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SoftBank’s Son says ARM Holdings to relist within five years

Chipmaker will resume shipments to Huawei if not breaching U.S. law

TAIPEI---- Chip designer Arm Holdings will return to the stock market within five years, said SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son on Saturday, confirming for the first time plans to relist the business acquired for $32 billion just three years ago.

Billionaire tech investor Son refused to rule out a listing in China or the U.S. for what was hailed as Britain's most successful technology company when SoftBank bought the group in 2016. "I don’t know which market it will be, but Arm will be preparing for IPO within the next five years. Arm management is all excited about it. We are excited," SoftBank’s founding Chairman and CEO Son told reporters in Taipei.

Arm is viewed as the most important chip design infrastructure provider in the world as its microchips go into more than 90% of world’s mobile devices, including the iPhone. Apple, Huawei Technologies, Samsung, Qualcomm all rely on Arm to design mobile processors.

SoftBank's purchase of Arm came just weeks after the U.K. voted to quit the EU and sparked controversy over foreign takeovers of key British companies. A listing in China could reignite that debate. 

Son also said Arm was still studying whether it could continue to support Huawei Technologies after the U.S. blacklisted the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker. Washington has imposed constraints which bar sales to the Chinese tech giant of products containing more than 25% U.S. technology.

 "ARM is not stopping [its] relationship with Huawei," Son said. At the same time, "Arm does not want to break the law." The group was studying which products were subject to the ban and which were not. "As soon as Arm finds out [which] products are below 25%, those products will be OK to ship to Huawei," the SoftBank chief said, in his first public comments on Arm-Huawei relations.

The BBC in May reported that Arm had told employees to stop "all active contracts, support entitlements and any pending engagements" with Huawei to comply with recently introduced U.S. export controls.

Son was speaking at his first public appearance in Taiwan, in a debate on future technology in a world dominated by the U.S. and China, the Group of Two. He had been invited by Foxconn founder and friend, Terry Gou, who this week stepped down as chairman of the iPhone assembler to run for the Taiwanese presidency.

Foxconn Technology Group Founder Terry Gou invites SoftBank Founder Masayoshi Son, and former Flextronics CEO Michael E. Marks to join a panel to discuss how Industry should act amid US-China trade tension on Saturday. (Photo by Chen Ting-Fang)

Gou, speaking at the forum, suggested that a technological divide between the U.S. and China was now inevitable as Beijing and Washington fought a bitter trade war. He said the U.S. would define its own standards for next generation wireless technology, 5G, as China’s Huawei Technologies already dominated the global standard.

The Foxconn founder said he had been asked by the U.S. president to produce domestic technology in the company's Wisconsin factory. 

"When I met President Donald Trump at the White House, he asked me to do 5G in the complex... the U.S.’s 5G system will definitely be different from China,”Gou said. 

The founder of Foxconn, who is now running for opposition Kuomintang’s primary for presidency, said Taiwanese companies do not take side and they could do business with both the U.S. and China. 

"There’s no reason for us to push Huawei away, we are hardware companies not operating system providers," Gou said. "The world will have two specs and Taiwan should be able to accept the two. Our [Taiwan] opportunity is to have the bread buttered on the both sides."

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