SoftBank is mulling a potential sale of chip designer Arm Holdings, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Apple licenses technology from Arm Holdings for the A-series processors used in the iPhone and iPad, as well as the upcoming Apple Silicon chips for Mac.
SoftBank acquired Arm Holdings for $32 billion in 2016, but the Japanese conglomerate is now looking to “raise cash from its varied stable of assets,” the report explains. SoftBank is planning to sell up to $41 billion in assets.
SoftBank has previously indicated it could return Arm to public markets at some point. Such a move has gained urgency, however, as SoftBank seeks to raise cash from its varied stable of assets to mollify activist investor Elliott Management Corp., which has been agitating for changes at the company.
SoftBank has said it plans to sell up to $41 billion in assets to prop up its struggling portfolio and buy back its own shares, which trade at a steep discount relative to net asset value.
The acquisition was originally praised by SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, but the tone has changed recently as sales have flattened:
SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son hailed the acquisition as a “paradigm shift” at the company, enabling it to take advantage of the potential of the Internet of Things, which refers to the connectivity of everyday devices. But sales of the software that Arm developed for managing connected devices have been relatively flat, excluding a boost from acquisitions.
Apple started licensing technology from Arm Holdings in 2006 for the iPhone. The A-series processors are now used in the iPhone and iPad, as well as products like HomePod and Apple TV. Apple also just confirmed at WWDC that the Mac will transition to Apple Silicon processors, which will also be based on Arm technologies.
If SoftBank ends up selling Arm Holdings or taking the company public, it’s likely to have little impact on Apple. That being said, it is possible that Apple is interested in acquiring Arm Holdings — something that was first rumored in 2010. Interestingly, Arm Holdings was founded in November 1990 as Advanced RISC Machines Ltd and structured as a joint venture between Acorn Computers, Apple, and VLSI Technology.
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