UK chipmaker Imagination at risk of being seized by Chinese investor

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Apple and Samsung chipmaker Imagination has scheduled an emergency board meeting after it emerged that a state-controlled Chinese investor is trying to seize the company.

According to a report from Sky News:

A state-controlled Chinese investor is trying to seize control of Imagination Technologies Group, the British chip designer – sparking fears that its prized intellectual property assets could disappear from the UK.

Sky News can exclusively reveal that Imagination, which was taken over in 2017 in a £550m deal, has scheduled an emergency board meeting next week to discuss the appointment of four representatives of China Reform Holdings as directors.

The report claims that senior MPs in the UK have also been alerted to the move, and plan to lobby Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the weekend “to intervene on the grounds of potential risks to national security.” UK intelligence agency GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre have also been made aware of the development.

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As the report notes:

Imagination makes graphics processing units (GPUs) for customers including Apple and Samsung, and is one of the UK’s most important technology companies.

Its designs are used in 30% of the world’s mobile phones and 40% of automotive GPUs.

Imagination signed a new multi-year license agreement with Apple earlier this year. In an announcement it stated:

Imagination Technologies (“Imagination”) announces that it has replaced the multi-year, multi-use license agreement with Apple, first announced on February 6, 2014, with a new multi-year license agreement under which Apple has access to a wider range of Imagination’s intellectual property in exchange for license fees.

The report continues:

Sources in Westminster said on Saturday that senior Imagination executives were understood to be “deeply concerned” about the impending boardroom takeover and its implications.

One said that China Reform had indicated to the company that it ultimately wanted to redomicile it to China – a move that would have inevitable consequences for hundreds of important British technology jobs.

The report also notes that this would “compound deepening fears” about the speed of ‘technology transfer’ to China and that the move “appeared to be timed to coincide” with the COVID-19 pandemic, described as “the point of maximum distraction” for ministers. In relation to a letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson one source commented:

“They want assurances that Imagination Technologies will remain a UK-based company that is able to continue its operations and innovations here.”

You can read the full report here.

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