EU mask slips as Commission hopes Britain will do dirty work for them in row with US

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The world’s leading maker of graphics and artificial chips is expected to notify the European Commission of its plans to purchase Arm in the coming weeks. But European competition officials are said to be concerned with the merger and a probe into the takeover may be launched. “It’s not certain the deal will get easily cleared here,” an official told the Financial Times.

Eurocrats are concerned that Nvidia’s concessions to help force through the transaction do not go far enough to mitigate potential damage to rivals.

It has been claimed that some people in the Commission are hoping that Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority could do the bloc’s dirty work by scuppering the deal.

The CMA has claimed the potential merger raises “serious competition concerns” as it threatens to “stifle innovation across a number of markets”.

Arm licences vital intellectual property to other chipmakers.

There are fears that the Nvidia deal would hand the US tech giant the ability to damage its rivals by reducing access to Arm’s products.

The claim has been denied by Nvidia, which has also offered the CMA a concession by pledging not to hamper Arm’s licensees.

“The CMA has been very aggressive,” a source said.

“If they are not willing to accept the concessions, it will be a matter of trying to convince them until the very end.”

Brussels unusually believes it has a say over any Nvidia-Arm merger because the UK half of the deal has a turnover in the EU that passes a threshold, and is therefore deemed to have an “EU dimension”.

Britain has used Brexit to breakaway from the EU’s competition policy.

As an independent nation, the UK can wield powers to block mergers if there are genuine concerns it will distort the domestic market.

The Government is examining the Nvidia-Arm deal on national security grounds, raising a further hurdle to its completion.

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Culture secretary Oliver Dowden could clear the agreement, approve it subject to certain criteria or ask the CMA to launch a more detailed investigation.

Nvidia has claimed to have the backing of Arm customers MediaTek, Broadcom and Marvell.

Once the firm notifies the EU Commission there will be a 25-day preliminary review.

The US tech giant will likely offer similar concessions to help smooth the process.

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But it is expected that eurocrats would then launch a full 90-day probe.

A spokesperson for Nvidia said: “This transaction will be beneficial to Arm, its licensees, competition, and the industry. We are working through the regulatory process and we look forward to engaging with the European Commission to address any concerns they may have.”

In the last financial year, Nvidia’s revenue was around £12 billion, up from £7.9 billion in 2020.

The Commission has been hesitant to comment on Nvidia’s takeover of Arm.

But last month a spokesman said: “We have no specific comment. This transaction has not been formally notified to the commission.

“If a transaction has an EU dimension, it is always up to the companies to notify it to the commission.”

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