Our operations and financial results are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described below, that could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, and the trading price of our common stock.
Risks Relating to Our Business
Our SASSA contract expires at the end of March 2017. SASSA has publicly stated that it will not reissue a grant payments tender and that it intends to take over the distribution of social grants when our contract expires. If this occurs, we will lose a significant portion of our revenues.
We have historically derived a substantial portion of our revenues from our contract with SASSA for the payment of social grants. Our current five-year SASSA contract, which we were awarded through a tender process in 2012, expires in March 2017. SASSA issued a tender for a new contract in mid-2015, but in late 2015, it announced that it would not award a new tender and that it intends to take over the distribution of social grants when our contract expires. If SASSA does in fact take over social grants distribution at the end of our contract, then we will lose the revenues from this contract. Unless we are able to replace most or all of these revenues from other sources, our results of operations, financial position, cash flows and future growth are likely to suffer materially.
It is possible that SASSA might request us to enter a transition agreement in order to phase out our services. The South African Constitutional Court has stated that Cash Paymaster Services, or CPS, our subsidiary which is the contracting party with SASSA, is deemed to be an "organ of state" for the purpose of the contract and that CPS has "constitutional obligations" that go beyond its contractual obligations. It is not clear what these obligations may entail in respect of the current and any potential future government contract in South Africa. We cannot predict what the financial implications may be if we are required to continue with the provision of our services without a valid contract, or during any transitional period required for the orderly transfer of our current services to SASSA.
We have increasingly focused our South African business on providing financial products and services independently of SASSA through our EasyPay Everywhere bank account and ATM infrastructure. Future increases in our revenues and operating income will depend in part on our ability to continue to expand this business.
When SASSA issued a new social grants tender in mid-2015, we decided not to participate because we believed that the terms of the tender would not allow for a contract that would be in our best interests. Instead, we began to focus our South African business on providing transactional products and services through our EasyPay Everywhere bank accounts and ATM infrastructure. We market and provide these products and services to all unbanked and under-banked persons in South Africa, not just to social grant beneficiaries. When we provide these services to social grant beneficiaries we do so independently of SASSA. While we believe that our financial services offerings are convenient and cost-effective, our continued success will depend on the extent to which South African customers adopt our financial products and services on a widespread basis. Factors which may prevent us from successfully growing our South African financial services business include, but are not limited to:
- underestimation of the number of customers that will obtain an EasyPay Everywhere bank account and use our ATM infrastructure;
- lack of adoption of our EasyPay Everywhere and related products by customers as anticipated;
- competition in the marketplace;
- restrictions imposed by SASSA or government on the manner in which beneficiaries may transact;
- political interference;
- changes in the regulatory environment;
- dependence on existing suppliers to provide the hardware (such as ATMs, cards and POS devices) we require to execute our rollout as anticipated;
- logistical and communications challenges; and
- loss of key technical and operations staff, particularly during the rollout phase.
SASSA has challenged our ability to conduct this business in a commercial manner through its interpretation of recently-adopted regulations under the Social Assistance Act. We are in litigation with SASSA over its interpretation of these regulations. If SASSA were to prevail in this legal proceeding, our business will suffer.
SASSA has challenged our ability to operate our business in a commercial manner by adopting an interpretation of the South African Social Assistance Act of 2004, Assistance Act, and recently-adopted regulations thereunder that would prohibit us and Grindrod Bank Limited, or Grindrod, from processing debit orders from social welfare beneficiaries' bank accounts. We believe that SASSA's interpretation is erroneous and on June 3, 2016, we filed for a declaratory order with the High Court of the Republic of South Africa Gauteng Division, Pretoria, to provide certainty to us, as well as other industry stakeholders, on the interpretation of the Assistance Act and regulations. On June 15, 2016, SASSA brought criminal charges against us and Grindrod Bank for failing to act in accordance with their instructions to stop processing debit orders. On June 28, 2016, the High Court issued an order scheduling arguments on the declaratory order that we are seeking on October 17 and 18, 2016 and prohibiting SASSA from taking certain actions in furtherance of the criminal charges, pending a determination of the dispute. On August 8, 2016 we were informed that the South African National Prosecuting Authority, or NPA, has reached a "no prosecution" decision on the criminal charges filed by SASSA. We cannot predict whether SASSA might attempt to bring new charges at any time or ask the NPA to revisit its decision in future. We cannot predict the outcome of the SASSA litigation.
If we were not to prevail, our ability to operate our business, specifically our micro-lending and insurance activities in a commercially advantageous manner would be impaired, which would likely have a material adverse effect on our business and might harm our reputation. Regardless of the outcome, management will be required to devote significant time and resources to these legal proceedings, which may impact their ability to focus their attention on our business.
We are, and in the future may be, subject to litigation in which private parties may seek to recover, on behalf of SASSA, amounts paid to us under our SASSA contract. If such litigation were to be successful and require us to repay substantial monies to SASSA, such repayment would adversely affect our results of operations, financial position and cash flows.
In April 2015, Corruption Watch, a South African non-profit civil society organization, commenced a legal proceeding in the High Court of South Africa, seeking an order by the Court to review and set aside the decision of SASSA's Chief Executive Officer to approve the payment to us of ZAR317 million. Corruption Watch claims that there was no lawful basis for the decision to make the payment to us, and that the decision was unreasonable and irrational and did not comply with South African legislation. We are named as a respondent in this proceeding.
As discussed in "Item 3-Legal Proceedings," the payments being challenged by Corruption Watch represent amounts paid to us by SASSA for the costs we incurred in performing additional beneficiary registrations and gathering information beyond those that we were contractually required to perform under our SASSA contract. These amounts were paid in full settlement of the claim we submitted to SASSA for these additional costs. We believe that Corruption Watch's claim is without merit and we are defending it vigorously. However, we cannot predict how the Court will rule on the matter.
In addition, the April 2014 Constitutional Court ruling ordering SASSA to re-run the tender process requires us to file with the Court, after completion of our SASSA contract, an audited statement of our expenses, income and net profit under the contract. It is conceivable that one or more third parties may in the future institute litigation challenging our right to retain a portion of the amounts we will have received from SASSA under our contract. We cannot predict whether any such litigation will be instituted, or if it is, whether it would be successful.
Any successful challenge to our right to receive and retain payments from SASSA that requires substantial repayments would adversely affect our results of operations, financial position and cash flows.
The DOJ is investigating whether we have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, and other federal criminal laws.
As we have previously reported, in November 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice commenced an investigation into whether we violated the FCPA and other U.S. federal criminal laws by engaging in a scheme to make corrupt payments to officials of the South Africa government in connection with securing our 2012 SASSA contract and whether we violated federal securities laws in connection with statements made by us in our SEC filings regarding this contract. In addition, the SEC commenced its own investigation.
On June 8, 2015, we received a letter from the SEC stating that it had concluded its investigation and that it did not intend to recommend an enforcement action against us. It is our understanding that the DOJ investigation remains ongoing.
