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Baidu Shuts E-commerce Site and Builds a New One
by Willis Wee on April 1, 2011 in Asia, Tech

Both Reuters and WSJ reported that Baidu, China’s largest search engine, is shutting down Youa, its e-commerce subsidiary. Existing merchants have one month to migrate to either Rakuten China or Yaodian 100.

The reports were different in mood, though. Reuters wrote that Youa’s shut down highlighted Alibaba’s Taobao leadership position in the market. The report went on to explain how Taobao is bashing up its competitors. WSJ, on the other hand, wrote that the shift was more of a strategic move. Baidu is believed to be secretly building a new e-commerce platform which will better leverage its search engine technology. No further details were revealed.

Baidu’s move was triggered by the need to expand its business portfolio beyond search. Google would understand its Chinese counterpart’s struggle as it also went through a similar journey to expand to other services beyond search. In fact, Google did actually try to venture into e-commerce through its search engine (at least in my opinion).

Last November, I wrote about Google’s Product Ads whereby advertisers can place product ads right on its search result page. These product ads are different from Google’s normal text ads as it is accompanied by image and price. The key isn’t about the ads though. What’s important is that advertisers need not incur any cost until someone actually purchased the product. Below was what I wrote:

“With the new cost-per-action (CPA) model, even the most skeptical merchandiser would find Google’s Product Ads irresistible. It doesn’t hurt to try out Product Ads since unit sales covers the unit selling cost. It’s a beautiful plan for merchandisers and Google. Think about it. If Product Ads were to catch on, Google could be a huge marketplace for any product. The future of ecommerce could be “Google and buy”. I wonder if that is Google’s grand plan.”

Similarly, Baidu could do the same. But the question is whether Chinese users will log on to Baidu or Taobao as first destination when looking to purchase a product. What do you think?
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MARCH 31, 2011, 3:14 P.M. ET
Google Losing Ground in China
Business Slips a Year After Moving Search Services to Hong Kong in Feud with Beijing

BEIJING—A year after Google Inc. moved its search services out of China, the Internet giant is struggling to maintain traction on a range of businesses in the country despite its executives' desire to keep growing in the wake of a feud with the Chinese government.

Chinese online media company Sina Corp. said this week that it dropped Google's Web search service from its popular portal site, marking an end to one of its most important remaining partnerships in the market.

At the same time, Google's Gmail free email service has become difficult to use in China; the company blames stepped up efforts by censors to disrupt Gmail access.

Meanwhile, new regulations to tighten oversight of online map providers make the future of Google's map service in China unclear. On Thursday—the deadline for applying for new online mapping licenses—Google said it was in discussions with the government on how it can continue operating the service. It wouldn't comment on the likely outcome of those talks.

The developments are the latest signs that significant parts of Google's business in China, home to more than 450 million Internet users, have been unraveling since last March. It was then that Google replaced its self-censored China search service with an unfiltered version based in Hong Kong, citing censorship and cyberattacks that the company said were traced to Chinese hackers.

The company's share of search market revenue in China dropped to 19.6% last quarter from 35.6% a year earlier, or just before Google's announcement, according to research firm Analysys International.

Chinese rival Baidu Inc. has thrived in the wake of weakened competition from Google, increasing its share of search market revenue to 75.5% in the fourth quarter from 58.4% in the last three months of 2009, according to Analysys.

Meanwhile, Android phones shipped officially in China from Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. come pre-installed with links to search products by Baidu and Microsoft Corp.'s Bing, but not Google.

Still, Google has fared better than the most dire expectations after that move, which some analysts said might trigger a complete block of its services in China. Google still offers music-search service in China and maintains operations such as sales and research. While its Web search services are now hosted overseas, and are often unstable due to sporadic connection disruptions by China's Web filters, the search sites remain accessible.

Google president of Asia-Pacific operations Daniel Alegre said in January that Google is still committed to China and continues to invest "aggressively." He didn't provide details.

Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell said Thursday growth in China isn't dependent on Web search traffic there, and that the company continues to experience growth in revenue from China through sales of ads on its international websites purchased by Chinese companies targeting overseas users, as well as display ads on third-party websites.

