Table of Contents
falseFY0001329099Gross unrealized losses (downward adjustments excluding impairment) were RMB165 million, nil and RMB8 million (US$1 million) for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.The balance mainly represents deferred revenue relating to the future services to be provided by the Company to investees.The balance mainly represents deferred revenue in relation to licenses of intellectual property to be provided to Related Party F.The balance represents non-trade loans due to Related Party B with interest rates of nil, which were fully settled in December 2023, and amounts arising from purchasing services from Related Party B in the ordinary course of business.The balance mainly represents amounts arising from services including advertising services and licensing of content assets provided by the Company’s investees and non-trade amounts payable for acquiring the equity interest of the Company’s investees.The balance represents non-trade loans due from Related Party B with interest rates ranging from 0.00% to 0.50%, which were fully repaid in December 2023, and receivables arising from providing online marketing services, cloud services and other services to Related Party B.The balance mainly represents prepayments for licensed copyrights to be received from the Company’s equity investees.The balance mainly represents amounts arising from content distribution services, cloud services and other services the Company provided to its investees in ordinary course of business.The balance mainly represents non-trade loans due from Related Party D with interest rates of 3.465%, which were fully repaid in January 2023, unsettled receivables, and account receivables arising from providing technical services to Related Party D.The balance mainly represents receivables arising from providing online marketing services to Related Party C.Due to adverse changes in the expected performance of certain produced content and the reduced amount of ultimate revenue expected to be recognized, iQIYI performed an assessment to determine whether the fair value was less than unamortized content costs. iQIYI uses a discounted cash flow approach to estimate the fair value of the produced content titles predominantly monetized on its own. The significant unobservable inputs (level 3) include forecasted future revenues, production costs required to complete the content and exploitation and participation costs. iQIYI considers the historical performance of similar content, the forecasted performance and/or preliminary actual performance subsequent to the release of the produced content in estimating the fair value. Based on the above assessment, certain produced content predominantly monetized on its own were determined to be impaired and re-measured to the fair value as of each quarter end. Impairment charges of RMB161 million, RMB68 million and RMB253 million (US$36 million) were recognized for produced content predominantly monetized on its own and was recognized as cost of revenues in the consolidated statements of comprehensive income for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.The transactions mainly represent revenues arising from services including online marketing services and cloud services the Company provided to Related Party E. Related Party E ceases to be a related party from February 2021 as the Company does not have significant influence over Related Party E after its public listing.The revenues were presented as “Others” in the consolidated statements of comprehensive incomeThe revenues were presented as “Online marketing services” in the consolidated statements of comprehensive incomeIt represents the elimination of intercompany balances among Baidu, Inc., its subsidiaries and the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries.Long-term restricted cash represents collateral to repayments of the iQIYI PAG Convertible Notes (Note 15).The allowance for credit losses on contract assets was RMB285 million and RMB168 million (US$24 million) as of December 31, 2022 and 2023, respectively. Expenses of RMB58 million, RMB200 million and a net reversal of RMB117 million (US$16 million) were recognized for credit losses on contract assets for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively. No write-offs were charged against the allowance for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.The balance as of December 31, 2023 includes a non-trade loan and interest receivables due from PAG with the principal of US$200 million (equivalent to RMB1.4 billion) and interest rate of 6%, which will due on July 1, 2024 if iQIYI requires repayment, or otherwise will due on the date which PAG and its affiliates cease to hold any portion of the iQIYI PAG Convertible Notes. PAG released certain collateral secured by iQIYI under the iQIYI PAG Convertible Notes (Note 15) and pledged to iQIYI a portion of the iQIYI PAG Convertible Notes, each in an amount equivalent to the amount of this non-trade loan.Due to declined financial performances and changes in business circumstances of certain investees, the Group recognized impairment charges of long-term investments in the consolidated statements of comprehensive income during the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2023. 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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Form
20-F
(Mark One)
 
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
or
 
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023.
 
or
 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from
   
to
   
 
or
 
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report
For the transition period from
    
to
    
Commission file number:
000-51469
Baidu, Inc.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
N/A
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
Baidu Campus
No. 10 Shangdi 10th Street
Haidian District, Beijing 100085
The People’s Republic of China
(Address of principal executive offices)
Rong Luo, Chief Financial Officer
Telephone: +(86 10) 5992-8888
Email:
ir@baidu.com
Facsimile: +(86 10) 5992-0000
Baidu Campus
No. 10 Shangdi 10th Street,
Haidian District, Beijing 100085
The People’s Republic of China
(Name, Telephone, Email and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of Each Class
 
Trading Symbol
 
Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered
American depositary shares (each American depositary share representing eight Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.000000625 per share)
 
BIDU
 
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
(The Nasdaq Global Select Market)
Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.000000625 per share*
 
 
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
(The Nasdaq Global Select Market)
Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.000000625 per share
 
9888
 
The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited
 
*
Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on The Nasdaq Global Select Market of American depositary shares.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the Issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report 2,280,411,080 Class A ordinary shares and 524,780,320 Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.000000625 per share, as of December 31, 2023.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒ No ☐
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation
S-T
(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a
non-accelerated
filer or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” “emerging growth company” in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act.
 
Large accelerated filer ☒
 
Accelerated filer ☐
 
Non-accelerated
filer ☐
 
Emerging growth company 
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. 
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements. 
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to
§240.10D-1(b). ☐
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
 
U.S. GAAP ☒    International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board ☐    Other ☐
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.
Item 17 ☐
Item 18 ☐
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No 
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court. Yes ☐ No ☐
 
 
 


Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

     1  

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

     2  

PART I

     3  
  Item 1.   

Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers

     3  
  Item 2.   

Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable

     3  
  Item 3.   

Key Information

     3  
  Item 4.   

Information on the Company

     88  
  Item 4A.   

Unresolved Staff Comments

     151  
  Item 5.   

Operating and Financial Review and Prospects

     151  
  Item 6.   

Directors, Senior Management and Employees

     185  
  Item 7.   

Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions

     200  
  Item 8.   

Financial Information

     202  
  Item 9.   

The Offer and Listing

     204  
  Item 10.   

Additional Information

     205  
  Item 11.   

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

     219  
  Item 12.   

Description of Securities Other than Equity Securities

     220  

PART II

     224  
  Item 13.   

Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies

     224  
  Item 14.   

Material Modifications to the Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds

     224  
  Item 15.   

Controls and Procedures

     225  
  Item 16A.   

Audit Committee Financial Expert

     225  
  Item 16B.   

Code of Ethics

     225  
  Item 16C.   

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

     226  
  Item 16D.   

Exemptions from the Listing Standards for Audit Committees

     226  
  Item 16E.   

Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers

     226  
  Item 16F.   

Change in Registrant’s Certifying Accountant

     227  
  Item 16G.   

Corporate Governance

     227  
  Item 16H.   

Mine Safety Disclosure

     227  
  Item 16I.   

Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections

     227  
  Item 16J.   

Insider Trading Policies

     227  
  Item 16K.   

Cybersecurity

     227  
PART III      228  
  Item 17.   

Financial Statements

     228  
  Item 18.   

Financial Statements

     228  
  Item 19.   

Exhibits

     228  

SIGNATURES

     241  

INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

     F-1  

 

i


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

In this annual report, except where the context otherwise requires and for purposes of this annual report only:

 

   

“ADSs” refer to our American depositary shares, each ADSs representing eight Class A ordinary shares;

 

   

“China” or “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan; and “mainland China” refers to the People’s Republic of China, excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;

 

   

“Class A ordinary shares” refer to Class A ordinary shares of the share capital of our company with a par value of US$0.000000625 each, conferring a holder of a Class A ordinary share one vote per share on all matters submitted for voting at general meetings of our company;

 

   

“Class B ordinary shares” refer to Class B ordinary shares of the share capital of our company with a par value of US$0.000000625 each, conferring weighted voting rights in our company such that a holder of a Class B ordinary share is entitled to 10 votes per share on all matters submitted for voting at general meetings of our company;

 

   

“Hong Kong” or “HK” or “Hong Kong S.A.R.” refers to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC;

 

   

“Hong Kong Listing Rules” refer to the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited, as amended or supplemented from time to time;

 

   

“Hong Kong Share Registrar” refers to Computershare Hong Kong Investor Services Limited;

 

   

“Hong Kong Stock Exchange” refers to The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited;

 

   

“Main Board” refers to the stock market (excluding the option market) operated by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange which is independent from and operated in parallel with the Growth Enterprise Market of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange;

 

   

“MAU”, or monthly active user, refers to the number of mobile devices that launched our mobile apps during a given month;

 

   

“our company” refers to Baidu, Inc., which is not a PRC operating company but a Cayman Islands holding company with operations primarily conducted through (i) our mainland China subsidiaries and (ii) contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities, or the VIEs, based in mainland China. This structure entails unique risks to investors, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to our Corporate Structure” for more details;

 

   

“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of mainland China;

 

   

“SFO” refers to the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Chapter 571 of the Laws of Hong Kong), as amended or supplemented from time to time;

 

   

“shares” or “ordinary shares” refer to our ordinary shares, which include both Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares;

 

   

“user traffic” or “traffic” refers generally to page views of a website, with “page views” measuring the number of web pages viewed by internet users over a specified period of time except that multiple page views of the same page viewed by the same user on the same day are counted only once;

 

   

“U.S. GAAP” refers to generally accepted accounting principles in the United States;

 

   

“we,” “us,” “our,” or “Baidu” refers to Baidu, Inc., its subsidiaries, and, in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial information, the variable interest entities established in mainland China and other consolidated affiliated entities in which we do not have any equity ownership but

 

1


Table of Contents
 

whose financial results have been consolidated into our consolidated financial statements based solely on contractual arrangements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. These variable interest entities include, but are not limited to, Beijing Baidu Netcom Science Technology Co., Ltd., or Baidu Netcom, Beijing Perusal Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Perusal, Beijing iQIYI Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing iQIYI. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure” for an illustrative diagram of our corporate structure;

 

   

“iQIYI” refers to iQIYI, Inc., a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands listed on Nasdaq under the symbol “IQ” and one of our subsidiaries;

 

   

“$,” “dollars,” “US$” or “U.S. dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States; and

 

   

all discrepancies in any table between the amounts identified as total amounts and the sum of the amounts listed therein are due to rounding.

On March 1, 2021, Baidu, Inc. effected a change to its authorized share capital by 1-to-80 subdivision of shares. Concurrently, Baidu, Inc. effected a proportionate change in ADS to Class A ordinary share ratio from 10 ADSs representing 1 Class A ordinary share to each ADS representing 8 Class A ordinary shares, or the Share Subdivision. Such changes been reflected retroactively throughout this document.

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current expectations and views of future events. These statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You can identify these forward-looking statements by terminology such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “future,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “estimate,” “is/are likely to” or other similar expressions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to:

 

   

our operations and business prospects;

 

   

our business and operating strategies and our ability to implement such strategies;

 

   

our ability to develop and manage our operations and business;

 

   

competition for, among other things, capital, technology and skilled personnel;

 

   

our ability to control costs;

 

   

our ability to identify and conduct investments and acquisitions, obtain regulatory approvals from government authorities, as well as integrate acquired target(s);

 

   

changes to regulatory and operating conditions in the industry and geographical markets in which we operate;

 

   

our dividend policy; and

 

   

all other risks and uncertainties described in “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors.”

We would like to caution you not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and you should read these statements in conjunction with the risk factors disclosed in “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors.” Those risks are not exhaustive. We operate in a rapidly evolving environment. New risks emerge from time to time and it is impossible for our management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results

 

2


Table of Contents

to differ from those contained in any forward-looking statement. We do not undertake any obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements except as required under applicable law.

Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to Renminbi in this annual report are made at a rate of RMB7.0999 to US$1.00, the exchange rate in effect as of December 29, 2023 as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. We make no representation that any Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate, or at all.

PART I

 

Item 1.

Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers

Not applicable.

 

Item 2.

Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable

Not applicable.

 

Item 3.

Key Information

Our Corporate Structure and Contractual Arrangements with the Variable Interest Entities

Baidu, Inc. is not a PRC operating company but a Cayman Islands holding company with operations primarily conducted through (i) our subsidiaries incorporated in mainland China, or mainland China subsidiaries, and (ii) contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities based in mainland China. Our internet content services, value-added telecommunication-based services, internet map services, online audio and video services and mobile application distribution businesses in mainland China have been conducted through the applicable VIEs in order to comply with the laws and regulations of mainland China, which restrict and impose conditions on foreign direct investment in companies involved in the provision of such businesses. Accordingly, we operate these businesses in mainland China through the variable interest entities, and rely on contractual arrangements among Baidu, Inc./iQIYI, Inc., our mainland China subsidiaries, the variable interest entities and their nominee shareholders to control the business operations of the variable interest entities. External revenues contributed by the variable interest entities accounted for 44%, 47% and 45% of our total external revenues for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively. As used in this annual report, “our company” refers to Baidu, Inc., whereas “we,” “us,” “our,” or “Baidu” refers to Baidu, Inc., its subsidiaries, and, in the context of describing our operations and consolidated financial information, the variable interest entities in mainland China and all of the variable interest entities are domestic companies incorporated in mainland China in which we do not have any equity ownership but whose financial results have been consolidated into our consolidated financial statements based solely on contractual arrangements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Investors in our ADSs are not purchasing equity interest in the variable interest entities in mainland China but instead are purchasing equity interest in a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

Baidu, Inc./iQIYI, Inc., our mainland China subsidiaries, the variable interest entities and their nominee shareholders have entered into a series of contractual agreements. These contractual arrangements:

 

   

enable us to receive the economic benefits that could potentially be significant to the variable interest entities in consideration for the services provided by our subsidiaries;

 

   

effectively assigned all of the voting rights underlying the nominee shareholders’ equity interest in the variable interest entities to us; and enable us to hold an exclusive option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in the variable interest entities when and to the extent permitted by the laws of mainland China.

 

3


Table of Contents

These contractual arrangements generally include shareholder voting rights trust agreements or proxy agreements, exclusive equity purchase and transfer option agreements or exclusive purchase option agreements, loan agreements, operating agreements or business operation agreements, exclusive technology consulting and services agreements, and equity pledge agreements, as the case may be. As for some of the variable interest entities, our subsidiaries have entered into additional business cooperation agreements, power of attorney, license agreements and/or commitment letters (as the case may be) with these variable interest entities and their respective shareholders. Terms contained in each set of contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities and their respective shareholders are substantially similar. As a result of the contractual arrangements, the shareholders of the variable interest entities effectively assigned all of their voting rights underlying their equity interest in the variable interest entities to the primary beneficiaries of these companies, which gives our company or its subsidiaries/iQIYI the power to direct the activities that most significantly impact the variable interest entities’ economic performance. The nominee shareholders of Baidu Netcom, Beijing Perusal and Beijing iQIYI, the variable interest entities, are directors or members of senior management of us or iQIYI. We or iQIYI consider such people suitable to act as the nominee shareholders of these variable interest entities because of, among other considerations, their contribution to us or iQIYI, their competence and their length of service with and loyalty to us or iQIYI. For more details of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with the Variable Interest Entities and Other Consolidated Affiliated Entities and their Shareholders.”

However, the contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over the variable interest entities and we may incur substantial costs to enforce the terms of the arrangements. If the variable interest entities or the nominee shareholders fail to perform their respective obligations under the contractual arrangements, we could be limited in our ability to enforce the contractual arrangements that effectively assigned us the voting rights in the variable interest entities, and these agreements have not been tested in the courts of mainland China. Furthermore, if we are unable to maintain such effective assignment, we would not be able to continue to consolidate the financial results of these entities in our financial statements. See “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—Our contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities in mainland China and the individual nominee shareholders may not be as effective in providing control over these entities as direct ownership” and “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—The individual nominee shareholders of the variable interest entities may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may adversely affect our business. We do not have any arrangements in place to address such potential conflicts.”

There are also substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future laws, regulations and rules of mainland China regarding the status of the rights of our Cayman Islands holding company with respect to its contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities and their nominee shareholders. It is uncertain whether any new laws or regulations of mainland China relating to variable interest entity structures will be adopted or if adopted, what they would provide. If we or any of the variable interest entities is found to be in violation of any existing or future laws or regulations of mainland China, or fail to obtain or maintain any of the required permits or approvals, the PRC regulatory authorities would have broad discretion in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations to take action in dealing with such violations or failures. See “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—Laws and regulations of mainland China governing our businesses and the validity of certain of our contractual arrangements are uncertain. If we are found to be in violation, we could be subject to sanctions. In addition, changes in the laws and regulations of mainland China or changes in interpretations thereof may materially and adversely affect our business.”

Our operations are primarily conducted in mainland China through (i) our mainland China subsidiaries and (ii) contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities based in mainland China, and revenues are primarily generated from mainland China. Though the PRC Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, the definition of “foreign investment” thereunder is relatively wide and contains a catch-all provision which includes investments made by foreign investors through

 

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means stipulated in laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, there is no assurance that foreign investment via contractual arrangement would not be interpreted as a type of indirect foreign investment activities in the future. If any of the variable interest entities were deemed as a foreign-invested enterprise under any such future laws, administrative regulations or provisions and any of our business would be included in any negative list or other form of restrictions on foreign investment, we may need to take further actions to comply with such future laws, administrative regulations or provisions. Such actions may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition, result of operations and prospects. In addition, if the PRC regulatory authorities were to find our legal structure and contractual arrangements to be in violation of any laws, administrative regulations or provisions of mainland China, we are uncertain what impact of above PRC regulatory authorities’ actions would have on us and our ability to consolidate the variable interest entities in the consolidated financial statements. For more details, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the PRC Foreign Investment Law and its implementation regulations and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.”

