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Baidu partners France Telecom in Africa Internet push

A security guard walks past the company logo of Baidu at its headquarters in Beijing, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Soo Hoo Zheyang
A security guard walks past the company logo of Baidu at its headquarters in Beijing, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Soo Hoo Zheyang

LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese search engine company Baidu has teamed up with France Telecom to develop a mobile browser tailored to customers in Africa and the Middle East, a region both companies have prioritized for growth.

The partnership, a global first for Baidu, aims to drive adoption of the mobile internet in emerging markets by making browsing simpler and more affordable.

The new browser, which is initially available in English and Arabic, was launched on Android smartphones by France Telecom's Egyptian operator Mobinil on Monday.

Orange, France Telecom's mobile division, said customers were steadily moving from basic phones to low cost smartphones as faster 3G networks were becoming available.

The shift helps increase the amount of revenue it earns from its customer base of nearly 80 million in the region.

In Egypt, where demand for Android devices doubled in the second half of 2012, its average revenue per user per year of 36 euros is less than one tenth of the level of France.

Baidu said the deal meant it could export the knowledge it had gained in developing products for China, the world's largest emerging market.

"We're now bringing that experience to bear in other markets now enjoying rapid growth," said Hu Yong, general manager of Baidu's International Business Unit.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Cowell)

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