Is Something Wrong at Baidu for Such Late Earnings?

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Baidu Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU) is considered to be the “Google of China.” It has the lion share of the search market in China. Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is effectively not allowed to compete in that market. Baidu announced on Thursday that it will report its fourth quarter and fiscal year results for 2013 after the U.S. market closes on February 26, 2014. This makes us wonder if something is wrong inside the company’s report.

Before you hit the panic button, keep in mind that this is a directed pondering rather than an outright prediction. Getting information on the inner workings of the Chinese corporate climate is no easy task. We have even joked in the past that Chinese companies trading in the United States have the largest degree of freedom of speech in all of China.

Again, we have no indication that anything is wrong. But having seen earnings reports and companies delay or expedite earnings, this report seems like a really serious delay in the timing. Many investors and market watchers were under the impression that earnings would be out THIS week — not in almost three weeks.

It did seem odd to consider that earnings would be out given that this week has been Chinese New Year in mainland China. Still, here are the investor relations dates for fourth quarter and annual earnings reports in the past eight years from the company’s investor relations website:

  • 02/04/13 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2012 Results
  • 02/16/12 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2011 Results
  • 01/31/11 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2010 Results
  • 02/09/10 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2009 Results
  • 02/18/09 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2008 Results
  • 02/13/08 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2007 Results
  • 02/14/07 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2006 Results
  • 02/21/06 Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2005 Results

What stands out here is that Baidu’s earnings report has been late before, but never as late as this. It was as late as February 21 in 2006, and as late as February 18 in 2009. To have the report as late as February 26 just seems suspect, even if the company has given no indications.

The stock market is not raising any red flags here. Baidu shares were up more than 3% at $156.90 in mid-morning trading on Thursday. The stock has bounced twice off the $150 handle this week, down from the 52-week high of $185.50 seen on January 9, 2014.

Hopefully nothing is wrong here. The timing of the release just seems more than a little odd.

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