The rogue chief executive of Arm Holdings’ Chinese division has “declared independence” from its UK parent company, an analyst has claimed, after it revealed a host of new chip designs in a bid to win over Beijing.
Allen Wu, who leads Arm China, vowed at a conference to launch breakaway designs for artificial intelligence microchips amid a feud with its Cambridge-based owner, which is one of the world’s leading chipmakers and is considered a crown jewel of British tech.
It also launched a new website under local brand name Amou Technology, stating that it plans to develop “independent architecture … to provide a diversified, customised, intelligent computing platform that meets the needs of China’s industry”.
Dylan Patel, chief analyst at the blog Semianalysis, wrote: “Arm China held an event at which they formally declared their independence.
"They proclaimed that [Amou Technology] is China’s largest CPU IP supplier. It was born from Arm, but is an independently operated, Chinese-owned company."
Arm has been locked in a dispute with Mr Wu for 14 months. It tried to sack him in June last year when the board voted seven to one in favour of his removal.
However, Mr Wu has refused to leave. Arm owns about 47pc of Arm China, having sold 51pc to Chinese investors for $775m (£564m) in 2018.
An Arm spokesman said: “Arm continues to have a successful working relationship with the Arm China team”, adding “the structure and ownership of the joint venture remains unchanged since its inception in 2018”.
An industry source said the relaunch appeared to be “marketing for an independent future”.
While Arm’s leadership has attempted to remove Mr Wu through Chinese courts, he remains de facto in charge of the Shenzhen headquartered business. Arm China and Mr Wu did not respond to requests for comment.
Arm China mostly market’s the UK company’s designs for the Chinese market, but it is understood that Arm’s management always intended for its Chinese joint venture to develop its own intellectual property that could be sold locally, despite falling out with Mr Wu.
However, local media celebrated that the Chinese business wanted to be “more independent” and planned to “focus on independent research and development”, including a new AI chip design. Mr Wu told the conference the division had “inherited Arm’s CPU business in China”.
Arm is understood to still be attempting to remove Mr Wu through legal means and negotiations.
Nvidia, the US graphics chip giant, is seeking to buy Arm in a $40bn deal that must be cleared by Chinese regulators.