UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 20-F

 

(Mark One)

 

REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES
EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

OR

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE
ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019

 

OR

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE
ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from                           to                           .

 

OR

 

SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES
EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report                                  

 

Commission file number: 001-38714

 

StoneCo Ltd.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

The Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

 

4th Floor, Harbour Place
103 South Church Street, P.O. Box 10240
Grand Cayman, KY1-1002, Cayman Islands
(Address of principal executive offices)

 

Marcelo Baldin, Vice President, Finance
Tel: +55 (11) 3157-3115 – marcelo.baldin@stone.com.br
R. Fidêncio Ramos, 308, 10th floor—Vila Olímpia

 

São Paulo—SP, 04551-010, Brazil

 

(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)

 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class Trading Symbol(s) Name of each exchange on which registered
Class A common shares, par value US$0.000079365 per share STNE The Nasdaq Global Select Market

 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

 

None

 

Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:

 

None

 

Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.

 

Title of Class Number of Shares Outstanding
Class A common shares, par value US$0.000079365 per share 178,681,714  
Class B common shares, par value US$0.000079365 per share 98,678,252  

 

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

 

Yes No

 

If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

 

Yes No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

 

Yes No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).

 

Yes No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filers,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.:

 

Large Accelerated Filer   Accelerated Filer   Non-accelerated Filer  ☐ Emerging Growth company   ☐

 

If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

 

† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒

 

 

Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:

 

U.S. GAAP   International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by
the International Accounting Standards Board  
Other  

 

If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.

 

Item 17 Item 18

 

If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).

 

Yes No

 

 

 

 

 

 

  STONECO LTD.

table of contents  

 

Page

 

Presentation of Financial and Other Information 1
Forward-Looking Statements 5
Certain Terms and Conventions 7
PART I 8
ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS 8
A. Directors and senior management 8
B. Advisers 8
C. Auditors 8
ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE 8
A. Offer statistics 8
B. Method and expected timetable 8
ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION 9
A. Selected financial data 9
B. Capitalization and indebtedness 12
C. Reasons for the offer and use of proceeds 12
D. Risk factors 13
ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY 48
A. History and development of the company 48
B. Business overview 50
C. Organizational structure 85
D. Property, plant and equipment 85
ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS 86
ITEM 5.  OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS 87
A. Operating results 87
B. Liquidity and capital resources 105
C. Research and development, patents and licenses, etc. 114
D. Trend information 115
E. Off-balance sheet arrangements 115
F. Tabular disclosure of contractual obligations 115
G. Safe harbor 115
ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES 116
A. Directors and senior management 116
B. Compensation 120
C. Board practices 121
D. Employees 123
E. Share ownership 123
ITEM 7. MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS 124
A. Major shareholders 124
B. Related party transactions 127
C. Interests of experts and counsel 128
ITEM 8. FINANCIAL INFORMATION 129
A. Consolidated statements and other financial information 129
B. Significant changes 130
ITEM 9. THE OFFER AND LISTING 131
A. Offering and listing details 131
B. Plan of distribution 131
C. Markets 131

 

 

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D. Selling shareholders 131
E. Dilution 131
F. Expenses of the issue 131
ITEM 10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 132
A. Share capital 132
B. Memorandum and articles of association 132
C. Material contracts 152
D. Exchange controls 152
E. Taxation 152
F. Dividends and paying agents 156
G. Statement by experts 156
H. Documents on display 156
I. Subsidiary information 157
ITEM 11. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK 158
ITEM 12. DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES 160
A. Debt securities 160
B. Warrants and rights 160
C. Other securities 160
D. American Depositary Shares 160
PART II 161
ITEM 13. DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES 161
A. Defaults 161
B. Arrearages and delinquencies 161
ITEM 14.   MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS 161
A. Material modifications to instruments 161
B. Material modifications to rights 161
C. Withdrawal or substitution of assets 161
D. Change in trustees or paying agents 161
E. Use of proceeds 161
ITEM 15. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES 163
A. Disclosure controls and procedures 163
B. Management’s annual report on internal control over financial reporting 163
C. Attestation report of the registered public accounting firm 163
D. Changes in internal control over financial reporting 163
ITEM 16. [RESERVED] 164
ITEM 16A. Audit committee financial expert 164
ITEM 16B. Code of ethics 164
ITEM 16C. Principal accountant fees and services 164
ITEM 16D. Exemptions from the listing standards for audit committees 165
ITEM 16E. Purchases of equity securities by the issuer and affiliated purchasers 165
ITEM 16F. Change in registrant’s certifying accountant 165
ITEM 16G. Corporate governance 165
ITEM 16H. Mine safety disclosure 166
PART III 167
ITEM 17. Financial statements 167
ITEM 18. Financial statements 167
ITEM 19. Exhibits 168
Glossary of Terms 170
Index to Consolidated Financial Statements 175

 

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Presentation of Financial and Other Information

 

Unless otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all references in this annual report to “Stone Co.” or the “Company,” “we,” “our,” “ours,” “us” or similar terms refer to StoneCo Ltd., together with its consolidated subsidiaries, and Linked Gourmet Soluções Para Restaurantes S.A. (“Linked Gourmet”), Collact Serviços Digitais .Ltda. (“Collact”), VHSYS Sistema de Gestão S.A. (“VHSYS”), Alpha-Logo Serviços de Informática S.A. (“Tablet Cloud”), and Trinks Serviços de Internet S.A. (“Trinks”) being entities which we have a significant minority interest in but do not consolidate.

 

The term “Brazil” refers to the Federative Republic of Brazil and the phrase “Brazilian government” refers to the federal government of Brazil. “Central Bank” refers to the Brazilian Central Bank (Banco Central do Brasil). References in the annual report to “real,” “reais” or “R$” refer to the Brazilian real, the official currency of Brazil and references to “U.S. dollar,” “U.S. dollars” or “US$” refer to U.S. dollars, the official currency of the United States.

 

Financial Statements

 

We prepare our consolidated financial statements in accordance with IFRS, as issued by the IASB. We maintain our books and records in Brazilian reais . Unless otherwise noted, our financial information presented herein as of December 31, 2018 and 2019 and for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019 is stated in reais , our functional and presentation currency. The financial information contained in this annual report includes our audited consolidated financial statements as of December 31, 2018 and 2019 and for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2019 together with the notes thereto. All references herein to “our financial statements” and “our audited consolidated financial statements” are to our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report.

 

The financial information should be read in conjunction with “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” and our audited consolidated financial statements.

 

Our fiscal year ends on December 31. References in this annual report to a fiscal year, such as “fiscal year 2019,” relate to our fiscal year ended on December 31 of that calendar year.

 

Financial Information in U.S. Dollars

 

Solely for the convenience of the reader, we have translated some of the real amounts included in this annual report from reais into U.S. dollars. You should not construe these translations as representations by us that the amounts actually represent these U.S. dollar amounts or could be converted into U.S. dollars at the rates indicated. Unless otherwise indicated, we have translated real amounts into U.S. dollars using a rate of R$4.0307 to US$1.00, the commercial selling rate for U.S. dollars as of December 31, 2019 as reported by the Central Bank. See “Item 3. Key Information—A. Selected financial data—Exchange Rates” for more detailed information regarding translation of reais into U.S. dollars and for historical exchange rates for the Brazilian real.

 

Corporate Events

 

Acquisition of Remaining Interest in Equals

 

On September 4, 2018, we acquired an additional equity interest in Equals S.A., or “Equals”, an entity in which we previously had a significant minority interest but did not control, bringing our ownership of its outstanding equity interests to 56.0% as of such date. Accordingly, as of and for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016 we did not consolidate Equals, but for periods subsequent to September 4, 2018, we have consolidated Equals in our financial statements. In addition, in connection with the consummation of the initial public offering, we purchased the remaining 44.0% interest in Equals in exchange for 233,856 Class A common shares. As of October 29, 2018, Equals is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company.

 

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Acquisition of Incremental Interest in Linked Gourmet

 

In 2019, we acquired a combined additional 21.50% equity interest in Linked Gourmet, an entity in which we previously had a 27.06% stake, bringing our ownership stake to 48.56% as of such date. Linked Gourmet is a private company based in São Paulo, Brazil, that develops software and services for the food service market. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest, exercisable in the period from 2 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition, which would allow the Company to obtain control of Linked Gourmet.

 

New Investments in Software

 

In February 2019, the Company acquired a 25% interest in Collact, a private company based in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, that develops customer relationship management (“CRM”) software for customer engagement, focused mainly in the food service segment, with which the Company expects to obtain synergies in its services to clients. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest in the period between 2 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in Collact.

 

In June 2019, the Company acquired 33.3% interest in VHSYS. VHSYS, a private company based in Curitiba, State of Paraná, Brazil, is an omni-channel, cloud-based, API driven, POS and ERP platform built to serve an array of service and retail businesses. VHSYS’s self-service platform consists of over 40 applications, accessible a la carte, such as order and sales management, invoicing, dynamic inventory management, cash and payments management, CRM, mobile messaging, along with marketplace, logistics, and e-commerce integrations, among others. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest in the period between 1 to 2 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in VHSYS.

 

In August 2019, the Company acquired a 25% interest in Tablet Cloud. Tablet Cloud, a private company based in the State of São Paulo, Brazil is a white-label POS and simple ERP application focused on SMBs with simpler needs which runs on smart POS and tablet solutions, giving business owners complete control over their cash register and inventory in a fully mobile device while having a robust ERP platform accessible online. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest in Tablet Cloud in the period between 1.5 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in Tablet Cloud.

 

In November 2019, the Company acquired a 19.9% interest in Trinks. Trinks is a software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) ERP and booking app which allows salon owners to manage all of its operations. The system automates key components of the salon functions such as client appointments, work schedules, inventory control, supplier contacts, etc. Trinks is already integrated with Stone, and allows card payment to be split between the salon and the professional in line with a specific Brazilian regulation (Law n. 13.352/16). The Company holds an option to acquire an additional interest in Trinks in the period between 1.5 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in Trinks.

 

Special Note Regarding Non-IFRS Financial Measure

 

This annual report presents our adjusted net income (loss) for the convenience of investors. Adjusted net income (loss) is a non-IFRS financial measure. Generally, a non-IFRS financial measure is a numerical measure of a company’s performance, financial position or cash flow that either excludes or includes amounts that are not normally excluded or included in the most directly comparable measure calculated and presented in accordance with IFRS. Adjusted net income (loss), however, should be considered in addition to, and not as a substitute for or superior to, profit (loss), or other measures of the financial performance prepared in accordance with IFRS.

 

Adjusted net income (loss) is prepared and presented to eliminate the effect of items from profit (loss) that we do not consider indicative of our continuing business performance within the period presented. We define adjusted net income (loss) as profit (loss) for the period, adjusted for (1) non-cash expenses related to the grant of share-based compensation and the fair value (mark-to-market) adjustment for share-based compensation classified as a liability, (2) amortization of intangibles related to acquisitions, (3) one-time impairment charges (and reversal of

 

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impairment charges), (4) unusual income and expenses, and (5) tax effects of the foregoing adjustments, as described in note (3) to “Item 3. Key Information—A. Selected financial data.”

 

Adjusted net income (loss) is presented because our management believes that this non-IFRS financial measure can provide useful information to investors, securities analysts and the public in their review of our operating and financial performance, although it is not calculated in accordance with IFRS or any other generally accepted accounting principles and should not be considered as a measure of performance in isolation. We believe adjusted net income (loss) is useful to evaluate our operating and financial performance for the following reasons:

 

· adjusted net income (loss) is widely used by investors and securities analysts to measure a company’s operating performance without regard to items that can vary substantially from company to company and from period to period, depending on their accounting and tax methods, the book value of their assets and the method by which their assets were acquired;

 

· non-cash equity grants made to executives and employees at a certain price and point in time do not necessarily reflect how our business is performing at any particular time and the related expenses are not key measures of our core operating performance;

 

· fair value adjustments to share-based compensation expenses classified as a liability do not directly reflect how our business is performing at any particular time and the related expense adjustment amounts are not key measures of our core operating performance;

 

· amortization of the fair value adjustment on intangible assets and property and equipment relating to acquisitions can vary substantially from company to company and from period to period depending upon the applicable financing and accounting methods, the fair value and average expected life of the acquired intangible assets, the capital structure and the method by which the intangible assets were acquired and, as such, we do not believe that these adjustments are reflective of our core operating performance; and

 

· other write-offs that are one-time extraordinary charges and are not reflective of our core operating performance.

 

We use adjusted net income (loss) as a key profitability measure to assess the performance of our business. We believe that adjusted net income (loss) should therefore be made available to investors, securities analysts and other interested parties to assist in their assessment of the performance of our business.

 

Adjusted net income (loss) is not a substitute for net income or loss for the period, which is the IFRS measure of earnings. Additionally, our calculation of adjusted net income (loss) may be different from the calculation used by other companies, including our competitors in the payments processing industry, because other companies may not calculate these measures in the same manner as we do, and therefore, our measure may not be comparable to those of other companies. Additionally, this measure is not intended to be a measure of cash available for management’s discretionary use as it does not consider certain cash requirements such as interest payments, tax payments and debt service requirements. For a reconciliation of our adjusted net income (loss), see “Item 3. Key Information—A. Selected financial data.” You are encouraged to evaluate our adjustments and the reasons we consider them appropriate.

 

Market Share and Other Information

 

This annual report contains data related to economic conditions in the market in which we operate. The information contained in this annual report concerning economic conditions is based on publicly available information from third-party sources that we believe to be reliable. Market data and certain industry forecast data used in this annual report were obtained from internal reports and studies, where appropriate, as well as estimates, market research, publicly available information (including information available from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission website) and industry publications. We obtained the information included in this annual report relating to the Brazilian internet, payment solutions and e-commerce markets, and more broadly, the industry in which we operate, as well as the estimates concerning market shares, through internal research, public information and publications on the industry prepared by official public sources, such as (1) the Brazilian Association of Credit Card and Service Companies ( Associação Brasileira das Empresas de Cartões de Crédito e

 

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Serviços ), or the ABECS, (2) the Central Bank, (3) the Brazilian Federation of Banks ( Federação Brasileira de Bancos ), or FEBRABAN, and (4) the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics ( Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística ), or the IBGE, among others.

 

Industry publications generally state that the information they include has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but that the accuracy and completeness of such information is not guaranteed. Although we have no reason to believe any of this information or these reports are inaccurate in any material respect and believe and act as if they are reliable, neither we, the selling shareholders, the underwriters, nor their respective agents have independently verified it. Governmental publications and other market sources, including those referred to above, generally state that their information was obtained from recognized and reliable sources, but the accuracy and completeness of that information is not guaranteed. In addition, the data that we compile internally and our estimates have not been verified by an independent source. Except as disclosed in this annual report, none of the publications, reports or other published industry sources referred to in this annual report were commissioned by us or prepared at our request. Except as disclosed in this annual report, we have not sought or obtained the consent of any of these sources to include such market data in this annual report.

 

Calculation of Net Promoter Score

 

Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is a widely known survey methodology that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products and services. It is used to gauge customers’ overall satisfaction with a company’s products and services and their loyalty to the brand, and it is typically based on customer surveys. NPS measures satisfaction using a scale of zero to 10 based on a customer’s response to the following question: “How likely is it that you would recommend Stone Co. to a friend or colleague?” Responses of nine or 10 are considered “Promoters.” Responses of seven or eight are considered neutral. Responses of six or less are considered “Detractors.” The NPS, a percentage expressed as a numerical value, is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who are Detractors from the percentage who are Promoters and dividing that number by the total number of respondents. The NPS calculation gives no weight to customers who decline to answer the survey question. Per our internal measurements, our NPS was 68 in the fourth quarter of 2019 which was unchanged compared to the prior-year period.

 

Rounding

 

We have made rounding adjustments to some of the figures included in this annual report. Accordingly, numerical figures shown as totals in some tables may not be an arithmetic aggregation of the figures that preceded them.

 

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Forward-Looking Statements

 

This annual report on form 20-F contains statements that constitute forward-looking statements. Many of the forward-looking statements contained in this annual report can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “expect,” “should,” “plan,” “intend,” “may,” “predict,” “continue,” “estimate” and “potential,” or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions.

 

Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places in this annual report and include, but are not limited to, statements regarding our intent, belief or current expectations. These forward-looking statements include information about possible or assumed future results of our business, financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, plans and objectives. Forward-looking statements are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements due to various factors, including, but not limited to, those identified under the section entitled “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” in this annual report. The statements we make regarding the following matters are forward-looking by their nature:

 

· our expectations regarding revenues generated by transaction activities, subscription and equipment rental fees and other services;

 

· our expectations regarding our operating and net profit margins;

 

· our expectations regarding significant drivers of our future growth;

 

· our plans to continue to invest in research and development to develop technology for both existing and new products and services;

 

· our ability to differentiate ourselves from our competition by delivering a superior customer experience and through our network of hyper-local sales and services;

 

· our ability to attract and retain a qualified management team and other team members while controlling our labor costs;

 

· our ability to invest more and collect results in the short-term;

 

· our plans to expand our global footprint and explore opportunities in adjacent sectors;

 

· competition adversely affecting our profitability;

 

· the occurrence of a natural disaster, widespread health epidemic or pandemics, including the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic;

 

· fluctuations in interest, inflation and exchange rates in Brazil and any other countries we may serve in the future;

 

· the inherent risks related to the digital payments market, such as the interruption, failure or breach of our computer or information technology systems;

 

· our ability to anticipate market needs and develop and introduce new and enhanced products and service functionalities to adapt to changes in our industry;

 

· our ability to innovate and respond to technological advances and changing market needs and customer demands;

 

· our ability to maintain, protect and enhance our brand and intellectual property;

 

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· changes in consumer demands and preferences and technological advances, and our ability to innovate in order to respond to such changes;

 

· our failure to successfully maintain a relevant omni-channel experience for our clients, thereby adversely impacting our results of operations;

 

· our ability to implement technology initiatives successfully and to capture the anticipated benefits of such initiatives; and

 

· our plans to pursue and successfully integrate strategic acquisitions.

 

Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake any obligation to update them in light of new information or future developments or to release publicly any revisions to these statements in order to reflect later events or circumstances or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

 

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Certain Terms and Conventions

 

A glossary of industry and other defined terms is included in this annual report, beginning on page 170.

 

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PART I

 

ITEM 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

 

A. Directors and senior management

 

Not applicable.

 

B. Advisers

 

Not applicable.

 

C. Auditors

 

Not applicable.

 

ITEM 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

 

A. Offer statistics

 

Not applicable.

 

B. Method and expected timetable

 

Not applicable.

 

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ITEM 3. KEY INFORMATION

 

A. Selected financial data

 

You should read the following selected financial data together with “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” and our financial statements and the related notes appearing elsewhere in this annual report. 

 

The summary statement of profit or loss data and statement of financial position data as of December 31, 2019 and 2018 and for each of the three years ended December 31, 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB, included elsewhere in this annual report. The statement of financial position date as of December 31, 2017 and 2016, is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements previously filed.

 

    For the Year Ended December 31,
    2019   2019     2018   2017   2016
    (US$)(1)       (R$)        
    (in millions, except amounts per share)
Statement of profit or loss data:                    
Net revenue from transaction activities and other services     191.1       770.3       514.6       224.2       121.1  
Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental     82.3       331.6       213.7       105.0       54.7  
Financial income     319.5       1,287.8       801.3       412.2       247.4  
Other financial income     46.2       186.4       49.6       25.3       16.7  
Total revenue and income     639.1       2,576.0       1,579.2       766.6       439.9  
Cost of services     (105.9 )     (427.0 )     (323.0 )     (224.1 )     (133.2 )
Administrative expenses     (70.9 )     (285.8 )     (252.9 )     (174.6 )     (106.1 )
Selling expenses     (89.5 )     (360.6 )     (190.2 )     (92.0 )     (49.5 )
Financial expenses, net     (87.7 )     (353.5 )     (301.1 )     (237.1 )     (244.7 )
Other operating expense, net     (14.3 )     (57.7 )     (69.3 )     (134.2 )     (55.7 )
(Loss) income from investment in associates     (0.2 )     (0.8 )     (0.4 )     (0.3 )     0.1  
Profit (loss) before income taxes     270.6       1,090.7       442.3       (95.7 )     (149.2 )
Income tax and social contribution     (71.1 )     (286.5 )     (137.1 )     (9.3 )     27.0  
Net income (loss) for the year     199.5       804.2       305.2       (105.0 )     (122.2 )
Net income (loss) attributable to non-controlling interests     0.2       1.0       4.0       3.8       (2.4 )
Net income (loss) attributable to owners of the parent     199.3       803.2       301.2       (108.7 )     (119.8 )
Basic earnings (loss) per share(2)     US$ 0.72       R$ 2.90       R$ 1.30       R$(0.49)       R$(0.61)  
Diluted earnings (loss) per share(2)     US$ 0.71       R$ 2.85       R$ 1.29       R$(0.49)       R$(0.61)  
Other data:                                        
Adjusted net income (loss) (in millions)(3)     US$ 212.7       R$ 857.1       R$ 342.8       R$45.1       R$(51.9)  
TPV (in billions)     US$ 32.0       R$ 129.1       R$ 83.4       R$48.5       R$28.1  
Active clients (in thousands)(4)     n/a       495.1       269.1       131.2       82.0  
Take rate(5)     n/a       1.85 %     1.83 %     1.53 %     1.51 %

 

 

 

(1) For convenience purposes only, amounts in reais for the year ended December 31, 2019 have been translated to U.S. dollars using an exchange rate of R$4.0307 to US$1.00, the commercial selling rate for U.S. dollars as of December 31, 2019 as reported by the Central Bank. These translations should not be considered representations that any such amounts have been, could have been or could be converted at that or any other exchange rate. See “—Exchange Rates” for further information about recent fluctuations in exchange rates.

 

(2) Calculated by dividing net income or loss for the year attributed to the owners of the parent, adjusted for losses allocated to contractual rights and participating instruments, by the weighted average number of ordinary shares

 

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outstanding during the year. See note 22 to our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report.

 

(3) In the table below, we have provided a reconciliation of adjusted net income (loss) to our net income (loss) for the year, the most directly comparable financial measure calculated and presented in accordance with IFRS.

 

(4) Includes micromerchants from the Stone Mais product prior to the launch of TON (partnership with Grupo Globo targeting the micromerchant space).

 

(5) Total revenue and income excluding other financial income, divided by TPV.

 

    For the Year Ended
December 31,
    2019   2019   2018   2017   2016
    (US$ millions)(a)   (R$ millions)
Net income (loss) for the year     199.5       804.2       305.2       (105.0 )     (122.2 )
Share-based compensation expenses(b)     16.0       64.3       60.8       138.9       53.1  
Amortization of fair value adjustment on intangibles related to acquisitions(c)     4.3       17.2       12.6       14.8       17.2  
Fair value adjustments of assets whose control was acquired(d)     -         -         (21.4 )     -         -    
One-time impairment charges(e)     -         -         8.4       -         -    
Other income/expenses (f)     (0.4 )     (1.7 )     -         -         -    
Pre-tax subtotal     219.4       884.0       365.7       48.7       (51.9 )
Tax effect on adjustments(g)     (6.6 )     (26.8 )     (22.8 )     (3.6 )     -    
Adjusted net income (loss)     212.7       857.1       342.8       45.1       (51.9 )

 

 

 

(a) For convenience purposes only, amounts in reais for the year ended December 31, 2019 have been translated to U.S. dollars using an exchange rate of R$4.0307 to US$1.00, the commercial selling rate for U.S. dollars as of December 31, 2019 as reported by the Central Bank. These translations should not be considered representations that any such amounts have been, could have been or could be converted at that or any other exchange rate. See “—Exchange Rates” for further information about recent fluctuations in exchange rates.

 

(b) Consists of expenses related to the grant of share-based compensation, as well as fair value (mark-to-market) adjustments for share-based compensation expense classified as a liability in our consolidated financial statements. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating results—Description of Principal Line Items—Other operating expenses, net—Liability-classified share-based compensation expense” and note 26 to our consolidated financial statements for further information.

 

(c) Consists of expenses resulting from the amortization of the fair value adjustment on intangible assets and property and equipment as a result of the application of the acquisition method, a significant portion of which relate to the Elavon do Brasil (“EdB”) and Equals acquisitions. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating results—EdB Acquisition” for further information.

 

(d) Consists of the gain on re-measurement of our previously held equity interest in Equals to fair value upon the date control was acquired.

 

(e) Consists of (1) impairment charges associated with certain processing system intangible assets acquired in the EdB acquisition that we no longer use, in an amount of R$6.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2018 and (2) impairment associated with improvements made to certain leased office space upon the termination of the lease, in an amount of R$2.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2018.

 

(f) Consists of the fair value adjustment related to options to acquire additional interests in associated entities for the year ended December 31, 2019. See note 2.2 to our consolidated financial statements for further information.

 

(g) Represents the tax effect of pre-tax items excluded from adjusted net income (loss). The tax effect of pre-tax items excluded from adjusted net income (loss) is computed using the statutory rate related to the jurisdiction that was impacted by the adjustment after taking into account the impact of permanent differences and valuation allowances.

 

 

 

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As of December 31,    

   

2019   

 

2019   

 

2018   

 

2017   

 

2016   

    (US$ millions)(1)   (R$ millions)
Statement of financial position data:                    
Assets                    
Current assets                    
Cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments     968.9       3,905.4       3,068.5       843.7       237.0  
Accounts receivable from card issuers     3,489.9       14,066.8       9,244.6       5,078.4       3,052.6  
Other current assets     107.4       432.7       124.7       77.4       29.5  
Total current assets     4,566.2       18,404.9       12,437.8       5,999.5       3,319.1  
Total non-current assets     297.9       1,200.9       855.4       636.2       520.2  
Total assets     4,864.1       19,605.7       13,293.2       6,635.7       3,839.2  
Liabilities and Equity                                        
Current liabilities                                        
Accounts payable to merchants     1,612.6       6,500.1       4,996.1       3,637.5       3,029.3  
Other current liabilities     1,332.9       5,372.5       1,058.7       186.1       92.6  
Total current liabilities     2,945.5       11,872.5       6,054.8       3,823.6       3,121.9  
Non-current liabilities                                        
Obligations to FIDC senior quota holders     401.9       1,620.0       2,057.9       2,056.3         _
Other non-current liabilities     34.8       140.2       87.6       273.3       130.1  
Total non-current liabilities     436.7       1,760.2       2,145.5       2,329.6       130.1  
Total liabilities     3,382.2       13,632.7       8,200.2       6,153.2       3,252.0  
Total equity     1,481.9       5,973.0       5,093.0       482.6       587.2  
Total liabilities and equity     4,864.1       19,605.7       13,293.2       6,635.7       3,839.2  

 

(1) For convenience purposes only, amounts in reais for the year ended December 31, 2019 have been translated to U.S. dollars using an exchange rate of R$4.0307 to US$1.00, the commercial selling rate for U.S. dollars as of December 31, 2019 as reported by the Central Bank. These translations should not be considered representations that any such amounts have been, could have been or could be converted at that or any other exchange rate. See “—Exchange Rates” for further information about recent fluctuations in exchange rates.

 

Exchange Rates

 

The Brazilian foreign exchange system allows the purchase and sale of foreign currency and the international transfer of reais by any person or legal entity, regardless of the amount, subject to certain regulatory procedures.

 

The real depreciated against the U.S. dollar from mid-2011 to early 2016. In particular, during 2015, due to the poor economic conditions in Brazil, including as a result of political instability, the real depreciated at a rate that was much higher than in previous years. On September 24, 2015, the real fell to its lowest level since the introduction of the currency, at R$4.1945 per US$1.00. Overall in 2015, the real depreciated 32.0%, reaching R$3.9048 per US$1.00 on December 31, 2015. In 2016, the real fluctuated significantly, primarily as a result of Brazil’s political instability, appreciating 19.8% to R$3.2591 per US$1.00 on December 31, 2016. In 2017, the real depreciated 1.5% against the U.S. dollar, ending the year at an exchange rate of R$3.3080 per U.S.$1.00. The real/U.S. dollar exchange rate reported by the Central Bank was R$3.8748 per U.S.$1.00 on December 31, 2018, which reflected a 14.6% depreciation in the real against the U.S. dollar during 2018, primarily as a result of lower interest rates in Brazil, which reduced the volume of foreign currency deposited in Brazil in the “carry trade,” as well as uncertainty regarding the results of the Brazilian presidential elections held in October 2018. The real/U.S. dollar exchange rate reported by the Central Bank was R$4.0307 per U.S.$1.00 on December 31, 2019, which reflected a 3.9% depreciation in the real against the U.S. dollar since December 31, 2018. On April 15, 2020, the real/U.S. dollar exchange rate reported by the Central Bank was R$5.2579, reflecting a depreciation of 23.3% from December 31, 2019, being strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

There can be no assurance that the real will not depreciate or appreciate further against the U.S. dollar. The Central Bank has intervened occasionally in the foreign exchange market to attempt to control instability in foreign exchange rates. We cannot predict whether the Central Bank or the Brazilian government will continue to allow the

 

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real to float freely or will intervene in the exchange rate market by re-implementing a currency band system or otherwise. The real may depreciate or appreciate substantially against the U.S. dollar in the future. Furthermore, Brazilian law provides that, whenever there is a serious imbalance in Brazil’s balance of payments or there are serious reasons to foresee a serious imbalance, temporary restrictions may be imposed on remittances of foreign capital abroad. We cannot assure you that the Brazilian government will not place restrictions on remittances of foreign capital abroad in the future.

 

The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, the high, low, average and period-end exchange rates for the purchase of U.S. dollars expressed in Brazilian reais per U.S. dollar. The average rate is calculated by using the average of reported exchange rates by the Central Bank on each business day during each annual or monthly period, as applicable.

 

Year   Period-end   Average(1)   Low   High
2015     3.9048       3.3876       2.5754       4.1949  
2016     3.2591       3.4500       3.1193       4.1558  
2017     3.3080       3.1930       3.0510       3.3807  
2018     3.8748       3.6558       3.1391       4.1879  
2019     4.0307       3.9461       3.6519       4.2602  

 

Month   Period-end   Average(2)   Low   High
November 2019     4.2240       4.1553       3.9786       4.2602  
December 2019     4.0307       4.1096       4.0307       4.2261  
January 2020     4.2695       4.1495       4.0213       4.2695  
February 2020     4.4987       4.3410       4.2381       4.4987  
March 2020     5.1987       4.8839       4.4883       5.1987  
April 2020 (through April 15, 2020)     5.2579       5.2190       5.0779       5.2997  

 

 

 

Source : Central Bank.

 

(1) Represents the average of the exchange rates on the closing of each business day during the year.

 

(2) Represents the average of the exchange rates on the closing of each business day during the month.

 

B. Capitalization and indebtedness

 

Not applicable.

 

C. Reasons for the offer and use of proceeds

 

Not applicable.

 

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D. Risk factors

 

This section is intended to be a summary of more detailed discussions contained elsewhere in this annual report. The risks described below are not the only ones we face. Our business, results of operations or financial condition could be harmed if any of these risks materializes and, as a result, the trading price of our shares could decline.

 

Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry

 

If we cannot keep pace with rapid developments and change in our industry and continue to acquire new merchants as rapidly as in the past, the use of our services could decline, reducing our revenues.

 

The electronic payments market in which we compete is subject to rapid and significant changes. This market is characterized by rapid technological change, new product and service introductions, evolving industry standards, changing client needs and the entrance of non-traditional competitors. In order to remain competitive and continue to acquire new merchants rapidly, we are continually involved in a number of projects to develop new services or compete with these new market entrants, including the development of mobile phone payment applications, e-commerce services, digital banking, ERP, digital wallet account and bank card, prepaid card offerings, credit offerings and other new offerings emerging in the electronic payments industry. These projects carry risks, such as cost overruns, delays in delivery, performance problems and lack of client adoption. Any delay in the delivery of new services or the failure to differentiate our services or to accurately predict and address market demand could render our services less desirable, or even obsolete, to our clients. Furthermore, even though the market for alternative payment processing services is evolving, it may not continue to develop rapidly enough for us to recover the costs we have incurred in developing new services targeted at this market.

 

In addition, the services we deliver are designed to process very complex transactions and provide reports and other information concerning those transactions, all at high volumes and processing speeds. Any failure to deliver an effective and secure service or any performance issue that arises with a new service could result in significant processing or reporting errors or other losses. As a result of these factors, our development efforts could result in increased costs and/or we could also experience a loss in business that could reduce our earnings or could cause a loss of revenue if promised new services are not timely delivered to our clients or do not perform as anticipated. We also rely in part, and may in the future rely in part, on third parties, including some of our competitors and potential competitors, for the development of, and access to, new technologies. Our future success will depend in part on our ability to develop or adapt to technological changes and evolving industry standards. We cannot predict the effects of technological changes on our business. If we are unable to develop, adapt to or access technological changes or evolving industry standards on a timely and cost-effective basis, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

 

Furthermore, our competitors may have the ability to devote more financial and operational resources than we can to the development of new technologies and services, including e-commerce and mobile payment processing services, that provide improved operating functionality and features to their existing service offerings. If successful, their development efforts could render our services less desirable to clients, resulting in the loss of clients or a reduction in the fees we could generate from our offerings.

 

Unauthorized disclosure, destruction or modification of data, through cybersecurity breaches, computer viruses or otherwise or disruption of our services could expose us to liability, protracted and costly litigation and damage our reputation.

 

Our business involves the collection, storage, processing and transmission of customers’ personal data, including names, addresses, identification numbers, credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates and bank account numbers. An increasing number of organizations, including large merchants and businesses, other large technology companies, financial institutions and government institutions, have disclosed breaches of their information technology systems, some of which have involved sophisticated and highly targeted attacks, including on portions of their websites or infrastructure. We have in the past, and could in the future be subject to breaches of security by hackers. Threats may derive from human error, fraud or malice on the part of employees or third parties, or may result from accidental technological failure. For example, in October 2018, an individual or individuals publicly disclosed portions of certain non-material source code from the proprietary software used in our Pagar.me

 

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PSP solution and Stone Pagamentos S.A., or Stone Pagamentos, platforms that we had privately hosted on a third-party code development website. Concerns about security are increased when we transmit information. Electronic transmissions can be subject to attack, interception or loss. Also, computer viruses and malware can be distributed and spread rapidly over the internet and could infiltrate our systems or those of our associated participants, which can impact the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information, and the integrity and availability of our products, services and systems, among other effects. Denial of service or other attacks could be launched against us for a variety of purposes, including interfering with our services or creating a diversion for other malicious activities. These types of actions and attacks could disrupt our delivery of products and services or make them unavailable, which could damage our reputation, force us to incur significant expenses in remediating the resulting impacts, expose us to uninsured liability, subject us to lawsuits, fines or sanctions, distract our management or increase our costs of doing business.

 

In the scope of our activities, we share information with third parties, including commercial partners, third-party service providers and other agents, which we refer to collectively as “associated participants,” who collect, process, store and transmit sensitive data. Given the rules established by the payment scheme settlors, such as Visa and Mastercard, and applicable regulations, we may be held responsible for any failure or cybersecurity breaches attributed to these third parties insofar as they relate to the information we share with them. The loss, destruction or unauthorized modification of data of the end users of payment services (e.g., payers, receivers, cardholders, merchants, and those who may hold funds in their accounts) by us or our associated participants or through systems we provide could result in significant fines, sanctions and proceedings or actions against us by the payment schemes, governmental bodies or third parties, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any such proceeding or action, and any related indemnification obligation, could damage our reputation, force us to incur significant expenses in defense of these proceedings, distract our management, increase our costs of doing business or result in the imposition of financial liability.

 

Our encryption of data and other protective measures may not prevent unauthorized access or use of sensitive data. A breach of our system or that of one of our associated participants may subject us to material losses or liability, including payment scheme fines, assessments and claims for unauthorized purchases with misappropriated credit, debit or card information, impersonation or other similar fraud claims. A misuse of such data or a cybersecurity breach could harm our reputation and deter merchants from using electronic payments generally and our products and services specifically, thus reducing our revenue. In addition, any such misuse or breach could cause us to incur costs to correct the breaches or failures, expose us to uninsured liability, increase our risk of regulatory scrutiny, subject us to lawsuits, and result in the imposition of material penalties and fines under state and federal laws or regulations or by the payment schemes. In addition, a significant cybersecurity breach of our systems or communications could result in payment schemes prohibiting us from processing transactions on their schemes or the loss of Central Bank authorization to operate as a payment institution ( instituição de pagamento ) in Brazil, which could materially impede our ability to conduct business. While we maintain insurance policies to address certain risks associated with cyber attacks, such insurance coverage may be insufficient to cover all losses or types of claims that may arise.

 

We cannot assure that there are written agreements in place with every associated participant or that such written agreements will prevent the unauthorized use, modification, destruction or disclosure of data or enable us to obtain reimbursement from associated participants in the event we should suffer incidents resulting in unauthorized use, modification, destruction or disclosure of data. In addition, many of our associated participants are small- and medium-sized agents that have limited competency regarding data security and handling requirements and may thus experience data losses. Any unauthorized use, modification, destruction or disclosure of data could result in protracted and costly litigation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Cybersecurity incidents are increasing in frequency and evolving in nature and include, but are not limited to, installation of malicious software, unauthorized access to data and other electronic security breaches that could lead to disruptions in systems, unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information and the corruption of data. Given the unpredictability of the timing, nature and scope of information technology disruptions, there can be no assurance that the procedures and controls we employ will be sufficient to prevent security breaches from occurring and we could be subject to manipulation or improper use of our systems and networks or financial losses

 

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from remedial actions, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Substantial and increasingly intense competition, both within our industry and from other payments methods, may harm our business.

