 years old attending elementary schools, 56 million students from 13 to 15 years old attending junior high schools, 25 million students from 15 to 18 years old attending senior high schools and 41 million students from 15 to 22 years old attending universities and vocational high schools. Children from 6 to 15 years old are required to attend elementary and junior high school on weekdays under China’s nine-year compulsory education system. In addition, the trend towards increasing urbanization in China is expected to result in more people seeking job and career advancement opportunities in urban areas. Further, urban citizens are increasingly recognizing that higher education may lead to greater rewards in terms of income and career opportunities.

 

 

Increasing awareness of importance of higher and professional education .    We believe people in China are increasingly willing to invest in higher and professional education as it may lead to better career opportunities and enhanced earning power. We also believe that the market for post-secondary education and career enhancement services in China is expected to grow due to demand from various sources, including demand from employers for well-trained professionals, demand from an increasing number of high school and university graduates seeking employment that requires practical skills and professional certifications, and demand from working professionals who wish to further achieve their career and salary advancement potential.

 

 

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Need to differentiate oneself from peers .    Each step of academic advancement in China from compulsory education to high school to college to the job market requires an individual to differentiate oneself. According to the MOE, university admission rates were 61.8% for Gaokao participants in 2009. Despite China’s rapid economic growth, university students in China are experiencing difficulties in finding a job upon graduation. According to an article from the Chinese Education Newspaper published on July 9, 2009, as of July 1, 2009, the unemployment rate for university students graduated in 2009 was approximately 32%, almost the same rate as 2008; however, the number of students who graduated in 2009 increased by 9.1%. Approximately 1.9 million students in 2009 had difficulties in finding a job upon graduation. We believe that in this highly competitive job market many students may choose to enhance their core skill sets by taking additional training courses and other students may choose to develop additional skill sets to differentiate themselves from their peers in order to get a better job. A higher than normal unemployment rate, however, may affect consumers’ discretionary spending on our services and products, particularly on our career enhancement services.

The key industry dynamics in the education and career enhancement market set out above create the following opportunities:

 

 

Sustainable premium fees for high-quality providers—we believe, based on our experience in the educational and career enhancement services market, that increased demand for high-quality providers will allow those providers to charge higher fees for their premium services over time;

 

 

Significant benefits to those who can standardize their business practices—we believe, by standardizing our business practices across our schools and learning centers, we will be able to improve operational and teaching efficiencies;

 

 

The ability to provide services throughout a student’s learning cycle; and

 

 

The ability to expand quickly and efficiently through either organic or acquisition growth.

There are two fundamental market demands that need to be addressed in China’s educational and career enhancement services market: the demand for high-quality educational services for K-12 students and the demand for career enhancement services for post-secondary students.

Our strengths, strategies and challenges

We believe that the following competitive strengths significantly contribute to our success and differentiate us from our competitors:

 

 

Individualized services delivered throughout a student’s learning cycle;

 

 

Consistent, high-quality educational and career enhancement services delivered across geographies;

 

 

Robust infrastructure based on our technology platform that has proved to be effective in supporting the expansion of our business operations;

 

 

Nationwide, multi-channel delivery network;

 

 

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Disciplined M&A approach with proven track record; and

 

 

Strong management team with global experience and local education expertise.

Our goal is to become the national leader in providing educational and career enhancement services in China. We intend to do this by continuing to address the two most critical issues in a student’s learning cycle, attending a better school and obtaining a better job, by pursuing the following strategies:

 

 

Continue to build our brand and reputation;

 

 

Continue to expand into new markets;

 

 

Continue to strengthen our leadership in current markets;

 

 

Continue to maximize synergies through integration of acquired entities; and

 

 

Enhance customer experience throughout a student’s learning cycle, which ranges from the time they are in elementary school through and, to a lesser extent, beyond the commencement of their careers.

Our business and the successful execution of our strategies are subject to certain challenges, risks and uncertainties related to our business and our industry, regulation of our business and our corporate structure and doing business in China.

The challenges we will face include, but are not limited to:

 

 

Our control of our variable interest entities, or VIEs, is based upon contract rather than equity;

 

 

We face potential risks associated with our ability to fund our expansion plans, including acquisitions, and our operations due to fund restrictions both from currency transfer and conversion restrictions placed on us by the PRC government and our ability to use school profits based on restrictions that include statutory reserve requirements; and

 

 

We may have to address issues impacting certain land use rights for our owned and leased properties.

The risks and uncertainties related to our business and our industry include, but are not limited to:

 

 

Uncertainties regarding our ability to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs;

 

 

Our ability to continue to attract and retain qualified education professionals;

 

 

Our ability to manage our business expansion and increasingly complicated operations effectively;

 

 

Our ability to use, protect and enhance our brands;

 

 

Our ability to compete effectively in the marketplace;

 

 

Our ability to remediate our material weakness and maintain an effective system of internal controls; and

 

 

Our ability to make acquisitions and to successfully integrate these acquisitions and establish and maintain strategic relationships.

See “Risk factors” for a more detailed discussion of these and other risks and uncertainties that we may face.

 

 

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Corporate information

The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure with respect to each of our significant subsidiaries and VIEs and the place of incorporation of each named entity as of June 30, 2010.

LOGO

Beijing Ambow Online Software Co., Ltd., or Ambow Online, our principal operating subsidiary in China, was established as a wholly foreign owned enterprise under the laws of the PRC in 2000 by Ambow Corporation. Our current holding company and the issuer in this offering, Ambow Education Holding Ltd., was established in June 2007 as an exempted company incorporated with limited liability under the laws of the Cayman Islands.

We conduct our business in China primarily through contractual arrangements between Ambow Online and our VIEs and their shareholders. Ambow Online is wholly owned by us. We do not have direct or controlling equity interests in our VIEs, nor do we have direct or controlling equity interests in our VIEs’ subsidiaries which conduct a substantial part of our business in China. Our VIEs include:

 

 

Beijing Ambow Shida Education Technology Co., Ltd., or Ambow Shida, which holds our schools, including elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools and colleges;

 

 

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Ambow Sihua Education and Technology Co., Ltd., or Ambow Sihua, which holds our tutoring centers and tutoring software company; and

 

 

Shanghai Ambow Education Information Consulting Co., Ltd., or Ambow Shanghai, which holds our career enhancement centers and career enhancement software company.

These contractual arrangements enable us to:

 

 

Exercise effective control over our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries by having such VIEs’ shareholders pledge their respective equity interests in these VIEs to Ambow Online and entrust all the rights to exercise their voting power over these VIEs to Ambow Online. There is no limitation on Ambow Online’s rights to exercise the voting power over the VIEs or to obtain and dispose of the pledged equity interests in the VIEs holding the tutoring centers and career enhancement centers by exercise of its call option or share pledge. Ambow Online’s rights to obtain and dispose of the pledged equity interests in the VIEs holding the K-12 schools and colleges by exercise of its call option or share pledge are subject to Ambow Online’s designating other PRC persons or entities to acquire the pledged equity interests in order not to violate PRC laws that prohibit or restrict foreign ownership in K-12 schools and colleges;

 

 

Receive economic benefits from the pre-tax profits of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries in consideration for products sold and technical support, marketing and management consulting services provided by Ambow Online to our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries. Such economic benefits, being net revenues of RMB58.1 million, RMB187.3 million (US$27.4 million) and RMB24.9 million (US$3.7 million) for the years ended December 31, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively (which have been eliminated upon consolidation), were earned by Ambow Online in consideration of the products sold and services provided to our VIEs’ subsidiaries; and

 

 

Have an exclusive option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in our VIEs in each case when and to the extent permitted by applicable PRC law.

Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries hold the requisite licenses and permits necessary to conduct our business in China.

See “Our corporate structure” for a more detailed description of our current corporate structure and related contractual arrangements.

Our offices

Our principal executive offices are located at 18th Floor, Building A, Chengjian Plaza, No.18, BeiTaiPingZhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100088, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 (10) 6206-8000. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at Maples Corporate Services Limited, P.O. Box 309, Ugland House, Grand Cayman KY1-1104, Cayman Islands. Our telephone number at this address is +1 (345) 949-8066.

Investors should submit any inquiries to the address and telephone number of our principal executive offices. Our principal websites are www.ambow.com and www.ambow.com.cn . Information contained on our websites is not part of this prospectus. Our agent for service of process in the United States is C T Corporation System, located at 111 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York 10011.

 

 

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Conventions that apply to this prospectus

Except where the context requires otherwise and for purposes of this prospectus only:

 

 

“ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares, each of which represents                      Class A ordinary shares, and “ADRs” refers to the American depositary receipts that evidence our ADSs.

 

 

“Ambow,” “we,” “us” or “our” refer to Ambow Education Holding Ltd. and its subsidiaries and, in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial data, also include our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries.

 

 

“China” or “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding for the purpose of this prospectus, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

 

 

“GaoKao” refers to university entrance exams administered in China.

 

 

“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of China.

 

 

“U.S. GAAP” refers to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States.

 

 

“VIEs” refers to our variable interest entities, which are certain domestic PRC companies in which we do not have direct or controlling equity interests but whose historical financial results have been consolidated in our financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

 

“ZhongKao” refers to high school entrance exams administered in China.

 

 

“$”, “US$” or “U.S. dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States.

This prospectus contains translations of certain RMB amounts into U.S. dollars at specified rates solely for the convenience of the reader. All translations from RMB to U.S. dollars were made at the noon buying rate as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. Unless otherwise stated, the translation of RMB into U.S. dollars has been made at the exchange rate on March 31, 2010, which was RMB6.8258 to US$1.00. We make no representation that the RMB or U.S. dollar amounts referred to in this prospectus could have been converted into U.S. dollars or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all. See “Risk factors—Risks related to doing business in China—Fluctuations in the value of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on your investment.” On July 9, 2010, the exchange rate was RMB6.7720 to US$1.00.

 

 

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The offering

 

Price per ADS

We currently estimate that the initial public offering price will be between US$             and US$             per ADS.

 

ADSs offered by Ambow

                     ADSs

 

ADSs offered by the selling shareholders

                     ADSs

 

The ADSs

Each ADS represents                      Class A ordinary shares, par value $0.0001 per share. The ADSs are evidenced by American depositary receipts issued by the depositary.

The depositary will be the holder of the Class A ordinary shares underlying the ADSs and you will have the rights of an ADS holder as provided in the deposit agreement among us, the depositary and owners and beneficial owners of ADSs from time to time.

You may surrender your ADSs to the depositary to withdraw the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs. The depositary will charge you a fee for such an exchange.

We may amend or terminate the deposit agreement for any reason without your consent. If an amendment becomes effective, you will be bound by the deposit agreement as amended if you continue to hold your ADSs.

To better understand the terms of the ADSs, you should carefully read the section in this prospectus titled “Description of American depositary shares.” We also encourage you to read the deposit agreement, which is an exhibit to the registration statement that includes this prospectus.

 

ADSs outstanding immediately after the offering

                     ADSs

 

Class A ordinary shares outstanding immediately after the offering

                     Class A ordinary shares

 

Class B ordinary shares outstanding immediately after the offering

                     Class B ordinary shares

 

Ordinary shares

Following this offering, our outstanding share capital consists of Class A and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares

 

 

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and Class B ordinary shares have the same rights except for voting and conversion rights. Each Class A ordinary share is entitled to one vote on all matters subject to shareholders’ vote, and each Class B ordinary share is entitled to ten votes on all matters subject to shareholders’ vote. Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holder thereof. Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances.

 

Use of proceeds

We anticipate that we will use the net proceeds from this offering as follows: US$20 million for working capital and general corporate purposes, including teaching training programs and for research and development of our educational content and US$             million for the expansion of our business. Of the proceeds we expect to use for the expansion of our business, we currently anticipate that $50 to $70 million will be used for strategic acquisitions with the remainder to be used for upgrades and expansions to our existing schools and learning centers. We will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of shares by the selling shareholders. See “Use of proceeds” for additional information.

 

Depositary

Citibank, N.A.

 

Over-allotment     option

We have granted the underwriters an option for a period of 30 days to purchase up to                      additional ADSs.

 

Risk factors

See “Risk factors” and other information included in this prospectus for a discussion of factors you should carefully consider before deciding to invest in the ADSs.

 

Lock-up

We have agreed for a period of 180 days after the date of this prospectus not to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of any our ordinary shares, ADSs or similar securities. Furthermore, each of our selling shareholders, our directors, executive officers, our warrant holder and substantially all of our other existing shareholders have agreed to a similar 180-day lock-up.

 

Listing

We have been approved to have our ADSs listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

 

Proposed NYSE trading     symbol

AMBO

The number of ordinary shares to be outstanding following the offering is based on 126,976,783 Class B ordinary shares (on an as-converted basis) outstanding at March 31, 2010, which gives effect to the conversion of all of our outstanding preferred shares into Class B ordinary shares upon the completion of this offering, and excludes:

 

 

18,548,185 Class B ordinary shares issuable upon the exercise of options outstanding at March 31, 2010, at a weighted average exercise price of US$2.41 per ordinary share;

 

 

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590,193 Class B ordinary shares issuable upon conversion of Series B preferred shares issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding at March 31, 2010, at an exercise price of US$0.75 per share; and

 

 

1,734,168 ordinary shares reserved for future grants under our equity incentive plan at March 31, 2010.

Except as otherwise indicated, all information contained in this prospectus assumes:

 

 

No exercise after March 31, 2010 of options and warrants outstanding at March 31, 2010;

 

 

The issuance of 80,755,552 Class B ordinary shares upon the conversion of 12,900,000 Series A convertible preferred shares, 17,745,522 Series B convertible preferred shares, 23,387,381 Series C convertible redeemable preferred shares and 26,722,649 Series D convertible redeemable preferred shares outstanding at March 31, 2010, all of which will convert into Class B ordinary shares at a conversion rate of one-to-one upon the completion of this offering;

 

 

The effectiveness of our post-offering amended and restated memorandum of association and post-offering amended and restated articles of association, which increases the authorized number of ordinary shares to 1,000,000,000 Class A ordinary shares and 200,000,000 Class B ordinary shares and creates 50,000,000 authorized and undesignated preferred shares, upon the completion of this offering; and

 

 

No exercise by the underwriters of their right to purchase up to an additional                      ADSs from us to cover over-allotments.

 

 

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Summary consolidated financial and operating data

The following summary consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with “Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes. The summary consolidated financial data, except for the as adjusted consolidated balance sheet data, presented below for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and as of December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus, which have been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers Zhong Tian CPAs Limited Company and were prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, or U.S. GAAP. The summary consolidated financial data, except for the as adjusted consolidated balance sheet data, presented below for the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010 and as of March 31, 2009 and 2010 is derived from our unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. We have prepared the unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements on the same basis as our audited consolidated financial statements. The unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements include all adjustments, consisting only of normal and recurring adjustments, which we consider necessary for a fair presentation of our financial position and operating results for the periods presented. Historical results are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected in any future period.

We have completed a number of acquisitions since January 1, 2008, which have affected period-to-period comparisons of our summary consolidated financial data. The results of our acquired companies have been included in our financial statements since their respective dates of acquisition and have collectively contributed to our growth in net revenues, net income and net income per share. For a more detailed description of these acquisitions, see note 22 in the Notes to our consolidated financial statements contained elsewhere in this prospectus.

 

 

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(in thousands, except share, per
share and per ADS information)
  For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
  2007     2008     2009     2009     2009     2010     2010  
         
    RMB     RMB     RMB     US$     RMB     RMB     US$  

Consolidated Statement of Operations Data :

             

NET REVENUES:

             

Educational programs and services

  317,854      469,543      760,444      111,407      160,109      232,154      34,011   

Educational products

  1,077      38,826      141,582      20,742      16,235      28,134      4,122   
                                         

Total net revenues

  318,931      508,369      902,026      132,149      176,344      260,288      38,133   

Cost of revenues

  (205,619   (327,168   (408,985   (59,918   (101,849   (127,165   (18,630
                                         

GROSS PROFIT

  113,312      181,201      493,041      72,231      74,495      133,123      19,503   
                                         

Operating expenses:

             

Selling and marketing(1)

  (19,600   (43,123   (138,423   (20,279   (21,458   (51,703   (7,575

General and administrative(1)

  (33,828   (56,860   (188,518   (27,618   (32,485   (66,367   (9,723

Research and development(1)

  (3,754   (11,696   (17,470   (2,559   (5,869   (5,207   (763
                                         

Total operating expenses

  (57,182   (111,679   (344,411   (50,456   (59,812   (123,277   (18,061
                                         

OPERATING INCOME

  56,130      69,522      148,630      21,775      14,683      9,846      1,442   
                                         

OTHER INCOME (EXPENSE)

  (11,315   5,573      (9,047   (1,326   1,778      (3,137   (460
                                         

Income before tax and non-controlling interest

  44,815      75,095      139,583      20,449      16,461      6,709      982   

Income tax expense

  (10,578   (7,735   (1,562   (229   (133   (3,733   (547
                                         

NET INCOME

  34,237      67,360      138,021      20,220      16,328      2,976      435   

Non-controlling interest

            215      31           901      132   
                                         

NET INCOME ATTRIBUTABLE TO AMBOW EDUCATION HOLDING LTD.

  34,237      67,360      138,236      20,251      16,328      3,877      567   

Preferred shares redemption value accretion

  (1,407   (67,768   (157,877   (23,129   (38,524   (76,932   (11,271

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders

  (20,837   (53,949   (93,611   (13,715   (23,103   (23,067   (3,379
                                         

NET INCOME (LOSS) ATTRIBUTABLE TO ORDINARY SHAREHOLDERS

  11,993      (54,357   (113,252   (16,593   (45,299   (96,122   (14,083
                                         

Net income (loss) per ordinary share(2):

             

Basic

  0.75      (2.36   (2.89   (0.42   (1.35   (2.08   (0.30

Diluted

  0.33      (2.36   (2.89   (0.42   (1.35   (2.08   (0.30

Net income (loss) per ADS:

             

Basic

             

Diluted

             

Weighted average shares used in calculating net income (loss) per share(2)

             

Basic

  16,031,507      23,038,853      39,193,092      39,193,092      33,640,059      46,221,231      46,221,231   

Diluted

  37,622,476      23,038,853      39,193,092      39,193,092      33,640,059      46,221,231      46,221,231   
                                           

 

 

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(1)   Share-based compensation expense was included in:

 

(in thousands)   For the Year Ended December 31,   For the Three
Months ended
March 31,
  2007   2008   2009   2009   2009   2010   2010
                             
    RMB   RMB   RMB   US$   RMB   RMB   US$

Selling and marketing

  623   1,194   4,411   646   684   1,450   212

General and administrative

  4,175   8,370   8,640   1,266   2,236   4,035   591

Research and development

  353   426   480   70   110   165   24
                             

 

(2)   Basic and diluted net income (loss) per ordinary share is computed by dividing net income by the weighted average number of shares outstanding for the period. The potentially dilutive warrants, preferred shares and options were excluded from the calculation of diluted net income (loss) per share in those periods where their inclusion would be anti-dilutive.

The following table presents a summary of our consolidated balance sheet as of December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and March 31, 2010:

 

 

On an actual basis; and

 

 

As of March 31, 2010, on an adjusted basis to reflect (1) the automatic conversion of all our outstanding preferred shares into Class B ordinary shares upon the closing of this offering, (2) exercise of the Series B warrants and (3) the issuance and sale of              Class A ordinary shares in the form of ADSs by us in this offering and our receipt of the estimated net proceeds from this offering, each based on an assumed initial offering price of US$             per ADS (which is the midpoint of the estimated public offering price range), after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us.

 

       As of December 31,    As of March 31, 2010
(in thousands)    2007    2008   

2009

   Actual    Actual    As
Adjusted
   As
Adjusted
                                    
     RMB    RMB    RMB    RMB    US$    RMB    US$

Consolidated Balance Sheets Data:

                    

Cash and cash equivalents

   416,094    778,824    409,926    411,263    60,251      

Total current assets

   1,006,011    1,578,712    1,133,515    949,788    139,146      

Total assets

   1,012,335    1,993,884    3,672,394    3,497,791    512,436      

Total current liabilities

   475,104    502,738    1,131,901    947,055    138,746      

Total liabilities

   475,104    525,626    1,582,625    1,399,341    205,007      

Mezzanine equity

   387,757    1,131,408    1,288,147    1,364,715    199,935      

Total shareholders’ equity

   149,474    336,850    801,622    733,735    107,494      
                                    

 

 

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Risk factors

You should carefully consider the risks described below and all other information contained in this prospectus before making an investment decision. If any of the following risks actually occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. In that event, the trading price of our ADSs could decline, and you may lose part or all of your investment. This prospectus also contains forward-looking information that involves risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of many factors, including the risks described below and elsewhere in this prospectus.

Risks related to our business and industry

If we are not able to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs, our net revenues may decline and we may not be able to maintain profitability.

The success of our business largely depends on the number of student enrollments in our programs and the amount of course fees that our students are willing to pay. Therefore, our ability to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs without a significant decrease in course fees is critical to the continued success and growth of our business. This will depend on several factors, including our ability to develop new programs and enhance existing programs to respond to changes in market trends and student demands, expand our geographic reach, manage our growth while maintaining the consistency of our teaching quality, effectively market our programs to a broader base of prospective students, develop and license additional high-quality educational content and respond to competitive pressures. Our colleges are subject to government imposed annual enrollment quota limits. If we were to violate requirements to which we are subject, the MOE could reduce the annual enrollment quotas at our colleges or restrict the programs we offer at our colleges or the methods by which we recruit new students. If we are unable to continue to attract students to enroll in our programs without a significant decrease in course fees, our net revenues may decline and we may not be able to maintain profitability, either of which could result in a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

If we are not able to continue to attract and retain qualified education professionals, we may not be able to maintain consistent teaching quality throughout our school and learning center network and our brand, business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

Our education professionals are critical to maintaining the quality of our services, software products and programs, and maintaining our brand and reputation, as they interact with our students on a regular basis. We must continue to attract qualified education professionals who have a strong command of the subject areas to be taught and meet our qualifications. There are a limited number of education professionals in China with the necessary experience to satisfy our qualifications, and we must provide competitive compensation packages to attract and retain qualified teachers and tutors. Some of our education professionals are teachers of public schools that are working at our tutoring centers on a part-time basis. Paid tutoring by teachers of public schools has received more regulatory scrutiny recently. Some of the provinces and cities where we have substantial business operations, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu, Hunan and Shaanxi, have promulgated local regulations prohibiting teachers of public schools from teaching, on a part-time basis, at private schools during the work week or at any time. As of December 31, 2009, we believe

 

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that approximately 30% of our teachers also work in public schools. If these education professionals choose to leave, or are forced to leave, our learning centers to comply with relevant local regulations, we will need to seek new teachers to replace them which we cannot assure you that we will be able to do at a reasonable cost or at all. If these regulations become the trend and are adopted in more provinces and cities or become more restrictive, we may need to seek more new teachers in more places, which will further increase the difficulty of our recruiting efforts. While none of the existing local regulations impose any penalty on private schools like ours for hiring teachers who also teach at public schools, we cannot assure you that such regulations will not be adopted in the future. In addition, we may not be able to hire and retain enough qualified education professionals to keep pace with our anticipated growth or at acceptable costs while maintaining consistent teaching quality across many different schools, learning centers and programs in different geographic locations. Shortages of qualified education professionals, or decreases in the quality of our instruction, whether actual or perceived in one or more of our markets, or an increase in hiring costs, may have a material and adverse effect on our business and our reputation. Further, our inability to retain our education professionals may hurt the brands we are trying to develop, and retaining qualified teachers at additional costs may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

We may not be able to manage our business expansion and increasingly complicated operations effectively, which could harm our business.

We have expanded rapidly, both through acquisitions and internal growth, and we plan to continue to expand our operations in different geographic areas as we address growth in our customer base and market opportunities. We increased the number of our directly-operated schools from none as of December 31, 2007 to five K-12 schools and two colleges as of March 31, 2010, and we increased the number of our tutoring and career enhancement centers from one as of December 31, 2007 to 112 as of March 31, 2010. This expansion has resulted, and will continue to result, in substantial demands on our management, personnel, operational, technological and other resources. To manage the expected growth of our operations and personnel, we will be required to expand our existing operational, administrative and technological systems and our financial systems, procedures and controls, and to expand, train and manage our growing employee base. In addition, the geographic dispersion of our operations as a result of acquisitions and overall internal growth requires significant management resources. We cannot assure you that our current and planned personnel, systems, procedures and controls will be adequate to support our future operations, or that we will be able to effectively and efficiently manage the growth of our operations, recruit and retain qualified personnel and integrate entities we acquire into our operations. Any failure to effectively and efficiently manage our expansion may materially and adversely affect our ability to capitalize on new business opportunities, which in turn may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Our business depends on the strength of our brands in the marketplace. We may not be able to retain existing students or attract new students if we cannot continue to use, protect and enhance our brands successfully in the marketplace.

Our operational and financial performance and the successful growth of our business are highly dependent on market awareness of our “Ambow” brand and the regional brands that we have acquired. We believe that maintaining and enhancing the “Ambow” brand is critical to maintaining and enhancing our competitive advantage and growing our business. In order to retain existing students and attract new students, we plan to continue to make significant

 

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expenditures to create and maintain our positive brand awareness and brand loyalty. The diverse set of services and products that we offer to K-12 students, college students and other adults throughout many provinces in China places significant demands on us to maintain the consistency and quality of our services and products to ensure that our brands do not suffer from any actual or perceived decrease in the quality of our services and products. As we continue to grow in size, expand our services and products and extend our geographical reach, maintaining the quality and consistency of our services and products may be more difficult. Any negative publicity about our services, products, schools or learning centers, regardless of its veracity, could harm our brand image and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

We face significant competition in each major program we offer and each geographic market in which we operate, and if we fail to compete effectively, we may lose our market share and our profitability may be adversely affected.

The private education sector in China is rapidly evolving, highly fragmented and competitive, and we expect competition in this sector to persist and intensify. In addition, our K-12 schools compete with public schools in China, which are generally viewed to be superior to private schools within the Chinese market. We face competition in each major program we offer and each geographic market in which we operate. For example, in the area of schools and tutoring programs, we face competition from New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc., a provider of private educational services in China, and a number of smaller, mostly regional players. Moreover, competition is particularly intense in some of the key geographic markets in which we operate, such as Beijing and Shanghai.

We also face competition from many different companies that focus on one area of our business and are able to devote all of their resources to that business line, and these companies may be able to more quickly adapt to changing technology, student preferences and market conditions in these markets than we can. These companies may, therefore, have a competitive advantage over us with respect to these business areas.

The increasing use of the Internet and advances in Internet- and computer-related technologies are eliminating geographic and cost-entry barriers to providing private educational services. As a result, many international companies that offer online test preparation and language training courses may decide to expand their presence in China or to try to penetrate the China market. Many of these international companies have strong education brands, and students and parents in China may be attracted to the offerings based in the country that the student wishes to study in or in which the selected language is widely spoken. In addition, many Chinese and smaller companies are able to use the Internet to quickly and cost-effectively offer their services and products to a large number of students with less capital expenditure than previously required.

Competition could result in loss of market share and revenues, lower profit margins and limit our future growth. A number of our current and potential future competitors may have greater financial and other resources than we have. These competitors may be able to devote greater resources than we can to the development, promotion and sale of their services and products, and respond more quickly than we can to changes in student needs, testing materials, admissions standards, market needs or new technologies.

