INTRODUCTION [skip intro, go
right to statement of Google's IPO risks]
Feinberg's reading in Criminal Justice Ethics
contains a section on the "Presumptive Case for Liberty" based on the
benefit of self
actualization from people making their own choices:
"Freedom to decide on one's own while
fully informed of the facts thus tends to promote the good of the person who
exercises it, even if it permits him to make foolish or dangerous mistakes. [John
Stuart] Mill added to this argument the citation that numerous social
benefits redound indirectly but uniformly to those who grant freedom as
well as those who exercise it. We all profit from the fruits of genius, he
maintained, and genius, since it involves doggedness and eccentricity, is likely
to flourish only where coercive pressures to conformity are absent. Moreover,
social progress is more likely to occur where there is free criticism of
prevailing ways and adventurous experiments in living" (p 88, emphasis
The idea under a utilitarian
framework is that when individuals are free to make their own choices, the
maximum collective happiness, satisfaction and utility can be achieved. Under a Kantian
or deontological approach, freedom is further defended on the basis of
people being rational and deserving of respect. In each case, the important
concept is voluntary and informed consent, which is deemed acceptable
even for people to enter into risky activities, medical procedures, financial
contracts, etc. [One reason for suits against
cigarette makers is that the Tobacco papers indicated manufacturers knew how
harmful tobacco was and made statements that were knowing lies, so smokers
did not have full knowledge of the risks.]
The public interest and hype around Google's Initial Public
Offering [IPO] of stock is a good case study. The Securities and Exchange
Commission [SEC] requires not just disclosure of the company's finances, but
disclosure of the risks the company faces so investors can make an informed
decision about purchasing the stock. Many companies downplay risks and have
minimal risk disclosures or boilerplate statements, but Google's IPO has a very frank discussion about the
many potential problems the company faces. (It's also an interesting look
at the industry, which is important to everyone who uses the internet to find
How does reading Google's statement of risk
change your thoughts about investing in them, or the price you would be willing
to pay for a share of stock?
PLEASE NOTE: The following is
taken directly from Google's IPO, although it has been formatted to be
consistent with this website and the editor has added several links for
background information. The original document filed with the SEC is available
By the way, I am not anti-Google, just pro informed choice. I use Google both
for my personal searches and for the site search on both my websites. For
additional commentary, see http://www.watchinggooglelikeahawk.com/.
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
FORM S-1: REGISTRATION STATEMENT
Under The Securities Act of 1933
An investment in Google involves significant risks. You should read these risk factors carefully before deciding whether to invest in our company. The following is a description of what we consider our key challenges and risks.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
We face significant competition from Microsoft and Yahoo.
We face formidable competition in every aspect of our business, and particularly from other companies that seek to connect people with information on the web and provide them with relevant advertising. Currently, we consider our primary competitors to be Microsoft and Yahoo. Microsoft has announced plans to develop a new web search technology that may make web search a more integrated part of the Windows operating system. We expect that Microsoft will increasingly use its financial and engineering resources to compete with us. Yahoo has become an increasingly significant competitor, having acquired Overture Services, which offers Internet advertising solutions that compete with our AdWords and AdSense programs, as well as the Inktomi, AltaVista and AllTheWeb search engines. Since June 2000, Yahoo has used, to varying degrees, our web search technology on its web site to provide web search services to its users. We have notified Yahoo of our election to terminate our agreement, effective July 2004. This agreement with Yahoo accounted for less than 3% of our net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2003 and less than 3% for the three months ended March 31, 2004.
Both Microsoft and Yahoo have more employees than we do (in Microsoft’s case, currently more than 20 times as many). Microsoft also has significantly more cash resources than we do. Both of these companies also have longer operating histories and more established relationships with customers. They can use their experience and resources against us in a variety of competitive ways, including by making acquisitions, investing more aggressively in research and development and competing more aggressively for advertisers and web sites. Microsoft and Yahoo also may have a greater ability to attract and retain users than we do because they operate Internet portals with a broad range of products and services. If Microsoft or Yahoo are successful in providing similar or better web search results compared to ours or leverage their platforms to make their web search services easier to access than ours, we could experience a significant decline in user traffic. Any such decline in traffic could negatively affect our net revenues.
We face competition from other Internet companies, including web search providers, Internet advertising companies and destination web sites that may also bundle their services with Internet access.
In addition to Microsoft and Yahoo, we face competition from other web search providers, including companies that are not yet known to us. We compete with Internet advertising companies, particularly in the areas of pay-for-performance and keyword-targeted Internet advertising. Also, we may compete with companies that sell products and services online because these companies, like us, are trying to attract users to their web sites to search for information about products and services.
We also compete with destination web sites that seek to increase their search-related traffic. These destination web sites may include those operated by Internet access providers, such as cable and DSL service providers. Because our users need to access our services through Internet access providers, they have direct relationships with these providers. If an access provider or a computer or computing device manufacturer offers online services that compete with ours, the user may find it more convenient to use the services of the access provider or manufacturer. In addition, the access provider or manufacturer may make it hard to access our services by not listing them in the access provider’s or manufacturer’s own menu of offerings. Also, because the access provider gathers information from the user in connection with the establishment of a billing relationship, the access provider may be more effective than we are in tailoring services and advertisements to the specific tastes of the user.
There has been a trend toward industry consolidation among our competitors, and so smaller competitors today may become larger competitors in the future. If our competitors are more successful than we are at generating traffic, our revenues may decline.
We face competition from traditional media companies, and we may not be included in the advertising budgets of large advertisers, which could harm our operating results.
In addition to Internet companies, we face competition from companies that offer traditional media advertising opportunities. Most large advertisers have set advertising budgets, a very small portion of which is allocated to Internet advertising. We expect that large advertisers will continue to focus most of their advertising efforts on traditional media. If we fail to convince these companies to spend a portion of their advertising budgets with us, or if our existing advertisers reduce the amount they spend on our programs, our operating results would be harmed.
We expect our growth rates to decline and anticipate downward pressure on our operating margin in the future.
We expect that in the future our revenue growth rate will decline and anticipate that there will be downward pressure on our operating margin. We believe our revenue growth rate will decline as a result of anticipated changes to our advertising program revenue mix, increasing competition and the inevitable decline in growth rates as our net revenues increase to higher levels. We believe our operating margin will decline as a result of increasing competition and increased expenditures for all aspects of our business as a percentage of our net revenues, including product development and sales and marketing expenses. We also expect that our operating margin may decline as a result of increases in the proportion of our net revenues generated from our Google Network members. The margin on revenue we generate from our Google Network members is generally significantly less than the margin on revenue we generate from advertising on our web sites. Additionally, the margin we earn on revenue generated from our Google Network could decrease in the future if our Google Network members require a greater portion of the advertising fees.
