Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) recently found what it had been searching for -- a path back to its historic growth trajectory. Its momentum had stalled while the company dealt with the effects of new online advertising regulations in China and a public relations fallout over the actions of bad actors on its platform.
Over the past year, Baidu's stock resumed its ascent after measures to weed out dubious advertisers and shed non-core businesses began to see results. The stock has gained 30% over the past 12 months, significantly outpacing the broader market.
Investors will be watching closely when the company reports the results of its 2018 second quarter on Tuesday, July 31 after the market close. Let's look at how the company did last quarter and review a few things to expect when the company reports earnings.
Can its impressive growth continue?
During the first quarter, Baidu reported revenue of $3.33 billion, an increase of 31% year over year, and adjusted earnings per share of $2.60, which soared 133%. Those numbers handily beat analysts' consensus estimates of $3.26 billion and $1.73, respectively. They also exceeded the high end of the company's ambitious forecast.
For the second quarter, Baidu's management is guiding for revenue in a range of $3.97 billion to $4.17 billion, which would represent 29.5% year-over-year growth at the midpoint of guidance. Excluding the segments the company sold off last year -- namely, its gaming and delivery businesses -- this would be growth of 31% compared to the prior-year quarter. More recently, the company has divested its financial services and advertising tools segments.
Narrowing its focus
Baidu has been jettisoning these peripheral businesses to concentrate on its core search and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The company revealed last month that the AI-powered Baidu app, which offers both search and a personalized news feed, had topped 150 million daily active users.
AI continues to be an area of great interest for the company, and that was apparent at the Baidu Developer Conference held earlier this month. The company unveiled Kunlun, "China's first cloud-to-edge AI chip, built to accommodate high performance requirements of a wide variety of AI scenarios."
It also announced the release of Baidu's Level 4 self-driving minibus, dubbed Apolong. The vehicle was developed in partnership with King Long, a Chinese vehicle manufacturer. The 14-person bus is the subject of a deal between Baidu and conglomerate SoftBank to develop a version for the Japanese market.
Look for Baidu to update investors on more recent developments in the realm of AI and self-driving cars. Additionally, watch for news concerning the company's AI-enabled DuerOS virtual assistant, which is being embedded into an increasing number of consumer products across China, similar to Alexa, its U.S.-counterpart.
Other items of interest
Baidu recently completed the spin-off of its video-streaming unit iQiyi, though it remains the controlling shareholder. Baidu raised $2.25 billion from the sale and another $1.5 billion through a public bond offering. It will be interesting to see how Baidu plans to deploy all that cash, though the company has made one announcement.
Baidu believes its stock is undervalued, and late last month it announced a share repurchase program that allowed the company to buy back up to $1 billion of its shares over the coming 12 months. Investors should watch for updates of any activity on that front.
There's always plenty going on with the Chinese search leader, and there surely will be plenty to report when Baidu releases its earnings on Tuesday.