Shares in Imagination Technologies (IGNMF), a key Apple (AAPL) partner, jumped almost 15% Monday after a surging Chinese chip giant bought a 3% stake in it.
Apple recently admitted holding takeover talks with Imagination, a British graphics-chip design house whose PowerVR designs are part of the “system on a chip” processors that Apple put in recent iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch.
However, Apple said in March that it had decided not to go through with an acquisition just yet. Now that Tsinghua Unigroup has picked up a stake in the Imagination, takeover talk is again filling the air.
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Tsinghua Unigroup is controlled by the Chinese government, and in the past few years it has been putting together a portfolio of acquisitions in the smartphone chip space. In 2013, it notably bought Spreadtrum and RDA, two Shanghai-based chip design firms specializing in wireless communications.
At the end of 2015, Tsinghua Unigroup revealed that it was preparing to invest $47 billion over the next five years to become one of the world’s top chipmakers.
Analysts are now speculating that Apple, which owns an 8% stake in Imagination, won’t want to lose control of a key technology partner. According to the Guardian, Investec analyst Roger Phillips said Tsinghua’s purchase of its stake in Imagination Technologies will “reignite M&A speculation around Imagination,” while also backing up the idea that the Chinese state sees the acquisition of intellectual property as “a strategic priority.”
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Interestingly, Intel (INTC)—once but no longer a significant stakeholder in Imagination—is an investor in Tsinghua Unigroup and has a partnership with Tsinghua University (which funds Tsinghua Holdings, which controls Tsinghua Unigroup) to develop server technology.
Hewlett-Packard (HPE) last year also sold control of its Chinese server business to Tsinghua Holdings.