China's largest search engine Baidu Inc said on Monday it will invest 3 billion yuan ($470.6 million) by the end of 2015 to help 2 million small- and medium-sized enterprises expand their businesses.
As part of the investment, Baidu will groom 100,000 search marketing professionals, help small- and medium-sized enterprises develop their service platforms, provide free marketing about less developed regions and help government departments in their research on business, Baidu said, confirming a Xinhua report issued late on Sunday.
China, with more than 485 million users, is the world's largest Internet market. Yet, with Internet penetration hovering around 36 percent and user sophistication outside the big cities still low, the potential for growth is huge.
In the third quarter, China's online search market grew 77.8 percent to 5.51 billion yuan. Baidu had a 77.7 percent share of the market, while Google had 18.3 percent, according to data from Beijing-based consultancy iResearch.
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)