H&R Block Inc. moved Wednesday to strengthen its hand as a consumer financial services competitor by announcing an agreement to buy Olde Financial Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. discount brokerage company.

The cash transaction, valued at $850 million, would accelerate the tax preparation specialist's drive to deepen client relationships with financial planning and investment services, said Frank L. Salizzoni, H&R Block's president and chief executive officer.

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