China search engine Baidu sees Q4 profits nearly triple

The China-based search engine continues to dominate the market, with Google a distant second

China's largest search engine Baidu continues to post strong earnings, with the company's net profits more than doubling for the fourth quarter in 2010.

Baidu, which has long dominated China's search engine market, said net profits for the quarter rose 171.3 percent compared to the same period a year earlier to US$176 million.

"Market momentum" and the company's efforts to increase advertising led the growth, said Baidu CEO Robin Li in a statement. Revenues for the fourth quarter saw a 94.4 percent increase, amounting to $371 million.

Baidu currently has a 75.5 percent share of China's search engine market, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Google is a distant second and saw its market share fall during the course of 2010 to 19.6 percent. Last year, Google declared it would stop censoring searches in the country, a move that analysts say led to a decline for Google's search business in China.

Baidu, on the other hand, has been able to strengthen its business as the Chinese Internet market grows. The country has 457 million Internet users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. In 2010, search engines beat out online music to become China's most widely used Internet service. Currently search engines in the county have 374 million users.

Overall for the fiscal year of 2010, Baidu saw net profits grow 137.4 percent to $534 million. Total revenue for the year increased by 78 percent to $1.2 billion.

The company said it wants to further integrate its online search with e-commerce and social networking services, two growing sectors in China's Internet market.

In October Baidu launched a new Chinese online shopping mall with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten.

At the same time, the Chinese search giant already offers social networking products like Baidu Tieba, a popular online tool to search and create forums. It was originally meant to solidify the company's market position, but now Baidu is looking at developing commercial products and monetizing these social services, Li said during a conference call on Tuesday.

"Social search products represent a significant portion of our total traffic," Li said.

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