By Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) - Apple Inc <AAPL.O> will open a new campus as part of a 5-year, $30 billion U.S. investment plan and will make about $38 billion in one-time tax payments on its overseas cash, one of the largest corporate spending plans announced since the passage of a tax cut signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The company has been under increasing pressure to make U.S. investments since the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump targeted the iPhone maker for making products in Asian factories.
While Apple has announced no plans to change that practice and experts say it would be economically impractical to make iPhones in the United States, the company has begun to emphasise its U.S. economic impact, from developers who sell software on its App Store to the tens of billions of dollars per year it spends with U.S. suppliers.
Between the spending plan, hiring 20,000, tax payments and business with U.S. based suppliers, Apple on Wednesday estimated it would spend $350 billion in the U.S. over the next five years.
It did not, however, say how much of the plan was new or how much of its $252.3 billion in cash abroad, the largest of any U.S. corporation, it would bring to the United States. In addition to the $38 billion in taxes it must pay, Apple has run up $97 billion in U.S.-issued debt to pay for previous share buybacks and dividends.
Some investors said the Apple U.S. investments would give the company room to make more stock buybacks or pay dividends without criticism, and Apple shares rose 1.7 percent for the day.
Walter Piecyk, managing director for TMT Research at BTIG Research, said he could not yet tell whether the U.S. expansion was an increase from a previous plan or meant investment abroad was being refocused in the United States. Reuters Breakingviews estimated that Apple could have increased U.S. headcount by 24,000 in the last five years.
APPLE SERVICES PUSH
About a third of Apple's new spending will be on data centres to house its iCloud, App Store and Apple Music services, a sign of the rising importance of subscription services to a company known for its computers and gadgets. The company has data centres in seven states.
The announced U.S spending would be a significant part of Apple's overall capital expenditures. Globally, the company spent $14.9 billion in 2017 and expects to spend $16 billion in 2018, figures that include both U.S.-based investments in data centres and other projects and Asian investments in tooling for its contract manufacturers.
If Apple's overall capital expenditures continue to expand at the same rate expected this year, the $30 billion investment in the U.S. could represent about a third of its capital expenditures over the next five years.
The announced tax payment was roughly in line with expectations, said Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross. The tax bill requires companies to pay a one-time tax on foreign-held earnings whether they intend to bring them back to the United States or not.
Apple had set aside $36.3 billion in anticipation of tax payments on its foreign cash, meaning the payment would not represent a major impact on its cash flow this quarter.
James Cordwell of Atlantic Equities said Apple's U.S. investment plan could make it easier for the company to give more cash to shareholders.
"Being seen to just hand the cash back to shareholders could spark some political sensitivities," and the spending announcement could be part of Apple’s efforts to manage this issue, Cordwell said.
Apple also said it would boost its advanced manufacturing fund, which it uses to provide capital and support to suppliers such as Finisar Corp <FNSR.O> and Corning Inc <GLW.N>, from $1 billion to $5 billion. Apple said it plans to spend $55 billion with U.S.-based suppliers in 2018, up from $50 billion last year.
AMAZON VS APPLE
Apple joins Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> in scouting for a location for a new campus. Amazon finished taking applications from cities in October for its second headquarters.
Apple has not said whether it has settled on a new campus location yet, and it did not make any commitments on the size of new spending or hiring specific to the campus. It did say it would initially house technical support for customers and would announce the location later this year.
The facility would be in addition to its "spaceship" Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California, a campus in Austin, Texas that houses customer service agents and some manufacturing, and an Elk Grove, California, unit with several thousand customer service agents and iPhones refurbishing technicians.
Apple also has built its own data centres in North Carolina, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and a recently announced project in Iowa and leases data centre space in other states.
(Additional reporting by Sonam Rai, Pushkala Aripaka, Muvija M. and Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Peter Henderson and Marguerita Choy)