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SoftBank is buying ARM for $32 billion — because everything’s a computer now

It’s SoftBank’s first big bet in the post-Nikesh Arora era.

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Japan’s SoftBank is buying U.K.-based chip design firm ARM Holdings for about $32 billion, according to the FT.

Why? Everything is a computer now, and ARM has been one of the winners of the mobile revolution.

ARM designs chips — but doesn’t actually make them — for a huge variety of devices. It dominates the market for smartphones — Apple is a big client, as is Samsung — and its chips shows up in other consumer gadgets, as well as more-industrial-like devices and “internet of things” sensors.

The number of chips containing ARM processors reached almost 15 billion in 2015, up from about six billion in 2010.

The move is a big one for SoftBank CEO Masa Son after his would-be successor, former Google executive Nikesh Arora, stepped away from the company last month. (Talks presumably started while Arora was still there.)

One key question is whether other firms will let SoftBank purchase ARM or if there will be a bidding war. Apple, arguably ARM’s most important client, and Intel, which lost the mobile chip war to ARM, are both potential buyers.

The offer is already a generous multiple. As the FT notes, it’s some 70 times ARM’s net income last year. That’s around the same price-to-earnings ratio as Facebook stock.

This article originally appeared on

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