Our corporate structure is subject to risks associated with our contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities. Our company and its investors may never have a direct ownership interest in the businesses that are conducted by the variable interest entities. Uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements, and these contractual arrangements have not been tested in a court of law. If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our business in mainland China do not comply with the laws and regulations of mainland China, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change or are interpreted differently in the future, we and the variable interest entities could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations. This would result in the variable interest entities being deconsolidated. The majority of our assets, including the necessary licenses to conduct business in mainland China, are held by the variable interest entities. A significant part of our revenues are generated by the variable interest entities. An event that results in the deconsolidation of the variable interest entities would have a material effect on our operations and result in the value of the securities of our company diminish substantially or even become worthless. Our company, our mainland China subsidiaries and the variable interest entities, and investors of our company face uncertainty about potential future actions by the PRC government that could affect the enforceability of the contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities and, consequently, significantly affect the financial performance of the variable interest entities and our company as a whole. Baidu, Inc. may not be able to repay its indebtedness, and the Class A ordinary shares or ADSs of our company may decline in value or become worthless, if we are unable to assert our contractual control rights over the assets of our mainland China subsidiaries and the variable interest entities that conduct all or substantially all of our operations. For a detailed description of the risks associated with our corporate structure, please refer to risks disclosed under “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure.”

Our company and the variable interest entities face various risks and uncertainties related to doing business in China. For example, we face risks associated with regulatory approvals on offshore offerings, antimonopoly regulatory actions, and oversight on cybersecurity and data privacy. These risks could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our ADSs, significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to continue to offer securities to investors, or adversely affect the value of such securities. For a detailed description of risks related to doing business in China, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China.”

PRC government’s certain administrative measures in regulating (i) our operations and (ii) offerings conducted overseas by, and foreign investment in, China-based issuers, could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors. Implementation of industry-wide regulations, including data security or anti-monopoly related regulations, in this nature may result in adverse effect on the value of such securities. For more details, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks

 

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Related to Doing Business in China—Failure to meet the PRC government’s complex regulatory requirements on our business operation could have a material adverse effect on our operations and the value of our securities.”

Risks and uncertainties arising from the PRC legal system, including risks and uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws and quickly evolving rules and regulations in mainland China, could result in a material adverse change in our operations and the value of our ADSs. For more details, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the PRC Foreign Investment Law and its implementation regulations and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations.”

The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act

Pursuant to the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which was enacted on December 18, 2020 and further amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 signed into law on December 29, 2022, or the HFCAA, if the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, determines that we have filed audit reports issued by a registered public accounting firm that has not been subject to inspections by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or the PCAOB, for two consecutive years, the SEC will prohibit our shares or the ADSs from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over-the-counter trading market in the United States. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued a report to notify the SEC of its determination that the PCAOB was unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong, including our auditor. In April 2022, the SEC conclusively listed us as a Commission-Identified Issuer under the HFCAA following the filing of our annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. On December 15, 2022, the PCAOB issued a report that vacated its December 16, 2021 determination and removed mainland China and Hong Kong from the list of jurisdictions where it is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms. For this reason, we were not identified as a Commission-Identified Issuer under the HFCAA after we filed our annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022 and do not expect to be so identified after we file this annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023. Each year, the PCAOB will determine whether it can inspect and investigate completely audit firms in mainland China and Hong Kong, among other jurisdictions. If the PCAOB determines in the future that it no longer has full access to inspect and investigate completely accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong and we use an accounting firm headquartered in one of these jurisdictions to issue an audit report on our financial statements filed with the SEC, we would be identified as a Commission-Identified Issuer following the filing of the annual report on Form 20-F for the relevant fiscal year. There can be no assurance that we would not be identified as a Commission-Identified Issuer for any future fiscal year, and if we were so identified for two consecutive years, we would become subject to the prohibition on trading under the HFCAA. See “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—The PCAOB had historically been unable to inspect our auditor in relation to their audit work performed for our financial statements and the inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of our auditor in the past has deprived our investors with the benefits of such inspections.” and “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Our ADSs may be prohibited from trading in the United States under the HFCAA in the future if the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely auditors located in China. The delisting or prohibition of trading of the ADSs, or the threat of their being delisted or prohibited from trading, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment.”

Permissions Required from the PRC Government Authorities for Our Operations

We conduct our business primarily through our subsidiaries and the variable interest entities in mainland China. Our operations in mainland China are governed by the laws and regulations of mainland China. As of the date of this annual report, our mainland China subsidiaries and the variable interest entities have obtained the requisite licenses and permits from the PRC government authorities that are material for the business operations of our subsidiaries and the variable interest entities in mainland China, including, among others, the Value-Added Telecommunication Business Operating License, the Internet News Information Service License, the

 

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Short Messaging Service Access Code Certificate, the Online Audio/Video Program Transmission License, the Radio and Television Program Production License, the Surveying and Mapping Qualification Certificate for internet map services, the Internet Culture Business Permit, the Publication Business Operating License, the Filing Certificate for Internet Drug and Medical Devices Information Services/the Qualification Certificate for Internet Drug Information Services, the Human Resource Services License, the Filing Certificate for the Online Transaction Platform, the Filing Certificate for Business of Category II Medical Devices, the Registration Certificate for Medical Devices, the Food Business License, the Medicine Business License, the Filing Certificate for the Online Publication Transaction Platform, the Internet Domain Name Services License, the Medical Device Operation License, the Medical Device Production License, the Filing Certificate for Third-Party Platform Provider of Online Trading Service for Drugs and the Filing Certificate for Third-Party Platform Provider of Online Trading Service for Medical Device, the Practice License of Medical Institutions, the Internet Religious Information Service License, the Filing Certificate of Artworks Operators, the Filing Information Form of Third Party Platform Providers of Online Food Trading, the Aquatic Wildlife Operation and Utilization License, the Online Taxi-Hailing Operation License and certain permits for road testing and demonstration application and/or commercial operations of autonomous driving vehicles. Given the uncertainties of interpretation and implementation of relevant laws and regulations and the enforcement practice by the government authorities, we may be required to obtain additional licenses, permits, filings or approvals for our businesses and services in the future. For more detailed information, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We may be adversely affected by the complexity, uncertainties and changes in the regulations of internet and related business and companies in mainland China.”

Furthermore, in connection with our historical issuance of securities to foreign investors, we, our mainland China subsidiaries and the variable interest entities, (i) are not required to obtain permission from the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, (ii) are not required to go through a cybersecurity review by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, and (iii) have not been asked to obtain permission by any PRC government authority.

However, the PRC government has promulgated certain regulations and rules to exert more oversight and control over offerings that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers. On February 17, 2023, the CSRC released the Trial Administrative Measures of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies and five supporting guidelines, or, collectively, the Filing Rules, which took effect on March 31, 2023. According to the Filing Rules, domestic companies in mainland China that directly or indirectly offer or list their securities in an overseas market are required to file with the CSRC. In addition, an overseas listed company must also submit the filing with respect to its follow-on offerings, issuance of convertible corporate bonds and exchangeable bonds, and other equivalent offering activities, within a specific time frame requested under the Filing Rules. Therefore, we will be required to file with the CSRC for our overseas offering of equity and equity linked securities in the future within the applicable scope of the Filing Rules. For more detailed information, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—The approval of and/or filing with the CSRC or other PRC government authorities may be required in connection with our offshore offerings under the laws of mainland China, and, if required, we cannot predict whether or for how long we will be able to obtain such approval or complete such filing.”

Cash Flows through Our Organization

Baidu, Inc. is a holding company with no operations of its own. We conduct our operations in mainland China primarily through our subsidiaries and the variable interest entities in mainland China. As a result, although other means are available for us to obtain financing at the holding company level, Baidu, Inc.’s ability to pay dividends to the shareholders and to service any debt it may incur may depend upon dividends paid by our mainland China subsidiaries and license and service fees paid by the variable interest entities. If any of our subsidiaries incurs debt on its own behalf, the instruments governing such debt may restrict its ability to pay dividends to Baidu, Inc. In addition, our mainland China subsidiaries are permitted to pay dividends to Baidu, Inc. only out of their retained earnings, if any, as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and

 

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regulations. Further, our mainland China subsidiaries and the variable interest entities are required to make appropriations to certain statutory reserve funds or may make appropriations to certain discretionary funds, which are not distributable as cash dividends except in the event of a solvent liquidation of the companies. For more details, see “Item 5.B. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Holding Company Structure.”

Under the laws and regulations of mainland China, our mainland China subsidiaries and the variable interest entities are subject to certain restrictions with respect to paying dividends or otherwise transferring any of their net assets to us. Remittance of dividends by a wholly foreign-owned enterprise out of mainland China is also subject to examination by the banks designated by State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE. The amounts restricted include the paid-up capital and the statutory reserve funds of our mainland China subsidiaries and the net assets of the variable interest entities in which we have no legal ownership, totaling RMB45.9 billion, RMB47.3 billion and RMB48.0 billion (US$6.8 billion) as of December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively. For risks relating to the fund flows of our operations in mainland China, see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Our subsidiaries and the variable interest entities in mainland China are subject to restrictions on paying dividends and making other payments to our holding company.”

From 2021 to 2023, certain of our mainland China subsidiaries have declared and distributed profits earned to Baidu (Hong Kong) Limited for an aggregate amount of RMB23.1 billion (US$3.2 billion); the dividend payments are subject to withholding tax. We have made tax provisions based on the corresponding tax rate. If our mainland China subsidiaries further declare and distribute profits earned after January 1, 2008 in the future, the dividend payments will be subject to withholding tax, which will increase our tax liability and reduce the amount of cash available to our company. For the potential distributable profits to be distributed to our qualified Hong Kong incorporated subsidiary, the deferred tax liabilities are accrued at a 5% withholding tax rate. For more information on related risks, please see “Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—If our mainland China subsidiaries declare and distribute dividends to their respective offshore parent companies, we will be required to pay more taxes, which could have a material and adverse effect on our result of operations.”

Under the laws of mainland China, Baidu Inc. may provide funding to our mainland China subsidiaries only through capital contributions or loans, and to the variable interest entities only through loans, subject to satisfaction of applicable government registration and approval requirements.

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, Baidu, Inc. provided loans with principal amount of RMB14.5 billion, RMB11.0 billion and RMB24.4 billion (US$3.4 billion), respectively, to its subsidiaries, and the subsidiaries repaid principal amount of RMB4.9 billion, RMB12.6 billion and RMB27.1 billion (US$3.8 billion), respectively, to Baidu, Inc.

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the subsidiaries of Baidu, Inc. provided loans with principal amount of RMB3.1 billion, RMB22.3 billion and RMB21.4 billion (US$3.0 billion), respectively, to Baidu, Inc. and Baidu, Inc. repaid principal amount of RMB3.0 billion, RMB3.1 billion and RMB23.3 billion (US$3.3 billion), respectively, to its subsidiaries.

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, loans for the amounts of RMB409 million, RMB65 million and RMB58 million (US$8 million), respectively, were provided to the nominee shareholders to fund the capitalization of the variable interest entities for which the Company does not intend to seek repayment, and nil was repaid by the nominee shareholders.

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the variable interest entities received RMB6.9 billion, RMB5.4 billion and RMB1.5 billion (US$218 million), respectively, as capital contributions or loans from the subsidiaries of Baidu, Inc. and the variable interest entities repaid principal amount of nil, RMB6.5 billion and RMB5.2 billion (US$725 million), respectively, to the subsidiaries.

 

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For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the variable interest entities provided loans with principal amount of RMB450 million, nil and nil, respectively, to the subsidiaries of Baidu, Inc. and the subsidiaries repaid principal amount of RMB10 million, RMB200 million and RMB345 million (US$49 million), respectively, to the variable interest entities.

Baidu, Inc. has not declared or paid any cash dividends, nor does it has any present plan to pay any cash dividends on its ordinary shares in the foreseeable future. We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to operate and expand our business. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Dividend Policy.” For mainland China and United States federal income tax considerations of an investment in our ADSs, see “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation.”

 

A.

[Reserved]

The following table presents the selected consolidated financial information for our company. The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive income data and cash flow data for the three years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023 and the consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2022 and 2023 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, which are included in this annual report beginning on page F-1. The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive income data and cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2020 and the selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, which are not included in this annual report. Our historical results do not necessarily indicate results expected for any future periods. The selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with, and are qualified in their entirety by reference to, our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” below. Our audited consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2019     2020     2021     2022     2023  
     RMB     RMB     RMB     RMB     RMB      US$  
                                       
     (In millions, except per share and per ADS data)  

Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income Data:

             

Revenues:

             

Online marketing services

     78,093       72,840       80,695       74,711       81,203        11,437  

Others

     29,320       34,234       43,798       48,964       53,395        7,521  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total revenues

     107,413       107,074       124,493       123,675       134,598        18,958  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Operating costs and expenses:

             

Cost of revenues

     62,850       55,158       64,314       63,935       65,031        9,159  

Selling, general and administrative

     19,910       18,063       24,723       20,514       23,519        3,314  

Research and development

     18,346       19,513       24,938       23,315       24,192        3,407  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total operating costs and expenses

     101,106       92,734       113,975       107,764       112,742        15,880  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Operating profit

     6,307       14,340       10,518       15,911       21,856        3,078  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total other (loss) income, net

     (6,647     8,750       260       (5,799     3,342        472  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

(Loss) income before income taxes

     (340     23,090       10,778       10,112       25,198        3,550  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Income taxes

     1,948       4,064       3,187       2,578       3,649        514  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net (loss) income

     (2,288     19,026       7,591       7,534       21,549        3,036  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Less: Net (loss) income attributable to non-controlling interests

     (4,345     (3,446     (2,635     (25     1,234        175  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net income attributable to Baidu, Inc.

     2,057       22,472       10,226       7,559       20,315        2,861  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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     As of December 31,  
     2019      2020      2021      2022      2023  
     RMB      RMB      RMB      RMB      RMB      US$  
                                           
     (In millions)  

Consolidated Balance Sheets Data:

                 

Cash and cash equivalents

     33,443        35,782        36,850        53,156        25,231        3,554  

Restricted cash

     996        758        10,821        11,330        11,503        1,620  

Short-term investments, net(1)

     112,924        126,402        143,243        120,839        168,670        23,757  

Total assets

     301,316        332,708        380,034        390,973        406,759        57,291  

Short-term loans

     2,618        3,016        4,168        5,343        10,257        1,445  

Long-term loans, current portion

     737        7,427        2        —         2        —   

Long-term loans

     7,804        —         12,629        13,722        14,223        2,003  

Notes payable, current portion

     5,219        —         10,505        6,904        6,029        849  

Notes payable

     38,090        48,408        43,120        39,893        34,990        4,928  

Convertible senior notes, current portion(2)

     —         4,752        —         8,305        2,802        395  

Convertible senior notes(2)

     12,297        11,927        12,652        9,568        8,144        1,147  

Total liabilities

     128,501        140,865        156,082        153,168        144,151        20,304  

Total Baidu, Inc. shareholders’ equity

     163,599        182,696        211,459        223,478        243,626        34,314  

 

(1)

We adopted Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-13, Financial Instruments-Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments on January 1, 2020, which requires the measurement and recognition of expected credit losses for financial assets held at amortized cost. ASU 2016-13 replaces the existing incurred loss impairment model with an expected loss methodology, resulting in more timely recognition of credit losses.

(2)

We adopted ASU No. 2020-06, Accounting for Convertible Instruments and Contracts in an Entity’s Own Equity on January 1, 2022 using a modified retrospective transition method. Following the adoption of ASU 2020-06, all of the proceeds received from the issuance of the existing notes have been recorded as a liability on the balance sheet in accordance with ASC 470-20. The difference between the principal amount of each of the existing notes and net proceeds from the issuance is considered debt discount and is amortized at their respective effective interest rates to accrete the carrying value of the existing notes to its face value on the respective put dates of the existing notes.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2019     2020     2021     2022     2023  
     RMB     RMB     RMB     RMB     RMB     US$  
                                      
     (In millions)  

Consolidated Cash Flow Data:

            

Net cash provided by operating activities

     28,458       24,200       20,122       26,170       36,615       5,157  

Net cash used in investing activities

     (19,974     (27,552     (31,444     (3,944     (50,397     (7,098

Net cash (used in)/provided by financing activities

     (3,873     5,665       23,396       (6,390     (14,162     (1,995

Net increase/(decrease) in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash

     4,612       2,101       11,131       17,565       (27,662     (3,896

Financial Information Related to the Variable Interest Entities

The following tables present the condensed consolidating schedule of financial performance, financial position and cash flows for Baidu, Inc., its wholly owned subsidiaries that are the Primary Beneficiaries of the VIEs under U.S. GAAP, or the Primary Beneficiaries of VIEs excluding Baidu, Inc., its other subsidiaries that are not the Primary Beneficiaries of VIEs, or the “Other Subsidiaries, the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries that we consolidate for the periods and as of the dates presented.

 

   

“Baidu Inc.” is our holding company in the Cayman Islands, and the primary beneficiary of the VIEs including Beijing Baidu Netcom Science Technology Co., Ltd., or Baidu Netcom, and Beijing Perusal Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Perusal, and other VIEs. “Primary Beneficiaries of VIEs excluding Baidu, Inc.” mainly refer to iQIYI, Inc., the primary beneficiary of Beijing iQIYI Science & Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing iQIYI, and other iQIYI VIEs.

