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EX-32.01 - EXHIBIT 32.01 - ACM Research, Inc.ex32_01.htm
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EX-31.01 - EXHIBIT 31.01 - ACM Research, Inc.ex31_01.htm
EX-23.01 - EXHIBIT 23.01 - ACM Research, Inc.ex23_01.htm

UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
 
FORM 10‑K
(Mark One)
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 _____________
 
Commission file number: 001-38273 0
 
 
ACM Research, Inc.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
 
Delaware
(State or Other Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)
 
94-3290283
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
     
42307 Osgood Road, Suite I, Fremont, California
 
94539
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
 
(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (510) 445-3700
 
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of Each Class
 
Trading Symbol
 
Name of Each Exchange on which Registered
Class A Common Stock, $0.0001 par value
 
ACMR
 
Nasdaq Global Market
 
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None.
 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐ No ☑
 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. 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, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 
Large accelerated filer  ☐
Accelerated filer
 
Non-accelerated filer    ☐
Smaller reporting company
   
Emerging growth company
 
If an emerging growth company, 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.
 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No ☑
 
The aggregate market value on June 28, 2019 (the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second quarter) of the voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant, computed by reference to the $15.61 closing price of the stock on that date, was $135.6 million. The registrant does not have non-voting common equity outstanding.
 
Indicate the number of shares outstanding of each of the registrant’s classes of common stock, as of the latest practicable date.

Class
 
Number of Shares Outstanding
Class A Common Stock, $0.0001 par value
 
16,273,528 shares outstanding as of March 17, 2020
Class B Common Stock, $0.0001 par value
 
1,862,608 shares outstanding as of March 17, 2020
 
Documents Incorporated By Reference
The registrant intends to file a proxy statement pursuant to Regulation 14A within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019. Portions of such proxy statement are incorporated by reference in Part III of this report.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  PART I  
Item 1
4
Item 1A
15
Item 2
42
Item 3
42
 
PART II
Item 5
43
Item 7
44
Item 8
67
Item 9A
103
     
PART III
Item 10
104
Item 11
104
Item 12
104
Item 13
104
Item 14
104
   
PART IV
Item 15
105
  107

We conduct our business operations principally through ACM Research (Shanghai), Inc., or ACM Shanghai, a subsidiary of ACM Research, Inc., or ACM Research. Unless the context requires otherwise, references in this report to “our company,” “our,” “us,” “we” and similar terms refer to ACM Research, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including ACM Shanghai, collectively.
 
For purposes of this report, certain amounts in Renminbi, or RMB, have been translated into U.S. dollars solely for the convenience of the reader. The translations have been made based on the conversion rates published by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange of the People’s Republic of China.
 
SAPS, TEBO and ULTRA C are our trademarks. For convenience, these trademarks appear in this report without ™ symbols, but that practice does not mean that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights to the trademarks. This report also contains other companies’ trademarks, registered marks and trade names, which are the property of those companies.
 
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS AND STATISTICAL DATA
 
This report contains statements reflecting our views about our future performance that constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are generally identified through the inclusion of words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “intend,” “may,” “objective,” “outlook,” “plan,” “potential,” “project,” “seek,” “should,” “strategy,” “target” or “will” or variations of such words or similar expressions. All statements addressing our future operating performance, and statements addressing events and developments that we expect or anticipate will occur in the future, are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are based upon currently available information, operating plans, and projections about future events and trends.
 
The information included in this report under the heading “Item 1. Business—Our Technology and Product Offerings—Single Wafer Wet Cleaning Equipment for Front End Production Processes” contains statistical data and estimates, including forecasts, that are based on information provided by Gartner, Inc., or Gartner, in “Forecast: Semiconductor Wafer Fab Manufacturing Equipment (Including Wafer-Level Packaging), Worldwide, 2Q19 Update” (July 2019), or the Gartner Report. The Gartner Report represents research opinions or viewpoints that are published, as part of a syndicated subscription service, by Gartner and are not representations of fact. The Gartner Report speaks as of its original publication date (and not as of the date of this report), and the opinions expressed in the Gartner Report are subject to change without notice. While we are not aware of any misstatements regarding any of the data presented from the Gartner Report, estimates, and in particular forecasts, involve numerous assumptions and are subject to risks and uncertainties, as well as change based on various factors, that could cause results to differ materially from those expressed in the data presented below.
 
Forward-looking statements and statistical estimates inherently involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those predicted or expressed in this report. These risks and uncertainties include those described below in “Item 1A. Risk Factors.” Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or statistical estimates, which speak only as of the date they are made. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement or statistical estimate, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

PART I
 
Item 1.
Business
 
Overview
 
We supply advanced, innovative capital equipment developed for the global semiconductor industry. Fabricators of advanced integrated circuits, or chips, can use our single-wafer wet-cleaning tools in numerous steps to improve product yield, even at increasingly advanced process nodes. We have designed these tools for use in fabricating foundry, logic and memory chips, including dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, and 3D NAND-flash memory chips. We also develop, manufacture and sell a range of advanced packaging tools to wafer assembly and packaging customers.
 
Selling prices for our single-wafer wet-cleaning tools range from $2 million to more than $5 million. Revenue from single-wafer wet-cleaning tools totaled $90.9 million, or 84.6% of total revenue, in 2019 and $68.5 million, or 92% of total revenue, in 2018. Our customers for single-wafer wet-cleaning tools have included Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corporation and the operations of The Huahong Group, SK Hynix Inc. and Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd.

We have focused our selling efforts on establishing a referenceable base of leading foundry, logic and memory chip makers, whose use of our products can influence decisions by other manufacturers. We believe this customer base has helped us penetrate the mature chip manufacturing markets and build credibility with additional industry leaders. We have used a “demo-to-sales” process to place evaluation equipment, or “first tools,” with a number of selected customers.
 
Since 2009 we have delivered more than 80 single-wafer wet cleaning tools, more than 65 of which have been accepted by customers and thereby generated revenue to us. The balance of the delivered tools are awaiting customer acceptance should contractual conditions be met. To date, all of our sales of single-wafer wet cleaning equipment for front-end manufacturing have been to customers located in Asia, and we anticipate that a substantial majority of our revenue from these products will continue to come from customers located in this region for the foreseeable future. In the second half of 2019 we began to add to our efforts to further address customers in North America, Western Europe and Southeast Asia by expanding our direct sales teams and increasing our global marketing activities.
 
Since our formation in 1998, we have focused on building a strategic portfolio of intellectual property to support and protect our key innovations. Our tools have been developed using our key proprietary technologies:
Space Alternated Phase Shift, or SAPS, technology for flat and patterned wafer surfaces. Introduced in 2009, SAPS technology employs alternating phases of megasonic waves to deliver megasonic energy in a highly uniform manner on a microscopic level. We have shown SAPS technology to be more effective than conventional megasonic and jet spray technologies in removing random defects across an entire wafer as node sizes shrink from 300 nanometers, or nm, to 20nm and lower.
Timely Energized Bubble Oscillation, or TEBO, technology for patterned wafer surfaces at advanced process nodes. Introduced in March 2016, TEBO technology has been developed to provide effective, damage-free cleaning for 2D and 3D patterned wafers with fine feature sizes. We have demonstrated the damage-free cleaning capabilities of TEBO technology on patterned wafers for feature nodes as small as 1xnm (16nm to 19nm), and we have shown TEBO technology can be applied in manufacturing processes for patterned chips with 3D architectures having aspect ratios as high as 60to1.
Tahoe technology for cost and environmental savings. Introduced in 2018, Tahoe technology delivers high cleaning performance using significantly less sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide than is typically consumed by conventional high-temperature single-wafer cleaning tools.
Electro-Chemical Plating, or ECP, technology for advanced metal plating. Our Ultra ECP AP, or Advanced Packaging, technology was developed for back-end assembly processes to deliver a more uniform metal layer at the notch area of wafers prior to packaging. Our Ultra ECP MAP, or Multi-Anode Partial Plating, technology was developed for front-end wafer fabrication processes to deliver advanced electrochemical copper plating for copper interconnect applications. ECP MAP offers improved gap-filling performance for ultra-thin seed layer applications, which is critical for advanced nodes at 14nm and beyond.

We have been issued more than 285 patents in the United States, the People’s Republic of China or PRC, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
 
We conduct substantially all of our product development, manufacturing, support and services in the PRC. All of our tools are built to order at two leased manufacturing facilities in Shanghai, which encompass 86,000 square feet of floor space for production capacity. In November 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into an agreement initiating a bidding process to acquire land rights to build a development and production center in the Lingang region of Shanghai, as described under “Item 2. Properties.” Our experience has shown that chip manufacturers in the PRC and throughout Asia demand equipment meeting their specific technical requirements and prefer building relationships with local suppliers. We will continue to seek to leverage our local presence to address the growing market for semiconductor manufacturing equipment in the region by working closely with regional chip manufacturers to understand their specific requirements, encourage them to adopt our SAPS, TEBO, Tahoe and ECP technologies, and enable us to design innovative products and solutions to address their needs.
 
In June 2019 we announced a strategic plan to list shares of ACM Shanghai on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Sci-Tech InnovAtion BoaRd, as described under “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Recent Developments—STAR Market Listing and IPO.”
 
Our Technology and Product Offerings
 
Single Wafer Wet Cleaning Equipment for Front End Production Processes
 
Chip fabricators can use our single-wafer wet-cleaning tools in numerous steps to improve product yield during the front-end production process, during which individual devices are patterned in a chip prior to being interconnected on a wafer. Based on Gartner’s estimates, the market for global wafer cleaning equipment (auto wet stations, single-wafer processors and other clean process equipment) increased 20% from $2.9 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion in 2018, but was expected to decrease 24% to $2.6 billion in 2019. We estimate, based on third-party reports and on customer and other information, that our tools address more than 50% of this global wafer cleaning equipment market.

Our wet-cleaning equipment has been developed using our proprietary SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies, which allow our tools to remove random defects from a wafer surface effectively, without damaging a wafer or its features, even at an increasingly advanced process nodes (the minimum line widths on a chip) of 22nm or less. We use a modular configuration that enables us to create a wet-cleaning tool meeting the specific requirements of a customer, while using pre-existing designs for chamber, electrical, chemical delivery and other modules. Our modular approach supports a wide range of customer needs and facilitates the adaptation of our model tools for use with the optimal chemicals selected to meet a customer’s requirements. Our tools are offered principally for use in manufacturing chips from 300mm silicon wafers, but we also offer solutions for 150mm and 200mm wafers and for nonstandard substrates, including compound semiconductor, quartz, sapphire, glass and plastics. Selling prices for our single-wafer wet-cleaning tools range from $2 million to more than $5 million.

SAPS Technology, Applications and Equipment
 
SAPS Technology
 
SAPS technology delivers megasonic energy uniformly to every point on an entire wafer by alternating phases of megasonic waves in the gap between a megasonic transducer and the wafer. Radicals for removing random defects are generated in dilute solution, and the radical generation is promoted by megasonic energy. Unlike “stationary” megasonic transducers used by conventional megasonic cleaning methods, SAPS technology moves or tilts a transducer while a wafer rotates, enabling megasonic energy to be delivered uniformly across all points on the wafer, even if the wafer is warped. The mechanical force of cavitations generated by megasonic energy enhances the mass transfer rate of dislodged random defects and improves particle removal efficiency.
 
By delivering megasonic energy in a highly uniform manner on a microscopic level, SAPS technology can precisely control the intensity of megasonic energy and can effectively remove random defects of all sizes across the entire wafer in less total cleaning time than conventional megasonic cleaning products, without loss of material or roughing of wafer surfaces. We have conducted trials demonstrating SAPS technology to be more effective than conventional megasonic and jet spray cleaning technologies as defect sizes shrink from 300nm to 20nm and below. These trials show that SAPS technology has an even greater relative advantage over conventional jet spray technology for cleaning defects between 50 and 65nm in size, and we expect the relative benefits of SAPS will continue to apply in cleaning even smaller defect sizes.
 
SAPS Applications
 
SAPS megasonic cleaning technology can be applied during the chip fabrication process to clean wafer surfaces and interconnects. It also can be used to clean, and lengthen the lifetime of recycled test wafers.
 
Wafer Surfaces. SAPS technology can enhance removal of random defects following planarization and deposition, which are among the most important, and most repeated, steps in the fabrication process:

Post CMP: Chemical mechanical planarization, or CMP, uses an abrasive chemical slurry following other fabrication processes, such as deposition and etching, in order to achieve a smooth wafer surface in preparation for subsequent processing steps. SAPS technology can be applied following each CMP process to remove residual random defects deposited or formed during CMP.

Post Hard Mask Deposition: As part of the photolithographical patterning process, a mask is applied with each deposition of a material layer to prevent etching of material intended to be retained. Hard masks have been developed to etch high aspect-ratio features of advanced chips that traditional masks cannot tolerate. SAPS technology can be applied following each deposition step involving hard masks that use nitride, oxide or carbon based materials to achieve higher etch selectivity and resolution.
For these purposes, SAPS technology uses environmentally friendly dilute chemicals, reducing chemical consumption. Chemical types include dilute solutions of chemicals used in RCA cleaning, such as dilute hydrofluoric acid and RCA SC-1 solutions, and, for higher quality wafer cleaning, functional de-ionized water produced by dissolving hydrogen, nitrogen or carbon dioxide in water containing a small amount of chemicals, such as ammonia. Functional water removes random defects by generating radicals, and megasonic excitation can be used in conjunction with functional water to further increase the generation of radicals. Functional water has a lower cost and environmental impact than RCA solutions, and using functional water is more efficient in eliminating random defects than using dilute chemicals or de-ionized water alone. We have shown that SAPS megasonic technology using functional water exhibits high efficiency in removing random defects, especially particles smaller than 65nm, with minimal damage to structures.
 
Interconnects and Barrier Metals. Each successive advanced process node has led to finer feature sizes of interconnects such as contacts, which form electrical pathways between a transistor and the first metal layer, and vias, which form electrical pathways between two metal layers. Advanced nodes have also resulted in higher aspect ratios for interconnect structures, with thinner, redesigned metal barriers being used to prevent diffusion. SAPS technology can improve the removal of residues and other random defects from interconnects during the chip fabrication process:

Post Contact/Via Etch: Wet etching processes are commonly used to create patterns of high-density contacts and vias. SAPS technology can be applied after each such etching process to remove random defects that could otherwise lead to electrical shorts.

Pre Barrier Metal Deposition: Copper wiring requires metal diffusion barriers at the top of via holes to prevent electrical leakage. SAPS technology can be applied prior to deposition of barrier metal to remove residual oxidized copper, which otherwise would adhere poorly to the barrier and impair performance.
For these applications, SAPS technology uses environmentally friendly dilute chemicals such as dilute hydrofluoric acid, RCA SC-1 solution, ozonated de-ionized water and functional de-ionized water with dissolved hydrogen. These chemical solutions take the place of piranha solution, a high-temperature mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide used by conventional wet wafer cleaning processes. We have shown that SAPS technology exhibits greater efficiency in removing random defects, and lower levels of material loss, than conventional processes, and our chemical solutions are less expensive and more environmentally conscious than piranha solution.
 
Recycled Test Wafers. In addition to using silicon wafers for chip production, chip manufacturers routinely process wafers through a limited portion of the front-end fabrication steps in order to evaluate the health, performance and reliability of those steps. Manufacturers also use wafers for non-product purposes such as inline monitoring. Wafers used for purposes other than manufacturing revenue products are known as test wafers, and it is typical for twenty to thirty percent of the wafers circulating in a fab to be test wafers. In light of the significant cost of wafers, manufacturers seek to re-use a test wafer for more than one test. As test wafers are recycled, surface roughness and other defects progressively impair the ability of a wafer to complete tests accurately. SAPS technology can be applied to reduce random defect levels of a recycled wafer, enabling the test wafer to be reclaimed for use in additional testing processes. For these purposes, SAPS technology includes improved fan filter units that balances intake and exhaust flows, precise temperature and concentration controls that ensure better handling of concentrated acid processes, and two-chemical recycle capability that reduces chemical consumption.
 
SAPS Equipment
 
We offer two principal models of wet wafer cleaning equipment based on our SAPS technology, Ultra C SAPS II and Ultra C SAPS V. Each of these models is a single-wafer, serial-processing tool that can be configured to customer specifications and, in conjunction with appropriate dilute chemicals, used to remove random defects from wafer surfaces or interconnects and barrier metals as part of the chip front-end fabrication process or for recycling test wafers. By combining our megasonic and chemical cleaning technologies, we have designed these tools to remove random defects with greater efficacy and efficiency than conventional wafer cleaning processes, with enhanced process flexibility and reduced quantities of chemicals. Each of our SAPS models was initially built to meet specific requirements of a key customer. The sales prices of our SAPS tools generally range between $2.5 million and $5.0 million, although the sales price of a particular tool will vary depending upon the required specifications.

 
SAPS II (released in 2011). Highlights of our SAPS II equipment include:
 
 
●     compact design, with footprint of 2.65m x 4.10m x 2.85m (WxDxH), requiring limited clean room floor space;

●     up to 8 chambers, providing throughput of up to 225 wafers per hour;

●     double-sided cleaning capability, with up to 5 cleaning chemicals for process flexibility;

●     2-chemical recycling capability for reduced chemical consumption;

●     image wafer detection method for lowering wafer breakage rates; and

●     chemical delivery module for delivery of dilute hydrofluoric acid, RCA SC-1 solution, functional de-ionized water and carbon dioxide to each of the chambers. SAPS V (released in 2014). SAPS V includes SAPS II features with the following upgrades:

●     compact design, with footprint of 2.55m x 5.1m x 2.85m (WxDxH);

●     up to 12 chambers, providing throughput of up to 375 wafers per hour;

●     chemical supply system integrated into mainframe;

●     inline mixing method replaces tank auto-changing, reducing process time; and

●     improved drying technology using hot isopropyl alcohol and de-ionized water.

TEBO Technology, Applications and Equipment
 
TEBO Technology
 
We developed TEBO technology for application in wet wafer cleaning during the fabrication of 2D and 3D wafers with fine feature sizes. TEBO technology facilitates effective cleaning even with patterned features too small or fragile to be addressed by conventional jet spray and megasonic cleaning technologies.

TEBO technology solves the problems created by transient cavitation in conventional megasonic cleaning processes. Cavitation is the formation of bubbles in a liquid, and transient cavitation is a process in which a bubble in fluid implodes or collapses. In conventional megasonic cleaning processes, megasonic energy forms bubbles and then causes those bubbles to implode or collapse, blasting destructive high-pressure, high-temperature micro jets toward the wafer surface. Our internal testing has confirmed that at any level of megasonic energy capable of removing random defects, the sonic energy and mechanical force generated by transient cavitation are sufficiently strong to damage fragile patterned structures with features less than 70nm.
 
TEBO technology provides multi-parameter control of cavitation by using a sequence of rapid changes in pressure to force a bubble in liquid to oscillate at controlled sizes, shapes and temperatures, rather than implode or collapse. As a result, cavitation remains stable during TEBO megasonic cleaning processes, and a chip fabricator can, using TEBO technology, apply the level of megasonic energy needed to remove random defects without incurring the pattern damage created by transient cavitation in conventional megasonic cleaning.
 
We have demonstrated the damage-free cleaning capabilities of TEBO technology on customers’ patterned wafers as small as 1xnm (16nm to 19nm), and we believe TEBO technology will be applicable in even smaller fabrication process nodes. TEBO technology can be applied in manufacturing processes for conventional 2D chips with fine features and advanced chips with 3D structures, including Fin Field Effect Transistors or FinFET, DRAM, 3D NAND and 3D cross point memory, and we expect it will be applicable to other 3D architectures developed in the future, such as carbon nanotubes and quantum devices. As a result of the thorough, controlled nature of TEBO processes, cleaning time for TEBO-based solutions may take longer than conventional megasonic cleaning processes. Conventional processes have proven ineffective, however, for process nodes of 20nm or less, and we believe the increased yield that can be achieved by using TEBO technology for nodes up to 70nm can more than offset the cost of the additional time in utilizing TEBO technology.
 
TEBO Applications
 
At process nodes of 28nm and less, chip makers face escalating challenges in eliminating nanometric particles and maintaining the condition of inside pattern surfaces. In order to maintain chip quality and avoid yield loss, cleaning technologies must control random defects of diminishing killer defect sizes, without roughing or otherwise damaging surfaces of transistors, interconnects or other wafer features. TEBO technology can be applied in numerous steps throughout the manufacturing process flow for effective, damage-free cleaning:

Memory Chips: We estimate that TEBO technology can be applied in as many as 50 steps in the fabrication of a DRAM chip, consisting of up to 10 steps in cleaning ISO structures, 20 steps in cleaning buried gates, and 20 steps in cleaning high aspect-ratio storage nodes and stacked films.

Logic Chips: In the fabrication process for a logic chip with a FinFET structure, we estimate that TEBO technology can be used in 15 or more cleaning steps.
For purposes of solving inside pattern surface conditions for memory or logic chips, TEBO technology uses environmentally friendly dilute chemicals such as RCA SC-1 and hydrogen gas doped functional water.
 
TEBO Equipment
 
We offer two models of wet wafer cleaning equipment based on our TEBO technology, Ultra C TEBO II and Ultra C TEBO V. Each of these models is a single-wafer, serial-processing tool that can be configured to customer specifications and, in conjunction with appropriate dilute chemicals, used at numerous manufacturing processing steps for effective, damage-free cleaning of chips at process nodes of 28nm or less. TEBO equipment solves the problem of pattern damage caused by transient cavitation in conventional jet spray and megasonic cleaning processes, providing better particle removal efficiency with limited material loss or roughing. TEBO equipment is being evaluated by a select group of leading memory and logic chip customers. The sales prices of our TEBO tools generally range between $3.5 million and $6.5 million, although sales prices vary depending upon the required specifications.
 




Each model of TEBO equipment includes:

●      an equipment front-end module, or EFEM, which moves wafers from chamber to chamber;

●      one or more chamber modules, each equipped with a TEBO megasonic generator system;
 
●      an electrical module to provide power for the tool; and
 
●      a chemical delivery module.


Ultra C TEBO II (released in 2016). Highlights of our Ultra C TEBO II equipment include:
 
●     compact design, with footprint of 2.25m x 2.25m x 2.85m (WxDxH);
 
●     up to 8 chambers with an upgraded transport system and optimized robotic scheduler, providing throughput of up to 300 wafers per hour;
 
●     EFEM module consisting of 4 load ports, transfer robot and 1 process robot; and
 
●     focus on dilute chemicals contributes to environmental sustainability and lower cost of ownership.

 
Ultra C TEBO V (released in 2016). Highlights of our Ultra C TEBO V equipment include:
   
●     footprint of 2.45m x 5.30m x 2.85m (WxDxH);

●     up to 12 chamber modules, providing throughput of up to 300 wafers per hour;
 
●     EFEM module consisting of 4 load ports, 1 transfer robot and 1 process robot; and
 
●     chemical delivery module for delivery of isopropyl alcohol, dilute hydrofluoric acid, RCA SC-1 solution, functional de-ionized water and carbon dioxide to each of the chambers.
 

Tahoe Overview
 
Our Ultra-C Tahoe wafer cleaning tool can deliver high cleaning performance using significantly less sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide than is typically consumed by conventional high-temperature single-wafer cleaning tools. During normal single-wafer cleaning processes, only a fraction of the acid reacts with the wafer surface, while the majority is wasted as acid spins off the wafer and cannot be recycled. In addition to providing cost savings resulting from vastly reduced acid consumption, Ultra-C Tahoe meets the needs of customers who face increased environmental regulations and demand new, more environmentally friendly tools. We announced our first purchase order for an Ultra C Tahoe tool in August 2018, and we delivered the tool to a strategic customer in January of 2019.
 
Single-Wafer Tools for Back-End Assembly and Packaging
 
We leverage our technology and expertise to provide a range of single-wafer tools for back-end wafer assembly and packaging factories. We develop, manufacture and sell a wide range of advanced packaging tools, such as coaters, developers, photoresist strippers, scrubbers, wet etchers and copper-plating tools. We focus on providing custom-made, differentiated equipment that incorporates customer-requested features at a competitive price. Selling prices for these tools range from $500,000 to more than $2 million.

For example, our Ultra C Coater is used in applying photoresist, a light-sensitive material used in photolithography to transfer a pattern from a mask onto a wafer. Coaters typically provide input and output elevators, shuttle systems and other devices to handle and transport wafers during the coating process. Unlike most coaters, the Ultra C Coater is fully automated. Based on requests from customers, we developed and incorporated the special function of chamber auto-clean module into the Ultra C Coater, which further differentiates it from other products in the market. The Ultra C Coater is designed to deliver improved throughput and more efficient tool utilization while eliminating particle generation.

