back to article Softbank confirms talks to offload Arm as it posts rebound profit

SoftBank has bounced back from a historic loss to post profits of $12bn as the company confirms that it is in negotiations to sell British chip designer Arm. For its second quarter, SoftBank reported [PDF] a net profit of ¥1.25trn ($12bn), largely thanks to one-off sales of its stakes in US telco T-Mobile and Chinese e- …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    A bidding war...

    .between the Chinese and the US methinks.

    I can't see ARM being allowed to go to the Chinese, but it wil shove the price up nicely (for Softbank)

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: A bidding war...

      There's no indication of this being the case, in fact quite the opposite. If ARM were sold to a rival you can expect a very long list of anti-trust suits. SoftBank wanting to sell makes this a buyer's market.

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: A bidding war...

        SoftBank was seen as a safe harbour for ARM to continue the independence and multi-vendor customer base and no-fab design/licensing model.

        I can only see it going to IPO to continue this as Apple, NVidia, AMD, TSMC, Samsung etc all have axes to grind somewhere and will destroy the open licensing model.

  2. Stumpy Silver badge

    British Government take note:

    You should snap up a controlling stake in ARM (if not buy them completely from SoftBank) and then LEAVE THEM TO GET ON WITH IT WITHOUT INTERFERENCE.

    They were (and arguably still are) the crown jewels of the British Tech Sector, and deserve to remain so.

    1. trevorde

      You could say the same thing about Manchester United (football club)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You could. But why would you?

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      British Government take note

      The government that the present government likes to characterize as a "former" government, despite it ostensibly being of the same party and substantially the same manifesto, had no interest in state ownership and heralded the sale of Arm as a success. The present government is interested in state ownership of industry it sees as strategic (eg OneWeb), but very specifically to drive Cummings' technical fantasyagenda.

      I fear it is unlikely any government would buy it for the express purpose of leaving it alone: the regrettable question we need to ask these days is what would be in it for them?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        The UK government doesn't seem to have a clue about this matter, possibly there are civil servants that do but are not being heard.

        The government should put up a conditional loan to support a management buyout and take a substantial chunk of stock. However, so many billions of £ to Softbank isn't going to an option, tax payers will not understand it nor will they be happy about it. Even if it might be good for them long term.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      You should snap up a controlling stake in ARM (if not buy them completely from SoftBank) and then LEAVE THEM TO GET ON WITH IT WITHOUT INTERFERENCE.

      That's an oxymoron: if you have control, you will. But it doesn't matter as this option is no longer available.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ARM was relevant in the 2000s. If you are investing, you should invest in technology that will be relevant in 20 year’s time.

      Also government ownership traditionally doesn’t include the phrase “leave alone”...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Stumpy

      Whilst I agree with the sentiment, and as a former ARM shareholder prior to the Softbank sale as I had huge faith in and respect for the company, I don't believe there's any real reason for a Government stake in ARM.

      They're not going to be a huge employer in the UK, they're not going to be bringing huge foreign investment or earnings into the country (relatively speaking), we don't have any significant other companies who would be put at risk on any basis if someone else bought them, they're not vital for national security, etc.

      Unfortunately, being the crown jewels in something in itself only equates to pride, and you can't take that to the bank!

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: @Stumpy

        >>>they're not vital for national security<<<

        I'd suspect that more than a few countries would have a different view on the ability to design leading edge chippery.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: @Stumpy

          Possibly, but you've also got to be able to make it as well. ARM's value stemmed from the open system it helped create. This had made things safer for all of us and you can buy similar chips from different vendors.

          But ownership of the IP was lost to Blighty when Softbank bought ARM. And Britain's track record of supporting "national champions" really is the biggest argument against trying it again. I'd say especially with what looks a particularly poor and inept government, but experience has shown that any government likes to get involved (cock up) its national champions.

          The money could be better spent on educating the next generation of chip designers and helping innovative firms develop their products: the UK has a good record in innovation in aerospace combined with an inability to keep the companies in the UK.

          1. Justthefacts

            Re: @Stumpy

            “Britain's track record of supporting "national champions" really is the biggest argument against trying it again.”

            Laughably untrue.

            ARM itself exists because the BBC (cue Three Minute Hate from the Torygraph) were innovative enough to decide to fund a national champion computer manufacturer. On their own. For the chump change out of £100 real terms a year. Hence BBC Micro, Acorn, and the rest is history.

