Our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected if any of the risks described below occur. As a result, the market price of our class A shares could decline, and you could lose all or part of your investment. This annual report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. See “Forward-Looking Statements.” Our actual results could differ materially and adversely from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, including the risks facing our company or investments in Latin America and the Caribbean described below and elsewhere in this annual report.
The spread of COVID-19 has materially and adversely affected our business, results of operations and cash flows, and may continue to do so.
Since mid-March 2020, the continued spread of COVID-19 has disrupted our operations in all of our markets. Several countries in which we operate have declared states of emergency and ordered their citizens to shelter in place in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. As of the date of this annual report, in certain markets, including Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Curaçao, we have closed all of our restaurants in accordance with government orders and restrictions. In other markets, such as Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Colombia, we have taken steps to limit operations based on government guidelines or our assessment of the operating environment. These steps have included reducing hours of operation, closing dining rooms and only operating the drive-thru and/or delivery segments. There has also been an increase in unemployment in several countries as businesses close, and we expect discretionary spending by consumers to decline accordingly. As a result of the foregoing, we have experienced a significant decline in sales at our restaurants since mid-March 2020, and expect to continue to see lower sales until such time as the pandemic is brought under control and consumer behavior normalizes. We may also be forced to lower prices in response to lower demand for our products, or we may see our supply chain disrupted as our suppliers experience disruption of their operations as a result of the pandemic. In some markets, we have also experienced difficulties obtaining gloves, masks and other protective equipment required to operate our restaurants during a pandemic. In addition to reduced sales, we have experienced other losses, such as food spoilage as a result of restaurant closures.
Moreover, our franchisees began having difficulty meeting rent payments to us during the month of April 2020. In certain markets, including Mexico and Panama, we deferred rent payments for our franchisees for 90 days. In other markets, we began renegotiating rental terms and may receive lower rental payments as a result of such negotiations. Our franchisees also owe us continuing franchise fees, which we in turn owe to McDonald’s under the MFAs. We are responsible for paying any ongoing franchise fees to McDonald’s regardless of whether our franchisees are able to pay us. McDonald’s has agreed to defer all franchise fee payments, whether they are related to company-operated or franchisee-operated restaurants, for March, April, May and June 2020 sales until 2021. If we are unable to pay such franchise fees when they are due, or we have further difficulty meeting our obligations in coming months and are unable to obtain a similar deferral, we will be in default under the MFAs.
While we cannot predict the duration or scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has negatively impacted our business and such impact could be material to our financial results, conditions and outlook. Consequently, we are taking measures to mitigate the potential effects on our Company from the pandemic by preserving cash and reducing our expenses, as well as capital expenditures and renegotiating terms and conditions with landlords and other suppliers. Also in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, in April 2020, we have agreed with McDonald’s to reduce the advertising and promotion spending requirement from 5% to 4% of our gross sales for the full year 2020.
Regarding our liquidity, as of March 31, 2020, we had drawn $136 million of short-term indebtedness, including $35 million from our committed revolving credit facilities and expect to continue to draw on our available lines as needed and until the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control. Any unavailability of such lines of credit may also negatively impact our liquidity. In addition, we are required to meet certain financial ratios under our revolving credit facilities. While we expect to be in compliance with such ratios in the first quarter of 2020, we likely will be unable to meet such ratios in subsequent quarters if current conditions persist or worsen and will need to seek an amendment to our facilities or waivers from our lenders. If we are unable to obtain waivers for such non-compliance, we will be in default under our lines of credit and revolving credit facilities. In such event, in the case of our revolving credit facilities, any amounts drawn under such facilities may be declared immediately due and payable by the relevant lender. In the case of the non-committed lines of credit, if we have previously drawn any amounts, then such amounts may be immediately due and payable to the relevant lender, subject to the terms of each non-committed line of credit.
As a result of this impact, beginning in the second quarter of 2020 we do not expect to meet certain quarterly financial ratios specified in the MFAs. Although we have requested a waiver from McDonald’s for these commitments for all of 2020, we cannot guarantee that McDonald’s will grant us that waiver, or that we will be able to meet our quarterly financial ratios or obtain additional waivers in the future once the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under control. In addition, we currently have certain letters of credit in place that guarantee our obligations under the MFAs. Although we do not have any amounts outstanding under them at this time, certain of our lenders may terminate these letters of credit if we do not meet certain ratios thereunder or if we are in default under our other indebtedness, among other reasons. Any termination of our letters of credit would also constitute a material breach of our obligations under the MFAs.
Moreover, the spread of COVID-19 has led to disruption and volatility in the financial markets, which is likely to increase our cost of capital and may make it more difficult for us to obtain additional financing. As a result of the foregoing, we have agreed with McDonald’s to withdraw our previously-approved 2020-2022 restaurant opening plan and reinvestment plan and we do not expect to finalize a revised 2020-2022 plan at least until the COVID-19 outbreak is under control. If we are unable to meet our commitments under a future plan and we are unable to reach an agreement on revised terms of the restaurant opening plan and reinvestment plan or are otherwise unable to obtain a waiver from McDonald’s, we will be in default under the terms of the MFAs. Moreover, any increase in the cost of capital may negatively impact our other capital expenditure projects in process in 2020.
If the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic become other than temporary, we may also need to consider it as an indicator of impairment in future quarters, which could further negatively impact our financial condition.
The duration and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak cannot be predicted at this time, and we expect to continue to experience these significant disruptions until the outbreak is brought under control.
Our rights to operate and franchise McDonald’s-branded restaurants are dependent on the MFAs, the expiration of which would adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our rights to operate and franchise McDonald’s-branded restaurants in the Territories, and therefore our ability to conduct our business, derive exclusively from the rights granted to us by McDonald’s in two MFAs through 2027. As a result, our ability to continue operating in our current capacity is dependent on the renewal of our contractual relationship with McDonald’s.
McDonald’s has the right, in its reasonable business judgment based on our satisfaction of certain criteria set forth in the MFAs, to grant us an option to extend the term of the MFAs with respect to all Territories for an additional period of 10 years after the expiration in 2027 of the initial term of the MFAs upon such terms as McDonald’s may determine. Pursuant to the MFAs, McDonald’s will determine whether to grant us the option to renew between August 2020 and August 2024. If McDonald’s grants us the option to renew and we elect to exercise the option, then we and McDonald’s will amend the MFAs to reflect the terms of such renewal option, as appropriate. We cannot assure you that McDonald’s will grant us an option to extend the term of the MFAs or that the terms of any renewal option will be acceptable to us, will be similar to those contained in the MFAs or will not be less favorable to us than those contained in the MFAs.
If McDonald’s elects not to grant us the renewal option or we elect not to exercise the renewal option, we will have a three-year period in which to solicit offers for our business, which offers would be subject to McDonald’s approval. Upon the expiration of the MFAs, McDonald’s has the option to acquire all of our non-public shares and all of the equity interests of our wholly owned subsidiary Arcos Dourados Comercio de Alimentos Ltda., the master franchisee of McDonald’s for Brazil, at their fair market value.
In the event McDonald’s does not exercise its option to acquire LatAm, LLC and Arcos Dourados Comercio de Alimentos Ltda., the MFAs would expire and we would be required to cease operating McDonald’s-branded restaurants, identifying our business with McDonald’s and using any of McDonald’s intellectual property. Although we would retain our real estate and infrastructure, the MFAs prohibit us from engaging in certain competitive businesses, including Burger King, Subway, KFC or any other quick-service restaurant, or QSR, business, or duplicating the McDonald’s system at another restaurant or business during the two-year period following the expiration of the MFAs. As the McDonald’s brand and our relationship with McDonald’s are among our primary competitive strengths, the expiration of the MFAs for any of the reasons described above would materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our business depends on our relationship with McDonald’s and changes in this relationship may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our rights to operate and franchise McDonald’s-branded restaurants in the Territories, and therefore our ability to conduct our business, derive exclusively from the rights granted to us by McDonald’s in the MFAs. As a result, our revenues are dependent on the continued existence of our contractual relationship with McDonald’s.
