Baidu, the dominant search service in China, said yesterday (April 28) that it had started checking up on peer-to-peer (P2P) lending sites and all of its paid search clients would be temporarily removed from search results for further investigation. The company told a local financial newspaper NBD that more than 800 P2P sites had been removed — It is estimated there are a total of more than 2000 P2P sites in China.
It is reported that the direct cause is that one week ago another P2P site, Wangwangdai, absconded with investors’ money five months after its launch. Actually a handful of Chinese P2P sites ran away with an estimated RMB700 million (over USD110 mn) in toal in less than half a year. There have been more than 100 P2P sites went bust or absconded.
Baidu said it would, by working with the authorities, insurance companies, and the payments clearing association, come up with a white list in order to lower risks of online financial frauds for users.
It is unknown whether Baidu’s move was required by Chinese authorities, or a sign that the big brother in China’s search market will begin supporting financial services of its family, just like how it helps iQiyi with video search traffic. Baidu launched Baidu Caifu, a financial search service in late 2013 that has only introduced selected offerings from conventional financial institutions or newly emerged online financial service providers, such as independent financial search engine Haodai.com, established micro-credit company CreditEase, and Chinese Insurance giant Pingan.
Baidu is developing its own online financial products, including micro-credit services too. Baifa, a mutual fund available for online purchases, was launched in last October.