How Much Cash Does Apple Really Have?

| About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Commentators sometimes make exaggerated remarks about the amount of cash Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) holds. The figure often cited is that Apple has about $80 billion in cash. That's not quite right, but this is how they arrive at that number.

According to the company's recently filed 10-K, Apple actually has $9.8 billion in cash and cash equivalents. It also holds another $16.1 billion in short-term marketable securities. Although these securities are not exactly cash, they can be converted into cash rather quickly if needed. Including short-term marketable securities in the mix is not unusual. So that brings us to about $26 billion. In addition to this, Apple also has $55.6 billion invested in long-term marketable securities. These securities are less cash-like than short-term marketable securities. It is true that they could be sold and converted into cash, but so could any long-term asset. It isn't quite right to classify long-term assets, even the ones that are marketable, as cash. Nonetheless, the total of cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities (both short and long term) does come out $81.6 billion, or approximately $87.70 per share of outstanding common stock. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of dough.

Where is all this money invested? Apple holds U.S. Treasury and agency securities, foreign government securities, certificates of deposit, commercial paper, corporate securities, and municipal securities. The company's 10-K states that in fiscal 2011, the entire amount earned a weighted average interest rate of 0.77%! Can Apple find no better use for this money? Perhaps a dividend is in order.

By the way, Apple says $54.3 billion of the total is held by foreign subsidiaries. This money would be subject to U.S. taxes of as much as 35% if Apple ever tried to repatriate it. But the tax would not end there. If Apple repatriated the money and then paid a dividend, shareholders would have to pay an additional tax. Is it any wonder that the company is sitting on so much money earning next to nothing? It is high time for Congress to revisit this inane tax policy.