Imagination Technologies agrees to takeover by Canyon Bridge

Register now

(Bloomberg) -- Imagination Technologies Group Plc agreed to be acquired by China-backed private equity firm Canyon Bridge Capital Partners.

Canyon Bridge said it will pay 182 pence a share in cash, or more than 500 million pounds ($675 million), for the U.K. designer of graphics chips. That’s 42 percent more than Imagination’s closing share price on Friday.

As part of the deal, Imagination will sell its U.S.-based embedded processor unit MIPS to Tallwood MIPS, a company indirectly owned by California-based investment firm Tallwood Venture Capital, Canyon Bridge said.

Canyon Bridge was keen to structure a bid to avoid scrutiny from U.S. regulators, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.

Earlier in September President Donald Trump rejected a takeover by Canyon Bridge of U.S. chipmaker Lattice Semiconductor Corp., just the fourth time in a quarter century that a U.S. president has ordered a foreign sale of an American firm stopped for security reasons.

“We are investing in U.K. talent and expertise in order to accelerate the expansion of Imagination, particularly into Asia," Ray Bingham, partner at Canyon Bridge, said on Friday.

The potential deal marks the end of a troubled year for Imagination, once a star of the U.K. tech industry. The company said in June that it was initiating a formal sale process. Earlier in the year, it disclosed that Apple Inc., which accounts for more than half of its sales, would no longer use its technology. That triggered a stock slump of more than 50 percent.

Apple has invested heavily in developing its own semiconductor technology in recent years, with a particular emphasis on graphics processing units, the chips that power images, videos and games on smartphones and are Imagination’s core competency. The iPhone 8, released Friday, use an Apple-designed GPU for the first time.

As part of its push, Apple hired a bevy of engineers from Imagination, including Chief Operating Officer John Metcalfe, and opened a research and development office close to the British company’s headquarters.

Imagination’s MIPS business is set to be sold to Tallwood for $65 million. Imagination acquired it in 2013 for $100 million. MIPS is a technology used by software to tell processors what to do. It was widely used for scaled-down processors in cars and home networking gear, and turned up in higher-end devices like Sony Corp.’s PlayStation, but its importance has faded.

Canyon Bridge manages about $1.5 billion, according to a statement Friday. That money has been committed by Canyon Bridge’s initial anchor limited partner, Yitai Capital, a Hong Kong-based investment company that can be traced back to a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

Imagination’s potential new owners have no plans to make any changes to its staffing, according to the statement, and will maintain the U.K. headquarters.

--With assistance from Alex Webb and Ian King

Bloomberg News