But in the past year, Google's deals to provide technical support and Web search services to partners such as online forum operator Tianya.cn and Tom Group Ltd., also have ended—in part because the company is phasing out agreements to provide censored content to its partners. Executives have said the partnerships with these popular Chinese websites played an important role in helping the company boost its popularity among Chinese Internet users. Ms. Powell said the company continues to work with "hundreds of partners," large and small, in China.

Google's own Transparency Report shows that traffic from users in China has gradually decreased as a percentage of overall global traffic, to below 20% now from around 30% before the change.

State media outlets are also launching Web search and microblogging products of their own. In February, the People's Daily, flagship newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, hired the former head of Google's research institute in China as its chief scientist.

Many Google users in China lament that products like Gmail are now harder to use—especially in recent weeks as Chinese authorities have stepped up controls in the wake of online threats to hold "Jasmine Revolution" protests in China.

Google said earlier this month that government blocks were to blame for Gmail disruptions.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman rejected that claim, saying "We do not accept this type of accusation."

"The most obvious difference for me" since Google made its decision "is that many functions that were previously available are not accessible now," said Doris Yin, a 29-year-old Google user from Suzhou. Google's decision was "a bit pedantic," she said. "It should fight on to the end against dark forces" and continue operating in China.

"From the perspective of the development of China's Internet and user choices," Google's move was "definitely a setback," said Hao Wu, general manager of Daodao, the China subsidiary of Expedia Inc.'s TripAdvisor travel site.

Others say Google is the biggest loser from its decision. "The Chinese Internet has moved on," said Bill Bishop, a Beijing-based investor who follows the Chinese Internet industry, pointing to the continued growth of Chinese Internet firms, including a slew of initial public offerings in the sector since Google's decision. Google is "just basically descending into irrelevancy here," he said.

Google's top executives were split about how to handle China ahead of last year's decision, executives have said, with co-founder Sergey Brin particularly unhappy over the country's strict censorship rules. Then-Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, who initially advocated opening a search engine in China, resisted Mr. Brin's push to cease censoring, people familiar with the matter have said. Google announced in January that co-founder Larry Page will replace Mr. Schmidt as CEO starting Monday. Mr. Schmidt is remaining as executive chairman.

Baidu Qiyi Is Taking Youku's Market Share
by: Chimin Sang April 01, 2011

Chinese stocks are controversial these days.
In the Reverse Takeover space, also known as RTO space, every day a Chinese company imploded on fraud charges. Yesterday it was Advanced Batteries (ABAT), and Thursday it was Chinese Electronic Motor (CELM).
In the IPO space, we just had a star performer, Qihoo (QIHU), which went up 134% on this first trading day. Investors decided to value this company at $4.2b, 72x its 2010 revenue and 490x its 2010 net income.
I won’t comment on if Qihoo is a bubble but the capital market loves bubbles. The majority of the market participants love holding bubbles – It is like good ol' days before 2008 – except when the bubbles eventually and inevitably pop. Well, without further due, I am going to show you a bubble that is going to burst soon.
Yes, it is Youku (YOKU).
I wrote about it in January, pointing out how crazy its valuation was and the fact that it is in a tough war against many competitors. Yet, the stock price rose from about $36 when I wrote it to as high as $52 this week. Am I wrong? No, I don’t think so. The bubble becomes larger; the soap skin becomes thinner; and the eventual pop becomes even closer.
From the valuation angle, Youku’s market cap of $5.6b using Thursday’s closing price (diluted share count 118.6m) put its valuation at 97 times its 2010 revenue. Since the company is still losing money, it is meaningless to calculate its P/E ratio.
What is more troubling than the high valuation for Youku is that it is losing market share to its competitors. Marae Asset Research found its market share to shrink from a peak of 41% in May 2010 to a low of 33% in January 2011. SOHU and Baidu Qiyi (BIDU) have been the winners during the meantime.
Now there is more evidence showing that Baidu Qiyi is using both technology and market power to reshape the competitive landscape of the China online video market. Youku is likely going to lose in this battle.

Qiyi introduced Qiyi Media to offer better user experience

On March 31, Qiyi, the television portal invested by Baidu and Providence Equity Partners, quietly announced a beta-version standalone video client software, Qiyi Media.

Technically what Qiyi Media achieved was to:

1. remove the web browser overhead,
2. enable more intuitive user interaction and
3. enable Peer-to-Peer streaming to save server bandwidth and enhance smooth viewing experience.

