The legendary activist investor has accumulated a 19% stake in Nuance Communications, the speech-recognition firm behind Apple’s Siri, and now Nuance is exploring the possibility of a sale. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Nuance has already held preliminary talks with Samsung.
The Samsung leak may be timed to encourage Apple to put some of its $150 billion cash hoard into a bid. The current market value of Nuance is $6.1 billion, about twice what Apple just paid to buy Beats Electronic.
While Siri remains a limited service, it has expanded since its initial launch in October 2011, and remains prominent in Apple’s marketing and product demonstrations. Since Nuance’s technology enables Siri on the back end, many analysts have speculated that the company would make sense as an acquisition target for Apple.
However, Nuance generated its $1.8 billion in revenue last year from more than just Apple. Its customers include Apple’s competitors Samsung, HTC, LG. It also partners with other tech giants Nintendo, Panasonic, and Intel — as well as car manufacturers Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, and Toyota. Some or all of these companies could be potential buyers.
While Nuance shares spiked on Monday after the news of a possible sale, they have fallen steadily since their peak in early 2012, when the stock approached $30 per share. Icahn has increased his stake in Nuance over the last year and his son Brett now sits on Nuance’s board.