 

The market for payment processing services is highly competitive. Other providers of payment processing services have established a sizable market share in the small and mid-sized merchant processing and servicing sector, which are the markets in which we are mainly focused, as well as servicing large merchants. Our growth will depend on a combination of the continued growth of electronic payments and our ability to increase our market share.

 

Our primary competitors include traditional merchant acquirers such as affiliates of financial institutions and well-established payment processing companies, including Cielo S.A., a company controlled by Banco Bradesco S.A. and Banco do Brasil S.A.; Redecard S.A., a subsidiary of Itaú Unibanco Holding SA; and Getnet Adquirência e Serviços para Meios de Pagamento S.A. (Santander Getnet), a subsidiary of Banco Santander (Brasil) S.A. Our other competitors include other payment processing companies, such as PagSeguro Digital Ltd.; First Data Corporation; Global Payments – Serviços de Pagamentos S.A., a subsidiary of Global Payments Inc.; Banrisul Cartões S.A. (known as Vero), a subsidiary of Banrisul S.A.; Adyen B.V.; and SafraPay, a unit of Banco Safra S.A. We also face competition from non-traditional payment processors that have significant financial resources and develop different kinds of services. Additionally, we may also face competition from traditional and established financial institutions, such as credit lenders that have significant financial resources and Brazilian credit industry experience.

 

Our competitors that are affiliated with financial institutions may not incur the sponsorship costs we incur for registration with the payment schemes. Many of our competitors also have substantially greater financial, technological, operational and marketing resources than we have. Accordingly, these competitors may be able to offer more attractive fees to our current and prospective clients, especially our competitors that are affiliated with financial institutions. If competition causes us to reduce the fees we charge for our services, we will need to aggressively control our costs in order to maintain our profit margins and our revenues may be adversely affected. In particular, we may need to reduce the fees we charge in order to maintain market share, as merchants may demand more customized and favorable pricing from us. We may also decide to terminate client relationships which may no longer be profitable to us due to such pricing pressure. For instance, in connection with the EdB Acquisition and its associated merchant base, we discontinued certain client relationships that were not profitable to our business. Furthermore, our ability to control our costs is limited because we are subject to fixed transaction costs related to payment schemes. Competition could also result in a loss of existing clients, and greater difficulty in attracting new clients. One or more of these factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Degradation of the quality of the products and services we offer, including support services, could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain merchants and partners.

 

Our merchants expect a consistent level of quality in the provision of our products and services. The support services that we provide are also a key element of the value proposition to our clients. If the reliability or functionality of our products and services is compromised or the quality of those products or services is otherwise degraded, or if we fail to continue to provide a high level of support, we could lose existing merchants and find it harder to attract new merchants and partners. If we are unable to scale our support functions to address the growth of our merchant and partner network, the quality of our support may decrease, which could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain merchants and partners.

 

If we fail to manage our growth effectively, our business could be harmed.

 

In order to manage our growth effectively, we must continue to strengthen our existing infrastructure, develop and improve our internal controls, create and improve our reporting systems, and timely address issues as they arise. These efforts may require substantial financial expenditures, commitments of resources, developments of our processes, and other investments and innovations. Furthermore, we encourage employees to quickly develop and launch new features for our products and services. As we grow, we may not be able to execute as quickly as smaller, more efficient organizations. If we do not successfully manage our growth, our business will suffer.

 

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Our systems and our third party providers’ systems may fail due to factors beyond our control, which could interrupt our service, cause us to lose business and increase our costs.

 

We depend on the efficient and uninterrupted operation of numerous systems, including our computer systems, software, data centers and telecommunications networks, as well as the systems of third parties. Our systems and operations or those of our third-party providers, could be exposed to damage or interruption from, among other things, fire, natural disaster, power loss, telecommunications failure, unauthorized entry and computer viruses. We do not maintain insurance policies specifically for property and business interruptions. Defects in our systems or those of third parties, errors or delays in the processing of payment transactions, telecommunications failures or other difficulties could result in:

 

· loss of revenues; including subscription revenues owed from equipment rentals;

 

· loss of clients;

 

· loss of merchant and cardholder data;

 

· loss of licenses with Visa, Mastercard or other payment schemes;

 

· fines imposed by payment scheme associations and other issues relating to non-compliance with applicable payment scheme requirements;

 

· a failure to receive, or loss of, Central Bank authorizations to operate as a payment institution ( instituição de pagamento ) or as a payment scheme settlor ( instituidor de arranjo de pagamento ) in Brazil;

 

· fines or other penalties imposed by the Central Bank, as well as other measures taken by the Central Bank, including intervention, temporary special management systems, the imposition of insolvency proceedings, and/or the out-of-court liquidation of Stone Pagamentos and any of our subsidiaries to whom licenses may be granted in the future;

 

· fines or other penalties imposed by the recently created National Data Protection Authority ( Autoridade Nacional de Proteção de Dados or “ANPD”);

 

· harm to our business or reputation resulting from negative publicity;

 

· exposure to fraud losses or other liabilities;

 

· additional operating and development costs; and/or

 

· diversion of technical and other resources.

 

In particular, we rely heavily on our subsidiary, Buy4 Processamento de Pagamentos S.A., or Buy4, to provide transaction authorization and settlement, computing, storage, processing and other related services. Any disruption of or interference with our use of Buy4 services could negatively affect our operations and seriously harm our business. Buy4 provides software and systems to process the authorization and settlement of credit card and debit card transactions, and provides other products and services to our merchant base. Buy4 has experienced, and may experience in the future, interruptions, delays or outages in service availability due to a variety of factors, including infrastructure changes, human or software errors, hosting disruptions and capacity constraints. Capacity constraints could arise from a number of causes such as technical failures, natural disasters, fraud or security attacks. The level of service provided by Buy4, or regular or prolonged interruptions in the services provided by Buy4, could also impact the use of, and our clients’ satisfaction with, our products and services and could harm our business and reputation. To the extent Buy4 begins offering its services to other payment processors or others, the frequency of interruptions, delays or outages in service availability may increase. In addition, hosting costs will increase as our user base and user engagement grows. This could materially and adversely affect our business if our revenues do not increase faster than hosting costs.

 

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Actual or threatened epidemics, pandemics, outbreaks, or other public health crises, such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, may have an adverse impact on our clients’ financial condition, particularly SMB merchants, consequently impacting our business.

 

Our business is focused on SMB merchants in Brazil that conduct commerce primarily through brick-and-mortar storefronts. Our business and the businesses of our clients could be materially and adversely affected by the risks (or the public perception of the risks) related to an epidemic, pandemic, outbreak, or other public health crisis, such as the recent outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in late 2019 and was later declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020, has negatively impacted the global economy, disrupted supply chains and created significant volatility in global financial markets. Reflecting this, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the levels of equity and other financial markets to decline sharply and to become volatile in February, March and April 2020, and the market volatility resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused a number of planned public stock offerings and merger and acquisition transactions in Brazil to be postponed or cancelled.

 

The risk (or public perception of the risk) of a pandemic, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or media coverage of infectious diseases could cause customers to avoid our clients’ storefronts, and with respect to our clients’ businesses generally, could cause temporary or long-term disruptions in our clients’ businesses. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to some of our clients’ employees being unable to work, including because of illness or travel or government restrictions in connection with pandemics or disease outbreaks. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the temporary or permanent closure of many of our clients’ stores or facilities, and in some cases, our clients’ businesses. These factors have adversely impacted our clients’ sales and severely disrupted their operations, leading to a decline in TPV and in the revenue we generate from our clients. Furthermore, if our clients’ businesses continue to be adversely affected, default rates for clients using our credit solutions will likely rise.

 

Additionally, continued turbulence in capital markets may adversely affect our ability to access capital in order to meet our liquidity needs. Any periods of continuing or worsening increased or heightened volatility in financial, equity and other markets, particularly due to investor concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, could limit our ability to raise funds, execute our existing strategy, pursue further business expansion and maintain revenue growth. Furthermore, changes or volatility in the debt and FIDC financial markets may in the future impact our ability to meet our financial or other obligations.

 

The ultimate extent of the impact of any epidemic, pandemic or other health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, on our business, financial condition and results of operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including new information that may emerge concerning the severity of such epidemic, pandemic or other health crisis and actions taken to contain or prevent their further spread, among others. These and other potential impacts of an epidemic, pandemic or other health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, and it may also have the effect of heightening many of the other risks described in this “Risk Factors” section.

 

An occurrence of a natural disaster, widespread health epidemic or other outbreaks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our business could be materially and adversely affected by natural disasters, such as fires or floods, or other events, such as wars, acts of terrorism, environmental accidents, power shortages or communication interruptions. The occurrence of a disaster or similar event could materially disrupt our business and operations. These events could also cause us to close our operating facilities temporarily, which would severely disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, our net sales could be materially reduced to the extent that a natural disaster, health epidemic or other major event harms the economy of the countries where we operate. Our operations could also be severely disrupted if our clients or other participants were affected by natural disasters, health epidemics or pandemics or other major events.

 

In the past, we and our independent registered public accounting firm identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting and, if we fail to maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting, we may be unable to accurately report our results of operations, meet our reporting obligations or prevent fraud.

 

In the past, we have identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, and we cannot assure that significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting will not be identified in the future. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, as these standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. If we fail to maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements, fail to meet our reporting obligations or fail to

 

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prevent fraud, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could, in turn, limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations, and lead to a decline in the trading price of our Class A common shares. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from Nasdaq, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions.

 

Our results of operations and operating metrics may fluctuate and we may generate losses in the future, which may cause the market price of our Class A common shares to decline.

 

We intend to make significant investments in our business, including with respect to our employee base, sales and marketing, including expenses relating to increased direct marketing efforts, referral programs, and free hardware and subsidized services, development of new products, services, and features; expansion of office space, data centers and other infrastructure, development of international operations and general administration, including legal, finance, and other compliance expenses related to being a public company. If the costs associated with acquiring and supporting new or larger merchants materially rise in the future, including the fees we pay to third parties to advertise our products and services, our expenses may rise significantly. In addition, increases in our client base could cause us to incur losses, because costs associated with new clients are generally incurred up front, while revenue is recognized thereafter as merchants utilize our services. If we are unable to generate adequate revenue growth and manage our expenses, our results of operations and operating metrics may fluctuate and we may incur significant losses in the future, which could cause the market price of our Class A common shares to decline.

 

We frequently invest in developing products or services that we believe will improve the experiences of our clients and therefore improve our long-term results of operations. However, these improvements often cause us to incur significant up-front costs and may not result in the long-term benefits that we expect, which may materially and adversely affect our business. For example, our growth strategy contemplates an expansion in the number of Stone Hubs and other relevant sales channels. Successful implementation of our growth strategy will require significant expenditures before any substantial associated revenue is generated. We cannot assure you that our increased investment in marketing activities will result in corresponding revenue growth. Additionally, many of our existing Stone Hubs are still relatively new. We cannot assure you that our recently opened or future Stone Hubs will generate revenue and cash flow comparable with those generated by our more mature Stone Hubs. Furthermore, we cannot assure you that our new Stone Hubs will continue to mature at the same rate as our existing Stone Hubs, especially if economic conditions deteriorate.

 

If we cannot pass increases in fees from payment schemes, including assessment, interchange, transaction and other fees, along to our merchants, our operating margins will decline.

 

We pay assessment, interchange and other fees set by the payment schemes for each transaction we process. From time to time, the payment schemes increase the assessment, interchange and other fees that they charge payment processors. Under our existing contracts with merchants, we are generally permitted to pass these fee increases along to our merchants through corresponding increases in our processing fees. However, if we are unable to pass through these and other fees in the future due to contractual or regulatory restrictions, competitive pressures or other considerations, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our business is subject to extensive government regulation and oversight in Brazil and our status under these regulations may change. Violation of or compliance with present or future regulation could be costly, expose us to substantial liability and force us to change our business practices, any of which could seriously harm our business and results of operations.

 

As a payment institution ( instituição de pagamento ), a payment scheme settlor ( instituidor de arranjo de pagamento ) and a direct credit corporation ( sociedade de crédito direto ) in Brazil, our business is subject to Brazilian laws and regulations relating, respectively, to electronic payments, comprised of Brazilian Federal Law No. 12,865/13, and financial institutions, including Brazilian Federal Law No. 4,595/64, as well as their related rules and regulations.

 

If we fail to comply with the requirements of the Brazilian legal and regulatory framework, we could be prevented from carrying out our regulated activities, and we could be (i) required to pay substantial fines (including

 

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per transaction fines) and disgorgement of our profits, (ii) required to change our business practices or (iii) subjected to insolvency proceedings such as an intervention by the Central Bank, as well as the out-of-court liquidation of Stone Pagamentos and Stone Sociedade de Crédito Direto S.A., and any of our subsidiaries to whom licenses may be granted in the future. Pagar.me has applied to the Central Bank to be licensed as a payment institution and is awaiting such Central Bank approval. While Pagar.me is permitted to continue operations as a payment institution pending the outcome of the approval process, the failure to eventually obtain such approval would have material adverse effects on our business. In addition, Pagar.me currently operates as a payment scheme settlor pursuant to Central Bank license exemption, and depending on its growth in volumes processed, will be subject to the applicable regulations to operate as a payment scheme settlor. Any disciplinary or punitive action by our regulators or failure to obtain required operating licenses could seriously harm our business and results of operations.

 

The working capital solutions that we offer merchants make up a significant portion of our activities. Law No. 12,865/13 prohibits payment institutions like us from performing activities that are restricted to financial institutions. There is some debate under Brazilian law as to whether providing early payment of receivables to merchants could be characterized as “lending,” which is an activity that is restricted to financial institutions. Similarly, there is some debate as to whether the discount rates applicable to this early payment feature should be considered as “interest” under Brazilian law, in which case the limits set by Decree No. 22,623, of April 7, 1933 (the Brazilian Usury Law) would apply to these rates. If new laws are enacted or the courts’ interpretation of this activity changes, either preventing us from providing this feature or limiting the fees we usually charge, our financial performance could be negatively affected.

 

For further information regarding these regulatory matters, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business overview— Regulatory Matters—Regulation of the SPB.”

 

As we grow our offering of credit services, we will need to comply with additional laws and regulations applicable to such services.

 

Following the expansion of our business to offer financial products such as loans directly to our clients, including by means of a direct credit corporation ( sociedade de crédito direto ), we operate in a highly regulated sector and are subject to extensive and continuous regulatory oversight by the Central Bank. We are required to have a number of additional compliance policies, procedures, regulatory and risk management requirements, as well as a more extensive interaction with the Central Bank. The additional demands associated with these policies and procedures may disrupt regular operations of our business by diverting the attention of some of our senior management team, may increase our legal, accounting and financial compliance costs and make some activities more time-consuming and costly, adversely affecting our ability to manage and grow our businesses or making it impractical to continue to offer financial products such as loans directly to our clients. Any of these effects could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Furthermore, we are subject to the credit risk of our clients as they may default on loans and other financial products offered to them. Notwithstanding our adherence to the regulations of the Central Bank and industry standards with respect to the lending of funds to clients and certain steps to screen for merchant credit risk, a default on payment obligations by our clients could have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

We may not be able to effectively manage individual or institutional credit risk, or credit trends that can affect spending on card products and the ability of customers and partners to pay us, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

 

We are exposed to institutional credit risk, principally from loans to our clients. Clients may default on their obligations to us due to bankruptcy, lack of liquidity, operational failure or other reasons. General economic factors, such as the rate of inflation, unemployment levels and interest rates, may result in greater delinquencies that lead to greater credit losses. A client’s ability and willingness to repay us can be negatively impacted not only by economic, market, political and social conditions but by a customer’s other payment obligations, and increasing leverage can result in a higher risk that customers will default or become delinquent in their obligations to us.

 

We rely principally on the client’s creditworthiness and their ability to generate receivables for repayment of the loan, and therefore have no other collateral embedded. Our ability to assess creditworthiness may be impaired if the criteria or models we use to manage our credit risk prove inaccurate in predicting future losses, which could cause

 

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our losses to rise and have a negative impact on our results of operations. Further, our pricing strategies may not offset the negative impact on profitability caused by increases in delinquencies and losses; thus any material increases in delinquencies and losses beyond our current estimates could have a material adverse impact on us.

 

Rising delinquencies and rising rates of bankruptcy are often precursors of future write-offs and may require us to increase our reserve for loan losses. Although we regularly review our credit exposure to specific clients and counterparties and to specific industries that we believe may present credit concerns, default risk may arise from events or circumstances that are difficult to foresee or detect, such as fraud. In addition, our ability to manage credit risk may be adversely affected by legal or regulatory changes, such as restrictions on collections or changes in bankruptcy laws. Increased credit risk, whether resulting from underestimating the credit losses inherent in our portfolio of loans, deteriorating economic conditions (particularly in Brazil), increases in the level of loan balances, changes in our mix of business or otherwise, could require us to increase our provisions for losses and could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

 

We have a limited operating history with financial results that may not be indicative of future performance, and our revenue growth rate is likely to slow as our business matures.

 

We began operations in 2014. As a result of our limited operating history, we have limited financial data that can be used to evaluate our current business, and such data may not be indicative of future performance. In particular, we have experienced periods of high revenue growth since we began selling our products and services, and we do not expect to be able to maintain the same rate of revenue growth as our business matures. Estimates of future revenue growth are subject to many risks and uncertainties and our future revenue may be materially lower than projected.

 

We have encountered, and expect to continue to encounter, risks and difficulties frequently experienced by growing companies, including challenges in financial forecasting accuracy, determining appropriate investments, developing new products and features, among others. Any evaluation of our business and prospects should be considered in light of our limited operating history, and the risks and uncertainties inherent in investing in early-stage companies.

 

We may face challenges in expanding into new geographic regions outside of Brazil.

 

We may expand into new geographic regions outside of Brazil, and we will face challenges associated with entering markets in which we have limited or no experience and in which we may not be well-known. Offering our services in new geographic regions requires substantial expenditures and takes considerable time, and we may not recover our investments in new markets in a timely manner or at all. For example, we may be unable to attract a sufficient number of merchants, fail to anticipate competitive conditions or fail to adapt and tailor our services to different markets.

 

The development of our products and services globally exposes us to risks relating to staffing and managing cross-border operations, increased costs and difficulty protecting intellectual property and sensitive data, tariffs and other trade barriers, differing and potentially adverse tax consequences, increased and conflicting regulatory compliance requirements, including with respect to privacy and security, lack of acceptance of our products and services, challenges caused by distance, language, and cultural differences, exchange rate risk and political instability. Accordingly, our efforts to develop and expand the geographic footprint of our operations may not be successful, which could limit our ability to grow our business.

 

Merchant attrition or a decline in our clients’ growth rate could cause our revenues to decline.

 

We experience attrition in merchant credit and debit card processing volume resulting from several factors, including business closures, transfers of merchants’ accounts to our competitors and account closures that we initiate due to heightened credit risks relating to contract breaches by merchants or a reduction in same-store sales. We cannot predict the level of attrition in the future and our revenues could decline as a result of higher than expected attrition, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

In addition, our growth to date has been partially driven by the growth of our clients’ businesses and the resulting growth in TPV. Should the rate of growth of our clients’ business slow or decline, this could have an

 

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adverse effect on volumes processed and therefore an adverse effect on our results of operations. Furthermore, should we not be successful in selling additional solutions to our active client base, we may fail to achieve our desired rate of growth.

 

Any acquisitions, partnerships or joint ventures that we make or enter into could disrupt our business and harm our financial condition.

 

Acquisitions, partnerships and joint ventures are part of our growth strategy. We evaluate and expect in the future to evaluate potential strategic acquisitions of, and partnerships or joint ventures with, complementary businesses, services or technologies. We may not be successful in identifying acquisition, partnership and joint venture targets. In addition, we may not be able to successfully finance or integrate any businesses, services or technologies that we acquire or with which we form a partnership or joint venture, and we may lose merchants as a result of any acquisition, partnership or joint venture. Furthermore, the integration of any acquisition (such as the EdB Acquisition), partnership or joint venture may divert management’s time and resources from our core business and disrupt our operations. Certain acquisitions, partnerships and joint ventures we make may prevent us from competing for certain clients or in certain lines of business, and may lead to a loss of clients. We may spend time and money on projects that do not increase our revenue. To the extent we pay the purchase price of any acquisition in cash, it would reduce our cash reserves, and to the extent the purchase price is paid with our common shares, it could be dilutive to our shareholders. To the extent we pay the purchase price with proceeds from the incurrence of debt, it would increase our level of indebtedness and could negatively affect our liquidity and restrict our operations. Our competitors may be willing or able to pay more than us for acquisitions, which may cause us to lose certain acquisitions that we would otherwise desire to complete. We cannot ensure that any acquisition, partnership or joint venture we make will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our partnerships could expose us to additional risks from time to time.

 

We currently have a 67% investment in a Brazilian entity with Grupo Globo focusing on serving micro-merchants and may participate in additional investments from time to time. Our participation in such investments is subject to risks that may not be present with other methods of ownership, including:

 

· our partners could have investment and financing goals that are not consistent with our objectives, including the timing, terms, and strategies for any investments, and what levels of debt to incur or carry;

 

· we could experience a deadlock on specific decisions because we do not have sole decision-making authority, which could require us to expend additional resources on resolving such impasses or potential disputes, including litigation or arbitration;

 

· our ability to transfer our interest in an investment to a third party may be restricted and the market for our interest may be limited;

 

· our partners might become bankrupt, fail to fund their share of required capital contributions or fail to fulfill their obligations as an investment partner, which may require us to inject our own capital into the entity on behalf of the partner despite other competing uses for such capital; and

 

· our partners may have competing interests in our markets that could create conflict of interest issues.

 

We partially rely on card issuers or payment schemes to process our transactions. If we fail to comply with the applicable requirements of Visa, Mastercard or other payment schemes, those payment schemes could seek to fine us, suspend us or terminate our registrations, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

We partially rely on card issuers or payment schemes to process our transactions, and must pay a fee for this service. From time to time, payment schemes such as Mastercard and Visa may increase the interchange fees that they charge for each transaction using one of their cards. A significant source of our revenue comes from processing transactions through Visa, Mastercard and other payment schemes. The payment schemes routinely update and modify their requirements. Changes in the requirements, including changes to risk management and collateral

 

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requirements, may impact our ongoing cost of doing business and we may not, in every circumstance, be able to pass through such costs to our clients or associated participants. Furthermore, if we do not comply with the payment scheme requirements (e.g., their rules, bylaws and charter documentation), the payment schemes could seek to fine us, suspend us or terminate our registrations that allow us to process transactions on their schemes. On occasion, we have received notices of non-compliance and fines, which have typically related to transactional or messaging requisites, as well as excessive chargebacks by a merchant or data security failures on the part of a merchant. If we are unable to recover amounts relating to fines from or pass through costs to our merchants or other associated participants, we would experience a financial loss. The termination of our registration due to failure to comply with the applicable requirements of Visa, Mastercard or other payment schemes, or any changes in the payment scheme rules that would impair our registration, could require us to stop providing payment services to Visa, Mastercard or other payment schemes, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We are subject to economic and political risk, the business cycles and credit risk of our clients and issuing banks and volatility in the overall level of consumer, business and government spending, which could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

The electronic payments industry depends heavily on the overall level of consumer, business and government spending. We are exposed to general economic conditions that affect consumer confidence, consumer spending, consumer discretionary income or changes in consumer purchasing habits. A sustained deterioration in general economic conditions, including a rise in unemployment rates, particularly in Brazil, or increases in interest rates may adversely affect our financial performance by reducing the number or average purchase amount of transactions made using electronic payments. A reduction in the amount of consumer spending could result in a decrease in our revenue and profits. If cardholders make fewer transactions with their cards, our merchants make fewer sales of their products and services using electronic payments or people spend less money per transaction, we will have fewer transactions to process at lower amounts, resulting in lower revenue.

 

In addition, a recessionary economic environment could affect our merchants through a higher rate of bankruptcy filings, resulting in lower revenues and earnings for us. Our merchants are liable for any charges properly reversed by the card issuer on behalf of the cardholder. Our associated participants are also liable for any fines, or penalties, that may be assessed by any payment schemes. In the event that we are not able to collect such amounts from the associated participants, whether due to fraud, breach of contract, insolvency, bankruptcy or any other reason, we may be liable for any such charges. Furthermore, in the event of a closure of a merchant, we are unlikely to receive our fees for any services rendered to that merchant in its final months of operation, including subscription revenue owed to us from such merchant’s equipment rental obligations. In turn, we also face a default risk from issuing banks that are counterparty to our receivables pursuant to our credit card payment arrangements. Accordingly, a default by an issuing bank, due to insolvency, bankruptcy, intervention, operational error or otherwise could negatively impact our cash flows as we are required to make payments to merchants independently of the issuing banks’ payments owed to us. As of December 31, 2019, we recorded an estimate for credit losses for receivables of R$30.9 million relating to estimated losses on such doubtful accounts. Any of the foregoing risks would negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. See “—Risks Relating to Brazil.”

 

We have business systems that do not have full redundancy.

 

While much of our processing infrastructure is located in multiple, redundant data centers, we have some core business systems that are located in only one facility and do not have redundancy. An adverse event, such as damage or interruption from natural disasters, power or telecommunications failures, cybersecurity breaches, criminal acts and similar events, with respect to such systems or the facilities in which they are located could impact our ability to conduct business and perform critical functions, which could negatively impact our financial condition and results of operations.

 

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A decline in the use of credit, debit or prepaid cards as a payment mechanism for consumers or adverse developments with respect to the payment processing industry in general could have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

If consumers do not continue to use credit, debit or prepaid cards as a payment mechanism for their transactions or if there is a change in the mix of payments between cash, credit, debit and prepaid cards that is adverse to us, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We believe future growth in the use of credit, debit and prepaid cards and other electronic payments will be driven by the cost, ease-of-use, and quality of services offered to consumers and businesses. In order to consistently increase and maintain our profitability, consumers and businesses must continue to use electronic payment methods including credit, debit and prepaid cards. Moreover, if there is an adverse development in the payments industry or Brazilian market in general, such as new legislation or regulation that makes it more difficult for our clients to do business or utilize such payment mechanisms, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

Our insurance policies may not be sufficient to cover all claims.

 

Our insurance policies may not adequately cover all risks to which we are exposed. A significant claim not covered by our insurance, in full or in part, may result in significant expenditures by us. Moreover, we may not be able to maintain insurance policies in the future at reasonable costs or on acceptable terms, which may adversely affect our business and the trading price of our Class A common shares.

 

Our risk management policies and procedures may not be fully effective in mitigating our risk exposure in all market environments or against all types of risks, which could expose us to losses and liability and otherwise harm our business.

 

We operate in a rapidly changing industry, and we have experienced significant change in recent years including certain acquisitions. Accordingly, our risk management policies and procedures may not be fully effective in identifying, monitoring and managing our risks. Some of our risk evaluation methods depend upon information provided by others and public information regarding markets, clients or other matters that are otherwise inaccessible by us. In some cases, however, that information may not be accurate, complete or up-to-date. If our policies and procedures are not fully effective or we are not always successful in capturing all risks to which we are or may be exposed, we may suffer harm to our reputation or be subject to litigation or regulatory actions that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We offer payments, digital banking and credit services as well as other products and services to a large number of clients. We are responsible for vetting and monitoring these clients and determining whether the transactions we process for them are lawful and legitimate. When our products and services are used to process illegitimate transactions, and we settle those funds to merchants and are unable to recover them, we suffer losses and liability. These types of illegitimate, as well as unlawful, transactions can also expose us to governmental and regulatory sanctions, including outside of Brazil (e.g., U.S. anti-money laundering and economic sanctions violations). The highly automated nature of, and liquidity offered by, our payments services make us a target for illegal or improper uses, including fraudulent or illegal sales of goods or services, money laundering, and terrorist financing. Identity thieves and those committing fraud using stolen or fabricated credit card or bank account numbers, or other deceptive or malicious practices, including the hacking of bank accounts, can potentially steal significant amounts of money from businesses like ours. In configuring our payments, digital banking and credit services, we face an inherent trade-off between security and client convenience. Our risk management policies, procedures, techniques, and processes may not be sufficient to identify all of the risks to which we are exposed, to enable us to mitigate the risks we have identified, or to identify additional risks to which we may become subject in the future. As a greater number of larger merchants use our services, we expect our exposure to material losses from a single merchant, or from a small number of merchants, to increase. In addition, when we introduce new services, focus on new business types, or begin to operate in markets in which we have a limited history of fraud loss, we may be less able to forecast and reserve accurately for those losses. Moreover, we rely on third party service providers, such as PSP providers, and our risk management policies and processes may not be sufficient to monitor compliance by such third parties with applicable laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering laws and settlement of sub-merchants. We may incur significant costs with respect to monitoring third party service providers. Furthermore, if our risk management policies and processes contain errors or are otherwise ineffective, we may suffer large financial losses, we may be subject to civil and criminal liability, and our business may be materially and adversely affected.

 

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We incur chargeback and refund liability when our merchants refuse to or cannot reimburse chargebacks and refunds resolved in favor of their customers. Any increase in chargebacks and refunds not paid by our merchants may adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

We are currently, and will continue to be, exposed to risks associated with chargebacks and refunds in connection with payment card fraud or relating to the goods or services provided by our sellers. In the event that a billing dispute between a cardholder and a merchant is not resolved in favor of the merchant, including in situations in which the merchant is engaged in fraud, the transaction is typically “charged back” to the merchant and the purchase price is credited or otherwise refunded to the cardholder. If we are unable to collect chargeback or refunds from the merchant’s account, or if the merchant refuses to or is unable to reimburse us for a chargeback or refunds due to closure, bankruptcy, or other reasons, we may bear the loss for the amounts paid to the cardholder. Our financial results would be adversely affected to the extent these merchants do not fully reimburse us for the related chargebacks. In addition, our exposure to these potential losses from chargebacks increases to the extent that we have provided working capital solutions to such merchants, as the full amount of the payment is provided up front rather than in installments. We do not collect and maintain reserves from our merchants to cover these potential losses, and for customer relations purposes we sometimes decline to seek reimbursement for certain chargebacks. Historically, chargebacks occur more frequently in online transactions than in in-person transactions, and more frequently for goods than for services. In addition, the risk of chargebacks is typically greater with those of our merchants that promise future delivery of goods and services, which we allow on our service. If we are unable to maintain our losses from chargebacks at acceptable levels, the payment schemes could fine us, increase our transaction fees, or terminate our ability to process payment cards. Any increase in our transaction fees could damage our business, and if we were unable to accept payment cards, our business would be materially and adversely affected.

 

Fraud by merchants, clients using our credit or digital banking solutions or others could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

We may be subject to potential liability for fraudulent electronic payment transactions or credits initiated by merchants or others, as well as by clients using our credit or digital banking solutions. Examples of merchant fraud include when a merchant or other party knowingly uses a stolen or counterfeit credit, debit or prepaid card, card number, or other credentials to record a false sales transaction, processes an invalid card, or intentionally fails to deliver the merchandise or services sold in an otherwise valid transaction. Furthermore, we are also exposed to potential liability when fraudulent agents use false identities to access our credit and banking products, which could increase our credit risk exposure as well as our liability towards clients and third parties in case of any damages. Criminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to engage in illegal activities such as counterfeiting and fraud. It is possible that incidents of fraud could increase in the future, and our failure to catch such incidents may result in sanctions and/or fines from regulators, lawsuits and the degredation of our reputation. Failure to effectively manage risk and prevent fraud would increase our chargeback and credit liabilities, default rates on our credit solutions, among others, and subject us to potential fines by regulators. Increases in chargebacks and credit liabilities, default rates on our credit solutions and potential fines under our digital banking solutions, among others, as well as any fines by regulators, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

Increases in interest rates may harm our business.

 

Processing consumer transactions made using credit cards, as well as providing for the prepayment of our clients’ receivables when consumers make credit card purchases in installments, both make up a significant portion of our activities. If Brazilian interest rates increase, consumers may choose to make fewer purchases using credit cards, and fewer merchants may decide to use our working capital solutions if our overall financing costs require us to increase the fee we charge for our working capital solutions. Either of these factors could cause our business activity levels to decrease. In addition, we have funded our operations in part through financings that have variable interest rates, whereas we charge most merchants a fixed fee for the prepayment of our clients’ receivables. As of December 31, 2019, we had R$4.8 billion of debentures, loans with private entities and quota holder obligations in our FIDCs subject to variable interest and return rates. Accordingly, a cost or maturity mismatch between the funds raised by us and the funds made available to our clients may materially adversely affect our liquidity, financial condition and results of operations.

 

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We are exposed to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates.

 

We hold certain funds in non-Brazilian real currencies, and will continue to do so in the future. Accordingly, our financial results are affected by the translation of these non- real currencies into reais . In addition, to the extent that we need to convert future financing proceeds into Brazilian reais for our operations, any appreciation of the Brazilian real against the relevant foreign currencies would materially reduce the Brazilian real amounts we would receive from the conversion. No assurance can be given that fluctuations in foreign exchange rates will not have a significant impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. We may also have foreign exchange risk on any of our other assets and liabilities denominated in currencies, or with pricing linked to currencies, other than our functional currency, including certain contract assets. The strengthening of the Brazilian real versus any of these foreign currencies may have a material adverse effect on our financial position and results of operations.

 

Our services must integrate with a variety of operating systems, software, hardware, web browsers and networks, and the hardware that enables merchants to accept payment cards must interoperate with mobile networks offered by telecom operators and third-party mobile devices utilizing those operating systems, software, hardware, web browsers and networks. If we are unable to ensure that our services or hardware interoperate with such operating systems, software, hardware, web browsers and networks, our business may be materially and adversely affected.

 

We are dependent on the ability of our products and services to integrate with a variety of operating systems, software, hardware and networks, as well as web browsers that we do not control. Any changes in these systems or networks that degrade the functionality of our products and services, impose additional costs or requirements on us, or give preferential treatment to competitive services, including their own services, could materially and adversely affect usage of our products and services. In the event that it is difficult for our merchants to access and use our products and services, our business may be materially and adversely affected. We also rely on bank platforms and others, including card issuers, to process some of our transactions. If there are any issues with, or service interruptions in, these bank platforms, users may be unable to have their transactions completed, which would seriously harm our business.

 

In addition, our solutions, including hardware and software, interoperate with mobile networks offered by telecom operators and mobile devices developed by third parties. Changes in these networks or in the design of these mobile devices may limit the interoperability of our solutions with such networks and devices and require modifications to our solutions. If we are unable to ensure that our hardware continues to interoperate effectively with such networks and devices, or if doing so is costly, our business may be materially and adversely affected.

 

Our business depends on a well-regarded and widely known brand, and any failure to maintain, protect, and enhance our brand would harm our business.

 

We have developed a well-regarded and widely known brand that has contributed significantly to the success of our business. Our brand is predicated on the idea that sellers and buyers will know and trust us and find value in building and growing their businesses with our products and services. Maintaining, protecting, and enhancing our brand are critical to expanding our base of merchants, and other third-party partners, as well as increasing engagement with our products and services. This will depend largely on our ability to remain widely known, maintain trust, be a technology leader, and continue to provide high-quality and secure products and services. Any negative publicity about our industry or our company, the quality and reliability of our products and services, our risk management processes, changes to our products and services, our ability to effectively manage and resolve seller and buyer complaints, our privacy and security practices, litigation, regulatory activity, and the experience of sellers and buyers with our products or services, could adversely affect our reputation and the confidence in and use of our products and services. Harm to our brand can arise from many sources, including failure by us or our partners to satisfy expectations of service and quality; inadequate protection of sensitive information; compliance failures and claims; litigation and other claims; third party trademark infringement claims; employee misconduct; and misconduct by our associated participants, partners, service providers, or other counterparties. If we do not successfully maintain a well-regarded and widely known brand, our business could be materially and adversely affected.

 

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We have been from time to time in the past, and may in the future be, the target of incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading or false statements about our company, our business, and our products and services that could damage our brand and materially deter people from adopting our services. Negative publicity about our company or our management, including about our product quality and reliability, changes to our products and services, privacy and security practices, litigation, regulatory enforcement, and other actions, as well as the actions of our clients and other users of our services, even if inaccurate, could cause a loss of confidence in us. Our ability to respond to negative statements about us may be limited by legal prohibitions on permissible public communications by us during future periods.

 

If we are unable to maintain, promote, and grow our brand through effective marketing and communications strategies, our brand and business may be harmed.

 

We believe that maintaining and promoting our brand in a cost-effective manner is critical to achieving widespread acceptance of our products and services and to expand our base of clients. Maintaining and promoting our brand will depend largely on our ability to continue to provide useful, reliable, and innovative products and services, which we may not do successfully. We may introduce, or make changes to, features, products, services, or terms of service that clients do not like, which may materially and adversely affect our brand. Our brand promotion activities may not generate customer awareness or increase revenue, and even if they do, any increase in revenue may not offset the expenses we incur in building our brand. If we fail to successfully promote and maintain our brand or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our business could be materially and adversely affected.

 

The introduction and promotion of new services, as well as the promotion of existing services, may be partly dependent on our visibility on third-party advertising platforms, such as Globo, Google or Facebook. Changes in the way these platforms operate or changes in their advertising prices or other terms could make the maintenance and promotion of our products and services and our brand more expensive or more difficult. If we are unable to market and promote our brand on third-party platforms effectively, our ability to acquire new merchants would be materially harmed.

 

Degradation of the quality of the products and services we offer, including support services, could adversely impact our ability to attract and retain merchants and partners.

 

Our clients expect a consistent level of quality in the provision of our products and services. The support services that we provide are also a key element of the value proposition to our clients. If the reliability or functionality of our products and services is compromised or the quality of those products or services is otherwise degraded, or if we fail to continue to provide a high level of support, we could lose existing clients and find it harder to attract new merchants and partners. If we are unable to scale our support functions to address the growth of our merchant and partner network, the quality of our support may decrease, which could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain merchants and partners.