Practically what Qiyi Media enables the users to do is to turn the computer into a TV with superior user experience.
Not only does Qiyi Media excel in the technology, it also offers users free access to a media library that includes nearly all the popular movies and TV programs a typical Chinese consumer watches. Compared with Youku, the only thing that Qiyi does not carry is the user-generated content, which is a business Qiyi decided not to have. Market surveys indicate that Chinese Internet users spend the majority of their time viewing long-length TV programs when they use an online video portal.
The most important fact that investors should realize about this online video market is that there is little differentiation in the non-UGC content provided among those online video providers: Youku, Tudou (TUDO), Baidu Qiyi, Sohu, Tencent (TCEHY.PK) QQ Live and PPTV. They all have enough cash to pay for the contents. The only big thing that could make a difference is the user experience. Once one competitor comes up with a superior solution, the other competitors either have to follow suit or lose market share. The choices would not be easy for Youku. To follow suit, Youku will start losing revenue from webpage advertising, which is currently one third of Youku’s revenue. Not to follow suit, Youku will lose market share.

Baidu is directing all media search into Qiyi, its own video site

What is more disturbing to the inudustry is that Baidu practically owns the gate of the Chinese Internet but it is now showing Qiyi's video as the first search result when it detects that the search keyword may be linked to a video.

A sample screenshot is shown below (click to enlarge), in which the keyword for 'three kingdom,' which is a famous Chinese history theme, is searched. A TV series of the same name is listed as the first match with photos and links pointing to Qiyi.

Youku also acknowledged in its last quarterly conference call that it lost the 30% traffic it used to get from the search engine. It is a big question mark for Youku's capability to maintain its current market share.

The above are just two points I would like to share with my readers. Youku has quite many competitors in the online video market. Unfortunately those competitors do not only have money but also resources that Youku cannot match. Baidu owns all the search traffic and Tencent owns all the instant message traffic. I deem it safe to call the Youku stock at the current price a bubble. It will have to burst. It's only a matter of when.

Disclosure: I am short YOKU.
Wir kratzen an 100,-- Euro!!!

Nun, da ist auch noch mal ein kleiner Rücksetzer als Konsolidierung erlaubt.

How Baidu Makes You So Much Cash


Seth Jayson
April 5, 2011

Although business headlines still tout earnings numbers, many investors have moved past net earnings as a measure of a company's economic output. That's because earnings are very often less trustworthy than cash flow, since earnings are more open to manipulation based on dubious judgment calls.

Earnings' unreliability is one of the reasons Foolish investors often flip straight past the income statement to check the cash flow statement. In general, by taking a close look at the cash moving in and out of the business, you can better understand whether the last batch of earnings brought money into the company, or merely disguised a cash gusher with a pretty headline.

Calling all cash flows
When you are trying to buy the market's best stocks, it's worth checking up on your companies' free cash flow (FCF) once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That brings us to Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) , whose recent revenue and earnings are plotted below.

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. Dollar values in millions. FCF = free cash flow. FY = fiscal year. TTM = trailing 12 months.

Over the past 12 months, Baidu generated $566.8 million cash on net income of $534.7 million. That means it turned 47.2% of its revenue into FCF. That sounds pretty impressive. Since a single-company snapshot doesn't offer much context, it always pays to compare that figure to sector and industry peers and competitors, to see how your business stacks up.

All cash is not equal
Unfortunately, the cash flow statement isn't immune from nonsense, either. That's why it pays to take a close look at the components of cash flow from operations, to make sure that the cash comes from high-quality sources. They need to be real and replicable in the upcoming quarters, rather than being offset by continual cash outflows that don't appear on the income statement (such as major capital expenditures).

For instance, cash flow based on cash net income and adjustments for non-cash income-statement expenses (like depreciation) is generally favorable. An increase in cash flow based on stiffing your suppliers (by increasing accounts payable) or shortchanging Uncle Sam on taxes will come back to bite investors later. The same goes for decreasing accounts receivable; this is good to see, but it's ordinary in recessionary times, and you can only increase collections so much.

So how does the cash flow at Baidu look? Take a peek at the chart below, which flags questionable cash flow sources with a red bar.

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. Dollar values in millions. TTM = trailing 12 months.

