Malcolm Graham
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Why Apple’s real cash pile is 99% smaller than you think

You’re one of millions of loyal Apple stockholders. And if there’s anything you love more than your new iPhone 6s, it’s the huge $203 billion in spare cash that the company says is sitting in its bank accounts.

That’s the number widely reported in the media.

It’s the number that appears on Page 8 of the company’s most recent quarterly financial report.

It’s a record cash pile for any American company.

It’s a $50 billion increase in the past 12 months alone.

And it’s equal to $36 per share, a juicy amount for shares you can buy for around .

There’s just one problem: That spare cash is mostly an illusion, even a shell game, as a new report has just confirmed. In reality, the amount of spare cash that Apple has on its balance sheet is a tiny fraction of that.

Actually, it’s about the same as the estimated net worth of its CEO, Tim Cook.

© Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

First, Apple’s nominal cash hoard includes an astonishing $181.1 billion held offshore in tax shelters to avoid paying Uncle Sam, as Citizens for Tax Justice, a think tank, points out in new report published on Tuesday.

It’s easy to say, “Oh, that’s just a claim by some liberal think tank.” But the real source of the number is Apple itself, which reports the same figure on Page 31 of its most recent quarterly report.

Citizens for Tax Justice is taking aim at tax avoidance by U.S. corporations across the board, not merely targeting Apple, and its report will be discussed most keenly by all those interested in politics or economics.

But it also has deep implications for those interested in finance, and especially those with stock in Apple.

As the CTJ report observes, Apple would have to pay about $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to repatriate that money. So if it ever tried to return the cash to investors, through dividends or stock buybacks, it would lose a third of the money in taxes first.

OK, the company says it has no plans to bring the money back to the U.S. But so long as the stock is beyond the reach of U.S. tax authorities, it is also beyond the reach of investors. And that makes it much less valuable, and significant, for stockholders.

And that’s not the only bad news.

Apple’s balance sheet also reveals that it owes $147.5 billion in debts, accounts payable and other liabilities, plus another $31.5 billion in “off-balance-sheet” liabilities such as leases and purchasing commitments.

When you add it all up, Apple’s spare cash is a tiny, tiny fraction of the $203 billion reported.

What’s the true figure?

We’ll get updated numbers when the company reports its fourth-quarter results Oct. 27.

But as of June 30, Apple had $239 billion in liquid assets — including that $203 billion in cash, inventories, accounts receivables and so on — and owed $179 billion in liabilities, including everything “on” and “off” the balance sheet.

And then it would have to pay $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to return the cash to investors.

Put it all together, and the amount left over is just $800 million.

That’s not $36 per share.

It’s 14 cents.

Ouch.

hotapplenews.com