Our other advanced packaging tools include: Ultra C Developer, which applies liquid developer to selected parts of photoresist to resolve an image; Ultra C PR Megasonic-Assisted Stripper, which removes photoresist; Ultra C Scrubber, which scrubs and cleans wafers; Ultra C Thin Wafer Scrubber, which addresses a sub-market of cleaning very thin wafers for certain Asian assembly factories; and Ultra C Wet Etcher, which etches silicon wafers and copper and titanium interconnects.
 
Our Customers
 
Since 2009 we have delivered more than 80 single-wafer wet cleaning tools, more than 65 of which have been accepted by customers and thereby generated revenue to us. The balance of the delivered tools are awaiting customer acceptance should contractual conditions be met. To date, all of our sales of single-wafer wet cleaning equipment for front-end manufacturing have been to customers located in Asia, and we anticipate that a substantial majority of our revenue from these products will continue to come from customers located in this region for the foreseeable future. In the second half of 2019 we began to add to our efforts to further address customers in North America, Western Europe and Southeast Asia, by expanding our direct sales teams and increasing our global marketing activities.

We generate most of our revenue from a limited number of customers as the result of our strategy of initially placing single-wafer wet cleaning equipment with a small number of leading chip manufacturers that are driving technology trends and key capability implementation. In 2019, 73.8% of our revenue was derived from three customers: Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd., a leading PRC memory chip company, together with one of its subsidiaries, accounted for 27.5% of our revenue; Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corporation and the operations of The Huahong Group, a leading PRC foundry, accounted for 26.5% of our revenue; and SK Hynix Inc., a leading Korean memory chip company, accounted for 19.8% of our revenue. In 2018, 87.6% of our revenue was derived from three customers: Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd. (together with a subsidiary) accounted for 39.6% of our revenue; Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corporation accounted for 24.2% of our revenue; and SK Hynix Inc. accounted for 23.8% of our revenue.

 
Based on our market experience, we believe that implementation of our single-wafer wet cleaning equipment by one of our selected chip manufacturers will attract and encourage other manufacturers to evaluate our equipment, because the leading company’s implementation will serve as validation of our equipment and could enable the other manufacturers to shorten their evaluation processes. We placed our first SAPS tool in 2009 as a prototype. We worked closely with the customer for two years in debugging and modifying the tool, and the customer then spent two more years of qualification and running pilot production before beginning volume manufacturing. Our revenue in 2015 included sales of SAPS tools following the customer’s completion of its qualification process. The period from new product introduction to high volume manufacturing can range from one to several years.

For our back-end wafer assembly and packaging customers, we focus on providing custom-made, differentiated single wafer wet cleaning equipment that incorporates a customer’s requested features at a competitive cost of ownership. Our primary customers of these products in 2018 and 2019 included: Jiangyin Changdian Advanced Packaging Co. Ltd., a leading PRC-based wafer bumping packaging house that is a subsidiary of JCET Group Co., Ltd.; Nantong Tongfu Microelectronics Co., Ltd., a PRC-based chip assembly and testing company that is a subsidiary of Nantong Fujitsu Microelectronics Co., Ltd.; Deca Technologies, a wafer-level interconnect foundry with headquarters in Arizona and manufacturing in the Philippines that is a majority-owned, independent subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp.; and Wafer Works Corporation, a leading PRC-based wafer supplier.
 
Sales and Marketing
 
We market and sell our products worldwide using a combination of our direct sales force and third-party representatives. We employ direct sales teams in Asia, Europe and North America, and have located these teams near our customers, primarily in the PRC, Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Each sales person has specific local market expertise. We also employ field application engineers, who are typically co-located with our direct sales teams, to provide technical pre- and post-sale support tours and other assistance to existing and potential customers throughout the customers’ fab planning and production line qualification and fab expansion phases. Our field application engineers are organized by end markets as well as core competencies in hardware, control system, software and process development to support our customers.
 
To supplement our direct sales teams, we have contacts with several independent sales representatives in the PRC, Taiwan and Korea. We select these independent representatives based on their ability to provide effective field sales, marketing forecast and technical support for our products. In the case of representatives, our customers place purchase orders with us directly rather than with the representatives.
 
Our sales have historically been made using purchase orders with agreed technical specifications. Our sales terms and conditions are generally consistent with industry practice, but may vary from customer to customer. We seek to obtain a purchase order two to four months ahead of the customer’s desired delivery date. For some customers, we receive a letter of intent a few weeks ahead, followed by the corresponding purchase order four months ahead of the customer’s desired delivery date. Consistent with industry practice, we allow customers to reschedule or cancel orders at a certain cost to them on relatively short notice. Because of our relatively short delivery period and our practice of permitting rescheduling or cancellation, we believe that backlog is not a reliable indicator of our future revenue.
 
Our marketing team focuses on our product strategy and technology road maps, product marketing, new product introduction processes, demand assessment and competitive analysis, customer requirement communication and public relations. Our marketing team also has the responsibility to conduct environmental scans, study industry trends and arrange our participation at major trade shows.
 
Manufacturing
 
All of our products are built to order at our Shanghai facilities. Our first manufacturing facility has a total of 36,000 square feet, with 8,000 square feet of class 10,000 clean room space for product assembly and testing, plus 800 square feet of class 1 clean room space for product demonstration purposes. The rest of the area is used for product sub-assembly, component inventory and manufacturing related offices. A class designation for a clean room denotes the number of particles of size 0.5mm or larger permitted per cubic foot of air. Our manufacturing facility is ISO-9000 certified, and we have implemented certain manufacturing science-based factory practices such as constraint management, statistical process control and failure mode and effect analysis methodology.
 
In September 2018, we began production at our second factory, located ten miles from our Shanghai headquarters. The new facility provides an additional 50,000 square feet of floor space for production capacity. We plan to shift an increasing portion of our future production to this factory based on its modernized capabilities.
 
In November 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into an agreement initiating a bidding process to acquire land rights to build a center in the Lingang region of Shanghai for manufacturing as well as development. See “Item 2. Properties.”

In February 2020 our ACM Shanghai headquarters were closed for an additional six days beyond the normal Lunar New Year Holiday in accordance with Shanghai government restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, as described under “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Recent Developments—COVID-19 Outbreak.”

We purchase some of the components and assemblies that we include in our products from single source suppliers. We believe that we could obtain and qualify alternative sources to supply these components. Nevertheless, any prolonged inability to obtain these components could have an adverse effect on our operating results and could unfavorably impact our customer relationships. Please see “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry—We depend on a limited number of suppliers, including single source suppliers, for critical components and assemblies, and our business could be disrupted if they are unable to meet our needs.”
 
Research and Development
 
We believe that our success depends in part on our ability to develop and deliver breakthrough technologies and capabilities to meet our customers’ ever-more challenging technical requirements. For this reason, we devote significant financial and personnel resources to research and development. Our research and development team is comprised of highly skilled engineers and technologists with extensive experience in megasonic technology, cleaning processes and chemistry, mechanical design, and control system design. To supplement our internal expertise, we have also collaborated with external research and development entities such as International SEMATECH, and we are in the process of engaging with IMEC on specific areas of interests. We also retain, as technical advisors, several experts in semiconductor technology.
 
For the foreseeable future we are focusing on enhancing our Ultra C SAPS, TEBO, Tahoe and ECP tools and integrating additional capabilities to meet and anticipate requirements from our existing and potential customers. Our particular areas of focus include development of the following:

new cleaning steps for Ultra C SAPS cleaners for application in logic chips and for DRAM, 3D NAND and 3D cross point memory technologies;

new cleaning steps for Ultra C TEBO cleaners for FinFET in logic chips, gates in DRAM, and deep vias in both 3D NAND and 3D cross point memory technologies;

new hardware, including new system platforms, new and additional chamber structures and new chemical blending systems; and

new software to integrate new functionalities to improve tool performance.

Longer term, we are working on new proprietary process capabilities based on our existing tool hardware platforms. We are also working to integrate our tools with third-party tools in adjacent process areas in the chip manufacturing flow.
 
Our research and development expense totaled $12.9 million, or 12.0% of revenue, in 2019 and $10.4 million, or 13.9% of revenue, in 2018. We intend to continue to invest in research and development to support and enhance our existing cleaning products and to develop future product offerings to build and maintain our technology leadership position.
 
Intellectual Property
 
Our success and future revenue growth depend, in part, on our ability to protect our intellectual property. We control access to and use of our proprietary technologies, software and other confidential information through the use of internal and external controls, including contractual protections with employees, consultants, advisors, customers, partners and suppliers. We rely primarily on patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret laws, as well as confidentiality procedures, to protect our proprietary technologies and processes. All employees and consultants are required to execute confidentiality agreements in connection with their employment and consulting relationships with us. We also require them to agree to disclose and assign to us all inventions conceived or made in connection with the employment or consulting relationship.
 
We have aggressively pursued intellectual property since our founding in 1998. We focus our patent filing efforts in the United States, and, when justified by cost and strategic importance, we file corresponding foreign patent applications in strategic jurisdictions such as the European Union, the PRC, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. Our patent strategy is designed to provide a balance between the need for coverage in our strategic markets and the need to maintain costs at a reasonable level.
 
As of December 31, 2019, we had 25 issued patents, and 24 patents pending, in the United States. These patents carry expiration dates from 2022 through 2037. Many of the US patents and applications have also been filed internationally, in one or more of the European Union, Japan, Korea, PRC, Singapore and Taiwan. Specifically, we own patents in wafer cleaning, electro-polishing and plating, wafer preparation, and other semiconductor processing technologies. We have been issued more than 288 patents in the United States, the PRC, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
 
We manufacture advanced single-wafer cleaning systems equipped with our SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies. Our wafer cleaning technologies are protected by US Patent Numbers 8580042, 8671961, 9070723 and 9281177, as well as their corresponding international patents. We have 35 patents granted internationally protecting our SAPS technologies. We also have filed 11 international patent applications for key TEBO technologies, and 2 for Tahoe, in accordance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty, in anticipation of filing in the U.S. national phase.
 
In addition to the above core technologies, we have technologies for stress-free polishing, or SFP, and ECP that are used in certain of our tools. SFP is an integral part of the electro polishing process. Our technology was a breakthrough in electro-chemical-copper-planarization technology when it was first introduced, because it can polish, stress-free, copper layers used in copper low-K interconnects. Our innovations in SFP and ECP are reflected in US Patent Numbers 6638863 and 8518224, and their corresponding international counterparts.
 
We also have technologies in other semiconductor processing areas, such as wafer preparation and some specific processing steps. The wafer preparation technology is covered by US Patent Numbers 8383429 and 9295167. The specific processing steps includes US Patent Number 8598039 titled “Barrier layer removal method and apparatus.”
 
To date we have not granted licenses to third parties under the patents described above. Not all of these patents have been implemented in products. We may enter into licensing or cross-licensing arrangements with other companies in the future.
 
We cannot assure you that any patents will issue from any of our pending applications. Any rights granted under any of our existing or future patents may not provide meaningful protection or any commercial advantage to us. With respect to our other proprietary rights, it may be possible for third parties to copy or otherwise obtain and use our proprietary technology or marks without authorization or to develop similar technology independently.
 
The semiconductor equipment industry is characterized by vigorous protection and pursuit of intellectual property rights or positions, which have resulted in often protracted and expensive litigation. We may in the future initiate claims or litigation against third parties to determine the validity and scope of proprietary rights of others. In addition, we may in the future initiate litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights or the rights of our customers or to protect our trade secrets.
 
Our customers could become the target of litigation relating to the patent or other intellectual property rights of others. This could trigger technical support and indemnification obligations in some of our customer agreements. These obligations could result in substantial expenses, including the payment by us of costs and damages related to claims of patent infringement. In addition to the time and expense required for us to provide support or indemnification to our customers, any such litigation could disrupt the businesses of our customers, which in turn could hurt our relations with our customers and cause the sale of our products to decrease. We do not have any insurance coverage for intellectual property infringement claims for which we may be obligated to provide indemnification.
 
Additional information about the risks relating to our intellectual property is provided under “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Intellectual Property.”
 
Competition
 
The chip equipment industry is characterized by rapid change and is highly competitive throughout the world. We compete with semiconductor equipment companies located around the world, and we may also face competition from new and emerging companies, including new competitors from the PRC. We consider our principal competitors to be those companies that provide single-wafer cleaning products to the market, including Beijing Sevenstar Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. (a subsidiary of NAURA Technology Group Co., Ltd.), Lam Research Corporation, Mujin Electronics Co., Ltd., SCREEN SPE USA, LLC (a subsidiary of SCREEN Holdings Co., Ltd.), SEMES Co. Ltd. and Tokyo Electron Ltd.
 
Compared to our company, our current and potential competitors may have:

better established credibility and market reputations, longer operating histories, and broader product offerings;

significantly greater financial, technical, marketing and other resources, which may allow them to pursue design, development, manufacturing, sales, marketing, distribution and service support of their products;

more extensive customer and partner relationships, which may position them to identify and respond more successfully to market developments and changes in customer demands; and

multiple product offerings, which may enable them to offer bundled discounts for customers purchasing multiple products or other incentives that we cannot match or offer.
 
The principal competitive factors in our market include:

performance of products, including particle removal efficiency, rate of damage to wafer structures, high temperature chemistry, throughput, tool uptime and reliability, safety, chemical waste treatment, and environmental impact;

service support capability and spare parts delivery time; innovation and development of functionality and features that are must-haves for advanced fabrication nodes;


ability to anticipate customer requirements, especially for advanced process nodes of less than 45nm; ability to identify new process applications;

brand recognition and reputation; and

skill and capability of personnel, including design engineers, manufacturing engineers and technicians, application engineers, and service engineers.
 
In addition, semiconductor manufacturers must make a substantial investment to qualify and integrate new equipment into semiconductor production lines. Some manufacturers began fabricating chips for the 10nm node in 2017 and the 7nm node in 2018, and we have one customer that is evaluating implementation of our equipment at these nodes. Once a semiconductor manufacturer has selected a particular supplier’s equipment and qualified it for production, the manufacturer generally maintains that selection for that specific production application and technology node as long as the supplier’s products demonstrate performance to specification in the installed base. Accordingly, we may experience difficulty in selling to a given manufacturer if that manufacturer has qualified a competitor’s equipment. If, however, that cleaning equipment constrains chip yield, we expect, based on our experience to date, that the manufacturer will evaluate implementing new equipment that cleans more effectively.
 
We focus on the high-end fabrication market with advanced nodes, and we believe we compete favorably with respect to the factors described above. Most of our competitors offer single-wafer cleaning products using jet spray technology, which has relatively poor particle removal efficiency for random defects less than 30nm in size and presents increased risk of damage to the fragile patterned architectures of wafers at advanced process nodes. Certain of our competitors offer single-wafer cleaning products with megasonic cleaning capability, but we believe these products, which use conventional megasonic technology, are unable to maintain energy dose uniformity on the entire wafer and often lack the ability to repeat the requisite uniform energy dose wafer to wafer in production, resulting in poor efficiency in removing random defects, longer processing time and greater loss of material. In addition, these conventional megasonic products generate transient cavitation, which results in more incidents of damage to wafer structures with feature sizes of 70nm or less. We design our cleaning tools equipped with our proprietary SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies, which we believe offer better performance, much less chemical consumption, and lower cost of consumables, including at advanced process nodes of 22nm or less.
 
Employees
 
As of December 31, 2019, we had 361 full-time equivalent employees, of whom 32 were in administration, 89 were in manufacturing, 149 were in research and development, and 91 were in sales and marketing and customer services. Of these employees, 328 were located in mainland China and Taiwan, 28 were located in Korea and 5 were based in the United States. We have never had a work stoppage, and none of our employees are represented by a labor organization or subject to any collective bargaining arrangements. We consider our employee relations to be good.
 
Available Information
 
We are required to file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. The SEC maintains a website at www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC.
 
Our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and amendments to those documents filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, are also available free of charge on our website at www.acmrcsh.com as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC.
 
Investors should note that we announce material information to our investors and others using filings with the SEC, press releases, public conference calls, webcasts or our website (www.acmrcsh.com), including news and announcements regarding our financial performance, key personnel, our brands and our business strategy. Information that we post on our corporate website could be deemed material to investors. We encourage investors to review the information we post on these channels. We may from time to time update the list of channels we will use to communicate information that could be deemed material and will post information about any such change on www.acmrcsh.com. The information on our website is not, and shall not be deemed to be, a part hereof or incorporated into this or any of our other filings with the SEC.
 
Item 1A.
Risk Factors
 
Investing in Class A common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should consider and read carefully all of the risks and uncertainties described below, as well as other information contained in this report, including the consolidated financial statements and related notes set forth in “Item 1. Financial Statements” of Part I above, before making an investment decision. The occurrence of any of the following risks or additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. In any such case, the trading price of Class A common stock could decline, and you may lose all or part of your investment. This report also contains forward-looking statements and estimates that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of specific factors, including the risks and uncertainties described below.
 
Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry
 
We have generated limited operating income in the past, and if our revenue does not meet our expectations in future years we may not be able to maintain or increase our profitability.
 
We have incurred significant losses since our inception in 1998. We generated net income of $19.5 million in 2019 and $6.6 million in 2018, but incurred net losses in every year from 1998 to 2015 and in 2017. We have a limited history of generating meaningful levels of revenue, and we expect our costs to increase in future periods. If we are unable to increase our revenue at a rate sufficient to offset the expected increase in our costs, our business, financial position and results of operations will be harmed and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability over the long term.
 
Our revenue was $107.5 million in 2019 and $74.6 million in 2018, but totaled only $36.5 million in 2017, $27.4 million in 2016 and $31.2 million in 2015. Our ability to generate significant revenue depends on a number of factors, including our ability to:

achieve wider market acceptance of Ultra C equipment based on SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technology;

increase our customer base in the PRC and globally, including the establishment of relationships with companies in the United States;

continue to expand our supplier relationships with third parties; and

establish and maintain our reputation for providing efficient on-time delivery of high quality products.
 
We expect to expend increasing levels of financial and other resources on:

research and development, including continued investments in our research and development team;

sales and marketing, including a significant expansion of our sales organization, both domestically and internationally, building our brand, and providing our single-wafer wet cleaning equipment and other capital equipment, or tools, for evaluation by customers;

the cost of goods being manufactured and sold for our installed base; and

expansion of field service.
These investments may not result in increased revenue or growth in our business.
 
Additionally, we may encounter unforeseen operating expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other factors that may result in losses in future periods. If we fail to regain and sustain profitability on a continuing basis, we may be unable to continue our operations at planned levels and be forced to reduce our operations or even shut down.
 
We may require additional capital in the future and we cannot give any assurance that such capital will be available at all or available on terms acceptable to us and, if it is available, additional capital raised by us may dilute holders of Class A common stock.
 
We may need to raise funds in the future, depending on many factors, including:

our sales growth;

the costs of applying our existing technologies to new or enhanced products;

the costs of developing new technologies and introducing new products;

the costs associated with protecting our intellectual property;


the costs associated with our expansion, including capital expenditures, increasing our sales and marketing and service and support efforts, and expanding our geographic operations;

our ability to continue to obtain governmental subsidies for developmental projects in the future;

future debt repayment obligations; and

the number and timing of any future acquisitions.
 
To the extent that our existing sources of cash, together with any cash generated from operations, are insufficient to fund our activities, we may need to raise additional funds through public or private financings, strategic relationships, or other arrangements. Additional funding may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If adequate funding is not available, we may be required to reduce expenditures, including curtailing our growth strategies and reducing our product development efforts, or to forego acquisition opportunities.
 
Proceeds received by ACM Shanghai from the initial placements of shares with PRC investors and from the planned listing initial public offering of shares of ACM Shanghai in the PRC, which we refer to as the STAR IPO, in connection with the planned listing, which we refer to as the STAR Listing, of ACM Shanghai shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Sci-Tech innovAtion boaRd, or STAR Market, will be used to grow and support our PRC operations. Those proceeds generally will not be available for distribution to ACM Research. Under existing PRC laws and regulations, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for ACM Research to be able to receive dividends comprised of funds generated by ACM Shanghai and, even if such dividends can be paid from the PRC to the United States, after the completion of the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, any such dividends can be paid to ACM Research only if other holders of ACM Shanghai shares receive their pro rata dividends. As a result, it is unlikely that funds raised or generated by ACM Shanghai will be readily distributable to ACM Research.
 
If we succeed in raising additional funds through the issuance of equity or convertible securities, then the issuance could result in substantial dilution to existing stockholders. Furthermore, the holders of these new securities or debt may have rights, preferences and privileges senior to those of the holders of Class A common stock. In addition, any preferred equity issuance or debt financing that we may obtain in the future could have 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 quarterly operating results can be difficult to predict and can fluctuate substantially, which could result in volatility in the price of Class A common stock.
 
Our quarterly revenue and other operating results have varied in the past and are likely to continue to vary significantly from quarter to quarter. Accordingly, you should not rely upon our past quarterly financial results as indicators of future performance. Any variations in our quarter-to-quarter performance may cause our stock price to fluctuate. Our financial results in any given quarter can be influenced by a variety of factors, including:

the cyclicality of the semiconductor industry and the related impact on the purchase of equipment used in the manufacture of integrated circuits, or chips;

the timing of purchases of our tools by chip fabricators, which order types of tools based on multi-year capital plans under which the number and dollar amount of tool purchases can vary significantly from year to year;

the relatively high average selling price of our tools and our dependence on a limited number of customers for a substantial portion of our revenue in any period, whereby the timing and volume of purchase orders or cancellations from our customers could significantly reduce our revenue for that period;

the significant expenditures required to customize our products often exceed the deposits received from our customers;

the lead time required to manufacture our tools;

the timing of recognizing revenue due to the timing of shipment and acceptance of our tools;

our ability to sell additional tools to existing customers;

the changes in customer specifications or requirements;

the length of our product sales cycle;

changes in our product mix, including the mix of systems, upgrades, spare parts and service;

the timing of our product releases or upgrades or announcements of product releases or upgrades by us or our competitors, including changes in customer orders in anticipation of new products or product enhancements;

our ability to enhance our tools with new and better functionality that meet customer requirements and changing industry trends;


constraints on our suppliers’ capacity;

the timing of investments in research and development related to releasing new applications of our technologies and new products;

delays in the development and manufacture of our new products and upgraded versions of our products and the market acceptance of these products when introduced;

our ability to control costs, including operating expenses and the costs of the components and subassemblies used in our products;

the costs related to the acquisition and integration of product lines, technologies or businesses; and

the costs associated with protecting our intellectual property, including defending our intellectual property against third-party claims or litigation.
 
Seasonality has played an increasingly important role in the market for chip manufacturing tools. The period of November through February has been a particularly weak period historically for manufacturers of chip tools, in part because capital equipment needed to support manufacturing of chips for the December holidays usually needs to be in the supply chain by no later than October and chip makers in Asia often wait until after Chinese, or Lunar, New Year, which occurs in January or February, before implementing their capital acquisition plans. The timing of new product releases also has an impact on seasonality, with the acquisition of manufacturing equipment occurring six to nine months before a new release.
 
Many of these factors are beyond our control, and the occurrence of one or more of them could cause our operating results to vary widely. As a result, it is difficult for us to forecast our quarterly revenue accurately. Our results of operations for any quarter may not be indicative of results for future quarters and quarter-to-quarter comparisons of our operating results are not necessarily meaningful. Variability in our periodic operating results could lead to volatility in our stock price. Because a substantial proportion of our expenses are relatively fixed in the short term, our results of operations will suffer if revenue falls below our expectations in a particular quarter, which could cause the price of Class A common stock to decline. Moreover, as a result of any of the foregoing factors, our operating results might not meet our announced guidance or expectations of public market analysts or investors, in which case the price of Class A common stock could decrease significantly.
 
Cyclicality in the semiconductor industry is likely to lead to substantial variations in demand for our products, and as a result our operating results could be adversely affected.
 
The chip industry has historically been cyclic and is characterized by wide fluctuations in product supply and demand. From time to time, this industry has experienced significant downturns, often in connection with, or in anticipation of, maturing product and technology cycles, excess inventories and declines in general economic conditions. This cyclicality could cause our operating results to decline dramatically from one period to the next.
 
Our business depends upon the capital spending of chip manufacturers, which, in turn, depends upon the current and anticipated market demand for chips. During industry downturns, chip manufacturers often have excess manufacturing capacity and may experience reductions in profitability due to lower sales and increased pricing pressure for their products. As a result, chip manufacturers generally sharply curtail their spending during industry downturns and historically have lowered their spending more than the decline in their revenues. If we are unable to control our expenses adequately in response to lower revenue from our customers, our operating results will suffer and we could experience operating losses.
 
