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Nvidia’s Arm acquisition undergoes more scrutiny by the UK government

The CMA is beginning a 24-week Phase 2 probe into the deal

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Nvidia’s $40 billion proposed acquisition of the Brtish chip designer, Arm, will undergo an even more in-depth investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), as reported by CNBC. A notice on the UK government’s website confirms that Nadine Dorries, the UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, ordered the CMA to launch a Phase 2 investigation. The probe will take place over a 24-week period and will scrutinize potential national security risks and competition concerns associated with the acquisition.

The CMA completed its Phase 1 probe in August — which you can now read in its entirety as a PDF — with CMA’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli commenting that “NVIDIA controlling Arm could create real problems for NVIDIA’s rivals by limiting their access to key technologies.” It recommended a Phase 2 investigation at the time, so Dorries’ choice to take the next steps doesn’t come as much of a shock.

In addition to the CMA, the EU launched its own investigation into the acquisition late last month, on the account that acquiring Arm may give Nvidia an unfair edge. This will likely drag out the deal even more, and that doesn’t include the possible investigations that may be conducted by the US and China.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang initially gave the company’s acquisition of Arm a March 2022 deadline, but with regulators closely scrutinizing the deal, he admitted that it may take much longer. Arm was bought out by the Japanese company SoftBank in 2016 in a deal valued at $31 billion. The chip designer is considered neutral territory in the world of tech, as it licenses out schematics to tech giants such as Samsung, Apple, and Qualcomm, which then manufacture and install the hardware in their own devices.

Since Nvidia actively competes with many of Arm’s customers, regulators worry that Nvidia may put other companies at a disadvantage, possibly preventing Arm from designing more powerful chips for Nvidia’s competitors. Microsoft, Google, and Qualcomm possess the same fear — Nvidia has the power to choose how Arm makes designs, what companies it sells them to, and at what price.

Not only could an anti-competitive outcome like this affect Nvidia’s competitors, but it would also impact consumers. The chip shortage has already made it difficult to buy certain items, like the PS5, Xbox Series X / S, and new graphics cards, and if Nvidia decides to use Arm to give itself special treatment, the chips that are available might have worse performance or cost more than they already do.