Baidu (BIDU) 1st Quarter Earnings: What to Expect

Chinese tech giant Baidu (BIDU) is set to report first-quarter fiscal 2019 earning results after the closing bell Monday, and investors will be looking to see if the company's recent divestitures will get the stock rising again.

Chinese tech giant Baidu (BIDU) is set to report first-quarter fiscal 2019 earning results after the closing bell Monday, and investors will be looking to see if the company's recent divestitures will get the stock rising again. 

Analysts, meanwhile, have scaled back their expectations over the past three months. The company’s recent divestments of non-core business, aimed at boosting the bottom line, will be closely watched Monday. Recent divestments of its financial services and advertising tools segments will also be discussed, along with any other non-core business that could potentially be sold off. 

While the stock has not participated in the recent market rally, there’s still a lot to like with this Chinese tech giant. The company’s increased investments in its core search business and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies is one potential catalyst, among many. The company aims to better diversify its business from mobile internet into the realm of smart home, smart transportation, cloud and autonomous driving markets, which could translate to increased revenue growth in the coming years.

As we’ve seen from the likes of Google (GOOG , GOOGL), which Baidu is often compared to, these "heavy investments” come at a cost, which (in the near term) may hurt profitability. To that end, although profitability has been an issue in recent quarters, there have been noticeable signs of improvement, which helped the company deliver a top and bottom line beat in the fourth quarter — reporting EPS of $1.92 per share on revenue of $3.96 billion, topping Street estimates of $1.79 per share and revenue of $3.88 billion. On Monday, investors will want to see these improvement trends continue.

In the three months that ended March, Wall Street expects Baidu to earn 71 cents per share on revenue of $3.61 billion, compared to the year-ago quarter when earnings came to $1.88 per share on revenue of $3.01 billion. For the full year, ending in December, earnings are expected to decline 14.3% year over year to $8.47 per share, while full-year revenue of $17.79 billion would rise 16.7% year over year. 

The company’s operating margins, which have trended lower in recent quarters, have been a subject of debate. Reduced margin typically means either reduced operating efficiencies, loss of pricing power or higher expenses. But the company has expressed its desire to diversify itself better and has identified the markets (smart home, smart transportation, cloud and autonomous driving) it wants to enter. What’s more, Baidu CEO Robin Li has said the company spends roughly 15% of its annual revenue on R&D, with AI-related research taking up almost all of that budget.

In other words, it makes no sense to just focus on operating expenses, while ignoring the growth opportunities. Amazon (AMZN) and Netflix (NFLX) have done exceptionally with the operating model, “if we build it, they will come.” Baidu will be no different. And given that it controls more than 70% of China’s Internet search engine market, it will help if on Monday if the management spoke confidently about its outlook for 2019 and beyond while downplaying concerns about the perception of China’s lagging economy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Richard Saintvilus

After having spent 20 years in the IT industry serving in various roles from system administration to network engineer, Richard Saintvilus became a finance writer, covering the investor's view on the premise that everyone deserves a level playing field. His background as an engineer with strong analytical skills helps him provide actionable insights to investors. Saintvilus is a Warren Buffett disciple who bases his investment decisions on the quality of a company's management, its growth prospects, return on equity and other metrics, including price-to-earnings ratios. He employs conservative strategies to increase capital, while keeping a watchful eye on macro-economic events to mitigate downside risk. Saintvilus' work has been featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, Forbes, Motley Fool and numerous other outlets. You can follow him on Twitter at @Richard_STv.

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