Qihoo Posts Record Gain on Competition to Baidu: China Overnight

Chinese stocks traded in New York completed their best month since February, led by a record jump in Qihoo 360 Technology Co., as the software developer started a search engine that will compete with Baidu Inc.’s product.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese companies in the U.S. rose 1.4 percent in August to 87.95, the steepest rise since February. Qihoo jumped 52 percent after analysts said its new online search engine could become the second-biggest in China after Baidu’s. Online travel company Ctrip.com International Ltd. surged the most since 2009 and Sina Corp. climbed for the first time since January.

Qihoo, owner of the nation’s most popular Web browser with 270 million users, entered on Aug. 16 China’s online search market where Baidu has a share of about 80 percent. The competition prompted Baidu to take steps that would make it more difficult for users sending queries from Qihoo’s Web page and browsers. Qihoo, whose products range from anti-virus software to desktop applications, forecast on Aug. 21 third-quarter sales that beat analysts’ estimates.

“Qihoo does have the potential to take some share in China’s online search market, causing some damage to Baidu’s current market dominance,” Jiong Shao, the Hong Kong-based head of China strategy at Macquarie Securities Ltd. said by phone on Aug. 31. “Considering the huge user numbers of Qihoo’s browsers and security software, it’s not such a big surprise to see its search engine is quickly gaining popularity.”

‘Grave Concern’

The iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund, the biggest Chinese exchange-traded fund in the U.S., sank 3.3 percent last month to $33.07, snapping a two-month increase. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of the biggest U.S. shares climbed 2 percent in its third month of gains after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he wouldn’t rule out steps to lower a jobless rate he described as a “grave concern.”

Qihoo’s American depositary receipts surged to $22.39 on Aug. 31, from $14.71 at the end of July.

Monthly active users of Qihoo’s computer-based products and services rose to record 425 million as of June, from 378 million a year ago, the Beijing-based company said on Aug. 21. It forecast third-quarter revenue will rise as much as 73 percent from a year earlier to $82 million, beating the average $80.3 million estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg at that time.

Price Targets Raised

Macquarie’s Shao raised his price estimate for Qihoo by $4 to $25 on Aug. 22, while Cynthia Meng, an analyst at Jefferies Group Inc., raised the target by $12 to $35.

Baidu’s ADRs dropped 7.5 percent last month, dragging its prices down 4.3 percent this year. The company lost search traffic market share by 4 percentage points to 8 percentage points to Qihoo, and the trend will continue in the next two quarters, Alan Hellawell, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, wrote in an Aug. 23 note.

Ctrip.com, the nation’s biggest online travel agency, surged 29 percent in August to $16.13, the biggest monthly rally since November 2009. Its smaller competitor Elong Inc. climbed for the second month, rising 13 percent to $15.

Ctrip estimated third-quarter sales will rise 15 percent to 20 percent in a July 24 statement, after increasing 17 percent in the previous three months. Elong projected a gain of 10 percent to 20 percent, following a 33 percent growth in the second quarter, it said Aug. 20.

Sina Surges

Sina, provider of the Twitter-like Weibo service in China, rallied 24 percent in August, snapping a six-month slump that was the longest losing stretch since January 2009.

The company’s net income tripled to $33.2 million in the second quarter, while analysts had expected a loss of $3.9 million, according to the mean estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg before the report. Weibo had about 80 advertising customers in the second-quarter and the number will “probably double” by the end of the year, Chief Executive Officer Charles Chao said in a conference call that day.

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