back to article UK competition watchdog calls for views on Nvidia's prospective $40bn acquisition of Brit chip designer Arm

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has invited third parties to comment on the proposed $40bn acquisition of British-based chip designer Arm by US graphics giant Nvidia. This comment will inform the CMA's formal investigation, expected to commence later this year, into whether the acquisition of Arm will have an …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    An ironic Austrian ?

    If the UK govt in 1980 had taken the same concerns about "supporting British jobs" and "national champions", then upstart Acorn wouldn't have got a look in and the BBC micro contract would have gone to the National Enterprise Board or ICL

    1. Peshman

      Re: An ironic Austrian ?

      ...Except that intimately ICL died on its arse and got picked up by Fujitsu for peanuts. I was a fresh graduate watching its demise from the inside.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: An ironic Austrian ?

        Yes, almost like you should bet on new innovative startups doing new and innovative stuff rather than backing monopolies for nationalistic reasons.

        If Dr Hauser had said - The govt should support some group of smart people somewhere doing something new and innovative with eg RISC_V - I would have a lot more respect.

        1. Lars Silver badge

          Re: An ironic Austrian ?

          @Yet Another Anonymous coward

          I would recommend you and anybody to have a listen to Hermann Hauser here:

          Startup Grind talk: Hermann Hauser, co-founder of ARM, Partner at Amadeus Capital with Marian Gazdik

          And I would suggest you should be very happy if bright kids from abroad are still willing to enter the country of today.

      2. Wilhelm Schickhardt

        ICL: Very unfortunate

        The Algol Mainframes were IMO way ahead of UNIX in terms of practical security. One could even argue the Algol mainframes should be rejuvenated in order to have a more secure computing landscape.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An ironic Austrian ?

      Acorn was in terms of technical expertise a very good company, coding everything in assembler by default however it must be said their business sense failed to match their technical ability.

      The ARM splinter that remained after Acorn failed carried the same business management, so whilst they have continued until today the vast majority of the profits from ARM have gone to others.

      It would have been nice if Acorn had been continued to be supported so as to continue development of the ARM platform as a home computer but that would have put it in direct competition with the IBMPC/clones and unlike MS Acorn had, I would suggest, too much integrity to cooperate in the mass surveillance associated with the PC.

      Instead what remained of Acorn acted to move the centres of innovation for computing away from the west towards where the chips could be made most cheaply and hence loss of control of computing for those that did the original innovation.

      Ironic that those that destroyed the home computer market inorder to put a psy in every home also created their own nemesis in the form of reduced western control/money until you look at the track record for that particular three letter agency, dumbasses

    3. MOV r0,r0

      Re: An ironic Austrian ?

      Yes and it gets better because Arm (as ARM) was started with foreign investment: the entirety of the start-up capital was from the US, it was spun out of a majority foreign-owned company (Acorn) and has remained majority foreign-owned throughout its history yet there it is, still based in Cambridge!

      Arm took a bad gamble with IoT under Softbank, datacentre was a better bet and Nvidea has a lead there. Stopping this deal would hurt Arm's prospects.

  2. thames

    What Nvidia has in mind.

    Nvidia's plans for ARM are clear if you think about what they are saying. The key phrase is here:

    "We will maintain its open-licensing model and customer neutrality, serving customers in any industry, across the world, and further expand Arm's IP licensing portfolio with Nvidia's world-leading GPU and AI technology," he added.

    They quite clearly intend to tie in licences for ARM CPU cores with licenses for Nvidia GPU cores. That is, in order to buy an ARM license you will also need to pay for an Nvidia GPU license, whether you use it or not. The ARM CPU licences can remain reasonable, but the associated GPU license will become increasingly eye-wateringly expensive and with ever increasing restrictions on what you can do with it in order to segment the market and extract the maximum possible revenue from each customer.

    Want to build a phone with an ARM CPU? You will have to pay for an Nvidia GPU even if you use a different one. Want to build a server with GPU acceleration for AI? Your only GPU choice will be Nvidia, and you will have to sign a "partnership agreement" with Nvidia to license whatever AI software framework they are promoting that year. Want to build a CPU oriented towards cheap Raspberry Pi like devices? Sorry, but your product doesn't fit in with their market strategy and their salesmen have got other more lucrative things to do than to talk to you about it.

    Having ARM owned by Nvidia will also bring it under US export controls, and the US have already tried to stop ARM licensing to Chinese firms. Trump may be gone, but that policy will survive into the future as there are simply too many interests in Washington who want to carry on a trade war with China by all possible means. Over the long term being used as cannon fodder in a war will sink ARM, as nobody outside of the US will be able to trust them any more and companies will drift towards other solutions which are not subject to the same risks. Britain will then lose the flagship of its high tech industry, as just another casualty in a foreign war.

    I think that ARM needs to remain under UK control, and the UK should be identifying other companies in a similar position and acting to protect its national IP from situations such as this. Foreign investment should be welcomed, but commercial monopolisation (of the GPU market in this case) or foreign political control (US export laws) should be prohibited.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What Nvidia has in mind.

