Imagination Technologies hangs a “for sale” sign in its window

When we last heard from Imagination Technologies, the company was preparing to sell off its MIPS and Ensigma businesses as it girded itself for an extended legal battle with Apple over the use of its graphics IP. Today, the company says that in light of "interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole Group," it's formally putting itself up for sale.

Imagination isn't naming any of its suitors at this early stage, and it's received an exemption from the UK Takeover Panel from the requirement that any of its potential buyers be publicly identified, so we likely won't know who is in the running until the company names the successful bidder. Of course, Imagination warns that there is "no certainty" that such an offer will come together to begin with.

While it's perhaps a bit sad that Imagination could cease to be an independent firm, being under the corporate umbrella of another, larger company might give it access to the resources it needs to successfully prosecute its ongoing dispute with Apple. Any sale is likely to go well above and beyond what would have been produced by the sale of Imagination's MIPS and Ensigma businesses (a process that's still ongoing). Imagination shares jumped about 17% on news of the potential sale, and any final bid will likely include a premium on top of the company's £408.6 million ($517.6 million, €464.2 million) market cap as of today.

Comments closed
    • NoOne ButMe
    • 2 years ago

    I think, order:
    Intel, Nvidia
    Samsung
    Apple
    MediaTek
    Far less likely, buyers:
    Qualcomm
    lG
    Rockchip
    ARM
    Microsoft
    google
    AMD

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      I’d more or less agree with your list if the sale does not include the MIPS IP, though even in that case I’d probably move Google and Microsoft up.

      If the MIPS IP is included, I’d move AMD out of the “less likely” category, probably to around where you’ve got MediaTek.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    I’d say it’s really just x86 and ARM these days. Everything else are just spectators. Heck, x86 and ARM can’t even invade each other’s space.

    • tsk
    • 2 years ago

    I think Intel would stand to gain most from purchasing them honestly.

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      Here’s a thought: make a core with an x86 front end and a MIPS execution back end that executes both x86 and MIPS. I think there was a Power CPU before that ran both x86 and Power. I wonder how that went.

        • just brew it!
        • 2 years ago

        The problem with any such solution will always be die size, due to the extra decode logic. In today’s landscape where cross-compilers and the supporting tools are ubiquitous (due to gcc) , the benefits aren’t worth it in most cases.

          • ronch
          • 2 years ago

          I’d think, given how today’s x86 cores are really RISC execution cores with an x86 decoding front end, replacing the internal RISC engine with MIPS probably won’t add too much and the extra logic that lets MIPS instructions bypass the x86 decoders and throws the instructions directly to the MIPS engine probably isn’t that significant. I’m no processor architect so this is just speculation.

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        Would there be any market for that? And would that market be worth the die size and energy overhead of two ISAs and all the extra circuit wiring?

        Moving downwards in power consumption the trend seems to be towards smaller, saner ISAs like ARM, MIPS may be good but MIPS plus x86 seems like the worst of both worlds.

          • ronch
          • 2 years ago

          It’s just an interesting thought but yeah there’s no market for it.

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      Maybe. Gen graphics are pretty good (architecture wise, not that they’ve scaled up to big GPUs) these days, and they seem content to licence out some patents from AMD/Nvidia.

      Might not be cheaper to buy out Imagination for it, and the patents may not entirely overlap.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    So they’ve applied for and been granted an exception that allows them to keep their bidders anonymous at the moment?

    I can only presume that means that the two bidders compete against each other and both would be horrified to learn of the other’s interest.

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      Or the opposite
      To Samsung: “I don’t know, Apple drives a hard bargain”
      To Apple: “I don’t know, Samsung drives a hard bargain”

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 2 years ago

      It’s also possible that the potential acquirer competes with IMG’s customers.

        • willmore
        • 2 years ago

        That makes sense as that would decrease the value of the company if it was known.

    • willmore
    • 2 years ago

    Any news on the MIPS spinoff/sale? I would be interested to see if Microchip is looking at the deal. They have been on a buying spree recently. Atmel, Broadcom, etc. They have a history of such aquisitions, too.

    Oh, and they design MIPS chips currently.

      • meerkt
      • 2 years ago

      Broadcom was bought by Avago. [url=http://www.reuters.com/article/us-broadcom-m-a-avago-correction-idUSKBN0OE28220150529<]Way too expensive[/url<] for Microchip.

        • willmore
        • 2 years ago

        You’re right, sorry, I spaced that one off. It was Cypress buying Broadcom’s wireless division that I was thinking of.

        • curtisb
        • 2 years ago

        And Broadcom is selling off Brocade’s datacenter biz to Extreme Networks.

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      Aren’t they pushing ARM-based SoCs for their customers who need 32-bit these days though?

