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Baidu Plans to Unload $1 Billion in Shares of Online Travel Site

Zheping Huang

(Bloomberg) -- Baidu Inc. is selling about a third of its stake in online travel site Ctrip.com International Ltd., generating around $1 billion to counter a slowing economy and intensifying competition in its key advertising business.

Ctrip announced Thursday a proposed secondary offering of 31.3 million American depositary shares held by Baidu. That represents around 30% of its stake in Ctrip and is equivalent to around $1 billion according to Ctrip’s current share price.

Baidu will remain Ctrip’s largest shareholder. It owned a 19% stake in the company after exchanging its shares in rival travel service provider Qunar in 2015. The share swap created China’s biggest online travel agency, putting a halt to a cash-burning price war.

The proceeds will come in handy for the Beijing-based company. “Baidu may use the cash to meet its operational needs as its near-term sales falter amid macro-economic and competitive pressures,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Vey-Sern Ling and Tiffany Tam wrote in a research note on Thursday.

Baidu over the past years has sold its food-delivery arm to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Ele.me, and merged its music streaming service with Chinese record label Taihe, allowing the search giant to focus on its key units such as advertising, smart speakers and autonomous cars.

More recently, the 19-year-old company has expanded its investment into content needed to attract and keep users, backing social media platforms including Q&A app Zhihu.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Colum Murphy

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