 

   

“Other Subsidiaries” refer to the sum of non-VIE subsidiaries, which mainly include Baidu Online Network Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd., or Baidu Online, Baidu (China) Co., Ltd., or Baidu China,

 

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Baidu.com Times Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd., or Baidu Times, Beijing QIYI Century Science & Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing QIYI Century, a wholly-owned foreign enterprise of iQIYI, Inc., and other wholly-owned subsidiaries, which mainly provide online marketing services to external customers. In addition, as instructed by the primary beneficiaries of the VIEs, certain wholly-owned subsidiaries including Baidu Online and Beijing QIYI Century also provide long-term loans to the nominee shareholders of the VIEs to fund the capitalization of these entities as well as exclusive technology consulting and services to the VIEs.

 

   

“VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries” refer to the sum of Baidu Netcom, Beijing Perusal, Beijing iQIYI and other iQIYI VIEs, and other VIEs.

Selected Condensed Consolidating Statements of Comprehensive Income Information

 

     For the Year Ended December 31, 2023  
     Baidu
Inc.
     Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
     Other
Subsidiaries
     VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
     Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
                                          
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Revenues

     —         22        92,326        67,001        (24,751     134,598  

Share of income of the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries

     4,021        501        —         —         (4,522     —   

Net income

     20,315        1,819        19,235        4,202        (24,022     21,549  

 

     For the Year Ended December 31, 2022  
     Baidu
Inc.
     Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
    Other
Subsidiaries
     VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
     Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
                                         
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Revenues

     —         14       82,471        62,121        (20,931     123,675  

Share of income of the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries

     158        164       —         —         (322     —   

Net income (loss)

     7,559        (272     11,640        212        (11,605     7,534  

 

     For the Year Ended December 31, 2021  
     Baidu
Inc.
    Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
    Other
Subsidiaries
     VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
    Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
                                       
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Revenues

     —        4       83,424        61,380       (20,315     124,493  

Share of loss of the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries

     (276     (2,067     —         —        2,343       —   

Net income (loss)

     10,226       (6,248     16,330        (220     (12,497     7,591  

 

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Selected Condensed Consolidating Balance Sheets Information

 

     As of December 31, 2023  
     Baidu,
Inc.
     Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
     Other
Subsidiaries
     VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
     Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Assets

                

Cash and cash equivalents

     5,463        406        14,524        4,838        —        25,231  

Short-term investments, net

     4,338        —         159,277        5,055        —        168,670  

Accounts receivable, net

     —         —         3,206        7,642        —        10,848  

Others

     13        42        17,165        8,286        —        25,506  

Total current assets

     9,814        448        194,172        25,821        —        230,255  

Fixed assets, net

     217        —         18,659        9,084        —        27,960  

Intangible assets, net

     —         —         46        835        —        881  

Licensed copyrights, net

     —         —         5,016        1,951        —        6,967  

Produced content, net

     —         —         1,028        12,349        —        13,377  

Long-term investments, net

     423        354        29,752        17,428        —        47,957  

Long-term time deposits and held-to-maturity investments

     2,528        —         21,808        330        —        24,666  

Investments in subsidiaries

     298,642        958        —         —         (299,600     —   

Contractual interests in the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)

     3,654        —         23,859        —         (27,513     —   

Operating lease right-of-use assets

     —         —         4,610        6,241        —        10,851  

Others

     —         152        32,427        11,266        —        43,845  

Total non-current assets

     305,464        1,464        137,205        59,484        (327,113     176,504  

Amounts due from the entities within Baidu(2)

     —         24,823        —         —         (24,823     —   

Total assets

     315,278        26,735        331,377        85,305        (351,936     406,759  

Liabilities

                

Accounts payable and accrued liabilities

     572        41        20,719        16,385        —        37,717  

Customers’ deposits and deferred revenue

     —         —         6,620        8,007        —        14,627  

Operating lease liabilities

     —         —         225        2,883        —        3,108  

Others

     6,029        2,802        5,387        6,781        —        20,999  

Total current liabilities

     6,601        2,843        32,951        34,056        —        76,451  

Operating lease liabilities

     —         —         120        4,920        —        5,040  

Others

     49,115        8,144        3,568        1,833        —        62,660  

Total non-current liabilities

     49,115        8,144        3,688        6,753        —        67,700  

Amounts due to the entities within Baidu(2)

     15,936        —         696        13,985        (30,617     —   

Total liabilities

     71,652        10,987        37,335        54,794        (30,617     144,151  

Redeemable noncontrolling interests

     —         6,090        3,261        114        —        9,465  

Equity

                

Total Baidu shareholders’ equity(3)

     243,626        3,060        290,746        27,513        (321,319     243,626  

Noncontrolling interests

     —         6,598        35        2,884        —        9,517  

Total equity

     243,626        9,658        290,781        30,397        (321,319     253,143  

Total liabilities, redeemable noncontrolling interests and equity

     315,278        26,735        331,377        85,305        (351,936     406,759  

 

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     As of December 31, 2022  
     Baidu,
Inc.
     Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
     Other
Subsidiaries
    VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
     Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Assets

               

Cash and cash equivalents

     18,691        4,351        26,333       3,781        —        53,156  

Short-term investments, net

     5,485        —         110,704       4,650        —        120,839  

Accounts receivable, net

     —         —         3,325       8,408        —        11,733  

Others

     —         48        18,587       8,487        —        27,122  

Total current assets

     24,176        4,399        158,949       25,326        —        212,850  

Fixed assets, net

     225        —         16,124       7,624        —        23,973  

Intangible assets, net

     —         —         45       1,209        —        1,254  

Licensed copyrights, net

     —         —         4,889       1,952        —        6,841  

Produced content, net

     —         —         468       12,534        —        13,002  

Long-term investments, net

     —         365        36,775       18,157        —        55,297  

Long-term time deposits and held-to-maturity investments

     —         —         23,329       300        —        23,629  

Investments in subsidiaries

     274,483        243        —        —         (274,726     —   

Contractual interests in the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)

     884        —         23,778       —         (24,662     —   

Operating lease right-of-use assets

     —         —         4,905       5,460        —        10,365  

Others

     —         152        32,781       10,829        —        43,762  

Total non-current assets

     275,592        760        143,094       58,065        (299,388     178,123  

Amounts due from the entities within Baidu(2)

     —         22,648        3,206       —         (25,854     —   

Total assets

     299,768        27,807        305,249       83,391        (325,242     390,973  

Liabilities

               

Accounts payable and accrued liabilities

     616        167        21,482       15,749        —        38,014  

Customers’ deposits and deferred revenue

     —         —         5,729       7,387        —        13,116  

Operating lease liabilities

     —         —         255       2,554        —        2,809  

Others

     6,904        8,305        5,804       4,678        —        25,691  

Total current liabilities

     7,520        8,472        33,270       30,368        —        79,630  

Operating lease liabilities

     —         —         245       4,565        —        4,810  

Others

     53,614        9,568        3,448       2,098        —        68,728  

Total non-current liabilities

     53,614        9,568        3,693       6,663        —        73,538  

Amounts due to the entities within Baidu(2)

     15,156        —         —        18,743        (33,899     —   

Total liabilities

     76,290        18,040        36,963       55,774        (33,899     153,168  

Redeemable noncontrolling interests

     —         5,604        2,678       111        —        8,393  

Equity

               

Total Baidu shareholders’ equity(3)

     223,478        1,041        265,640       24,662        (291,343     223,478  

Noncontrolling interests

     —         3,122        (32     2,844        —        5,934  

Total equity

     223,478        4,163        265,608       27,506        (291,343     229,412  

Total liabilities, redeemable noncontrolling interests and equity

     299,768        27,807        305,249       83,391        (325,242     390,973  

 

Note:

(1)

It represents the elimination of the contractual interests in the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries, which includes contractual interests in the VIEs through loans to nominee shareholders or capital contributions and the primary beneficiaries’ share of income (loss) from the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries.

 

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(2)

It represents the elimination of intercompany balances among Baidu, Inc., the primary beneficiaries, other subsidiaries and the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries. The short-term loans and long-term loans provided to the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries were RMB9.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) and RMB3.4 billion (US$479 million), respectively, as of December 31, 2023 and RMB8.8 billion and RMB8.1 billion, respectively, as of December 31, 2022.

(3)

The loans provided to the nominee shareholders were RMB19.2 billion (US$2.7 billion) and RMB19.1 billion as of December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively, which will mature from 2027 to 2047. The loans provided to the nominee shareholders were to fund the capitalization of the VIEs for which the Company does not intend to seek repayment. The term of all such loans provided to the nominee shareholders has historically been extended prior to their respective original maturity dates, and we will continue to extend the term of all outstanding loans before they become due.

Selected Condensed Consolidating Cash Flows Information

 

     For the Year Ended December 31, 2023  
     Baidu,
Inc.
    Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
    Other
Subsidiaries
    VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
    Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Net cash (used in)/provided by operating activities

     (2,012     (361     33,660       5,328       —        36,615  

Net cash provided by/ (used in) investing activities

     2,592       237       (41,608     (2,381     (9,237     (50,397

Including: Cash contribution to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)(2)

     —        —        (58     —        58       —   

Loans provided to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        (1,492     —        1,492       —   

Loans repayments from VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        5,150       —        (5,150     —   

Net cash used in financing activities

     (13,881     (3,863     (3,657     (1,998     9,237       (14,162

Including: Cash contribution to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)(2)

     —        —        —        58       (58     —   

Loans provided to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        —        1,492       (1,492     —   

Loans repayments from VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        —        (5,150     5,150       —   

 

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     For the Year Ended December 31, 2022  
     Baidu,
Inc.
    Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
    Other
Subsidiaries
    VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
    Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Net cash (used in)/provided by operating activities

     (2,418     (161     25,664       2,938       147       26,170  

Net cash provided by/ (used in) investing activities

     2,753       (2,773     (21,268     (1,898     19,242       (3,944

Including: Cash contribution to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)(2)

     —        —        (65     —        65       —   

Loans provided to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        (5,313     —        5,313       —   

Loans repayments from VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        6,480       —        (6,480     —   

Net cash provided by/ (used in) financing activities

     6,054       5,580       1,429       (64     (19,389     (6,390

Including: Cash contribution to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)(2)

     —        —        —        65       (65     —   

Loans provided to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        —        5,313       (5,313     —   

Loans repayments from VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        —        (6,480     6,480       —   

 

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Table of Contents
     For the Year Ended December 31, 2021  
     Baidu,
Inc.
    Primary
Beneficiaries
of VIEs
excluding
Baidu, Inc.
    Other
Subsidiaries
    VIEs and
VIEs’
subsidiaries
    Eliminations     Consolidated
Total
 
     RMB  
     (In millions)  

Net cash (used in)/provided by operating activities

     (1,853     (371     18,080       4,121       145       20,122  

Net cash used in investing activities

     (16,183     (3,564     (25,522     (7,551     21,376       (31,444

Including: Cash contribution to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)(2)

     —        —        (1,408     —        1,408       —   

Loans provided to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        (5,520     —        5,520       —   

Net cash provided by/(used in) financing activities

     25,628       (272     15,562       3,999       (21,521     23,396  

Including: Cash contribution to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(1)(2)

     —        —        —        1,408       (1,408     —   

Loans provided to VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries(3)

     —        —        —        5,520       (5,520     —   

 

Note:

(1)

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the primary beneficiaries designated its subsidiaries to provide loans totaling RMB409 million, RMB65 million and RMB58 million (US$8 million), respectively, to the nominee shareholders to fund the capitalization of the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries for which the primary beneficiaries do not intend to seek repayment, and nil was repaid by the nominee shareholders.

(2)

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries received RMB1.0 billion, nil and nil, respectively, as capital contribution from other subsidiaries.

(3)

For the years ended December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries received RMB5.5 billion, RMB5.3 billion and RMB1.5 billion (US$210 million), respectively, as loans from other subsidiaries and the VIEs and VIEs’ subsidiaries repaid principal amounts of nil, RMB6.5 billion and RMB5.2 billion (US$725 million), respectively, to other subsidiaries.

 

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B.

Capitalization and Indebtedness

Not applicable.

 

C.

Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds

Not applicable.

 

D.

Risk Factors

Summary of Risk Factors

An investment in our ADSs or Class A ordinary shares involves significant risks. Below is a summary of material risks we face, organized under relevant headings. All the operational risks associated with being based in and having operations in mainland China also apply to operations in Hong Kong. With respect to the legal risks associated with being based in and having operations in mainland China, the laws, regulations and the discretion of mainland China government authorities discussed in this annual report are expected to apply to mainland China entities and businesses, rather than entities or businesses in Hong Kong which operate under a different set of laws from mainland China. These risks are discussed more fully in Item 3.D. Key Information—Risk Factors.

Risks Related to Our Business and Industry

 

   

If we fail to retain existing customers or attract new customers for our online marketing services, our business, results of operations and growth prospects could be seriously harmed;

 

   

Our business and results of operations could continue to be materially and adversely affected by the challenging macroeconomic environment impacting online marketing demand;

 

   

Our business depends on a strong brand, and if we are unable to maintain and enhance our brand, our business and results of operations may be harmed;

 

   

We face risks arising from our termination of the share purchase agreement for our proposed acquisition of YY Live;

 

   

We face significant competition and may suffer from loss of users and customers as a result;

 

   

If our expansions into new businesses are not successful, our results of operation and growth prospects may be materially and adversely affected;

 

   

We have made significant investments in foundation models and generative AI and may face uncertainties with respect to their commercialization and the evolving laws and regulations applicable to us;

 

   

We have experienced slowdowns and declines in our revenues, and we may sustain net loss from time to time, and we may experience downward pressure on our operating and profit margins in the future;

 

   

Potential issues in the adoption and use of artificial intelligence in our product offerings may result in reputational harm or liability; and

 

   

If we fail to continue to innovate and provide products, services and high-quality internet experience that attract and retain users, we may not be able to remain competitive; we may expend significant resources in order to remain competitive.

 

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Table of Contents

Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure

 

   

Our company is a Cayman Islands holding company with no equity ownership in the variable interest entities and we conduct our operations in mainland China through (i) our mainland China subsidiaries and (ii) the variable interest entities with which we have maintained contractual arrangements. Investors in our Class A ordinary shares or the ADSs thus are not purchasing equity interest in the variable interest entities in mainland China but instead are purchasing equity interest in a Cayman Islands holding company. If the PRC government deems that our contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities do not comply with mainland China’s regulatory restrictions on foreign investment in the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change or are interpreted differently in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations. Our holding company in the Cayman Islands, the variable interest entities, and investors of our company face uncertainty about potential future actions by the PRC government that could affect the enforceability of the contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities and, consequently, significantly affect the financial performance of the variable interest entities and our company as a group;

 

   

Our contractual arrangements with the variable interest entities in mainland China and the individual nominee shareholders may not be as effective in providing control over these entities as direct ownership; and

 

   

We are in the process of registering the pledges of equity interests by nominee shareholders of some of the variable interest entities, and we may not be able to enforce the equity pledges against any third parties who acquire the equity interests in good faith in the relevant variable interest entities before the pledges are registered.

Risks Related to Doing Business in China

 

   

Changes in China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material and adverse effect on our business and operations;

 

   

The approval of and/or filing with the CSRC or other PRC government authorities may be required in connection with our offshore offerings under the laws of mainland China, and, if required, we cannot predict whether or for how long we will be able to obtain such approval or complete such filing;

 

   

There are uncertainties regarding the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws, rules and regulations;

 

   

We may be adversely affected by the complexity, uncertainties and changes in the regulations of internet and related business and companies in mainland China;

 

   

Failure to meet the PRC government’s complex regulatory requirements on our business operation could have a material adverse effect on our operations and the value of our securities;

 

   

Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with the enacted Guidelines to Anti-Monopoly in the Field of Internet Platforms and other anti-monopoly laws and regulations may result in governmental investigations or enforcement actions, litigation or claims against us and could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations;

 

   

It may be difficult for overseas regulators to conduct investigation or collect evidence within mainland China;

 

   

The PCAOB had historically been unable to inspect our auditor in relation to their audit work performed for our financial statements and the inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of our auditor in the past has deprived our investors with the benefits of such inspections; and

 

   

Our ADSs may be prohibited from trading in the United States under the HFCAA in the future if the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely auditors located in China. The delisting or

 

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prohibition of trading of the ADSs, or the threat of their being delisted or prohibited from trading, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment.

Risks Related to our ADSs and Class A Ordinary Shares

 

   

The trading price of our ADSs and/or our Class A ordinary shares has been and is likely to continue to be volatile regardless of our operating performance;

 

   

We adopt different practices as to certain matters as compared with many other companies primarily listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange;

 

   

Substantial future sales or perceived potential sales of our Class A ordinary shares and/or ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our Class A ordinary shares and/or ADSs to decline; and

 

   

The different characteristics of the capital markets in Hong Kong and the U.S. may negatively affect the trading prices of our Class A ordinary shares and/or ADSs.

Risks Related to Our Business and Industry

If we fail to retain existing customers or attract new customers for our online marketing services, our business, results of operations and growth prospects could be seriously harmed.

