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Baidu quarterly net profit soars 400 percent

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SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Chinese Web search leader Baidu Inc. BIDU.O on Wednesday said fourth-quarter net profits quintupled, but it cautioned that revenue growth was likely to decelerate sharply in the first quarter of 2007.

The Beijing-based company, known to investors as “China’s Google,” expected first-quarter revenue of $34 million to $35 million -- growth of 95 percent to 103 percent.

Analysts were looking for $36.6 million to $39.4 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

Fourth-quarter net income for the Beijing-based company rose to 122.8 million yuan (US$15.7 million), or 3.54 yuan (45 cents) per diluted share, compared with the year-earlier quarter’s 24.5 million yuan, or 0.71 yuan per diluted share.

Excluding stock option expenses, the latest quarter profit amounted 3.75 yuan to 48 cents per share.

The net profit compared with analysts’ consensus forecast of $11.1 million in profits, or 32 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates. Excluding stock-based compensation and one-time items, the analysts’ consensus was 36 cents a share.

Revenue, mostly from online advertising, rose 136 percent to 271.3 million yuan or $34.8 million.

The company was expected by analysts to produce fourth- quarter revenue in a range from $33 million to $35.2 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

The average analyst forecast had been $34.6 million.

Shares of rose 1.5 percent, to close at $115 on Nasdaq ahead of the report. Following the results, which came after regular session trading finished, the stock fell as much as $7 before recovering to trade around $114 after-hours.

(Additional reporting by Kirby Chien in Bejing)

((Reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco; editing by Andre Grenon; +1 415 677 3919; E-mail: Keywords: BAIDU RESULTS/

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