Softbank’s Arm eyes 2023 IPO after planned sale to Nvidia collapses

arm nvidia sale chips
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo

SAN FRANCISCO/SHANGHAI (Reuters) -SoftBank Group shelved the sale of Arm to US chipmaker Nvidia Corp due to regulatory hurdles, the companies said, and Arm named a new CEO who it said would help the British firm seek a public listing before March 2023.

The cash-and-stock deal was announced in 2020 and would have been worth as much as $80 billion. But the US Federal Trade Commission sued to block it in December, arguing that competition in the nascent markets for chips in self-driving cars and a new category of networking chips could be hurt if Nvidia carried out the purchase.

The sale also faced scrutiny in Britain and the European Union amid concerns that it could push up prices and reduce choice and innovation. It had yet to receive approval in China, which has previously withheld approval of cross-border chip acquisitions.

The sale would have marked an early exit from Arm for SoftBank, which acquired it for $32 billion, and the collapse of the deal marks a major setback to the Japanese conglomerate’s efforts to generate funds at time when valuations across its portfolio are under pressure.

Arm said in a separate statement that had appointed Rene Haas as its chief executive officer and member of the board, effective immediately. A chip industry veteran, Haas joined Arm in 2013 and before that worked seven years at Nvidia.

“Rene is the right leader to accelerate Arm’s growth as the company looks to re-enter the public markets,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in the statement from Arm.

SoftBank said that Arm’s net sales surged 40% to $2 billion in the nine months to December from the year-ago period.

An Arm acquisition would have put Nvidia into even more intense competition with rivals in the data center chip market such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

Arm licenses its architecture and technology to customers such as Qualcomm, Apple and Samsung Electronics that design chips for devices from mobile phones to computers.

Nvidia has become the most valuable US chip company on the strength of its graphic processor chips. Although still seen as crucial for gaming, graphic processors have become much more widely used for artificial intelligence and other advanced fields.

The value of the sale, which depended on Nvidia’s stock price, was originally pegged at about $40 billion and rose with Nvidia’s stock price to as $80 billion late last year, though the California company’s stock has fallen since.

Nvidia said in a statement that it would retain its 20-year Arm license.

The Financial Times was the first to report that SoftBank’s Arm-Nvidia deal had collapsed. Reuters confirmed the news.

The Japanese investment giant said it would recognize $1.25 billion breakup fee that Nvidia had deposited as a profit in the fourth quarter.

(By Jane Lanhee Lee and Josh Horwitz; Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru and Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland, California, and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Sayantani Ghosh)

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