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China search engine company Baidu posts slower revenue growth

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine company, posted its slowest quarterly revenue growth in more than two years, hurt by slowing sales as economic growth slows.

Baidu said on Monday that revenue in the third quarter was $994.6 million, up 49.7 percent from the year-ago period.

For the fourth quarter, Baidu said it expects revenue of $979.3 million to $1.010 billion, below the average analysts' forecasts of $1.03 billion according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Baidu posted net income of $478.6 million in the three months ended September 30, up roughly 60 percent year-on-year. Baidu said it earned $1.39 per American Depository Share in the third quarter, excluding stock-based compensation expenses.

Baidu, which has dominated the search market since Google Inc relocated its search engine to Hong Kong in a row over censorship in 2010, is facing a new challenge from China's top anti-virus software firm, Qihoo 360 Technology.

A search engine launched by Qihoo in August has started to gain traction, accounting for 5-10 percent of search traffic since its launch, according to data from research firm Analysys International.

Baidu shares have fallen about 2 percent this year on expectations that it will be hurt by slower economic growth in China, underperforming a 14 percent rise on the Nasdaq exchange.

(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by David Gregorio)

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