L&H goes to pieces at final auction

U.S. imaging-software company ScanSoft Inc. paid around US$39.5 million for the bulk of the assets of fallen Belgian software developer Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV (L&H) in an auction held in New York earlier this week, the companies announced Wednesday.

ScanSoft acquired the major portion of L&H's core speech- and language-technology business, including the text-to-speech and speech-recognition engines and the Dragon NaturallySpeaking product line, ScanSoft and L&H said in separate statements.

The winning bid comprises $10 million in cash, a $3.5 million note and $26 million in ScanSoft stock, based on the Nov. 26 closing price. ScanSoft plans to retain at least 150 L&H employees in Belgium and the U.S., the companies said. About 450 people work for the parts of L&H acquired by ScanSoft, according to an L&H spokesman.

The founders of Dragon Systems Inc., James and Janet Baker, picked up L&H's audio search engine technology assets, which they helped develop, for $750,000 through a new company called Dragon Catalyst LLC, L&H said. They had previously sold their company to L&H for $460 million of now-worthless L&H stock.

Of the leftovers, speech-recognition products that were part of the Interactive Systems Incorporated (ISI) division were bought by Multimodal Technologies Inc., a company formed by ISI management, while L&H's Intelligent Content Management and Knexys divisions were acquired by Vantage Technology Holding, L&H said.

The sales of the assets are subject to final approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware and the commercial court in Ieper, Belgium, L&H said.

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