back to article European Commission sticks 'in-depth' antitrust probe into Nvidia-Arm merger plan

The European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation into Nvidia’s $54bn bid to takeover Arm – and will decide whether to approve the merger deal or not by early 2022. In a way, Arm makes its money as a silicon-era mercenary: it licenses its CPU and GPU blueprints to companies that use the designs to make competing …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ARM currently occupies a position somewhat similar to TSMC in that they both are neutral parties whose customers are competitors with each other, but those customers trust ARM/TSCM with their IP and also trust them not to play favorites among the customers.

    Nvidia will love ARM to death.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      I can see what you're saying, but in reality, companies do not trust ARM with their IP. They license ARM's IP, and then us that to create their own product, without ARM seeing their IP.

      I'm sure that there must be some brand checking to make sure ARM IP is neither used outside of the license, or implemented in a way that would damage the ARM brand, but that is nothing compared to the view that TSMC get of the chips they're fabricating.

      I do not fully know whether TSMC just take fully fledged designs, or actually assist in the layout and masking of the chips from the desired circuit diagrams, but whichever it is, they get to see the totality of a chip design. This puts them (and any other chip fabricator) in a position needing absolute trust.

      The problem is not that ARM can't be trusted, it's that under Nvidia control, they could favor NV with reduced license costs, or even withholding some designs from others, giving NV a competitive advantage over other ARM licensees.

      If NV had performance or costing advantages, then these are exactly the anti-competitive concerns that need to be investigated.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Companies don't necessarily send IP to ARM but they are sharing IP.

        Hey ARM sales guy - we are planning to develop a line of AI+GPU cards using AMR, they will have X power and we will ship Y units starting in Z. Now imagine the same conversation if the ARM sales guy has an nvidia.com email ?

        TSMC are deeply involved in the design of the chips, it's an inherent part of high-end fab.

        It's why Samsung have a much more restricted fab business, you buy pre-existing cores from Samsung but nobody is going to trust them with anything that might be worth stealing.

        But Intel as a fab for hire. Like AMD / Nvidia / anybody-Chinese is going to hand over it's designs to an American "National Champion" !

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    "boost competition and innovation"

    Sure Nvidia, that's your deepest desire.

    Now, are you going to tell your investors that ? What about managing the company in the investors' best interests ?

    1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: "boost competition and innovation"

      If there is one thing NVidia is known for, it is for burning bridges and stifling competition. There is a reason why NVidia was forced to use Samsung instead of TSMC for their current video cards. There is a reason why Apple refuses to use NVidia anymore. Remember when NVidia blacklisted Hardware Unboxed? Remember the Geforce Partner Program?

      NVidia has a history of trying to restrict competition and hoard innovation. A leopard can't change its spots, and NVidia can't change who it is. An ARM-NVidia merger will be bad all around for everyone.

  3. Peter D

    The EU?

    Arm is a UK company being sold by its Japanese owner to a US company. I don't agree with this takeover but what has it got to do with the EU?

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      1. Bonzo_red

        Re: The EU?

        There is also the concern that the merger will have a negative aspect for customers in the EU.

        1. msobkow Silver badge

          Re: The EU?

          The EU isn't the world.

          They should have no more right to interfere with global markets than the Americans or the Chinese or the Russians or anyone else.

          It is time for politics to get the heck out of industry, and let industry do what industry does best: innovate and produce when not hampered by interfering politicians looking for kickbacks for their home nations.

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: The EU?

            @msobkow

            That was silly. Have a smile.

          2. Zolko Bronze badge

            Re: The EU?

            The EU isn't the world. They should have no more right to interfere with global markets...

            they don't: all they're saying is that if they don't agree with that merger, then the products of that merger will be excluded from the EU market. Or at least threaten with that. Which would be enough to cancel the merger.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: The EU?

      Given how totally toothless GB is today I think you should be happy the EU takes an interest in it, and it's all for free for you.

    3. Len
      Headmaster

      Re: The EU?

      It's simply market power. About half a billion of the world's wealthiest people live in the EU and it's the world's largest rich market.

      If, let's say, the Argentinian anti-trust regulator decides not to approve this deal then Nvidia could decide to withdraw from the Argentinian market and let the takeover go ahead against the wishes of the Argentinian regulator. Due to its market power it's not that easy for Nvidia to decide to withdraw from the EU market with its half a billion customers, it would probably make the merger not worth it.

      In 2000 the American company General Electric decided not to buy the American company Honeywell (a deal that was already agreed by the American antitrust regulator) because the EU regulator blocked it on competition grounds (a reduced competition in jet engines to be precise). This unintentional global effect of EU decisions is called the Brussels Effect.

      Similarly the Chinese regulator also gets a say in this M&A process, a big market with lots of market power.

  4. eldakka Silver badge
    Coat

    NVIDIA (Cartman voice): "I have not been anal probed!"

    EC (snap of rubber gloves): "bend over and say ahhh"

  5. Abominator

    Somebody for the love of god block this merger. Its bad news for everybody.

  6. msobkow Silver badge

    Err, companies ALREADY produce Arm-based designs that are proprietary and NOT shared with the world. See Qualcomm et. al.

    Claiming that there is some additional "threat" because AMD could do the same is disingenuous; it sounds to me more like the EU has a bone to pick with an AMERICAN company doing the buying, and would have been fine with if, say, a French company were doing the acquisition.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      No this is more like Microsoft buying Intel and then deciding that Intel chips would only be sold running Windows.

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