Qualcomm Mulls Consortium Plan to Keep Arm Independent

Qualcomm's HQ sign
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm, the San Diego-based fabless chipmaker, has expressed an interest in acquiring a stake in Arm, the chip designer behind its Snapdragon series of desktop-bothering Arm SoCs. According to a report in the Financial Times, the UK company would be bought by a consortium to maintain its neutrality.

Arm Cortex A72 graphic

(Image credit: Arm Limited)

The fate of Arm has hung in the balance since a deal by owner SoftBank to sell the UK firm to Nvidia for $66bn collapsed following legal action from the US Federal Trade Commission in December, which labeled it an ‘illegal vertical merger’ finding that would give Nvidia too much power in a competitive market. SoftBank, a Japanese multinational holding company, acquired Arm for $24.6bn in 2016 and now intends to float it on the stock market early next year, a move that has alarmed many. Arm, which supplies Apple, Google, Samsung, and many more with licenses for its chip designs as well as Qualcomm, is considered extremely important to the sector.

“It’s a very important asset and it’s an asset which is going to be essential to the development of our industry,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s chief executive, told the FT. He went on to sketch out the idea of a consortium of rivals coming together to buy Arm, ensuring that it remained independent, but made clear that his company has not been in touch with SoftBank about any potential investment. At the moment, Arm sells licenses for its chip designs to anyone who asks, regardless of where they are based (although it has recently suspended deliveries and support to Russia under UK government sanctions) or how large they are, and its IP is used in the majority of chips shipped worldwide.

After most Arm client companies and Nvidia rivals had come out against the merger, Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger suggested earlier this year that his company would support the takeover of Arm by an industry consortium. It’s entirely possible more big players in the chipmaking sector could see the benefits of an independent Arm — particularly those who stand to lose out if the company becomes more choosy about who it deals with.

Arm is increasingly important in the computing landscape and remains a juicy target for a takeover since SoftBank seems determined to offload it. The company reported record annual revenue of $2.7bn in 2021, up 35 percent from the previous year. In addition, its licensing business revenue grew by close to two-thirds, with royalties increasing by a fifth to $1.5bn.

Ian Evenden
Freelance News Writer

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.

  • Xajel
    Pat Gelsinger says what?

    Then he also should spinoff x86 completely from intel and create an independent consortium with both intel and AMD as founders (maybe even IBM, as they're the father of the PC), and major OEMs as members.