Japan's SoftBank to Buy British Chipmaker ARM for $32 Billion

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son - Getty H 2016
Courtesy of Getty Images

"This is one of the most important acquisitions we have ever made," says SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son after the deal that was helped by the lower pound following the Brexit vote.

Japanese investment and telecom giant SoftBank Group has reached a deal to acquire U.K.-based chipmaker ARM Holdings for $32 billion in cash.

The deal is the first major acquisition since SoftBank's charismatic CEO Masayoshi Son announced that he would be retaking control of the company's investment strategy from his former chief dealmaker and touted successor Nikesh Arora, who resigned in June.

Cambridge-based ARM designs the microchips used in many of the world's leading smartphones, including the Apple iPhone. The company was previously discussed as a potential acquisition target for Intel.

"ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the ‘Internet of Things,’ " Son said. "This is one of the most important acquisitions we have ever made, and I expect ARM to be a key pillar of SoftBank’s growth strategy going forward," he added.

Worth an estimated $68 billion, SoftBank's telecom, technology and media holdings span the globe, include Japan's third-largest mobile-phone operator, a majority stake in Sprint (the fourth-largest U.S. mobile carrier) and a stake in Yahoo Japan, the country’s most popular internet search engine. In 2000, Son also famously invested $20 million in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba; the stake is now worth $65 billion.

The company has taken a step back from global media and entertainment holdings over the past year. In January, it sold its stake in Legendary Entertainment to China's Dalian Wanda Group. Last month, it unloaded a controlling stake in Finish mobile game developer Supercell to Chinese tech giant Tencent. The deal was valued at $8.6 billion. 

The U.K.'s recent vote to exit the European Union created favorable conditions for the ARM acquisition. The crash in the British pound that followed the Brexit vote has left the U.K. currency almost 30 percent lower against the Japanese yen over the past year.