Conversely, during industry upturns we must successfully increase production output to meet expected customer demand. This may require us or our suppliers, including third-party contractors, to order additional inventory, hire additional employees and expand manufacturing capacity. If we are unable to respond to a rapid increase in demand for our tools on a timely basis, or if we misjudge the timing, duration or magnitude of such an increase in demand, we may lose business to our competitors or incur increased costs disproportionate to any gains in revenue, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.
 
The PRC government is implementing focused policies, including state-led investment initiatives, that aim to create and support an independent domestic semiconductor supply chain spanning from design to final system production. If these policies, which include loans and subsidies, result in lower demand for equipment than is expected by equipment manufacturers, the resulting overcapacity in the chip manufacturing equipment market could lead to excess inventory and price discounting that could have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results.
 
Our success will depend on industry chip manufacturers adopting our SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies.
 
To date our strategy for commercializing our tools has been to place them with selected industry leaders in the manufacturing of memory and logic chips, the two largest chip categories, to enable those leading manufacturers to evaluate our technologies, and then leverage our reputation to gain broader market acceptance. In order for these industry leaders to adopt our tools, we need to establish our credibility by demonstrating the differentiated, innovative nature of our SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies. Our SAPS technology has been tested and purchased by industry leaders, but has not achieved, and may never achieve, widespread market acceptance. We have initiated a similar commercialization process for our TEBO technology with a selected group of industry leaders. If these leading manufacturers do not agree that our technologies add significant value over conventional technologies or do not otherwise accept and use our tools, we may need to spend a significant amount of time and resources to enhance our technologies or develop new technologies. Even if these leading manufacturers adopt our technologies, other manufacturers may not choose to accept and adopt our tools and our products may not achieve widespread adoption. Any of the above factors would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 
If our SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies do not achieve widespread market acceptance, we will not be able to compete effectively.
 
The commercial success of our tools will depend, in part, on gaining substantial market acceptance by chip manufacturers. Our ability to gain acceptance for our products will depend upon a number of factors, including:

our ability to demonstrate the differentiated, innovative nature of our SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies and the advantages of our tools over those of our competitors;

compatibility of our tools with existing or potential customers’ manufacturing processes and products;

the level of customer service available to support our products; and

the experiences our customers have with our products.
 
In addition, obtaining orders from new customers may be difficult because many chip manufacturers have pre-existing relationships with our competitors. Chip manufacturers must make a substantial investment to qualify and integrate wet processing equipment into a chip production line. Due, in part, to the cost of manufacturing equipment and the investment necessary to integrate a particular manufacturing process, a chip manufacturer that has selected a particular supplier’s equipment and qualified that equipment for production typically continues to use that equipment for the specific production application and process node, which is the minimum line width on a chip, as long as that equipment continues to meet performance specifications. Some of our potential and existing customers may prefer larger, more established vendors from which they can purchase equipment for a wider variety of process steps than our tools address. Further, because the cleaning process with our TEBO equipment can be up to five times longer than cleaning processes based on other technologies, we must convince chip manufacturers of the innovative, differentiated nature of our technologies and the benefits associated with using our tools. If we are unable to obtain new customers and continue to achieve widespread market acceptance of our tools, then our business, operations, financial results and growth prospects will be materially and adversely affected.
 
If we do not continue to enhance our existing single-wafer wet cleaning tools and achieve market acceptance, we will not be able to compete effectively.
 
We operate in an industry that is subject to evolving standards, rapid technological changes and changes in customer demands. Additionally, if process nodes continue to shrink to ever-smaller dimensions and conventional two-dimensional chips reach their critical performance limitations, the technology associated with manufacturing chips may advance to a point where our Ultra C equipment based on SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe technologies becomes obsolete. Accordingly, the future of our business will depend in large part upon the continuing relevance of our technological capabilities, our ability to interpret customer and market requirements in advance of tool deliveries, and our ability to introduce in a timely manner new tools that address chip makers’ requirements for cost-effective cleaning solutions. We expect to spend a significant amount of time and resources developing new tools and enhancing existing tools. Our ability to introduce and market successfully any new or enhanced cleaning equipment is subject to a wide variety of challenges during the tool’s development, including the following:


accurate anticipation of market requirements, changes in technology and evolving standards;

the availability of qualified product designers and technologies needed to solve difficult design challenges in a cost-effective, reliable manner;

our ability to design products that meet chip manufacturers’ cost, size, acceptance and specification criteria, and performance requirements;

the ability and availability of suppliers and third-party manufacturers to manufacture and deliver the critical components and subassemblies of our tools in a timely manner;

market acceptance of our customers’ products, and the lifecycle of those products; and

our ability to deliver products in a timely manner within our customers’ product planning and deployment cycle.
 
Certain enhancements to our Ultra C equipment in future periods may reduce demand for our pre-existing tools. As we introduce new or enhanced cleaning tools, we must manage the transition from older tools in order to minimize disruptions in customers’ ordering patterns, avoid excessive levels of older tool inventories and ensure timely delivery of sufficient supplies of new tools to meet customer demand. Furthermore, product introductions could delay purchases by customers awaiting arrival of our new products, which could cause us to fail to meet our expected level of production orders for pre-existing tools.
 
If we are unable to implement our strategy to expand our PRC operations by completing an initial public offering and listing on the STAR Market, our ability to strengthen our market position and operations in the PRC, including our ability to increase our revenues and augment our product line, could be materially impaired.
 
In June 2019 we announced plans to complete over the following three years the STAR Listing, which consists of a listing, of shares of ACM Shanghai on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s STAR Market, and the STAR IPO, which would be a concurrent initial public offering of ACM Shanghai shares in the PRC. ACM Shanghai is our principal operating company and, prior to the STAR Listing process, was a wholly owned subsidiary of ACM Research. Following the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, ACM Shanghai will be a majority owned subsidiary of ACM Research. We may not be able to complete the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO for a number of reasons, many of which are outside our control. ACM Shanghai must succeed in obtaining PRC governmental approvals required to permit the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, and one or more of those approvals may be denied, or significantly delayed, by the PRC regulators for reasons outside our control or unknown to us. Similarly, the STAR Listing application may be denied or delayed by the Shanghai Stock Exchange in its discretion. See also “—Risks Related to the COVID-19 Outbreak—The COVID‑19 outbreak could negatively impact our currently planned projects and investments in the PRC, including the STAR IPO.”
 
If we are unable to complete the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, we may not otherwise be able to realize the advantages to our PRC operations contemplated by our business strategy, including improving our ability to market our products, building our brand in the PRC markets, assisting our sales efforts to new customers and encouraging additional purchases of our tools by existing customers. Because it may be more than three years before we know whether the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO will be completed, we may, in the interim, forego or postpone other alternative actions to strengthen our market position and operations in the PRC.
 
PRC companies are critical to the global semiconductor industry, and our current business is substantially concentrated in the PRC market. Our inability to build, or any delay in growing, our PRC-based operations over the next three years would materially and adversely limit our operations and operating results, including our revenue growth. In addition, during that time, the process underlying the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO could result in significant diversion of management time as well as substantial out-of-pocket costs, which could further impair our ability to expand our business.
 
Our success will depend on our ability to identify and enter new product markets.
 
We expect to spend a significant amount of time and resources identifying new product markets in addition to the market for cleaning solutions and in developing new products for entry into these markets. Our TEBO technology took eight years to develop, and development of any new technology could require a similar, or even longer, period of time. Product development requires significant investments in engineering hours, third-party development costs, prototypes and sample materials, as well as sales and marketing expenses, which will not be recouped if the product launch is unsuccessful. We may fail to predict the needs of other markets accurately or develop new, innovative technologies to address those needs. Further, we may not be able to design and introduce new products in a timely or cost-efficient manner, and our new products may be more costly to develop, may fail to meet the requirements of the market, or may be adopted slower than we expect. If we are not able to introduce new products successfully, our inability to gain market share in new product markets could adversely affect our ability to sustain our revenue growth or maintain our current revenue levels.
 
If we fail to establish and maintain a reputation for credibility and product quality, our ability to expand our customer base will be impaired and our operating results may suffer.
 
We must develop and maintain a market reputation for innovative, differentiated technologies and high quality, reliable products in order to attract new customers and achieve widespread market acceptance of our products. Our market reputation is critical because we compete against several larger, more established competitors, many of which supply equipment for a larger number of process steps than we do to a broader customer base in an industry with a limited number of customers. In these circumstances, traditional marketing and branding efforts are of limited value, and our success depends on our ability to provide customers with reliable and technically sophisticated products. If the limited customer base does not perceive our products and services to be of high quality and effectiveness, our reputation could be harmed, which could adversely impact our ability to achieve our targeted growth.
 
We operate in a highly competitive industry and many of our competitors are larger, better-established, and have significantly greater operating and financial resources than we have.
 
The chip equipment industry is highly competitive, and we face substantial competition throughout the world in each of the markets we serve. Many of our current and potential competitors have, among other things:

greater financial, technical, sales and marketing, manufacturing, distribution and other resources;

established credibility and market reputations;

longer operating histories;

broader product offerings;

more extensive service offerings, including the ability to have large inventories of spare parts available near, or even at, customer locations;

local sales forces; and

more extensive geographic coverage.
 
These competitors may also have the ability to offer their products at lower prices by subsidizing their losses in wet cleaning with profits from other lines of business in order to retain current or obtain new customers. Among other things, some competitors have the ability to offer bundled discounts for customers purchasing multiple products. Many of our competitors have more extensive customer and partner relationships than we do and may therefore be in a better position to identify and respond to market developments and changes in customer demands. Potential customers may prefer to purchase from their existing suppliers rather than a new supplier, regardless of product performance or features. If we are not able to compete successfully against existing or new competitors, our business, operating results and financial condition will be negatively affected.
 
We depend on a small number of customers for a substantial portion of our revenue, and the loss of, or a significant reduction in orders from, one of our major customers could have a material adverse effect on our revenue and operating results. There are also a limited number of potential customers for our products.
 
The chip manufacturing industry is highly concentrated, and we derive most of our revenue from a limited number of customers. In 2019, 73.8% of our revenue was derived from three customers: Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd., a leading PRC memory chip company, together with one of its subsidiaries, accounted for 27.5% of our revenue; Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corporation, and the operations of The Huahong Group in Wuxi, China, a leading PRC foundry, accounted for 26.5% of our revenue; and SK Hynix Inc., a leading Korean memory chip company, accounted for 19.8% of our revenue. In 2018, 87.6% of our revenue was derived from three customers: Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd., a leading PRC memory chip company, together with one of its subsidiaries, accounted for 39.6% of our revenue; Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corporation, a leading PRC foundry, accounted for 24.2% of our revenue; and SK Hynix Inc., a leading Korean memory chip company, accounted for 23.8% of our revenue.
 
As a consequence of the concentrated nature of our customer base, our revenue and results of operations may fluctuate from quarter to quarter and are difficult to estimate, and any cancellation of orders or any acceleration or delay in anticipated product purchases or the acceptance of shipped products by our larger customers could materially affect our revenue and results of operations in any quarterly period.
 
We may be unable to sustain or increase our revenue from our larger customers or offset the discontinuation of concentrated purchases by our larger customers with purchases by new or existing customers. We expect a small number of customers will continue to account for a high percentage of our revenue for the foreseeable future and that our results of operations may fluctuate materially as a result of such larger customers’ buying patterns. Thus, our business success depends on our ability to maintain strong relationships with our customers. The loss of any of our key customers for any reason, or a change in our relationship with any of our key customers, including a significant delay or reduction in their purchases, may cause a significant decrease in our revenue, which we may not be able to recapture due to the limited number of potential customers.
 
We have seen, and may see in the future, consolidation of our customer base. Industry consolidation generally has negative implications for equipment suppliers, including a reduction in the number of potential customers, a decrease in aggregate capital spending and greater pricing leverage on the part of consumers over equipment suppliers. Continued consolidation of the chip industry could make it more difficult for us to grow our customer base, increase sales of our products and maintain adequate gross margins.
 
Our customers do not enter into long-term purchase commitments, and they may decrease, cancel or delay their projected purchases at any time.
 
In accordance with industry practice, our sales are on a purchase order basis, which we seek to obtain three to four months in advance of the expected product delivery date. Until a purchase order is received, we do not have a binding purchase commitment. Our customers to date have provided us with non-binding one- to two-year forecasts of their anticipated demands, but those forecasts can be changed at any time, without any required notice to us. Because the lead-time needed to produce a tool customized to a customer’s specifications can extend up to six months, we may need to begin production of tools based on non-binding forecasts, rather than waiting to receive a binding purchase order. No assurance can be made that a customer’s forecast will result in a firm purchase order within the time period we expect, or at all.
 
If we do not accurately predict the amount and timing of a customer’s future purchases, we risk expending time and resources on producing a customized tool that is not purchased by a particular customer, which may result in excess or unwanted inventory, or we may be unable to fulfill an order on the schedule required by a purchase order, which would result in foregone sales. Customers may place purchase orders that exceed forecasted amounts, which could result in delays in our delivery time and harm our reputation. In the future a customer may decide not to purchase our tools at all, may purchase fewer tools than it did in the past or may otherwise alter its purchasing patterns, and the impact of any such actions may be intensified given our dependence on a small number of large customers. Our customers make major purchases periodically as they add capacity or otherwise implement technology upgrades. If any significant customers cancel, delay or reduce orders, our operating results could suffer.
 
We may incur significant expenses long before we can recognize revenue from new products, if at all, due to the costs and length of research, development, manufacturing and customer evaluation process cycles.
 
We often incur significant research and development costs for products that are purchased by our customers only after much, or all, of the cost has been incurred or that may never be purchased. We allow some new customers, or existing customers considering new products, to evaluate products without any payment becoming due unless the product is ultimately accepted, which means we may invest a significant amount in manufacturing a tool that may never be accepted and purchased or may be purchased months or even years after production. In the past we have borrowed money in order to fund first-time purchase order equipment and next-generation evaluation equipment. When we deliver evaluation equipment, or a “first tool,” we may not recognize revenue or receive payment for the tool for 24 months or longer. Even returning customers may take as long as six months to make any payments. If our sales efforts are unsuccessful after expending significant resources, or if we experience delays in completing sales, our future cash flow, revenue and profitability may fluctuate or be materially adversely affected.
 
Our sales cycle is long and unpredictable, which results in variability of our financial performance and may require us to incur high sales and marketing expenses with no assurance that a sale will result, all of which could adversely affect our profitability.
 
Our results of operations may fluctuate, in part, because of the resource-intensive nature of our sales efforts and the length and variability of our sales cycle. A sales cycle is the period between initial contact with a prospective customer and any sale of our tools. Our sales process involves educating customers about our tools, participating in extended tool evaluations and configuring our tools to customer-specific needs, after which customers may evaluate the tools. The length of our sales cycle, from initial contact with a customer to the execution of a purchase order, is generally 6 to 24 months. During the sales cycle, we expend significant time and money on sales and marketing activities and make investments in evaluation equipment, all of which lower our operating margins, particularly if no sale occurs or if the sale is delayed as a result of extended qualification processes or delays from our customers’ customers.
 
The duration or ultimate success of our sales cycle depends on factors such as:

efforts by our sales force;

the complexity of our customers’ manufacturing processes and the compatibility of our tools with those processes;

our customers’ internal technical capabilities and sophistication; and

our customers’ capital spending plans and processes, including budgetary constraints, internal approvals, extended negotiations or administrative delays.
 
It is difficult to predict exactly when, or even if, we will make a sale to a potential customer or if we can increase sales to our existing customers. As a result, we may not recognize revenue from our sales efforts for extended periods of time, or at all. The loss or delay of one or more large transactions in a quarter could impact our results of operations for that quarter and any future quarters for which revenue from that transaction is lost or delayed. In addition, we believe that the length of the sales cycle and intensity of the evaluation process may increase for those current and potential customers that centralize their purchasing decisions.
 
Difficulties in forecasting demand for our tools may lead to periodic inventory shortages or excess spending on inventory items that may not be used.
 
We need to manage our inventory of components and production of tools effectively to meet changing customer requirements. Accurately forecasting customers’ needs is difficult. Our tool demand forecasts are based on multiple assumptions, including non-binding forecasts received from our customers years in advance, each of which may introduce error into our estimates. Inventory levels for components necessary to build our tools in excess of customer demand may result in inventory write-downs and could have an adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition. Conversely, if we underestimate demand for our tools or if our manufacturing partners fail to supply components we require at the time we need them, we may experience inventory shortages. Such shortages might delay production or shipments to customers and may cause us to lose sales. These shortages may also harm our credibility, diminish the loyalty of our channel partners or customers.
 
A failure to prevent inventory shortages or accurately predict customers’ needs could result in decreased revenue and gross margins and harm our business.
 
Some of our products and supplies may become obsolete or be deemed excess while in inventory due to rapidly changing customer specifications, changes in product structure, components or bills of material as a result of engineering changes, or a decrease in customer demand. We also have exposure to contractual liabilities to our contract manufacturers for inventories purchased by them on our behalf, based on our forecasted requirements, which may become excess or obsolete. Our inventory balances also represent an investment of cash. To the extent our inventory turns are slower than we anticipate based on historical practice, our cash conversion cycle extends and more of our cash remains invested in working capital. If we are not able to manage our inventory effectively, we may need to write down the value of some of our existing inventory or write off non-saleable or obsolete inventory. Any such charges we incur in future periods could materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
 
The difficulty in forecasting demand also makes it difficult to estimate our future results of operations and financial condition from period to period. A failure to accurately predict the level of demand for our products could adversely affect our net revenue and net income, and we are unlikely to forecast such effects with any certainty in advance.
 
If our tools contain defects or do not meet customer specifications, we could lose customers and revenue.
 
Highly complex tools such as our may develop defects during the manufacturing and assembly process. We may also experience difficulties in customizing our tools to meet customer specifications or detecting defects during the development and manufacturing of our tools. Some of these failures may not be discovered until we have expended significant resources in customizing our tools, or until our tools have been installed in our customers’ production facilities. These quality problems could harm our reputation as well as our customer relationships in the following ways:

our customers may delay or reject acceptance of our tools that contain defects or fail to meet their specifications;

we may suffer customer dissatisfaction, negative publicity and reputational damage, resulting in reduced orders or otherwise damaging our ability to retain existing customers and attract new customers;

we may incur substantial costs as a result of warranty claims or service obligations or in order to enhance the reliability of our tools;

the attention of our technical and management resources may be diverted;

we may be required to replace defective systems or invest significant capital to resolve these problems; and

we may be required to write off inventory and other assets related to our tools.
 
In addition, defects in our tools or our inability to meet the needs of our customers could cause damage to our customers’ products or manufacturing facilities, which could result in claims for product liability, tort or breach of warranty, including claims from our customers. The cost of defending such a lawsuit, regardless of its merit, could be substantial and could divert management’s attention from our ongoing operations. In addition, if our business liability insurance coverage proves inadequate with respect to a claim or future coverage is unavailable on acceptable terms or at all, we may be liable for payment of substantial damages. Any or all of these potential consequences could have an adverse impact on our operating results and financial condition.
 
Warranty claims in excess of our estimates could adversely affect our business.
 
We have provided warranties against manufacturing defects of our tools that range from 12 to 36 months in duration. Our product warranty requires us to provide labor and parts necessary to repair defects. As of December 31, 2019, we had accrued $2.8 million in liability contingency for potential warranty claims. Warranty claims substantially in excess of our expectations, or significant unexpected costs associated with warranty claims, could harm our reputation and could cause customers to decline to place new or additional orders, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 
We rely on third parties to manufacture significant portions of our tools and our failure to manage our relationships with these parties could harm our relationships with our customers, increase our costs, decrease our sales and limit our growth.
 
Our tools are complex and require components and subassemblies having a high degree of reliability, accuracy and performance. We rely on third parties to manufacture most of the subassemblies and supply most of the components used in our tools. Accordingly, we cannot directly control our delivery schedules and quality assurance. This lack of control could result in shortages or quality assurance problems. These issues could delay shipments of our tools, increase our testing costs or lead to costly failure claims.
 
We do not have long-term supply contracts with some of our suppliers, and those suppliers are not obligated to perform services or supply products to us for any specific period, in any specific quantities or at any specific price, except as may be provided in a particular purchase order. In addition, we attempt to maintain relatively low inventories and acquire subassemblies and components only as needed. There are significant risks associated with our reliance on these third-party suppliers, including:

potential price increases;

capacity shortages or other inability to meet any increase in demand for our products;


reduced control over manufacturing process for components and subassemblies and delivery schedules;

limited ability of some suppliers to manufacture and sell subassemblies or parts in the volumes we require and at acceptable quality levels and prices, due to the suppliers’ relatively small operations and limited manufacturing resources;

increased exposure to potential misappropriation of our intellectual property; and

limited warranties on subassemblies and components supplied to us.
 
Any delays in the shipment of our products due to our reliance on third-party suppliers could harm our relationships with our customers. In addition, any increase in costs due to our suppliers increasing the price they charge us for subassemblies and components or arising from our need to replace our current suppliers that we are unable to pass on to our customers could negatively affect our operating results.
 
Any shortage of components or subassemblies could result in delayed delivery of products to us or in increased costs to us, which could harm our business.
 
The ability of our manufacturers to supply our tools is dependent, in part, upon the availability certain components and subassemblies. Our manufacturers may experience shortages in the availability of such components or subassemblies, which could result in delayed delivery of products to us or in increased costs to us. Any shortage of components or subassemblies or any inability to control costs associated with manufacturing could increase the costs for our products or impair our ability to ship orders in a timely cost-efficient manner. As a result, we could experience cancellation of orders, refusal to accept deliveries or a reduction in our prices and margins, any of which could harm our financial performance and results of operations.
 
We depend on a limited number of suppliers, including single source suppliers, for critical components and subassemblies, and our business could be disrupted if they are unable to meet our needs.
 
We depend on a limited number of suppliers for components and subassemblies used in our tools. Certain components and subassemblies of our tools have only been purchased from our current suppliers to date and changing the source of those components and subassemblies may result in disruptions during the transition process and entail significant delay and expense. We rely on: Product Systems, Inc., or ProSys, as the sole supplier of megasonic transducers, a key subassembly used in our single-wafer cleaning equipment; Ninebell Co., Ltd., or Ninebell, as the principal supplier of robotic delivery system subassemblies used in our single-wafer cleaning equipment; and Advanced Electric Co. Inc., as a key supplier of valves used in our single-wafer cleaning equipment. An adverse change to our relationship with any of these suppliers would disrupt our production of single-wafer cleaning equipment and could cause substantial harm to our business.
 
With some of these suppliers, we do not have long-term agreements and instead purchase components and subassemblies through a purchase order process. As a result, these suppliers may stop supplying us components and subassemblies, limit the allocation of supply and equipment to us due to increased industry demand or significantly increase their prices at any time with little or no advance notice. Our reliance on a limited number of suppliers could also result in delivery problems, reduced control over product pricing and quality, and our inability to identify and qualify another supplier in a timely manner.
 
Moreover, some of our suppliers may experience financial difficulties that could prevent them from supplying us with components or subassemblies used in the design and manufacture of our products. In addition, our suppliers, including our sole supplier ProSys, may experience manufacturing delays or shut downs due to circumstances beyond their control, such as labor issues, political unrest or natural disasters. Any supply deficiencies could materially and adversely affect our ability to fulfill customer orders and our results of operations. We have in the past and may in the future, experience delays or reductions in supply shipments, which could reduce our revenue and profitability. If key components or materials are unavailable, our costs would increase and our revenue would decline.
 
We have depended on PRC governmental subsidies to help fund our technology development since 2008, and our failure to obtain additional subsidies may impede our development of new technologies and may increase our cost of capital, either of which could make it difficult for us to expand our product base.
 
We received subsidies from local and central governmental authorities in the PRC in 2008, 2009, 2014, 2018, and 2019. These grants have provided a majority of the funding for our development and commercialization of stress-free polishing and electro copper-plating technologies. If we are unable to obtain similar governmental subsidies for development projects in the future, we may need to raise additional funds through public or private financings, strategic relationships, or other arrangements, which could force us to reduce our efforts to develop technologies beyond SAPS, TEBO, Tahoe and ECP. To the extent that we receive a lower level of, or no, governmental subsidies in the future, we may need to raise additional funds through public or private financings, strategic relationships, or other arrangements.
 
The success of our business will depend on our ability to manage any future growth.
 