 

Certain ongoing legislative and regulatory initiatives under discussion by the Brazilian Congress, the Central Bank and the broader payments industry may result in changes to the regulatory framework of the Brazilian payments and financial industries and may have an adverse effect on the Company.

 

During the course of 2018, the Central Bank issued several regulations related to the Brazilian payments market, aiming to increase the use of electronic payments, increase competitiveness in the sector, strengthen governance and risk management practices in the industry, encourage the development of new solutions and the differentiation of products to consumers, and promote the increased use of electronic payment means. Such measures include the following enacted Central Bank regulations: (i) Circular 3,886/18, which defines and classifies sub-acquirers and determines conditions that require sub-acquirers to use centralized settlement via the Brazilian Interbank Payments Clearinghouse (CIP) system; (ii) Circular 3,887/18, which establishes that interchange fees on debit cards will be subject to a cap of up to 0.8% on debit transactions, and that debit card issuers must maintain a maximum average interchange fee of 0.5% on their total transaction volume, with each cap effective October 2018; and (iii) Circular 3,925/18, which, among other matters, determined that payment scheme settlors may establish obligations for the monitoring, by the acquirers, of the compliance by the PSP with the rules of the payment scheme.

 

Furthermore, CMN’s Resolution 4,707, Circulars 3,924, 3,926 and 3,928 and Circular-Letter 3,934 established additional requirements and procedures applicable to credit transactions with merchants guaranteed by card

 

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receivables. These recent regulations aim to promote transparency in credit transactions, a broader credit offer and a reduction in the banking spread. These rules have been issued as a model for transition to a more robust legal framework for transactions with credit card receivables in connection with Central Bank Public Hearing 68, issued in 2018. The implementation of the new rules will require operational and technological changes, which could be costly and time consuming. There can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with the regulations nor assure full compliance by the PSP that use our acquiring services as required by the regulation. There can be no assurance that there will be no impact to the working capital, banking or credit solutions we currently offer merchants. If we fail to comply with applicable requirements of the current or future Brazilian legal or regulatory framework, we could be required to (i) pay substantial fines (including fines per transaction) and disgorgement of our profits, or (ii) change our business practices. We could also be subject to private lawsuits. Any of these consequences could materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

On June 27, 2019, a more robust legal framework for credit transactions guaranteed by card receivables was enacted underneath CMN’s Resolution No. 4,734 and Circular No. 3,952. As a result of these regulations, which will be effective on August 2020, credit transactions guaranteed by card receivables will be subject to registration and held publicly available. Additionally, the Brazilian Central Bank is developing an instant payments solution an alternative to debit transactions and analogous services that is expected to start operating by the end of 2020. Although certain details of such solution are still under discussion and pending regulation, such initiative may promote greater competition, which could result in a loss of existing clients, and greater difficulty in attracting new clients. Therefore, such developments may increase competition in the prepayment market, and could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

At the end of 2019, the Brazilian Central Bank conducted public hearings aiming to promote competition and encourage the development of disruptive business models. Central Bank Public Hearing No. 72 discussed the possibility of setting up a regulatory “sandbox,” in which innovative products and solutions could be offered for a certain trial period in a controlled environment. Under the regulator’s supervision, certain regulatory requirements could be exempted for limited purpose during testing periods. Furthermore, Central Bank Public Hearing No. 74 discussed the registration and negotiation of invoices and Central Bank Public Hearing No. 75, is related to the automated teller machines’ market and their operation.

 

In addition, discussions with respect to creating an open banking framework in Brazil gained traction at the end of 2019, as a result of which the Central Bank enacted Public Hearing 73. As of the date of this annual report, a working group composed of representatives from relevant trade groups has been created. At this point, discussions have been preliminary, and have focused on the self-regulation governance structure and its implementation mechanisms. We expect that if Brazil moves to an open banking platform, we would need to comply with open banking-specific regulations, self-regulation and other data guidelines, such as stronger customer authentication regulations and the LGPD (as defined below), under which data can only be shared upon the explicit consent of the user. See “⸺We are subject to costs and risks associated with increased or changing laws and regulations affecting our business, including those relating to the sale of consumer products. Specifically, developments in data protection and privacy laws could harm our business, financial condition or results or operations.”

 

In addition to such recently enacted regulations, there are legislative and regulatory initiatives currently being discussed by the Brazilian Congress, Central Bank and the broader payments industry which may modify the regulatory framework of the Brazilian payments and financial industries. For instance, there has been discussions in the Brazilian Congress about the payment cycle currently in place in the Brazilian payments market. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Solutions— More Information on Working Capital Solutions ” for a discussion of the current Brazilian payment cycle. The Central Bank issued a letter in response to a report issued by the Brazilian Congress regarding the payment cycle currently in place in the Brazilian payments market, which presents a technical study of the impact of changes to the Brazilian payment cycle and confirms the Central Bank’s decision to promote a gradual and planned shortening of the existing payment cycles. Should these discussions lead the Central Bank, as the competent authority over the market, to implement regulatory initiatives to reduce existing payment cycles, this could adversely affect prepayment services relating to credit card installment receivables that are commonly used by merchants in Brazil. Any reduction in payment cycles could significantly negatively impact our working capital solutions business, which could adversely affect our business, revenues and financial condition.

 

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These discussions are in various phases of development, whether as part of legislative, regulatory or private initiatives in the industry and the overall impact of any such reform proposals is difficult to estimate. Any such changes in laws, regulations or market practices have the potential to alter the type or volume of the card-based transactions we process and our payment services and could adversely affect our business, revenues and financial condition.

 

We are subject to costs and risks associated with increased or changing laws and regulations affecting our business, including those relating to the sale of consumer products. Specifically, developments in data protection and privacy laws could harm our business, financial condition or results or operations.

 

We operate in a complex regulatory and legal environment that exposes us to compliance and litigation risks that could materially affect our results of operations. These laws may change, sometimes significantly, as a result of political, economic or social events. Some of the federal, state or local laws and regulations in Brazil that affect us include: those relating to consumer products, product liability or consumer protection; those relating to the manner in which we advertise, market or sell products; labor and employment laws, including wage and hour laws; tax laws or interpretations thereof; bank secrecy laws, data protection and privacy laws and regulations; and securities and exchange laws and regulations. For instance, data protection and privacy laws are developing to take into account the changes in cultural and consumer attitudes towards the protection of personal data. There can be no guarantee that we will have sufficient financial resources to comply with any new regulations or successfully compete in the context of a shifting regulatory environment.

 

On August 14, 2018, the President of Brazil approved Law No. 13,709/2018 ( Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados ), or the LGPD, a comprehensive data protection law establishing general principles and obligations that apply across multiple economic sectors and contractual relationships. The LGPD establishes detailed rules for the collection, use, processing and storage of personal data and will affect all economic sectors, including the relationship between customers and suppliers of goods and services, employees and employers and other relationships in which personal data is collected, whether in a digital or physical environment. Moreover, on July 8, 2019, Law No. 13,853, which amended certain provisions of the LGPD and created the National Data Protection Authority (Autoridade Nacional de Proteção de Dados or “ANPD”) was enacted. The ANPD will be an administrative body, connected to the Cabinet of the Presidency, with technical autonomy, but no financial and budgetary autonomy. The ANPD is expected to have the following responsibilities, among others: (i) enact rules and regulations relating to data protection; (ii) analyze and interpret, in the administrative sphere, matters relating to the LGPD; (iii) request access to information from data controllers and processors; (iv) supervise processing activities and impose sanctions; and (v) promote cooperation with international and transnational data protection authorities. The Law No. 13,853/19 also extended the original term of 18 months for companies to become compliant with the LGPD to 24 months from the date of publication of the law. The LGPD will become effective in August 2020 by which date all legal entities will be required to adapt their data processing activities to these new rules. Any additional privacy laws or regulations enacted or approved in Brazil or in other jurisdictions in which we operate could seriously harm our business, financial condition or results of operations. On August 16, 2018, the Central Bank approved Circular 3,909, which establishes requirements for the engaging of data processing, storage and cloud computing services by payment institutions authorized to operate by the Central Bank and determines the mandatory implementation of a cybersecurity policy. In this regard, Circular 3,909 requires payment institutions to draw up an internal cybersecurity policy and to include specific mandatory clauses in contracts regarding data processing, storage and cloud computing services. Circular 3,909 became effective on September 1, 2019. All payment institutions are required to adapt their activities and agreements to these new rules in accordance with the timeline for adequacy established by Circular 3,909, up to no later than December 31, 2021. Failure to comply with applicable requirements, may result on the imposition of restrictions on the contracting.

 

In particular, as we seek to build a trusted and secure platform for commerce, and as we expand our network of sellers and buyers and facilitate their transactions and interactions with one another, we will increasingly be subject to laws and regulations relating to the collection, use, retention, security, and transfer of information, including the personally identifiable information of our employees and our merchants and their customers. As with the other laws and regulations noted above, these laws and regulations may be interpreted and applied differently over time and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and it is possible they will be interpreted and applied in ways that will materially and adversely affect our business. Any failure, real or perceived, by us to comply with our posted privacy policies or with any regulatory requirements or orders or other local, state, federal, or international privacy or consumer

 

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protection-related laws and regulations could cause sellers or their customers to reduce their use of our products and services and could materially and adversely affect our business.

 

Our business is subject to complex and evolving regulations and oversight related to our provision of payments services and other financial services.

 

The laws, rules, and regulations that govern our business include or may in the future include those relating to banking, deposit-taking, cross-border and domestic money transmission, foreign exchange, payments services (such as payment processing and settlement services), consumer financial protection, anti-money laundering and terrorist financing, escheatment, and compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, a set of requirements designed to ensure that all companies that process, store, or transmit payment card information maintain a secure environment to protect cardholder data. These laws, rules, and regulations are enforced by multiple authorities and governing bodies in Brazil, including the Central Bank and the National Monetary Council. In addition, as our business continues to develop and expand, we may become subject to additional rules and regulations, which may limit or change how we conduct our business.

 

For example, although we do not engage in financial services activities in the United States, we maintain bank accounts in the United States for the international settlement agent for the payment scheme settlors, such as Visa and Mastercard. We are or may be subject to anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws and regulations that prohibit, among other things, involvement in transferring the proceeds of criminal or terrorist activities. We could be subject to liability and forced to change our business practices if we were found to be subject to, or in violation of, any laws or regulations governing the ability to maintain a bank account in the countries where we operate, including the United States, or if existing or new legislation or regulations applicable to banks in the countries where we maintain a bank account, including the United States, were to result in banks in those countries being unwilling or unable to establish and maintain bank accounts in our name.

 

We believe that our activities in the United States, including maintaining bank accounts in connection with payment scheme settlements do not require a license from federal or state banking authorities to conduct financial services activities in the United States. If we are found to have engaged in a banking or financial services business requiring a license, we could be subject to liability, or forced to cease doing such business, change our business practices, or become a regulated financial entity subject to compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws and regulations, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations.

 

Although we have a compliance program focused on applicable laws, rules, and regulations (which currently is principally focused on Brazilian law) and are continually investing in this program, we may still be subject to fines or other penalties in one or more jurisdictions levied by federal, state or local regulators, as well as those levied by foreign regulators. In addition to fines, penalties for failing to comply with applicable rules and regulations could include significant criminal and civil lawsuits, forfeiture of significant assets, or other enforcement actions, including loss of licensure in a given jurisdiction. We could also be required to make changes to our business practices or compliance programs as a result of regulatory scrutiny. In addition, any perceived or actual breach of compliance by us with respect to applicable laws, rules, and regulations could have a significant impact on our reputation as a trusted brand and could cause us to lose existing clients, prevent us from obtaining new clients, require us to expend significant funds to remedy problems caused by breaches and to avert further breaches, and expose us to legal risk and potential liability.

 

We are subject to regulatory activity and antitrust litigation under competition laws.

 

We are subject to scrutiny from governmental agencies under competition laws in countries in which we operate. Some jurisdictions also provide private rights of action for competitors or consumers to assert claims of anticompetitive conduct. Other companies or governmental agencies may allege that our actions violate antitrust or competition laws, or otherwise constitute unfair competition. Contractual agreements with buyers, sellers, or other companies could give rise to regulatory action or antitrust investigations or litigation. Also, our unilateral business practices could give rise to regulatory action or antitrust investigations or litigation. Some regulators may perceive our business to have such significant market power that otherwise uncontroversial business practices could be deemed anticompetitive. Any such claims and investigations, even if they are unfounded, may be expensive to

 

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defend, involve negative publicity and substantial diversion of management time and effort, and could result in significant judgments against us.

 

Changes in tax laws, tax incentives, benefits or differing interpretations of tax laws may adversely affect our results of operations.

 

Changes in tax laws, regulations, related interpretations and tax accounting standards in Brazil, the Cayman Islands or the United States may result in a higher tax rate on our earnings and revenues, which may significantly reduce our profits and cash flows from operations. For example, in 2015 the Brazilian government increased the rate of PIS/COFINS tax (which is a tax levied on revenues) from 0% to approximately 4.65% on financial income realized by Brazilian companies that are taxed under the non-cumulative regime (which is the tax regime that applies to us). In addition, our results of operations and financial condition may decline if certain tax incentives are not retained or renewed. For example, Brazilian Law No. 11,196 currently grants tax benefits to companies that invest in research and development, provided that some requirements are met, which significantly reduces our annual income tax expense. If the taxes applicable to our business increase or any tax benefits are revoked and we cannot alter our cost structure to pass our tax increases on to clients, our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could be seriously harmed. Our payment processing activities are also subject to a Municipal Tax on Services ( Imposto Sobre Serviços , or ISS). Any increases in ISS rates would also harm our profitability.

 

In addition, Brazilian government authorities at the federal, state and local levels are considering changes in tax laws in order to cover budgetary shortfalls resulting from the recent economic downturn in Brazil. If these proposals are enacted they may harm our profitability by increasing our tax burden, increasing our tax compliance costs, or otherwise affecting our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Tax rules in Brazil, particularly at local level, can change without notice. We may not always be aware of all such changes that affect our business and we may therefore fail to pay the applicable taxes or otherwise comply with tax regulations, which may result in additional tax assessments and penalties for our company.

 

At the municipal level, the Brazilian government enacted Supplementary Law No. 157/16, which imposed changes regarding the tax collection applied to the rendering of our services. These changes created new obligations, since taxes will now be due in the municipality in which the acquirer of our services is located rather than in the municipality in which the service provider’s facilities are located. This obligation took force in January 2018, but has been delayed by Direct Unconstitutionality Action No. 5835, or ADI, filed by taxpayers. The ADI challenges Supplementary Law No. 157/16’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court, arguing that the new legislation would adversely affect companies’ activities due to the increase of costs and bureaucracy related to the ISS payment to several Municipalities and the compliance with tax reporting obligations connected therewith. As a result, the Supreme Court granted an injunction to suspend Supplementary Law No. 157/16’s enforcement. A final decision on this matter is currently pending.

 

Furthermore, we are subject to tax laws and regulations that may be interpreted differently by tax authorities and us. The application of indirect taxes, such as sales and use tax, value-added tax, or VAT, provincial taxes, goods and services tax, business tax and gross receipt tax, to businesses like ours is a complex and evolving issue. Significant judgment is required to evaluate applicable tax obligations. In many cases, the ultimate tax determination is uncertain because it is not clear how existing statutes apply to our business. One or more states, or Municipalities, the federal government or other countries may seek to challenge the taxation or procedures applied to our transactions imposing the charge of taxes or additional reporting, record-keeping or indirect tax collection obligations on businesses like ours. New taxes could also require us to incur substantial costs to capture data and collect and remit taxes. If such obligations were imposed, the additional costs associated with tax collection, remittance and audit requirements could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial results.

 

Brazilian government has been studying a substantial tax reform in Brazil. It is not possible to precisely predict if and how potential changes may affect our business, but one or more states, or Municipalities, the federal government or other countries may seek to challenge the taxation or procedures applied to our transactions imposing the charge of taxes or additional reporting, record-keeping or indirect tax collection obligations on businesses like ours. New taxes could also require us to incur substantial costs to capture data and collect and remit taxes. If such obligations were imposed, the additional costs associated with tax collection, remittance and audit requirements could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial results.

 

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The costs and effects of pending and future litigation, investigations or similar matters, or adverse facts and developments related thereto, could materially affect our business, financial position and results of operations.

 

We are, and may be in the future, party to legal, arbitration and administrative investigations, inspections and proceedings arising in the ordinary course of our business or from extraordinary corporate, tax or regulatory events, involving our clients, suppliers, customers, as well as competition, government agencies, tax and environmental authorities, particularly with respect to civil, tax and labor claims. Our indemnities may not cover all claims that may be asserted against us, and any claims asserted against us, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, may harm our reputation. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that we will be successful in defending ourselves in pending or future litigation or similar matters under various laws. Should the ultimate judgments or settlements in any pending litigation or future litigation or investigation significantly exceed our indemnity rights, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and the price of our Class A common shares. Further, even if we adequately address issues raised by an inspection conducted by an agency or successfully defend our case in an administrative proceeding or court action, we may have to set aside significant financial and management resources to settle issues raised by such proceedings or to those lawsuits or claims, which could adversely affect our business. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated statements and other financial information—Legal proceedings.”

 

We may not be able to successfully manage our intellectual property and may be subject to infringement claims.

 

We rely on a combination of contractual rights, trademarks and trade secrets to establish and protect our proprietary rights, including technology. Third parties may challenge, invalidate, circumvent, infringe or misappropriate our intellectual property, or such intellectual property may not be sufficient to permit us to take advantage of current market trends or otherwise to provide competitive advantages, which could result in costly redesign efforts, discontinuance of certain service offerings or other competitive harm. Others, including our competitors, may independently develop similar technology, duplicate our services or design around our intellectual property, and in such cases, we could not assert our intellectual property rights against such parties. Further, our contractual arrangements may not effectively prevent disclosure of our confidential information or provide an adequate remedy in the event of unauthorized disclosure of our confidential information. We may have to litigate to enforce or determine the scope and enforceability of our intellectual property rights, trade secrets and know-how, which is expensive, could cause a diversion of resources and may not prove successful. Also, because of the rapid pace of technological change in our industry, aspects of our business and our services rely on technologies developed or licensed by third parties, and we may not be able to obtain or continue to obtain licenses and technologies from these third parties on reasonable terms or at all. The loss of intellectual property protection, the inability to obtain third-party intellectual property or delay or refusal by relevant regulatory authorities to approve pending intellectual property registration applications could harm our business and ability to compete.

 

We may also be subject to costly litigation in the event our services and technology infringe upon or otherwise violate a third party’s proprietary rights. Third parties may have, or may eventually be issued, patents that could be infringed by our proprietary rights. Any of these third parties could make a claim of infringement against us with respect to our proprietary rights. We may also be subject to claims by third parties for breach of copyright, trademark, license usage or other intellectual property rights. Any claim from third parties may result in a limitation on our ability to use the intellectual property subject to these claims or could prevent us from registering our brands as trademarks. Additionally, in recent years, individuals and groups have been purchasing intellectual property assets for the sole purpose of making claims of infringement and attempting to extract settlements from companies like ours. Even if we believe that intellectual property related claims are without merit, defending against such claims is time-consuming and expensive and could result in the diversion of the time and attention of our management and employees. Claims of intellectual property infringement also might require us to redesign affected services, enter into costly settlement or license agreements, pay costly damage awards, change our brands, or face a temporary or permanent injunction prohibiting us from marketing or selling certain of our services or using certain of our brands. Even if we have an agreement for indemnification against such costs, the indemnifying party, if any in such circumstances, may be unable to uphold its contractual obligations. If we cannot or do not license the infringed technology on reasonable terms or substitute similar technology from another source, our revenue and earnings could be adversely impacted.

 

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We rely upon third-party data center service providers to host certain aspects of our platform. Any disruption to, or interference with, our use of such services, could impair our ability to deliver our platform, resulting in customer dissatisfaction, damaging our reputation and harming our business.

 

We utilize data center hosting facilities from third-party service providers to make certain products and services available on our platform. Our primary data centers are in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Brazil, and in Chicago, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. Our operations depend, in part, on our providers’ ability to protect their facilities against damage or interruption from natural disasters, power or telecommunications failures, criminal acts and similar events. The occurrence of spikes in user volume, traffic, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, vandalism or sabotage, or a decision to close a facility without adequate notice, or other unanticipated problems at our providers’ facilities could result in lengthy interruptions in the availability of our platform, which would adversely affect our business.

 

Our use of open source software could negatively affect our ability to sell our solutions and subject us to possible litigation.

 

Our solutions incorporate and are dependent to some extent on the use and development of open source software and we intend to continue our use and development of open source software in the future. Such open source software is generally licensed by its authors or other third parties under open source licenses and is typically freely accessible, usable and modifiable. Pursuant to such open source licenses, we may be subject to certain conditions, including requirements that we offer our proprietary software that incorporates the open source software for no cost, that we make available source code for modifications or derivative works we create based upon, incorporating or using the open source software and that we license such modifications or derivative works under the terms of the particular open source license. If an author or other third party that uses or distributes such open source software were to allege that we had not complied with the conditions of one or more of these licenses, we could be required to incur significant legal expenses defending against such allegations and could be subject to significant damages, enjoined from the sale of our solutions that contained or are dependent upon the open source software and required to comply with the foregoing conditions, which could disrupt the distribution and sale of some of our solutions. Litigation could be costly for us to defend, have a negative effect on our operating results and financial condition or require us to devote additional research and development resources to change our platform. The terms of many open source licenses to which we are subject have not been interpreted by courts. As there is little or no legal precedent governing the interpretation of many of the terms of certain of these licenses, the potential impact of these terms on our business is uncertain and may result in unanticipated obligations regarding our solutions and technologies.

 

Any requirement to disclose our proprietary source code, termination of open source license rights or payments of damages for breach of contract could be harmful to our business, results of operations or financial condition, and could help our competitors develop products and services that are similar to or better than ours.

 

In addition to risks related to license requirements, use of open source software can lead to greater risks than use of third-party commercial software, as open source licensors generally do not provide warranties, controls on the origin or development of the software, or remedies against the licensors. Many of the risks associated with usage of open source software cannot be eliminated and could adversely affect our business.

 

Although we believe that we have complied with our obligations under the various applicable licenses for open source software, it is possible that we may not be aware of all instances where open source software has been incorporated into our proprietary software or used in connection with our solutions or our corresponding obligations under open source licenses. We do not have open source software usage policies or monitoring procedures in place. We rely on multiple software programmers to design our proprietary software and we cannot be certain that our programmers have not incorporated open source software into our proprietary software that we intend to maintain as confidential or that they will not do so in the future. To the extent that we are required to disclose the source code of certain of our proprietary software developments to third parties, including our competitors, in order to comply with applicable open source license terms, such disclosure could harm our intellectual property position, competitive advantage, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, to the extent that we have failed to comply with our obligations under particular licenses for open source software, we may lose the right to continue to use and exploit such open source software in connection with our operations and solutions, which could disrupt and adversely affect our business.

 

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If we lose key personnel our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

We are dependent upon the ability and experience of a number of key personnel who have substantial experience with our operations, the rapidly changing payment processing industry and the markets in which we offer our services.

 

Many of our key personnel have worked for us for a significant amount of time or were recruited by us specifically due to their industry experience. It is possible that the loss of the services of one or a combination of our senior executives or key managers, including our chief executive officer, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

In a dynamic industry like ours, the ability to attract, recruit, develop and retain qualified employees is critical to our success and growth. If we are not able to do so, our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

 

Our business functions at the intersection of rapidly changing technological, social, economic and regulatory developments that require a wide-ranging set of expertise and intellectual capital. In order for us to successfully compete and grow, we must attract, recruit, develop and retain the necessary personnel who can provide the needed expertise across the entire spectrum of our intellectual capital needs. While we have a number of our key personnel who have substantial experience with our operations, we must also develop our personnel to provide succession plans capable of maintaining continuity in the midst of the inevitable unpredictability of human capital. However, the market for qualified personnel is competitive, and we may not succeed in recruiting additional personnel or may fail to effectively replace current personnel who depart with qualified or effective successors. For instance, our Stone Agents are highly trained and, accordingly, we may face challenges in recruiting and retaining such qualified personnel. We must continue to hire additional personnel to execute our strategic plans. Our effort to retain and develop personnel may also result in significant additional expenses, which could adversely affect our profitability. We cannot assure that qualified employees will continue to be employed or that we will be able to attract and retain qualified personnel in the future. Failure to retain or attract key personnel could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our operations may be adversely affected by a failure to timely obtain or renew any licenses required to operate our hubs.

 

The operation of our hubs and other properties we occupy or may come to occupy are subject to certain license and certification requirements under applicable law, including operation and use licenses ( alvará de licença de uso e funcionamento ) from the municipalities in which we operate and certificates of inspection from applicable local fire departments. Our operations may be adversely affected by a failure to timely obtain or renew any licenses required to operate our hubs. We have not yet obtained licenses for the majority of our hubs, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain the licenses for which we have applied in a timely manner, as applicable. In addition, we cannot assure you that we will obtain such licenses in a timely manner for the opening of new hubs.

 

If we are unable to renew or obtain such licenses, we may be subject to certain penalties, which include the imposition of fines and the suspension or termination of our operations at the respective hub. The imposition of such penalties, or, in extreme scenarios, the sealing off of the premises by relevant public authorities pending compliance with all the requirements demanded by the municipalities and fire departments, may adversely affect our operations and our ability to generate revenues at the relevant location.

 

Our operating results are subject to seasonal fluctuations, which could result in variations in our quarterly profit.

 

We have experienced in the past, and expect to continue to experience, seasonal fluctuations in our revenues as a result of consumer spending patterns. Historically, our revenues have been strongest during the last quarter of the year as a result of higher sales during the Brazilian holiday season. This is due to the increase in the number and amount of electronic payment transactions related to seasonal retail events. Adverse events that occur during these months could have a disproportionate effect on our results of operations for the entire fiscal year. As a result of quarterly fluctuations caused by these and other factors, comparisons of our operating results across different fiscal quarters may not be accurate indicators of our future performance.

 

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Potential clients may be reluctant to switch to a new vendor, which may adversely affect our growth.

 

Many potential clients worry about disadvantages associated with switching payment processing vendors, such as a loss of accustomed functionality, increased costs and business disruption. For potential clients, switching from one vendor of core processing or related software and services (or from an internally-developed system) to a new vendor is a significant undertaking. As a result, potential clients often resist changing vendors. We seek to overcome this resistance through strategies such as making investments to enhance the functionality of our software. However, there can be no assurance that our strategies for overcoming potential clients’ reluctance to change vendors will be successful, and this resistance may adversely affect our growth.

 

We are dependent on a single manufacturer for a substantial amount of our POS devices. We are at risk of shortage, price increases, changes, delay or discontinuation of key components from our POS device manufacturers, which could disrupt and harm our business.

 

We currently are substantially dependent on PAX BR Comércio e Serviços de Equipamentos de Informática Ltda ., or PAX, to manufacture and assemble a substantial amount of our POS devices. We are constrained by its manufacturing capabilities and pricing, and may face production delays or escalating costs if it is unable to manufacture a sufficient quantity of product at an affordable cost. Further, we could face production delays if it becomes necessary to replace this existing substantial supplier with one or more alternative suppliers.

 

We may also be subject to product recalls or other quality-related actions if such devices, or other products supplied by us, are believed to cause injury or illness, or if such products are defective or fail to meet our quality control standards or standards established by applicable law. If our suppliers are unable or unwilling to recall products failing to meet applicable quality standards, we may be required to recall those products at substantial cost to us. Recalls and government, customer or consumer concerns about product safety could harm our reputation, brands and relationships with clients, lead to increased costs, loss of revenues (including revenues from equipment rentals and/or decreased transaction volumes), and/or loss of merchants, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

Additionally, agreements for the components used to manufacture our POS devices are entered into directly by the manufacturer of our POS devices and we do not have agreements with these suppliers. Some of the key components used to manufacture our POS devices, such as the chip and pin reader, come from limited sources of supply. Due to the reliance of our POS manufacturers on these components, we are subject to the risk of shortages and long lead times in the supply of certain products. If our manufacturers cannot find alternative sources of supply, we could be subject to components shortages or delays or other problems in product assembly. In addition, various sources of supply-chain risk, including strikes or shutdowns, or loss of or damage to our products while they are in transit or storage, could limit the supply of our POS devices. Any interruption or delay in component supply, any increases in component costs, the inability of our manufacturers to obtain these parts or components from alternate sources at acceptable prices and within a reasonable amount of time, and/or difficulties in fulfilling obligations in connection with the warranties we provide for our POS devices, would harm our ability to provide our POS devices or other services to our merchants on a timely basis. This could damage our relationships with our clients, prevent us from acquiring new clients, and seriously harm our business.

 

We are subject to anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-money laundering laws and regulations.

 

We operate in jurisdictions that have a high risk for corruption and we are subject to anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-money laundering laws and regulations, including the Brazilian Federal Law No. 12,846/2013, or the Clean Company Act, and the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, or the FCPA. Both the Clean Company Act and the FCPA impose liability against companies who engage in bribery of government officials, either directly or through intermediaries. We have a compliance program that is designed to manage the risks of doing business in light of these new and existing legal and regulatory requirements. Violations of the anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-money laundering laws and regulations could result in criminal liability, administrative and civil lawsuits, significant fines and penalties, forfeiture of significant assets, as well as reputational harm.

 

Regulators may increase enforcement of these obligations, which may require us to make adjustments to our compliance program, including the procedures we use to verify the identity of our customers and to monitor our

 

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transactions. Regulators regularly reexamine the transaction volume thresholds at which we must obtain and keep applicable records or verify identities of customers and any change in such thresholds could result in greater costs for compliance. For example, the Brazilian Central Bank recently enacted a new regulation on this matter, Circular No. 3,978, which will become effective on July 1, 2020, and provides new guidelines with a risk based approach for anti-money laundering policies, procedures and controls. We are evaluating the impact of such regulations to us, but we face risks related to our ability to comply with such new regulations, as we may not be able to comply fully with, or obtain appropriate exemptions from, such regulation. Costs associated with fines or enforcement actions, changes in compliance requirements, or limitations on our ability to grow could harm our business, and any new requirements or changes to existing requirements could impose significant costs, result in delays to planned product improvements, make it more difficult for new customers to join our network and reduce the attractiveness of our products and services.

 

Our business could be harmed if we are unable to accurately forecast demand for our products and services and to adequately manage our product inventory.

 

We invest broadly in our business, and such investments are driven by our expectations of the future success of a product or services. Our products, such as our POS devices, often require investments with long lead times. In addition, we invest in new Stone Hubs based on our expectation of future demand for our services from the relevant location. An inability to correctly forecast the success of a particular product or services could harm our business. We must forecast inventory and capital needs and expenses, hire employees and place orders sufficiently in advance with our third-party suppliers and contract manufacturers based on our estimates of future demand for particular products or services. Our ability to accurately forecast demand for our products or services could be affected by many factors, including an increase or decrease in demand for our or our competitors’ products or services, unanticipated changes in general market conditions, and the change in economic conditions.

 

Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial flexibility and our competitive position.

 

We have and expect that we will continue to have a significant amount of debt. As of December 31, 2019, we had approximately R$6,746 million of debt outstanding, consisting of the amounts outstanding under (i) our FIDCs, which are Brazilian investment funds established to purchase and hold receivables, (ii) credit facilities, (iii) a loan with SRC Companhia Securitizadora de Créditos Financeiros and (iv) debentures issued by our wholly-owned subsidiary, Stone Pagamentos S.A. Increases in the level of debt also increases the risk that we may be unable to generate enough cash to pay the amounts due to debtholders. Our indebtedness could have other important consequences and significantly impact our business. For example, it could:

 

· make it more difficult for us to satisfy our obligations;

 

· increase our vulnerability to adverse changes in general economic, industry and competitive conditions;

 

· require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to make payments to debtholders, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures and other general corporate purposes;

 

· limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate;

 

· limit our ability to make material acquisitions or take advantage of business opportunities that may arise;

 

· expose us to fluctuations in interest rates, to the extent our borrowings bear variable rates of interest;

 

· limit our ability to borrow additional funds for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, debt service requirements, execution of our business plan or other general corporate purposes on reasonable terms or at all;

 

· reduce the amount of surplus funds distributable by our subsidiaries to us for use in our business, such as for the payment of debt and dividends to our shareholders; and

 

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· lead us to make additional investments in our subsidiaries if their cash flow from operations is insufficient for them to pay their debts.

 

We may not be able to secure financing on favorable terms, or at all, to meet our future capital needs.

 

We have funded our operations since inception primarily through equity financings, bank credit facilities, and financing arrangements, including through FIDCs, which are Brazilian investment funds established to purchase and hold receivables and debentures. We do not know when or if our operations will generate sufficient cash to fund our ongoing operations. In the future, we may require additional capital to respond to business opportunities, refinancing needs, challenges, acquisitions, or unforeseen circumstances and may decide to engage in equity or debt financings or enter into credit facilities for other reasons, and we may not be able to secure any such additional debt or equity financing or refinancing on favorable terms, in a timely manner, or at all. Any debt financing obtained by us in the future could also include restrictive covenants relating to our capital-raising activities and other financial and operational matters, which may make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities, including potential acquisitions. Our credit facilities and debentures contain restrictive covenants, including customary limitations on the incurrence of certain indebtedness and liens. Our ability to comply with these covenants may be affected by events beyond our control, and breaches of these covenants could result in a default under our credit facilities, debentures and any future financing agreements into which we may enter. If not waived, defaults could cause our outstanding indebtedness under our credit facilities and any future financing agreements that we may enter into under these terms to become immediately due and payable. If we are unable to obtain adequate financing or financing on terms satisfactory to us when we require it, our ability to continue to grow or support our business and to respond to business challenges could be significantly limited. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects.”

 

Our balance sheet includes significant amounts of intangible assets. The impairment of a significant portion of these assets would negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

As of December 31, 2019, our balance sheet includes intangible assets that amount to R$373.7 million. These assets consist primarily of identified intangible assets associated with our acquisitions. We also expect to engage in additional acquisitions, which may result in our recognition of additional intangible assets. Under current accounting standards, we are required to amortize certain intangible assets over the useful life of the asset, while certain other intangible assets are not amortized. On at least an annual basis, we assess whether there have been impairments in the carrying value of certain intangible assets. If the carrying value of the asset is determined to be impaired, then it is written down to fair value by a charge to operating earnings. An impairment of a significant portion of intangible assets could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our holding company structure makes us dependent on the operations of our subsidiaries.

 

We are a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability. Our material assets are our direct and indirect equity interests in our subsidiaries. We are, therefore, dependent upon payments, dividends and distributions from our subsidiaries for funds to pay our holding company’s operating and other expenses and to pay future cash dividends or distributions, if any, to holders of our Class A common shares, and we may have tax costs in connection with any dividend or distribution. Furthermore, exchange rate fluctuation will affect the U.S. dollar value of any distributions our subsidiaries make with respect to our equity interests in those subsidiaries. See “—Risks Relating to Brazil—Exchange rate instability may have adverse effects on the Brazilian economy, us and the price of our Class A common shares,” “Political instability and economic uncertainty in Brazil, including in relation to country-wide corruption probes, may adversely affect the price of our Class A common shares and our business, operations and financial condition” and “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated statements and other financial information—Dividends and dividend policy.”

 

We are subject to the risks associated with less than full control rights of some of our subsidiaries and investors.

 

We own less than 100% of the equity interests or assets of some of our subsidiaries and do not hold controlling interests in some of the entities in which we have invested. As a result, we do not receive the full amount of any profit or cash flow from these non-wholly owned entities and those who hold a controlling interest may be able to take actions that bind us. We may be adversely affected by this lack of full control and we cannot provide assurance

 

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that management of our subsidiaries or other entities will possess the skills, qualifications or abilities necessary to profitably operate such businesses.

 

Risks Relating to Brazil

 

The Brazilian federal government has exercised, and continues to exercise, significant influence over the Brazilian economy. This involvement, as well as Brazil’s political, regulatory, legal and economic conditions, could harm us and the price of our Class A common shares.

 

The Brazilian federal government frequently exercises significant influence over the Brazilian economy and occasionally makes significant changes in policy and regulations. The Brazilian government’s actions to control inflation and other policies and regulations have often involved, among other measures, increases or decreases in interest rates, changes in fiscal policies, wage and price controls, foreign exchange rate controls, blocking access to bank accounts, currency devaluations, capital controls and import and export restrictions. We have no control over and cannot predict what measures or policies the Brazilian government may take in the future and how these can impact us and our business. We and the market price of our securities may be harmed by changes in Brazilian government policies, as well as general economic factors, including, without limitation:

 

· growth or downturn of the Brazilian economy;

 

· interest rates and monetary policies;

 

· exchange rates and currency fluctuations;

 

· inflation;

 

· liquidity of the domestic capital and lending markets;

 

· import and export controls;

 

· exchange controls and restrictions on remittances abroad;

 

· modifications to laws and regulations according to political, social and economic interests;

 

· fiscal policy and changes in tax laws;

 

· economic, political and social instability;

 

· labor and social security regulations;

 

· energy and water shortages and rationing; and

 

· other political, diplomatic, social and economic developments in or affecting Brazil.