Our student enrollments may decrease due to intense competition, and we may be required to reduce course fees or increase spending in response to competition in order to retain or attract students or pursue new market opportunities. As a result, our net revenues and profitability may

 

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decrease. We cannot assure you that we will be able to compete successfully against current or future competitors. If we are unable to maintain our competitive position or otherwise respond to competitive pressures effectively, we may lose our market share and our profitability may be materially adversely affected.

Our growth strategy is dependent in significant part on our ability to make strategic acquisitions and investments and to establish and maintain strategic relationships. Our failure to do so could have a material adverse effect on our market penetration, revenue growth and future prospects.

As a significant part of our growth strategy, we have completed a number of acquisitions, and we intend to continue to make strategic acquisitions and investments to help fuel future growth. In the future, we may also establish and maintain joint ventures and strategic relationships with third parties. Our strategic acquisitions and investments and any joint ventures and strategic relationships with third parties may not be beneficial for our business. If we are unable to pursue successfully our future acquisition strategy, either with those entities with whom we have executed exclusivity agreements or entered into alliance agreements as of the date of this prospectus or otherwise, our plans for further market penetration, revenue growth and improved results of operations could be harmed. Strategic acquisitions, investments and relationships with third parties involve substantial risks and uncertainties, including:

 

 

Our ability to identify and acquire targets in a cost-effective manner;

 

 

Our ability to obtain approval from relevant governmental authorities for the acquisitions and comply with applicable rules and regulations for such acquisitions;

 

 

Potential ongoing financial obligations in connection with acquisitions;

 

 

Potential unforeseen or hidden liabilities, including litigation claims or tax liabilities, associated with acquired companies or schools;

 

 

The diversion of resources and management attention from our existing businesses;

 

 

Failure to achieve the intended objectives, benefits or revenue-enhancing opportunities expected from the acquisitions;

 

 

Our ability to generate sufficient revenues to offset the costs and expenses of strategic acquisitions, investments, joint venture formations, or other strategic relationships; and

 

 

Potential loss of, or harm to, employee or customer relationships as a result of ownership changes.

In particular, while we have performed due diligence on each entity that we acquired before the acquisition, some of the acquired entities did not maintain their historical documents and records properly and a substantial amount of such documents and records were unavailable for our review. As such, there may be hidden liabilities and risks relating to the business and operation of such acquired entities that we failed to identify before the acquisition and of which we are still unaware. If any such hidden liability is found or any such risk materializes in the future, we may not be able to have any remedy against the sellers and may have to assume the liabilities and losses as a result.

If any one or more of these risks or uncertainties were to occur or if any of the strategic objectives we contemplated is not achieved, our ability to manage our business could be

 

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impaired. It could result in our failure to derive the intended benefits of these strategic acquisitions, investments, joint ventures or strategic relationships, or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We may not be able to successfully integrate businesses that we acquire, which may cause us to lose anticipated benefits from such acquisitions and to incur significant additional expenses.

It is challenging to integrate business operations, infrastructure and management philosophies of acquired schools and companies. The benefits of our past and future acquisitions depend in significant part on our ability to integrate technology, operations and personnel. The integration of acquired schools and companies is a complex, time-consuming and expensive process that, without proper planning and implementation, could significantly disrupt our business and operations. The main challenges involved in integrating acquired entities include the following:

 

 

Ensuring and demonstrating to our students that the acquisitions will not result in adverse changes in service standards or business focus;

 

 

Consolidating and rationalizing corporate IT and administrative infrastructures;

 

 

Retaining qualified education professionals of our acquired entities;

 

 

Consolidating service and product offerings;

 

 

Coordinating and rationalizing research and development activities to enhance introduction of new products and technologies with reduced cost;

 

 

Preserving strategic, marketing or other important relationships of the acquired entity and resolving potential conflicts that may arise with our key relationships; and

 

 

Minimizing the diversion of management attention from ongoing business concerns.

We may not successfully integrate our operations and the operations of entities we acquire in a timely manner, or at all, and we may not realize the anticipated benefits or synergies of the acquisitions to the extent, or in the timeframe, anticipated, which would have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

Our historical results, growth rates and profitability may not be indicative of our future financial results.

We have experienced substantial growth in net revenues and profitability in recent years. Our net revenues grew from RMB318.9 million in 2007 to RMB508.4 million in 2008 to RMB902.0 million (US$132.1 million) in 2009. Our net income grew from RMB34.2 million in 2007 to RMB67.4 million in 2008 to RMB138.0 million (US$20.2 million) in 2009. In addition to organic growth, our historical net revenues and profitability growth was largely driven by acquisitions, which may not be sustainable or indicative of our future results. In the past, we delivered our learning materials through courses to students at our partner schools with the help of sales agents and maintained responsibility for the delivery of this service. In May 2008, we began to change the method by which we utilized our training materials to students at our partner schools, and started selling stand-alone software products to distributors who then sell those products to students not in our directly-operated schools and centers. For these product sales under our new business model we have no obligation to students or schools. At the same time, we have phased out our previous model of providing services to students of schools and centers that are not directly operated by ourselves. This change in our business process and changes in

 

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our business mix amongst our four operating segments will make our historical results and growth rates less effective for predicting our future results. Under our new product sales model for sales to distributors we recognize less net revenue per sale, but higher gross margins. As a result of these and other factors, we may not sustain our past growth rates in future periods, and we may not sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis in the future.

Our business depends on the continuing efforts of our senior management team and other key personnel and our business may be harmed if we lose their services.

Our future success depends heavily upon the continuing services of the members of our senior management team and, in particular, upon our retaining the services of our founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Jin Huang. If one or more of our senior executives or other key personnel, including our school principals, are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to replace them easily or at all, our business may be disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, if any member of our senior management team or any of our other key personnel joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose teachers, students, key professionals and staff members. Competition for experienced management personnel in the private education sector is intense, the pool of qualified candidates is very limited, and we may not be able to retain the services of our senior executives or key personnel, or attract and retain high-quality senior executives or key personnel in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

The growth of our business is in part dependent on our relationships with our distributors and corporate partners. If we were to lose these relationships, or the benefits we derive from these relationships were to diminish, our growth rates and our business would be harmed.

We rely on our distributors and corporate partners to help drive our net revenues and profitability growth rates. We have developed a number of strategic partnerships with significant national and multinational corporations who are expanding the business they do in China, including Cisco Systems, Inc., Skillsoft Plc and The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. We derive both direct benefits, such as expanding and improving the curriculum in our career enhancement centers and helping to attract additional students to these centers, and indirect benefits, such as strengthening the Ambow brand, from these partnerships. We have distributors who help us to distribute our software products throughout China to additional schools and students and to expand our geographic reach to areas where we do not have a direct presence. We also have partnerships, both directly and through our distributors, with a number of K-12 schools and universities throughout China. We sell our services and software products to the students in these schools and universities and also get students in our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers who are enrolled in these schools and universities. If our relationships with any of these partners were to be damaged or lost, or the benefits we derive from these relationships were to be diminished, whether by our own actions, actions of one or more governmental entities or actions of our competitors, our growth rates and our business would be harmed.

If we are not able to continually enhance our online programs, services and products and adapt them to rapid technological changes and student needs, we may lose market share and our business could be adversely affected.

Our online programs, services and products are vital to the success of our business. The market for such programs, services and products is characterized by rapid technological changes and innovation, unpredictable product life cycles and user preferences. We must quickly modify our

 

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online programs, services and products to adapt to changing student needs and preferences, technological advances and evolving Internet practices. Ongoing enhancement of our online offerings and related technologies may entail significant expense and technical risk. We may use new technologies ineffectively or fail to adapt our online services or products and related technologies on a timely and cost-effective basis. If our improvements to our online offerings and the related technology are delayed, result in systems interruptions or are not aligned with market expectations or preferences, we may lose market share and our business could be materially adversely affected.

If we fail to successfully develop and introduce new services and products in time, our competitive position and ability to generate revenues could be harmed.

Our future success depends partly on our ability to develop new services and products. The planned timing or introduction of new services and products is subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual timing may differ materially from original plans. Unexpected technical, operational or other problems could delay or prevent the introduction of one or more of our new services or products. Moreover, we cannot assure you that any of our new services and products will achieve widespread market acceptance or generate incremental revenue. If our efforts to develop, market and sell new services and products to the market are not successful, our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could be materially adversely affected.

Failure to adequately and promptly respond to changes in curriculum, testing materials and standards could cause our services and products to be less attractive to our students.

There are continuous changes in the focus of the subjects and questions tested on ZhongKao and GaoKao in China, and the format of the tests and the manner in which the standardized tests are administered. These changes require us to continually update and enhance our curriculum, test preparation materials and our teaching methods. Any inability to track and respond to these changes in a timely and cost-effective manner would make our services and products less attractive to students, which may materially and adversely affect our reputation and ability to continue to attract students without a significant decrease in course fees. Further, we understand the MOE has been discussing reforms to curriculum of K-12 schools. Therefore, school curriculum will likely undergo changes and our tutoring and test preparation programs and materials will need to adapt to such changes. Failure to timely respond to such changes will adversely impact our tutoring services.

Failure to respond to changes to the current assessment and testing systems and admission standards in China could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

A substantial majority of the net revenues generated in our tutoring segment in the year ended December 31, 2009 were generated from tutoring services focused on preparing for ZhongKao and GaoKao. There have been changes in some areas in the way ZhongKao is administered. For example, in Yunnan Province, the provincial Education Department has recently announced that Yunnan Province will stop administering ZhongKao beginning in 2010. Instead, high schools will admit students based on a combination of a comprehensive evaluation of the students’ aptitude (provided by their middle schools) and the students’ middle school academic performance. To ensure the success of the educational reform and cultivate students’ comprehensive abilities, Yunnan Province also prohibits subject competitions in elementary and middle schools, including Olympic math competitions, and standardize admission policies regarding adding points to middle school test scores based on a student’s extracurricular activities. As for GaoKao, some top

 

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universities such as Peking University have been allowed to recruit students through independently administered tests and admission procedures in recent years. The candidates still need to take GaoKao and their scores in GaoKao may not be lower than certain thresholds, but such GaoKao scores will not be the sole determining factor in the admission process. Students admitted in this manner generally should not exceed 5% of the annual enrollment quotas of these universities as approved by the MOE. In 2009, 76 universities and colleges were allowed to recruit students through independently administered tests and admission procedures according to a notice promulgated by the MOE on December 12, 2008. It has been reported that the number of such universities and colleges will be increased to 80 in 2010. To the extent ZhongKao, or even GaoKao, becomes less prevalent throughout China, our business and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.

Our results of operations may fluctuate, which makes our financial results difficult to forecast, and could cause our results to fall short of expectations.

Our results of operations may fluctuate as a result of a number of factors, many of which are outside of our control. As a result, comparing our results of operations on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful, and you should not rely on our past results as an indication of our future performance. Our quarterly and annual net revenues and costs and expenses as a percentage of net revenues may be significantly different from our historical or projected rates. Our quarterly and annual net revenues and gross margins may fluctuate due to a number of factors, including:

 

 

The mix of our net revenues across our operating segments;

 

 

Acquisitions and related costs in a given period or the timing of such acquisitions within a given period;

 

 

The revenue and gross margin profiles of our acquisitions in a given period;

 

 

Our ability to successfully integrate our acquisitions and the timing of our post-integration activities;

 

 

Degree of results are subject to seasonality associated with the academic calendar with decreased net revenues specifically during Chinese New Year and over the summer;

 

 

Our ability to reduce our costs as a percentage of our net revenues; and

 

 

Increased competition.

Our ADSs could be subject to significant price volatility should our earnings fail to meet the expectations of the investment community. Any of these events could cause the price of our ADSs to fall.

Our business is subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may cause our operating results to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. This may result in volatility and adversely affect the price of our ADSs.

We have experienced, and expect to continue to experience, seasonal fluctuations in our revenues and results of operations, primarily due to seasonal changes in service days and student enrollments. Historically, the number of days on which our students attend our courses is lower in the first and third quarters due to school closures for the celebration of the Chinese New Year and summer vacation. Because we recognize revenue in our K-12 schools and colleges segments based on the number of service days in the quarter, we expect our revenue in the first and third

 

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quarters to be negatively impacted. Our costs and expenses, however, vary significantly and do not necessarily correspond with changes in our student enrollments, service days and net revenues. We make investments in marketing and promotion, teacher recruitment and training, and product development throughout the year. We expect quarterly fluctuations in our revenues and results of operations to continue. These fluctuations could result in volatility and adversely affect the price of our ADSs. As our revenues grow in our K-12 schools and colleges segments, these seasonal fluctuations may become more pronounced.

We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could cause us to be less competitive.

Our trademarks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights are important to our success. Unauthorized use of any of our intellectual property may adversely affect our business and reputation. We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and trade secrets laws and confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants and others, including our partner schools, to protect our intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, it may be possible for third parties to obtain and use our intellectual property without authorization. The unauthorized use of intellectual property is widespread in China, and enforcement of intellectual property rights by Chinese regulatory agencies is inconsistent. Moreover, litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce our intellectual property rights. Future litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of our management’s attention and resources and could disrupt our business. If we are unable to enforce our intellectual property rights, it could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Given the relative unpredictability of China’s legal system and potential difficulties enforcing a court judgment in China, we may be unable to halt the unauthorized use of our intellectual property through litigation. Failure to adequately protect our intellectual property could materially adversely affect our competitive position, our ability to attract students and our results of operations.

We may be exposed to infringement claims by third parties, which, if successful, could cause us to pay significant damage awards.

Third parties may initiate litigation against us alleging infringement upon their intellectual property rights. On May 13, 2009, the Intermediate Court in Beijing accepted a filing of an infringement claim by the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, regarding alleged copyright infringement arising from the unauthorized use of GMAT materials by Beijing Century Bersen Consulting Co., Ltd., or Bersen, one of our tutoring centers. In November 2009, GMAC and Bersen entered into a settlement agreement that provides, among other things, that Bersen shall remove certain specified GMAT materials and hyperlinks from Bersen’s website, and RMB0.5 million was paid by Bersen to GMAC for damages and losses incurred by the alleged infringing acts. In the event of a future successful claim of infringement and our failure or inability to develop non-infringing technology or license the infringed or similar technology on a timely basis, our business could be harmed. In addition, even if we are able to license the infringed or similar technology, license fees could be substantial and may adversely affect our results of operations.

We rely heavily on our information systems, and if we fail to further develop our technologies, or if our systems, software, applications, database or source code contain “bugs” or other undetected errors, our operations may be seriously disrupted.

The successful development and maintenance of our systems, software, applications and database, such as our school management software and system, learning engine and student

 

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database, is critical to the attractiveness of our online and offline programs and the management of our business operations. In order to achieve our strategic objectives and to remain competitive, we must continue to develop and enhance our technology. This may require us to acquire additional equipment and software and to develop new applications. In addition, our technology platform upon which our management systems and online programs operate, and our other databases, products, systems and source codes could contain undetected errors or “bugs” that could adversely affect their performance.

To date, our information systems have not encountered material errors or technical issues that have adversely affected or disrupted our operations. If we encounter errors or other service quality or reliability issues, or if we are unable to design, develop, implement and utilize information systems and the data derived from these systems, our ability to realize our strategic objectives and our profitability could be adversely affected, and this may cause us to lose market share, harm our reputation and brand names, and materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Unexpected network interruptions, security breaches or computer virus attacks and system failures could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Any failure to maintain satisfactory performance, reliability, security or availability of our network infrastructure may cause significant damage to our reputation and our ability to attract and maintain students. Major risks involving our network structure include:

 

 

Breakdowns or system failures resulting in a prolonged shutdown of our servers, including failures attributable to power shutdowns, or attempts to gain unauthorized access to our systems, which may cause loss or corruption of data, including customer data, or malfunctions of software or hardware;

 

 

Disruption or failure in the national backbone network, which would make it impossible for visitors and students to log on to our websites;

 

 

Damage from fire, flood, power loss and telecommunications failures; and

 

 

Any infection by or spread of computer virus.

Any network interruption or inadequacy that causes interruptions in the availability of our websites or deterioration in the quality of access to our websites could reduce customer satisfaction and result in a reduction in the number of students using our services. If sustained or repeated, these performance issues could reduce the attractiveness of our online and offline programs. In addition, we may be subject to a security breach caused by a computer hacker, which could involve attempts to gain unauthorized access to our systems or personal information stored in our systems, or to cause intentional malfunctions or loss or corruption of data, software, hardware or other computer equipment. A user who circumvents our security measures could misappropriate proprietary information or cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations. As a result, we may be required to expend significant resources to protect against the threat of these security breaches or to alleviate problems caused by these breaches.

Furthermore, increases in the volume of traffic on our websites could also strain the capacity of our existing computer systems, which could lead to slower response times or system failures. This would cause a disruption or suspension in our online course programs, which would hurt our brand and reputation, and thus negatively affect our net revenue growth. We may need to incur additional costs to upgrade our computer systems in order to accommodate increased demand if we anticipate that our systems cannot handle higher volumes of traffic in the future.

 

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All of our servers and routers, including backup servers, are currently hosted by third-party service providers within China. We do not currently maintain any backup servers outside of China. To improve the performance and to prevent the disruption of our services, we may have to make substantial investments to deploy additional servers or one or more copies of our websites to mirror our online resources.

Our legal right to lease certain properties could be challenged by property owners or other third parties, which may cause interruptions to business operations of the affected schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers and adversely affect our financial results.

We lease most of the premises used for the operation of our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. As a result, we are dependent on the property rights of these properties held by their owners to enable us to use the premises. We cannot assure you that all lessors of our leased business premises have the relevant land use right certificates or building ownership certificates of the premises they lease to us or otherwise have the right to lease the premises to us.

As of March 31, 2010, we were unable to acquire copies of title certificates of buildings from lessors or registration or approval from competent authorities for properties to be obtained by lessors accounting for approximately 271,334 square meters, or approximately 50% of the premises we lease based on the aggregate of 541,149 square meters of buildings we lease as of such date. These leased buildings with defects, which represent 35.6% of all of the buildings we lease and own, generally house the classrooms and dormitories for our students. Of the buildings we lease with defects, buildings covering approximately 13,377 square meters for schools or learning center space are leased from public schools and such buildings are prohibited from being leased to private schools. If any of our leases were terminated as a result of challenges by third parties or governmental agencies, we may be forced to relocate affected schools and learning centers and incur additional expenses. If we fail to find suitable replacement sites in a timely manner on terms acceptable to us, our business and net revenues at the affected sites could be materially adversely affected.

In 2009, our net revenues were RMB902.0 million (US$132.1 million). If we are forced to vacate the premises at the properties that have defects where we lease buildings that house our classrooms and dormitories, it could impact schools and learning centers that generate approximately 30.0% of our net revenues, which excludes approximately 15.7% of our net revenues in 2009 that were generated by sales of software products and were not reliant on our physical properties. We believe, however, that it is highly unlikely that we would be impacted by all or most of these defects at the same time across numerous locations in various jurisdictions where these properties are located, and we believe that we would be able to find alternative locations quickly without incurring significant additional expenses for most of these locations; therefore, we believe that any impact from these defects on our net revenues would be significantly smaller than 30.0%.

As of March 31, 2010, certain land leased separately from the buildings discussed above covering 370,498 square meters, which represented approximately 78.0% of all our land leased as of that date and approximately 31.3% of all of our leased and owned land as of that date, are restricted to industrial and other uses, rather than for educational use, including one plot of land owned by villages and rural organizations, or collectively-owned land, which is not permitted to be leased for a non-agricultural use under PRC law. This portion of our leased land is used for recreational areas at certain of our K-12 schools, tutoring centers and colleges. As a result, if we were forced to vacate this portion of leased land, which is leased separately from our buildings, we do not believe it would have a direct impact on our net revenues. However, if we are regarded by a

 

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competent authority as using this leased land for a purpose other than the use approved by the government, we may be ordered to vacate the relevant land and subject to fines at a rate that we believe, based on our review of the applicable regulations, would be up to RMB30.0 (US$4.39) per square meter, and the total amount of the fines might be up to RMB11.1 million (US$1.6 million).

As of the date of this prospectus, we are not aware of any actions, claims or investigations being contemplated by the competent governmental entitles with respect to the defects in our leased real properties. However, if we are unable to use the existing properties, enter new leases or renew our current leases in a timely basis and on terms favorable to us, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.

We do not possess the relevant land use right certificates or building ownership certificates for some of the properties owned by us, and certain of the properties that we own have potential defects or issues that may not be easily remedied, which could cause us to incur significant additional expenses or could disrupt certain aspects of our business.

Some of the real properties that we own have defects or potential issues such as missing title certificates. As of March 31, 2010, we own and occupy land covering an aggregate of 709,222 square meters, of which two parcels of land covering 71,654 square meters, accounting for 10.1% of the land we own as of that date and 6.1% of the land we lease and own as of that date, do not have land use right certificates. One additional parcel of our land covering 12,601 square meters, accounting for 1.8% of the land we own, is zoned for industrial use but actually used for educational purposes. As of March 31, 2010, we own an aggregate of 221,516 square meters of buildings. We have not acquired the building ownership certificates for buildings covering 66,370 square meters, accounting for 30.0% of the square meters of the buildings we own, including certain properties covering 55,870 square meters that have some of the required permits and 10,500 square meters that are without any of the required permits.

To the extent competent governmental entities were to detect these defects and we were found not to be in compliance with the applicable regulations, we may be subject to fines or incur significant additional expenses, our legal title to some of our properties may be challenged, and certain of the land we use to operate our business may be confiscated. We believe that the land covering 12,601 square meters used for purpose other than the approved purposes, and the buildings covering 10,500 square meters built without any of the required permits could cause us to incur fines up to an estimate of approximately RMB5.4 million (US$790,000) if authorities were to investigate and fine us. If we are required to find alternative locations for our schools and learning centers, we may be required to pay increased rent for the new locations and the new locations, especially for our K-12 schools and colleges, may be less convenient and accessible to our students and teachers, which may materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We are in the process of applying for the land use right for two parcels of land covering 71,654 square meters and building ownership certificates for five buildings covering 66,370 square meters for which we do not yet hold effective title certificates, and are trying to remedy the defects and issues that prevent us from obtaining such certificates. We shall apply to the local bureau of land and resources, which is in charge of the planning, administration, protection and rational utilization of such natural resources as land, minerals and marine resources in the PRC, for the land use rights to the land we currently occupy without land use right certificates. According to PRC laws, such land use rights shall be distributed through public procedures such as bidding, auction or listing for sale unless such land use rights are legally obtained through

 

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allocation from the government. If we bid successfully in these public procedures, we will then sign transfer of land use right agreements with the local bureau of land and resources. The land use right certificate would be issued to us after we fully pay the fees and taxes for the land use right. For land zoned for industrial purposes but used for education purposes, we will apply to the local bureau in charge of urban planning to change the use purpose of the land and then apply for a new land use right certificate indicating the new use purpose. We estimate that the costs we will incur to remedy these defects and issues will be approximately RMB6.0 million (US$879,018) to RMB9.0 million (US$1.3 million). We expect to complete the application process and obtain the certificates in a reasonable period of time, but do not have an exact time frame as of the date of this prospectus. However, we cannot assure you that these applications will be approved in a timely fashion or at all. If we are not able to remedy these defects in a timely manner, we may be required to find alternative locations for our schools and learning centers or may be subject to fines or penalties, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business or results of operations.

We were aware of defects in the leased or owned real properties at target entities at the time we made acquisitions. As we continue to expand our business and acquire additional schools and learning centers, certain defects might exist in the leased or owned properties of the schools and learning centers we acquire in the future.

The defects in certain of the properties of our directly-operated schools and learning centers existed at the time we acquired these entities. Our mergers and acquisitions team has followed an internal procedure to identify and assess risks in connection with acquisitions. We were aware of the defects in the leased or owned properties of the acquired schools during our due diligence review, and a final business decision was made after our analysis of the likely impact of such real property defects. As we continue to expand our business and make acquisitions of additional schools and learning centers, we cannot assure you that all properties leased or owned by our acquisition targets will be fully in compliance with the relevant real property regulations. If the target schools fail to remedy the defects and issues in the leased or owned real properties prior to the time at which we complete the acquisitions, the schools or learning centers may be subject to fines or other penalties, which may adversely affect our operation of these schools and our operating results.

Failure by our colleges to comply with regulatory requirements on land use rights and capital commitment may subject our colleges to penalties and adversely affect our business operations.

The Rules Relating to the Establishment and Regulation of Independent Colleges, or Independent College Rules, promulgated by the MOE on February 22, 2008 and effective as of April 1, 2008, provide that an independent college established thereafter shall hold the land use right certificate or construction planning permit for land covering at least 500 mu (333,334 square meters), and independent colleges established prior to April 1, 2008 are required to meet this land requirement within a grace period of five years, namely prior to March 31, 2013. Both of our colleges, the Applied Technology College and Beijing Century College, were established prior to April 1, 2008 and are subject to such minimum land requirements and do not currently comply. To satisfy such requirements would require us to incur significant expenses that we are not able to quantify, but which could be millions of RMB, and we cannot assure you that we can satisfy these requirements in time. In addition, the Independent College Rules require that the capital commitment to an independent college established before the Rules came into effect shall be paid within one year after its effectiveness. Up to now, the capital commitment to the Applied Technology College is fully paid in cash, but we still need to contribute land use rights. For the

 

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year ended December 31, 2009, net revenues from our two independent colleges accounted for 16% of our net revenues, which could be higher for the year ending December 31, 2010 when we will have a full twelve months of operations for each of these independent colleges included within our results of operations. Our failure to comply with the land requirements before the deadline or the capital commitment requirement may subject us to penalties, including fines of an unknown amount, and the colleges’ ability to recruit additional students may be limited or suspended, any of which may result in a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and results of operations.

We may need to record a significant charge to earnings if our goodwill or intangible assets arising from acquisitions become impaired, which would adversely affect our net income.

In accordance with U.S. GAAP, we account for our acquisitions using the purchase method of accounting, and such acquisitions have resulted in significant goodwill and intangible assets. These assets may become impaired in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations following such acquisitions. We are required under U.S. GAAP to review our amortizable intangible assets for impairment when events or changes in circumstances indicate the carrying value may not be recoverable. Goodwill is required to be tested for impairment annually, or more frequently, if facts and circumstances warrant a review. Factors that may be considered a change in circumstances indicating that the carrying value of our amortizable intangible assets may not be recoverable include a decline in stock price and market capitalization and slower or declining growth rates in our industry. We may be required to record a significant charge to earnings in our financial statements during the period in which any impairment of our goodwill or amortizable intangible assets is determined, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

Our grant of employee share options, restricted shares or other share-based compensation and any future grants could have an adverse effect on our net income.