These investigations have been costly for us. We incurred significant legal costs during fiscal 2013 and 2014 in responding to the U.S. government's requests for information, management's time has been diverted from other matters relating to our business and we have suffered harm to our business reputation. In particular, in fiscal 2013, the FSB suspended Smart Life's insurance license. Even though the SEC has concluded its investigation and Smart Life's license suspension has been lifted, we cannot predict when the DOJ investigation will be completed or the impact or outcome of that investigation.
On February 14, 2013, we filed an application pursuant to Section 34 of the South African Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act in South Africa with the South African Police Service to investigate the allegations of corruption that were contained in certain newspaper reports. Section 34 deals with the reporting of suspected fraud, theft, extortion and forgery. In November, 2015, we received a written notice from the Hawks, stating this case was investigated and the prosecutors assigned to the case declined to prosecute these matters. The Hawks have closed the investigations.
We have disclosed competitively sensitive information as a result of the AllPay litigation, which could adversely affect our competitive position in the future.
In connection with the litigation challenging the award of the SASSA tender to us in fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2015, we included our entire 2011 SASSA tender submission in the court record, which court record is in the public domain. Our tender submission contains competitively sensitive business information. As a result of this disclosure, our existing and future competitors have access to this information which could adversely affect our competitive position in any future similar tender submissions to the extent that such information continues to remain competitively sensitive.
In order to meet our obligations under our current SASSA contract, we are required to deposit government funds with financial institutions in South Africa before commencing the payment cycle and are exposed to counterparty risk.
In order to meet our obligations under our current SASSA contract, we are required to deposit government funds, which will ultimately be used to pay social welfare grants, with financial institutions in South Africa before commencing the payment cycle. If these financial institutions are unable to meet their commitments to us, in a timely manner or at all, we would be unable to discharge our obligations under our SASSA contract and could be subject to financial losses, penalties, loss of reputation and potentially, the cancellation of our contract. As we are unable to influence these financial institutions' operations, including their internal information technology structures, capital structures, risk management, business continuity and disaster recovery programs, or their regulatory compliance systems, we are exposed to counterparty risk.
We may undertake acquisitions that could increase our costs or liabilities or be disruptive to our business.
Acquisitions are a significant part of our long-term growth strategy as we seek to grow our business internationally and to deploy our technologies in new markets both inside and outside South Africa. However, we may not be able to locate suitable acquisition candidates at prices that we consider appropriate. If we do identify an appropriate acquisition candidate, we may not be able to successfully negotiate the terms of an acquisition, finance the acquisition or, if the acquisition occurs, integrate the acquired business into our existing business. These transactions may require debt financing or additional equity financing, resulting in additional leverage or dilution of ownership.
Acquisitions of businesses or other material operations and the integration of these acquisitions will require significant attention from our senior management which may divert their attention from our day to day business. The difficulties of integration may be increased by the necessity of coordinating geographically dispersed organizations, integrating personnel with disparate business backgrounds and combining different corporate cultures. We also may not be able to maintain key employees or customers of an acquired business or realize cost efficiencies or synergies or other benefits that we anticipated when selecting our acquisition candidates.
In addition, we may need to record write-downs from future impairments of goodwill or other intangible assets, which could reduce our future reported earnings. Finally, acquisition candidates may have liabilities or adverse operating issues that we fail to discover through due diligence prior to the acquisition.
We have a significant amount of indebtedness that requires us to comply with restrictive and financial covenants. If we are unable to comply with these covenants, we could default on this debt, which would have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
As of June 30, 2016, we had approximately $51.8 million of outstanding indebtedness, which we incurred to finance our acquisition of KSNET in October 2010. These loans are secured by a pledge by Net1 Korea of its entire equity interest in KSNET and a pledge by the immediate parent of Net1 Korea (also one of our subsidiaries) of its entire equity interest in Net1 Korea. The terms of the loan facility require Net1 Korea and its consolidated subsidiaries to maintain certain specified financial ratios (including a leverage ratio and a debt service coverage ratio) and restrict Net1 Korea's ability to make certain distributions with respect to its capital stock, prepay other debt, encumber its assets, incur additional indebtedness, or engage in certain business combinations. Although these covenants only apply to our South Korean subsidiaries, these security arrangements and covenants may reduce our operating flexibility or our ability to engage in other transactions that may be beneficial to us. If we are unable to comply with these covenants, we could be in default and the indebtedness could be accelerated. If this were to occur, we might not be able to obtain waivers of default or to refinance the debt with another lender and as a result, our business and financial condition would suffer.
We face competition from the incumbent retail banks in South Africa and SAPO in the unbanked market segment, which could limit growth in our transaction-based activities segment.
Certain South African banks have also developed their own low-cost banking products targeted at the unbanked and underbanked market segment. According to the 2015 FinScope survey, which is an annual survey conducted by the FinMark Trust, a non-profit independent trust, 77% of South Africans are banked. As the competition to bank the unbanked in South Africa intensifies, we may not be successful in marketing our low-cost EasyPay Everywhere product to our target population. Moreover, as our product offerings increase, gain market acceptance and pose a competitive threat in South Africa, especially our UEPS/EMV product with biometric verification and our financial services offerings, the banks and SAPO may seek governmental or other regulatory intervention if they view us as disrupting their transactional or other businesses.
Our microlending loan book exposes us to credit risk and our allowance for doubtful finance loans receivable may not be sufficient to absorb future write-offs.
The majority of these finance loans made are for a period of six months or less. We have created an allowance for doubtful finance loans receivable related to this book. Management has considered factors including the period of the UEPS-loan outstanding, creditworthiness of the customers and the past payment history of the borrower when creating the allowance. We consider this policy to be appropriate taking into account factors such as historical bad debts, current economic trends and changes in our customer payment patterns. However, additional allowances may be required should the ability of our customers to make payments when due deteriorate in the future. A significant amount of judgment is required to assess the ultimate recoverability of these finance loan receivables, including on-going evaluation of the creditworthiness of each customer.
We may face competition from other companies that offer smart card technology, other innovative payment technologies and payment processing, which could result in loss of our existing business and adversely impact our ability to successfully market additional products and services.
Our primary competitors in the payment processing market include other independent processors, as well as financial institutions, independent sales organizations, and, potentially card networks. Many of our competitors are companies who are larger than we are and have greater financial and operational resources than we have. These factors may allow them to offer better pricing terms or incentives to customers, which could result in a loss of our potential or current customers or could force us to lower our prices as well. Either of these actions could have a significant effect on our revenues and earnings.
In addition to competition that our UEPS system faces from the use of cash, checks, credit and debit cards, existing payment systems and the providers of financial services and low cost bank accounts, there are a number of other products that use smart card technology in connection with a funds transfer system. During the past several years, smart card technology has become increasingly prevalent. We believe that the most competitive product in this marketplace is EMV, a system that is promoted by most of the major card companies such as Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express. Also, governments and financial institutions are, to an increasing extent, implementing general-purpose reloadable prepaid cards as a low-cost alternative to provide financial services to the unbanked population. Moreover, as the acceptance of using a mobile phone to facilitate financial services has increased exponentially, other companies have introduced such services to the marketplace successfully and customers may prefer those services to ours, based on technology, price or other factors.
