Biggest chip deal in history fell apart just around the corner
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An IPO for a company that designs chips for 99% of the world’s smartphones is just around the corner after it filed its paperwork Monday.

A British tech company called Arm designs power-saving microchips for phones and tablets and licenses them to CPU makers like Apple and Samsung. Japan’s Softbank bought the company for $32 billion in 2016, after it was publicly traded.

It would have been the biggest chip deal of all time if Softbank had sold Arm to Nvidia for $40 billion. Despite global antitrust regulators’ efforts, the deal fell apart in February 2022.

Sales of smartphones have declined recently because consumers are keeping their phones longer and new features are less appealing.

Sales for the year ended March 31, 2023 decreased 1% to $2.7 billion, according to the company’s regulatory filing. A 2.5% decline in sales was reported in the following quarter, which ended in June. Earlier this year, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son touted Arm as an AI company with “exponential growth.” He promised ChatGPT-like services would be offered on Arm-designed machines in the future.

In its IPO filing, Arm said it would play a crucial role in the transition to artificial intelligence.

“Arm CPUs already run AI and [machine learning] workloads in billions of devices, including smartphones, cameras, digital TVs, cars, and cloud data centers,” the company explained. Increasing emphasis will be placed on low power acceleration in the areas of large language models, generative AI, and autonomous driving.

Son and Arm’s AI promises may overstate the company’s potential, at least to some extent. In addition to smartphones and tablets, Arm-based chips are used in power-efficient servers.

The number of shares Arm planned to sell wasn’t listed, so a valuation couldn’t be determined. When Arm IPOs next month, Reuters reported Softbank plans to double its investment from seven years ago with a $60 billion to $70 billion valuation.