Apple probably has a quarter of a trillion in cash

Posted at 1:46 PM, May 01, 2017

When Apple releases its earnings on Tuesday, tech junkies will be looking for clues about the next iPhone and any mention of other new products. Will the new iPhone be called the 8? The 10 or X in honor of its tenth anniversary? Will it come in red?

But Wall Street will be watching something else even more closely — Apple’s growing pile of cash.

It is likely Apple will report more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in cash and investments on its balance sheet for the first time ever. Apple had a little more than $240 billion as of the end of December.

Apple’s stack of Franklins, Grants and Jacksons has steadily grown over the past few years. Five years ago, Apple had “just” $110.2 billion in cash.

And Apple has increasingly stashed away its cash overseas for tax purposes. Apple CFO Luca Maestri said in February that $230 billion of its cash was held abroad.

But there are growing hopes that Apple might soon be able to bring back, or repatriate, this cash to the United States at a one-time lower tax rate if President Trump is able to get his tax plan through Congress.

Apple could use the cash to hire more workers, build more plants, make acquisitions, repurchase stock and boost its dividend. Some argue that if Apple and other tech giants were allowed to bring back cash to the U.S., it could stimulate the entire economy.

To put into context just how much money $250 billion really is, consider the following.

Apple’s cash, if it were its own company, would be the 12th largest firm in the S&P 500.

Besides Apple, Google owner Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and General Electric have market valuations higher than $250 billion.

And Apple’s cash is worth only slightly less than all of GE.

It’s also worth more than well-known blue chips AT&T, Walmart, Home Depot, Coca-Cola and Disney. (AT&T is in the process of acquiring CNNMoney owner Time Warner. By the way, Apple’s cash is worth more than three times Time Warner’s market value.)

Apple’s pot of gold, so to speak, is also worth more than Bank of America, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Visa, Verizon and Comcast.

Want more mind-boggling comparisons? $250 billion in cash is about 10 times the market value of Snapchat parent Snap. It is 3.5 times the valuation of Uber, and 20 times that of Twitter.

It’s also nearly 50 times the market cap of BlackBerry, the former king of mobile phones and a company that has arguably become mostly obsolete in large part due to Apple and the smartphone revolution it helped create.

As Matt Damon famously said in “Good Will Hunting” — How do you like them Apples?