Baidu beats forecasts, preps AI chatbot launch

STORY: Chinese tech giant Baidu beat forecasts in the fourth quarter.

Revenue hit $4.8 billion, just exceeding analyst forecasts.

The search engine operator is seeing advertisers return as China lifts health-crisis restrictions.

Chief Executive Robin Li said 2022 had been tough.

But he said this year offered a clear path towards speeding up growth again.

The company’s research and development expenses ate up almost a fifth of its revenue last year.

And a lot of that is going on a high-profile new project.

Amid global interest in the ChatGPT chatbot backed by Microsoft, Baidu has its own rival in the works.

Dubbed Ernie Bot, it’s expected to complete testing in March, and is seen by many as the country’s leading rival to the U.S. product.

Li says the market for such artificial intelligence systems is on the verge of exploding.

He says Ernie will first be embedded in Baidu’s search engine, saying its Chinese-language abilities are far superior to products developed overseas.