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Owner of UK chip designer Arm says London still in running for flotation

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<span>Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

The Japanese owner of the British chip designer Arm has said London is still in the running for the company’s upcoming stock market listing, after intensive lobbying to bring the initial public offering to the UK.

The chairman and chief executive of SoftBank Group, Masayoshi Son, told shareholders at the investment giant’s annual meeting that the US’s tech-focused Nasdaq stock exchange was still his “main preference”.

However, he also stressed that no decision had been made, and he was also “studying” a London listing.

“We have received requests from various people in the UK to list our company in London,” Son said at SoftBank’s annual general meeting, as reported by the Nikkei news service.

“We are receiving strong love calls. Our main preference is Nasdaq, but we have not decided yet. I would like to study some more and make a final decision.”

It has emerged that the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, joined lobbying efforts by government officials and executives from the London Stock Exchange to try to persuade Arm to float in London, culminating in Johnson writing a letter to SoftBank bosses.

Arm has more than 500 clients that use its chip designs, including Apple, Samsung and Google, in products ranging from iPads and mobile phones to cars and smart TVs, and analysts have estimated that the company could be worth up to $40bn (£32.1bn) when it goes public.

Son has previously snubbed London for the Arm flotation, saying in February: “The Nasdaq stock exchange in the US, which is at the centre of global hi-tech, would be most suitable”.

The UK government has been trying to make London more attractive to tech companies, including through the controversial decision last year to give founders more control, through dual-class share structures and by slashing the number of shares required to be offered to the public to only 10%.

SoftBank, which bought the Cambridge-based chip company for $32bn in 2016, has been looking to list Arm since its potential $66bn sale to the US-based Nvidia collapsed earlier this year after regulatory hurdles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Son has invested in a host of companies in recent years, including the ride-sharing app Uber, and – famously – the office space company WeWork, which pushed the Japanese investment firm to a 704bn yen (£5bn) quarterly loss.

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