November 30, 2011
As portfolio manager of Tier 1 investments, a Motley Fool Rising Star Portfolio, my mission is to identify the best businesses in the world and invest in them at attractive prices. One of the ways I do that is by searching through hundreds of companies and adding a select few to my watchlist. Then from my watchlist I select what I believe to be the best of the best to add to the Tier 1 Portfolio. Today I'm adding Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) to the watchlist. Here's why.
If there's one area of the world where Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is being beaten at its own game, it's China -- which also happens to be the world's most populous nation and home of one of the fastest-growing economies. So who's the Internet search leader in China? You probably guessed -- it's Baidu.
But Baidu isn't just a copycat. When The Motley Fool's Global Gains team visited China in June, Tim Hanson wrote:
I thought Baidu was basically aGoogle rip-off, like so many Chinese companies, simply running an inferior copy of a Western business but gaining a competitive advantage in China thanks to its local knowledge. ... But what I saw this week at Baidu's sprawling corporate campus in Beijing's Haidian District has me changing my tune. I still don't think Baidu is up to par with Google on the tech or innovation fronts, but the young, flat, and hungry organization is getting there. Baidu is a learning machine, and the company's vision and corporate culture are light-years ahead of its Chinese Internet peers.
There's no denying that Baidu benefited tremendously from Google's feud with the Chinese government over Internet censorship. Baidu has increased its market share to over 80% of the Chinese Internet search market since Google left China, but the main question is whether Baidu can maintain its lead in search if or when Google returns to the Middle Kingdom.
That's what I'll be trying to determine going forward, but in the meantime I'd be interested to hear what you think. Will Baidu be able to maintain its lead in the Chinese Internet search market? Let me know your view in the comments section below.