There has been much conjecture, including from me, over how Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) would use the windfall of cash produced by recent changes to U.S. tax code. As of the company's last financial report, it had $252 billion stashed overseas, in an effort to avoid the 35% tax rate on repatriated profits.
In a press release on Wednesday, the iPhone maker confirmed that it will pay $38 billion in taxes, in line with what many believed, saying the payment "would likely be the largest of its kind ever made."
Apple also spelled out a number of ways it plans to spend and invest the cash hoard. While the details weren't entirely comprehensive, they did provide investors with some indication of Apple's plans over the next five years.
The greatest impact
The company said its direct contribution to the U.S. economy will top $350 billion over the coming five years, which will be achieved through a combination of current spending and new investments.
Apple said it's planning investments "to build on its commitment to support the American economy," and plans to focus on three areas that it believes will have the greatest impact creating jobs: direct employment at Apple, investing and spending among the company's domestic manufacturers and suppliers, and driving further growth in what the company calls the "fast-growing app economy" that are the result of the iPhone and App Store.
Apple said it will make over $30 billion in capital expenditures in the country over the next five years and will hire over 20,000 employees. While some of these new hires will staff existing campuses, Apple said it plans to open a new facility, though the location has yet to be announced. Apple plans to reveal details for the new campus later this year.
Of the $30 billion investment, Apple said that more than one-third of that will be in data centers. The company broke ground this month on a new facility on Reno, which will support existing locations in Nevada. The new campus will be run exclusively by "green energy." Apple reported that all of the company's U.S. offices, data centers, and retail stores are "powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources like solar, wind and micro-hydro power."
Suppliers and partners
Early last year, Apple established the $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund to "support innovation among American manufacturers and help others establish a presence in the US." The company said it will increase that fund to $5 billion.
In 2017, Apple awarded $200 million to Corning to support the company's research and development, capital equipment needs, and state-of-the-art glass processing. The company produces the glass for Apple's iconic iPhone. Another recipient from last year was Finisar, which received $390 million from the fund. The company produces the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) that enable Apple's new Face ID feature, as well as Animoji and Portrait mode selfies. The funds will allow Finisar to exponentially increase its research and development spending and high-volume production of the components.
Training future app creators
Apple also said it will support education programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), as well as specifically encouraging coding education. The company highlighted that there are more than 500,000 programming positions in the U.S. that lack qualified candidates, and that number is expected to rise to 1.4 million by 2020.
Apple developed what it called "a powerful yet easy-to-learn coding language called Swift, the free Swift Playgrounds app and a free curriculum, App Development with Swift," to address the skills gap. The company said these programs are available to anyone and plans to expand their reach to support teachers and target kids in "underserved communities."
What Apple didn't say
While the company had lots to say about how it would spend its money, it's what the company didn't say that is likely of most interest to investors. Much of the conjecture regarding Apple's financial plans included returning a greater amount of capital to shareholders.
To be fair, the company has been generous over the past five years, doling out $61 billion in dividends and repurchasing $166 billion in stock, which reduced its share count by 20%. Many investors and analysts alike believe the company will boost its dividend and buyback program, but thus far the company has been silent on the issue.
As large as those numbers are, they don't tell the entire story. Apple's dividend yields a paltry 1.38% as of this writing, and the company is only paying out 26% of its profits, so there's still a lot of room to increase the dividend.
That said, I do expect an announcement when Apple reports its fiscal 2018 first-quarter results on Feb. 1. We'll just have to wait until then for the answer to the question on everyone's lips.