How Apple Uses Its Cash to Keep the Latest Technology for Itself


Apple had just over $65 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of the last fiscal quarter, according to the company's quarterly filing (PDF). Apple has so much cash, it was pointed out last month, that its cash on hand exceeds the market capitalization of Nokia, RIM, HTC and Motorola Mobility combined. If Apple had no revenue, its cash-on-hand would sustain operations through the middle of 2018, more than seven years.

What's Apple doing with all that cash? An anonymous writer on the Q&A site Quora opines that the company uses the money to small-scale strategic advantage, purchasing entire factories for suppliers and using that leverage to guarantee supply of components for Apple -- and no one else:
Apple has access to new component technology months or years before its rivals. This allows it to release groundbreaking products that are actually impossible to duplicate. Remember how for up to a year or so after the introduction of the iPhone, none of the would-be iPhone clones could even get a capacitive touchscreen to work as well as the iPhone's? It wasn't just the software - Apple simply has access to new components earlier, before anyone else in the world can gain access to it in mass quantities to make a consumer device. One extraordinary example of this is the aluminum machining technology used to make Apple's laptops - this remains a trade secret that Apple continues to have exclusive access to and allows them to make laptops with (for now) unsurpassed strength and lightness.
This past January, Apple COO Tim Cook said something similar on the Q1 earnings call:
On the operational side of the house, as you probably remember, we've historically entered into certain agreements with different people to secure supply and other benefits. And the largest one in the recent past has been we signed a deal with several Flash suppliers back at the end of 2005 that totaled over $1 billion because we anticipated that Flash would become increasingly important across our entire product line and increasingly important to the industry. And so we wanted to secure supply for the company, and we think that, that was an absolutely fantastic use of Apple's cash. And we constantly look for more of these.
It is thought that Apple made another one of these deals earlier this year, agreeing to spend $3.9 billion on LCD panels. It was rumored that RIM's iPad competitor, the PlayBook, was delayed because RIM couldn't acquire enough LCD panels for production. Apple feels these payments are "very strategic" and a good use of their capital.

However, not everyone is impressed with this line of reasoning. One fund manager, Christopher Bonavico at Delaware investments, said Apple is "destroying value" by sitting on so much cash, and complained that the cash is "earning near zero". Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi said the cash pile has "been beyond the point of being rational for a while now."

Apple, for its part, seems perfectly happy to sit on the cash, which allows it to quickly make large purchases when strategically necessary.

Hat tip to Gizmodo, Chart from Asymco



Top Rated Comments

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101 months ago
Sounds like a good business plan to me. It's got to be frustrating for Apple's competitors, but there's never been anyone telling them they can't do the same thing. RIM was the market leader for quite some time but they never thought to use their money wisely like this.

The author mentioned an analyst that states Apple's cash is earning near zero and therefore must be dumped. That guy is an idiot. Apple's cash is what allows the company to buy in massive quantities and lock up segments of the market before anyone else can touch them. It may not be earning returns in conventional ways, but to say the cash isn't working for them is just plain stupid.

Besides all that, a company with no debt is a company with few worries. Very smart business.
Rating: 22 Votes
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101 months ago
A company saving its money.. how devastating..
Rating: 16 Votes
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101 months ago
Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi said the cash pile has "been beyond the point of being rational for a while now."

Apple's success is also beyond the point of general conception. Way beyond.

You're forgiven, Tony. Seriously.
Rating: 11 Votes
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101 months ago
Non-monopolistic business models

This is not monopolism. It's dependent on one thing: Apple's products being market-creating. That depends on the engineers. Of course, anybody can play the same game, but its competitors insist on playing the other one: let's make something that's really close to what Apple has shown there's a big market for. Copy, copy, copy. (I don't know or care about the legal issues, but it's the business issues -- who do you want to work for, the company that made up the iPod, the iPhone and iPad, or one of the many, many imitators?
Rating: 10 Votes
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101 months ago

From an investor point of view it could be frustrating. You are investing money in a company, and that company is just holding onto that money as cash. Most companies want to have some % of their expenses in cash for various uses. Having too much money can make investors upset.

But, Apple is not a standard company, so they can play by different rules in the stock market.


Technically, no one is investing money in Apple. They maybe buying existing shares in Apple, but they are not actually investing a dime in Apple's business, they are merely buying a share of the business.

And when you buy a share in Apple, you are simply buying the share off of another Apple shareholder, you are not buying the share from Apple. So technically your cash is not being held onto by Apple.
Rating: 8 Votes
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101 months ago
Terrible Article Title

"... uses its cash to keep latest technology to itself"? What a sensationalist, misleading choice of words. How about "wisely leverages large cash reserves to develop new technology and give itself a competitive edge"?
Rating: 7 Votes
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101 months ago
:apple: like a boss :apple:
Rating: 6 Votes
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101 months ago

A company saving its money.. how devastating..


Yep, I think we let Apple take a stab at the US government's debt issue. It won't happen, and I doubt anyone at Apple would want to touch it with a ten foot pole, but they must know something about money that escapes our wonderful elected officials in DC.
Rating: 6 Votes
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101 months ago

From an investor point of view it could be frustrating. You are investing money in a company, and that company is just holding onto that money as cash. Most companies want to have some % of their expenses in cash for various uses. Having too much money can make investors upset.

But, Apple is not a standard company, so they can play by different rules in the stock market.


Massively out performing the competition can make investors happy. What they are doing is working. Any investor that comes in and starts telling them to change their game plan is a moron.

As a stockholder, I don't think it's out of line to ask Apple to give back some of that money through dividends. A large strategic reserve is definitely beneficial. But continuing to stockpile cash past any reasonable limit is just a waste.


Dividends are for non growth companies. If Apple ever starts handing out dividends, it is time to run.

The fund managers basically control Apple's share price, so if Apple doesn't do what the fund managers want, they'll just punish long-term shareholders indefinitely. Most of the fund managers don't see any point in holding onto cash and they also don't believe that Apple has any long-term growth either. Individual Apple shareholders look to be facing a huge problem with institutions controlling the share price and Apple doing whatever it feels necessary to do to enlarge its business.

I believe Apple should corner the best components money can buy to continue putting out quality products, but if Wall Street doesn't see this as an advantage (I'm not sure why they don't), then shareholders will be screwed. I guess immediate profits are the only thing that fund managers are interested in. Apple's internal long-term growth plans apparently don't suit them.


If fund managers dump Apple while it performs at it's current level, fund managers will get burned.
Rating: 6 Votes
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101 months ago
It's funny how investors can complain about how Apple does it's business buts it's how they do their business that makes them a leader. If they did things like every other company do you think they'd be where they are now?

I guess if you don't like your Apple stock you can just sell it to me.
Rating: 5 Votes
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