We generate a substantial majority of our revenues from online marketing services. Our online marketing customers will not continue to do business with us if their investment does not generate sales leads and ultimately consumers, or if we do not deliver their web pages in an appropriate and effective manner. Our online marketing customers may choose to discontinue their business with us, which are not subject to fixed-term contracts. In addition, third parties may develop and use certain technologies to block the display of our customers’ advertisements and other marketing products on our Baidu platform, which may in turn cause us to lose customers and adversely affect our results of operations. Furthermore, as our P4P services enable our customers to bid for priority placement of their paid sponsored links, we may lose customers if they find the bidding mechanism not cost effective or otherwise not attractive. Additionally, if our users do not increase their engagement on our platform, or our content ecosystem fails to offer rich and quality content that meets users’ tastes and preferences, or our users spend more time with or otherwise satisfy their content consumption demands on competing platforms, or we otherwise experience user traffic decline due to any reason, it would be difficult for us to attract new customers or retain existing customers. If our customers determine that their expenditures on our platform do not generate the returns they expect, they may allocate a greater portion or all of their advertising budgets to other advertising channels, such as other online marketing platforms, television and outdoor media, and reduce or discontinue business with us. Since most of our customers are not bound by long-term contracts, they may amend or terminate their advertising arrangements with us with little advance notice under certain circumstances. Failure to retain our existing customers or attract new customers for our online marketing services could seriously harm our business, results of operations and growth prospects. We have recorded substantial customer deposits and deferred revenue, which mainly consist of deposits received from certain customers of our online marketing services. If we are unable to fulfill our obligation in respect of such customer deposits and deferred revenue, we may have to refund the balance to our customers and our cash flow and liquidity position would be materially adversely affected.

We have in the past removed, and may in the future again remove, questionable listings or advertisements to ensure the quality and reliability of our search results and/or information feed. Such removal, whether temporary or permanent, may cause affected customers to discontinue their business with us or negatively impact our relationships with affected Baidu Union partners. We also examine the relevant business licenses and bank accounts of prospective customers prior to business engagement, as a quality control measure. In addition, we have taken steps to implement measures requested by PRC regulatory authorities, such as modifying paid search practices and limiting the displays of advertisements in connection with certain industries. We have also proactively implemented numerous additional measures to deliver a better user experience and build a safer and

 

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more trustworthy platform for users. Such measures have had a negative impact on the number of customers and our revenues, although we believe such impact is likely to be temporary. Regulations on online marketing services in mainland China are evolving, and uncertainties remain with respect to the implementation of and compliance with new regulations that may emerge, which in turn may have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and growth prospects.

Our business and results of operations could continue to be materially and adversely affected by the challenging macroeconomic environment impacting online marketing demand.

Online marketing services continue to be a primary source of our revenues. While revenues from online marketing services increased in 2021 and 2023, they declined in 2020 and 2022 mainly due to the weakness in online advertising demand as our customers faced a challenging macroeconomic environment in their respective industries and in the general economy, in part due to the significant adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our business and results of operations could continue to be materially and adversely affected by the challenging macroeconomic environment as well as by trends in online marketing through internet searches or feeds. With the evolution of the internet in China, customers have many channels to conduct online marketing and promotions. As users may not spend as much time on search-plus-newsfeed as they do on other types of internet platforms, many current and potential customers may not allocate as much of their marketing budgets to online marketing through search-plus-newsfeed, as compared to other methods of online marketing. Our ability to increase revenue and profitability from online marketing may be adversely impacted by a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including but not limited to:

 

   

difficulties associated with developing and maintaining a larger user base with demographic characteristics attractive to online marketing customers and maintaining and increasing user engagement;

 

   

increased competition and potential re-allocation of marketing budgets and downward pressure on online marketing prices, for example, resulting from an oversupply of advertising inventory released into the market;

 

   

higher customer acquisition costs due in part to the limited experience of small to medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, with the internet as a marketing channel or due to competition;

 

   

decreased use of our search and paid click because search queries are increasingly being undertaken via voice-activated smart devices, apps, social media or other online platforms;

 

   

ineffectiveness of our online marketing delivery, tracking and reporting systems;

 

   

decreased use of internet or online marketing in China; and

 

   

tightened regulatory environment in mainland China’s internet space.

Our business depends on a strong brand, and if we are unable to maintain and enhance our brand, our business and results of operations may be harmed.

We believe that our brand “Baidu” has contributed significantly to the success of our business. We also believe that maintaining and enhancing the “Baidu” brand is critical to increasing the number of our users, customers, Baidu Union partners and content providers, as well as to expanding our developer communities and to attracting and retaining enterprise and public sector customers and partners. We have conducted various marketing and brand promotion activities, but we cannot assure you that these activities will achieve the brand promotion effect that we expect. If we fail to maintain and further promote the “Baidu” brand, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.

In addition, any negative publicity about us, our products and services, our employees, our business practices, our search results or the platform to which our search results link, regardless of its veracity, could harm

 

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our brand image and in turn adversely affect our business and results of operations. We cannot assure you that we will be able to defuse negative publicity to the satisfaction of our investors, users, customers and business partners. From time to time, there has been negative publicity about us, our brand image, our value proposition and our business practice, which has adversely affected our public image and reputation during certain periods of intense negative publicity. Moreover, our platform and services by nature may from time to time be related to, or perceived to be related to, certain controversial public events or discussion, leading to public criticism against us. The negative publicity surrounding similar incidents have resulted in significant adverse impact on our public image and reputation. Intense negative publicity may divert our management’s attention and may adversely impact our business. We cannot assure you that our brand, public image and reputation will not be materially and adversely affected in the future.

We face risks arising from our termination of the share purchase agreement for our proposed acquisition of YY Live.

Baidu (Hong Kong) Limited, our wholly-owned subsidiary, entered into definitive agreements with JOYY Inc. and certain of its affiliates, which are collectively referred to as JOYY, to acquire JOYY’s domestic video-based entertainment live streaming business in China, known as YY Live, on November 16, 2020, and subsequently amended and supplemented the share purchase agreement, including on February 7, 2021. The closing of this acquisition was subject to certain conditions, including, among others, obtaining necessary regulatory approvals from government authorities, and the share purchase agreement was subject to termination by either party if the closing did not occur by the long stop date. We have paid an aggregate of US$1.9 billion, after considering working capital adjustment of US$0.1 billion, to JOYY and its designated escrow account, and deposited an aggregate of US$1.6 billion into several escrow accounts, in accordance with the terms and schedule set forth in the share purchase agreement. Despite good faith efforts, the closing conditions provided for in the share purchase agreement had not been fully satisfied as of December 31, 2023, the long stop date, and on January 1, 2024, we exercised our right to terminate the share purchase agreement based on the terms of the share purchase agreement. As a result of the termination, we are not able to achieve the intended objectives, benefits or opportunities associated with the proposed acquisition, despite the significant diversion of resources and management attention to date. We are in discussion with JOYY on the next steps following the termination of the share purchase agreement. However, there is no guarantee that a mutually satisfactory solution can be reached between both parties. If no mutually satisfactory solution is reached by both parties, we may be subject to claims, disputes or legal proceedings in connection with this transaction. Resolving such claims, disputes or legal proceedings could be time-consuming and would divert the attention and efforts of our management. There is no guarantee that we will prevail in these claims, disputes or legal proceedings. There may be uncertainties related to our recovery as to our payments and deposits held in escrow accounts. As a result, our business, prospects, reputation, liquidity, financial condition and operating results and the value of our securities could be materially and adversely affected.

We face significant competition and may suffer from loss of users and customers as a result.

We face significant competition in almost every aspect of our business. For our Baidu Core businesses, our primary competitors are mainly internet companies, online marketing platforms in China and other search engines. We compete with these entities for both users and customers on the basis of user traffic, cyber security quality (relevance) of search (and other marketing and advertising) results, availability and user experience products and services, distribution channels and the number of associated third-party websites. iQIYI competes with other internet media and entertainment services, such as internet and social platforms and short-form video platforms, as well as major TV stations. iQIYI competes with these market players for both users and advertising customers, and primarily on the basis of obtaining IP rights to popular content, conducting brand promotions and other marketing activities, and making investments in and acquisitions of business partners. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Competition.” Some of our competitors have significant financial resources and long operating histories and are experienced in attracting and retaining their users,

 

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accommodating their users’ habits and preferences and managing customers. They may use their experience and resources to compete with us in a variety of ways, including competing for users and their time, customers, third-party agents, content, strategic partners and networks of third-party websites/wapsites, investing more heavily in research and development and making investments and acquisitions. Our business environment is rapidly evolving and competitive. Our business faces changing technologies, shifting user needs, and frequent introductions of rival products and services. Some of our competitors in the search sector may have innovative business models, extensive distribution network or proprietary content or technologies that may provide users with better user experience and customers with better services. They may use their resources in ways that could affect our competitive position, including developing new products, making acquisitions, continuing to invest heavily in research and development and in talent, and continuing to compete aggressively for users, advertisers, customers, the acquisition of traffic and content. If any of our competitors provides comparable or better Chinese language search and feed experience or internet video services, our user traffic could decline significantly. Additionally, if the channels and properties that we use to distribute services or products to our users and customers are no longer available to us, we may experience a decline in user traffic. Any such decline in traffic could weaken our brand and result in loss of users and customers, which could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations.

There are vertical service providers in the forms of mobile apps and/or websites that allow users to search within their closed ecosystems. These players often purchase traffic from search engines and try to retain their users by offering comprehensive services on their platforms. As these vertical service providers expand, though they will continue to acquire traffic from search engines, their reliance on search engines may decline, especially if they can consolidate their industry verticals.

We also face competition from other types of advertising media, including traditional advertising media, such as newspapers, magazines, yellow pages, billboards, other forms of outdoor media, television and radio, mobile apps, webcasting and online video. Large companies in China generally allocate, and may continue to allocate, a limited portion of their budgets to online marketing, as opposed to traditional advertising and other forms of advertising media. If these companies do not devote a larger portion of their marketing budgets to online marketing services provided by us, or if our existing customers reduce the amount they spend on online marketing, our results of operations and growth prospects could be adversely affected.

If our expansions into new businesses are not successful, our results of operation and growth prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

As part of our growth strategy, we enter into new businesses from time to time to generate additional revenue streams and through our development of new business lines or strategic investments in or acquisitions of other businesses. Expansions into new businesses may present operating, marketing and compliance challenges that differ from those that we currently encounter.

We have invested significant resources in the research and development of AI technology and have made significant progress in the commercialization of AI-enabled offerings, including in-app services, cloud services and solutions, intelligent driving services and solutions and smart devices and services. We plan to continue to invest capital and other resources into our AI-enabled business operations, in particular, generative AI and foundation models. However, AI technology is rapidly evolving with significant uncertainties, and we cannot assure you that our investment and exploration in AI technology and AI-enabled products and services will be successful. Our operating results may also suffer if our innovation is not responsive to the needs of our users, customers and partners, inappropriately timed with market opportunities, or marketed ineffectively. For example, we have limited experience with operating and scaling AI-enabled business, including cloud services and solutions, intelligent driving services and solutions and smart devices and services, which could subject us to various challenges and risks, including developing and managing relationships with enterprises and public sector customers and partners, who are likely to have different needs and preferences from our existing customers, users and partners, highly competitive procurement processes, instances of corrupt practices or other illegal gains,

 

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longer receivable payment cycles and lower collection rates. We also may not alter our business practices in time to avoid or reduce adverse effects from any of the foregoing risks. In addition, our AI-enabled business requires very different products and services, sales and marketing channels and internal operational systems and processes. These requirements could disrupt our current operations and harm our financial condition and operating results, especially during the initial stage of investment, development and scaling of our new AI-enabled offerings.

We may also enter into other markets and industries/industry verticals that are new to us through organic business initiatives or investment and acquisitions, such as generative AI, robotaxis, intelligent electric vehicles, e-commerce, short-video, and healthcare vertical including internet hospital, which may subject us to different and unforeseen risks. However, we cannot assure you that such efforts will be successful due to various factors such as potential regulatory actions taken by government authorities in these new markets. For these new markets and industries/industry verticals, we may not have sufficient experience and may not be able to navigate the rapidly evolving regulatory environment or forecast and meet the continually changing demands and preferences for products and services. Some of these new markets and industries/industry verticals are emerging with relatively novel and untested business models. Any of the foregoing could pose significant challenges to us. We may not realize the anticipated benefits of our investments or acquisitions due to the uncertainties related to the performance and valuation of the relevant targets, or failure to integrate the targets into our existing business, or difficulty in operating the acquired business with our existing expertise and resources. See also “—Our strategy of investments and acquiring complementary businesses and assets may fail.”

It is uncertain whether our strategies will attract users and customers or generate the revenue required to succeed. If we fail to generate sufficient usage of our new products and services, we may not grow revenue in line with the significant resources we invest in these new businesses. This may negatively impact gross margins and operating income. Commercial success of our expansion into new business areas depends on many factors, including innovativeness, competitiveness, effectiveness of distribution and marketing, and pricing and investments strategies, especially in the early stage of competition for market share. For example, the smart transportation industry is highly competitive and fragmented. Our current and potential competitors in this industry range from large and established technology companies to emerging start-ups. Some competitors have longer operating histories in the sector. They can use their experience, resources and network in ways that could affect our competitive position, including making acquisitions, continuing to invest heavily in research and development and in talents, aggressively initiating intellectual property claims (whether or not meritorious), and continuing to compete aggressively for customers, partners and investees. Our competitors may be able to innovate and provide products and services faster than we can or may foresee product-and-service needs before we do. As a result, we may not achieve significant revenues from our new business areas for several years, or at all, and may incur significant losses during the process and fail to recoup our investments. On the other hand, market conditions and general acceptance of products and services could be adversely impacted if other players in the market fail to adopt appropriate business and operational model, develop and offer successful products and services and develop and adapt appropriate technologies and infrastructure. If the markets of our new businesses, such as intelligent driving and electric vehicle, do not develop and grow as we anticipate, we may incur significant loss from our new businesses and our growth prospects may be materially adversely impacted.

In addition, we may encounter regulatory uncertainties related to new business areas that we enter into. The laws and regulations related to AI technology and products are at an early stage of development and still evolving in mainland China. The effects of such laws and regulations remain unclear and may add uncertainties to the development and operation of our AI-related business. For example, as mainland China’s regulatory framework on autonomous driving evolves, we may be required to comply with approval and other compliance requirements for autonomous driving road test, operation and commercialization, internet security and related data collection and sharing promulgated by PRC government authorities from time to time. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Artificial Intelligence.” We may confront other challenges as we enter new business domains, including the lack of adoption of new products and services, the

 

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lack of management talent in the new business, cost management and other factors required for the expansion of new businesses.

We have made significant investments in foundation models and generative AI and may face uncertainties with respect to their commercialization and the evolving laws and regulations applicable to us.

Foundation models and generative AI technologies have developed rapidly in recent years. For instance, the ChatGPT, a chatbot developed by OpenAI, has been tested by people all over the world since its launch in November 2022. We have made significant investments in foundation models and generative AI and have also allocated significant resources in these areas, including human resources and infrastructure updates. However, foundation models and generative AI are in the initial stages of development and there is no proven business model for commercializing the new technologies. We also face intense competition in these fields as many players in these fields have also devoted significant resources in the research and development of these technologies. In addition, the regulatory and legal framework on generative AI of mainland China is also evolving rapidly. In recent years, the PRC government authorities have released a series of laws and regulations related to generative AI services, including the Administration Provisions on Algorithmic Recommendation of Internet Information Services, the Administrative Provisions on Deep Synthesis of Internet Information Services and the Interim Measures on the Management of Generative AI Services. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Artificial Intelligence—Regulations on Generative AI.” However, these laws and regulations related to generative AI services are relatively new, and the competent government authorities of mainland China may introduce additional or more detailed laws and regulations to oversee the generative AI services. Therefore, we may need to comply with more compliance requirements in the field of generative AI, which may increase our compliance costs. We also face uncertainties with respect to such evolving laws and regulations as well as their interpretations and our business operations and development may be affected as a result.

We have experienced slowdowns and declines in our revenues, and we may sustain net loss from time to time, and we may experience downward pressure on our operating and profit margins in the future.

From 2019 to 2023, we experienced a slow-down in revenue growth, including decreases from 2019 to 2020 and again from 2021 to 2022, due to various factors such as macroeconomic environment and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We could continue to experience a decline in our revenues, as a result of a number of factors, including changes in the mix of products and services, customer demographics, industry and channel, changes in policy or policy implementation, increase in market competition for marketing and/or new AI offerings, and decrease in pricing arising from an oversupply of advertising inventory in the market, which has been witnessed since 2019. We may also experience a decline in our revenue or revenue growth rate, if there is a decrease in the rate of adoption for our products, services and technologies, or deceleration or decline in demand for platforms used to access our services, among other factors.

Our operating margin and net income attributable to us as a percentage of revenue fluctuated notably from 2019 to 2023 due to various factors such as the macroeconomic environment and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We may experience downward pressure on our operating margin from increasing competition, revenue growth slower than expenses, and increased costs and expenses from many aspects of our business, including within online marketing where revenue growth does not keep up with traffic cost growth and related infrastructure costs to support our online properties, such as Baidu App, video-related and other products requiring huge data transmission and computing power. We may also pay increased fees for our distribution channels, as well as increased content acquisition costs to content providers. Additionally, an increase in personnel-related costs, an increase in spending to promote new products and services, and the expiration of temporary tax exemptions or reductions may dampen our operating margin. We may also experience downward pressure on our operating margin resulting from a variety of factors, such as the expansion of our business into new areas, including generative AI, foundation models, AI cloud, intelligent driving, voice assistant & smart device, all of which have margins much lower than that of online marketing. Our operating margin may also be

 

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negatively impacted from a greater proportion of revenue contributed by new business areas, which has grown faster than online marketing.

In addition, we may also sustain net loss from time to time due to investment impairment and foreign currency fluctuation. The declining operating margin and investment impairment have led to our experiencing net losses in several quarters since 2020, and there is no guarantee that we will not experience loss in the future.

Due to these factors and the evolving nature of our business, our historical revenue growth rate, historical operating margin and historical profitability may not be indicative of our future performance.

Potential issues in the adoption and use of artificial intelligence in our product offerings may result in reputational harm or liability.