 

Uncertainty over whether the Brazilian federal government will implement reforms or changes in policy or regulation affecting these or other factors in the future may affect economic performance and contribute to economic uncertainty in Brazil, which may have an adverse effect on us and our Class A common shares. We cannot predict what measures the Brazilian federal government will take in the face of mounting macroeconomic pressures or otherwise. Recent economic and political instability has led to a negative perception of the Brazilian economy and higher volatility in the Brazilian securities markets, which also may adversely affect us and our Class A common shares. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Results—Significant Factors Affecting our Results of Operations—Macroeconomic environment.”

 

Economic uncertainty and political instability in Brazil may harm us and the price of our Class A common shares.

 

Brazil’s political environment has historically influenced, and continues to influence, the performance of the country’s economy. Political crises have affected and continue to affect the confidence of investors and the general

 

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public, which have historically resulted in economic deceleration and heightened volatility in the securities offered by companies with significant operations in Brazil.

 

The recent economic instability in Brazil has contributed to a decline in market confidence in the Brazilian economy as well as to a deteriorating political environment. In addition, various ongoing investigations into allegations of money laundering and corruption being conducted by the Office of the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor, including the largest such investigation, known as “ Operação Lava Jato ,” have negatively impacted the Brazilian economy and political environment. The potential outcome of these investigations is uncertain, but they have already had an adverse impact on the image and reputation of the implicated companies, and on the general market perception of the Brazilian economy. We cannot predict whether the ongoing investigations will result in further political and economic instability, or if new allegations against government officials and/or executives of private companies will arise in the future.

 

A failure by the Brazilian government to implement necessary reforms may result in diminished confidence in the Brazilian government’s budgetary condition and fiscal stance, which could result in downgrades of Brazil’s sovereign foreign credit rating by credit rating agencies, negatively impact Brazil’s economy, and lead to further depreciation of the real and an increase in inflation and interest rates, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Any of the above factors may create additional political uncertainty, which could harm the Brazilian economy and, consequently, our business, and could adversely affect our financial condition, our results of operations and the price of our Class A common shares.

 

Inflation and certain measures by the Brazilian government to curb inflation have historically harmed the Brazilian economy and Brazilian capital markets, and high levels of inflation in the future could harm our business and the price of our Class A common shares.

 

In the past, Brazil has experienced extremely high rates of inflation. Inflation and some of the measures taken by the Brazilian government in an attempt to curb inflation have had significant negative effects on the Brazilian economy generally. Inflation, policies adopted to curb inflationary pressures and uncertainties regarding possible future government intervention have contributed to economic uncertainty and heightened volatility in the Brazilian economy and capital markets.

 

According to the National Consumer Price Index ( Índice Nacional de Preços ao Consumidor Amplo ), or IPCA, which is published by the IBGE, Brazilian inflation rates were 4.3%, 3.7% and 2.9% in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively. Brazil may experience high levels of inflation in the future and inflationary pressures may lead to the Brazilian government’s intervening in the economy and introducing policies that could harm our business and the price of our Class A common shares. In the past, the Brazilian government’s interventions included the maintenance of a restrictive monetary policy with high interest rates that restricted credit availability and reduced economic growth, causing volatility in interest rates. For example, the official interest rate in Brazil oscillated from 7.00% as of December 31, 2017 to 4.50% as of December 31, 2019, as established by the Monetary Policy Committee ( Comitê de Política Monetária do Banco Central do Brasil —COPOM). On February 5, 2020, the Monetary Policy Committee decided to cut the SELIC rate, or the Brazilian federal funds rate, to 4.25% and on March 18, 2020, down to 3.75%. Conversely, more lenient government and Central Bank policies and interest rate decreases have triggered and may continue to trigger increases in inflation, and, consequently, growth volatility and the need for sudden and significant interest rate increases, which could negatively affect us and increase our indebtedness.

 

Exchange rate instability may have adverse effects on the Brazilian economy, us and the price of our Class A common shares.

 

The Brazilian currency has been historically volatile and has been devalued frequently over the past three decades. Since 1999, the Central Bank has allowed the real/U.S. dollar exchange rate to float freely and during this period, the real/U.S. dollar exchange rate has experienced frequent and substantial variations in relation to the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies. Throughout the past three decades, the Brazilian government has implemented various economic plans and used various exchange rate policies, including sudden devaluations, periodic mini-devaluations (during which the frequency of adjustments has ranged from daily to monthly), exchange controls, dual exchange rate markets and a floating exchange rate system. Although long-term depreciation of the real is generally

 

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linked to the rate of inflation in Brazil, depreciation of the real occurring over shorter periods of time has resulted in significant variations in the exchange rate between the real, the U.S. dollar and other currencies. We cannot predict whether the Central Bank or the Brazilian government will continue to let the real float freely or intervene in the exchange rate market by returning to a currency band system or otherwise. The real may depreciate or appreciate substantially against the U.S. dollar. Furthermore, Brazilian law provides that, whenever there is a serious imbalance in Brazil’s balance of payments or there are substantial reasons to foresee a serious imbalance, temporary restrictions may be imposed on remittances of foreign capital abroad. We cannot assure that such measures will not be taken by the Brazilian government in the future. The real /U.S. dollar exchange rate reported by the Central Bank was R$3.308 per U.S. dollar on December 31, 2017, which reflected a 1.5% depreciation in the real against the U.S. dollar during 2017. The real /U.S. dollar exchange rate reported by the Central Bank was R$3.8748 per U.S.$1.00 on December 31, 2018, which reflected a 17.1% depreciation in the real against the U.S. dollar during 2017. The real /U.S. dollar exchange rate reported by the Central Bank was R$4.030 per U.S.$1.00 on December 31, 2019, which reflected a 4.03% increase in the real against the U.S. dollar during 2018. There can be no assurance that the real will not again depreciate against the U.S. dollar or other currencies in the future.

 

A devaluation of the real relative to the U.S. dollar could create inflationary pressures in Brazil and cause the Brazilian government to, among other measures, increase interest rates. Any depreciation of the real may generally restrict access to the international capital markets. It would also reduce the U.S. dollar value of our results of operations. Restrictive macroeconomic policies could reduce the stability of the Brazilian economy and harm our results of operations and profitability. In addition, domestic and international reactions to restrictive economic policies could have a negative impact on the Brazilian economy. These policies and any reactions to them may harm us by curtailing access to foreign financial markets and prompting further government intervention. A devaluation of the real relative to the U.S. dollar may also, as in the context of the current economic slowdown, decrease consumer spending, increase deflationary pressures and reduce economic growth.

 

On the other hand, an appreciation of the real relative to the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies may deteriorate the Brazilian foreign exchange current accounts. We and certain of our suppliers purchase goods and services from countries outside of Brazil, and thus changes in the value of the U.S. dollar compared to other currencies may affect the costs of goods and services that we purchase. Depending on the circumstances, either devaluation or appreciation of the real relative to the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies could restrict the growth of the Brazilian economy, as well as our business, results of operations and profitability.

 

Infrastructure and workforce deficiency in Brazil may impact economic growth and have a material adverse effect on us.

 

Our performance depends on the overall health and growth of the Brazilian economy. Brazilian GDP growth has fluctuated over the past few years, with contractions of 3.8% in 2015 and 3.3% in 2016, followed by a growth of 1.3% in 2017 and a growth of 1.3% in 2018. In 2019, the Brazilian GDP grew by 1.1%. Growth is limited by inadequate infrastructure, including potential energy shortages and deficient transportation, logistics and telecommunication sectors, general strikes, the lack of a qualified labor force, and the lack of private and public investments in these areas, which limit productivity and efficiency. Any of these factors could lead to labor market volatility and generally impact income, purchasing power and consumption levels, which could limit growth and ultimately have a material adverse effect on us.

 

Developments and the perceptions of risks in other countries, including other emerging markets, the United States and Europe, may harm the Brazilian economy and the price of securities issued by companies operating in Brazil, including the price of our Class A common shares.

 

The market for securities of companies operating in Brazil, including us, is influenced by economic and market conditions in Brazil and, to varying degrees, market conditions in other Latin American and emerging markets, as well as the United States, Europe and other countries and regions. To the extent the conditions of the global markets or economy deteriorate, the business of companies operating in Brazil may be harmed. The weakness in the global economy has been marked by, among other adverse factors, lower levels of consumer and corporate confidence, decreased business investment and consumer spending, increased unemployment, reduced income and asset values in many areas, reduction of China’s growth rate, currency volatility and limited availability of credit and access to capital. Developments or economic conditions in other emerging market countries have at times significantly

 

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affected the availability of credit to companies with significant operations in Brazil and resulted in considerable outflows of funds from Brazil, decreasing the amount of foreign investments in Brazil.

 

Crises and political instability in other emerging market countries, the United States, Europe or other countries could decrease investor demand for securities offered by companies operating in Brazil, such as our Class A common shares. In June 2016, the United Kingdom had a referendum in which the majority voted to leave the European Union (so-called “Brexit”). The announcement of Brexit caused significant volatility in global stock markets and currency exchange rate fluctuations. The United Kingdom formally left the European Union on January 31, 2020, at which point a transition period begun. The United Kingdom is expected to continue to follow certain European Union rules during the transition period; however, the ongoing process of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union will determine the future terms of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union, including access to European Union markets, either during the transitional period or more permanently. We have no control over and cannot predict the effect of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union nor over whether and to which effect any other member state will decide to exit the European Union in the future. These developments, as well as potential crises and forms of political instability arising therefrom or any other as of yet unforeseen development, may harm our business and the price of our Class A common shares.

 

Any further downgrading of Brazil’s credit rating could reduce the trading price of our Class A common shares.

 

We may be harmed by investors’ perceptions of risks related to Brazil’s sovereign debt credit rating. Rating agencies regularly evaluate Brazil and its sovereign ratings, which are based on a number of factors including macroeconomic trends, fiscal and budgetary conditions, indebtedness metrics and the perspective of changes in any of these factors.

 

The rating agencies began to review Brazil’s sovereign credit rating in September 2015. Subsequently, the three major rating agencies downgraded Brazil’s investment-grade status:

 

· In 2015, Standard & Poor’s initially downgraded Brazil’s credit rating from BBB-negative to BB-positive and subsequently downgraded it again from BB-positive to BB, maintaining its negative outlook, citing a worse credit situation since the first downgrade. On January 11, 2018, Standard & Poor’s further downgraded Brazil’s credit rating from BB to BB-negative. On December 11, 2019, Standard & Poor’s revised the outlook on Brazil’s credit rating to positive from stable, which reflects the agency’s expectations that the Brazilian government will be able to continue the implementation of measures to reduce the fiscal deficit.

 

· In December 2015, Moody’s placed Brazil’s Baa3’s issue and bond ratings under review for downgrade and subsequently downgraded the issue and bond ratings to below investment grade, at Ba2 with a negative outlook, citing the prospect of a further deterioration in Brazil’s debt indicators, taking into account the low growth environment and the challenging political scenario. In April 2018, Moody’s maintained Brazil’s credit rating at Ba2 but revised outlook from negative to stable, which it maintained in September 2019, citing expectations of further cuts to government spending.

 

· Fitch initially downgraded Brazil’s sovereign credit rating to BB-positive with a negative outlook in December 2015, citing the rapid expansion of the country’s rapidly expanding budget deficit and the worse-than-expected recession and subsequently downgraded it to BB with a negative outlook in May 2016. In February 2018, Fitch downgraded Brazil’s sovereign credit rating again to BB-negative, citing, among other reasons, fiscal deficits, the increasing burden of public debt and an inability to implement reforms that would structurally improve Brazil’s public finances. The BB-negative rating was reaffirmed in May 2019.

 

Brazil’s sovereign credit rating is currently rated below investment grade by the three main credit rating agencies. Consequently, the prices of securities issued by companies with significant operations in Brazil have been negatively affected.

 

The full consequences of a credit rating downgrade are inherently uncertain, as they depend upon numerous dynamic, complex and inter-related factors and assumptions, including market conditions at the time of any

 

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downgrade. A prolongation or worsening of the current Brazilian recession and continued political uncertainty, among other factors, could lead to further ratings downgrades. We cannot assure you that the rating agencies will maintain their current ratings or outlooks, and such changes could increase our funding costs and adversely affect our results of operations. Any further downgrade of Brazil’s sovereign credit ratings could heighten investors’ perception of risk and, as a result, cause the trading price of our Class A common shares to decline.

 

Internet regulation in Brazil is recent and still limited and several legal issues related to the Internet are uncertain.

 

In 2014, Brazil enacted a law, which we refer to as the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet ( Marco Civil da Internet ), setting forth principles, guarantees, rights and duties for the use of the Internet in Brazil, including provisions about internet service provider liability, internet user privacy and internet neutrality. In May 2016, further regulations were passed in connection with the referred law. The administrative penalties imposed by the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet include notification, fines (up to 10% of the revenues in Brazil of the relevant entity’s economic group in the preceding fiscal year) and suspension or prohibition from engaging in data processing activities. The Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet also determines joint and several liability between foreign parent companies and local Brazilian subsidiaries for the payment of fines that may be imposed for breach of its provisions. Administrative penalties may be applied cumulatively. Daily fines may be imposed in judicial proceedings, as a way to compel compliance with a Brazilian court order. If for any reason a company fails to comply with the court order, the fine can reach significant amounts. We may be subject to liability under these laws and regulations should we fail to adequately comply with the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework.

 

However, unlike in the United States, little case law exists around the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the internet and existing jurisprudence has not been consistent. Legal uncertainty arising from the limited guidance provided by current laws in force allows for different judges or courts to decide very similar claims in different ways and establish contradictory jurisprudence. This legal uncertainty allows for rulings against us and could set adverse precedents, which individually or in the aggregate could seriously harm our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, legal uncertainty may harm our clients’ perception and use of our service.

 

We may face restrictions and penalties under the Brazilian Consumer Protection Code in the future.

 

Brazil has a series of strict consumer protection statutes, collectively known as the Consumer Protection Code ( Código de Defesa do Consumidor ), that are intended to safeguard consumer interests and that apply to all companies in Brazil that supply products or services to Brazilian consumers. These consumer protection provisions include protection against misleading and deceptive advertising, protection against coercive or unfair business practices and protection in the formation and interpretation of contracts, usually in the form of civil liabilities and administrative penalties for violations. These penalties are often levied by the Brazilian Consumer Protection Agencies ( Fundação de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor , or PROCONs), which oversee consumer issues on a district-by-district basis. Companies that operate across Brazil may face penalties from multiple PROCONs, as well as the National Secretariat for Consumers ( Secretaria Nacional do Consumidor , or SENACON). Companies may settle claims made by consumers via PROCONs by paying compensation for violations directly to consumers and through a mechanism that allows them to adjust their conduct, called a conduct adjustment agreement ( Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta or TAC). Brazilian Public Prosecutor Offices may also commence investigations related to consumer rights violations and this TAC mechanism is also available for them. Companies that violate TACs face potential automatic fines. Brazilian Public Prosecutor Offices may also file public civil actions against companies in violation of consumer rights, seeking strict observation of the consumer protection law provisions and compensation for the damages consumers may have suffered.

 

As of December 31, 2019, , we had approximately 229 active proceedings with PROCONs, as well as 409 judicial claims related to Special Civil Court that do not exceed 15,561,990.56 in the aggregate. To the extent these consumers succeed, or further judicial or administrative claims are filed resulting in adverse outcomes for us, we may face reduced revenues due to refunds and the payment of fines for non-compliance, and could negatively impact our results of operations.

 

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Risks Relating to Our Class A Common Shares

 

Sales of substantial amounts of our Class A common shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales may occur, could cause the market price of our Class A common shares to decline.

 

Sales of substantial amounts of our Class A common shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales may occur, could cause the market price of our Class A common shares to decline. This could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our equity securities. Under our Articles of Association, we are authorized to issue up to 630,000,000 shares, of which 277,043,681common shares are outstanding as of April 6, 2020, (comprised of 179,678,729 Class A common shares and 97,364,952 Class B common shares). We cannot predict the size of future issuances of our shares or the effect, if any, that future sales and issuances of shares would have on the market price of our Class A common shares.

 

In addition, we have adopted the Omnibus Equity Plan, under which we have the discretion to grant a broad range of equity-based awards to eligible participants. See “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—B. Compensation—Long-Term Incentive Plans (LTIP) —Omnibus Equity Plan.” We have registered on a Form S-8 registration statement all common shares that we may issue under the Omnibus Equity Plan. As a result, these can be freely sold in the public market upon issuance, subject to volume limitations applicable to affiliates and the lock-up agreements described in “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and articles of association,” and any other applicable restrictions. Sales of these shares in the public market, or the perception that those sales may occur, could cause the prevailing market price to decrease or to be lower than it might be in the absence of those sales or perceptions. Also, if a large number of our Class A common shares or securities convertible into our Class A common shares are sold in the public market after they become eligible for sale, the sales could reduce the trading price of our Class A common shares and impede our ability to raise future capital.

 

Our founder shareholders own, in the aggregate, 78.5% of our outstanding Class B common shares and control all matters requiring shareholder approval. They don´t own any Class A common shares.Our founder shareholders also have the right to nominate a majority of our board and consent rights over certain corporate transactions. This concentration of ownership limits your ability to influence corporate matters.

 

Our founder shareholders own, in the aggregate, 78.5% of our Class B common shares, resulting in their ownership of 27.6% of our outstanding common shares, and, consequently, 66.3% of the combined voting power of our common shares.See “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions—Major shareholders.”

 

These entities, to the extent they act together, control a majority of our voting power and have the ability to control matters affecting, or submitted to a vote of, our shareholders. As a result, these shareholders may be able to elect the members of our board of directors and set our management policies and exercise overall control over us. In addition, we have entered into a shareholders agreement with our founder shareholders pursuant to which we have granted the founder shareholders the right to nominate directors to our board and committees, rights to information, and rights to approve certain of our corporate actions. See “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions—Major shareholders—Shareholders Agreement.” The rights granted pursuant to our shareholders agreement mean that our founder shareholders are able to appoint a majority of our board despite owning a non-proportionate number of common shares and are able to control any transaction involving a merger or change of control until they own less than 15% of the total voting power of our common shares. In addition, our Articles of Association require consent of our founder shareholders before our shareholders are able to take certain actions, including to amend such document. See “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and articles of association—Share Capital” and “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions—Major shareholders” for more information.

 

The interests of these shareholders may conflict with, or differ from, the interests of other holders of our shares. For example, our current controlling shareholders may cause us to make acquisitions that increase the amount of our indebtedness or outstanding shares, sell revenue-generating assets or inhibit change of control transactions that benefit other shareholders. They may also pursue acquisition opportunities for themselves that may be complementary to our business, and as a result, those acquisition opportunities may not be available to us. In addition, the Central Bank may hold our controlling shareholders jointly liable in connection with any regulatory actions against Stone Pagamentos. Such potential liability could cause the interests of our controlling shareholders to differ from other holders of our shares. So long as these shareholders continue to own a substantial number of our

 

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common shares, they will significantly influence all our corporate decisions and together with other shareholders, they may be able to effect or inhibit changes in the control of our company.

 

If securities or industry analysts publish inaccurate or unfavorable research, about our business, the price of our Class A common shares and our trading volume could decline.

 

The trading market for our Class A common shares will depend in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our Class A common shares or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the price of our Class A common shares would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our Class A common shares could decrease, which might cause the price of our Class A common shares and trading volume to decline.

 

We do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future.

 

We currently intend to retain our future earnings, if any, for the foreseeable future, to fund the operation of our business and future growth. We do not intend to pay any dividends to holders of our Class A common shares. As a result, capital appreciation in the price of our Class A common shares, if any, will be your only source of gain on an investment in our Class A common shares.

 

Our dual-class capital structure means our shares will not be included in certain indices. We cannot predict the impact this may have on our share price.

 

In 2017, FTSE Russell, S&P Dow Jones and MSCI announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices to exclude companies with multiple classes of shares of common stock from being added to such indices. FTSE Russell announced plans to require new constituents of its indices to have at least five percent of their voting rights in the hands of public stockholders, whereas S&P Dow Jones announced that companies with multiple share classes, such as ours, will not be eligible for inclusion in the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600, which together make up the S&P Composite 1500. MSCI also opened public consultations on their treatment of no-vote and multi-class structures and has temporarily barred new multi-class listings from its ACWI Investable Market Index and U.S. Investable Market 2500 Index. We cannot assure you that other stock indices will not take a similar approach to FTSE Russell, S&P Dow Jones and MSCI in the future. Under the announced policies, our dual class capital structure would make us ineligible for inclusion in any of these indices and, as a result, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other investment vehicles that attempt to passively track these indices will not invest in our stock. These policies are new and it is unclear what effect, if any, they will have on the valuations of publicly traded companies excluded from the indices, but it is possible that they may depress these valuations compared to those of other similar companies that are included.

 

The disparity in the voting rights among the classes of our shares may have a potential adverse effect on the price of our Class A common shares, and may limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters.

 

Each Class A common share will entitle its holder to one vote per share on all matters submitted to a vote of our shareholders. Each holder of our Class B common shares will be entitled to 10 votes per Class B common share so long as the voting power of Class B common shares is at least 10% of the aggregate voting power of our outstanding common shares on the record date for any general meeting of the shareholders. The difference in voting rights could adversely affect the value of our Class A common shares by, for example, delaying or deferring a change of control or if investors view, or any potential future purchaser of our company views, the superior voting rights of the Class B common shares to have value. Because of the ten-to-one voting ratio between our Class B and Class A common shares, the holders of our Class B common shares collectively will continue to control a majority of the combined voting power of our common shares and therefore be able to control all matters submitted to our shareholders so long as the Class B common shares represent at least 9.1% of all outstanding shares of our Class A and Class B common shares. This concentrated control will limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters for the foreseeable future.

 

Future transfers by holders of Class B common shares will generally result in those shares converting to Class A common shares, subject to limited exceptions, such as certain transfers effected to permitted transferees or for estate planning or charitable purposes. The conversion of Class B common shares to Class A common shares will have the

 

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effect, over time, of increasing the relative voting power of those holders of Class B common shares who retain their shares in the long term. For a description of our dual class structure, see “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and articles of association—Meetings of Shareholders—Voting Rights and Right to Demand a Poll.”

 

We are a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability. The rights of our shareholders may be different from the rights of shareholders governed by the laws of U.S. jurisdictions.

 

We are a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability. Our corporate affairs are governed by our Articles of Association and by the laws of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders and the responsibilities of members of our board of directors may be different from the rights of shareholders and responsibilities of directors in companies governed by the laws of U.S. jurisdictions. In the performance of its duties, the board of directors of a solvent Cayman Islands exempted company is required to consider the company’s interests, and the interests of its shareholders as a whole, which may differ from the interests of one or more of its individual shareholders. See “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and articles of association—Principal Differences between Cayman Islands Corporate Law and U.S. Corporate Law.”

 

As a foreign private issuer we will have different disclosure and other requirements than U.S. domestic registrants and non-emerging growth companies.

 

As a foreign private issuer, we may be subject to different disclosure and other requirements than domestic U.S. registrants. For example, as a foreign private issuer, in the United States, we are not subject to the same disclosure requirements as a domestic U.S. registrant under the Exchange Act, including the requirements to prepare and issue quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or to file current reports on Form 8-K upon the occurrence of specified significant events, the proxy rules applicable to domestic U.S. registrants under Section 14 of the Exchange Act or the insider reporting and short-swing profit rules applicable to domestic U.S. registrants under Section 16 of the Exchange Act. In addition, we rely on exemptions from certain U.S. rules which permit us to follow Cayman Islands legal requirements rather than certain of the requirements that are applicable to U.S. domestic registrants.

 

We follow Cayman Islands laws and regulations that are applicable to Cayman Islands companies. However, Cayman Islands laws and regulations applicable to Cayman Islands companies do not contain any provisions comparable to the U.S. proxy rules, the U.S. rules relating to the filing of reports on Form 10-Q or 8-K or the U.S. rules relating to liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time, as referred to above.

 

Furthermore, foreign private issuers are required to file their annual report on Form 20-F within 120 days after the end of each fiscal year, while U.S. domestic issuers that are accelerated filers are required to file their annual report on Form 10-K within 75 days after the end of each fiscal year. Foreign private issuers are also exempt from Regulation Fair Disclosure, aimed at preventing issuers from making selective disclosures of material information, although we will be subject to Cayman Islands laws and regulations having substantially the same effect as Regulation Fair Disclosure. As a result of the above, even though we are required to file reports on Form 6-K disclosing the limited information which we have made or are required to make public pursuant to Cayman Islands law, or are required to distribute to shareholders generally, and that is material to us, you may not receive information of the same type or amount that is required to be disclosed to shareholders of a U.S. company.

 

Moreover, we are not required to file periodic reports and financial statements with the SEC as frequently or within the same time frames as U.S. companies with securities registered under the Exchange Act. We currently prepare our financial statements in accordance with IFRS. We will not be required to file financial statements prepared in accordance with or reconciled to U.S. GAAP so long as our financial statements are prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB. We are not required to comply with Regulation FD, which imposes restrictions on the selective disclosure of material information to shareholders. In addition, our officers, directors and principal shareholders are exempt from the reporting and short-swing profit recovery provisions of Section 16 of the Exchange Act and the rules under the Exchange Act with respect to their purchases and sales of our securities.

 

We cannot predict if investors will find our Class A common shares less attractive because we will rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our Class A common shares less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our Class A common shares and our share price may be more volatile. See “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and articles of association—Principal Differences between Cayman Islands and U.S. Corporate Law.”

 

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As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to, and we will, rely on exemptions from certain Nasdaq corporate governance standards applicable to U.S. issuers, including the requirement that a majority of an issuer’s directors consist of independent directors. This may afford less protection to holders of our Class A common shares.

 

Section 5605 of Nasdaq equity rules requires listed companies to have, among other things, a majority of their board members be independent, and to have independent director oversight of executive compensation, the nomination of directors and corporate governance matters. As a foreign private issuer, however, we are permitted to, and we will follow home-country practice in lieu of the above requirements.

 

We may lose our foreign private issuer status which would then require us to comply with the Exchange Act’s domestic reporting regime and cause us to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses.

 

In order to maintain our current status as a foreign private issuer, either (a) more than 50% of our outstanding voting securities must be either directly or indirectly owned of record by non-residents of the United States or (b) (i) a majority of our executive officers or directors may not be U.S. citizens or residents, (ii) more than 50% of our assets cannot be located in the United States and (iii) our business must be administered principally outside the United States. If we lose this status, we would be required to comply with the Exchange Act reporting and other requirements applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, which are more detailed and extensive than the requirements for foreign private issuers. We may also be required to make changes in our corporate governance practices in accordance with various SEC and Nasdaq rules. The regulatory and compliance costs to us under U.S. securities laws if we are required to comply with the reporting requirements applicable to a U.S. domestic issuer may be significantly higher than the costs we will incur as a foreign private issuer.

 

Our shareholders may face difficulties in protecting their interests because we are a Cayman Islands exempted company.

 

Our corporate affairs are governed by our Articles of Association, by the Companies Law (as amended) of the Cayman Islands, or “Cayman Companies Law,” and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors under the laws of the Cayman Islands are not as clearly defined as under statutes or judicial precedent in existence in jurisdictions in the United States. Therefore, you may have more difficulty protecting your interests than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a jurisdiction in the United States, due to the comparatively less formal nature of Cayman Islands law in this area.

 

While Cayman Islands law allows a dissenting shareholder to express the shareholder’s view that a court-sanctioned reorganization of a Cayman Islands company would not provide fair value for the shareholder’s shares, Cayman Islands statutory law does not specifically provide for shareholder appraisal rights in connection with a merger or consolidation of a company effected by a scheme of arrangement of a company. This may make it more difficult for you to assess the value of any consideration you may receive in such a merger or consolidation or to require that the acquirer gives you additional consideration if you believe the consideration offered is insufficient. However, Cayman Islands statutory law provides a mechanism for a dissenting shareholder in a statutory merger or consolidation to apply to the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, or the “Grand Court” for a determination of the fair value of the dissenter’s shares if it is not possible for the company and the dissenter to agree on a fair price within the time limits prescribed.

 

Shareholders of Cayman Islands exempted companies (such as us) have no general rights under Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records and accounts or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders. Our directors have discretion under our Articles of Association to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder motion or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.

 

Under Cayman Islands’ law, a minority shareholder may bring a derivative action against the board of directors only in very limited circumstances, or seek to wind up the company on a just and equitable ground. Class actions are not recognized in the Cayman Islands, but groups of shareholders with identical interests may bring representative proceedings, which are similar.

 

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Under Cayman Islands statutory law, a transferee to a scheme or contract involving the transfer of shares in a Cayman Islands company, which has been approved by holders of not less than 90% in value of the shares affected, has the power to compulsorily acquire the shares of any dissenting shareholders. An objection to such acquisition can be made to the Grand Court by any dissenting shareholder but this is unlikely to succeed in the case of an offer which has been so approved unless there is evidence of fraud, bad faith or collusion. A Cayman Islands company may also propose a compromise or arrangement with its shareholders or any class of them. If a majority in number, representing at least 75% in value, of shareholders agrees to the compromise or arrangement then, subject to Grand Court approval of the same, it is binding on all of the shareholders. A shareholder may appear at the Grand Court hearing by which the company seeks the Grand Court’s approval of the compromise or arrangement to oppose it.

 

United States civil liabilities and certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.

 

We are a Cayman Islands exempted company and substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States. In addition, the majority of our directors and officers are nationals and residents of countries other than the United States. A substantial portion of the assets of these persons is located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult to effect service of process within the United States upon these persons. It may also be difficult to enforce in judgments obtained in U.S. courts based on the civil liability provisions of U.S. federal securities laws against us and our officers and directors who are not resident in the United States.

 

Further, it is unclear if original actions predicated on civil liabilities based solely upon U.S. federal securities laws are enforceable in courts outside the United States, including in the Cayman Islands and Brazil. Courts of the Cayman Islands may not, in an original action in the Cayman Islands, recognize or enforce judgments of U.S. courts predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the securities laws of the United States or any state of the United States on the grounds that such provisions are penal in nature. Although there is no statutory enforcement in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, courts of the Cayman Islands will recognize and enforce a foreign judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction if such judgment is final, for a liquidated sum, provided it is not in respect of taxes or a fine or penalty, is not inconsistent with a Cayman Islands’ judgment in respect of the same matters, and is not impeachable under Cayman Islands law for fraud, being in breach of public policy of the Cayman Islands or being contrary to natural justice. In addition, a Cayman Islands court may stay proceedings if concurrent proceedings are being brought elsewhere.

 

Judgments of Brazilian courts to enforce our obligations with respect to our Class A common shares may be payable only in reais.

 

Most of our assets are located in Brazil. If proceedings are brought in the courts of Brazil seeking to enforce our obligations in respect of our Class A common shares, we may not be required to discharge our obligations in a currency other than the real . Under Brazilian exchange control laws, an obligation in Brazil to pay amounts denominated in a currency other than the real may only be satisfied in Brazilian currency at the exchange rate, as determined by the Central Bank, in effect on the date the enforcement of the judgment in Brazil is obtained, and such amounts are then adjusted to reflect exchange rate variations through the effective payment date. The then-prevailing exchange rate may not fully compensate non-Brazilian investors for any claim arising out of or related to our obligations under the Class A common shares.

 

The Cayman Islands Economic Substance Law may affect our operations.

 

The Cayman Islands has recently enacted the International Tax Co-operation (Economic Substance) Law (2020 Revision), or the Cayman Economic Substance Law. We are required to comply with the Cayman Economic Substance Law. As we are a Cayman Islands company, compliance obligations include filing annual notifications for the Company, which need to state whether we are carrying out any relevant activities and if so, whether we have satisfied economic substance tests to the extent required under the Cayman Economic Substance Law. As it is a new regime, it is anticipated that the Cayman Economic Substance Law will evolve and be subject to further clarification and amendments. We may need to allocate additional resources to keep updated with these developments, and may have to make changes to our operations in order to comply with all requirements under the Cayman Economic Substance Law. Failure to satisfy these requirements may subject us to penalties under the Cayman Economic Substance Law.

 

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European Union Tax Decisions.

 

On February 18, 2020, it was announced that the Cayman Islands has been placed on the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions published by the European Union, for tax purposes. The Cayman Islands government issued a press release on February 18, 2020 affirming that the jurisdiction introduced appropriate legislative changes on February 7, 2020 relating to the European Union’s criteria, but that the listing appears to stem from such legislation not being enacted by February 4, 2020, which was the date of the European Union’s Code of Conduct Group meeting to advise the European Union Finance Ministers prior to the Finance Ministers’ decision regarding the listing on February 18, 2020. The Cayman Islands government press release states that the Cayman Islands remains fully committed to cooperating with the European Union, and will continue to constructively engage with them with the view to be delisted as soon as possible. It is unclear as to whether the Cayman Islands being placed on such list will have a significant, or any, effect on us.

 

There could be adverse tax consequences for our U.S. shareholders if we are a passive foreign investment company.

 

U.S. shareholders of passive foreign investment companies are subject to potentially adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences. In general, a non-U.S. corporation is a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for any taxable year in which (i) 75% or more of its gross income consists of passive income; or (ii) 50% or more of the average quarterly value of its assets consists of assets that produce, or are held for the production of, passive income. For purposes of the above calculations, a non-U.S. corporation that owns, directly or indirectly, at least 25% by value of the shares of another corporation is treated as if it held its proportionate share of the assets of the other corporation and received directly its proportionate share of the income of the other corporation.  Cash is a passive asset for these purposes.

 

Based on the expected composition of our income and assets, including goodwill, we do not believe that we were a PFIC with respect to our 2019 taxable year. However, our PFIC status is a factual determination that is made on an annual basis. Because our PFIC status for any taxable year will depend on the manner in which we operate our business, the composition of our income and assets and the value of our assets from time to time, there can be no assurance that we will not be a PFIC for any taxable year. In particular, although we consider ourselves to be actively engaged in an active business, it is not entirely clear how certain of our income will be treated for purposes of the PFIC rules. Certain of our income may be treated as passive income, unless such income is eligible for an exception for income derived in the active conduct of a financing business under Section 954(h) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, (the “Active Financing Exception”), and related assets may be considered passive assets unless the Active Financing Exception applies. We believe that the Active Financing Exception, as interpreted by recently proposed Treasury regulations, should apply to treat such income and related assets as active, but such treatment is not certain. Moreover, while the proposed Treasury regulations permit taxpayers to rely on them, it is possible that the Treasury Department will not follow the approach of the proposed regulations when issuing final regulations, in which case the Active Financing Exception might not apply to our income and it is possible that we could be treated as a PFIC.

 

If we are a PFIC, U.S. holders would be subject to certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences as discussed under “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations for U.S. Holders.” Investors should consult their own tax advisors regarding all aspects of the application of the PFIC rules.

 

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ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

 

A. History and development of the company

 

We are a leading provider of financial technology solutions that empower merchants and integrated partners to conduct electronic commerce seamlessly across in-store, online, and mobile channels in Brazil. We have developed a strong client-centric culture that seeks to delight our clients rather than simply providing them with a solution or service. To achieve this, we created a proprietary, go-to-market approach called the  Stone Business Model , which enables us to control the client experience and ensure that interactions are provided by our people or our technology. The  Stone Business Model  combines our advanced, end-to-end, cloud-based technology platform; differentiated hyper-local and integrated distribution approach; and white-glove, on-demand customer service, each of which is described below.

 

(1) Advanced, End-to-End, Cloud-Based Technology Platform— We designed our cloud-based technology platform to (i) help our clients connect, get paid and grow their businesses, while meeting the complex and rapidly changing demands of omni-channel commerce; and (ii) overcome long-standing inefficiencies within the Brazilian payments market. Our platform enables us to develop, host and deploy our solutions very quickly. We also sell our solutions to integrated partners such as Payment Service Providers, or PSPs, which are firms that contract with a merchant to provide them with payment acceptance solutions, and marketplaces to empower merchants to conduct commerce more effectively in Brazil.

 

(2) Differentiated Hyper-Local and Integrated Distribution— We developed our distribution solution to proactively reach and serve our clients in a more effective manner. In particular, we developed Stone Hubs, which are local operations close to our clients that include an integrated team of sales, service, and operations support staff to reach small-and medium-sized businesses or SMBs, locally and efficiently, and to build stronger relationships with them. We also have a specialized in-house sales team that serves online merchants and digital service providers with dedicated expertise. We also work with integrated partners, such as ISVs, to embed our solutions into their offerings and enable their merchants to accept payments seamlessly and easily.

 

(3) White-Glove, On-Demand Customer Service— We created our on-demand customer service team to support our clients quickly, conveniently, and with high-quality service designed to strengthen our customer relationships and improve their lifetime value with us. Our customer service approach combines (i) a Human Connection , through which we seek to address our clients’ service needs in a single phone call using a qualified team of technically trained agents; (ii) Proximity , through our Green Angels team of local support personnel who can serve our clients in person within minutes or hours, instead of days or weeks; and (iii) Technology , through a range of self-service tools and proprietary artificial intelligence, or AI, that help our clients manage their operations more conveniently and enable our agents to proactively address merchant needs, sometimes before they are even aware of an issue.

 

The Stone Business Model is disruptive and has enabled us to gain significant traction in only five years since the launch of our service. In 2019 and 2018, we were the largest independent merchant acquirer in Brazil and the fourth largest based on total volume in Brazil according to data from public sources. In 2017, we became the first non-bank entity to obtain authorization from the Central Bank of Brazil to operate as a Merchant Acquirer Payments Institution. In the same year, we grew our total net revenue and income to R$766.6 million, an increase of 74.3% from 2016, and in 2018, we increased our total net revenue and income to R$1,579.2 million, an increase of 106.0% from 2017. Finally, in 2019, we grew our total revenue and income to R$2,576.0 million, an increase of 63.1% compared to 2018. We have managed this rapid growth while maintaining high-quality service and obtaining high NPS scores. As of August 2018, we had an NPS of 65, the highest NPS among our peers in our key markets in Brazil, according to a study comparing industry participants performed by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, or IBOPE. As of the fourth quarter 2019, our NPS, measured internally, was 68, which shows our continued focus on maintaining our very high service standards to our clients.

