SoftBank has been rumored to be exploring a sale of ARM — the British chip designer that powers nearly every major mobile processor from companies like Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei — and now, it might have found a buyer. Nvidia is reportedly in “advanced talks” to buy ARM in a deal worth over $32 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Nvidia is said to be the only company that’s involved in concrete discussions with SoftBank for the purchase at this time, and a deal could arrive “in the next few weeks,” although nothing is finalized yet. If the deal does go through, it would be one of the largest deals ever in the computer chip business and would likely draw intense regulatory scrutiny.
SoftBank bought ARM in 2016 for $31 billion, and ARM has only grown in value since then as its designs have become more and more integral to Android and iOS devices alike. Microsoft already makes an ARM-based Surface and a version of Windows designed for ARM; Apple also recently announced that it would be switching its Mac computers over to ARM-based chipsets in the latest boon for the company. As SoftBank looks to pay off its growing pile of debt in order to appease uneasy investors, a sale of ARM at its peak could help bolster the Japanese technology conglomerate’s finances.
Nvidia would make an interesting owner for ARM — while the company is the leader for GPUs (which ARM also designs), it has little to do with CPU design or mobile hardware outside of its Tegra line of mobile chipsets (most famously used by the Nintendo Switch and the Nvidia Shield line of set-top boxes), which actually are based on ARM designs.
Owning ARM would give Nvidia far more power over the broader computing world and likely trigger some heavy scrutiny from regulators, given that Nvidia is a customer of ARM, which competes with other companies that also rely on ARM’s designs.