Robin Li Yanhong, co-founder and chief executive officer of Baidu in Beijing, China in October 2018.
Visual China Group | Getty Images
GUANGZHOU, China — Baidu shares rose just under 1% at the open in the company’s Hong Kong debut Tuesday.
The Chinese technology giant, which is already listed in the U.S., raised $3.1 billion in the Hong Kong secondary listing. Shares pared those gains during morning trade.
Unlike initial public offerings, secondary listings may not be greeted with massive first-day rallies as shares of the company are already trading on another exchange.
The Hong Kong listing is a big moment for Baidu, China’s largest search engine. The company has had a rough couple years from mid-2018 and lagged behind rivals such as Alibaba and Tencent. Baidu failed to move quickly as Chinese users flocked to mobile search and a tough advertising market hurt the business.
But a turnaround, led by CEO Robin Li, has centered on convincing investors that the technology giant is a leader in artificial intelligence and autonomous driving in a bid to diversify its revenue stream beyond advertising. And that seems to paying off.
In mid-May 2018, Baidu’s U.S.-listed shares closed at $284.07 a share, a record high at the time. But the stock subsequently fell over 70% to a trough of $83.62 in March 2020 amid the stock market crash. That was the lowest close since April 2013.
But since the March 2020 low, shares have rallied over 200%. Baidu shares hit an all time high of $354.82 in February.
“I think EV (electric vehicles) is part of the story. At the same time, cloud computing, integrating AI, these are all the areas where Baidu has been investing in very heavily really since 2014 and we’re just starting to see the fruits of those labors,” Brendan Ahern, chief investment officer at KraneShares, told “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.
Baidu has an autonomous driving system called Apollo which can be sold to automakers. The company started a standalone electric vehicle company in partnership with Chinese carmaker Geely. Baidu is also testing robotaxis in cities including in Beijing. And last month, the firm launched a smart transportation project in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, its biggest yet.
James Lee, U.S. and China internet analyst at Mizuho Securities, has a $350 price target on Baidu’s U.S.-listed shares, which is 31% higher than Monday’s closing price on Wall Street. He said that the autonomous driving business could be valued at $40 billion and that the Chinese government will continue to support this industry with favorable policies. Lee also said he expects Baidu’s advertising business to continue to gain momentum in the first quarter of this year.
“We do like the fundamentals of the company and we continue to expect the Baidu shares will outperform the market,” Lee told “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Baidu has been looking to further diversify its revenue streams. The company has raised money for its Kunlun artificial intelligence semiconductor unit which is valued at $2 billion.