On that same cash front, Apple generated around $41.4 billion in free cash flows last year.
Here's a big differentiator, though. There are a handful of other cash-rich companies ( I wrote about some of them last month) that have been hoarding huge cash positions, but Apple has been one of the few truly good stewards of those shareholder dollars.
The biggest factor is that management has been able to push off the temptation of making big, stupid acquisitions. Sure, part of that is thanks to Apple's corporate culture -- it's much less apt to buy a new unit wholesale. But who cares why the firm is making good decisions as long as it keeps making them?
Right now, Apple's cash position makes up around 32% of its total market capitalization. Pretty soon, the company is just going to be able to buy itself.No Growth? No Way Finding growth is a big problem for Apple -- or at least that's the popular narrative right now. But Apple has been hitting some big growth milestones lately. The firm sold 17.7 million phones in the fourth quarter of 2012, surpassing Samsung for the first time to become the biggest mobile phone maker in the U.S. The firm moved 38% more phones vs. the same quarter the year before. >>5 Stocks With Big Insider Buying That's not a stalling growth story, even if it is a slowing growth story. And even though no one wanted to admit it, Apple's first-quarter earnings didn't "suck" either. The firm posted record numbers for its top and bottom line, after all. At this point, the firm doesn't need breakneck growth to justify its huge share price. It just needs to avoid imploding. What Does Suck But there's a reason why Apple is down 25% in the last six months -- and why it's trading almost $250 under its highs. The problem isn't Apple; it's AAPL. As much as some people hate to admit it, there's a difference between a company and its stock. A company is made up of products, profits and customers. A stock all comes down to supply and demand for investors. Even though the two tend to correlate pretty strongly, those fundamental and technical factors can diverge.