Uncle Sam orders Nvidia to cease most AI chip sales in China 'immediately'

Chipmaker thought it had 30 days to get last few orders out the door

Restrictions on the export high-performance AI accelerators to China have already gone into effect, Nvidia informed investors in a Monday regulatory filing.

Last week, the Biden Administration further restricted the GPUs and AI accelerators for which it will issue export licenses to countries of concern — mainly China but also countries who are suspected of assisting illicit tech sales. These rules were originally slated to go into effect 30 days after publication, but it appears Uncle Sam is moving forward with uncharacteristic speed.

In an 8K filing released on Monday, Nvidia advised it has received notice from the US Government that the rules governing the sale of AI chips to China were "effective immediately, impacting shipments of the company’s A100, A800, H100, H800, and L40S products."

Notably missing from this list is Nvidia's RTX 4090, the company’s mightiest gaming GPU. While the export controls are largely targeted at datacenter products, there are rules to prevent the highest performance consumer GPUs from being sold in China without license. Nvidia in its initial SEC filing warned that sales of the RTX 4090 in China would likely be impacted by sanctions.

While sale of the A100 and H100 kit in China was already restricted under the previous round of export controls, Nvidia expected it would be allowed to continue selling its less powerful A800, H800, and L40S GPUs in China for a little while longer.

Nvidia declined to comment on the decision, or why the RTX 4090 wasn't included in the list of affected GPUs this time around.

Last week, silicon-focussed analyst house Trend Force predicted Nvidia may attempt to maximise the number of GPUS allocated to Chinese customers before the export rules went into full force.

Whether the US Department of Commerce aimed to stop that tactic by implementing the export control rules early isn't clear. We've asked the Department of Commerce for comment; we'll let you know if we hear back.

And, as we learned this summer, there are a lot of Chinese companies waiting on Nvidia GPUs. According to a Financial Times report from August, Chinese web giants, including Alibaba, Baidu, ByteDance, and Tencent, had ordered a $1 billion worth of A800s and had committed to buying another $4 billion worth of GPUs from Nvidia in 2024. It now appears most of those orders could be left unfulfilled.

Despite this change, Nvidia doesn't expect the accelerated timeline to cause too many problems for its own bottom line. "Given the strength of demand for the company's products worldwide, the Company does not anticipate that the accelerated time of the licensing requirements will have a near-term meaningful impact on its financial results," the SEC filing reads.

As The Register has explored at length, the latest round of export restrictions aren't limited to Nvidia. Intel and AMD's ability to sell high-end AI accelerators and GPUs in China is also likely impacted by the rules.

The Register asked Intel and AMD to see if they'd received similar notices; we'll let you know if we hear anything back. Both companies are due to report their Q3 earnings reports later this month. We may hear more on the impact of these restrictions then. ®

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