Risks related to our organization, structure and operation
Our future success depends on our ability to retain the members of our executive committee and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel. If we are not successful in attracting and retaining highly qualified personnel, we may not be able to successfully implement our business strategy. Attractive development and training programs, adequate remuneration and incentive schemes and a safe and healthy work environment mitigate this risk.
We expect that if we continue to build our development, medical and commercial organizations, we will require significant additional investment in personnel, management and resources. Our ability to achieve our research, development and commercialization objectives depends on our ability to respond effectively to these demands and expand our internal organization, systems, controls and facilities to accommodate additional anticipated growth. If we are unable to manage our growth effectively, our business could be harmed and our ability to execute our business strategy could suffer.
We are currently further building our marketing and sales organization. To the extent any of our product candidates for which we maintain commercial rights is approved for marketing, if we are unable to establish marketing and sales capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our product candidates, we may not be able to effectively market and sell any product candidates, or generate product revenues.
Our information technology systems could face serious disruptions that could adversely affect our business. Continuing an uninterrupted performance of our IT system is critical to the success of our business strategy and operations. A recovery plan for data has been implemented, as well as a system for interception of power failures. Fire walls and virus scanners provide an additional and adequate protection. Our personnel should adhere to continuity plans and procedures regarding access rights and installation of different programs. Business interruptions could delay us in the process of developing our product candidates. This risk has a high potential impact, but is mitigated by policies and procedures such as surveillance of the buildings, annual appraisals and bonuses, and monthly management meetings.
We have to comply with applicable data privacy laws, including the European General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which imposes strict obligations and restrictions on the collection and use of personal data. In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data. Many third party vendors that support our business processes also have access to and process sensitive information. Although we have taken preventative measures and set up procedures regarding data processing, data breaches, loss of data and unauthorized access could still occur. These could result in legal claims or proceedings, liability under laws that protect the privacy of personal information, including the GDPR, and significant regulatory penalties, disrupt our operations and damage our reputation.
Despite our efforts to monitor social media and comply with applicable rules, there is a risk that the use of social media by us or our employees to communicate about our drug candidates or business may cause us to be found in violation of applicable requirements. In addition, our employees may knowingly or inadvertently make use of social media in ways that may not comply with our social media policy or other legal or contractual requirements, which may give rise to liability, lead to the loss of trade secrets, or result in public exposure of sensitive information. Furthermore, negative posts or comments in social media could seriously damage our reputation, brand image, and goodwill.
We may undertake strategic acquisitions in the future and any difficulties from integrating such acquisitions could adversely affect our share price, operating results and results of operations. We may acquire companies, businesses and products that complement or augment our existing business. We may not be able to integrate any acquired business successfully or operate any acquired business profitably. Integrating any newly acquired business could be expensive and time-consuming. Integration efforts often take a significant amount of time, place a significant strain on managerial, operational and financial resources, result in loss of key personnel and could prove to be more difficult or expensive than we predict. As part of our efforts to acquire companies, business or product candidates or to enter into other significant transactions, we conduct business, legal and financial due diligence with the goal of identifying and evaluating material risks involved in the transaction. Despite our efforts, we ultimately may be unsuccessful in ascertaining or evaluating all such risks and, as a result, might not realize the intended advantages of the transaction.
Legal, political and economic uncertainty surrounding the planned exit of the U.K. from the European Union, or EU, may be a source of instability in international markets, create significant currency fluctuations, adversely affect our operations in the U.K. and pose additional risks to our business, revenue, financial condition, and results of operations.
If we are unable to use tax loss carryforwards to reduce future taxable income or benefit from favorable tax legislation, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected. We may incur unexpected tax charges, including penalties, due to the failure of tax planning or due to the challenge by tax authorities on the basis of transfer pricing. Any changes to Belgian and international taxation legislation or the interpretation of such legislation by tax authorities may influence our activities, financial situation and results. Such potential changes and their impact are monitored carefully by management and its advisors.
Being active in research and development in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, we have benefited from certain research and development incentives. If the Belgian and/or the French and/or the Dutch government decide to eliminate, or reduce the scope or the rate of, the research and development incentive benefit, either of which it could decide to do at any time, our results of operations could be adversely affected.
As a company active in research and development in Belgium, we also expect to benefit from the “innovation income deduction” in Belgium. The innovation income deduction regime allows net profits attributable to revenue from among others patented products (or products for which the patent application is pending) to be taxed at a lower effective rate than other revenues. The effective tax rate can thus be reduced up to 4.4% (3.75% as of 1 January 2020). At the end of 2019 we had €224.7 million of carryforward innovation income deduction in Belgium.
Our inability to qualify for the abovementioned advantageous tax regimes, as well as the introduction of the minimum taxable base and any other future adverse changes of Belgian tax legislation, may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We have received several technological innovation grants to date, to support various research programs from an agency of the Flemish government to support technological innovation in Flanders. In 2019 we have also received a grant from the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance. If we fail to comply with our contractual obligations under the applicable technological innovation grant agreements, we could be forced to repay all or part of the grants received.
We annually establish a detailed budget that is submitted to the board of directors for review and approval. Our performance compared to the budget is continuously monitored by our executive committee and is discussed with the board of directors at least once per quarter. For the establishment of our financial information, we have processes and methods in place that enable the preparation of consolidated financial statements for our annual and quarterly reporting. Our management reporting systems – which include an advanced integrated ERP system – secure the generation of consistent financial and operational information, allowing management to follow-up our performance on a daily basis.
Our business may be adversely affected as a result of computer system failures. We may suffer data leaks or become the target of cyber-attacks, as a result of which our financial assets, confidential information and/or intellectual property may be materially negatively impacted. We may not be able to successfully protect our computer systems against unauthorized access by third parties.
In order to successfully commercialize and market our products in the future, we may need to implement additional enterprise resource management systems, which is a complex process that may cause us to face delays. We may also need to implement computer systems, such as additional global enterprise research systems, or ERP systems, in which we have limited experience and which may prove a complex process that could cause delays in our commercialization process.
The occurrence of unforeseen or catastrophic events, including extreme weather events and other natural disasters, man-made disasters, or the emergence of epidemics, depending on their scale, may cause different degrees of damage to the national and local economies and could cause a disruption in our operations and have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Man-made disasters, pandemics, and other events connected with the regions in which we operate could have similar effects. For example, the impact of COVID-19 on our business is uncertain at this time and will depend on future developments, but prolonged closures may disrupt our operations and the operations of our agents, contractors, consultants or collaborators, which could negatively impact our business, results of operations and financial condition. Further, uncertainty around these and related issues could lead to adverse effects on the economy of the United States and other economies, which could impact our ability to develop and commercialize our products and raise capital going forward.