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Baidu earnings beat expectations as it gambles on AI, content

Robin Li, CEO and Founder of Baidu.com, a Beijing-based search engine company, stands by his company's logo at their headquarters in Beijing, China in February 2006. — NYT picRobin Li, CEO and Founder of Baidu.com, a Beijing-based search engine company, stands by his company's logo at their headquarters in Beijing, China in February 2006. — NYT picBEIJING, Feb 14 — Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc posted strong quarterly revenue growth yesterday, beating expectations, on a strong showing from its core search business and news feed services.

The Chinese internet search firm posted fourth quarter revenue of 23.6 billion yuan (RM14.65 billion), up 29 per cent against the same period a year ago and topping analyst forecasts of 23.05 billion yuan and the company’s own guidance.

Baidu chief executive Robin Li said the company would focus this year on strengthening its core search business, especially on mobile, rev up growth in its news feed business, and deploy artificial intelligence (AI) to improve iQiyi.

“We also look forward to further strengthening our position in autonomous driving and conversational AI,” he said in a statement.

The company’s shares rose nearly 5 per cent in extended trading after the results. In the run up to the results, Baidu’s shares had been sluggish, down nearly 4 per cent since the start of the year.

Baidu confirmed plans to list its popular online content platform iQiyi in the United States, though said the size of any IPO was not yet set. Baidu said it was likely to remain iQiyi’s controlling shareholder following any listing.

Strong results in its more traditional businesses were central to Baidu’s success, with revenue from its core online marketing — including its search platform and news feed — jumping 26.3 per cent to 20.4 billion yuan.

The result will help soothe Baidu investors as the company looks to turn around its fortunes after a series of missteps sparked steep losses in 2016 and hit its advertising revenue from internet searches.

Baidu, part of China’s trinity of tech giants along with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd, posted net income of 4.16 billion yuan in the quarter ended December 31, up from 4.13 billion yuan a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 14.9 yuan per ADS, above forecasts.

Baidu pegged its guidance for first-quarter revenue growth, between 19.86 billion yuan and 20.97 billion yuan, a 25-32 per cent increase against 2017. That compared with an analyst estimate of 21.18 billion yuan. — Reuters

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