 

We served over 495,100 active clients in Brazil as of December 31, 2019, including digital and brick-and-mortar merchants of varying sizes and types, although our focus is primarily on targeting the approximately 8.8 million SMBs. We believe these merchants have been historically underserved and overcharged by traditional

 

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bank and legacy providers that use older technology, less effective distribution networks through bank branches, and outsourced customer service and logistics support vendors. We also served 116 integrated partners as of December 31, 2019, which use or embed our solutions into their own offerings to enable their customers to conduct commerce more conveniently in Brazil. These integrated partners include global PSPs, digital marketplaces and ISVs.

 

We provide our clients with a powerful combination of solutions that help facilitate their in-store, online and mobile commerce activities, and empower them to:

 

· Connect More Effectively —Our solutions allow our clients to connect more effectively by integrating and connecting to our cloud-based technology platform using simple and convenient APIs. These solutions provide powerful gateway services to encrypt, route, and decrypt transactions, and PSP solutions to onboard merchants and connect integrated partners.

 

· Get Paid Quickly and Easily —We offer payment and digital account solutions to help our clients facilitate and manage their payments:

 

· Payment Solutions: Payment collection is streamlined by accepting numerous forms of electronic payments and APMs such as boletos , and conducting a wide range of transactions in brick-and-mortar and digital storefronts in a quick and user-friendly manner. We also provide digital product enhancements to help our merchants improve their consumers’ experience, such as our split-payment processing, multi-payment processing, recurring payments for subscriptions, and one-click buy functionality.

 

· Digital Account Solutions: We can offer our clients a digital account, which can be integrated to the POS and allows our clients to receive and make payments, issue boletos , pay taxes, all in a cost-effective and user-friendly way.

 

· Grow Your Business —We have the ability to grow our clients’ businesses by automating and streamlining business processes at the point of sale for digital checkout. These solutions help our clients run their businesses more effectively and in an integrated manner. Our growth solutions include:

 

· Software Solutions: POS and ERP software, reconciliation, customer relationship management reporting tools that provide greater control, transparency of information, insights into their daily operations and consumer engagement, and facilitate brick and mortar stores to sell online.

 

· SMB Capital Solutions: we help our clients manage their working capital needs and effectively plan for the future by offering them prepayment financing options. These provide clients with transparency and control over their receivables and enable them to manage their cash flow to help their businesses grow.

 

· SMB Credit Solutions: we can also provide our clients with credit if they need further funding to grow their businesses beyond the working capital solutions that we provide. We leverage our client data to offer this solution in a proactive and cost-effective way. Once onboarded, our clients can access credit through multiple channels including our merchant portal in a simple and transparent way. Our credit offering enables our clients to pay back their loans effortlessly through the automatic retention of a percentage of their sales. We are in the initial stages of our credit offering and as of January 2020, we had 28,600 clients with the credit offering.

 

We distribute our solutions primarily through proprietary Stone Hubs. These hubs are located in small and medium-sized cities, or suburban areas of larger cities, and are designed to provide hyper-local sales and services and high-quality, on-demand support to SMB merchants within the hub’s designated area of operations. Our hubs may share an office depending on the size of the area served. We believe this approach enables us to provide a superior customer experience to our clients and is a key part of our go-to-market strategy. We had over 350 operational proprietary Stone Hubs in December 2019, and we are currently growing our hubs’ footprint to maximize our presence in Brazil and provide sales coverage to the country’s approximately 5,500 cities with a total population of 210.1 million.

 

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Our in-house customer relationship team supports all of our clients. We equip our customer relationship team with the tools and technologies to resolve our clients’ needs, often in a single phone call. We have a strong focus on using first-call resolution as a key performance indicator of our customer support operation. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 87% of our clients who called our customer relationship team had their problems resolved on the first call.

 

We generate revenues based on fees we charge for the services we provide. These include (i) payment processing fees related to transaction activities and other services (which are typically charged as a percentage of the transaction amount or as a fixed amount per transaction), (ii) financial income related to prepayment financing fees and interest/fees related to our credit solutions and (iii) subscription and equipment rental fees. These accounted for 29.9%, 50.0% and 12.9%, respectively, of our revenues in 2019. The following is a summary of our key operational and financial highlights:

 

· In 2019, we generated R$2,576.0 million of total revenue and income, compared to R$1,579.2 million of total revenue and income in 2018, representing annual growth of 63.1%.

 

· As of December 31, 2019, we served approximately 495,100 active clients, compared to approximately 269,100 as of December 31, 2018, representing 84.0% annual growth.

 

· In 2019, we generated net income of R$804.2 million and adjusted net income of R$857.1 million, compared to R$305.2 million and R$342.8 million in 2018, respectively. See “Presentation of Financial and Other Information” and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating results” for a reconciliation of adjusted net income (loss) to our profit (loss) for the period.

 

· In 2019, we processed TPV of R$129.1 billion, compared to R$83.4 billion in 2018, representing 54.8% annual growth.

 

B. Business overview

 

The Stone Business Model

 

We go to market and empower our clients to conduct commerce more effectively by utilizing our proprietary Stone Business Model , which we believe provides our clients with a range of new capabilities and a differentiated customer experience compared to our competitors.

 

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As illustrated above, the Stone Business Model is based on three key pillars, which are supported by our client-centric, entrepreneurial culture:

 

(1) Advanced, End-to-End Cloud-Based Technology Platform —We developed our fully-integrated and end-to-end Stone Technology Platform to provide seamless omni-channel capabilities for in-store commerce, e-commerce and mobile commerce. The advanced nature of our platform enables us to make traditionally complex and cumbersome tasks more simple and user-friendly, which we believe gives us significant competitive and operating advantages. We use our technology platform to:

 

· Provide Simple API-Based Integrations —We help our e-commerce merchants and integrated partners connect to us easily and conveniently. We provide a combination of online gateway services, and PSP solutions, through simple and convenient API integrations. Our Mundipagg gateway serves some of the largest e-commerce merchants in Brazil in terms of gross merchandise value and our Pagar.me PSP platform serves some of the largest marketplaces in terms of gross merchandise value and fastest growing e-commerce merchants in Brazil. We also enable key global PSPs and specialized ISVs to conduct commerce in the Brazilian market through a simple integration with our technologies. Finally, our API technology enables our company to easily integrate new products to our platform.

 

· Develop and Deploy Our Solutions —We use our technology platform to develop, host, manage and deploy all of our commerce-enabling solutions to help our clients connect, get paid and grow their businesses with differentiated capabilities. For example, we offer them the ability to complete transactions through: (1) a mobile payment link using SMS and WhatsApp messaging; (2) multi-buyer functionality, where the bill can be shared among buyers, and multi-payment functionality, where a bill can be split among different payment methods; and (3) a frictionless checkout solution that significantly improves conversion rates for e-commerce transactions.

 

· Process Transactions Completely End-to-End —We capture payment credentials through our software and devices, encrypt and tokenize data via our gateway solutions, authorize and process transactions, and complete the clearing and settlement process on a single, integrated platform, without the need for third-party vendors. For example, our digital banking solution is directly integrated to the Central Bank system

 

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which enables us to make deposits without the need for an intermediary bank. This enables us to capture value across the payment chain, maintain control of the transaction data, increase efficiency, and operate with a lower cost base. This end-to-end functionality provides our clients with a single, integrated service that we believe is more secure, effective, and convenient than doing business with multiple vendors.

 

· Run and Optimize Our Operations —Given its fully digital DNA, our technology platform is able to aggregate data and utilize advanced technologies, such as AI and machine learning tools across our enterprise. These capabilities provide differentiated operating advantages internally, and competitive advantages externally. For example, we developed specialized technology that enables our salespeople to evaluate, document and onboard new merchants in minutes, using fully digital applications. We also use client interaction data captured in our proprietary CRM platform and AI algorithms to help better understand our clients’ cash flow needs (for example, when they have supplier payments due, payroll outflows, etc.) and provide them with funding solutions that match their working capital needs.

 

(2) Differentiated Hyper-Local and Integrated Distribution —Our distribution model was created to address the main gaps we believe existed in the Brazilian market. The key elements of our distribution are:

 

· Hyper-Local Distribution —We deliver our solutions to SMBs throughout Brazil, using hyper-local Stone Hubs that serve and support our clients in an integrated manner close to where they live and work, instead of through bank branches like many of our competitors. We refer to our salespeople as Stone Agents because they are highly-trained and focused on serving our client-centric mission. We believe that this approach enables us to provide a superior customer experience than that of our peers and is a key part of our go-to-market strategy. We had over 350 operational proprietary Stone Hubs in December 2019 and we are currently growing this base in order to reach and serve additional clients across Brazil.

 

· Integrated Partner Distribution —We enable a range of ISVs and marketplaces to connect to our Stone Technology Platform through a simple integration and embed our solutions into their offerings that enable their merchants to accept payments seamlessly and easily. Given the specialization of our APIs, the efficiency of our software, and the flexible nature of our platform, we believe we eliminate many of the cumbersome tasks associated with integrating to traditional technology platforms.

 

· Specialized E-Commerce Distribution —We have a proprietary sales team, which we call our Special Services, to serve online merchants and digital service providers with specialized e-commerce expertise. This team understands the unique characteristics and needs of the Brazilian e-commerce market and aims to help us provide solutions that address specific client needs.

 

(3) White-Glove, On-Demand Customer Service —We support our clients and solutions with fast, convenient, and high-quality customer support that we believe is highly differentiated in Brazil. Our customer service approach is designed to continuously strengthen our client relationships and increase the long-term value of our client relationship, and it has enabled us to achieve the highest NPS among our peers in our key markets in Brazil according to an August 2018 study prepared by IBOPE. In the fourth quarter 2019, we have maintained this very high service standards as shown by our internally measured NPS, which stood at 68 in the period. Our on-demand customer service combines three key elements, that include:

 

(4) Human Connection —We have a centralized, in-house customer relationship team of technically trained agents equipped with the data, technology, and autonomy to resolve our clients’ needs. First-call resolution is a key performance indicator of our customer support operation, and in the fourth quarter 2019, 87% of our clients who called our customer relationship team had their issues resolved on the first call. 95% of these calls were answered within 20 seconds and 90% were rated as “excellent” by our clients, in each case according to our internal surveys.

 

· Proximity —We deploy a team of local, specialized personnel, called Green Angels, inside each of our Stone Hubs and close to our clients, who provide on-demand support. Once we become aware of an issue, our Green Angels commonly travel by motorcycle and reach our clients within minutes or hours to help a client in need—rather than taking days or weeks and using the mail service or a third-party logistics company to deliver terminals and other items as other providers in our market do.

 

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· Technology —Our customer service system integrates real-time data from our authorization and processing systems, salesforce management applications, and logistics management systems, to provide a comprehensive understanding of our clients. We use predictive modeling of merchant behavior to proactively identify customer service issues and deploy our Green Angels to provide on-demand support. We also offer a range of self-service tools that help our clients manage their operations more conveniently. For example, we have developed the Stone Merchant Portal, which enables our clients to access their detailed sales and payments information and perform a range of self-service functions rather than having to call a bank manager or call center. We also provide similar self-service functions through other technology touch-points, such as our merchant mobile app and our Mamba POS terminal operating system.

 

Our Markets

 

Merchant Acquiring Market Overview

 

We operate in Brazil, which is a large and fast-growing market for financial technology solutions. According to IBGE, Brazil GDP and Private Consumption Expenditures in 2019 were R$7.3 trillion and R$4.7 trillion, respectively, up from R$6.8 trillion and R$4.4 trillion, respectively, in 2018. According to Statista, retail e-commerce sales in Brazil excluding digitally distributed services and digital media downloads were approximately R$61.8 billion (based on the December 31, 2017 exchange rate) in 2017 and are expected to grow to approximately R$104.8 billion (based on the December 31, 2017 exchange rate) by 2022, representing a compound annual growth rate of 11%. According to the World Payments Report 2019, Brazil is the fourth largest market in the world for non-cash transaction volumes. The payments market has continued to grow and demonstrate resiliency to macroeconomic fluctuations in Brazil. During Brazil’s most recent economic recession from 2014 to 2017, nominal GDP grew at a compound growth of 4.3%, according to the World Bank. During the same period, electronic payments volume grew at a compound annual growth rate of 8.1%, according to ABECS.

 

Despite Brazil’s large size, we believe its payments market remains less penetrated and has greater growth upside than more mature economies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as summarized in the graph below. For example:

 

· According to the World Bank and ABECS, electronic payments volume represented 28.4% of total household consumption in Brazil in 2016. This penetration percentage is lower than comparable measures of 46.0% and 68.6%, respectively, in the United States and the United Kingdom, during the same period, according to data from the World Bank and the Bank for International Settlements, or BIS.

 

· According to the World Bank, 27.0% of the Brazilian population aged 15 and above had a credit card in 2017, compared to 65.6% in the United States and 65.4% in the United Kingdom.

 

· We believe Brazil has an increased opportunity for growth in digital payments compared to more mature economies. According to the World Bank, in 2017, 17.6% of the Brazilian population aged 15 and above used the internet to pay bills or made online purchases over the previous year, compared to 77.2% in the United States and 80.7% in the United Kingdom.

 

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Merchant Acquiring Market Share

 

We estimate that the Brazilian merchant acquiring industry processed R$1.8 trillion in TPV during 2019, based on ABECS data for the nine months ended September 2019, and we estimate our market share for the fourth quarter

 

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2019 at 7.6%, growing from 6.0% in the fourth quarter 2018. In terms of sales, we estimate Brazilian merchant acquirers posted more than R$20 billion in total revenue in 2018, based on total revenue reported by the five largest merchant acquirers in 2018 and an estimate for the other players.

 

 

New Markets

 

As we expand our capabilities to serve merchants with additional solutions, we enter new markets in Brazil such as retail management software, banking services and credit solutions. We have already started to offer software solutions to our clients, which is aimed at helping our merchants manage their business. According to International Data Corporation 2018, the market potential for retail management software in Brazil was R$9.5 billion in 2017, considering a higher penetration of software in the SMB and micro-merchant segments. Our digital banking account solution targets a market of approximately R$10 billion for 2018, based on our internal estimate for SMB clients, considering the revenue generated by the Brazilian top five banks in 2018 with checking account services. On credit solutions, we estimate the market at R$75 billion in 2018, based on our internal estimate for SMBs, considering Brazilian Central Bank data on non-targeted loans multiplied by the average spread discounted the default rate.

 

Combined, the new markets we are targeting are five times larger than merchant acquiring alone. While we estimate we have 7.6% market share in merchant acquiring for the fourth quarter of 2019, we have not yet reached scale on new solutions.

 

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Our Ecosystem

 

The ecosystem of participants in our market includes a broad range of parties who we serve, partner with, and compete against. These include:

 

· Consumers —According to IBGE, there were 210.1 million people in Brazil in 2019, of which 165.8 million were aged 15 years or older. According to the Brazilian Tourism Ministry, there were 6.6 million foreign visitors who traveled to Brazil in 2018. Assuming the number of tourists to Brazil remained the same in 2019, we believe there were over 172 million consumers in Brazil in 2019.

 

· Merchants —According to Neoway, a market data service, as of June 2018, there were 14.3 million total businesses in Brazil in segments that we believe represent a material market opportunity for electronic

 

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payments. According to the Neoway database, these businesses are categorized according to their annual gross revenues, as follows:

 

· Large Businesses —Large businesses are businesses with annual gross revenues above R$78 million. There are over 5,300 large businesses in Brazil. We believe the majority of these are large merchants that use in-store, online, and mobile channels to conduct commerce.

 

· Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB) — annual gross revenues between R$81 thousand and R$78 million. There are approximately 8.8 million SMBs in Brazil. We believe the majority of these are SMB merchants that conduct commerce primarily through brick-and-mortar storefronts and are increasingly adopting e-commerce and mobile channels to sell goods and services. SMBs represent the focus of our strategy within the Stone Business Model.

 

· Micro-Businesses —Micro-businesses are businesses with annual gross revenues below R$81 thousand. There are approximately 5.5 million micro-businesses in Brazil. We believe the majority of these are micro-merchants that either do not have storefronts or have very small operations. These micro-merchants are increasingly adopting simple, low-cost electronic commerce applications delivered through mobile devices, or mPOS, which are increasingly being offered by a growing number of vendors since they are relatively easy to develop and deploy.

 

· POS Vendors —These are hardware and software vendors, such as VeriFone, Ingenico, PAX, and Gertec, who develop and sell point-of-sale terminals to financial institutions, payment processors, and larger merchants.

 

· Software Vendors —These are software developers who create a range of software solutions that merchants use to run their businesses at the point-of-sale, in their daily operations, and in their back-office functions. These can be sold individually or as integrated solutions that include:

 

· Point-of-Sale Software , which enables a merchant to facilitate and manage commercial transactions with consumers;

 

· Business Automation Software , which enables a merchant to manage its daily front-of-house operations, including scheduling appointments or reservations, transaction ordering, fulfillment, customer relationship management and inventory management; and

 

· ERP Software , which enables a merchant to manage its back-office functions, such as data reconciliation, financial reporting, accounting, payroll, and supply chain management.

 

· Payment Processors —These are financial technology vendors that perform a range of functions to facilitate the acceptance, encryption, routing, decryption, processing, clearing, and settlement of an electronic commercial transaction, and provide the necessary customer support functions to maintain the technology and service. These include:

 

· Merchant Acquirers — which are licensed firms that contract with a merchant to provide them with payment acceptance solutions and technology, and then facilitate the processing, clearing and settlement of each electronic transaction. There are different types of merchant acquirers in Brazil, including bank-owned acquirers, such as Rede and GetNet, bank-controlled acquirers such as Cielo, and independent merchant acquirers like us.

 

· Payment Services Providers — which are firms, also known as PSPs, that contract with a merchant to provide them with payment acceptance solutions. PSPs typically focus on selling through online or mobile channels and provide a front-end customer facing solution. PSPs then partner with a licensed merchant acquirer to facilitate the processing, clearing, and settlement of each transaction.

 

· Networks — which are firms that create rules and standards, and provide transaction routing or switching services that help facilitate transactions between financial institutions across disparate

 

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ecosystems and geographies. These include global brands such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express, as well as local brands such as Elo and Hipercard.

 

· Financial Institutions — which are banks and other licensed vendors of financial services that provide a range of services to consumers, merchants, and other financial institutions. These firms provide financial accounts, such as checking and savings accounts, issue bank cards, such as credit, debit, and prepaid cards, and offering revolving credit lines and loans. These include: (1) state-owned banks, such as Banco do Brasil, Caixa Economica Federal, and Banrisul; (2) private banks, such as Bradesco, Itaú-Unibanco, Votorantim, Safra, and BTG Pactual; and (3) foreign banks, such as Banco Santander.

 

Key Market Trends

 

We beli e ve there are various important trends that are impacting the growth and market opportunity for our services in Brazil. These include:

 

· Increasing Use of Electronic Commerce —Commerce in Brazil is increasingly being transacted through electronic accounts, such as credit, debit, and prepaid cards, eWallets, and mobile devices instead of cash and checks.

 

· Increasing Shift to Digital Channels —Consumers and merchants are increasingly conducting commerce through digital channels online and through mobile devices.

 

· Growing Use of Omni-Channel Commerce —As a result of the growing use of electronic commerce and the increasing shift to digital channels, consumers and merchants are increasingly conducting commerce across more than one channel. Businesses are responding to increased consumer spending online and through mobile devices by increasing their e-commerce and mobile commerce capabilities.

 

· Expanding Use of Technology at the POS —As the costs of technology have decreased in Brazil, access to the internet has increased, and software has become easier to use, merchants are using more solutions, such as smart POS devices, integrated POS terminals, mobile devices, and specialized software applications to run their front-of-house operations and back-office functions.

 

· Deployment of Technology Services is Changing —As a result of the growing use of omni-channel commerce and the expanding use of technology at the POS in Brazil, service providers are increasingly deploying technology in new ways, including through: (1) cloud-based solutions; (2) integrated software solutions; (3) mobile devices; and (4) third-party applications.

 

· Deployment of Financial Services is Changing —As a result of these trends, the deployment of financial services is also changing. More financial services are being provided outside of traditional bank branches, such as at the point-of-sale or online, and more financial services are being provided by non-bank firms that are using technology to deliver these services more efficiently and conveniently.

 

· More Open Regulatory Environment The regulatory environment for the payments industry in Brazil has undergone significant changes in the past few years due to a concerted effort by the Central Bank and the Brazilian government to foster innovation and promote more open and fair competition. In 2010, the Central Bank and antitrust authorities initiated a series of measures that eliminated the exclusivity of certain vendors and opened up the market to new entrants. Since then, a new regulatory framework has been developed and government authorities have been fostering competition. We believe this has created an attractive environment for innovative financial technology providers, such as us, to continue to disrupt the market, bring better solutions to clients, and grow our market share.

 

· Growing Market in Small and Medium-Sized Cities —We believe the incremental growth of electronic payments in Brazil will be significantly driven by commerce in small and medium cities. According to a 2015 McKinsey report, small and medium cities with populations between 20,000 and 500,000 inhabitants will account for more than 50% of total consumer spending growth in Brazil between 2015 and 2025. We believe this spending growth will be compounded by the continued shift to electronic payments to generate above-market growth rates for electronic payment volumes in Brazil.

 

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Key Market Challenges

 

As a result of these trends, we believe our market is undergoing significant change and our ecosystem is adapting to a number of business, technical, and service challenges. We believe these challenges are also creating new opportunities for disruption and the deployment of new solutions and business models. These challenges include the need for:

 

· New Business Models To Serve Clients —As consumers and merchants increasingly adopt new technologies to conduct commerce and migrate towards digital channels, new approaches and business models are required to meet the demand for faster, safer, and more convenient commerce-enabling solutions. For example, we believe current models that sell payment acceptance solutions through traditional bank branches are outdated and provide a poor client experience for business owners. Bank sales representatives are not specialized in payment acceptance solutions, and as a result, they lack advanced knowledge of how new technologies can impact the merchant point-of-sale. In addition, the client onboarding and fulfillment processes through bank branches can take weeks to finalize.

 

· An Effective Way to Reach SMBs Across 5,500 Cities —Brazil’s large geographic size can create logistical difficulties for SMBs to conduct commerce, such as slow delivery times and slow, inconsistent customer support. In addition, local infrastructure and customs for conducting commerce can vary across regions. As a result, we believe merchants are increasingly looking for commerce-enabling solutions, with consistent, high-quality service and quick, on-demand support, that meet the needs of their specific region.

 

· More Seamless Omni-Channel Capabilities —As consumers and merchants in Brazil increasingly connect across multiple channels, in-store, online and on mobile devices, they are demanding better integrated and more seamless shopping and selling experiences. We believe merchants in particular are looking for solutions that enable them to manage their various commercial activities across channels on a single platform. For example, most vendors in Brazil typically sell, manage, and process their point-of-sale and online solutions separately and on different platforms because they use older legacy technology platforms for point-of-sale transactions, which were not originally designed to incorporate e-commerce or mobile commerce.

 

· More Powerful Commerce-Enabling Solutions —As the complexity of commerce increases due to the use of new technologies across multiple channels and an increase in the amount of data that needs to be managed, merchants are looking for more powerful solutions to enable them to conduct commerce more effectively and with greater functionality and more sophisticated reporting tools.

 

· Better Integrated Technology —As merchants adopt solutions with more advanced functionality across their business, they are facing the difficulty of having to manage different systems for their front-office operations, payment acceptance, and back-office functions. These systems are typically provided by different vendors and are not well integrated, which makes it difficult to manage large amounts of data from different systems. As a result, merchants are demanding solutions that are better integrated or have easier and more convenient integration capabilities.

 

· Better and Easier Connectivity Tools —In order to achieve a more seamless omni-channel experience, implement more advanced solutions, and integrate them more effectively, merchants are increasingly looking for faster and more flexible connectivity solutions, such as gateways and APIs, that are safe and easy to implement. The older legacy platforms provided by incumbent vendors often have limited and rigid connectivity tools that can significantly constrain what a merchant is able to do to deploy new technologies and improve operating efficiency.

 

· More Advanced and Robust Technology Platforms —In order to provide the advanced functionality, seamless omni-channel experience, tighter integration, and better connectivity that merchants are seeking, providers require next-generation technology platforms with cloud-based architectures to develop, host, deploy and manage these capabilities in a fast, flexible and cost-effective manner. The older legacy platforms provided by incumbent vendors typically do not have many of these capabilities and can be difficult and expensive to maintain.

 

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· Faster and More Specialized Customer Support —In order to support merchants with advanced technologies and multiple sales channels, providers in our market need to utilize more specialized and dedicated customer support operations that can help resolve the complex technical issues they face. The increased complexity that these new technologies can create for merchants requires customer support teams with experience and expertise in working with advanced technologies, advanced diagnostic technology, and the ability and support structure to respond quickly and effectively.

 

· Less Bureaucracy —Merchants frequently face bureaucracy when dealing with traditional banks. We believe this bureaucracy creates time-consuming processes to solve client issues and results in a suboptimal customer experience. In order to improve the client experience and save their time, providers need to offer integrated technology solutions, streamline processes and on-demand service

 

We believe we are well-positioned to take advantage of these trends and opportunities, and to continue to disrupt the market, bring better solutions to clients, and grow our market share.

 

Our Competitive Strengths

 

We believe we have a dynamic mix of core competencies that significantly distinguish us from our main competitors in the Brazilian market. When combined, these competencies yield a powerful set of competitive strengths that have: (1) enabled us to disrupt legacy practices, older technologies, and incumbent vendors in the Brazilian market; (2) empowered us to launch other technology and financial services solutions; and (3) positioned us favorably to continue to grow our business and expand our addressable market.

 

Our Unique Culture

 

We have proactively fostered and developed a highly-innovative, entrepreneurial, and mission-driven culture that we believe helps attract new talent, enables us to achieve our objectives, and provides a key competitive advantage. Our culture unites our team across numerous functions and focuses our collective efforts on passionately developing technology and implementing the Stone Business Model to disrupt legacy practices, older technologies, and incumbent vendors in order to provide solutions and a level of service that go beyond simply meeting the needs of our clients, and instead seeks to deliver an enhanced overall client experience. Our client-centric culture is built upon the following five themes, which we convey to our employees, employee candidates, clients and partners:

 

· The Reason —Our culture is centered on the fundamental belief that our clients drive everything we do. We also emphasize to our clients that, like them, we have also worked hard to start and grow a new business. We believe that building and maintaining close and active relationships with our clients will improve our ability to innovate, expand our leadership in the market, and grow our business.

 

· Own It —We expect that all employees present an “owner” mindset and use their intelligence to resolve problems with a primary focus on making our clients’ experience great. We constantly strive to recognize exceptional achievement.

 

· No Bullshit —We encourage respectful candor in all interactions and aim to be straight to the point. We criticize ideas, not people. We expect our teams to always choose the correct path, not the quickest.

 

· Team Play —We have learned that people achieve greater results together. We believe that more ideas flourish, are debated better, and questioned more effectively in teams. As a result, we strive to work together and constantly look for people with complementary skills to join our team.

 

· Live the Ride —We believe we will evolve more effectively by trying new ideas and improving on them with energy and passion. New ideas need to be tested in a controlled way, and only scaled once they have demonstrated authentic promise.

 

Our Stone Business Model

 

Our Stone Business Model combines our proprietary assets, intellectual property, capabilities and business processes to create a differentiated go-to-market approach and value proposition in the market. Our model is

 

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disruptive and has enabled us to gain significant traction in only five years since the launch of our service. We believe it provides us with several sustainable competitive advantages that have enabled us to gain market share and will help us grow in the future, including:

 

· Greater Understanding of Our Clients —We proactively interact with our clients and seek to understand their business needs in order to develop stronger relationships and serve them more effectively. We believe we are able to do this in a manner that differentiates us from our peers due to: (1) the close proximity to our clients provided by our Stone Hubs and Stone Agents ; (2) the hands-on interactions and integrations with our e-commerce merchants and integrated partners provided by our Special Services team; and (3) the fast, high-touch, and personalized customer support provided by our in-house customer relationship management team and our local Green Angel teams. We believe these give us a greater understanding of our clients and their needs than our competitors.

 

· Greater Ability to Serve Our Clients —The proprietary nature of our technology, distribution and customer service assets, combined with their vertical integration within our Stone Business Model enable us to directly control the development, deployment, and support of our solutions and services. We believe this provides us with a greater ability to serve our clients versus competitors who outsource some or all of these capabilities and rely on third-party vendors that may not have the same client focus.

 

· Full Control of the Client Experience —The Stone Business Model also provides us with the ability to fully control the client experience that we provide. Our model ensures that all interactions are provided by our people and our technology. We believe this provides us with a greater ability to ensure that our clients are served with the high-quality solutions and premium service levels that seek to enhance their experience instead of just fulfilling a function. We believe this control enables us to build stronger relationships with our clients and deliver a superior value proposition versus competitors who do not have this type of control because they rely on third parties for portions of their technology, distribution, or customer service.

 

· Greater Flexibility to Adapt and Innovate —Our Stone Business Model positions us to react quickly to competitive pressures through targeted, localized approaches. We believe the proprietary nature, vertical integration, and control our model provides enables us to adapt to a rapidly changing competitive environment with greater agility and flexibility than other competitors. We can understand our clients’ needs, design and develop new solutions, deploy them, and be prepared to support them quickly in order to meet the changing requirements of our markets.

 

· Low Cost of Acquisition —We believe our model, combined with the power and efficiency of our fully-digital technology platform, enable us to leverage our hyper-local Stone Hubs and integrated partners to acquire new clients and upsell new solutions and services at a low marginal cost as compared to our competitors.

 

· Low Cost of Operations —Our Stone Business Model enables us to operate with a low cost of operations and significant efficiencies. For example, because we developed our own end-to-end technology platform and do not rely on third-party vendors for processing and settlement, we operate with low marginal transaction costs.

 

· Strong Lifetime Value —The combined attributes and benefits of the Stone Business Model enable us to provide high-quality service levels and build strong, local or highly-integrated, relationships with our clients who value our differentiated approach and value proposition. These enable us to: (1) resist competitive pressures; (2) retain our clients for longer periods; and (3) upsell new solutions to increase our wallet share. We believe this enables us to enhance the overall lifetime value of our client portfolio and maintain low marginal client acquisition costs.

 

· Self-Reinforcing Network Effects —As we grow and expand our base of Stone Hubs, integrated partners, and suite of digital solutions, we benefit from self-reinforcing network effects. Our expanding base of Stone Hubs and integrated partners enable us to reach more merchants, who we can offer more solutions to. As we expand our base of merchants, integrated partners and new solutions, we are able to build stronger relationships with them and develop new learnings and market insights from them. We are able to use the

 

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Stone Business Model to act on these new insights to innovate, extend our value proposition, and win new merchants and integrated partners.

 

· Protective Barriers to Replicate —The combination of the various proprietary and vertically integrated elements of our Stone Business Model are difficult to replicate in full. We believe this provides us with strong protective barriers to entry which may make it difficult for our competitors to replicate our value proposition.

 

Our Deep Expertise and Track Record

 

Our founders and management team have deep expertise in developing and delivering disruptive financial solutions. The team has a proven track record of founding, investing, and scaling several successful financial technology businesses in Brazil, including:

 

· Pagafacil —an e-commerce escrow service, which was sold to private investors in 2004;

 

· NetCredit —a provider of consumer credit solutions, which was sold to BNG Bank in 2009;

 

· Braspag —an e-commerce payments solution provider, which was sold to Grupo Silvio Santos in 2009;

 

· PGTX —a payments technology company, which was sold to Pontual in 2014;

 

· Sieve Group —an e-commerce price comparison service, which was sold to B2W in 2015; and

 

· Moip —an e-commerce payments facilitator, which was sold to Wirecard in 2016.

 

Our board of directors is composed of highly successful senior executives who combine strong global operating, financial, and regulatory experience with deep expertise in the financial services, payments, and technology industries. In addition, we have attracted a strong base of world-class investors, many of whom have been key strategic advisors to the company and have consistently increased their investment in the group over our prior capital rounds. We believe the mix of our entrepreneurial, executive, board, and shareholder experience and expertise provide a key competitive strength for the company.

 

Our Growth Strategies

 

Our primary mission is to remain focused on empowering our clients to grow their businesses and help them conduct commerce and run their operations more effectively. We believe this focus is a key differentiator for us and an important driver in helping us win and retain clients. We try to achieve this by leveraging the Stone Business Model to combine and provide powerful and convenient technology, innovative solutions, and high-quality customer support through sales people and marketing efforts that match our passionate and energetic client-centric culture. We plan to grow our business primarily by employing the following principal strategies:

 

Extend Our Reach and Scale our Business

 

We believe our distribution network is a key competitive strength that will enable us to continue to scale our business, expand our geographic footprint and market penetration. For example, we intend to continue to:

 

· Grow Our Base of Stone Hubs —We had over 350 operational proprietary Stone Hubs across Brazil as of December 2019 and expect to continue to launch new hubs to increase our coverage and penetration of the market. Brazil has over 5,500 cities, many of which are underserved by incumbent providers who primarily target clients via their existing bank branch networks. We believe our strategy of targeting underserved, small-and-medium sized cities, combined with our speed and agility, provides us with a significant growth opportunity. Following the development of the Stone Hub, we have established highly-scalable, plug-and-play processes that enable us to deploy new hubs faster and more effectively, with more efficient hiring, training, and selling. Our hubs are set up either as proprietary hubs or franchised hubs, as described below:

 

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· Proprietary Stone Hub —We establish local operations and send highly trained Stone Agents and Green Angels to develop our operations, train new team members, and ensure that our focus on high-quality service is instilled. Proprietary Stone Hubs currently represent substantially all of our hub base and are our primary method of establishing new Stone Hubs.

 

· Franchise Stone Hub —Our franchise hubs are similar to our proprietary hubs, except that the hub is owned and operated by a local business owner who typically provides local sales and operational support and relationships in the community. These hubs are entirely Stone-branded and operated by highly trained personnel who perform the same duties as personnel working in our proprietary hubs, in accordance with our policies, procedures and internal targets. We utilize the franchise hub method selectively when we identify an attractive potential partner in a region where it makes sense for our expansion plans.

 

The vast majority of our existing hubs are proprietary hubs, as our franchise hub strategy is in its early stages. As of December 31, 2019, we had 84 active franchised hubs in operation. Proprietary hubs remain the focus of our expansion strategy.

 

· Grow Our Base of Integrated Partners —As of December 31, 2019, we had over 116 integrated partners, such as PSPs, marketplaces, and ISVs. We believe these integrated partners represent an important growth channel for us to capture more e-commerce and software-integrated payment volumes. We expect to continue to leverage our powerful connectivity and integration capabilities, including our Mundipagg gateway and Pagar.me PSP platform, to grow our base of integrated partners and help our existing clients grow their businesses. For example:

 

· PSPs —PSPs sell online payment acceptance solutions to e-commerce merchants, but may also offer in-store solutions, and are increasingly looking to expand their capabilities and offer their customers the ability to conduct commerce in Brazil. PSPs offer us increased processing volumes from a base of merchants we may not directly access. We integrate our capabilities and enable our PSP partners to extend them to their customers in a seamless manner.

 

· Marketplaces —Marketplaces provide digital platforms that enable sellers and buyers in specific market segments to connect more effectively. Marketplaces are one of the fastest growing segments in e-commerce because they enable small businesses with limited infrastructures to access large groups of potential buyers more efficiently online or through mobile applications. We provide marketplaces with advanced payment functionalities, such as split payments and automated settlement rules, which enable them to improve and streamline their operations.

 

· ISVs —ISVs develop vertical-specific software for merchants. These developers are increasingly looking to embed payment acceptance and data reconciliation capabilities into their software in order to improve functionality and convenience, and to participate in a portion of the economics generated by payments processed through their software. We integrate our capabilities and enable our ISV partners to offer payment acceptance services in a seamless manner.

 

· Sell Additional Solutions to Our Clients —As in-store merchant locations continue to become digitalized, we believe our broad suite of solutions and our omni-channel commerce capabilities provide us with significant opportunity to sell additional existing solutions into our client base. We intend to leverage the strong relationships and distribution capabilities provided by our Stone Hubs to sell additional solutions to our merchant base with a view to minimizing incremental acquisition costs.

 

· Sell to New Client Segments Micro-Merchant Commerce —Despite targeting the SMB segment as our core strategy, in 2019, the company announced a partnership with Grupo Globo to tackle the micromerchant space, under the brand TON. The partnership combines the vast media and marketing know-how of Brazil’s largest media group with Stone’s expertise in technology, payments and financial services, as well as its execution capabilities. This partnership enables us to serve more efficiently an additional client segment beyond our SMB focus.

 

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Expand our Offering and Capabilities

 

We believe our culture of innovation and technology development combined with our distribution capabilities are key competitive strengths that will allow us to continue to expand our offerings and grow our business through a multi-product strategy. We intend to continue to leverage these capabilities to develop and invest in new solutions that further empower and help our clients grow their businesses more effectively, and new capabilities that enable us to better serve our clients by providing them with a centralized point of contact to solve most of their issues in a fast manner. We intend to expand our offerings to our current and future clients in the following ways:

 

· Software Solutions —by integrating our payment offerings with some software solutions, we believe we will improve the lifetime value of our client relationships, and obtain access to transactional data that will allow us to be more proactive in providing financial solutions such as working capital and credit. As of December 2019, approximately 135,000 clients use at least one of the software products we provide. We also aim to invest in new software companies to be part of our ecosystem. Our software solutions currently offer the following capabilities:

 

· Reconciliation —we currently offer a reconciliation software to help merchants better manage their cash flows and reconcile multiple payment methods;

 

· POS and ERP —we offer POS and ERP software that help merchants manage and integrate their point-of-sale transactions with their front-of-house functions and back-office operations more effectively across an array of industry verticals.

