The sale of ARM to Japanese firm Softbank could be the first of many British tech firms selling up to foreign investors, according to an analyst, which claims it is due to Brexit.
Cambridge-based ARM Holdings – which to date has shipped more than 86 billion chips – announced this morning that Japanese firm Softbank was acquiring it for £24.3bn.
Softbank is a multinational firm specialising in tech, telecoms and robots. In the announcement, it claims it will preserve the ARM business, including its senior management team, branding and partner-led business model; keep Cambridge as its HQ; and "at least double" the employee headcount in the UK over the next five years.
ARM chairman Stuart Chambers insisted the board has received assurance that the business will remain "very significant" and will continue to play a key role in the development of new technology.
But analysts were more downcast on hearing the news, with TechMarketView's chairman Richard Holway characterising the news as ARM "falling to" Softbank.
"There are only two such companies left in the FTSE100 – Sage and ARM. Now looks like Sage is the only one standing," he said.
"ARM was pretty unique. When everyone said 'So where is the UK's Google, Facebook or Apple?' we could all say 'but we have ARM!' I won't be able to say that anymore. I have often said that I believed that ARM was the best tech company the UK had ever produced. ARM was the only company in the FTSE100 hardware and equipment sector."
The value of the pound has plummeted since the UK voted to leave the EU. Although some recovery has been made, it is still far off its pre-Brexit value.
Quocirca founder Clive Longbottom (pictured) told CRN that he believes ARM could be the first of many UK tech firms to be snapped up in light of the weaker pound.
"We come up with great technology but we are not very good at selling it."
"British firms are seen as being cheap at the moment – 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than they were before the Brexit vote," he said. "So it's a great time to pick up technology that has been created in the UK. ARM is an extreme example because of the size of it, but those in Shoreditch and Tech City are sitting there with broad smiles on their faces, waiting for people to come to them. I'd expect to see more from Tech City and Cambridge [being] bought in the not-too-distant future."
He added that questions still remain about whether production could be moved out of the UK or not, but said either way, the local tech sector needs to improve in some areas, especially in light of Brexit.
"It's the story of Britain – we invented computers but now we don't make any anywhere," he said.
"We're not very good at creating ongoing businesses. ARM has been completely different to that. ARM was successful. Autonomy was successful as far as Mike Lynch was concerned and it was only when HP bought it that they found out that everything wasn't quite as it seemed.
"We come up with great technology but we are not very good at selling it. As soon as someone comes along with a large cheque, we're happy to sell it all away. We do have an overinflated sense of our own worth at times. We are great at being inventive and innovative but we are not very good at the business side of things. Now we're looking at a post-Brexit world, we've got to start getting good at selling it."
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