Technology

UK PM reportedly restarts talks with SoftBank about listing Arm in London

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SoftBank has stopped working on a London initial public offering for chip designer Arm because of political upheaval in the British government, the Financial Times reported.
Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly reopened negotiations with the CEOs of SoftBank and Arm, in a renewed attempt to have the chip designer list its shares in London.

A meeting was held last month by Sunak with Arm CEO Rene Haas and the firm’s chief legal officer, Spencer Collins, according to a Financial Times report, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son joined the meeting via video, the report said.

Also in attendance was Andrew Griffith, the city minister, the FT reported.

Spokespeople for the U.K.’s Treasury department and Arm declined to comment when asked about the report by CNBC. SoftBank was not immediately available for comment.

Sunak is the third British prime minister to try to convince SoftBank to list its Arm division in the U.K. since a proposed buyout of Arm by Nvidia was scrapped.

In May, former PM Boris Johnson wrote to SoftBank appealing for the Japanese firm to list Arm in London. Liz Truss, who was the U.K. leader for all of 44 days, also tried to renew talks in September.

With 6,000 staff globally and 3,000 in the U.K., Arm is widely regarded as the jewel in the crown of the British tech industry.

SoftBank, which bought Arm for $32 billion in 2016, was originally aiming to sell it to U.S. chipmaking giant Nvidia. However, that deal unraveled early last year after competition regulators sought to block it on antitrust grounds.

Cambridge-based Arm is a major force in the semiconductor market, licensing its microchip designs to some of the world’s largest consumer tech manufacturers. Around 95% of smartphones globally, including Apple’s iPhone, contain Arm-based processors.

London has relaxed its listings rules in an effort to attract leading global tech companies to go public in the U.K.

But it faces barriers, with venture capitalists often complaining of a lack of understanding of often lossmaking tech ventures. Last year, funds raised by firms listing in London plunged 90% amid a broader market cooldown.

European startups tend to choose New York over regional markets for their IPOs, citing better familiarity from deep-pocketed institutional investors with the growth-hungry tech sector.

Arm, which was spun out of an early computing company called Acorn Computers in 1990, originally went public on the London Stock Exchange in 1998 but was delisted after it was acquired by SoftBank in 2016.

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