We adopted a stock option plan in 2005, or 2005 Plan, under which we have reserved 20,282,353 Class B ordinary shares to be issued to service providers. As of March 31, 2010, options to purchase 18,548,185 Class B ordinary shares were outstanding under the 2005 Plan. We also intend to adopt a new equity incentive plan following the completion of this offering, under which we will reserve 19,000,000 Class A ordinary shares to be issued to our service providers. U.S. GAAP prescribes how we account for share-based compensation, and may have an adverse or negative impact on our results of operations or the price of our ADSs. U.S. GAAP requires us to recognize share-based compensation as compensation expense in the 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. These statements also require us to adopt a fair value-based method for measuring the compensation expense related to share-based compensation. As of March 31, 2010, we had RMB128.6 million (US$18.8 million) of unrecognized stock-based compensation costs, adjusted for estimated forfeitures, related to unvested stock option awards granted prior to such date, which are expected to be recognized over a weighted-average period of 2.82 years. The expenses associated with share-based compensation may reduce the attractiveness of issuing share options or restricted shares under our equity incentive plan. However, if we do not grant share options or restricted shares, or reduce the number of share options or restricted shares that we grant, we may not be able to attract and retain key personnel. If we grant more share options or restricted shares to attract and retain key personnel, the expenses associated with share-based compensation may adversely affect our net income.

 

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Changes to accounting pronouncements or taxation rules or practices or greater than anticipated tax liabilities may adversely affect our reported results of operations or how we conduct our business.

A change in accounting pronouncements or taxation rules or practices can have a significant effect on our reported results and may even affect our reporting of transactions completed before the change is effective. New accounting pronouncements or taxation rules, such as FASB Interpretation No. 48 “Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes,” or FIN 48 (now codified as ASC 740), the Corporate Income Tax Law in China which was effective January 1, 2008, or New CIT Law, and various interpretations of accounting pronouncements or taxation practice have been adopted and may be adopted in the future. These accounting standard and tax regulation changes, future changes and the uncertainties surrounding current practices and implementation procedures may adversely affect our reported financial results or the way we conduct our business. We are subject to income tax, business tax and other taxes in many provinces and cities in China and our tax structure is subject to review by various local tax authorities. The determination of our provision for income tax and other tax liabilities requires significant judgment and, in the ordinary course of our business, there are many transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. Although we believe our estimates are reasonable, the ultimate decisions by the relevant tax authorities may differ from the amounts recorded in our financial statements and may materially affect our financial results in the period or periods for which such determination is made. Moreover, we may lose the tax benefits we are currently receiving or we may be forced to disgorge prior tax benefits we have enjoyed and pay additional taxes and possibly penalties for prior tax years, any of which would harm our results of operations.

For the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009, we received two types of preferential tax treatments: (i) Ambow Online was recognized as a “Software Enterprise” and was exempted from income tax on its profits for 2008 and 2009, and will be subject to a 50% reduction in income tax rate from 2010 to 2012; and (ii) certain of the affiliated entities of our VIEs, namely, Shandong North Resource Information Technology Co., Ltd. and Jinan Prosperous Resource Technology Co., Ltd., were recognized as “Software Enterprises.” Shandong North Resource Information Technology Co., Ltd. was exempt from income tax on profits for 2005 and 2006, and was subject to a 50% reduction in income tax rate from 2007 to 2009 while Jinan Prosperous Resource Technology Co., Ltd. was exempt from income tax for 2008 and 2009 and will be subject to a 50% reduction in income tax rate from 2010 to 2012. In order to maintain the “Software Enterprise” status, each of these entities is required to obtain a Certificate of Software Enterprise issued by the provincial IT industry administration authorities through meeting the following conditions: (a) its primary business includes computer software development and production, system integration, application services and other related technical services because an enterprise which only engages in software trading is not qualified, (b) it has developed one or more software products or has intellectual property rights to such products, or provides such services as certified computer information system integration, (c) it has the technical equipment and business location required to engage in software development and related technical services, (d) it has the means and ability to control the quality of its software products and technical services, (e) its technicians engaging in product development and technical services make up no less than 50% of the staff, (f) its research and development expenses for software technology and products make up more than 8% of its software revenues, and (g) its annual software sales make up more than 35% of its total annual revenue and the sales of self-produced software make up more than 50% of the software sales. Pursuant to the Criteria for Recognition and Administrative

 

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Measures of Software Enterprises, Software Enterprises are subject to annual inspections by the local software industry associations or other relevant associations authorized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT. Software Enterprises which fail such annual inspections may not, for the current year, enjoy the relevant incentive policies including the preferential tax treatment. Each of Ambow Online, Shandong North Resource Information Technology Co., Ltd. and Jinan Prosperous Resource Technology Co., Ltd. has obtained the Certificate of Software Enterprise. For the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009, if our corporate subsidiaries and VIEs in the PRC had not been awarded tax holidays or received preferential tax treatment, the increase in our tax expense would have been RMB nil, RMB16,521,000 and RMB39,083,000, respectively. We currently expect to continue to receive these preferential tax treatments throughout the granted periods.

For private schools or colleges operated for reasonable returns they were normally subject to income taxes at 33% prior to 2008 and 25% after January 1, 2008 but were, under certain circumstances, subject to deemed amounts or rates of income tax to be determined by the relevant tax authorities. According to the Implementing Rules of the Law for Promoting Private Education and other relevant tax rules, prior to January 1, 2008, had our schools and colleges been registered as not requiring reasonable returns, they would generally have been exempt from income taxes. To date, no separate regulations or guidelines have been released on how to define reasonable return for the purposes of assessing a school’s tax status prior to January 1, 2008. Moreover, New CIT Law includes specific criteria that need to be met by an entity to qualify as a not-for-profit organization in order to be exempt from corporate income tax. An official circular was issued in November 2009 to set out further clarification of the requirements for not-for-profit organizations, and the circular stipulated that only not-for-profit organizations certified jointly by finance and taxation authorities are entitled to tax exemption and the circular shall go into effect retrospectively as of January 1, 2008. While we currently do not believe it is likely that our schools and colleges would qualify as not-for-profit organizations and therefore be exempt from corporate income tax under the New CIT Law, the detailed implementation guidance has not been provided to local tax authorities on how to apply these changes to schools and colleges. We intend to engage an external tax consultant to conduct comprehensive tax planning once further guidance from the tax authorities is released. This consultant may be expensive and the results of the guidance may not be favorable on our tax rates in the future. If we lose the benefit of the preferential tax treatments some of our schools and companies are currently enjoying, we could be required to pay additional taxes, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

Current or worsening economic conditions could adversely impact our business.

Since early 2008, there has been a significant deterioration in the U.S. and global economy and liquidity has contracted significantly. The Chinese economy also slowed down significantly in the first half of 2009 and this trend may resume after 2009. Since we derive substantially all of our revenues from students in China, any prolonged slowdown in the Chinese economy may have a negative impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition in a number of ways. For example, our students may decrease or delay spending with us, while we may have difficulty expanding our customer base fast enough, or at all, to offset the impact of decreased spending by our existing students. The adverse economic conditions, if they continued or worsened, will affect consumer spending generally, which could result in decreased demand for our services and products within our target markets.

 

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If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal controls, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud.

Our management and our independent registered public accounting firm have reported to our board of directors a material weakness in the design and operation of our internal controls as of December 31, 2009. A material weakness is defined by the standards issued by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) as a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the company’s annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The material weakness identified is related to insufficient financial reporting and accounting personnel with appropriate knowledge of U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting and written policies and procedures over financial reporting. While we have developed a remediation plan to address this material weakness, this remediation plan or any additional plan we plan to implement may be insufficient to address our material weakness and additional material weaknesses may be discovered in the future.

Our management and our independent registered public accounting firm have also identified three significant deficiencies in the design and operation of our internal controls as of December 31, 2009. These significant deficiencies are:

 

 

Teams performing due diligence on potential acquisitions did not have sufficient U.S. GAAP expertise to identify potential accounting adjustments at an early stage of the acquisition process.

 

 

A number of entities acquired in 2008 and 2009 used their own accounting software or manual accounting that was not consistent with our requirements.

 

 

We lacked effective internal control procedures for managing contracts during the track record period. In particular, there were insufficient internal control procedures and resources to centrally manage and retain the agreements relating to acquisition and of the acquired entities.

Our management and independent registered public accounting firm did not perform an evaluation of our internal control over financial reporting during any period in accordance with the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Had we and our independent registered public accounting firm performed an evaluation of our internal control over financial reporting in accordance with the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, additional material weaknesses and significant deficiencies may have been identified. Any failure of our internal controls could also adversely affect the results of such periodic management evaluations and annual independent registered public accounting firm attestation reports regarding the effectiveness of our “internal control over financial reporting” that will be required when the rules of the SEC under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act become applicable to us beginning with the required filing of our Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ending December 31, 2011.

Prior to this offering, we have been a private company with limited accounting personnel and other resources with which to address our internal controls and procedures. If we fail to remediate our material weakness and significant deficiencies and maintain the adequacy of our internal controls, we may not be able to conclude that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Moreover, effective internal controls, particularly those related to revenue recognition, are necessary for us to produce reliable financial reports and are important to help prevent fraud. As a result, our failure to

 

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achieve and maintain effective internal control over financial reporting could result in the loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements, which could harm our business and negatively impact the trading price of our ADSs. Furthermore, we anticipate that we will incur considerable costs and use significant management time and other resources in an effort to comply with Section 404 and other requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In addition, since a significant part of our business is operated through the schools and centers we acquire, most of which have very limited accounting personnel and resources to address internal controls and procedures, we will need to incur considerable costs and divert significant management time and other resources to the improvement or establishment of the internal control systems in such acquired schools and centers. Our failure to achieve and maintain effective internal controls over the financial reporting of these acquired schools and centers could affect our ability to fairly report such schools’ and centers’ financial results.

Risks related to regulation of our business and our corporate structure

All aspects of our business are subject to extensive regulation in China, we may not be in full compliance with these regulations and our ability to conduct business is highly dependent on our compliance with this regulatory framework. If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our business do not comply with applicable PRC laws and regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties.

The Chinese government regulates all aspects of our business and operations, including licensing of parties to perform various services, pricing of tuition and other fees, curriculum content, standards for the operations of schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers and foreign investments in the education industry. The laws and regulations applicable to the education sector are subject to frequent change, and new laws and regulations may be adopted, some of which may have a negative effect on our business, either retroactively or prospectively.

PRC laws and regulations currently prohibit foreign ownership of elementary and middle schools for students in grades one to nine and foreign ownership of businesses that provide content over the Internet is restricted in the PRC. Accordingly, our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China, which are considered foreign-invested, are currently ineligible to apply for such education licenses and Internet content provider permits in China.

We conduct our K-12 school business and provide online services in China primarily through contractual arrangements between Ambow Online, our principal operating subsidiary in China, and our VIEs, and their respective shareholders. Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries hold the required licenses and permits necessary to conduct our education business in China and to operate our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. We have been and expect to continue to be dependent on our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries to operate our business.

If our ownership structure and contractual arrangements are found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations or we fail to obtain any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities including the MOE, the Ministry of Commerce, or MOFCOM, and the MIIT, which regulate the education industry, foreign investment in China and Internet business, respectively, would have broad discretion in dealing with such violations, including:

 

 

Revoking the business and operating licenses of our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities;

 

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Discontinuing or restricting the operations of any related-party transactions among our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities;

 

 

Imposing fines or other requirements with which we or our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities may not be able to comply;

 

 

Revoking the preferential tax treatment enjoyed by our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities;

 

 

Requiring us or our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities to restructure the relevant ownership structure or operations; or

 

 

Restricting or prohibiting our use of the proceeds of this offering to finance our business and operations in China, especially expansion of our business through strategic acquisitions.

As of the date of this prospectus, similar ownership structure and contractual arrangements have been used by many China-based companies listed overseas, including in the United States. To our knowledge, none of the penalties listed above has been imposed on any of those public companies, including companies in the education industry. However, we cannot assure you that such penalties will not be imposed on any other companies or us in the future. If any of the above penalties is imposed on us, our business operations and expansion, financial condition and results of operations will be materially and adversely affected.

We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective shareholders for a substantial portion of our China operations, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership.

We have relied and expect to continue to rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective shareholders to operate a substantial portion of our education business. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Our corporate structure—Our corporate structure and contractual arrangements” and “Related party transactions—Contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries and shareholders.” These contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing us with control over our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries as direct ownership. If we had direct ownership of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to effect changes in the board of directors of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, which could effect changes, subject to any applicable fiduciary duties, at the management level. As a legal matter, if our VIEs or any of their respective shareholders fails to perform its or his or her respective obligations under these contractual arrangements, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend significant resources to enforce such arrangements. We may also rely on legal remedies under PRC law, including seeking specific performance or injunctive relief, and claiming damages, but these remedies may not be effective. For example, if the shareholders of any of our VIEs were to refuse to transfer their equity interest in such VIEs to us or our designee when we exercise the call option pursuant to these contractual arrangements, or if they were otherwise to act in bad faith toward us, then we may have to take legal action to compel them to fulfill their contractual obligations. In addition, we may not be able to renew these contracts with our VIEs and/or their respective shareholders.

In addition, these contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in the PRC. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The legal environment in the PRC may not be as developed as in some

 

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other jurisdictions, such as the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. In the event we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our affiliated entities, and our ability to conduct our business would be materially adversely affected.

The shareholders of our VIEs may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may harm our business and financial condition.

The shareholders of our VIEs are also employees of our company, and one of them, Xuejun Xie, is a director of certain of our VIEs as well as our company. Conflicts of interest between their dual roles may arise. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise, any or all of these individuals will act in the best interests of our company or that conflicts of interest will be resolved in our favor. In addition, these individuals may breach or cause our VIEs or their respective subsidiaries to breach or refuse to renew the existing contractual arrangements that allow us to effectively control our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries and to receive economic benefits from them. Currently, we do not have existing arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these individuals and our company. We rely on these individuals to abide by the laws of the Cayman Islands and China, both of which provide that directors owe a fiduciary duty to the company, which requires them to act in good faith and in the best interests of the company and not to use their positions for personal gain. If we cannot resolve any conflicts of interest or disputes between us and the beneficial owners of our VIEs, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.

Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries may be subject to significant limitations on their ability to operate private schools or make payments to related parties or otherwise be materially and adversely affected by changes in PRC laws and regulations.

The principal regulations governing private education in China are The Law for Promoting Private Education (2003) and The Implementing Rules for the Law for Promoting Private Education (2004), or 2004 Implementing Rules. Under these laws and regulations, a private school may elect to be a school that does not require reasonable returns or a school that requires reasonable returns. At the end of each fiscal year, every private school is required to allocate a certain amount to its development fund for the construction or maintenance of the school or procurement or upgrading of educational equipment. In the case of a private school that requires reasonable returns, this amount shall be no less than 25% of the annual net income of the schools, while in the case of a private school that does not require reasonable returns, this amount shall be equivalent to no less than 25% of the annual increase of net assets of the school (as determined under generally accepted accounting principles in the PRC). All of the private schools operated by our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries currently comply with the existing laws and regulations regarding the allocation of their development funds. A private school that requires reasonable returns must publicly disclose such election and additional information required under the regulations. A private school shall consider factors such as the school’s tuition fees, ratio of the funds used for education-related activities to the course fees collected, admission standards and educational quality when determining the percentage of the school’s net income that would be distributed to the investors as reasonable returns. However, none of the current PRC laws and regulations provides a formula or guidelines for determining “reasonable returns.” In addition, none of the current PRC laws and regulations sets forth different requirements or restrictions on a private school’s ability to operate its education

 

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business based on such school’s status as a school that requires reasonable returns or a school that does not require reasonable returns. New laws or regulations might be adopted to:

 

 

Impose significant limitations on the ability of our schools to operate their business, charge course fees or make payments to related parties, such as Ambow Online, for services received; or

 

 

Specify the formula for calculating “reasonable returns.”

We cannot predict the timing and effects of any such amendments or new laws and regulations. Changes in PRC laws and regulations governing private education or otherwise affecting our VIEs’, and their respective subsidiaries’, operations could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects and results of operations.

Regulatory agencies may commence investigations of the K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers controlled and operated by our VIEs. If the results of the investigations are unfavorable to us, we may be subject to fines, penalties, injunctions or other censure that could have an adverse impact on our reputation and results of operations.

Our VIEs control and operate several K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. As the provision of these services is heavily regulated in China, especially primary or secondary schools, these schools and companies that our VIEs or their respective subsidiaries currently own or operate or may acquire or establish in the future may be subject from time to time to inspections and investigations, claims of non-compliance or lawsuits by governmental agencies, which may allege statutory violations, regulatory infractions or other causes of action. For example, if an independent college is found unable to satisfy one or more conditions for running a college set by the MOE in such inspection or investigation, the MOE may impose limitation on the annual enrollment quota or even suspend the recruitment of the college. In 2006, the MOE, based on the result of an investigation into independent colleges, posted a notice of non-compliance on its website criticizing some independent colleges, including the two colleges that we subsequently acquired, for failure of their respective sponsors to transfer committed assets to the colleges. To date, the colleges and their respective sponsors have not had any fines imposed upon them or otherwise incurred a penalty from the MOE for the failure to pay committed capital, and their enrollment capacity have not been adversely affected for failure to satisfy conditions for running colleges set by the MOE. If the results of any such investigations or lawsuits are unfavorable to us, we may be subject to fines, penalties, injunctions or other censure that could have an adverse impact on our reputation and results of operations. Even if we adequately address the issues raised by a government investigation, we may have to devote significant financial and management resources to resolve these issues, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Contractual arrangements we have entered into among our subsidiaries and our VIEs and their respective shareholders may result in adverse tax consequences to us; such arrangements may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and a finding that we or our VIEs and their respective shareholders owe additional taxes could substantially reduce our consolidated net income and the value of your investment.

Under PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties should be priced on an arm’s length basis and may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. We could face material adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements between Ambow Online and our VIEs and their respective shareholders do not represent an arm’s-length price and adjust our VIEs’ or any of their respective subsidiaries’ income in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in, for PRC tax purposes, increased tax liabilities for our VIEs or any of their respective subsidiaries. In addition, the PRC tax authorities

 

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may require us to disgorge our prior tax benefits, and require us to pay additional taxes for prior tax years and impose late payment fees and other penalties on our affiliated entities for underpayment of prior taxes. To date, similar contractual arrangements have been used by many other public companies and, to our knowledge, the PRC tax authorities have not imposed any material penalties on those companies. However, we cannot assure you that such penalties will not be imposed on any other companies or us in the future. Our consolidated net income may be harmed if our affiliated entities’ tax liabilities increase or if they are found to be subject to additional taxes, late payment fees or other penalties.

The tuition, accommodation and other fees charged by our degree programs and our K-12 schools and student enrollment at these schools are subject to regulation by the Chinese government, and our revenue is highly dependent on the level of these fees and our student enrollment.

Chinese regulators have broad powers to regulate the tuition, accommodation and other fees charged by primary, secondary and other schools and student enrollment levels at these schools. As a result, new regulations could adversely impact the fees we receive from the schools to which we provide course materials and software products and the student enrollments at our directly- operated schools and at our partner schools, as well as the returns from the K-12 schools operated by our Chinese affiliated entities. The tuition, accommodation and other fees charged by our degree programs and our K-12 schools are subject to various price controls administered by local price-control authorities and our student enrollment in our independent colleges is subject to annual enrollment quotas established by the MOE. In light of the substantial increase in tuitions and other education-related fees in China in recent years, China’s price-control authorities may impose stricter price control on tuition changes in the future. As of the date of this prospectus, there is no indication from the MOE or the relevant authorities that the government would significantly change the tuition charges or student annual enrollment quotas. If the tuition charges were to be decreased or if they were not allowed to increase in line with increases in our costs because of the actions of China’s administrative price controls or if student enrollments at private schools were restricted, our net revenue and profitability would be materially adversely affected.

The discontinuation of any preferential tax treatments or deemed tax treatments currently available to us or the disgorgement of any benefits we enjoyed in the past could result in a decrease of our net income and harm our results of operations.

According to the 2004 Implementing Rules, private schools that do not require reasonable returns enjoy the same preferential tax treatment as public schools. While it is indicated in the 2004 Implementing Rules that the relevant authorities under the State Council may consider formulating separate preferential tax treatment policies applicable to private schools requiring reasonable returns, no such tax preferential policy has been promulgated yet. In March 2007, the Chinese government enacted the New CIT Law, and promulgated the Implementing Regulations for the PRC Corporate Income Tax Law in December 2007, both of which came into effect on January 1, 2008. On February 22, 2008, the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration issued a subsequent notice, or the 2008 Tax Notice, that effectively abolished our preferential tax treatment under the 2004 Implementing Rules. The New CIT Law and 2008 Tax Notice, among other things, impose a unified income tax rate of 25% for all private schools regardless of whether they require a reasonable return or not unless the school qualifies as a not-for-profit organization as defined in the PRC tax regime effective January 1, 2008. If a school qualifies as a not-for-profit organization in accordance with the tax law, it will be exempt from corporate

 

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income tax for certain of its income qualified for exemption under the relevant laws and rules. In November 2009, the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration further issued rules providing the criteria for a not-for-profit organization to qualify for exemption of corporate income tax. These rules are relatively new and contain many ambiguities. In practice, tax treatments for private schools vary across different cities in China. In some cities, private schools are subject to a 25% standard corporate income tax, while in other cities, private schools are subject to a 1.75% to 3.0% tax on gross receipts received by the schools or a deemed fixed tax amount or may be exempted from corporate income tax. These deemed tax rates and deemed fixed tax amount treatments granted to our schools by local tax authorities are subject to review and may be adjusted or revoked at any time. In addition, education services provided to students receiving degree-oriented education by private schools are also exempted from business tax in China so long as those schools are accredited to issue diplomas or degree certificates recognized by the MOE. The discontinuation of any of these tax treatments currently available to us or the determination of the tax authority that any of the preferential tax treatment we have enjoyed is not in compliance with the PRC laws, especially those schools in major cities, would cause our effective tax rate to increase, which would increase our income tax expenses and in turn decrease our net income or even subject us to supplementary payment of tax balance.

Under PRC laws and regulations, an enterprise that qualifies as a new and high-technology enterprise or a software enterprise may enjoy preferential tax benefits. An enterprise qualified as both a “new and high-technology enterprise” and as a “software enterprise” may choose one of the more preferential tax treatments. Ambow Online is a certified “new and high-technology enterprise” and a “software enterprise” and has chosen to enjoy preferential tax treatments as a “software enterprise.” As a result, Ambow Online is entitled to a two-year exemption from the first year Ambow Online generates taxable income and a 12.5% corporate income tax rate for another three years, which might be followed by a 15% tax rate so long as Ambow Online continues to qualify as a new or high-technology enterprise. If Ambow Online fails to maintain the status of a software enterprise or a new and high-technology enterprise, it will cease to enjoy the reduced tax rate and its tax rate will increase to 25% or the then current rate. If PRC laws and regulations were to phase out preferential tax benefits currently granted to software enterprises or new and high-technology enterprises, Ambow Online would be subject to the standard corporate income tax rate, which currently is 25%. Loss of these preferential tax treatments could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

The regulation of Internet website operators in China is subject to interpretation, and our operation of online education programs could be harmed if we are deemed to have violated applicable laws and regulations.

The interpretation and application of existing Chinese laws and regulations, the stated positions of the main governing authority, the MIIT, and the possibility of adopting new laws or regulations have created significant uncertainties regarding the legality of the businesses and activities of Chinese companies with Internet operations. In particular, according to the Internet Information Services Administrative Measures promulgated by the State Council on September 25, 2000, the activities of Internet content providers are regulated by various Chinese governmental authorities, including, the MOE, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the General Administration of Press and Publication, or GAPP, and the Ministry of Culture, or MOC, depending on the specific activities conducted by the Internet content provider. In addition, MIIT promulgated a notice titled “Notice on Strengthening Management of Foreign Investment in Operating Value-Added Telecom Services” on July 13, 2006, which prohibits PRC

 

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Internet content providers from leasing, transferring or selling their ICP licenses or providing facilities or other resources to illegal foreign investors. The notice states that PRC Internet content providers (or their shareholders) should directly own the trademarks and domain names for websites operated by them, as well as servers and other infrastructure used to support these websites and a PRC Internet content provider’s failure to comply with the notice by November 1, 2006 may result in revocation of its ICP license.

Ambow Shida holds an ICP license issued by Beijing Communications Administration, the local counterpart of the MIIT. According to this ICP license, Ambow Shida is approved to provide internet information services, excluding services of press, publication, education, medicine and medical apparatus and instruments. Due to the uncertainties of implementation of relevant regulations by different authorities, we cannot assure you that Ambow Shida has satisfied or will be able to satisfy all the requirements for a PRC Internet content provider and the ICP license held by Ambow Shida will be deemed to be adequate for all of the online services that we provide. For example, Ambow Shida’s ICP license does not cover educational content while most materials provided on our websites may be deemed educational content, including content related to our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers. According to our experience and our knowledge of other education providers in our industry, and as advised by our PRC counsel, based on their consultation with the competent authorities that the content provided by us does not exceed the scope of Ambow Shida’s ICP License, we believe the content on, and use of, our website are in compliance with the requirement imposed by Chinese Internet Regulations on ICP Licenses. We cannot assure you, however, that the competent authorities will not adopt a different interpretation of this issue.

In 2009, we generated net revenues from our tutoring and career enhancement segments of RMB360.1 million (US$52.8 million) and RMB266.3 million (US$39.0 million), respectively. A small portion of these net revenues was related to providing educational materials online. If the provision of these online services is deemed to have exceeded the scope of Ambow Shida’s license, we may be required to cease providing these online materials, which would harm our net revenues and results of operations. As we are a foreign enterprise in China, Ambow Shida may also be deemed to have illegally leased its ICP license or provided facilities or other resources to foreign investors. If we are deemed to have violated applicable Chinese Internet regulations, we could be subject to severe penalties, including confiscation of illegal gains, fines ranging from three to five times the illegal gains, suspension of certain types of service or orders to shut down the relevant websites.

Risks related to doing business in China

PRC economic, political and social conditions, as well as changes in any government policies, laws and regulations, could adversely affect the overall economy in China or the education or career enhancement market, which could harm our business.

Substantially all of our operations are conducted in China, and substantially all of our net revenues are derived from China. Accordingly, our business, financial condition, results of operations, prospects and certain transactions we may undertake are subject, to a significant extent, to economic, political and legal developments in China.

The PRC economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past two to three decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and

 

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among various sectors of the economy. Demand for our services and products depends, in large part, on economic conditions in China. Any slowdown in China’s economic growth may cause our potential customers to delay or cancel their plans to purchase our services and products, which in turn could reduce our net revenues.

Although the PRC economy has been transitioning from a planned economy to a more market-oriented economy since the late 1970s, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through allocating resources, controlling the incurrence and payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. Changes in any of these policies, laws and regulations could adversely affect the economy in China or the education or career enhancement market, which could harm our business.

The PRC government has implemented various measures to encourage foreign investment and sustainable economic growth and to guide the allocation of financial and other resources, which have for the most part had a positive effect on our business and growth. However, we cannot assure you that the PRC government will not repeal or alter these measures or introduce new measures that will have a negative effect on us. China’s social and political conditions may also not be as stable as those of the United States and other developed countries. Any sudden changes to China’s political system or the occurrence of widespread social unrest could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system could harm us.

Our operations in China are governed by PRC laws and regulations. The PRC legal system is a civil law system based on written statutes. Unlike common law systems, prior court decisions have limited precedential value. Ambow Online and our other wholly-owned subsidiaries in China are generally subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign investments in China and, in particular, laws applicable to wholly foreign-owned enterprises.