 

· CRM —we offer a customer relationship management (CRM) software for customer engagement, focused mainly in the food service segment, which enables merchants to increase their sales consistently by increasing recurrence while also leveraging on customer data.

 

· Gateways —our online and offline gateways allow our clients to connect effortlessly to multiple payment methods and provide simple and transparent dashboards that allow for our operational monitoring and improvements.

 

· Financial Solutions —we believe that there is a significant opportunity to provide our clients with additional financial solutions, given that those products, when offered by incumbents, present similar characteristics as payments: traditional players and legacy business models have limited focus on client service, transparency and innovation. In 2019, we started to leverage our distribution, service and technology capabilities to expand our offering of financial solutions and improve revenue yield per client. As an example, we started to grow our presence in the following markets beyond payments:

 

· Digital Banking Solutions— We started to offer a suite of digital banking solutions designed to enable our clients to conduct financial transactions, receive and remit funds, issue boletos, pay bills, and integrate their enterprise financial data in a more efficient, streamlined, and cost-effective manner than traditional bank accounts. Our technology platform is proprietary and directly integrated to the Brazilian Central Bank’s system. As of January 2020, our digital banking offering had approximately 79,000 open accounts.

 

· Credit Solutions —We have developed a product to allow our clients to effortlessly contract, monitor and payback loans, by fully integrating our credit solution within our payments platform. As of January 2020, we had 28,600 clients using our credit solution.

 

Enter New Markets

 

We believe our Stone Business Model is well suited to serve clients in other markets where our technology, solutions, and support model can continue to disrupt traditional vendors and legacy business models. We believe this opportunity exists in:

 

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· New Geographies— We are also expanding our geographic footprint by growing our base of Stone Hubs across Brazil. In the future, we may also seek to grow our business by selectively expanding into new international markets where we can leverage our Stone Business Model .

 

· New Sectors— We are exploring new complementary business opportunities in adjacent sectors, such as digital banking, software solutions and credit. In the future, we may selectively expand into other sectors where we see an opportunity to leverage our capabilities to provide a differentiated value proposition for clients.

 

Selectively Pursue Acquisitions

 

Although we are primarily focused on growing our business organically, we may selectively pursue strategic acquisitions to enhance our competitive position, improve our operations and expand our business. We may choose to acquire new technologies, expertise, volume and capabilities, enter new market segments or enter new geographies. We have established a track record of successfully investing, acquiring and integrating complementary solutions and businesses. For example, in 2016, we: (1) completed the EdB Acquisition, which added an attractive portfolio of SMB and e-commerce merchants onto our platform; (2) acquired full control of Pagar.me , which gave us our proprietary PSP service; and (3) acquired joint control of Equals , which gave us a powerful data reconciliation tool widely used in the markets we serve (we acquired full control of Equals in September 2018).

 

New Investments in Software

 

We also actively look for small software companies to be part of our ecosystem. For example, we have made the following investments in 2019:

 

· Collact— In February 2019, the Company acquired a 25% interest in Collact, a private company based in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, that develops customer relationship management ("CRM") software for customer engagement, focused mainly in the food service segment, with which the Company expects to obtain synergies in its services to clients. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest in the period between 2 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in Collact.

 

· VHSYS— In June 2019, the Company acquired 33.3% interest in VHSYS. VHSYS is an omni-channel, cloud-based, API driven, POS and ERP platform built to serve an array of service and retail businesses. VHSYS’s self-service platform consists of over 40 applications, accessible a la carte, such as order and sales management, invoicing, dynamic inventory management, cash and payments management, CRM, mobile messaging, along with marketplace, logistics, and e-commerce integrations, among others. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest in the period between 1 to 2 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in VHSYS.

 

· Tablet Cloud —In August 2019, the Company acquired a 25% interest in Tablet Cloud. Tablet Cloud is a white-label POS and simple ERP application focused on SMBs with simpler needs which runs on smart POS and tablet solutions, giving business owners complete control over their cash register and inventory in a fully mobile device while having a robust ERP platform accessible online. The Company also holds an option to acquire an additional interest in Tablet Cloud in the period between 1.5 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in Tablet Cloud.

 

· Trinks— In November 2019, the Company acquired 19.9% interest in Trinks. Trinks is a SaaS ERP and booking app which allows salon owners to manage all its operations. The system automates key components of the salon functions such as client appointments, work schedules, inventory control, supplier contacts, etc. Trinks is already integrated with Stone, and allows card payment to be split between the salon and the professional in line with the “ salão parceiro ” law in Brazil. The Company holds an option to acquire an additional interest in Trinks in the period between 1.5 to 3 years from the date of the initial acquisition. If we exercise the option to acquire such additional interest, the Company will own a 50.0% interest in Trinks.

 

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Our Solutions

 

Connect More Effectively

 

We empower our clients to connect more effectively by integrating and connecting to our cloud-based technology platform using simple and convenient APIs. These solutions provide powerful gateway services to encrypt, route, and decrypt transactions and PSP solutions to onboard merchants and connect integrated partners.

 

Solution 

Description 

Features and Benefits 

POS Capture Solutions Mamba , our POS operating system, enables in-store merchants to accept a variety of credit cards, debit cards and other APMs, through POS hardware devices.

·    Facilitates safe chip and pin payments.

 

·    Easy and user-friendly interface.

 

·    Lower processing times.

 

·     Universe of applications that enable alternative types of services.

 

·     Effective and efficient single deployment rollout of updates across the entire merchant base.

 

·     Continuous and real-time, remote monitoring of connectivity and integrity of machines.

 

·     Connectivity solutions such as 3G, Bluetooth and/or wi-fi enabled.

 

e-Commerce Gateway Mundipagg is a full-featured e-commerce gateway that seamlessly connects e-commerce merchants to the acquirers of their choice, enabling them to accept a wide variety of electronic payment options. Our clients are provided with a set of robust analytics, reporting and auditing capabilities through their Mundipagg portal.

·     Increased conversion rates.

 

·     Easy, user-friendly consumer checkout interface.

 

·    Merchant management portal.

 

·    Merchant acquirer agnostic with connections to all major providers in Brazil.

 

·     Secure transactions utilizing proprietary encryption and tokenization technologies.

 

·     Accepts all major payment schemes and APMs in Brazil.

 

·     API-based with simple, public documentation enabling self-directed customer integration.

 

Point of Sale Gateway Cappta is an in-store gateway for the point-of-sale that connects merchants to the acquirers of their choice enabling a wide array of payment options including traditional and APM methods. It also offers clients the ability to integrate their POS with other business management software, such as inventory and tax management solutions. 

·        Customizable rules that give merchants the ability to split transaction volume between multiple acquirers.

 

·       Integrates with other business management software solutions to provide enhanced business analytics for our merchants.

 

 

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Solution 

Description 

Features and Benefits 

PSP Platform Pagar.m e is a sophisticated PSP solution with a quick and simple API integration, enabling omni-channel players and marketplaces to accept a wide array of electronic payments through multiple channels. With a large basket of features and products, clients are equipped with the tools and features they need to grow and manage their business.

·        Comprehensive set of solutions for marketplaces.

 

·        Increased conversion rates.

 

·       Easy, user-friendly consumer checkout interface.

 

·       Merchant management portal.

 

·       Merchant acquirer agnostic with connections to all providers in Brazil.

 

·       Secure transactions utilizing proprietary encryption and tokenization technologies.

 

·       Built-in anti-fraud capabilities.

 

·       Accepts all major payment schemes and APMs in Brazil.

 

·       API based with simple, public documentation enabling self-directed customer integration.

 

Get Paid Quickly and Easily

 

We enable our clients to get paid quickly and easily by accepting numerous forms of electronic payments and APMs such as boletos , and conducting a wide range of transactions in brick-and-mortar and digital storefronts in a quick and user-friendly manner. We also provide digital product enhancements to help our clients improve their consumers’ experience, such as our split-payment processing, multi-payment processing, recurring payments for subscriptions, and one-click buy functionality.

 

Solution

Description

Features and Benefits

Omni-Channel Merchant Acquiring We are a fully licensed, end-to-end omni-channel merchant acquiring solution. With a large basket of features and products, clients are equipped with the tools they need to accept a wide array of electronic payments and effectively and efficiently manage their transaction receivables. Clients can integrate to our platform through multiple channels.

·        Efficient and secure.

 

·       Simple APIs for quick and seamless connection with integrated partners.

 

·        Acceptance of global and regional payment schemes along with local meal voucher schemes, and other APMs.

 

·       Higher conversion rates.

 

·       Data reconciliation.

 

·       Soft-descriptor code which allows merchants to write customizable client fields in transaction data.

 

·       Built-in anti-fraud capabilities.

 

 

 

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Solution 

Description 

Features and Benefits 

Split Payments Enables merchants and marketplaces to predetermine multiple accounts for receiving the settlement of their transactions. Through customizable splitting rules, consumer payments can be routed and deposited instantly to multiple parties.

·       Fully customizable rules that simplify and automate cash settlement for multiple parties linked within a single transaction.

 

·       Settles directly to different bank accounts.

 

Web Checkout Frictionless e-checkout that simplifies the buying experience leading to increased client conversion.

·        Frictionless interface.

 

·        Improves client experience and conversion rates.

 

Automated Retrial Proprietary automated retry technology that helps to drastically reduce lost business from failed transactions, many of which are caused by payment scheme and third-party systems involved in a payment transaction. This is achieved by instantly reprocessing the transaction utilizing predetermined rules that could be reprocessed via another acquirer.

·       Increased conversion rates.

 

·       Fully configurable rules that allow the merchant to redirect failed payments to other acquirers.

 

·        Automated email reminders to consumers to attempt to recapture failed purchase attempts.

 

One-Click Buy Encrypts and stores consumer payment methods in a secure virtual account that facilitates quick and easy one-click payments.

·        Saves client data in a secure manner.

 

·        Simplifies the payment process for consumers.

 

Recurring Billing Simplifies and automates our clients’ businesses by allowing periodic and recurring billing, such as subscription services, in a simple and fully customizable manner.

·        Simplifies and automates recurring charges.

 

·        Fully customizable and flexible rules that incorporate installment features, pre and post payment settings and specific pre-programmed payments based on calendar dates and exceptions.

 

Multi-Buyer Payment—Bill Split Enables consumers to make group payments easier for their customers. This solution allows a single purchase to be billed, and paid, to multiple consumers.

·        Omni-channel offering for both digital service providers and online merchants.

 

·       Simple and user-friendly functionality leading to improved consumer loyalty for our clients.

 

·        Emails receipt to each consumer involved in the purchase.

 

Multi-Payment Acceptance Enables a consumer to pay for a single invoice using multiple payment methods such as multiple debit and/or credit cards along with other alternative methods such as boletos .

·       Omni-channel offering for both digital service providers and online merchants.

 

·       Simple and user-friendly functionality leading to improved consumer loyalty for our clients. 

 

 

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Solution 

Description 

Features and Benefits 

Social Commerce Provides merchants and digital service providers with the ability to request payments from their customers via WhatsApp, SMS text or an email link.

·        Simplifies the card-not-present Mail Order Telephone Order payment process for transactions where the buyer and seller are in separate locations.

 

·        Integrates with other solutions such as Multi-Buyer Payments or Multi-Payment Acceptance.

 

Digital Banking Fully digital banking platform that enables merchants to get paid and manage their finances more effectively. This platform can provide the automation of cash management through a direct integration with the client’s ERP.

·       Single API integration.

 

·        Allows cash management automation through integration to ERP and other business automation software.

 

·        TED/DOC bank transfers.

 

·       Boleto generation.

 

·       Bill payment.

 

·       Prepaid Cards.

 

·       Payment link.

 

Grow Our Clients’ Businesses

 

We empower our clients to manage and grow their businesses by automating and streamlining business processes at the point-of-sale or digital checkout. These solutions help our clients run their businesses more effectively and in a more integrated manner by providing greater control, transparency of information, and insights into their daily operations. We also help our clients manage their working capital needs and effectively plan for the future by providing our clients with prepayment financing options with total transparency and control over their receivables, enabling them to convert their daily sales into cash more quickly and plan for their future growth.

 

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Solution

Description

Features and Benefits

Working Capital Solutions

Omni-channel cash management solution that allows clients to accelerate the payment of their future receivables, including installment-based receivables up to 12 months. Clients can request and predetermine the payment of their receivables via their client portal, directly on their mobile application, POS device, via email, or over the phone with our dedicated receivables prepayment team.

 

We provide more information on this solution at the end of this section.

 

·       Fully customizable a la carte payment options that gives clients complete control over when they get paid.

 

·        Ability to automate anticipating receivables payments with simple rules that can be set up quickly and easily in the client portal.

 

·        Dedicated and proactive team available to assist clients with their needs and equipped with AI yielding insights into client cash flow needs.

 

SMB Credit Solutions Allows our clients to contract, monitor and payback loans by fully integrating our credit solution within our payments platform.

·        Self-service functionality pre-approved clients can order credit through the merchant portal.

 

·        Transparent pricing and no hidden fees.

 

·        Clients payback loans as a percentage of their credit cards receivables.

 

Software VHSYS is an omni-channel, cloud-based, API driven, POS and ERP platform built to serve a wide array of service and retail businesses. The fully self-service platform consists of over 40 applications such as order and sales management, invoicing, dynamic inventory management, cash and payments management, CRM, mobile messaging, along with multi-marketplace, logistics, and e-commerce integrations amongst others.

·        Customizable and fully integrated customer dashboards that gives merchants a complete snapshot of their business.

 

·       Robust reporting applications to help the client manage their business.

 

·       End-to-end integration of operations, payment transactions, accounting and compliance reporting.

     
  Tablet Cloud is a white label Point of Sale and simple ERP application focused on less sophisticated SMBs, which runs on smart POS and tablet solutions, giving business owners complete control over their cash register and inventory in a fully mobile device while having a robust ERP platform accessible online.

·        Applications are acquired a la carte based on each business’s particular needs & preferences, built to scale with growth of business.

 

·       Online & offline browser features, along with mobile, smart POS and tablet functionality.

 

 

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Solution 

Description 

Features and Benefits 

  LinkedGourmet is a vertical-specific cloud-based ERP system built to simplify and empower SMBs in the food and beverage sector with a full suite of integrated business management tools including a mobile waiter app, inventory management, checkout, payment integration at the point-of-sale, and a suite of delivery management integrations and tools.

·        Broad array of tools and applications that assist in brick and mortar merchants to list and sell products and services online.

 

·       API driven to seamlessly integrates into third party apps and solutions providers.

 

     
  Collact is a multisided customer engagement and loyalty platform that enables small and medium sized businesses to acquire, engage and grow their client base by offering customized loyalty and marketing programs while giving consumer insights.

·       Full suite of tools to increase customer acquisition, loyalty and engagement.

 

·        Consumer app actively helps drive consumers into the client’s place of businesses.

 

     
 

Equals/Raio-X is a card-based receivables reconciliation solution that streamlines the complex process of reconciling payments transactions and managing cash flow. This powerful tool enables our clients, from brick and mortar SMBs to large online enterprises, to reconcile and monitor transactional data from all payment solutions providers, such as merchant acquirers and gateways, giving transparency of fees paid, discounts/chargebacks, and taxes at the individual transaction level, in a single dashboard.

 

Trinks is a SaaS ERP and booking app which allows salon owners to manage all its operations. The system automates key components of the salon functions such as client appointments, work schedules, inventory control and supplier contacts.

 

·        Straightforward reporting and easy to use tools that assist merchants in resolving flagged inconsistencies in their transactions.

 

·        Merchant acquirer agnostic.

 

·        Integrates with client ERP systems.

 

·       Automates the process of receivables management, such as downloading data from payments providers, reconciling transactions, and uploading information to a client’s ERP system.

 

·        Integrated with Stone to allow for the split of card payments between the salon and its employees.

 

·       Booking of client appointment.

 

·        Work schedules.

 

·        Inventory controls.

 

App Store for POSs Mamba is an application in our POS devices that can provide additional software features to a merchant’s point-of-sale through our open, cloud-based Mamba App store. This enables third-party app developers to deploy new complementary solutions to the point-of-sale for merchants and consumers, such as mobile phone top-up, bill pay, and APM acceptance. 

·       Open App Store that enables third-party app developers to create and deploy new app solutions.

 

·       Easily connects to third-party platforms.

 

·       Developer friendly with capabilities in more than 10 common code languages.

 

·        Ability for merchants to integrate more robust transaction reporting.

 

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Solution 

Description 

Features and Benefits 

Data Reporting and Merchant Portal Gives merchants full transparency and enterprise-level insight into their transactions in a simplified and easy manner with fully customizable dashboards and automated reporting functionality.

·        Simple and user-friendly.

 

·       Robust reporting functionality.

 

·       Receivables management tools that help merchants better understand and manage their cash flows.

 

·        Accessible via the web or mobile app.

 

More Information on Working Capital Solutions

 

In Brazil, a standard credit card transaction, in which a consumer pays his or her credit card bill in 26 days on average, results in the card issuer paying the merchant acquirer approximately 28 days after the transaction date, and the merchant acquirer paying the merchant approximately 30 days after the transaction date. In addition, many merchants in Brazil allow their consumers to pay for goods and services in several interest-free installments, instead of having to pay upfront. Typically, these installments are spread across two to twelve monthly billing cycles on the consumer’s credit card. The merchant receives the initial payment a month after the transaction, and any future installments in the month the consumer’s card installments are charged. To allow our merchants to optimize their cash flows, we offer prepayment options to the merchant for the future expected receivables of these installments and charge a small, predetermined fee for the service.

 

In contrast to traditional models where merchants need to call a third-party call center or the bank manager to order prepayment under a rigid set of rules, our clients can do so quickly and easily through multiple digital channels, such as the merchant’s portal, app or POS device. This self-service approach provides merchants increased autonomy to request upfront cash under the terms that best fit their business needs. Merchants can set their own disbursement rules, like prepaying specific payment schemes or setting average duration, and choose the date they wish to receive a disbursement, program automatic reoccurring disbursements, or select instant spot transactions.

 

Our Sales and Distribution

 

We sell and distribute our solutions using two primary channels: Hyper-Local and Integrated . We also have an in-bound sales team that affiliates merchants who call us as a result of digital advertising campaigns and referrals resulting from networking effects of our clients within the Hubs.

 

Hyper-Local Sales and Distribution

 

We distribute our technology and solutions to brick-and-mortar merchants primarily through our Stone Hubs , which are designed to provide hyper-local sales and service to SMB merchants in a designated geographic region. Our hubs are local operational offices that house an integrated team of sales and logistics support personnel. These offices are located in small-and-medium sized cities (or regions of larger cities), which have historically been underserved and disregarded by many of our competitors who sell their services through ordinary bank branches or remote call centers. As of December 2019, we had over 350 operational proprietary Stone Hubs in Brazil and we are currently growing these operations to penetrate the country further. Our hubs are staffed by sales personnel that include:

 

· Missionaries —Our troops-on-the-ground sales team. This is a qualified team of young entrepreneurs who are highly trained to deliver personalized and effective sales and support directly to the doorstep of our clients. We believe that by being close to our clients, we have a unique ability to attend to their specific needs and react quickly to changes in each local market. Our Stone Agents are supported by an integrated technology platform, which combines smart routing with merchant behavior mapping, which enables them to provide sales and support services efficiently and effectively.

 

· District Owners” and Hub “Owners” —Our regional sales leadership. This team is composed of highly trained and experienced former Stone Agents that are tasked with opening and managing new hub

 

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territories. Regional managers are supported extensively with daily performance indicators and tools provided by our technology platform and management to facilitate active interaction and support with their teams .

 

We have developed our method of training and supporting our sales personnel that we believe has directly increased our team’s results. Our Stone Agents receive extensive training in our company’s culture and operations during their onboarding process, and on an on-going basis, to help reinforce our client-centric culture and high-performance standards. Our sales personnel have disciplined daily, weekly, and monthly touchpoints with their leaders, along with routine reporting, KPI reviews, and other core processes to help ensure they are equipped with the tools and support they need to maximize their effectiveness. In addition, our sales personnel are supported by direct marketing campaigns to help build brand awareness as we enter new markets.

 

Over the last year, we have significantly scaled our Stone Hub operations throughout Brazil and increased our footprint, posting strong growth in net addition of clients in all 27 Brazilian states. The following chart illustrates our fourth quarter 2019 year over year net growth in the number of active clients compared to the fourth quarter of 2018 for all 27 states. We grew our active client base by over 50% in all 27 Brazilian states, with 26 states posting over 60% growth, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

 

 

Integrated Sales and Distribution

 

We distribute our technology and solutions to digital merchants primarily through highly trained sales and technical personnel and software vendors that have expertise in business process engineering and product development for digital solutions. These include:

 

· Special Services —Our highly-specialized team of digital commerce experts. This team has a deep technical knowledge of our capabilities which enables them to target digital merchants, PSPs and marketplaces that we believe would most benefit from our digital commerce solutions. The Special Services team hosts initial discovery meetings with potential clients to understand their needs, and then meets with their technology developers and architects to design digital commerce solutions that meet the client’s needs. This team positions us as a trusted technology provider and a key business partner for our digital and integrated clients, and helps promote loyalty and long-term value.

 

· ISVs —Our technology distribution partners. ISVs develop vertical-specific software for merchants that help them run their front-of-house functions and back-office operations. We integrate and embed our connection, payment acceptance, and data reconciliation capabilities into their software in order to improve functionality and convenience. ISVs may also participate in a portion of the economics generated by payments processed through their software.

 

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Inbound Sales and Distribution

 

We also sell our solutions to brick-and-mortar and digital merchants through a similar, highly trained sales team that is centrally located and dedicated to fielding in-bound calls and sales leads. This team can manage and onboard a new client in-house.

 

Customer Service and Support

 

We service and support our clients with fast, convenient, and high-quality customer service and support teams and technology tools that we believe are highly differentiated, and have enabled us to maintain our high NPS levels in 2019. Our service and support functions, processes and tools were designed to embody our strong client-centric culture, continuously strengthen our client relationships, and increase the long-term value of our client relationships. These teams and tools include:

 

· Client Relationship Team —This is a centralized, in-house customer relationship team largely consisting of technically trained agents trained in-house and equipped with the data, technology, and autonomy to resolve our clients’ needs. First-call resolution is a key goal of our customer support operation, and in the fourth quarter of 2019, 87% of our clients who called our customer relationship team had their issues resolved on the first call. 95% of these calls were answered within 20 seconds and 90% were rated as “excellent” by our clients according to our internal surveys.

 

· Client Retention Team —This is a centralized team that is responsible for trying to keep clients who are considering canceling the services we provide. If a client calls our client relationship team to cancel their services, our retention team is notified and contacts the client within one business day. Our retention team studies the client’s profile, speaks with them to understand the cause of their cancelation, and discusses potential ways in which we can better serve them. We also have an adjacent data analytics group that constantly monitors our clients, uses AI technology to predict potential churn, and proactively identifies possible actions that our client retention team could take to reverse the propensity for churn.

 

· Green Angels —These are teams of local, specialized personnel, who provide on-demand logistics support in the field. Green Angel teams are embedded inside our local Stone Hubs, where they interact with Stone Agents and our centralized client relationship team and leverage our cloud-based logistics platform to rapidly respond to the needs of our clients. Once they become aware of an issue, our Green Angels commonly travel by motorcycle and reach our clients within minutes or hours to help a client in need instead of taking days or weeks, through mail service, or using a third-party logistics company. Green Angels can deliver terminals, help with installation, set up a merchant’s wi-fi connectivity, replace parts, or provide other services.

 

· CRM AI Technology —We use a range of integrated systems, powered by the Stone Technology Platform and artificial intelligence, which empower our client relationship, client retention and Green Angel teams, and enable us to optimize our customer service and support functions. For example:

 

· Celebro —This is a system that helps our client relationship, client retention and Green Angel teams manage service calls and access a 360-degree view of our clients through an integrated dashboard to view client sales, payments, logistics issues, activity history, registry data and more. This system integrates real-time data from our authorization and processing systems, salesforce management applications, and logistics management systems and can provide our personnel with the responses for a client’s particular service call issue.

 

· The Professor —This is an AI-based system that provides predictive modeling of client behavior and activity. The system constantly gathers information from Celebro and other databases to understand our clients’ historical patterns, monitor their activity, and proactively identify anomalies that may indicate a potential client service issue or an opportunity to upsell a new solution. Our customer service and support teams use The Professor to identify and resolve a client’s issues, sometimes even before the client is aware themselves, which can create a superior client experience, reinforce our client-centric positioning, and strengthen our relationship.

 

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· Stone Self-Service Tools —We also offer a range of apps, online portals, and self-service tools that help our clients check all of their data, manage their operations more conveniently, and solve certain issues by themselves, according to their preference.

 

In addition to our high NPS in our key markets in Brazil, we believe our use of technology to support our customer service team and our focus on self-service tools provide us with scalable customer service operations, while maintaining the quality of our services. As shown in the charts below, we have grown our active client base while maintaining a relatively stable customer service headcount, reducing total number of calls per active client, and sustaining the same level of perceived quality by our clients.

 

Our Operations

 

We run and manage our operations with dedicated teams of specialized and experienced personnel that run various administrative, processing, and back-office functions. These enable us to serve, fulfill, and support our clients in a high-quality and efficient manner, and help us achieve operating efficiencies and minimize operating risks. These functions include:

 

· Client Onboarding —Our client onboarding team works closely with our Stone Agents and other sales teams to provide a smooth and efficient transition from sales, to implementation and ongoing client services. Our onboarding team is highly trained and relies on advanced technologies, including risk assessment tools that collect public and private market information, to:

 

· appropriately evaluate, document, and onboard new merchants quickly and safely using digital applications;

 

· carry out appropriate Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering assessments, check appropriate databases, such as OFAC, and run various other internal procedures;

 

· continuously monitor the risk profile of our client portfolio to determine adherence to our internal policies; and

 

· ensure the appropriate application and implementation of solutions and safeguards, based on a clients’ specific business model and inherent risks.

 

· Settlement Operations —Our settlement operation team manages the clearing and settlement processes of our transaction processing functions with financial institutions and payment schemes. This team ensures that our transaction processes and fee collections adhere to the appropriate regulations and payment scheme rules, and help safeguard our clients’ receivables and our operations.

 

· Chargeback Operations —Our chargeback team uses agile monitoring technology to secure payment transactions carried out on our platform and identify potentially fraudulent or improper sales. They manage processes to enhance our ability to prevent and manage fraud risk and avoid potential losses for our clients’ and our own operations. The team also provides support on behalf of our clients when disputed charges are filed, working closely with payment scheme settlors and card issuers involved in disputed transactions and, when appropriate, opens claim processes to seek reversal of the chargeback.

 

· Logistics Management —Our logistics management team manages the deployment of POS devices and related accessories and uses predictive modeling of merchant behavior to proactively identify potential client logistics service issues. This centralized team manages terminal programming and equipment services, deployment, set-up, technical support, repair and replacement, remote terminal software updates, warehousing, and inventory control and reporting. They communicate with and deploy our local Green Angels to provide on-demand support.

 

Risk Management, Compliance and Controls

 

We have made significant investments and have retained key personnel to manage our risk management, compliance and controls functions. These teams help us identify and understand the risks to which we are exposed

 

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while conducting our activities, and they enable us to effectively manage, mitigate, and/or monitor them to protect our operations, our clients, and our partners. We continuously seek to enhance our risk management, compliance and controls functions by improving our processes and making investments in technology and personnel in these areas, including:

 

· Risk Management —We face operational risks inherent to our business, such as those discussed in “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—We have risk management teams allocated across our operations that work with consultants and advanced technology in order to assess, plan, and implement strategies to minimize any potential risks and adverse effects on our operations.”

 

· Compliance and Controls —Our compliance and controls teams monitor risks, including those of third parties such as merchants, suppliers, PSPs, business partners, and others. This team advises on and oversees the implementation of effective risk management actions, and addresses process and control inadequacies. Our compliance and controls team continuously manages and executes a compliance program designed to map out and assure compliance with all of our internal risk policies and regulatory compliance requirements. To achieve this, the team seeks to ensure that:

 

· Internal compliance and risk policies and appropriate training are continuously implemented and updated;

 

· Internal and third-party operations are assessed and audited to validate that they comply with all policies and requirements in an ongoing manner; and

 

· Actions are promptly taken to avoid potential reoccurrences, including appropriate reporting and revision of processes, policies, and controls.

 

Our Proprietary Technology

 

We developed and operate the Stone Technology Platform , which brings together an integrated suite of advanced technologies designed to provide differentiated capabilities and seamless omni-channel commerce client experiences in a more secure, all-in-one environment. Our platform was developed to operate in a completely digital environment and enables us to develop, host, and deploy our solutions, conduct a broad range of transactions seamlessly across in-store, online and mobile channels, manage our distribution hubs, and optimize our client support functions—all in a fully-digital, fully-integrated and holistic manner. Given its digital DNA and cloud-based architecture, our platform is agile, reliable, and scalable with fast processing speeds and a broad range of capabilities that can be maintained and expanded relatively easily and cost-effectively. The advanced nature and flexibility of our platform enables us to provide a number of technologies and benefits, which we believe provides operating advantages, including the ability to:

 

· Connect and Integrate Easily with Our Clients —We develop and provide a range of powerful connection and integration technologies, user-friendly client portals, and convenient reporting tools that are simple and easy to use. These were designed to eliminate the technical complexity and difficulty that many clients and partners typically encounter when trying to conduct electronic commerce, and they are designed to require minimum effort to implement by our clients or our personnel. We have publicly published our proprietary APIs, which provide a set of programming instructions and standards to access and connect to our systems. We have also developed a set of SDKs, which provide software development tools, code, and documentation to help third-party developers create applications on our platform. Together, these help our clients connect to our systems easily and make us a partner of choice for many ISVs, PSPs, and marketplaces seeking to do business in Brazil.

 

· Provide Seamless Omni-Channel Experiences —We designed our platform to enable merchants to conduct commerce and reconcile data seamlessly across various sales channels in a single, brick-and-mortar store or multi-location environment, online through an e-commerce or mobile commerce-enabled website, or inside of a mobile application. We believe that this provides a competitive advantage that appeals to merchants and integrated partners who are increasingly operating across more than one channel and are looking to provide their consumers with a streamlined shopping experience.

 

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· Implement and Deploy New Capabilities —We utilize our digital, cloud-based architecture and integration capabilities to implement and deploy new features and technologies to our clients and integrated partners. Our technology platform provides the flexibility to do this easily without the need for expensive upgrades, complex conversions, or lengthy service disruptions. This enables us to provide our clients with the latest functionality in a quick and frictionless process. In addition, our architecture and infrastructure are designed for rapid scalability, which enables us to expand our capacity and manage utilization efficiently and cost-effectively.

 

· Utilize AI and Machine Learning Technology —The digital DNA and cloud-based architecture of our platform enables us to generate, capture, and aggregate a vast array of data across our various business activities. For example, we have developed and deployed machine-learning technologies throughout our enterprise to leverage this data to improve the speed, functionality, and quality of many of our services and operations. For example, we use AI to (1) predict merchant behavior and enable proactive action by our sales teams; and (2) increase the accuracy of our fraud management. In addition, we use AI in many of our internal processes to create better efficiencies and performance. For example, we use AI to (1) improve the management and interpretation of our operational KPIs; and (2) better predict cultural fit, job satisfaction, and long-term performance of job candidates during our talent recruitment and retention processes.

 

· Operate at Low Marginal Costs —The architecture and various operating advantages of the Stone Technology Platform enable us to run our business increasingly efficiently and with lower incremental transaction costs.

 

Key Technology Components

 

Our Stone Technology Platform is comprised of several integrated systems managed by our technology and product development team, which had 668 team members as of December 31, 2019. Some of the key components include:

 

· Infrastructure —Our proprietary infrastructure’s architecture was designed to provide a high level of performance and security to meet the demands of our business. We have private and public cloud-based servers, along with mirrored data centers, dedicated disaster recovery centers, and global load balancers. Our private data centers give us the flexibility, scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud infrastructure, with the control and reliability of a private cloud environment.

 

· POS System —We developed and operate a POS operating system, called Mamba , that runs on Linux and Android-based point of sale terminals, and offers simple features and functions that enhance the user experience. Our Mamba POS system also enables us to integrate our platform with a broad range of POS manufacturers, third-party software, our proprietary app store, and other app stores.

 

· POS App Store —We developed and operate a proprietary, cloud-based app store that hosts third-party applications that can be accessed and used by our Mamba -run POS devices. This app store also provides software developers with access to our POS system’s code, SDKs, and certain standards to help them create new applications for clients and their consumers to use on our Mamba POS devices.

 

· POS Connectivity Technology —Our POS operating system also utilizes Unstructured Supplementary Data, or USSD, technology, which gives our terminals additional connectivity capabilities when conventional networks such as 2G, 3G and wi-fi are not fully functional. This functionality is relevant and differentiated in more remote regions of the country and enables us to reduce connectivity failures, increase the number of transactions we process, and improve our clients’ experience and perception of our company.

 

· Processing System —We developed and operate an advanced front-end authorization processing system, which captures and processes all major card capture methods, including EMV, magnetic stripe, and contactless, among others. We also developed and operate an advanced back-end processing system that provides transaction clearing and settlement. These integrated systems have some of the highest transaction speeds in the market, and are fully compliant with all local and international regulatory requirements and security standards.

 

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· Network Operations Center —We operate a proprietary Network Operational Center, or NOC, that actively monitors our operations in real time, 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Our NOC tracks each step of our payment transactions, the availability of payment scheme systems, telecom services providers’ systems, issuers’ systems, and latency and conversion rates. Our NOC manages notification and escalation rules used by developers to evaluate their services, by business teams to be aware of any potential threat to our clients, and by some of our largest clients through direct communication.

 

· Information and Cybersecurity —Our well-trained and dedicated team of information security and cybersecurity professionals holds various certifications, including Sans, NIST, EC-Council and ISACA, and monitor our systems and transactions around the clock and work to keep our data secure. This team monitors and upholds stringent security and compliance policies in line with global best practices, including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). This team and its technologies monitor all employees and third-parties who access our platforms, and manage tight authentication controls and physical authorization technologies in all of our operating environments. We also have adopted safe coding and development practices.

 

· Product Development —We use a unique, client-centric product development approach and continuous deployment process to create and deliver fast, advanced, and easy-to-use solutions to our clients. Our development is driven by multi-function development teams that leverage user-experience designers and agile development methods. We use project management and design thinking flow tools and have implemented lean practices in product development. We frequently measure merchant satisfaction and product performance indicators—such as adoption, retention and engagement ratios—to come up with new and better potential solutions. Our new solution and features launches are preceded by extensive integration tests and pilot testing with real customers before roll-out.

 

We currently rely on PAX to manufacture and assemble a significant amount of our POS devices. For more information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—We are dependent on a single manufacturer for a substantial amount of our POS devices. We are at risk of shortage, price increases, changes, delay or discontinuation of key components from our POS device manufacturers, which could disrupt and harm our business.”

 

Our Competition

 

The Brazilian payments industry is highly competitive and fast-changing. We face competition to acquire merchants from a variety of providers of payments and payment-related services. Our primary competitors include traditional merchant acquirers such as affiliates of financial institutions and well-established payment processing companies, including Cielo S.A., a company controlled by Banco Bradesco S.A. and Banco do Brasil S.A., Redecard S.A., a subsidiary of Itaú Unibanco Holding SA, Getnet Adquirência e Serviços para Meios de Pagamento S.A. (Santander Getnet), a subsidiary of Banco Santander (Brasil) S.A. Our other competitors include other payment processing companies, such as PagSeguro Digital Ltd., First Data Corporation, Global Payments—Serviços de Pagamentos S.A., a subsidiary of Global Payments Inc., Banrisul Cartões S.A.(known as Vero), a subsidiary of Banrisul S.A., Adyen B.V. and SafraPay, a unit of Banco Safra S.A. We also face competition from non-traditional payment processors and banks that have significant financial resources and develop different kinds of services, including gateways, PSPs, other reconciliation providers, ERPs, banking services and credit operations.

 

Like the digital payments industry in general, we believe that other means of payment, both digital and traditional, including cash, checks, money orders and electronic bank deposits or transfers, compete indirectly with our products and services.

 

The most significant competitive factors in this segment are price, brand, breadth of features and functionality, scalability and service capability. While competitive factors and their relative importance vary based on the size, industry and focus of each merchant, we seek to differentiate ourselves from our competitors through our disruptive business model.

 

For information on risks relating to increased competition in our industry, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—If we cannot keep pace with rapid developments and change in our industry and continue to acquire new merchants, the use of our services could decline, reducing our

 

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revenues” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry”—The payment processing industry is highly competitive, and we compete with certain firms that are larger and that have greater financial resources. Such competition could adversely affect the transaction and other fees we receive from merchants and financial institutions, and as a result, our margins, business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Seasonality

 

We have experienced in the past, and expect to continue to experience, seasonal fluctuations in our revenues as a result of consumer spending patterns. Historically, our revenues have been strongest during the last quarter of each year as a result of higher sales during the Brazilian holiday season. This is due to the increase in the number and amount of electronic payment transactions related to seasonal retail events. Adverse events that occur during these months could have a disproportionate effect on our results of operations for the entire fiscal year. As a result of quarterly fluctuations caused by these and other factors, comparisons of StoneCo Ltd.’s operating results across different fiscal quarters may not be accurate indicators of its future performance. For additional information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Our operating results are subject to seasonality, which could result in fluctuations in our quarterly profit.”

