8 February, 2022 - 09:38 By Tony Quested

Dual float for Arm still on the table but what else might the future hold?

Arm chiefs in concert with Japanese parent company SoftBank have yet to decide whether the proposed float of the Cambridge tech company will be in the UK, the US or on both sides of the Atlantic.

An Arm source told Business Weekly in the wake of NVIDIA officially exiting a $40 billion acquisition: “We are beginning this process today and have many details to work through in the coming months. We do not have any news to share on where we will be listing.

“It is also premature to discuss details such as proposed price per share or financial targets for what an IPO might raise as we are very early in this process.”

A renowned financial expert told me recently that under unprecedentedly tight regulatory regimes the NVIDIA deal was a non starter from the word go – especially in the UK. 

Had NVIDIA been able to sell the proposition to the UK, US and European authorities China would have proved an insurmountable obstacle at any time, he said.

A former Arm executive told me a fortnight ago that the company should re-set the business and go back to the future. The company has now shipped over 215 billion chips “and that is what the company does best,” said the former exec.

NVIDIA today pledged that it would continue to support Arm as a technology partner in the years ahead and would remain a customer. However, that support is unlikely to scale to the hundreds of billions of dollars of investment that the partners had earmarked for Cambridge over the long haul. So the Cambridge tech cluster is the big loser in this squabbling over supposed anti-competition issues considered to be a potentially damaging consequence of the proposed takeover. So is the UK economy, incidentally.

It will be interesting to see whether opponents to the NVIDIA-Arm deal – such as Qualcomm, Apple and Samsung (all upscaling and recruiting on Arm’s doorstep) will now contribute to an Arm IPO and on what scale.

It is 32 years since Hermann Hauser called me from Acorn to say Advanced RISC Machines was spinning out of Arm amid a clamour for a slice of their action. 

A few grants and loans and a modest investment from Apple helped a team of 12, soon to be guided to greatness by Robin Saxby, set up in a Cambridgeshire barn with a pauper-thin bottom line but giant ambitions.
Sir Robin, followed by Warren East – now at the wheel of Rolls-Royce – took Arm to global greatness. Simon Segars and his team have maintained momentum.

For new CEO Rene Haas the landscape and associated tech territory have changed beyond all recognition.

Haas has some job to do to maintain Arm’s influence on a global stage under an unprecedented scenario for the business; to resist widescale redundancies and leverage the global clout of Cambridge IP for the broader benefit of the business, the segments which it influences and the UK’s lead in these coveted areas of technology.

Will an IPO hand him enough financial leverage to continue Arm’s progress: To continue to grow this gem of a company?

Many feared that Arm being swallowed by NVIDIA would be tantamount to Cambridge losing the most glittering of its crown jewels. Time to redouble the application of elbow grease and start re-polishing with renewed vigour. Arm started from the humblest of roots but look where its ambition and skillset have taken the company – to world leadership in its specialism!

Now there is no inspirational Mike Muller; no Graham Budd after departures in more recent times. The glory years that Saxby and East helped engineer established a template for glory. The challenge now is to take a deep breath and cling on to the summit that the original 12 engineers in a barn enabled Arm to reach.

Born in a barn? A second coming? Arm may have fashioned heaven on earth in terms of technology in the last 32 years but hell is rarely far away for mere mortals if they allow core values to slide. Arm has pledged to scratch and claw and think even smarter to stay at the pinnacle of compute as a new dawn breaks.

Everyone associated with their journey; anyone with the success of Cambridge at heart; and for those whose futures in work and in life depend on Arm’s commitment to compute perfection will join me in wishing the company well in the potentially difficult weeks and months ahead.

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