Credit Suisse is assuming coverage of Baidu (BIDU -0.28%) this morning. Analysts Evan Zhou and Angela Zhou have a bullish Outperform rating on the stock. Their price target of $190 assumes nearly 18% of near-term upside on Baidu stock as of yesterday's close.
The one thing raining on the otherwise upbeat report is that Credit Suisse used to have a $245 price target on the shares as recently as two months ago. That was when Dick Wei was the analyst leading the charge at Baidu. His last move, in May, was to push Credit Suisse's price target from $237 to $245 despite the looming concerns of the regulatory crackdown to come following a cancer patient's well-publicized death after going to an iffy treatment center he found through Baidu's flagship search engine.
Wei and Evan Zhou have joined forces at Credit Suisse to break down Chinese dot-com darlings before, but that's not the case on Baidu this time around.
The road to $190
The updated coverage on Baidu is based on what Zhou and Zhou feel is the sum of Baidu's many moving parts. Baidu's search stronghold is slowing, and the recent move to scale back the way it presents its medical-related ads after the late April cancer patient incident will weigh on growth in the near term. However, Credit Suisse feels that a 10% to 15% long-term growth rate in search is achievable, and slapping that segment with a more than reasonable earnings multiple of 12.5 finds core search valued at $127.50 per share.
Then we get to the rest of Baidu's businesses. Paid search may account for the lion's share of its revenue and most of its profitability, but it's obviously not the only thing going on at Baidu these days. An insider-proposed takeover of its deficit-riddled iQiyi video streaming hub would value Baidu's controlling stake at a cool $2.25 billion. Credit Suisse feels that it will be worth more, pegging a value of $8.10 a share on Baidu's video business.
It is also widely expected that Baidu will consider spinning off its growing Baidu Takeout Delivery and group-buying Nuomi platform, and Credit Suisse values all of Baidu's O2O -- or online-to-offline -- endeavors at $19.50 a share. There's also $13.50 a share for its stake in leading travel portal Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRIP), and $5.80 a share for its investments and $15.90 a share for its net cash position.
This all adds up to the new $190 price target, but naturally these are fluid valuations. Ctrip shares will rise and fall. Baidu's net cash balance continues to grow with every passing quarter. The market may cool or warm up to spun-off IPOs.
We'll have a clearer picture on where Baidu stands when it reports quarterly results a week from today. It recently slashed its top-line guidance as a result of the May makeover in how it presents the once-lucrative health-related ads, so that pessimism is already baked into the stock. However, any refreshed guidance or asset-sale updates should move the stock -- and Wall Street pro price targets.