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Samsung might buy a stake in Arm to lower costs for phone chips

It would join NVIDIA in the rush to buy a stronger foothold in the mobile chip world.

Published onAugust 3, 2020

  • Samsung is reportedly buying a small stake in Arm.
  • This could help it lower the licensing costs for phone chips like the Exynos line.
  • It would join NVIDIA and others in the rush to buy a piece of Arm’s future.

NVIDIA might not be the only tech giant interested in buying a stake in Arm.

Korean Times industry source claims Samsung is looking at buying a “small stake” of between 3% and 5% in Arm as part of a “consortium” of  semiconductor companies. This wouldn’t be a direct takeover, as was initially rumored for NVIDIA — instead, it would be an investment in Samsung’s processor manufacturing.

The purported insider said the move would help Samsung “solidify its partnership” with ASML, a company key to the extreme ultraviolet lithography behind modern low-power chips. That, in turn, would help Samsung reduce the amount of licensing fees it pays and reduce the costs of making chips.

Samsung declined to comment.

SoftBank hasn’t officially discussed selling Arm outright. It has so far offloaded service businesses to focus its attention on Arm’s core chip technology and help it offset financial blows from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nikkei sources also maintained that SoftBank would only conduct a “partial sale” and would still keep a stake no matter who was involved.

It would make financial sense for Samsung to only have a limited stake in Arm’s future. If the company can reduce the costs of Exynos processors and other chips, it could more aggressively price products like smartphones (or at least improve its profit margins). A small investment now could reap dividends later on, particularly if Samsung wants to design more chips later on.

A small stake is also far more likely to get an all-clear from regulators. The rumored NVIDIA buyout of Arm could easily face intense scrutiny from officials worried that the company would have an unfair advantage over rivals dependent on Arm designs, and Samsung wouldn’t be any different. If Samsung makes a small investment, it can profit as Arm grows without the pains of running Arm itself.