Speech recognition specialist Lernout & Hauspie (L&H) is having its accounting methods reviewed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company may be forced to restate earnings relating to 12 of the 23 acquisitions it has made since 1996. The acquisition binge has allowed L&H to boost its earnings by writing off a portion of the costs as "purchased research and development". By using this one-time charge against earnings method, the company has avoided the negative effect the assimilation costs would have caused over a longer period. The SEC is worried that L&H's principal business in speech recognition technology is still looking for acceptance in the consumer and business sectors. If the company is forced to reappraise its accounting methods and absorb the acquisitions over a longer period, it is possible that its share price could be halved for this year and next.
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