Did Apple Spend $2 Billion to Bail Out Sharp?
Apple analyst Horace Dediu has dug deep into Apple's 2012 capital expenditures and found some spending, above and beyond what Apple had previously disclosed. He discovered that Apple spent $2.3 billion more than it had forecast on "product tooling, manufacturing process equipment and infrastructure".
However, Apple didn't actually shell out cash for its increase in CapEx, but instead is booking vendor financing. Dediu believes it may have been to bail out Sharp, which was in dire financial straits earlier this year.
Circumstantial evidence points to the asset being production equipment (or even a whole plant) previously owned by Sharp. Sharp is a key supplier of screens to Apple but is also in financial distress. Sharp has also been the object of an intended investment by Foxconn [Hon Hai]. That deal fell through as Sharp’s finances deteriorated. My guess is that these attempts to shore up Sharp are directed by Apple to ensure both continuity of supply and a balanced supplier base (offsetting Samsung, another supplier.) If Sharp were to enter into some form of bankruptcy, the key plant(s) used in producing screens for Apple might be "up for grabs" by creditors and they might be taken off-line, jeopardizing Apple’s production capacity, irrespective of contractual obligations. I believe that Apple’s late and unprecedented expenditure was to secure this asset. I further believe that the financing for this deal was done through a swap of "pre-orders".
Dediu has much more on the spending and his analysis at Asymco.