We have experienced rapid growth in our business recently due, in part, to an expansion of our product offerings and an increase in the number of customers that we serve. For example, our headcount grew by 35% during 2018 and by an additional 32% during 2019. We will seek to continue to expand our operations in the future, including by adding new offices, locations and employees. Managing our growth has placed and could continue to place a significant strain on our management, other personnel and our infrastructure. If we are unable to manage our growth effectively, we may not be able to take advantage of market opportunities, develop new products, enhance our technological capabilities, satisfy customer requirements, respond to competitive pressures or otherwise execute our business plan. In addition, any inability to manage our growth effectively could result in operating inefficiencies that could impair our competitive position and increase our costs disproportionately to the amount of growth we achieve. To manage our growth, we believe we must effectively:

hire, train, integrate and manage additional qualified engineers for research and development activities, sales and marketing personnel, service and support personnel and financial and information technology personnel;

manage multiple relationships with our customers, suppliers and other third parties; and

continue to enhance our information technology infrastructure, systems and controls.
 
Our organizational structure has become more complex, including as a result of preparations for the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO. We will need to continue to scale and adapt our operational, financial and management controls, as well as our reporting systems and procedures, at both ACM Research and ACM Shanghai. The continued expansion of our infrastructure will require us to commit substantial financial, operational and management resources before our revenue increases and without any assurances that our revenue will increase.
 
Even if we complete the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, we may not achieve the results contemplated by our business strategy and our strategy for growth in the PRC may not result in increases in the price of Class A common stock.
 
We cannot assure you that, even if the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO are completed, we will realize any or all of our anticipated benefits of the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO. Our completion of the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO may not have the anticipated effects of including the strengthening of our market position and operations in the PRC. If the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO are completed, ACM Shanghai will have broad discretion in the use of the proceeds from the initial sales of shares to investors and the proceeds from the STAR IPO, and it may not spend or invest those proceeds in a manner that results in our operating success or with which ACM Research stockholders agree. Our failure to successfully leverage the completion of the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO to expand our PRC business could result in a decrease in the price of the Class A common stock, and we cannot assure you that the success of ACM Shanghai will have a an attendant positive effect on the price of the Class A common stock.
 
Completion of the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO may not occur until 2022 or later. In order to help ensure that proceeds from the current placements of shares with PRC investors can be repaid if necessary under the terms of the applicable agreements, ACM Shanghai will reserve those proceeds in segregated accounts and therefore those proceeds will not be available to fund our operations in the PRC. In the interim, ACM Shanghai may require additional funding from ACM Research in order to proceed to augment its PRC operations, and we cannot give any assurance that such capital will be available from ACM Research at all in terms acceptable to us. Any such inability to obtain funds may impair the ability of ACM Shanghai to grow its operations, which could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated operating results and on the price of the Class A common stock.
 
ACM Shanghai’s status as a publicly traded company that is controlled, but less than wholly owned, by ACM Research could have an adverse effect on us.
 
As the result of actions being taken in connection with the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, ACM Shanghai will no longer be a wholly owned subsidiary of ACM Research, and the interests of ACM Shanghai may diverge from the interests of ACM Research and its other subsidiaries in the future. We may face conflicts of interest in managing, financing or engaging in transactions with ACM Shanghai, or allocating business opportunities between our subsidiaries, including future arrangements for operating subsidiaries other than ACM Shanghai to license and use our intellectual property. Substantially all of our intellectual property has been developed in the PRC and is owned by ACM Shanghai. As we expand our global operations through operating subsidiaries outside of the PRC, those operating subsidiaries may need to license intellectual property from ACM Shanghai in order to operate, and there can be no assurance that conflicts of interest will not preclude those operating subsidiaries from licensing the required intellectual property from ACM Shanghai on reasonable terms or at all.
 
ACM Research will retain majority ownership of ACM Shanghai after the STAR IPO, but ACM Shanghai will be managed by a separate board of directors and officers and those directors and officers will owe fiduciary duties to the various stakeholders of ACM Shanghai, including shareholders other than ACM Research. In the operation of ACM Shanghai’s business, there may be situations that arise whereby the directors and officers of ACM Shanghai, in the exercise of their fiduciary duties, take actions that may be contrary to the best interests of ACM Research.
 
In the future, ACM Shanghai may issue options, restricted shares and other forms of share-based compensation to its directors, officers and employees, which could dilute ACM Research’s ownership in ACM Shanghai. In addition, ACM Shanghai may engage in capital raising activities in the future that could further dilute ACM Research’s ownership interest.
 
We are highly dependent on our Chief Executive Officer and President and other senior management and key employees.
 
Our success largely depends on the skills, experience and continued efforts of our management, technical and sales personnel, including in particular Dr. David H. Wang, the Chair of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and President of ACM Research. All of our senior management are at-will employees, which means either we or the employee may terminate their employment at any time. If one or more of our other senior management were unable or unwilling to continue their employment with us, we may not be able to replace them in a timely manner. Moreover, in connection with planning for the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO, ACM Shanghai is now managed by a group of officers separate from those of ACM Research and those officers owe fiduciary duties to the various stakeholders of ACM Shanghai. We do not have employment or retention agreements with, or maintain key person life insurance policies on, any of our employees. Our business may be severely disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, our senior management may join a competitor or form a competing company. The loss of Dr. Wang or other key management personnel, including our Chief Financial Officer, could significantly delay or prevent the achievement of our business objectives.
 
Failure to attract and retain qualified personnel could put us at a competitive disadvantage and prevent us from effectively growing our business.
 
Our future success depends, in part, on our ability to continue to attract and retain highly skilled personnel. There is substantial competition for experienced management, technical and sales personnel in the chip equipment industry. If qualified personnel become scarce or difficult to attract or retain for compensation-related or other reasons, we could experience higher labor, recruiting or training costs. New hires may require significant training and time before they achieve full productivity and may not become as productive as we expect. If we are unable to retain and motivate our existing employees and attract qualified personnel to fill key positions, we may experience inadequate levels of staffing to develop and market our products and perform services for our customers, which could have a negative effect on our operating results.
 
Our ability to utilize certain U.S. and state net operating loss carryforwards may be limited under applicable tax laws.
 
As of December 31, 2019, we had net operating loss carryforward amounts, or NOLs, of $12.2 million for U.S. federal income tax purposes and $559,000 for U.S. state income tax purposes. The federal and state NOLs will expire at various dates beginning in 2020.
 
Utilization of these NOLs could be subject to a substantial annual limitation if the ownership change limitations under U.S. Internal Revenue Code Sections 382 and 383 and similar U.S. state provisions are triggered by changes in the ownership of our capital stock. Such an annual limitation would result in the expiration of the NOLs before utilization. Our existing NOLs may be subject to limitations arising from previous ownership changes, including in connection with our initial public offering and concurrent private placement in November 2017 and any future follow-on public offerings. Future changes in our stock ownership, some of which are outside of our control, could result in an ownership change. Regulatory changes, such as suspensions on the use of NOLs, or other unforeseen reasons, may cause our existing NOLs to expire or otherwise become unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. Additionally, U.S. state NOLs generated in one state cannot be used to offset income generated in another U.S. state. For these reasons, we may be limited in our ability to realize tax benefits from the use of our NOLs, even if our profitability would otherwise allow for it.
 
Acquisitions that we pursue in the future, whether or not consummated, could result in other operating and financial difficulties.
 
In the future we may seek to acquire additional product lines, technologies or businesses in an effort to increase our growth, enhance our ability to compete, complement our product offerings, enter new and adjacent markets, obtain access to additional technical resources, enhance our intellectual property rights or pursue other competitive opportunities. We may also make investments in certain key suppliers to align our interests with such suppliers. If we seek acquisitions, we may not be able to identify suitable acquisition candidates at prices we consider appropriate. We cannot readily predict the timing or size of our future acquisitions, or the success of any future acquisitions.
 
To the extent that we consummate acquisitions or investments, we may face financial risks as a result, including increased costs associated with merged or acquired operations, increased indebtedness, economic dilution to gross and operating profit and earnings per share, or unanticipated costs and liabilities. Acquisitions may involve additional risks, including:

the acquired product lines, technologies or businesses may not improve our financial and strategic position as planned;

we may determine we have overpaid for the product lines, technologies or businesses, or that the economic conditions underlying our acquisition have changed;

we may have difficulty integrating the operations and personnel of the acquired company;

we may have difficulty retaining the employees with the technical skills needed to enhance and provide services with respect to the acquired product lines or technologies;

the acquisition may be viewed negatively by customers, employees, suppliers, financial markets or investors;

we may have difficulty incorporating the acquired product lines or technologies with our existing technologies;

we may encounter a competitive response, including price competition or intellectual property litigation;

we may become a party to product liability or intellectual property infringement claims as a result of our sale of the acquired company’s products;

we may incur one-time write-offs, such as acquired in-process research and development costs, and restructuring charges;

we may acquire goodwill and other intangible assets that are subject to impairment tests, which could result in future impairment charges;

our ongoing business and management’s attention may be disrupted or diverted by transition or integration issues and the complexity of managing geographically or culturally diverse enterprises; and

our due diligence process may fail to identify significant existing issues with the target business.
 
From time to time, we may enter into negotiations for acquisitions or investments that are not ultimately consummated. These negotiations could result in significant diversion of management time, as well as substantial out-of-pocket costs, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition.
 
Future declines in the semiconductor industry, and the overall world economic conditions on which the industry is significantly dependent, could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations and financial condition.
 
Our business depends on the capital equipment expenditures of chip manufacturers, which in turn depend on the current and anticipated market demand for integrated circuits. With the consolidation of customers within the industry, the chip capital equipment market may experience rapid changes in demand driven both by changes in the market generally and the plans and requirements of particular customers. Global economic and business conditions, which are often unpredictable, have historically impacted customer demand for our products and normal commercial relationships with our customers, suppliers and creditors. Additionally, in times of economic uncertainty our customers’ budgets for our tools, or their ability to access credit to purchase them, could be adversely affected. This would limit their ability to purchase our products and services. As a result, economic downturns could cause material adverse changes to our results of operations and financial condition including:

a decline in demand for our products;

an increase in reserves on accounts receivable due to our customers’ inability to pay us;

an increase in reserves on inventory balances due to excess or obsolete inventory as a result of our inability to sell such inventory;

valuation allowances on deferred tax assets;

restructuring charges;

asset impairments including the potential impairment of goodwill and other intangible assets;

a decline in the value of our investments;

exposure to claims from our suppliers for payment on inventory that is ordered in anticipation of customer purchases that do not come to fruition;

a decline in the value of certain facilities we lease to less than our residual value guarantee with the lessor; and

challenges maintaining reliable and uninterrupted sources of supply.
 
Fluctuating levels of investment by chip manufacturers may materially affect our aggregate shipments, revenue, operating results and earnings. Where appropriate, we will attempt to respond to these fluctuations with cost management programs aimed at aligning our expenditures with anticipated revenue streams, which could result in restructuring charges. Even during periods of reduced revenues, we must continue to invest in research and development and maintain extensive ongoing worldwide customer service and support capabilities to remain competitive, which may temporarily harm our profitability and other financial results.
 
We conduct substantially all of our operations outside the United States and face risks associated with conducting business in foreign markets.
 
All of our sales in 2018 and 2019 were made to customers outside the United States. Our manufacturing center has been located in Shanghai since 2006 and substantially all of our operations are located in the PRC. We expect that all of our significant activities will remain outside the United States in the future. We are subject to a number of risks associated with our international business activities, including:

imposition of, or adverse changes in, foreign laws or regulatory requirements, such as work stoppages and travel restrictions imposed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic;

the need to comply with the import laws and regulations of various foreign jurisdictions, including a range of U.S. import laws;

potentially adverse tax consequences, including withholding tax rules that may limit the repatriation of our earnings, and higher effective income tax rates in foreign countries where we conduct business;

competition from local suppliers with which potential customers may prefer to do business;

seasonal reduction in business activity, such as during the Lunar New Year in parts of Asia and in other periods in various individual countries;

increased exposure to foreign currency exchange rates;

reduced protection for intellectual property;

longer sales cycles and reliance on indirect sales in certain regions;

increased length of time for shipping and acceptance of our products;

greater difficulty in responding to customer requests for maintenance and spare parts on a timely basis;

greater difficulty in enforcing contracts and accounts receivable collection and longer collection periods;

difficulties in staffing and managing foreign operations and the increased travel, infrastructure and legal and compliance costs associated with multiple international locations;

heightened risk of unfair or corrupt business practices in certain geographies and of improper or fraudulent sales arrangements that may impact financial results and result in restatements of, or irregularities in, our consolidated financial statements; and

general economic conditions, geopolitical events or natural disasters in countries where we conduct our operations or where our customers are located, including political unrest, war, acts of terrorism or responses to such events.
 
In particular, the Asian market is extremely competitive, and chip manufacturers may be aggressive in seeking price concessions from suppliers, including chip equipment manufacturers.
 
We may not be successful in developing and implementing policies and strategies that will be effective in managing these risks in each country in which we do business. Our failure to manage these risks successfully could adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.
 
Fluctuation in foreign currency exchange rates may adversely affect our results of operations and financial position.
 
Our results of operations and financial position could be adversely affected as a result of fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. Although our financial statements are denominated in U.S. dollars, a sizable portion of our costs are denominated in other currencies, principally the Chinese Renminbi and, to a lesser extent, the Korean Won. Because many of our raw material purchases are denominated in Renminbi while the majority of the purchase orders we receive are denominated in U.S. dollars, exchange rates have a significant effect on our gross margin. We have not engaged in any foreign currency exchange hedging transactions to date, and any strategies that we may use in the future to reduce the adverse impact of fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates may not be successful. Our foreign currency exposure with respect to assets and liabilities for which we do not have hedging arrangements could have a material impact on our results of operations in periods when the U.S. dollar significantly fluctuates in relation to unhedged non-U.S. currencies in which we transact business.
 
Changes in government trade policies could limit the demand for our tools and increase the cost of our tools.
 
General trade tensions between the United States and the PRC escalated beginning in 2018. In each of July, August and September 2018, June and September 2019, and February 2020, the U.S. government imposed a round of new or higher tariffs on specified imported products originating from the PRC in response to what the U.S. government characterizes as unfair trade practices. The PRC government responded to each of these rounds of U.S. tariff changes by imposing new or higher tariffs on specified products imported from the United States. Higher duties on existing tariffs and further rounds of tariffs have been announced or threatened by U.S. and PRC leaders.
 
The imposition of tariffs by the U.S. and PRC governments and the surrounding economic uncertainty may negatively impact the semiconductor industry, including reducing the demand of fabricators for capital equipment such as our tools. Further changes in trade policy, tariffs, additional taxes, restrictions on exports or other trade barriers, or restrictions on supplies, equipment, and raw materials including rare earth minerals, may limit the ability of our customers to manufacture or sell semiconductors or to make the manufacture or sale of semiconductors more expensive and less profitable, which could lead those customers to fabricate fewer semiconductors and to invest less in capital equipment such as our tools. In addition, if the PRC were to impose additional tariffs on raw materials, subsystems or other supplies that we source from the United States, our cost for those supplies would increase. As a result of any of the foregoing events, the imposition or new or additional tariffs may limit our ability to manufacture tools, increase our selling and/or manufacturing costs, decrease margins, or inhibit our ability to sell tools or to purchase necessary equipment and supplies, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, or financial conditions.
 
Changes in political and economic policies of the PRC government may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and may result in our inability to sustain our growth and expansion strategies.
 
Substantially all of our operations are conducted in the PRC, and a substantial majority of our revenue is sourced from the PRC. Accordingly, our financial condition and results of operations are affected to a significant extent by economics, political and legal developments in the PRC.
 
The Chinese economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including the extent of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, and control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. Although the PRC government has implemented measures emphasizing the utilization of market forces for economic reform, the reduction of state ownership of productive assets and the establishment of improved corporate governance in business enterprises, a substantial portion of productive assets in the PRC are still owned by the government. In addition, the PRC government continues to play a significant role in regulating industry development by imposing industrial policies. The PRC government also exercises significant control over economic growth in the PRC by allocating resources, controlling payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy, regulating financial services and institutions, and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies.
 
While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past three decades, growth has been uneven, both geographically and among various sectors of the economy. The PRC government has implemented various measures to encourage economic growth and guide the allocation of resources. Some of these measures may benefit the overall PRC economy, but may also have a negative effect on us. Our financial condition and results of operation could be materially and adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations that are applicable to us. In the past the PRC government has implemented measures to control the pace of economic growth, and similar measures in the future may cause decreased economic activity, which in turn could lead to a reduction in demand for our products and consequently have a material adverse effect on our businesses, financial condition and results of operations.
 
Although the PRC government has been implementing policies to develop an independent domestic semiconductor industry supply chain, there is no guaranteed time frame in which these initiatives will be implemented. We cannot guarantee that the implementation of these policies will result in additional revenue to us or that our presence in the PRC will result in support from the PRC government. To the extent that any capital investment or other assistance from the PRC government is not provided to us, it could be used to promote the products and technologies of our competitors, which could adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.

We are subject to government regulation, including import, export, economic sanctions, and anti-corruption laws and regulations, that may limit our sales opportunities, expose us to liability and increase our costs.
 
Our products are subject to import and export controls in jurisdictions in which we distribute or sell our products. Import and exports control and economic sanctions laws and regulations include restrictions and prohibitions on the sale or supply of certain products and on our transfer of parts, components, and related technical information and know-how to certain countries, regions, governments, persons and entities.
 
Various countries regulate the importation of certain products through import permitting and licensing requirements and have enacted laws that could limit our ability to distribute our products. The exportation, re-exportation, transfers within foreign countries and importation of our products, including by our partners, must comply with these laws and regulations, and any violations may result in reputational harm, government investigations and penalties, and a denial or curtailment of exporting. Complying with export control and sanctions laws for a particular sale may be time consuming, may increase our costs, and may result in the delay or loss of sales opportunities. If we are found to be in violation of U.S. sanctions or export control laws, or similar laws in other jurisdictions, we and the individuals working for us could incur substantial fines and penalties. Changes in export, sanctions or import laws or regulations may delay the introduction and sale of our products in international markets, require us to spend resources to seek necessary government authorizations or to develop different versions of our products, or, in some cases, prevent the export or import of our products to certain countries, regions, governments, persons or entities, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and operating results.
 
We are subject to various domestic and international anti-corruption laws, such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as similar anti-bribery and anti-kickback laws and regulations. These laws and regulations generally prohibit companies and their intermediaries from offering or making improper payments to non-U.S. officials for the purpose of obtaining, retaining or directing business. Our exposure for violating these laws and regulations increases as our international presence expands and as we increase sales and operations in foreign jurisdictions.
 
Breaches of our cybersecurity systems could degrade our ability to conduct our business operations and deliver products to our customers, result in data losses and the theft of our intellectual property, damage our reputation, and require us to incur significant additional costs to maintain the security of our networks and data.
 
We increasingly depend upon our information technology systems to conduct our business operations, ranging from our internal operations and product development and manufacturing activities to our marketing and sales efforts and communications with our customers and business partners. Computer programmers may attempt to penetrate our network security, or that of our website, and misappropriate our proprietary information or cause interruptions of our service. Because the techniques used by such computer programmers to access or sabotage networks change frequently and may not be recognized until launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques. We have also outsourced a number of our business functions to third-party contractors, including our manufacturers, and our business operations also depend, in part, on the success of our contractors’ own cybersecurity measures. Accordingly, if our cybersecurity systems and those of our contractors fail to protect against unauthorized access, sophisticated cyberattacks and the mishandling of data by our employees and contractors, our ability to conduct our business effectively could be damaged in a number of ways, including sensitive data regarding our employees or business, including intellectual property and other proprietary data, could be stolen. Should this occur, we could be subject to significant claims for liability from our customers and regulatory actions from governmental agencies. In addition, our ability to protect our intellectual property rights could be compromised and our reputation and competitive position could be significantly harmed. Consequently, our financial performance and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Our production facilities could be damaged or disrupted by a natural disaster, war, terrorist attacks or other catastrophic events.

Our manufacturing facilities are subject to risks associated with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, floods tsunami, typhoons and volcanic activity, environmental disasters, health epidemics, and other events beyond our control such as power loss, telecommunications failures, and uncertainties arising out of armed conflicts or terrorist attacks. A substantial majority of our facilities as well as our research and development personnel are located in the PRC. Any catastrophic loss or significant damage to any of our facilities would likely disrupt our operations, delay production, and adversely affect our product development schedules, shipments and revenue. In addition, any such catastrophic loss or significant damage could result in significant expense to repair or replace the facility and could significantly curtail our research and development efforts in a particular product area or primary market, which could have a material adverse effect on our operations and operating results.
 
Our auditor, as a registered public accounting firm operating in the PRC, is not permitted to be inspected by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and consequently investors may be deprived of the benefits of such inspections.
 
BDO China is the independent registered public accounting firm that issued the audit report included in this report in connection with our consolidated financial statements as of, and for the years ended, December 31, 2019 and 2018. BDO China, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, is required by the laws of the United States to undergo regular inspections by the PCAOB to assess its compliance with the laws of the United States and applicable professional standards. BDO China is located in the PRC. The PCAOB is currently unable to conduct inspections on auditors in the PRC without the approval of PRC authorities, and therefore BDO China, like other independent registered public accounting firms operating in the PRC, is currently not inspected by the PCAOB.
 
In May 2013 the PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Finance of China pursuant to which the Ministry of Finance established a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations in both the PRC and the United States. More specifically, the Memorandum of Understanding provides a mechanism for the parties to request and receive from each other assistance in obtaining documents and information in furtherance of their investigative duties. In addition the PCAOB is engaged in continuing discussions with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Finance to permit joint inspections in the PRC of audit firms that are registered with the PCAOB and to audit PRC companies whose securities are listed on U.S. stock exchanges.
 
The PCAOB’s inspections of firms outside of the PRC have identified deficiencies in audit procedures and quality control procedures, and such deficiencies may be addressed as part of the inspection process to improve future audit quality. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of BDO China with respect to its audit of our consolidated financial statements may make it more difficult for investors to evaluate BDO China’s audit procedures and quality control procedures by depriving investors of potential benefits from improvements that could have been facilitated by PCAOB inspections.
 
Risks Relating to Our Intellectual Property
 
Our success depends on our ability to protect our intellectual property, including our SAPS, TEBO, Tahoe, SFP and ECP technologies.
 
Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and trade secret protection for our intellectual property, including our SAPS, TEBO, Tahoe, SFP and ECP technologies and the design of our Ultra C equipment, as well as our ability to operate without infringing upon the proprietary rights of others. There can be no assurance that our patent applications will result in additional patents being issued or that issued patents will afford sufficient protection against competitors with similar technology, nor can there be any assurance that the patents issued will not be infringed, designed around, or invalidated by third parties. Even issued patents may later be found unenforceable or may be modified or revoked in proceedings instituted by third parties before various patent offices or in courts. The degree of future protection for our intellectual property is uncertain. Only limited protection may be available and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep any competitive advantage. This failure to properly protect the intellectual property rights relating to our products and technologies could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
 
The patent application process is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, and there can be no assurance that we or any of our future development partners will be successful in protecting our product candidates by obtaining and defending patents. These risks and uncertainties include the following:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other provisions during the patent process. There are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, competitors might be able to enter the market earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

Patent applications may not result in any patents being issued.

Patents that may be issued may be challenged, invalidated, modified, revoked, circumvented, found to be unenforceable or otherwise may not provide any competitive advantage.

Our competitors may seek or may have already obtained patents that will limit, interfere with, or eliminate our ability to make, use and sell our potential product candidates.

The PRC and other countries other than the United States may have patent laws less favorable to patentees than those upheld by U.S. courts, allowing foreign competitors a better opportunity to create, develop and market competing product candidates.
 
In addition, we rely on the protection of our trade secrets and know-how. Although we have taken steps to protect our trade secrets and unpatented know-how, including entering into confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with third parties and confidential information and inventions agreements with key employees, customers and suppliers, other parties may still obtain this information or may come upon this information independently. If any of these events occurs or if we otherwise lose protection for our trade secrets or proprietary know-how, the value of this information may be greatly reduced.
 
We may be involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents, which could be expensive, time consuming and unsuccessful.
 
Competitors may infringe upon our patents. If our technologies are adopted, we believe that competitors may try to match our technologies and tools in order to compete. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time consuming. An adverse result in any litigation or defense proceedings, including our current suits, could put one or more of our patents at risk of being invalidated, found to be unenforceable or interpreted narrowly and could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation. In addition, any future patent litigation, interference or other administrative proceedings will result in additional expense and distraction of our personnel. Most of our competitors are larger than we are and have substantially greater resources, and they therefore are likely to be able to sustain the costs of complex patent litigation longer than we could. An adverse outcome in such litigation or proceedings may expose us to loss of our proprietary position.
 
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world, including the PRC, which could materially, negatively affect our business.
 
Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on our products or proprietary technologies in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States, including the PRC, can be less extensive than those in the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products, and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.
 