 

Regulatory Matters

 

Our business is subject to a number of laws and regulations that affect payment schemes and payment institutions, many of which are still evolving and could be interpreted in ways that could harm our business. While it is difficult to fully ascertain the extent to which new developments in the field of law will affect our business, there has been a trend towards increased consumer and data privacy protection. It is possible that general business regulations and laws, or those specifically governing payment institutions, may be interpreted and applied in a manner that may place restrictions on the conduct of our business. Below is a summary of the most relevant laws that apply to the operations of the SPB.

 

Regulation of the SPB

 

Our activities in Brazil are subject to Brazilian laws and regulations relating to payment schemes and payment institutions. Law No. 12,865/13, which was enacted on October 9, 2013, establishes the first set of rules regulating the electronic payments industry within the overall Brazilian Payment System (the  Sistema de Pagamentos Brasileiro , or SPB) and creates the concepts of payment schemes, payment scheme settlors and payment institutions.

 

In addition, Law No. 12,865/13 gave the Central Bank, in accordance with the guidelines set out by the CMN, and the CMN authority to regulate entities involved in the payments industry. Such authority covers matters such as the operation of these entities, risk management, the opening of payment accounts, and the transfer of funds to and from payment accounts. After the enactment of Law No. 12,865/13, the CMN and the Central Bank created a regulatory framework regulating the operation of payment schemes and payment institutions. The framework consists of Resolutions 4,282, Circulars 3,680, 3,681 and 3,682, as amended, all of which were published on November 4, 2013, and Circular 3,885 published on March 26, 2018, among others.

 

Payment Schemes

 

A payment scheme, for Brazilian regulatory purposes, is the collection of rules and procedures that governs payment services provided to the public, with direct access by its end users (i.e. payors and receivers). In addition, such payment service must be accepted by more than one receiver in order to qualify as a payment scheme:

 

· Payment schemes that exceed certain thresholds are considered to form part of the SPB and are subject to the legal and regulatory framework applicable to the payment industry in Brazil, including the requirement to obtain an authorization by the Central Bank.

 

· Payment schemes that operate below these thresholds are not considered to form part of the SPB and are therefore not subject to the legal and regulatory framework applicable to the payment industry in Brazil, including the requirement to obtain an authorization from the Central Bank, although they are required to report certain operational information to the Central Bank on an annual basis.

 

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· Limited-purpose payment schemes are not considered to form part of the SPB and, therefore, are not subject to the legal and regulatory framework applicable to the payment industry in Brazil, including the requirement to obtain authorization from the Central Bank. Limited-purpose payment schemes are those whose payment orders are: (a) accepted only at the network of merchants that clearly display the same visual identity as that of the issuer, such as franchisees and other merchants licensed to use the issuer’s brand; or (b) intended for payment of specific public utility services, such as public transport and public telecommunications, or (c) related to employee benefits established by law (such as meal vouchers).

 

· Certain types of payment schemes have specific exemptions from the requirement to obtain authorization from the Central Bank. This applies, for example, to payment schemes set up by governmental authorities, payment schemes set up by certain financial institutions, payment schemes aimed at granting benefits to natural persons due to employment relationships and payment schemes set up by an authorized payment institution in which financial settlement of payment transactions are carried out exclusively using the book-transfer method.

 

Payment Scheme Settlor

 

A payment scheme is set up and operated by a payment scheme settlor, which is the entity responsible for the payment scheme’s authorization and function. Payment scheme settlors, for Brazilian regulatory purposes, are the legal entities responsible for managing the rules, procedures and the use of the brand associated with a payment scheme. Central Bank regulations require that payment scheme settlors must be (i) incorporated in Brazil, (ii) have a corporate purpose compatible with its payments activities and (iii) have the technical, operational, organizational, administrative and financial capacity to meet their obligations. They must also have clear and effective corporate governance mechanisms that are appropriate for the needs of payment institutions and the users of payment schemes.

 

Payment Institutions

 

A payment institution is defined as the legal entity that participates in one or more payment schemes and is dedicated to the execution of the remittance of funds to the receivers in payment schemes, among other activities. Specifically, based on the Brazilian payment regulations, payment institutions are entities that can be classified into one of the following three categories:

 

· Issuers of electronic currency (prepaid payment instruments): These payment institutions manage prepaid payment accounts for cardholders or end-users. They carry out payment transactions using electronic currency deposited into such prepaid accounts, and convert the deposits into physical or book-entry currency or vice versa.

 

· Issuers of post-paid payment instruments (e.g. credit cards): These payment institutions manage payment accounts where the end-user intends to make payment on a post-paid basis. They carry out payment transactions using these post-paid accounts.

 

· Acquirers: These payment institutions do not manage payment accounts, but enable merchants to accept payment instruments issued by a payment institution or by a financial institution that participates in a payment scheme. They participate in the settlement process for payment transactions by receiving the payment from the card issuer and settling with the merchant.

 

Payment institutions must operate in Brazil and must have a corporate purpose that is compatible with payments activities. As for payment schemes, the regulations applicable to payment institutions depend on certain features, such as the annual cash value of transactions handled by the payment institution or the value of resources maintained in prepaid payment accounts. Certain financial institutions have specific exemptions from the requirement to obtain authorization from the Central Bank to act as a payment institution and provide payment services. Furthermore, certain payment institutions are not subject to the legal and regulatory framework applicable to the payment industry in Brazil. This applies, for example, to payment institutions that only participate in limited-purpose payment schemes and payment institutions that provide services in the scope of programs set up by governmental authorities aimed at granting benefits to natural persons due to employment relationships.

 

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The CMN and Central Bank regulations applicable to payment institutions cover a wide variety of issues, including (i) penalties for noncompliance; (ii) the promotion of financial inclusion; (iii) the reduction of systemic, operational and credit risks; (iv) reporting obligations; and (v) governance. The regulations applicable to payment institutions also cover “payment accounts” ( contas de pagamento ), which are the end-user accounts, in registered (i.e., book-entry) form, which are opened with payment institutions that are card issuers of prepaid or post-paid instruments and used for carrying out each payment transaction. Circular No. 3,860/13 classifies payment accounts into two types:

 

· Prepaid payment accounts: Where the funds have been deposited into the payment account in advance of the intended payment transaction; and

 

· Post-paid payment accounts: Where the payment transaction is intended to be performed regardless of whether or not funds have been deposited into the payment account in advance.

 

In order to provide protection from bankruptcy, Law No. 12,865/13 requires payment institutions that issue electronic currency to segregate the funds deposited in prepaid payment accounts from their own assets. In addition, with respect to prepaid electronic currency, the payment institutions must hold a portion of the funds deposited in the prepaid payment account in certain specified instruments: either (i) in a specific account with the Central Bank that does not pay interest; or (ii) in federal government bonds registered with the SELIC. The portion of the prepaid electronic currency that must be held in this form is currently 100%.

 

Our Regulatory Position

 

Four of our subsidiaries perform activities that are subject to Laws No. 12,865/13 or 4,595/64 and regulations from the Central Bank and the CMN, as applicable, which are Stone Pagamentos S.A., or Stone Pagamentos, MNLT Soluções de Pagamento S.A. (formerly Elavon), or EdB, Pagar.me Pagamentos S.A., or Pagar.me, and Stone Sociedade de Crédito Direto S.A., or Stone SCD. As required by the applicable regulations, the four of them have all applied for licenses of operation within the Central Bank, which current status follows below:

 

· Stone Pagamentos was granted a license to operate as a payment institution in the acquirer category on July 3, 2017, and in the issuer of electronic currency category on April 24, 2018;

 

· EdB applied for a license to operate as a payment institution in the acquirer category on June 22, 2014. On June 3, 2016, EdB informed the Central Bank regarding the EdB Acquisition and submitted supplemental documentation in connection with the license application. Despite the license application, the nonexistence of actual operation and payment processing by EdB lead to the dismissal of the application for authorization on February 7, 2020. Given that EdB no longer has any operations, we do not believe that such dismissal will have an effect on our operations. Pagar.me  applied for a license to operate as a payment scheme settlor on February 3, 2017, and as a payment institution in the acquirer and issuer of electronic currency category on April 7, 2017. Due to recent changes in the Central Bank regulation,  Pagar.me ’s payment scheme is no longer subject to the authorization of Central Bank. Therefore,  Pagar.me ’s application for authorization as a payment scheme was dismissed by the Central Bank on June 8, 2017. In regard to the application for a license to operate as a payment institution,  Pagar.me  has supplemented the documentation submitted to the Central Bank in the application for authorization, and is currently waiting for the Central Bank’s approval; and

 

· Stone Sociedade de Crédito Direto S.A. was granted a license to operate as a financial institution established as a direct credit corporation  (sociedade de crédito direto)  on July 19, 2019.

 

Since its license to operate was granted by the Central Bank, Stone Pagamentos and Stone SCD have been in compliance with applicable payment laws and regulations.  Pagar.me  is in a period of transition and adaptation to the payment laws and regulations, given that the request for authorization filed by  Pagar.me  with the Central Bank is still undergoing review. In this sense, its policies and operational routines are being created and adapted, and the changes that have been implemented in Stone Pagamentos for purposes of adapting to the payment rules will be replicated in  Pagar.me .

 

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In addition, Law No. 12,865/2013 prohibits payment institutions from performing activities that are restricted to financial institutions, which are regulated by Law No. 4,595/1964. There is some debate under Brazilian law as to whether providing early payment of receivables to merchants could be characterized as “lending,” which is an activity that is restricted to financial institutions. Similarly, there is some debate as to whether the discount rates applicable to this early payment feature should be considered as “interest,” in which case the limits set by the Brazilian Usury Law would apply to these rates.

 

For transactions that form part of the Brazilian financial system, financial institutions may set interest rates freely, provided that they are not excessively burdensome to consumers. For transactions that do not form part of the Brazilian financial system, the Brazilian Usury Law (Decree-Law No. 22,623/1933) capped interest rates at 12% per year. Subsequently, the Brazilian Civil Code, which replaced the Usury Law, capped interest rates at two times the interest rates applicable to National Treasury ( Fazenda Nacional ), which is currently the SELIC rate (although there is some legal debate as to whether the Brazilian Civil Code has effectively replaced the original Usury Law). As a result, if the discount rate that we charge merchants for early payment of their receivables is considered to be “interest,” it would be capped at two times the SELIC rate.

 

If we fail to comply with the requirements of the Brazilian legal and regulatory frameworks, we could be prevented from carrying out our regulated activities, we could be (i) required to pay substantial fines (including per transaction fines) and disgorgement of our profits, (ii) required to change our business practices or (iii) subjected to insolvency procedures such as an intervention by the Central Bank and the out-of-court liquidation of Stone Pagamentos. We could also be subject to private lawsuits. For additional information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Our business is subject to extensive government regulation and oversight in Brazil and our status under these regulations may change. Violation of or compliance with present or future regulation could be costly, expose us to substantial liability and force us to change our business practices, any of which could seriously harm our business and results of operations.”

 

The Central Bank’s regulations also allow payment schemes to set additional rules for entities that use their brands. Since we participate in these third-party payment schemes, we must comply with their rules in order to continue accepting payments from payment instruments bearing their brands.

 

Regulation of Credit Fintechs in Brazil

 

CMN enacted Resolution No. 4,656/18 on April 26, 2018, to regulate online lending fintechs and create two new categories of financial institutions, as disciplined by Law No. 4,595/64, dated as of December 31, 1964, that are solely authorized to grant credit through electronic platforms:

 

· Direct Credit Corporation ( sociedade de crédito direto – “SCD” ): a financial institution that carries out loan transactions, financing and acquisition of credit rights exclusively through an electronic platform, using its proprietary capital as financial source for such transactions. The SCDs are authorized to assign credits related to their own transactions to (i) financial institutions; (ii) credit rights investment funds (FIDCs); or (iii) securitization companies, provided that the quotas of the FIDC and the securities issued by the securitization company are offered exclusively to qualified investors; and

 

· Peer to Peer Lending Corporation  (sociedade de empréstimo entre pessoas – “SEP”) : a financial institution that intermediates lending and financing transactions between persons, exclusively through an electronic platform. Creditors may be individuals, financial institutions, FIDC, securitization companies or other legal entities, but similarly to the SCD, the quotas of the FIDC and the securities issued by the securitization company can only be offered to qualified investors. CMN Resolution No. 4,656/2018 limits the exposure of non-qualified investors (as per CVM regulation) to BRL 15,000.00 per debtor, for transactions intermediated by the same SEP.

 

As financial institutions, SCDs and SEPs, among other provisions: (i) are free to charge any compensatory interest rates, without caps or limitations, being excluded from the restrictions imposed by the Brazilian Usury Law, (ii) will have direct access to the Credit Risk Data System of the Central Bank ( Sistema de Informação de Crédito – SCR ) for credit purposes analysis, (iii) perform credit collection for customers and third parties, (iv) issue electronic

 

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currency, in accordance with applicable regulation, and (v) may opt to have direct access to the SPB, which allows the performance of domestic wire transfers and issuance of payment slips ( boletos ) without the intervention of a traditional financial institution.

 

On the other hand, SCDs and SEPs must observe certain key governance, compliance and supervision requirements applicable to all the institutions part of the National Financial System ( Sistema Financeiro Nacional  –  SFN ), such as: minimum requirement of paid-in capital stock and net equity, prior authorization to operate, banking secrecy, establishment of internal controls and procedures, implementation of risk management structures, observation of know your client and anti-money laundering rules, constitution of ombudsman office and preparation of accounting statements pursuant to the Standard Chart of Accounts of the National Financial System ( Plano Contábil das Instituições do Sistema Financeiro Nacional - COSIF ),  administrative penalties for noncompliance, among others. In accordance with Resolution No. 4,656/18, once SCDs and SEPs have a simpler risk profile, these financial institutions may opt for falling into the S5 segment to qualify for proportional enforcement of certain operational and prudential rules.

 

Both companies are subject to prior licensing from the Central Bank in order to operate, following the procedure set forth in this new regulatory framework. Licensing requirements are slightly simpler (the business plan, for instance, is replaced by a statement of reasons), but are generally similar to those already in place for financial institutions, such as: (i) identifying the controlling group; (ii) proving financial and economic capacity, expertise and know-how; and (iii) showing evidence of approval from the applicant’s officer members. In case of foreign participation in the shareholding of SCDs and SEPs, there is no need to require any prior approval of the President of the Republic, considering the issuance of Presidential Decree No. 9,544/18, dated as of October 19, 2018, which already pre-authorized the participation of foreign capital in all and any SCDs or SEPs.

 

Direct Credit Corporation

 

The regulatory framework for SCDs is simple and straightforward, considering that such institutions have a limited and less complex scope of activities, focusing exclusively on the extension of loans and financing, as well as on the acquisition of receivables, using financial resources that originate solely from its proprietary capital.

 

 Seeking to provide greater legal certainty to this "new credit market", newly promulgated regulation requires SCDs to select their clients based on consistent, verifiable and transparent criteria, including relevant aspects to credit risk assessment.

 

The SCDs are authorized to provide ancillary credit services, limited to an exhaustive list set forth in the regulation, encompassing: (i) credit analysis for clients and third parties; (ii) collection of debts owed by clients and third parties; (iii) acting as insurance representative in distribution of insurance related to credit transactions; and (iv) issuance of electronic currency. Notwithstanding, SCDs are prohibited from having equity interest in financial institutions, and also restricted from any fundraising from the public, except for the issuance of shares.

 

Anti-Money Laundering Rules

 

Our activities in Brazil are subject to Brazilian laws and regulations relating to anti-money laundering, or AML, terrorism financing, including the “combating the financing of terrorism” rules, or CFT rules, and other potentially illegal activities. These rules require us to implement policies and internal procedures to monitor and identify suspicious transactions, which must be duly reported to the relevant authorities.

 

We comply with the applicable AML laws and regulations and we have implemented required policies and internal procedures to ensure compliance with such rules and regulations, including procedures to report suspicious activities, suspected terrorism financing and other potentially illegal activities to the authorities. Our employees are aware of our policies and internal procedures, which shall be mandatorily complied with and supervised. The Brazilian AML law specifies the acts that may constitute a crime and the required measures to prevent such crimes. It also prohibits the concealment or dissimulation of the origin, location, availability, handling or ownership of assets, rights or financial resources directly or indirectly originated from crimes, and subjects the agents of these illegal practices to imprisonment, temporary disqualification from managing enterprises up to 10 years and monetary fines.

 

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The Brazilian AML law also created the Financial Activities Control Council, or COAF, which is the Brazilian financial intelligence unit that operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. COAF has a key role in the Brazilian AML and counter-terrorism financing system, and it is legally liable for the coordination of the mechanisms for international cooperation and information exchange.

 

We have adopted the internal controls and procedures required by the Brazilian AML/CFT rules, which are focused on:

 

· identifying and knowing our clients;

 

· checking the compatibility between the volume of funds of a client and such client’s economic and financial capacity;

 

· checking the origin of funds;

 

· carrying out a prior analysis of new products and services, under the perspective of money laundering prevention;

 

· keeping records of all transactions;

 

· reporting to COAF, within one business day and without informing the involved person or any third party, (i) any transaction exceeding the limit set by the competent authority and as required under applicable regulations; (ii) any transaction deemed to be suspicious, as required under applicable regulations; and (iii) at least once a year, whether or not suspicious transactions are verified, in order to certify the non-occurrence of transactions subject to reporting to COAF (negative report);

 

· applying special attention to (i) unusual transactions or proposed transactions with no apparent economic or legal bases; (ii) clients and transactions for which the UBO cannot be identified; and (iii) situations in which it is not possible to keep the clients’ identification records duly updated;

 

· offering anti-money laundering training for employees;

 

· monitoring transactions and situations which could be considered suspicious for anti-money laundering purposes;

 

· ensuring that policies, procedures and internal controls are commensurate with the size and volume of transactions; and

 

· the unavailability of goods, values and rights possessed, directly or indirectly, by any individual or legal entity sanctioned by any resolution of the United Nations Security Council.

 

We are currently improving our anti-money laundering program in light of the new regulation imposed by the Central Bank, Circular No. 3,978, which will come into force on July 1, 2020, which provides new guidelines for the AML/CFT processes and the expansion and the strengthening of the list of PEP (Politically Exposed People). See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—We are subject to anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-money laundering laws and regulations.”

 

E-Commerce, Data Protection, Consumer Protection and Taxes.

 

In addition to regulations affecting digital payment schemes, we are also subject to laws relating to internet activities and e-commerce, as well as banking secrecy laws, consumer protection laws, tax laws and other regulations applicable to Brazilian companies generally. Internet activities in Brazil are regulated by Law No. 12,965/14, known as the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet, which embodies a substantial set of rights of internet users and obligations relating to internet service providers. This law exempts intermediary platforms such as Stone Co. or EdB from liability for user generated content and certain activities carried out by their users. Since the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the internet is a new legislation and, therefore, there are

 

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few court decisions in this area, it is still possible that we may be subject to joint civil liability for activities carried out by our users.

 

Law No. 8,078/90, known as the Consumer Protection Code, regulates consumer relations in Brazil, including matters such as: commercial practices; product and service liability; areas where suppliers of products or services are subject to strict liability; the reversal of the burden of proof so as to benefit consumers; the joint and several liability of all companies within a supply chain; unfair contract terms; advertising; and information on products and services that are offered to the public. Consumers have the right to receive clear and accurate information regarding retail products and services, with correct specification of characteristics, structure, quality, price, risks, and consumers’ rights to access and amend personal information collected about them and stored in private databases.

 

Customer accounts on our digital platform are subject to data protection under the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the internet and bank secrecy laws (Complementary Law No. 105/01 c/c/ Article 17 of the CMN’s Resolution No. 4,282/13). We are also subject to trademark protection rules, and to tax laws and related obligations such as the rules governing the sharing of customer information with tax and financial authorities. It is unclear whether the tax and regulatory authorities would seek to obtain information regarding our customers. Any such request could come into conflict with the data protection rules, which could create risks for our business.

 

The laws and regulations applicable to the Brazilian digital payments industry are subject to ongoing interpretation and change, and our digital payments business may become subject to regulation by other authorities. For further information on the risks relating to regulation of business, please see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Our business is subject to extensive government regulation and oversight in Brazil and our status under these regulations may change. Violation of or compliance with present or future regulation could be costly, expose us to substantial liability and force us to change our business practices, any of which could seriously harm our business and results of operations.”

 

Consumer Protection Laws

 

Due to some of our products, we are subject to several laws and regulations designed to protect consumer rights—most importantly, Law No. 8,078 of September 11, 1990—known as the Consumer Protection Code ( Código de Defesa do Consumidor ), which sets forth the legal principles and requirements applicable to consumer relations in Brazil, setting out certain basic rights, and the consumers’ rights to access and modify personal information collected about them and stored in private databases. This law regulates, among other things, commercial practices, product and service liability, strict liability of the supplier of products or services, reversal of the burden of proof to the benefit of consumers, the joint and several liability of all companies within the supply chain, abuse of rights in contractual clauses, advertising and information on products and services offered to the public. These consumer protection laws could result in substantial compliance costs.

 

Data Privacy and Protection

 

The Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the internet establishes principles, guarantees, rights and duties for the use of the internet in Brazil, including regulation about data privacy for internet users. Under Brazilian law, personal data may only be treated (i.e . , collected, used, transferred, etc.) upon users’ prior and express consent. Privacy policies of any company must be clear and detailed and include information regarding all contemplated uses for such users’ data and excessively ample or vague consent for data treatment may be deemed invalid in Brazil.

 

Furthermore, consent from users must be obtained separately and contractual clauses relating to consent must be specifically highlighted. Brazilian courts have applied joint and several liability among all entities that shared and/or used personal data subject to a breach. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to our Business and Industry—Unauthorized disclosure, destruction or modification of data, through cybersecurity breaches, computer viruses or otherwise or disruption of our services could expose us to liability, protracted and costly litigation and damage our reputation.” On August 14, 2018, the Brazilian President approved Law No. 13,709 ( Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados,  or the LGPD), a comprehensive data protection law establishing general principles and obligations that apply across multiple economic sectors and contractual relationships. The LGPD establishes detailed rules for the collection, use, processing and storage of personal data and is expected to affect all economic sectors, including the relationship between customers and suppliers of goods and services, employees and employers and other relationships in which personal data is collected, whether in a digital or physical environment.

 

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Moreover, Law No. 13,853/19 amended certain provisions of the LGPD and created the ANPD. The ANPD will be an administrative body, connected to the Cabinet of the Presidency, with technical autonomy, but no financial and budgetary autonomy. The ANPD is expected to have the following responsibilities, among others: (i) enact rules and regulations relating to data protection; (ii) analyze and interpret, in the administrative sphere, matters relating to the LGPD; (iii) request access to information from data controllers and processors; (iv) supervise processing activities and impose sanctions; and (v) promote cooperation with international and transnational data protection authorities, among others. Law No. 13,853/19 also extended the original term of 18 months for companies to become compliant with the LGPD to 24 months. In this regard, the LGPD will become effective in August 2020, by which date all legal entities will be required to conform their data processing activities to these new rules. A comprehensive data mapping of the company’s personal data flows and the subsequent review of internal and external documents and procedures, as well as the negotiation of contractual amendments regulating data sharing are examples of adaptations required for compliance with the LGPD.

 

The foregoing list of laws and regulations to which we are subject is not exhaustive and the regulatory framework governing our operations changes continuously. Although we do not believe that compliance with future laws and regulations related to the payment processing industry and our business will have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations, the enactment of new laws and regulations may increasingly affect the operation of our business, directly and indirectly, which could result in substantial regulatory compliance costs, litigation expense, adverse publicity, the loss of revenue and decreased profitability.

 

Intellectual Property

 

Most of our services are based on proprietary software and related payment systems solutions. We rely on a combination of software laws, trademark and trade secret laws, as well as employee and third-party non-disclosure, confidentiality and other types of contractual arrangements to establish, maintain and enforce our intellectual property rights, including with respect to our proprietary rights related to our products and services. In addition, we license technology from third parties.

 

As of December 31, 2019, we owned 62 trademarks issued in Brazil, including “Stone,” “Mundipagg,” “Pagar.me,” “Equals,” “Buy4,” and have 40 trademark applications pending in Brazil.

 

We have also registered several domain names with NIC.br, Brazil’s internet domain name registry, and domain registrars in the United States and elsewhere, including “ stone.com.br ,” “ pagar.me ,” “ mundipagg.com.br ,” “ mundipagg.com ,” “ cappta.com.br ,” “ equals.com.br “ , “ stonemais.com.br “, “ stone.co “ and “ investors.stone.co “.

 

We have material contracts with Visa and Mastercard in connection with our activities as an acquirer for these card schemes. Our Visa Payment Arrangements Participation and Trademark License Agreement, dated as of February 19, 2016 (as amended from time to time), between Visa do Brasil Empreendimentos Ltda. and Stone Pagamentos S.A. sets forth the general terms and conditions under which Stone Pagamentos S.A. acts as a merchant acquiring principal participant for Visa in Brazil and provides Stone Pagamentos S.A. with a non-exclusive and non-transferable license to use certain trademarks owned by Visa in connection with its activities as an acquirer in Brazil. Under this agreement, Stone Pagamentos S.A. is exclusively responsible for all the costs and risks associated with its participation as a merchant acquiring principal and consideration payable to Visa under this agreement is determined by the standard payment terms set forth in the Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules, available on Visa’s website. Our License Agreement, dated as of December 21, 2015 and as amended from time to time, between MasterCard International Incorporated and Stone Pagamentos S.A. sets forth the general terms and conditions under which Mastercard grants Stone Pagamentos S.A. a non-exclusive license to use certain trade names, trademarks, service marks and logotypes (including Mastercard, Cirrus and Maestro branded marks) in Brazil in connection with Stone Pagamentos S.A.’s issuing and acquiring activities. No consideration is due to Mastercard under this agreement.

 

Trademarks

 

We own or have rights to trademarks, service marks and trade names that we use in connection with the operation of our business, including our corporate name, logos and website names. Other trademarks, service marks and trade names appearing in this annual report are the property of their respective owners. Solely for convenience, some of the trademarks, service marks and trade names referred to in this annual report are listed without the ® and

 

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™ symbols, but we will assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights to our trademarks, service marks and trade names.

 

C. Organizational structure

 

We are an exempted company with limited liability incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands with the legal name StoneCo Ltd. Our principal executive offices are located at R. Fidêncio Ramos, 308, Vila Olímpia, 10 th  floor, São Paulo—SP, 04551-010, Brazil. Our telephone number at this address is +55 (11) 3004-9680.

 

Investors should contact us for any inquiries through the address and telephone number of our principal executive office. Our principal website is www.stone.co. The information contained in, or accessible through, our website is not incorporated by reference in, and should not be considered part of , this annual report.

 

We carry out our operations principally through our Brazilian operating companies. A simplified organizational chart showing our corporate structure is set forth below.

 

 

 

 

(1) Ownership interests in these entities not held by Stone Co. or its affiliates are held by the original founders of such businesses.

 

See Exhibit 8.1 for a list of our subsidiaries.

 

D. Property, plant and equipment

 

Properties

 

Our registered office and corporate headquarters in 4th Floor, Harbour Place, 103 South Church Street, P.O. Box 10240, Grand Cayman, KY1-1002, Cayman Islands , Cayman Islands consists of an office of 144 square feet of space, which is under a lease that expires in 2023. Our operational hub, which includes product development, sales, marketing, and business operations, are located in São Paulo. It consists of two offices of 3,836 and 2,814 square meters of space, each under leases that expire in 2021 and 2022, respectively. In Rio de Janeiro our operation consists of two offices of 6,380 and 5,026 square meters of corporate office space for part of our business activities, including customer relations and technology development, under leases that expire in 2021 and 2029, respectively. In accordance with our business strategy, as of December 31, 2019, we had over 350 operational proprietary Stone Hubs operating in Brazil. We believe that our facilities are sufficient for our current needs.

 

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Additionally, of December 31, 2019, we leased data center facilities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Brazil, and in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chicago, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.

 

Many of our operational, sales, and administrative facilities, including our operational headquarter and hubs, are held pursuant to lease agreements. The term of our leases for our facilities in São Paulo is less than five years, and there is no possibility of filing a renewal lawsuit. However, the term of our leases for our facilities in Rio de Janeiro is greater than five years, and may be renewed with landlord consent or by filing a renewal lawsuit. We may be required to vacate these facilities upon request of the landlord if we are not able to reach an agreement to renew our leases or the terms of any renewals are unfavorable.

 

In addition, the lease agreements are not registered, nor annotated on the real estate record files of the leased properties. Therefore: (i) in the event of sale of the leased real properties to third parties, even if the lease term is effective, the new owner will be entitled to terminate the lease upon a 90-day prior written notice period, counted as from the date of such acquisition, and the lessee will be forced to vacate the real property; and (ii) the lessee will not be entitled to adjudicate the leased properties in the event the respective lessor does not respect the lessee’s right of first refusal and sell the property to third parties.

 

We believe that our facilities are suitable and adequate for our business as presently conducted. However, we periodically review our facility requirements and may acquire new space to meet the needs of our business or consolidate and dispose of facilities that are no longer required.

 

ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

Not applicable.

 

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ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

 

The following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto as well as the information presented under “Item 3. Key Information—A. Selected Financial Data.” The following discussion contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including those set forth in “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors.”

 

A. Operating results

 

Overview

 

We are a leading provider of financial technology solutions that empower merchants and integrated partners to conduct electronic commerce seamlessly across in-store, online, and mobile channels. We have developed a deep client-centric culture that seeks to delight our clients rather than to simply provide them with a solution or service. To achieve this, we created a proprietary, go-to-market approach called the Stone Business Model , which enables us to create and adapt the client experience and interact with our clients through our people and technology. The Stone Business Model combines our advanced, end-to-end, cloud-based technology platform; differentiated hyper-local and integrated distribution approach; and white-glove, on-demand customer service. The Stone Business Model is disruptive and has enabled us to gain significant traction in only five years since the launch of our service. In 2017, we also became the first non-bank entity to obtain authorization from the Central Bank of Brazil to operate as a Merchant Acquirer Payments Institution. In 2019, we ranked as the largest independent merchant acquirer in Brazil and the fourth largest based on total volume in Brazil, according to data from public filings.

 

We currently serve over 495,100 active clients of all sizes and types that transact online, offline or have an omni-channel sales approach, though our focus is primarily on targeting the approximately 8.8 million small-and-medium-sized businesses, or SMBs, in Brazil. We also served over 116 integrated partners as of December 2019, which use or embed our solutions into their own offerings to enable their customers to conduct commerce more conveniently in Brazil. These integrated partners include global payment service providers, or PSP’s, digital marketplaces, and integrated software vendors, or ISVs. Since the roll-out of our Stone Business Model , we have rapidly grown our client base with a particular focus on the SMB market. As a result, as the chart below highlights, our focus on SMB merchants has enabled us to grow our take rate from 1.55% in the first quarter of 2017 to 1.80% in the fourth quarter of 2019, representing 25 basis points of improvement in the period.

 

 

The following is a summary of our key operational and financial highlights:

 

· We generated R$2,576.0 million of total revenue and income in the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to R$1,579.2 million of total revenue and income in 2018, representing annual growth of 63.1%. In 2018, we generated R$1,579.2 million of total revenue and income, compared to R$766.6 million of total revenue and income in 2017, representing annual growth of 106.0%.

 

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· We served approximately 495,100 active clients as of December 31, 2019, compared to approximately 269,100 as of December 31, 2018, representing annual growth of 84.0%. As of December 31, 2018, we served approximately 269,100 active clients, compared to approximately 131,200 as of December 31, 2017, representing annual growth of 105.1%.

 

· We generated net income of R$804.2 million and adjusted net income of R$857.1 million in the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to net income of R$305.2 million and adjusted net income of R$342.8 million in the year ended December 31, 2018. In 2018, we generated net income of R$305.2 million and adjusted net income of R$342.8 million, compared to a loss of R$105 million and adjusted net income of R$45.1 million in 2017. See “Item 3. Key Information—Selected Financial Data” for a reconciliation of adjusted net income (loss) to our profit (loss) for the year.

 

· We processed TPV of R$129.1 billion in 2019, compared to R$83.4 billion in 2018, representing annual growth of 54.8%. In 2018, we processed TPV of R$83.4 billion, compared to R$48.5 billion in 2017, representing annual growth of 71.8%.

 

Significant Factors Affecting our Results of Operations

 

Total Payments Volume and Processing Fees

 

We derive a substantial part of our revenue from fees earned as a percentage of the TPV of our clients. Our TPV is primarily driven by:

 

· Growth of volume within our active client base. As our active clients grow their transaction volume, our TPV will also grow. Our active clients are positioned in attractive growth market segments. Our focus is primarily on targeting the approximately 8.8 million SMBs in Brazil, which we believe have historically been underserved. In addition, despite the large size of Brazil’s economy, we believe its Payments market, particularly among SMBs in small and medium cities, remains less penetrated and has greater growth upside than more mature economies, such as the U.S. and the U.K. We also target the e-commerce market, which is expected to grow faster than the overall Payments markets in Brazil.

 

· Growth of our active client base. Growth of our active clients is driven by (i) growth in the number of merchants resulting from openings and ramp-up of Stone Hubs; (ii) growth in the number of integrated partners in specific verticals and niche market segments; and (iii) growth in our e-commerce merchant base.

 

Our quarterly TPV grew 263.1% in a two-year period, from R$15.3 billion for the quarter ended December 31, 2017 to R$40.2 billion for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, and our number of active clients expanded 377.3% over the same period, from approximately 131,200 active clients as of December 31, 2017 to approximately 495,100 active clients as of December 31, 2019, as shown in the graphs below.

 


 

A significant part of our net revenues is generated through fees we charge for providing end-to-end processing services using the Stone Technology Platform , which include the authorization, capture, transmission, processing and settlement of transactions. In the case of e-commerce merchants, we may additionally charge a fixed fee per transaction to provide gateway services.

 

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The fees we charge our clients for processing services are subject to a variety of external factors such as competition, interchange and assessment fees and other macroeconomic factors, such as interest rates, inflation, among others. Our ability to sustain or increase our fees depends on our ability to continue to execute on our Stone Business Model and sustain a competitive advantage.

 

Adoption of our commerce-enabling solutions

 

We leverage our active client base and distribution capabilities to generate subscription-based revenue and upsell new solutions that we may develop or acquire.

 

Growth of recurring revenue from our active client base

 

In addition to net revenues driven by payment processing, we also generate revenues from fixed monthly subscription fees paid by our active client base. These fees are charged for providing different combinations of integrated service and solutions offerings to support our clients’ businesses, depending on their specific needs. These services can include, among others, POS rental, reconciliation solutions, and business automation solutions.

 

We may also generate additional revenues within our active client base by upselling new solutions as they are developed or acquired. We expect that, by executing this strategy, we will increase the lifetime value of our active client base. We expect to leverage our distribution capabilities through our Stone Hubs to increase penetration of our solutions at minimal incremental costs.

 

Working capital and credit solutions

 

We provide working capital solutions to help merchants manage their cash flows more effectively. We offer our merchants prepayment options for their future expected receivables from credit card installments and we charge a discount rate equivalent to a percentage of the total volume requested to be prepaid. The discount rate depends on factors such as merchant size, the maturity of receivables to be prepaid, and local market dynamics. An overall increase in TPV generally increases financial income from our working capital solutions due to an overall increase in the volume of prepayments. Higher levels of installment transactions usually lead to higher demand for our working capital solutions. On the other hand, a smaller share of credit transactions leads to a decrease in the ratio of financial income from our working capital solutions relative to total revenue and income, since debit card transactions are not eligible for prepayment.

 

We can also provide our clients with credit if they need further funding to grow their businesses beyond the working capital solutions that we provide. We leverage our client data to offer this solution in a proactive and cost-effective way, and we charge a specific risk adjusted rate from the client. Once onboarded, our clients can access credit through multiple channels including our merchant portal in a simple and transparent way. Our credit offering enables our clients to pay back their loans effortlessly through the automatic retention of a percentage of their sales.

 

Due to our working capital and credit solutions offering, optimizing funding costs is a key driver of our margins. Through the date of this annual report, we have funded prepayments to our active client base by (i) selling receivable rights owed to us by card issuers to banks we hold a commercial relationship with, or to special purpose investment funds, Fundo de Investimento de Direitos Creditórios (Fund for Investment in Credit Rights) or FIDCs, controlled by us that exclusively buy these receivables such as FIDC AR1 or AR2, (ii) using proceeds from general third-party borrowings, and (iii) using our own capital. For further information on our FIDCs, see “—Description of Principal Line Items—Financial Expenses, Net” and note 18 of our audited consolidated financial statements. Our funding costs are primarily affected by our capital structure, interest rates, availability of third-party receivables financing on attractive terms, and our ability to continue to attract investment into our FIDC AR1 and FIDC AR2 on attractive terms. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business overview—Our Solutions—Grow Our Clients’ Businesses.”

 

Complement Solutions Offerings through Acquisition and Investment Activity

 

We have an established track record of investing, acquiring and integrating complementary technology solutions and businesses. Future acquisitions will likely remain an important part of our competitive strategy in order to enhance our portfolio of offerings and execute ISV strategies within specific verticals. Since January 1,

 

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2016, we have made seven acquisitions and minority investments. Six of these have been of businesses or technologies which have strengthened our solutions offerings. In addition, our acquisition of Elavon do Brasil Soluções de Pagamento S.A., or EdB, on April 22, 2016 allowed us to expand our TPV and number of active clients, thereby increasing total revenue and income.