Pursuant to the MFAs, McDonald’s has the ability to exercise substantial influence over the conduct of our business. For example, under the MFAs, we are not permitted to operate any other QSR chains, we must comply with McDonald’s high quality standards, we must own and operate at least 50% of all McDonald’s-branded restaurants in each of the Territories, we must maintain certain guarantees in favor of McDonald’s, including a standby letter of credit (or other similar financial guarantee acceptable to McDonald’s) in an amount of $80.0 million, to secure our payment obligations under the MFAs and related credit documents, we cannot incur debt above certain financial ratios, we cannot transfer the equity interests of our subsidiaries, any significant portion of their assets or certain of the real estate properties that we own without McDonald’s consent, and McDonald’s has the right to approve the appointment of our chief executive officer and chief operating officer. In addition, the MFAs require us to reinvest a significant amount of money, including through reimaging our existing restaurants, opening new restaurants and advertising, which plans McDonald’s has the right to approve. As a result of the business disruptions caused by COVID-19 outbreak, we have agreed with McDonald’s to withdraw our previously-approved 2020-2022 restaurant opening plan and reinvestment plan and we do not expect to finalize a revised 2020-2022 plan at least until the COVID-19 outbreak is under control. Also in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, in April 2020, we have agreed with McDonald’s to reduce the advertising and promotion spending requirement from 5% to 4% of our gross sales for the full year 2020. In addition to using our cash flow from operations, we may need to incur additional indebtedness in order to finance future commitments, which could adversely affect our financial condition. Moreover, we may not be able to obtain this additional indebtedness on favorable terms, or at all. Failure to comply with our future commitments could constitute a material breach of the MFAs and may lead to a termination by McDonald’s of the MFAs. McDonald’s Corporation had also previously agreed to provide growth support, which we planned to use to support our restaurant opening plan and reinvestment plan for the 2020-2022 period. Until we are able to finalize a revised 2020-2022 restaurant opening plan and reinvestment plan, we can make no assurances related to receiving growth support for 2020-2022.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, McDonald’s has no obligation to fund our operations. In addition, McDonald’s does not guarantee any of our financial obligations, including trade payables or outstanding indebtedness, and has no obligation to do so.
If the terms of the MFAs excessively restrict our ability to operate our business or if we are unable to satisfy our restaurant opening and reinvestment commitments under the MFAs, our business, results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected.
McDonald’s has the right to acquire all or portions of our business upon the occurrence of certain events and, in the case of a material breach of the MFAs, may acquire our non-public shares or our interests in one or more Territories at 80% of their fair market value.
Pursuant to the MFAs, McDonald’s has the right to acquire our non-public shares or our interests in one or more Territories upon the occurrence of certain events, including the death or permanent incapacity of our controlling shareholder or a material breach of the MFAs. In the event McDonald’s were to exercise its right to acquire all of our non-public shares, McDonald’s would become our controlling shareholder.
McDonald’s has the option to acquire all, but not less than all, of our non-public shares at 100% of their fair market value during the twelve-month period following the eighteen-month anniversary of the death or permanent incapacity of Mr. Woods Staton, our Executive Chairman and controlling shareholder. In addition, if there is a material breach that relates to one or more Territories in which there are at least 100 restaurants in operation, McDonald’s has the right either to acquire all of our non-public shares or our interests in our subsidiaries in such Territory or Territories. By contrast, if the initial material breach of the MFAs affects or is attributable to any of the Territories in which there are less than 100 restaurants in operation, McDonald’s only has the right to acquire the equity interests of any of our subsidiaries in the relevant Territory. For example, since we have more than 100 restaurants in Mexico, if a Mexican subsidiary were to materially breach the MFA, McDonald’s would have the right either to acquire our entire business throughout Latin America and the Caribbean or just our Mexican operations, whereas upon a similar breach by our Ecuadorean subsidiary, which has less than 100 restaurants in operation, McDonald’s would only have the right to acquire our interests in our operations in Ecuador.
McDonald’s was granted a perfected security interest in the equity interests of LatAm, LLC, Arcos Dourados Comercio de Alimentos Ltda. and certain of their subsidiaries to protect this right. In the event this right is exercised as a result of a material breach of the MFAs, the amount to be paid by McDonald’s would be equal to 80% of the fair market value of the acquired equity interests. If McDonald’s exercises its right to acquire our interests in one or more Territories as a result of a material breach, our business, results of operations and financial condition would be materially and adversely affected. See “Item 10. Additional Information—C. Material Contracts—The MFAs—Termination” for more details about fair market value calculation.
The failure to successfully manage our future growth may adversely affect our results of operations.
Our business has grown significantly since the Acquisition, largely due to the opening of new restaurants in existing and new markets within the Territories, and also from an increase in comparable store sales. Our total number of restaurant locations has increased from 1,569 at the date of the Acquisition to 2,293 restaurants as of December 31, 2019.
Our growth is, to a certain extent, dependent on new restaurant openings and therefore may not be constant from period to period; it may accelerate or decelerate in response to certain factors. There are many obstacles to opening new restaurants, including determining the availability of desirable locations, securing reliable suppliers, hiring and training new personnel and negotiating acceptable lease terms, and, in times of adverse economic conditions, franchisees may be more reluctant to provide the investment required to open new restaurants. In addition, our growth in comparable store sales is dependent on continued economic growth in the countries in which we operate as well as our ability to continue to predict and satisfy changing consumer preferences. In particular, we expect both new restaurant openings and growth in comparable store sales to be negatively affected as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. See “—The spread of COVID-19 has materially and adversely affected our business, results of operations and cash flows, and may continue to do so.”
We plan our capital expenditures on an annual basis, taking into account historical information, regional economic trends, restaurant opening and reimaging plans, site availability and the investment requirements of the MFAs in order to maximize our returns on invested capital. The success of our investment plan may, however, be harmed by factors outside our control, such as changes in macroeconomic conditions, including as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, changes in demand and construction difficulties that could jeopardize our investment returns and our future results and financial condition.
We depend on oral agreements with third-party suppliers and distributors for the provision of products that are necessary for our operations.
Supply chain management is an important element of our success and a crucial factor in optimizing our profitability. We use McDonald’s centralized supply chain management model, which relies on approved third-party suppliers and distributors for goods, and we generally use several suppliers to satisfy our needs for goods. This system encompasses selecting and developing suppliers of core products—beef, chicken, buns, produce, cheese, dairy mixes, beverages and toppings—who are able to comply with McDonald’s high quality standards and establishing sustainable relationships with these suppliers. McDonald’s standards include cleanliness, product consistency and timeliness as well as commitments to follow internationally recognized manufacturing practices, to meet or exceed all local food regulations and to comply with our Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plan, a systematic approach to food safety that emphasizes protection within the processing facility, rather than detection, through analysis, inspection and follow-up.
Our 35 largest suppliers account for approximately 78% of our purchases excluding Venezuela. Very few of our suppliers have entered into written contracts with us as we only have pricing protocols with a vast majority of them. Our supplier approval process is thorough and lengthy in order to ensure compliance with McDonald’s high quality standards. We therefore tend to develop strong relationships with approved suppliers and, given our importance to them, have found that pricing protocols with them are generally enough to ensure a reliable supply of quality products. While we source our supplies from many approved suppliers in Latin America and the Caribbean, thereby reducing our dependence on any one supplier, the informal nature of the majority of our relationships with suppliers means that we may not be assured of long-term or reliable supplies of products from those suppliers.
In addition, certain supplies, such as beef, must often be locally sourced due to restrictions on their importation. In light of these restrictions, as well as the MFAs’ requirement to purchase certain core supplies from approved suppliers, we may not be able to quickly find alternate or additional supplies in the event a supplier is unable to meet our orders.
If our suppliers fail to provide us with products in a timely manner due to unanticipated demand, production or distribution problems, financial distress or shortages, if our suppliers decide to terminate their relationship with us or if McDonald’s determines that any product or service offered by an approved supplier is not in compliance with its standards and we are obligated to terminate our relationship with such supplier, we may have difficulty finding appropriate or compliant replacement suppliers. As a result, we may face inventory shortages that could negatively affect our operations.
Our financial condition and results of operations depend, to a certain extent, on the financial condition of our franchisees and their ability to fulfill their obligations under their franchise agreements.
As of December 31, 2019, 31.1% of our restaurants were franchised. Under our franchise agreements, we receive monthly payments which are, in most cases, the greater of a fixed rent or a certain percentage of the franchisee’s gross sales. Franchisees are independent operators with whom we have franchise agreements. We typically own or lease the real estate upon which franchisees’ restaurants are located and franchisees are required to follow our operating manual that specifies items such as menu choices, permitted advertising, equipment, food handling procedures, product quality and approved suppliers. Our operating results depend to a certain extent on the restaurant profitability and financial viability of our franchisees. The concurrent failure by a significant number of franchisees to meet their financial obligations to us could jeopardize our ability to meet our obligations. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect many of our franchisees to have difficulty meeting their financial obligations to us. We are also deferring rent payments for 90 days in certain of our markets and are in the process of renegotiating rental terms in other markets as a result of the pandemic. See “—The spread of COVID-19 has materially and adversely affected our business, results of operations and cash flows, and may continue to do so.”