The significant majority of our intellectual property has been developed in the PRC and is owned by ACM Shanghai. Implementation and enforcement of intellectual property-related laws in the PRC has historically been lacking due primarily to ambiguities in PRC intellectual property law. Accordingly, protection of intellectual property and proprietary rights in the PRC may not be as effective as in the United States or other countries. As a result, third parties could illegally use the technologies and proprietary processes that we have developed and compete with us, which could negatively affect any competitive advantage we enjoy, dilute our brand and harm our operating results. Litigation may be necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights, and given the relative unpredictability of the PRC’s legal system and potential difficulties enforcing a court judgment in the PRC, there is no guarantee litigation would result in an outcome favorable to us.
 
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents and other intellectual property protection, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing, and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license and may adversely affect our business.
 
If we are sued for infringing intellectual property rights of third parties, it will be costly and time consuming, and an unfavorable outcome in that litigation could have a material adverse effect on our business.
 
Our success depends on our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell our products without infringing upon the proprietary rights of third parties. Numerous U.S. and foreign-issued patents and pending patent applications owned by third parties exist in the fields in which we are developing products, some of which may contain claims that overlap with the subject matter of our intellectual property. A third party has claimed in the past, and others may claim in the future, that our technology or products infringe their intellectual property. In some instances third parties may initiate litigation against us in an effort to prevent us from using our technology in alleged violation of their intellectual property rights. The risk of such a lawsuit will likely increase as our size and the number and scope of our products increase and as our geographic presence and market share expand.
 
Any potential intellectual property claims or litigation commenced against us could:

be time consuming and expensive to defend, whether or not meritorious;

force us to stop selling products or using technology that allegedly infringes the third party’s intellectual property rights;

delay shipments of our products;

require us to pay damages or settlement fees to the party claiming infringement;

require us to attempt to obtain a license to the relevant intellectual property, which may not be available on reasonable terms or at all;

force us to attempt to redesign products that contain the allegedly infringing technology, which could be expensive or which we may be unable to do;

require us to indemnify our customers, suppliers or other third parties for any loss caused by their use of our technology that allegedly infringes the third party’s intellectual property rights; or

divert the attention of our technical and managerial resources.
 
Because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending applications, unknown to us, that may later result in issued patents upon which our products or technologies may infringe. Similarly, there may be issued patents relevant to our products of which we are not aware.

Risks Related to the COVID‑19 Outbreak


The outbreak of COVID‑19, the coronavirus, continues to grow both in the United States and globally, and related government and private sector responsive actions are adversely affecting our business operations. COVID‑19 originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has subsequently spread rapidly across the PRC and globally. A series of emergency quarantine measures taken by the PRC government disrupted domestic business activities in the PRC during the weeks after the initial outbreak of COVID‑19. Since that time, an increasing number of countries, including the United States, have imposed restrictions on travel to and from the PRC and elsewhere, as well as general movement restrictions, business closures and other measures imposed to slow the spread of COVID‑19. Despite having largely contained COVID-19, the PRC and other Asian countries are now facing a potential second COVID-19 wave, attributable to individuals entering those countries.


We have set forth below key risks from the COVID‑19 outbreak that we have identified to date. The situation continues to develop rapidly, however, and it is impossible to predict the effect and ultimate impact of the COVID‑19 outbreak on our business operations and results. While the quarantine, social distancing and other regulatory measures instituted or recommended in response to COVID‑19 are expected to be temporary, the duration of the business disruptions, and related financial impact, cannot be estimated at this time. The COVID‑19 outbreak could evolve into a worldwide health crisis that could adversely affect the economies and financial markets of many countries, resulting in an economic downturn and changes in global economic policy that could reduce demand for our products and our customers’ chips and have a material adverse impact on our business, operating results and financial condition.


Substantially all of our operations are located in the PRC and other areas impacted by the COVID‑19 outbreak, and those operations have been, and may continue to be, adversely affected by the COVID‑19 outbreak.


We conduct substantially all of our product development, manufacturing, support and services in the PRC, and those activities have been directly impacted by the COVID‑19 outbreak and related restrictions on transportation and public appearances. In February 2020 our ACM Shanghai headquarters were closed for an additional six days beyond the normal Lunar New Year Holiday in accordance with Shanghai government restrictions related to the outbreak, and we do not expect all of the staff at our Shanghai facility to return to work until the second quarter of 2020. We cannot assure you that further closures or reductions of our PRC operations or production may not be necessary in upcoming months as the result of business interruptions arising from protective measures being taken by the PRC and other governmental agencies or of other consequences of the COVID‑19 outbreak.


Our corporate headquarters are located in San Mateo County in the San Francisco Bay Area. In order to attempt to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020 (a) the State of California declared a state of emergency related to the spread of COVID‑19, (b) the San Francisco Department of Public Health announced aggressive recommendations to reduce the spread of the disease, (c) the health officers of six San Francisco Bay Area counties, including San Mateo County, issued shelter-in-place orders, which (i) direct all individuals living in those counties to shelter at their places of residence (subject to limited exceptions), (ii) direct all businesses and governmental agencies to cease non-essential operations at physical locations in those counties, (iii) prohibit all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals, and (iv) order cessation of all non-essential travel, and (d) the Governor of California and the State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health ordered all individuals living in the State of California to stay at their place of residence for an indefinite period of time (subject to limited exceptions). The effects of these actions may negatively impact productivity, disrupt our business and delay timelines, the magnitude of which will depend, in part, on the length and severity of the restrictions and other limitations on our ability to conduct our business in the ordinary course.


Extended periods of interruption to our corporate, development or manufacturing facilities due to the COVID‑19 outbreak could cause us to could lose revenue and market share, which would depress our financial performance and could be difficult to recapture. Our business may also be harmed if travel to or from the PRC or the United States continues to be restricted or inadvisable or if members of management and other employees are absent because they contract the coronavirus, they elect not to come to work due to the illness affecting others in our office or laboratory facilities, or they are subject to quarantines or other governmentally imposed restrictions.

 

A portion of the expected sales of our tools in the first quarter of 2020 have been, and additional sales may be, delayed as a result of effects of the COVID‑19 outbreak on the operations of our customers, who are located principally in the PRC and surrounding areas.


Our customers’ business operations have been, and are continuing to be, subject to business interruptions arising from the COVID‑19 outbreak. To date a majority of our revenue from sales of single-wafer wet cleaning equipment for front-end manufacturing has been derived from customers located in the PRC and surrounding areas that have been impacted by COVID‑19. Three customers that accounted for 73.8% of our revenue in 2019 and 87.6% of our revenue in 2018 are based in the PRC and Korea. One of those customers, Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd. — which accounted for 27.5% of our 2019 revenue and 39.6% of our 2018 revenue — is based in Wuhan. While Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd. and other key customers continued to operate their fabrication facilities without interruption during and after the first quarter of 2020, some customers were forced to scale down production. A portion of the revenues we expected to recognize in the first quarter of 2020 will not be recognized until later, as we have, in accordance with orders received from customers, deferred delivery of some tools from the first quarter. We continue to actively monitor the situation, but there can be no assurance that the COVID‑19 outbreak will not result in further delays, or possibly reductions, in our recognition of revenue. Moreover, because our longer-term growth strategy is based upon the assumption that demand for devices that use semiconductors will continue to grow, any slowdown in the growth of demand for chips, particularly in the PRC, as a result of COVID-19 could have a serious adverse effect on our business.


Our global supply chain may be materially adversely impacted due to the COVID‑19 outbreak.


We rely upon the facilities of our global suppliers with operations in the PRC, Japan, Taiwan and the United States to support our business. We source the substantial majority of our components from Asia. The outbreak has resulted in significant governmental measures in many countries being implemented to control the spread of COVID‑19, including restrictions on manufacturing and the movement of employees both in and out of China and within many regions of the PRC. As a result of COVID‑19 and the measures designed to contain its spread, our suppliers may not have the materials, capacity, or capability to supply our components according to our schedule and specifications. Further, there may be logistics issues, including our ability and our supply chain’s ability to quickly ramp up production, and transportation demands that may cause further delays. If our suppliers’ operations are curtailed, we may need to seek alternate sources of supply, which may be more expensive. Alternate sources may not be available or may result in delays in shipments to us from our supply chain and subsequently to our customers, each of which would affect our results of operations. While the disruptions and restrictions on the ability to travel, quarantines and temporary closures of the facilities of our suppliers, as well as general limitations on movement in the region, are expected to be temporary, the duration of the production and supply chain disruption, and related financial impact, cannot be estimated at this time. Should the production and distribution closures continue for an extended period of time, the impact on our supply chain could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash flows. Business disruptions could also negatively affect the sources and availability of components and materials that are essential to the operation of our business.  Moreover, our customers source a range of production equipment, supplies and services from other suppliers with operations around the world, and any reduction in supply capacity at those customers’ factories due to the COVID‑19 pandemic may reduce or even halt those customers’ production and result in a decrease in the demand for our products.


The COVID‑19 outbreak could negatively impact our currently planned projects and investments in the PRC, including the STAR IPO.


Our strategy includes a number of plans to support the growth of our core business. In June 2019 we began working toward the proposed STAR Listing and STAR IPO with respect to shares of ACM Shanghai, and in November 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into an agreement initiating a process intended to lead to our acquisition of land rights in the Lingang area of Shanghai where we can construct a new research and development center and factory. The extent to which COVID-19 impacts these projects will depend on future developments that are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted. If the disruptions posed by COVID‑19 and related government measures, or other matters of global concern, continue for an extensive period of time, our ability to consummate one or both of these planned projects could be materially adversely affected.


In September 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into a partnership agreement for the purposes of engaging in equity venture capital investments in strategic emerging and high-tech industries with a focus on the semiconductor industry. We cannot predict the effect that the COVID‑19 outbreak in the PRC will have on companies that would otherwise be desirable investments for the partnership, and the outbreak or related governmental actions could significantly impair the ability of the partnership to identify desirable investments or our ability to realize the anticipated benefits of the partnership.


Risks Related to Ownership of Class A Common Stock
 
The market price of Class A common stock has been and may continue to be volatile, which could result in substantial losses for investors purchasing our shares
 
Class A common stock only commenced trading on the Nasdaq Global Market, or Nasdaq, on November 3, 2017, and the market price of Class A common stock has been, and could continue to be, subject to significant fluctuations. The market price of Class A common stock may fluctuate significantly in response to numerous factors, many of which are beyond our control, including:


actual or anticipated fluctuations in our revenue and other operating results;

the financial projections we may provide to the public, any changes in these projections or our failure to meet these projections;

actions of securities analysts who initiate or maintain coverage of us, changes in financial estimates by any securities analysts who follow our company, or our failure to meet these estimates or the expectations of investors;

changes in projections for the chips or chip equipment industries or in the operating performance or expectations and stock market valuations of chip companies, chip equipment companies or technology companies in general;

changes in operating results;

any changes in the financial projections we may provide to the public, our failure to meet these projections, or changes in recommendations by any securities analysts that elect to follow Class A common stock;

additional shares of Class A common stock being sold into the market by us or our existing stockholders or the anticipation of such sales;

price and volume fluctuations in the overall stock market, including as a result of trends in the economy as a whole;

lawsuits threatened or filed against us;

litigation and other developments relating to our patents or other proprietary rights or those of our competitors;

developments in new legislation and pending lawsuits or regulatory actions, including interim or final rulings by judicial or regulatory bodies; and

general economic trends, including changes in the demand for electronics or information technology or geopolitical events such as war or acts of terrorism, or any responses to such events.
 
In recent years, the stock market in general, and Nasdaq in particular, has experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to changes in the operating performance of the companies whose stock is experiencing those price and volume fluctuations.
 
Our stock price may be volatile, and securities class action litigation has often been instituted against companies following periods of volatility of their stock price. Any such litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our management’s attention and resources.
 
In the past, following periods of volatility in the overall market and the market price of a particular 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.
 
No company with stock publicly traded in the United States has effected a STAR Market listing of stock of a PRC-based subsidiary, and it is therefore difficult to predict the effect of the proposed STAR Listing and STAR IPO on the Class A common stock.
 
The China Securities Regulatory Commission initially launched the STAR Market in June 2019 and trading on the Market began in July 2019. We believe we are the first publicly traded U.S. company to propose an initial public offering of shares of a PRC subsidiary on the STAR Market. As a result, no assurance can be given regarding the effect of the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO on the market price of the Class A common stock. The market price of Class A common stock may be volatile or may decline, for reasons other than the risk and uncertainties described above, as the result of investor negativity or uncertainty with respect to the impact of the proposed STAR Listing and STAR IPO.
 
ACM Research stockholders were not entitled to purchase ACM Shanghai shares in the pre-STAR Listing placement, and they may have limited opportunities to purchase ACM Shanghai shares even if the STAR Listing and the STAR IPO are completed. Investors may elect to invest in our business and operations by purchasing ACM Shanghai shares in the STAR IPO or on the STAR Market rather than purchasing ACM Research Class A common stock, and that reduction in demand could lead to a decrease in the market price for the Class A common stock.
 
An active trading market for Class A common stock may not be sustained.
 
Class A common stock has been listed on Nasdaq only since November 3, 2017, and we cannot assure you that an active trading market for Class A common stock will be sustained or maintained. The lack of an active market may impair your ability to sell your shares at the time you wish to sell them or at a price that you consider reasonable. The lack of an active market may also reduce the fair market value of your shares. There can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully develop or maintain a liquid market for Class A common stock.
 
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about us, our business or our market, or if they publish negative evaluations of Class A common stock or the stock of other companies in our industry, the price of our stock and trading volume could decline.
 
The trading market for Class A common stock 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 the Class A common stock or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the Class A common stock price would likely decline. In addition, if one or more of these analysts ceases coverage of the Class A common stock or fails to publish reports about the Class A common stock on a regular basis, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause the Class A common stock price or trading volume to decline.
 
Requirements associated with being a public reporting company involve significant ongoing costs and can divert significant company resources and management attention.
 
We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the listing requirements of Nasdaq, and other rules and regulations of the SEC. We are working with our legal, independent accounting and financial advisors to identify those areas in which changes should be made to our financial and management control systems to manage our growth and our obligations as a public reporting company. These areas include corporate governance, corporate control, disclosure controls and procedures, and financial reporting and accounting systems. We have made, and will continue to make, changes in these and other areas. Compliance with the various reporting and other requirements applicable to public reporting companies will require considerable time, attention of management and financial resources. In addition, the changes we make may not be sufficient to allow us to satisfy our obligations as a public reporting company on a timely basis.
 
The listing requirements of Nasdaq require that we satisfy certain corporate governance requirements relating to director independence, distributing annual and interim reports, stockholder meetings, approvals and voting, soliciting proxies, conflicts of interest and a code of conduct. Our management and other personnel will need to devote a substantial amount of time to ensure that we comply with all of these requirements. The reporting requirements, rules and regulations will increase our legal and financial compliance costs and will make some activities more time-consuming and costly. These reporting requirements, rules and regulations, coupled with the increase in potential litigation exposure associated with being a public company, could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve as our directors or executive officers, or to obtain certain types of insurance, including director and officer liability insurance, on acceptable terms.
 
We have never paid and do not intend to pay cash dividends and, consequently, your ability to achieve a return on your investment will depend on appreciation in the price of Class A common stock.
 
We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock. We intend to retain any future earnings to finance the operation and expansion of our business, and we do not expect to declare or pay any dividends in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, you may only receive a return on your investment in Class A common stock if the market price of Class A common stock increases.
 
Our ability to pay dividends on Class A common stock depends significantly on our receiving distributions of funds from our subsidiaries in the PRC. PRC statutory laws and regulations permit payments of dividends by those subsidiaries only out of their retained earnings, which are determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations that differ from U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. The PRC regulations and our subsidiaries’ articles of association require annual appropriations of 10% of net after-tax profits to be set aside, prior to payment of dividends, as a reserve or surplus fund, which restricts our subsidiaries’ ability to transfer a portion of their net assets to us. In addition, our subsidiaries’ short-term bank loans restrict their ability to pay dividends to us.
 
The dual class structure of Class A common stock has the effect of concentrating voting control with our executive officers and directors, including our Chief Executive Officer and President, which will limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters.
 
Class B common stock has twenty votes per share and Class A common stock has one vote per share. As of March 17, 2020, stockholders who hold shares of Class B common stock, who consist principally of our executive officers, employees, directors and their respective affiliates, collectively held 69.6% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock. Because of the twenty-to-one voting ratio between Class B and Class A common stock, holders of Class B common stock collectively will continue to control a majority of the combined voting power of Class A common stock and therefore be able to control all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval so long as the shares of Class B common stock represent at least 4.8% of all outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock. This concentrated control will limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters for the foreseeable future. This concentrated control could also discourage a potential investor from acquiring Class A common stock due to the limited voting power of such stock relative to the Class B common stock and might harm the market price of Class A common stock.
 
Future transfers by holders of Class B common stock will result in those shares converting to Class A common stock, subject to limited exceptions. The conversion of Class B common stock to Class A common stock will have the effect, over time, of increasing the relative voting power of those holders of Class B common stock who retain their shares in the long term.
 
Delaware law and provisions in our charter and bylaws could make a merger, tender offer or proxy contest difficult, thereby depressing the trading price of Class A common stock.
 
Our status as a Delaware corporation and the anti-takeover provisions of the Delaware General Corporation Law may discourage, delay, or prevent a change in control by prohibiting us from engaging in a business combination with an interested stockholder for a period of three years after the person becomes an interested stockholder, even if a change of control would be beneficial to our existing stockholders. Our charter and bylaws contain provisions that may make the acquisition of our company more difficult, including the following:

our dual class common stock structure provides holders of Class B common stock with the ability to control the outcome of matters requiring stockholder approval, even if they own significantly less than a majority of the total number of outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock;

when the outstanding shares of Class B common stock represent less than a majority of the combined voting power of common stock;

amendments to our charter or bylaws will require the approval of two-thirds of the combined vote of our then-outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock;

vacancies on the board of directors will be able to be filled only by the board and not by stockholders;

the board, which currently is not staggered, will be automatically separated into three classes with staggered three-year terms;

directors will only be able to be removed from office for cause; and

our stockholders will only be able to take action at a meeting and not by written consent;

only our chair, our chief executive officer or a majority of our directors is authorized to call a special meeting of stockholders;

advance notice procedures apply for stockholders to nominate candidates for election as directors or to bring matters before an annual meeting of stockholders;

our charter authorizes undesignated preferred stock, the terms of which may be established, and shares of which may be issued, without stockholder approval; and

cumulative voting in the election of directors is prohibited.
 
As a Delaware corporation, we are also subject to provisions of Delaware law, including Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which limits the ability of stockholders holding more than 15% of our outstanding voting stock from engaging in certain business combinations with us. Any provision of our charter or bylaws or Delaware law that has the effect of delaying or deterring a change in control could limit the opportunity for our stockholders to receive a premium for their shares of Class A common stock, and could also affect the price that some investors are willing to pay for Class A common stock.
 
Our charter designates the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum for certain litigation that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or stockholders.
 
Our charter provides that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will, to the fullest extent permitted by law, be the sole and exclusive forum for:

any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf;

any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed to us, our stockholders, creditors or other constituents by any of our directors, officers, other employees, agents or stockholders;

any action asserting a claim arising under the Delaware General Corporation Law, our charter or bylaws, or as to which the Delaware General Corporation Law confers jurisdiction on the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware; or

any action asserting a claim that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine.
 
By becoming a stockholder in our company, you will be deemed to have notice of and have consented to the provisions of our charter related to choice of forum. The choice of forum provision in our charter may limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or any of our directors, officers, other employees, agents or stockholders, which may discourage lawsuits with respect to such claims. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provision contained in our charter to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 
Our management team has limited experience managing a public company.
 
The experience of the current members of our management team in managing a publicly traded company, interacting with public company investors and complying with the increasingly complex laws pertaining to public companies is limited to their experience with our company since our initial public offering in November 2017. Our management team may not successfully or efficiently manage our transition to being a public company subject to significant regulatory oversight and reporting obligations under the federal securities laws and the scrutiny of securities analysts and investors. These new obligations and constituents will require significant attention from our management team and could divert their attention away from the day-to-day management of our business, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and operating results.
 
We are currently an “emerging growth company,” and the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies may make Class A common stock less attractive to investors.
 
We are currently an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. For so long as we remain an emerging growth company, we are permitted, and intend, to rely on exemptions from certain disclosure requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies. These exemptions include reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation and exemptions from the requirements of holding a non-binding advisory vote on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and not being required to comply with any requirement that may be adopted by the PCAOB regarding mandatory audit firm rotation or a supplement to the auditor’s report providing additional information about the audit and the financial statements. We cannot predict whether investors will find the Class A common stock less attractive if we rely on these exemptions. If some investors find the Class A common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market, and more volatile trading price, for Class A common stock.
 
We will incur increased costs and demands upon management as a result of complying with the laws and regulations affecting public companies, particularly after we are no longer an “emerging growth company,” which could adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.
 
As a public company, and particularly after we cease to be an “emerging growth company,” we will continue to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses. We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the rules and regulations of Nasdaq. These requirements have increased and will continue to increase our legal, accounting and financial compliance costs and have made and will continue to make some activities more time consuming and costly. For example, we expect these rules and regulations to 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 maintain the same or similar coverage. As a result, it may be more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified individuals to serve as our executive officers or on the board of directors, particularly to serve on the audit and compensation committees.
 
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we assess the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting annually and the effectiveness of our disclosure controls and procedures quarterly. In particular, beginning with respect to the year ending December 31, 2018, Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or Section 404, required our management to perform system and process evaluation and testing to allow it to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting.
 
We are currently evaluating our internal controls, identifying and remediating deficiencies in those internal controls and documenting the results of our evaluation, testing and remediation. Please see “—Our management and auditors identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting that, if not properly remediated, could result in material misstatements in our consolidated financial statements that could cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information and have a negative effect on the trading price of our stock.”
 
Investor perceptions of our company may suffer if deficiencies are found, which could cause a decline in the market price of our stock. Irrespective of compliance with Section 404, any failure of our internal control over financial reporting could have a material adverse effect on our stated operating results and harm our reputation. If we are unable to implement these requirements effectively or efficiently, it could harm our operations, financial reporting, or financial results and could result in an adverse opinion on our internal controls from our independent registered public accounting firm.
 
In addition, changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure are creating uncertainty for public companies, increasing legal and financial compliance costs and making some activities more time consuming. These laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations, in many cases due to their lack of specificity, and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. This could result in continuing uncertainty regarding compliance matters and higher costs necessitated by ongoing revisions to disclosure and governance practices. We intend to invest resources to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards, and this investment may result in increased general and administrative expense and a diversion of management’s time and attention from revenue-generating activities to compliance activities. If our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed.
 
Techniques employed by manipulative short sellers in Chinese small cap stocks could be used to drive down the market price of our common stock.
 
Short selling is the practice of selling securities that the seller does not own but rather has, supposedly, borrowed from a third party with the intention of buying identical securities back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the value of the securities between the sale of the borrowed securities and the purchase of the replacement shares, as the short seller expects to pay less in that purchase than it received in the sale. As it is in the short seller’s best interests for the price of the stock to decline, many short sellers, referred to as “disclosed shorts,” publish, or arrange for the publication of, negative opinions regarding an issuer and its business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a stock short. While traditionally these disclosed shorts were limited in their ability to access mainstream business media or to otherwise create negative market rumors, the rise of the Internet and technological advancements regarding document creation, videotaping and publication by weblog, or “blogging,” have allowed many disclosed shorts to publicly attack an issuer’s credibility, strategy and veracity by means of so-called research reports that mimic the type of investment analysis performed by large Wall Street firm and independent research analysts. These short attacks have, in the past, led to selling of shares in the market, on occasion in large scale and broad base. Issuers with business operations based in the PRC and who have limited trading volumes and are susceptible to higher volatility levels than large-cap stocks, can be particularly vulnerable to such short attacks.
 
These short seller publications are not regulated by any governmental, self-regulatory organization or other official authority in the United States and are not subject to the certification requirements imposed by the SEC in Regulation AC (Regulation Analyst Certification); accordingly, the opinions they express may be based on factual distortions and fabrications. In light of the limited risks involved in publishing such information and the enormous profits that can be made from running successful short attacks, it is likely that disclosed shorts will continue to issue such reports.
 
While we intend to strongly defend our public filings against any short seller attacks, we may be constrained, either by principles of freedom of speech, applicable state laws known as Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statutes or issues of commercial confidentiality, in the manner in which we can proceed against the short seller. You should be aware that in light of the relative freedom to operate that such persons enjoy – oftentimes blogging from outside the United States with little or no assets or identity requirements – should we be targeted for such an attack, our stock will likely suffer from a temporary, or possibly long term, decline in market price should the rumors created not be dismissed by market participants.
 
