April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. has signed an agreement with Baidu Inc. to set up a social-networking website in China, Sohu.com reported, citing unidentified employees at the Chinese search-engine company.
The agreement followed several meetings between Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Baidu CEO Robin Li, Sohu.com reported on its website today. The China website won’t be integrated with Facebook’s international service, and the start date is not confirmed, according to the report.
Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman at Beijing-based Baidu, declined to comment on the report when reached by Bloomberg News. Stephen Dolan, Singapore-based commercial director for Asia at Facebook, also declined to comment.
Facebook, owner of the world’s most popular social-networking service, has held talks with potential partners about how to enter the Chinese market, a person familiar with the matter said last week. The discussions have been exploratory and may not result in an agreement, according to the person.
“We are currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers,” Palo Alto, California-based Facebook said in an e-mailed statement at the time.
Baidu’s Li met Zuckerberg during the Facebook executive’s visit to China in December, Kuo said at the time. Zuckerberg, who also held meetings with other Chinese companies including China Mobile Ltd. and Sina Corp., said then that he was on vacation in the Asian nation, the world’s biggest Internet market by users.
Baidu, owner of China’s most-used search engine, plans to develop more social-networking services, Li said on Feb. 1. The commercial value of social products is “meaningful,” he said.
China bans pornography, gambling and content critical of the ruling Communist Party, and blocks websites including Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube that don’t follow the nation’s self-censorship rules. Google pulled its search engine out of China last year after deciding it would stop censoring its content.
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