SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son. Credit: DIGITIMES
SoftBank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son raised the possibility of a strategic alliance between Arm and Samsung on Sept. 22, as falling tech stocks around the world complicate SoftBank’s ongoing plan to list Arm in 2023, according to multiple media outlets Nike AsiaSon announced plans to visit South Korea for strategic alliance talks with Samsung to boost the chip design company’s valuation.
SoftBank acquired Arm for $32 billion in 2016, and after Nvidia’s $40 billion takeover bid failed in February 2022, Arm’s IPO became a priority. Nike Asia reported that Son thought about what to do with Arm “almost every day.” In the first quarter of fiscal 2022, SoftBank reported a record loss of JPY3.16 trillion (US$23.5 billion). At the same time, however, Arm reported record revenue of $719 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2022, with quarterly royalty income exceeding $400 million for the first time. Previous reports indicated that SoftBank intended to list Arm before March 2023, targeting a valuation of at least $60 billion.
A Samsung manager tells financial times that “a strategic alliance is a vague and broad term” and that the South Korean company would have to “think broadly” if SoftBank offered to sell Arm to Samsung. South Korean storage giant SK Hynix also eyed Arm as a potential takeover target during a shareholder meeting in March, it was reported Nike Asia. Industry leaders such as Samsung, SK Hynix, Intel and Qualcomm have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Arm via a consortium on multiple occasions over the past two years, but no concrete plan was in sight, particularly after Arm filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm in September 2022.
Arm’s IPO was further complicated when London made another attempt to persuade SoftBank to seek a dual listing. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had held talks with SoftBank to try to list Arm on the London Stock Exchange, but talks were called off after Johnson left government. Elizabeth Truss, the new UK Prime Minister, recently resumed talks with SoftBank. However, the plan to list Arm on the NASDAQ is not only being complicated by turmoil in the stock markets. Employees involved in the talks revealed that the US government’s recent decision to block Nvidia from shipping advanced chips to China had prompted SoftBank to consider US regulatory risks financial times.
However, Arm’s potential partnership with Samsung isn’t just financially motivated. “The potential collaboration with Samsung includes near-memory computing for AI, and Samsung could provide the memory that fits the required memory architecture,” a senior Arm executive revealed to DIGITIMES Asia. In fact, the growing need to handle AI workloads is showing the limitations of the classic Von Neumann architecture, where data and instructions are both stored in the same memory accessed by the CPU over a single bus, and which has so far been the general purpose -Computing underpinned. Despite its programmable nature, which lends itself to machine learning, the energy expended in moving data between processors and memories has become a drain on efficiency. To address the memory bottlenecks, near-memory and in-memory computer architectures have become two alternatives that are gaining traction as they shorten the distance between memory and logic units.
When it comes to in-memory computing, Samsung claimed in January 2022 that it had successfully developed the world’s first in-memory computing based on a magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM) array chip, which would be used to perform data storage and data processing same place. According to the company, the chip achieved 98% accuracy in classifying handwritten digits and 93% accuracy in recognizing faces from scenes. The research was led by Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in collaboration with Samsung Electronics Foundry Business and Semiconductor Research and Development Center.