Baidu Founder & CEO Robin Li Still China’s Richest Billionaire

In this year’s Forbes world billionaires’ rankings released last week, counted 1,226 people in an all-time high. 43-year old Robin Li, founder and CEO of China search giant Baidu, ranked 86th with US$ 10.2 billion, and continues to be the richest among billionaires in China. His wealth includes shares held by his wife, Melissa Ma. The list itself records US$ 4.6 trillion in wealth, while the group’s combined net worth is up 2%. The average worth of a Forbes billionaire is US$ 3.7 billion.

Baidu CEO Robin Li speaks at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in this 2010 file photo. Li continues to be China's richest billionaire, according to Forbes (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Li, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Science from Peking University and Master of Science in Computer Science from New York State University at Buffalo, started out his career as a software engineer for Silicon Valley-based Infoseek in 1997, which lasted for almost three years.

He decided to become a technopreneur by founding Baidu in 2000, which has successfully made it as the largest search engine in China, and now one of the top five websites in the world.

Baidu’s 4Q 2011 net income amounts to 2.05 billion yuan (US$ 326.3 million), equivalent to 93 cents per share, according to the Wall Street Journal. Baidu’s revenue, mostly coming from search advertisements, marked an impressive growth of 82.5% to hit 4.47 billion yuan (US$ 710.9 million) compared to the previous year.

Even though the number of China-based billionaires has dropped by 20 compared to the previous year, the country still boasts of 95 billionaires, ranking the country third after the United States and Russia.

China actually has six Internet billionaires on the list. The others are Tencent’s Ma Huateng and Zhang Zhidong (US$ 4.7 billion and US$ 1.8 billion), Alibaba’s Jack Ma (US$ 2.7 billion), Netease’s William Ding (US$ 2.8 billion) and Shanda Interactive’s Chen Tianqiao (US$ 1.1 billion). All of them are in the average age of 40 years old.

Baidu still has a lot of room for growth with advertising still being the key driver, say observers. With about 500 million people online compared with a total population of 1.4 billion, they still have more than 500 million people as a potential market, which should encourage Baidu to be more aggressive in monetizing display ads in years ahead.