No one in Silicon Valley wants to be called a “chip company” these days. Qualcomm, which makes the processors found in many Android phones and iPhone modems, describes itself as a “platform company”. Intel, once proudly “inside” most of the world’s PCs, now positions itself as a “data company”. Nvidia, whose soaring share price has made it one of the best-performing stocks of any sector in the past two years, describes its graphical processors as “amplifying human intelligence”, thanks to their growing role in deep learning research.
Yet just as quickly as semiconductor companies are trying to rebrand themselves as something else, dealmakers are rushing into the sector. Since 2015, the chip sector has seen more than $150bn-worth of mergers and acquisitions — and that was before Broadcom chief Hock Tan made his bold $130bn move on Qualcomm this month.
Broadcom is the product of several of those deals, not least its $37bn buyout by the smaller Avago in 2015, which retained its target’s name.