Skip to Content

Spurned Apple Supplier Imagination Finds a China-Backed Buyer

The British graphics chip company Imagination Technologies, once a crucial Apple supplier, has found a buyer in a new company tied to the controversial, China-backed private equity outfit Canyon Bridge Capital Partners.

Canyon Bridge recently hit the headlines as the company Donald Trump blocked from buying the U.S. chipmaker Lattice Semiconductor, over perceived national security threats.

Imagination, however, is a British firm. It said Friday that its board and that of CBFI Investment Limited, a new company indirectly owned by Canyon Bridge Fund, had agreed to a sale worth £550 million ($744 million).

Apple used to use Imagination’s graphics processing unit (GPU) technology in its iPhones and iPads. However, the U.S. firm whipped away this crucial source of royalties earlier this year, saying it would design its own GPUs—as it has indeed since done for its new iPhone 8 and iPhone X models.

That decision knocked 70% off Imagination’s stock, leading the company to put itself up for sale.

One interesting wrinkle in the sale is the fact that Imagination will separately sell another of its technologies—an architecture called MIPS that’s mostly used in embedded computing—to the U.S. venture capital firm Tallwood.

That deal is worth $65 million, which is less than the $100 million Imagination paid for MIPS five years ago. However, as noted on AnandTech, the removal of MIPS from the CBFI deal means there is less chance that the U.S. government will try to block the larger sale, which is now a matter for the U.K. regulators to weigh up instead.