Chinese search engine giant Baidu
Inc has forecast second-quarter revenue above expectations, as businesses
reopen in the world's second-largest economy after strict lockdowns to curb the
spread of the coronavirus.
Baidu's United States-listed
shares jumped 8 percent in extended trading after the company also reported a
smaller-than-expected drop in first-quarter revenue and easily beat profit
China's stalled economy is
starting up much earlier than those of Europe and the US, which are easing
restrictions gradually as they struggle with high numbers of reported
infections and deaths from COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"With the pandemic coming
under control in China, offline activities are rebounding and Baidu stands to
benefit from a restart of the Chinese economy," Chief Executive Officer
and co-founder Robin Li said in a statement.
Baidu forecast current-quarter
revenue between 25.0 billion yuan ($3.5bn) and 27.3 billion yuan ($3.8bn),
while analysts on average had expected 25.55 billion yuan ($3.6bn).
Once the runaway leader in
desktop search, Baidu struggled to stay relevant in the mobile era while
fending off ByteDance, whose Douyin is growing users at a rapid clip and
pushing down industry advertising rates. The Chinese startup is the country's
best-performing advertising platform this year in terms of impact and traffic,
according to Raymond Feng, a Shanghai-based analyst with Pacific Epoch.
To compete, Baidu plans to offer
subsidies to influencers and direct more traffic to them across its family of
apps, including in live-streaming.
The company said daily active
users for the Baidu App surged 28 percent in March to hit the 222 million mark.
"This performance is
encouraging, as it shows that the worst stretch is likely over for Chinese
internet companies as the economy slowly gets back to its feet and the digital
ad market revives," said Haris Anwar, senior analyst at financial markets
Revenue from Baidu's online
marketing services business, which includes search, news feeds and video apps
and is a major contributor to overall sales, tumbled 19 percent to 14.24
billion yuan ($2bn) in the first quarter ended March 31.
Total revenue declined about 7
percent to 22.55 billion yuan ($3.2bn), but beat estimates of 21.93 billion
Baidu in February estimated
revenue between 21 billion yuan ($2.9bn) and 22.9 billion yuan ($3.2bn).
Subscribers for the company's iQIYI
- a Netflix-like video service - climbed 23 percent to 118.9 million, a benefit
from stay-at-home orders. Revenue rose 9 percent, but net loss attributable to
the company widened to 2.87 billion yuan ($404m) from 1.81 billion yuan
Longer-term, Baidu is investing
in artificial intelligence technology, and betting on the commercialization of
that through smart speakers and self-driving cars. It was awarded contracts in
March from local governments in cities, including Chongqing and Hefei, to build
smart transportation infrastructure such as road sensors, part of China's drive
to spur the economy through investment in technology.
Oversight by Beijing remains a
problem. In April, Chinese regulators suspended some key channels in Baidu's
flagship mobile app, citing vulgar content. That two-week punishment could
reduce revenue from its core search and feed business in the June quarter by
less than 2 percent, according to an estimate by Jefferies analyst Thomas
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES