Don't Sell Baidu

Nice going, Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) .

China's leading search engine bucked the trend of quarterly disappointment out of its stateside peers, blowing past Wall Street's expectations with ease last night.

Baidu's revenue doubled to $117 million, as earnings climbed 87% higher to $1.11 a share. Analysts were looking for a profit of just $0.98 a share on $112.5 million.

The kicker is that Baidu's performance could have been even better. Earnings would have actually clocked in at $1.23 a share if you back out share-based compensation, or $1.35 a share if you also discount a $0.12-a-share hit in costs to get its nascent Baidu Japan portal off the ground.

No matter what you sprinkle on Baidu's earnings, though, they’re pretty tasty even in vanilla form. The company closed out the period with 181,000 advertisers, a 41% increase over last year's sponsor rolls. See how revenue growth outpaced the uptick in marketers? Well, that means that Baidu's advertisers are spending more -- on average -- on Baidu.

This naturally makes worrywarts look absurd for assuming that sloppy reports out of domestic portals over the past two weeks would reflect poorly on Baidu. Unless you are analyzing the actual performance of Google.cn or Sohu's (Nasdaq: SOHU  ) Sogou, why should Baidu be affected? If stateside automakers, lenders, and home builders are scaling back, why should this impact Chinese sponsors, who are in a booming economy?

Even with the devastating Sichuan earthquakes, followed by the three-day mourning period that shut down Internet cafes countrywide, Baidu still attracted enough traffic to blow forecasts away.

This bodes well for companies like Sohu and SINA (Nasdaq: SINA  ) that rely on Internet usage to drive results. It's also a welcome sign ahead of quarterly reports out of online gaming leaders NetEase (Nasdaq: NTES  ) , Shanda Interactive (Nasdaq: SNDA  ) , Giant Interactive (NYSE: GA  ) , and Perfect World (Nasdaq: PWRD  ) . If people in China are spending more time in cyberspace, it follows that they are likely spending more time on Web-based multiplayer fantasy games as well.

Baidu expects revenue in the current quarter to grow by 82% to 88%. Baked into the guidance is the likelihood of Internet usage dropping off during the Olympic Games in Beijing, as cybersurfers spend more time watching the games than surfing the Internet for results.

Ultimately, Baidu still rocks. It deserves to have more than tripled since I originally recommended the stock to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers less than two years ago. It has earned the benefit of the doubt, having missed Wall Street's estimates just once since going public three years ago. It has now blown past analyst profit targets in nine of its first dozen quarters. You don't bet against those odds. More importantly, you don't begin biting your nails if stateside search engines come in weak again three months from now.

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Shanda Interactive, Netease.com, and Baidu.com are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Sina is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been to mainland China just once, but he's longing to brush up on Mandarin and give it another go in the future. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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