Imagination Tech’s race is run, now for sale to highest bidder

22 Jun 2017

Image: Michael715/Shutterstock

Imagination Technologies has had a nightmare 2017 so far, with its faltering business culminating in it being put up for sale.

UK semiconductor business Imagination Technologies was on a gravy train as 2016 turned to 2017, with its Apple contract a humdinger.

Imagination’s graphics processing units (GPU) were used in iPhones, playing a key role in one of the biggest success stories in modern technology.

Future Human

Imagination, Apple

Then, Apple had an idea. Wanting to develop its own GPUs in-house, Imagination was cut adrift. From 2019, it would no longer supply the tech giant.

Share prices plummeted, financial experts warned of an “uninvestable” company and, bit by bit, the Imagination empire crumbled.

Imagination responded by claiming its IP would be infringed upon by any Apple-made GPUs, an argument that wouldn’t look out of place in such a litigious industry.

To stay afloat, the chipmaker announced that it would sell off its MIPS and Ensigma businesses, instead prioritising its PowerVR division.

Though, in the weeks that followed, interest appears to have emerged to buy the entire company and, with carrying on hardly feasible, Imagination is now up for sale.

“Imagination Technologies announces that over the last few weeks, it has received interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole group,” the company said.

“The board of Imagination has therefore decided to initiate a formal sale process for the group and is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders.”

Reuters suggests potential buyers could include Intel, Qualcomm, MediaTek, CEVA and various entities from China, while Apple itself could be interested.

Imagination was founded in 1985 and, since the original iPod, it has been supplying GPUs to Apple – around half of its business was with that one company.

As for Apple, it has its own worries to deal with. This Friday (23 June), a judge in the Irish High Court will give the final verdict on whether the Apple data centre in Athenry is to be built or not.

Meanwhile, last week Apple offered a $1bn bond for financing clean energy and environmental projects, representing the first corporate green bond since Trump made his move.

This is the second such offer in a little over a year, with $1.5bn previously laid on the table in response to the original signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic