Thanks to the ever-complicated nature of the US tax code, Apple — the most profitable company in history this past quarter — is planning to issue $5 billion in bonds to pay for their ongoing stock repurchasing program and dividends. Yes, Apple, the company that made an eye-watering $18.04 billion in profit last quarter, is looking to borrow money.
Here's exactly what Apple told the SEC they'll do with the money:
(yep, blank billion dollars)
The bonds would mature in 5-to-30 years. A 10-year bond would be expected to have a yield about 0.95 percentage points higher than one issued by the United States Treasury today.
But why would Apple, with $179 billion in cash on hand, want to borrow a measly $5 billion? It all boils down to taxes — much of Apple's cash is stored with overseas subsidiaries in places like Ireland (Apple is in no way unique among international corporations in this regard), and bringing it back to the United States to spend on things like stock repurchases and dividends would see that cash hit with a a 35% tax. Which, understandably, Apple would like to avoid.
Many in industry and government have pushed for an overseas tax holiday as a way to bring that money back to the US at a reduced tax rate, but such ideas have generally floundered at becoming actual law. Most recently, President Barack Obama proposed levying a one-time tax on these overseas holdings anyway, an idea that's drawn substantial criticism from both sides of the aisle and questions about how exactly the US government would tax earnings that are technically outside its jurisdiction. In the meantime, Apple's borrowing money here because it costs them less in interest than trying to use the money they have over there.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.