Qualcomm, a fabless chipmaker based in San Diego, has expressed interest in acquiring a stake in Arm, the chip designer behind Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series of desktop-friendly Arm SoCs. According to the Financial Times, the UK firm will be purchased by a consortium to maintain its neutrality.
The future of Arm has been in doubt since a deal between SoftBank and Nvidia to sell the UK firm for $66 billion fell through in December, following legal action from the US Federal Trade Commission, which labelled it an “illegal vertical merger” that would give Nvidia too much power in a competitive market.
SoftBank, a Japanese multinational holding firm, bought Arm for $24.6 billion in 2016 and plans to list it on the public exchange early next year, alarming many. Arm, which licences its chip designs to Apple, Google, Samsung, and a slew of other companies, as well as Qualcomm, is seen as crucial to the industry.
The arm is very crucial to Qualcomm and the chip industry
“It’s a very important asset and it’s an asset which is going to be essential to the development of our industry,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon told the Financial Times. He went on to sketch out the idea of a group of rivals banding together to buy Arm and keep it independent, but he made it clear that his company had not approached SoftBank about a possible investment.
Arm currently sells licences for its chip designs to anyone who asks, regardless of where they are based or how big they are (although it recently suspended deliveries and support to Russia due to UK government sanctions), and its IP is used in the majority of chips shipped worldwide.
After most Arm clients and Nvidia competitors opposed the deal, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said earlier this year that his company would support an industry coalition taking over Arm. It’s feasible that additional major chipmakers may realise the value of an independent Arm, particularly those that stand to lose out if the firm becomes more selective in who it works with.
The arm is becoming more relevant in the computing environment, and it remains a tempting target for a buyout, given SoftBank’s desire to sell it. In 2021, the corporation reported a new high of $2.7 billion in yearly revenue, up 35% from the previous year. In addition, revenue from its licencing division increased by nearly two-thirds, with royalties rising by a fifth to $1.5 billion.