Nuance sale talks put valuable speech-recognition patent portfolio up for grabs

nuanceNuance Communications, a company with deep expertise in speech-recognition industry, may be up for sale.

The Burlington, Mass.-based company has been in talks with various suitors, including private equity firms and Samsung, reports The Wall Street Journal, which quoted people familiar with the deal.

This is not the first time that the company has been a target, and clearly a deal may not materialize this time, either. However, if a buyer is found, it will have to have very deep pockets. Nuance’s stock jumped 9.8 percent, or $1.66 a share, to close today at $18.76. That puts a market value on the company of nearly $6 billion.

Video thumbnail for youtube video Swype Android keyboard out of beta, available in Google Play Store for $0.99The company owns so many speech-recognition patents a sale to a single entity could trouble regulators. Currently, Nuance is willing to partner with just about anyone, including a long list of cellphone and navigation device-makers, including Apple, Amazon and Samsung.

One of the wild cards in the deal is Carl Icahn, who is known for pushing his own agenda to get what he wants. Based on the latest figures, the shareholder activist owns roughly 19 percent of Nuance and has two representatives on the board.

While its mobile devices unit is better known, its largest business is actually in the healthcare arena. It provides software designed to digitize patient records. It also operates the recognizable Dragon dictation software, and owns Swype, the alternative phone keyboard popular on Android phones, which will soon be available for the iPhone. Last year, the company reported $1.86 billion in sales.