UK-based ARM designs chips for many of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Apple and Samsung, it has licenses with more 300 tech firms and has shipped over 60 billion chips based on its tech to date. The Financial Times reported that Tokyo-based SoftBank is offering a 43 percent premium on its closing price last week (£17 in cash for each share) in a transaction that could be worth £23.4 billion, or around $31 billion. That would make it the largest acquisition of a Europe-based tech firm to date.
The offer is the first major tech deal since the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum held earlier this month. The UK has yet to exit the EU, but already the repercussions of that event have left the UK Pound down 10 percent against most international currencies — in the case of Japan, it is down nearly 30 percent against the Yen over the past year. That essentially gives any deal at this price huge value for SoftBank, despite the generous premium on offer.
It is unclear if the revealing of SoftBank’s bid could trigger an acquisition battle. Intel has long been mooted as a potential acquirer of ARM, while it remains to be seen if major customers like Apple or Samsung would consider an offer.
SoftBank’s apparent interest in ARM is also its first major move since Nikesh Arora, the man company chairman Masayoshi Son had picked as his eventual successor, parted ways with the tech giant. Arora’s tenure had seen SoftBank make bets in startups with investments across the U.S. and Asia, and in particular in India, such as Uber rivals Ola and Grab. Lately, though, the Japanese firm has been cutting back somewhat. It has divested a number of its landmark deals — including a portion of its historic and lucrative Alibaba stake, and the majority holding in $10 billion game developer SuperCell — in order to manage debt, much of which comes from its ownership of U.S. carrier Sprint.
This deal with ARM shows, however, that SoftBank isn’t retiring its checkbook at all.
It also could be a sign of the start of period of increased consolidation in tech. Coming weeks after Microsoft’s announcement of a deal to buy LinkedIn for $26 billion, it feeds into speculation from top tech industry figures, like VC Marc Andreessen, who have predicted that we can expect plenty more M&A activity soon.