When I say "questionable cash flow sources," I mean items such as changes in taxes payable, tax benefits from stock options, and asset sales, among others. That's not to say that companies booking these as sources of cash flow are weak, or are engaging in any sort of wrongdoing, or that everything that comes up questionable in my graph is automatically bad news. But whenever a company is getting more than, say, 10% of its cash from operations from these dubious sources, investors ought to make sure to refer to the filings and dig in.

With questionable cash flows amounting to only -0.3% of operating cash flow, Baidu's cash flows look clean. Within the questionable cash flow figure plotted in the TTM period above, stock-based compensation and related tax benefits provided the biggest boost, at 2% of cash flow from operations. Overall, the biggest drag on FCF came from capital expenditures, which consumed 20.5% of cash from operations. Baidu investors may also want to keep an eye on accounts receivable, because the TTM change is 4.3 times greater the average swing over the past 5 fiscal years.

A Foolish final thought
Most investors don't keep tabs on their companies' cash flow. I think that's a mistake. If you take the time to read past the headlines and crack a filing now and then, you're in a much better position to spot potential trouble early. Better yet, you'll improve your odds of finding the underappreciated home-run stocks that provide the market's best returns.

Can Facebook Succeed In China?
by Willis Wee on April 10, 2011

Most of you would have heard the rumors that Facebook might be coming to China. Marbridge Consulting reported that Baidu and Facebook are rumored to have joined forces to bring the social network to China.

It was also rumored that Facebook China will not be functioned under Facebook.com.Facebook.cn, a Facebook owned domain could be used instead.

Take all these information with a grain of salt as no source could verify that the rumor was right. We tried but failed too. ”There’s nothing to say: mere rumor. We won’t comment on rumor,” Kaiser Kuo, Baidu Spokesperson told us via an email.

Still (assuming all these speculations are true) it somehow made me wonder if Facebook can succeed in China. Turned out, my analysis tends to favor for a Facebook win. The social network might have enough muscles to succeed in China one day, and here’s why:

1. Due diligence paid: It’s a known fact that Facebook has always wanted to enter China. However, Mark Zuckerberg understands that China is probably one of the greatest barriers toward Facebook’s march to connect the world. He was, indeed, very patient with his approach. Facebook has studied China for quite some time. Mark Zuckerberg has even poured in time to study the Chinese language and culture. He even took time off to visit China last year. Note that all the above are probably just a small part of Zuckerberg’s effort to understand China. I’m sure he would have done much more than these before bringing Facebook to China.

2. First step right, Facebook.cn works better: Facebook.com is banned in China simply because there is a clash of philosophy between the two. In my opinion, it is a clever move to enter China through Facebook.cn. The China domain will follow Chinese’s law religiously (and probably unconditionally) while Facebook.com remains status quo. Facebook.com will continue to celebrate freedom of speech. Who knows, 5 or 10 years down the road, when China starts to embrace democracy, both sites could merge which immediately connects China with the world.

3. Chinese love Mark Zuckerberg: When Mark Zuckerberg visited China last December, we saw a spike in the number of Facebook users in China. With all factors constant, the only reason that could trigger the growth was Mark Zuckerberg’s presence in China. “I think more of us signed up for Facebook because of Mark Zuckerberg’s visit in China. His presence has somehow promoted Facebook in our country,” Aileen Meng, a professional working in the Internet industry in Beijing China told us in our previous article.
Not an easy task

However, we shouldn’t discount the fact that there are strong competitors in China. With 160 million users, Renren is a competitor that Facebook should be caution of. Without compelling reasons most users wouldn’t jump ship to Facebook. The network of friends built on Renren ties users down to the Facebook clone. Even for Chinese students abroad, Facebook is merely used to help them connect with the locals. Renren, is undoubtedly still the first choice online social network.

That’s a major problem. As most Chinese use Facebook as a medium to connect with the world, putting Facebook.cn as a separate entity from Facebook.com would simply kill off the reason for Chinese to join Facebook. However, that’s only on theory. I believe the Chinese would still sign up for Facebook.cn to quench their curiosity. After all, Mark Zuckerberg‘s creation is somewhat influential, at least within the Chinese tech community. If you haven’t already known, it is also good to note that Renren has planned for a $500 million IPO in U.S. If succeeded, the IPO will give Renren more funds for growth.

