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Digital secretary steps in on Nvidia/Arm deal

The first stage of a formal investigation by the CMA is now underway, to look at whether the sale of Arm to Nvidia will damage the chip industry

The Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) has been asked by the government to investigate Nvidia’s £31bn acquisition of chipmaker Arm.

The CMA had already said it would be looking at the effect on competition in the UK if Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm were to go ahead. The areas the regulator said it would look at include whether, following the takeover, Arm has an incentive to withdraw, raise prices or reduce the quality of its IP licensing services to Nvidia’s rivals.

Now, digital secretary Oliver Dowden has issued a public interest intervention notice (PIIN), asking the CMA to report on jurisdictional, competition and national security issues. The phase one investigation is the start of a process to examine the transaction.

“Following careful consideration of the proposed takeover of Arm, I have today issued an intervention notice on national security grounds,” said Dowden.

“As a next step, and to help me gather the relevant information, the UK’s independent competition authority will prepare a report on the implications of the transaction, which will help inform any further decisions.

“We want to support our thriving UK tech industry and welcome foreign investment, but it is appropriate that we properly consider the national security implications of a transaction like this.”  

The phase one investigation to assess the transaction requires the CMA to prepare a report with advice on jurisdictional and competition issues. The report will also include a summary of any representations it receives on potential national security issues arising from a consultation it will launch to gather third-party views. Alongside the CMA’s process, the government will examine the national security public interests.

The digital secretary, who has quasi-judicial powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 to intervene in certain mergers on public interest grounds, has issued the notice to ensure that any national security implications for the UK are explored. 

In January, the CMA invited interested parties to submit comments, looking at whether the merger between Nvidia and Arm could result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market or markets in the UK for goods or services.

At the time, Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “The chip technology industry is worth billions and is critical to many of the products that we use most in our everyday lives. We will work closely with other competition authorities around the world to carefully consider the impact of the deal and ensure that it doesn’t ultimately result in consumers facing more expensive or lower-quality products.”

In February, Bloomberg reported that the US Federal and Trade Commission (FTC) was also investigating the deal. According to Bloomberg, Alphabet, Microsoft and Qualcomm are among the companies to have raised concerns over Nvidia’s proposed acquisition of Arm. Should the acquisition go ahead, Nvidia could potentially limit the competitiveness of rival chipmakers which licence Arm intellectual property.

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