Item 2.
Properties
 
We have occupied our current corporate headquarters in Fremont, California, since February 2008, under a lease that, as amended in February 2019, extends through March 2021.
 
We conduct research and development, service support operations, and a portion of manufacturing in our ACM Shanghai headquarters. This facility consists of 60,000 square feet, of which 36,000 square feet are allocated for manufacturing, and is located in the Zhangjiang Hi Tech Park in Shanghai. We have leased this facility since 2007. The lease terms and its payment terms are subject to modification and extension with Zhangjiang Group from time to time. We extended the lease for a 60-month term from January 1, 2018 until January 1, 2022.
 
In January 2018, ACM Shanghai entered into an operating lease for a second manufacturing space located in Shanghai, ten miles from its headquarters. The lease covers a total of 103,318 square feet, of which 50,000 square feet are allocated for production. The lease term is five years and expires on January 15, 2022.
 
In addition, we provide sales support and customer service operations from leased office space in Jiangyin and Wuxi in the PRC and Icheon in Korea.
 
In November 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into an agreement with Shanghai Lingang Industry Zone Economic Development Co., Ltd., or Lingang Development, and the Administrative Committee of China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Lingang Special Area, to initiate a bidding process with respect to a designated parcel of land, or the Target Plot, in the Lingang area of Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China. If it completes the bidding process successfully, ACM Shanghai would seek to enter into a definitive agreement under which it would acquire rights for fifty years to the Target Plot, on which ACM Shanghai would construct a new research and development center and production facility. The Target Plot is located approximately thirty miles from ACM Shanghai’s headquarters in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park.

We expect the bidding and negotiation process for the land will be completed by the first half of 2020. If the process is successfully completed on that schedule, ACM Shanghai would seek to begin construction of a new research and development center and factory on the Target Plot in the second half of 2020, with the objective of commencing production at the new facility in late 2022.

Pursuant to the existing agreement, ACM Shanghai is obligated to pay a performance bond of RMB 640,000 ($90,892 as of December 2, 2019) to Lingang Development. In general, if ACM Shanghai decides not to proceed with the bidding and negotiation process for the land in accordance with the requirements of the existing agreement, Lingang Development will be entitled to keep the performance bond as liquidated damages. Otherwise, Lingang Development generally will be obligated to return the performance bond to ACM Shanghai, including if ACM Shanghai is unsuccessful in bidding for rights to the Target Plot or is successful in entering into a definitive agreement to acquire rights to the Target Plot.
 
Item 3.
Legal Proceedings
 
From time to time we may become involved in legal proceedings or may be subject to claims arising in the ordinary course of our business. Although the results of litigation and claims cannot be predicted with certainty, we currently believe that the final outcome of these ordinary course matters will not have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results, financial condition or cash flows. Regardless of the outcome, litigation can have an adverse impact on us because of defense and settlement costs, diversion of management resources and other factors.
 
PART II
 
Item 5.
Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
 
Information Regarding the Trading of Common Stock
 
The Class A common stock has traded on NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol “ACMR” since November 3, 2017. The Class B common stock is not listed or traded on any stock exchange.
 
Holders of Common Stock
 
As of March 17, 2020, there were 16,273,528 shares of Class A common stock outstanding held of record by 68 stockholders. The actual number of holders of Class A common stock is substantially greater and includes stockholders who are beneficial owners and whose shares are held of record by banks, brokers, and other financial institutions.
 
As of March 17, 2020, there were 1,862,608 shares of Class B common stock held of record by 28 stockholders.

We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock. We intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings to support the operation of and to finance the growth and development of our business and do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future.

 
Securities Authorized for Issuance Under Equity Compensation Plans
 
The information required by this item will be set forth in the definitive proxy statement we will file in connection with our 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders and is incorporated by reference herein.
 
Sales of Unregistered Securities
 
In 2019 we issued, pursuant to the exercise of stock options at per share exercise prices ranging from $0.75 to $3.00 per share, an aggregate of 1,344,764 shares of Class A common stock that were not registered under the Securities Act of 1933. The offer and sale of those shares were exempt from registration under the Securities Act of 1933 by virtue of Section 4(a)(2) thereof (or Regulation D promulgated thereunder) because they did not involve a public offering. The recipients of the shares acquired the securities for investment only and not with a view to or for sale in connection with any distribution thereof, and appropriate legends were recorded with respect to the shares. The recipients of the shares were accredited investors under Rule 501 of Regulation D.
 
Item 7.
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
 
The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with the audited consolidated financial statements and related notes included in this report. In addition to historical information, the following discussion contains forward-looking statements that involves risks, uncertainties and assumptions. See “Forward-Looking Statements and Statistical Data” at page 3 of this report. Please read “Item 1A. Risk Factors” for a discussion of factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from our expectations
 
Overview
 
We supply advanced, innovative capital equipment developed for the global semiconductor industry. Fabricators of advanced integrated circuits, or chips, can use our single-wafer wet-cleaning tools in numerous steps to improve product yield, even at increasingly advanced process nodes. We have designed these tools for use in fabricating foundry, logic and memory chips, including dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, and 3D NAND-flash memory chips. We also develop, manufacture and sell a range of advanced packaging tools to wafer assembly and packaging customers.
 
Since our formation in 1998, we have focused on building a strategic portfolio of intellectual property to support and protect our key innovations. Our tools have been developed using our key proprietary technologies:

Space Alternated Phase Shift, or SAPS, technology for flat and patterned wafer surfaces, which employs alternating phases of megasonic waves to deliver megasonic energy in a highly uniform manner on a microscopic level;

Timely Energized Bubble Oscillation, or TEBO, technology for patterned wafer surfaces at advanced process nodes, which provides effective, damage-free cleaning for 2D and 3D patterned wafers with fine feature sizes;

Tahoe technology for cost and environmental savings, which delivers high cleaning performance using significantly less sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide than is typically consumed by conventional high-temperature single-wafer cleaning tools; and

Electro-Chemical Plating, or ECP, technology for advanced metal plating, which includes Ultra ECP AP, or Advanced Packaging, technology for back-end assembly processes and Ultra ECP MAP, or Multi-Anode Partial Plating, technology for front-end wafer fabrication processes.
 
We conduct substantially all of our product development, manufacturing, support and services in the PRC. All of our tools are built to order at our manufacturing facilities in Shanghai, which encompass 86,000 square feet of floor space for production capacity.
 
Recent Developments
 
Follow-on Public Offering
 
In August 2019 we received $26.4 million in net proceeds (after underwriting discounts and related expenses), from our sale, at a purchase price of $13.195 per share, of 2,053,572 shares of Class A common stock (including 267,857 shares sold pursuant to the underwriters’ exercise of an over-allotment option) to an underwriting syndicate, for which Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, served as representative. The offering and sale of the 2,053,572 shares to the public were registered under a registration statement on Form S-3 filed with the SEC.
 
STAR Market Listing and IPO
 
In June 2019, we announced our intention to complete:

a listing, which we refer to as the STAR Listing, of shares of ACM Shanghai on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Sci-Tech innovAtion boaRd, known as the STAR Market; and

a concurrent initial public offering, which we refer to as the STAR IPO, of ACM Shanghai shares in the People’s Republic of China, or the PRC, at a pre-offering valuation of not less than RMB 5.15 billion ($747.1 million).
We believe the listing of ACM Shanghai shares on the STAR Market will help us scale our business in mainland PRC, as we continue to seek to broaden our markets in Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Our global headquarters will continue to be located in Fremont, California, and we are committed to maintaining the listing of ACM Research Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Market.
 
To qualify for the Listing, ACM Shanghai must have multiple independent shareholders in the PRC.

In June 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into agreements with seven investors, or the First Tranche Investors, pursuant to which the First Tranche Investors purchased ACM Shanghai shares for a total of RMB 187.9 million ($27.3 million as of June 12, 2019).

In November 2019 ACM Shanghai entered into agreements with each of the First Tranche Investors and eight PRC-based investment firms, or the Second Tranche Investors, pursuant to which the Second Tranche Investors subsequently purchased ACM Shanghai shares, or the Second Tranche Shares, for a total of RMB 228.2 million ($32.4 million as of November 29, 2019). The purchase price per Second Tranche Share was equal to the purchase price per share paid by the First Tranche Investors and was based on a pre-investment enterprise valuation of ACM Shanghai of RMB 4.84 billion ($688.9 million as of November 29, 2019).
As of March 20, 2020, 91.7% of the outstanding shares of ACM Shanghai are owned by ACM Research, 3.8% are owned by the First Tranche Investors and 4.5% are owned by the Second Tranche Investors. The board of directors of ACM Shanghai will consist of nine members, seven of whom will be nominated by ACM Research and two of whom will be nominated by two of the Second Tranche Investors.
 
If, within three years from the date on which ACM Shanghai shares were issued to the First Tranche Investors, the Listing and the STAR IPO have not been completed and the China Securities Regulatory Commission has not otherwise approved the registration of ACM Shanghai’s Listing application, each First Tranche Investor will have the right to require that ACM Shanghai repurchase, and ACM Shanghai will have the right to purchase, the First Tranche Investor’s ACM Shanghai shares for a price equal to the initial purchase price paid by the First Tranche Investor, without interest.
 
If ACM Shanghai does not officially submit application documents for the Listing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange by December 31, 2022, each Second Tranche Investor will have the right to require that ACM Shanghai repurchase, and ACM Shanghai will have the right to require that each Second Tranche Investor sell to ACM Shanghai, such Second Tranche Investor’s Second Tranche Shares for a price equal to the initial purchase price paid by the Second Tranche Investor, without interest.
 
We have determined, voluntarily and not pursuant to any contractual or legal obligation, that pending either (a) ACM Shanghai’s submission of the application documents for the Listing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange or (b) application to repurchase the Second Tranche Shares, ACM Shanghai will deposit, and hold in reserve, all of the proceeds received from the sale of Additional Placement Shares in segregated cash and cash-equivalent accounts.
 
Transactions Relating to SMC Investment
 
In December 2016 Shengxin (Shanghai) Management Consulting Limited Partnership, or SMC, paid 20,123,500 RMB ($3.0 million as of the date of funding), or the SMC Investment, to ACM Shanghai for investment pursuant to terms to be subsequently negotiated. SMC is a PRC limited partnership owned by employees of ACM Shanghai, including Jian Wang, the general partner of SMC. Jian Wang is the Chief Executive Officer and President of ACM Shanghai and the brother of David H. Wang, our Chief Executive Officer, President and Chair of the Board.
 
In March 2017, (a) ACM Research issued to SMC a warrant, or the Warrant, exercisable to purchase 397,502 shares of Class A common stock at a price of $7.50 per share, for a total exercise price of $3.0 million and (b) ACM Shanghai agreed to repay the SMC Investment within 60 days after the exercise of the Warrant.
 
In March 2018 SMC exercised the Warrant in full, as a result of which (1) ACM Research issued 397,502 Shares to SMC, (2) SMC borrowed the funds to pay the Warrant exercise price pursuant to a senior secured promissory note, or the SMC Note, in the principal amount of $3.0 million issued to ACM Shanghai, which in turn issued to ACM Research a promissory note, or the Intercompany Note, in the principal amount of $3.0 million in payment of the Warrant exercise price. Each of the two notes bears interest at a rate of 3.01% per annum and matures on August 17, 2023. The SMC Note was secured by a pledge of the shares issued upon exercise of the Warrant.
 
In connection with its follow-on public offering of Class A common stock in August 2019, ACM Research agreed to purchase a total of 154,821 of the Warrant shares from SMC at a per share price of $13.195, of which (a) $1.2 million was applied to reduce SMC’s obligations to ACM Shanghai under the SMC Note, and which ACM Research then withheld for its own account and applied to reduce ACM Shanghai’s obligations to ACM Research under the Intercompany Note and (b) the remaining $0.9 million was paid to SMC. In a separate transaction, ACM Shanghai repaid $1.2 million of the SMC Investment in cash, which reduced the amount of the SMC Investment due to SMC to $1.8 million.
 
COVID–19 Outbreak

COVID–19, or the coronavirus, originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has subsequently spread rapidly across the PRC and globally. The COVID–19 outbreak did not affect our business or operating results in 2019. As of the date of filing of this report with the SEC, the outbreak has had an impact on our business and operating results in the first quarter of 2020. Given the scope of the outbreak and based on our assumption that the situation will continue to improve steadily in the PRC and will begin to stabilize in the rest of the world, we believe our business will begin to return to previously anticipated levels in the second quarter of 2020. The following summary reflects our expectations and estimates based on information known to us as of the date of this filing:

Operations: We conduct substantially all of our product development, manufacturing, support and services in the PRC, and those activities have been directly impacted by the COVID–19 outbreak and related restrictions on transportation and public appearances. In February 2020 our ACM Shanghai headquarters were closed for an additional six days beyond the normal Lunar New Year Holiday in accordance with Shanghai government restrictions related to the outbreak. We took steps before and after the Lunar New Year to ensure no employees took unreasonable risks to rush back to work. Currently more than 90% of our staff have returned to work at both of our Shanghai facilities. To date we have not experienced absenteeism of management or other key employees, other than certain of our executive officers being delayed in traveling back to the PRC after working from our California office in February. Our corporate headquarters are located in San Mateo County in the San Francisco Bay Area and are the subject of a number of state and county public health directives and orders. These actions have not negatively impacted our business to date, however, because of the limited number of employees at our headquarters and the nature of the work they generally perform.

Operating Results; Customers: Our customers’ business operations have been, and are continuing to be, subject to business interruptions arising from the COVID–19 outbreak. Historically a majority of our revenue from sales of single-wafer wet cleaning equipment for front-end manufacturing has been derived from customers located in the PRC and surrounding areas that have been impacted by COVID–19. Three customers that accounted for 73.8% of our revenue in 2019 and 87.6% of our revenue in 2018 are based in the PRC and Korea. One of those customers, Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd. — which accounted for 27.5% of our 2019 revenue and 39.6% of our 2018 revenue — is based in Wuhan. While Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd. and other key customers continued to operate their fabrication facilities without interruption during and after the first quarter of 2020, they were forced to restrict access of service personnel and deliveries to and from their facilities.. A portion of the revenues we previously expected to recognize in the first quarter of 2020 will not be recognized, as we have, in accordance with orders received from customers, deferred delivery of some tools from the first quarter. We believe these deliveries represent deferred, not lost, revenues, which we are working to recover by increasing our manufacturing output in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Suppliers: Our global supply chain includes components sourced from the PRC, Japan, Taiwan, the United States and Europe. While the COVID–19 outbreak has resulted in significant governmental measures being implemented to control the spread of COVID–19 around the world, to date we have not experienced issues with our supply chain. As with our customers, we continue to be in close contact with our key suppliers to help ensure we are able to identify any potential supply issues that may arise.

Projects: Our strategy includes a number of plans to support the growth of our core business, including the proposed STAR Listing and STAR IPO with respect to shares of ACM Shanghai described above as well as ACM Shanghai’s proposed acquisition of land rights in the Lingang area of Shanghai where we intend to construct a new research and development center and factory. The extent to which COVID–19 impacts these projects will depend on future developments that are highly uncertain, but to date the timing of these potential project has not been delayed or disrupted by COVID–19 or related government measures.

The COVID–19 situation continues to develop rapidly, and it is impossible for us to predict the effect and ultimate impact of the COVID–19 outbreak on our business operations and results. While the quarantine, social distancing and other regulatory measures instituted or recommended in response to COVID–19 are expected to be temporary, the duration of the business disruptions, and related financial impact, of the outbreak cannot be estimated at this time. For an explanation of some of the risks we potentially face, please read carefully the information provided under “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to the COVID–19 Outbreak.”

Key Components of Results of Operations
 
Revenue
 
We develop, manufacture and sell single-wafer wet cleaning equipment and custom-made wafer assembly and packaging equipment. Because we sell tools to a small number of customers and we customize those tools to fulfill the customers’ specific requirements, our revenue generation fluctuates, depending on the length of the sales, development and evaluation phases:

Sales and Development. During the sale process we may, depending on a prospective customer’s specifications and requirements, need to perform additional research, development and testing to establish that a tool can meet the prospective customer’s requirements. We then host an in-house demonstration of the customized tool prototype. Sales cycles for orders that require limited customization and do not require that we develop new technology usually take from 6 to 12 months, while the product life cycle, including the initial design, demonstration and final assembly phases, for orders requiring development and testing of new technologies can take as long as 2 to 4 years. As we expand our customer base, we expect to gain more repeat purchase orders for tools that we have already developed and tested, which will eliminate the need for a demonstration phase and shorten the development cycle.

Evaluation Periods. When a chip manufacturer proposes to purchase a particular type of tool from us for the first time, we offer the manufacturer an opportunity to evaluate the tool for a period that can extend for 24 months or longer. In some cases, we do not receive any payment on first-time purchases until the tool is accepted. As a result, we may spend between $1.0 and $2.0 million to produce a tool without receiving payment for more than 24 months or, if the tool is not accepted, without receiving any payment. Please see “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry—We may incur significant expenses long before we can recognize revenue from new products, if at all, due to the costs and length of research, development, manufacturing and customer evaluation process cycles.”

Purchase Orders. In accordance with industry practice, sales of our tools are made pursuant to purchase orders. Each purchase order from a customer for one of our tools contains specific technical requirements intended to ensure, among other things, that the tool will be compatible with the customer’s manufacturing process line. Until a purchase order is received, we do not have a binding purchase commitment. Our SAPS and TEBO customers to date have provided us with non-binding one- to two-year forecasts of their anticipated demands, and we expect future customers to furnish similar non-binding forecasts for planning purposes. Any of those forecasts would be subject to change, however, by the customer at any time, without notice to us.

Fulfillment. We seek to obtain a purchase order for a tool from three to four months in advance of the expected delivery date. Depending upon the nature of a customer’s specifications, the lead time for production of a tool generally will extend from two to four months. The lead-time can be as long as six months, however, and in some cases we may need to begin producing a tool based on a customer’s non-binding forecast, rather than waiting to receive a binding purchase order.
 
We expect our sales prices generally to range from $2 million to more than $5 million for our single-wafer wet cleaning tools. The sales price of a particular tool will vary depending upon the required specifications. We have designed equipment models using a modular configuration that we customize to meet customers’ technical specifications. For example, our Ultra C models for SAPS, TEBO and Tahoe solutions use common modular configurations that enable us to create a wet-cleaning tool meeting a customer’s specific requirements, while using pre-existing designs for chamber, electrical, chemical delivery and other modules.
 
Because of the relatively large purchase prices of our tools, customers generally pay in installments. For a customer’s repeat purchase of a particular type of tool, the specific payment terms are negotiated in connection with acceptance milestones of a purchase order. Based on our limited experience with repeat sales of our tools, we expect that we will receive an initial payment upon delivery of a tool in connection with a repeat purchase, with the balance being paid once the tool has been tested and accepted by the customer. Our sales arrangements for repeat purchases do not include a general right of return.
 
Based on our market experience, we believe that implementation of our equipment by one of our selected leading companies will attract and encourage other manufacturers to evaluate our equipment, because the leading company’s implementation will serve as validation of our equipment and will enable the other manufacturers to shorten their evaluation processes. We placed our first SAPS-based tool in 2009 as a prototype. We worked closely with the customer for two years in debugging and modifying the tool, and the customer then spent two more years of qualification and running pilot production before beginning volume manufacturing. We expect that the period from new product introduction to high volume manufacturing will be three years or less in the future. Please see “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Business—We depend on a small number of customers for a substantial portion of our revenue, and the loss of, or a significant reduction in orders from, one or more of our major customers could have a material adverse effect on our revenue and operating results. There are also a limited number of potential customers for our products.”
 
All of our sales in 2019 and 2018 were to customers located in Asia, and we anticipate that a substantial majority of our revenue will continue to come from customers located in this region for the near future. We have increased our sales efforts to penetrate the markets in North America and Western Europe.
 
We utilize the guidance set forth in Accounting Standards Update, or ASU, No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or FASB, regarding the recognition, presentation and disclosure of revenue in our financial statements as described below under “—Critical Accounting Policies and Significant Judgments and Estimates—Revenue Recognition.”
 
We offer extended maintenance service contracts to provide services such as trouble-shooting or fine-tuning tools, and installing spare parts, following expiration of applicable initial standard warranty coverage periods, which for sales to date have extended from 12 to 36 months as described under “—Critical Accounting Policies and Significant Judgments and Estimates—Warranty.” A limited number of the single-wafer wet cleaning tools we have sold to date are no longer covered by their initial warranties. In 2019 and 2018, we received payments for parts and labor for service activities provided from time to time, but as of December 31, 2019 we had not yet entered into extended maintenance service contracts with respect to any of the tools for which initial warranty coverage had expired. We expect to enter into extended maintenance service contracts with customers as additional initial warranties expire, but we do not expect revenue from extended maintenance service contracts to represent a material portion of our revenue in the future.
 
The loss or delay of one or more large sale transactions in a quarter could impact our results of operations for that quarter and any future quarters for which revenue from that transaction is lost or delayed, as described under “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry—Our quarterly operating results can be difficult to predict and can fluctuate substantially, which could result in volatility in the price of Class A common stock.” It is difficult to predict accurately when, or even if, we can complete a sale of a tool to a potential customer or to increase sales to any existing customer. Our tool demand forecasts are based on multiple assumptions, including non-binding forecasts received from customers years in advance, each of which may introduce error into our estimates. Difficulties in forecasting demand for our tools make it difficult for us to project future operating results and may lead to periodic inventory shortages or excess spending on inventory or on tools that may not be purchased, as further described in “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry—Difficulties in forecasting demand for our tools may lead to periodic inventory shortages or excess spending on inventory items that may not be used.”
 
Cost of Revenue
 
Cost of revenue for capital equipment consists primarily of:

direct costs, which consist principally of costs of tool components and subassemblies purchased from third-party vendors;

compensation of personnel associated with our manufacturing operations, including stock-based compensation;

depreciation of manufacturing equipment;

amortization of costs of software used for manufacturing purposes;

other expenses attributable to our manufacturing department; and

allocated overhead for rent and utilities.
 
We are not party to any long-term purchasing agreements with suppliers. Please see “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry—Our customers do not enter into long-term purchase commitments, and they may decrease, cancel or delay their projected purchases at any time.”
 
As our customer base and tool installations continue to grow, we will need to hire additional manufacturing personnel. The rates at which we add customers and install tools will affect the level and time of this spending. In addition, because we often import components and spare parts from the United States, we have experienced, and expect to continue to experience, the effect of the dollar’s growth on our cost of revenue.
 
Gross Margin
 
Our gross margin was 47.1% in 2019 and 46.2% in 2018. Gross margin may vary from period to period, primarily related to the level of utilization and the timing and mix of purchase orders. We expect gross margin to range between 40% and 45% for the foreseeable future, with direct manufacturing costs approximating 50% to 55% of revenue and overhead costs totaling approximately 5% of revenue.
 
We seek to maintain our gross margin by continuing to develop proprietary technologies that avoid pricing pressure for our wet cleaning equipment. We actively manage our operations through principles of operational excellence designed to ensure continuing improvement in the efficiency and quality of our manufacturing operations by, for example, implementing factory constraint management and change control and inventory management systems. In addition, our purchasing department actively seeks to identify and negotiate supply contracts with improved pricing to reduce cost of revenue.
 
A significant portion of our raw materials are denominated in the Chinese Renminbi, while the majority of our purchase orders are denominated in U.S. dollars. As a result, currency exchange rates may have a significant effect on our gross margin.
 
Operating Expenses
 
We have experienced, and expect to continue to experience, growth in the absolute dollar amount of our operating expenses, as we invest to support the anticipated growth of our customer base and the continued development of proprietary technologies.
 
Sales and Marketing
 
Sales and marketing expense accounted for 11.1% of our revenue in 2019 and 12.9% of our revenue in 2018. Sales and marketing expense consists primarily of:

compensation of personnel associated with pre- and after-sales support and other sales and marketing activities, including stock-based compensation;

sales commissions paid to independent sales representatives;

fees paid to sales consultants;

shipping and handling costs for transportation of products to customers;

cost of trade shows;
 

travel and entertainment; and

allocated overhead for rent and utilities.
 
Sales and marketing expense can be significant and may fluctuate, in part because of the resource-intensive nature of our sales efforts and the length and variability of our sales cycle. The length of our sales cycle, from initial contact with a customer to the execution of a purchase order, is generally 6 to 24 months.
 
