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Baidu.com Profit Rises Sharply on Online Ad Sales

Chinese Internet company Baidu.com said on Thursday its quarterly profit more than doubled, fueled by exploding demand for online advertising in the world's second-largest Internet market.

Net income for the third quarter rose to 181.7 million yuan, or $24.2 million, compared with the year-earlier quarter's 85.3 million yuan, or $10.8 million. That amounted to 5.23 yuan a diluted share, or 70 cents, versus 2.46 yuan per share, or 31 cents.

Excluding share-based compensation expenses, it earned 5.38 yuan per share, or 72 cents, for this year's third quarter. Analysts, on average, were looking for a profit of 5.25 yuan, or 70 cents, per share.

Revenue rose 108 percent to 496.5 million yuan, or $66.3 million. Analysts on average predicted revenue of $65 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

While Baidu's profit handily beat Wall Street expectations, revenue was roughly in line. Baidu's shares, which have nearly tripled year to date, fell about 4 percent in after-hours trade following the results.

Baidu.com, which dominates China's Web search market, had beaten analysts' revenue expectations in the eight quarters since it held its initial public offering in August 2005.

On Thursday, the company forecast fourth-quarter revenue that was stronger than analysts had been predicting. Its active online marketing customers rose 38.5 percent in the quarter from a year ago.

Baidu's share rise has been fueled by a healthy Chinese economy, soaring demand for online advertising ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, market-share gains against foreign and domestic rivals and speculation ahead of the Alibaba.com initial public offering this week in Hong Kong.

"Looking forward, we will continue to enhance our product offerings, invest in key business segments and improve the overall user experience, as well as explore strategic partnerships that bring value to our users," Shawn Wang, Baidu's chief financial officer, said in a statement.

The company said fourth-quarter revenue was expected in a range from 560 million yuan to 575 million yuan, or $74.7 million to $76.7 million. Analysts were predicting, fourth-quarter revenue of $74.56 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

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