Chinese-Backed Firm Commits To UK Headquarters For Imagination Technologies

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Chinsese state-financed Canyon Bridge tells MPs it plans to keep iPhone tech maker headquartered in the UK, amidst row over board takeover attempt

The Chinese state-backed owners of Imagination Technologies have committed to keeping the company headquartered in the UK, amidst a row over the company’s efforts to take control of Imagination’s board of directors.

Private equity firm Canyon Bridge confirmed it held a “constructive” meeting with the British government on Friday in which it discussed its efforts to keep Imagination based in the UK.

The company also said it would consult with the government on changes to the board.

Canyon Bridge said its representatives had held a conference call with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden on Friday.

‘Ongoing commitment’

“Imagination Technologies and its owners Canyon Bridge had a constructive meeting,” a Canyon Bridge and Imagination Technologies spokesman said in a statement.

“We discussed our ongoing commitment to Imagination Technologies as a UK-headquartered business and have agreed to maintain dialogue with the Secretary of State as we further build out our senior management team.”

Canyon Bridge, backed by Chinese state-owned China Reform Holdings, bought Imagination in 2017 for £550m.

The company supplies intellectual property for graphics processing units and other technologies to smartphone makers including Apple, and says its technology is used in 30 percent of the world’s  mobile phones.

Ownership controversy

In 2017 Apple said it planned to develop more of its own graphics technology, causing Imagination’s share price to plummet by 70 percent.  Apple renewed its relationship with Imagination in a multi-year licence agreement announced in January.

The UK government approved Imagination’s sales to Canyon Bridge on the basis that the company would be subject to US law, but Canyon Bridge has since moved from the US to the Cayman Islands.

Canyon Bridge recently tried to appoint its own board members at Imagination, with some British lawmakers becoming concerned this was a prelude to reincorporating the company in China.

Some industry observers said the move appeared to be timed to take advantage of ministers’ distraction over the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the foreign affairs select committee, Canyon Bridge defended its track record in maintaining UK staff and investment in research and development at Imagination, Sky News reported.

But the letter offered few details of safeguards to keep Imagination domiciled in the UK, the news service said.

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