Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng are preparing to launch a last-ditch charm offensive to persuade Japan’s SoftBank to bring British technology company Arm into the UK.
The government will push for high-level talks with SoftBank executives after the queen’s official mourning period ends next week, according to officials familiar with the situation.
The City of London has been rocked by a series of takeover attempts by some of its biggest tech groups in recent months – including Aveva, Microfocus and GB Group – adding further pressure on the new Truss administration to show the UK can stop the erosion in its listed technology sector.
SoftBank has previously said it wants to list Arm, the Cambridge-based chip designer it acquired in 2016 for $32 billion, in New York.
However, group executives had begun discussions with UK officials about the possibility of a rare dual listing that would allow the company to be based on both sides of the Atlantic.
Such a deal would be seen as a major vote of confidence on the London stock exchange and would allow UK-focused investors and pension funds to invest in what is seen as one of Britain’s biggest tech success stories.
SoftBank officials remain more interested in pursuing a single listing in New York, where technology companies tend to command much higher valuations, according to two people briefed on their thinking.
But a person familiar with the UK government’s plans said the Truss administration saw the chance to win at least part of SoftBank’s performance as a “big and quick win” to show it was serious about the City of London’s future.
Talks between the government and SoftBank collapsed in the summer after the departure of Boris Johnson, who had been personally involved in promoting London to the Japanese firm.
Lord Gerry Grimstone, the former investment minister who led the talks before Johnson resigned as prime minister, is no longer in the government.
However, former digital services minister Chris Philp, who was also part of the lobbying efforts, now works alongside Kwarteng as chief secretary to the Treasury.
Officials warned that time is running out, however, given their expectations that SoftBank will have to decide in the next two months if it wants to stick to a timetable that will stick as early as the first quarter of next year.
A banker involved in the talks said New York was “the obvious choice,” but added that the U.S. government’s decision to block rival Nvidia’s export of advanced chips to China has prompted additional scrutiny of U.S. regulatory risks .
A person close to SoftBank executives said they were closely watching the outcome of the Conservative leadership race and were now preparing for a new push to convince them of London’s merits.
During previous talks, however, SoftBank had never been properly convinced that a UK listing was necessary, the person added, creating an uphill battle for the British government.
Securing any sort of London listing for Arm would be exploited as a statement of intent by the Truss to support the City, alongside promises of a “Big Bang 2.0” for financial services and sweeping deregulation.
The Treasury declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Leo Lewis in Tokyo