NEW YORK (AP) -- Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) is selling $17 billion in bonds on Tuesday, according to a published report. That would make it the largest corporate bond issue ever.
Apple is selling the bonds in its first debt issue since the 1990s. The company is raising the money to give to shareholders through dividend payments and stock buybacks.
The company has $145 billion in cash, more than enough for the $100 billion cash return program it announced last week. However, most of its money sits in overseas accounts, and the company doesn't plan to bring it to the U.S. until the federal corporate tax rate is lowered.
The Wall Street Journal has reported the total value of the issue, citing unnamed bond-market participants. The paper said the yields were coming in lower than expected, and lower than Apple's credit rating would suggest. The bonds come in three- to thirty-year maturities, according to a preliminary prospectus filed by the company.
Ratings agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's (NYSE: MCO ) last week rated Apple at one rung below their highest rating for issuers. Moody's said only four non-financial companies have the highest rating, and Apple doesn't deserve it because it could adopt an even more shareholder-friendly policy, and its policy of not repatriating cash could force it to borrow more.
Research firm Dealogic said the largest previous corporate bond deal was a $16.5 billion issue by Swiss drug company Roche Holdings in 2009.