      "ARM needs to remain under UK control,"

      It isn't - it's owned by a Japanese hedge fund managing a Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

      I suppose the UK govt could spend 40Bn buying it back in order to stop any foreigners using it - not like they having any other pressing matters to deal with

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: What Nvidia has in mind.

      "the UK should be identifying other companies in a similar position and acting to protect its national IP from situations such as this"

      That would have the side effect of discouraging anyone with a good idea from starting up in the UK. Why not start up somewhere else, where you might be able to sell the resulting company for a market rate, rather than the depressed prices you'll get from a limited number of buyers.

      It might not be fatal discouragement, but it will probably be enough to discouraging anyone who isn't already in the UK from coming here with their idea.

      1. Wilhelm Schickhardt


        Maybe the European nations need to realize that China is doing heavy-handed industrial policy and covertly funding giants such as Huawei. Giants which steamrolled companies such as Nortel, Alcatel, Siemens, GEC any quite a few more.

        Europe is much too naive for China.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: What Nvidia has in mind.

      Why are you wasting your eloquence on us? There's a request for comment to someone who might actually be able to influence the outcome.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What Nvidia has in mind.

      BUT, BUT, BUT.....ARM is not under UK control anymore anyway. It is owned by Softbank and they are entitled to sell it as they wish. Free market and all that jazz.

      All the platitudes and statements to keep it British or in Britain is hogwash.

      The horses have fled long time ago.

      If the UK Govt. wanted it to stay British, they would have blocked the purchase by Softbank too !

      Its just a token exercise to be seen to be doing the right thing by the takeover bosses and keep thier jobs.

      UK is indeed the 51st state of the US. caving in about Huawei, lobbying by US corporates, Brexit, and sucking Trumps ass by Boris. Couildnt bring himslef to criticise Trumps rallying (rioting) call yesterday, either.

  3. Tubz Silver badge

    ARM needs to come home and be UK company again, I'm sure the price can be matched by a consortium, hell I'd even accept EU countries/companies chipping in, wasn't not so long ago, the EU banging the drum about becoming IT tech self-sufficient ?

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Float it on the stock exchange (obviously not NYSE - too unreliable) with articles of association limiting the size of any single stockholding to prevent it going round the same loop again.

  5. Ashto5

    Bring it home

    Without companies like this the UK IT sector is diminished

    UK plc need to arrange the purchase by UK buyers

    Once it’s in the USA we WILL be screwed over

    Example look at Cadbury they promised it would stay it was gone within a year and now the chocolate tastes of coconut oil

    You cannot trust the USA on business

    1. Wade Burchette

      Re: Bring it home

      Of all the companies to buy ARM, the only one that would be worse would be Apple. NVidia has a reputation, and it is not a good one. Just recently they tried to blacklist the Australian tech site Hardware Unboxed because of an unfavorable review. Eventually they backed down because the backlash was public and quick. I hope the British authorities block this deal with extreme prejudice because NVidia is a bully.

      (I am hoping that future AMD Radeon and Intel Xe graphic cards can humble them.)

    2. MOV r0,r0

      Re: Bring it home

      I shouldn't have to point this out on ElReg but semiconductors has been global industry for four or five decades - that the UK can make such a large contribution of both IP and people is something to be immensely proud of, the idea of shutting off the rest of the world and going it alone is wrong-headed and fanciful.

    3. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Bring it home

      "You cannot trust the USA on business".

      I think it's more like you cannot trust the UK for business.

  6. hoola Silver badge

    History - it is too late

    Given the track record of letting anything in the UK that is innovative be bought up by foreign "investors" or companies this is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. It does not appear to matter what we do, it can be world leading cutting edge stuff, we just let it get bought for peanuts. For the last 25 years the long term view for business appears to barely extend into next week unless the only goal is how big executives can massage the bonuses.

    Nothing will change whilst business (particularly banks and investment funds") and government is run by selfish money grubbing gits that fail to understand that just spinning virtual money in a computer system does not provide long term security. What it does provide is huge financial incentives for the scroats doing the spinning, usually with other people's money.

  7. Ebec

    selling off the silverware ....again and no tax money

    as the UK is now standing on it own in the world my be we need to think long term and not short gain,

    put a limit on the % of a UK owned and based company can be sold off by be the controls lost and they nice ip's it already has and working on,

    as if we sell all the family silverware, its one more company we've lost to japan but lets stop it from happening to other starts up/ running companies and keep more it's in the UK to stop others gaining from our company and uni's etc .....

    we need to do china (without the hacking) if we want to stay in the tech world

    plus stop their hide the tax money, and all the normal standard accounting tricks by blocking those huge loop holes

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: selling off the silverware ....again and no tax money

      "put a limit on the % of a UK owned and based company can be sold off".

      Perhaps, but you can hardly stop companies moving elsewhere like Dialog Semiconductor who moves its EU headquarters to Swabia.

  8. ratfox

    I'm not sure why regulators are even examining this

    The answer should be not only no, but hell no. This goes for American regulators as well. What's that lawsuit about Facebook buying WhatsApp, and now they intend to let this happen??

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