Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s $216 Billion Cash Pile Is Not What It Seems

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Apple released its latest earnings report on Tuesday, detailing again a giant cash pile as Chief Executive Tim Cook continued to boast about having “the mother of all balance sheets.” However, in reality, the cash pile is not as big as it looks, says a report from MarketWatch.

Apple has no real cash

Market watchers are very fascinated by the fact that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has more than $215 billion in reserve, and they believe the cash-rich firm will probably go on an acquisition spree or buy back more of its stock.

In contrast, on the conference call Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri promised that the company plans on going further into debt. This left many wondering why. The reason is because the huge cash pile the company has been talking about is not actually cash, nor is it “on hand.” Above all, it does not even take the company’s debt into account.

Apple’s balance sheet states that it has about $16.7 billion in cash and equivalents. The company has stashed the majority of the assets in its reserve in long-term marketable securities, indicating that it plans to let those funds earn interest for a term longer than a year. Such funds roughly amount to $177.7 billion, the report says.

More importantly, all its cash and securities and proceeds from sales outside the U.S. are stashed overseas, suggesting that the company won’t bring them back so as to avoid the huge amount of taxes it would be required to pay in the U.S. On Tuesday, Maestri informed investors that a whopping $200 billion of its reserves, or 93%, are overseas. Cook expressly said that if Apple tries to bring that cash home, it will have to sacrifice 40% of the amount, and this is something it will not do.

Debt in home, surplus overseas

Apple has its cash and securities piling up overseas, but in the U.S., it is piling up the debt. The company’s long-term debt obligations are about $53.2 billion, and its non-current liabilities amount to $32.2 billion. This is after executing a series of bond sales. The cash promised to its shareholders is not included in those debts, and the company mostly uses its bond sales for financing them, the report says.

In fourth quarter of 2015, Apple spent more than $8.8 billion on stock repurchases and dividends, and now it is a little more than three-quarters of the way through its $200 billion capital return program. The company has promised another $47 billion to shareholders. To meet such needs, the company plans to take on more debt.

“We also plan to be very active in the U.S. and international debt markets in 2016 in order to fund our capital return activities,” Maestri said.

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