Canadian Manufacturing

Japan tech company Softbank to buy U.K. semiconductor giant ARM for US$31B

Deal is a major shakeup for mobile tech industry; ARM's hardware or software is used in 95 per cent of smartphones sold worldwide


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TOKYO—Japanese technology company SoftBank Group Corp. is buying British semiconductor company ARM Holdings for $31 billion.

The agreement, disclosed July 18, underlines SoftBank’s desire to expand in the Internet of Things, which refers to how almost anything these days has become a computer device that can connect online. SoftBank said ARM has a solid reputation as an innovator in the Internet of Things.

The pound has weakened since Britain voted to leave the European Union, making such acquisitions more attractive financially. But SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son told reporters in London that the currency effect was neutral for the agreement because although the pound weakened, the share price had gone up after Brexit.

SoftBank said its board approved the deal, but ARM shareholders and the English courts still need to approve it. ARM has recommended the deal be approved by its shareholders. SoftBank is seeking to complete the purchase by the end of September, it said in a statement.

Son said he had great respect for ARM, and the investment underlined SoftBank’s commitment to the British market. He said he remained interested in other possible acquisitions in Britain, but nothing else was decided.

“ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the Internet of Things,” said Son.

ARM Chairman Stuart Chambers said the agreement will be a plus for the company as SoftBank promised to invest in ARM and double jobs in the next five years.

Cambridge-based ARM, founded in 1990, employs more than 3,000 people around the world, and centres its business on intellectual property, especially in mobile computing, rather than chip manufacturing, for which it relies on partners.

ARM technology is used in 95 per cent of smartphones and 80 per cent of digital cameras, according to the company. Augmented-reality headsets, biometric sensors, self-driving cars, commercial drones and smart watches all use ARM technology.

SoftBank, a mobile carrier in Japan, also runs a solar-based utility and a humanoid robot business. It has struggled trying to turn around its U.S. mobile company Sprint Corp., although Son says there is progress on that.

The ARM purchase is the first major announcement from SoftBank after Nikesh Arora, who had joined from Google in 2014, said he was stepping down as Softbank president. Son has always been the chief engineer of SoftBank, and was behind Arora’s appointment, but he has repeatedly said he is trying to groom the next head of the company.


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