A prolonged economic slowdown or lengthy or severe recession in South Africa or elsewhere could harm our operations.
A prolonged economic downturn or recession could materially impact our results from operations. A recessionary economic environment could have a negative impact on mobile phone operators, our cardholders and retailers and could reduce the level of transactions we process and the take-up of financial services we offer, which would, in turn, negatively impact our financial results. If financial institutions and retailers experience decreased demand for their products and services our hardware, software and related technology sales will reduce, resulting in lower revenue.
The loss of the services of Mr. Belamant or any of our other executive officers would adversely affect our business.
Our future financial and operational performance depends, in large part, on the continued contributions of our senior management, in particular, Mr. Serge Belamant, our Chief Executive Officer and Chairman and Herman Kotzé, our Chief Financial Officer. Many of our key responsibilities are performed by these two individuals, and the loss of the services of either of them could disrupt our development efforts or business relationships and our ability to continue to innovate and to meet customers' needs, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial performance. We do not have employment agreements with these executive officers and they may terminate their employment at any time.
In addition, the success of our KSNET business depends heavily on the continued services of its president, Phil-Hyun Oh and the other senior members of the KSNET management team. We do not maintain any "key person" life insurance policies.
We face a highly competitive employment market and may not be successful in attracting and retaining a sufficient number of skilled employees, particularly in the technical and sales areas and senior management.
Our future success depends on our ability to continue to develop new products and to market these products to our target users. In order to succeed in our product development and marketing efforts, we need to identify, attract, motivate and retain sufficient numbers of qualified technical and sales personnel. An inability to hire and retain such technical personnel would adversely affect our ability to enhance our existing intellectual property, to introduce new generations of technology and to keep abreast of current developments in technology. Demand for personnel with the range of capabilities and experience we require is high and there is no assurance that we will be successful in attracting and retaining these employees. The risk exists that our technical skills and sales base may be depleted over time because of natural attrition. Furthermore, social and economic factors in South Africa have led, and continue to lead, to numerous qualified individuals leaving the country, thus depleting the availability of qualified personnel in South Africa. In addition, our multi-country strategy will also require us to hire and retain highly qualified managerial personnel in each of these markets. If we cannot recruit and retain people with the appropriate capabilities and experience and effectively integrate these people into our business, it could negatively affect our product development and marketing activities.
System failures, including breaches in the security of our system, could harm our business.
We may experience system failures from time to time, and any lengthy interruption in the availability of our back-end system computer could harm our revenues and profits, and could subject us to the scrutiny of our customers.
Frequent or persistent interruptions in our services could cause current or potential customers and users to believe that our systems are unreliable, leading them to avoid our technology altogether, and could permanently harm our reputation and brands. These interruptions would increase the burden on our engineering staff, which, in turn, could delay our introduction of new applications and services. Finally, because our customers may use our products for critical transactions, any system failures could result in damage to our customers' businesses. These customers could seek significant compensation from us for their losses. Even if unsuccessful, this type of claim could be time consuming and costly for us to address.
Although our systems have been designed to reduce downtime in the event of outages or catastrophic occurrences, they remain vulnerable to damage or interruption from earthquakes, floods, fires, power loss, telecommunication failures, terrorist attacks, computer viruses, computer denial-of-service attacks and similar events. Some of our systems are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning may not be sufficient for all eventualities.
Protection against fraud is of key importance to the purchasers and end users of our solutions. We incorporate security features, including encryption software, biometric identification and secure hardware, into our solutions to protect against fraud in electronic transactions and to provide for the privacy and integrity of card holder data. Our solutions may be vulnerable to breaches in security due to defects in the security mechanisms, the operating system and applications or the hardware platform. Security vulnerabilities could jeopardize the security of information transmitted using our solutions. If the security of our solutions is compromised, our reputation and marketplace acceptance of our solutions will be adversely affected, which would cause our business to suffer, and we may become subject to damage claims. We have not yet experienced any security breaches affecting our business.
Despite any precautions we may take, the occurrence of a natural disaster or other unanticipated problems with our system could result in lengthy interruptions in our services. Our current business interruption insurance may not be sufficient to compensate us for losses that may result from interruptions in our service as a result of system failures.
The period between our initial contact with a potential customer and the sale of our UEPS products or services to that customer tends to be long and may be subject to delays which may have an impact on our revenues.
The period between our initial contact with a potential customer and the purchase of our UEPS products and services is often long and subject to delays associated with the budgeting, approval and competitive evaluation processes that frequently accompany significant capital expenditures. A lengthy sales cycle may have an impact on the timing of our revenues, which may cause our quarterly operating results to fall below investor expectations. A customer's decision to purchase our products and services is often discretionary, involves a significant commitment of resources, and is influenced by customer budgetary cycles. To sell our products and services successfully we generally must educate our potential customers regarding the uses and benefits of our products and services, which can require the expenditure of significant time and resources; however, there can be no assurance that this significant expenditure of time and resources will result in actual sales of our products and services.
Our proprietary rights may not adequately protect our technologies.
Our success depends in part on our obtaining and maintaining patent, trade secret, copyright and trademark protection of our technologies in the United States and other jurisdictions as well as successfully enforcing this intellectual property and defending this intellectual property against third-party challenges. We will only be able to protect our technologies from unauthorized use by third parties to the extent that valid and enforceable intellectual property protections, such as patents or trade secrets, cover them. In particular, we place considerable emphasis on obtaining patent and trade secret protection for significant new technologies, products and processes. Furthermore, the degree of future protection of our proprietary rights is uncertain because legal means afford only limited protection and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep our competitive advantage.
We cannot predict the breadth of claims that may be allowed or enforced in our patents. For example, we might not have been the first to make the inventions covered by each of our patents and patent applications or to file patent applications and it is possible that none of our pending patent applications will result in issued patents. It is possible that others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies. Also, our issued patents may not provide a basis for commercially viable products, or may not provide us with any competitive advantages or may be challenged, invalidated or circumvented by third parties.
We also rely on trade secrets to protect our technology, especially where we believe patent protection is not appropriate or obtainable. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. We have confidentiality agreements with employees, and consultants to protect our trade secrets and proprietary know-how. These agreements may be breached and or may not have adequate remedies for such breach. While we use reasonable efforts to protect our trade secrets, our employees, consultants or others may unintentionally or willfully disclose our information to competitors. If we were to enforce a claim that a third party had illegally obtained and was using our trade secrets, our enforcement efforts would be expensive and time consuming, and the outcome would be unpredictable. Moreover, if our competitors independently develop equivalent knowledge, methods and know-how, it will be more difficult for us to enforce our rights and our business could be harmed. If we are not able to defend the patent or trade secret protection position of our technologies, then we will not be able to exclude competitors from developing or marketing competing technologies.
We also rely on trademarks to establish a market identity for some of our products. To maintain the value of our trademarks, we might have to file lawsuits against third parties to prevent them from using trademarks confusingly similar to or dilutive of our registered or unregistered trademarks. Also, we might not obtain registrations for our pending trademark applications, and might have to defend our registered trademark and pending trademark applications from challenge by third parties.
