Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 11 News List

China Internet giant Baidu’s stock price dives amid charges

AFP , BEIJING

Shares in China’s NASDAQ-listed Internet giant Baidu (百度) have dived more than a third amid allegations it gave unlicensed medical firms prominent exposure for money, without telling its customers.

The price of Baidu, referred to as China’s Google, has lost 37.5 percent after reports on state TV that it let companies, including unlicensed medical firms and hospitals, pay to appear near the top of keyword search results.

Shares in Baidu were at US$111.77 following trade on Wednesday in the US, down from US$178.89 at close on Friday, before the reports over the weekend.

Baidu did not state which companies had paid for the more prominent listing, making it impossible for its users to judge the search results on their own merit.

It said in a statement that it had never excluded companies that did not pay, and that it had canceled paid search listings of certain customers such as medical and pharmaceutical companies that were operating without licences.

These customers account for approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of Baidu’s revenues, it said.

“While Baidu is currently uncertain about the near term financial impact of this measure, Baidu does not believe it would have significant impact on Baidu’s results in the long term,” the statement said.

In an analyst teleconference on Wednesday night, Baidu said that it was developing a new advertising system to improve search results, Chinese media reports said.

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