Since 1979, PRC legislation and regulations have significantly enhanced the protections afforded to various forms of foreign investments in China. However, China has not developed a fully integrated legal system and recently-enacted laws and regulations may not sufficiently cover all aspects of economic activities in China. In particular, because these laws and regulations are relatively new, and because of the limited volume of published decisions and their nonbinding nature, the interpretation and enforcement of these laws and regulations involve uncertainties. In addition, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules (some of which are not published on a timely basis or at all) that may have a retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until some time after the violation. Moreover, some regulatory requirements issued by certain PRC government authorities may not be consistently applied by other government authorities, including local government authorities, thus making strict compliance with all regulatory requirements impractical, or in some circumstances, impossible. In addition, any litigation in China may be protracted and result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention.

Our subsidiaries and affiliated entities in China are subject to restrictions on making dividends and other payments to us or any other affiliated company.

We are a holding company and rely principally on dividends paid by our subsidiaries established in China for our cash needs, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash

 

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distributions to our shareholders to the extent we choose to do so, to service any debt we may incur and to pay our operating expenses. Our PRC subsidiaries’ income in turn depends on the service and other fees paid by our VIEs. Current PRC regulations permit our subsidiaries in China to pay dividends to us only out of their accumulated profits, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, under the applicable requirements of PRC law, our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities incorporated as companies may only distribute dividends after they have made allowances to fund certain statutory reserves. These reserves are not distributable as cash dividends.

In addition, under the New CIT Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008, dividends paid to us by our PRC subsidiaries are subject to withholding tax. The withholding tax on dividends may be exempted or reduced by the PRC State Council. Currently, the withholding tax rate is 10% unless reduced or exempted by treaty between the PRC and the tax residence of the holder of the PRC subsidiary.

Furthermore, if our subsidiaries and affiliated entities 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 payments to us. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may require us to adjust our taxable income under the contractual arrangements we currently have in place in a manner that would restrict our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends and make other distributions to us.

In addition, at the end of each fiscal year, each of our affiliated entities that are private schools in China is required to allocate a certain amount to its development fund for the construction or maintenance of the school or procurement or upgrade of educational equipment. In the case of a private school that requires reasonable returns, this amount shall be no less than 25% of the annual net income of the school, while in the case of a private school that does not require reasonable returns, this amount shall be equivalent to no less than 25% of the annual increase in the net assets of the school, if any.

While all of our other schools and colleges choose to be registered as schools requiring reasonable returns, Beijing Century College and Beijing 21st Century Experimental School are registered as schools not requiring reasonable returns. Entities registered as schools not requiring reasonable returns are restricted from directly distributing to us any dividends or profits. Accordingly, Ambow Online entered into a service agreement with Beijing 21st Century Experimental School dated April 1, 2009 pursuant to which Ambow Online, in exchange for payments by Beijing 21st Century Experimental School, provides to Beijing 21st Century Experimental School: (i) consulting services regarding, among other things, business planning, mergers and acquisitions, development, international cooperation, accounting, tax and finance, human resources management and legal compliance; (ii) assistance in the campus LAN upgrade; and (iii) the right to use Ambow Online’s campus management software system. The term of this service agreement is indefinite unless terminated by either party upon 30 days’ notice or by mutual agreement. In addition, we have received payments from Beijing Century College in exchange for the sales of software products and provision of training services to Beijing Century College. These schools contributed 15% of our net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2009.

To date, our PRC subsidiaries have not paid dividends to us out of their accumulated profits. In the near future, we do not expect to receive dividends from our PRC subsidiaries because the accumulated profits of these PRC subsidiaries are expected to be used for their own business or expansions. If we are unable to extract the earnings and profits of some of our schools and learning centers, it could have a material adverse effect on our liquidity and financial condition.

 

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PRC regulation of loans and direct investment by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of this offering to make loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC operating subsidiaries and affiliated entities, which could harm our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

In utilizing the proceeds of this offering in the manner described in “Use of proceeds,” as an offshore holding company of our PRC operating subsidiaries and affiliated entities, we may make loans to our PRC subsidiaries and VIEs or we may make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries. Any loans to our PRC subsidiaries or consolidated PRC affiliated entities are subject to PRC regulations. For example:

 

 

Loans by us to our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China, each of which is a foreign-invested enterprise, to finance their activities cannot exceed statutory limits and must be registered with the PRC State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, or its local counterparts; and

 

 

Loans by us to our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, which are domestic PRC entities, must be approved by the relevant government authorities and must also be registered with SAFE or its local counterparts.

We may also decide to finance our wholly-owned subsidiaries by means of capital contributions. These capital contributions must be approved by the PRC Ministry of Commerce or its local counterparts. We are not likely, however, to finance the activities of our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries by means of capital contributions due to regulatory issues related to foreign investment in domestic PRC entities, as well as the licensing and other regulatory issues discussed in the “Regulation” section of this prospectus. We cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain these government registrations or approvals on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans or capital contributions by us to our subsidiaries or our VIEs or any of their respective subsidiaries. If we fail to receive such registrations or approvals, our ability to use the proceeds of this offering and to capitalize our PRC operations may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.

In addition, on August 29, 2008, SAFE promulgated Circular 142, a notice regulating the conversion by a foreign-invested company of its capital contribution in foreign currency into RMB. The notice requires that the capital of a foreign-invested company settled in RMB converted from foreign currencies shall be used only for purposes within the business scope as approved by the authorities in charge of foreign investment or by other competent authorities and as registered with the Administration for Industries and Commerce and, unless set forth in the business scope or in other regulations, may not be used for equity investments within the PRC. In addition, SAFE strengthened its oversight of the flow and use of the capital of a foreign-invested company settled in RMB converted from foreign currencies. The use of such RMB capital may not be changed without SAFE’s approval, and may not in any case be used to repay RMB loans if the proceeds of such loans have not been used. Violations of Circular 142 will result in severe penalties, including heavy fines. As a result, Circular 142 may significantly limit our ability to transfer the net proceeds from this offering to our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries through our subsidiaries in the PRC, which may adversely affect our ability to expand our business, and we may not be able to convert the net proceeds from this offering into RMB to invest in or acquire any other PRC companies, or establish other VIEs in the PRC.

Presently none of Ambow Online or our other wholly-owned subsidiaries are registered as an investment company. We do not intend to turn these entities into investment companies because to do so these subsidiaries would have to satisfy criteria promulgated by MOFCOM and be

 

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approved by MOFCOM or its provincial counterparts before registration with the administration for industries and commerce, which is difficult to accomplish and time consuming. As a result, if the net proceeds from this offering are injected into Ambow Online and our other subsidiaries as increased registered capital, we could not convert such proceeds into RMB to fund acquisitions of the VIEs and their respective subsidiaries, and our ability to expand our business may be adversely affected.

While we may not transfer the net proceeds from this offering through our wholly-owned subsidiaries for the purpose of domestic acquisitions, we may use the proceeds to acquire PRC companies or schools that do not include compulsory education through Wenjian Gongying, an RMB fund established in Suzhou as a venture capital joint venture, subject to the PRC industrial policy for foreign investment. If we use the proceeds of this offering to make acquisitions through Wenjian Gongying in entities that are in restricted industries, like high schools, without receiving proper approvals or in entities that are in prohibited industries, like schools that provide compulsory education, we may be subject to significant fines of unknown amounts or other sanctions. See “Our corporate structure” for a further description of the legal structure, joint venture participants’ identities and such participants’ respective percentage ownership interest in Wenjian Gongying and for a further description of the PRC rules and regulations that will be applicable to our planned investments through Wenjian Gongying.

If we use the proceeds of this offering for the business of Ambow Online or our other wholly-owned subsidiaries, we are also required to apply to the authority of commerce for approval for an increase of their respective registered capital given that the original registered capital of these subsidiaries have been fully paid. We cannot assure you that we can obtain such approvals in a timely manner or at all. If we are unable to use the net proceeds from this offering to fund our PRC operating entities or their subsidiaries or to make strategic acquisitions, it could have a material adverse effect on our expansion plans and future growth.

It is unclear whether we will be considered a PRC “resident enterprise” under the New CIT Law and, depending on the determination of our PRC “resident enterprise” status, dividends paid to us by our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to PRC withholding tax, we may be subject to 25% PRC income tax on our worldwide income, and holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares may be subject to PRC withholding tax on dividends paid by us and gains realized on their transfer of our ADSs or ordinary shares.

The New CIT Law and its Implementing Regulations, which became effective on January 1, 2008, provide that enterprises established outside of China whose “ de facto management bodies” are located in China are considered “resident enterprises.” Although the Implementing Regulations of the PRC CIT Law define the term “ de facto management bodies” as a body which substantially manages, or has control over the business, personnel, finance and assets of an enterprise, currently there are no further detailed rules or precedents applicable to us governing the procedures and specific criteria for determining “ de facto management body” and it is still unclear if the PRC tax authorities would determine that we should be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise.”

If we are treated as a PRC “resident enterprise,” however, we will be subject to PRC income tax on our worldwide income at the 25% uniform tax rate, which could have an impact on our effective tax rate and an adverse effect on our net income and results of operations and our income tax expenses will increase and the amount of dividends, if any, we may pay to our shareholders and ADS holders may be decreased, although dividends distributed from our PRC

 

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subsidiaries to us could be exempt from the PRC dividend withholding tax, since such income is exempted under the New CIT Law and its Implementating Regulations to a PRC resident recipient.

In addition, if we are considered a PRC “resident enterprise,” dividends we pay with respect to our ADSs or ordinary shares and the gains realized from the transfer of our ADSs or ordinary shares may be considered income derived from sources within the PRC and be subject to PRC withholding tax.

Restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to receive and use our revenue effectively.

Because substantially all of our revenue is denominated in RMB, restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to use revenue generated in RMB to fund any business activities we may have outside China or to make dividend payments to our shareholders and ADS holders in U.S. dollars. The principal regulation governing foreign currency exchange in China is the Foreign Currency Administration Rules (1996), as amended. Under these rules, RMB is freely convertible for trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, but not for direct investment, loan or investment in securities outside China unless the prior approval of SAFE is obtained. Although the PRC government regulations now allow greater convertibility of RMB for current account transactions, significant restrictions still remain. For example, foreign exchange transactions under our subsidiaries capital accounts, including principal payments in respect of foreign currency-denominated obligations, remain subject to significant foreign exchange controls. These limitations could affect our ability to obtain foreign exchange for capital expenditures. We cannot be certain that the PRC regulatory authorities will not impose more stringent restrictions on the convertibility of RMB, especially with respect to foreign exchange transactions.

Fluctuations in the value of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on your investment.

The change in value of the RMB against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is affected by, among other things, changes in China’s political and economic conditions. On July 21, 2005, the PRC government changed its decade-old policy of pegging the value of the RMB to the U.S. dollar. Under the current policy, the RMB is permitted to fluctuate within a narrow and managed band against a basket of certain foreign currencies. This change in policy has resulted in an approximately 21% appreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar between July 21, 2005 and March 31, 2010. Recently, the People’s Bank of China has decided to proceed further with reform of the RMB exchange regime and to enhance the RMB exchange rate flexibility. There remains significant international pressure on the PRC government to adopt a more flexible currency policy, which could result in a further and more significant adjustment of the RMB against the U.S. dollar.

Any significant revaluation of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on the value of, and any dividends payable on, our ADSs in foreign currency terms. More specifically, if we decide to convert our RMB into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our ordinary shares or ADSs or for other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the RMB would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us. To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars we receive from our initial public offering into RMB for our operations, appreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the RMB amount we would receive from the conversion. Consequently, appreciation or depreciation in the value of the RMB relative to the U.S. dollar could materially adversely affect our financial results reported in U.S. dollar terms without giving effect to any underlying change in our business or results of operations.

 

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Recent PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents and employee stock options granted by overseas-listed companies may increase our administrative burden, restrict our overseas and cross-border investment activity or otherwise adversely affect the implementation of our acquisition strategy. If our shareholders who are PRC residents, or our PRC employees who are granted or exercise stock options, fail to make any required registrations or filings under such regulations, we may be unable to distribute profits and may become subject to liability under PRC laws.

In 2005, SAFE promulgated regulations that require PRC residents and PRC corporate entities to register with local branches of SAFE in connection with their direct or indirect offshore investment activities. These regulations apply to our shareholders who are PRC residents and may apply to any offshore acquisitions that we make in the future.

Under the SAFE regulations, PRC residents who make, or have previously made, direct or indirect investments in offshore companies, will be required to register those investments. In addition, any PRC resident who is a direct or indirect shareholder of an offshore company is required to file or update the registration with the local branch of SAFE, with respect to that offshore company, any material change involving its round-trip investment, capital variation, such as an increase or decrease in capital, transfer or swap of shares, merger, division, long-term equity or debt investment or creation of any security interest. If any PRC shareholder fails to make the required SAFE registration, the PRC subsidiaries of that offshore parent company may be prohibited from distributing their profits and the proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation, to their offshore parent company, and the offshore parent company may also be prohibited from injecting additional capital into their PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the various SAFE registration requirements described above could result in liability under PRC laws for evasion of applicable foreign exchange restrictions.

We cannot provide any assurances that all of our shareholders who are PRC residents will make or obtain any applicable registrations or approvals required by these SAFE regulations. The failure or inability of our PRC resident shareholders to comply with the registration procedures set forth in the SAFE regulations may subject our PRC subsidiaries to fines and legal sanctions, restrict our cross-border investment activities, or limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to or obtain foreign-exchange dominated loans from our company.

As it is uncertain how the SAFE regulations will be interpreted or implemented, we cannot predict how these regulations will affect our business operations or future strategy. For example, we may be subject to a more stringent review and approval process with respect to our foreign exchange activities, such as remittance of dividends and obtaining foreign currency denominated borrowings, which may harm our results of operations and financial condition. In addition, if we decide to acquire a PRC domestic company, we cannot assure you that we or the owners of such company, as the case may be, will be able to obtain the necessary approvals or complete the necessary filings and registrations required by the SAFE regulations. This may restrict our ability to implement our acquisition strategy and could adversely affect our business and prospects.

On March 28, 2007, SAFE promulgated the Operation Rules on Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Employee Stock Holding Plan or Stock Option Plan of Overseas-Listed Company, or the Stock Option Rule. Under the Stock Option Rule, PRC citizens who are granted stock options by an overseas publicly-listed company are required, through a PRC agent or PRC subsidiary of such overseas publicly-listed company, to register with SAFE and complete certain other procedures. We and our PRC employees who have been granted stock

 

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options will be subject to the Stock Option Rule when our company becomes an overseas publicly-listed company. If we or our PRC optionees fail to comply with these regulations, we or our PRC optionees may be subject to fines and legal sanctions. See “Regulation—SAFE regulations on employee share options.”

We may be required to obtain prior approval of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or CSRC, of the listing and trading of our ADSs on the New York Stock Exchange.

On August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory authorities, including the Ministry of Commerce, the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the State Administration for Taxation, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the CSRC and SAFE, jointly issued the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the New M&A Rules, which became effective on September 8, 2006. This regulation, among other things, includes provisions that purport to require that an offshore special purpose vehicle formed for purposes of overseas listing of equity interests in PRC companies and controlled directly or indirectly by PRC companies or individuals obtain the approval of the CSRC prior to the listing and trading of such special purpose vehicle’s securities on an overseas stock exchange. On September 21, 2006, the CSRC published on its official website procedures regarding its approval of overseas listings by special purpose vehicles. The CSRC approval procedures require the filing of a number of documents with the CSRC and it would take several months to complete the approval process.

While the application of the New M&A Rules remains unclear, we believe, based on the advice of our PRC counsel, Commerce & Finance Law Offices, that CSRC approval is not required in the context of this offering because we are not a special purpose vehicle formed or controlled by PRC companies or PRC individuals as defined under the New M&A Rules. However, we cannot assure you that the relevant PRC government agencies, including the CSRC, would reach the same conclusion as our PRC counsel. If the CSRC or other PRC regulatory body subsequently determines that we need to obtain the CSRC’s approval for this offering, we may face sanctions by the CSRC or other PRC regulatory agencies. In such event, these regulatory agencies may impose fines and penalties on our operations in the PRC, limit our operations in the PRC, delay or restrict the repatriation of the proceeds from this offering into the PRC, or take other actions that could 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. The CSRC or other PRC regulatory agencies may also take actions requiring us, or making it advisable for us, to halt this offering before settlement and delivery of the ADSs offered by this prospectus.

The M&A Rules establish more complex procedures for some acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisition in China.

The New M&A Rules that became effective on September 8, 2006 established additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time-consuming and complex, including requirements in some instances that the Ministry of Commerce be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. Complying with the requirements of the New M&A Rules to complete such transactions could be time-consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval from the Ministry of Commerce, may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could materially adversely affect our ability to grow our business through acquisitions in China.

 

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We do not have business insurance coverage in China, which could harm our business.

We could be held liable for accidents that occur at our learning centers and other facilities. In the event of on-site food poisoning, personal injuries, fires or other accidents suffered by students or other people, we could face claims alleging that we were negligent, provided insufficient supervision or instruments or were otherwise liable for the injuries. Such accidents may adversely affect our reputation and financial results. The insurance industry in China is still at an early stage of development. Insurance companies in China offer limited business insurance products. As a result, we do not have any business liability or disruption insurance coverage for our operations. Any business disruption, litigation or natural disaster would result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources.

We face risks related to natural disasters and health epidemics in China, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Our business could be materially adversely affected by natural disasters or the outbreak of health epidemics in China. For example, in May 2008, Sichuan Province suffered a strong earthquake measuring approximately 8.0 on the Richter scale that caused widespread damage and casualties. In addition, in the last decade, the PRC has suffered health epidemics related to the outbreak of avian influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. In April 2009, an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, also commonly referred to as “swine flu,” occurred in Mexico and has spread to other countries. Cases of swine flu have been reported in Hong Kong and mainland China. The Chinese government, and certain regional governments within China, have enacted regulations to address the H1N1 virus specifically within the education services market, which may have an affect on our business. If the outbreak of swine flu were to become widespread in China or increase in severity, it could have an adverse effect on economic activity in China, and could require the temporary closure of our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. Such events could severely disrupt our business operations and harm our results of operations. Any future natural disasters or health epidemics in the PRC could also have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

New labor laws in the PRC may adversely affect our results of operations.

On June 29, 2007, the PRC government promulgated a new labor law, namely the Labor Contract Law of the PRC, or the New Labor Contract Law, which became effective on January 1, 2008. The New Labor Contract Law imposes greater liabilities on employers and significantly affects the cost of an employer’s decision to reduce its workforce. Further, it requires certain terminations be based upon seniority and not merit. In the event we decide to significantly change or decrease our workforce, the New Labor Contract Law could adversely affect our ability to enact such changes in a manner that is most advantageous to our business or in a timely and cost-effective manner, thus materially adversely affecting our financial condition and results of operations.

Risks related to ownership of our ADSs, our trading market and this offering

There has been no public market for our ordinary shares or ADSs prior to this offering, and you may not be able to resell our ADSs at or above the price you pay for them, or at all.

Prior to this offering, there has not been a public market for our ordinary shares or ADSs. We have been approved to list our ADSs on the NYSE. However, an active public market for our ADSs may not develop or be sustained after the offering, in which case the market price and liquidity of our ADSs will be materially adversely affected. Our ordinary shares will not be listed on any exchange or quoted for trading on any over-the-counter system.

 

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The initial public offering price for our ADSs may not be indicative of prices that will prevail in the trading market and such market prices may be volatile.

The initial public offering price for our ADSs will be determined by negotiations between us and representatives of the underwriters and may bear no relationship to the market price for our ADSs after this offering. We cannot assure you that the market price of our ADSs will not decline significantly below the initial public offering price. The financial markets in the United States and other countries have experienced significant price and volume fluctuations in the last few years. Volatility in the price of our ADSs may be caused by factors outside of our control and may be unrelated or disproportionate to changes in our results of operations.

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our ADSs, the price of our ADSs and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our ADSs will depend in part on the research and reports that industry or securities analysts publish about us or our business. We do not have any control over these analysts. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade us, the price of our ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which could cause the price of our ADSs or trading volume to decline.

Substantial future sales of our ADSs or the anticipation of future sales of our ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.

Sales of substantial amounts of our ADSs or ordinary shares in the public market after this offering, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our ADSs to decline. Upon completion of this offering, we will have                      ordinary shares outstanding, including                      Class A ordinary shares represented by                      the                      ADSs sold in this offering. All ADSs sold in this offering will be freely transferable without restriction or additional registration under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act. The                      remaining outstanding shares after this offering will be available for sale upon the expiration of the 180-day lockup period beginning from the date of this prospectus, subject to volume and other restrictions as applicable under Rule 144 and Rule 701 under the Securities Act. Any or all of these shares may be released prior to the expiration of the lock-up period at the discretion of the lead underwriters. Sales of these shares into the market could cause the market price of our ADSs to decline.

In addition, certain holders of our ordinary shares will have the right to cause us to register the sale of their shares under the Securities Act under certain circumstances. See “Shares eligible for future sale” and “Related party transactions—Registration rights.” 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 securities in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.

You will experience immediate and substantial dilution in the net tangible book value of ADSs purchased.

The initial public offering price per ADSs will be substantially higher than the net tangible book value per ADS prior to the offering. Consequently, when you purchase ADSs in the offering, you will incur an immediate dilution of US$             per ADS (assuming no exercise by the underwriters

 

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of options to acquire additional ADSs), representing the difference between our net tangible book value per ADS at US$             as of March 31, 2010 after giving effect to this offering and an assumed initial public offering price of US$             per ADS (which is the mid-point of the estimated public offering price range).

We may need additional capital, and the sale of additional ADSs or other equity securities would result in additional dilution to our shareholders.

We believe that our current cash and cash equivalents, anticipated cash flow from operations and the net proceeds from this offering will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs, including targeted acquisitions, for more than the next twelve months. We may, however, require additional cash resources due to changed business conditions or other future developments. If our resources are insufficient to satisfy our cash requirements, we may seek to sell additional equity or debt securities or obtain a credit facility. We plan to continue to make acquisitions going forward depending on market conditions and our ability to identify and consummate such acquisitions after the completion of this offering. To consummate these transactions, we believe that we will use some of the proceeds from this offering and we also intend to issue additional shares in these acquisitions that will dilute our shareholders. The sale of additional equity securities could result in additional dilution to our shareholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased debt service obligations and could result in operating and financing covenants that would restrict our operations or our ability to pay dividends. Our ability to raise additional funds in the future is subject to a variety of uncertainties, including:

 

 

Our future financial condition, results of operations and cash flows;

 

 

General market conditions for capital raising activities; and

 

 

Economic, political and other conditions in China and elsewhere.

We cannot assure you that if we need additional cash financing will be available in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all.

Insiders will continue to have substantial control over us after this offering, which could adversely affect the market price of our ADSs.

Under our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, our ordinary shares are divided into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B ordinary shares are entitled to ten votes per share. Upon the completion of this offering, assuming no exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option, our executive officers and directors, and their respective affiliates, will beneficially own, in the aggregate, approximately         % of the combined total outstanding ordinary shares, representing         % of the total voting rights, in our company. Shareholdings of our executive officers and directors, and their respective affiliates, in particular with respect to the greater voting rights of the Class B ordinary shares they hold, give them the power to control any actions that require shareholder approval under Cayman Islands law, our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association and the NYSE requirements, including the election and removal of any member of our board of directors, mergers, consolidations and other business combinations, changes to our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the number of shares available for issuance under share incentive plans and the issuance of significant amounts of our ordinary shares in private

 

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placements. Due to the disparate voting rights attached to the two classes of our ordinary shares, our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates could have sufficient voting rights to determine the outcome of all matters requiring shareholder approval even if they should, at some point in the future, hold less than a majority of the combined total of our outstanding Class A and Class B ordinary shares.

As a result of our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates’ ownership of Class B ordinary shares, their voting power may cause transactions to occur that might not be beneficial to you as a holder of ADSs and may prevent transactions that would be beneficial to you. For example, their voting power may prevent a transaction involving a change of control of us, including transactions in which you as a holder of our ADSs might otherwise receive a premium for your securities over the then-current market price. Similarly, our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates may approve a merger or consolidation of our company which may result in you receiving a stake (either in the form of shares, debt obligations or other securities) in the surviving or new consolidated company which may not operate our current business model and dissenters’ rights may not be available to you in such an event. See “Description of share capital—Differences in corporate law—Mergers and similar arrangements” for a detailed discussion of the merger and consolidation provisions under Cayman Islands law. This concentration of ownership could also adversely affect the market price of our ADSs or lessen any premium over market price that an acquirer might otherwise pay.

Our management has broad discretion to determine how to use the funds raised in the offering and may use them in ways that may not enhance our results of operations or the price of our ADSs.

We anticipate that we will use the net proceeds from this offering to fund working capital and other general corporate purposes and for the expansion of our business, including strategic acquisitions. We may also use a portion of the net proceeds to fund possible investments in, or acquisitions of, complementary businesses, products or technologies or to establish joint ventures. Our management will have significant discretion as to the use of the net proceeds to us from this offering and could spend the proceeds in ways that do not improve our results of operations or enhance the market price of our ADSs. In addition, these proceeds may not be invested in a manner that yields a favorable rate of return.

Compliance with rules and requirements applicable to public companies will increase our administrative costs, and any failure by us to comply with such rules and requirements could negatively affect investor confidence in us and cause the market price of our ADSs to decline.

As a public company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company prior to this offering. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules and regulations implemented by the SEC and the NYSE, have required significant additional corporate governance practices to be implemented by public companies. We expect these rules and regulations to increase our legal, accounting and financial compliance costs significantly and to make certain corporate activities more time consuming and costly. Complying with these rules and requirements may be especially difficult and costly for us because we may have difficulty hiring sufficient personnel in China with experience and expertise relating to U.S. GAAP and U.S. public company reporting requirements. If we cannot employ sufficient personnel to ensure compliance with these rules and regulations, we may need to rely more on outside legal, accounting and financial experts, which would be very costly. In addition, we will incur additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. We cannot predict

 

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or estimate the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs but expect that these additional costs could be up to a few million US$ annually. If we fail to comply with these rules and requirements, or are perceived to have weaknesses with respect to our compliance, we could become the subject of a governmental enforcement action, investor confidence in us could be negatively impacted and the market price of our ADSs could decline.

If we cease to qualify as a foreign private issuer, we would be required to comply fully with the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act applicable to US domestic issuers, and we would incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we would not incur as a foreign private issuer.

We expect to qualify as a foreign private issuer upon the completion of this offering. As a foreign private issuer, we will be exempt from the rules under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, prescribing the furnishing and content of proxy statements, and our officers, directors and principal shareholders will be exempt from the reporting and short-swing profit recovery provisions contained in Section 16 of the Exchange Act. In addition, we will not be required under the Exchange Act to file periodic reports and financial statements with the SEC as frequently or as promptly as U.S. domestic issuers, and we will not be required to disclose in our periodic reports all of the information that U.S. domestic issuers are required to disclose. While we currently expect to qualify as a foreign private issuer immediately following the completion of this offering, we may cease to qualify as a foreign private issuer in the future. If we do not qualify as a foreign private issuer, we will be required to comply fully with the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act applicable to US domestic issuers, and we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we would not incur as a foreign private issuer.

