The sale of Arm Holdings, one of the UK’s flagship tech companies, to US giant NVIDIA for the enormous sum of around $40 billion is becoming increasingly controversial. The sale, confirmed by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank yesterday, is not only a deal of astonishing magnitude, but could have ramifications for the UK’s international standing on the technology ladder…
The sale of Arm Holdings, one of the UK’s flagship tech companies, to US giant NVIDIA for the enormous sum of around $40 billion is becoming increasingly controversial. The sale, confirmed by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank yesterday, is not only a deal of astonishing magnitude, but could have ramifications for the UK’s international standing on the technology ladder.
NVIDIA has promised that the company will retain its Cambridge-based headquarters and will invest in the UK, but Arm founder Hermann Hauser, has told the Cambridge Independent that he believes these pledges were “not worth the piece of paper they are written on, unless they are legally-binding”.
In a letter to the PM, Hauser expressed his opinion that the deal would be a disaster for the UK’s tech industry.
“Surrendering UK’s most powerful trade weapon to the US is making Britain a US vassal state,” he said.
Indeed, Hauser is not alone in his concerns over the move. MPs are set to debate the deal, with NVIDIA’s platitudes not enough to assuage politicians' fears of losing such a key technology asset, particularly given the volatile landscape of current international politics and the latent economic fears attached to Brexit.
“The government have been painfully quiet about the acquisition of a strategic national asset by a foreign company so I am pleased to have secured this debate so a minister must to come to the dispatch box to explain themselves,” said Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge.
“I find it bizarre that the government would want to give away such powers at any time, but particularly ahead of a trade negotiation. We also need guarantees on keeping high-skilled jobs in Cambridge.”
In Hauser’s letter to the PM, he implored the government to block the deal and instead encouraged a merger with Bristol-based AI chip start-up Graphcore. He bids the government to take Arm public on the London Stock Exchange, with the government as a cornerstone investor of $1–2 billion, leaving the company a somewhat neutral entity that would receive investment from licensees such as Apple, Sony, and Qualcomm.
Meanwhile, NVIDIA itself has rebuffed claims that the move would represent a loss of technological sovereignty for the UK, saying that nothing about the deal would leave Arm subject to the whims of the US government. In a statement to The Times, Jensen Huang, NVIDIA’s chief exec, promised once again that the UK would not see a loss in jobs and that Arm would see increased investment.
“We’ll work on the plans over the coming months and will make them legally binding,” he said.
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