We are building AI, including foundation models and generative AI, into many of our product offerings and we expect this element of our business to be a driver for our future growth. We envision a future in which AI operates in our services and applications, such as search-plus-feed, cloud services and solutions, intelligent driving services and solutions and Xiaodu smart devices and services, and the cloud helps our customers become more productive. As with many disruptive innovations, AI presents risks and challenges that could affect its adoption, and, therefore, our business. Our products and services based on AI may not be adopted by our users or customers. AI algorithms may be flawed. Datasets may be insufficient or contain biased information. Inappropriate or controversial data practices by us or others could impair the acceptance of our AI solutions. Our AI-generated content offerings may not be able to compete against those of our competitors. In addition, AI services may involve complex intellectual property issues. However, the laws and regulations in mainland China are still evolving and are subject to further interpretation and implementation. Therefore, AI-generated content could lead to copyright and other legal disputes. Such deficiencies could undermine the decisions, predictions or analysis produced by AI applications, subjecting us to legal liability and potential harm to our brand or reputation. The laws and regulations in mainland China regarding AI are gradually improving, and they require AI service providers or technology supporters to avoid such deficiencies to the maximum extent possible. Although we believe that we have taken necessary measures according to the applicable laws, we cannot guarantee that we will always meet the regulatory requirements in the future. If we fail to meet legal and regulatory requirements, we may be subject to penalties. In addition, some AI scenarios present ethical issues. If we enable or offer AI solutions that are controversial because of their impact on human rights, privacy, employment, or other social issues, we may experience reputational harm or be exposed to liability.

If we fail to continue to innovate and provide products, services and high-quality internet experience that attract and retain users, we may not be able to remain competitive; we may expend significant resources in order to remain competitive.

Our success depends on providing products and services to attract users and enable users to have a high-quality internet experience. In order to attract and retain users and compete against our competitors, we must continue to invest significant resources in research and development to enhance our AI or other new technologies, improve our existing products and services, and introduce additional high-quality products and services. If we are unable to anticipate user preferences or industry changes, enhance the quality of our products and services on a timely basis or fail to provide sufficient content, or provide other consumer-facing services and products, including our maps and smart devices, to our users’ satisfaction, we may suffer a decline in the size of our user base. Our results of operations may also suffer if our innovations do not respond to the needs of our users, are not appropriately timed with market opportunities or are not effectively brought to market. As search, marketing and AI technologies and new forms of devices and apps continue to develop, we may expend significant resources in research and development and strategic investments and acquisitions in order to remain competitive.

 

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If we fail to keep up with technological advancements and upgrades, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.

Our businesses operate in industries that are subject to rapid technological advancements, upgrades and changing consumer needs. Our success will depend on our ability to keep up with the latest developments in technology innovations and commercialization and if we fail to do so successfully, the demand for our products, solutions and services may decline. For instance, applications of technologies similar to ChatGPT to our products and services to cater to consumer needs may be essential for us to remain competitive in the market. In addition, research and development of technological changes and innovations will typically require substantial capital expenditures as well as upgrades of products or services. Furthermore, we may not execute successfully on our development strategy, including because of challenges with regard to technical hurdles that we fail to overcome in a timely fashion. In addition, changes in user behavior resulting from technological developments may also adversely affect us. For example, the number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices and internet of things, or IoTs, such as smartphones, tablets and smart (voice-activated internet) home devices, has increased in recent years, and we expect this trend to continue while 5G and more advanced mobile communications technologies are broadly implemented. If we fail to develop products and technologies that are compatible with all mobile devices, IoTs and operating systems, or if the products and services we develop are not widely accepted and used by users of various mobile devices and IoTs, our position in the internet and AI sectors may be adversely affected. In addition, the widespread adoption of new internet, networking or telecommunications technologies or other technological changes could require substantial expenditures to modify or integrate our products, services or infrastructure. As such, if we fail to adapt our products and services to technological innovations in an effective and timely manner, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

If our content ecosystem fails to continually offer quality content in a cost effective manner, we may experience declines in user traffic and user engagement, our business and results of operations may be harmed.

Our content ecosystem consists of products developed for our partners, such as Baijiahao, Smart Mini Program, Managed Page, Baidu Union, and internally developed content and services products, such as Baidu Knows, Baidu Wiki, Baidu Health, Baidu Wenku, Baidu Experience, Baidu Post, Haokan, and iQIYI. The success of our content ecosystem depends on our ability to attract content creators and producers to contribute quality content to our platform by leveraging our user traffic and enhance user engagement through the provision of attractive content, so as to create a virtuous cycle. We have relied, and will continue to rely, on third parties for the majority of the content offered in our content ecosystem and some of our products include third party intellectual property. As the competition for quality content becomes increasingly intense in China, we cannot assure you that we will be able to manage our content acquisition costs effectively and generate sufficient revenues to outpace future increase in content spending. We may also be unable to renew some of our content or intellectual property licensing agreements upon their expiration or termination and any renewal of the content or intellectual property licensing agreements may involve higher costs or less favorable terms. If we are not able to license popular premium content on commercially reasonable terms or renew our content or intellectual property licensing agreements, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. We have undertaken commitments of future minimum payments under non-cancellable agreements for produced content and licensed copyrights. If the content does not achieve anticipated popularity and commercial success, such commitments may not be recoverable. In addition, we rely on users to contribute content to our various products, including Baijiahao, Baidu Knows, Baidu Wiki, Baidu Health, Baidu Experience, Baidu Post, Baidu Wenku, Haokan and iQIYI’s user generated content. If these parties fail to develop and maintain high-quality and engaging content, if our desired premium content becomes exclusive to our competitors, if we are unable to continue to grow our content offerings and stay competitive vis-à-vis other content platforms, or if a large number of our existing relationships are terminated, the attractiveness of our content offerings to users may be severely impaired. If we are unable to offer content that meets users’ tastes and preferences on a continuing basis,

 

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including continually upgrading our content recommendation engines and in a cost effective manner, our user experience may deteriorate, we may suffer from reduced user traffic, our business and results of operations may be harmed.

We have been and may again be subject to legal proceedings, claims and investigations and could be adversely impacted by unfavorable results of legal proceedings and investigations.

We are subject to various legal proceedings, claims and government investigations, penalties or actions that have arisen in the ordinary course of business and have not yet been fully resolved, and new legal proceedings, claims, regulatory investigations, penalties or actions may arise in the future. In addition, agreements entered into by us sometimes include indemnification provisions which may subject us to costs and damages in the event of a claim against an indemnified third party. The existence of litigation, claims, governmental investigations and proceedings have adversely affected and may continue to adversely affect our reputation, business and the trading price of our securities. For example, in 2020, we and certain of our current and former officers, along with iQIYI and certain of its current and former officers and directors, were named as defendants in various federal putative securities class actions, including two ongoing related actions alleging that defendants made false and misleading statements concerning various reported financial and operational results in violation of the federal securities laws. In the event that a court finds that iQIYI, Baidu and/or other defendants violated any of the applicable securities laws, or in the event that iQIYI, Baidu and/or other defendants choose to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs, iQIYI and/or Baidu may be liable for civil monetary damages and the potential financial, operational and reputational impact on iQIYI and/or Baidu may be material. However, we cannot predict the timing, outcome or consequences of these class actions, and there is no basis to conclude at this point whether such actions will be successful or whether we will be subject to any damages, let alone how much. For more details, see “Item 8.A. Financial Information—Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.” Regardless of the merit of particular claims, legal proceedings, government investigations and proceedings may result in reputational harm, be expensive to respond, time consuming, disruptive to our operations and distracting to management. In the event we or iQIYI does not prevail or we or iQIYI enters into settlement arrangements in any of these proceedings or investigations, we or iQIYI may incur significant expenses which may materially adversely affect our results of operations.

The outcome of legal proceedings and investigations is inherently uncertain. If one or more legal matters were resolved against us or an indemnified third party in a reporting period for amounts in excess of management’s expectations, our financial condition and operating results for that reporting period could be materially adversely affected. Further, such an outcome could result in significant compensatory, punitive or trebled monetary damages, disgorgement of revenue or profits, remedial corporate measures or injunctive relief against us that could materially adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.

In addition to the content developed and posted on our platform by ourselves, our users may post information on Baidu Post, Baidu Knows, Baidu Wiki, Baidu Wenku and other sections of our platform, our content providers may provide content through Baijiahao platform and our P4P customers may create text-based descriptions, image descriptions and other phrases to be used as text, images or keywords in our search listings, and users can also use our personal cloud computing service to upload, store and share documents, images, audio and videos on our cloud servers. We have been and may continue to be subject to claims and investigations for intellectual property ownership and infringement, defamation, negligence or other legal theories based on the content found on our platform, the results in our paid search listings or our other products and services, which, with or without merit, may result in diversion of management attention and financial resources and negative publicity for our brand and reputation. See “Item 8.A. Financial Information—Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.” Furthermore, if the content posted on our platform or found, stored or shared through our other products and services contains information that government authorities find objectionable, our platform or relevant products or services may be shut down and we may be subject to other penalties. See “—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We may be subject to liability for information displayed on or linked to our websites, mobile apps, Smart Mini Program or Managed Page and negative publicity in international media, and our business may be adversely affected as a result.”

 

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We have been, and may again in the future be, subject to claims, investigations or negative publicity based on the results in our paid search listings. Claims have been filed against us after we allowed certain customers to register keywords containing trademarks, trade names or brand names owned by others and displayed links to such customers’ websites in our paid search listings. While we maintain a database of certain well-known trademarks and continually update our system algorithms and functions to guard against customers keywords containing the well-known trademarks that are owned by others, it is not possible for us to completely prevent our customers from bidding on keywords that contain trademarks, trade names or brand names owned by others. There has been negative publicity about fraudulent information in our paid search listings. Although we have been continually enhancing our technology, control and oversight to prevent fraudulent websites, web pages and information from appearing in our paid search listings, there is no guarantee that the measures we have taken are effective at all times. Claims, investigations and negative publicity based on the results in our paid search listings, regardless of their merit, may divert management attention, severely disrupt our operations, adversely affect our results of operations and harm our reputation.

Our increasing focus on cloud-based services presents execution, competitive and compliance risks; Baidu Core’s results of operations and financial performance may be materially adversely affected by our ability to develop cloud-based services and generate sufficient usage of such services.

A growing part of our business involves cloud-based services available across a spectrum of computing devices. Our Baidu Core cloud services revenue was RMB18.7 billion (US$2.6 billion) in 2023, increasing by 6% from 2022. We are devoting significant resources to provide cloud infrastructure and other services to enterprises and individuals. At the same time, our competitors are rapidly developing and deploying their cloud-based solutions and services. Pricing, technology and delivery models are evolving. Devices and form factors influence how users access services in the cloud and sometimes the user’s choice of which suite of cloud-based services to use. Our success in cloud-based services strategy will depend on the level of adoption of our products and services. We may not establish market share sufficient to achieve scale necessary to achieve our business objectives or recoup costs incurred to build and maintain infrastructure to support our cloud-based services. It is uncertain whether our strategies will attract the users or generate the revenue required to succeed. If we fail to generate sufficient usage of our new products and services, we may not grow revenue in line with the costs associated with infrastructure development and research and development investments. This may negatively and materially impact our results of operations and financial performance.

The development of cloud-based services is accompanied by regulatory compliance risks. For example, PRC government authorities are increasing enforcement efforts against non-compliance relating to companies operating content delivery networks, internet data centers, and internet service providers. However, the interpretation and application of laws in mainland China and other jurisdictions are often uncertain and in flux, and any failure or perceived failure to comply with all applicable laws and regulations may result in legal proceedings or regulatory actions against us, and could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

In the past, our peers have experienced data security and infrastructure stability issues arising out of their cloud services. Our cloud services may also encounter similar issues, which could have a material and adverse impact on our brand, operations and financial performance.

Liability claims against, or any unauthorized control or manipulation of our autonomous driving systems, could result in the loss of confidence in us, our brands and our products, and harm our business.

Our Intelligent Driving platform contains complex information technology systems. We have designed, implemented and tested security measures intended to prevent unauthorized access to our Intelligent Driving platform, but there can be no assurance that vulnerabilities will not be identified in the future, or that our remediation efforts will be successful. Hackers have reportedly attempted, and may attempt in the future, to gain unauthorized access to modify, alter and use our Intelligent Driving platform to gain control of, or to change,

 

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functionality, user interface and performance characteristics of vehicles utilizing our Intelligent Driving platform, or to gain access to data stored in or generated by the vehicles. Any unauthorized access to or control of autonomous driving vehicles or their systems or any loss of data could result in death and personal injury, and legal claims or proceedings against us.

Our Intelligent Driving platform may be involved in crashes resulting in property damage, death or personal injury in the future, and such crashes may be the subject of significant public attention. We may face claims related to any misuse or failure of new technologies that we are pioneering, including our Intelligent Driving platform and related solutions, such as smart transportation. A successful product liability claim against us could require us to pay substantial monetary damages.

Moreover, product liability claims or reports of unauthorized access to our Intelligent Driving platform or data, regardless of their veracity, could generate substantial negative publicity about our products and business and could have material adverse impact on our brand, business, prospects and operating results.

We may face challenges in connection with developing, manufacturing and marketing new Xiaodu smart products in response to changing customer requirements, new technologies and market competition.

The market for our Xiaodu smart products is characterized by rapidly changing technology, evolving industry standards, short product life cycles, frequent new product introductions, continual improvement in product price and performance characteristics, and price and feature sensitivity on the part of consumers and businesses. As a result, we must continually introduce new products and technologies and enhance existing products in order to remain competitive.

The success of our Xiaodu smart products depends on several factors, including our ability to:

 

   

anticipate technology and market trends;

 

   

develop innovative new products and enhancements on a timely basis;

 

   

distinguish our products from those of our competitors;

 

   

manufacture and deliver high-quality products in sufficient volumes at competitive cost structure;

 

   

establish strong, efficient online and offline distribution channels;

 

   

price our products competitively;

 

   

develop a vibrant DuerOS skills store and a large developer community to increase user stickiness and loyalty; and

 

   

innovate post-hardware sales monetization models.

If we are unable to develop, manufacture, market and introduce enhanced or new Xiaodu smart products in a timely manner in response to changing market conditions or customer requirements, including changing fashion trends and styles, it will materially adversely affect our business, revenue growth, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, as we develop new generations of products more quickly, we expect that the pace of product obsolescence will increase concurrently. The disposition of inventories of excess or obsolete products may result in reductions to our operating margins and materially and adversely affect our earnings and results of operations. We also face uncertainties with respect to the evolving laws and regulations that are or may be applicable to our Xiaodu smart products. For example, there is no guarantee that our Xiaodu smart products will not be subject to new regulatory requirements in the future that could potentially impose limits on various aspects such as sales, marketing, and pricing strategies associated with our products.

 

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The success of our Xiaodu smart products depends on the continued growth of the smart device market, our ability to establish and maintain the brand and market share and compete with other companies, and our ability to monetize through services after the initial hardware sale.

We have invested significant resources in the “Xiaodu” brand and the research and development of Xiaodu smart products. If the smart device market does not continue to grow or grow in unpredictable ways, or we fail to maintain and further promote the “Xiaodu” brand, our revenue may fall short of expectations and our operating results may be harmed. Also, we have continued to offer sales discounts on Xiaodu smart products to attract customers, build our brand and gain market share. Offering such discounts negatively affects our financial performance in the short term. We cannot assure you that our decision to offer such sales discounts is producing, or will produce, positive outcomes for our results of operations. The market for smart devices may not continue to grow; even if it does, we may not be successful in developing and selling devices that appeal to consumers or gain sufficient market acceptance, which typically takes longer in the smart device market. To succeed in this market, we will need to design, produce and sell innovative and compelling products and partner with other businesses that enable us to capitalize on new technologies, some of which have developed or may develop and sell smart devices of their own. We are currently exploring different business models with Xiaodu smart devices, and exploring different monetization model through services after hardware sales, such as membership, advertising and revenue sharing from distribution of third-party skills. Whether we will be able to achieve profitability in smart devices depends in part on our ability to generate revenue through services after the initial hardware sale at a level sufficient to cover associated operating expenses, but there can be no assurance that we will succeed in formulating and implementing the appropriate business and monetization model. Moreover, competition from other companies that seek to provide smart devices will adversely affect our profitability.

We face a number of manufacturing, supply chain, distribution channel and inventory risks as well as product quality and financing risks that, if not properly managed, could harm our financial condition, operating results, and prospects.

We rely on third parties to manufacture our Xiaodu smart products, to design certain of our components and parts, and to participate in the distribution of our products. Our business could be negatively affected if we are not able to engage these companies with the necessary capabilities or capacity on reasonable terms, or if those we engage fail to meet their obligations (whether due to financial difficulties or other reasons), or make adverse changes in the pricing or other material terms of our arrangements with them.

We may experience supply shortages and price increases driven by a variety of factors, such as raw material availability, manufacturing capacity, labor shortages, tariffs, trade disputes and barriers, natural disasters, and significant changes in the financial or business condition of our suppliers. We may experience shortages or other supply chain disruptions that could negatively affect our operations. In addition, some of the components we use in our Xiaodu smart products are available only from a single source or limited sources, and we may not be able to find replacement vendors on favorable terms in the event of a supply chain disruption.

Our Xiaodu smart products may have quality issues resulting from design, manufacturing, or operations. Sometimes, these issues may be caused by components we purchase from other manufacturers or suppliers. If the quality of our Xiaodu smart products does not meet expectations or are defective, it could harm our reputation, financial condition, and operating results.

