Government to examine sale of computer chip design firm Arm to US company Nvidia

The Government is examining the sale of UK-based computer chip design firm Arm to US tech giant Nvidia, with Boris Johnson taking a personal interest in the deal, his spokesman said.

Earlier on Monday, it was announced that the firm is to be bought by the US graphics chip maker in a deal worth 40 billion dollars (£31.2 billion).

Nvidia has pledged to keep Arm’s headquarters in Cambridge while also promising to expand on Arm’s work to build a “world-class” technology centre.

Arm is best known as the designer of processor chips used in most major smartphones – including Apple and Samsung – as well as other devices such as laptops.

Now the Government has confirmed it will examine the deal closely in order to understand its impact on the UK and the economy.

“We recognise the vital role Arm plays in the UK’s tech sector and its significant contribution to our economy,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“The Government monitors acquisitions and mergers closely, and when a takeover may have a significant impact on the UK we will not hesitate to investigate further and take appropriate action.

“The Enterprise Act provides the Government with the powers to intervene in mergers where they raise concerns about national security, financial stability, media plurality and maintaining in the UK the capability to combat and to mitigate the effects of public health emergencies.

“We are investigating this deal further and ministers have spoken to the relevant companies.”

Jensen Huang, founder and chief executive of Nvidia, said the deal would create a firm “fabulously positioned for the age of AI”, and confirmed Arm would remain at its Cambridge headquarters.

“Arm will remain headquartered in Cambridge. We will expand on this great site and build a world-class AI research facility, supporting developments in healthcare, life sciences, robotics, self-driving cars and other fields.

“And, to attract researchers and scientists from the UK and around the world to conduct groundbreaking work, Nvidia will build a state-of-the-art AI supercomputer, powered by Arm CPUs. Arm Cambridge will be a world-class technology centre.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: “The deal was announced early this morning and we will be scrutinising it in close detail, including exactly what it means for the Cambridge HQ.”

The spokesman said Arm was an “important part of the UK’s tech sector and it makes a significant contribution to the UK economy, we want that to continue to be the case”.

Arm chief executive Simon Segars said he was “excited” to join Nvidia “so we can write this next chapter together”.

However, industry analysts have suggested the deal could be “detrimental” to Arm and its current business.

Geoff Blaber, from CCS Insight, said Arm is “first and foremost a licensing business” and the deal with Nvidia “offers little real synergy despite the extraordinarily high price tag”.

Although Nvidia said it was committed to maintaining Arm’s licensing model and “global customer neutrality”, Mr Blaber said that would be difficult to be maintained if taken over by a fellow chip producer.

“Independence is critical to the ongoing success of Arm and once that is compromised, its value will start to erode,” Mr Blaber said.

“This (deal) will rightly face huge opposition, most notably from Arm licensees who have collectively shipped an average of 22 billion chips annually over the last three years.

“A huge diversity of businesses from Apple to Qualcomm are dependent on Arm and will be motivated to unite in opposition.

“Nvidia has a mountain to climb in securing regulatory clearance. This process will take months if not years with a high chance of failure.

“This process would be damaging to all parties and the uncertainty alone would hurt Arm regardless of the outcome.”

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