Apple Inc. Holds 30 Times More Cash Than It Did In 2004

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares might not be giving investors a reason to make merry, but the amount of cash that the iPhone maker is piling does present a big trust factor. According to a note from Moody’s Investors Service, Apple is at the top spot when it comes to U.S. companies stockpiling cash.

Apple has most cash reserves

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) presently holds $158.8 billion in cash, which is almost 30 times the amount it had in 2004, when the iPhone maker had just $5.46 billion in cash reserves. The Cupertino-based firm accounts for 9.7% of total corporate cash outside the financial sector.

Other tech firms are also on the list when it comes to stockpiling cash. Apart from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), next in the list of cash rich companies are Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Verizon.

In total, tech firms held $309 billion more in cash by the end of 2013 than in 2009, which represents 53% of the increase for all non-finance companies. For all U.S. companies, the cash pile comes to $1.64 trillion at the end of 2013.

More cash stacked overseas

Technology firms have socked away $450 billion overseas, which is 47% of the total corporate cash pile held outside the U.S. It’s been a general trend now with companies to transfer their cash to low-tax countries. U.S. based multinational companies now have $1.95 trillion cash outside the States, which is an increase of 11.8% from last year, according to securities filings from 307 corporations reviewed by Bloomberg News. Three U.S. tech firms; Microsoft Corp., Apple and International Business Machines Corp contributed $37.5 billion or 18.2% of the total increase.

According to Moody’s, capital spending and dividend payouts were at the seven year highs last year while spending on share repurchases and acquisition declined.

Pros and cons of excess cash reserves

Having more cash in reserve could help companies get better credit ratings, and provides a shield against short term disruptions in capital markets. Some risks are also associated with more cash reserves, like attracting activist shareholders, which could result in lower credit rating. Also, activist investors could pressure the company to make risky decisions, such as expensive acquisitions.

A similar case happened with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), when activist investor Carl Icahn accused the iPhone maker of not returning enough cash to the shareholders. Later, Icahn dropped the proposal after Apple increased its share buyback program.

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