From World Class To World Class Disaster

Software hotshot L&H may be headed for a breakup

Just last spring, Belgium's Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products appeared on the brink of greatness. Its appeal was natural-language software, which would permit users to surf the Web simply by talking, and eventually even translate both spoken words and text. Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. had snatched up stakes in the company, and retail investors followed. By last March, with a market cap topping $8 billion, L&H was snapping up U.S. companies Dragon Systems Inc. of Newton, Mass., and Dictaphone Corp. of Stratford, Conn. This Belgian company was world-class.

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