Defending our intellectual property rights or defending ourselves in infringement suits that may be brought against us is expensive and time-consuming and may not be successful.
Litigation to enforce our patents, trademarks or other intellectual property rights or to protect our trade secrets could result in substantial costs and may not be successful. Any loss of, or inability to protect, intellectual property in our technology could diminish our competitive advantage and also seriously harm our business. In addition, the laws of certain foreign countries may not protect our intellectual property rights to the same extent as do the laws in countries where we currently have patent protection. Our means of protecting our intellectual property rights in countries where we currently have patent or trademark protection, or any other country in which we operate, may not be adequate to fully protect our intellectual property rights. Similarly, if third parties claim that we infringe their intellectual property rights, we may be required to incur significant costs and devote substantial resources to the defense of such claims. We may be required to discontinue using and selling any infringing technology and services, to expend resources to develop non-infringing technology or to purchase licenses or pay royalties for other technology. In addition, if we are unsuccessful in defending any such third-party claims, we could suffer costly judgments and injunctions that could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition.
Our strategy of partnering with companies outside South Africa may not be successful.
In order for us to expand our operations into foreign markets, it may be necessary for us to establish partnering arrangements with companies outside South Africa, such as the one we have co-established in Namibia and our non-controlling investment in Nigeria. The success of these endeavors is, however, subject to a number of factors over which we have little or no control, such as finding suitable partners with the appropriate financial, business and technical backing and continued governmental support for planned implementations. In some countries, finding suitable partners and obtaining the appropriate support from the government involved may take a number of years before we can commence implementation. Some of these partnering arrangements may take the form of joint ventures in which we receive a non-controlling interest. Non-controlling ownership carries with it numerous risks, including dependence on partners to provide knowledge of local market conditions and to facilitate the acquisition of any necessary licenses and permits, as well as the inability to control the joint venture vehicle and to direct its policies and strategies. Such a lack of control could result in the loss of all or part of our investment in such entities. In addition, our foreign partners may have different business methods and customs which may be unfamiliar to us and with which we disagree. Our joint venture partners may not be able to implement our business model in new areas as efficiently and quickly as we have been able to do in South Africa. Furthermore, limitations imposed on our South African subsidiaries by South African exchange control regulations, as well as limitations imposed on us by the Investment Company Act of 1940, may limit our ability to establish partnerships or entities in which we do not obtain a controlling interest.
We may have difficulty managing our growth.
We continue to experience growth, both in the scope of our operations and size of our organization. This growth is placing significant demands on our management. Continued growth would increase the challenges involved in implementing appropriate operational and financial systems, expanding our technical and sales and marketing infrastructure and capabilities, providing adequate training and supervision to maintain high quality standards, and preserving our culture and values.
International growth, in particular, means that we must become familiar and comply with complex laws and regulations in other countries, especially laws relating to taxation. Additionally, continued growth will place significant additional demands on our management and our financial and operational resources, and will require that we continue to develop and improve our operational, financial and other internal controls. If we cannot scale and manage our business appropriately, we will not experience our projected growth and our financial results may suffer.
We pre-fund the payment of social welfare grants through our merchant acquiring system in South Africa and pre-fund the settlement of certain customers in South Korea and a significant level of payment defaults by these merchants or customers would adversely affect us.
We pre-fund social welfare grants through the merchants who participate in our merchant acquiring system in the South African provinces where we operate as well as prefund the settlement of funds to certain customers in South Korea. These prefunding obligations expose us to the risk of default by these merchants and customers. Although we have not experienced any material defaults by merchants or customers in the return of pre-funded amounts to us, we cannot guarantee that material defaults will not occur in the future. A material level of merchant or customer defaults could have a material adverse effect on us, our financial position and results of operations.
We may incur material losses in connection with our distribution of cash to recipient cardholders of social welfare grants.
Many social welfare recipient cardholders use our services to access cash using their smart cards. We use armored vehicles to deliver large amounts of cash to rural areas across South Africa to enable these welfare recipient cardholders to receive this cash. In some cases, we also store the cash that will be delivered by the armored vehicles in depots overnight or over the weekend to facilitate delivery to these rural areas. We cannot insure against certain risks of loss or theft of cash from our delivery vehicles or depots and we will therefore bear the full cost of certain uninsured losses or theft in connection with the cash handling process, and such losses could materially and adversely affect our financial condition, cash flows and results of operations. We have not incurred any material losses resulting from cash distribution in recent years, but there is no assurance that we will not incur material losses in the future.
We depend upon third-party suppliers, making us vulnerable to supply shortages and price fluctuations, which could harm our business.
We obtain our smart cards, ATM's, POS devices and the other hardware we use in our business from a limited number of suppliers, and do not manufacture this equipment ourselves. We generally do not have long-term agreements with our manufacturers or component suppliers. If our suppliers become unwilling or unable to provide us with adequate supplies of parts or products when we need them, or if they increase their prices, we may not be able to find alternative sources in a timely manner and could be faced with a critical shortage. This could harm our ability to implement new systems and cause our revenues to decline. Even if we are able to secure alternative sources in a timely manner, our costs could increase. A supply interruption or an increase in demand beyond current suppliers' capabilities could harm our ability to distribute our equipment and thus, to acquire a new source of customers who use our UEPS technology. Any interruption in the supply of the hardware necessary to operate our technology, or our inability to obtain substitute equipment at acceptable prices in a timely manner, could impair our ability to meet the demand of our customers, which would have an adverse effect on our business.
Shipments of our electronic payment systems may be delayed by factors outside of our control, which can harm our reputation and our relationships with our customers.
The shipment of payment systems requires us or our manufacturers, distributors or other agents to obtain customs or other government certifications and approvals and, on occasion, to submit to physical inspection of our systems in transit. Failure to satisfy these requirements, and the very process of trying to satisfy them, can lead to lengthy delays in the delivery of our solutions to our direct or indirect customers. Delays and unreliable delivery by us may harm our reputation and our relationships with our customers.
Our Smart Life business exposes us to risks typically experienced by life assurance companies.
Smart Life is a life insurance company and exposes us to risks typically experienced by life assurance companies. Some of these risks include the extent to which we are able to continue to reinsure our risks at acceptable costs, reinsurer counterparty risk, maintaining regulatory capital adequacy, solvency and liquidity requirements, our ability to price our insurance products appropriately, the risk that actual claims experience may exceed our estimates, the ability to recover policy premiums from our customers and the competitiveness of the South African insurance market. If we are unable to maintain our desired level of reinsurance at prices that we consider acceptable, we would have to either accept an increase in our exposure risk or reduce our insurance writings. If our reinsurers are unable to meet their commitments to us in a timely manner, or at all, we may be unable to discharge our obligations under our insurance contracts. As such, we are exposed to counterparty, including credit, risk of these reinsurers. Our product pricing includes long-term assumptions regarding investment returns, mortality, morbidity, persistency and operating costs and expenses of the business. Using the wrong assumptions to price our insurance products could materially and adversely affect our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
If our actual claims experience is higher than our estimates, our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected. Finally, the South African insurance industry is highly competitive. Many of our competitors are well-established, represented nationally and market similar products and we may not be able to effectively penetrate the South African insurance market.
