The fate of Imagination Technologies has become something of a saga in recent months. The prolific IP vendor, Apple’s right-hand supplier for GPU designs and IP over the last decade, found itself on the rocks in April, when Apple announced they would be transitioning away from using Imagination’s IP and designs. Then in May, the company announced that they would be doubling-down on the GPU business – their strongest business – by selling off their remaining Ensigma communications and MIPS CPU businesses. Now this morning, the company has announced that they have decided to instead focus on going another route, and will be putting the entire company up for sale.

While the company as a whole was not formally up for sale until today, as you’d expect for a company in difficult circumstances like Imagination, that option has unofficially been on the table since the start. To that end, Imagination has reported that a number of parties have expressed an interest in buying the entire company. As noted in Imagination’s press release:

Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE: IMG, “Imagination”, “the Group”) 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 Board of Imagination has therefore decided to initiate a formal sale process for the Group and is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders.

At this time Imagination is not naming any suitors – and indeed is warning that a sale may not go through at all – though at this stage it’s difficult to imagine someone not taking advantage of the situation. Imagination’s PowerVR GPU IP alone is valuable to virtually all of the major SoC vendors, not to mention IP powerhouses and former customers such as Qualcomm, Intel, Samsung, and of course, Apple.

Meanwhile the MIPS and Ensigma business have yet to be sold, and a buyer could opt to pick those businesses up too. Otherwise, for the time being, Imagination is continuing their efforts to sell of those businesses, and they have already received proposals for both.

As for a potential price for the company, assuming Imagination were purchased wholesale, after today’s announcement the company’s market cap has jumped to £400M (~$500M USD). At about half of the company’s 52-week high, this would be significantly cheaper than had anyone attempted to purchase the company before the Apple split. The final price tag then would be somewhat higher, as a sale would almost certainly come with a premium over the company’s current stock price.

Finally, while the company looks for potential buyers, they are also continuing their dispute with Apple. At last report, the companies were still going through their contractual dispute resolution process. It’s not clear whether this process would be completed before Imagination finds a buyer.

Source: Imagination Technologies

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  • Speedfriend - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    A sad case of dealing with Apple. You use your IP to help them make their phones the most efficient and best for gaming, and they stab you in the pack as soon as they can.
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    Darn packstabbing Apple!

    Imagination Technologies seems like the type of company that AMD, Intel, or NVIDIA would gobble up just for the patents, then dump everything else a year later.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Friday, June 23, 2017 - link

    Will be interesting to see if Intel makes a play for them or not. They've used PowerVR IP before, in their mobile SoCs/chipsets (although relatively ancient versions, with really crappy x86 drivers). PVR graphics are some of the very best in mobile, but not sure how (or even if) that would scale up to laptop/desktop as a replacement for Intel HD graphics.

    Samsung is reportedly in the process of developing their own in-house GPU for use in their Exynos SoCs, instead of ARM Mali. Maybe they'd be interesting in getting some top-of-the-line GPU IP to short-circuit their development time.

    Don't really see Qualcomm, AMD, or Nvidia being interested, other than as a patent grab. They'd have no real use for the actual graphics tech.
  • KidneyBean - Thursday, June 29, 2017 - link

    If I remember correctly, PowerVR started out as a desktop graphics chipset way back in 2002. Anand seemed to like it. I remember an announcement in ~2003 that they were going to focus on mobile instead. It had a way of doing something called z culling that would prevent it from having to process graphics for things that were behind other moving objects. Not sure if it makes much sense to gaming a decade later.
  • osxandwindows - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    No, its a sad case of relying on a single customer.
    When apple decided to go with their custom designed chips, samsung didn't go crying that apple was trying to put them out of business.

    Samsung also didn't panic when apple went to the competition for their LCD displays.

    Apple tried to buy them out last year, but they refused.
  • Samus - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    I remembered reading Apple wanted to make Imagination Technologies a whole owned subsidiary as well. It made sense, since Imagination effectively had no other customers and was already heavily embedded with Apple for years. We can only imagine (no pun intended) why this acquisition never happened.
  • MrPoletski - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    because a couple of years later this would happen, and they'd get it a lot cheaper.
  • Alexvrb - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    Yeah it actually goes back to what the OP was saying. It is in their best interests to actually wait until they're struggling financially and then scoop them up. I really hope someone other than Apple buys them.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    I didn't realize Apple had already offered. Wonder if this is all negotiation then....

    Doesn't Apple already own like 10% of them?

    The problem is, Qualcom of course owns their own GPUs, and it doesn't matter if their chips are any good or not, they have such a monopoly. Aside from Apple, they just have small design wins here and there it seems like. Samsung's used them outside of the U.S....maybe a ton, I'm not sure, and there's some other design wins, but...
  • Torrijos - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    Damn Apple pouring billions of dollars into a company so all their competitors could get the benefits developed, into a chance to revive their bad businesses...

    Somehow it would feel logical to me, that whatever cash they invent improving a very important field of tech would benefit them mostly.
    Still no news or analysis whether or not the A10X GPU is based on Imagination tech or if it is the first in-house released?

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