Apple “actively” discussing $97.6B in cash and equivalents

Apple said that it is “actively discussing” a number of options for the more than $97.6 billion it has in cash, short-term and long-term marketable securities.

That’s a distinct change from how the company has talked about cash on hand in the recent past. When pressed for more specifics around dividends or buybacks, chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said, “We’ve actively been examining use of all our cash. We’re looking for what we can do from an acquisition perspective, in the supply chain and otherwise. But I don’t have any perspective to share with you today.”

The tone was different from the last earnings call when chief executive Tim Cook hinted that he had been content with the company’s approach thus far.

At the time, he said, “We’ve wanted to maintain flexibility. The cash is not burning a hole in our pocket. We’re not doing silly things with it.” He added, “We’ve taken money and done things that are in Apple’s best interest. We’ve acquired several companies, we’ve acquired some IP. We invest in the supply chain and we use money to build out our stores and provide for a lot of new product tooling and the like.”

However, he also said, “I’m not religious about holding cash and not holding it. We’ll continue to ask ourselves: What’s in Apple’s best interest? It’s an ongoing topic for the board.”

Apple has $10.3 billion in cash, $19.8 billion in short-term securities and $67.4 billion in long-term securities. That total balance is up nearly 20 percent from the same time a year earlier.

Apple today said it earned a record $46.3 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter and has paid out more than $4 billion to developers over the lifetime of its app store.