Imagination Technologies’ £550m sale may ignite fierce GPU competition in China

Imagination Technologies, the UK developer of the “PowerVR” mobile GPU, has agreed to a £550m (~$744) sale to Canyon Bridge, a private equity investment fund based in California. The move follows the loss of Imagination Technologies’ Apple contract earlier this year, a deal which was said to be the source of half its revenue. Imagination’s share prices fell dramatically after the split was announced.

Canyon Bridge is financed by a state-owned Chinese fund called Yitai Capital, meaning Chinese firms should soon have greater opportunity to get their hands on Imagination Technologies products. In a press release on Friday, Canyon Bridge said that its investment strategy was “not to take businesses to China but to make them more competitive in China.” Canyon Bridge also confirmed it has no plans to lay-off staff or move the core business elsewhere.

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Gaining access to the graphics and video-processing tech formerly implemented by Apple could be a huge boon for Chinese manufacturers, a number of which have routinely modeled devices after Apple’s hardware. Crucially, it could also give company’s like Xiaomi, Huawei and MediaTek, in particular, another place to turn for their GPU needs.

MediaTek’s chips mostly make use of the Mali GPUs supplied by Arm Holdings (ARM), though it has employed Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR tech in the past. This could be a way for Chinese companies to move away from their reliance on ARM, which has been owned by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank since last year, to a one backed by their home nation.

Meanwhile, Canyon Bridge’s ties to the Chinese government are believed to have formed part of the reason why its recent attempt to acquire American chipmaker Lattice Semiconductor was blocked by President Donald Trump. The President cited “national security concerns.”