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What it does
Baidu is China's leading Internet search provider. The company has a business model similar to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) : Attract users by providing relevant and useful results for search queries, and then monetize this user-base asset with advertisements. Crucially important to Baidu is "eyeballs" -- the number of people that visit its sites. To that end, Baidu also supports a large Yahoo Answers-like community called Baidu Knows, MP3 searches, news, and various other portal features.

How it stacks up
The ever-present gorilla in the search industry is, of course, Google. However, Baidu benefits a lot from its "home court" advantage with the Chinese government. The Big G's recent spat with PRC regulatory bodies certainly hasn't hurt Baidu either.

Most Recent Data
(LTM or FY 2009)

Chinese Market Share
(Q1 2010)

Total Revenue (LTM)

Free Cash Flow Margin



$721.9 million




$24,916.6 million

26.7% (Nasdaq: SOHU  )

< 1.0%

$529.0 million

13.4% (Nasdaq: NTES  )

< 1.0%

$606.9 million


Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  )

< 1.0%

$6,477.2 million


Source: Wall Street Journal, Capital IQ.
LTM = last 12 months. Q1 = first quarter.

What to watch out for
Baidu needs to satisfy two customer groups: (1) end-users, the visitors who are looking for adequate search results, and (2) revenue-charging users, the advertisers who want a simple, cheap, and equitable way to get their marketing out there. The former is probably more important than the latter, but Baidu needs to make sure it doesn't skimp on appeasing either constituent group.

Why you should care
There are more people in China with Internet access than there are people, period, in the USA. That means there's also an additional 1 billion individuals (or more than three USAs) who currently don't have Internet access. That's a huge pie to go around, and Baidu's primed to take the biggest piece.

Motley Fool Rule Breakers analyst Sean Sun owns shares in Google. Baidu, Google,, and are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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