LONDON (Reuters) – The British government should seek every mechanism to prevent the removal of the technology base of Imagination Technologies to China, including seeking a Western buyer for the company, British lawmaker David Davis said on Tuesday.
Imagination Technologies licenses its semiconductor chip designs that are the basic units powering everything from smartphones to computer game consoles. They are also used in Artificial Intelligence and data transfer.
The company’s China-backed owners – private equity firm Canyon Bridge – have tried to wrest control of the group by seeking to appoint board members who will support them, Davis said.
A board meeting, due to take place on Tuesday, was delayed after the British government intervened, the government said. Ron Black stepped down as CEO, the company said.
A spokesman for Imagination Technologies declined to comment.
“What we think is going on is the Chinese are trying to export the technology base from here to China and that’s inappropriate,” Davis, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, told Reuters.
Davis said Imagination Technologies, a supplier of semiconductor intellectual property to groups like Apple , was a strategic asset and that the government should make it absolutely plain that it does not view the export of such important British technology with equanimity.
“It should probably try to bring about a purchase of it by somebody else in a Western country,” Davis said. “The government should be seeking every mechanism available to them to prevent this removal of our technology – full stop.”
Imagination Technologies, founded in 1985, was bought by Canyon Bridge in 2017. The deal was approved by the government of then-Prime Minister Theresa May on the basis that Canyon Bridge would be subject to U.S. law.
Canyon Bridge was originally incorporated in the United States but has since moved to the Cayman Islands, a spokesman said.
Canyon Bridge’s main investor is the state-backed China Reform Holdings.
Imagination Technologies, which has 550 staff in the United Kingdom, said on April 10 its chief executive Ron Black was stepping down and would be replaced by Ray Bingham, executive chairman and partner at Canyon Bridge.
“Since acquiring Imagination Technologies in 2017, we’ve made great progress in transforming the company and we remain fully committed to the UK and to supporting our customers around the world,” Bingham said in an April 10 statement.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton and Jane Merriman)