China's Baidu Q4 revenue tops forecast, shares jump after hours

People talk in front of a Baidu's company logo at Baidu's headquarters in Beijing January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee

By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Chinese Internet company Baidu Inc finished 2013 with its fastest revenue growth in more than a year and forecast revenue for the first quarter that beat Wall Street targets thanks to strength in its mobile business. Shares of Baidu, the largest Internet search engine in China, jumped more than 6 percent in after-hours trade on Wednesday to $184.10. Baidu projected that revenue in the first quarter will range between 9.240 billion yuan ($1.526 billion) and 9.520 billion yuan ($1.573 billion). Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S were looking for first-quarter revenue of 8.697 billion yuan. Baidu Chief Executive Robin Li said in a statement that mobile accounted for 20 percent of the company's total revenue in the last three months of the year. Baidu has been racing to catch up to rivals Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as the two firms stake their ground on people's screens in the world's biggest smartphone market. Baidu's aggressive strategy to gain ground on the competition has included buying other businesses like the $1.9 billion purchase of 91 Wireless app store in August and group-buying site Nuomi, similar to GroupOn Inc, which Baidu fully acquired last month after securing a 59 percent stake last August. Baidu said it earned 7.90 yuan per share in the fourth quarter, versus the average analyst expectation of 8.19 yuan. Revenue in the fourth quarter increased 50.3 pecent to 9.523 billion yuan, exceeding the 9.319 yuan expected by analysts. Baidu said conversions from yuan to U.S. dollars were based on a rate of 6.0537 yuan to the dollar, the effective noon rate as of December 31, 2013. (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco and Paul Carsten in Beijing; Editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)