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- UK chip designer Arm has dismissed concerns that being owned by American company Nvidia will trigger increased scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, or CFIUS.
- Arm is being sold by its current owner SoftBank to US chip maker Nvidia in a $40 billion deal.
- Arm’s cofounder Hermann Hauser, who is no longer with the company, claimed the change of ownership could provoke increased scrutiny by the US government, potentially impacting Arm’s customers, which include Apple.
- Simon Segars, Arm’s chief executive, told reporters on Monday: “The majority of our products are designed outside the US, and most don’t fall under most US export control rules.”
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UK chip designer Arm has dismissed fears that its $40 billion acquisition by American chip giant Nvidia could expose it to heightened security scrutiny by the US government.
Arm’s cofounder Hermann Hauser, who is no longer involved with the company, on Monday described the deal as a disaster. He said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, or CFIUS, could now potentially dictate how and where companies that use Arm’s technology export their own products. Arm’s customers include Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung.
But Arm CEO Simon Segars said the company had considered the prospect of heightened scrutiny, and concluded it would mostly be unaffected.
Nvidia announced on Monday it would buy Arm from its current parent SoftBank, in a deal that would create a giant of the semiconductor industry. The acquisition could take more than a year to complete, Nvidia founder Jensen Huang said.
Hauser voiced his concerns about CFIUS, the government body whose wide-ranging remit allows it to investigate business deals involving US firms and foreign entities, to the Today programme on Monday. “[That] means that if hundreds of UK companies that incorporate ARM’s [technology] in their products, want to sell it, and export it to anywhere in the world including China — which is a major market — the decision on whether they will be allowed to export it will be made in the White House and not in Downing Street.”
But Segars said that because the “majority” of Arm’s products are designed outside the US, they don’t fall under US export controls. “So that’s something that we pay very, very careful attention to because we absolutely have to adhere to all the laws that surround the export of products. Our analysis of that and how our products are affected won’t change by having a US parent company.”
Segars added that export constraints are rooted in where products are designed, not who their ultimate parent company is. “It isn’t to do with the ownership of the company, it’s all to do with the analysis of the product itself,” he said.
Deal creates anxiety in UK
While the Arm-Nvidia deal will, if it passes regulatory scrutiny over the next year, create a powerhouse in the chip industry, it has created some anxiety in the UK.
Arm, as a global technology company whose clients include giants such as Apple, is considered a jewel of the UK tech scene. A sale may weaken the UK’s position in tech, and the BBC reported that leading figures in the UK tech scene have lobbied the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to intervene.
When SoftBank acquired Arm in 2016, it committed to keeping Arm’s headquarters in the UK and promised to double headcount within five years. Nvidia’s Jensen Huang said he was open to similar discussions with the UK government. The company has said Arm would stay headquartered in Cambridge and that it will create an AI lab in the UK, but does not appear to have committed to specific staffing numbers.
“We’re open-minded to create a constructive framework that reflects our intentions and our investment opportunities in the UK,” Huang said. “We’ll absolutely have that conversation, and we’ll do something that makes sense.”
Nvidia is set to issue $1.5 billion in equity to Arm employees as part of the deal. In a press release, Nvidia said that it expects the deal to close within 18 months, and leave SoftBank with a stake in Arm of about 10%.
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