Baidu reports better-than-expected results, driven by AI and cloud businesses
Published: Mar 01, 2022 11:29 PM
Baidu's AI products showed at its annual AI developer conference held on December 27, 2021. Photo: courtesy of Baidu

Baidu's AI products showed at its annual AI developer conference held on December 27, 2021. Photo: courtesy of Baidu

Baidu reported revenue of 33.1 billion yuan ($5.19 billion) in the fourth quarter of last year, taking its total revenue for the year to 124.5 billion yuan ($19.54 billion), up by 16 percent year-on-year, according to a financial report the firm released Tuesday.

New businesses in intelligent driving and Baidu Cloud have contributed to the results, which were better than expected.

In 2021, Baidu's core research & development expenses were 22.1 billion yuan, accounting for 23 percent of Baidu's core revenue.

Over the past year, revenue from Baidu Core was 95.2 billion yuan, increasing 21 percent year-on-year; online marketing revenue was 74.0 billion yuan, up by 12 percent, and non-online marketing revenue was 21.2 billion yuan, up by 71 percent.

"Baidu concluded a solid 2021, evidenced by strong growth in our non-advertising business, particularly the acceleration of Baidu AI Cloud. We brought our AI capabilities to China's traditional industries and public service sector, to aid in the improvement of their efficiency and operational expansion," said Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu.

The financial report reflected Baidu's transition from a search engine company to an AI intelligent firm, and AI is becoming one of its main drivers, Liu Dingding, a veteran industry analyst, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

According to IDC's first half of 2021 report on China's public cloud market, Baidu was once again ranked the No. 1 AI cloud provider.

The firm has also stressed the significance of self-driving businesses in its financial report, noting that large-scale commercial operations have become the focus of industry development. 

"Apollo Go, Baidu's autonomous ride-hailing service, provided around 213,000 rides in the fourth quarter, almost doubling sequentially, reaffirming our leadership position in the global autonomous ride-hailing market," Li said.

Apollo Go started to charge fees for autonomous ride-hailing services on open roads on November 25 last year in Beijing. It is now available in eight cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Changsha, Cangzhou and Yangquan.

Jidu Auto, an intelligent EV company established in partnership with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, completed its Series A financing, raising nearly $400 million.

"Looking ahead, we remain committed to healthy and sustainable long-term growth as Baidu continues to improve its overall operational efficiency and execution capabilities," said Rong Luo, CFO of Baidu.

Baidu returned $615 million to shareholders under its 2020 Share Repurchase Program in the fourth quarter of 2021. As of the end of 2021, the company had returned approximately $2.9 billion to shareholders under the 2020 Share Repurchase Program.