Risks Relating to Operating in South Africa and Other Foreign Markets
If we do not achieve applicable broad-based black economic empowerment, or BEE, objectives in our South African businesses, we risk losing our government and private contracts. In addition, it is possible that we may be required to increase black shareholding of our company in a manner that could dilute your ownership.
The legislative framework for the promotion of broad-based black economic empowerment in South Africa has been established through the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, No. 53 of 2003, as amended in 2013, and amended BEE codes of good practice, the sector-specific codes of good practice, or Sector Codes, and sector-specific transformation charters, or Transformation Charters, published pursuant thereto. Sector Codes are a sector code of good practice that are aligned with the BEE codes of good practice and share the same status as the BEE codes of good practice which were initially published by the South African government in February 2007. Sector Codes are fully binding between and among businesses operating in an industry.
In June 2012, the South African government promulgated the Information and Communications Technology, or ICT Charter, and on November 2012 the Financial Services Charter, two of the Sector Codes, to which certain of our businesses are subject. Both of the above mentioned Sector Codes are at present still in draft to be aligned with the Amended Codes of Good Practice. Achievement of BEE objectives is measured by a scorecard which establishes a weighting for the various components of BEE. Scorecards are independently reviewed by accredited BEE scorecard verification agencies which issue a certificate that presents an entity's BEE Recognition Levels, or BEE status.
The codes of good practice were reviewed by the South African Department of Trade and Industry, or dti, and a new set of codes of good practice were promulgated in October 2013. The new codes of good practice came into effect on May 1, 2015, and have different requirements and emphasis to the old codes of good practice. Furthermore, on May 15, 2015, the dti issued a Notice of Clarification which further extended the transitional period for the alignment of Sector Codes with the new set of codes of good practice to a date still to be announced. The dti stated in its notice that it would consider repealing any Sector Codes that are not aligned to a date yet to be announced. The Financial Services Charter as well as the ICT Charter are currently still in draft phase and some of our business will have to adhere to these amended codes as soon as they are gazetted. Compliance with either the requirements of the amended ICT Charter as well as the Financial Services Charter, if properly aligned with the new codes of good practice, may negatively affect our future BEE status.
We have taken a number of actions as a company to increase empowerment of black South Africans. However, it is possible that these actions may not be sufficient to enable us to achieve applicable BEE objectives. In that event, in order to avoid risking the loss of our government and private contracts, we may have to seek to comply through other means, including by selling or placing additional shares of Net1 or of our South African subsidiaries to black South Africans. Such sales of shares could have a dilutive impact of your ownership interest, which could cause the market price of our stock to decline.
We expect that our BEE status will be important for us to remain competitive in the South African marketplace and we continually seek ways to improve our BEE status, especially the equity component of our BEE status. For instance, in April 2014, we implemented a BEE transaction pursuant to which we issued 4.4 million shares of our common stock to our BEE partners for ZAR 60.00 per share, which represented a 25% discount to the market price of our shares at the time that we negotiated the transaction. We entered into this transaction to improve the equity component of our BEE status. We provided funding to the BEE partners in order for them to buy these shares from us. In June 2014, and in accordance with the terms of agreements, we repurchased approximately 2.4 million of these shares of our common stock in order for the BEE partners to repay the loans we provided to them. Furthermore, in August 2014, we entered into a Subscription and Sale of Shares Agreement with Business Venture Investments No 1567 Proprietary Limited (RF), or BVI, one of our BEE partners, in preparation for any new potential SASSA tender. Pursuant to the agreement, we repurchased BVI's remaining shares of Net1 common stock and BVI subscribed for new ordinary shares of CPS, representing approximately 12.5% of CPS' ordinary shares outstanding after the subscription.
It is possible that we may find it necessary to issue additional shares to improve our BEE status. If we enter into further BEE transactions that involve the issuance of equity, we cannot predict what the dilutive effect of such a transaction would be on your ownership or how it would affect the market price of our stock.
Fluctuations in the value of the South African rand have had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on our reported results of operations, which may make it difficult to evaluate our business performance between reporting periods and may also adversely affect our stock price.
The South African rand, or ZAR, is the primary operating currency for our business operations while our financial results are reported in U.S. dollars. This means that as long as the ZAR remains our primary operating currency, depreciation in the ZAR against the U.S. dollar, and to a lesser extent, the South Korean won against the U.S. dollar, would negatively impact our reported revenue and net income, while a strengthening of the ZAR and the South Korean won would have the opposite effect. Depreciation in the ZAR may negatively impact the prices at which our stock trades. The U.S. dollar/ZAR exchange rate has historically been volatile and we expect this volatility to continue. During fiscal 2016 and 2015, respectively, the ZAR was significantly weaker against the U.S. dollar than during most of the preceding several years, which adversely affected our 2016 and 2015 revenue and net income. We provide detailed information about historical exchange rates in Item 7-"Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations-Currency Exchange Rate Information."
Due to the significant fluctuation in the value of the ZAR and its impact on our reported results, you may find it difficult to compare our results of operations between financial reporting periods even though we provide supplemental information about our results of operations determined on a ZAR basis. This difficulty may increase as we expand our business internationally and record additional revenue and expenses in the euro and other currencies. It may also have a negative impact on our stock price.
We generally do not engage in any currency hedging transactions intended to reduce the effect of fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates on our results of operations, other than economic hedging relating to our inventory purchases which are settled in U.S. dollars or euros. We have used forward contracts in order to hedge our economic exposure to the ZAR/U.S. dollar and ZAR/euro exchange rate fluctuations from these foreign currency transactions. We cannot guarantee that we will enter into hedging transactions in the future or, if we do, that these transactions will successfully protect us against currency fluctuations.
South Africa's high levels of poverty, unemployment and crime may increase our costs and impair our ability to maintain a qualified workforce.
While South Africa has a highly developed financial and legal infrastructure, it also has high levels of crime and unemployment and there are significant differences in the level of economic and social development among its people, with large parts of the population, particularly in the rural areas, having limited access to adequate education, healthcare, housing and other basic services, including water and electricity. In addition, South Africa has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Government policies aimed at alleviating and redressing the disadvantages suffered by the majority of citizens under previous governments may increase our costs and reduce our profitability, all of which could negatively affect our business. These problems may prompt emigration of skilled workers, hinder investment into South Africa and impede economic growth. As a result, we may have difficulties attracting and retaining qualified employees.
We may not be able to effectively and efficiently manage the electricity supply disruptions in South Africa which could adversely affect our results of operations, financial position, cash flows and future growth.
Our businesses in South Africa are dependent on electricity generated and supplied by the state-owned utility, Eskom, in order to operate. In recent years, Eskom has been unable to generate and supply the amount of electricity required by South Africans, and the entire country experienced significant and largely unpredictable electricity supply disruptions. Eskom has implemented a number of short- and long-term mitigation plans to correct these issues and the number of supply disruptions decreased during the calendar 2016.