We are exposed to significant inventory risks that may adversely affect our operating results as a result of seasonality, new product launches, rapid changes in product cycles and pricing, defective merchandise, changes in consumer demand and consumer spending patterns, and other factors. We endeavor to accurately predict these trends and avoid overstocking or understocking issues. Demand for our Xiaodu smart products, however, can change significantly between the time inventory or components are ordered and the date of sale. We may misjudge customer demand, resulting in inventory buildup and possible significant inventory write-down. It may also make it more difficult for us to inspect and control quality and ensure proper handling, storage and delivery.

 

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We may experience higher return rates on new products, receive more customer complaints about them and face costly product liability claims as a result of selling them, which would harm our brand and reputation as well as our financial performance.

Smart Living Group (SLG) encompasses our DuerOS and Xiaodu operations. Our majority-owned subsidiary, which operates SLG, completed its first and second rounds of funding between 2020 and 2022. Historically, it has experienced operating losses. If SLG is unable to satisfy its cashflow needs by generating sufficient cash from its operations in the near future, it may have to rely on subsequent round(s) of financing. If SLG’s operating cashflow does not improve and if SLG fails to conduct financing on reasonable terms, it may not be able to continue its business operations, which may adversely impact our results of operations and financial performance.

Du Xiaoman’s financial services business may subject us to operational and reputational risks, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

In August 2018, we completed the divestiture of a majority equity stake in our financial services business unit, which has been rebranded as Du Xiaoman Financial and subsequently further rebranded as Du Xiaoman. After the divestiture, we hold a non-controlling equity interest in Du Xiaoman and have since then deconsolidated the financial results of Du Xiaoman from our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Du Xiaoman runs a one-stop financial services platform which offers end-consumer credit enablement, supply chain financing, wealth management, digital payment and fintech solutions services, in order to serve end-users’ needs. We are still the largest shareholder of Du Xiaoman and would be exposed to losses from Du Xiaoman.

The laws and regulations of mainland China concerning the Internet finance industry are continually evolving and improving. Although to our knowledge Du Xiaoman has taken careful measures to comply with the laws and regulations that are applicable to its financial services, the PRC government authorities may promulgate new policies, rules and regulations regulating the internet finance industry. For example, the People’s Bank of China issued the Announcement of the People’s Bank of China [2021] No. 3 on March 12, 2021. In accordance with this announcement, when credit business institutions market loan products through websites, mobile applications, posters or similar channels, they must explicitly indicate the applicable annualized loan interest rate to the borrower in a conspicuous manner, and specify such annualized interest rate in the loan contract. It is allowed to indicate the daily interest rate or the monthly interest rate at the same time only if they are not displayed in a manner more conspicuous than the annualized interest rate. Under this announcement, “credit business institutions” include, among others, deposit financial institutions, consumer financing companies, micro-loan companies and online platforms providing advertisement and displaying services to credit business operators.

In order to thoroughly implement the risk-based anti-money laundering method and improve the ability of financial institutions to identify the risks on money laundering and terrorist financing, the Anti-Money Laundering Bureau of the People’s Bank of China formulated and issued the Guidelines on Self-Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risks of Corporate Financial Institutions in 2021, which are applicable to all types of financial institutions and non-bank payment institutions. These guidelines provide guidance for such institutions to implement risk self-assessment and effectively make use of the results of such assessment, and require such institutions to complete the comprehensive risk self-assessment consistent with these guidelines for the first time by the end of 2022. Du Xiaoman has set up an institutional money laundering risk assessment mechanism to fully understand the key money laundering and terrorist financing risks faced it faces, fully optimize the allocation of anti-money laundering resources, and prevent its financial products and businesses from being exploited by criminals in illegal and criminal fund cleaning activities.

In order to comply with the Interim Measures for the Administration on Online Micro-loan Business (Draft for Comment) issued in November 2020, Du Xiaoman has rectified its loan limit control, and adjust the joint loan

 

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ratio and the shareholding of client platform. Furthermore, the People’s Bank of China and other six PRC government authorities issued a draft of Administration Measures for Online Marketing of Financial Products for public comments on December 31, 2021. These draft administration measures regulate the actions of third-party platform operators who are entrusted by financial institutions to promote financial products on the internet, as well as the content and methods of marketing and propagandizing financial products. However, since all these draft measures have not been formally promulgated and become effective as of the date of this annual report, substantial uncertainties still exist with respect to the final content, interpretation and implementation of these draft measures.

As we hold a non-controlling equity interest in Du Xiaoman and do not control Du Xiaoman’s business conduct and operations, we cannot assure you that the practices of Du Xiaoman would not be deemed to violate any applicable laws or regulations, nor can we ensure that all business cooperators on Du Xiaoman’s platform meet all the regulatory compliance requirements. If Du Xiaoman were deemed to violate any current or future applicable laws or regulations, such as the exposure draft of the Interim Measures for the Administration of Internet Small Loan Business released in November 2020, we may be exposed to negative publicity as a result of the potential misconception that Du Xiaoman is still part of our consolidated group. Many internet financial platforms, including Du Xiaoman, have removed deposit products from their platforms. Events like this may expose us to negative publicity as well.

Interruption or failure of our own information technology and communications systems or those of third-party service providers we rely upon could impair our ability to provide products and services, which could damage our reputation and harm our results of operations.

Our ability to provide products and services depends on the continuing operation of our information technology and communications systems. Any damage to or failure of our systems could interrupt our services. Service interruptions could reduce our revenue and profit and damage our brand if our systems are perceived to be unreliable. Our systems are vulnerable to damage or interruption as a result of terrorist attacks, wars, earthquakes, floods, fires, power loss, telecommunications failures, health epidemics, undetected errors or “bugs” in our software, computer viruses, interruptions in access to our platform through the use of “denial of service” or similar attacks, hacking or other attempts to harm our systems, and similar events. Some of our systems are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning does not account for all possible scenarios. We have experienced service disruptions in the past which adversely affected our user experience.

Our servers, which are hosted at third-party or our own internet data centers, are vulnerable to break-ins, sabotage and vandalism. The occurrence of natural disasters or closure of an internet data center by a third-party provider without adequate notice could result in lengthy service interruptions. In addition, our domain names are resolved into internet protocol (IP) addresses by systems of third-party domain name registrars and registries. Any interruptions or failures of those service providers’ systems, which are beyond our control, could significantly disrupt our own services. If we experience frequent or persistent system failures on our platform, whether due to interruptions and failures of our own information technology and communications systems or those of third-party service providers that we rely upon, our reputation and brand could be severely harmed. The steps we take to increase the reliability and redundancy of our systems may cause us to incur heavy costs and reduce our operating margin, and may not be successful in reducing the frequency or duration of service interruptions.

We may not be able to manage our expanding operations effectively.

We expect to continue to expand our operations as we grow our user and customer base and explore new opportunities. To manage the further expansion of our business and growth of our operations and personnel, we need to continually improve our operational and financial systems, procedures and controls, and expand, train, manage and maintain good relations with our growing employee base. We have experienced labor disputes in the past and may experience the same in the future. Although these disputes were resolved promptly, we cannot assure you that there will not be any new labor disputes in the future.

 

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We expect our AI-enabled business to become a key revenue driver for Baidu Core, and believe our future growth relies on the success of our AI-enabled business. Our systems and processes were designed in the past to support our mobile ecosystem business operations. For our AI-enabled business operations to be successful, we must be able to attract industry expertise and talents, and adapt to systems and processes suitable for the enterprise and public sector business environment. If we are unable to do so, we may not be competitive in these markets and our AI-enabled business offerings will not be successful. In addition, we must maintain and expand our relationships with other websites, internet companies and other third parties. Our current and future personnel, systems, procedures and controls may not be adequate to support our expanding operations, and consequently our financial condition and operating results may be materially and adversely affected.

We may face intellectual property infringement claims and other related claims, which could be time-consuming and costly to defend and may result in an adverse impact over our operations.

Internet, technology and media companies are frequently involved in litigation based on allegations of infringement of intellectual property rights, unfair competition, invasion of privacy, defamation and other violations of other parties’ rights. The validity, enforceability and scope of protection of intellectual property in internet-related and AI-related industries, particularly in mainland China, are still evolving and subject to further clarification and interpretation. The evolving laws and regulations on the protection of intellectual property may require us to take more actions to prevent from infringing third-parties’ intellectual property. If we cannot take the necessary actions in time, disputes may arise alleging us to infringe certain third-parties’ intellectual property. As we face increasing competition and as litigation becomes more common in mainland China in resolving commercial disputes, we face a higher risk of being the subject of intellectual property infringement claims. We may be subject to administrative actions brought by the PRC competent government authorities such as the PRC National Copyright Administration and in the most severe scenario, criminal prosecution for alleged copyright infringement, and as a result may be subject to fines and other penalties and be required to discontinue infringing activities. Furthermore, as we expand our operations outside of China, we may be subject to claims brought against us in jurisdictions outside of China.

Our search products and services link to materials in which third parties may claim ownership of trademarks, copyrights or other rights. As we adopt new technologies and roll out new products and services, we face the risk of being subject to intellectual property infringement claims that may arise from our use of new technologies and provision of new products and services. Our products and services including those based on content storage and sharing, such as Baidu Knows, Baidu Wiki, Baidu Wenku, Baidu Post, Baidu Drive, Baijiahao, Haokan, and iQIYI’s user-generated content, allow our users to upload, store and share documents, images, audio and videos on our servers, or share, link to or otherwise provide access to contents from other websites, and we also operate distribution platforms whereby developers can upload, share and sell their apps or games to users. Although we have made commercially reasonable efforts to request users or developers to comply with applicable intellectual property laws, we cannot ensure that all of our users or developers have the rights to upload or share these contents or apps. In addition, we have been and may continue to be subject to copyright or trademark infringement and other related claims from time to time, in China and internationally.

We have been making continuous efforts to keep ourselves informed of and to comply with all applicable laws and regulations affecting our business. However, the laws and regulations of mainland China are complex and evolving, and uncertainties still exist with respect to the interpretation of the legal standards for determining liabilities of internet search and other internet service providers for (a) providing links to content on third-party websites that infringe upon others’ copyrights or hosting such content, (b) providing information storage space, file sharing technology or other internet services that are used by internet users to disseminate such content, or (c) providing information generated by AI. The Supreme People’s Court of the PRC promulgated a judicial interpretation on infringement of the right of dissemination through the internet in December 2012, with amendments that came into effect on January 1, 2021. This judicial interpretation, like certain court rulings and certain other judicial interpretations, provides that the courts will place the burden on internet service providers to remove not only links or contents that have been specifically mentioned in the notices of infringement from

 

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right holders, but also links or contents they “should have known” to contain infringing content. The interpretation further provides that where an internet service provider has directly obtained economic benefits from any content made available by an internet user, it has a higher duty of care with respect to internet users’ infringement of third-party copyrights. A guidance on the trial of audio/video sharing copyright disputes promulgated by the Higher People’s Court of Beijing in December 2012 provides that where an internet service provider has directly obtained economic benefits from any audio/video content made available by an internet user who has no authorization for sharing such content, the internet service provider shall be presumed to be at fault. These interpretations could subject us to significant administrative burdens and litigation risks. The PRC Civil Code promulgated in 2020 has further elaborated the circumstances where internet service providers may be found liable for the infringement of third parties. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Tort Liability.” The PRC Copyright Law, which became effective in June 2021, further provides that the competent copyright authority may require compliance from the relevant parties in the process of investigating the infringing activities.

We conduct our business operations primarily in mainland China. However, we could be subject to claims under U.S. copyright laws, including the legal standards for determining indirect liability for copyright infringement. Although we believe such claims would be without merit, we cannot assure you that we will not be subject to copyright infringement lawsuits or other proceedings in the U.S. or elsewhere in the future.

Intellectual property litigation is expensive, time-consuming and could divert resources and management attention from the operations of our business. We are currently named as defendant in certain copyright infringement suits in connection with Baidu Feed, P4P, Baidu Post, Baidu Search, iQIYI, Baidu Wenku, Baidu Drive, Baijiahao, Haokan, Xiaodu and certain other products or services. See “Item 8.A. Financial Information—Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.” There is no guarantee that the courts will accept our defenses and rule in our favor. If there is a successful claim of infringement, we may be required to discontinue the infringing activities, pay substantial fines and damages and enter into royalty or license agreements that may not be available on commercially acceptable terms, if at all. Our failure to obtain a license of the rights on a timely basis could harm our business. Any intellectual property litigation by third parties and/or negative publicity alleging our intellectual property infringement could have an adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition or results of operations. To address the risks relating to intellectual property infringement, we may have to substantially modify, limit or terminate some of our search services. Any such change could materially affect user experience and in turn have an adverse impact on our business.

Our strategy of investments and acquiring complementary businesses and assets may fail.

As part of our business strategy, we have pursued, and intend to continue to pursue, selective strategic investments and acquisitions of businesses and assets that complement our existing business and help us execute our growth strategies. For example, we invested in Trip.com Group Limited (formerly known as Ctrip).

We intend to make other strategic investments and acquisitions in the future if suitable opportunities arise. Investments and acquisitions involve uncertainties and risks, including, but not limited to:

 

   

potential ongoing financial obligations and unforeseen or hidden liabilities, including liability for infringement of third-party copyrights or other intellectual property;

 

   

failure to achieve the intended objectives, benefits or revenue-enhancing opportunities,

 

   

non-occurrence of anticipated or speculative transactions and any resulting negative impact;

 

   

costs and difficulties of integrating acquired businesses and managing a larger business;

 

   

in the case of investments where we do not obtain management and operational control, lack of influence over the controlling partner or shareholder, which may prevent us from achieving our strategic goals in the investments;

 

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possible unsatisfactory operational or financial performance, including financial loss, or fraudulent activities of a target business;

 

   

possible loss of key employees of a target business;

 

   

potential claims or litigation regarding our board’s exercise of its duty of care and other duties required under applicable law in connection with any of our significant acquisitions or investments approved by the board;

 

   

diversion of resources and management attention;

 

   

regulatory hurdles and compliance risks, including the anti-monopoly and competition laws, rules and regulations of mainland China and other jurisdictions and the enhanced compliance requirement for outbound acquisitions and investment under the laws and regulations of mainland China;

 

   

in the case of acquisitions of businesses or assets outside of China, the need to integrate operations across different business cultures and languages and to address the particular economic, currency, political, and regulatory risks associated with specific countries; and

 

   

potential fair value changes, which impact our profits.

Any failure to address these risks successfully may have a material and adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Investments and acquisitions may require a significant amount of capital, which would decrease the amount of cash available for working capital or capital expenditures. In addition, if we use our equity securities to pay for investments and acquisitions, the value of our listed securities may be diluted. If we borrow funds to finance investments and acquisitions, such debt instruments may contain restrictive covenants that could, among other things, restrict us from distributing dividends. Moreover, acquisitions may also generate significant amortization expenses related to intangible assets. We are required to test our intangible assets and goodwill for impairment annually or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate that they may be impaired. We may also incur investment loss or impairment charges to acquired businesses and assets.

Our business is subject to complex and evolving Chinese and international laws and regulations, including those regarding data privacy and cybersecurity. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations would result in claims, penalties, damages to our reputation and brand, or declines in user growth or engagement, or otherwise harm our business.

We are required by privacy and data protection laws in mainland China and other jurisdictions, including, without limitation, the PRC Cyber Security Law and the PRC Data Security Law, to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information of our users, customers, third-party agents, content providers and Baidu Union partners, and other data, which is also essential to maintaining their confidence in our online products and services.

In recent years, the PRC government authorities have increasingly focused on safeguarding information and data security. The PRC Cyber Security Law provides that network operators must fulfill their obligations to safeguard network security during the course of conducting business and providing services. Network service providers must take technical and other necessary measures as required by laws, regulations and mandatory requirements to safeguard the operation of networks, respond to network security effectively, prevent illegal and criminal activities and maintain the integrity, confidentiality and usability of network data. Pursuant to the Regulations on Protection of Critical Information Infrastructure, which became effective in September 2021, critical information infrastructure means any important network facilities or information systems of the important industry or field, which may endanger national security, people’s livelihood and public interest in case of damage, function loss or data leakage. If a company is designated as a critical information infrastructure operator, it must comply with specific obligations mandated by applicable cybersecurity laws and regulations, which include, among others, that any personal information and important data collected and generated in

 

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operations within mainland China must be stored within the territory of mainland China. However, these PRC laws and regulations relating to cybersecurity are relatively new, and the applicable scope of these laws and regulations, including the applicable scope of “critical information infrastructure” under the current regulatory regime, remains unclear and shall be subject to more interpretation from the competent government authorities.

Since 2021, the PRC government authorities have also promulgated a series of laws and regulations to build a system for cybersecurity review. The PRC Data Security Law, which took effect in September 2021, provides for a security review procedure for the data activities that may affect national security. Pursuant to the Cybersecurity Review Measures, which was published by the CAC and became effective in February 2022, critical information infrastructure operators that procure internet products and services, as well as network platform operators engaging in data processing activities, must be subject to a cybersecurity review if their activities affect or may affect national security. A cybersecurity review could result in significant costs and expose such critical information infrastructure operators to various challenges, both throughout the review process and in the course of implementing the required improvements to their cybersecurity protocols. Since the Cybersecurity Review Measures provide no further explanation or interpretation on the determination of “affecting national security,” there remain uncertainties as to whether our data processing activities may be deemed to affect national security. In addition, network platform operators holding over one million users’ personal information must apply for a cybersecurity review with the Cybersecurity Review Office before any public offering in a foreign country. Moreover, the CAC also publicly solicited comments on the Regulations on the Network Data Security (Draft for Comments) on November 14, 2021, which have not yet been promulgated into law as of the date of this annual report. The Regulations on the Network Data Security (Draft for Comments) set forth different scenarios where data processors are required to apply for cybersecurity reviews, including, among others, listing abroad of data processors which process over one million users’ personal information, listing in Hong Kong which affects or may affect national security, and other data processing activities that affect or may affect national security. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Information Security” for more details.

