It's crunch time for Google (GOOG), and investors on Monday were ever so slightly betting it'll pull its search engine out of China, at least according to premarket trading. The Internet giant's shares hoovered a tad in the negative range, while its Chinese competitor, Baidu (BIDU), was up a hair.
Google, which may announce its decision about its Chinese search operation as early as today, is likely to say it's halting that service on April 10, according to a China Business News report cited by Reuters.
For the past two months, Google has played a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse with China over its willingness to censor its Chinese search engine or face the wrath of the government there. If Google pulls out, investors worry that the Internet giant would be missing out on a massive market opportunity.
If Google ceases its search service in China, Baidu would be the huge benefactor. And investors know it. Shares of Baidu have soared 47.4% since Google announced on Jan. 12 that it would halt censoring its search results in China. Baidu's stock closed at $569.65 a share on Friday.
Google's shares have gone in the opposite direction since that January announcement. The stock closed at $590.48 on Jan. 12, but have suffered a downward trek since then, reaching as low as $520 in late February. Google has since regained some of that lost ground to close at $566.40 a share on Friday.
Investors, however, may want to strap in for a potentially wide ride later today if Google does make its expected announcement about China.
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