Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Is the Stocks Bull Market Over? Dow Trend Forecast into End January 2015 - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold and Silver Stocks Apocalypse Now, Bear Market Review - Rambus_Chartology
3.NHS Baldrick Plan to Spread Ebola Across UK - Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, London Hospitals - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Ebola Terror Threat Suicide Bio-Weapons Threatens Multiple 9/11's, Global Plague - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Second-Richest Man Says Mortgages Now a "No Brainer" - Dr. Steve Sjuggerud
6.Gold And Silver Still No End In Sight - Michael_Noonan
7.NHS Baldrick Plan to Spread Ebola Across UK - Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, London Hospitals - Nadeem_Walayat
8.The Gold Bug is Set to Bite Back - EWI
9.How Alibaba Could Capitalize on the EBay-PayPal Split - Frank_Holmes
10.The Consequences of the Economic Peace - John_Mauldin
Last 5 days
U.S. Economy Faltering Momentum, Debt and Asset Bubbles - 23rd Oct 14
Annuities - Afraid Your Money Will Vanish before You Do? - 23rd Oct 14
What Debt Deleveraging? - 23rd Oct 14
How to Profit from Massive Spin-Offs with Just One Play - 23rd Oct 14
Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon - 23rd Oct 14
Euro, USD, Gold and Stocks According to Chartology - 23rd Oct 14
Why You Should Always Be Invested in the Stock Market (Even Now) - 23rd Oct 14
Five U.S. Housing Market Warning Signs Point to Real Estate Market Downturn - 23rd Oct 14
The Better Short: Gold or Silver? - 23rd Oct 14
Focus on Graphite Companies with Green Energy and Technology Strategies - 22nd Oct 14
Crude Oil Price Hitting Bottom - 22nd Oct 14
Evidence of Another Even More Sweeping U.S. Housing Market Bust Already Starting to Appear - 22nd Oct 14
Gold Or Crushing Paper Debt Stocks Crash? - 22nd Oct 14
India Gold Demand Surges 450% and Bank of Russia Demand At 15 Year High - 22nd Oct 14
Bitcoin Stock Exchange Could Be "More Valuable than Alibaba" - 22nd Oct 14
Currency War - How to Profit from a Stronger U.S. Dollar - 22nd Oct 14
Banks Hold Treasuries and Make Loans- 22nd Oct 14
Gold and Silver Timing is Everything - 22nd Oct 14
Don't Get Ruined by These 10 Popular Investment Myths (Part VII) - 22nd Oct 14
Follow the Baby Boom to Biotech Stock Profits - 22nd Oct 14
Copper, Nickel and Zinc Won't Be Cheap for Long - 22nd Oct 14
How Will We Know That the Gold & Silver Price Bottom Is In? - 21st Oct 14
Is Gold as Dead as Florida Hurricanes? - 21st Oct 14
First Swiss Gold Poll Shows Pro-Gold Side In Lead At 45% - 21st Oct 14
The Similarities Between Germany and China - 21st Oct 14
The REAL Reason Why the Stock Market Turned Down - 21st Oct 14
Petrobras is a 'Scheme, Not a Stock' - 21st Oct 14
Stocks Bear Market Indicator Is Off the Mark - 20th Oct 14
Stock Market Ideal Turning Point is at Hand - 20th Oct 14
Investors Quit Complaining, The Environment is Perfect Right Now - 20th Oct 14
Ebola Armageddon Could Trigger a Rebirth in Gold and Silver Prices - 20th Oct 14
Gold vs Euro Risk Due To Possible Return of Italian Lira - Drachmas, Escudos, Pesetas and Punts? - 20th Oct 14
Stocks Rebounded Following Recent Sell-Off, But Will It Last? - 20th Oct 14
U.S. Responsible for West Africa Ebola Outbreak Says Liberian Scientist - 20th Oct 14
Stock Market Intermediate B Wave has Started - 20th Oct 14
Gold Stocks Analysis – FNV, CG, NCM, SBM - 19th Oct 14
Stock Market Primary IV Wave Counter Trend Rally - 19th Oct 14
Gold And Silver - Financial World: House Of Cards Built On Sand - 18th Oct 14
Anatomy of a Stock Market Sell-Off - 18th Oct 14
Why OPEC Has Declared an Oil War on Russia - 18th Oct 14
Gold and Silver Extreme Shorting Peaks - 18th Oct 14
Bitcoin Price Fall to $350? - 18th Oct 14
Tesco Supermarket Crisis Worse To Come as Customers Vanish! - 18th Oct 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Stocks Epic Bear Market

Corporations Making a Huge Mistake, Destroys More Value Than the Government Ever Could

Companies / Corporate News Nov 16, 2012 - 08:39 AM GMT

By: DailyWealth

Companies

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleDan Ferris A few weeks ago, I called Apple...