Many of the corporate governance rules promulgated by the NYSE will not apply to us so long as we qualify as a foreign private issuer, and there may be significant differences between our corporate governance practices and the corporate governance standards applicable to U.S. domestic companies listed on the NYSE.

As a foreign private issuer, we will be permitted to follow corporate governance practices in accordance with Cayman Islands law in lieu of most of the NYSE corporate governance rules in the NYSE Listed Company Manual, or the NYSE Standards. For example, the NYSE Standards require U.S. domestic issuers to have a nominating/corporate governance committee composed entirely of independent directors. We will not be subject to this requirement, and we do not intend to establish a nominating/corporate governance committee. We believe that the composition of our board and its committees and their respective duties and responsibilities are otherwise generally responsive to the relevant NYSE Standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers. However, the charters for our audit and compensation committees may not address all aspects of the NYSE Standards applicable to US domestic issuers. For example, the NYSE Standards require compensation committees of U.S. domestic issuers to produce a compensation committee report annually and include such report in their annual proxy statements or annual reports on Form 10-K. We are not subject to this requirement, and we have not addressed this in our compensation committee charter. The NYSE Standards require shareholder approval for certain matters, such as requiring that shareholders must be given the opportunity to vote on all equity compensation plans and material revisions to those plans. We intend to comply with the requirements of Cayman Islands law in determining whether shareholder approval is required on such matters.

 

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We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequence to U.S. holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares.

Based on the assumed initial public offering price of our ADSs in this offering, and the composition of our income and assets, we do not expect to be considered a “passive foreign investment company,” or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes for our current taxable year ending December 31, 2010. However, a separate determination must be made each year as to whether we are a PFIC (after the close of each taxable year) and we cannot assure you that we will not be a PFIC for our current taxable year ending December 31, 2010 or any future taxable year. Because PFIC status is a factual determination based on complicated rules that cannot be made until after the close of a taxable year, our special United States counsel expresses no opinion with respect to our PFIC status for our current taxable year ending December 31, 2010 and also expresses no opinion with respect to our expectations regarding our PFIC status in future years. A non-United States corporation will be considered a PFIC for any taxable year if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income is passive income or (2) or least 50% of the value of its assets (generally based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets during a taxable year) is attributable to assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income. PFIC status depends on the composition of our assets and income and the value of our assets (including, among others, a pro rata portion of the income and assets of each subsidiary in which we own, directly or indirectly, at least 25% (by value) of the equity interest) from time to time. Because we currently hold, and expect to continue to hold following this offering, a substantial amount of cash or cash equivalents, which are generally treated as passive assets, and, because the calculation of the value of our assets may be based in part on the value of our ADSs, which is likely to fluctuate after the offering (and may fluctuate considerably given that market prices of technology companies historically have been especially volatile), we may be a PFIC for any taxable year. If we were treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which a United States holder held an ADS or an ordinary share, certain adverse United States federal income tax consequences could apply to such United States holder. See “Taxation—United States federal income taxation—Passive foreign investment company.”

Our dual-class ordinary share structure with different voting rights could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.

Our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association provide for a dual-class ordinary share structure. Our ordinary shares are divided into Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B ordinary shares are entitled to ten votes per share. We will issue Class A ordinary shares represented by our ADSs in this offering. Our existing shareholders hold Class B ordinary shares, each of which is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holder thereof. Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances. Due to the disparate voting rights attached to these two classes, our existing shareholders will have significant voting rights over matters requiring shareholder approval, including the election and removal of directors and certain corporate transactions, such as mergers, consolidations and other business combinations. This concentrated control could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions that holders of Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.

 

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Anti-takeover provisions in our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control.

Some provisions of our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, which will become effective upon the completion of this offering, may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company or management that shareholders may consider favorable, including, among other things, the following:

 

 

Provisions that authorize our board of directors to issue preferred shares in one or more series and to designate the price, rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions of such preferred shares without any further vote or action by our shareholders; and

 

 

Provisions that restrict the ability of our shareholders to call meetings and to propose special matters for consideration at shareholder meetings.

The laws of the Cayman Islands may not provide our shareholders with benefits comparable to those provided to shareholders of corporations incorporated in the United States.

Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association, by the Companies Law (2009 Revision) of the Cayman Islands and by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against our directors, 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 in the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands and from English common law. Decisions of the Privy Council (which is the final Court of Appeal for British overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands) are binding on a court in the Cayman Islands. Decisions of the English courts, and particularly the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal are generally of persuasive authority but are not binding in the courts of 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 relative to the United States. Therefore, our public shareholders may have more difficulty protecting their interests in the face of actions by our management, directors or controlling shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States. In addition, shareholders of Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action before the federal courts of the United States. The Cayman Island courts are also unlikely to impose liability against us, in original actions brought in the Cayman Islands, based on certain civil liabilities provisions of U.S. securities laws. See “Description of share capital—Differences in corporate law.”

It may be difficult for you to enforce any judgment obtained in the United States against our company, which may limit the remedies otherwise available to our shareholders.

Substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States. Almost all of our current operations are conducted in China. A majority of our directors and officers reside outside the United States and a substantial portion of their assets 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 directors and officers 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, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. There

 

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is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will in certain circumstances recognize and enforce a non-penal judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction without retrial on the merits. While there is no binding authority on this point, this is likely to include, in certain circumstances, a non-penal judgment of a United States court imposing a monetary award based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws. The Grand Court of the Cayman Islands may stay proceedings if concurrent proceedings are being brought elsewhere. Moreover, the PRC does not have treaties with the United States or many other countries providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgment of courts. As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests through actions against us or our officers, directors or major shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States. See “Enforceability of civil liabilities.”

The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to vote the ordinary shares underlying your ADSs.

As a holder of our ADSs, you will only be able to exercise the voting rights with respect to the underlying ordinary shares in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under the deposit agreement, you must vote by giving voting instructions to the depositary. Upon receipt of your voting instructions, the depositary will vote the underlying ordinary shares in accordance with these instructions. You will not be able to directly exercise your right to vote with respect to the underlying ordinary shares unless you withdraw the shares. Under our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the minimum notice period required for convening a shareholder meeting is ten days. When a shareholder meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient advance notice to withdraw the ordinary shares underlying your ADSs to allow you to vote with respect to any specific matter. If we ask for your instructions, the depositary will notify you of the upcoming vote and will arrange to deliver our voting materials to you. We cannot assure you that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote your shares. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for their manner of carrying out your voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to vote and you may have no legal remedy if the shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you requested. See “Description of American depositary shares” for more detailed information.

You may not be able to participate in rights offerings and may experience dilution of your 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 a rights offerings we make and may experience dilution in their holdings as a result.

 

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You may not receive distributions on our ordinary shares or any value for them if such distribution is illegal or if any required government approval cannot be obtained in order to make such distribution available to you.

The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on ordinary shares or other deposited securities underlying our ADSs, after deducting its fees and expenses. You will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of ordinary shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible if it decides that it is unlawful or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. For example, it would be unlawful to make a distribution to a holder of ADSs if it consists of securities that require registration under the Securities Act but that are not properly registered or distributed under an applicable exemption from registration. The depositary may also determine that it is not feasible to distribute certain property through the mail. Additionally, the value of certain distributions may be less than the cost of mailing them. In these cases, the depositary may determine not to distribute such property. We have no obligation to register under U.S. securities laws any ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or other securities received through such distributions. We also have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution of ADSs, ordinary shares, rights or anything else to holders of ADSs. This means that you may not receive distributions we make on our ordinary shares or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical for us to make them available to you. These restrictions may cause a material decline in the value of our ADSs.

You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.

Your 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.

 

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Forward-looking statements

This prospectus includes forward-looking statements that relate to future events or our future financial performance and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to differ materially from any future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Words such as, but not limited to, “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “targets,” “likely,” “aim,” “will,” “would,” “could,” and similar expressions or phrases identify forward-looking statements. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operation, business strategy and financial needs. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

 

Anticipated trends and challenges in our business and the markets in which we operate;

 

 

Our ability to anticipate market needs or develop new or enhanced services and products to meet those needs;

 

 

Our ability to compete in our industry and innovation by our competitors;

 

 

Our ability to protect our confidential information and intellectual property rights;

 

 

Our ability to successfully identify and manage any potential acquisitions;

 

 

The timing and number of future acquisitions and the compensation we will expend to make future acquisitions;

 

 

Our need to obtain additional funding and our ability to obtain funding in the future on acceptable terms;

 

 

The impact on our business and results of operations arising from the defects in our real properties;

 

 

Our expectations regarding the use of proceeds from this offering;

 

 

Our planned capital expenditures in 2010;

 

 

Our plan to make significant expenditures to create and maintain our positive brand awareness and brand loyalty;

 

 

The loss of senior management and key personnel;

 

 

Our ability to manage growth; and

 

 

Economic and business conditions in China.

You should read thoroughly this prospectus and the documents that we refer to herein with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from and/or worse than what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements including those made in “Risk factors.” Other sections of this prospectus include additional factors which could adversely impact our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors emerge from time to time and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.

 

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This prospectus also contains third-party data relating to the education and career enhancement markets in China that includes projections based on a number of assumptions. The education and career enhancement markets may not grow at the rates projected by market data, or at all. The failure of this market to grow at the projected rates may have a material adverse effect on our business and the market price of our ADSs. Furthermore, if any one or more of the assumptions underlying the market data turns out to be incorrect, actual results may differ from the projections based on these assumptions. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.

You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The forward-looking statements made in this prospectus relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this prospectus. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

 

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Use of proceeds

We estimate that our net proceeds from the offering will be approximately US$             million, at an assumed initial public offering price of US$             per ADS (which is the mid-point of the estimated public offering price range), and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. If the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option in full, we estimate that our net proceeds will be approximately US$             million. A US$1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of US$             per ADS would increase (decrease) the net proceeds of this offering by US$             million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions. We will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of ADSs by the selling shareholders.

We anticipate that we will use the net proceeds from this offering to fund working capital and for other general corporate purposes, including the expansion of our different lines of business. The principal reasons we are conducting this offering are to be able to access public markets in the United States and to raise funds for our general corporate purposes and finance our future expansion, which we expect will include business expansion including strategic acquisitions, upgrades and expansions to our schools and learning centers, teacher training programs and research and development of our educational content and to fund our working capital. We currently estimate that we will use the net proceeds from this offering as follows: US$20 million for working capital and general corporate purposes, including teaching training programs and for research and development of our educational content and US$             million for the expansion of our business. Of the proceeds we expect to use for the expansion of our business, we currently anticipate that US$50 to US$70 million would be used for strategic acquisitions with the remainder to be used for upgrades and expansions to our existing schools and learning centers. For a further discussion of our strategies and business plan, see “Business—Our strategies.”

We do not currently have any agreements or understandings to make any material acquisitions of, or investments in, other businesses but, as of July 19, 2010, Ambow Sihua and Ambow Shanghai have entered into exclusivity agreements with five career enhancement centers and two tutoring centers with whom we may commence acquisition discussions after this offering is completed. See “Business—Our acquisitions.” To the extent that the net proceeds from this offering are not immediately applied for the above purposes, we intend to invest our net proceeds in interest-bearing bank deposits that may be withdrawn upon demand, short-term interest-bearing, investment grade securities, certificates of deposit or direct or guaranteed government obligations.

In utilizing the proceeds of this offering, as an offshore holding company, we are permitted, under PRC laws and regulations, to provide funding to our PRC subsidiaries only through loans or capital contributions and to other entities only through loans. Subject to satisfaction of applicable government registration and approval requirements, we may extend intercompany loans to our PRC subsidiaries and affiliated entities or make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries to fund their capital expenditures or working capital. We expect to apply and obtain such approval and registration as we deem necessary for utilizing the proceeds of this offering to provide funding to our PRC subsidiaries or other entities through capital contribution and loans. We have successfully obtained government approvals and registrations for our capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries. We did not make any intercompany loans to Ambow Online. We have not obtained governmental approvals or registrations for intercompany loans to our VIEs or their subsidiaries because there are no approval or registration requirements for these

 

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loans. We cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain these government approvals or registrations if and when needed on a timely basis, if at all. The time associated with these activities is usually several months and the related cost is minimal. For an increase of registered capital of the wholly-owned foreign enterprise, the authority will decide within 30 days after receiving the application documents. After obtaining the approval from authorities in charge of foreign investment, the time for the wholly-owned foreign enterprise’s registration of such capital contributions with SAFE will generally be less than 20 business days. See “Risk Factors—Risks related to doing business in China—PRC regulation of loans and direct investment by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of this offering to make loans or additional capital contributions to our PRC operating subsidiaries and affiliated entities, which could harm our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.”

The foregoing represents our current intentions based upon our present plans and business conditions to use and allocate the net proceeds of this offering. Our management, however, will have significant flexibility and discretion to apply the net proceeds of this offering. If an unforeseen event occurs or business conditions change, we may use the proceeds of this offering differently than as described in this prospectus.

 

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Dividends and dividend policy

Since our inception, we have not declared or paid any dividends on our shares. We intend to retain any earnings for use in our business and do not currently intend to pay cash dividends on our ordinary shares. Dividends, if any, on our outstanding ordinary shares will be declared by and subject to the discretion of our board of directors, and subject to Cayman Islands law.

Our ability to pay cash dividends will also depend upon the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our PRC subsidiaries, which must comply with the laws and regulations of the PRC and their respective articles of association in declaring and paying dividends to us. Under the applicable requirements of PRC law, our PRC subsidiaries incorporated as companies may only distribute dividends after they have made allowances to fund certain statutory reserves. If they record no net income for a year as determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the PRC, they generally may not distribute dividends for that year.

Any dividend we declare will be paid to the holders of ADSs, subject to the terms of the deposit agreement, to the same extent as holders of our ordinary shares, to the extent permitted by applicable law and regulations, less the fees and expenses payable under the deposit agreement. Any dividend we declare will be distributed by the depositary bank to the holders of our ADSs. Cash dividends on our ordinary shares, if any, will be paid in U.S. dollars. See “Description of American depositary shares.”

 

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Capitalization

The following table sets forth our capitalization as of March 31, 2010. Our capitalization is presented on:

 

 

An actual basis;

 

 

A pro forma basis to reflect the automatic conversion of all our outstanding preferred shares into Class B ordinary shares upon the closing of this offering; and

 

 

A pro forma, as adjusted basis to reflect (1) the automatic conversion of all our outstanding preferred shares into Class B ordinary shares upon the closing of this offering, (2) exercise of the Series B warrants and (3) the issuance and sale of                      Class A ordinary shares in the form of ADSs by us in this offering and our receipt of the estimated net proceeds from such issuance and sale in this offering, each based on an assumed initial public offering price of $            per ADS (which is the mid-point of the estimated public offering price range), after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us.

You should read this table in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this prospectus and the information under “Selected consolidated financial data” and “Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations.”

 

       As of March 31, 2010
(in thousands)    Actual    Pro Forma    Pro Forma
As Adjusted
 
     RMB    US$    RMB    US$    RMB    US$
               (unaudited)

Long-term borrowings (excluding current portion)

  

74,000

  

10,841

   74,000    10,841      

Mezzanine Equity:

                 

Series C convertible redeemable preferred shares, US$0.0001 par value: 23,387,381 shares authorized, issued and outstanding, actual; no shares authorized, issued and outstanding, pro forma; no shares authorized, no shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted

   561,934    82,325            

Series D convertible redeemable preferred shares, US$0.0001 par value: 29,835,966 shares authorized and 26,722,649 shares issued and outstanding, actual; no shares authorized, issued and outstanding, pro forma; no shares authorized, no shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted

   802,781    117,610            
                               

 

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       As of March 31, 2010
(in thousands, except per share data)    Actual     Pro Forma    Pro Forma
As Adjusted
                                 
     RMB     US$     RMB    US$    RMB    US$
                 (unaudited)

Shareholders’ equity:

               

Series A convertible preferred shares, US$0.0001 par value: 12,900,000 shares authorized, issued and outstanding, actual; no shares authorized, issued and outstanding, pro forma; no shares authorized, no shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted

   14,283      2,093              

Series B convertible preferred shares, US$0.0001 par value: 18,335,715 shares authorized and 17,745,522 shares issued and outstanding, actual; no shares authorized, issued and outstanding, pro forma; no shares authorized, no shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted

   96,667      14,162              

Class A ordinary shares, US$0.0001 par value: 0 shares authorized and 0 shares issued and outstanding, actual; 1,000,000,000 shares authorized, 0 shares issued and outstanding, pro forma; 1,000,000,000 shares authorized, shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted(1)

                     

Class B ordinary shares, US$0.0001 par value: 155,000,000 shares authorized and 46,221,231 shares issued and outstanding, actual; 200,000,000 shares authorized,              shares issued and outstanding, pro forma; 200,000,000 shares authorized,              shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted(1)

   36      5              

Additional paid-in capital(2)

   622,122      91,143              

Warrants

   2,737      401              

Statutory reserves

   34,155      5,004              

Retained earnings (Accumulated deficit)

   (116,051   (17,003           

Accumulated other comprehensive income

   24,212      3,547              

Non-controlling interest

   55,574      8,142              

Total shareholders’ equity(2)

   733,735      107,494              

Total capitalization(2)

   2,098,450      307,429              
 

 

(1)   Subsequent to March 31, 2010, our share capital was re-designated into Class A and Class B ordinary shares under our amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, which became effective on                     , 2010.

 

(2)   A US$1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of US$             per ADS would increase (decrease) each of the additional paid-in capital, total shareholders’ equity and total capitalization by US$             million, after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions payable by us and assuming no exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional ADSs.

 

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The table above excludes the following shares:

 

 

18,548,185 Class B ordinary shares issuable upon the exercise of options outstanding as of March 31, 2010, with a weighted average exercise price of US$2.41 per ordinary share;

 

 

590,193 Class B ordinary shares issuable upon the assumed exercise of warrants outstanding as of March 31, 2010, which have an exercise price of US$0.75 per ordinary share; and

 

 

1,734,168 ordinary shares reserved for future grants under our equity incentive plan as of March 31, 2010.

 

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Dilution

As of March 31, 2010, our net tangible book value was US$             per ordinary shares and US$             per ADS. Net tangible book value per ordinary share represents total tangible assets minus total liabilities divided by the total number of ordinary shares outstanding. Dilution is determined by subtracting net tangible book value per ordinary share from the assumed public offering price per ordinary share.

Without taking into account any other changes in net tangible book value after March 31, 2010, other than giving effect to (1) the automatic conversion of all our outstanding preferred shares into ordinary shares upon the closing of this offering, (2) exercise of the Series B warrants and (3) our sale of                      ADSs in the offering at an assumed initial public offering price of US$             per ADS (which is the midpoint of the estimated public offering price range) and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated expenses of the offering payable by us, but without taking into account any other changes in such net tangible book value after March 31, 2010, the net tangible book value per ordinary share would increase to US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS), or US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS) if the underwriters’ over-allotment option is exercised in full. This represents an immediate increase in net tangible book value of US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS) to our existing shareholders or US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS) if the underwriters’ over-allotment option is exercised in full, and an immediate dilution of US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS) to purchasers of ADSs in the offering or US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS), if the underwriters’ over-allotment option is exercised in full.

The following table illustrates this dilution on a per ordinary share basis and a per ADS basis assuming that all ADSs are exchanged for ordinary shares:

 

       Per Ordinary
Share
   Per ADS

Assumed initial public offering price per share

     

Net tangible book value per ordinary share as of March 31, 2010

     

Increase per share attributable to the sale of the ADSs

     

Pro forma net tangible book value per share after this offering

     

Dilution per ordinary share to purchasers of ADSs in the offering

     
 

A $1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed public offering price of US$             per ADS would increase (decrease) our pro forma net tangible book value after giving effect to the offering by US$             per ordinary share and US$             per ADS, respectively, and the dilution in pro forma net tangible book value per ordinary share and per ADS to new investors in this offering by US$             per ordinary share and US$             per ADS, respectively, assuming no change to the number of ADSs offered by us as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions.

 

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The following table summarizes, on a pro forma basis as of March 31, 2010, the differences between our existing shareholders as of such date and the new investors with respect to the number of ordinary shares purchased from us, the total consideration paid and the average price per ordinary shares paid at an assumed initial public offering price of US$ per ADS (which is the midpoint of the estimated public offering price range) before deducting estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us.

 

       Ordinary Shares Purchased    Total Consideration   

Average
Price

Per Share

  

Average
Price per

ADS

     Number    Percent    Amount    Percent      
 

Existing shareholders

   126,976,783    %    $ 170,464,056    %    1.34   

New Investors

                 
                           

Total

      100.0%    $                 100.0%      
                                 

A US$1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of US$             per ADS would increase (decrease) total consideration paid by new investors, total consideration paid by all shareholders and the average price per ADS paid by all shareholders by US$             million, and US$            , respectively, assuming no change in the number of ADSs sold by us and the selling shareholders as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus and without deducting underwriting discounts and commissions.

The number of ordinary shares to be outstanding following the offering is based on 126,976,783 shares outstanding at March 31, 2010, which gives effect to the conversion of all of our preferred shares into ordinary shares upon the completion of this offering, and excludes:

 

 

18,548,185 Class B ordinary shares issuable upon the exercise of options outstanding as of March 31, 2010, with a weighted average exercise price of US$2.41 per ordinary share;

 

 

590,193 Class B ordinary shares issuable upon the assumed exercise of warrants outstanding as of December 31, 2009, which have an exercise price of US$0.75 per ordinary share; and

 

 

1,734,168 ordinary shares reserved for future grants under our equity incentive plan as of March 31, 2010.

To the extent all options and warrants outstanding at March 31, 2010 are exercised, the number of ordinary shares to be outstanding immediately following the offering would increase to                      and the total consideration would increase to US$            . Our existing shareholders would hold                      ordinary shares or         % of the number of ordinary shares outstanding immediately following the offering for which they paid US$             or         % of the total consideration. The purchasers of ADSs in the offering would hold        % of the number of ordinary shares outstanding immediately following the offering and would experience immediate dilution in net tangible book value of US$             per ordinary share (or US$             per ADS). In addition, we may in the future elect to raise additional capital as a result of favorable market conditions or strategic considerations even if we believe we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, the issuance of such securities could result in further dilution to our shareholders.

 

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Exchange rate information

Our business is primarily conducted in China and substantially all of our revenues are denominated in RMB. However, periodic reports made to shareholders will be expressed in U.S. dollars using the then current exchange rates. This prospectus contains translations of RMB amounts into U.S. dollars at specific rates solely for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from RMB to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to RMB in this prospectus were made at RMB6.8258 to US$1.00, as certified for customs purposes by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on March 31, 2010. We make no representation that any RMB or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate, the rates stated below, or at all. The PRC government imposes control over its foreign currency reserves in part through direct regulation of the conversion of RMB into foreign exchange and through restrictions on foreign trade. On July 9, 2010, the exchange rate was RMB6.7720 to US$1.00.

The following table sets forth information concerning exchange rates between the RMB and the U.S. dollar for the periods indicated. These rates are provided solely for your convenience and are not necessarily the exchange rates that we used in this prospectus or will use in the preparation of our periodic reports or any other information to be provided to you. The source of these rates is the Federal Reserve Board.

 

       Exchange Rate
Period    Period End    Average(1)    Low(2)    High(2)
                     

2005

   8.0702    8.1826    8.0702    8.2765

2006

   7.8041    7.9579    7.8041    8.0702

2007

   7.2946    7.5806    7.2946    7.8127

2008

   6.8225    6.9193    6.7800    7.2946

2009

   6.8259    6.8295    6.8176    6.8470

2010

           

January

   6.8268    6.8269    6.8258    6.8295

February

   6.8258    6.8285    6.8258    6.8330

March

   6.8258    6.8262    6.8254    6.8270

April

   6.8247    6.8256    6.8229    6.8275

May

   6.8305    6.8275    6.8245    6.8310

June

   6.7815    6.8184    6.7815    6.8323

July (through July 9)

   6.7720    6.7762    6.7709    6.7807
                     

 

(1)   Annual averages are calculated from month-end noon buying rates in the city of New York as published by the Federal Reserve Bank. Monthly averages are calculated using the daily noon buying rates in the city of New York as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board during the relevant periods.

 

(2)   Annual and monthly lows and highs are calculated from daily noon buying rates in the city of New York as published by the Federal Reserve Bank.

 

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Selected consolidated financial data

The following selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with “Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes. The selected consolidated financial data presented below for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and as of December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus, which have been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers Zhong Tian CPAs Limited Company and were prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. The selected consolidated financial data, except for the as adjusted consolidated balance sheet data, presented below for the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010 and as of March 31, 2009 and 2010 is derived from our unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. We have prepared the unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements on the same basis as our audited consolidated financial statements. The unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements include all adjustments, consisting only of normal and recurring adjustments, which we consider necessary for a fair presentation of our financial position and operating results for the periods presented. We historically prepared limited financial data under PRC accounting standards which were used for internal purposes and to support our PRC tax return information only. We have omitted the selected financial data as of and for the years ended December 31, 2005 and 2006, as such information is not available on a basis that is consistent with the consolidated financial statements as of and for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009, and cannot be provided on a U.S. GAAP basis without unreasonable effort or expense.

We have completed a number of acquisitions since January 1, 2008, which have affected period-to-period comparisons of our selected consolidated financial data. The results of our acquired companies have been included in our financial statements since their respective dates of acquisition and have contributed to our growth in net revenues, net income and net income per share. For a more detailed description of these acquisitions, see note 22 to our consolidated financial statements contained elsewhere in this prospectus.

 

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      For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
(in thousands, except share, per
share and per ADS information)
  2007     2008     2009     2009     2009     2010     2010  
                     
    RMB     RMB     RMB     US$     RMB     RMB     US$  

Consolidated Statement of Operations Data :

             

NET REVENUES:

             

Educational programs and services

  317,854      469,543      760,444      111,407      160,109      232,154      34,011   

Educational products

  1,077      38,826      141,582      20,742      16,235      28,134      4,122   
                                         

Total net revenues

  318,931      508,369      902,026      132,149      176,344      260,288      38,133   

Cost of revenues

  (205,619   (327,168   (408,985   (59,918   (101,849   (127,165   (18,630
                                         

GROSS PROFIT

  113,312      181,201      493,041      72,231      74,495      133,123      19,503   
                                         

Operating expenses:

             

Selling and marketing(1)

  (19,600   (43,123   (138,423   (20,279   (21,458   (51,703   (7,575

General and administrative(1)

  (33,828   (56,860   (188,518   (27,618   (32,485   (66,367   (9,723

Research and development(1)

  (3,754   (11,696   (17,470   (2,559   (5,869   (5,207   (763
                                         

Total operating expenses

  (57,182   (111,679   (344,411   (50,456   (59,812   (123,277   (18,061
                                         

OPERATING INCOME

  56,130      69,522      148,630      21,775      14,683      9,846      1,442   
                                         

OTHER INCOME (EXPENSE)

  (11,315   5,573      (9,047   (1,326   1,778      (3,137   (460
                                         

Income before tax and non-controlling interest

  44,815      75,095      139,583      20,449      16,461      6,709      982   

Income tax expense

  (10,578   (7,735   (1,562   (229   (133   (3,733   (547
                                         

NET INCOME

  34,237      67,360      138,021      20,220      16,328      2,976      435   

Non-controlling interest

            215      31           901      132   
                                         

NET INCOME ATTRIBUTABLE TO AMBOW EDUCATION HOLDING LTD.

