Last October, I wrote that Baidu Inc (NASDAQ:BIDU) was a screaming buy despite the current travails affecting the Chinese economy and stock market. While the call proved prescient, with shares of BIDU rallying more than 40% as the market realized that the business was sound a month later, the gains proved fleeting.
Traders didn't learn their lessons, and are once again selling off BIDU as the situation in the broad Chinese economy seems to be worsening. After topping out at about $220 per share in November, shares of the "Chinese Google" sit at $165 today. Here's why Foolish investors are again being given a chance to buy a great business for the long term.
Last year, in addition to fears about the Chinese economy, Baidu was being sold off because of the significant investments that it was making in its "O2O" (online-to-offline) initiative. At the time, Baidu was continuing to grow revenues at a healthy pace -- up 38.3% year over year -- and I noted in my original buy case that the reason why shares were selling off was not because of revenue growth, but because of profit growth.
The company was spending big bucks to break into what could be the retail trend of the 21st century (O2O). There are a lot of different terms for it -- "omni-channel" seems to be the word of the day stateside -- but basically, O2O stands for the marriage between online and offline shopping. Wanna try something on, then have it shipped to your house? That's O2O.
Baidu was spending big bucks playing catch-up, trailing top O2O competitors like Tencent (NASDAQOTH:TCEHY), and the market wasn't sure it would be successful. Profits had fallen in last year's second quarter by 2.5% compared to the same period in BIDU's previous fiscal year because of spending on these initiatives.
Fortunately, not two weeks after my original piece, investors got a glimmer of hope. On October 29, 2015, BIDU reported results for the third quarter of FY 2015. Revenues were up 36%, to $2.892 billion, Mobile MAUs were up 34% year over year, to 326 million for the month of September 2015, and despite profits falling 31% for the aforementioned reasons, investors got just what they were looking for.
Baidu's "Transaction Services" segment -- which was previously called O2O -- yielded a Gross Merchandise Value (total value of all goods moved through its O2O initiative), of $9.5 billion, a full 119% increase over the previous year. Clearly, the investments that BIDU is making to get in on the online-to-offline game are paying off.
Keep your eye on the ball
Whenever my father took me golfing, or when I was playing little league, the one magical piece of advice he always had for me was to "keep your eye on the ball." We've all no doubt heard that before, but it's harder than it sounds to implement.
You're standing there at the tee. You've got your stance all set. You stare down at the golf ball and then you think, "Hey, I should see how far I'm gonna hit this thing!" Then you look 300 yards away to where the hole is. And then you swing. Then your ball goes in the woods. Or in the water. Or, if you're me, nowhere, and you just created a lovely divot.
All of this seems obvious, but it's hard to implement -- especially in the stock market. The Fed is raising rates, so all assets go down in value! China is imploding and it's gonna have a hard landing! Who wants to buy stocks seven years into a bull market!?!
Who cares. With BIDU, investors have an opportunity to invest in a dominant search engine that still continues to grow revenues at more than 30% per year, which is doing business in a burgeoning Internet market with a population of 1.3 billion. Period. End of story.
Without dragging on too much, the bottom line is this: Keep your eye on the ball.
Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends 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.