L&H chief says buyers in sight

Software company Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (L&H) is on track to meet a court deadline for restructuring, according to...

Software company Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (L&H) is on track to meet a court deadline for restructuring, according to president and chief executive officer Philippe Bodson.

The company has been talking to investors interested in buying part or all of its key technology in the form of a new company, which would avert the need for bankruptcy, he said.

"What we are favouring right now is those people who are willing to take over the whole group of technologies with the most people, because that means they would maintain a big portion of our company working," he said.

A US bankruptcy court in Delaware has approved the sale of L&H's translation unit, Mendez, to financial printing company Bowne & Co, he said. The deal, worth $44.5m (£31.3m), was signed last week and now awaits approval from the Belgian courts.

A commercial court in Belgium has ordered L&H to file an acceptable "restructuring and recovery" plan by 30 September. Bodson said management is still working to maintain the company as a going concern.

"If we do not succeed, then it will be a liquidation. Everybody will go and a trustee will begin to sell assets," he said. "That is something that we would like to avoid."

Bodson declined to give details about potential bidders, but hinted that it is unlikely the company will find a buyer willing to invest the $100m or $125m it would cost to maintain all of its current operations and employees.

About 600 people are employed in the company's core activities, not including Mendez or Dictaphone, which is under US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is "operating without burning cash", according to Bodson.

"I don't believe we will receive an offer for the 600 people and the whole technology. This is in the eyes of the investors today much too risky," he said.

Further information
Lernout & Hauspie: www.lhsl.com

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