Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) isn't the type to shy away from making strategic investments, and with the equivalent of $9.4 billion in cash by the end of this year's first quarter it's not as if it's running low on ammo. However, Monday's deal to grab a piece of content discovery speedster Taboola and rumors of the Chinese dot-com darling making a play for Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) mapping business are making Baidu a busy globetrotter of a shopper.
Monday's strategic investment in Taboola makes sense for both parties. Taboola may not be a household name, but you probably know its handiwork. If you've seen a block of thumbnail ads at the bottom of newsy articles pitching other pieces from third-party sites that you may find interesting that could very well be Taboola in action.
Taboola isn't just slapping sponsored articles on the pages of its publisher partners. It spent years developing a mathematical predictive engine so it customizes an ad block with content suggestions that may appeal to the actual person reading the article. Many content distributors lean on Taboola for some of their traffic.
Taboola closed a $117 million financing round that valued the company at a cool $1 billion in February. Baidu's multi-million dollar investment on Monday is a follow-on strategic investment tied to that round. Taboola now has a partner in China, and the cherry on top is that Baidu just happens to be China's most visited site according to traffic tracker Alexa.
However, Baidu's investment -- as small as it may be given Taboola's estimated $1 billion value -- also gives it some skin in growing a global juggernaut. Taboola wants in when it comes to China. Baidu wants in when it comes to diversifying outside of its home turf.
It's not the only non-Chinese company that Baidu is setting its sights on, apparently. Bloomberg is reporting that Baidu is teaming up with Apax Partners and cab slayer Uber to bid on Nokia Oyj's maps business. The move would give Baidu a way to beef up its own roadmap offerings, but it would also flesh out its Rolodex. Many of the world's leading Internet companies and auto manufacturers rely on Nokia's mapping platform for data and in-car navigation.
Baidu and its bidding buddies won't be alone for Nokia's mapping business. There are others interested in paying what could wind up being roughly $4 billion for the division. However, for now the sure thing is the small strategic stake in Taboola. China will probably always be Baidu's biggest market, but it's making sure that it puts its leadership position and ample cash reserves to good use in diversifying across the world.