50 American companies are sitting on a combined $1.73 trillion in cash and the majority of it is parked overseas. A new report from Moody’s Investor Services says the amount of cash on the balance sheets of these companies (excluding the financial industry) is up four percent year over year and the top five cash hoarders - Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOGL), Pfizer (PFE) and Cisco (CSCO) - account for more than a quarter of the total.
Moody’s calculations suggest $1.1 trillion of U.S. corporate cash is hiding from the prying eyes of the IRS overseas. So what can be done to coax companies into repatriating those funds?
“It will take Washington saying ‘you can bring it over here and pay less taxes on it,’” says Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli, though he doesn’t see that in the cards. Part of the reason, at least from the corporate point of view is that low interest rates have made taking on debt more attractive than paying high taxes on money brought back to the states.
Still, while big names grab headlines in the neverending saga of corporate cash abroad, Santoli does not thinks it is a systemic problem. “It’s very concentrated in a handful of names,” he notes. “It’s not as if the average company out there has all this cash and they’re not doing anything with it. They’re not reinvesting in their business. We actually have record levels of corporate debt right now.”
Yahoo’s Global Correspondent for news and finance Bianna Golodryga agrees pointing out, “it’s not something we’re seeing across the board. We’re talking about a few Silicon Valley names and that’s the way it’s been for a number of years now.”
And even if one company thought it made sense to try and bring that money home, Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer says “it’s a game of chicken. No one is going to do it because they’re going to look stupid vis-a-vis their competition and you’re wasting all this money.”
In short, we might as well kiss that money goodbye.
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