With Renren dominating, it will be a tough battle for Facebook to be the market leader in China. But does Facebook has much choice? Probably not. The thing is, Facebook has to enter China quickly before it is too late. The bigger Renren grows, the harder it is for Facebook to establish presence in China. Facebook understands that it has to move swiftly before Renren becomes the de facto social network in the country. Joining up with Baidu (assuming this is true) seems like a good choice for Facebook. Nothing beats a local tech giant to help you scale your product. Let us know what you think.
Facebook to Set Up Standalone China Service With Baidu, Sohu.com Reports
By Mark Lee - Apr 11, 2011 9:42 AM GMT+0200

Facebook Inc. has signed an agreement with Baidu Inc. to set up a social-networking website in China, Sohu.com reported, citing unidentified employees at the Chinese search-engine company.

The agreement followed several meetings between Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Baidu CEO Robin Li, Sohu.com reported on its website today. The China website won’t be integrated with Facebook’s international service, and the start date is not confirmed, according to the report.

Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman at Beijing-based Baidu, declined to comment on the report when reached by Bloomberg News. Stephen Dolan, Singapore-based commercial director for Asia at Facebook, also declined to comment.

Facebook, owner of the world’s most popular social- networking service, has held talks with potential partners about how to enter the Chinese market, a person familiar with the matter said last week. The discussions have been exploratory and may not result in an agreement, according to the person.

“We are currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers,” Palo Alto, California- based Facebook said in an e-mailed statement at the time.
China Meetings

Baidu’s Li met Zuckerberg during the Facebook executive’s visit to China in December, Kuo said at the time. Zuckerberg, who also held meetings with other Chinese companies including China Mobile Ltd. (941) and Sina Corp., said then that he was on vacation in the Asian nation, the world’s biggest Internet market by users.

Baidu, owner of China’s most-used search engine, plans to develop more social-networking services, Li said on Feb. 1. The commercial value of social products is “meaningful,” he said.

China bans pornography, gambling and content critical of the ruling Communist Party, and blocks websites including Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube that don’t follow the nation’s self-censorship rules. Google pulled its search engine out of China last year after deciding it would stop censoring its content.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Lee in Hong Kong at wlee37@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net
Facebook kooperiert mit Baidu in China

Um endlich auch in China Fuß fassen zu können, tut sich Facebook mit der führenden Suchmaschine des Landes in einem Gemeinschaftsprojekt zusammen.

(11.4.2011, 12:05) Facebook hat es bisher nicht geschafft in China, dem größten Markt der Welt, ein Bein auf den Boden zu bringen. Nun will es in Partnerschaft mit Baidu, der Nummer 1 Suchmaschine eine Partnerschaft eingehen.

Eindeutiger Marktführer bei Social Networking in China ist Tencent mit seiner Qzone. Qzone ist allein in China mit 492 Millionen Usern fast so groß wie Facebook weltweit.

Baidu ist bei weitem die größte Suchmaschine in China und belegt im aktuellen Ranking von Alexa der größten Websites der Welt mit ungefähr 10% der Zugriffe Platz 6. Kein Wunder also, wenn Mark Zuckerberg Baidu als geeigneter Partner erscheint. Nach Berichten in der chinesischen Presse hat Zuckerberg im Vorjahr mit Baidu CEO Robin Li in China besucht.

Nach neuesten Berichten ist nun ein Joint Venture geplant, das gemeinsam aufgebaut und gemanagt werden soll. Derartige Kooperationen müssen aber von der chinesischen Regierung abgesegnet werden und daher ist nicht ganz klar, wann das Gemeinschaftprojekt starten wird.

Eckdaten Baidu:

· Umsatz 1,19 Milliarden Dollar, ein Plus von 78,0% gegen 2009

· Gewinn 534,1 Millionen Dollar, ein Plus von 137,4% gegen 2009

Einige Highlights von Konkurrent Tencent:

· Aktive User bei Instant Messaging: 647,6 Millionen

· Active Qzone User (das Facebook Äquivalent): 492,0 Millionen

· Umsatz 2010: 2,96 Milliarden Dollar ein Plus von 57,9% gegenüber 2009

· Gewinn 2010: 1,22 Milliarden Dollar ein Plus von 55,4% gegenüber 2009
( pfm )
Aktuell geht es vorbörslich mal eben 4,2% nach oben. Mal sehen, ob das auch der Schlußkurs
von heute werden kann. Damit klopfen wir dann bei fast 150,-- US-$ an !!!

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