There was little doubt that Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) would come through with another blowout quarter last night.
The signs were there for those paying attention.
- Baidu had beaten Wall Street's profit targets in each of the seven previous quarters.
- Traffic trackers in China continue to give Baidu growing gobs of market share since Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) symbolic retreat last year.
- Smaller rival Sohu.com's (Nasdaq: SOHU ) Sogou posted an 183% surge in paid search revenue during the same quarter, revealing during its call earlier this week that Sogou commands only 4% of China's search market and a mere 1.6% of the search market's revenue.
So how good was Baidu's first quarter? China's leading search engine clocked in with revenue of $372 million, 88% ahead of where it was a year earlier. Net income soared 123% to $163.5 million -- or $0.47 a share. Analysts were banking on a profit of $0.45 a share on $367.4 million in revenue.
Many of the hottest companies to go public in recent months are Chinese dot-com plays: video-sharing site Youku.com (Nasdaq: YOKU ) , Web-based retailer Dangdang (Nasdaq: DANG ) , and cyberspace security specialist Qihoo 360 (Nasdaq: QIHU ) . Social networking site Renren is going public.
Buzz over Baidu and SINA's (Nasdaq: SINA ) microblogging phenom, Weibo, have helped grease the pipeline of Chinese IPOs with a dot-com bent. It's unlikely that any of these new offerings would've been possible if Baidu, an undisputed bellwether, wasn't a scorcher.
It's going to get even better. Baidu's guidance calls for $493.3 million to $503.9 million in revenue for the current quarter. The pros were perched at $485.2 million.
Valuations aren't for the squeamish. Baidu closed yesterday at 59 times this year's projected profitability and 40 times next year's target. Analyst estimates will inch higher -- and multiples lower -- but Baidu isn't going to woo too many value investors.
It doesn't need to. The stock's been an 18-bagger since I recommended it to Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers five years ago, and it seemed expensive to many at that time, too. As rich as Baidu's multiples may seem, it's growing its bottom line even faster.
Thanks for the blowout, Baidu, even if it didn't come as much of a surprise.
Is it finally time to sell Baidu or is there more market thumping to come? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.