As part of our business continuity programs, we have installed back-up diesel generators in order for us to continue to operate our core data processing facilities in Cape Town and Johannesburg in the event of intermittent disruptions to our electricity supply. We have to perform regular monitoring and maintenance of these generators as well as sourcing and managing diesel fuel levels. We may also be required to replace these generators on a more frequent basis due to the additional burden placed on them.
Our results of operations, financial position, cash flows and future growth could be adversely affected if Eskom is unable to commission new electricity-generating power stations in accordance with its plans, or at all, or if we are unable to effectively and efficiently test, maintain, source fuel for and replace our generators.
The economy of South Africa is exposed to high inflation and interest rates which could increase our operating costs and thereby reduce our profitability.
The economy of South Africa in the past has been, and in the future may continue to be, characterized by rates of inflation and interest rates that are substantially higher than those prevailing in the United States and other highly developed economies. High rates of inflation could increase our South African-based costs and decrease our operating margins. Although higher interest rates would increase the amount of income we earn on our cash balances, they would also adversely affect our ability to obtain cost-effective debt financing in South Africa.
South African exchange control regulations could hinder our ability to make foreign investments and obtain foreign-denominated financing.
South Africa's exchange control regulations restrict the export of capital from South Africa, the Republic of Namibia and the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland, known collectively as the Common Monetary Area, without the prior approval of SARB. While the South African government has relaxed exchange controls in recent years, it is difficult to predict whether or how it will further relax or abolish exchange control measures in the foreseeable future.
Although Net1 is a U.S. corporation and is not itself subject to South African exchange control regulations, these regulations do restrict the ability of our South African subsidiaries to raise and deploy capital outside the Common Monetary Area, to borrow money in currencies other than the South African rand and to hold foreign currency. Exchange control restrictions may also affect the ability of these subsidiaries to pay dividends to Net1 unless the affected subsidiary can show that any payment of such dividend will not place it in an over-borrowed position. As of June 30, 2016, approximately 34% of our cash and cash equivalents were held by our South African subsidiaries. Exchange control regulations could make it difficult for our South African subsidiaries to: (i) export capital from South Africa; (ii) hold foreign currency or incur indebtedness denominated in foreign currencies without the approval of SARB; (iii) acquire an interest in a foreign venture without the approval of SARB and first having complied with the investment criteria of SARB; or (iv) repatriate to South Africa profits of foreign operations. These regulations could also limit our ability to utilize profits of one foreign business to finance operations of a different foreign business.
Under current exchange control regulations, SARB approval would be required for any acquisition of our company which would involve payment to our South African shareholders of any consideration other than South African rand. This restriction could limit our management in its ability to consider strategic options and thus, our shareholders may not be able to realize the premium over the current trading price of our shares.
Most of South Africa's major industries are unionized, and the majority of employees belong to trade unions. We face the risk of disruption from labor disputes and new South African labor laws.
Trade unions have had a significant impact on the collective bargaining process as well as on social and political reform in South Africa in general. Although only approximately 1% percent of our South African workforce is unionized and we have not experienced any labor disruptions in recent years, such labor disruptions may occur in the future. In addition, developments in South African labor laws may increase our costs or alter our relationship with our employees and trade unions, which may have an adverse effect on us, our financial condition and our operations.
Operating in South Africa and other emerging markets subjects us to greater risks than those we would face if we operated in more developed markets.
Emerging markets such as South Africa, as well as some of the other markets into which we have recently begun to expand, including African countries outside South Africa, South America, South and Southeast Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, are subject to greater risks than more developed markets.
While we focus our business primarily on emerging markets because that is where we perceive to be the greatest opportunities to market our products and services successfully, the political, economic and market conditions in many of these markets present risks that could make it more difficult to operate our business successfully.
Some of these risks include:
- political and economic instability, including higher rates of inflation and currency fluctuations;
- high levels of corruption, including bribery of public officials;
- loss due to civil strife, acts of war or terrorism, guerrilla activities and insurrection;
- a lack of well-developed legal systems which could make it difficult for us to enforce our intellectual property and contractual rights;
- logistical, utilities (including electricity and water supply) and communications challenges;
- potential adverse changes in laws and regulatory practices, including import and export license requirements and restrictions, tariffs, legal structures and tax laws;
- difficulties in staffing and managing operations and ensuring the safety of our employees;
- restrictions on the right to convert or repatriate currency or export assets;
- greater risk of uncollectible accounts and longer collection cycles;
- indigenization and empowerment programs; - exposure to liability under the United Kingdom's Bribery Act 2010; and
- exposure to liability under U.S. securities and foreign trade laws, including the FCPA, and regulations established by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC.
Many of these countries and regions are in various stages of developing institutions and political, legal and regulatory systems that are characteristic of democracies. However, institutions in these countries and regions may not yet be as firmly established as they are in democracies in the developed world. Many of these countries and regions are also in the process of transitioning to a market economy and, as a result, are experiencing changes in their economies and their government policies that can affect our investments in these countries and regions. Moreover, the procedural safeguards of the new legal and regulatory regimes in these countries and regions are still being developed and, therefore, existing laws and regulations may be applied inconsistently. In some circumstances, it may not be possible to obtain the legal remedies provided under those laws and regulations in a timely manner.
As the political, economic and legal environments remain subject to continuous development, investors in these countries and regions face uncertainty as to the security of their investments. Any unexpected changes in the political or economic conditions in these or neighboring countries or others in the region may have a material adverse effect on the international investments that we have made or may make in the future, which may in turn have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results, cash flows and financial condition.
Risks Relating to Government Regulation
The South African National Credit Regulator has applied to cancel the registration of our subsidiary, Moneyline Financial Services (Pty) Ltd, as a credit provider. If the registration is cancelled, we will not be able to provide UEPS-based loans to our customers, which would harm our business.
Moneyline provides microloans to our UEPS/EMV cardholders. Moneyline is a registered credit provider under the South African National Credit Act, or NCA, and is required to comply with the NCA in the operation of its lending business. In September 2014, the South African National Credit Regulator, or NCR, applied to the National Consumer Tribunal to cancel Moneyline's registration, based on an investigation concluded by the NCR.
The NCR has alleged, among other things, that Moneyline contravened the NCA by including child support grants and foster child grants in the affordability assessments performed by Moneyline prior to granting credit to these borrowers, and that the procedures followed and documentation maintained by Moneyline are not in accordance with the NCA. We believe that Moneyline has conducted its business in compliance with NCA and we are opposing the NCR's application. However, if the NCR's application is successful, Moneyline would be prohibited from operating its microlending business, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash flows.
We are required to comply with certain U.S. laws and regulations, including the FCPA as well as economic and trade sanctions, which could adversely impact our future growth.
We must comply with the FCPA, which prohibits U.S. companies or their agents and employees from providing anything of value to a foreign official for the purposes of influencing any act or decision of these individuals in their official capacity to help obtain or retain business, direct business to any person or corporate entity or obtain any unfair advantage. In addition, OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries, entities and individuals based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.
