Baidu.com's bubble has already deflated remarkably, less than three weeks after its U.S. stock-market debut. The Chinese Internet search...

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NEW YORK — Baidu.com‘s bubble has already deflated remarkably, less than three weeks after its U.S. stock-market debut.

The Chinese Internet search engine’s shares soared 354 percent to $122.54 on their first day of trading Aug. 5, a rise that, for some, triggered uncomfortable memories of the late 1990s go-go days.

The stock’s ascent, which peaked at $153.98 during the second day of trading, reflected investors’ love affair with Baidu’s much larger U.S. cousin, Google, and outsize hopes for China’s consumer class and budding Internet industry.

The enthusiasm is already waning. Baidu’s Nasdaq-listed American depositary shares are worth little more than half their Aug. 8 peak value, based on yesterday’s closing price of $79. The stock went public at $27.

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Baidu is still valued at about $2.4 billion, a number that strikes many market watchers as exorbitant for a company that posted $7.9 million in revenue for the second quarter.

“The stock got up to a wild first-day ride we haven’t seen in about five years,” said John Fitzgibbon, an analyst with IPOdesktop.com. “As the circus moved out of town, the realities started to settle in.”

Baidu’s market opportunity and growth trajectory remain hard to predict, considering the nascent state of China’s Internet industry and the government’s penchant for controlling media use there.

Moreover, competition is increasing, with rivals like Yahoo!, which is now in partnership with local firm Alibaba.com, stepping up expansion there.

Despite the stock’s decline, it still carries a rich price tag. Wall Street analysts, now in a 30-day quiet period after the offering, haven’t yet issued earnings or revenue forecasts for the company. But a generous assumption of $35 million in revenue this year, and double that in 2006, implies a valuation of about 30 times 2006 revenue.

Internet companies tend to trade at large revenue multiples because of their high profit levels, but that multiple is out of sight even compared to Google, which posted second-quarter net income of $342.8 million on revenue of $1.38 billion. Google has seen its stock triple in value since it went public about a year ago.

“People are taking a momentary step off of the sanity ledge” by trading Baidu 188 percent above its offering price, said David Menlow, president of IPOfinancial.com. .