Baidu’s Li Looks to Deals to Accelerate Push Into Mobile Search

Baidu Inc., owner of China’s most-popular Internet search engine, is buying companies to accelerate its transition to mobile devices, where traffic is at least doubling annually, Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said.

Baidu bought Santa Clara, California-based TrustGo Mobile Inc. for its security and personal-privacy protection technology earlier this year, Li said in a televised interview with “Bloomberg West,” without disclosing details.

The purchase is part of Baidu’s mobile push to lure some of the estimated 460 million people in China who access the Internet from smartphones and tablet computers. The Beijing-based company has announced or completed at least four deals this year valued at an aggregate $2.43 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Baidu yesterday said it would continue to invest aggressively in mobile search after reporting net income rose 1.3 percent to 3.05 billion yuan ($500 million) in the third quarter. That surpassed the 3 billion-yuan average of 10 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue rose 42 percent to 8.89 billion yuan, exceeding the 8.79 billion-yuan average of 18 estimates.

International Expansion

Baidu is interested in expanding overseas and is boosting its market share in Thailand, Egypt and Brazil, Li said.

The U.S. is still not a target for expansion, said Li, who is also the company’s chairman.

“For Baidu, we choose not to come to the U.S. market first because this is a market that is very different from developing countries,” he said. “For a company to be successful internationally, they don’t need to be successful in the U.S. The U.S. is just one part of the world.”

Billionaire Li is China’s third-richest person, with a net worth of $12.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Baidu forecast fourth-quarter revenue of as much as 9.5 billion yuan. That compares with the 8.93 billion-yuan average of 14 analysts’ estimates.

“We probably invested a lot more than any of the competitors in the mobile-search front,” Li said separately during an earnings call yesterday. “This year and next year will be very, very crucial for the eventual success of the overall mobile strategy.”

The Internet company agreed in August to pay $160 million for 59 percent of location-based e-commerce service Nuomi Holdings Inc. and said in July it would buy app store 91 Wireless Websoft Ltd. for $1.9 billion.

Last year, the company made two acquisitions with a combined value of about $22.5 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Baidu had an 81 percent share of search-engine queries in China in the three months ended June, followed by Qihoo 360 Technology Co.’s 10.1 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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