Goldman Sachs analyst Catherine Leung reiterated her firm's "neutral" rating yesterday, fearing that the growing popularity of mobile search makes the company vulnerable.
Sure, it's easy to fret. Baidu commands nearly 80% of the search market through computers, but its share of the mobile search market is closer to 35%, according to Chinese tracker EnfoDesk. Just as global PC sales have stalled in the face of "good enough" computing devices including smartphones and tablets, isn't it just a matter of time before mobile usage catches up and passes the time spent on a desktop?
Well, not so fast, Baidu bashers.
Leung does have some valid points. Mobile search is harder to monetize, and smartphones give app developers lower barriers to entry. However, the near-term trends remain positive.
Folks buying smartphones in China are probably spending more time surfing the Web, since the Internet travels in their pockets. In other words, the usage is incremental. There is certainly no slowing of popularity for Baidu at the moment. Revenue climbed 75% in its lastest quarter.
There will also be opportunities for Baidu to grow in mobile search. In a major win, Apple
Now, before one argues that Google's
Baidu knows what it's doing. It's rolling out new Web services that will appeal to mobile users. Until Baidu's growth slows to the point where its forward earnings multiple is a larger number -- and it's not even close now, at a surprisingly low 19 times next year's profitability -- the bigger risk is not owning Baidu.
Bullish on Baidu
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