During the sales cycle, we expend significant time and money on sales and marketing activities, including educating customers about our tools, participating in extended tool evaluations and configuring our tools to customer-specific needs. Sales and marketing expense in a given period can be particularly affected by the increase in travel and entertainment expenses associated with the finalization of purchase orders or the installation of tools.
 
We expect that, for the foreseeable future, sales and marketing expense will increase in absolute dollars, as we continue to invest in sales and marketing by hiring additional employees and expanding marketing programs in existing or new markets. We must invest in sales and marketing processes in order to develop and maintain close relationships with customers. We are making dollar-based investments in dollars in order to support growth of our customer base in the United States, and the relative strength of the dollar could have a significant effect on our sales and marketing expense.
 
Research and Development
 
Research and development expense accounted for 12.0% of our revenue in 2019 and 13.9% of our revenue in 2018. Research and development expense relates to the development of new products and processes and encompasses our research, development and customer support activities. Research and development expense consists primarily of:

compensation of personnel associated with our research and development activities, including stock-based compensation;

costs of components and other research and development supplies;

travel expense associated with customer support;

amortization of costs of software used for research and development purposes; and

allocated overhead for rent and utilities.
 
Some of our research and development has been funded by grants from the PRC government, as described in “—PRC Government Research and Development Funding” below.
 
We expect that, for the foreseeable future, research and development expense will increase in absolute dollars and will range between 12% and 15% of revenue, as we continue to invest in research and development to advance our technologies. We intend to continue to invest in research and development to support and enhance our existing single-wafer wet cleaning products and to develop future product offerings to build and maintain our technology leadership position.
 
General and Administrative
 
General and administrative expense accounted for 7.5% of our revenue in 2019 and 10.7% of our revenue in 2018. General and administrative expense consists primarily of:

compensation of executive, accounting and finance, human resources, information technology, and other administrative personnel, including stock-based compensation;

professional fees, including accounting and legal fees;

other corporate expenses; and

allocated overhead for rent and utilities.
 
We expect that, for the foreseeable future, general and administrative expense will increase in absolute dollars, as we incur additional costs associated with growing our business and operating as a public company.
 
Stock-Based Compensation Expense
 
We grant stock options to employees and non-employee consultants and directors, and we account for those stock-based awards in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification, or ASC, Topic 718, Compensation—Stock Compensation.


Stock-based awards granted to employees and non-employees are measured at the fair value of the awards on the grant date and are recognized as expenses either (a) immediately on grant, if no vesting conditions are required, or (b) using the graded vesting method, net of estimated forfeitures, over the requisite service period. The fair value of stock options is determined using the Black-Scholes valuation model. Stock-based compensation expense, when recognized, is charged to cost of revenue or to the category of operating expense corresponding to the service function of the employee or non-employee.

We also grant discounts to employees when they subscribe for the new shares of ACM Shanghai, and we account for those stock-based awards in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification, or ASC, Topic 718, Compensation—Stock Compensation

Cost of revenue and operating expenses during the periods presented below have included stock-based compensation as follows:
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
   
(in thousands)
 
Stock-Based Compensation Expense:
           
Cost of revenue
 
$
250
   
$
71
 
Sales and marketing expense
   
328
     
120
 
Research and development expense
   
1093
     
255
 
General and administrative expense
   
1,901
     
2,917
 
   
$
3,572
   
$
3,363
 

We recognized stock-based compensation expense to employees of $2.3 million in 2019 and $0.7 million in 2018. As of December 31, 2019 and 2018, we had $4.7 million and $2.4 million, respectively, of total unrecognized employee stock-based compensation expense, net of estimated forfeitures, related to unvested stock-based awards. These are expected to be recognized over a weighted-average period of 1.47 years and 1.62 years, respectively.
 
We recognized stock-based compensation expense to non-employees of $1.3 million in 2019 and $2.7 million in 2018.
 
PRC Government Research and Development Funding
 
ACM Shanghai has received four grants from local and central governmental authorities in the PRC. The first grant, which was awarded in 2008, relates to the development and commercialization of 65nm to 45nm stress-free polishing technology. The second grant was awarded in 2009 to fund interest expense on short-term borrowings. The third grant was made in 2014 and relates to the development of electro copper-plating technology. The fourth grant was made in June 2018 and related to development of polytetrafluoroethylene. PRC governmental authorities provide the majority of the funding, although ACM Shanghai is also required to invest certain amounts in the projects.
 
The PRC governmental grants contain certain operating conditions, and we are required to go through a government due diligence process once the project is complete. The grants therefore are recorded as long-term liabilities upon receipt, although we are not required to return any funds we receive. Grant amounts are recognized in our statements of operations and comprehensive income as follows:


Government subsidies relating to current expenses are reflected as reductions of those expenses in the periods in which they are reported. Those reductions totaled $3.2 million in 2019 and $1.5 million in 2018.

Government grants used to acquire depreciable assets are transferred from long-term liabilities to property, plant and equipment when the assets are acquired and then the recorded amounts of the assets are credited to other income over the useful lives of the assets. Related government subsidies recognized as other income totaled $0.1 million in 2019 and in 2018.
 
Net Income Attributable to Redeemable Non-Controlling Interests
 
From January 1, 2015 to August 31, 2017, ACM Research owned 62.87% of the equity interests of ACM Shanghai, with three non-controlling, unrelated investors holding the remainder. ACM Research acquired all of the non-controlling interests from minority investors in several transactions during 2017. Following these transactions, ACM Research owned 100% of the ACM Shanghai subsidiary.
 
As the result of placements effected in connection with the proposed STAR Listing and STAR IPO, as of March 20, 2020 91.7% of the outstanding shares of ACM Shanghai are owned by ACM Research, 3.8% are owned by the First Tranche Investors and 4.5% are owned by the Second Tranche Investors. For more information, please see “—Recent Developments—STAR Market Listing and IPO” above.
 
How We Evaluate Our Operations
 
We present information below with respect to four measures of financial performance:
 

We define “shipments” of tools to include (a) a “repeat” delivery to a customer of a type of tool that the customer has previously accepted, for which we recognize revenue upon delivery, and (b) a “first-time” delivery of a “first tool” to a customer on an approval basis, for which we may recognize revenue in the future if contractual conditions are met and customer acceptance is received.

We define “adjusted EBITDA” as our net income excluding interest expense (net), income tax benefit (expense), depreciation and amortization, and stock-based compensation. We define adjusted EBITDA to also exclude restructuring costs, although we have not incurred any such costs to date.

We define “free cash flow” as net cash provided by operating activities less purchases of property and equipment (net of proceeds from disposals) and of intangible assets.

We define “adjusted operating income (loss)” as our income (loss) from operations excluding stock-based compensation.

These financial measures are not based on any standardized methodologies prescribed by accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, or GAAP, and are not necessarily comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.
 
We have presented shipments, adjusted EBITDA, free cash flow and adjusted operating income (loss) because they are key measures used by our management and board of directors to understand and evaluate our operating performance, to establish budgets and to develop operational goals for managing our business. We believe that these financial measures help identify underlying trends in our business that could otherwise be masked by the effect of the expenses that we exclude. In particular, we believe that the exclusion of the expenses eliminated in calculating adjusted EBITDA and adjusted operating income (loss) can provide useful measures for period-to-period comparisons of our core operating performance and that the exclusion of property and equipment purchases from operating cash flow can provide a usual means to gauge our capability to generate cash. Accordingly, we believe that these financial measures provide useful information to investors and others in understanding and evaluating our operating results, enhancing the overall understanding of our past performance and future prospects, and allowing for greater transparency with respect to key financial metrics used by our management in its financial and operational decision-making.
 
Shipments, adjusted EBITDA, free cash flow and adjusted operating income (loss) are not prepared in accordance with GAAP, and should not be considered in isolation of, or as an alternative to, measures prepared in accordance with GAAP.
 
Shipments
 
Shipments consist of two components:
 

a shipment to a customer of a type of tool that the customer has previously accepted, for which we recognize revenue when the tool is delivered; and

a shipment to a customer of a type of tool that the customer is receiving and evaluating for the first time, in each case a “first tool,” for which we may recognize revenue at a later date, subject to the customer’s acceptance of the tool upon the tool’s satisfaction of applicable contractual requirements.
 
First tool” shipments can be made to either an existing customer that not previously accepted that specific type of tool in the past for example, a delivery of a SAPS V tool to a customer that previously had received only SAPS II tools or to a new customer that has never purchased any tool from us.
 
Shipments for 2019 totaled $115 million, as compared to $95 million for 2018.
 
The dollar amount attributed to a “first tool” shipment is equal to the consideration we expect to receive if any and all contractual requirements are satisfied and the customer accepts the tool. There are a number of limitations related to the use of shipments in evaluating our business, including that customers have significant discretion in determining whether to accept our tools and their decision not to accept delivered tools is likely to result in our inability to recognize revenue from the delivered tools.
 
Adjusted EBITDA
 
There are a number of limitations related to the use of adjusted EBITDA rather than net income (loss), which is the nearest GAAP equivalent. Some of these limitations are:
 

adjusted EBITDA excludes depreciation and amortization and, although these are non-cash expenses, the assets being depreciated or amortized may have to be replaced in the future;

we exclude stock-based compensation expense from adjusted EBITDA and adjusted operating income (loss), although (a) it has been, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, a significant recurring expense for our business and an important part of our compensation strategy and (b) if we did not pay out a portion of our compensation in the form of stock-based compensation, the cash salary expense included in operating expenses would be higher, which would affect our cash position;

the expenses and other items that we exclude in our calculation of adjusted EBITDA may differ from the expenses and other items, if any, that other companies may exclude from adjusted EBITDA when they report their operating results;

adjusted EBITDA does not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, working capital needs;

adjusted EBITDA does not reflect interest expense, or the requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments on debt;

adjusted EBITDA does not reflect income tax expense (benefit) or the cash requirements to pay taxes;

adjusted EBITDA does not reflect historical cash expenditures or future requirements for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;

although depreciation and amortization charges are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and adjusted EBITDA does not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements; and

adjusted EBITDA includes expense reductions and non-operating other income attributable to PRC governmental grants, which may mask the effect of underlying developments in net income (loss), including trends in current expenses and interest expense, and free cash flow includes the PRC governmental grants, the amount and timing of which can be difficult to predict and are outside our control.
 
The following table reconciles net income (loss), the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure, to adjusted EBITDA:

   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
   
(in thousands)
       
Adjusted EBITDA Data:
           
Net income
 
$
19,458
   
$
6,574
 
Interest expense, net
   
412
     
469
 

Income tax expense (benefit)

   
(518
)
   
806
 
Depreciation and amortization
   
788
     
417
 
Stock based compensation
   
3,572
     
3,363
 
Adjusted EBITDA
 
$
23,712
   
$
11,629
 

Adjusted EBITDA was $23.7 million in 2019, as compared to $11.6 million in 2018. The increase of $12.1 million reflected principally an increase of $12.9 million in net income and was offset by a $0.4 million increase in depreciation and amortization, a $1.3 million decrease in income tax expense (benefit), and a $0.2 million increase in stock-based compensation. We do not exclude from adjusted EBITDA expense reductions and non-operating other income attributable to PRC governmental grants because we consider and incorporate the expected amounts and timing of those grants in incurring expenses and capital expenditures. If we did not receive the grants, our cash expenses therefore would be lower, and our cash position would not be affected, to the extent we have accurately anticipated the amounts of the grants. For additional information regarding our PRC grants, please see “—Key Components of Results of Operations—PRC Government Research and Development Funding.”

Free Cash Flow
 
The following table reconciles net cash provided by operating activities, the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure, to free cash flow:
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
   
(in thousands)
 
Free Cash Flow Data:
           
Net cash provided by operating activities
 
$
9,403
   
$
6,909
 
Purchase of property and equipment
   
(971
)
   
(1,830
)
Purchase of intangible assets
   
(154
)
   
(241
)
Free cash flow
 
$
8,278
   
$
4,838
 

Free cash flow in 2019, as compared to 2018, reflected the factors driving net cash provided by operating activities, principally increase in net income, offset by an increase in accounts receivable, inventory and deferred taxes, and a decrease in accounts payable. Consistent with our methodology for calculating adjusted EBITDA, we do not adjust free cash flow for the effects of PRC government subsidies, because we take those subsidies into account in incurring expenses and capital expenditures.
 
Adjusted Operating Income
 
Adjusted operating income excludes stock-based compensation from income (loss) from operations. Although stock-based compensation is an important aspect of the compensation of our employees and executives, determining the fair value of certain of the stock-based instruments we utilize involves a high degree of judgment and estimation and the expense recorded may bear little resemblance to the actual value realized upon the vesting or future exercise of the related stock-based awards. Furthermore, unlike cash compensation, the value of stock options, which is an element of our ongoing stock-based compensation expense, is determined using a complex formula that incorporates factors, such as market volatility, that are beyond our control. Management believes it is useful to exclude stock-based compensation in order to better understand the long-term performance of our core business and to facilitate comparison of our results to those of peer companies. The use of non-GAAP financial measures excluding stock-based compensation has limitations, however. If we did not pay out a portion of our compensation in the form of stock-based compensation, the cash salary expense included in operating expenses would be higher and our cash holdings would be less. The following tables reflect the exclusion of stock-based compensation, or SBC, from line items comprising income (loss) from operations:
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
   
Actual
(GAAP)
   
SBC
   
Adjusted
(Non-GAAP)
   
Actual
(GAAP)
   
SBC
   
Adjusted
(Non-GAAP)
 
         
(in thousands)
       
Revenue
 
$
107,524
   
$
-
   
$
107,524
   
$
74,643
   
$
-
   
$
74,643
 
Cost of revenue
   
(56,870
)
   
(250
)
   
(56,620
)
   
(40,194
)
   
(71
)
   
(40,123
)
Gross profit
   
50,654
     
(250
)
   
50,904
     
34,449
     
(71
)
   
34,520
 
Operating expenses:
                                               
Sales and marketing
   
(11,902
)
   
(328
)
   
(11,574
)
   
(9,611
)
   
(120
)
   
(9,491
)
Research and development
   
(12,900
)
   
(1,093
)
   
(11,807
)
   
(10,380
)
   
(255
)
   
(10,125
)
General and administrative
   
(8,061
)
   
(1,901
)
   
(6,160
)
   
(7,987
)
   
(2,917
)
   
(5,070
)
Income (loss) from operations
 
$
17,791
   
$
(3,572
)
 
$
21,363
   
$
6,471
   
$
(3,363
)
 
$
9,834
 

Adjusted operating income in 2019, as compared to 2018 reflected increases in operating income of $11.5 million and stock-based compensation of $0.2 million.
 
Critical Accounting Policies and Significant Judgments and Estimates
 
The preparation of our consolidated financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to make estimates and assumptions in applying our accounting policies that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses, and related disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities. We base these estimates and assumptions on historical experience, and evaluate them on an on-going basis to ensure that they remain reasonable under current conditions. Actual results could differ from those estimates. The accounting policies that reflect our more significant estimates, judgments and assumptions and that we believe are the most critical to aid in fully understanding and evaluating our reported financial results include the following:
 
Revenue Recognition
 
We derive revenue principally from the sale of single-wafer wet cleaning equipment. Revenue from contracts with customers is recognized using the following five steps pursuant to the ASC Topic 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers:
 

1.
identify the contract(s) with a customer;
 

2.
identify the performance obligations in the contract;
 

3.
determine the transaction price;
 

4.
allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract; and
 

5.
recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation.
 
A contract contains a promise (or promises) to transfer goods or services to a customer. A performance obligation is a promise (or a group of promises) that is distinct. The transaction price is the amount of consideration a company expects to be entitled from a customer in exchange for providing the goods or services.
 
The unit of account for revenue recognition is a performance obligation (a good or service). A contract may contain one or more performance obligations. Performance obligations are accounted for separately if they are distinct. A good or service is distinct if the customer can benefit from the good or service either on its own or together with other resources that are readily available to the customer, and the good or service is distinct in the context of the contract. Otherwise performance obligations are combined with other promised goods or services until we identify a bundle of goods or services that is distinct. Promises in contracts which do not result in the transfer of a good or service are not performance obligations, as well as those promises that are administrative in nature, or are immaterial in the context of the contract. We have addressed whether various goods and services promised to the customer represent distinct performance obligations. We applied the guidance of ASC Topic 606-10-25-16 through 18 in order to verify which promises should be assessed for classification as distinct performance obligations. Our contracts with customers include more than one performance obligation. For example, the delivery of a piece of equipment generally includes the promise to install the equipment in the customer’s facility. Our performance obligations in connection with a sale of equipment generally include production, delivery and installation, together with the provision of a warranty.
 
The transaction price is allocated to all the separate performance obligations in an arrangement. It reflects the amount of consideration to which we expect to be entitled in exchange for transferring goods or services, which may include an estimate of variable consideration to the extent that it is probable of not being subject to significant reversals in the future based on our experience with similar arrangements. The transaction price excludes amounts collected on behalf of third parties, such as sales taxes. This is done on a relative selling price basis using standalone selling prices, or SSP. The SSP represents the price at which we would sell that good or service on a standalone basis at the inception of the contract. Given the requirement for establishing SSP for all performance obligations, if the SSP is directly observable through standalone sales, then such sales should be considered in the establishment of the SSP for the performance obligation. All of our products were sold in stand-alone arrangements, we do not have observable SSPs for most performance obligations as they are not regularly sold on a standalone basis. Production, delivery and installation of a product, together with provision of a warranty, are a single unit of accounting.
 
We recognize revenue when we satisfy each performance obligation by transferring control of the promised goods or services to the customer. Goods or services can transfer at a point in time (upon the acceptance of the products or upon the arrival at the destination as stipulated in the shipment terms) in a sale arrangement. In general, we recognize revenue when a tool has been demonstrated to meet the customer’s predetermined specifications and is accepted by the customer. If terms of the sale provide for a lapsing customer acceptance period, we recognize revenue as of the earlier of the expiration of the lapsing acceptance period and customer acceptance. In the following circumstances, however, we recognize revenue upon shipment or delivery, when legal title to the tool is passed to a customer as follows:

when the customer has previously accepted the same tool with the same specifications and we can objectively demonstrate that the tool meets all of the required acceptance criteria;

when the sales contract or purchase order contains no acceptance agreement or lapsing acceptance provision and we can objectively demonstrate that the tool meets all of the required acceptance criteria;

when the customer withholds acceptance due to issues unrelated to product performance, in which case revenue is recognized when the system is performing as intended and meets predetermined specifications; or

when our sales arrangements do not include a general right of return.
 
We offer post-warranty period services, which consist principally of the installation and replacement of parts and small-scale modifications to the equipment. The related revenue and costs of revenue are recognized when parts have been delivered and installed, risk of loss has passed to the customer, and collection is probable. We do not expect revenue from extended maintenance service contracts to represent a material portion of its revenue in the future.
 
We incur costs related to the acquisition of its contracts with customers in the form of sales commissions. Sales commissions are paid to third party representatives and distributors. Contractual agreements with these parties outline commission structures and rates to be paid. Generally speaking, the contracts are all individual procurement decisions by the customers and are not for significant periods of time, nor do they include renewal provisions. As such, all contracts have an economic life of significantly less than a year. Accordingly, we expense sales commissions when incurred. These costs are recorded within sales and marketing expenses.
 
We do not incur any costs to fulfill the contracts with customers that are not already reported in compliance with another applicable standard (for example, inventory or plant, property and equipment).
 

Leases


We determine at inception whether an arrangement constitutes an operating lease. Operating leases are included in operating lease right-of-use, or ROU, assets, other current liabilities and operating lease liabilities in our consolidated balance sheets

ROU assets represent our right to use an underlying asset for the lease term and lease liabilities represent our obligation to make lease payments arising from the lease. Operating lease ROU assets and liabilities are recognized at commencement date based on the present value of lease payments over the lease term. As most of our leases do not provide an implicit rate, we use our incremental borrowing rate based on the information available at commencement date in determining the present value of lease payments. We use the implicit rate when readily determinable. The operating lease ROU asset also includes any lease payments made and excludes lease incentives. Our lease terms may include options to extend or terminate the lease when it is reasonably certain that we will exercise that option. Lease expense for lease payments is recognized on a straight-line basis over the lease term.


Stock-Based Compensation
 
We account for grants of stock options based on their grant date fair value and recognize compensation expense over the vesting periods. We estimate the fair value of stock options as of the date of grant using the Black-Scholes option pricing model.
 
Stock-based compensation expense represents the cost of the grant date fair value of employee stock option grants recognized over the requisite service period of the awards (usually the vesting period) on a straight-line basis, net of estimated forfeitures. We estimate the fair value of stock option grants using the Black-Scholes option pricing model, which requires the input of subjective assumptions, including (a) the risk-free interest rate, (b) the expected volatility of our stock, (c) the expected term of the award and (d) the expected dividend yield.

We use the market closing price for the Class A common stock as reported on the Nasdaq Global Market to determine the fair value of the Class A common stock.

The risk-free interest rates for periods within the expected life of the option are based on the yields of zero-coupon U.S. Treasury securities.

Due to a lack of company-specific historical and implied volatility data, we have based our estimate of expected volatility on the historical volatility of a group of similar companies that are publicly traded. For these analyses, we have selected companies with comparable characteristics to ours including enterprise value, risk profile, position within the industry, and with historical share price information sufficient to meet the expected life of the stock-based awards. We compute the historical volatility data using the daily closing prices for the selected companies’ shares during the equivalent period of the calculated expected term of our stock-based awards. We will continue to apply this process until a sufficient amount of historical information regarding the volatility of our own stock price becomes available.

The expected term represents the period of time that options are expected to be outstanding. The expected term of stock options is based on the average between the vesting period and the contractual term for each grant according to Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 110.

The expected dividend yield is assumed to be 0%, based on the fact that we have never paid cash dividends and have no present intention to pay cash dividends.
 
 Inventory
 
Inventories consist of finished goods, raw materials, work-in-process and consumable materials. Finished goods are comprised of direct materials, direct labor, depreciation and manufacturing overhead. Inventory is stated at the lower of cost and net recognizable value of the inventory at December 31, 2019 and 2018. The cost of a general inventory item is determined using the weighted average method. The cost of an inventory item purchased specifically for a customized tool is determined using the specific identification method. Market value is determined as the lower of replacement cost and net realizable value, which is the estimated selling price, in the ordinary course of business, less estimated costs to complete or dispose.
 
We assess the recoverability of all inventories quarterly to determine if any adjustments are required. We write down excess or obsolete tool-related inventory based on management’s analysis of inventory levels and forecasted 12-month demand and technological obsolescence and spare parts inventory based on forecasted usage. These factors are affected by market and economic conditions, technology changes, new product introductions and changes in strategic direction, and they require estimates that may include uncertain elements. Actual demand may differ from forecasted demand, and those differences may have a material effect on recorded inventory values.
 
Our manufacturing overhead standards for product costs are calculated assuming full absorption of forecasted spending over projected volumes, adjusted for excess capacity. Abnormal inventory costs such as costs of idle facilities, excess freight and handling costs, and spoilage are recognized as current period charges.
 
Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
 
Accounts receivable are reflected in our consolidated balance sheets at their estimated collectible amounts. A substantial majority of our accounts receivable are derived from sales to large multinational semiconductor manufacturers in Asia. We follow the allowance method of recognizing uncollectible accounts receivable, pursuant to which we regularly assess our ability to collect outstanding customer invoices and make estimates of the collectability of accounts receivable. We provide an allowance for doubtful accounts when we determine that the collection of an outstanding customer receivable is not probable. The allowance for doubtful accounts is reviewed on a quarterly basis to assess the adequacy of the allowance. We take into consideration (a) accounts receivable and historical bad debts experience, (b) any circumstances of which we are aware of a customer’s inability to meet its financial obligations, (c) changes in our customer payment history, and (d) our judgments as to prevailing economic conditions in the industry and the impact of those conditions on our customers. If circumstances change, such that the financial conditions of our customers are adversely affected and they are unable to meet their financial obligations to us, we may need to record additional allowances, which would result in a reduction of our net income.
 
Valuation of Long-Lived Assets
 
Long-lived assets are evaluated for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstance indicate that the carrying value of an asset may not be fully recoverable or that the useful life is shorter than we had originally estimated. When these events or changes occur, we evaluate the impairment of the long-lived assets by comparing the carrying value of the assets to an estimate of future undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated from the use of the assets and their eventual disposition. If the sum of the expected future undiscounted cash flow is less than the carrying value of the assets, we recognize an impairment loss based on the excess of the carrying value over the fair value. No impairment charge was recognized in 2019 and 2018.
 
