The UK government has reportedly made a fresh attempt to convince ARM and its owner Softbank to apply for a public listing in London.

The development was reported by the Financial Times, which noted that a meeting was held last month by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Cambridge-based ARM CEO Rene Haas and SoftBank’s founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son.

The attempt seems to be a long shot after the $40bn sale of ARM to GPU powerhouse Nvidia was called off in February 2022, due to “significant regulatory challenges”.

The UK government had led that global challenge to the deal, and indicated it would block it on national security grounds.

London listing?

Soon after the Nvidia deal fell through, Masayoshi Son in February 2022 indicated that the US Nasdaq would be the most likely listing destination for ARM.

The head of Japan’s Softbank then reiterated this stance in June 2022.

But now the Financial Times reported that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reopened negotiations with the CEOs of SoftBank and ARM, after months of political turmoil in Westminster derailed an attempt last year.

Rishi Sunak at London Tech Week 2022. Image credit: Rishi Sunak/Twitter

The UK government is well known to be keen for a London listing of Cambridge-based ARM, or even a dual listing in London and New York.

According to the FT, Sunak met ARM chief executive Rene Haas last month in Downing Street, with Softbank’s Masayoshi Son joining via video, according to two people familiar with the matter.

ARM CEO Rene Haas

The renewed London lobbying effort reportedly included executives from the London Stock Exchange, and the meeting, was also attended by ARM’s chief legal officer Spencer Collins.

The meeting last month was reportedly described as “very constructive” by two people briefed on it, and “positive” by another.

Andrew Griffith, the UK’s City minister, is also involved in the talks with SoftBank.

Nevertheless, officials and LSE executives still face an uphill struggle to persuade SoftBank because of the higher cost and complexity of such a move, the FT reported people familiar with the matter saying.

Dual listed

ARM was formed in 1990 when it was spun out of Acorn Computers, and its chip designs are used in 95 percent of smartphones due to their low power consumption.

This makes ARM a major force in the semiconductor market, and it licensing its designs to some of the world’s largest consumer tech manufacturers including Qualcomm and MediaTek.

Japan’s Softbank had acquired ARM for $32bn in 2016.

Before that, ARM was actually dual-listed in London and New York until the 2016 Softbank acquisition – an acquisition the UK government at the time welcomed, despite concern at ARM falling into the hands of a foreign entity.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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