SoftBank said to acquire ARM for about US$32 billion

The acquisition would give SoftBank a strong presence in the smartphone and IoT markets

Japan’s SoftBank is set to acquire UK chip design company, ARM, to cash in on growing demand for processors and other technologies for the internet of things and mobile markets, according to news reports.

Softbank is paying up to US$32 billion for the chip design company that licenses its designs to a large number of chip suppliers to smartphone makers and to the emerging IoT market, according to the reports.

SoftBank has invested in a number of media and technology companies, including Internet retailer Snapdeal in India and ride-hailing app company Didi Chuxing in China. It also acquired Sprint Nextel in 2013.

But the acquisition of ARM would place the company in a market where it would be an upstream supplier to some of the biggest names in the tech industry as licensees of ARM’s designs like Qualcomm gear up to supply chips to the the connected devices market.

The deal could be announced as early as Monday, according to the Financial Times.

ARM and partners have been looking at new opportunities in markets such as robotics, connected vehicles, smart cities. It acquired recently Apical, a provider of imaging and embedded computer vision technology for next generation devices to understand and act intelligently on information from their environment. Apical's technology will complement the ARM Mali graphics, display and video processor roadmap, ARM said in May.

ARM has been successful in the small devices market, which requires low-power processors that consume far less battery than traditional microprocessors used in bigger gear like PCs, a market in which Intel has been dominant.

"ARM has long-term contracts with its customers so I wouldn't expect anything to change quickly, but all bets are off for the next generation architecture," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategies. But in the long-term SoftBank could restructure anything they wish and could invest more than ARM did to drive the enterprise products forward, he said.

"This could ultimately impact mobile tech giants Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung. I'm surprised ARM wasn't purchased sooner," Moorhead added.

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