Moreover, the PRC government authorities are also improving the legal system on the protection of the personal information. On August 20, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the PRC Personal Information Protection Law, which integrates the scattered rules with respect to personal information rights and privacy protection and took effect on November 1, 2021. In addition, the CAC and three other authorities jointly issued the Rules on the Scope of Necessary Personal Information for Common Types of Mobile Internet Applications, which specify the scope of necessary personal information to be collected each for a variety of common mobile internet applications, such as maps and navigation apps, online ride-hailing apps, instant messaging apps and online community apps. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Internet Privacy” for more details.

The PRC government authorities also further enhanced the supervision and regulation of cross-border data transmission. Pursuant to the Measures for the Security Assessment of Cross-border Data Transfer, which became effective in September 2022, data processors will be subject to security assessment conducted by the CAC prior to any cross-border transfer of data if the transfer involves certain types of data such as important data. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Information Security” for more details.

The PRC Cyber Security Law, the PRC Data Security Law, the PRC Personal Information Protection Law and the other related laws and regulations as mentioned above are relatively new and subject to interpretation by the regulators. Although we only gain access to user information that is necessary for, and relevant to, the services we provide, the data we obtain and use may include information that is deemed as “personal information,” “network data” or “important data” under the relevant data privacy and protection laws and regulations. As such, we have implemented a series of measures to ensure that we comply with the laws and regulations in the collection, use, disclosure, sharing, storage, and security of user information and other data. Although we believe that we have complied with such laws and regulations related to cybersecurity, data privacy

 

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and personal information protection in all material aspects, the measures we have implemented could still be deemed insufficient, improper, or even invasive of user privacy by the government authorities, which may result in penalties, including fines, suspension of business activities, restrictions on new user registrations (even temporarily) and revocation of licenses. Consequently, our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. In addition, the activities of third parties such as our customers and business partners are beyond our control. If our business partners violate the laws and regulations relating to cybersecurity, data privacy and personal information protection, or fail to fully comply with the service agreements with us, or if any of our employees fails to comply with our internal control measures and misuse the information, we may be subject to penalties and other legal liabilities. As part of the efforts by the CAC and other regulators to enhance data protection, a wide number of apps and companies have been reprimanded since the first half of 2021, including certain Baidu apps. We have updated the apps and are committed to keeping our apps fully compliant with the requirements of the CAC. Nevertheless, due to the rapidly evolving regulatory requirements, we still cannot guarantee you that we will not be subject to more similar rectification requests from the government authorities or that we will fully comply with all applicable rules and regulations at all times. In addition, as the enforcement regime with regard to cybersecurity, data security, data privacy and personal information protection has been evolving and PRC regulators have been increasingly focusing on regulation in these areas, some of our business operations, in particular our cloud services, may be subject to enhanced oversight and scrutiny. As a result, we may be involved with enquiries, claims, complaints or other administrative actions from time to time, which are subject to the uncertainties associated with the evolving legislative activities and varied local enforcement practices. Any failure or perceived failure to comply with all applicable data privacy and protection laws and regulations or to take prompt rectification actions as required by the enforcement authorities, any failure or perceived failure of our business partners to do so, or any failure or perceived failure of our employees to comply with our internal control measures, may result in negative publicity and legal proceedings or regulatory actions against us, and could damage our reputation, discourage current and potential users and customers from using our products or services and subject us to fines, damages and rectification, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Besides the evolving regulatory requirements on cybersecurity and data privacy in mainland China, there are also a number of legislative proposals in the European Union, the United States, at both the federal and state level, as well as other jurisdictions that could impose new obligations in areas affecting our business. For instance, on February 28, 2024, the Biden administration issued an executive order titled “Preventing Access to Americans’ Bulk Sensitive Personal Data and United States Government-Related Data by Countries of Concern.” This executive order aims to prohibit and restrict the transfer of substantial quantities of personal data belonging to U.S. individuals, as well as certain data pertaining to the U.S. government, to countries of concern, including China. The types of personal data of U.S. citizens that fall under the purview of this executive order encompass, but are not limited to, biometric identifiers, human genomic information, and confidential health and financial records, subject to bulk collection thresholds that range from one hundred to one million. Our data practices may be deemed inconsistent with new laws or regulations concerning data protection and transfer, or the interpretation and application of existing laws or regulations concerning data protection and transfer, which are often uncertain and in flux. The introduction of new products or other actions that we may take may subject us to additional laws, regulations or other government scrutiny. Complying with new laws and regulations could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a manner materially adverse to our business. For example, if new laws and regulations promulgated in the future impose restrictions on selling demographically targeted advertising, it could increase our cost and the complexity to provide such services such that we may become less attractive to online advertising customers. In addition, some countries are considering or have passed legislation implementing data protection requirements or requiring local storage and processing of data or similar requirements that could increase the cost and complexity of delivering our services.

Any failure or perceived failure by us to prevent information security breaches or to comply with data security and privacy policies or related legal obligations, or any compromise of security that results in the unauthorized use, release or transfer of personally identifiable information or other data, could cause our users to lose trust in us and expose us to legal claims or penalties. Any perception by the public that privacy of user

 

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information or data security are becoming increasingly unsafe or vulnerable to attacks could inhibit the growth of our products and services generally. We expect that these areas will be subject to greater public scrutiny and attention from regulators and more frequent and rigid investigation or review by regulators, which will increase our compliance costs and subject us to heightened risks and challenges. We may have to spend much more personnel cost and time evaluating and managing these risks and challenges in connection with our products and services in the ordinary course of our business operations, and cooperated and will keep cooperating in the future with the competent regulators in these respects. If we are unable to manage these risks, we could become subject to penalties, including fines, suspension of business and revocation of required licenses, and our reputation and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

Our business may be adversely affected if we were found to have failed to fulfill the additional obligations under the online advertising rules.

Although the PRC Advertising Law has not specified “paid search results” as a form of advertising, the Administrative Measures for Internet Advertising, which was promulgated and amended by the State Administration for Market Regulation, or the SAMR, on February 25, 2023 and became effective on May 1, 2023, characterize “paid search results” as a form of internet advertising from the perspective of regulating the online advertising business. Pursuant to such measures, we are subject to additional legal obligations to monitor our P4P customers’ listings on our website during the course of our provision of P4P services. For example, we must examine, verify and record identity information of our P4P customers, such as the customer’s name, address and contact information, and maintain an updated verification of such information on a regular basis. Moreover, we must examine supporting documentation provided by our P4P customers. Where a special government review is required for specific categories of advertisements before posting, we must confirm that the review has been performed and approval has been obtained. If the content of the advertisement is inconsistent with the supporting documentation, or the supporting documentation is incomplete, the advertisement cannot be published. With respect to the promotion of goods or services in the form of paid listing, advertising distributors shall indicate them conspicuously as an advertisement to distinguish them from the natural search results. Publishing and distributing advertisements by means of internet shall not affect the normal internet access by users, and it is prohibited to insert advertisements in the form of paid listing into the search results of government service websites, webpages, internet apps, official accounts, etc. The advertisers, operators and publishers of internet advertisements containing links shall examine the contents in the next level link that are related to the front-end advertisements. In addition to the Administrative Measures for Internet Advertising, the PRC government may, from time to time, promulgate more detailed or new advertising laws and regulations to impose further requirements on online advertising services in specific fields, such as medical, pharmaceutical, health care, after-school tutoring and other similar businesses. For example, the Circular on the Administration of After-School Tutoring Advertisement jointly issued by the SAMR and seven other authorities on November 3, 2021 prohibits new media, internet platforms and other mainstream media from publishing or broadcasting any advertisement of after-school tutoring services targeted at pre-school children and primary and middle school students. Similarly, the Administrative Measures for Internet Advertising also propose to ban internet advertisement of such after-school tutoring services. We cannot assure you that we will be in compliance with the requirements under these more detailed or new laws and regulations and failure to comply with these obligations may subject us to fines and other administrative penalties. If advertisements shown on our platform are in violation of applicable advertising laws and regulations, or if the supporting documentation and government approvals provided to us by our P4P customers in connection with the advertising content are not complete or accurate, we may be subject to legal liabilities and our reputation could be harmed. Furthermore, we may modify the operation of our online marketing business and curb advertisements of certain restricted sectors in order to meet the evolving compliance requirements on the industry, which may adversely affect our online marketing revenue. See “Item 4.B. Information on the Company—Business Overview—Regulations—Regulations on Advertisements and Online Advertising.”

 

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We may be subject to patent infringement claims with respect to our P4P platform.

Our technologies and business methods, including those relating to our P4P platform, may be subject to third-party claims or rights that limit or prevent their use. We applied for certain patents in mainland China for our P4P platform, but some of our applications were rejected on the ground that they are not patentable. Certain companies have been granted patents in the United States relating to P4P platforms and similar business methods and related technologies. While we believe that we are not subject to U.S. patent laws since we conduct our business operations primarily in mainland China, we cannot assure you that U.S. patent laws would not be applicable to our business operations, or that holders of patents relating to a P4P platform would not seek to enforce such patents against us in the United States or mainland China.

Many parties are actively developing and seeking protection for internet-related technologies, including patent protection. They may hold patents issued or pending that relate to certain aspects of our technologies, products, business methods or services. Any patent infringement claims, regardless of their merits, could be time-consuming and costly to us. If we were sued for patent infringement claims with respect to our P4P platform and were found to infringe upon the patents and were not able to adopt non-infringing technologies, we may be severely limited in our ability to operate our P4P platform, which would have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations and prospects.

Our business may be adversely affected by third-party software apps or practices that interfere with our receipt of information from, or provision of information to, our users, which may impair our users’ experience.

Our business may be adversely affected by third-party malicious or unintentional software apps that make changes to our users’ computers and interfere with our products and services. These software apps may change our users’ internet experience by hijacking queries to our platform, altering or replacing our search results, or otherwise interfering with our ability to connect with our users. The interference often occurs without disclosure to or consent from users, resulting in a negative experience, which users may associate with our platform. These software apps may be difficult to remove or disable, may reinstall themselves and may circumvent other apps’ efforts to block or remove them.

In addition, our business may be adversely affected by the practices of third-party website owners, content providers and developers which interfere with our ability to crawl and index their web pages and contents including apps. The ability to provide a superior user experience is critical to our success. If we are unable to successfully combat malicious third-party software apps that interfere with our products and services, our reputation may be harmed. If a significant number of website owners, content providers and developers prevent us from indexing and including their high-quality web pages and content including apps in our search results, or if we cannot effectively combat web spam from low-quality and irrelevant content websites, the quality of our search results may be impaired, which may damage our reputation and deter our current and potential users from using our products and services.

We may not be able to prevent others from unauthorized use of our intellectual property, which could harm our business and competitive position.

We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and trade secret laws, as well as nondisclosure agreements and other methods to protect our intellectual property rights. The protection of intellectual property rights in mainland China may not be as effective as those in the United States or other jurisdictions. The steps we have taken may be inadequate to prevent the misappropriation of our technology. Reverse engineering, unauthorized copying or other misappropriation of our technologies could enable third parties to benefit from our technologies without paying us. Moreover, unauthorized use of our technology could enable our competitors to offer products and services that compete with ours, which could harm our business and competitive position. We have in the past resorted to litigation to enforce our intellectual property rights, and may have to do so from time to time in the future. There is no guarantee that the competent courts will accept our claims and rule in our favor. Such litigation may result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and management attention.

 

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Our success depends on the continuing and collaborative efforts of our management team and other key personnel, and our business may be disrupted if we lose their services and are not able to find their successors in a timely manner.

Our success depends heavily upon the continuing services of our management team, in particular our chairman and chief executive officer, Robin Yanhong Li. If one or more of our executives or other key personnel are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions and we are not able to find their successors in a timely manner, our business may be disrupted and our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected. Competition for management and key personnel is intense, the pool of qualified candidates is limited, and we may not be able to retain the services of our executives or key personnel, or attract and retain experienced executives or key personnel in the future.

If any of our executives or other key personnel joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may not be able to successfully retain customers, key agents, know-how and key personnel. Each of our executive officers and key employees has entered into an employment agreement with us, containing confidentiality and non-competition provisions. If any disputes arise between any of our executives or key personnel and us, we cannot assure you the extent to which any of these agreements may be enforced.

We rely on highly skilled personnel. If we are unable to retain or motivate them or hire additional qualified personnel, we may not be able to grow effectively.

Our performance and future success depend on the talents and efforts of highly skilled individuals. We will need to continue to identify, hire, develop, motivate and retain highly skilled personnel for all areas of our organization and business operations. Competition for qualified employees in the industries we operate in is intense. Our continued ability to compete effectively depends on our ability to attract new employees and to retain and motivate our existing employees. As competitions in our industries intensify, it may be more difficult for us to hire, motivate and retain highly skilled personnel. In general, if we do not succeed in attracting additional highly skilled personnel or retaining or motivating our existing personnel, we may be unable to grow effectively. In certain emerging industry, such as autonomous driving, foundation models and generative AI, many players with sufficient funds would heavily devote their resources to compete for talents with us. To keep our competitiveness and market position, we would need to, among others, recruit, train and retain our key talents and employees, in particular research and development personnel. If we fail to do so, we may lag behind with respect to the ever-emerging and cutting-edge technologies in the emerging industry, and our prospects in such industry would be ultimately harmed.

We are exposed to significant downward adjustments or impairments in the market values of our investments, which may materially affect our financial results.

As part of our business strategy, we have investments in both private and public companies. Fair values of these investments can be negatively impacted by fluctuations in the share prices of public companies we own, the fair value of private companies we own, liquidity, credit deterioration or losses, financial results, foreign exchange rates, changes in interest rates, or other factors. For equity securities without readily determinable fair value and do not qualify for the net asset value practical expedient of the investment, we elected to use the measurement alternative to measure those investments at cost, less any impairment, plus or minus changes resulting from observable price changes in orderly transactions for identical or similar investments of the same issuer, if any. Equity securities with readily determinable fair values are measured at fair value, and any changes in fair value are recognized in earnings. The impairment and change of equity securities’ fair value could result in significant fluctuation of our financial condition and operating results.

For example, we have recognized impairment charges on our long-term investments from 2021 to 2023 due to the impact of COVID-19, regulatory and competitive environment of the industries, circumstances of our invested companies and other factors. We may still suffer significant impairment loss or downward adjustments

 

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of our investments in the future, due to deterioration in global economic conditions or escalation of geopolitical conflicts or other factors. The carrying amounts of short-term investments, long-term investments, and long-term time deposits and held-to-maturity investments as of December 31, 2023 were RMB168.7 billion (US$23.8 billion), RMB48.0 billion (US$6.8 billion) and RMB24.7 billion (US$3.5 billion), respectively. The value or liquidity of our investments could decline and result in a material impairment, which could materially adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.

We are subject to risks and uncertainties faced by companies in a rapidly evolving industry.

We operate in the rapidly evolving internet industry, which makes it difficult to predict our future results of operations. Accordingly, you should consider our future prospects in light of the risks and uncertainties experienced by companies in evolving industries. Some of these risks and uncertainties relate to our ability to:

 

   

maintain our leading position in the Chinese-language internet search market;

 

   

offer attractive, useful and innovative products and services to attract and retain a larger user base;

 

   

procure content from studios and other content providers, as well as distribution channels and other licensors of content;

 

   

attract users’ continuing use of internet search services;

 

   

retain existing customers and attract additional customers and increase spending per customer;

 

   

evaluate the credit worthiness and collectability of accounts receivables from an evolving variety of customers, whose failure to pay us in a timely manner may adversely affect our liquidity position;

 

   

retain members and attract new members of iQIYI’s membership services;

 

   

upgrade our technology to support increased traffic and expanded product-and-service offerings;

 

   

further enhance our brand;

 

   

respond to competitive market conditions;

 

   

respond to evolving user preferences or industry changes;

 

   

respond to changes in the regulatory environment and manage legal risks, including those associated with intellectual property rights;

 

   

maintain effective control of our costs and expenses;

 

   

execute our strategic investments and acquisitions and post-acquisition integrations effectively;

 

   

attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel and maintain good relations with a young and growing work force; and

 

   

build profitable operations in new markets and other overseas internet markets we have entered into.

If we are unsuccessful in addressing any of these risks and uncertainties, our business may be materially and adversely affected.

Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition and our ability to obtain additional capital on reasonable terms when necessary.

As of December 31, 2023, we had an aggregate of RMB76.4 billion (US$10.8 billion) of outstanding indebtedness (including loans, convertible senior notes and notes payable), which will mature between 2024 and 2031, which include RMB14.6 billion (US$2.1 billion) of outstanding indebtedness of iQIYI. On April 2, 2021, we entered into a five-year term and revolving facilities agreement with a group of 22 arrangers, pursuant to which we are entitled to borrow US$3.0 billion with a term of five years and we have drawn down US$2.0 billion

 

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(RMB14.2 billion) loan under the facility commitment. See “Item 5.B. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Liquidity and Capital Resources.” We may incur additional indebtedness in the future. Our current and future debt requires us to dedicate a portion of our cash flow to service interest and principal payments and may limit our ability to engage in other transactions. Our ability to pay interest and repay the principal for our indebtedness is dependent upon our ability to manage our business operations, generate sufficient cash flows, raise additional capital and the other factors discussed in this section. There can be no assurance that we will be able to manage any of these risks successfully.

