Has Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) finally reached a decision about what it should do with the enormous cash the company has built up over the last five years? CEO Tim Cook has scheduled a conference call for Monday morning during which he will announce the "outcome of the Company's discussions concerning its cash balance," according to a media alert issued on Sunday night.
Apple's board of directors had been holding discussions for some time on how the company should dispose of its $97.6 billion in cash, short-term, and long-term investments. During its last conference call with analysts, the company said it expects to announce a decision soon.
The company's cash hoard has grown strongly over the last five years, jumping from $24.5 billion in the fiscal year ended September 27, 2008 to $34 billion in fiscal 2009 to $51 billion in fiscal 2010 and $81.6 billion by the end of the last fiscal year. The increase has come on surging demand for Apple products, first with the iPod digital music player and exploding once the company entered the wireless handset market with the iPhone.
The cash has become a problem for Apple, however, with more than two-thirds of the funds now packed in investments outside the United States as the company -- like many other cash-rich technology companies -- tried to avoid a huge tax payment on its overseas profits. As long as the funds stayed outside the United States, Apple could indefinitely defer tax payments.
Some industry observers have speculated Apple could issue a special dividends payment to shareholders. Others have criticized the company for taking so long to take a decision. Today's conference call should end the controversy.