Our operating results may fluctuate.
Our operating results may fluctuate as a result of a number of factors, many of which are outside of our control. The following factors may affect our operating results:
Our ability to compete effectively.
Our ability to continue to attract users to our web sites.
The level of use of the Internet to find information.
Our ability to attract advertisers to our AdWords program.
Our ability to attract web sites to our AdSense program.
[Editor: See http://www.google.com/ads/solutions.html
for more information on Adwords & Adsense]
The mix in our net revenues between those generated on our web sites and those generated through our Google Network.
The amount and timing of operating costs and capital expenditures related to the maintenance and expansion of our businesses, operations and infrastructure.
Our focus on long term goals over short-term results.
The results of our investments in risky projects.
General economic conditions and those economic conditions specific to the Internet and Internet advertising.
Our ability to keep our web sites operational at a reasonable cost and without service interruptions.
The success of our geographical and product expansion.
Our ability to attract, motivate and retain top-quality employees.
Foreign, federal, state or local government regulation that could impede our ability to post ads for various industries.
Our ability to upgrade and develop our systems, infrastructure and products.
New technologies or services that block the ads we deliver and user adoption of these technologies.
The costs and results of litigation that we face.
Our ability to protect our intellectual property rights.
Our ability to forecast revenue from agreements under which we guarantee minimum payments.
Our ability to manage click-through fraud and other activities that violate our terms of services.
[Editor, see https://www.google.com/adsense/faq#basics8]
Our ability to successfully integrate and manage our acquisitions.
Geopolitical events such as war, threat of war or terrorist actions.
Because our business is changing and evolving, our historical operating results may not be useful to you in predicting our future operating results. In addition, advertising spending has historically been cyclical in nature, reflecting overall economic conditions as well as budgeting and buying patterns. For example, in 1999, advertisers spent heavily on Internet advertising. This was followed by a lengthy downturn in ad spending on the web. Also, user traffic tends to be seasonal. Our rapid growth has masked the cyclicality and seasonality of our business. As our growth slows, we expect that the cyclicality and seasonality in our business may become more pronounced and may in the future cause our operating results to fluctuate.
For these reasons, comparing our operating results on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful, and you should not rely on past results as an indication of future performance. Quarterly and annual expenses as a percentage of net revenues may be significantly different from historical or projected rates. Our operating results in future quarters may fall below expectations, which could cause our stock price to fall.
If we do not continue to innovate and provide products and services that are useful to users, we may not remain competitive, and our revenues and operating results could suffer.
Our success depends on providing products and services that people use for a high quality Internet experience. Our competitors are constantly developing innovations in web search, online advertising and providing information to people. As a result, we must continue to invest significant resources in research and development in order to enhance our web search technology and our existing products and services and introduce new high-quality products and services that people will use. If we are unable to predict user preferences or industry changes, or if we are unable to modify our products and services on a timely basis, we may lose users, advertisers and Google Network members. Our operating results would also suffer if our innovations are not responsive to the needs of our users, advertisers and Google Network members, are not appropriately timed with market opportunity or are not effectively brought to market. As search technology continues to develop, our competitors may be able to offer search results that are, or that are perceived to be, substantially similar or better than those generated by our search services. This may force us to compete on bases in addition to quality of search results and to expend significant resources in order to remain competitive.
We generate our revenue almost entirely from advertising, and the reduction in spending by or loss of advertisers could seriously harm our business.
We generated approximately 95% of our net revenues in 2003 from our advertisers. Our advertisers can generally terminate their contracts with us at any time. Advertisers will not continue to do business with us if
their investment in advertising with us does not generate sales leads, and ultimately customers, or if we do not deliver their advertisements in an appropriate and effective manner. If we are unable to remain competitive and provide value to our advertisers, they may stop placing ads with us, which would negatively affect our net revenues and business.
We rely on our Google Network members for a significant portion of our net revenues, and otherwise benefit from our association with them, and the loss of these members could adversely affect our business.
We provide advertising, web search and other services to members of our Google Network. The net revenues generated from the fees advertisers pay us when users click on ads that we have delivered to our Google Network members’ web sites represented approximately 15% of our net revenues in 2003, and approximately 21% of our net revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2004, and we expect this percentage to increase in the future. We consider this network to be critical to the future growth of our net revenues. However, some of the participants in this network may compete with us in one or more areas. Therefore, they may decide in the future to terminate their agreements with us. If our Google Network members decide to use a competitor’s or their own web search or advertising services, our net revenues would decline.
Our agreements with a few of the largest Google Network members account for a significant portion of net revenues derived from our AdSense program. In addition, certain of our key network members operate high-profile web sites, and we derive tangible and intangible benefits from this affiliation. If one or more of these key relationships is terminated or not renewed, and is not replaced with a comparable relationship, our business would be adversely affected.
Our business and operations are experiencing rapid growth. If we fail to manage our growth, our business and operating results could be harmed.
We have experienced, and continue to experience, rapid growth in our headcount and operations, which has placed, and will continue to place, significant demands on our management, operational and financial infrastructure. If we do not effectively manage our growth, the quality of our products and services could suffer, which could negatively affect our brand and operating results. To effectively manage this growth, we will need to continue to improve our operational, financial and management controls and our reporting systems and procedures. These systems enhancements and improvements will require significant capital expenditures and allocation of valuable management resources. If the improvements are not implemented successfully, our ability to manage our growth will be impaired and we may have to make significant additional expenditures to address these issues, which could harm our financial position. The required improvements include:
Enhancing our information and communication systems to ensure that our offices around the world are well coordinated and that we can effectively communicate with our growing base of users, advertisers and Google Network members.
Enhancing systems of internal controls to ensure timely and accurate reporting of all of our operations.
Documenting all of our information technology systems and our business processes for our ad systems and our billing systems.
Improving our information technology infrastructure to maintain the effectiveness of our search systems.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal controls, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, current and potential stockholders could lose confidence in our financial reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our stock.
Effective internal controls are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and effectively prevent fraud. If we cannot provide reliable financial reports or prevent fraud, our brand and operating results could be harmed. We have in the past discovered, and may in the future discover, areas of our internal controls that need
improvement. For example, during our 2002 audit, our external auditors brought to our attention a need to increase restrictions on employee access to our advertising system and automate more of our financial processes. The auditors identified these issues together as a “reportable condition,” which means that these were matters that in the auditors’ judgment could adversely affect our ability to record, process, summarize and report financial data consistent with the assertions of management in the financial statements. In 2003, we devoted significant resources to remediate and improve our internal controls. Although we believe that these efforts have strengthened our internal controls and addressed the concerns that gave rise to the “reportable condition” in 2002, we are continuing to work to improve our internal controls, including in the areas of access and security. We cannot be certain that these measures will ensure that we implement and maintain adequate controls over our financial processes and reporting in the future. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation, could harm our operating results or cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. Inferior internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our stock.
