By Sam Nussey and Joyce Lee
TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) -SoftBank Group Corp founder and CEO Masayoshi Son will discuss a “strategic alliance” between chip designer Arm and Samsung Electronics during the billionaire’s first visit to South Korea in three years.
“I’m looking forward to visiting Korea for the first time in three years. I’d like to talk with Samsung about a strategic alliance with Arm,” Son said in a statement.
The visit comes amid speculation over the potential formation of an industry consortium to invest in Arm and ensure its neutrality.
“There needs to be someone in the middle mediating to bring various companies together into a consortium, and Son may be trying to play such a role,” said Lee Min-hee, an analyst at BNK Investment & Securities.
South Korean newswire News1 quoted Samsung’s Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee as saying that Son “may make a proposal”. Samsung declined to comment.
Samsung rival SK Hynix has also expressed interest in Arm, according to Yonhap news agency. It quoted Vice Chairman Park Jung-ho as saying in March that the chipmaker was considering forming a consortium to buy Arm. The company said the comment did not refer to a specific plan.
Son’s earlier proposed deal to sell Arm to chipmaker Nvidia aroused industry opposition and foundered on regulatory hurdles, prompting SoftBank to outline plans for a U.S. listing of the Cambridge-based firm.
“A potential proposal could be that companies interested in owning a part of Arm can enter in a pre-IPO placement at a lower price ahead of an IPO next year,” Lee said.
Monetising Arm has become a primary preoccupation for executives at tech conglomerate SoftBank, which has booked massive loss at its Vision Fund investment arm and sold down its stake in Alibaba to raise cash.
Efforts to list the chip designer come amid a dramatic decline in dealmaking this year with markets volatile due to soaring interest rates and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index is down by around a third for the year to date.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo and Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Edwina Gibbs)