3 Things to Watch When Baidu Reports

It's almost showtime for Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) . China's leading search engine will be posting its third-quarter results tomorrow night.

Baidu has held up pretty well relative to its Chinese peers. The stock is off a bit since its all-time summertime highs, but Baidu investors are still up 33% this year. The shares had more than doubled last year, after more than tripling in 2009.

These beefy gains obviously accompany lofty expectations, so let's go over a few things that investors will want to be looking for to see which way the stock moves on Friday.

1. Look for another beat
Analysts are perpetually low-balling Baidu's projected profitability. Baidu has landed ahead of the pros on a quarterly basis for more than two years. Let's go over the past four quarters.

 

EPS est.

EPS

Surprise

Q2 2011

$0.66

$0.72

9%

Q1 2011

$0.45

$0.47

4%

Q4 2010

$0.45

$0.50

11%

Q3 2010

$0.42

$0.45

7%

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Wall Street may seem aggressive this time around, targeting a profit of $0.83 a share after last year's $0.45 a share third-quarter showing. However, until analysts prove that they have Baidu figured out, the better bet is on another beat.

There is little reason to expect otherwise. Despite all of the regulatory distractions in China, Baidu continues to pad its market share lead.

2. Check out the halo effect
What's good for Baidu will be seen as good for China's dot-com leaders. In other words, a strong outing by Baidu will likely lead to gains for Sohu.com (Nasdaq: SOHU  ) -- even though it doesn't report until next week -- and SINA (Nasdaq: SINA  ) , which doesn't step up to the earnings stage until next month.

Some of the dot-com speedsters that have gone public over the past year -- including video website Youku.com (NYSE: YOKU  ) , social networking leader Renren (Nasdaq: RENN  ) , and e-tailer Dangdang (Nasdaq: DANG  ) -- may also go along for the ride.

This is a two-way street, though. If Baidu disappoints or provides a gloomy outlook, these stocks will likely head lower.

3. Match the guidance to expectations
Chinese companies are understandably not as chatty as their Western counterparts. You won't hear Baidu bellyaching about the witch hunt by some shorts taking down some of China's smaller tech companies. You also won't hear Baidu complain about government officials cracking down on the free flow of online information. Baidu knows it has to play by China's rules.

However, Baidu has historically issued financial guidance for the new quarter. The company only provides a top-line outlook. I'll save you the trouble by pointing out that Wall Street's looking for $647 million in fourth-quarter revenue. If that estimate is on the low end of Baidu's range, it's a win for Baidu.

If you want to see where these Chinese stocks go from here, add them to My Watchlist to track news as it happens.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of SINA, Baidu, and Sohu.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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 has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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