Baidu CEO Robin Li has called Baidu a “pioneer in China’s economic reform and opening” amid slow fourth-quarter growth and record-high sales revenue in 2018.

Li made the comments in a new year letter to Baidu’s employees, saying the company had reached a milestone of RMB 100 billion ($15 billion) revenue driven by mobile search and the information feed in its Baidu App, according to Chinese media.

Li said that as a company “most driven by technology in China,” it had been refocusing on product development. A Baidu spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter to TechNode without providing further details. The company generally releases its year-end financial results in February.

The Chinese company, like many others, recently announced restructuring plans.  It aims to increase its capacity in cloud computing and artificial intelligence to serve Chinese industry players.

“The Chinese economy has shifted to a lower gear, with every company under severe pressure from nationwide economic restructuring,” Li says in the letter, calling staff members to “decrease costs and raise efficiency” for business clients.

The company saw nearly 30% year-on-year revenue growth in the third-quarter of 2018. The strong growth was due to advertising in its feed feature of the Baidu App, as well as the company’s other feed services, including that of short video app Haokan, Baidu CFO Herman Yu said in the company’s third-quarter earnings call at the end of October 2018.

However, it expects slower growth of 15% to 20% in the fourth quarter. The economic slowdown and policy changes, including increased regulation in the gaming sector, were the main factors for not meeting expectations, Yu said. Previously, analysts estimated annual sales of RMB 101.5 billion for the year.

Last month, Li, along with Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tencent’s Pony Ma, was included on an honor list of “100 Reform Pioneers,” as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of China’s opening and reform policy.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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