Chinese internet giant Baidu booked a net loss in Q1, as Covid-19 (coronavirus) restrictions slowed advertising revenue, offsetting growth in its cloud and AI businesses.

On its earnings call, co-founder and CEO Robin Li pointed to near-term challenges related to the pandemic, which continued to cause uncertainties to the macro environment and pressure its operations.

Li said Baidu is taking additional steps to improve overall operational efficiency and drive long-term growth.

Looking ahead, Li said the company believes China’s economy and Baidu’s business remain promising in the medium to long term. “We expect our advertising business to recuperate once overall economic buoyancy returns.”

CFO Rong Luo expects Q2 will be more challenging for Baidu and the industry.

Baidu’s Q1 loss of CNY885 million ($131.3 million) compared with a CNY25.6 billion profit in Q1 2021, with revenue up 1 per cent to CNY28.4 billion.

Cloud growth
Online marketing revenue fell 4 per cent to CNY15.7 billion, while non-online marketing revenue rose 35 per cent to CNY5.7 billion driven by cloud and other AI-powered businesses.

AI cloud sales grew 45 per cent to CNY3.9 billion, contributing almost 70 per cent of non-advertising revenue, remaining a key growth engine, Luo said.

Revenue from video streaming platform iQIYI declined 9 per cent to CNY1.2 billion, with the average daily number of subscribing members dropping to 101 million from 105 million.

Monthly active users (MAUs) of the Baidu app rose 13 per cent to 632 million, and daily logged-in users reached 83 per cent.

Baidu smart mini programme MAUs topped 500 million, up 22 per cent.