SoftBank, the company’s owner, is seeking to push through a $40bn (£29bn) sale to Silicon Valley’s Nvidia in a deal that has irked many customers, raised potential UK national security concerns, and is taking longer than expected to be approved by regulators. The uncertain status of the company’s Chinese venture only clouds the deal further.
Last month, Wu raised the stakes further. At an onstage launch event, he declared that the business would be “independently operated” and outlined a “two wheel drive strategy” – one half comprising Arm’s technology, the other selling licences to its own designs.
As if to press home the point, Wu referred to the business as “Arm Technologies”, rather than Arm China.
“The marketing changed to make it seem less like a subsidiary,” says Stewart Randall, director of operations at Shanghai-based consultancy Intralink.
Soon after, billboards targeting business travellers at Chinese airports lit up with the new name and a flag-waving slogan: “The core at the heart of Chinese-made chips.”
Wu’s escapade led one analyst to refer to Arm China as the “semiconductor heist of the century” and a company that had gone “completely rogue”.
Arm challenged the characterisation, as well as denying that the company had stopped supplying its latest technology to the Chinese venture. “Arm continues to have a successful working relationship with the Arm China team in support of this growth, and both the structure and ownership of the JV [joint venture] remains unchanged since its inception in 2018,” a spokesman said.
But the continued dispute over Wu’s control of the business could serve as a cautionary tale for Western technology companies seeking riches in the country.
Arm – whose chip designs power billions of electronic devices from iPhones to connected cars – set up its Chinese joint venture in 2018, two years after SoftBank had paid £24bn to take the company off the London Stock Exchange.