We are migrating critical financial functions to a third-party provider. If this transition is not successful, our business and operations could be disrupted and our operating results would be harmed.
We are in the process of transferring to a third-party service provider our worldwide billing, collection and credit evaluation functions. The third-party provider will also track, on an automated basis, our growing number of AdSense revenue share agreements. These functions are critical to our operations and involve sensitive interactions between us and our users, advertisers and members of our Google Network. If we do not successfully implement this project, our business, reputation and operating results could be harmed. We have no experience managing and implementing this type of large-scale, cross-functional, international infrastructure project. We also may not be able to integrate our systems and processes with those of the third-party service provider on a timely basis, or at all. Even if this integration is completed on time, the provider may not perform to agreed upon service levels. Failure of the service provider to perform satisfactorily could result in customer dissatisfaction, disrupt our operations and adversely affect operating results. We will have significantly less control over the systems and processes than if we maintained and operated them ourselves, which increases our risk. If we need to find an alternative source for performing these functions, we may have to expend significant resources in doing so, and we cannot guarantee this would be accomplished in a timely manner or without significant additional disruption to our business.
Our business depends on a strong brand, and if we are not able to maintain and enhance our brand, our business and operating results would be harmed.
We believe that the brand identity that we have developed has significantly contributed to the success of our business. We also believe that maintaining and enhancing the “Google” brand is critical to expanding our base of users, advertisers and Google Network members. Maintaining and enhancing our brand may require us to make substantial investments and these investments may not be successful. If we fail to promote and maintain the “Google” brand, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our business, operating results and financial condition will be materially and adversely affected. We anticipate that, as our market becomes increasingly competitive, maintaining and enhancing our brand may become increasingly difficult and expensive. Maintaining and enhancing our brand will depend largely on our ability to be a technology leader and to continue to provide high quality products and services, which we may not do successfully. To date, we have engaged in relatively little direct brand promotion activities. This enhances the risk that we may not successfully implement brand enhancement efforts in the future.
Proprietary document formats may limit the effectiveness of our search technology by excluding the content of documents in such formats.
An increasing amount of information on the Internet is provided in proprietary document formats such as Microsoft Word. The providers of the software application used to create these documents could engineer the document format to prevent or interfere with our ability to access the document contents with our search technology. This would mean that the document contents would not be included in our search results even if the contents were directly relevant to a search. These types of activities could assist our competitors or diminish the value of our search results. The software providers may also seek to require us to pay them royalties in exchange for giving us the ability to search documents in their format. If the software provider also competes with us in the search business, they may give their search technology a preferential ability to search documents in their proprietary format. Any of these results could harm our brand and our operating results.
New technologies could block our ads, which would harm our business.
Technologies may be developed that can block the display of our ads. Most of our net revenues are derived from fees paid to us by advertisers in connection with the display of ads on web pages. As a result, ad-blocking technology could, in the future, adversely affect our operating results.
Our corporate culture has contributed to our success, and if we cannot maintain this culture as we grow, our business may be harmed.
We believe that a critical contributor to our success has been our corporate culture, which we believe fosters innovation, creativity and teamwork. As our organization grows, and we are required to implement more complex organizational management structures, we may find it increasingly difficult to maintain the beneficial aspects of our corporate culture. This could negatively impact our future success. In addition, this offering may create disparities in wealth among Google employees, which may adversely impact relations among employees and our corporate culture in general.
Our intellectual property rights are valuable, and any inability to protect them could reduce the value of our products, services and brand.
Our patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and all of our other intellectual property rights are important assets for us. There are events that are outside of our control that pose a threat to our intellectual property rights. For example, effective intellectual property protection may not be available in every country in which our products and services are distributed or made available through the Internet. Also, the efforts we have taken to protect our proprietary rights may not be sufficient or effective. Any significant impairment of our intellectual property rights could harm our business or our ability to compete. Also, protecting our intellectual property rights is costly and time consuming. Any increase in the unauthorized use of our intellectual property could make it more expensive to do business and harm our operating results.
We seek to obtain patent protection for our innovations. It is possible, however, that some of these innovations may not be protectable. In addition, given the costs of obtaining patent protection, we may choose not to protect certain innovations that later turn out to be important. Furthermore, there is always the possibility, despite our efforts, that the scope of the protection gained will be insufficient or that an issued patent may be deemed invalid or unenforceable.
We also face risks associated with our trademarks. For example, there is a risk that the word “Google” could become so commonly used that it becomes synonymous with the word “search.” If this happens, we could lose protection for this trademark, which could result in other people using the word “Google” to refer to their own products, thus diminishing our brand.
We also seek to maintain certain intellectual property as trade secrets. The secrecy could be compromised by third parties, or intentionally or accidentally by our employees, which would cause us to lose the competitive advantage resulting from these trade secrets.
We are, and may in the future be, subject to intellectual property rights claims, which are costly to defend, could require us to pay damages and could limit our ability to use certain technologies in the
Companies in the Internet, technology and media industries own large numbers of patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets and frequently enter into litigation based on allegations of infringement or other violations of intellectual property rights. As we face increasing competition, the possibility of intellectual property rights claims against us grows. Our technologies may not be able to withstand any third-party claims or rights against their use. Any intellectual property claims, with or without merit, could be time-consuming, expensive to litigate or settle and could divert management resources and attention. In addition, many of our agreements with members of our Google Network require us to indemnify these members for third-party intellectual property infringement claims, which would increase our costs as a result of defending such claims and may require that we pay damages if there were an adverse ruling in any such claims. An adverse determination also could prevent us from offering our products and services to others and may require that we procure substitute products or services for these members.
With respect to any intellectual property rights claim, we may have to pay damages or stop using technology found to be in violation of a third party’s rights. We may have to seek a license for the technology, which may not be available on reasonable terms and may significantly increase our operating expenses. The technology also may not be available for license to us at all. As a result, we may also be required to develop alternative non-infringing technology, which could require significant effort and expense. If we cannot license or develop technology for the infringing aspects of our business, we may be forced to limit our product and service offerings and may be unable to compete effectively. Any of these results could harm our brand and operating results.
From time to time, we receive notice letters from patent holders alleging that certain of our products and services infringe their patent rights. Some of these have resulted in litigation against us. For example, Overture Services (now owned by Yahoo) has sued us, claiming that the Google AdWords program infringes certain claims of an Overture Services patent. It also claims that the patent relates to Overture Services’ own bid-for-ad placement business model and its pay-for-performance technologies. We are currently litigating this case. If Overture Services wins, it may significantly limit our ability to use the AdWords program, and we also may be required to pay damages.
