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SoftBank is buying chip designer ARM for $31.4 billion in cash

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SoftBank has agreed to acquire British chip designer ARM Holdings for £23.4 billion ($31.4 billion), the biggest ever purchase of a European technology company. SoftBank is paying around £17 for each share in the British company, weeks after the UK voted to leave the EU and the pound plummeted in value.

The British vote to leave the European Union likely made ARM a juicier target to foreign companies looking for investments, but as the Financial Times notes, the chip designer's global significance protected it from the worst of the precipitous drop in the pound's value following the decision. ARM is comparatively small in terms of revenue compared to chipmaking giants like Intel, but the company has punched above its weight on the global market, licensing its tech to huge firms like Apple and Samsung and collecting royalties on each chip made. Fifteen billion ARM-designed chips shipped last year, an increase of 3 billion on the year before, with around half of those going into mobile devices.

15 billion Arm-designed chips shipped last year

The acquisition is one of many over recent years for SoftBank and its CEO Masayoshi Son — including a $15 billion investment in Vodafone's Japanese division that helped SoftBank become the third-biggest carrier in the country — but the $31 billion price tag is a significant marker, higher even than the $20 billion SoftBank paid for Sprint three years ago. ARM could be another good investment for Son: the British firm has its technology in almost every smartphone, and has existing relationships with major companies, while big competitors like Intel still struggled to produce mobile chips of the same quality.

SoftBank has endured some tough months recently. Sliding profits for Sprint forced the Japanese telecoms giant to break the American company off earlier this year, protecting its successful Japanese business. The company also separated from Nikesh Arora, a former Google executive that took the position of SoftBank's COO and president, and appeared to be next in line to succeed CEO Masayoshi Son.