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Arm Plans Nasdaq Listing Amid Quiet Tech IPO Period

Arm, a leading chip design firm under the ownership of Japan's SoftBank, has announced its intention to list on Nasdaq. This comes at a time when tech IPOs are witnessing a sluggish phase. They plan to use the ticker "ARM" for trading.

For the fiscal year ending March 2023, the company reported revenues of $2.68 billion and a net income of $524 million. This marks a slight decrease from its 2022 revenues of $2.7 billion.

Previously, the U.K.-centric firm had confidentially filed for a U.S. listing, choosing the U.S. over the U.K., a move seen as a setback for the London Stock Exchange.

With a significant presence in the chip industry, Arm licenses its core instruction sets, which are integral to almost every mobile chip, and increasingly, to PC and server chips. It's recently shifted its focus towards selling complete chip designs for increased profitability. Companies like Amazon, Alphabet, AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Samsung manufacture chips based on Arm's designs. Furthermore, Apple’s iPhone chips also incorporate Arm's technology. The company disclosed that over 30 billion chips, incorporating its tech, were shipped in fiscal 2023, with Arm earning a fee on each.

A previous attempt by SoftBank to sell Arm to Nvidia was thwarted due to regulatory concerns about competition and national security. SoftBank had acquired Arm in a $32 billion deal in 2016.

Arm, employing close to 6,000 individuals, is central to consumer electronics. Its chip architecture is embedded in nearly 99% of smartphones, establishing it as a tech provider for giants like Apple, Google, and Qualcomm.

Established in 1990 as a collaboration among various firms and Apple, Arm aimed to develop a low-power processor for battery-driven devices. It went public in 1998 and was acquired by SoftBank in 2016.

However, the company faces challenges from a dwindling demand for products like smartphones, impacting chip companies universally. The company's net sales saw a 4.6% drop YoY in Q2. Furthermore, SoftBank's Vision Fund has incurred significant losses recently, attributed to unfavorable tech investments amidst rising interest rates.

In its listing documentation, Arm emphasized the relevance of its tech in AI domains, even as it primarily deals with central processors, not graphics ones crucial for expansive AI models.

The firm recognized its competition from x86, used in Intel and AMD processors, and RISC-V, an open-source set endorsed by prominent tech firms.

Three of Arm's most significant clients generate 44% of its total revenue, with Arm China contributing 24% and Qualcomm, which Arm is currently litigating against for licensing issues, responsible for 11%.

As the demand for next-gen semiconductors rises, notably because of AI, companies like Nvidia have witnessed substantial stock growth. Yet, the tech IPO scene has been dormant, with no significant venture-backed transactions since December 2021.

Investors are keenly observing Arm's market entry, which might indicate the market's receptiveness for future tech listings. Instacart, the grocery delivery giant, is rumored to be in line for an IPO soon.


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