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Proposed Softbank buyout of chipmaker ARM left in doubt

James Pearce
July 20, 2016

Brightstar-parent announced deal to buy UK technology firm, but shareholders have raised concerns over debt-levels, leaving deal int he balance

Shareholders at Brightstar-parent Softbank have cast doubt over the Japanese firm’s takeover plans for UK chipmaker ARM after giving the deal the thumbs down.

According to the Guardian, the £24 billion deal, announced on Monday (July 20) investors and analysts raised concerns about the valuation of the Cambridge-based company and the increasing debt at Softbank which currently stands at £86 billion.

“A fresh acquisition is not what the market wants from SoftBank,” Mitsushige Akino, the chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management, told Reuters. “It’s Mr Son’s style to keep expanding, but isn’t he stretching too much?”

Acquisition spree

Cambridge-based ARM designs chipsets used in more than 95 per cent of smartphones, including those made by the world’s top two manufacturers, Samsung and Apple.

The acquisition would be the largest made by Softbank founder Masayoshi Son, who has made 140 takeovers worth $82 billion in the last decade, according to Dealogic.

In 2006, it acquired Vodafone’s loss-making Japanese arm for $15 billion. It also owns US carrier Sprint, which it bought in 2013 for $22.2 billion.

In October 2013, SoftBank paid $1.26 billion to buy a 57 per cent stake in distribution giant Brightstar.

The following February, it completed its acquisition Crewe-based distributor 20:20 Mobile, giving it facilities in the UK, Spain, Hungary, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

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