Apple scheduled a surprise conference call for later this morning to discuss its $98 billion pile of reserve cash; specifically, whether shareholders will get any of it.
Steve Jobs liked the security of having the money in the bank. It gave Apple the freedom to make a major acquisition without having to borrow and guarded against catastrophe. But Jobs’s successor Tim Cook has said Apple has more cash than it needs to run on a daily basis and told shareholders that he is “not religious” about keeping a large amount in savings.
On today’s conference call, Apple will announce the outcome of board discussions. The announcement of the announcement instantly provoked speculation. Would Apple pay dividends? Make an acquisition? Paper the walls of 1 Infinite Loop with Benjamins?
Some other things $100 billion might cover:
ACQUISITIONS. Apple could buy 12 Twitters, seven-and-a-half Zyngas, 196 Instagrams, or one Facebook, which some analysts are projecting will have a $100 billion valuation after the IPO. Alternatively, Apple acquires and shuts down the Consumer Electronics Show. There is only one Keynote.
BONUSES. Apple gives a $816,666 bonus to each of its approximately 50,000 employees and each Foxconn employee who sleeps in the dorms at Chengdu. Bonuses are dispersed from iPad-shaped pinatas.
LINE SERVICE. Apple hires servers on roller skates to pass out cocktails, Vitaminwater and Odwalla bars to patient customers as they stand/sit/huddle in sleeping bags in line. Servers will also sell Apple accessories.
THINK DIFFERENT. Apple buys the ad agency that made those mocking Samsung commercials and forces them to make Apple propaganda instead.
LEGACY. Apple builds the Steve Jobs Museum. Among its archives: the Ryan Tate emails.
ISLANDS. Apple moves its headquarters to a man-made island, where there is no need to raze historic buildings or worry about an employee leaving a prototype in the bar. The company has enough left over for a nearby, smaller isle equipped with a minimalist, all-white jail cell designed by Johnny Ive. Shortly thereafter, Mike Daisey disappears.
MOTHER EARTH. Apple could afford to combat climate change for about 100 years, according to some estimates.
THE UNIVERSE. Apple could buy all the planets in the Milky Way at $1 each.
LOWERED EXPECTATIONS. In 2002, AOL/Time Warner lost $98.7 billion. The reality is, Apple can whatever it wants with the $98 billion, including flush it down the toilet, and customers will continue to ravenously buy Apple products and shareholders will continue to ravenously buy Apple shares.