[Editor: see stories
in cnet.com and telegraph.co.uk]
Companies have also filed trademark infringement and related claims against us over the display of ads in response to user queries that include trademark
terms. The outcomes of these lawsuits have differed from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A court in France has held us liable for allowing advertisers to select certain trademarked terms as keywords. We have appealed this decision. We were also sued in Germany on a similar matter where a court held that we are not liable for the actions of our advertisers prior to notification of trademark rights. We are litigating similar issues in other cases in the U.S., France and Germany.
In order to provide users with more useful ads, we have recently revised our trademark policy in the U.S. and Canada. Under our new policy, we no longer disable ads due to selection by our advertisers of trademarks as keyword triggers for the ads. As a result of this change in policy, we may be subject to more trademark infringement lawsuits. Defending these lawsuits could take time and resources. Adverse results in these lawsuits may result in, or even compel, a change in this practice which could result in a loss of revenue for us, which could harm our business.
We have also been notified by third parties that they believe one of our products or services violates their copyrights. Generally speaking, any time that we have a product or service that links to or hosts material in which others allege to own copyrights, we face the risk of being sued for copyright infringement or related claims. Because these products and services comprise the majority of our products and services, the risk of potential harm from such lawsuits is substantial.
Expansion into international markets is important to our long-term success, and our inexperience in the operation of our business outside the U.S. increases the risk that our international expansion efforts will not be successful.
We opened our first office outside the U.S. in 2001 and have only limited experience with operations outside the U.S. Expansion into international markets requires management attention and resources. In addition, we face the following additional risks associated with our expansion outside the U.S.:
Challenges caused by distance, language and cultural differences.
Longer payment cycles in some countries.
Credit risk and higher levels of payment fraud.
Legal and regulatory restrictions.
Currency exchange rate fluctuations.
Foreign exchange controls that might prevent us from repatriating cash earned in countries outside the U.S.
Political and economic instability and export restrictions.
Potentially adverse tax consequences.
Higher costs associated with doing business internationally.
These risks could harm our international expansion efforts, which would in turn harm our business and operating results.
We compete internationally with local information providers and with U.S. competitors who are currently more successful than we are in various markets.
We face different market characteristics and competition outside the U.S. In certain markets, other web search, advertising services and Internet companies have greater brand recognition, more users and more search traffic than we have. Even in countries where we have a significant user following, we may not be as successful in generating advertising revenue due to slower market development, our inability to provide attractive local advertising services or other factors. In order to compete, we need to improve our brand recognition and our selling efforts internationally and build stronger relationships with advertisers. We also need to better understand our international users and their preferences. If we fail to do so, our global expansion efforts may be more costly and less profitable than we expect.
Our business may be adversely affected by malicious third-party applications that interfere with the Google experience.
Our business may be adversely affected by malicious applications that make changes to our users’ computers and interfere with the Google experience. These applications have in the past attempted, and may in the future attempt, to change our users’ Internet experience, including hijacking queries to Google.com, altering or replacing Google search results, or otherwise interfering with our ability to connect with our users. The interference often occurs without disclosure to or consent from users, resulting in a negative experience that users may associate with Google. These applications may be difficult or impossible to uninstall or disable, may
reinstall themselves and may circumvent other applications’ efforts to block or remove them. The ability to reach users and provide them with a superior experience is critical to our success. If our efforts to combat these malicious applications are unsuccessful, our reputation may be harmed, and our communications with certain users could be impaired. This could result in a decline in user traffic and associated ad revenues, which would damage our business.
[Editor's note: see
Nasty Malware Fouls PCs With Porn, Wired News]
If we fail to detect click-through fraud, we could lose the confidence of our advertisers, thereby causing our business to suffer.
We are exposed to the risk of fraudulent clicks on our ads. We have regularly paid refunds related to fraudulent clicks and expect to do so in the future. If we are unable to stop this fraudulent activity, these refunds may increase. If we find new evidence of past fraudulent clicks we may have to issue refunds retroactively of amounts previously paid to our Google Network members. This would negatively affect our profitability, and these types of fraudulent activities could hurt our brand. If fraudulent clicks are not detected, the affected advertisers may experience a reduced return on their investment in our advertising programs because the fraudulent clicks will not lead to potential revenue for the advertisers. This could lead the advertisers to become dissatisfied with our advertising programs, which could lead to loss of advertisers and revenue.
[Editor, see https://www.google.com/adsense/faq#basics8]
We are susceptible to index spammers who could harm the integrity of our web search results.
There is an ongoing and increasing effort by “index spammers” to develop ways to manipulate our web search results. For example, because our web search technology ranks a web page’s relevance based in part on the importance of the web sites that link to it, people have attempted to link a group of web sites together to manipulate web search results. We take this problem very seriously because providing relevant information to users is critical to our success. If our efforts to combat these and other types of index spamming are unsuccessful, our reputation for delivering relevant information could be diminished. This could result in a decline in user traffic, which would damage our business.
[Editor: see http://www.search-engine-secrets.net/search_engine_spam.htm]
Our ability to offer our products and services may be affected by a variety of U.S. and foreign laws.
The laws relating to the liability of providers of online services for activities of their users are currently unsettled both within the U.S. and abroad. Claims have been threatened and filed under both U.S. and foreign law for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy and other data protection claims, tort, unlawful activity, copyright or trademark infringement, or other theories based on the nature and content of the materials searched and the ads posted or the content generated by our users. From time to time we have received notices from individuals who do not want their names or web sites to appear in our web search results when certain keywords are searched. It is also possible that we could be held liable for misinformation provided over the web when that information appears in our web search results. If one of these complaints results in liability to us, it could be potentially costly, encourage similar lawsuits, distract management and harm our reputation and possibly our business. In addition, increased attention focused on these issues and legislative proposals could harm our reputation or otherwise affect the growth of our business.
The application to us of existing laws regulating or requiring licenses for certain businesses of our advertisers, including, for example, distribution of pharmaceuticals, adult content, financial services, alcohol or firearms, can be unclear. Existing or new legislation could expose us to substantial liability, restrict our ability to deliver services to our users, limit our ability to grow and cause us to incur significant expenses in order to comply with such laws and regulations.
Several other federal laws could have an impact on our business. Compliance with these laws and regulations is complex and may impose significant additional costs on us. For example, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has provisions that limit, but do not eliminate, our liability for listing or linking to third-party web sites that include materials that infringe copyrights or other rights, so long as we comply with the statutory
requirements of this act. The Children’s Online Protection Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act restrict the distribution of materials considered harmful to children and impose additional restrictions on the ability of online services to collect information from minors. In addition, the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998 requires online service providers to report evidence of violations of federal child pornography laws under certain circumstances. Any failure on our part to comply with these regulations may subject us to additional liabilities.