  34,237      67,360      138,236      20,251      16,328      3,877      567   

Preferred shares redemption value accretion

  (1,407   (67,768   (157,877   (23,129   (38,524   (76,932   (11,271

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders

  (20,837   (53,949   (93,611   (13,715   (23,103   (23,067   (3,379
                                         

NET INCOME (LOSS) ATTRIBUTABLE TO ORDINARY SHAREHOLDERS

  11,993      (54,357   (113,252   (16,593   (45,299   (96,122   (14,083
                                         

Net income (loss) per ordinary share:(2)

             

Basic

  0.75      (2.36   (2.89   (0.42   (1.35   (2.08   (0.30

Diluted

  0.33      (2.36   (2.89   (0.42   (1.35   (2.08   (0.30

Net income (loss) per ADS:

             

Basic

             

Diluted

             

Weighted average shares used in calculating net income (loss) per share(2)

             

Basic

  16,031,507      23,038,853      39,193,092      39,193,092      33,640,059      46,221,231      46,221,231   

Diluted

  37,622,476      23,038,853      39,193,092      39,193,092      33,640,059      46,221,231      46,221,231   
                                           

 

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(1)   Share-based compensation expense included in:

 

(in thousands)   For the Year Ended December 31,   For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
  2007   2008   2009   2009   2009   2010   2010
             
    RMB   RMB   RMB   US$   RMB   RMB   US$

Selling and marketing

  623   1,194   4,411   646   684   1,450   212

General and administrative

  4,175   8,370   8,640   1,266   2,236   4,035   591

Research and development

  353   426   480   70   110   165   24
                             

 

(2)   Basic and diluted net income (loss) per ordinary share is computed by dividing net income by the weighted average number of shares outstanding for the period. The potentially dilutive warrants, preferred shares and options were excluded from the calculation of diluted net income (loss) per share in those periods where their inclusion would be anti-dilutive.

 

      As of December 31,   As of March 31,
(in thousands)   2007   2008   2009   2009   2010   2010
         
    RMB   RMB   RMB   US$   RMB   US$

Consolidated Balance Sheet Data :

           

Cash and cash equivalents

  416,094   778,824   409,926   60,055   411,263   60,251

Total current assets

  1,006,011   1,578,712   1,133,515   166,062   949,788   139,146

Total assets

  1,012,335   1,993,884   3,672,394   538,016   3,497,791   512,436

Total current liabilities

  475,104   502,738   1,131,901   165,826   947,055   138,746

Total liabilities

  475,104   525,626   1,582,625   231,859   1,399,341   205,007

Mezzanine equity

  387,757   1,131,408   1,288,147   188,716   1,364,715   199,935

Total shareholders equity

  149,474   336,850   801,622   117,441   733,735   107,494
         

 

       For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
(in thousands)    2007     2008     2009     2009     2009     2010     2010  
                     
     RMB     RMB     RMB     US$     RMB     RMB     US$  

Cash Flow Data :

              

Net cash provided by/(used in) operating activities

   88,613      (63,630   523,094      76,635      72,321      48,241      7,068   

Net cash used in investing activities

   (118,430   (261,831   (802,365   (117,549   (61,258   (42,906   (6,286

Net cash provided by/(used in) financing activities

   388,754      700,041      (86,500   (12,672        (3,930   (576
                     

 

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Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations

You should read the following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and the notes to those statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. The discussion in this prospectus contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, such as statements of our plans, objectives, expectations and intentions. The cautionary statements made in this prospectus should be read as applying to all related forward-looking statements wherever they appear in this prospectus. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed here. Factors that could cause or contribute to these differences include those discussed in “Risk factors,” as well as those discussed elsewhere. See “Risk factors” and “Forward-looking statements.”

Overview

We are a leading national provider of educational and career enhancement services in China. Our business addresses two critical demands in China’s education market, the desire for students to be admitted into top secondary and post-secondary schools, and the desire for graduates of those schools to obtain more attractive jobs. We offer consistently high-quality, individualized services and products through our combined online and offline delivery model powered by our proprietary technologies and robust infrastructure. Our regional service hubs, comprised of our five K-12 schools, 96 tutoring centers, two colleges and 16 career enhancement centers as of March 31, 2010, combined with our distributors, enable us to provide our services and products to students in 30 out of the 31 provinces and autonomous regions within China.

Through our directly-operated schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers and our distributors, we have significantly grown our net revenue, net income and student enrollment. Our net revenues increased from RMB318.9 million in 2007 to RMB508.4 million in 2008 to RMB902.0 million (US$132.1 million) in 2009 and from RMB176.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB260.3 million (US$38.1 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. Net revenues from the provision of our services accounted for 99.7%, 92.4%, 84.3% and 89.2% of our net revenues in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. Net revenues from direct sales of our tutoring and career enhancement software products accounted for 0.3%, 7.6%, 15.7% and 10.8% of our net revenues in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. Our growth from 2008 to 2009 was primarily driven by the expansion of our service hubs across both the Better Schools and Better Jobs divisions, primarily through acquisitions, and to a lesser extent, the organic growth of our businesses. Our ten acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights in 2008 generated net revenues of RMB55.7 million, RMB213.7 million (US$31.3 million) and RMB61.1 million (US$9.0 million) for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. Our 13 acquisitions through business combinations in 2009 generated net revenues of RMB368.4 million (US$54.0 million) and RMB163.1 million (US$23.9 million) in 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively.

We recorded net income of RMB34.2 million, RMB67.4 million, RMB138.0 million (US$20.2 million) and RMB3.0 million (US$0.4 million) in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively.

As of March 31, 2010, we had more than 30,000 students enrolled in our K-12 schools and colleges. Since the beginning of 2008, we have had in the aggregate more than 950,000 student

 

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enrollments in our tutoring and career enhancement centers. Since the beginning of 2007, we have had in aggregate more than 500,000 registered users of our software products or services through our online services or as a result of our software sales through distributors and, under our old sales model, sales to students of our partner schools. When we refer to student enrollments in this prospectus, we mean the total number of students enrolled in our K-12 schools and colleges and the total number of classes, tutoring sessions or training programs purchased by students in our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers as of the end of a particular academic period. For example, if one student enrolls in two separate tutoring classes or training programs, we count that as two student enrollments.

We have two business divisions, “Better Schools” and “Better Jobs,” and four operating segments, K-12 schools, tutoring, colleges and career enhancement, which are included within our two divisions. Our K-12 schools and tutoring segments are within our Better Schools division and colleges and career enhancement segments are within our Better Jobs division. Net revenues from Better Schools accounted for 43.1%, 51.0%, 54.5% and 70.5% of our total net revenues in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. Net revenues from Better Jobs accounted for 56.9%, 49.0%, 45.5% and 29.5% of our total net revenues in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. We expect the mix of our net revenues between Better Schools and Better Jobs to fluctuate as we continue to expand our business and as the expansion plans focus more heavily on one of our operating segments in a given period.

Due to certain restrictions and qualification requirements under PRC law that apply to foreign investment in China’s education industry, our education business is currently conducted through contractual arrangements among our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China and our consolidated variable interest entities, or VIEs, in China. Our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries hold the licenses and permits necessary to conduct our educational and career enhancement services business in China and directly operate our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, develop and distribute educational content, software and other technologies, and operate our online education business. We have entered into Technology Service Agreements or Exclusive Cooperation Agreements with our VIEs pursuant to which we may receive economic benefits in the future. As of the date of this prospectus, we have not received any payments under these agreements because we have not provided any services to the VIEs under these agreements. We plan to utilize these agreements once we have finalized our plans on the provision of intercompany services, which will take into account our liquidity position as well as our ability to fund and expand our business. We have, however, entered into additional agreements to sell products and provide services to our VIEs’ subsidiaries. Under these agreements, we recognized net revenues of RMB58.1 million, RMB187.3 million (US$27.4 million) and RMB24.9 million (US$3.7 million) for the years ended December 31, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively (which have been eliminated upon consolidation), from the VIEs’ subsidiaries in connection with products sold and services provided by Ambow Online to these subsidiaries. The terms of these sales agreements to our VIEs’ subsidiaries are the same as sales to third parties described further in this section of the prospectus.

As of March 31, 2010, we had RMB162.5 million due from certain related parties and owed RMB9.4 million to certain related parties. Many of the balances due from the related parties were amounts that had been lent to the school principals, owners or other controlling persons of entities we have acquired, prior to our acquisition dates, to fund the operations of various schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers. In addition, some amounts relate to

 

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indemnifications provided by the previous owners of the schools we acquired for which we have also recognized a corresponding liability. The remaining balances were mainly revenues collected on our behalf by the related parties and owed to us. The balances owed to related parties represented amounts due to former owners of our schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers or entities controlled by such owners for certain operating expenses they had paid, repayments of loans from certain principals of our schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers or, in one case, the outstanding payment for the training services provided by the principal of a career enhancement center. We do not believe that such transactions with the related parties require approval from the government.

Factors affecting our results of operations

General factors affecting our results of operations

We have benefited significantly from the following recent trends in the China educational and career enhancement services market:

 

 

Rapid growth in disposable household income;

 

 

Intense competition in the education sector and the job market;

 

 

Rapid economic growth;

 

 

Increasing hiring needs of existing and new companies doing business in China; and

 

 

The increased availability and utilization of advanced learning technologies to supplement the traditional education delivery model.

The overall economic growth and the increase in the GDP per capita in China have led to a significant increase in spending on education in China. In addition, education is a welcomed and supported industry in China, which means that education service providers often get preferential treatment in terms of infrastructure support and tax rates. As an example of preferential infrastructure support given to education service providers, we are permitted to utilize the facilities and properties provided by the Kunshan government to operate our Kunshan career enhancement center, free of rent for the first three years and then enjoy a 50% reduction of rent for the following two years. Further, according to a report from the PRC central government in May 2007, the government stated that it will invest RMB10 billion on vocational training related infrastructure projects. Examples of preferential tax treatment include an exemption of public schools and private schools which are qualified as “not-for-profit organizations,” under the New CIT Law from paying income tax with respect to their income qualified for the exemption and the exemption of schools and colleges providing degree-oriented education services from business tax with respect to their income derived from degree-oriented education services, as described further in “—Taxation.”

We anticipate that the demand for private education and career enhancement training in China will continue to increase as the economy in China continues to grow and as disposable income of urban households continues to rise. However, any adverse changes in the economic conditions or regulatory environment in China may have a material adverse effect on the education and career enhancement industries in China, which in turn may harm our business and results of operations. We are subject to a legal regime consisting of regulations governing various aspects of our business such as regulations on education, software, internet, audio-video broadcasting, tax, information security, privacy, copyright and trademark protection and foreign exchange. These regulations are evolving and are subject to frequent changes which may materially adversely affect our business in all aspects such as the operation of our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers through the VIE structure, the engagement of public school teachers and the organization of classes with large-size attendance in our tutoring

 

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centers, the establishment of new colleges and the offering of our online services. As of December 31, 2009, pursuant to The Law of Promoting Private Education (2003), we have reserved RMB10.1 million in the Education Development Reserve for our private schools. Such appropriation is for the purpose of maintaining the schools’ existing facilities and for the acquisition of new facilities for these private schools. Since the Education Development Reserve may be used in the operations of these private schools, we do not anticipate such allocations will have a significant impact on the private schools’ or our liquidity and capital resources. Please see “Risk factors—Risks related to regulation of our business and our corporate structure” and “Regulation.”

Though we do not possess the land use right certificates or building ownership certificates with respect to some of our owned real properties, and the lessors of some of our leased properties do not have effective ownership certificates, we do not believe that our ability to maintain and obtain or renew our licenses or permits for our business operations will be adversely affected by such issues, except that the failure of our two colleges to possess the required amounts of land may impact their ability to conduct their business if we are not able to address this deficiency by the required compliance period in 2013. To satisfy such land requirements at our two colleges would require us to incur significant expenses that we are not able to quantify, but which we believe could be millions of RMB. See “Risk factors—Risks related to our business and industry—Failure by our colleges to comply with regulatory requirements on land use rights and capital commitment may subject our colleges to penalties and adversely affect our business operations.” To remedy the land use rights and building ownership certificates at our owned properties, we believe we will incur approximately RMB6.0 million (US$879,018) to RMB9.0 million (US$1.3 million) of expenses and for the defects at our leased and owned properties could be subject to fines up to RMB16.5 million (US$2.4 million). See “Risk factors—Risks related to our business and industry—Our legal right to lease certain properties could be challenged by property owners or other third parties, which may cause interruptions to business operations of the affected schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers and adversely affect our financial results” and “Risk factors—Risks related to our business and industry—We do not possess the relevant land use right certificates or building ownership certificates for some of the properties owned by us, and certain of the properties that we own have potential defects or issues that may not be easily remedied, which could cause us to incur significant additional expenses or could disrupt certain aspects of our business.”

Specific factors affecting our results of operations

While our business is influenced by factors affecting the education and career enhancement industries in China generally and by conditions in each of the geographic markets we serve within China, we believe our business is more directly affected by company-specific factors, including, among others:

 

 

The number of student enrollments .    The number of student enrollments is largely driven by the demand for the educational programs offered by our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, the amount of fees we charge, the effectiveness of our marketing and brand promotion efforts, the locations and capacity of our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, our ability to maintain the consistency and quality of our teaching, and our ability to respond to competitive pressures, as well as seasonal factors. In 2008 and 2009, our K-12 schools had student enrollments that were above 85% of the aggregate capacity of the schools. Total capacity at our K-12 schools in 2008 and 2009 was 20,420 and 22,900 students, respectively. In 2008 and 2009, our two colleges, Applied Technology College and Beijing Century College, had government-imposed annual

 

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enrollment quota limits of an aggregate of 3,499 and 3,409 students, respectively. The total new student enrollments in 2009 at Applied Technology College and Beijing Century College were an aggregate of 3,499 and 3,350, respectively. The students at our K-12 schools take standard course loads and their tuition is tied to the school semester or school year and not directly to their course loads within those periods.

 

 

The amount of fees we charge .    We determine enrollment fees in our K-12 schools and colleges based on demand for the educational programs offered by our schools and government approvals that determine limits for what we can charge to our students. Our colleges are subject to tuition guidelines approved by the local equivalent of the MOE. We determine course fees for our tutoring centers and career enhancement centers primarily based on demand for our courses, the targeted market for our courses, the geographic location and capacity of the center, costs of delivering our services, and the course fees charged by our competitors for the same or similar courses. Our ability to increase enrollment and tuition fees will also depend on the perception of the quality and effectiveness of our services and products, the availability of competing courses and annual enrollment quota restrictions placed on us by PRC regulations.

Education services are an investment for the future, especially for children’s education, in China. Steady growth of the economy will likely result in the continuous growth of income and higher consumption levels for China’s citizens, who will have more capital for the education of their children, especially for after-school tutoring. However, we believe that the tuition fees of K-12 schools and tutoring services and college tuition fees are less impacted by the ups and downs of the overall economy as we believe that people in China generally cut back on other spending before they reduce their spending on their children’s education. We believe that fees charged for career enhancement services will be more impacted by the economy. If students anticipate a lower-waged job after they graduate, they may be willing to spend less for career enhancement services.

The maximum tuition fees that a school can charge vary by locations, but usually the regulations governing these price controls take into consideration China’s economic growth in determining whether to approve a tuition increase and in setting the size of the tuition increase. Usually the local governments review and adjust tuition fees every two to three years as necessary to reflect inflation or new educational services that are provided. Price controls by local governments will affect the amount by which we are able to increase our fees charged to students in our K-12 schools and colleges.

 

 

Our costs and expenses .    We incur costs and expenses at both the headquarter level and at our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. Our most significant costs at our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers are compensation paid to our teachers and for rent expense. A substantial majority of our operating expenses are selling and marketing and general and administrative expenses.

Effects of change in our sales model

In 2007, we provided services through sales agents to students attending our partner schools where we did not control the facilities or teachers. In May 2008, we began to implement a change to our sales model and started to cease providing services directly to students where we did not control the facilities or teachers. Our new business model focuses on the provision of services to students attending schools and centers that are operated directly by ourselves and, to a lesser extent, the sale of stand-alone software products to distributors. This change in sales model that occurred over time during 2008 and 2009 did not have a significant effect on our financial results, specifically our gross margins, until 2009. As of October 2009, all of our sales of

 

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educational programs and services and products, other than one ongoing contract that will expire in September 2011, were made under our new sales model, as described below.

Under our old sales model, we delivered the learning materials we had developed through courses to students attending our partner schools with the help of sales agents and we remained responsible for the delivery of the services to students. As a result, the net revenues we recognized were the gross amounts paid by students for our services and we incurred significant costs relating to the services we were responsible to provide under this sales model. Our gross margins in 2007 and 2008, when all or a substantial majority of our net revenues were recognized pursuant to this sales model, were 35.5% and 35.6%, respectively.

In 2008, we started to introduce our new business model which focused on two key sales models: the provision of educational programs and services to students of our directly-operated schools and centers and the sale of software products to distributors. Our directly-operated schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers generate revenues from tuition fees, accommodation fees and, to a much lesser extent, education materials. We use our technology platform and learning materials to enhance the experience of our students attending these directly-operated schools.

Our new sales model for selling software products is focused on selling these products to our distributors and the distributors are responsible for the delivery of services that incorporate our software products or for selling the software products on a stand-alone basis with no further service obligation. Under the new product sales model, we contract directly with distributors and have no direct contact with schools or their students. We also have no further obligation to the schools or students in terms of the delivery of services. As a result, for sales of software products under the new sales model, we recognize less revenue for each sale compared to the old sales model but recognize a higher gross margin as we are no longer responsible for the cost of delivering the services to schools or students or for sales agent costs.

Our gross margin for delivery of services to our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, combined with sales of software products under this new sales model, was 54.7% in 2009. The increased gross margin was especially evident in 2009 as 2008 was a transition year with significant net revenue still being recognized on sales of our services through sales agents to students at our partner schools as opposed to selling software products to distributors. As of December 31, 2008, we still had some deferred revenue that was recognized as net revenue in 2009 from sales under our old sales model made in 2008.

For the years ended December 31, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, an estimated 4.0%, 15.0% and 3.5%, respectively, of our net revenues were generated by sales through our distributors. We expect net revenues generated on sales through distributors as a percentage of total net revenues to fluctuate from period to period. During the three months ended March 31, 2010, we had two distributors for our products: one for Better Schools’ products and one for Better Jobs’ products. For the year ended December 31, 2009, these two distributors accounted for approximately 60% of our net revenues to distributors.

The following are the key terms of sales to our distributors, the nature of support services provided by our distributors to their customers and our basis for estimating returned products from distributors.

Terms of sales

In 2009, we generally sold software products to our distributors on a prepaid basis. Sales with credit terms require special approval by our management. While not significant in 2010, we have extended credit terms to our two key distributors. We do not give refunds and only offer

 

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replacements to the extent of product defaults. We provide secondary support in rare instances when the distributors cannot answer end users’ questions. This support is available for a short period after the sales of the software product and has been immaterial for all periods presented.

How distributors provide customers with support services

In addition to the sales of software products to end users, our distributors may also provide support services to the end users including classroom tutoring, providing facilities for study and on-the-job coaching, where applicable. The distributors determine what other support services, if any, they are going to provide and bear the sole responsibility for these support services.

How we estimate amounts of returned products

We do not give refunds and only offer replacements to the extent of product defaults within 30 days after delivery. Based on our past experience and quality control procedures performed before products are shipped out, the number of returns is minimal and we, therefore, do not expect any significant returns in the future.

Effects of acquisitions and other expansion plans

In 2008, we made an aggregate of ten acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights pursuant to which we acquired two K-12 schools, 28 tutoring centers and three career enhancement centers. In 2009, we made an aggregate of 13 acquisitions pursuant to which we acquired three K-12 schools, 66 tutoring centers, two colleges and 12 career enhancement centers. Our future results of operations will depend significantly upon our ability to increase student enrollments at existing schools and centers and further expand our school and center network throughout China. We plan to continue to expand our operations going forward, including selectively converting our A+ Alliance partners to our own schools and learning centers through business combinations and by making acquisitions depending on market conditions and our ability to identify and consummate such acquisitions after the completion of this offering. To consummate these transactions, we believe that we will use some of the proceeds from this offering and we also intend to issue additional shares in these acquisitions that will dilute our shareholders. Our planned continued expansion will also result in substantial demands on our management, operational, technological, financial and other resources. We will continue to implement additional measures and recruit qualified personnel in order to effectively manage and support our growth.

Key financial performance indicators

Our key financial performance indicators consist of our net revenues, cost of revenues, gross profit and operating expenses, which are discussed in greater detail below. The following table sets forth our net revenues, cost of revenues and gross profit, both in absolute amount and as a percentage of net revenues, for the periods indicated.

 

      For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
    2007     2008     2009     2010  
(in thousands, except
percentages)
  RMB     %     RMB     %     RMB     US$     %     RMB     US$     %  

Net revenues

  318,931      100.0      508,369      100.0      902,026      132,149      100.0      260,288      38,133      100.0   

Cost of revenues

  (205,619   (64.5   (327,168   (64.4   (408,985   (59,918   (45.3   (127,165   (18,630   (48.9
                                                           

Gross Profit

  113,312      35.5      181,201      35.6      493,041      72,231      54.7      133,123      19,503      51.1   
                                                             

 

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Net revenues

In 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, we generated net revenues of RMB318.9 million, RMB508.4 million, RMB902.0 million (US$132.1 million) and RMB260.3 million (US$38.1 million), respectively.

In 2007, we provided services to students of schools where we did not control the facilities or teachers through sales agents and we were responsible for the services provided to these students. Aside from the delivery of these services on a class-by-class basis, we were not directly or indirectly responsible for the delivery of any after-sales or other services.

Beginning in 2008, we acquired and began to operate K-12 schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers. These acquired schools and centers generated revenues from tuition fees, accommodation fees and, to a much lesser extent, education materials. We also commenced the sale of services directly to students studying at these acquired schools and centers, in addition to continuing to provide services to other students through our sales agents. In 2008, we also started to sell some of our internally developed software products on a stand-alone basis to distributors with no further obligation to provide services in connection with these software products. As discussed above, under our new sales model, we contract directly with distributors and have no direct contact with the schools or their students.

In 2009, we acquired more K-12 schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers and our first two colleges and we completed the transition to our new sales model for sales of our software products to distributors.

Our total product revenues as a percentage of our total net revenues was 0.3%, 7.6%, 15.7% and 10.8% in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. Our product sales include value added tax. We expect our total product revenues as a percentage of our total net revenues to decline. Our primary focus going forward will be on selling our education programs and services to students in our directly-operated K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers.

We derived net revenues from our four operating segments in terms of percentages of our overall net revenues as follows in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010:

 

       For the Year Ended December 31,    For the Three
Months Ended
March 31,
               2007              2008              2009    2009    2010
                          
     %    %    %    %    %

Better Schools :

              

K-12 schools

      1.8    14.6    4.8    19.5

Tutoring

   43.1    49.2    39.9    44.3    51.0
                        

Total Better Schools

   43.1    51.0    54.5    49.1    70.5

Better Jobs :

              

Colleges

         16.0       15.8

Career enhancement

   56.9    49.0    29.5    50.9    13.7
                        

Total Better Jobs

   56.9    49.0    45.5    50.9    29.5
                          

 

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The following table sets forth our approximate student enrollments in our K-12 schools and colleges as of December 31, 2008 and 2009 and March 31, 2010:

 

     As of
December 31,
   As of
March 31,
     2008(1)    2009    2010
                

K-12 schools

   10,000    19,600    21,300

Colleges

      12,400    12,600
              

Total

   10,000    32,000    33,900
                

 

(1)   For the K-12 schools and colleges we controlled as of December 31, 2009, the student enrollments as of December 31, 2008 were 19,200 and 11,800, respectively.

We disclose our student enrollments in our K-12 schools and colleges as of the end of the periods because these students enroll for a semester or school year and the number of students enrolled in these schools is relatively stable throughout the period.

The following table sets forth our approximate student enrollments in our tutoring and career enhancement centers by operating segment in 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010:

 

     For the Year Ended
December  31,
   For the Three
Months Ended
March 31,
     2008(1)(2)    2009(1)    2010
                

Tutoring

   312,400    500,200    105,700

Career enhancement

   4,900    30,000    5,000
              

Total

   317,300    530,200    110,700
                

 

(1)   The numbers included student enrollments in tutoring and career enhancement centers for the full year regardless of when they came under our control.
(2)   For the tutoring and career enhancement centers we controlled as of December 31, 2009, the student enrollments for the year ended December 31, 2008 were 441,600 and 28,100, respectively.

We disclose our student enrollments in our tutoring and career enhancement centers during the period because these students can enroll in multiple classes during a period, which classes are often shorter in duration than a semester or school year. The number of students enrolled in our tutoring and career enhancement centers fluctuates throughout a period.

The following table sets forth the approximate number of registered users of our software products or services through our online services or as a result of sales through distributors and, under our old sales model, sales to students at our partner schools by division in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010:

 

    For the Year Ended
December  31,
   For the Three
Months Ended
March  31,
 
  2007    2008    2009    2010   
                      

Better Schools

  143,000    150,000    153,000    8,500   

Better Jobs

  29,000    39,000    36,000    1,400   
                    

Total

  172,000    189,000    189,000    9,900   
                      

K-12 schools .    We currently operate five K-12 schools. We recognize revenues from tuition fees and associated accommodation fees collected for enrollment in our K-12 schools ratably over the corresponding semester or school year. Tuition fees and associated accommodation fees collected

 

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from students at our K-12 schools are recorded as deferred revenue until they are recognized as revenues over the semester or school year. Our K-12 schools either collect full year tuition fees once a year, or collect half year tuition fees twice per year. Collections mainly takes place between August and October and in February or March. The most significant factors that directly affect our net revenues in our K-12 schools segment are the number of student enrollments and the tuition fees we charge. Tuition fees and associated accommodation fees range from RMB2,500 to RMB45,000 per year. We typically adjust tuition fees and associated accommodation fees based on the market conditions of the city where the particular school is located, subject to the relevant local governmental authority’s advance approval, if required. Our K-12 schools have classes that range from 30 students to 50 students per class.

Tutoring .    We also provide educational services in our 96 tutoring centers as of March 31, 2010 and online. These services consist primarily of test preparation courses, tutoring and foreign languages. We recognize revenues from course fees collected for enrollment in the courses we offer at our tutoring centers proportionally as we deliver the instruction over the period of the course. Course fees collected are recorded as deferred revenues until they are recognized as revenues over the period when the course is taught, which typically ranges from one to six months. We also generate revenues in our tutoring segment through sales of software products. We recognize these net revenues upon delivery of our software products to distributors. The most significant factors that directly affect our net revenues in our tutoring segment are the number of student enrollments in the courses and the amount of course fees. Although similar courses have comparable rates, course fees vary among our numerous courses. Tuition fees in our tutoring centers range from RMB100 to RMB13,000 per program. We determine course fees primarily based on demand for our courses, the targeted market for our courses, the geographic location of the tutoring center, the length of time of the course, cost of services and the course fees charged by our competitors for the same or similar programs. Our courses are generally delivered in large class settings ranging from 15 students to 50 students per class, though we also deliver these services in smaller settings, including one-on-one tutoring.

