Apple revives relationship with Imagination Technologies, the UK chip designer it ditched in 2017

Key Points
  • Imagination Technologies announced a new license agreement with Apple that will grant the company access to its intellectual property.
  • Apple decided to end its relationship with the firm in 2017 to design GPUs, or graphics chips, in-house.
  • It's unclear what intellectual property Apple will gain access to as a result of the new licensing deal.
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks about the new iPhone 11.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple will start working again with British chip designer Imagination Technologies, years after dissolving its relationship with the firm.

In a short statement Thursday, Imagination Technologies announced a "new multi-year license agreement under which Apple has access to a wider range of Imagination's intellectual property in exchange for license fees."

The semiconductor company previously designed GPUs, which are graphics chips, for Apple's iPhones and iPads, but Apple decided to cut ties with the firm in 2017 to develop such processing units in-house. Whether this move was ultimately successful remains unclear.

That news sent the once-listed firm's shares tumbling as much as 71%, due to concerns it would heavily impact its future. And it did. Imagination Technologies was subsequently sold to China-backed private equity buyer Canyon Bridge Capital Partners for £550 million ($727 million).

What's ahead for the tech sector?

The blow from Apple led to a public dispute as Imagination Technologies scrambled to reach an agreement with the Silicon Valley giant, once its biggest customer. It's unclear what intellectual property Apple will gain access to as a result of the new licensing deal.

Nevertheless, it's a good start to the year for Hertfordshire-based Imagination Technologies, which was once seen as one of Britain's most-promising tech companies. The firm competes with another U.K. company, SoftBank-owned Arm Holdings.

Apple shares rose 86% over the course of 2019 as the company grew its services business with new offerings like TV streaming and cloud gaming. The firm is expected to release its first 5G smartphone later this year.