Britain on Tuesday ordered an in-depth investigation of Nvidia’s planned US$50-billion-plus acquisition of UK-based chip designer ARM from Japan’s SoftBank over antitrust and national security concerns.
Digital secretary Nadine Dorries said Britain’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) would investigate the deal over the next six months, adding to scrutiny already under way in Europe and China.
“ARM has a unique place in the global technology supply chain and we must make sure the implications of this transaction are fully considered,” she said. “The CMA will now report to me on competition and national security grounds and provide advice on the next steps.”
Nvidia, the world’s biggest maker of graphics and AI chips, agreed to buy ARM from SoftBank in September 2020 for up to $40-billion in cash and stock, triggering a backlash from ARM’s customers, many of which compete with the US buyer.
ARM’s technology is used by chip makers such as Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Apple to produce their own processors.
Nvidia has pledged to maintain the neutrality that has been central to ARM’s success, with 180 billion chips shipped to date and its technology powering nearly all smartphones.
Britain said, however, that while not all devices using ARM-based chips were necessarily classed as critical in themselves, the security and resilience of the broader supply chain was important for UK national security.
Nvidia said it planned to address the CMA’s initial concerns on competition, which the regulator flagged in August, and would continue to work with the British government over the deal.
“The phase-2 process will enable us to demonstrate that the transaction will help to accelerate ARM and boost competition and innovation, including in the UK,” a spokesman said.
A rise in Nvidia’s share price has increased the value of the deal to well above $50-billion. — Reported by Paul Sandle, (c) 2021 Reuters
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