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Oh, to have Apple's cash problems

Robert Palmer

Not unlike this guy, Apple is going to need avalanche insurance for the mountain of cash that it's sitting on.

According to BusinessWeek, Apple has amassed $20.8 billion in cash and short-term investments, adding nearly $1 billion each and every quarter. It's not necessarily odd for a company to have a lot of cash (Microsoft, for example, has $23 billion socked away), but it's beginning to irk the investors.

If Apple's stock price continues to rise, everyone's happy. But if it starts to dip, experts say Apple should consider investments like acquisitions (possibly in the music business) or raw materials and components.

Matt Asay of Cnet is suggesting something probably unpopular with the Cupertino crowd: tax it. Since Apple's profit margins (as a percentage of sales) are higher than Exxon's, Apple might fall prey to Congress' plan to tax windfall profits, if it becomes law.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said earlier this year that "Our preference is to maintain a strong balance sheet in order to preserve our flexibility." Charles Wolf of Needham & Co. says the company doesn't need more than $5 billion on hand, but he'd be more worried "if this was a sleepy company with no growth."

"That's not Apple," Wolf said.

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