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Baidu thickens revenue stream with Apollo autonomous driving unit

Written by Song Jingli Published on     2 mins read

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Baidu’s autonomous driving unit Apollo is morphing into an income driver outside of its advertising business.

The transformation of Baidu into a tech giant that is less reliant on search advertising continues to make progress. The company on Tuesday reported a 34% revenue increase of its core business, which includes search, autonomous driving, and its smart speaker division, to RMB 20.5 billion (USD 3.1 billion). Proceeds from non-advertising rose 70% YoY to RMB 4.2 billion, accounting for 21% of the entire revenue for Baidu Core, CEO Robin Li told analysts during the earnings call. He expects it to exceed advertising revenue in the next three years.

AI cloud services, which grew 55% YoY, are among the main income drivers outside of its advertising business. Baidu’s autonomous driving unit Apollo is another one. In March, Apollo won the bid to build a 5G intelligent driving project in Chengdu, in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, in a tender worth RMB 105 million (USD 16.1 million). GAC Group has started to install Apollo’s self-driving services into its new vehicles. By the end of the year, we should have maybe four automakers install ASD, CFO Herman Yu said in the call.

Apollo started to charge for robotaxi ride-hailing services in Cangzhou in March and Beijing in May, KrASIA reported earlier. “Over the years, Apollo has morphed into a very comprehensive platform that supports all kinds of business models and directions that includes robotaxi ride-hailing, software services for OEMs, and also includes building our own smart EVs,” said Li. “We’re very happy we invested early, and we’re starting to reap the benefits.”

According to China Insights Consultancy, the total addressable market for Apollo intelligent driving will reach USD 467 billion in 2025, said Li, almost nine times the size of its addressable advertising market.

For the first quarter, Baidu reported revenues of RMB 28.1 billion (USD 4.3 billion), up 25% YoY, and 25.7 billion (USD 3.9 billion) in net income, which included an RMB 23.7 billion fair value gain from its investment in short video platform Kuaishou. Its own video streaming unit, iQiyi, is still in the red, although its net loss narrowed to RMB 1.3 billion, less than half of last year’s number. Subscribers reached 105.3 million at the end of March, according to the company’s release.

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