            You can also thank the BBC for inventing satellite broadcasting, noise cancelling microphones, funding Dolby, one of the Internet-prequels (remember Ceefax). Still all on the chump change from that £100 a year, without breaking a sweat. While we’re on that sort of thing, radar stems from Met Office work. And almost everything you buy is only available because global trade uses cargo ships kept in contact by satellite comms run by......Inmarsat, another ex-quango (transnational but headquartered in the U.K.). Yeah, those public industries are just soooooo rubbish, aren’t they.

            Take a pause, go through the FTSE100 and count how many of the U.K. companies are, or have been in the past, national champions or privatised public sector.

            Once you actually list out for yourself, and with the help of Google verify, that *half of U.K. largest companies* are actually ex-public-sector or national champions, perhaps you’ll change your view.

            Is it National Grid you hate or United Utilities? Vodafone or BAe Systems? Aveva or AstraZeneca?

            Do you think Airbus is entirely....independent? And you know that Volkswagen was started by a well-known person with a moustache, right?

            1. NeilPost Bronze badge

              Re: @Stumpy

              Yes 1 million upvotes for the BBC.

              If stoopid UK government has not binned (on the grounds of competition) Project Kangaroo in 2008/9 that Joint Venture would probably have been a global streaming player rivalling the foreign dominant players in Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and would have supported innovative British Technology.

              Last people you want touching ARM would be the UK give. Esp.. one with the current shower of shit running it.

            2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: @Stumpy

              You seem to wilfully misunderstand my point: "national champions" generally refers to government supported businesses. Think of British Rail, British Leyland, etc. The BBC Micro was actively opposed by the government at the time and the BBC continues to attract fire for any kind of technological investment.

              Worth noting of the companies you list how dependent they are on foreign markets. AstraZeneca is Anglo-Swedish. BAe bet heavily (and lost) on US DoD contracts over further European integration and Vodafone's UK operation has always been in trouble: it's been bankrolled by Germany for years.

              The government's fondness for VCs and their fintech investments means that interesting engineering companies have a far harder time of it than in other countries.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Bouncing back

    SoftBank has bounced back from a historic loss …

    Seeing as the profits came through divestitures then the results are not a bounce but a cut. Market conditions, particularly in China improved significantly in the 2nd quarter.

  4. Timto

    Re: Meh

    Since most of ARMs IP has been sold by Softbank to China to reverse engineer, the shares are worth a lot less than Softbank paid for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      That statement makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC & "makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

    It was plain enough to me, timto believes that the share price includes the value of IP that China, in this case, had not had access to.

    I would suggest that he is wrong but it doesn't make him incomprehensible merely blind to the china's rules regarding import of technology.

    What IP case not already obvious remains the IP of ARM. Thus existing Chinese ARM companies can, if they have not already, create their own versions of anything that they do not already have a license for.

  6. Rol Silver badge

    What's going on?

    Just what is it about ARM that makes them the peerless go to company for chip design?

    I ask, because whatever the trade secrets are that keep them winning gold at every turn, have just been rummaged through by Softbank's cohort of staff.

    Now I'm not suggesting Softbank have done, or will do, anything dodgy with this sensitive information, but the potential to start up a challenger company just after they have offloaded ARM is not beyond all possibility. After all, why did they go to all the trouble to buy ARM to then put it up for sale a heartbeat later?

    It just doesn't make any sense.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: What's going on?

      The thing about ARM and their processor designs is not that they are particularly special as far as the techniques are, but that no other chip manufacturer has managed to produce a chip that provided performance at a very low power budget.

      Even Chipzilla gave up the fight, although they were trying to reduce the poser consumption of their existing family of processors (because they thought compatibility would be a big selling point), not trying to produce a new design from the ground up.

      There have been and are other processors that could steal ARM's crown. RISC-V is the most obvious candidate, but I'm sure that the MIPS processor designs could be re-engineered to produce low power designs, and I'm following whether some of the micro-controllers from people like Microchip Inc, or NXP may be enhanced with more capable instruction sets, but they seem to have selected ARM for their more capable offerings.

      But ARM have a major head start, with proven designs available at reasonable licensing costs, available to build into SOC designs. And some of the features, like big.LITTLE are very clever at producing designs that are very low power, but can scale up to higher performance very rapidly.

      What will decide whether ARM remains a dominant design is probably whether the people who end up owning the IP want to try to increase revenue by upping the license costs (like Softbank said they were going to try to do). Once ARM licenses are seen to me more expensive than the necessary investment to make RISC-V or another design bear fruit, the advantages of ARM will be lost.

  7. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "then LEAVE THEM TO GET ON WITH IT WITHOUT INTERFERENCE."

    When has government ownership ever managed to do that? If you want to convert ARM into Sinclair Radionics, that's the way to go.

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