|Ray Bingham (Chairman)|
Dr. Ron Black (CEO)
|Products||Graphics processing unit (GPU) designs|
|Revenue||£120.0 million (2016)|
|£(61.5) million (2016)|
|£(80.6) million (2016)|
Number of employees
|Parent||Canyon Bridge Capital Partners|
Imagination Technologies Group plc is a global semiconductor and software design company, owned by the Chinese Canyon Bridge Capital Partners. With its global headquarters in Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom its primary business is in the design of PowerVR mobile graphics processors (GPUs), networking routers (based on MIPS CPUs), and its Pure consumer electronics division. It also supplies radio baseband processing, networking, digital signal processor, video and audio hardware, voice over IP software, cloud computing and silicon and system design services. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange until it was acquired in November 2017 by Canyon Bridge, a private equity fund based in Beijing, China.
The company was founded in 1985 by Tony Maclaren, and subsequently led by him as Group Chief Executive, as VideoLogic and originally focused on graphics, sound acceleration, home audio systems, video-capture and video-conferencing systems. It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in July 1994. The following year it entered into a licensing agreement over its PowerVR technology with NEC (now Renesas) who took a 2.29% stake in the company for £1.6 million and acquired the rights to manufacture and sell the chip. On 2 December 1997, NEC subscribed 2.3 million (1.5%) new shares at a price of 56.5p, taking its total stake to 3.5%. In 1999, the company refocused on intellectual property licensing generally and changed its name to Imagination Technologies.
Hossein Yassaie, who joined the company in 1992, became the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 1998. On 29 December 2012, Yassaie was awarded a knighthood in the 2013 New Year Honours. The award was given in recognition of his services to technology and innovation.
Since the 1990s, VideoLogic has provided chips for digital television set-top boxes, and is a member of the Digital TV Group. During the late 1990s to 2000s, Sega used VideoLogic chips for the Dreamcast home video game console and several Sega arcade systems. Namco also used PowerVR chips for the Namco System 23 arcade system board in the late 1990s.
On 23 March 2000, Imagination Technologies acquired Ensigma, a private company specialising in digital signal processing, for a maximum consideration of £5 million. On 26 September 2001, Imagination Technologies acquired Cross Products Limited, a company designing and producing development tools for META DSP IP cores and Renesas's SuperH architecture processors under CodeScape brand, for £4.2 million.
In October 2006, Intel Corporation acquired a 2.9% stake in Imagination Technologies for £5.28 million. On 24 November 2008, Imagination Technologies announced a license agreement it signed with a new partner, then undisclosed, for a high-performance version of its PowerVR SGX graphics processor chip: this was later revealed to be Apple Inc. In December 2008, Apple Inc purchased a 3.6% stake in the company for £3.2 million.
In June 2009, it was announced that Intel's stake had increased to 14% after it had acquired 25 million shares. One week later, Intel acquired another 5 million shares from the Saad Group (based in Saudi Arabia), and its shareholding rose to 16.02%. Days later, Apple Inc announced it had subscribed for 2.2m new shares at 142.75p each and made market purchases of another 11.52 million shares, raising its stake to 9.5%; Saad Group, who had held 44.6 million shares i.e. 20.3% of the company as at 30 June 2008, was thought to be the vendor of these shares, and had been reportedly forced to divest after its bank froze its accounts.
On 17 November 2010, Imagination Technologies announced its intention to acquire HelloSoft, one of the world's leading providers of Video and Voice over Internet Protocol and wireless LAN technologies, for a maximum consideration of $47 million. On 14 December 2010, Imagination Technologies acquired Caustic Graphics, developer of hardware/software real-time ray-tracing graphics technology which was founded by a group of former Apple engineers, for $27 million. On 14 December 2011, Imagination Technologies announced that it had signed a licensing agreement with Qualcomm. The company signed an agreement for the display IP from its PowerVR portfolio.
On 3 January 2012, Imagination Technologies announced that it will invest totalling £5 million, in Toumaz Microsystems, a wireless intercom spinout of Toumaz Ltd., and will own 25% of the business. In June 2012, Imagination Technologies acquired Nethra Imaging, a semiconductor and systems company focused on delivering video and imaging solutions. As of November 2012, over 1 billion SOC units had shipped containing cores developed by Imagination Technologies. On 17 December 2012, Imagination Technologies beat Ceva Inc in the race to buy processor technology firm MIPS Technologies with a knockout offer of $100 million.
On 8 February 2016, Imagination Technologies announced that Sir Hossein Yassaie had stepped down from the company after 18 years as CEO. Imagination Technologies had seen over 40 percent of its market value lost in the past few months, and over 85 percent since it peaked in 2012, due to its dependence on Apple which had seen slowing iPhone sales.  Andrew Heath, a member of Imagination's board of directors and former director of Rolls-Royce, was appointed as interim chief executive before taking the role on a permanent basis on 26 May 2016. Additionally, Imagination announced a restructuring program to cut costs by £15m in the next financial year, and announced its intention to sell its Pure digital radio division.
In March 2016, Apple considered buying Imagination Technologies but never made a formal offer. From 2015–17, despite retaining the licensing agreement, Apple engineered a "brain drain" of Imagination Technologies's personnel, including engineers and executives. Apple also established a new office for chip development in St Albans, close to Imagination Technologies' headquarters.
On 3 April 2017, Imagination Technologies' stock prices fell by 70% after it reported that Apple planned to stop using its intellectual property within its system-on-chips within the next two years. It was reported the hedge fund manager Jonathan Hiscock was shorting the stock at the time. Apple accounted at the time for more than half of the company's revenue. The following month, Imagination Technologies announced that it would enter into a dispute resolution process seeking that Apple license its intellectual property, arguing that Apple "has not presented any evidence to substantiate its assertion that it will no longer require Imagination’s technology, without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property, and confidential information". The company also announced that it would sell its MIPS and Ensigma businesses. MIPS was sold to Wave Computing in 2017, where "MIPS operates as an IP licensing business unit".
On 15 May 2017, Sondrel announced it had signed an agreement to acquire the IMG Works division.
On 22 June 2017, Imagination Technologies' board of directors announced it was putting the entire company up for sale and, on 25 September 2017, they announced that the company was being acquired by Canyon Bridge, a private equity fund ultimately owned by the Chinese government. In November 2017 the sale to Canyon Bridge was approved in a transaction which valued the business at £550 million (£1.82 per share).
Once the sale was complete CEO Andrew Heath and CFO Guy Millward both departed. The CEO position was taken over by Leo Li, however Mr Li was replaced in turn by Dr Ron Black.
On 2 January 2020, Imagination Technologies announced a new multi-year license agreement with Apple including access to a wider range of Imagination's IP in exchange for license fees. This deal replaced the prior deal signed on 6 February 2014.
Since the sale to Canyon Bridge, there have been security concerns over possible technology transfers, leading to key executives of Imagination being summoned to appear before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British parliament.
Operations and products
The company has several activities:
- PowerVR – developing traditional and ray tracing GPUs, video processing units, and camera/ISP IP core technologies (also see List of PowerVR products)
- Ensigma – developing IP cores for radio and TV demodulation as well as 802.11 Wi-Fi, 802.15.4 (Bluetooth, 6LoWPAN, etc.), LTE and other wireless technologies
- "Annual Report 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "Ensigma Ultra-efficient, high performance Network Processing Unit". Imagination. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
Multiple 32-bit MIPS RISC microAptiv processors
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- Analyst Report 9 July 2008
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- "Annual Report 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 28 March 2015.