We also face risks associated with international data protection. The interpretation and application of data protection laws in Europe and elsewhere are still uncertain and in flux. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our data practices. If so, in addition to the possibility of fines, this could result in an order requiring that we change our data practices, which in turn could have a material effect on our business.
If we were to lose the services of Eric, Larry, Sergey or our senior management team, we may not be able to execute our business strategy.
Our future success depends in a large part upon the continued service of key members of our senior management team. In particular, our CEO Eric Schmidt and our founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are critical to the overall management of Google as well as the development of our technology, our culture and our strategic direction. All of our executive officers and key employees are at-will employees, and we do not maintain any key-person life insurance policies. The loss of any of our management or key personnel could seriously harm our business.
The initial option grants to many of our senior management and key employees are fully vested. Therefore, these employees may not have sufficient financial incentive to stay with us.
Many of our senior management personnel and other key employees have become, or will soon become, substantially vested in their initial stock option grants. While we often grant additional stock options to management personnel and other key employees after their hire dates to provide additional incentives to remain employed by us, their initial grants are usually much larger than follow-on grants. Employees may be more likely to leave us after their initial option grant fully vests, especially if the shares underlying the options have significantly appreciated in value relative to the option exercise price. We have not given any additional grants to Eric, Larry or Sergey. Larry and Sergey are fully vested, and only a small portion of Eric’s stock is subject to future vesting.
If we are unable to retain or motivate key personnel or hire qualified personnel, we may not be able to grow effectively.
Our performance is largely dependent on the talents and efforts of highly skilled individuals. Our future success depends on our continuing ability to identify, hire, develop, motivate and retain highly skilled personnel for all areas of our organization. Competition in our industry for qualified employees is intense, and we are aware that certain of our competitors have directly targeted our employees. Our continued ability to compete effectively depends on our ability to attract new employees and to retain and motivate our existing employees.
We have in the past maintained a rigorous, highly selective and time-consuming hiring process. We believe that our approach to hiring has significantly contributed to our success to date. As we grow, our hiring process may prevent us from hiring the personnel we need in a timely manner. In addition, as we become a more mature company, we may find our recruiting efforts more challenging. The incentives to attract, retain and motivate employees provided by our option grants or by future arrangements, such as through cash bonuses, may not be as effective as in the past. If we do not succeed in attracting excellent personnel or retaining or motivating existing personnel, we may be unable to grow effectively.
Our CEO and our two founders run the business and affairs of the company collectively, which may harm their ability to manage effectively.
Eric, our CEO, and Larry and Sergey, our founders and presidents, currently provide leadership to the company as a team. Our bylaws provide that our CEO and our presidents will together have general supervision, direction and control of the company, subject to the control of our board of directors. As a result, Eric, Larry and Sergey tend to operate the company collectively and to consult extensively with each other before significant decisions are made. This may slow the decision-making process, and a disagreement among these individuals could prevent key strategic decisions from being made in a timely manner. In the event our CEO and our two founders are unable to continue to work well together in providing cohesive leadership, our business could be harmed.
We have a short operating history and a relatively new business model in an emerging and rapidly evolving market. This makes it difficult to evaluate our future prospects and may increase the risk of your investment.
We first derived revenue from our online search business in 1999 and from our advertising services in 2000, and we have only a short operating history with our cost-per-click advertising model, which we launched in 2002. As a result, we have very little operating history for you to evaluate in assessing our future prospects. Also, we derive nearly all of our net revenues from online advertising, which is an immature industry that has undergone rapid and dramatic changes in its short history. You must consider our business and prospects in light of the risks and difficulties we will encounter as an early-stage company in a new and rapidly evolving market. We may not be able to successfully address these risks and difficulties, which could materially harm our business and operating results.
We may have difficulty scaling and adapting our existing architecture to accommodate increased traffic and technology advances or changing business requirements.
To be successful, our network infrastructure has to perform well and be reliable. The greater the user traffic and the greater the complexity of our products and services, the more computing power we will need. In 2004, we expect to spend substantial amounts to purchase or lease data centers and equipment and to upgrade our technology and network infrastructure to handle increased traffic on our web sites and to roll out new products and services. This expansion is going to be expensive and complex and could result in inefficiencies or operational failures. The costs associated with these adjustments to our architecture could harm our operating results. Cost increases, loss of traffic or failure to accommodate new technologies or changing business requirements could harm our operating results and financial condition.
Problems with bandwidth providers, data centers or other third parties could harm us.
We rely on third-party vendors, including data center and bandwidth providers. Any disruption in the network access or co-location services provided by these third-party providers or any failure of these third-party providers to handle current or higher volumes of use could significantly harm our business. Any financial or other difficulties our providers face may have negative effects on our business, the nature and extent of which we cannot predict. We exercise little control over these third party vendors, which increases our vulnerability to problems with the services they provide. We license technology and related databases from third parties to facilitate aspects of our data center and connectivity operations including, among others, Internet traffic management services. We have experienced and expect to continue to experience interruptions and delays in service and availability for such elements. Any errors, failures, interruptions or delays experienced in connection with these third-party technologies and information services could negatively impact our relationship with users and adversely affect our brand and our business and could expose us to liabilities to third parties.
Our systems are also heavily reliant on the availability of electricity, which also comes from third-party providers. If we were to experience a major power outage, we would have to rely on back-up generators. These
back-up generators may not operate properly through a major power outage and their fuel supply could also be inadequate during a major power outage. This could result in a disruption of our business.
System failures could harm our business.
Our systems are vulnerable to damage or interruption from earthquakes, terrorist attacks, floods, fires, power loss, telecommunications failures, computer viruses, computer denial of service attacks or other attempts to harm our system, and similar events. Some of our data centers are located in areas with a high risk of major earthquakes. Our data centers are also subject to break-ins, sabotage and intentional acts of vandalism, and to potential disruptions if the operators of these facilities have financial difficulties. Some of our systems are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning cannot account for all eventualities. The occurrence of a natural disaster, a decision to close a facility we are using without adequate notice for financial reasons or other unanticipated problems at our data centers could result in lengthy interruptions in our service. Any damage to or failure of our systems could result in interruptions in our service. Interruptions in our service could reduce our revenues and profits, and our brand could be damaged if people believe our system is unreliable.
We have experienced system failures in the past and may in the future. For example, in November 2003 we failed to provide web search results for approximately 20% of our traffic for a period of about 30 minutes. Any unscheduled interruption in our service puts a burden on our entire organization and would result in an immediate loss of revenue. If we experience frequent or persistent system failures on our web sites, our reputation and brand could be permanently harmed. The steps we have taken to increase the reliability and redundancy of our systems are expensive, reduce our operating margin and may not be successful in reducing the frequency or duration of unscheduled downtime.
More individuals are using non-PC devices to access the Internet, and versions of our web search technology developed for these devices may not be widely adopted by users of these devices.
