UK MP calls for western buyer to thwart Imagination coup

UK MP calls for western buyer to thwart Imagination coup

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

Davis goes on to say the government should to try and arrange the purchase of Imagination Technologies (Kings Langley, England) by another company in a Western country.

And separately Sir Hossein Yossaie, who was CEO of Imagination for many years up until 2017, has written to MPs asking them to step in, according to a Sky News report. Sir Hossein Yassaie has reportedly said China is trying to use the UK government’s pre-occupation with the Covid-19 pandemic as cover while they make their move.

Imagination Technologies licenses its semiconductor chip to such companies as Apple for use in smartphone and automotive displays although it has suffered in recent years under pressure from ARM and others. Although Imagination is being discussed as a champion of UK engineering it is still trying to reinvent itself after a spectacular fall in fortunes in 2017, which allowed a manager of funds from China to acquire it.

Nonetheless, a row has blown up in recent days over moves by China Reform Holdings to get its slate of four people elected as directors of the company. China Reform Holdings is the main shareholder and has ties to the Chinese government. It has been alleged that there is a desire to move the headquarters of Imagination to China.

CEO Ron Black and two senior executives Steve Evans and John Rayfield have all resigned over the potential coup. In addition the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), a Washington watchdog that approves or blocks US takeovers, has launched an urgent probe into Canyon Bridge Partners, the private equity firm that owns Imagination (see Imagination’s senior executives quit over potential Chinese coup). Imagination is a supplier of IP to Apple and against the backdrop of US-China trade tension there may be concern over Apple dependence on a Chinese supplier.

Next: Statement from Imagination

Imagination has released a statement announcing the departure of Black and the appointment of executive chairman Ray Bingham as interim CEO. In the statement Bingham said the company remains “fully committed to the UK” and that its strategy will “benefit the company’s headquarters.” The statement did not explicitly say where that headquarters will be. Bingham is also a co-founder and managing partner at Canyon Bridge Partners which administers funds that bought Imagination in 2017.

At that time Imagination, then a public company, found its share price collapsing on the news that Apple was recruiting its engineers to aid plans to design their own GPU cores and would ultimately stop licensing technology from Imagination.

Canyon Bridge Partners bought the company for $550 million. Since then little has changed although Imagination has resolved a dispute the Apple and signed a new licensing deal (see Apple able to use more Imagination IP under renewed deal).

However, China has form for moving on UK IP licensors. The Chinese state apparently persuaded ARM that it had to let a joint venture domiciled there handle its business and collect its royalties. ARM then moved to a situation where it was a minority shareholder in that joint venture (see Report: Control of ARM’s Chinese business passes to JV).

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Imagination’s senior executives quit over potential Chinese coup

After moves on ARM, China tries Imagination coup

Apple able to use more Imagination IP under renewed deal

Report: Control of ARM’s Chinese business passes to JV

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