August 8, 2005

Baidu IPO Mints 200 New Millionaires

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- Chinese search engine has guided 200 of its biggest shareholders to new riches, following a meteoric debut for its stock in New York.

The ranks of newly wealthy included seven whose holdings exceeded $10 million, the Oriental Morning Post reported, citing calculations based on Baidu's first-day closing price and information in company filings with U.S. stock regulators.

All 200 of the newly minted millionaires were propelled to wealth by a 354 percent jump in Baidu's shares in their first day of trading on the Nasdaq -- the biggest first-day gain since the dot-com era.

Among those, co-founder Robin Li's 22 percent stake of the company puts his personal net worth at about $900 million, according to the newspaper.

Baidu, whose name comes from a classical Chinese poem about a man in search of love, is China's biggest search engine, in a market that was worth a relatively small $150 million last year, according to market research firm Shanghai iResearch.

But the China market -- with 100 million Internet users, second only to the United States -- is also seen as having huge growth potential.

Many have likened Baidu to a Chinese version of worldwide search leader Google, which also holds a small 2.6 percent stake in the Chinese company.

Google's shares got off to a relatively modest start, gaining 18 after their IPO a year ago. But the California-based company's shares have also risen rapidly in the 12 months since then, now up 244 percent from their IPO price.