Saturday 23 September 2017

Apple supplier's shares plunge as contract cut

Imagination technology is featured in iPhones and other devices. Photo: PA
Imagination technology is featured in iPhones and other devices. Photo: PA

Paul Sandle

Shares in Imagination Tech crashed more than 70pc on Monday after the British company said its biggest customer, Apple, would stop using its graphics technology in iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.

Imagination said Apple - which accounts for about half its revenue - had notified the British firm it was developing its own graphics chips and would no longer use Imagination's processing designs in 15 months to two years' time.

Shares in Imagination, in which Apple holds an 8pc stake, plunged to 76 pence, their lowest level since 2009 and about a 10th of their record of 734 pence hit in 2012.

"The biggest risk to Imagination's business model was realized this morning," analysts at Investec said. "The loss of this revenue stream will have a material impact on the financials of the company."

Imagination's shares were trading down 61pc at 105 pence by 9.15am yesterday, giving the company a market value of £298m (€349m), or £463m (€542) less than it was worth on Friday. The technology company has licensed its processing designs to Apple from the time of the iPod and receives a small royalty on every graphics chip used in a device.

Imagination, however, said it doubted Apple could go it alone without violating Imagination's patents, intellectual property and confidential information. Analysts said legal battles could lie ahead. "This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it," said the British company, which was founded in 1985 and listed in 1994.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Imagination's shares rose sharply between 2009 and 2012 as sales of smartphones boomed and Apple and Intel bought stakes. The company was valued at more than £2bn (€2.3bn) in April 2012.

It struggled, however, to reduce its reliance on Apple, and has faced increased competition from the likes of chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM.O) and British rival ARM, which developed its own graphics to complement its core processor blueprints.

Imagination says it has 50pc of the high-end smartphone market, but only 7pc of mid-tier devices, where it has been trying to regain market share, including in phones made by Chinese manufacturers.

Apple paid Imagination license fees and royalties totalling £60.7m (€71.1m) for the year to end-April 2016, half of its total revenue, and is expected to pay about £65m (€76.2m) for this year. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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