Colleges .    We operate two colleges, the Applied Technology College and Beijing Century College, which we acquired in 2009. We recognize revenues from tuition fees and associated accommodation fees collected for enrollment in our colleges ratably over the semester. Tuition fees and associated accommodation fees collected in advance are recorded as deferred revenues until the services are provided. Our colleges generally collect full year tuition fees once a year between August and October. The most significant factors that directly affect our net revenues in our colleges segment are the number of student enrollments and the amount of tuition fees and associated accommodation fees we charge. Tuition and associated accommodation fees for our colleges range from RMB16,000 to RMB30,000 per year.

Career enhancement .    Our career enhancement services are provided in our 16 career enhancement centers as of March 31, 2010. We recognize revenues from course fees collected for enrollment in the courses we offer at our career enhancement centers over the period of the course, which typically ranges from one month to 12 months. Course fees collected in advance are recorded as deferred revenues until the services are provided. We also generate revenues in our career enhancement segment through sales of software products. We recognize these revenues upon delivery of our software products to distributors. The most significant factors that directly affect our revenues in our career enhancement segment are the number of student enrollments in the courses and the amount of course fees. In addition to the specific factors mentioned above, student enrollments at our career enhancement centers are affected by the local job markets’ specific demand for skills such as information technology services and digital

 

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media. In addition, we believe many university graduates choose to obtain job-readiness training or acquire supplementary skills to differentiate themselves from their peers in order to get a better job. Tuition fees in our career enhancement centers range from RMB700 to RMB13,000 per program with course lengths ranging from one month to six months. We determine course fees primarily based on demand for our courses, the targeted market for our courses, the geographic location of the career enhancement center, costs of services delivered, and the course fees charged by our competitors for the same or similar programs. Our career enhancement courses are generally delivered in settings ranging from 15 students to 50 students per class.

Cost of revenues

Cost of revenues for our educational and career enhancement programs and services primarily consists of:

 

 

Teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers.    Our teachers consist of both full-time teachers and part-time teachers. Full-time teachers deliver teaching instruction and may also be involved in management, administration and other functions at our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. Their compensation and benefits primarily consist of teaching fees based on hourly rates, performance-linked bonuses based on student evaluations, as well as base salary, annual bonus and standard employee benefits in connection with their services other than teaching. Compensation of our part-time teachers is comprised primarily of teaching fees based on hourly rates and performance-linked bonuses based on student evaluations and other factors;

 

 

Rental payments for the operation of our school and center properties;

 

 

Depreciation and amortization of properties and equipment used in the provision of educational and career enhancement services and accommodation facilities;

 

 

Utilities used in our schools and center properties and accommodation facilities; and

 

 

Prior to the change in our sales model, costs paid to sales agents.

Cost of revenues for software products primarily consists of raw material costs of compact disks, packaging and shipping and value added tax and is significantly lower as a percentage of revenues than cost of revenues for services.

 

 

K-12 schools .    Cost of revenues for K-12 schools segment primarily consists of teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and rental payments for our schools, depreciation and amortization of property and equipment used in the provision of educational services and accommodation facilities and, to a lesser extent, costs of course materials.

 

 

Tutoring .    Cost of revenues for tutoring segment primarily consists of teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and rental payments for our centers. Cost of revenues for products sold in our tutoring segment primarily consists of materials, packaging and shipping.

 

 

Colleges .    Cost of revenues for colleges segment primarily consists of teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and rental payments for our schools, depreciation and amortization of property and equipment used in the provision of educational services and accommodation facilities, as well as costs of course materials.

 

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Career enhancement .    Cost of revenues for career enhancement segment primarily consists of teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and rental payments for our centers. Cost of revenues for products sold in our career enhancement segment primarily consists of materials, packaging and shipping.

Gross profit

Gross profit as a percentage of our net revenues was 35.5%, 35.6%, 54.7% and 51.1% in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively. The significant increase in our gross margin from 2008 to 2009 was primarily due to the increased gross margins generated by our acquired entities, which focused on delivering our services to our K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, the change in the mix of our net revenues among our four operating segments and the change to our product sales model discussed above. During the period, we ceased delivering our services through sales agents to students in schools where we do not control the facilities or teachers and instead started to sell our software products to distributors who will in turn deliver the service or sell the product to students or schools. For these sales to distributors, we recognize less revenue for each sale compared to the old sales model but recognize a higher gross margin as we are no longer responsible for the costs of delivering the services to students or schools or for sales agent costs. Under our old sales model, gross margin was 35.5% in 2007. In 2008, during the initial period of our transition to our new sales model, our gross margin was 35.6%. Under our new sales model, gross margins for our software products are significantly higher as our costs to produce these software products are minimal. Gross margins on the services we deliver in our acquired K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers are also higher, ranging from 38.1% to above 50% in 2009. We do not expect the increase in gross margins from 2008 to 2009 to continue at the same rate in future years.

Operating expenses

Our operating expenses consist of selling and marketing expenses, general and administrative expenses and research and development expenses. The following table sets forth the components of our operating expenses, both in absolute amounts and as a percentage of revenues, for the periods indicated.

 

      For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended March 31,  
(in thousands,
except
percentages)
  2007     2008     2009     2009     2010  
                                 
    RMB     %     RMB     %     RMB     US$     %     RMB     %     RMB     US$     %  

Net revenues

  318,931      100.0      508,369      100.0      902,026      132,149      100.0      176,344      100.0      260,288      38,133      100.0   
                                   

Operating expenses:

                       

Selling and marketing

  (19,600   (6.1   (43,123   (8.5   (138,423   (20,279   (15.4   (21,458   (12.2   (51,703   (7,575   (19.9

General and administrative

  (33,828   (10.6   (56,860   (11.2   (188,518   (27,618   (20.9   (32,485   (18.4   (66,367   (9,723   (25.5

Research and development

  (3,754   (1.2   (11,696   (2.3   (17,470   (2,559   (1.9   (5,869   (3.3   (5,207   (763   (2.0
                                   

Total operating expenses

  (57,182   (17.9   (111,679   (22.0   (344,411   (50,456   (38.2   (59,812   (33.9   (123,277   (18,061   (47.4
                                 

Selling and marketing expenses .    Our selling and marketing expenses primarily consist of expenses relating to advertising, seminars, marketing and promotional trips and other

 

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community activities for brand promotion purposes. Our selling and marketing expenses increased significantly both in absolute terms and as a percentage of net revenues from 2008 and 2009. This increase was primarily due to the acquisition of additional K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers as we made a number of acquisitions in 2008 and 2009 and also additional headcount related and marketing expenses at the headquarter level. We expect that our selling and marketing expenses will continue to increase as we further expand into new geographic locations, continue to make acquisitions and continue to enhance our brand recognition, but we do not expect the magnitude of the increase as a percentage of net revenue to continue.

General and administrative expenses .    Our general and administrative expenses primarily consist of compensation and benefits of administrative staff, amortization of intangibles and, to a lesser extent, costs of third-party professional services, rental and utilities payments relating to office and administrative functions, and depreciation and amortization of property and equipment used in our general and administrative activities. Our general and administrative expenses increased significantly both in absolute terms and as a percentage of net revenues from 2008 and 2009. This increase was primarily due to the acquisition of additional K-12 schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers as we made a number of acquisitions in 2008 and 2009 and also additional headcount at the headquarter level and professional service expenses as we have prepared to become a publicly traded company. We expect that our general and administrative expenses will increase in the near term as we hire additional personnel and incur additional costs in connection with the expansion of our business and with being a publicly traded company, including costs of enhancing our internal controls, and also as we continue to make acquisitions, but we do not expect the magnitude of the increase as a percentage of net revenue to continue.

Research and development expenses .    Our research and development expenses primarily consist of compensation, benefits and other headcount-related costs associated with the development of our online education technology platform and courseware and outsourced development costs. We expect that our research and development expenses will continue to increase as we expand our business and the services and software products we provide and as we consider expanding to geographies outside of China.

Share-based compensation expenses .    The following table sets forth the allocation of our share-based compensation expenses, both in absolute amount and as a percentage of total share-based compensation expenses, among our employees based on the nature of work which they were assigned to perform.

 

      For the Year Ended December 31,   For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
(in thousands, except
percentages)
  2007   2008   2009   2009   2010
 
    RMB     %   RMB     %   RMB     US$     %   RMB     %   RMB     US$     %

Allocation of share-based expenses:

                       

Selling and marketing

  (623   12.1   (1,194   12.0   (4,411   (646   32.6   (684   22.6   (1,450   (212   25.7

General and administrative

  (4,175   81.1   (8,370   83.8   (8,640   (1,266   63.9   (2,236   73.8   (4,035   (591   71.4

Research and development

  (353   6.8   (426   4.2   (480   (70   3.5   (110   3.6   (165   (24   2.9
                             

Total share-based expenses

  (5,151   100.0   (9,990   100.0   (13,531   (1,982   100.0   (3,030   100.0   (5,650   (827   100.0
                           

Our predecessor entity, Ambow Education Co., Ltd., adopted the 2005 Stock Plan in February 2005. Under this plan we are authorized to issue share options to purchase up to 20,282,353 Class B

 

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ordinary shares to our employees, directors and consultants. See “Management—Equity-based compensation plans.” In 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, we granted 732,000, 3,006,000, 3,373,885 and 6,701,100 share options, respectively, to our employees and consultants for services rendered by them. Accordingly, we have adopted the provisions of ASC 718 “Stock Compensation” and ASC 505-50 “Equity Based Payments to Non-Employees” for the share options we granted. For options granted to our employees, we record share-based compensation expenses based on the fair value of the award as of the date of grant and amortize the expenses over the vesting periods of the options. For options granted to our consultants, we record share-based compensation expenses based on the fair value of the award of the earlier of the performance commitment date or the date service is completed.

We have engaged Marsh (Beijing) Risk Consulting Company Limited, or Marsh, an independent appraiser, to assist in our determination of the fair values of our options and the ordinary shares underlying the options as of each relevant grant date starting from 2008.

Determining the fair value of our ordinary shares requires making complex and subjective judgments regarding projected financial and operating results, our unique business risks, the liquidity of our shares and our operating history and prospects at the time of grant.

The assumptions used in deriving the fair values are consistent with our business plan. These assumptions include: no material changes in the existing political, legal, fiscal and economic conditions in China; no major changes in tax law in China or the tax rates applicable to our subsidiaries and VIEs; our ability to retain competent management, key personnel and teaching staff to support our ongoing operations; and no material deviation in market conditions from economic forecasts. These assumptions are inherently uncertain. The risks associated with achieving our forecasts were assessed in selecting the appropriate discount rates, which ranged from 16% to 18.0%. If different discount rates had been used, the valuations would have been different and the amount of share-based compensation would also have been different because the fair value of the underlying ordinary shares for the options granted would have been different.

The independent appraiser used the discounted cash flow method of the income approach to estimate the fair value of the ordinary shares when the option was granted. The method involves applying appropriate discount rates to estimated cash flows that are based on earnings forecasts. Our revenues and earnings growth rates, as well as major milestones that we have achieved, contributed significantly to the increase in the fair value of our ordinary shares. However, these fair values are inherently uncertain and highly subjective.

The major assumptions used by the independent appraiser in calculating the fair values of our ordinary shares are as follows:

 

 

Weighted average costs of capital, or WACC:    WACC of between 16% and 18.0% were used. The WACC used decreased from 18.0% in December 2008 to 16% in March 2010. This was the combined result of the changes in the risk-free rate, industry average beta and the increase in our company size as we continued to grow and meet important milestones.

 

 

Comparable companies:    In deriving the discount rates, public companies in the education industry publicly traded on securities markets in the United States were selected for reference.

 

 

Discount for lack of marketability, or DLOM:    A DLOM of between 6% and 12% was used. Marsh quantified the DLOM by the Black-Scholes option-pricing model. This method treats the

 

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right to sell the company shares freely before a liquidity event as a put option. The farther the valuation date is from a liquidation event, the higher the option value and thus the higher the implied DLOM. The option-pricing method is one of the methods commonly used in estimating discount for lack of marketability as it can take into consideration factors like timing of liquidity events, risk free interest rate and estimated volatility of our shares.

As our capital structure comprises preferred and ordinary shares, the independent appraiser has used the option-pricing method to allocate equity value to preferred and ordinary shares. This method involves making estimates of the anticipated timing of a potential liquidity event such as a sale of our company or an initial public offering and estimates of the volatility of our equity securities. The anticipated timing is based on the plans of our board and management. Estimating the volatility of the share price of a privately-held company is complex because there is no readily available market for the shares. We estimated the volatility of our shares based on historical volatility of comparable companies’ shares. Had we used different estimates of volatility, the allocations between preferred and ordinary shares would have been different.

During the period from January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, we granted the following options to our employees and consultants:

 

Stock Award Grant Dates   Number of
Ordinary Shares
Underlying
Options Granted
  Option
Exercise Price
Per Share
 

Contemporaneous

Valuation of

Common Shares
Prior to Grant Date

                 

February 10, 2009

  1,375,585   $ 3.73   $ 3.03

May 21, 2009

  1,550,000     3.73     3.34

September 3, 2009

  448,300     4.29     4.27

February 25, 2010

  5,894,300     4.63     4.29

March 26, 2010

  806,800     4.63     4.29
                 

The independent appraiser determines the fair value of the options using the Black-Scholes option pricing model at each option grant date using the following assumptions: 46% to 52% volatility, no dividends, a risk-free interest rate of 2.8% to 4.4%, and an expected option life of 5.0 to 6.1 years (for options to employees) and 4.9 to 10 years (for option to consultants). The fair value of the options granted from an accounting perspective was less than the exercise price for each set of grants made in 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010. If different assumptions were used, our share-based compensation expenses, net income and income per share could have been significantly different.

Our board of directors has determined the exercise price of the option grants. In doing so, our board of directors has considered a number of factors, including the fair value assessments from our independent appraiser, our financial results and the value of recent sales of our preferred shares. Because our option plan is open to all of our employees, the change in the amount of share-based compensation expenses will primarily affect our reported net income, earnings per share and all line items of our operating expenses, which include selling and marketing expenses, general and administrative expenses and research and development expenses and, to a lesser extent cost of revenues.

Although it is reasonable to expect that the completion of this offering may increase the value of our ordinary shares underlying our outstanding options as a result of their increased liquidity and marketability, the amount of such additional value cannot be measured with precision or certainty.

 

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Taxation

We are a Cayman Islands company and we currently conduct our operations primarily through our subsidiaries in China and our VIEs and their respective subsidiaries. Under the current laws of the Cayman Islands, we and our Cayman Island subsidiaries are not subject to tax on our income or capital gains. In addition, our payment of dividends, if any, is not subject to withholding tax in the Cayman Islands.

We also have two entities incorporated in Hong Kong which were subject to Hong Kong profit tax at a rate of 17.5% on assessable profits in 2007, and at 16.5% since the beginning of 2008.

As outlined in “Our corporate structure,” we operate a number of subsidiaries and through our VIEs, schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers in China. The following is a summary of the types and rates of taxation to which our China entities are subject.

Business tax

For those schools and colleges in China providing degree-oriented education services, they are exempted from paying business tax on revenue generated from both these services and any accommodation revenue associated with degree-oriented education. For all other entities in China, as well as for any revenue generated by schools and colleges for non-degree-oriented education services, business tax of between 3% and 5% of gross revenues is payable.

Income tax

Current income taxes are provided for in accordance with the laws and regulations set out below. Deferred income taxes are recognized when temporary differences exist between the tax bases and their reported amounts in the consolidated financial statements.

Corporate entities

Prior to January 1, 2008, our foreign invested enterprises, or FIEs, were taxed in accordance with “Income Tax Law of China for Enterprises with Foreign Investment and Foreign Enterprises,” and the related implementing rules. Our VIEs, together with any other PRC domestic companies within our group, were taxed in accordance with local income tax laws. These companies were generally subject to an enterprise income tax rate of 33%, except those with preferential tax treatment as described below.

Since January 1, 2008, a new Corporate Income Tax Law, or the New CIT Law, became effective which unified the income tax rate for both domestic and foreign invested enterprises. Under the New CIT Law the standard income tax rate for our subsidiaries and VIEs is 25%.

The New CIT Law also imposes a withholding income tax rate of 10% on dividends distributed by an FIE to its immediate holding company outside of China. A lower withholding income tax rate of 5% may be applied if, as in the case of our group structure, the immediate holding company is registered in Hong Kong. Such withholding income tax was exempted under the previous income tax laws. A joint circular and can satisfy the criteria of a beneficial owner set out in Circular Guoshuihan (2009) No. 601 from the Ministry of Finance and State Administration of Taxation clarified that the withholding income tax is only to be paid for earnings generated after January 1, 2008. According to the New CIT Law and a circular promulgated by the PRC State Administration of Taxation on December 10, 2009, in addition to the withholding income tax on dividends distributed by an FIE, the immediate holding company of an FIE will also be subject to

 

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an income tax at the rate of 10% for capital gain realized from transferring the equity interests in such FIE to third parties, and shall file and pay such tax within seven days after the date of the transferring agreement. Furthermore, when the de facto controlling shareholder who controls an FIE through an intermediate controlling entity, “indirectly transfers” the equity interests in such FIE by selling the intermediate controlling entity, such de facto controlling shareholder shall also file with the PRC tax authorities in some cases and may be subject to the PRC corporate income tax for the capital gain realized in such sale.

We have determined that our FIEs in China will not declare any dividends on which withholding tax should be paid and therefore no withholding tax has been accrued on the retained earnings of its FIEs in China.

In March 2007, Ambow Online was certified as a “new and high technology enterprise” and a “software enterprise.” As a result, it has been entitled to a two-year income tax exemption since 2008 and will be subject to 12.5% corporate income tax for another three years. This may be followed by a 15% tax rate for so long as Ambow Online continues to qualify as a “new and high-technology enterprise.” If Ambow Online ceases to qualify for the current preferential corporate income tax rate, we will consider options that may be available at the time that would enable it to qualify for other preferential tax treatment.

Other than Ambow Online, certain of our other companies also qualified as “software enterprises” and were subject to a 50% reduction in income tax from 2007 to 2009.

Private schools and colleges

Our private schools and colleges, being privately run non-enterprise institutions, acquired in 2008 and 2009 are registered as private schools that either do or do not require a reasonable return. Prior to January 1, 2008, these private schools and colleges were subject to income tax determined in accordance with the Law for Promoting Private Education (2003) and the 2004 Implementing Rules, as well as the Notice on Tax Policy for Educational Institutions and Notice on Several Preferential Tax Policy jointly issued by the PRC Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation, collectively referred to as the 2003 Education Law. Under these laws and regulations, private schools or colleges not requiring reasonable returns were treated in a similar manner to public schools and were generally not subject to income tax. While it is indicated in the 2004 Implementing Rules that the relevant authorities under the State Council may consider formulating separate preferential tax treatment policies applicable to private schools requiring reasonable returns, no such tax preferential policy has been promulgated yet. As a result, the tax treatment applied to our schools and colleges varies among different cities.

Under the New CIT Law there are specific criteria that should be met to qualify as a not-for-profit entity that is exempt from corporate income tax, and the preferential corporate income tax policy for education institutions under the 2003 Education Law has been superseded. No detailed implementation guidance has been provided to local tax authorities on how to apply these changes to schools and colleges. Some of the schools and colleges we have acquired have been able to obtain preferential tax treatment from the local tax authorities or to agree with local tax authorities on a fixed amount of income tax payable for prior years. Where such preferential tax treatment or fixed amount payable has not been confirmed by the tax authorities, we have made a full provision for income taxes payable based on our understanding of the 2003 Education Law and the New CIT Law. No provision has been made for interest or late payment fees for such provision.

 

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For our schools and colleges that we have acquired in 2008 and 2009, we have recorded a tax liability for estimated liabilities brought forward at the date of acquisition. At the same time, we have recorded an asset to recognize that all of the sellers of these schools have agreed to indemnify us against any taxes that may be payable for periods prior to the date of acquisition.

The determination of our provision for income taxes, particularly for private schools and colleges is subject to uncertainty. The strict application of the New CIT Law indicates that certain of our private schools and colleges are subject to income tax of 25% after January 1, 2008. For those private schools and colleges where the tax authorities have not determined a deemed fixed amount or deemed fixed rate for the purposes of calculating income tax payable, we have assumed that income tax of 25% is payable. However, as of June 30, 2010, no detailed implementation guidance has been provided to local tax authorities on how to apply the New CIT Law to private schools and colleges. It is possible that, upon the introduction of the detailed implementation guidance, we may find ourselves in a position whereby income tax is not payable for periods prior to the release of the detailed guidance.

The amount of income tax payable by our PRC subsidiaries, VIEs, schools and colleges in the future will depend on various factors, including, among other things, the results of operations and taxable income of, and the statutory tax rate applicable to, such PRC subsidiaries, and our effective tax rate depends partially on the extent of each of our subsidiaries’ relative contribution to our consolidated taxable income. If further detailed guidance is issued by the State Administration of Taxation on how to apply the New CIT Law to schools and colleges this may also have an impact on the amount of income tax payable by our own schools and colleges.

Preferred shares redemption value accretion

Prior to the occurrence of this offering, the holders of a majority of our outstanding Series C convertible redeemable preferred shares or the holders of at least two-thirds of our outstanding Series D convertible redeemable preferred shares had the right to require us, at any time after July 20, 2012, to redeem all of such series of preferred shares in cash in an amount equal to the greater of (i) the shares’ original purchase price plus all declared but unpaid dividends, or (ii) the shares’ fair market value. The fair market value of the Series C convertible redeemable preferred shares and Series D convertible redeemable preferred shares was greater than their original purchase price as of December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and March 31, 2010. As a result, we recorded accretion to the redemption value of these shares using the effective interest method as a reduction to net income to arrive at net income attributable to ordinary shareholders. Upon the closing of this offering, our convertible redeemable preferred shares will convert into ordinary shares and this preferred shares redemption value accretion will cease.

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders

Prior to the occurrence of this offering, the holders of our outstanding preferred shares had rights to participate in the dividends of the company on a fixed basis prior to and in preference of the holders of our ordinary shares. As a result, net income has been allocated to participating preferred shareholders based on their existing rights to receive dividends in order to arrive at net income attributable to ordinary shareholders. Upon the closing of this offering, our convertible redeemable preferred shares will convert into ordinary shares and this allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders will cease.

 

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Critical accounting policies and estimates

The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP requires estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities in the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes. The SEC has defined a company’s critical accounting policies as the ones that are most important to the portrayal of the company’s financial condition and results of operations, and which require the company to make its most difficult and subjective judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates of matters that are inherently uncertain. Based on this definition, we have identified the critical accounting policies and judgments addressed below. We also have other key accounting policies, which involve the use of estimates, judgments and assumptions that are significant to understanding our results. For additional information, see Note 2 of Notes to consolidated financial statements. Although we believe that our estimates, assumptions and judgments are reasonable, they are based upon information presently available. Actual results may differ significantly from these estimates under different assumptions, judgments or conditions.

Revenue recognition

Revenues for educational programs and services and sales of software products are recognized when all four of the following criteria are met: (i) pervasive evidence that an arrangement exists; (ii) delivery of the products and/or services has occurred and risks and rewards of ownership have passed to the customer; (iii) the selling price is both fixed and determinable; and (iv) collection of the resulting receivable is reasonably assured. If a sales contract stipulates more than one deliverable and the deliverables are considered as multiple accounting units in accordance with ASC 605, Revenue, the total revenue on such arrangements is allocated to the individual deliverables based on their relative fair values. If sufficient vendor-specific objective evidence of fair value does not exist for the allocation of revenue, the fee for the entire arrangement is recognized ratably over the term of the arrangement. Revenue is recorded net of business tax.

a) Educational programs and services:

Educational programs and services mainly consist of primary and secondary curriculum education, university curriculum education, tutoring programs that supplement primary and secondary curriculum education and career enhancement and other corporate training programs that are provided directly or indirectly to students, where we are responsible for delivery of the programs and services. For the curriculum education programs the tuition revenue, including accommodation, is recognized over the length of the course, which is typically over a period of a semester. For tutoring programs, tuition revenue is recognized over the period during which tutoring services are provided to students. Educational materials revenue, which is immaterial and has not been disclosed separately, relates to the sales of various books, studying text and course notes for which we recognize revenue when the materials have been delivered to students.

b) Sales of software products:

Product revenue relates to revenues from the sale of educational compact disks, or CDs. Our product sales include value added tax. Upon delivery of the CDs we are only responsible for the product’s original quality with no after-sale service obligations. We recognize revenue for these products in accordance with U.S. GAAP guidance on the software revenue recognition guidance in ASC 985-605, Software-Revenue Recognition.

 

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Business combinations

We accounted for acquisitions made 2008 using the acquisition method in accordance with SFAS 141 “Business Combinations.” In December 2007, the FASB issued a revision of SFAS 141, and as a result, on January 1, 2009, we adopted on a prospective basis SFAS 141(R) (now codified as ASC Topic 805, Business Combinations).

We allocate the consideration transferred (i.e. purchase price) in a business combination to the acquired business’ identifiable assets, liabilities and non-controlling interests at the fair values as of their respective acquisition dates. The excess of the consideration transferred over the amount allocated to the identifiable assets and liabilities and non-controlling interest, if any, is recorded as goodwill. Any excess of the fair value of the identifiable assets acquired and liabilities assumed over the consideration transferred, if any, is generally recognized within earnings as of the acquisition date.

We are responsible for determining the fair value of equity issued, assets acquired, liabilities assumed and intangibles identified as of the acquisition date and considered a number of factors including valuations.

The fair value of the equity consideration was estimated using an average of the values determined using the market approach and the income approach as the combination of approaches are deemed to be the most indicative of our fair value in an orderly transaction between market participants. Under the market approach, we utilize publicly-traded comparable company information to determine the revenue and earnings multiples that are used to value us. Under the income approach, we determine the fair value based on estimated future cash flows discounted by an estimated weighted-average cost of capital, which reflects the overall level of inherent risk and the rate of return an outside investor would expect to earn. Our cash flow projections are based on a multi-year forecast of cash flows, derived from the most recent annual financial forecast, and a terminal value based on the perpetuity growth model. We determine our fair value on a quarterly basis. The fair value of equity exchanged is expected to approximate our fair value as of the acquisition date.

The fair value of assets acquired, liabilities assumed and intangible assets identified was estimated using the following valuation methodologies:

 

 

Property and equipment—land was valued using the market approach; buildings and equipment were valued using the cost approach;

 

 

Trade names were valued using the income approach, specifically the relief from royalty method, which represents the benefits of owning the intangible asset rather than paying royalties for its use;

 

 

Customer relationships, student populations and cooperative agreements were valued using the income approach, specifically the excess earnings method;

 

 

Favorable leases were valued using the income approach, specifically the cost-saving method; and

 

 

All other current assets and current liabilities carrying value approximated fair value at the time of acquisition.

To the extent that our initial accounting for a business combination is incomplete at the end of a reporting period, provisional amounts are reported for those items which are incomplete. We

 

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retroactively adjust such provisional amounts as of the acquisition date once new information is received about facts and circumstances that existed as of the acquisition date. This measurement period shall not exceed one year from the acquisition date.