Any failure by us to adopt appropriate compliance procedures and ensure that our employees, agents and business partners comply with the FCPA could subject us to substantial penalties. In addition, the requirement that we comply with the FCPA could put us at a competitive disadvantage with companies that are not required to comply with the FCPA or could otherwise harm our business. For example, in many emerging markets, there may be significant levels of official corruption, and thus, bribery of public officials may be a commonly accepted cost of doing business. Our refusal to engage in illegal behavior, such as paying bribes, may result in us not being able to obtain business that we might otherwise have been able to secure or possibly even result in unlawful, selective or arbitrary action being taken against us by foreign officials. Furthermore, the trade sanctions administered and enforced by OFAC target countries which are typically less developed countries.
Since less developed countries present some of the best opportunities for us to expand our business internationally, restrictions against entering into transactions with those foreign countries, as well as with certain entities and individuals in those countries, can adversely affect our ability to grow our business.
Changes in current South African government regulations relating to social welfare grants could adversely affect our revenues and cash flows.
We derive a substantial portion of our current business from the distribution of social welfare grants in South Africa and the provision of financial services to social grant recipients. Because social welfare eligibility and grant amounts are regulated by the South African government, any changes to or reinterpretations of the government regulations relating to social welfare may result in the non-renewal or reduction of grants for certain individuals, or a determination that currently eligible social welfare grant recipient cardholders are no longer eligible. If any of these changes were to occur, the number of grants we distribute could decrease which could result in a reduction of our revenue and cash flows.
We do not have a South African banking license and, therefore, we provide our social welfare grant distribution and EasyPay Everywhere solution through an arrangement with a third-party bank, which limits our control over this business and the economic benefit we derive from it. If this arrangement were to terminate, we would not be able to operate our social welfare grant distribution and EasyPay Everywhere business without alternate means of access to a banking license.
The South African retail banking market is highly regulated. Under current law and regulations, our South African social welfare grant distribution and EasyPay Everywhere business activities requires us to be registered as a bank in South Africa or to have access to an existing banking license.
We are not currently so registered, but we have entered into an agreement with Grindrod that enables us to implement our social welfare grant distribution and EasyPay Everywhere solution in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations. If the agreement were to be terminated, we would not be able to operate these services unless we were able to obtain access to a banking license through alternate means. We are also dependent on Grindrod to defend us against attacks from the other South African banks who may regard the rapid market acceptance of our UEPS/EMV product with biometric verification as disruptive to their funds transfer or other businesses and may seek governmental or other regulatory intervention. Furthermore, we have to comply with the strict anti-money laundering and customer identification regulations of the SARB when we open new bank accounts for our customers and when they transact. Failure to effectively implement and monitor these regulations may result in significant fines or prosecution of Grindrod and ourselves.
In addition, the South African Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, 2002, requires persons who act as intermediaries between financial product suppliers and consumers in South Africa to register as financial service providers. Smart Life was granted an Authorized Financial Service Provider, or FSP, license on June 9, 2015. We are in the process of applying for several other FSP licenses under this Act in order to sell other financial products as a registered FSP. If our status as juristic representative were to be cancelled and if we fail to obtain our own license, we may be stopped from continuing this part of our business in South Africa.
Our payment processing businesses are subject to substantial governmental regulation and may be adversely affected by liability under, or any future inability to comply with, existing or future regulations or requirements.
Our payment processing activities are subject to extensive regulation. Compliance with the requirements under these various regulatory regimes may cause us to incur significant additional costs and failure to comply with such requirements could result in the shutdown of the non-complying facility, the imposition of liens, fines and/or civil or criminal liability.
We may be subject to regulations regarding privacy, data use and/or security which could adversely affect our business.
We are subject to regulations in a number of the countries in which we operate relating to the collection, use, retention, security and transfer of personally identifiable information about the people who use our products and services, in particular, "know your customer", personal financial and health information. New laws in this area have been passed by several jurisdictions, and other jurisdictions are considering imposing additional restrictions. The interpretation and application of user data protection laws are in a state of flux. These laws may be interpreted and applied inconsistently from country to country and our current data protection policies and practices may not be consistent with those interpretations and applications. Complying with these varying requirements could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a manner adverse to our business.
Any failure, or perceived failure, by us to comply with any regulatory requirements or international privacy or consumer protection-related laws and regulations could result in proceedings or actions against us by governmental entities or others, subject us to significant penalties and negative publicity and adversely affect us. In addition, as noted above, we are subject to the possibility of security breaches, which themselves may result in a violation of these laws.
Risks Relating to our Common Stock
Our stock price has been and may continue to be volatile.
Our stock price has experienced recent significant volatility. During the 2016 fiscal year, our stock price ranged from a low of $8.44 to a high of $21.48. We expect that the trading price of our common stock may continue to be volatile as a result of a number of factors, including, but not limited to the following:
- any adverse developments in litigation or regulatory actions in which we are involved;
- fluctuations in currency exchange rates, particularly the U.S. dollar/ZAR exchange rate;
- announcement of additional BEE transactions, especially one involving the issuance or potential issuance of equity securities or dilution or sale of our existing business in South Africa;
- quarterly variations in our operating results, especially if our operating results fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors;
- announcements of acquisitions, disposals or impairments of intangible assets;
- the timing of or delays in the commencement, implementation or completion of major projects;
- large purchases or sales of our common stock;
- general conditions in the markets in which we operate; and
- economic and financial conditions.
The put right we have agreed to grant to the IFC Investors on the occurrence of certain triggering events may have adverse impacts on us.
In May 2016, we issued an aggregate of 9,984,311 shares of our common stock to the IFC Investors. We also entered into a policy agreement with the IFC Investors which grants the IFC Investors certain rights, including the right to require us to repurchase any shares we have sold to the IFC Investors upon the occurrence of specified triggering events, which we refer to as a "put right." Events triggering the put right relate to (1) us being the subject of a governmental complaint alleging, a court judgment finding or an indictment alleging that we (a) engaged in specified corrupt, fraudulent, coercive, collusive or obstructive practices; (b) entered into transactions with targets of economic sanctions; or (c) failed to operate our business in compliance with anti-money laundering or anti-terrorism laws; or (2) we reject a bona fide offer to acquire all of our outstanding shares at a time when we have in place or implement a shareholder rights plan, or adopt a shareholder rights plan triggered by a beneficial ownership threshold of less than twenty percent. The put price per share will be the higher of the price per share paid to us by the IFC Investors and the volume-weighted average price per share prevailing for the 60 trading days preceding the triggering event, except that with respect a put right triggered by rejection of a bona fide offer, the put price per share will be the highest price offered by the offeror. If a put triggering event occurs, it could adversely impact our liquidity and capital resources. In addition, the existence of the put right could also affect whether or on what terms a third party might in the future offer to purchase our company. Our response to any such offer could also be complicated, delayed or otherwise influenced by the existence of the put right.
A majority of our common stock is beneficially owned by a small number of shareholders. The interests of these shareholders may conflict with those of our other shareholders.