The number of people who access the Internet through devices other than personal computers, including mobile telephones, hand-held calendaring and email assistants, and television set-top devices, has increased dramatically in the past few years. The lower resolution, functionality and memory associated with alternative devices make the use of our products and services through such devices difficult. If we are unable to attract and retain a substantial number of alternative device users to our web search services or if we are slow to develop products and technologies that are more compatible with non-PC communications devices, we will fail to capture a significant share of an increasingly important portion of the market for online services.
If we account for employee stock options using the fair value method, it could significantly reduce our net income.
There has been ongoing public debate whether stock options granted to employees should be treated as a compensation expense and, if so, how to properly value such charges. On March 31, 2004, the Financial Accounting Standard Board (FASB) issued an Exposure Draft, Share-Based Payment: an amendment of FASB statements No. 123 and 95, which would require a company to recognize, as an expense, the fair value of stock options and other stock-based compensation to employees beginning in 2005 and subsequent reporting periods. If we elect or are required to record an expense for our stock-based compensation plans using the fair value method as described in the Exposure Draft, we could have significant and ongoing accounting charges. See Note 1 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in this prospectus for a more detailed presentation of accounting for stock-based compensation plans.
We have recognized cost of revenue, and may continue to recognize cost of revenue, in connection with minimum fee guarantee commitments with our Google Network members.
We have entered into, and may continue to enter into, minimum fee guarantee agreements with a small number of Google Network members. In these agreements, we promise to make minimum payments to the
Google Networks member for a pre-negotiated period of time, typically from three months to a year or more. If the fees we earn under an agreement are less than the fees we are obligated to pay to a Google Network member, we recognize cost of revenue to the extent of the difference. It is difficult to forecast with certainty the fees that we will earn under our agreements, and sometimes the fees we earn fall short of the minimum guarantee payment amounts. In each period to date, the aggregate fees we have earned under these agreements have exceeded the aggregate amounts we have been obligated to pay to the Google Network members. However, individual agreements have resulted in our recognition of cost of revenues as a result of our minimum fee guarantees. In 2003, we recognized an aggregate of approximately $22.5 million in cost of revenue related to those agreements. In the three-month period ending March 31, 2004, we recognized an aggregate of approximately $9.0 million in cost of revenue related to those agreements. At December 31, 2003, our aggregate outstanding minimum guarantee commitments totaled approximately $527.4 million. At March 31, 2004 our aggregate outstanding minimum guarantee commitments totaled approximately $544.8 million. These commitments expire between 2004 and 2007. We may recognize cost of revenues in the future in connection with these agreements, which could adversely affect our profitability.
We face risks associated with currency exchange rates fluctuations.
As we expand our international operations, more of our customers may pay us in foreign currencies. Conducting business in currencies other than U.S. dollars subjects us to fluctuations in currency exchange rates that could have a negative impact on our reported operating results. Hedging strategies we may implement to mitigate this risk may not eliminate our exposure to foreign exchange fluctuations. Additionally, hedging programs expose us to risks that could adversely affect our operating results, including the following:
We have limited experience in implementing or operating hedging programs. Hedging programs are inherently risky and we could lose money as a result of poor trades.
We may be unable to hedge currency risk for some transactions because of a high level of uncertainty or the inability to reasonably estimate our foreign exchange exposures.
We may be unable to acquire foreign exchange hedging instruments in some of the geographic areas where we do business, or, where these derivatives are available, we may not be able to acquire enough of them to fully offset our exposure.
It has been and may continue to be expensive to obtain and maintain insurance.
We contract for insurance to cover potential risks and liabilities. In the current environment, insurance companies are increasingly specific about what they will and will not insure. It is possible that we may not be able to get enough insurance to meet our needs, may have to pay very high prices for the coverage we do get or may not be able to acquire any insurance for certain types of business risk. This could leave us exposed to potential claims. If we were found liable for a significant claim in the future, our operating results could be negatively impacted.
Acquisitions could result in operating difficulties, dilution and other harmful consequences.
We do not have a great deal of experience acquiring companies and the companies we have acquired have been small. We have evaluated, and expect to continue to evaluate, a wide array of potential strategic transactions. From time to time, we may engage in discussions regarding potential acquisitions. Any of these transactions could be material to our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, the process of integrating an acquired company, business or technology may create unforeseen operating difficulties and expenditures and is risky. The areas where we may face risks include:
The need to implement or remediate controls, procedures and policies appropriate for a larger public company at companies that prior to the acquisition lacked these controls, procedures and policies.
Diversion of management time and focus from operating our business to acquisition integration challenges.
Cultural challenges associated with integrating employees from the acquired company into our organization.
Retaining employees from the businesses we acquire.
The need to integrate each company’s accounting, management information, human resource and other administrative systems to permit effective management.
Foreign acquisitions involve unique risks in addition to those mentioned above, including those related to integration of operations across different cultures and languages, currency risks and the particular economic, political and regulatory risks associated with specific countries. Also, the anticipated benefit of many of our acquisitions may not materialize. Future acquisitions or dispositions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of our equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities or amortization expenses, or write-offs of goodwill, any of which could harm our financial condition. Future acquisitions may require us to obtain additional equity or debt financing, which may not be available on favorable terms or at all.
We occasionally become subject to commercial disputes that could harm our business.
From time to time we are engaged in disputes regarding our commercial transactions. These disputes could result in monetary damages or other remedies that could adversely impact our financial position or operations. Even if we prevail in these disputes, they may distract our management from operating our business.
We have to keep up with rapid technological change to remain competitive.
Our future success will depend on our ability to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, to adapt our services to evolving industry standards and to improve the performance and reliability of our services. Our failure to adapt to such changes would harm our business. New technologies and advertising media could adversely affect us. In addition, the widespread adoption of new Internet, networking or telecommunications technologies or other technological changes could require substantial expenditures to modify or adapt our services or infrastructure.
Our business depends on the growth and maintenance of the Internet infrastructure.
Our success will depend on the continued growth and maintenance of the Internet infrastructure. This includes maintenance of a reliable network backbone with the necessary speed, data capacity and security for providing reliable Internet services. Internet infrastructure may be unable to support the demands placed on it if the number of Internet users continues to increase, or if existing or future Internet users access the Internet more often or increase their bandwidth requirements. In addition, viruses, worms and similar programs may harm the performance of the Internet. The Internet has experienced a variety of outages and other delays as a result of damage to portions of its infrastructure, and it could face outages and delays in the future. These outages and delays could reduce the level of Internet usage as well as our ability to provide our solutions.
Shares issued, and option grants made, under our stock plans exceeded limitations in the federal and state securities laws.
