Skip to main content

FTC Sues to Block $40 Billion Nvidia-Arm Merge

Nvidia + Arm
(Image credit: Nvidia)

The Federal Trade Commission late on Thursday said it had sued to block Nvidia's $40 Billion acquisition of Arm. If the lawsuit is won, Nvidia will be prevented from taking over Arm, which will mark the end of the potential deal. 

Suing to Block

The regulator believes that the acquisition will severely hamper competition in such fields as Arm-based datacenter CPUs, car autopilot systems, and smart network cards for datacenters.

In the statement the FTC alleges that, "The proposed vertical deal would give one of the largest chip companies control over the computing technology and designs that rival firms rely on to develop their own competing chips." In fact, the FTC opposes vertical integration of Nvidia and calls it a precedent of "an illegal vertical merger."

"The FTC is suing to block the largest semiconductor chip merger in history to prevent a chip conglomerate from stifling the innovation pipeline for next-generation technologies," said FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova in a statement by the commission.

FTC: Nvidia + Arm = Illegal Vertical Merger

Nvidia announced its intention to acquire Arm back in mid-September 2020 in a bid to become a powerhouse owning both general-purpose and graphics/stream-processing capabilities. Nvidia tends to rule in the markets where it participates. The company dominates discrete GPU supplies for PCs (~83% as of Q2 2021, according to Jon Peddie Research), as well as HPC and edge/technical computing (over 90%). Being a formidable company with capable management and some efficient business practices, Nvidia represents a threat to competition, according to the U.S. FTC.

"Tomorrow's technologies depend on preserving today's competitive, cutting-edge chip markets," said FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova. "This proposed deal would distort Arm's incentives in chip markets and allow the combined firm to unfairly undermine Nvidia's rivals. The FTC’s lawsuit should send a strong signal that we will act aggressively to protect our critical infrastructure markets from illegal vertical mergers that have far-reaching and damaging effects on future innovations."

Three Technologies

The complaint by FTC lists three technologies that concern the company:

  • High-Level Advanced Driver Assistance Systems for passenger cars.
  • DPU SmartNICs, which are advanced networking products used to increase the security and efficiency of datacenter servers.
  • Arm-Based CPUs for cloud computing service providers. 

Nvidia already participates in all three of these markets, which leads to the point of an alleged illegal vertical integration.

The U.S. legal system has barriers to vertical integration, but there were at least three precedents against vertical integration of dominant market players issued by different courts, so the FTC has reason to appeal to these rulings. 

Running Out of Time

But perhaps the timing of the lawsuit is more important than its contents of it. The administrative trial is scheduled to begin on August 9, 2022, which is well beyond what Nvidia originally set for the deal to close. This would be 18 months from the time of the announcement and potentially could be further extended by six months. If the deal fails to close, Nvidia will have to pay Arm Holdings a penalty of $1.25 billion.

  • -Fran-
    This made me regain just an ever slightly hope for humanity.

    Now, nVidia, please realize all your shenanigans are not forgotten easily and no one in the industry trusts you for what you are and rather avoid you than work with you. You burn bridges right after building them and only blind fanbois support you nowadays; or the actors you pay, haha!

    Regards.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    Looks like NVIDIA will just have to do a ground up instruction set implementation with their billions and billions of dollars ($785,000,000,000 to be more precise) ....awwwwww....I guess a few less scrapper spatulas for Huang. Such a pity they will have to compete on a level playing field.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    digitalgriffin said:
    NVIDIA with their billions and billions of dollars ($785,000,000,000 to be more precise)
    That's their market cap, not how much cash they have. The cash + short term investments on their balance sheet is ~$11.5B. Not exactly skint, but also a far cry from $750B.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    TJ Hooker said:
    That's their market cap, not how much cash they have. The cash + short term investments on their balance sheet is ~$11.5B. Not exactly skint, but also a far cry from $750B.

    That's part of the shell game. Gov't doesn't like it too much when you have PILES of cash sitting on your books. Theory suggest circulating money is supposed to increase the health of the overall economy. So they tax accordingly to encourage spending and investing. So companies will often buy assets (like land) which is sellable during hard times to keep lights on and investors happy, but has a lower tax overhead. Trust me, NVIDIA has plenty it can sell including licensing IP.
    Reply
  • mac_angel
    I'm admittedly out of my element with finances, but I don't understand why NVidia would have to pay $1.25 Billion fails to close if it's based on something neither party can have a say in.
    Reply
  • maik80
    the deal had already failed months ago, Softbank offered the ARM to Apple and it didn't accept it because it knew that government agencies would not approve
    Reply
  • maik80
    TJ Hooker said:
    That's their market cap, not how much cash they have. The cash + short term investments on their balance sheet is ~$11.5B. Not exactly skint, but also a far cry from $750B.
    Even apple doesn't even have half of it in cash
    Reply
  • Endymio
    -Fran- said:
    This made me regain just an ever slightly hope for humanity.
    Actually, it simply reaffirmed my belief in the baneful influence of governmental economic meddling. This is a vertical merger, not horizontal, and the FTC has had a horrendous track record in blocking those. My guess is that this, like the FTC's recent debacle in the AT&T/Time Warner merger, will eventually got tossed out of court.
    Reply