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Huge Pop for Baidu.com

Updated from 3:48 p.m. EDT

Wall Street caught an Asian strain of IPO fever Friday after Beijing buzz magnet Baidu.com (BIDU) priced 4 million initial shares above the expected range.

The stock, which benefited greatly from its small float, opened at $66 just before noon and went as high as $151.21 on its first day. At the close, Baidu.com settled at $122.54 -- up $95.54 from its initial pricing. Trading volume was more than five times the number of shares available.

"Its giving me bubble flashbacks," says Randy Diamond, sales trader at Miller Tabak. "It makes me feel especially uncomfortable now that the market is acting toppy."

The American depositary shares were sold by underwriters for $27 apiece late Thursday, above the high end of its once-raised price talk of $25. About 3.2 million of the shares were sold by the company, which will use the money for tech development and general purposes.

Friday's debut was the best for any initial public offering since late 1999.

Baidu, a search engine that is occasionally billed as the Chinese Google (GOOG), raised $109 million in the deal, which was led by Goldman Sachs, CSFB and Piper Jaffray. The IPO price valued Baidu at around $870 million.

As the Chinese counterpart to Google (which owns 2.6% of the stock), 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.

Still, the company's overall market cap (not including the after-market pop) was about 193 times the operating cash flow figure.

Baidu made its Wall Street entrance at a time when Chinese companies have become a lightning rod in 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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