Brit chip design company Imagination Tech sold to China-linked private equity

Firm that Trump banned from another silicon sale scoops GPU tech outfit cored by Apple


British chip designer Imagination Technologies Group has sold itself to China-aligned private equity outfit Canyon Bridge.

Imagination found itself in trouble earlier this year after Apple warned it would stop using its GPU technology. As Apple accounted for a huge percentage of Imagination's sales, the latter company's share price went into free fall and it quickly decided a sale was the best outcome for shareholders.

Fast-forward to last Friday and Imagination announced [PDF] an agreement to sell to Canyon Bridge for £550 million ($742.5 million) or 182 pence per share. That sum is a premium of over 40 per cent, but rather less than the 268.75p per share the company was valued at before Apple's bombshell.

As part of the deal, Imagination has to offload the MIPS business it acquired in 2013. A buyer has already been found, in the form of VC outfit Tallwood MIPS Inc, which will pay US$65m for the US-based business.

The MIPS deal needs to happen, because Canyon Bridge was established using Chinese government money and US president Donald Trump last week ordered it be prevented from buying US-chipmaker Lattice Semiconductor on grounds that the buyers “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” MIPS' roots are American so it is felt likely the deal to buy Imagination would also have fallen foul of Trump's economic nationalism.

Canyon Bridge partner Ray Bingham said “We are investing in UK talent and expertise in order to accelerate the expansion of Imagination, particularly into Asia, where its technology platform will lead the continued globalization of British-developed innovation.”

Imagination CEO Andrew Heath's canned quote reads: “The acquisition will ensure that Imagination – with its strong growth prospects – remains an independent IP licensing business, based in the UK, but operating around the world.”

Heath's sentiments are very similar to those expressed by SoftBank execs after the Japanese company's acquisition of ARM Holdings. There's little sign of the “greater global reach, more local jobs” plan having borne fruit, leaving The Register with two former British silicon pioneers' fortunes to monitor. ®


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