Shares issued and options granted under our 1998 Stock Plan and our 2003 Stock Plan were not exempt from registration or qualification under federal and state securities laws and we did not obtain the required registrations or qualifications. Shares issued and options granted under our 2003 Stock Plan (No. 2) and our 2003 Stock Plan (No. 3) were not exempt from registration or qualification under federal securities laws and we did not obtain the required registrations or qualifications. As a result, we intend to make a rescission offer to the holders of these shares and options beginning approximately 30 days after the effective date of this registration statement. If this rescission is accepted, we could be required to make aggregate payments to the holders of these shares and options of up to $34 million plus statutory interest. Federal securities laws do not expressly provide
that a rescission offer will terminate a purchaser’s right to rescind a sale of stock that was not registered as required. If any or all of the offerees reject the rescission offer, we may continue to be liable under federal and state securities laws for up to an aggregate amount of approximately $34 million plus statutory interest. See “Rescission Offer.”
Risks Related to the Auction Process for Our Offering
Our stock price could decline rapidly and significantly.
Our initial public offering price will be determined primarily by an auction process conducted on our behalf by our underwriters. We believe this auction process will provide information with respect to the market demand for our Class A common stock at the time of our initial public offering. However, we understand that this information may have no relation to market demand for our Class A common stock once trading begins. We intend to use the auction clearing price as the principal factor to determine the initial public offering price and therefore to set an initial public offering price that is near or equal to the clearing price. If we satisfy the demand for our shares at or near the clearing price for the auction, market demand for our shares when trading begins in the public market may be significantly limited compared to demand experienced in an initial public offering priced in a more traditional manner. This or other factors could cause the price of our shares to decline following our initial public offering.
The auction process for our public offering may result in a phenomenon known as the “winner’s curse,” and, as a result, investors may experience significant losses.
The auction process for our initial public offering may result in a phenomenon known as the “winner’s curse.” At the conclusion of the auction, bidders that receive allocations of shares in this offering (successful bidders) may infer that there is little incremental demand for our shares above or equal to the initial public offering price. As a result, successful bidders may conclude that they paid too much for our shares and could seek to immediately sell their shares to limit their losses should our stock price decline. In this situation, other investors that did not submit successful bids may wait for this selling to be completed, resulting in reduced demand for our Class A common stock in the public market and a significant decline in our stock price. Therefore, we caution investors that submitting successful bids and receiving allocations may be followed by a significant decline in the value of their investment in our Class A common stock shortly after our offering.
To the extent our auction process results in a lower level of participation by professional long-term investors and a higher level of participation by retail investors than is normal for initial public offerings, our stock price may decrease from the initial public offering price and be more volatile.
Successful bidders hoping to capture profits shortly after our Class A common stock begins trading may be disappointed.
As part of our auction process, we are attempting to assess the market demand for our Class A common stock and to set the size of the offering and the initial public offering price to meet that demand. During the bidding process, we and our managing underwriters will monitor the master order book to evaluate the demand that exists for our initial public offering. Based on this information, we and our managing underwriters may revise the price range for our initial public offering as described on the cover of this prospectus. In addition, we and the selling stockholders may decide to change the number of shares of Class A common stock offered through this prospectus. It is very likely that the number of shares offered by the selling stockholders will increase if the price range increases. In an auction process, this could result in a lower clearing price and increase the likelihood your bid may be successful if you do not reduce your bid price. This may also result in downward pressure on the offering price and the trading price of our stock in the public market once trading begins. Therefore, buyers hoping to capture profits shortly after our Class A common stock begins trading may be disappointed.
Successful bidders may receive the full number of shares subject to their bids.
We and our underwriters have the ability to set a final initial public offering price that is below the auction clearing price. If we do this, the number of shares represented by successful bids is likely to exceed the number of shares offered by this prospectus. In this situation, we plan to use one of two methods to allocate our shares—pro rata allocation or maximum share allocation. With either method, our objective is to set an initial public offering price where successful bidders receive at least 80% of the shares that they bid for in the auction. Therefore, we caution investors against submitting a bid that does not accurately represent the number of shares of our Class A common stock that investors are willing and prepared to purchase.
Submitting a bid does not guarantee an allocation.
Our underwriters may require that bidders confirm their bids before the auction for our initial public offering closes. We and our underwriters may close the auction to bidding in as little as two hours after the notice of effectiveness of our registration statement has been provided to bidders. If a bidder is requested to confirm a bid and fails to do so before the auction is closed, that bid will be rejected and will not receive an allocation of shares even if the bid is at or above the initial public offering price.
The systems and procedures used to implement our auction and the results of our auction could harm our business and our brand.
Only a small number of initial public offerings have been accomplished using auction processes in the U.S. and other countries, and we expect our auction structure to face scalability and operational challenges. Our underwriters’ systems that manage the auction process could fail to operate as anticipated. This could require us to delay our initial public offering, potentially even after our underwriters have started taking bids, and harm our brand. Our underwriters must modify their internal systems and procedures to accommodate our auction process. This could increase the risk that our underwriters’ systems or procedures fail to operate as anticipated.
Many of our users may submit bids in our auction with the hope of becoming stockholders. If these users either do not receive share allocations in our offering or if our share price immediately declines after the offering, our brand could be tarnished and users and investors could become frustrated with us, potentially decreasing their use of our products and services. If this occurs, our business could suffer.
Risks Related to Our Offering
Our stock price may be volatile, and you may not be able to resell shares of our Class A common stock at or above the price you paid.
Prior to this offering, our common stock has not been traded in a public market. We cannot predict the extent to which a trading market will develop or how liquid that market might become. The initial public offering price may not be indicative of prices that will prevail in the trading market. The trading price of our Class A common stock following this offering is therefore likely to be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations in price in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control. These factors include:
Quarterly variations in our results of operations or those of our competitors.
Announcements by us or our competitors of acquisitions, new products, significant contracts, commercial relationships or capital commitments.
Disruption to our operations or those of our Google Network members or our data centers.
The emergence of new sales channels in which we are unable to compete effectively.
Our ability to develop and market new and enhanced products on a timely basis.
Commencement of, or our involvement in, litigation.
Any major change in our board or management.
Changes in governmental regulations or in the status of our regulatory approvals.
Changes in earnings estimates or recommendations by securities analysts.
General economic conditions and slow or negative growth of related markets.
In addition, the stock market in general, and the market for technology companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of those companies. Such fluctuations may be even more pronounced in the trading market shortly following this offering. These broad market and industry factors may seriously harm the market price of our Class A common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance. In addition, in the past, following periods of volatility in the overall market and the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against these companies. This litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our management’s attention and resources.
We may apply the proceeds of this offering to uses that do not improve our operating results or increase the value of your investment.
We intend to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, including working capital and capital expenditures. We may also use a portion of the net proceeds to acquire or invest in companies and technologies that we believe will complement our business. However, we do not have more specific plans for the net proceeds from this offering and will have broad discretion in how we use the net proceeds of this offering. These proceeds could be applied in ways that do not improve our operating results or increase the value of your investment.