 

The financial impact of acquisitions may affect the comparability of our results from period to period. In addition to the revenues and expenses associated with such acquisitions only being included in our financial results for any period upon the closing of the acquisition, we will incur transaction and other expenses associated with acquisitions, including amortization of intangibles relating to those acquisitions, which we expect will negatively impact our profit (loss). Amortization of intangibles related to acquisitions can vary substantially from company to company and from period to period depending upon the applicable financing and accounting methods, the fair value and average expected life of the acquired intangible assets, the capital structure and the method by which the intangible assets were acquired. See “—B. Liquidity and capital resources—Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates—Estimated Useful Life of Intangible Assets.”

 

In connection with the acquisition of EdB and certain other entities, we recorded amortization expense for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2018 and 2017 of R$17.2 million, R$12.6 million and R$14.8 million, respectively, related to the fair value adjustment on intangible assets, primarily software, and property and equipment, as a result of the application of the acquisition method.

 

Economies of scale resulting from our Stone Technology Platform

 

Our advanced, end-to-end, cloud-based technology platform allows us to grow our volumes and increase the number of active clients while reducing marginal transaction and operational costs.

 

Due to the relatively fixed cost nature of this platform, which relies on our data-centers and our internal team of engineers and developers, we expect that, as TPV grows, our cost per transaction will continue to decrease. The technologically advanced and integrated nature of our platform also allows us to run our operations in a cost-effective manner, by reducing the need for operational personnel and allowing several processes to be run with a high level of automation. For example, we are able to quickly onboard merchants because our platform is able to combine different sources of data and run automatic risk checks within minutes. Also, our Green Angels team of operations and support personnel allows us to improve POS deployment costs as we further penetrate and grow our active client base within our Stone Hubs.

 

Timing differential between future revenues generated and operational investments

 

In executing the Stone Business Model, we expect to incur initial operational investments in periods prior to the realization of any future revenues associated with this upfront investment. For example, in the process of opening a new Stone Hub, we incur the expense of hiring a team of Stone Agents and Green Angels to set up the operation. As sales productivity from this Stone Hub ramps up and marginal operational costs are reduced, we realize greater contribution margins from our Stone Hubs. With the deployment of new and better technologies, management processes and training, we expect the productivity of our Stone Business Model to improve over time.

 

Interchange and assessment fees

 

Our revenue from processing services is mainly composed of the net merchant discount rate, or net MDR, which is a commission withheld by us from the transaction value paid to the merchant. Our net revenue from MDR is defined as the total MDR charged to our merchants, net of interchange fees retained by card issuers, assessment fees charged by payment scheme settlors and sales taxes. Interchange fees are set by the payment schemes according to certain variables, including the type of card product (e.g., credit vs debit), merchant segment, type of card (e.g. standard, gold, premium, business, others), transaction type (e.g., online vs POS terminal) and the origin of the card (international vs. domestic). Assessment fees are charged per transaction by the payment scheme settlors, such as Visa and Mastercard, to cover the cost of providing access to their payment network.

 

We are unable to predict if or when payment schemes will increase or decrease their fees or what the amount of any such variations may be. Our standard contract with our clients allows us to readjust our rates and tariffs by notice to the merchant to offset any increase in interchange fees. However, our ability to adjust our pricing remains

 

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subject to a variety of factors, including competition from other payment providers, market conditions and, in certain cases, direct price negotiations with the merchant. As a result, at times, we might not be able or willing to pass through all increases or decreases in assessment and/or interchange fees to our clients, and therefore, increases or decreases in these fees may reduce or increase our revenue from processing services.

 

On March 26, 2018, the Central Bank of Brazil issued a ruling whereby the interchange fees on debit cards will be subject to a cap of up to 0.8% on debit transactions, effective October 2018. Furthermore, debit card issuers must maintain a maximum average interchange fee of 0.5% on their total transaction volume. Before this ruling, no such cap existed.

 

For further information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—If we cannot pass increases in fees from payment schemes, including assessment, interchange, transaction and other fees, along to our merchants, our operating margins will decline,” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Certain ongoing legislative and regulatory initiatives under discussion by the Brazilian Congress, the Central Bank and the broader payments industry, which may result in changes in the regulatory framework of the Brazilian payments and financial industries and may have an adverse effect on the Company.”

 

 Reclassification of liability-classified share-based compensation expense

 

Prior to our initial public offering, certain of our outstanding share-based compensation awards were liability-classified. In particular:

 

· Class C Shares . Certain of our founding partners and senior executives received a one-time issuance of fully vested Class C shares (as classified under our Articles of Association in effect prior to the consummation of our initial public offering) as compensation for services rendered to us. These shares were subject to a lock-up period, and their terms provided Stone Co. with the right to redeem or repurchase such shares at any time at a price to be determined by our board of directors. Prior to January 2018, as our founding partners were deemed to have the power to cause the Company to redeem or repurchase shares beneficially owned by the founding partners, the fair value of the redemption or repurchase price related to the Class C shares beneficially owned by the founding partners was recorded as a liability in our financial statements. During the periods that these Class C shares were liability classified, the liability was adjusted to fair value at each reporting date through profit or loss.

 

· Co-Investment Shares . Certain employees were also granted incentive shares, or the Co-Investment Shares, in one of our subsidiaries. These Co-Investment Shares are subject to a lock-up period and a discounted buy-back feature to be exercised by Stone Co. if the employee leaves prior to lockup expiration. As a result, the Co-Investment Shares were recorded as a liability in our financial statements. DLP Capital, LLC and DLP Par Participações S.A. each have a 90-day option to repurchase the Co-Investment Shares at the price of the most recent capital increase of DLP Pagamentos Brasil S.A. following expiration of the lock-up period and adjusted by 110% of the CDI Rate.

 

In January 2018, the terms of the articles of association of the entity wholly owned by the founding partners and senior executives that held the Class C shares were modified to create an independent committee to approve any share redemptions or repurchases beneficially owned by the founding partners within the vehicle (including the redemption of Class C shares of Stone Co.). As such, as of January 31, 2018, all outstanding Class C Shares held by the founding partners were reclassified to equity in our financial statements.

 

On July 17, 2018, we repurchased and immediately canceled 1,814,022 of the Class C shares. The total purchase price per Class C share amounted to 90% of the price per Class A common share sold in our initial public offering, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions. Pursuant to the terms of the repurchase, the initial aggregate payment for this repurchase was R$63.2 million and was paid upon repurchase, with an additional aggregate payment of R$79.2 million paid to this entity.

 

In addition, in connection with our initial public offering, the Co-Investment Shares and Class C shares were reclassified into common shares pursuant to our amended and restated Articles of Association.

 

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Accordingly, we do not have any outstanding Class C shares or Co-Investment Shares, and due to the modification of the articles of association noted above and the reclassification of the Co-Investment Shares (and associated removal of the Co-Investment Shares’ discounted buyback feature), after our initial public offering, we no longer had any liability-classified share-based compensation or related fair value adjustments impacting our profit or loss.

 

Macroeconomic environment

 

The vast majority of our operations are located in Brazil. As a result, our revenues and profitability are subject to political and economic developments and the effect that these factors have on the availability of credit, disposable income, employment rates and average wages in Brazil. Our results of operations are affected by levels of consumer spending, interest rates and the expansion or retraction of consumer credit in Brazil, each of which impacts the number and overall value of payment transactions. For more information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Brazil—Political instability and economic uncertainty in Brazil, including in relation to country-wide corruption probes, may adversely affect the price of our Class A common shares and our business, operations and financial condition.”

 

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America, as measured by gross domestic product, or GDP. The following table shows data for real GDP, inflation and interest rates in Brazil and the U.S. dollar/ real exchange rate at the dates and for the periods indicated.

 

    For the Year Ended December 31,
    2019   2018   2017
Real growth (contraction) in gross domestic product     1.1 %     1.3 %     1.3 %
Inflation (IGP-M)(1)     7.3 %     7.5 %     (0.5 )%
Inflation (IPCA)(2)     4.3 %     3.7 %     2.9 %
Long-term interest rates—TJLP (average)(3)     6.2 %     6.7 %     7.0 %
CDI interest rate (4)     6.0 %     6.5 %     10.1 %
Period-end exchange rate— reais per US$1.00     R$4.031       3.875       3.308  
Average exchange rate— reais per US$1.00(5)     R$3.946       3.656       3.203  
Appreciation (depreciation) of the real vs. US$ in the
period(6)
    (4.0 )%     (17.1 )%     (1.5 )%
Unemployment rate(7)     11.9 %     12.3 %     12.7 %

 

 

 

Source : FGV, IBGE, Central Bank and B3.

 

(1) Inflation (IGP-M) is the general market price index measured by the FGV.

 

(2) Inflation (IPCA) is a broad consumer price index measured by the IBGE.

 

(3) TJLP is the Brazilian long-term interest rate (average of monthly rates for the period).

 

(4) The CDI ( certificado de depósito interbancário ) interest rate is an average of interbank overnight rates in Brazil, accumulated during the corresponding period.

 

(5) Average of the exchange rate on each business day of the year.

 

(6) Comparing the US$ closing selling exchange rate as reported by the Central Bank at the end of the period’s last day with the day immediately prior to the first day of the period discussed.

 

(7) Average unemployment rate for year as measured by the IBGE.

 

Interest rate

 

Interest rates have an effect on our ability to generate revenue. While higher interest rates can lead to decreases in private consumption, negatively impacting our TPV, they may also positively correlate to prepayment spreads, positively impacting our results to the extent that we are able to increase our prices in excess of increases in funding costs.

 

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Inflation

 

Inflation has an effect on our obligations towards certain suppliers, such as office leasing and telecommunications operators, whose costs are indexed to inflation rates. However, most of our revenues are naturally hedged against inflation, since our TPV also tends to fluctuate according to inflation. When merchants adjust their prices for inflation, the purchasing power of consumers may be reduced, which may adversely affect our revenue if it results in a reduction in the number and volume of transactions. However, if our merchants raise their prices due to inflation, this will positively impact our TPV and, consequently, our revenues.

 

Currency fluctuations

 

The results of our operations are primarily denominated in reais (R$). However, our results may be subject to currency fluctuations as we hold cash, accounts payable and receivables denominated in foreign currency (primarily U.S. dollars). For example, we process transactions originated from our active client base in Brazil with credit cards issued by foreign banks that are settled in a foreign currency. In addition, we purchase items that have their prices partially indexed to U.S. dollars, such as POS devices, other equipment and our data centers. To partially offset our exchange rate risk, we may use derivative contracts. For the year ended December 31, 2019, 2018 and 2017, we had a net foreign currency gain (loss) of R$8.5 million, R$(5.8) million and R$8.1 million, respectively.

 

Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

In December 2019, a strain of novel coronavirus (now commonly known as COVID-19) was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 has since spread rapidly throughout many countries, and, on March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. In an effort to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many countries,have imposed unprecedented restrictions on travel, and there have been business closures and a substantial reduction in economic activity in countries that have had significant outbreaks of COVID-19, including Brazil. Significant uncertainty remains as to the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations, and on the global economy as a whole. It is currently not possible to predict how long the pandemic will last or the time that it will take for economic activity to return to prior levels. However, should the pandemic worsen, it could cause customers to continue to avoid our clients’ businesses and cause temporary or long-term disruptions in our clients’ businesses, including, but not limited to, complete or partial closures. This could lead to lower TPV and revenue generated from our clients. Furthermore, we could experience higher levels of default for our credit solutions. Each of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash flows.

 

To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to some of our clients’ employees being unable to work, including because of illness or travel or government restrictions in connection with pandemics or disease outbreaks. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the temporary or permanent closure of some of our clients’ stores or facilities, and in some cases, our clients’ businesses. These factors have adversely impacted our clients’ sales and severely disrupted their operations, leading to a decline in TPV and the revenue we generate from our clients. In addition, deterioration in financial markets has led to increased costs of capital and decreased margins for our working capital solutions business. Furthermore, a substantial part of our employees are working remotely, which can adversely impact our business.We are unable to provide the same level of customer service we normally do with our Agents, as they cannot service our clients in person.

 

We do not yet know the full extent of any impact on our business or our operations, however, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely, and intend to follow health and safety guidelines as they evolve. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Actual or threatened epidemics, pandemics, outbreaks, or other public health crises may have an adverse impact on our clients’ financial condition, particularly SMB merchants, and our business could be harmed.”

 

Seasonality

 

We have experienced in the past, and expect to continue to experience, seasonal fluctuations in our revenues as a result of consumer spending patterns. Historically, our revenues have been strongest during the last quarter of each year as a result of higher sales during the Brazilian holiday season. This is due to the increase in the number and amount of electronic payment transactions related to seasonal retail events. Adverse events that occur during these months could have a disproportionate effect on its results of operations for the entire fiscal year. As a result of

 

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quarterly fluctuations caused by these and other factors, comparisons of our operating results across different fiscal quarters may not be accurate indicators of our future performance. For additional information, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business and Industry—Our operating results are subject to seasonality, which could result in fluctuations in our quarterly profit.”

 

EdB Acquisition

 

On April 22, 2016, we completed the acquisition of EdB, a payments company formed in 2010 as a joint venture between Elavon, Inc. (“Elavon Inc.”), USB Americas Holding Company and Banco Citibank S.A. We acquired 100% of EdB’s equity for the purchase price of 1 real. Upon the acquisition, we implemented initiatives to improve the efficiency of operations and the liquidity of EdB. Such initiatives were funded through capital contributions of R$409.9 million.

 

The EdB Acquisition enabled us to strengthen our position in the Brazilian payments market and to increase our transaction volume and access to a well-established portfolio of active clients and business partners. Of our total TPV of R$28.1 billion in 2016, 40.4% was processed on our processing platform and 59.6% was processed on Elavon Inc.’s legacy processing platform. Of our total TPV of R$48.5 billion in 2017, 69.3% was processed on our processing platform and 30.7% was processed on Elavon Inc.’s legacy processing platform. Of our total TPV of R$83.4 billion in 2018, 98% was processed on our processing platform and 2% was processed on Elavon Inc.’s legacy processing platform. This change in TPV on each platform was driven by organic growth of our active client base as well as the migration of merchants from Elavon Inc. to our processing platform. As a result of this migration, our margins have improved due to lower processing costs on our platform. As of the date of this annual report, nearly all of EdB’s merchant base has been migrated to our processing platform. For further information, see note 5 of our audited financial statements.

 

In conjunction with the EdB Acquisition, EdB and Elavon Inc. entered into a Master Processing and Operational Services Agreement, or MPA, pursuant to which Elavon Inc. agreed to provide certain processing services to EdB. The MPA had an initial term of two years, but was subsequently extended to August 22, 2018. During the term of this agreement, we have paid payment processing fees to Elavon Inc. in connection with volumes processed on their platform. Prior to August 22, 2018, we negotiated an extension of the MPA exclusively for transactions carried out by one specific EdB client until October 31, 2018. As of the date of this annual report, we no longer incur any costs associated with authorization and capture of new transactions on the Elavon Inc. platform.

 

Description of Principal Line Items

 

The following is a summary of the principal line items comprising our statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income.

 

Total revenue and income

 

Our total revenue and income consists of the sum of our net revenue from transaction activities and other services, net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental, financial income and other financial income.

 

Net revenue from transaction activities and other services

 

Our net revenue from transaction activities and other services consists of commissions and fees charged for end-to-end processing services we provide through the Stone Technology Platform, which include the capture, routing, transmission, authorization, processing, and settlement of transactions, carried out using credit and debit cards, meal vouchers, boletos and other APMs. Our net revenue from transaction activities and other services consists mainly of net MDR, which is a commission withheld by us that is discounted from the transaction values paid to the merchant, and/or other per-transaction commissions for providing gateway services. We recognize revenue from transaction activities when the purchase transaction is captured. We recognize revenue from other services when the service is rendered. For more information on our revenue recognition policies, see note 3.14 of our audited financial statements. License fees paid to payment schemes are included in the cost of services as discussed below.

 

Our net MDR revenue is recognized net of interchange fees retained by card issuers, assessment fees charged by payment schemes and deductions. Such deductions consist primarily of the applicable Brazilian sales taxes and

 

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social security contributions: service tax (Imposto sobre Serviços, or ISS); contributions to the Brazilian government’s Social Integration Program (Programa de Integração Social, or PIS); and contributions to the Brazilian government’s social security program (Contribuição para o Financiamento da Seguridade Social, or COFINS). We are required to collect each of the above-mentioned taxes and contributions on our transaction activities and other services.

 

In the event of a chargeback, the net revenues associated with such transactions are deducted from net revenue from transaction activities and other services. Losses from chargebacks resulting from billing disputes are included in the cost of services as discussed below.

 

Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental

 

We earn monthly recurring revenue from subscription services and equipment rental, which include rentals of electronic capture equipment and other solutions or services, such as reconciliation solutions and business automation solutions, among other services. Revenue generated by electronic capture equipment rental varies according to the value of the equipment, the quantity of equipment rented to a particular merchant and the location of the merchant. Each subscription service fee is charged as a fixed monthly fee and is either billed and deducted from the merchant’s transaction receivables or is billed to the client monthly. We recognize revenue from subscription services as the services are rendered and from equipment rental on a straight-line basis over the contractual lease term.

 

The amounts deducted from our revenue from subscription services and equipment rentals consist primarily of the applicable Brazilian sales taxes and social security contributions, including ISS, PIS and COFINS. We are required to collect each of the above-mentioned taxes and contributions on our subscription services and equipment rentals when applicable. 

 

Financial income

 

Financial income is generated by our working capital and credit solutions, and consists of fees charged for the prepayment of our clients’ receivables from credit card transactions and from our credit operations.

 

Some merchants allow cardholders to elect to pay for purchases in multiple installments. We allow our merchants to elect early payment of single or multiple installment receivables, less a prepayment fee.

 

The prepayment fee included in financial income is charged, in addition to our payment processing transaction fees, as described above under “—Net revenue from transaction activities and other services.” The prepayment fee is recognized as financial income once the merchant elects for the receivable to be prepaid. If the merchant elects prepayment of a receivable on a weekend or bank holiday, the prepayment fee will be recognized in financial income on the next business day when the merchant receivable is paid. The expenses we incur in funding the prepayment of receivables and credit operations are included in financial expenses as discussed below. For more information regarding our working capital solutions, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Solutions.”

 

Other financial income

 

Our other financial income consists principally of interest generated by funds held in interest-bearing bank accounts and by deposits we are required to make by the Brazilian courts, known as judicial deposits, which are legal reserves as security for any damages or settlements we may be required to pay as a result of litigation.

 

Cost of services

 

Our cost of services include transaction costs, depreciation and amortization, costs to deploy merchant equipment, personnel expenses related to customer service, technology, operations, logistics and other, payment scheme license fees, losses from chargebacks and other costs. For further information on these costs, see note 24 to our audited consolidated financial statements.

 

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· Transaction costs consist of amounts related to processing, data center costs, telecommunications costs related to leased terminals, third-party payment processor fees (principally associated with payments processed through Elavon Inc. for merchants acquired pursuant to the EdB Acquisition) and wire transfer costs.

 

· Depreciation and amortization expenses allocated to cost of services and administrative and selling expenses. Depreciation and amortization included in our cost of services consists mainly of (i) depreciation of equipment leased to merchants, (ii) the amortization of software that we develop internally for use in our operations, (iii) depreciation of datacenter used in our processing operations and (iv) depreciation of right-of-use assets due to the adoption of IFRS 16.

 

· Costs to deploy merchant equipment consist of third-party supplier logistics services and internal and external costs related to delivery of leased equipment to merchants and other supply chain costs.

 

· Personnel expenses are divided between cost of services and administrative expenses and selling expenses. Personnel expenses included in cost of services relate to customer relations personnel, certain personnel in our technology team, logistics personnel, and other personnel that support our transaction processing and other services.

 

· Payment scheme license fees under cost of services are fees paid to Visa, Mastercard and other card schemes to enable communications between network participants, access to specific reports, expenses related to projects involving the development of new functions, operational fixed fees, fees related to chargeback restatements and royalties.

 

· Losses from chargebacks consist of transactions credited back or refunded to the cardholder in the event a billing dispute between a cardholder and merchant is not resolved in favor of the merchant. Chargebacks may occur due to a variety of factors, such as a claim by the cardholder or cases of fraud. If we are unable to collect chargeback or refund from the merchant’s account, or if the merchant refuses to or is unable to reimburse us for a chargeback or refund due to closure, bankruptcy, or other circumstances, and, we bear the loss for the amounts paid to the cardholder.

 

· Other expenses are allocated to our cost of services as well as our administrative and selling expenses. Other expenses included in our cost of services consist mainly of items such as travel expenses and costs of office supplies incurred in connection with the services that we sell.

 

Administrative expenses

 

Administrative expenses represent the amounts that we spend on back-office activities, quality control, indirect relations with our clients and overhead. These amounts consist of certain personnel expenses, depreciation and amortization and other expenses.

 

· The portion of our personnel expenses that form part of our administrative expenses relate to our finance, legal, human resources, administrative, and other administrative personnel, as well as fees paid for professional services, including legal, tax and accounting services. The portion of our depreciation and amortization expenses that forms part of our administrative expenses relates to (i) the depreciation of the equipment, furniture, tools and technology used in our head office, back-office, and other operations, (ii) the amortization of acquired intangibles for customer relationships and brand, (iii) the amortization of software developed internally to support our head office and back-office needs and (iv) depreciation of right-of-use assets due to the adoption of IFRS 16.

 

· The portion of our other costs that form part of our administrative expenses includes items such as travel, lodging, insurance, facilities, rent, consultancy fees, reimbursement of staff expenses and office supplies.

 

· Our administrative expenses have increased as a result of becoming a publicly traded company and compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Public company costs include expenses associated with annual and quarterly reporting, investor relations, registrar and transfer agent fees, incremental insurance costs, and accounting and legal services.

 

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Selling expenses

 

Selling expenses represent the amounts we spend on commercial teams, marketing, publicity, commissions for third-party commercial partners and depreciation expenses.

 

· The portion of our personnel expenses that form part of selling expenses relates to our commercial team which has direct interactions with potential and existing clients. The main portion of this team are individuals who act in a direct sales model.

 

· The portion of our commissions for third-party commercial sales partners that form part of our selling expenses relates to amounts paid for sales partners or franchisees that act directly with potential clients in some determined areas. These sales partners are generally paid in accordance with a profit-sharing model and are paid monthly.

 

· The portion of marketing and advertising expenses included in our selling expenses relates to the production and distribution of our marketing and advertising campaigns on traditional offline media, traditional online advertising, the positioning of our products in internet search platforms and expenses incurred in relation to trade marketing at events.

 

· The portion of depreciation expenses of right-of-use assets due to the adoption of IFRS 16.

 

Financial expenses, net

 

Our financial expenses, net include (i) discounts charged to us for the sale of our receivables from card issuers, (ii) interest expense on our other borrowings, (iii) the net amount of foreign currency gains and losses on cash balances denominated in foreign currencies, (iv) the cost of swaps relating to our foreign currency borrowings and (v) bank services fees.

 

To date, we have funded our working capital solutions primarily (i) by selling receivables owed to us by card issuers to certain banks, (ii) with capital raised by securitizing the receivables owed to us by card issuers through two significant FIDCs, namely FIDC AR1 and FIDC AR2, (iii) through our general third-party borrowings and (iv) with our own capital. In 2017, we set up two Brazilian special purpose investment funds, FIDC AR1 and FIDC AR2, to purchase and hold receivables, through which we have raised capital to finance our working capital solutions. These FIDCs are controlled by us, and raised capital by issuing senior quotas in the FIDCs to outside investors, who receive a return on these investments. For further information regarding these FIDCs, see note 18 to our audited consolidated financial statements and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources— Note on the impact of different funding sources in our operating and financing cash flows.”

 

All of our bank borrowings and senior quota holder obligations in FIDC AR1 and FIDC AR2 as of December 31, 2019, 2018 and 2017 were denominated in Brazilian reais .

 

Other operating expenses, net

 

Other operating expenses, net consists mainly of share-based payments, contingencies, charges and miscellaneous income and/or expense items.

 

Liability-classified share-based compensation expense

 

Certain of our founding partners and senior executives received a one-time issuance of fully-vested Class C shares (as classified under our Articles of Association in effect prior to the consummation of our initial public offering) in us, as compensation for services rendered to us. These shares are subject to a lock-up period, and their terms provide us with the right to redeem such shares at any time at a redemption price to be determined by our board of directors. As our founding partners were deemed to have the power to cause Stone Co. to redeem shares beneficially owned by the founding partners, the fair value of the redemption price related to these Class C shares was recorded as a liability in our financial statements until January 2018. Prior to this date liability associated with these Class C shares was adjusted to fair value through each reporting date through profit or loss.

 

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Certain employees have also been granted Co-Investment Shares in one of our subsidiaries. Incentive shares are subject to a lock-up period and a discounted buy-back feature retained by us if the employee leaves prior to lockup expiration. As a result, the plan has been liability classified and as such has been re-measured at each reporting date and expensed in our consolidated statements of profit or loss. In addition, in connection with our initial public offering, the Co-Investment Shares were reclassified into common shares pursuant to our amended and restated Articles of Association. For further information about share-based payment expenses see note 26 to our audited consolidated financial statements and “—Significant Factors Affecting our Results of Operations—Reclassification of Liability-Classified Share-Based Compensation Expense”.

 

Share-based awards in connection with our initial public offering and follow-on offering

 

In September 2018, we granted new awards of restricted share units (RSUs) and stock options. In addition, we converted all outstanding Phantom Shares to RSU awards. These awards are equity settled, the majority of the awards are subject to performance conditions, and the related compensation expense will be recognized over the vesting period. We granted 5,396,454 awards (including pursuant to the Phantom Share conversion), and, after giving effect to the acceleration of certain awards in connection with our initial public offering to allow recipients to participate in our initial public offering, such awards have the following aggregate vesting schedule: approximately 6% vested at the initial public offering, approximately 9% will vest in four years, approximately 18% will vest in five years, approximately 21% will vest in seven years, and approximately 46% will vest in 10 years. The aggregate share-based compensation expense associated with such RSU and stock option awards was approximately R$300 million and will be recognized over the vesting periods described above. We incurred R$64 million and R$61 million of share-based compensation expense associated with these awards vesting in the fiscal years ending December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018, respectively. As the award was a one-time, nonrecurring event related to our initial public offering, all incurred future share-based compensation expense associated with these awards will be an adjustment in our calculation of adjusted net income.

 

Gain (loss) on investment in associates

 

Gain (loss) on investment in associates consists mainly of results from operations from other entities that are not consolidated into our financial statements.

 

Income tax and social contributions

 

Current income tax and social contribution tax on net profits

 

The current corporate income tax (“CIT”) is calculated at a joint nominal rate of approximately 34%. CIT is composed of (i) income tax at the rate of 15% in addition to a surplus rate of 10% for taxable income exceeding R$20 thousand per month; and (ii) social contribution tax on net income at a 9% rate applicable to non-financial institutions.

 

Our tax assets for the current year are calculated based on the expected recoverable amount, and tax liabilities for the current year are calculated based on the amount payable to the applicable tax authorities. The tax rates and tax laws used to calculate this amount are those enacted or substantially enacted at the reporting date. We periodically evaluate our tax positions with respect to interpreting tax regulations and, when appropriate, establish provisions. Due to the nature of income tax and social contributions in Brazil described above, where income tax and social contributions are payable on a legal entity basis as opposed to on a consolidated basis, tax losses for one subsidiary entity cannot be used to offset income tax owed by other subsidiary entities.

 

Deferred income tax and social contributions tax on net profits

 

The accounting records of deferred tax assets on income tax losses and/or social contribution loss carryforwards, as well as those arising from temporary differences, are based on technical feasibility studies which consider the expected generation of future taxable income, taking into account the history of profitability for each subsidiary individually. In accordance with the Brazilian tax legislation, and as a general rule, loss carryforwards can be used to offset up to 30% of taxable profits for the year and do not expire.

 

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Our deferred tax assets are mainly generated by our net tax operating loss carryforwards. These are derived primarily from the acquisition of Elavon, as well as from carryforward losses accrued in connection with our operations.

 

Tax Incentives

 

Similar to other Brazilian companies across multiple industries, we benefit from certain tax and other government-granted incentives associated with technological innovation under Law 11,196/05, (“ Lei do Bem ”), which enable us to reduce the CIT base. For the effective tax rate reconciliation, see note 11 of our audited consolidated financial statements.

 

Year Ended December 31, 2019 Compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2018

 

The following table sets forth our statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income data for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018.

 

    For the Year Ended December 31,
    2019   2018   Variation (R$)   Variation
(%)
    R$ millions, except amounts per share
Statement of profit or loss data:                
Net revenue from transaction activities and other services     770.3       514.6       255.7       49.7 %
Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental     331.6       213.7       117.9       55.2 %
Financial income     1,287.8       801.3       486.5       60.7 %
Other financial income     186.4       49.6       136.8       275.8 %
Total revenue and income     2,576.0       1,579.2       996.8       63.1 %
Cost of services     (427.0 )     (323.0 )     (104.0 )     32.2 %
Administrative expenses     (285.8 )     (252.9 )     (32.9 )     13.0 %
Selling expenses     (360.6 )     (190.2 )     (170.4 )     89.6 %
Financial expenses, net     (353.5 )     (301.1 )     (52.4 )     17.4 %
Other operating expenses, net     (57.7 )     (69.3 )     11.6       -16.7 %
Loss on investment in associates     (0.8 )     (0.4 )     (0.4 )     100.0 %
Profit (loss) before income taxes     1,090.7       442.3       648.4       146.6 %
Income tax and social contribution     (286.5 )     (137.1 )     (149.4 )     109.0 %
Profit (loss) for the year     804.2       305.2       499.0       163.5 %
Profit (loss) for the year                                
Owners of the parente     803.2       301.2       502.0       166.7 %
Non-controlling interests     1.0       4.0       (3.0 )     -75.0 %
Basic profit (loss) per share for the year attributable to owners of
the parent (R$)
    R$ 2.90       R$ 1.30       R$ 1.60       123.1 %
Diluted profit (loss) per share for the year attributable to owners
of the parent (R$)
    R$ 2.85       R$ 1.29       R$ 1.56       120.9 %

 

TPV and Active Clients

 

The following table sets forth our TPV and active clients for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018:

 

    For the Year Ended December 31,
    2019   2018   Variation
(R$)
  Variation
(%)
    R$ millions, except amounts per share
TPV (in billions)     129.1       83.4       45.7       54.8 %
Active clients (in thousands)     495.1       269.1       226.0       84.0 %

 

As discussed in “—Significant Factors Affecting our Results of Operations,” TPV is one of the main drivers of revenue for our business. Growth for the year ended December 31, 2019, both in TPV and active clients, was primarily driven by our Stone Hubs, both through new Stone Hub openings and growing market share within existing Stone Hubs, which enabled us to onboard new SMB merchants and grow transaction volumes from existing

 

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and new clients. Due to our strategic focus on the SMB market segment, we grew our active client base faster than our TPV in the year ended December 31, 2019.

 

Total revenue and income

 

Total revenue and income was R$2,576.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, an increase of R$996.8 million or 63.1% from R$1,579.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. Total revenue and income growth was driven primarily by an increase in TPV and an increase in the number of SMBs as a proportion of our total client base.

 

    For the Year Ended December 31,
    2019   2018   Variation (R$)   Variation (%)
    R$ millions, except amounts per share
Net revenue from transaction activities and other services     770.3       514.6       255.7       49.7 %
Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental     331.6       213.7       117.9       55.2 %
Financial income     1,287.8       801.3       486.5       60.7 %
Other financial income     186.4       49.6       136.8       275.8 %
Total revenue and income     2,576.0       1,579.2       996.8       63.1 %

 

Net revenue from transaction activities and other services . Net revenue from transaction activities and other services was R$770.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 an increase of R$255.7 million or 49.7% from R$514.6 million for the year ended year over year December 31, 2018. This increase was primarily attributable to the R$45.7 billion growth in TPV, which translated to an increase of R$281.8 million in net revenue from transaction activities and other services, partially offset by a decrease in average rates.

 

Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental . Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental was R$331.6 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, an increase of R$117.9 million or 55.2% from R$213.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. This increase was primarily attributable to the increase in the number of active SMB clients, partially offset by lower average subscription per client.

 

Financial income . Financial income for the year ended December 31, 2019 was R$1,287.8 million, an increase of R$486.5 million or 60.7% from R$801.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, primarily attributable to the 54.8% growth in TPV year over year. The R$45.7 billion growth of TPV year over year translates to an increase of R$486.4 million in financial income, and an increase in financial income as a percentage of TPV to 1.00% in 2019 from 0.96% in 2018.

 

Other financial income . Other financial income was R$186.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, an increase of R$136.8 million from the year ended December 31, 2018, primarily attributable to an increase in our cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments primarily attributable our initial public offering proceeds.

 

Cost of services

 

Cost of services for the year ended December 31, 2019 was R$427.0 million, an increase of R$104.0 million, or 32.2%, from R$323.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. Cost of services as a percentage of total revenue and income was 16.6% for the year ended December 31, 2019, an efficiency gain of 3.9%, from 20.5% for the year ended December 31, 2018. This efficiency gain is primarily driven by (i) dilution of fixed costs of our proprietary processing platform and personnel expenses, which contributed 1.1% and (ii) an improvement of 2.7% due to efficiency improvements our logistics and customer relationship operations.

 

Administrative expenses

 

Administrative expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019 was R$285.8 million, an increase of R$32.9 million or 13.0% from R$252.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. Administrative expenses as a percentage of total revenue and income was 11.1% for the year ended December 31, 2019, an efficiency gain of 4.9%, from 16.0% for the year ended December 31, 2018. This efficiency gain is mainly explained by operational leverage from personnel and facilities expenses.

 

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Selling expenses

 

Selling expenses was R$360.6 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, an increase of R$170.4 million or 89.6% from R$190.2 million the year ended December 31, 2018, primarily attributable to an increase of R$105.3 million in personnel expenses due to additional headcount in the sales team in connection with the our strategy to grow through the Stone Hubs.

 

Financial expenses, net

 

Financial expenses, net was R$353.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, an increase of R$52.4 million from R$301.1 million for year ended December 31, 2018. This increase was primarily attributable to an increase in funding expenses of R$67.6 million due to higher prepayment volumes.

 

Financial expenses, net as a percentage of financial income reduced from 37.6% for the year ended December 31, 2018 to 27.4% for the year ended December 31, 2019. This reduction was due to lower financial expenses due to the lower base rate in the period, less expensive funding arrangements and use of higher amounts of our own cash to fund prepayment operations.

 

Other operating expenses, net

 

Other operating expenses, net was R$57.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 a decrease of R$11.6 million or 16.7% from R$69.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. This is mainly explained by recovery of receivables, partially offset by higher share-based compensation expenses.

 

Loss on investment in associates

 

Losses on investments in associates for the year ended December 31, 2019 was R$0.8 million, or change of R$0.4 million from $0.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2018.

 

Profit (loss) before income taxes

 

Profit before income taxes was R$1,090.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 an increase of R$648.4 million from a profit before income taxes of R$442.3 million before income taxes for the year ended December 31, 2018.

 

Income tax and social contribution

 

Our total effective tax rate for the year ended December 31, 2019 was 26.0%, compared to 31.0% for the year ended December 31, 2018.

 

For further information about our income taxes, see note 11 to our audited consolidated financial statements.

 

Net income (loss) for the year

 

Net income was R$804.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 an increase of R$499.0 million from a net income of R$305.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. This improvement is mainly related to the increase in total revenue and income in addition to operating leverage in cost of services, administrative expenses and financial expenses.

 

Adjusted net income

 

Adjusted net income was R$857.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 an increase of R$514.3 from R$342.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. The main factors that contributed to the growth in adjusted net income were: (i) increase in total revenue and income, primarily due to higher TPV and our focus on growing our base of SMB merchants; (ii) operating leverage in most lines, especially cost of services and administrative expenses; and (iii) reduced cost of funds, as we transition to less expensive funding arrangements and increase the use of own cash to fund our prepayment operations. See “Summary Financial and Other Information” for a reconciliation of adjusted net income (loss) to our profit (loss) for the period.

 

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Year Ended December 31, 2018 Compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2017

 

The following table sets forth our statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income data for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017. Share and per share data for the year ended December 31, 2017 in the table below has been retroactively adjusted to give effect to the 126-for-one share split of our common shares effective as of October 14, 2018.

 

    For the Year Ended December 31,
    2018   2017   Variation
(R$)
  Variation
(%)
    R$ millions, except for amounts per share
Statement of profit or loss data:                
Net revenue from transaction activities and other services     514.6       224.2       290.4       129.5 %
Net revenue from subscription services and equipment rental     213.7       105.0       108.7       103.5 %
Financial income     801.3       412.2       389.1       94.4 %
Other financial income     49.6       25.3       24.3       96.1 %
Total revenue and income     1,579.2       766.6       812.6       106.0 %
Cost of services     (323.0 )     (224.1 )     (98.9 )     44.1 %
Administrative expenses     (252.9 )     (174.6 )     (78.3 )     44.9 %
Selling expenses     (190.2 )     (92.0 )     (98.2 )     106.7 %
Financial expenses, net     (301.1 )     (237.1 )     (64.0 )     27.0 %
Other operating expenses, net     (69.3 )     (134.2 )     64.9       (48.4 %)
Loss on investment in associates     (0.4 )     (0.3 )     (0.1 )     33.3 %
Profit (loss) before income tax     442.3       (95.7 )     538.0      

n.m.

 
Income tax and social contribution     (137.1 )     (9.3 )     (127.8 )     1,374.2 %
Profit (loss) for the year     305.2       (105.0 )     410.2      

n.m.

 
Profit (loss) attributable to:                                
Owners of the parent     301.2