While politicians discuss the ins and outs of allowing Britain’s technology companies to fall into foreign hands, ARM Holdings’ Chinese division has reportedly has declared independence.
The Semianalysis technology website claims ARM China has gone “completely rogue” and is operating independently of the group’s Cambridge headquarters, with its own in-house intellectual property (IP) and research & development (R&D).
ARM, currently the subject of a takeover bid from US computer chip firm Nvidia, was acquired by Softbank in 2016. Regarded as the crown jewel in Britain’s technology sector, ARM’s intellectual property was widely used by smartphone manufacturers because of its ability to generate processing power at a lower temperature and energy consumption rate.
Japan’s Softbank formed a joint venture (JV) with Chinese investors in an attempt to break the Chinese market. Semianalysis reports that this JV has the exclusive right to distribute Arm’s IP within China.
Within two years, the venture went rogue, the website claimed.
“Technically it has always been legally independent, but Arm still maintained control. Recently, they [the JV] gave a presentation to the industry about rebranding their own IP, extending it by developing more, and emphasising that they are striking their own independently operated path,” Semianalysis reported.
The website described it as “the tech heist of the century” although according to ARM, no IP has been stolen but Semianalysis pointed out the UK firm has lost the right to license its technology to any other firm in China.
ARM dismissed Allen Wu, the chief executive of the JV, in 2020 but he has proved a hard man to remove, as he is in possession of the company seal, which is a stamp – shades of mediaeval Europe here – that effectively means his dismissal cannot be formally sanctioned.