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September 25, 2017

Imagination Technologies shares rise – but recovery is still a long road ahead

UK chip developer Imagination Technologies has seen its share price soar this morning after it was revealed the company is being sold.

Private-equity firm Canyon Bridge is buying Imagination in a deal valuing the company at about £550m. Canyon Bridge is backed by the state-owned Chinese fund Yitai Capital.

Imagination’s shares were up 32.13 percent, to £169.65, this morning.

The company’s chief executive, Andrew Heath, said in a statement:

The acquisition will ensure that Imagination – with its strong growth prospects – remains an independent IP [intellectual property] licensing business, based in the UK, but operating around the world.

Imagination vs. Apple

This is good news for the British tech firm which has had a turbulent few months.

In April, its share price fell over 70 percent after one of its major customers, Apple, said it would no longer be buying its chips for the next generation of Apple products.

The iPhone maker said it would be developing its own chips instead. This was devastating for Imagination, as around 35 percent of its revenue came from Apple, which also owns an eight percent stake in the company.

After the drama, Imagination put itself up for sale. Its share price jumped up nearly 20 percent on this news, to £144.50.

If the Apple split had not occurred, it’s unlikely that Imagination would have been forced to find a buyer. Heath said:

“Imagination has made excellent progress both operationally and financially over the last 18 months until Apple’s unsubstantiated assertions and the subsequent dispute forced us to change course.”

The sale to Canyon Bridge

Whilst the Canyon Bridge purchase has caused Imagination’s shares to shoot up, the company’s prospects are still far from what they were five years ago.

At its peak in 2012, Imagination’s stock was £712.50, which valued the company at close to £2bn.

Canyon Bridge is the latest international firm to look to the UK’s tech scene for an acquisition. In 2016, just days after the Brexit vote, Soft Bank acquired Imagination’s fellow chip developer ARM Holdings for £24bn.

Ray Bingham, partner of Canyon Bridge, 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 globalisation of British-developed innovation.

However, its deal to buy Imagination isn’t that straightforward. The sale excludes its US unit, MIPS. This will be bought by a Silicon Valley firm, Tallwood Venture Capital, for $65m. The overall sale of the company is conditional on the completion of the MIPS sale.

As well, Canyon Bridge has pledged that it will continue to invest in Imagination’s UK business. It said it had “no plans” to cut staff or move the business to another country, and it will invest in Imagination’s research and development.

Imagination Technologies’ shares may never again reach the highs it did in 2012, but it’s good to see a UK firm standing strong after its battle with one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

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