The debate over how America’s largest companies use cash will pick up again. Moody’s Investor Services released a study that forecasts how big the cash balances will be at some of these public corporations at the end of 2013.
The kind of activism Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has faced about distributing its cash to shareholders through a higher dividend or share buybacks almost certainly will spread to the other companies on the Moody’s list.
The Moody’s report put Apple’s year-end cash balance at $170 billion. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) are also on the Moody’s list. Perhaps the most critical difference between these companies and Apple is that they have shown a history of acquisitions. Apple has never used its money that way, at least on any large scale.
Overall, corporate-cash stockpiles at U.S. non-financial companies rated by Moody’s grew to $1.45 trillion in 2012, up 10% from 2011, according to the report.