British chipmaker Imagination Technologies is to be acquired by Chinese-backed private equity firm Canyon Bridge for £550 million, becoming the latest UK tech firm to be sold into foreign hands.
The Langley Heath-based firm has been up for sale since June after shareholder and biggest customer Apple said it would stop using Imagination’s GPU technology in the iPhone and other products by 2019.
The news caused Imagination’s stock to plunge by 70 percent, making it an easy target for a takeover, possibly even by Apple itself.
Canyon Bridge’s offer is around 40 percent higher than the present share price.
Apple has said it will work on “separate, independent” graphics technology going forward, but Imagination claims this will be impossible without using its GPU patents. Apple could stop paying royalty payments as early as 2018, having already included its own GPU in the iPhone 8.
To add further fuel to the flames, Apple has opened an office a few miles away from Imagination in St Albans, leading to speculation the former could poach staff.
Half of Imagination’s 1,200 workforce is based in the UK but the potential new owners have promised to invest in UK R&D and both it and Canyon Bridge claim there will be no job cuts.
However Canyon Bridge was blocked by the Trump administration from buying US chip firm Lattice Semiconductor because of national security concerns. Canyon Bridge is based in California, but was founded with capital from the Chinese government.
In 2016, ARM Holdings, whose technology powers the vast majority of the world’s smartphones, was bought by Japanese giant Softbank for £24 billion.
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