Apple's current biggest problem is not the next iPhone. It is the 100 billion dollar problem. Microsoft had been criticized for years for having too much cash and not putting them to use. They eventually started paying dividend starting 2003. It is not easy to deploy them in a way that creates the expecatation of return Apple's investors are expecting. I think they will eventually start paying dividend.
With Apple's war chest hitting $100 billion soon (currently around $98 billion but was originally estimated to be $60 billion) investors are asking the same question: What are you doing with the money or return it to shareholders? Putting that kind of money to work is not easy. It is over $100 in cash per share. $100 billion is roughly the same as California's 2012-2013 state budget and can literally buy a few countries or pay for a year of student loan for every college student in America.
Apple's core business is like printing money. Apple recorded a $16 billion increase in cash sequentially and there is no sign of slowing down with 66% rise in revenue with 36% rising expenses. That makes Apple the most valuable company at $300+ billion, which is close to the sum of the market cap of three computer giants: Microsoft ($200.2 billion), HP ($72.5 billion) and Dell ($29.2 billion).
Unfortunate big acquisitions don’t always work because of many reasons. And there is no magic formula for successful strategic transformation post acquisitions and most companies ended up underperforming post acquisitions. The problem is the inability to articulate the strategic logic of an acquisition and developing an organization and cultural integration plan.
At Idea Couture, we help acquirers in visualizing the future state and show how the pieces fit together in a very tangible (and credible) way. The future strategy is manifested in a well-articulated way showing its value creation potential. It is done through applied design thinking. Power Point cannot do the job. We bring the future state to the present to excite shareholders, employees and customers.
Apple’s history of acquisition has always been late stage start-ups that bring unique capabilities or technologies rather than revenue. With $100 billion you can literally buy up every early-stage start-up you want. Google has $44.5 billion for comparison.
Apple can use the money to purchase all patents over the years developed by Kodak, Research In Motion, Xerox Parc and Erickson and that can only account to a maximum 15-20% of the cash that they hold, but that patent portfolio allow them to sue anyone competing in their space in the next ten years.
Or Apple can use the money to buy up HP and Research In Motion and swiftly end Windows dominance in the enterprise market? Or buy Amazon and Netflix to reinvent and dominate content distribution.
Or Apple can just buy Sony? Funny Sony was looking at buying Apple when the company was at its worse shape in 1995. I still have a strategy deck I produced in 1996 about how Sony can leverage pieces of Apple and how the deal can create value for Sony. Now Apple could easily afford to buy Sony with its market value around $18 billion. If I am Apple’s CEO, that’s what I’ll do. Sony has been poorly managed from a corporate strategy level but does have great technologies, products, brand and talents. I would sell the studio business and concentrate on entertainment appliances. This deal can immediate further increase Apple's enterprise value. The integration part would be a nightmare.
Or just make it easy, Apple can acquire with cash HTC, Sony Ericksson, Samsung, Nokia, RIM, LG, Motorola, Nintendo which together has a combined value of roughly $93 billion. That's a lot of fun to figure out what you can do with these companies. And you still have $7 billion left to play with. Perhaps acquire New Balance for $400mm, Jobs probably would like that idea if he is still around. We miss him.