Breeden buys 2.44 mln more H&R Block shares

NEW YORK, March 20 (Reuters) - A firm controlled by activist investor and H&R Block Inc HRB.N Chairman Richard Breeden has this week bought an additional 2.44 million shares of the largest U.S. tax preparer, increasing its stake to about 2.59 percent from 1.84 percent.

According to a Thursday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Greenwich, Connecticut-based Breeden Capital Partners LLC spent about $47.8 million on the shares in a series of purchases from March 18 to 20.

Following the purchases, the firm said it owned 8,435,000 H&R Block shares, worth $171.4 million based on Wednesday’s closing price of $20.32.

Breeden, a former SEC chairman, has been pushing H&R Block to focus on tax preparation, and to scale back or jettison other businesses, such as its money-losing Option One Mortgage Corp subprime lending unit.

Two months after winning three board seats, Breeden in November engineered the ouster of Mark Ernst as chief executive. On March 17, H&R Block announced a sale of Option One’s mortgage servicing business to WL Ross & Co, a firm founded by billionaire Wilbur Ross, for about $1.1 billion.

Kansas City, Missouri-based H&R Block said it had 325.4 million shares outstanding as of Feb 29.

In afternoon trading, H&R Block shares rose 35 cents to $20.67 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Gunna Dickson)