Apple (AAPL) has a big problem -- a $137 billion problem, in fact. To be specific, that's how much the $408 billion tech giant held in cash and investments on its balance sheet as of the most recent quarter. Normally, cash isn't a problem for a company, but in Apple's case, the firm's cash is burdensome because management is having difficulty earning a meaningful return on that enormous war chest. That makes another dividend hike look inevitable right now, even if too many investors believe that Apple is doomed right now.
For those who don't know, Apple is the company behind the wildly popular iPod, iPhone, iPad and Macintosh lines. The firm also operates the most profitable retail stores in the industry and the biggest music distributor in the world in iTunes. Investors have had a hard time separating Apple the company from Apple the stock -- but make no mistake, there's a huge difference between the two.In spite of Apple's horrific share price trajectory, the firm's fundamentals have continued to improve at an admirable pace. A single-digit P/E multiple and around 33% of the firm's market capitalization covered by cash mean that AAPL's valuation is teetering on the edge of lunacy in 2013. With few options other than to dish out cash in the form of share buybacks and dividends, investors should expect a hike for Apple's $2.65 quarterly payout in the near term.
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