Baidu predicts slide in revenue due to coronavirus

By Zheping Huang
Baidu Inc. predicted revenue could slide as a lot as 13% this quarter, becoming a member of its fellow know-how giants in warning concerning the affect of the lethal coronavirus.

China’s web search chief forecast a 5% to 13% plunge in gross sales to between 21 billion yuan ($three billion) and 22.9 billion yuan in the March quarter, lacking a mean projection for 23.four billion yuan. Its U.S.-traded shares slid as a lot as 1.6% in prolonged buying and selling.

From Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the world’s largest companies have both scaled again on projections or warned of a success to their operations from Covid-19. Apart from the uncertainty of the outbreak, Baidu has been grappling with a slowing dwelling economic system and competitors from upstarts like ByteDance Inc. that’ve lured advertisers away and depressed advertising and marketing charges. Chief Executive Officer Robin Li mentioned it would take time for the world’s No. 2 economic system to get well.

“The return of economic growth will be a long-term issue after the epidemic, but many new opportunities are emerging,” the billionaire founder informed workers in an inner memo obtained by Bloomberg.

Certain companies can thrive regardless of the epidemic, together with on-line leisure and training, Li added. Baidu’s Netflix-style unit iQiyi Inc. projected a better-than-expected revenue achieve of two% to 8% this quarter.

“The virus has affected consumer spending, so naturally advertisers will want to postpone their budgets,” mentioned David Dai, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Bernstein.

In current days, anxiousness has mounted concerning the unfold of the virus outdoors of China, the place it originated. But Baidu executives on Friday emphasised they remained upbeat a couple of gradual return to normality.

“Business activities have started to pick up as people return to work. At Baidu, our employees are gradually returning to the office, applying strict safety measures,” Chief Financial Officer Herman Yu informed analysts on a convention name. “We assume businesses across China will do the same, and that our marketing services will pick up at a faster pace into quarter-end.”

Baidu had earlier reported better-than-expected revenue for the quarter ended December, when advert demand stabilized and strain from rivals eased. To offset stalling development, it regarded to enhance its backside line particularly by tightening content material prices associated to iQiyi. Longer time period, the corporate is investing beneficial properties from its core search and information companies into divisions like driverless automobiles and sensible audio system.

Baidu’s shares rallied after the corporate reported preliminary revenue for the December quarter that beat the best of analysts’ estimates, however that achieve’s largely been erased because the epidemic triggered a broader selloff of Chinese shares. The firm has been surpassed in market worth by rivals like Meituan Dianping and NetEase Inc. after shedding greater than $11 billion final 12 months.

“For the majority, or probably all of the industries who advertise on us, those kinds of demand don’t disappear — they’re just postponed,” Li mentioned on the decision Friday. “If you plan to marry, you’ll still get married. If you plan to buy a car, you’ll still buy a car. If you plan to become prettier, you’ll still go for cosmetic surgery. This kind of demand will come back after the epidemic ends.”

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