Boris Johnson joins final push to convince ‘crown jewel’ of UK tech to list in London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined final calls to help convince the ‘crown jewel’ of the UK tech industry, chip designer Arm, to list in London.

Concerns around the potential damage an overseas listing for Arm are growing in parliament.

Ministers and executives from the London Stock Exchange launched a charm offensive to persuade Arm’s Japanese owner SoftBank to rethink its strong preference for listing in New York, the default destination for the world’s biggest tech groups, according to the Financial Times.

Despite the push from Westminster, there is widespread recognition that the chance of convincing Arm to IPO away from New York are slimming.

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son has previously described New York’s Nasdaq exchange as “the most suitable” as it is “at the centre of global high-tech”.

Arm has previously listed in London before SoftBank acquired it in 2016 for £24.6 billion.

Westminster fears the repercussions of Arm ditching a potential IPO could be detrimental to the tech sector and the country’s ability to foster new tech firms.

Arm logo
READ MORE: Arm to axe up to 1,000 jobs after Nvidia takeover falls through

“There is an enormous amount of effort being made,” a source told the Financial Times.

“They don’t get any bigger than Arm and it would be a big hit to take if they left. It would be a very negative signal if they don’t choose to list here.”

Johnson has written to SoftBank executives, with the lobbying initiatives stretching across a number of government departments, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), Treasury, business department as well as Downing Street, the Financial Times reported.

The former Barclays chair Gerry Grimstone and digital minister Chris Philp are leading the lobbying efforts.

“There is a political impetus to win Arm for London,” a person familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.

“The government is trying to foster tech subsectors — Arm is in a very relevant sector and is also politically sensitive.”

Former Prime Minister Theresa May allowed the takeover of Arm in 2016 after SoftBank agreed to keep jobs in the UK, despite an overriding feeling that the UK was losing one of its most valuable corporate crown jewels.

SoftBank is hoping to return Arm to the public markets following the collapse of a planned $66 billion sale to California-based tech giant Nvidia earlier this year after competition regulators blocked the deal.

A government spokesperson declined to comment on individual cases, but told the Financial Times: “We want to make the UK the most attractive place for innovative businesses to grow and raise capital.”

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