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ARM might launch bid for Imagination if Chinese sale is blocked

CAMBRIDGE-BASED CHIP DESIGNER ARM is reportedly planning to bid for Imagination Technologies if the US blocks a Chinese-backed attempt to buy the firm.

So says The Telegraph, which reports that ARM is “ready to swoop” on Imagination if the $550m takeover bid from Canyon Bridge falls through. Such a scenario wouldn’t be surprising, as Donald Trump earlier this month blocked the Chinese firm’s $1.3bn takeover of Oregon microchip maker Lattice Semiconductor citing national security concerns.

What’s more, the UK government has also expressed concern about the sale. In a bid to allay these concerns, Canyon Bridge has promised to maintain Imagination’s UK headquarters and its 1,300 staff.

Sources familiar with ARM’s plans told The Telegraph that ARM was unwilling to get involved in a “bidding war”, but is instead interested in “being a buyer of last resort” as it looks to bag itself a bargain. 

A City source told the publication: “If there’s no sale, the question is whether the Government would let over a thousand hi-tech jobs be lost rather than let ARM be the buyer.”

Imagination isn’t too keen on the prospect of an ARM acquisition, either. A source from the company told The Telegraph that the company was aware of ARM’s interest and said it was “uninterested”. 

The company was nevertheless required to tell investors on Monday that “one party has not confirmed whether its interest in the Imagination Group has terminated and accordingly it remains a potential offeror”.

Imagination put itself up for sale earlier this year after its biggest customer, Apple, said it would stop licensing its designs for the iPhone in favour of developing its own graphics chips. This resulted in the Brit chipmaker losing 70 per cent of its value as a result, with the firm having relied on Apple for around 50 per cent of its revenues.

Imagination still remains in dispute with Apple, after claiming that it doubted Apple could make its own chips for the iPhone and iPad without violating its patents. The New York Times reports that analysts believe lawsuits are likely. µ

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