Apple Inc. (AAPL) claimed some tax bragging rights on Wednesday, claiming to be the U.S.'s largest taxpayer.
The company expects to pay $38 billion on repatriated cash earnings alone. "A payment of that size would likely be the largest of its kind ever made," Apple said.
To have that big a tax bill on repatriated cash, of course, you have to have a lot of overseas cash.
Apple has not reported its year-end cash position yet, but Moody's Investors Service estimates that the company had $265 billion overseas. The company will likely return much of that to shareholders in the form of buybacks and dividends, but it could also look for acquisitions. According to long-time Apple analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures, possibilities include augmented reality company Magic Leap Inc. and exercise-bike and streaming-video outfit Peloton Interactive Inc.
The new tax bill generally calls for a one-time rate of 15.5% on cash earnings held overseas now that's repatriated, although there are some technical distinctions and offsets.
"While the formula to calculate tax liabilities is very complex in terms of foreign cash remitted or untaxed foreign earnings and different credits you have, against that what payments you may have already made, it happens to come to about 14% of what I expect their offshore cash to be," Moody's Investor Service analyst Rick Lane said.
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In its statement, Apple said that it will inject $350 billion into the U.S. economy over the next five years. Of that, $30 billion will be in capital expenditures in the U.S.
The company spends about $12 billion a year right now on capex, Lane said, though not all of that is in the U.S. For the sake of argument, if you said that half of that spending is in the U.S., Lane said, that's $6 billion a year, or $30 billion over five years.
"That's not surprising," Lane said. "They would probably have spent the money whether there was tax reform or not."
Apple is also reportedly giving all its employees below the director level a $2,500 bonus, paid in restricted stock units.
Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) , AT&T Inc. (T) and others touted bonuses and increased investment right after the Republican tax cuts were approved. AT&T said in December that it would give more than 200,000 of its non-management workers a $1,000 bonus, as well as invest an extra $1 billion, while Comcast said it will pay $1,000 bonuses to more than 100,000 workers, and invest $50 billion over the next five years. The company was already on track for about $10 billion in capital expenditures in 2017, according to FactSet.
Apple will likely juice up its dividend a little bit, buy back stock more aggressively and pay down debt.
"We don't expect this infusion of U.S. cash to change Apple's capital allocation strategy, and believe share buybacks will be the primary use of funds," wrote Gene Munster on Wednesday.
Apple will boost buybacks by $70 billion over the next three years, Munster suggested. The Cupertino, Calif, company will pay a special $12 billion dividend and increase dividends by $10 billion over four years.
"We don't expect any big M&A deals above $5B, but see the company continuing to do tuck-in deals and invest in their supply chain," Munster argued.
Augmented reality company Magic Leap Inc. could be a target, Munster suggested. Backed by Alibaba Group Holdings Holding Ltd. (BABA) and Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google, among others, Magic Leap would be pricey by Apple's standards. Munster put the company's valuation at $5.5 billion, nearly double Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats headphones in 2014.
Exercise-bike and streaming-exercise-class outfit Peloton Interactive Inc. would be another possibility, according to Munster. "This reminds us of Beats -- hardware that adds to the lineup and, most importantly, a services play that would also expand the Watch/fitness data platform," Munster wrote.
While Apple will have more cash immediately at its disposal, lining up financing had never been an issue for Apple.
"If the company had wanted to make a big acquisition in the past, capital was not a constraint," Moody's analyst Lane said. "This by itself does not increase the likelihood in my view that that the company will make a big acquisition."
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