Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU)has an estimated 80% share of the search market in China, but the company offers a lot more than just search. It is working to continue broadening its horizons, both by expanding current operating segments while making other big bets that could drive new growth in the future.
Baidu breaks its more than 50 products and services into nine categories. Here is a rundown of those businesses and why this company continues to look like an interesting stock for long-term shareholders.
Search products include web, image, and video search, as well as web directories, news, and Baidu Scholar for academic resources. Baidu also operates Qunar Cayman Islands as a travel booking service that has become the leading travel booking service in China with multiple acquisitions in the last few years. Other search based products include P4P (pay for placement) ads for online marketing, BrandZone which is a paid service to add multi-media to search results, and other network marketing tools.
Though the company doesn't have its own social networking site, it operates Post Bar as a space to share updates, images, and videos in a forum-style setting. It also has Baidu Album, which is a service that allows for cloud photo storage to easily send pictures to various social media platforms.
User-generated content (UGC) includes services like Baidu Encyclopedia, which is very similar to Wikipedia; Baidu Knows, a Q&A forum; Baidu Homework, a forum focused on K-12 students; a document storage and sharing site; and a review service for ratings and comments on businesses, products, services, etc.
Location-based products and services
Baidu Maps and Navigation are tools for geolocation and routing/transportation support, while Baidu Travel provides information on the destination itself, such as points of interest, dining options, etc. Baidu Delivery connects customers with local businesses for food delivery.
The company runs its own streaming platforms for premium and copyrighted content, both movies and music, and also operates China's largest channel of games and gaming sites.
Baidu provides typical malware and computer maintenance products to customers free of charge but also offers Baidu Mobile Guardian, a premium security software for mobile devices.
Mobile-related products and services
An intense focus on mobile has paid off, with two-thirds of Baidu's traffic coming from mobile as reported in the third quarter. In addition to mobile search and a mobile browser, Baidu offers a mobile-specific tool for merchants that can bring in leads from other Baidu products, a mobile game marketplace, a personal mobile cloud service, and much more.
Products and services for developers and webmasters
Baidu offers tools and data to allow developers and webmasters to better monitor and manage their websites including offering marketing campaigns and an open cloud for collaborative development.
Other products and services
Baidu offers many other products that don't fit into a category above such as an online/mobile payments product called Baidu Wallet, a wealth management tool, a professional research center providing market insights, a platform for reading e-books and other digital copy, an online education portal, and even a real estate information platform.
The moon shots
Baidu also has a few experiments up its sleeve that could turn into new business segments in the future:
Baidu introduced a "health cloud" in 2014 for distance health management including big data solutions for diagnosis. In August 2015, Baidu also released a service which translates in English to "Ask a Doctor", providing voice search inquires for health-related questions. Baidu's long-term goal is to be a total health management system helping patients to schedule medical appointments and better manage their medical records.
- Automated cars
There are reports that Baidu has teamed up with a few well-known car manufacturers and could actually have an automated car to market before Google. Some of Baidu's talk on the subject suggests that the first version in this category is likely to be more of a "connected car" using technology to give the driver greater freedom rather than fully autonomous, but this first version could be released as early as the end of 2015.
Which bets will pay off?
As for the top line, search still dominates its revenue stream as "online marketing services", what Baidu uses to speak for all things search-related, made up 96% of its total revenue in the most recent quarter. However, those search sales are coming from many of the above products, not only basic web search but also across products like Baidu Maps, Baidu Encyclopedia, and entertainment. So while the businesses seem to be somewhat scattered, the company is finding ways to monetize almost all of them.
For the third quarter, Baidu reported a 31% increase in revenue but a 27% decrease in income year-over-year. The reason for the bottom line shortfall is higher costs due to content, acquisitions, and an increase in research and development which goes towards the continued expansion of its product line. Even though these costs are hurting net income now, many investments are paying off in terms of customer growth as online marketing customers grew to nearly 700,000, a 21% increase over the same period last year.
Earnings per share is still expected to grow 33% in 2016, putting the current price at just four times those 2016 earnings estimates. For long-term investors that are willing to be patient, Baidu's many bets could really pay off.
Bradley Seth McNew has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Baidu. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.