We are liable for our franchisees’ monthly payment of a continuing franchise fee to McDonald’s, which represents a percentage of those franchised restaurants’ gross sales. To the extent that our franchisees fail to pay this fee in full, we are responsible for any shortfall. As such, the concurrent failure by a significant number of franchisees to pay their continuing franchise fees could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
We do not have full operational control over the businesses of our franchisees.
We are dependent on franchisees to maintain McDonald’s quality, service and cleanliness standards, and their failure to do so could materially affect the McDonald’s brand and harm our future growth. Although we exercise significant influence over franchisees through the franchise agreements, franchisees have some flexibility in their operations, including the ability to set prices for our products in their restaurants, hire employees and select certain service providers. In addition, it is possible that some franchisees may not operate their restaurants in accordance with our quality, service, cleanliness, health or product standards. Although we take corrective measures if franchisees fail to maintain McDonald’s quality, service and cleanliness standards, we may not be able to identify and rectify problems with sufficient speed and, as a result, our image and operating results may be negatively affected.
Ownership and leasing of a broad portfolio of real estate exposes us to potential losses and liabilities.
As of December 31, 2019, we owned the land for 494 of our 2,293 restaurants and the buildings for all but 11 of our restaurants. The value of these assets could decrease or rental costs could increase due to changes in local demographics, the investment climate and increases in taxes.
The majority of our restaurant locations, or those operated by our franchisees, are subject to long-term leases. We may not be able to renew leases on acceptable terms or at all, in which case we would have to find new locations to lease or be forced to close the restaurants. If we are able to negotiate a new lease at an existing location, we may be subject to a rent increase. In addition, current restaurant locations may become unattractive due to changes in neighborhood demographics or economic conditions, which may result in reduced sales at these locations.
The success of our business is dependent on the effectiveness of our marketing strategy.
Market awareness is essential to our continued growth and financial success. Pursuant to the MFAs, we create, develop and coordinate marketing plans and promotional activities throughout the Territories, and franchisees contribute a percentage of their gross sales to our marketing plan. In addition, we are required under the MFAs to spend at least 5% of our sales on advertising and promotional activities in the majority of our markets. In connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, in April 2020, we have agreed with McDonald’s to reduce this spending requirement from 5% to 4% of our gross sales for the full year 2020. Pursuant to the MFAs, McDonald’s has the right to review and approve our marketing plans in advance and may request that we cease using the materials or promotional activities at any time if McDonald’s determines that they are detrimental to its brand image. We also participate in global and regional marketing activities undertaken by McDonald’s and pay McDonald’s approximately 0.1% of our sales in order to fund such activities.
If our advertising programs are not effective, or if our competitors begin spending significantly more on advertising than we do, we may be unable to attract new customers or existing customers may not return to our restaurants and our operating results may be negatively affected.
We use non-committed lines of credit to partially finance our working capital needs.
We use non-committed lines of credit to partially finance our working capital needs. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruption in regional and global economic activity, as of March 31, 2020, we had drawn $101 million of short-term indebtedness from these lines of credit, and we expect to continue to draw on our available lines as needed and until the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control. Given the nature of these lines of credit, they could be withdrawn and no longer be available to us, or their terms, including the interest rate, could change to make the terms no longer acceptable to us. The availability of these lines of credit depends on the level of liquidity in financial markets, which can vary based on events outside of our control, including financial or credit crises. Any inability to draw upon our non-committed lines of credit could have an adverse effect on our working capital, financial condition and results of operations.
Covenants and events of default in the agreements governing our outstanding indebtedness could limit our ability to undertake certain types of transactions and adversely affect our liquidity.
As of December 31, 2019, we had $595.8 million in total outstanding indebtedness, consisting of $626.8 million in long-term debt, $13.3 million in short-term debt and $(44.3) million related to the fair market value net of our outstanding derivative instruments. The agreements governing our outstanding indebtedness contain covenants and events of default that may limit our financial flexibility and ability to undertake certain types of transactions. For instance, we are subject to negative covenants that restrict some of our activities, including restrictions on:
If we fail to satisfy the covenants set forth in these agreements or another event of default occurs under the agreements, our outstanding indebtedness under the agreements could become immediately due and payable. In addition, we are required to meet certain financial ratios under our line of credit and revolving credit facilities. While we expect to be in compliance with such ratios in the first quarter of 2020, we likely will be unable to meet such ratios in subsequent quarters if current conditions persist or worsen and will need to seek an amendment to our facilities or waivers from our lenders. If we are unable to obtain waivers for such non-compliance, we will be in default under our line of credit and revolving credit facilities. In the case of our revolving credit facilities, any amounts drawn under such facilities may be declared to be immediately due and payable by the relevant lender, who may also terminate its obligation to provide loans under such agreements. In the case of our line of credit, if we have previously drawn any amount under its terms, then, such amounts shall be immediately due and payable by the relevant lender. If our outstanding indebtedness becomes immediately due and payable and we do not have sufficient cash on hand to pay all amounts due, we could be required to sell assets, to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness or to obtain additional financing. Refinancing may not be possible and additional financing may not be available on commercially acceptable terms, or at all.
Uncertainty relating to the calculation of LIBOR and other reference rates and their potential discontinuance may materially adversely affect the value of our indebtedness and as a result our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
As of December 31, 2019, we had $2.5 million outstanding indebtedness with third parties pursuant to our revolving credit facilities, which are tied to LIBOR. In recent years, national and international regulators and law enforcement agencies have conducted investigations into a number of rates or indices, such as LIBOR, which are deemed to be “reference rates.” Actions by such regulators and law enforcement agencies may result in changes to the manner in which certain reference rates are determined, their discontinuance, or the establishment of alternative reference rates. In particular, on July 27, 2017, the Chief Executive of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (the “FCA”), which regulates LIBOR, announced that the FCA will no longer persuade or compel banks to submit rates for the calculation of LIBOR after 2021. Such announcement indicates that the continuation of LIBOR on the current basis cannot and will not be guaranteed after 2021. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it appears highly likely that LIBOR will be discontinued or modified by 2021.
At this time, it is not possible to predict the effect that these developments, any discontinuance, modification or other reforms to LIBOR or any other reference rate, or the establishment of alternative reference rates may have on LIBOR, other benchmarks or floating rate debt securities, including the floating rate notes. Uncertainty as to the nature of such potential discontinuance, modification, alternative reference rates or other reforms may materially adversely affect the value of certain of our credit agreements that are tied to LIBOR. Furthermore, the use of alternative reference rates or other reforms could cause the interest rate calculated for such indebtedness to be materially different than expected. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our inability to attract and retain qualified personnel may affect our growth and results of operations.
We have a strong management team with broad experience in human resources, product development, supply chain management, operations, finance, marketing, real estate development and training. Our growth plans place substantial demands on our management team, and future growth could increase those demands. In addition, pursuant to the MFAs, McDonald’s is entitled to approve the appointment of our chief executive officer and chief operating officer. Our ability to manage future growth will depend on the adequacy of our resources and our ability to continue to identify, attract and retain qualified personnel. Failure to do so could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Also, the success of our operations depends in part on our ability to attract and retain qualified regional and restaurant managers and general staff. If we are unable to recruit and retain our employees, or fail to motivate them to provide quality food and service, our image, operations and growth could be adversely affected.
The resignation, termination, permanent incapacity or death of our Executive Chairman could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Due to Mr. Woods Staton’s unique experience and leadership capabilities, it would be difficult to find a suitable successor for him if he were to cease serving as Executive Chairman for any reason. In the event of Mr. Woods Staton’s death or permanent incapacity, pursuant to the MFA, McDonald’s has the right to acquire all of our non-public shares during the twelve-month period beginning on the eighteen-month anniversary of his death or incapacity.
In addition, in the event that we need to appoint a new CEO, pursuant to the MFA, we must submit to McDonald’s the name of such proposed successor for McDonald’s approval. If we and McDonald’s have not agreed upon a successor CEO after six months, McDonald’s may designate a temporary CEO in its sole discretion pending our submission of information relating to a further candidate and McDonald’s approval of that candidate. A delay in finding a suitable successor CEO could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Labor shortages or increased labor costs could harm our results of operations.
