SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is set to travel to Seoul next month to hold talks with Samsung over a strategic alliance between the South Korean tech conglomerate and the British chip designer, which is owned by the Japanese conglomerate.
The talks could mark a major strategic reversal from Son, which Arm bought for $32 billion in 2016, claiming at the time it was core to SoftBank’s long-term vision.
SoftBank tried to sell Arm to chipmaker Nvidia, but scrapped those plans this year after facing opposition from rival executives.
Following that setback, Son turned his attention to an IPO for Arm in the US – a move that has prompted intense lobbying by the UK government to ensure part of the listing is in London.
“I plan to visit Korea. I’m looking forward to visiting Korea for the first time in three years. I look forward to speaking with Samsung about the strategic alliance with Arm,” Son said in a statement on Thursday.
SoftBank and its flagship Vision Fund tech investment vehicle have come under severe pressure this year as stock markets plummeted and tech valuations plummeted.
The founder of the technology group behind the $100 billion Vision fund has not traveled since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Samsung confirmed Son’s visit and said it expected to make an offer for Arm, although it didn’t know what the offer would be.
“Strategic alliance is a vague and broad term,” said a Samsung executive. “If he offers to sell us Arm, we’ll have to think about it.”
Son said in August he was in “defensive mode” prompted by an investigation into the sale of SoftBank’s stake in Alibaba and other assets, including private equity group Fortress.
Analysts said deteriorating US stock market conditions were not conducive to Arm’s planned IPO.
He said Samsung was keen to buy Arm because of its weakness in the non-memory chips business, but it would be difficult for the South Korean company to go ahead with the deal on its own as it would face similar regulatory hurdles as Nvidia.
“Given Arm’s unique position in the non-memory market, if it’s acquired by one particular company, the monopoly risk increases,” said James Lim, an analyst at US hedge fund Dalton Investments.
“Samsung will face less regulatory resistance than Nvidia, but given its position in the semiconductor market, it would be awkward for the company to go ahead with the deal on its own. It’s a consortium with Intel and others to pursue the deal. can do.
SoftBank Group shares traded 2.2 percent lower in Tokyo after the news, while Samsung slipped 1.3 percent in Seoul, lagging broader markets.
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