Chipmaker Imagination hires Li as new CEO


The British microchip developer Imagination Technologies has hired a semiconductor industry veteran as its new chief executive following last year’s‎ £550m Chinese-backed takeover.

Sky News has learnt that the company, which was forced to put itself up for sale after losing Apple as a customer, will announce this week that Leo Li is taking the helm.

Mr Li, who chairs the Global Semiconductor Alliance, will replace Andrew Heath, who was appointed just two years ago to spearhead a turnaround of the business.

The new boss has held senior roles at other major players in the sector, including as CEO of Spreadtrum Communications and co-president of Tsinghua Unigroup.

His experience of fast-growing Asian markets is expected to be valuable to Imagination, which is increasing its exposure to China through new licensing deals and design agreements.

Based in Hertfordshire, Imagination employs more than 900 people, more than 80% of whom are qualified design engineers.

The company, which was bought by Canyon Bridge Capital Partners last autumn, describes itself as one of the world’s three most important silicon intellectual property companies.

It specialises in making low-power consumption chips which are in increasing demand from the automotive, mobile communications and home electronics industries.

According to Imagination, more than 10bn units containing its technology have been produced globally, with the massive demand anticipated from the Internet of Things (IoT) likely to fuel the growth of advanced semiconductor producers.

Image: Apple said it would stop using Imagination’s technology in its new products

The company ran into difficulty last year, however, when Apple said it would no longer use Imagination’s technology in its new products, sending its London-listed shares plummeting.

Imagination put itself up for sale, attracting interest from several parties, including Canyon Bridge, ‎which has promised to fund the company’s growth into fields such as virtual reality and IoT.

Canyon Bridge’s takeover came in the wake of the much larger sale of chip designer ARM Holdings to Japan’s Softbank.

That deal, just days after Theresa May became Prime Minister, sparked renewed debate about foreign takeovers of British technology leaders, and resulted in a series of binding undertakings on jobs and R&D being made by the new o‎wners.

‎The purchase of Imagination did not prompt Government intervention, despite calls from some corners of Westminster and industry for greater protection for the UK’s knowledge base.

Similar concerns have arisen‎ during the £8bn battle for control of GKN, the engineering group which succumbed to a hostile bid from Melrose Industries on Thursday.

Canyon Bridge, which was blocked from making a US purchase similar to ‎Imagination by President Trump’s administration, has made several commitments to the British company’s presence in its home market.

The appointment of Mr Li is the latest chapter in Imagination’s history, coming three decades after the company was founded as a producer of PC technology called VideoLogic in 1985.

It developed graphics technology for Sega gaming consoles and went on to develop Pure, the digital radio brand which was eventually sold off when Imagination found itself in financial trouble.

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Mr Heath is expected to attract offers from other major companies in the industry having returned Imagination to profitability before overseeing its sale.

A spokesman for Imagination declined to comment on Sunday.

From – SkyNews


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