Our operations depend in part on our ability to attract and retain qualified restaurant managers and crew. While the turnover rate varies significantly among categories of employees, due to the nature of our business we traditionally experience a high rate of turnover among our crew and we may not be able to replace departing crew with equally qualified or motivated staff.
As of December 31, 2019, we had 80,855 employees in our Company-operated restaurants and staff. Controlling labor costs is critical to our results of operations, and we closely monitor those costs. Some of our employees are paid minimum wages; any increases in minimum wages or changes to labor regulations in the Territories could increase our labor costs. For example, during 2019, Venezuela implemented three increases in the minimum wage. In addition, in December 2019, the government of Argentina enacted a decree establishing that employees dismissed without cause in the following six months are entitled to double indemnification from employers in an effort to mitigate the impact of economic difficulties facing the country at the time, and in April 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the government prohibited dismissals with or without cause under the argument of force majeure or lack of/reduction of work not imputable to the employer until June 30, 2020 (this last cause also applies for temporary suspensions). These or similar regulations, if adopted, may have an adverse impact on our results of operations. Competition for employees could also cause us to pay higher wages.
We are also impacted by the costs and other effects of compliance with regulations affecting our workforce. These regulations are increasingly focused on employment issues, including wage and hour, healthcare, employee safety and other employee benefits and workplace practices. Claims of non-compliance with these regulations could result in liability and expense to us. Our potential exposure to reputational and other harm regarding our workplace practices or conditions or those of our franchisees or suppliers, including those giving rise to claims of sexual harassment or discrimination (or perceptions thereof) could have a negative impact on consumer perceptions of us and our business. In 2019, two of our restaurant employees in Peru died in a workplace accident at one of our restaurants. This accident is under investigation by Peruvian authorities, and while we do not expect a material impact from this event, any future workplace accidents could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Some of our employees are represented by unions and are working under agreements that are subject to annual salary negotiations. We cannot guarantee the results of any such collective bargaining negotiations or whether any such negotiations will result in a work stoppage. In addition, employees may strike for reasons unrelated to our union arrangements. Any future work stoppage could, depending on the affected operations and the length of the work stoppage, have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows.
A failure by McDonald’s to protect its intellectual property rights, including its brand image, could harm our results of operations.
The profitability of our business depends in part on consumers’ perception of the strength of the McDonald’s brand. Under the terms of the MFAs, we are required to assist McDonald’s with protecting its intellectual property rights in the Territories. Nevertheless, any failure by McDonald’s to protect its proprietary rights in the Territories or elsewhere could harm its brand image, which could affect our competitive position and our results of operations.
Under the MFAs, we may use, and grant rights to franchisees to use, McDonald’s intellectual property in connection with the development, operation, promotion, marketing and management of our restaurants. McDonald’s has reserved the right to use, or grant licenses to use, its intellectual property in Latin America and the Caribbean for all other purposes, including to sell, promote or license the sale of products using its intellectual property. If we or McDonald’s fail to identify unauthorized filings of McDonald’s trademarks and imitations thereof, and we or McDonald’s do not adequately protect McDonald’s trademarks and copyrights, the infringement of McDonald’s intellectual property rights by others may cause harm to McDonald’s brand image and decrease our sales.
Non-compliance with anti-terrorism and anti-corruption regulations could harm our reputation and have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
A material breach under the MFAs would occur if we, or our subsidiaries that are a party to the MFAs, materially breached any of the representations or warranties or obligations under the MFAs (not cured within 30 days after receipt of notice thereof from McDonald’s) relating to or otherwise in connection with any aspect of the master franchise business, the franchised restaurants or any other matter in or affecting any one or more Territories, including by failing to comply with anti-terrorism or anti-corruption policies and procedures required by applicable law.
We maintain policies and procedures that require our employees to comply with anti-corruption laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (the “FCPA”), and our corporate standards of ethical conduct. However, we cannot ensure that these policies and procedures will always protect us from intentional, reckless or negligent acts committed by our employees or agents. If we are not in compliance with the FCPA and other applicable anti-corruption laws, we may be subject to criminal and civil penalties and other remedial measures, which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. Any investigation of any potential violations of the FCPA or other anti-corruption laws by U.S. or other governmental authorities could adversely impact our reputation, cause us to lose or become disqualified from bids, and lead to other adverse impacts on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any tax increase or change in tax legislation may adversely affect our results of operations.
Since we conduct our business in many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, we are subject to the application of multiple tax laws and multinational tax conventions. Our effective tax rate therefore depends on these tax laws and multinational tax conventions, as well as on the effectiveness of our tax planning abilities. Our income tax position and effective tax rate are subject to uncertainty as our income tax position for each year depends on the profitability of Company-operated restaurants and on the profitability of franchised restaurants operated by our franchisees in tax jurisdictions that levy income tax at a broad range of rates. It is also dependent on changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, the impact of various accounting rules, changes to these rules and tax laws and examinations by various tax authorities. If our actual tax rate differs significantly from our estimated tax rate, this could have a material impact on our financial condition. In addition, any increase in the rates of taxes, such as income taxes, excise taxes, value added taxes, import and export duties, and tariff barriers or enhanced economic protectionism could negatively affect our business. Fiscal measures that target either QSRs or any of our products could also be taken.
We cannot assure you that any governmental authority in any country in which we operate will not increase taxes or impose new taxes on our operations or products in the future.
Tax assessments in any of the jurisdictions in which we operate may negatively affect our business and results of operations.
As part of the ordinary course of business, we are subject to inspections by federal, municipal and state tax authorities in Latin America. These inspections may generate tax assessments which, depending on their results, may have an adverse effect on our financial results. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.”
Litigation and other pressure tactics could expose our business to financial and reputational risk.
Given that we conduct our business in many countries, we may be subject to multi-jurisdictional private and governmental lawsuits, including but not limited to lawsuits relating to labor and employment practices, taxes, trade and business practices, franchising, intellectual property, consumer, real property, landlord/tenant, environmental, advertising, nutrition and antitrust matters. In the past, QSR chains have been subject to class-action lawsuits claiming that their food products and promotional strategies have contributed to the obesity of some customers. We cannot guarantee that we will not be subject to these or similar types of lawsuits in the future. We may also be the target of pressure tactics such as strikes, boycotts and negative publicity from government officials, suppliers, distributors, employees, unions, special interest groups and customers that may negatively affect our reputation.
Information technology system failures or interruptions or breaches of our network security may interrupt our operations, exposing us to increased operating costs and to litigation.
We rely heavily on our computer systems and network infrastructure across our operations including, but not limited to, point-of-sale processing at our restaurants. We implement security measures and controls that we believe provide reasonable assurance regarding our security posture. However, there remains the risk that our technology systems are vulnerable to damage, disability or failures due to physical theft, fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or other catastrophic events. If those systems were to fail or otherwise be unavailable, and we were unable to recover in a timely way, we could experience an interruption in our operations. Moreover, security breaches involving our systems may occur from time to time. These include internal and external security breaches, denial of service attacks, viruses, worms and other disruptive problems caused by hackers. Our information technology systems contain personal, financial and other information that is entrusted to us by our customers, our employees and other third parties, as well as financial, proprietary and other confidential information related to our business. For example, on September 20, 2019 a journalist gained access to sensitive employee and partner information in Brazil due to a misconfigured service system provided by one of Arcos’ service providers. Our IT team discovered and resolved the breach in a matter of hours in conjunction with the service provider and we engaged a well-known consultancy firm to help us perform an investigation of the breach and its ramifications. While our investigation determined that the impact of the breach was low, we cannot assure you that we will not experience similar security breaches in the future. Moreover, our increasing reliance on third party systems also present the risks faced by the third party’s business, including the operational, security and credit risks of those parties. An actual or alleged security breach of our or their systems could result in disruptions, shutdowns, theft or unauthorized disclosure of personal, financial, proprietary or other confidential information. The occurrence of any of these incidents could result in reputational damage, adverse publicity, loss of consumer confidence, reduced sales and profits, complications in executing our growth initiatives and criminal penalties or civil liabilities.
Our insurance may not be sufficient to cover certain losses.
We face the risk of loss or damage to our properties, machinery and inventories due to fire, theft and natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. While our insurance policies cover some losses in respect of damage or loss of our properties, machinery and inventories, our insurance may not be sufficient to cover all such potential losses. For example, we suffered losses in connection with a truck drivers’ strike in Brazil in 2018, which disrupted our supply chain that were not covered by our insurance policies. We also do not expect our insurance to cover losses due to lower sales as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the event that any losses exceed our insurance coverage or are not covered by our insurance policies, we will be liable for the excess. In addition, even if such losses are fully covered by our insurance policies, such fire, theft or natural disaster may cause disruptions or cessations in its operations and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
The food services industry is intensely competitive and we may not be able to continue to compete successfully.
Although competitive conditions in the QSR industry vary in each of the countries in which we conduct our operations, we compete with many well-established restaurant companies on price, brand image, quality, sales promotions, new product development and restaurant locations. Since the restaurant industry has few barriers to entry, our competitors are diverse and range from national and international restaurant chains to individual, local restaurant operators. Our largest competitors include Burger King, Yum! Brands (which operates KFC restaurants, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and Pizza Hut Express restaurants), Carl’s Junior and Subway. In Brazil, we also compete with Habib’s, a Brazilian QSR chain that focuses on Middle Eastern food, and Bob’s, a primarily Brazilian QSR chain that focuses on hamburger product offerings. We also face strong competition from new businesses targeting the same clients we serve, as well as from street vendors of limited product offerings, including hamburgers, hot dogs, pizzas and other local food items. We expect competition to increase as our competitors continue to expand their operations, introduce new products and market their brands.
If any of our competitors offers products that are better priced or more appealing to the tastes of consumers, increases its number of restaurants, obtains more desirable restaurant locations, provides more attractive financial incentives to management personnel, franchisees or hourly employees or has more effective marketing initiatives than we do in any of the markets in which we operate, this could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Increases in commodity prices or other operating costs could harm our operating results.
Food and paper costs represented 35.8% of our total sales by Company-operated restaurants in 2019, and 21.5% of our food and paper raw materials cost is exposed to fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. We rely on, among other commodities, beef, chicken, produce, dairy mixes, beverages and toppings. The cost of food and supplies depends on several factors, including global supply and demand, new product offerings, weather conditions, fluctuations in energy costs and tax incentives, all of which makes us susceptible to substantial price and currency fluctuations and other increased operating costs. Our hedging strategies on the imported portion of our food and paper raw materials may not be successful in fully offsetting cost increases due to currency fluctuations. Furthermore, due to the competitive nature of the restaurant industry, we may be unable to pass increased operating costs on to our customers, which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
Demand for our products may decrease due to changes in consumer preferences or other factors.
Our competitive position depends on our continued ability to offer items that have a strong appeal to consumers. If consumer dining preferences change due to shifts in consumer demographics, dietary inclinations, trends in food sourcing or food preparation and our consumers begin to seek out alternative restaurant options, our financial results might be adversely affected. In addition, negative publicity surrounding our products could also materially affect our business and results of operations.
Our success in responding to consumer demands depends in part on our ability to anticipate consumer preferences and introduce new items to address these preferences in a timely fashion.
Our investments to enhance the customer experience, including through technology, may not generate the expected returns.
We are engaged in various efforts to improve our customers’ experience in our restaurants. In particular, in partnership with McDonald’s, we have invested in Experience of the Future (“EOTF”), which focuses on restaurant modernization and technology and digital engagement in order to transform the restaurant experience. As we accelerate our pace of converting restaurants to EOTF, we are placing renewed emphasis on improving our service model and strengthening relationships with customers, in part through digital channels and loyalty initiatives and payment systems.
We have also started a digital transformation with the goal of increasing our engagement with our customers and using data in order to improve our decision-making. In order to accomplish this goal, we are making structural changes in our IT, including creating a “digital factory” to facilitate collaboration across groups within Arcos Dorados and adopting agile methodologies and principals to aid different groups in transforming products and services and the customer experience, or in otherwise achieving a specific business objective. We may not fully realize the intended benefits of these significant investments, or these initiatives may not be well executed, and therefore our business results may suffer.
Our business activity may be negatively affected by disruptions, catastrophic events or health pandemics.
Unpredictable events beyond our control, including war, terrorist activities, political and social unrest and natural disasters, could disrupt our operations and those of our franchisees, suppliers or customers, have a negative effect on consumer spending or result in political or economic instability. These events could reduce demand for our products or make it difficult to ensure the regular supply of products through our distribution chain.
In addition, incidents of health pandemics, food-borne illnesses or food tampering could reduce sales in our restaurants. Widespread illnesses such as avian influenza, the H1N1 influenza virus, e-coli, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or “mad cow” disease), hepatitis A or salmonella could cause customers to avoid meat or fish products. Furthermore, our reliance on third-party food suppliers and distributors increases the risk of food-borne illness incidents being caused by third-party food suppliers and distributors who operate outside of our control and/or multiple locations being affected rather than a single restaurant. In addition, recurrent events in our region related to Dengue, Yellow Fever and Zika viruses, as well as the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, have resulted in heightened health concerns in the region, which could reduce the visits to our restaurants if these cases are not controlled.
Food safety events involving McDonald’s outside of Latin America or other well-known QSR chains could negatively impact our business industry. Another extended issue in our region is the use of social media to post complaints against the QSR segment and the use of mobile phones to capture any deviation in our processes, products or facilities. Media reports of health pandemics, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, or food-borne illnesses found in the general public or in any QSR could dramatically affect restaurant sales in one or several countries in which we operate, or could force us to temporarily close an undetermined number of restaurants. As a restaurant company, we depend on consumer confidence in the quality and safety of our food. Any illness or death related to food that we serve could substantially harm our operations. While we maintain extremely high standards for the quality of our food products and dedicate substantial resources to ensure that these standards are met and well communicated publicly the spread of these illnesses is often beyond our control and we cannot assure you that new illnesses resistant to any precautions we may take will not develop in the future.
In addition, our industry has long been subject to the threat of food tampering by suppliers, employees or customers, such as the addition of foreign objects to the food that we sell. Reports, whether true or not, of injuries caused by food tampering have in the past negatively affected the reputations of QSR chains and could affect us in the future. Instances of food tampering, even those occurring solely at competitor restaurants, could, by causing negative publicity about the restaurant industry, adversely affect our sales on a local, regional, national or systemwide basis. A decrease in customer traffic as a result of public health concerns or negative publicity could materially affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Restrictions on promotions and advertisements directed at families with children and regulations regarding the nutritional content of children’s meals may harm McDonald’s brand image and our results of operations.
A significant portion of our business depends on our ability to make our product offerings appealing to families with children. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay are considering imposing, or have already imposed, restrictions that impact the ways in which we market our products, including proposals that would have the effect of restricting our ability to advertise directly to children through the use of toys and to sell toys in conjunction with food.
In June 2012, Chile passed a law banning the inclusion of toys in children’s meals with certain nutritional characteristics (Law Nº 20,606). This law came into effect on June 26, 2016. The ban in Chile also restricts advertisements to children under the age of 14. As a result of these laws, we modified our children’s meals in order to continue offering toys in them. However, we were subject to several audits by the Chilean authorities. Chilean Law Nº 20,869, which also came into effect on June 26, 2016, restricts advertisements on television and in movie theaters between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. This law affects food products that exceed certain standards of nutritional quality set by the Chilean authorities. These restrictions on advertisements did not affect or have any impact on our sales. On June 26, 2019, strict standards of nutritional quality set by the Chilean authorities came into effect. As a result of modifications that we made to the contents of some of our products in adherence with these stricter standards, we were able to continue offering toys in children’s meals. However, the volume of Happy Meals sold in Chile has been declining since 2016.
Similar to Chile, in 2013, Peru approved Law No. 30021, which, together with the corresponding Regulatory Decree approved in June 2017, restricts the advertising of processed food products and non-alcoholic beverages intended for children under 16. In addition, regulations establish that advertisements of food products and non-alcoholic beverages containing trans-fat and high levels of sodium, sugar and saturated fat must contain a warning stating that excessive consumption should be avoided. These regulations do not include food prepared on the spot at the request of a customer, and as a result, Arcos Dorados’ products are excluded from the scope of application of such law.
Since 2014, the Mexican Ministry of Health empowered the Federal Commission for Prevention of Sanitary Risks (Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios or COFEPRIS) to regulate advertising directed at families with children. On April 15, 2014, COFEPRIS issued certain regulations which establish the maximum contents of fat, sodium and sugars that every meal advertised to children on television and in cinemas may contain. In February of 2015, COFEPRIS ordered us to stop advertising Happy Meals on television until we disclosed all the nutritional information for Happy Meals to COFEPRIS. We provided this information to COFEPRIS, but we have not yet received any legal authorization to advertise Happy Meals either during the general times when children may be watching television or during any programming geared towards children. We have developed a Happy Meals with chicken nuggets that complies with COFEPRIS’ nutritional requirements and will begin a pilot advertising program that complies with the advertising requirements in select areas of Mexico. However, generally, we are prohibited from advertising Happy Meals from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
In Brazil, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office filed suit in 2009 seeking to enjoin various QSRs, including us, from including toys in our children’s meals. The Lower Federal Court in São Paulo ruled that the lawsuit was without merit. The Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal against this decision, which will be adjudicated by the Regional Federal Court in São Paulo. As of the date of this annual report, this appeal is still pending and the outcome remains uncertain. In addition, the number of proposed laws seeking to restrict the sale of toys with meals increased significantly in Brazil at the federal, state and municipal levels. In April 2013, a consumer protection agency in Brazil fined us $1.6 million for a 2010 advertising campaign relating to our offering of meals with toys from the motion picture Avatar. We filed a lawsuit seeking to annul the fine. The lower court ruled there was no basis for the penalty, which was upheld by the appellate court. The consumer protection agency filed a special appeal against this decision, which is pending final decision. Although similar fines relating to our current and previous advertising campaigns involving the sale of toys may be possible in the future, as of the date of this annual report, we are unaware of any other such fines, and in 2018, our subsidiaries in Brazil and Mexico joined the International Food and Beverage Alliance that regulates advertising for kids to help ensure our ongoing compliance with advertising restrictions.
On July 28, 2014, Colombia enacted Decree 975 of 2014, which sets forth certain directives regarding advertising directed at children. These directives include, (i) limiting any insinuation that the food and beverage being advertised is a substitute for any of the principal daily meals; (ii) any advertising directed at children or adolescents, during certain times of the day when children and adolescents are more likely to be consuming such advertising, must include disclosure that the advertisement is not part of the actual program; and (iii) requiring parental approval for any advertisement through a child/adolescent digital platform that requests any download or purchase.
Certain jurisdictions in the United States are also considering curtailing or have curtailed food retailers’ ability to sell meals to children including free toys if these meals do not meet certain nutritional criteria.
In Argentina, there are currently several bills in Congress aimed at restricting advertising of high-calorie or processed food and beverages and promoting healthy food/nutrition habits, which are being discussed. Although as of the date of this annual report there are currently no federal regulations in force, some of these bills might be enacted in the short term. In addition, at the local level, the Province of Santa Fe and the City of Buenos Aires have enacted local regulations, imposing certain restrictions on the advertisement of high-calorie or processed foods and beverages targeting underage consumers.
Although we have introduced changes in our Happy Meals in order to offer more balanced and healthy options to our customers and in many cases been able to mitigate the impact of these types of laws and regulations on our sales, we may not be able to do so in the future and the imposition of similar or stricter laws and regulations in the future in the Territories may have a negative impact on our results of operations. In general, regulatory developments that adversely impact our ability to promote and advertise our business and communicate effectively with our target customers, including restrictions on the use of licensed characters, may have a negative impact on our results of operations.
We are subject to increasingly strict data protection laws, which could increase our costs and adversely affect our business.
On August 2018, Brazil approved the General Data Protection Law (“Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados” or “LGPD”), federal law 13,709/2018. Very similar to the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), the LGDP significantly improves Brazil’s existing legal framework by regulating the use of personal data by the private and public sectors. The concept of “data processing” is broad and includes the collection, storage, transfer, deletion and other activities related to personal data; penalties include warnings, single and daily fines, blocking and elimination of the personal data at stake. By the time of its enforcement, Arcos Dourados Comercio de Alimentos Ltda. will need to ensure that personal data processing is grounded on at least one legal basis provided for in the LGPD and will need to adopt administrative and technical security measures to protect personal data. The implementation of these and similar laws and regulations in the other countries in which we operate may increase our operation costs, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Another example is Peru, where the Personal Data Protection Law (Law No. 29733) was approved in 2011; and the Supreme Decree No. 003-2013-JUS, Regulation of the Personal Data Protection Law, in 2013. All companies are required to comply with these regulations since May 2015. This legal framework regulates the use of personal data, which is defined as any operation that allows the recompilation, registration, organization, conservation, elaboration, modification, suppression, transference, or any other operation that facilitates access, correlation or interconnection of personal data. Failure to comply is punishable with economic fines by the Personal Data Protection Authority. In November 2019, Peru approved the Directorial Resolution No. 80-2019-JUS/DGTAIPD, Practical Guide to Comply with the “Obligation to Inform.” This is a general guideline to facilitate compliance with the obligation to inform the various owners of personal data of the processing of their personal data and provides information about the obligation and various exceptions to it.
Environmental laws and regulations may affect our business.
We are subject to various environmental laws and regulations. These laws and regulations govern, among other things, discharges of pollutants into the air and water and the presence, handling, release and disposal of, and exposure to, hazardous substances, single use plastics and recycling. These laws and regulations provide for significant fines and penalties for noncompliance. Third parties may also assert personal injury, property damage or other claims against owners or operators of properties associated with release of, or actual or alleged exposure to, hazardous substances at, on or from our properties.
Liability from environmental conditions relating to prior, existing or future restaurants or restaurant sites, including franchised restaurant sites, may have a material adverse effect on us. Moreover, the adoption of new or more stringent environmental laws or regulations could result in a material environmental liability to us.
In addition, beginning in 2018, Latin America experienced a wave of regulatory attempts to eliminate single use plastic products in the region. In many countries, new laws and regulations, especially in relation to the use of plastic straws, have already been approved and in many cases will carry stiff penalties for violations. We have addressed this issue in our business by removing all the plastic straws and instead using alternative products. Additionally, we removed plastic tops from products used in our business and changed the salad containers in Argentina for carton containers. We will need to find suitable alternatives before these new laws and regulations become effective. Regulations tend to be replicated across countries, and we are seeing an increase in related activity, both nationally and locally, in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Peru among other territories. We may need to quickly replace other plastic products that we continue to use should additional laws and regulations be put in place. These alternatives may be more expensive than the plastic products we currently use, which may increase our costs and have a material adverse effect on our business.
We may be adversely affected by legal actions with respect to our business.
We could be adversely affected by legal actions and claims brought by consumers or regulatory authorities in relation to the quality of our products and eventual health problems or other consequences caused by our products or by any of their ingredients. We could also be affected by legal actions and claims brought against us for products made in a jurisdiction outside the jurisdictions where we are operating. An array of legal actions, claims or damaging publicity may affect our reputation as well as have a material adverse effect on our revenues and businesses. See “Item 8. Financial Information ─A. Consolidated Statements and Other Information─Legal Proceedings.”
Unfavorable publicity or a failure to respond effectively to adverse publicity, particularly on social media platforms, could harm our reputation and adversely impact our business and financial performance.
The good reputation of our brand is a key factor in the success of our business. Actual or alleged incidents at any of our restaurants could result in harmful publicity. Moreover, we have seen a significant increase in the use of our delivery options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any actual or perceived delay in the delivery of orders could also result in harmful publicity. Even incidents occurring at restaurants operated by our competitors or in the supply chain generally could result in negative publicity that could harm the restaurant industry and thus, indirectly, our brand. In particular, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in the use of social media platforms and similar devices which give individuals access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. Many social media platforms immediately publish the content their participants’ posts, often without filters or checks on accuracy of the content posted. A variety of risks are associated with the dissemination of this information online, including the improper disclosure of proprietary information, negative comments about our company, exposure of personally identifiable information, fraud or outdated information. The inappropriate use of social media platforms by our customers, employees or other individuals could increase our costs, lead to litigation or result in negative publicity that could damage our reputation. If we are unable to quickly and effectively respond, we may suffer damage to our reputation or loss of consumer confidence in our products, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition, as well as require resources to rebuild our reputation.
Our business is subject to the risks generally associated with international business operations.
We engage in business activities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2019, 72.3% of our revenues were derived from Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Chile. As a result, our business is and will continue to be subject to the risks generally associated with international business operations, including:
Some of the Territories have been subject to social and political instability in the past, and interruptions in operations could occur in the future. See also “—Developments and the perception of risk in other countries, especially emerging market countries, may adversely affect business, results, financial conditions and prospects.”
Developments and the perception of risk in other countries, especially emerging market countries, may adversely affect business, results, financial conditions and prospects.
