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Nvidia’s bid to buy ARM for $54 billion suffers yet another setback

Nvidia formally announced its purchase of ARM Limited, the designers of the ARM CPU architecture, in September of last year, subject to regulatory approval. Not only has that deal received mixed public reaction, but the events that followed have been less than smooth. Things have been stuck in limbo for over a year due to antitrust concerns in several countries, and based on what people involved in the process are saying, it doesn’t look like we’re moving forward anytime soon.

According to The Information, European regulators have signaled to both parties involved in the deal, Nvidia and current ARM owner SoftBank, that an antitrust probe will not be completed in the immediate future. It’s important to remember that antitrust concerns stem from Nvidia being an ARM chipmaker (competing with other ARM chipmakers) interested in buying the very company behind the ARM architecture, something that could potentially give Nvidia a very unfair advantage compared to other ARM licensees like Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm.

Both Nvidia and ARM recently submitted a proposal to settle antitrust concerns in Europe, with Nvidia making promises to continue running ARM’s business as it currently does, not discriminate against other ARM licensees, continue to support ARM technology development that is not central to Nvidia’s business, and not obtain sensitive information from ARM licensees that compete with Nvidia.

However, that proposal has not been shared with Nvidia’s competitors just yet, an important step that needs to happen before the proposal is approved. And that needs to happen by October 27th, or else the deal will be kicked into a lengthy second phase of review that would last, at the very least, six months. The clock for that window to close is ticking.

Nvidia’s chances are not looking much brighter in other countries, either. In the US, antitrust lawyers at the FTC are reportedly weighing whether or not to block the deal in court as they discuss obtaining statements from opponents. An antitrust review in China hasn’t yet begun, but it could potentially be the biggest hurdle to Nvidia’s ambitions if it does, as the Chinese don’t want to lose access to ARM technology as it falls into the hands of a US company.

If the deal does end up happening, we’re not expecting it to wrap up until late next year at the earliest.