Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Apple is debt-free....(good news or bad news?)

Taking a look at the numbers for a second, the stock market values Apple @ $8.58B, but of that value, $4.8B is cold hard cash, meaning that ignoring the bank account, AAPL as a company is worth only $3.78B. (Or roughly 1/23rd of the value of Dell.)

(Hmm, funny how this is roughly AAPL's marketshare too.)

Anyway, if the next digital media product from Apple after the iPod mini is a hit, expect somebody like Sony to scoop Apple up for little more than a a rounding error (in Sony's terms, $3.8B is peanuts.)

Alternatively, some larger but weaker player could buy AAPL mostly for the cash.

Regardless of Apple's fate, there's a strong implied message when more than half of a company's value is simply it's bank account: "we can't find a better use of the money!" This is especially sad when Apple's $4.8B is cash is earning an interest rate of probably only 1-2%. Apple is in effect saying that investing the cash into R & D, or any other operating expense will do less than earn a 1-2% return on investment.

Personally, I'm stunned that Apple can't find any interesting partnerships or acquisitions to make to spend some of this money, and I'm stunned by what this implies. (To me, it says one of 2 things: either we're so in love withourselves that we can't find any partners worthy of our loot, or because Macs have such a small share of the market and developer interest, there aren't any Mac-based (software or hardware) business worth investing in. (by extension, all of the innovation starts on other platforms.)

The other option, that Apple has somehow avoided, is to return the cash to the shareholders, either thru a dividend or a share buyback. (That's what I'd like to see.)

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
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"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous