Baidu to sell nearly third of Ctrip stake for $1 billion

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese internet search giant Baidu Inc will sell nearly a third of its stake in online travel firm International Ltd, aiming to raise about $1 billion as it looks to invest in new revenue streams.

FILE PHOTO: A sign of Baidu is seen on a glass at its booth during the Digital China exhibition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Baidu, Ctrip’s biggest shareholder with a 19% stake, is offering 31.3 million American Depositary Shares (ADS), each representing 0.125 ordinary share of Ctrip. Underwriters will have a greenshoe option of 4.7 million ADS, Ctrip said in a statement.

Baidu and Ctrip in 2015 agreed to a share swap deal in which Ctrip exchanged some of its newly issued shares for stock that Baidu held in rival travel firm Qunar Cayman Islands.

Baidu, whose search engine dominates the market in China, is struggling amid tougher government regulation and as a trade war-hit economy has sapped customers’ wallets, hurting advertising revenue.

While Baidu has been expanding into other business lines such as cloud services and mini programs within its Baidu App, most of its success so far has been at video streaming service iQiyi which competes with Alibaba-backed Youku and Tencent Holdings’ Tencent Video.

Recently Baidu invested in science forum Guoke, and Zhihu, China’s answer to Quora.

“It’s a strategic move for Baidu,” said Xue Yu, tech analyst at market research firm IDC.

Baidu is pulling away from businesses like Ctrip’s that connect online consumers to offline services like hotels, and focusing on building its own content ecosystem, Xue said.

Baidu has lost more than a third of its market value this year. Ctrip stock, which closed at $32.15 on Wednesday, has risen 18%, but has slipped in the past quarter.

Goldman Sachs Asia LLC and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC are acting as the joint book-runners for the proposed offering, Ctrip said.

Baidu declined to comment.

Reporting by Yingzhi Yang in Shanghai and Sayantani Ghosh in Singapore; editing by Jason Neely