        • willmore
        • 2 years ago

        Microchip now sells Atmel’s ARM chips and their own MIPS designs.

        More info on their acquisitions. [url<]http://www.microchip.com/about-us/company-information/acquisitions[/url<]

    • TwistedKestrel
    • 2 years ago

    The list of companies that can afford to buy Imagination and would want to can’t be that big. It would be pretty much only ARM SoC manufacturers that have a half billion of something on hand. Don’t laugh at this question – is it impossible that Apple is actually one of the bidders?

      • tsk
      • 2 years ago

      It is possible, depends how confident apple’s lawyers are.

      • invinciblegod
      • 2 years ago

      Google is starting an SOC right? Maybe they might want a GPU too.

        • DancinJack
        • 2 years ago

        I think Apple is quite a bit more likely.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      That’s exactly what I think. Apple might be the only bidder, for that matter.

      • CuttinHobo
      • 2 years ago

      Maybe, but I’d expect Apple already got everything they wanted from the relationship. No need to buy the cow at this point.

      Samsung is my top guess, even if half their motivation might be courtroom ammunition against Apple. On that note, Apple could be a bidder to solely prevent that.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 2 years ago

      There’s actually a lot of places they could land… they’re actually pretty cheap at their current market cap, even for just patents and employees. I’m sorta doubting Apple will pick them up actually as they are definitely one of the folks who could have easily done that a while back without blinking an eye if they had any interest in that long term.

      Will be interesting to see.

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      I wonder if AMD might try. Not that I think it would be a good idea (in fact I think it would be a bad idea), but I could see it happening.

      AMD’s about 30x their size in terms of market cap, so it’s not totally crazy.

      • blastdoor
      • 2 years ago

      I think that is very possible. My guess is that it’s strictly a matter of price. Rumor had it that Apple was looking at buying them before, but didn’t like the price.

      I doubt that Apple would get into a bidding war, though. If somebody like Samsung wants to overpay, I’m sure Apple won’t stand in their way.

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      Mediatek? They’ve never actually made a non-standard ARM design AFAIK but they are big enough that maybe they’d like the idea of having their own in-house GPU?

        • blastdoor
        • 2 years ago

        I think it’s three possibilities:

        1. Apple
        2. Patent troll that wants to sue Apple
        3. Ego play (Samsung; Chinese government)

        • just brew it!
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah, that’s about as plausible as AMD making a play (they’re about the same size in terms of market cap).

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    Damn.

    Unfortunate, but you can’t be too careful if all your eggs are in one apple shaped basket.

      • strangerguy
      • 2 years ago

      If you ask me, ImgTec downfall has less to do with Apple and more to do with underestimating ARM’s GPU design prowess. Everybody that isn’t Qualcomm are now using ARM GPUs in Android side, and these people has waaaay more raw marketshare than Apple does.

        • blastdoor
        • 2 years ago

        Very fair point.

        A similar way to look at it is that Imagination was very lucky to have ridden the iPhone wave. Without Apple, they would own a collection of failed technologies that nobody wants to use. MIPS lost to Intel long ago, then it lost to ARM. PowerVR lost to Nvidia and AMD. Etc.

          • strangerguy
          • 2 years ago

          Apple’s themselves dumped stock ARM cores for their custom CPU cores as early as 2012, then destroyed every ARM player in CPU by 2013. ImgTec are painfully naive if they believe they wouldn’t get the same treatment sooner or later on the GPU side.

            • tipoo
            • 2 years ago

            Seeing their CPU cores, I’m very much excited to see their 100% custom GPU cores. They got silicon chops. I wonder if Johny Srouji would also do GPUs?

            I was talking to someone who said Apple was looking at it as an incredibly wide CPU first, with graphics as but a single application on it, so it should be a monster for mobile at OpenCL/Metal compute.

          • tipoo
          • 2 years ago

          That’s fair, I’m not with the people making Apple out to be evil because of this – Imagination is certainly ahead of where they would have been without those hundreds of millions.

          Maybe they would have been in this state 10 years ago without it, and none of us would remember them now.

        • crystall
        • 2 years ago

        It’s not just about design prowess, but more about pricing. ARM started bundling low-end Mali IP for free when vendors bought low-end ARM cores (e.g. A5, A7, A53). This is something that’s well known in the industry but has never been publicly acknowledged by ARM as it could be considered dumping (IANAL). Anyway, legal or not it drained a large part of ImgTec’s potential market which was competing only for the GPU IP. MIPS acquisition was in part motivated by this, so that they also could – for certain markets – offer a complete IP bundle.

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      Live by the Fruity RDF.
      Die by the Fruity RDF.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This