WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of a fellow chip company, Arm, halting what would be the biggest semiconductor industry deal in history, as federal regulators push to rein in corporate consolidation.
The F.T.C. said the deal between Nvidia, which makes chips, and Arm, which licenses chip technology, would stifle competition and harm consumers. The proposed deal would give Nvidia control over computing technology and designs that rival firms rely on to develop competing chips.
“Tomorrow’s technologies depend on preserving today’s competitive, cutting-edge chip markets,” said Holly Vedova, the director of the F.T.C.’s competition bureau. “This proposed deal would distort Arm’s incentives in chip markets and allow the combined firm to unfairly undermine Nvidia’s rivals.”
Federal antitrust regulators have promised greater scrutiny of mergers and a clamp down on monopolies in a push to reinvigorate competition in the economy. The action against the deal is the first major merger decision by the Federal Trade Commission under the leadership of Lina Khan, a critic of big corporate mergers and monopolies in technology. Ms. Khan is among a slew of top antitrust officials picked by President Biden to rein in the power of Silicon Valley giants.
promised to break open gas, telecom and pharmaceutical markets to bring down consumer prices at the gas pump and for home internet and prescriptions. Last month, the Justice Department sued to stop Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the United States, from acquiring its rival Simon & Schuster.
In a statement, Nvidia said it would contest the F.T.C. lawsuit. “We will continue to work to demonstrate that this transaction will benefit the industry and promote competition.”
The F.T.C. suit, if successful, would not have much immediate financial impact on Nvidia or Arm. Shares in Nvidia rose slightly in aftermarket trading.
But a successful suit would be a blow to Nvidia’s ambitions to play a more central role in shaping the direction of the computer industry — particularly in the field of artificial intelligence.
Arm, a British company that the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank bought in 2016, licenses designs for microprocessors and other technology that other companies use in their semiconductors. Its technology has been wildly successful, providing the calculating functions in essentially all smartphones and many other devices. Arm recently estimated its technology is used in about 25 billion chips per year.