CHINA Mobile Ltd, the world's biggest telco by users, will buy a 1.36 billion yuan (US$214 million) stake in Anhui USTC iFlytek Co, a maker of voice-recognition software similar to Apple Inc's Siri system.

The telco will subscribe to 70.3 million iFlytek shares, or a 15 percent stake, at 19.40 yuan apiece, Beijing-based China Mobile said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday. Anhui USTC iFlytek last changed hands on the Shenzhen stock exchange at 24.19 yuan on August 9, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, before trading in the stock was halted.

China Mobile will collaborate with iFlytek on Mandarin voice technology after the transaction is completed, according to the filing. China Mobile is boosting spending on networks and increasing handset subsidies to attract smartphone users to lift profit growth as competition intensifies.

IFlytek was founded in 1999 based on research conducted in the National Intelligent Computer Research and Development Center and the Human-Machine Speech Communication Laboratory of the University of Science and Technology of China, the company said on its website. The Hefei-based firm describes itself as a provider of Chinese speech and language technology.

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