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China's Baidu challenges Alibaba with financial services platform

An employee walks past the Baidu company signage outside its headquarters in Beijing, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Soo Hoo Zheyang
An employee walks past the Baidu company signage outside its headquarters in Beijing, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Soo Hoo Zheyang

By Paul Carsten

(Reuters) - Baidu Inc will launch an online wealth management platform next week, as China's biggest Internet search company moves away from its advertising business to compete against Alibaba and Tencent Holdings.

Baidu said it would launch its Baidu Finance Center on October 28, offering a product together with China Asset Management Co. aimed at producing an annual yield of 8 percent for depositors.

China's finance sector has been dominated by state banks for decades. But now technology companies are using their online expertise and platforms to push financial products developed by finance management firms.

Baidu, e-commerce group Alibaba and Internet services company Tencent have pushed to obtain licenses to build financial services platforms, offering web users mutual funds, loans and insurance.

Alibaba's online payment affiliate Alipay launched a money market fund with Tianhong Asset Management Co. in June. It is the most successful Chinese fund of the year and has attracted 16 million users. Earlier this month, Alipay bought a controlling stake in Tianhong.

Alibaba also has partnered with Tencent and Ping An Insurance Group to offer online insurance products.

(Reporting By Paul Carsten; Editing by Pravin Char)

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