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NVIDIA-Arm acquisition raises “significant competition concerns:” UK competition regulator

Credit: Caixin Global

The competition authority in the United Kingdom has expressed major reservations about Nvidia’s proposed acquisition of semiconductor creator ARM.

The government released its evaluation today, and now must decide whether to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to conduct an in-depth investigation of the planned transaction.

In the executive summary of the CMA’s report for the government, the watchdog expresses concerns that if the merger goes through, the merged company will have the ability and incentive to harm Nvidia’s competitors by restricting access to ARM’s intellectual property, which is used by companies that make semiconductor chips and related products in competition with Nvidia.

The CMA is concerned that a lack of competition could hamper innovation in a variety of areas, including data centres, gaming, the “internet of things,” and self-driving cars, putting firms and consumers at risk of higher-priced or lower-quality products.

Nvidia’s proposed behavioural remedy was rejected by the CMA, which suggested that the proposed merger be investigated further in a “Phase 2” examination on competition grounds.

Commenting in a statement, CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “We’re concerned that Nvidia controlling Arm could create real problems for NVIDIA’s rivals by limiting their access to key technologies, and ultimately stifling innovation across a number of important and growing markets. This could end up with consumers missing out on new products, or prices going up.

“The chip technology industry is worth billions and is vital to products that businesses and consumers rely on every day. This includes the critical data processing and datacentre technology that supports digital businesses across the economy, and the future development of artificial intelligence technologies that will be important to growth industries like robotics and self-driving cars.”

In a statement on its website, the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport said the U.K.’s digital secretary is now “considering the relevant information contained in the full report” and will make a decision on whether to ask the CMA to conduct a ‘Phase Two’ investigation “in due course”.

“There is no set period in which this decision must be made, but it must take into account the need to make a decision as soon as reasonably practicable to reduce uncertainty,” it added.

The proposed merger has been met with strong domestic opposition, with one of ARM’s co-founders urging for it to be stopped.

In its first reaction, NVIDIA sought time to address CMA’s concerns. “We look forward to the opportunity to address the CMA’s initial views and resolve any concerns the Government may have. We remain confident that this transaction will be beneficial to Arm, its licensees, competition, and the UK,” the company said. Although a subsidiary of Japan’s Softbank, the report by UK’s competition regulator does have some bearing on the fate of Arm, which remains headquartered in the UK.

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