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Baidu! boss! says! no! to! Yahoo! gobble!

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Baidu.com boss Robin Li has said the Chinese search giant will not buy troubled web biz Yahoo!

Baidu hopes to grow its share of China's search market, as well as expand abroad, by building a bang-up HQ in Beijing. However, at the IT Leadership Summit in Shenzhen at the weekend Li denied a big money swoop for Yahoo! was on the cards.

Digital China Federation chairman Wu Ying had suggested during a panel debate that Baidu – which at $39bn is valued at more than twice Yahoo!'s $18.7bn – could easily afford the web pioneer, according to Xinhua (Chinese).

If a deal did go through, Baidu could neutralise its rivals by snapping up the 40 per cent stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba that Yahoo! owns and cause Chinese internet portal behemoth Tencent to sweat bullets.

However, Baidu CEO Li said he was not preoccupied with killing off his competitors and added, rather cryptically, that he doesn’t consider Alibaba and Tencent as Baidu’s main rivals. Another reason for maintaining the status quo is to ensure that Baidu remains neutral in the search space, which is why the company has focused on this space alone for many years, he added.

Yet Baidu is planning a major expansion of its activities, with Li explaining in an earnings call that he wants the firm to push on in mobile and social, two areas that would expand the firm beyond its core competence of search.

The firm is also looking to expand into Brazil, a nation where Google has an almost total monopoly.

In fact a swoop for Yahoo! would make sense given the latter’s relatively strong presence in China and its reportedly on-off deal to sell its assets in the country to Baidu rival Alibaba.

It would also raise Baidu’s stature on the international stage, something it has singularly failed to do despite thumping Google in its domestic market.

Reports in China suggest that Apple is about to announce a tie-up that will see Baidu offered as the default web search service for iOS users - a move that will surely be interpreted as a massive two fingers to the Chocolate Factory. ®

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