We use our best judgment in estimating the fair value of equity issued, assets acquired, liabilities assumed and intangibles identified. There are inherent limitations in any estimation technique and a minor change in an assumption could result in a significant change in its estimate of fair value, thereby increasing or decreasing the amounts of our consolidated assets, liabilities, shareholders’ equity (deficit) and net income or loss.

Goodwill

Goodwill represents the excess of costs over the fair value of net assets of businesses acquired. Goodwill acquired in a business combination is tested for impairment at least annually or more frequently when events and circumstances occur indicating that the recorded goodwill may be impaired with the following two-step process. The first step compares the fair values of each reporting unit to its carrying amount, including goodwill. The fair value of each reporting unit is established using a combination of expected present value of future cash flow and income approach valuation methodology. If the fair value of each reporting unit exceeds its carrying amount, goodwill is not considered to be impaired and the second step will not be required. If the carrying amount of a reporting unit exceeds its fair value, the second step compares the implied fair value of goodwill to the carrying value of a reporting unit’s goodwill. The implied fair value of goodwill is determined in a manner similar to accounting for a business combination with the allocation of the assessed fair value determined in the first step to the assets and liabilities of the reporting unit. The excess of the fair value of the reporting unit over the amounts assigned to the assets and liabilities is the implied fair value of goodwill. An impairment loss is recognized for any excess in the carrying value of goodwill over the implied fair value of goodwill.

Determining when to test for impairment, our reporting units, the fair value of a reporting unit and the fair value of assets and liabilities within a reporting unit, requires judgment and involves the use of significant estimates and assumptions. These estimates and assumptions include revenue growth rates and operating margins used to calculate projected future cash flows, risk-adjusted discount rates, future economic and market conditions and determination of appropriate market comparables. We perform impairment tests in the fourth quarter of each year. RMB0, RMB0, RMB0 and RMB0 of impairment loss was recognized by us in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively.

We use our best judgment in estimating the fair value of each reporting unit. There are inherent limitations in any estimation technique and a minor change in an assumption could result in a significant change in its estimate of fair value, thereby increasing or decreasing the amounts of our consolidated assets, shareholders’ equity (deficit) and net income or loss.

Long-lived assets

We review our long-lived assets for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset may no longer be recoverable. When these events occur, we measure impairment by comparing the carrying value of the long-lived assets to the estimated undiscounted future cash flows expected to result from the use of the assets and their eventual disposition. If the sum of the expected undiscounted cash flow is less than the carrying

 

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amount of the assets, we will recognize an impairment loss based on the fair value of the assets. We incurred RMB0, RMB0, RMB0 and RMB0 of impairment losses related to long-lived assets in 2007, 2008, 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2010, respectively.

Income taxes

Deferred income taxes are recognized for temporary differences between the tax basis of assets and liabilities and their reported amounts in the financial statements, net of operating loss carry forwards and credits, by applying enacted statutory tax rates applicable to future years. Deferred tax assets are reduced by a valuation allowance when, in the opinion of management, it is more likely than not some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. Income taxes are provided for in accordance with the laws of the relevant taxing authorities.

We do not record PRC withholding tax expense for foreign earnings which we plan to reinvest to expand our PRC operations. We considered business plans, planning opportunities and expected future outcomes in assessing the needs for future expansion and support of our operations. If our business plans change or our future outcomes differ from our expectations, PRC withholding tax expense and our effective tax rate could increase or decrease in that period.

We adopted the guidance on accounting for uncertainty in income taxes as of January 1, 2007. The guidance prescribes a more likely than not threshold for financial statement recognition and measurement of a tax position taken or expected to be taken in a tax return. Guidance was also provided on de-recognition of income tax assets and liabilities, classification of current and deferred income tax assets and liabilities, accounting for interest and penalties associated with tax positions, accounting for income taxes in interim periods and income tax disclosures. Significant judgment is required in evaluating the uncertain tax positions and determining its provision for income taxes. We establish reserves for tax-related uncertainties based on estimates of whether, and the extent to which, additional taxes will be due. These reserves are established when we believe that certain positions might be challenged despite our belief that our tax return positions are in accordance with applicable tax laws. We adjust these reserves in light of changing facts and circumstances, such as the closing of a tax audit, new tax legislation or the change of an estimate. To the extent that the final tax outcome of these matters is different than the amounts recorded, such differences will affect the provision for income taxes in the period in which such determination is made.

Share-based compensation

Share-based payment transactions with employees are measured based on the fair value of the equity instrument issued on the date of grant and recognized as compensation expense over the requisite service period of the award on a straight-line basis, net of an estimated forfeiture rate. Share-based payment transactions with non-employees are measured based on the fair value of the equity instrument issued at the earlier of the commitment date or the date service is completed and recognized as compensation expense over the period the service is provided. Changes in fair value between the interim reporting dates are attributed consistent with the method used in recognizing the original compensation costs.

Forfeitures are estimated at the time of grant and revised in the subsequent periods if actual forfeitures differ from those estimates. We estimate the forfeiture rate to be 3% for share options granted prior to March 31, 2010.

The determination of the fair value of share-based awards and related share-based compensation expense requires input of subjective assumptions, including the expected stock price volatility

 

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and estimated option life. Expected volatility is estimated based on historical volatility of comparable public companies for the period before the grant date with length commensurate to expected term of the options. Expected term is the period the options is expected to remain unexercised. The risk free rate is estimated based on the yield to maturity of China Sovereign bonds denominated in U.S. dollars as at the grant date. No dividends were assumed in our estimated option values.

We use our best judgment in estimating the fair value of share-based awards and the forfeiture rate. There are inherent limitations in any estimation technique and a minor change in an assumption could result in a significant change in its estimate of fair value, thereby increasing or decreasing the amounts of our shareholders’ equity (deficit) and net income or loss.

Allowance for doubtful accounts

Accounts receivable mainly represent the amounts due from the customers or students of our various subsidiaries or VIEs. An allowance for doubtful accounts is recorded in the period in which a loss is determined to be probable based on an assessment of specific evidence indicating doubtful collection, historical experience, account balance aging and prevailing economic conditions. Accounts receivable balances are written off after all collection efforts have been exhausted and the potential for recovery is considered remote. If the financial condition of our customers or students were to deteriorate such that their ability to make payments was impaired, additional allowances could be required.

Functional currency

The functional currency of our company and the subsidiaries incorporated in the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands is U.S. dollars, while the functional currency of the other entities of our company is RMB. An entity’s functional currency is the currency of the primary economic environment in which it operates, normally that is the currency of the environment in which it primarily generates and expends cash. We considered various indicators, such as cash flows, sales price, market expenses, financing and inter-company transactions and arrangements in determining an entity’s functional currency.

Controls and procedures

In connection with the audit of our financial statements for 2009, our management and our independent registered public accounting firm have reported to our board of directors a material weakness in the design and operation of our internal control over financial reporting. A material weakness is defined by the standards issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the company’s annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.

The material weakness identified is that we do not have sufficient financial reporting and accounting personnel with appropriate knowledge of U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting, particularly at those entities acquired during 2008 and 2009. We only have limited resources at the head office level with sufficient experience to properly analyze significant transactions and account balances. In addition, the existing policies and procedures to support the consolidation of financial information for U.S. GAAP reporting procedures are not thoroughly understood or properly applied, particularly at those recently acquired entities given the short amount of time for integration.

 

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Our management and our independent registered public accounting firm have also identified three significant deficiencies in the design and operation of our internal controls as of December 31, 2009. These significant deficiencies are:

 

 

Teams performing due diligence on potential acquisitions did not have sufficient U.S. GAAP expertise to identify potential accounting adjustments at an early stage of the acquisition process.

 

 

We are in the process of establishing a group-wide automated accounting system for management reporting and financial reporting purposes. However, a number of entities acquired in 2008 and 2009 used their own accounting software or manual accounting that was not consistent with our requirements.

 

 

We lacked effective internal control procedures for managing contracts during the track record period. In particular, there were insufficient internal control procedures and resources to centrally manage and retain the agreements relating to acquisition and of the acquired entities.

In response to the material weakness, significant deficiencies and other deficiencies in our internal controls, we have begun to undertake certain remedial steps to improve our internal controls, including identifying and hiring additional personnel with U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting experience, including (i) a controller to oversee our mergers and acquisitions who joined us in July 2009, (ii) a consultant with U.S. GAAP reporting experience, who joined us in September 2009, (iii) a financial analyst responsible for transfer pricing, who joined us in December 2009 and (iv) a senior manager responsible for our consolidation, who joined us in May 2010. We are also targeting additional key hires for our financial reporting and accounting departments with U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting experience, including an internal control compliance officer with Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 experience. In addition, we are formulating internal policies relating to internal control over financial reporting, including preparing a comprehensive written accounting policies and procedures manual that can effectively and efficiently guide our finance and accounting personnel in addressing significant accounting issues and assist in preparing financial statements that are in compliance with U.S. GAAP and SEC requirements. We also intend to implement new accounting procedures and controls, a web-based executive information system to enable timely collection and sharing of information across the organization and a training manual for all finance and accounting personnel.

The remediation policies and procedures we have implemented and plan to implement may be insufficient to address our material weakness and significant deficiencies and additional material weaknesses and significant deficiencies that may be discovered in the future. The existence of one or more material weaknesses precludes a conclusion that we maintain effective internal control over financial reporting. Such conclusion would be required to be disclosed in our future annual reports on Form 20-F and may impact the accuracy and timing of our financial reporting and the reliability of our internal control over financial reporting.

Our management and independent registered public accounting firm did not perform an evaluation of our internal control over financial reporting during any period in accordance with the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Had we and our independent registered public accounting firm performed an evaluation of our internal control over financial reporting in accordance with the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, additional material weaknesses may have been identified.

 

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Results of operations

The following table sets forth a summary of our consolidated statements of operations for the periods indicated. This information should be read together with our consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this prospectus. We believe that period-to-period comparisons of results of operations should not be relied upon as indicative of future performance.

Summary of Consolidated Statements of Operations

 

      For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
(in thousands)   2007     2008     2009     2009     2009     2010     2010  
                                           
    RMB     RMB     RMB     US$     RMB     RMB     US$  

Consolidated Statement of Operations Data :

             

NET REVENUES:

             

Educational programs and services

  317,854      469,543      760,444      111,407      160,109      232,154      34,011   

Educational products

  1,077      38,826      141,582      20,742      16,235      28,134      4,122   
                                         

Total net revenues

  318,931      508,369      902,026      132,149      176,344      260,288      38,133   

Cost of revenues (1)

  (205,619   (327,168   (408,985   (59,918   (101,849   (127,165   (18,630
                                         

GROSS PROFIT

  113,312      181,201      493,041      72,231      74,495      133,123      19,503   
                                         

Operating expenses:

             

Selling and marketing

  (19,600   (43,123   (138,423   (20,279   (21,458   (51,703   (7,575

General and administrative (1)

  (33,828   (56,860   (188,518   (27,618   (32,485   (66,367   (9,723

Research and development

  (3,754   (11,696   (17,470   (2,559   (5,869   (5,207   (763
                                         

Total operating expenses

  (57,182   (111,679   (344,411   (50,456   (59,812   (123,277   (18,061
                                         

OPERATING INCOME

  56,130      69,522      148,630      21,775      14,683      9,846      1,442   
                                         

OTHER INCOME (EXPENSE)

  (11,315   5,573      (9,047   (1,326   1,778      (3,137   (460
                                         

Income before tax and non-controlling interest

  44,815      75,095      139,583      20,449      16,461      6,709      982   

Income tax expense

  (10,578   (7,735   (1,562   (229   (133   (3,733   (547
                                         

NET INCOME

  34,237      67,360      138,021      20,220      16,328      2,976      435   

Non-controlling interest

            215      31           901      132   
                                         

NET INCOME ATTRIBUTABLE TO AMBOW EDUCATION HOLDING LTD.

  34,237      67,360      138,236      20,251      16,328      3,877      567   

Preferred shares redemption value accretion

  (1,407   (67,768   (157,877   (23,129   (38,524   (76,932   (11,271

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders

  (20,837   (53,949   (93,611   (13,715   (23,103   (23,067   (3,379
                                         

NET INCOME (LOSS) ATTRIBUTABLE TO ORDINARY SHAREHOLDERS

  11,993      (54,357   (113,252   (16,593   (45,299   (96,122   (14,083
                                           

 

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(1)   Includes depreciation and amortization of RMB1,410, RMB9,290, RMB68,306 (US$10,007), RMB7,707 and RMB27,306 (US$4,000) for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010, respectively, including amortization of intangible assets of RMB5, RMB7,106, RMB34,132 (US$5,000), RMB6,410 and RMB11,535 (US$1,690) for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010, respectively, including amortization of software of RMB5, RMB4,204, RMB9,268 (US$1,358), RMB2,407 and RMB3,820 (US$560) for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010, respectively. Amortization of software is included within amortization of intangible assets.

Three months ended March 31, 2010 compared with three months ended March 31, 2009

Net revenues .    Our net revenues increased by 47.6% from RMB176.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB260.3 million (US$38.1 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase was primarily due to a full quarter of net revenues generated in 2010 from our 13 acquisitions completed in 2009, as well as additional sales of our software products under our new sales model (offset by decreased revenue from our old sales model in the three months ended March 31, 2010). The increase was primarily driven by increased net revenues in our K-12 schools of RMB42.3 million, tutoring centers of RMB54.6 million, and colleges of RMB41.1 million offset by decreased net revenues in our career enhancement centers of RMB54.1 million. The decreased net revenues in our career enhancement segment was due to our change in sales model, which caused a significant decline in deferred revenue recognized, from services provided to students at our partner schools that commenced in prior periods, in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter of 2009.

Cost of revenues .    Our cost of revenues increased by 25.0% from RMB101.8 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB127.2 million (US$18.6 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase was primarily due to a full quarter of cost of revenues incurred in 2010 from our 13 acquisitions completed in 2009, as well as costs incurred in connection with additional sales of our software products (offset by decreased cost of revenues from our old sales model in the three months ended March 31, 2010). This increase was primarily driven by increases in teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and an increase in our rental payments as we had leased facilities for five K-12 schools, 96 tutoring centers, two colleges and 16 career enhancement centers as of March 31, 2010, as compared to two K-12 schools, 44 tutoring centers, no colleges and five career enhancement centers as of March 31, 2009.

Gross profit .    Gross profit as a percentage of our net revenues increased from 42.2% in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to 51.1% in the three months ended March 31, 2010. The increase in our gross margin from 2009 to 2010 was primarily due to some of our entities acquired in 2009 which have a higher gross margin than existing entities and more of our net revenues in 2010 being generated under our new product sales model where we have achieved higher gross margins.

Operating expenses .    Our total operating expenses increased by 106.2% from RMB59.8 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB123.3 million (US$18.1 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase resulted from increases in our selling and marketing and general and administrative expenses.

 

 

Selling and marketing expenses .    Our selling and marketing expenses increased by 140.5% from RMB21.5 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB51.7 million (US$7.6 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase was primarily due to expenses arising in the entities we acquired in 2009 and increases at headquarter level. At our headquarter level, the increases were driven by increased marketing expenses as we increased advertising and promotional spending on our branding and headcount related expenses.

 

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General and administrative expenses .    Our general and administrative expenses increased by 104.3% from RMB32.5 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB66.4 million (US$9.7 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase was primarily due to expenses from the entities we acquired in 2009, especially at the two colleges where we paid management fees to their cooperating universities for the use of their brand names and administrative support. Our general and administrative expenses also increased at our schools, tutoring centers, and career enhancement centers. These increases were driven by the management fees, headcount related expenses and depreciation expenses.

 

 

Research and development expenses .    Our research and development expenses decreased by 11.9% from RMB5.9 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB5.2 million (US$0.8 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This decrease was primarily due to slightly decreased spending on research and development at the headquarter level.

Other income (expense), net .    We recorded net other income of RMB1.8 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009, compared to net other expense of RMB3.1 million (US$0.5 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This change was primarily due to interest expense on outstanding indebtedness in the first quarter of 2010.

Income tax expenses .    Our income tax expense increased from RMB0.1 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB3.7 million (US$0.5 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This change was primarily due to certain of our entities paying taxes at higher rates and a large portion of our profits during the quarter ended March 31, 2010 being located in entities with higher tax rates than the profitable entities in the quarter ended March 31, 2009.

Net income .    Our net income decreased by 81.6% from RMB16.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB3.0 million (US$0.4 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This decrease was primarily due to increased depreciation and amortization of acquired intangible assets and share-based compensation in the first quarter of 2010 versus the first quarter of 2009 and also due to the profit contribution from our old sales model in the first quarter of 2009 not recurring in the first quarter of 2010 offset by increased margins from our acquired entities in 2009. Our depreciation and amortization for the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010 was RMB7.7 million and RMB27.3 million (US$4.0 million), respectively. Our share-based compensation for the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010 was RMB3.0 million and RMB5.7 million (US$0.8 million), respectively.

Preferred shares redemption value accretion .    Our preferred shares redemption value accretion increased by 99.7% from RMB38.5 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB76.9 million (US$11.3 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase was due to an increase in the fair market value of our preferred shares from March 31, 2009 to March 31, 2010 as a result of applying the effective interest method.

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders .    Our allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders remained approximately the same at RMB23.1 million (US$3.4 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2010.

Net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders .    Our net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders increased from RMB45.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2009 to RMB96.1 million (US$14.1 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2010. This increase was primarily due to increases in our preferred shares redemption value accretion and decreased net income.

 

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Year ended December 31, 2009 compared with year ended December 31, 2008

Net revenues .    Our net revenues increased by 77.4% from RMB508.4 million in 2008 to RMB902.0 million (US$132.1 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to a full year of net revenues generated in 2009 from our ten acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights completed in 2008, and partial year revenues from the 13 acquisitions completed in 2009, as well as additional sales of our software products under our new sales model. This increase was partially offset by our change in sales model under which we ceased providing services to students in schools where we do not control the facilities or teachers, although we continued to recognize net revenues in 2009 from these sales as we had deferred revenues from sales to schools and students as of December 31, 2008. The increase was primarily driven by increased net revenues arising from our colleges of RMB144.3 million, K-12 schools of RMB122.3 million and tutoring centers of RMB109.8 million.

Cost of revenues .    Our cost of revenues increased by 25.0% from RMB327.2 million in 2008 to RMB409.0 million (US$59.9 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to a full year of cost of revenues incurred in 2009 from our ten acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights completed in 2008, and partial year cost of revenues from the 13 acquisitions completed in 2009, as well as costs incurred in connection with additional sales of our software products. This increase was partially offset by our change in sales model under which we now incur lower cost of revenues on such sales to our distributors, although we continued to incur cost of revenues in 2009 from 2008 sales where revenue was deferred and recognized in 2009. This increase was primarily driven by increases in teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and an increase in our rental payments as we had leased facilities for five K-12 schools, 96 tutoring centers, two colleges and 16 career enhancement centers as of December 31, 2009, as compared to two K-12 schools, 28 tutoring centers, no colleges and four career enhancement centers as of December 31, 2008.

Gross profit .    Gross profit as a percentage of our net revenues increased from 35.6% in 2008 to 54.7% in 2009. The significant increase in our gross margin from 2008 to 2009 was primarily due to gross profit generated from our acquisitions and the change to our sales model discussed above. Under our new sales model, we ceased to deliver our services to students in schools where we did not control the facilities or teachers and instead started to sell our software products to distributors, who will in turn deliver the service or sell the product to students or schools. For these sales to distributors, we recognize less revenue for each sale compared to the old sales model but recognize a higher gross margin as we are no longer responsible for the costs of delivering the services to students or for sales agent costs.

Operating expenses.     Our total operating expenses increased by 208.1% from RMB111.7 million in 2008 to RMB344.4 million (US$50.5 million) in 2009. This increase resulted from increases in all of our operating cost and expense line items, especially selling and marketing and general and administrative.

 

 

Selling and marketing expenses .    Our selling and marketing expenses increased by 221.1% from RMB43.1 million in 2008 to RMB138.4 million (US$20.3 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to a full year of expenses from the entities we acquired in 2008, as well as a partial year of expenses from the entities we acquired in 2009. Our selling and marketing expenses increased at both our headquarter level and at our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. At our headquarter level, the increases were driven by increases of headcount related expenses, marketing expenses as we increased spending on our branding and travel expenses. At our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career

 

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enhancement centers, the increases were driven by advertisements and promotions and headcount related expenses.

 

 

General and administrative expenses .    Our general and administrative expenses increased by 231.3% from RMB56.9 million in 2008 to RMB188.5 million (US$27.6 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to a full year of expenses from the entities we acquired in 2008, as well as a partial year of expenses from the entities we acquired in 2009, especially in connection with our acquisitions of two colleges where we paid management fees to their cooperating universities for the use of their brand names and administrative support. Our general and administrative expenses increased at both our headquarter level and at our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. At our headquarter level, the increases were driven by increases in headcount related expenses, professional service fees and rental expenses. At our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, the increases were driven by headcount related expenses and office operating expenses.

 

 

Research and development expenses . Our research and development expenses increased by 49.6% from RMB11.7 million in 2008 to RMB17.5 million (US$2.6 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to increased headcount related expenses and outside services at the headquarter level.

Other income (expense), net .    We recorded net other expenses of RMB9.0 million (US$1.3 million) in 2009, compared to net other income of RMB5.6 million in 2008. This change was primarily due to the interest expense of RMB12.2 million (US$1.8 million) in 2009 versus interest income of RMB9.1 million in 2008, as a result of our short-term and long-term borrowings in 2009 that we did not have in 2008 and, to a lesser extent, lower cash balances in 2009 versus 2008.

Income tax expenses .    Our income tax expense decreased from RMB7.7 million in 2008 to RMB1.6 million (US$0.2 million) in 2009. This change was primarily due to a reversal of a deferred tax liability in 2009 that reduced tax expense for the period.

Net income .    Our net income increased by 104.7% from RMB67.4 million in 2008 to RMB138.0 million (US$20.2 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to higher net revenue generated in 2009 partially offset by increased costs and expenses as we were able to generate higher gross profits from each of our four operating segments in 2009 as compared to 2008.

Preferred shares redemption value accretion .    Our preferred shares redemption value accretion increased from RMB67.8 million in 2008 to RMB157.9 million (US$23.1 million) in 2009. This increase was due to an increase in the fair market value of our preferred shares from December 31, 2008 to December 31, 2009.

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders .    Our allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders increased from RMB53.9 million in 2008 to RMB93.6 million (US$13.7 million) in 2009. This increase was due to a full year of allocation of net income to preferred shares issued in 2008.

Net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders .    Our net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders increased from RMB54.4 million in 2008 to RMB113.3 million (US$16.6 million) in 2009. This increase was primarily due to increases in our preferred shares redemption value accretion and allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders offset by increased net income.

Year ended December 31, 2008 compared with year ended December 31, 2007

Net Revenues .    Our net revenues increased by 59.4% from RMB318.9 million in 2007 to RMB508.4 million in 2008. This increase was primarily due to additional sales to schools and

 

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students where we did not control the facilities or teachers and net revenues generated from the ten acquisitions through business combinations and one acquisition of long-term operating rights that were completed in 2008. The increase was primarily driven by increased net revenues in our tutoring segment of RMB113.0 million and in our career enhancement segment of RMB67.4 million.

Cost of revenues .    Our cost of revenues increased by 59.1% from RMB205.6 million in 2007 to RMB327.2 million in 2008. This increase was primarily due to an increase in costs associated with continued sales to schools and students where we did not control the facilities or teachers, teaching fees and performance-linked bonuses paid to our teachers and rental payments as we had leased facilities for two K-12 schools, 28 tutoring centers and four career enhancement centers as of December 31, 2008, as compared to one career enhancement center as of December 31, 2007.

Gross profit .    Gross profit as a percentage of our net revenues increased slightly from 35.5% in 2007 to 35.6% in 2008. Our gross margins in 2008 began to be impacted by our change in sales model, but the real impact was not felt until 2009. In 2008, our gross margin on services delivered to our acquired schools and learning centers was higher than our 2007 gross margin, but was offset by lower gross margins on sales to schools or students where we did not control facilities or teachers due to change in the mix of services we sold.

Operating expenses.     Our total operating expenses increased by 95.3% from RMB57.2 million in 2007 to RMB111.7 million in 2008. This increase resulted from increases in all of our operating expense line items for the reasons described below.

 

 

Selling and marketing expenses .    Our selling and marketing expenses increased by 119.9% from RMB19.6 million in 2007 to RMB43.1 million in 2008. Our selling and marketing expenses increased at both our headquarter level and at our schools, tutoring centers and career enhancement centers. At our headquarters level, the increases were driven by increases of headcount related expenses, marketing expenses and travel and entertainment expenses. The increase at our schools was primarily due to a partial year of expenses related to advertisements and promotions and headcount related expenses in connection with the entities we acquired in 2008.

 

 

General and administrative expenses .    Our general and administrative expenses increased by 68.3% from RMB33.8 million in 2007 to RMB56.9 million in 2008. Our general and administrative expenses increased at both our headquarter level and at our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers. At our headquarter level, the increase was driven by increased headcount related expenses, professional service fees and rental expenses. At our schools, tutoring centers, colleges and career enhancement centers, the increase was driven by a partial year of expenses in connection with the entities we acquired in 2008.

 

 

Research and development expenses .    Our research and development expenses increased by 207.9% from RMB3.8 million in 2007 to RMB11.7 million in 2008. This increase was primarily due to increased headcount and costs for outsourced services.

Other income (expense), net .    We recorded net other income of RMB5.6 million in 2008, compared to net other expense of RMB11.3 million in 2007. This change was primarily due to a beneficial conversion feature charge on conversion of convertible promissory notes of RMB13.0 million in 2007 that did not recur in 2008 and an increase in interest income of RMB6.5 million primarily due to higher cash balances in 2008 versus 2007 offset by higher foreign exchange losses by RMB3.1 million in 2008 versus 2007.

 

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Income tax expenses .    Our income tax expense decreased by 27.6% from RMB10.6 million in 2007 to RMB7.7 million in 2008. This decrease was primarily due to more favorable tax rates as a result of our obtaining a two-year tax holiday because Ambow Online qualifies as a software enterprise.

Net income .    Our net income increased by 97.1% from RMB34.2 million in 2007 to RMB67.4 million in 2008. This increase was primarily due to higher revenue generated in 2008 partially offset by increased costs and expenses as we were able to grow higher gross profits from each of the three operating segments we had in 2008 as compared to 2007.

Preferred shares redemption value accretion .    Our preferred shares redemption value accretion increased from RMB1.4 million in 2007 to RMB67.8 million in 2008. This increase was due to the issuance of new preferred shares.

Allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders .    Our allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders increased from RMB20.8 million in 2007 to RMB53.9 million in 2008. This increase was due to the allocation of net income to preferred shares issued in 2008.

Net income (loss) attributable to ordinary shareholders .    Our net income (loss) attributable to ordinary shareholders decreased from net income of RMB12.0 million in 2007 to net loss of RMB54.4 million in 2008. This decrease was primarily due to increases in our preferred shares redemption value accretion and allocation of net income to participating preferred shareholders offset by our increased net income.

 

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Discussion of segment operations

The following table lists our net revenues, cost of revenues, gross profit and gross margin by our reportable segments for the periods indicated:

 

      For the Year Ended December 31,     For the Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
(in thousands)   2007     2008     2009     2009     2009     2010     2010  
                                           
    RMB     RMB     RMB     US$