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Arm takeover critic becomes national security adviser

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A critic of Arm’s $40bn sale to the US tech titan Nvidia is advising the Government on national security as ministers assess whether the British chip maker’s sale presents a risk.

Alex Van Someren, a veteran tech investor, was appointed as the chief scientific adviser on national security this summer.

It comes as Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, weighs up whether Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm should be referred for an in-depth investigation.

Mr Van Someren worked at Acorn Computers, a precursor to Arm, and is a close associate of Acorn founder Hermann Hauser, who has vocally opposed the deal.

Mr Van Someren has previously attacked Nvidia’s takeover of Arm, calling it a “real disappointment”, and suggested it will mean US authorities having greater control over its business.

He told the website TechMonitor last year: “It shifts the balance of power away from Arm itself to the US administration.

“Nvidia is not a very appropriate receptacle for Arm. It will have extraordinary market dominance if the transaction does go through.”

The chief scientific adviser on national security is responsible for giving independent guidance to the Government on protecting the UK. Mr Van Someren is so far not believed to have been closely involved in discussions over Nvidia.

Oliver Dowden, the former culture secretary, issued a public interest notice over the acquisition in April, saying Nvidia’s takeover would be scrutinised on national security grounds.

Ms Dorries, who replaced Mr Dowden last month, is set to decide in the coming weeks whether to refer the deal to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for an in-depth national security review.

The deal is already due to be closely scrutinised on competition grounds after the CMA said that it presents significant concerns.

A dual investigation also taking in national security could raise concerns that the deal might be blocked, or that Nvidia may be forced to make concessions to push through the takeover.

Opponents of the deal have said it would mean Arm, which supplies chip designs to hundreds of customers, losing its independence and becoming subject to US export controls. The company is currently owned by Japan’s SoftBank, which took it off the FTSE 100 in 2016.

The Government did not comment on whether Mr Van Someren is advising on the deal. He was previously a managing partner at Amadeus Capital, Mr Hauser’s venture capital fund, which is an adviser in Nvidia rival Graphcore.