What Will Apple Do With Their $76 Billion?

After announcing big quarterly earnings, the company has some room for spending

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If we learned one thing from Apple's most recent quarterly earnings report, it's that they're sitting on a nice sum of cash. With their $76.2 billion reserves, Apple could buy Goldman Sachs, whose market value stands at $65 billion, as we noted when the company released the report this Tuesday. Since they likely won't blow it all on America's favorite investment-bank, some have other suggestions for how Apple could handle their riches.

Reward your investors

The company is doing well, they could show their appreciation for those who've financially supported them--those who helped Apple reach their current level of success, "If they can't find ways to use it to grow, they should be returning it to shareholders," Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management, which owns Apple stock, told the Wall Street Journal.  Not only would paying dividends reward shareholders, but it could help Apple attract other interested investors managing value and growth and income funds, analyst Toni Sacconaghi explained to the Wall Street Journal.

It's unusual for Tech companies to give back to investors. "Dividends are typically associated with mature, slower-growing companies, preferring to view themselves as young and faster growing," suggests the Wall Street Journal. And that might not be the best use for Apple's riches anyhow. Giving money to shareholders would only perpetuate internal wealth, and not facilitate much growth for Apple, argues Forbes' Eric Jackson, who doesn't see the value in paying dividends. "Cash is to be used to grow the company. ... They have several enormous growth opportunities ahead of them to keep up that pace, but they will take cash. I would rather Apple management have access to that cash--dry powder--than shareholders."

Buy other companies

If Apple wants to grow, they could afford to make an acquisition--and not just a small one. "With a market cap in excess of $360 billion, it could easily use its stock as currency if it wanted to purchase of another large company," suggests Daily Finance.

They couldn't swallow major rival Google, which has a market value of $195 billion. But Apple could scoop up the Android mobile operating system, which, Daily Finance explains, is Apple's biggest competition in the cellphone arena.

But, more realistically, it might have its eye on other big tech names. Facebook, Groupon, and Twitter are just some suggestions from Jackson. There seem to be few appropriate targets. Apple doesn't need to buy another handset or PC maker. It's too successful to buy competitors who already do poorly compared to it. Apple can hardly buy its major rival, Google (GOOG), which has a market value of $195 billion.

Do absolutely nothing

Apple's most recent purchase was telecommunications-related patents from Nortel Networks and they could spend more money in that area. "What if Android handset makers ended up having to spend a significant amount paying Apple and Microsoft (MSFT) per handset due to patent infringement?" suggests Jackson. But Apple tends to be conservative about its cash because of its history, in which the company almost failed for lack of cash in the 1990s, explains the Wall Street Journal.

While the Wall Street Journal reports pressures from some investors to pay up, Apple might be able to quell these pressures, pointing to the success of their stock, which is up nearly 60 percent in the last year. And not all of their investors expect a wad of cash. "It provides me enormous comfort that their balance sheet is so strong," Mike Binger, a fund manager at Thrivent Asset Management, which owns Apple stocks, assured the Wall Street Journal.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.