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Baidu Can’t Guarantee Returns on Online Fund Products, CSRC Says

Baidu Inc. (BIDU) isn’t allowed to offer guaranteed returns on fund products sold on the Internet, China’s securities watchdog said, as the country’s largest search engine joins competitors in expanding into finance.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said it will investigate media reports, which it didn’t further identify, that said Baidu promised an 8 percent return on investment products, according to a statement posted to the commission’s official microblog yesterday. That probe will be carried out using information provided by the company, it said.

Baidu, which this week announced plans for an investment platform, joins rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700) in entering financial services after authorities said they wanted more private capital to invest in the industry. Former Premier Wen Jiabao said in April 2012 the “monopoly” of big state-owned banks need to be broken, and his successor Li Keqiang has called for cutting the government’s economic role.

China’s five-biggest banks are all state-owned. Shang Fulin, head of China’s banking regulator, said in June that the nation will allow fully private banks to be established.

Baidu is subject to the same rules as other companies offering such services, the CSRC said yesterday. Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman for Baidu, said by phone yesterday that he couldn’t confirm whether the company will offer a guaranteed rate of return. The search engine plans to issue more details about the products on its investment platform on Oct. 28, the company said on Oct. 22.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Regina Tan in Beijing at rtan87@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Liu at jliu42@bloomberg.net

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