Baidu pares gains on margin worries. More acquisitions eyed.

|By:, SA News Editor

Citing concerns about a soft 2014 margin outlook (the result of aggressive investments), Morgan Stanley has cut Baidu (BIDU +2.3%) to Equal-Weight in spite of its Q4 beat and strong Q1 guidance. Shares have given back a large chunk of yesterday's AH gains.

Stifel, however, has upgraded shares to Buy and lifted its PT to $238. It expects Baidu's mobile queries will grow to account for over half its total queries in 2014, and notes mobile search ad prices (CPCs) are now at 60% of PC levels (up from 55% in Q3).

The firm forecasts 53% and 49% revenue growth in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Adjusted EBITDA is only expected to rise 9% in 2014, but growth is expected to surge to 51% in 2015.

Maxim notes mobile's revenue share doubled from Q1 to Q4, and Goldman observes Baidu's app stores, locked in fierce competition with Qihoo (QIHU +2.2%), have a 41% share of Chinese app distribution, per research firm Analysys.

CEO Robin Li suggested on the CC (transcript) Baidu, which made a string of big acquisitions in 2013, is open to more M&A in 2014. He also claimed over 60% of mobile ad customers now have a mobile-optimized landing page.