Peter Mandelson calls on Brussels to block Nvidia-ARM chip merger

Brussels should intervene and block the acquisition of Britain’s tech jewel ARM by U.S. chip giant Nvidia, according to Peter Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner and former U.K. business minister.

Mandelson argued that Brexit should play no role in the EU’s calculus and sent a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in which he mapped out what he saw as the broader strategic importance of keeping ARM within a European commercial eco-system.

“ARM is a major European asset, the question of its future ownership is of utmost importance to … Europe’s industrial policy,” Mandelson told POLITICO in an interview.

“The only people who have the ability and the political will to stand up against this acquisition on competition grounds are in Europe,” he said. “Brexit is completely irrelevant, it transcends Brexit. It’s a question of Europe’s technological sovereignty, not just Britain.”

Mandelson, who was one of the big hitters in the British Labour Party, is now chairman of a consulting company, but insisted he wrote to von der Leyen in a personal capacity and that he had no stakes in the deal.

Nvidia last month said it is offering $40 billion to acquire ARM, a U.K.-based chip designer that licenses more than 500 companies with the designs of chips embedded in billions of processors. These companies include U.S. tech giants like Intel, Qualcomm, Apple and Nvidia, but also European chip-makers such as STMicroelectronics and NXP Semiconductors.

It is unclear whether competition authorities will investigate the deal, but Europe’s probe would be of particular importance, according to Mandelson.

“I am not sure Britain has the strength to act alone … It doesn’t suit the tactic of the British government” to oppose such a deal while seeking a free-trade agreement with the United States,

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