World's richest company: Apple's cash pile now tops a quarter of a trillion US dollars

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Out of all the financial figures Apple threw around when it reported its second-quarter earnings on Tuesday (May 2), one number will arguably stick the most in people's minds - its US$$250 billion (S$348.4 billion) cash hoard.

To be accurate, Apple's cash pile swelled to US$$256.8 billion by the end of March of 2017. That mind-boggling sum makes the iPhone maker the richest company in the world.

Here are other interesting nuggets about Apple's treasure chest:

1. Its cash hoard is bigger than the GDP of 150 countries, including Finland (US$232.4 billion), New Zealand (US$173.8 billion) and Hungary (US$121.7 billion).

2. Apple doubled its cash pile in just over 4½ years. In the last three months of 2016, it racked up new cash at a rate of about US$3.6 million an hour.

3. Apple has more cash than the US$126 million stockpile of Microsoft, the next richest tech company.

4. Over 90 per cent of Apple's cash is stockpiled outside of the US, in countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg and Ireland.

5. US companies, many of them tech giants like Apple and Google, have accumulated over US$2 trillion in cash overseas to avoid paying US corporate taxes, whose top rate of 35 per cent is one of the highest in the world.

6. US President Donald Trump has proposed slashing business taxes and a one-time tax holiday to bring that cash home. Should he succeed, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the company will consider bringing back most of its overseas cash. That will ratchet up pressure on Apple to make big acquisitions or dole out more money to shareholders.

7. Apple's Tim Cook has already returned over US$200 billion to shareholders since 2012. On Tuesday, he stepped up the pace, announcing an additional US$50 billion for dividends and share buybacks.

8. Apple could make more and bigger acquisitions after largely choosing to grow organically by inventing new products. Apple's biggest deal so far has been its US$3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics in 2014 - peanuts in comparison to its cash hoard.

9. But analysts are speculating that Apple might target Netflix (valued at US$65 billion) or Tesla Motors (worth US$51 billion), given its long interest in television and, more recently, in self-driving cars.

10. There is even talk Apple might go for a really big one - Walt Disney Co - a giant worth about US$250 billion. An Apple-Disney merger would create the world's first company worth US$1 trillion. It would also bring together some of the world's most successful brands in technology and entertainment - the iPhone, iPad, Mac computer, Mickey Mouse, Disneyland, Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, TheStreet, AP

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