There is a concentration of ownership of our outstanding common stock because approximately 47% of our outstanding common stock is owned by three shareholders. Based on their most recent SEC filings disclosing ownership of our shares, IFC Investors, Allan Gray Proprietary Limited, and International Value Advisers, LLC, or IVA, beneficially owned approximately 18%, 16% and 13% of our outstanding common stock, respectively.
The interests of the IFC Investors, Allan Gray and IVA, may be different from or conflict with the interests of our other shareholders. As a result of the ownership by the IFC Investors, Allan Gray and IVA, they will be able, if they act together, to significantly influence our management and affairs and all matters requiring shareholder approval, including the election of directors and approval of significant corporate transactions. This concentration of ownership may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control of our company, thus depriving shareholders of a premium for their shares, or facilitating a change of control that other shareholders may oppose.
We may seek to raise additional financing by issuing new securities with terms or rights superior to those of our shares of common stock, which could adversely affect the market price of our shares of common stock.
We may require additional financing to fund future operations, including expansion in current and new markets, programming development and acquisition, capital costs and the costs of any necessary implementation of technological innovations or alternative technologies, or to fund acquisitions. Because of the exposure to market risks associated with economies in emerging markets, we may not be able to obtain financing on favorable terms or at all.
If we raise additional funds by issuing equity securities, the percentage ownership of our current shareholders will be reduced, and the holders of the new equity securities may have rights superior to those of the holders of shares of common stock, which could adversely affect the market price and voting power of shares of common stock. If we raise additional funds by issuing debt securities, the holders of these debt securities would similarly have some rights senior to those of the holders of shares of common stock, and the terms of these debt securities could impose restrictions on operations and create a significant interest expense for us.
We may have difficulty raising necessary capital to fund operations or acquisitions as a result of market price volatility for our shares of common stock.
In recent years, the securities markets in the United States have experienced a high level of price and volume volatility, and the market price of securities of many companies have experienced wide fluctuations that have not necessarily been related to the operations, performance, underlying asset values or prospects of such companies. For these reasons, our shares of common stock can also be expected to be subject to volatility resulting from purely market forces over which we will have no control. If our business development plans are successful, we may require additional financing to continue to develop and exploit existing and new technologies, to expand into new markets and to make acquisitions, all of which may be dependent upon our ability to obtain financing through debt and equity or other means.
Issuances of significant amounts of stock in the future could potentially dilute your equity ownership and adversely affect the price of our common stock.
We believe that it is necessary to maintain a sufficient number of available authorized shares of our common stock in order to provide us with the flexibility to issue shares for business purposes that may arise from time to time. For example, we could sell additional shares to raise capital to fund our operations or to acquire other businesses, issue shares in a BEE transaction, issue additional shares under our stock incentive plan or declare a stock dividend. Our board may authorize the issuance of additional shares of common stock without notice to, or further action by, our shareholders, unless shareholder approval is required by law or the rules of the NASDAQ Stock Market. The issuance of additional shares could dilute the equity ownership of our current shareholders. In addition, additional shares that we issue would likely be freely tradable which could adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.
Failure to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, especially over companies that we may acquire, could have a material adverse effect on our business and stock price.
Under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or Sarbanes, we are required to furnish a management certification and auditor attestation regarding the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. We are required to report, among other things, control deficiencies that constitute a "material weakness" or changes in internal control that materially affect, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, internal control over financial reporting. A "material weakness" is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.
The requirement to evaluate and report on our internal controls also applies to companies that we acquire. Some of these companies may not be required to comply with Sarbanes prior to the time we acquire them. The integration of these acquired companies into our internal control over financial reporting could require significant time and resources from our management and other personnel and may increase our compliance costs. If we fail to successfully integrate the operations of these acquired companies into our internal control over financial reporting, our internal control over financial reporting may not be effective.
While we continue to dedicate resources and management time to ensuring that we have effective controls over financial reporting, failure to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment could have a material adverse effect on the market's perception of our business and our stock price.
You may experience difficulties in effecting service of legal process, enforcing foreign judgments or bringing original actions based upon U.S. laws, including the federal securities laws or other foreign laws, against us or our directors and officers and experts.
While Net1 is incorporated in the state of Florida, United States, the company is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa and substantially all of the company's assets are located outside the United States. In addition, all of Net1's directors and officers reside outside of the United States and our experts, including our independent registered public accountants, are based in South Africa.
As a result, even though you could effect service of legal process upon Net1, as a Florida corporation, in the United States, you may not be able to collect any judgment obtained against Net1 in the United States, including any judgment based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws, because substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States. Moreover, it may not be possible for you to effect service of legal process upon the majority of our directors and officers or upon our experts within the United States or elsewhere outside South Africa and any judgment obtained against any of our foreign directors, officers and experts in the United States, including one based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws, may not be collectible in the United States and may not be enforced by a South African court.
A foreign judgment is not directly enforceable in South Africa, but constitutes a cause of action which will be enforced by South African courts provided that:
- • the court or arbitral body which pronounced the judgment had international jurisdiction and competence to entertain the case according to the principles recognized by South African law with reference to the jurisdiction of foreign courts;
- the judgment is final and conclusive (that is, it cannot be altered by the court which pronounced it);
- the judgment has not lapsed;
- the recognition and enforcement of the judgment by South African courts would not be contrary to public policy in South Africa, including observance of the rules of natural justice which require that no award is enforceable unless the defendant was duly served with documents initiating proceedings, that he was given a fair opportunity to be heard and that he enjoyed the right to be legally represented in a free and fair trial before an impartial tribunal;
- the judgment was not obtained by improper or fraudulent means;
- the judgment does not involve the enforcement of a penal or foreign revenue law or any award of multiple or punitive damages; and
- the enforcement of the judgment is not otherwise precluded by the provisions of the Protection of Business Act 99 of 1978 (as amended), of the Republic of South Africa.
It has been the policy of South African courts to award compensation for the loss or damage actually sustained by the person to whom the compensation is awarded. South African courts have awarded compensation to shareholders who have suffered damages as a result of a diminution in the value of their shares based on various actions by the corporation and its management. Although the award of punitive damages is generally unknown to the South African legal system, that does not mean that such awards are necessarily contrary to public policy. Whether a judgment was contrary to public policy depends on the facts of each case. Exorbitant, unconscionable, or excessive awards will generally be contrary to public policy. South African courts cannot enter into the merits of a foreign judgment and cannot act as a court of appeal or review over the foreign court. Further, if a foreign judgment is enforced by a South African court, it will be payable in South African currency. Also, under South Africa's exchange control laws, the approval of SARB is required before a defendant resident in South Africa may pay money to a non-resident plaintiff in satisfaction of a foreign judgment enforced by a court in South Africa.
It is doubtful whether an original action based on United States federal securities laws may be brought before South African courts. A plaintiff who is not resident in South Africa may be required to provide security for costs in the event of proceedings being initiated in South Africa. Furthermore, the Rules of the High Court of South Africa require that documents executed outside South Africa must be authenticated for the purpose of use in South African courts.
In reaching the foregoing conclusions, we consulted with our South African legal counsel, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc.