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Doubts over Google spur interest in Baidu

(China Daily/Agencies)
Updated: 2010-02-11 11:33
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Baidu Inc, owner of China's most popular Internet search engine, said its clients became more confident about the company after biggest rival Google Inc indicated it may end its operations in the country.

"What we have seen is that our customers' confidence in Baidu is certainly higher," CEO Robin Li said yesterday in response to an analyst's question on the potential effects of Google's possible exit from China. "We expect to benefit from that."

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Baidu jumped as much as 10 percent in after-hours trading in the US after the company forecast first-quarter sales will rise more than analysts estimated. The shares have outperformed Chinese Internet stocks including Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba.com Ltd this year on expectations that the Beijing-based company will gain sales from Google's customers in China, the world's biggest Internet market by user numbers.

"Because of the uncertainty over Google, people will be looking at their options," said Elinor Leung, who rates Baidu "buy" at CLSA Ltd in Hong Kong. Baidu will be one of the primary alternatives for Google's advertisers in China, she said.

Baidu's American depositary receipts, each of which represents one common share, jumped as much as $43.71 to $478.72 in extended trading after the company reported its earnings on Tuesday. Earlier they fell 1.9 percent to $435.01 in NASDAQ Stock Market trading.

First-quarter revenue will rise to between 1.2 billion yuan and 1.24 billion yuan in the period ending March 31, Baidu said on Tuesday in a statement. This compares with 1.13 billion yuan, the median of analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The forecast wasn't affected by projections of a possible "change in the competitive landscape", CEO Li said.

Baidu's fourth-quarter net income rose 48 percent to 427.9 million yuan, or 12.27 yuan per share, from 288.7 million yuan, or 8.31 yuan, a year earlier. That compared with the 403.1 million yuan median of analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue increased 40 percent to 1.26 billion yuan, topping the median estimate of 1.23 billion yuan.

The shares have gained 13 percent through the NASDAQ since Google announced the review of its Chinese operations on Jan 12, compared with the 20 percent decline in the Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent, China's biggest Internet company by value, and the 13 percent drop in Alibaba, operator of the biggest Chinese online commerce website.