The co-founder of Arm has said that if the government does not stop the $40bn (£31bn) takeover of the British chip designer, its proposed buyer, Nvidia, will become the next US tech monopoly alongside companies such as Google and Facebook.
Detailing his concerns in a letter to the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, Hermann Hauser said that a deal would end Arm’s position as the “Switzerland of the semiconductor industry”.
Arm, which employs 6,500 staff, including 3,000 in the UK, is a global leader in designing chips for smartphones, computers and tablets.
“There is not a single important semiconductor company in the world which does not have an Arm licence,” said Hauser. “Nvidia has an opportunity to become the quasi monopoly supplier of microprocessors to the world. This [deal] will give Nvidia a dominant position in all processor segments and create another US technology monopoly which has created so much angst in Britain when the country worries about the surreptitiously controlling influence Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon has on the UK economy.”
Hauser argued that because Nvidia is one of more than 500 Arm licensees worldwide, becoming the Cambridge-based business’s parent company will destroy its “even-handed” model and ultimately kill the world-leading British tech firm.
“Technology sovereignty is fast becoming the defining issue of the decade,” said Hauser. “Given the importance of our IT infrastructure, which is correctly compared with our water and electricity infrastructure, [the takeover] clearly relates to national security as well.”
Hauser has previously said the government should use its powers to prevent the takeover but has also backed indefinite legally binding conditions as an alternative. These include a guarantee to keep Arm’s staff in Cambridge, Belfast, Manchester and Warwick and a promise that Nvidia does not get preferential treatment on new versions of the designer’s chips.
“The obvious and highly desirable alternative to the Nvidia deal is for the government to use its convening power to lead a syndicate of Arm licensees, UK pension funds and other instructions to take Arm public on the London Stock Exchange, New York stock exchange or Shanghai Star market and take a golden share so that we are never again in this invidious situation of having to fight to keep our own UK technology assets,” he said.
Hauser has also said that holding on to a genuinely world-leading company such as Arm would give the UK a powerful weapon in post-Brexit trade talks.
SoftBank acquired Arm for $32bn in 2016 as the Japanese technology firm took advantage of the fall in value of the pound after the Brexit vote. Hauser said he sold his shares in Arm as part of the Softbank deal so could “freely speak my mind” about the Nvidia takeover.