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8 April, 2020 - 10:41 By Tony Quested

Government halts Herts chip company takeover by Chinese fund

The UK government has stepped in to stall a bid by a China government controlled venture fund to swallow Hertfordshire chip maker Imagination Technologies.

The business supplies Apple, which is growing its footprint in the Cambridge technology heartland.

Whitehall made its move to put the brake on any deal with the $30 billion China Reform Holdings fund following a campaign led by former Brexit minister David Davis.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has demanded a meeting with Imagination chair Ray Bingham. The company responded by cancelling an emergency board meeting due to be held yesterday which could have led to the Chinese fund taking control of the board and thereby the business.

Sky News and the FT have been at the forefront of reporting on the situation amid fears that 600 East of England specialist technology jobs would be hijacked by China.

Chief executive Ron Black echoed the mood of staff and UK shareholders by resigning his position earlier this week, the FT reports. Black apparently felt that Imagination had to retain its neutrality and not get auight up in the US-China trade dogfight.

The FT reports that after the Government’s intervention Black and Bingham will stay in their respective roles.

Apple and Intel acquired stakes in the company and Imagination felt at one stage that it could scale to rival Cambridge-based superchip architect Arm – a dream that swiftly died.

Apple threatened to end its use of the company’s chips and a US-based venture business backed by Chinese money bought Imagination for £550 million in 2017. As has now been widely reported, Apple signed a new deal with Imagination Technologies in January. Apple is building a new research hub in Cambridge’s city centre for up to 800 people.

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