* Baidu to hire software engineers from U.S. in July
* First such overseas hires (Adds quotes, background)
By Melanie Lee
SHANGHAI, June 29 (Reuters) - Baidu Inc, China's leading search engine, will start hiring software engineers directly from the United States early next month, as it seeks to expand its technological capabilities and raise its global profile.
Baidu (BIDU.O) stands to be the biggest beneficiary in China's search sector after Google Inc (GOOG.O) relocated its China servers to Hong Kong following a high-profile spat with Beijing over censorship and hacking.
Baidu would hire 30 mid-to senior-level software engineers from Silicon Valley at a job fair on July 10 to drive new technology projects, its first direct hiring from the United States, a Baidu spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.
"Baidu believes that talent is the key to our success as a company, and we go where ever the best talent can be found, whether here in China or in Silicon Valley," Zheng Bin, Baidu's human resources director said in a statement to Reuters.
"As we develop more and more advanced search technologies, our need for world-class talent will only continue to increase."
Baidu is a household name in China but not well known overseas. Baidu Japan, the firm's venture into the Japanese search market, has been loss-making ever since its inception.
The hiring is significant as it shows that Baidu, traditionally domestically focused, is eager to raise its profile overseas and plug into talent outside China. The move also comes as other Chinese Internet firms, such as Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), China's largest Internet firm by market value, are starting to invest overseas.
Analysts expect Baidu to win as much as half of Google China's search revenue, which could add as much as $330 million annually to Baidu's top line, representing a more than 50 percent increase on 2009 revenue of 4.45 billion yuan ($654.8 million). [ID:nTOE60C026]
The migration to a new search keyword system has also fuelled revenue growth, leading to the need for more software engineers, said a Baidu spokesman.
In an archetypal rags-to-riches tech story, Baidu was founded by Robin Li, who started the firm in a 3-star hotel room in Beijing. The search giant, whose name is taken from an ancient poem, now dominates the world's biggest Internet market, with more than 60 percent market share by revenue and about 75 percent by traffic.
Baidu shares are up 80 percent since the start of the year compared with the Nasdaq's 2 percent fall. It now trades at a rich forward 2010 price earnings ratio of 61 times, more than triple that of Google. (Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)