WSAB: What Should Apple Buy? (Updated)

Apple, Inc. has a lot of money. This probably goes without saying; the maker of Macintosh computers, iPods, iPhones, and iPads is obviously a very successful technology firm. But in the sixteen years since the then-beleaguered company was teetering on bankruptcy, Apple has amassed an unusual pile of cash. Most companies don’t sit on large sums of money, choosing instead to spend all the cash they earn (and sometimes more) on growing and expanding the business. Apple, however, puts it in the bank.

The company carries no debt, and has just a hair under $100 billion in petty cash lying around.

So Apple will be hosting a conference call at 9am ET tomorrow (Monday) to discuss what they will be doing with the money. They have a few options. They can issue a large dividend to their shareholders (along the lines of $107/share), buy back outstanding shares, invest in buying parts of other companies, buy other companies outright, or some combination of the above. Or they can buy 100 billion dollars worth of ice cream. It’s really up to them.

To give you some perspective on just how big 100 billion dollars is: Apple could buy Ford Motor Company, Time Warner, and Northrop Grumman . . . outright (based on their market cap values as of Friday evening). Who wouldn’t want to see what Apple would do with cars, media, and military hardware? I think the time has come for a user-friendly, iPad controllable Aerial iDrone for use against al-Qaeda militants.

So what do you think? What should Apple buy?

Update 3/19/2012: Apple announced this morning that they plan to begin issuing a quarterly dividend of $2.65/share and initiate a 10 billion dollar stock repurchase plan (buying back outstanding shares). They expect to spend about 45 billion dollars over three years with these programs, which would leave about half of their stockpile in-place. Unfortunately, there were no announced plans for ice cream or military hardware.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.