Purchasers in this offering will experience immediate and substantial dilution in the book value of their investment.
The initial public offering price of our Class A common stock is substantially higher than the net tangible book value per share of our Class A common stock immediately after this offering. Therefore, if you purchase our Class A common stock in this offering, you will incur an immediate dilution of $ in net tangible book value per share from the price you paid, based on the initial offering price of $ per share. The exercise of outstanding options and warrants will result in further dilution. For a further description of the dilution that you will experience immediately after this offering, please see “Dilution.”
We do not intend to pay dividends on our common stock.
We have never declared or paid any cash dividend on our capital stock. We currently intend to retain any future earnings and do not expect to pay any dividends in the foreseeable future.
We will incur increased costs as a result of being a public company.
As a public company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. We will incur costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. We also anticipate that we will incur costs associated with recently adopted corporate governance requirements, including
requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of
2002, as well as new rules implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the NYSE and Nasdaq. We expect these rules and regulations to increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some activities more time-consuming and costly. We also expect these new rules and regulations may make it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance and we may be required to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. As a result, it may be more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified individuals to serve on our board of directors or as executive officers. We are
currently evaluating and monitoring developments with respect to these new rules, and we cannot predict or estimate the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs.
The concentration of our capital stock ownership with our founders, executive officers, employees, and our directors and their affiliates will limit your ability to influence corporate matters.
After our offering, our Class B common stock will have ten votes per share and our Class A common stock, which is the stock we are selling in this offering, will have one vote per share. We anticipate that our founders, executive officers, directors (and their affiliates) and employees will together own approximately % of our Class B common stock, representing approximately % of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock. In particular, following this offering, our two founders and our CEO, Larry, Sergey and Eric, will control approximately % of our outstanding Class B common stock, representing approximately % of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock. Larry, Sergey and Eric will therefore have significant influence over management and affairs and over all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets, for the foreseeable future. In addition, because of this dual class structure, our founders, directors, executives and employees will continue to be able to control all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval even if they come to own less than 50% of the outstanding shares of our common stock. This concentrated control will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and, as a result, we may take actions that our stockholders do not view as beneficial. As a result, the market price of our Class A common stock could be adversely affected.
Provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could discourage a takeover that stockholders may consider favorable.
Provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws, as amended and restated upon the closing of this offering, may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control or changes in our management. These provisions include the following:
Our certificate of incorporation provides for a dual class common stock structure. As a result of this structure our founders, executives and employees will have significant influence over all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets. This concentrated control could discourage others from initiating any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transaction that other stockholders may view as beneficial.
Our board of directors has the right to elect directors to fill a vacancy created by the expansion of the board of directors or the resignation, death or removal of a director, which prevents stockholders from being able to fill vacancies on our board of directors.
Our stockholders may not act by written consent. As a result, a holder, or holders, controlling a majority of our capital stock would not be able to take certain actions without holding a stockholders’ meeting.
Our certificate of incorporation prohibits cumulative voting in the election of directors. This limits the ability of minority stockholders to elect director candidates.
Stockholders must provide advance notice to nominate individuals for election to the board of directors or to propose matters that can be acted upon at a stockholders’ meeting. These provisions may discourage or deter a potential acquiror from conducting a solicitation of proxies to elect the acquiror’s own slate of directors or otherwise attempting to obtain control of our company.
Our board of directors may issue, without stockholder approval, shares of undesignated preferred stock. The ability to authorize undesignated preferred stock makes it possible for our board of directors to issue preferred stock with voting or other rights or preferences that could impede the success of any attempt to acquire us.
As a Delaware corporation, we are also subject to certain Delaware anti-takeover provisions. Under Delaware law, a corporation may not engage in a business combination with any holder of 15% or more of its capital stock unless the holder has held the stock for three years or, among other things, the board of directors has approved the transaction. Our board of directors could rely on Delaware law to prevent or delay an acquisition of us. For a description of our capital stock, see “Description of Capital Stock.”
Future sales of shares by could cause our stock price to decline.
We cannot predict the effect, if any, that market sales of shares or the availability of shares for sale will have on the market price prevailing from time to time. Sales of our Class A common stock in the public market after the restrictions described in this prospectus lapse, or the perception that those sales may occur, could cause the trading price of our stock to decrease or to be lower than it might be in the absence of those sales or perceptions. Based on shares outstanding as of 2004, upon completion of this offering, we will have outstanding shares of common stock, assuming no exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option. Of these shares, only the shares of Class A common stock sold in this offering will be freely tradable, without restriction, in the public market. We may, in our sole discretion, permit our officers, directors, employees and current stockholders who are subject to contractual lock-up agreements with us to sell shares prior to the expiration of their lock-up agreements.
After the selling restriction agreements pertaining to this offering expire, additional shares will be eligible for sale in the public market as follows:
At ____ days after the date of this prospectus and various times thereafter.
____ of these shares are held by directors, executive officers and other affiliates and will be subject to volume limitations under Rule 144 under the Securities Act and various vesting agreements. In addition, the shares issuable upon exercise of outstanding warrants and the shares issuable upon exercise of outstanding options and reserved for future issuance under our stock plans will become eligible for sale in the public market to the extent permitted by the provisions of various vesting agreements, the selling restriction agreements and Rules 144 and 701 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act. If these additional shares are sold, or if it is perceived that they will be sold, in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline.
In addition, we have agreed with our underwriters not to sell any shares of our common stock for a period of 180 days after the date of this prospectus. However, this agreement is subject to a number of exceptions, including an exception that allows us to issue an unlimited number of shares in connection with mergers and acquisition transactions, joint ventures or other strategic transactions. Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated and Credit Suisse First Boston LLC, on behalf of the underwriters, may release us from this lock-up arrangement without notice at any time. After the expiration of the 180-day period, there is no contractual restriction on our ability to issue additional shares. Any sales of common stock by us, or the perception that such sales could occur, could cause our stock price to decline.
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This prospectus includes forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this prospectus, including statements regarding our future financial position, business strategy and plans and objectives of management for future operations, are forward-looking statements. The words “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy, short term and long term business operations and objectives, and financial needs. In addition, a number of our “objectives,” “intentions,” “expectations” or “goals” described in “Auction Process” for qualification of bidders, the bidding process, the auction closing process, the pricing process and the allocation process are also forward-looking statements. These statements are based on current expectations or objectives of the auction process being used for our initial public offering that are inherently uncertain. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including those described in “Risk Factors.”
In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the forward-looking events and circumstances discussed in this prospectus may not occur and actual results could differ materially and adversely from those anticipated or implied in the forward-looking statements.