Arm Ltd., the company that supplies semiconductor designs and instruction sets to some of the biggest computing hardware manufacturers in the world, might be up for sale soon, and Nvidia is reportedly eyeing a purchase, Bloomberg reports.
Arm Ltd. is a semiconductor designer based in England currently owned by Japanese company SoftBank Group Corp., and SoftBank is reportedly looking to put Arm on the auction block. According to Bloomberg’s report, Nvidia has approached SoftBank about a potential deal. It’s far from a sure thing, Bloomberg’s sources say, with other potential bidders waiting in the wings.
SoftBank wants sell all or part of its stake in Arm–along with some other holdings–to prepare for Covid-19’s aftereffects. SoftBank purchased Arm in 2016 for $32 billion, and recent developments, like Apple’s shift from Intel CPUs to its own, Arm-based chips, likely make the company worth even more.
Apple says No Thanks
Apple reportedly has already passed on a bid after SoftBank approached the company. The Cupertino-based company uses Arm’s instruction sets to build its own chips. The chips power its mobile devices and will soon power its laptop and desktop systems. Arm doesn’t make chips, however. The company sells semiconductor designs and instruction sets, which are then used by companies like Apple and Nvidia and manufactured by companies like TSMC and Samsung. Apple doesn’t want to take on Arm’s licensing business, writes Bloomberg.
Further, any company purchasing Arm would likely run into regulatory concerns. Arm has or once had licensing deals with a variety of companies in the hardware space; whether it was Apple, Nvidia, or someone else purchasing Arm, they would then be licensing chips to their competitors. With those regulatory concerns in mind, it’s easy to see how most of the companies in the computing industry would pass over an Arm purchase. Instead, it seems more likely that another holding company like SoftBank could step in.