Arcos Dorados’ growth and profitability depend on political stability and economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially in emerging market countries. Recent political unrest and social strife could affect developments and perception of risk in this region. For example, in 2019, political and social unrest in Latin American countries, including Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia sparked political demonstrations and, in some instances, violence. In October 2019, presidential elections were held in Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina. Controversial outcomes in Bolivia and Uruguay led to violent protests and claims of fraudulent elections in Bolivia and a runoff election in Uruguay.
Similarly, Chile experienced political unrest and social strife, including a wave of protests and riots, beginning on October 18, 2019, sparked by an increase in the subway fare of the Santiago Metro and widened to reflect anger over living costs and inequality. The unrest in Chile and associated civil protests caused political and economic instability and led to damage of property and other vandalism. Six of our restaurants in Chile were closed due to significant damages caused by fire and a seventh suffered minor damages but remains closed because the shopping center where it is located has not re-opened. Although our insurance will cover all of the physical damage and our direct losses as a result of the restaurant closures, there are certain losses that may not be recoverable, such as losses suffered from adjusted business hours to ensure the safety of our staff and other travel and safety measures.
As a result of this political and social turmoil there was a decrease in demand at our restaurants in certain regions and certain of our restaurants experienced physical damage in Chile as a result of the civil protests. While this damage did not have a material adverse effect on our business, any further turmoil could have such an effect on the business. Accordingly, the political unrest and social strife, including waves of protests, civil demonstrations and riots could have a significant impact on us. We cannot assure you that future developments affecting the political and social situation, including economic or political instability, in this region will not adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Changes in governmental policies in the Territories could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have exercised, and continue to exercise, significant influence over the economies of their respective countries. Accordingly, the governmental actions, political developments, regulatory and legal changes or administrative practices in the Territories concerning the economy in general and the food services industry in particular could have a significant impact on us. We cannot assure you that changes in the governmental policies of the Territories will not adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Latin America has experienced, and may continue to experience, adverse economic conditions that have impacted, and may continue to impact, our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The success of our business is dependent on discretionary consumer spending, which is influenced by general economic conditions, consumer confidence and the availability of discretionary income in the countries in which we operate. Latin American countries have historically experienced uneven periods of economic growth, recessions, periods of high inflation and economic instability. In 2019, the economic growth rates of the economies of many Latin American countries slowed and some entered recessions, and we expect to see further slowdowns in 2020 as a result of COVID-19. Any prolonged economic downturn could result in a decline in discretionary consumer spending. This may reduce the number of consumers who are willing and able to dine in our restaurants, or consumers may make more value-driven and price-sensitive purchasing choices, eschewing our core menu items for our entry-level food options. We may also be unable to sufficiently increase prices of our menu items to offset cost pressures, which may negatively affect our financial condition.
In addition, a prolonged economic downturn may lead to higher interest rates, significant changes in the rate of inflation or an inability to access capital on acceptable terms. Our suppliers and service providers could experience cash flow problems, credit defaults or other financial hardships. If our franchisees cannot adequately access the financial resources required to open new restaurants, this could have a material effect on our growth strategy.
Many of our customers depend on remittances from family members living overseas. Laws, regulations or events that limit such remittances or any changes to United States immigration policy may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Many of the jurisdictions in which we operate depend on remittances as a source of revenue. Many of our customers rely on remittances from family members living overseas as a primary or secondary source of income. Any law, regulation or event that restricts, taxes or prevents those remittances may adversely affect demand for our products and our customers’ ability to repay their consumer loans, which in turn may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In particular, President Trump’s administration has in the past mentioned the possibility of taxing remittances to Mexico. We cannot assure you that the Trump administration will not implement taxing of remittances to Mexico or the other countries in which we operate. The implementation of any such measure may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Inflation and government measures to curb inflation may adversely affect the economies in the countries where we operate, our business and results of operations.
Many of the countries in which we operate, have experienced, or are currently experiencing, high rates of inflation. For example, as of July 1, 2018, Argentina is considered highly inflationary under U.S. GAAP. In addition, Venezuela has been considered hyperinflationary under U.S. GAAP since 2010. Although inflation rates in many of the other countries in which we operate have been relatively low in the recent past, we cannot assure you that this trend will continue. The measures taken by the governments of these countries to control inflation have often included maintaining a tight monetary policy with high interest rates, thereby restricting the availability of credit and retarding economic growth. Inflation, measures to combat inflation and public speculation about possible additional actions have also contributed materially to economic uncertainty in many of these countries and to heightened volatility in their securities markets. Periods of higher inflation may also slow the growth rate of local economies that could lead to reduced demand for our core products and decreased sales. Inflation is also likely to increase some of our costs and expenses, which we may not be able to fully pass on to our customers, which could adversely affect our operating margins and operating income.
Exchange rate fluctuations against the U.S. dollar in the countries in which we operate have negatively affected, and could continue to negatively affect, our results of operations.
We are exposed to exchange rate risk in relation to the United States dollar. While substantially all of our income is denominated in the local currencies of the countries in which we operate, our supply chain management involves the importation of various products, and some of our imports, as well as some of our capital expenditures and a significant portion of our long-term debt, are denominated in U.S. dollars. As a result, the decrease in the value of the local currencies of the countries in which we operate as compared to the U.S. dollar has increased our costs, and any further decrease in the value of such currencies will further increase our costs. Although we maintain a hedging strategy to attempt to mitigate some of our exchange rate risk, our hedging strategy may not be successful or may not fully offset our losses relating to exchange rate fluctuations.
As a result, fluctuations in the value of the U.S. dollar with respect to the various currencies of the countries in which we operate or in U.S. dollar interest rates could adversely impact our net income, results of operations and financial condition.
Price controls and other similar regulations in certain countries have affected, and may in the future affect, our results of operations.
Certain countries in which we conduct operations have imposed, and may continue to impose, price controls that restrict our ability, and the ability of our franchisees, to adjust the prices of our products. For example, there are currently certain price control regulations in force in Argentina. Although the industry in which we operate is not yet subject to these regulations, it is not clear whether the current administration will apply or enforce price controls in the future on the industry in which we operate.
Moreover, the Venezuelan market is subject to a regulation establishing a maximum profit margin for companies and maximum prices for certain goods and services. Although we managed to navigate the negative impact of the price controls on our operations from 2013 through 2019, the existence of such laws and regulations continues to present a risk to our business. We continue to closely monitor developments in this dynamic environment. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation.”
The imposition and enforcement of these and similar restrictions in the future may place downward pressure on the prices at which our products are sold and may limit the growth of our revenue. We cannot assure you that existing price controls will not be enforced or become more stringent, or that new price controls will not be imposed in the future, or that any such controls may not have an adverse effect on our business. Our inability to control the prices of our products could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
We are subject to significant foreign currency exchange controls and currency devaluation in certain countries in which we operate.
Certain Latin American economies have experienced shortages in foreign currency reserves and their respective governments have adopted restrictions on the ability to transfer funds out of the country and convert local currencies into U.S. dollars. This may increase our costs and limit our ability to convert local currency into U.S. dollars and transfer funds out of certain countries, including for the purchase of dollar-denominated inputs, the payment of dividends or the payment of interest or principal on our outstanding debt. In the event that any of our subsidiaries are unable to transfer funds to us due to currency restrictions, we are responsible for any resulting shortfall.
For example, in 2019, our subsidiaries in Argentina represented 13.2% of our total revenues. Since September 2019, the current Argentine government has tightened restrictions on capital flows and imposed exchange controls and transfer restrictions, substantially limiting the ability of companies to retain foreign currency or make payments outside of Argentina. Furthermore, the Central Bank of Argentina implemented regulations requiring its prior approval for certain foreign exchange transactions otherwise authorized to be carried out under the applicable regulations, such as dividend payments or repayment of principal of inter-company loans as well as the import of goods. As a consequence of the reimposition of exchange controls, the spread between the official exchange rate and other exchange rates resulting implicitly from certain capital market operations usually effected to obtain U.S. dollars has broadened significantly, reaching a value of approximately 72% above the official exchange rate as of April 27, 2020. The implementation of the above-mentioned measures could impact our ability to transfer funds outside of Argentina and may prevent or delay payments that our Argentine subsidiaries are required to make outside Argentina. As a result, if we are prohibited from transferring funds out of Argentina, or if we become subject to similar restrictions in other countries in which we operate, our results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.