Income Taxes
 
Income taxes are accounted for using the liability method. Under this method, deferred income tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the future tax consequences attributable to temporary differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases. Deferred income tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years in which these temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. The effect on deferred tax assets and liabilities of a change in tax rates is recognized in income in the period that includes the enactment date. A valuation allowance would be provided for the deferred tax assets if it is more likely than not that the related benefit will not be realized.
 
On a quarterly basis, we provide income tax provisions based upon an estimated annual effective income tax rate. The effective tax rate is highly dependent upon the geographic composition of worldwide earnings, tax regulations governing each region, availability of tax credits and the effectiveness of our tax planning strategies. We carefully monitor the changes in many factors and adjust our effective income tax rate on a timely basis. If actual results differ from these estimates, this could have a material effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
 
We maintained a partial valuation allowance as of December 31, 2019 with respect to certain net deferred tax assets based on our estimates of recoverability. We determined that the partial valuation allowance was appropriate given our historical operating losses and uncertainty with respect to our ability to generate profits from our business model sufficient to take advantage of the deferred tax assets in all applicable tax jurisdictions.
 
The calculation of our tax liabilities involves dealing with uncertainties in the application of complex tax regulations. In accordance with the authoritative guidance on accounting for uncertainty in income taxes, we recognize liabilities for uncertain tax positions based on the two-step process. The first step is to evaluate the tax position for recognition by determining if the weight of available evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the position will be sustained in audit, including resolution of related appeals or litigation processes, if any. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount that is more than fifty-percent likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement. We reevaluate these uncertain tax positions on a quarterly basis. This evaluation is based on factors including changes in facts or circumstances, changes in tax law, effectively settled issues under audit and new audit activity. Any change in these factors could result in the recognition of a tax benefit or an additional charge to the tax provision.
 
Interest and penalties related to uncertain tax positions are recorded in the provision for income tax expense on the consolidated statements of operations.
 
Foreign Currency Translation
 
Our consolidated financial statements are presented in U.S. dollars, which is our reporting currency, while the functional currency of our subsidiaries in the PRC is RMB, and the functional currency of our subsidiary in Korea is the Korean Won. Transactions in foreign currencies are initially recorded at the functional currency rate prevailing at the date of the transactions. Any difference between the initially recorded amount and the settlement amount is recorded as a gain or loss on foreign currency transaction in our consolidated statements of operations. Monetary assets and liabilities denominated in a foreign currency are translated at the functional currency rate of exchange as of the date of a consolidated balance sheet. Any difference is recorded as a gain or loss on foreign currency translation in the appropriate consolidated statement of operations. In accordance with the FASB’s ASC Topic 830, Foreign Currency Matters, we translate the assets and liabilities into U.S. dollars from RMB using the rate of exchange prevailing at the applicable balance sheet date and the consolidated statements of operations and cash flows are translated at an average rate during the reporting period. Adjustments resulting from the translation are recorded in stockholders’ equity as part of accumulated other comprehensive income.
 
The PRC government imposes significant exchange restrictions on fund transfers out of the PRC that are not related to business operations. To date these restrictions have not had a material impact on us because we have not engaged in any significant transactions that are subject to the restrictions.
 
Warranty
 
We have provided standard warranty coverage on our tools for 12 to 36 months, covering labor and parts necessary to repair a tool during the warranty period. We account for the estimated warranty cost as sales and marketing expense at the time revenue is recognized. Warranty obligations are affected by historical failure rates and associated replacement costs. Utilizing historical warranty cost records, we calculate a rate of warranty expenses to revenue to determine the estimated warranty charge. We update these estimated charges on a regular basis. The actual product performance and field expense profiles may differ, and in those cases we adjust our warranty accruals accordingly.
 
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
 
For a discussion of recent accounting pronouncements impacting our company, see note 2 in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements include herein under “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”
 
Results of Operations
 
The following table sets forth our results of operations for the periods presented, as percentages of revenue.

   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
Revenue
   
100.0
%
   
100.0
%
Cost of revenue
   
52.9
     
53.8
 
Gross margin
   
47.1
     
46.2
 
Operating expenses:
               
Sales and marketing
   
11.1
     
12.9
 
Research and development
   
12.0
     
13.9
 
General and administrative
   
7.5
     
10.7
 
Total operating expenses, net
   
30.6
     
37.5
 
Income from operations
   
16.5
     
8.7
 
Interest expense, net
   
(0.4
)
   
(0.6
)
Other income, net
   
1.3
     
1.7
 
Equity income in net income of affiliates
   
0.2
     
0.2
 
Income before income taxes
   
17.6
     
9.9
 
Income tax expense
   
0.5
     
(1.1
)
Net income
   
18.1
     
8.8
 
Less: Net income attributable to redeemable non-controlling interests
   
0.4
     
-
 
Net income attributable to ACM Research, Inc.
   
17.7
%
   
8.8
%
 
Comparison of Year Ended December 31, 2019 and 2018
 
Revenue
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
       
   
2019
   
2018
   
Y/Y %Change
 
   
(in thousands)
       
Revenue
 
$
107,524
   
$
74,643
     
44.1
%
 
Revenue for 2019 compared to 2018 increased by $32.9 million. The increase was due to a $22.4 million increase in revenue from single-wafer wet cleaning tools to our front-end customers, and an $10.5 million increase in revenue of tools to our back-end customers.
 
Cost of Revenue and Gross Margin
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
       
   
2019
   
2018
   
Y/Y %Change
 
   
(in thousands)
       
Cost of revenue
 
$
56,870
   
$
40,194
   
41.5
%
Gross profit
 
$
50,654
   
$
34,449
   
47.0
%
Gross margin
 
47.1
%
   
46.2
%
 
96 bps
 
 
Cost of revenue increased $16.7 million, and gross profit increased $16.2 million, for 2019 compared to 2018, reflecting the growth in sales. Gross margin increased by 96 basis points, primarily due to  differences in product mix in 2019 versus 2018.
 
Operating Expenses
 

 
Year Ended December 31,
       
   
2019
   
2018
   
Y/Y %Change
 
   
(in thousands)
       
Sales and marketing expense
 
$
11,902
   
$
9,611
     
23.8
%
Research and development expense
   
12,900
     
10,380
     
24.3
%
General and administrative expense
   
8,061
     
7,987
     
0.9
%
Total operating expenses
 
$
32,863
   
$
27,978
     
17.5
%
 
Sales and marketing expense increased by $2.3 million for 2019 as compared to 2018, primarily due to an increase in employee count, salaries and sales commissions.
 
Research and development expense increased $2.5 million for 2019 as compared to 2018, primarily due to an increase in employee count, salaries and research and development parts. Research and development expense represented 12.0% and 13.9% of our revenue in 2019 and 2018, respectively. Without reduction by grant amounts received from PRC governmental authorities (see “—Key Components of Results of Operations—PRC Government Research and Development Funding”), gross research and development expense totaled $16.1 million, or 14.9% of revenue, in 2019 and $11.9 million, or 15.9% of revenue, in 2018.
 
General and administrative expense increased $0.1 million for 2019 as compared to 2018.
 
Other Income and Expenses
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
   
Y/Y % Change
 
   
2019
   
2018
     
2019 v 2018
 
   
(in thousands)
         
Interest income
 
$
333
   
$
29
     
1048.3
%
Interest expense
   
(745
)
   
(498
)
   
49.6
%
Interest expense, net
 
$
(412
)
 
$
(469
)
   
(12.2
%)
                         
Other income, net
  $
1,393
    $
1,255
     
11.0
%
 
Interest expense, net, consists of interest incurred from outstanding short-term borrowings, offset by interest earned on net cash balances. Interest expense, net, decreased to $412,000 in 2019 from $469,000 in 2018, principally as a result of increased interest income earned from higher cash balances, partly offset by increased interest expenses incurred from higher short term bank loans.
 
Other income, net primarily reflects (a) gains or losses recognized from the effect of exchange rates on our foreign currency-denominated asset and liability balances and (b) depreciation of assets acquired with government subsidies, as described under “—Key Components of Results of Operations—PRC Government Research and Development Funding” above. Our other income was $1.4 million in 2019 due primarily to a weaker RMB to U.S. dollar exchange rate, compared to other income of $1.3 million in 2018 due to a weaker RMB to U.S. dollar exchange rate.
 
Income Tax Benefit (Expense)
 
The following presents components of income tax benefit (expense) for the indicated periods:
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
       
Current:
           
U.S. federal

$
   
$
-
 
U.S. state
  -
     
-
 
Foreign
   
(3,176
)
   
(1,149
)
Total current tax expense
   
(3,176
)
   
(1,149
)
Deferred:
               
U.S. federal
   
3,728
     
-
 
U.S. state
    -      
-
 
Foreign
   
(34
)
   
343
 
Total deferred tax benefit (expense)
   
3,694
     
343
 
Total income tax benefit (expense)
 
$
518
   
$
(806
)
 
As we collect and prepare necessary data, and interpret the Tax Act and any additional guidance issued by the U.S. Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and other standard-setting bodies, we may make adjustments to the provisional amounts. Those adjustments may materially affect our provision for income taxes and effective tax rate in the period in which the adjustments are made. There were no adjustments made in 2019.
 
Our effective tax rate differs from statutory rates of 21% for U.S. federal income tax purposes and 15% to 25% for PRC income tax purposes due to the effects of the valuation allowance and certain permanent differences as it pertains to book-tax differences in the value of client equity securities received for services. Our three PRC subsidiaries, ACM Shanghai, ACM Wuxi, and ACM Shengwei, are liable for PRC corporate income taxes at the rates of 15%, 25%, and 25%, respectively. Pursuant to the Corporate Income Tax Law of the PRC, our PRC subsidiaries generally would be liable for PRC corporate income taxes as a rate of 25%. According to Guoshuihan 2009 No. 203, an entity certified as an “advanced and new technology enterprise” is entitled to a preferential income tax rate of 15%. ACM Shanghai was certified as an “advanced and new technology enterprise” in 2012, in 2016, and again in 2018, with an effective period of three years.
 
We file income tax returns in the United States and state and foreign jurisdictions. Those federal, state and foreign income tax returns are under the statute of limitations subject to tax examinations for 2009 through 2016. To the extent we have tax attribute carryforwards, the tax years in which the attribute was generated may still be adjusted upon examination by the Internal Revenue Service or state or foreign tax authorities to the extent utilized in a future period.
 
Liquidity and Capital Resources
 
During 2019, we funded our technology development and operations principally through our beginning cash balance, application of net proceeds from a follow-on public offering of Class A common stock (see “—Recent Developments—Follow-on Public Offering” above), short-term borrowings by ACM Shanghai from local financial institutions, and cash flow from operating activities.
 
We believe our existing cash and cash equivalents, our cash flow from operating activities, and short-term bank borrowings by ACM Shanghai will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs for at least the next twelve months. We do not expect that our anticipated cash needs for the next twelve months will require our receipt of any PRC government subsidies. Our future working capital needs will depend on many factors, including the rate of our business and revenue growth, the payment schedules of our customers, and the timing of investment in our research and development as well as sales and marketing. To the extent our cash and cash equivalents, cash flow from operating activities and short-term bank borrowings are insufficient to fund our future activities in accordance with our strategic plan, we may determine to raise additional funds through public or private debt or equity financings or additional bank credit arrangements. We also may need to raise additional funds in the event we determine in the future to effect one or more acquisitions of businesses, technologies and products. If additional funding is necessary or desirable, we may not be able to obtain bank credit arrangements or to affect an equity or debt financing on terms acceptable to us or at all.
 
Sources of Funds
 
Cash Flow from Operating Activities. Our operations provided cash flow of $9.4 million in 2019. Our cash flow from operating activities is influenced by (a) the level of net income, (b) the amount of cash we invest in personnel and technology development to support anticipated future growth in our business, (c) increases in the number of customers using our products, and (d) the amount and timing of payments by customers.
 
Class A Common Stock. In August 2019 we received $26.4 million in net proceeds (after underwriting discounts and related expenses), from our sale, at a purchase price of $13.195 per share, of 2,053,572 shares of Class A common stock (including 267,857 shares sold pursuant to the underwriters’ exercise of an over-allotment option). During 2019, we received proceeds of $317,000 from sales of Class A common stock pursuant to option exercises.
 
ACM Shanghai Short-Term Loan Facilities. ACM Shanghai is a party to short-term borrowing with four banks, as follows:
 
Lender
 
Agreement Date
 
Maturity Date
 
Annual
Interest Rate
   
Maximum
Borrowing
Amount(1)
   
Amount Outstanding
at December 31, 2019
 
                 
(in thousands)
 
Bank of Shanghai Pudong Branch
 
February 2019
 
January 2020
   
5.22
%
 
RMB50,000
   
RMB35,292
 
                   
$
7,165
   
$
5,057
 
Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank
 
February 2019
 
January 2020
   
5.66
%
 
RMB20,000
   
RMB10,000
 
                   
$
2,866
   
$
1,433
 
Bank of Communications
 
January 2019
 
January 2020 - February 2020
   
5.66
%
 
RMB20,000
   
RMB20,000
 
                   
$
2,866
   
$
2,866
 
China Everbright Bank
 
February 2019
 
March 2020 - April 2020
   
4.94%-5.66
%
 
RMB50,000
   
RMB30,682
 
                   
$
7,165
   
$
4,397
 
 
 
 
 
 
         
RMB140,000
   
RMB95,974
 
                   
$
20,062
   
$
13,753
 

(1)
Converted from RMB to dollars as of December 31, 2019
 
All of the amounts owing under the line of credit with Bank of Shanghai Pudong Branch are guaranteed by David Wang, our Chief Executive Officer, President and Chair of the Board, and CleanChip Technologies Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of ACM Shanghai. All of the amounts owing under the line of credit with Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank are secured by accounts receivable and guaranteed by Dr. Wang. All of the amounts owing under the line of credit with China Everbright Bank are guaranteed by Dr. Wang.
 
Government Research and Development Grants. As described under “—Key Components of Results of Operations—PRC Government Research and Development Funding,” ACM Shanghai has received research and development grants from local and central PRC governmental authorities. ACM Shanghai received cash payments of $3.4 million related to such grants in 2019, as compared to received cash payments of $200,000 related to such grants in 2018. Not all grant amounts are received in the year in which a grant is awarded. Because of the nature and terms of the grants, the amounts and timing of payments under the grants are difficult to predict and vary from period to period. In addition, we expect to apply for additional grants when available in the future, but the grant application process can extend for a significant period of time and we cannot predict whether, or when, we will determine to apply for any such grants.
 
Working Capital. The following table sets forth selected working capital information:
 
   
December 31, 2019
 
   
(in thousands)
 
Cash and cash equivalents
 
$
58,261
 
Accounts receivable, less allowance for doubtful amounts
   
31,091
 
Inventory
   
44,796
 
Working capital
 
$
134,148
 

Our cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2019 were unrestricted and held for working capital purposes. ACM Shanghai, our only direct PRC subsidiary, is, however, subject to PRC restrictions on distributions to equity holders. We currently intend for ACM Shanghai to retain all available funds any future earnings for use in the operation of its business and do not anticipate its paying any cash dividends. We have not entered into, and do not expect to enter into, investments for trading or speculative purposes. Our accounts receivable balance fluctuates from period to period, which affects our cash flow from operating activities. Fluctuations vary depending on cash collections, client mix, and the timing of shipment and acceptance of our tools.
 
We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock. We intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings to support the operation of and to finance the growth and development of our business and do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future.
 
Uses of Funds
 
Capital Expenditures. We incurred $1.1 million in capital expenditures in 2019, versus $2.1 in million capital expenditures in 2018.
 
Partnership Agreement. On September 5, 2019, ACM Shanghai entered into a Partnership Agreement, or the Partnership Agreement, with five other limited partners and Beijing Shixi Qingliu Investment Co., Ltd., as general partner and manager, with respect to the formation of Hefei Shixi Chanheng Integrated Circuit Industry Venture Capital Fund Partnership (LP), a Chinese limited partnership based in Hefei, China, which we refer to as the Partnership. The Partnership was formed for the purposes of engaging in equity venture capital investments in strategic emerging and high-tech industries with a focus on the semiconductor industry, including integrated circuit companies engaged in design, materials, equipment, components, maintenance, packaging and testing, technical services, and technologies. Pursuant to the Partnership Agreement, on September 30, 2019 ACM Shanghai invested RMB 30,000,000 ($4.2 million as of September 30, 2019), which represented ten percent of the Partnership’s total subscribed capital.
 
Stock Repurchases. In August 2019, ACM Research entered into an equity purchase agreement under which it paid to certain directors, employees and SMC, in exchange for their surrender of an aggregate of 214,286 shares of Class A common stock and cancellation of options to acquire an aggregate of 53,571 shares of Class A common stock, a total of $3.5 million, which was based on a price of $13.195 per share. The repurchases were funded with proceeds ACM Research received from the exercise of the over-allotment option in connection with the follow-on public offering.
 
Effects of Inflation
 
Inflation and changing prices have not had a material effect on our business, and we do not expect that they will materially affect our business in the foreseeable future. Any impact of inflation on cost of revenue and operating expenses, especially employee compensation costs, may not be readily recoverable in the price of our product offerings.
 
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
 
As of December 31, 2019 and 2018, we did not have any significant off-balance sheet arrangements, as defined in Item 303(a)(4)(ii) of Regulation S-K of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
 
Emerging Growth Company Status
 
We are an “emerging growth company” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or JOBS Act, and may take advantage of provisions that reduce our reporting and other obligations from those otherwise generally applicable to public companies. We may take advantage of these provisions until the earliest of December 31, 2022 or such time that we have annual revenue greater than $1.0 billion, the market value of our capital stock held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million or we have issued more than $1.0 billion of non-convertible debt in a three-year period. We have chosen to take advantage of some of these provisions, and as a result we may not provide stockholders with all of the information that is provided by other public companies. We have, however, irrevocably elected not to avail ourselves, as would have been permitted by Section 107 of the JOBS Act, of the extended transition period provided in Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act of 1933 for complying with new or revised accounting standards, and we therefore will be subject to the same new or revised accounting standards as public companies that are not emerging growth companies.
 
Item 8.
Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
 
Page
Consolidated Financial Statements
67
 
 
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
68
 
 
Consolidated Balance Sheets as of December 31, 2019 and 2018
69
 
 
Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income for the Years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018
70
 
 
Consolidated Statements of Changes in Stockholders’ Equity for the Years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018
71
 
 
Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the Years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018
72
 
 
Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements
73


 
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
 
Shareholders and Board of Directors
ACM Research, Inc.
Fremont, California

Opinion on the Consolidated Financial Statements

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of ACM Research, Inc. and subsidiaries (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, the related consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive income, changes in stockholders’ equity, and cash flows for each of the two years in the period ended December 31, 2019, and the related notes (collectively referred to as the “consolidated financial statements”). In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company at December 31, 2019 and 2018, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the two years in the period ended December 31, 2019, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

Basis for Opinion

These consolidated financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Company’s consolidated financial statements based on our audits. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (“PCAOB”) and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the consolidated financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. The Company is not required to have, nor were we engaged to perform, an audit of its internal control over financial reporting. As part of our audits we are required to obtain an understanding of internal control over financial reporting but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting. Accordingly, we express no such opinion.

Our audits included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the consolidated financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the consolidated financial statements. Our audits also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the consolidated financial statements. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

BDO China Shu Lun Pan Certified Public Accountants LLP

We have served as the Company's auditor since 2015.

Shenzhen, The People’s Republic of China

March 24, 2020

ACM RESEARCH, INC.
Consolidated Balance Sheets
(In thousands, except per share data)

   
December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
Assets
           
Current assets:
           
Cash and cash equivalents
 
$
58,261
   
$
27,124
 
Restricted cash
   
59,598
     
-
 
Accounts receivable, less allowance for doubtful accounts of $0 as of December 31, 2019 and $0 as of December 31, 2018 (note 3)
   
31,091
     
24,608
 
Other receivables
   
2,603
     
3,547
 
Inventories (note 4)
   
44,796
     
38,764
 
Prepaid expenses
   
2,047
     
1,985
 
Total current assets
   
198,396
     
96,028
 
Property, plant and equipment, net (note 5)
   
3,619
     
3,708
 
Operating lease right-of-use assets, net (note 8)
   
3,887
     
-
 
Intangible assets, net
   
344
     
274
 
Deferred tax assets (note 15)
   
5,331
     
1,637
 
Long-term investments (note 10)
   
5,934
     
1,360
 
Other long-term assets
   
192
     
40
 
Total assets
   
217,703
     
103,047
 
Liabilities, Redeemable Non-controlling Interests and Stockholders’ Equity
               
Current liabilities:
               
Short-term borrowings (note 6)
   
13,753
     
9,447
 
Accounts payable
   
13,262
     
16,673
 
Advances from customers
   
9,129
     
8,417
 
Income taxes payable
   
3,129
     
1,193
 
Other payables and accrued expenses (note 7)
   
12,874
     
10,410
 
Current portion of operating lease liability (note 8)
   
1,355
     
-
 
Total current liabilities
   
53,502
     
46,140
 
Long-term operating lease liability (note 8)
   
2,532
     
-
 
Other long-term liabilities (note 9)
   
4,186
     
4,583
 
Total liabilities
   
60,220
     
50,723
 
Commitments and contingencies (note 17)
               
Redeemable non-controlling interests (note 13)
   
60,162
     
-
 
Stockholders’ equity:
               
Common stock – Class A, par value $0.0001: 50,000,000 shares authorized as of December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018; 16,182,151 shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2019 and 14,110,315 shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2018 (note 12)
   
2
     
1
 
Common stock–Class B, par value $0.0001: 2,409,738 shares authorized as of December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018; 1,862,608 shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2019 and 1,898,423 shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2018 (note 12)
   
-
     
-
 
Additional paid in capital
   
83,487
     
56,567
 
Accumulated surplus (deficit)
   
15,507
     
(3,387
)
Accumulated other comprehensive loss
   
(1,675
)
   
(857
)
Total stockholders’ equity
   
97,321
     
52,324
 
Total liabilities, redeemable non-controlling interests, and stockholders’ equity
 
$
217,703
   
$
103,047
 
 
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.
 
ACM RESEARCH, INC.
Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income
 
(In thousands, except per share data)

   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2019
   
2018
 
Revenue
 
$
107,524
   
$
74,643
 
Cost of revenue
   
56,870
     
40,194
 
Gross profit
   
50,654
     
34,449
 
Operating expenses:
               
Sales and marketing
   
11,902
     
9,611
 
Research and development
   
12,900
     
10,380
 
General and administrative
   
8,061
     
7,987
 
Total operating expenses, net
   
32,863
     
27,978
 
Income from operations
   
17,791
     
6,471
 
Interest income
   
333
     
29
 
Interest expense
   
(745
)
   
(498
)
Other income, net
   
1,393
     
1,255
 
Equity income in net income of affiliates
   
168
     
123
 
Income before income taxes
   
18,940
     
7,380
 
Income tax benefit (expense) (note 15)
   
518
     
(806
)
Net income
   
19,458
     
6,574
 
Less: Net income attributable to redeemable non-controlling interests
   
564
     
-
 
Net income attributable to ACM Research, Inc.
 
$
18,894
   
$
6,574
 
Comprehensive income:
               
Net income
   
19,458
     
6,574
 
Foreign currency translation adjustment
   
(899
)
   
(979
)
Comprehensive Income (note 2)
   
18,559
     
5,595
 
Less: Comprehensive income attributable to redeemable non-controlling interests
   
483
     
-
 
Comprehensive income attributable to ACM Research, Inc.
 
$
18,076
   
$
5,595
 
                 
Net income attributable to ACM Research, Inc. per common share (note 2):
               
Basic
 
$
1.12
   
$
0.42
 
Diluted
 
$
0.99
   
$
0.37
 
                 
Weighted average common shares outstanding used in computing per share amounts (note 2):
 
Basic
   
16,800,623
     
15,788,460
 
Diluted
   
19,135,497
     
17,912,105
 
 
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

ACM RESEARCH, INC.
Consolidated Statement of Changes in Stockholders’ Equity
(In thousands, except per share data)

   
Common
Stock Class A
   
Common
Stock Class B
                         
   
Shares
   
Amount
   
Shares
   
Amount
   
Additional Paid-
in Capital
   
Accumulated
Surplus
(Deficit)
   
Accumulated
Other
Comprehensive
Loss
   
Total
Stockholders’
Equity
 
Balance at December 31, 2017
   
12,935,546
   
$
1
     
2,409,738
   
$
-
     
49,695
   
$
(9,961
)
   
122
     
39,857
 
Net income attributable to ACM Research, Inc.
   
-
     
-
     
-
     
-
     
-
     
6,574
     
-
     
6,574
 
Foreign currency translation adjustment
   
-
     
-
     
-
     
-
     
-
     
-
     
(979
)
   
(979
)
Exercise of stock options