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Baidu to offer IM, online trading within this year
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Baidu.com Inc will start to offer instant message services and online trading Websites within the year, Li Yanhong, president of the biggest Chinese search engine said in Shanghai this morning.

Baidu Hi, Baidu's "strategic" new product, will mark a key step for the Nasdaq-listed company to compete with Microsoft and Tencent on the Chinese mainland.

Baidu Hi was wholly and independently developed by the company in terms of product design, research and testing, according to previous reports.

Employees of Baidu started internal tests of the IM service product last month and will invite individual Internet users to join public tests soon, Li said.

Profit from the instant message market on the Chinese mainland reached up to 4.75 billion yuan (US$668 million) last year and the figure is expected to jump at least 30 percent annually to 8.76 billion yuan in 2009.

The instant message market on the mainland is dominated by Microsoft's MSN and Tencent's QQ.

Li also added that his company is working on a new voice search service that can help users to get search results via calls to Baidu's customer service center.

The mainland's combined number of telephone and cell phone users is estimated at one billion, a potential market for Baidu's voice search service, Li said.

Baidu's earnings last year rose 108 percent to 629 million yuan, or 18.11 yuan per share. Revenue rose 110 percent to 1.74 billion yuan.

(Shanghai Daily March 11, 2008)

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