Morning Blast: Arm Files for IPO; Elon Musk Gets New Yorker'ed

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It was only a matter of time after Nvidia’s failed $40 billion acquisition of chip designer Arm before the U.K.-based company found another way to raise money. The Federal Trade Commission had made it abundantly clear that no deep-pocketed Arm customer would be allowed to buy the company. The potential list of buyers included Apple, Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Samsung.

Nvidia and Softbank tossed in the towel, costing Nvidia $1.36 billion in a breakup fee, in February 2022. Since then, Softbank has been pumping an initial public offering for Arm that would value the chip designer at somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 billion to $70 billion. Softbank owns 75% of Arm, and its Vision Fund II owns the rest. The IPO would include some 12% to 15% of Arm to raise $8 billion to $10 billion. Softbank paid $32 billion in 2016 to acquire Arm.

In a preliminary prospectus (on Form F-1) filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Monday, Arm revealed that the U. S. IPO would come in the form of American depositary shares (ADSs) at a ratio of one ADS per one common share of Arm. Arm has also applied to Nasdaq for the right to use the ticker symbol ARM.

Arm has provided summary financial data for the past three fiscal years. Sales rose by nearly a third between 2021 and 2022 but dipped about 1% in the 2023 fiscal year that ended in March. The company reported cash on hand of $2.22 billion and total assets worth $6.87 billion at the end of March. Total liabilities amount to $2.82 billion.

Even though its revenue dipped slightly in 2023, the company reported that it shipped some 30,583 chips during the fiscal year, a fraction of the 30 billion chips shipped that use Arm technology, for which the company is paid a royalty.

In other news, The New Yorker magazine has published a long investigative piece by Ronan Farrow titled “Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule,” describing how the founder and CEO of Tesla, founder and board chair of SpaceX, and new owner of Twitter (aka, X) has managed to make himself indispensable to the U.S. government, and, more to the point, how Musk has gained enormous influence in U.S. policy.

Farrow’s story begins with a threat from Musk to shut down the Starlink satellite network he had provided to Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion unless the Pentagon began paying a bill that Starlink’s owner, SpaceX, claimed ran to $400 million a year. To demonstrate that SpaceX was serious, the Starlink network, which Ukraine’s armed forces used for battlefield communication, stopped working when those forces crossed the southern border of the country during a battle. That’s a lot of influence over government policy.

In reporting the story, Farrow described one incident with a Pentagon official that demonstrates just how much juice Musk has:

One Pentagon spokesman said that he was keeping Musk apprised of my inquiries about his role in Ukraine and would grant an interview with an official about the matter only with Musk’s permission. “We’ll talk to you if Elon wants us to,” he told me. In a podcast interview last year, Musk was asked whether he has more influence than the American government. He replied immediately, “In some ways.” Reid Hoffman [co-founder of PayPal with Musk] told me that Musk’s attitude is “like Louis XIV: ‘L’état, c’est moi.’

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