Japanese giant Softbank has confirmed the fears of industy watchers when it said it was looking at selling off British chip designer ARM Holdings.

ARM is still based in the Cambridge, after it was acquired by Japanese giant Softbank in 2016 for $32 billion.

Its chip designs are used in most mobile processors around the world, but also in data centres, IoT, self-driving cars, and server rooms.

Sell-off rumours

Rumours began to circulate last week that a US firm was interested in acquiring it, after it was said that Softbank was in advanced talks to sell ARM to Nvidia, which last month overtook Intel to become the most valuable chip maker in the United States.

And amid talk of its possible sell-off, ARM has reportedly been looking to maximise its own earnings potential.

Last month ARM’s sales representatives reportedly pressed for price hikes that would boost overall license costs for some customers by as much as four times.

Those licence fee prices rises have reportedly prompted some licensees to consider non-ARM alternatives.

And now with ARM potentially at risk of being sold to a US firm, the man involved in the creation of the British chip designer has stepped into the issue.

Austrian-born entrepreneur Hermann Hauser was involved in spinning out Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) from Acorn Computers (which he had co-founded) in 1990.

In an interview with the BBC, he described ARM as the jewel in the crown of British tech and said it would be disastrous for it to be sold to a US firm.

He also said that he thought the UK government should intervene and that ministers should help make it an independent UK business again.

Confirmation of talks

But now Softbank has officially confirmed it is looking to sell ARM, after it reported a profit of $12 billion (thanks largely to asset sales), after a historic loss.

But now SoftBank head Masayoshi Son has announced that the group is actively considering the sale of ARM in the near future, the Financial Times reported.

It should be noted that the sale of ARM to Nvidia is not a done deal, and Son has also told investors at an event that ARM could go public once again with an IPO.

He also said parts of ARM could be sold off.

Softbank had originally planned to take ARM public in 2023, but that could change if Son could see a decent rate of return for its efforts.

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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