Shares of Baidu (NAS: BIDU) hit $150 yesterday, and that's the first time that China's leading search engine has traded this high since last summer.
Folks are generally pretty stoked about the dot-com darling. Check out these three headlines that crossed the wires just yesterday:
"Should've Bought Baidu" -- Forbes
"Why Baidu Is Still a Buy" -- TheStreet.com
"Baidu: Now a Solid Buy Candidate" -- Seeking Alpha
Normally this would be a good indicator to lace up those contrarian sneakers and sprint the other way. When the euphoria is so thick that three financial sources issue articles where even the headlines scream out that Baidu is worth buying, it's a good time to start worrying -- and selling.
However, the mob rule has it right with Baidu. The shares have been on a tear over the years, but it's still trading at a healthy discount to its growth rate.
Right now, Baidu is trading at 33 times this year's projected profitability and 23 times next year's target. These are high numbers, but did you notice the big drop in earnings multiples between 2012 and 2013? Analysts see earnings growing 56% this year and 41% next year.
If you think that's heady, consider that Baidu grew its bottom line by 88% last year on an 83% spike in revenue.
It's true that Baidu isn't sneaking up on anybody anymore. The company that was often described as "the Google [ (NAS: GOOG) ] of China" to illustrate its market dominance in the world's most populous nation is no longer a secret. Baidu commands a greater than $50 billion market cap, and its 78% share of the fast-growing Chinese search market is greater than Google's share of its home market.
Google's market cap is four times greater because of its global reach, but Baidu is already dabbling in a few neighboring markets as it continues to take advantage of China's Internet migration rates and fast-growing economy.
Are there cheaper Internet plays in search? Absolutely. Russia's Yandex (NAS: YNDX) is slightly less expensive, trading for less than 22 times next year's earnings. Sohu.com (NAS: SOHU) -- which runs the fledgling though fast-growing Sogou search engine in China -- fetches just 12 times next year's profit forecast. Google itself isn't too far away from Sohu's valuation, as its stock is going for only 13 times what the pros see Big G earning in 2013.
However, Baidu isn't outlandishly priced for a market leader in the world's hottest Internet economy. All of the headlines that manage to get cute by playing off the first syllable of Baidu to arrive at "buy" teasers have it right.
Bullish on Baidu
A bullish call on Baidu has served me well on Motley Fool CAPS over the years. True to the CAPScall initiative, I'm not going to give up on it now. Baidu has soared 1,613% since I recommended it to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers six years ago, but now it's time to discover the next rule-breaking multibagger. It's a free report. Want it? Get it.
At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Sohu.com, Google, and Baidu. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.
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