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Hearts Beating for Baidu.com

The Wall Street money machine gets a big test Thursday night when a Chinese search engine prices 4 million initial shares for listing on the Nasdaq.

Baidu.com (BIDU), based in Beijing, said in a regulatory filing that it expects the shares to price at $23 to $25 apiece, up from its earlier range of $19 to $21. It has also increased the size of the IPO to 4.04 million shares from the previously announced 3.6 million.

At the midpoint of its projected price range, Baidu.com will raise $101 million.

As the Chinese counterpart to the popular U.S. search company Google (GOOG), Baidu.com is being compared to one of the hottest Wall Street IPOs of the last half-decade. Its revenue is only a fraction of Google's, but it has shown impressive growth in recent years, posting $4.5 million in operating cash flow in 2004 after breaking even the previous year. Google owns a 2.6% stake in the company.

Baidu will make its Wall Street debut at a time when Chinese companies have become a lightning rod in the U.S. financial markets and political circles. The Chinese government's recent revaluation of its currency followed a couple of attempts by Chinese companies to acquire U.S. assets, including the controversial bid for Unocal (UCL).

Meanwhile, the fast-growing Chinese economy has long been viewed as a new frontier for U.S. multinational corporations looking to find emerging markets, such as Wal-Mart (WMT) and Starbucks (SBUX).

With about 20 Chinese companies having listed on the Nasdaq since 2000, only about three Chinese IPOs have taken place in 2005, including Hurray (HRAY), China Techfaith (CNTF) and Focus Media (FMCN).

Other Chinese companies with popular stocks trading on the Nasdaq include Sina.com (SINA) and Sohu.com (SOHU).

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