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Baidu to boost spending on India, Indonesia as mobile sales boom

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Baidu Inc plans to boost investments in India and Indonesia as China's largest Web search provider tries for a greater presence on smartphones.

[TAIPEI] Baidu Inc plans to boost investments in India and Indonesia as China's largest Web search provider tries for a greater presence on smartphones.

"They have a lot of characteristics that mimic China's development," Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Li said during an interview in Beijing on Monday. "There is no legacy of PC user behavior and probably mobile is going to have a very speedy development."

Baidu is spending on new businesses while locked in competition with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd. In July, Baidu forecast sales below estimates, and Chairman Robin Li pledged to tap its US$12 billion of cash to build out its shopping, taxi and delivery services amid China's economic slowdown.

China saw its first decline in smartphone shipments in six years during the first quarter, while India's shipment volume surged 44 per cent in the second quarter. India is now the world's third-largest smartphone market.

During the past two years, Baidu spent almost US$1 billion on more than 20 investments, including Uber Technologies Inc, travel website Qunar and video-streaming service iQiyi, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company is now exploring investments in the local education and medical sectors, Mr Li said. The spending likely will be small, with Baidu interested in minority stakes as well as full acquisitions, she said.

Baidu also is keen to make use of its relationships with educational institutions by providing student loans, President Zhang Ya-Qin said in a separate interview. It has issued 100 million yuan (US$15.7 million) in loans, averaging 20,000 yuan each, since starting its lending program last month, he said.

Baidu is working with 50 education providers, including New Oriental Education and Technology Group Inc, and wants to capture 30 per cent of an online educational loans market currently valued at 10 billion yuan annually, he said.

BLOOMBERG