Certain of our outstanding indebtedness include financial and other covenants. For example, certain of these covenants require iQIYI to maintain minimum liquidity or pertain to iQIYI’s solvency or listing status. If we fail to comply with these covenants and are unable to remedy or obtain a waiver or amendment, an event of default would result. If an event of default were to occur, the lenders could, among other things, declare outstanding amounts due and payable. In addition, outstanding notes of Baidu, Inc. contain customary cross default and cross acceleration provisions, which would permit the notes holders to accelerate the repayment of these notes. In particular, for certain of the outstanding notes of Baidu, Inc., an event of default or declaration of acceleration under the indebtedness of principal controlled entities, such as iQIYI, could also result in an event of default under such notes of Baidu, Inc., which would permit the notes holders to accelerate the repayment of such notes of Baidu, Inc. For more detailed description of cross default and cross acceleration provisions under these notes, see “Item 5.B. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Liquidity and Capital Resources.” If the payment of any of our outstanding notes is accelerated, we may be required to renegotiate, repay or refinance these obligations and may not have sufficient funds available to repay it, and our liquidity and financial position would be materially and adversely affected.

We may require additional capital to support our business growth or to respond to business opportunities, challenges or unforeseen circumstances. Our ability to obtain additional capital, if and when required, will depend on our business plans, investor demand, our operating performance, the condition of the capital markets, and other factors, and our indebtedness may limit our ability to borrow additional funds. We may have difficulty incurring new debt on terms that we would consider to be commercially reasonable. In addition, we may also need to refinance a portion or all of our outstanding debt as it matures. There is a risk that we may not be able to refinance existing debt or that the terms of any refinancing may not be as favorable as the terms of our existing debt.

iQIYI has significant working capital requirements, and our controlling interest in iQIYI may be diluted if iQIYI raises additional capital by issuing and selling additional equity in the future.

iQIYI, our controlled subsidiary listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, had experienced a working capital deficit as of December 31, 2021, 2022 and 2023. There is no assurance that iQIYI will be able to improve its working capital position and achieve working capital surplus, although iQIYI will take actions to manage its working capital. In March 2022, iQIYI issued ordinary shares for a total cash purchase price of US$285 million in a private placement transaction. In December 2022, iQIYI issued US$500 million convertible senior notes due January 2028 to PAGAC IV-1 (Cayman) Limited, PAG Pegasus Fund LP and/or their affiliates, collectively referred to as PAG in this annual report. In February 2023, iQIYI issued to PAG an additional US$50 million principal amount of the such notes upon its exercise to subscribe for additional notes in full. In January 2023, iQIYI completed a registered follow-on public offering of iQIYI’s ordinary shares in the form of ADSs and received net proceeds of US$500 million in aggregate. In March 2023, iQIYI completed an offering of US$600 million in aggregate principal amount of 6.50% convertible senior notes due March 2028, or the iQIYI 2028 Convertible Notes. Concurrently with and shortly after the offering of the iQIYI 2028 Convertible Notes, iQIYI entered into separate individually and privately negotiated agreements with certain holders of the iQIYI 2026 Convertible Notes to repurchase US$340 million principal amount of such notes for cash. There can be no assurance that iQIYI will be able to raise additional equity or debt financing on terms that are acceptable to iQIYI in the future. Any failure to do so as and when necessary could materially adversely affect iQIYI’s liquidity, results of operations, financial condition and ability to operate. In addition, when iQIYI obtains

 

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additional financing by issuing and selling additional equity or equity-linked securities, such as convertible bonds, our interest in iQIYI will be diluted.

iQIYI operates in a capital intensive industry and requires a significant amount of cash to fund its operations, content acquisitions and technology investments. If iQIYI cannot obtain sufficient capital, its business, financial condition and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

The operation of an internet video streaming platform requires significant and continuous investment in content and technology. Producing high-quality original content is costly and time-consuming and will typically take a long period of time to realize returns on investment, if at all. To date, iQIYI has financed its operations primarily with net cash generated from financing activities such as placements of shares, convertible senior notes and asset-based securities, bank loans, and the proceeds from its initial public offering and offering of securities. In order to implement its growth strategies, iQIYI will incur additional capital in the future to cover, among others, costs to produce and license content. iQIYI may need to obtain additional financing, including equity offerings or debt financing, to fund the operation and expansion of business. iQIYI’s ability to obtain additional financing in the future, however, is subject to a number of uncertainties, including those relating to:

 

   

iQIYI’s future business development, financial condition and results of operations;

 

   

general market conditions for financing activities by companies in iQIYI’s industry; and

 

   

macro-economic and other conditions in mainland China and elsewhere.

As a public company with a growing business, iQIYI expects to increasingly rely on net cash provided by operating activities, financing through capital markets and commercial banks for its liquidity needs. However, iQIYI cannot assure you that it will be successful in its efforts to further diversify its sources of liquidity and obtain financing. In addition, certain financing may pose additional capital needs on iQIYI, for example, the potential redemption by holders of iQIYI’s convertible notes. Further, inability to maintain liquidity or solvency might result in default under iQIYI’s existing indebtedness, which would pose additional repayment needs and negatively impact iQIYI’s ability to raise more funds through new financing. Moreover, deterioration in global economic conditions or escalation of geopolitical conflicts may adversely impact iQIYI’s ability to secure additional financing. If iQIYI cannot obtain sufficient capital to meet its capital needs, iQIYI may not be able to execute its growth strategies and its business, financial condition and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

Our results of operations may fluctuate, which makes our results difficult to predict and could cause our results to fall short of expectations.

Our results of operations may fluctuate as a result of a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control. For these reasons, comparing our results of operations on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful, and you should not rely on our past results as an indication of our future performance. Our quarterly and annual revenues and costs and expenses as a percentage of our revenues may be significantly different from our historical or projected figures. Our results of operations in future quarters may fall below expectations. We have ceased or downsized certain of our business, such as games and education, in the past year due to the changing business and regulatory environment in China, which had an adverse effect on our financial results. We cannot assure you that similar cessation or downsize of business will not take place in the future, and our financial results may be adversely affected. Any of the foregoing could cause the price of our ADSs to fall. Any of the risk factors listed in this “Risk Factors” section, and in particular the following factors, could cause our results of operations to fluctuate from quarter to quarter:

 

   

general economic conditions in China and economic conditions specific to the internet, internet search and feed, and online marketing industries;

 

   

our ability to continue to attract users to our platform despite the emergence of mobile apps and other services;

 

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our ability to retain existing customers, attract additional customers and increase spending per customer;

 

   

the announcement or introduction of new or enhanced products and services by us or our competitors;

 

   

the introduction of new technology by us or our competitors;

 

   

the amount and timing of operating costs and capital expenditures related to the maintenance and expansion of our businesses, operations and infrastructure;

 

   

the results of our acquisitions of, or investments in, other businesses or assets;

 

   

Mainland China’s regulations or government actions pertaining to activities on the internet, including various forms of entertainment, online payment and activities otherwise affecting our online marketing customers, and those relating to the products and services we provide;

 

   

unforeseen events, such as negative publicity arising from widespread media coverage and other sources and labor disputes, or unexpected cessation or downsize of existing business; and

 

   

geopolitical events, natural disasters or epidemics.

Because of the rapid growth of our business, our historical results of operations may not be useful to you in predicting our future results of operations. Our user traffic tends to be seasonal. For example, we generally experience less user traffic during public holidays and other special event periods in China. In addition, advertising and other marketing spending in China has historically been cyclical, reflecting overall economic conditions as well as budgeting and buying patterns. As we continue to grow, we expect that the cyclicality and seasonality in our business may cause our results of operations to fluctuate.

A severe and prolonged downturn in the Chinese or global economy could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

COVID-19 had a severe and negative impact on the Chinese and the global economy from 2020 through 2022, and the global macroeconomic environment still faces numerous challenges. The growth rate of the Chinese economy has been slowing since 2010 and the Chinese population began to decline in 2022. The Federal Reserve and other central banks outside of China have raised interest rates. The Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Hamas-Israel conflict and the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea have heightened geopolitical tensions across the world. The impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Ukraine food exports has contributed to increases in food prices and thus to inflation more generally. There have also been concerns about the relationship between China and other countries which may potentially have economic effects. In particular, there is significant uncertainty about the future relationship between the United States and China with respect to a wide range of issues including trade policies, treaties, government regulations and tariffs. Economic conditions in China are sensitive to global economic conditions, as well as changes in domestic economic and political policies and the expected or perceived overall economic growth rate in China. In addition, SMEs as our customers are more vulnerable to changes in macroeconomic conditions. If macroeconomic conditions deteriorate, SMEs may be directly hit, which in turn may lead to higher default rates or decreasing borrowings. As a result, any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global or Chinese economy may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Rising international political tensions, including changes in U.S. and international trade policies, particularly with regard to China, may adversely impact our business and operating results.

The U.S. government has made statements and taken certain actions that may lead to changes in U.S. and international trade policies towards China. It remains unclear what additional actions, if any, will be taken by the U.S. or other governments with respect to international trade agreements, the imposition of tariffs on goods imported into the United States, tax policy related to international commerce, or other trade matters. While cross-

 

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border business may not be an area of focus for us, any unfavorable government policies on international trade, such as capital controls or tariffs, may affect the demand for our products and services, impact the competitive position of our products or prevent us from selling products in certain countries. If any new tariffs, legislation and/or regulations are implemented, or if existing trade agreements are renegotiated or, in particular, if the U.S. government takes retaliatory trade actions due to ongoing U.S.-China trade tensions, such changes could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In addition, we have been closely monitoring domestic policies in the United States designed to restrict certain Chinese companies from supplying or operating in the U.S. market. These policies include the Clean Network project initiated by the U.S. Department of State in August 2020, new authorities granted to the Department of Commerce to prohibit or restrict the use of information and communications technology and services, and the Executive Order on Protecting America’s Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries published in June 2021. While a substantial majority of our business is conducted in mainland China, policies like these may deter U.S. users from accessing and/or using our search engine, apps and other products in the United States, which could adversely impact our user experience and reputation. Similarly, India has permanently banned a large number of apps since 2020 out of national security concerns, many of which are China-based apps (including our apps), escalating regional political and trade tensions. From time to time, in connection with perceived security incidents, the U.S. government may impose more stringent control measures or restrictions on the products and services of Chinese companies. The government measures taken and potential subsequent developments are beyond our control, and we could be adversely affected regardless whether or not we were actually involved in the incidents.

Likewise, we are monitoring policies in the United States that are aimed at restricting U.S. persons from investing in or supplying certain Chinese companies. The United States and various foreign governments have imposed controls, license requirements and restrictions on the import or export of technologies and products, or voiced the intention to do so. For instance, in October 2022, the U.S. government imposed a set of export control measures with respect to China. Among other things, these export control measures add certain semiconductor manufacturing equipment, advanced chips, and items containing such chips to the Commerce Control List, expand the number of items made outside the United States that are subject to U.S. export controls in the advanced computing and semiconductor context, and impose license requirements for certain items destined for China for use in supercomputers, the development or production of semiconductors or semiconductor manufacturing equipment, or destined for semiconductor fabrication facilities in China that produce certain advanced chips. These measures also restrict the ability of U.S. persons to provide “support” for semiconductor manufacturing and related activities in China and may seriously affect the ability of Chinese companies to purchase or obtain certain semiconductor manufacturing equipment or advanced chips, which may in turn further affect the operations and development of AI technologies of such companies. On October 17, 2023, the U.S. government released two additional interim rules expanding and enhancing export controls of semiconductors under the above export control measures. These interim rules became effective in November 2023 and intend to further restrict China’s access to U.S. semiconductor technology by setting tighter parameters on existing restrictions on chips and strengthening restrictions on semiconductor manufacturing equipment. We have invested significant resources in the research and development of AI technology and expect this element to be a driver for our future growth. However, the introduction of new export control measures could potentially impose limitations on our access to advanced semiconductor technologies, which may hinder the process of the research and development of our AI technology and AI chips. As a result, our future AI abilities and our financial performance may be materially and adversely affected.

On August 9, 2023, the Biden administration released an executive order directing the Treasury Department to create an outbound foreign direct investment review program that will require reporting on or (in more narrow circumstances) will prohibit investments by U.S. persons involving “covered national security technologies and products,” which is defined to include “sensitive technologies and products in the semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and AI sectors that are critical for the military, intelligence, surveillance, or cyber-enabled capabilities” of China (to include Hong Kong and Macau). On the same day, the

 

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Treasury Department issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, which provides a conceptual framework for outbound investment controls focused on China. As of the date of this annual report, the final rules implementing the executive order has not become effective yet, and the scope of the outbound foreign direct investment review program may be materially different from what is currently contemplated. Therefore, there are substantial uncertainties on whether the outbound foreign direct investment review program will have a material impact on our business, results of operations, financial condition, and prospects.

In addition, the United States is in the process of developing new export controls with respect to “emerging and foundational” technologies, which may include certain AI and semiconductor technologies. The U.S. government also reportedly is considering imposing new restrictions on the ability of U.S. persons to make investments in or engage in transactions with certain Chinese companies. The United States has also restricted U.S. persons from investing in publicly-traded securities of “Chinese Military-Industrial Complex” companies identified by the Treasury Department. Measures such as these could deter suppliers in the United States and/or other countries that impose export controls and other restrictions from providing technologies and products to, making investments in, or otherwise engaging in transactions with Chinese companies.

As a result of these and other measures, Chinese companies may have to identify and secure alterative supplies or sources of financing, which they may not be able to do so in a timely manner and at commercially acceptable terms, or at all. In addition, Chinese companies may have to limit and reduce their research and development and other business activities, or cease conducting transactions with parties, in the United States and other countries that impose export controls or other restrictions. Like other Chinese companies, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected as a result.

Failure to retain key third-party agents or attract additional third-party agents, or termination of our relationship with third-party agents could materially and adversely affect our business. Moreover, there is no assurance that our direct sales model in some key geographic markets will continue to be successful.

We rely, to a large extent, on a nationwide distribution network of third-party agents for our sales to, and collection of payment from, our customers. The operations and conduct of such third-party agents are beyond our control. They may fail to provide quality services to our customers or otherwise breach their contracts with our customers, or experience operational or financial difficulties or run out of business, or engage in misconduct with respect to our sales and our customers. If any of the foregoing issues arise, we may terminate our relationship with third-party agents, lose customers and our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. In addition, since most of third-party agents are not bound by long-term contracts, we cannot assure you that we will continue to maintain favorable relationships with them. If we fail to retain key third-party agents or attract additional ones on terms that are commercially reasonable, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. We may decide to terminate existing third-party agents and transition to new ones or to our own distribution channel. If we decide and fail to smoothly transition our business to new third-party agents or to our own distribution channel, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

We have transitioned to using our direct sales force to serve customers in some key geographic markets, such as Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. There is no assurance that our direct sales model in those markets will continue to be successful. If we fail to maintain an adequate direct sales force, retain existing customers and continue to attract new customers in those markets, our business, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

We may not be able to detect or prevent misconduct committed by our employees or third parties.

Misconduct by our employees, such as unauthorized business transactions, bribery, corruption and breach of our internal policies and procedures, or by consultants or other third parties, such as breach of law, may be difficult to detect or prevent. It could subject us to financial loss and sanctions imposed by government

 

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authorities while seriously damaging our reputation. This may also impair our ability to effectively attract prospective users, develop customer loyalty, obtain financing on favorable terms and conduct other business activities. Our risk management systems, information technology systems and internal control procedures are designed to monitor our operations and overall compliance. Historically we have identified certain incidents of employee and third-party misconduct. Although we have zero tolerance towards any illegal activities and have put in place internal policies and procedures against employee misconduct, however, there can be no assurance we will be able to identify non-compliance or illegal activities promptly, or at all. Furthermore, it is not always possible to detect and prevent misconduct committed by our employees or third parties, and the precautions we take to prevent and detect such activities may not be effective. This may materially and adversely affect our business, brand, financial condition and results of operations.

We rely on Baidu Union partners for a significant portion of our revenues. If we fail to retain existing Baidu Union partners or attract additional members, our revenue growth and profitability may be adversely affected.

We pay Baidu Union partners a portion of our revenues as we leverage traffic of the Baidu Union partners’ internet properties. Some of Baidu Union partners, however, may compete with us in one or more areas of our business. Therefore, they may decide in the future to terminate their relationships with us. If Baidu Union partners decide to use a competitor’s or their own internet search services, or if our competitors offer more attractive prices to bid for union traffic, our user traffic may decline, which may adversely affect our revenues. If we fail to attract additional Baidu Union partners, our revenue growth may be adversely affected. In addition, if we have to share a larger portion of our revenues to retain existing Baidu Union partners or attract additional partners, our profitability may be adversely affected.

Our overseas operations may not be successful.

We have launched products and services in local languages to internet users in several countries. It is uncertain when the operation will become profitable, if at all. In particular, we rely on local telecommunication operators and service providers to provide us with network services and data center hosting services, and our systems for these international products and services are not redundant across different regions and data centers. Any interruption to the internet infrastructure or any data center may render our products and services in the region unavailable.

We face certain risks inherent in doing business internationally, including:

 

   

difficulties in developing, staffing and simultaneously managing a foreign operation as a result of distance, language and cultural differences;

 

   

challenges in formulating effective local sales and marketing strategies targeting users from various jurisdictions and cultures, who have a diverse range of preferences and demands;

 

   

challenges in identifying appropriate local business partners and establishing and maintaining good working relationships with them;

 

   

dependence on local platforms in marketing our international products and services overseas;

 

   

challenges in selecting suitable geographical regions for international business;

 

   

longer customer payment cycles;

 

   

currency exchange rate fluctuations;

 

   

political or social unrest or economic instability;

 

   

compliance with applicable foreign laws and regulations and unexpected changes in laws or regulations;

 

   

exposure to different tax jurisdictions that may subject us to greater fluctuations in our effective tax rate and potentially adverse tax consequences; and

 

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