The Big Money Says Baidu's a Buy

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

One of the great maxims of traders and Wall Street pros is to follow the "smart money."

I'm not much for the thesis that institutional shoppers tend to make smarter investing decisions, but many of you who've read my ruminations on insider buying say you'd also like to know how the Big Money is betting. Your wish is my command.

Next up: Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) . Are institutions bullish or bearish when it comes to China's king of search?

Foolish facts



CAPS stars (out of 5) **
Total ratings 4,425
Percent bulls 85.4%
Percent bears 14.6%
Bullish pitches 567 out of 707
Highest rated peers Spark Networks, PHOTOCHANNEL NETWORKS, Artificial Life

Data current as of Jan. 21.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) retreats from China and still Fools don't like Baidu? Color me confused. Sure, at 71 times estimated 2010 earnings the stock trades for a premium. A massive growth opportunity justifies the multiple.

But don't take my word for it. According to Capital IQ, analysts believe Baidu's normalized profit per share will double by the end of next year. Not that you should believe them. Wall Street has a history of underrating the company's earnings power.

"Anyone nervous about the P/E ratio, or EPS growth rate estimates, is having an issue with comprehension. We all must understand the context in which Baidu exists, which is foreign, profitable, and growing. It should set some records with this setup. Don't be afraid of success," wrote Foolish investor JFFTYJNSN earlier this month.

Institutional ownership history

Top Owners





Baillie Gifford & Co.





T. Rowe Price Group





Marsico Capital Management





Fisher Investments





Jennison Associates










Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
*Indicates the number of shares owned.

Big Money investors aren't afraid. If anything, they're more enthusiastic for Baidu shares today than they've been in a while. That may be due to a recent sell-off in the stock. Shares of Baidu dipped noticeably in December, recovering only after institutions resumed buying.

What's behind their enthusiasm? Demographics would be my guess. China's growing middle class is a ripe target for Sino businesses and global trading partners alike. The Obama administration made its pitch for access this week when Chinese premier Hu Jintao visited the U.S. Investors needn't work that hard; a bet on Baidu gets them all the exposure they need to China's emerging consumer market.

Competitor and peer checkup


Institutional Ownership

Insider Ownership

Baidu 54.91% 22.87%
Google 62.67% 21.02%
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) 62.19% 3.97% (Nasdaq: NTES  ) 50.73% 46.33% (Nasdaq: SOHU  ) 64.33% 3.62%

Source: Capital IQ. Data current as of Jan. 21.

Interestingly, Baidu isn't as widely owned as you might expect for a Nasdaq stock that commands $37 billion in market value in the U.S. alone. Valuation concerns only partially explain that skepticism. Expansion is the other worry.

For as good as Baidu is at providing expected search and related e-commerce services in its home market, there's little evidence of the company's ability to expand beyond the Great Wall. A successful foray into Japan three years ago is about all management can crow about. That has to change if Baidu is to become a global phenomenon on par with its closest rival, Google.

Executives and other insiders appear to believe that's exactly what the company will achieve; they still own close to 23% of the business. Among the peers listed above, only can boast as much internal sponsorship. That's the sort of fiscal commitment I'm looking for as an investor, and a big reason why I've rated the stock to outperform in my CAPS portfolio.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about Baidu using the comments box below. You can also recommend other stocks for me to evaluate by sending me an email, or replying to me on Twitter.

What will be this year's top stock? We've got a good idea. The Motley Fool has created a brand new free report called The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2011. In it, we reveal the little company set to profit from the broadband Internet expansion. Get instant access by clicking here -- it's free.

Interested in more info on the stocks mentioned in this story? Add Baidu, Google, Microsoft,,, or Yahoo! to your watchlist.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Baidu, Google,, and are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended subscribers purchase a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Microsoft, and T. Rowe Price and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is smarter than the average bear.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1427007, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/24/2016 11:36:51 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 2 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,223.03 77.32 0.43%
S&P 500 2,151.33 10.17 0.47%
NASD 5,309.83 52.43 1.00%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/24/2016 4:00 PM
BIDU $180.86 Up +4.10 +2.32%
Baidu CAPS Rating: *****
GOOGL $835.74 Up +11.68 +1.42%
Alphabet (A shares… CAPS Rating: *****
MSFT $61.00 Up +1.34 +2.25%
Microsoft CAPS Rating: ****
NTES $267.18 Up +3.65 +1.39%
NetEase CAPS Rating: ****
SOHU $39.63 Down -2.88 -6.77% CAPS Rating: ***