We’ve known for a while that Apple controls a massive hoard of cash, but it’s occasionally hard to put into context just how much money Apple’s coffers represent. According to new numbers from Moody’s, it’s really big, with a few caveats.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Apple’s $147 billion in total cash reserves (both domestic and overseas) represent 10 percent of all U.S. corporate cash, excluding cash held by financial institutions.
Microsoft is a distant second, holding $77 billion in its coffers. Google, Cisco and Pfizer are the third, fourth and fifth richest non-financial companies, respectively. Tech companies make up a massive chunk of the most wealthy companies not just because they’re making a lot of money (they are) but also because it’s easy for them to base their financial operations in low-tax countries like Ireland in order to avoid U.S. corporate taxes.
That also makes the numbers more complicated. Since most of Apple’s cash ($102 billion, according to numbers released in May) is held overseas, they can’t just repatriate that willy-nilly. Actually bringing that money back into the U.S. would mean exposing themselves to a massive tax liability, which is why the company is perfectly happy to let it continue to sit and grow overseas.
The same thing goes for most (if not all) the other corporations on the list, which each have their own separate mix of overseas and domestic cash. That means that actually making a true apples-to-apples comparison is fairly difficult.
If there’s one thing we can take out of all this, though, it’s that Apple and companies like it have a whole lot of money sitting around, and they have a massive profit incentive to keep holding on to it.
[This post has been updated since it was originally published.]
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.