In addition, the continuing devaluation of the Argentine peso since the end of 2015 and the Venezuelan bolivar since 2010 has led to higher inflation levels, has significantly reduced competitiveness, real wages and consumption and has had a negative impact on businesses whose success is dependent on domestic market demand and supplies payable in foreign currency.
Further currency devaluations in any of the countries in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition. See “Item 3. Key Information—A. Selected Financial Data—Exchange Rates and Exchange Controls.”
If we fail to comply with, or if we become subject to, more onerous government regulations, our business could be adversely affected.
We are subject to various federal, state and municipal laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate, including those related to the food services industry, health and safety standards, importation of goods and services, marketing and promotional activities, nutritional labeling, zoning and land use, environmental standards and consumer protection. We strive to abide by and maintain compliance with these laws and regulations. The imposition of new laws or regulations, including potential trade barriers, may increase our operating costs or impose restrictions on our operations, which could have an adverse impact on our financial condition.
For example, Argentine regulations require us to seek permission from the Argentine authorities prior to importing certain goods. Although these regulations do not currently affect us, they may in the future prevent or delay the receipt of goods that we require for our operations, or increase the costs associated with obtaining those goods, and therefore have an adverse impact on our business, results of operations or financial condition. Additionally, in 2017, Venezuela enacted the Productive Foreign Investments Constitutional Act, which replaced the Foreign Investment Act of 2014. This law establishes the requirements and limitations for the transfer of dividends and repatriation of foreign investments. It also establishes a minimum investment sum to be registered with the Ministry of Popular Power with Foreign Investment, limits access to internal financing, modifies the criteria of foreign investments and creates a new penalty system for those who do not comply with the law.
Regulations governing the food services industry have become more restrictive. We cannot assure you that new and stricter standards will not be adopted or become applicable to us, or that stricter interpretations of existing laws and regulations will not occur. Any of these events may require us to spend additional funds to gain compliance with the new rules, if possible, and therefore increase our cost of operation.
We could be subject to expropriation or nationalization of our assets and government interference with our business in certain countries in which we operate.
We face a risk of expropriation or nationalization of our assets and government interference with our business in several of the countries in which we do business. These risks are particularly acute in Venezuela. The current Venezuelan government has promoted a model of increased state participation in the economy through welfare programs, exchange and price controls and the promotion of state-owned companies. We can provide no assurance that Company-operated or franchised restaurants will not be threatened with expropriation and that our operations will not be transformed into state-owned enterprises. In addition, the Venezuelan government may pass laws, rules or regulations which may directly or indirectly interfere with our ability to operate our business in Venezuela which could result in a material breach of the MFAs, in particular if we are unable to comply with McDonald’s operations system and standards. A material breach of the MFAs would trigger McDonald’s option to acquire our non-public shares or our interests in Venezuela. See “—Certain Factors Relating to Our Business—McDonald’s has the right to acquire all or portions of our business upon the occurrence of certain events and, in the case of a material breach of the MFAs, may acquire our non-public shares or our interests in one or more Territories at 80% of their fair market value.”
Mr. Woods Staton, our Executive Chairman, controls all matters submitted to a shareholder vote, which will limit your ability to influence corporate activities and may adversely affect the market price of our class A shares.
Mr. Woods Staton, our Executive Chairman, owns or controls common stock representing 39.61% and 76.49%, respectively, of our economic and voting interests. As a result, Mr. Woods Staton is and will be able to strongly influence or effectively control the election of our directors, determine the outcome of substantially all actions requiring shareholder approval and shape our corporate and management policies. The MFAs’ requirement that Mr. Woods Staton at all times hold at least 51% of our voting interests likely will have the effect of preventing a change in control of us and discouraging others from making tender offers for our shares, which could prevent shareholders from receiving a premium for their shares. Moreover, this concentration of share ownership may make it difficult for shareholders to replace management and may adversely affect the trading price for our class A shares because investors often perceive disadvantages in owning shares in companies with controlling shareholders. This concentration of control could be disadvantageous to other shareholders with interests different from those of Mr. Woods Staton and the trading price of our class A shares could be adversely affected. See “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions―A. Major Shareholders” for a more detailed description of our share ownership.
Furthermore, the MFAs contemplate instances where McDonald’s could be entitled to purchase the shares of Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc. held by Mr. Woods Staton. However, our publicly held class A shares will not be similarly subject to acquisition by McDonald’s.
Sales of substantial amounts of our class A shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales may occur, could cause the market price of our class A shares to decline.
Sales of substantial amounts of our class A shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales may occur, could cause the market price of our Class A shares to decline. This could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our equity securities. Under our articles of association, we are authorized to issue up to 420,000,000 class A shares, of which 124,070,029 class A shares were outstanding as of December 31, 2019 and 7,993,602 class A shares were held in treasury. We cannot predict the size of future issuances of our shares or the effect, if any, that future sales and issuances of shares would have on the market price of our class A shares.
As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to, and we will, rely on exemptions from certain NYSE corporate governance standards applicable to U.S. issuers, including the requirement that a majority of an issuer’s directors consist of independent directors. This may afford less protection to holders of our Class A shares.
Section 303A of the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, Listed Company Manual requires listed companies to have, among other things, a majority of their board members be independent, and to have independent director oversight of executive compensation, nomination of directors and corporate governance matters. As a foreign private issuer, however, we are permitted to, and we will, follow home country practice in lieu of the above requirements. British Virgin Islands law, the law of our country of incorporation, does not require a majority of our board to consist of independent directors or the implementation of a nominating and corporate governance committee, and our board thus may not include, or may include fewer, independent directors than would be required if we were subject to these NYSE requirements. Since a majority of our board of directors may not consist of independent directors as long as we rely on the foreign private issuer exemption to these NYSE requirements, our board’s approach may, therefore, be different from that of a board with a majority of independent directors, and as a result, the management oversight of our Company may be more limited than if we were subject to these NYSE requirements.
We are a British Virgin Islands company and it may be difficult for you to obtain or enforce judgments against us or our executive officers and directors in the United States.
We are incorporated under the laws of the British Virgin Islands. Most of our assets are located outside the United States. Furthermore, most of our directors and officers reside outside the United States, and most of their assets are located outside the United States. As a result, you may find it difficult to effect service of process within the United States upon these persons or to enforce outside the United States judgments obtained against us or these persons in U.S. courts, including judgments in actions predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws. Likewise, it may also be difficult for you to enforce in U.S. courts judgments obtained against us or these persons in courts located in jurisdictions outside the United States, including actions predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws. It may also be difficult for an investor to bring an action against us or these persons in a British Virgin Islands court predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws.
As there is no treaty in force on the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters between the United States and the British Virgin Islands, courts in the British Virgin Islands will not automatically recognize and enforce a final judgment rendered by a U.S. court.
Any final and conclusive monetary judgment obtained against us in U.S. courts, for a definite sum, may be treated by the courts of the British Virgin Islands as a cause of action in itself so that no retrial of the issue would be necessary, provided that in respect of the U.S. judgment:
Under our articles of association, we indemnify and hold our directors harmless against all claims and suits brought against them, subject to limited exceptions.
You may have more difficulty protecting your interests than you would as a shareholder of a U.S. corporation.
Our affairs are governed by the provisions of our memorandum of association and articles of association, as amended and restated from time to time, and by the provisions of applicable British Virgin Islands law. The rights of our shareholders and the responsibilities of our directors and officers under the British Virgin Islands law are different from those applicable to a corporation incorporated in the United States. There may be less publicly available information about us than is regularly published by or about U.S. issuers. Also, the British Virgin Islands regulations governing the securities of British Virgin Islands companies may not be as extensive as those in effect in the United States, and the British Virgin Islands law and regulations in respect of corporate governance matters may not be as protective of minority shareholders as state corporation laws in the United States. Therefore, you may have more difficulty protecting your interests in connection with actions taken by our directors and officers or our principal shareholders than you would as a shareholder of a corporation incorporated in the United States.
You may not be able to participate in future equity offerings, and you may not receive any value for rights that we may grant.
Under our memorandum and articles of association, existing shareholders are entitled to preemptive subscription rights in the event of capital increases. However, our articles of association also provide that such preemptive subscription rights do not apply to certain issuances of securities by us, including (i) pursuant to any employee compensation plans; (ii) as consideration for (a) any merger, consolidation or purchase of assets or (b) recapitalization or reorganization; (iii) in connection with a pro rata division of shares or dividend in specie or distribution; or (iv) in a bona fide public offering that has been registered with the SEC.