I spoke to an investor relations person about the company's massive cash hoard. She confirmed Apple has $121.3 billion in cash and securities on its balance sheet... Of that amount, a "substantial portion" of the company's cash is "indefinitely reinvested" in accounts outside the U.S.



Specifically, $82.6 billion of Apple's total cash position is held in foreign accounts.

The story is similar at other big-name blue chips... For years, companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and Johnson & Johnson have kept a large portion of their cash offshore. This strategy allows them to pay lower taxes on their earnings.

It sounds like a good idea. But it's not. A preoccupation with tax rates is hurting shareholders. Let me explain...

At 35%, America has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.

This means companies are required, by law, to pay 35% of the income they make to the government. But corporations have found a legal workaround... Businesses that earn big profits in lower-tax countries leave that money overseas, so they pay lower corporate taxes.

Apple, for example, paid a lower effective tax rate in its latest fiscal year of 25% – well below the U.S. corporate rate of 35%.

I realize most shareholders would like the companies they invest in to pay the lowest possible tax rate... That's why many investors don't care much about their companies' massive offshore cash holdings. But they should...

Longtime DailyWealth readers know I'm an enthusiastic supporter of software giant Microsoft. I recognize it's one of the all-time-great creators of shareholder value... Microsoft has compounded shareholder wealth by an average of more than 25% per year since it went public. Few corporations can say the same.

So why is the stock of such a wonderful business trading at such a depressed market valuation?

Right now, the S&P 500 is trading around 16 times earnings. Microsoft trades around 11 times earnings. It should trade at a premium to the market, not a discount. What's going on?

According to the most recent data available, Microsoft has over $60 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments. More than 90% of it is sitting idly in accounts outside the U.S. Microsoft would have to pay $19.4 billion in taxes if it were to bring that cash home to the U.S.

You may think shareholders will end up better off if the company doesn't essentially light $19 billion on fire. But Microsoft shareholders should fear bad capital allocation much more than they fear the taxman.

The U.S. taxman won't destroy 100% of the dollars a company brings home. We can't say the same for companies themselves...

I recently spoke with one of Microsoft's investor relations representatives about the $8.5 billion purchase of Luxembourg-based Skype in October 2011. She offered the Skype deal as evidence Microsoft uses offshore money to create shareholder value. Microsoft paid more than three times what eBay paid for Skype not too long ago. Is Skype three times closer to making a net profit? I sure hope so...

That's not the only bad acquisition management has made. In 2007, Microsoft bought out digital marketing and service provider aQuantive. The acquisition cost $6 billion and was recently written down to zero. The money is gone.

Tell me... would you rather own 100% of aQuantive and Skype... or 65% of $14.5 billion? The aQuantive acquisition was essentially a 100% tax on the invested capital. The U.S. government, by contrast, charges just 35%. Who is the bigger threat to your money?

Most people view taxes as bad and corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity as good. It's silly. It's like saying you'd rather lose your money gambling than have it stolen from you. It doesn't matter who ferried your cash away. It only matters that it's gone.

Piling up cash to avoid paying taxes is a denial of reality. Corporate managers deny reality when they pretend tax efficiency is a priority. And shareholders deny reality when they let management get away with it.

There's really only one solution to the problem: return the excess capital sitting idly on the balance sheet to the owners of the company. Investors are starved for safe, growing income now more than ever.

Microsoft generated over $29 billion of free cash flow last year. It paid out $6.4 billion in cash dividends. It could have paid out triple that amount. Microsoft has enough cash to raise its dividend by 50% immediately. If it instituted a policy of paying out 60% of its free cash flow, I wouldn't be surprised to see shares rise 40%.

My point is simple: Tax efficiency is NOT more important than smart capital allocation. Shareholders should revolt against companies that think it makes sense to play tax games with shareholder money. They should insist the money be brought to the U.S. for distribution to shareholders via dividends or share repurchases.

Good investing,

Dan Ferris
P.S. I recently wrote a letter to Microsoft's board of directors addressing this very issue. If you want to understand how these decisions affect you as a shareholder, it's a must-read. Access it here. And please feel free to forward it to anyone you think might benefit.

http://www.dailywealth.com

The DailyWealth Investment Philosophy: In a nutshell, my investment philosophy is this: Buy things of extraordinary value at a time when nobody else wants them. Then sell when people are willing to pay any price. You see, at DailyWealth, we believe most investors take way too much risk. Our mission is to show you how to avoid risky investments, and how to avoid what the average investor is doing. I believe that you can make a lot of money – and do it safely – by simply doing the opposite of what is most popular.

Customer Service: 1-888-261-2693 – Copyright 2011 Stansberry & Associates Investment Research. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. This e-letter may only be used pursuant to the subscription agreement and any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, LLC. 1217 Saint Paul Street, Baltimore MD 21202

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

Daily Wealth Archive

© 2005-2014 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014