Now that we are out of the woods in the crash scenario, assuming this week is no ill omen, investors may want to know which of the big companies would start to deploy their billions and billions of dollars in cash for large mergers or strategic bolt-on acquisitions. In all of these companies, we are not taking the long-term or short-term debt obligations into account. This is merely the cash, cash equivalents, and the long-term investments listed on the books.
But as these are the biggest companies in the world with what should be credible balance sheets (in most cases anyhow), we are also including a second combined figure for “receivables and inventories” for a few of these companies to show what the firms could use for additional sources of capital…. These figures do not include untapped credit lines and shelf registrations which could amount to untold billions more. Because of this calculation, our figures may differ slightly from what companies have listed as cash and equivalents.
Can all of this cash go for mergers? What about for dividends? No way. But a large portion of it could be used for mergers and buyouts under the right circumstances. We removed the companies which are either permanently out of the game of M&A or those which are temporarily out of it. But of the fourteen mega-caps (over $100 billion in market cap) which we did cover, you would be shocked at the cash balance these companies are sitting on without even considering the total cumulative effect of credit lines, inventories, receivables, and open shelf registrations. The first total cash figure comes to a whopping $335 billion. This number is far more if you count the companies with exceptions.
These major companies broken down by cash balance and what sort of merger these could consider are Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG), Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A), International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX), Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL). Even after a huge rally, $335 billion and then some could go a very long way.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) has a $329 billion market cap and cash is roughly $46 billion. It is spending about $8 billion per year in dividends, has been just buying its own stock, and has more than enough earnings for its dividend coverage. Earnings are expected to be $3.94 EPS this year and its annualized dividend is at $1.68 per share. Last quarter alone it spent $7 billion on dividends and share buybacks. Unless it is a diversification acquisition, our take is that Exxon is so large it would have to make acquisitions outside of US-borders. Maybe it could challenge China’s growth ambitions.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) with a $213 billion market has more than $36 billion in cash and equivalents. There is always the notion that antitrust issues will arise in any Microsoft deal, but that has not been the case in the search pact with Yahoo! so far. There are very few add-on plays here for its O/S and Office software. Other software, media, search, advertising-related, and communications plays would be the most logical targets assuming all the cash doesn’t go for buybacks or another big dividend.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) has been a serial acquirer. Its $165 billion market cap compares to close to $15 billion of the green stuff in the bank. We won’t bother making a prediction of what sector nor which partner J&J might consider, but one that has been proven J&J likes writing buyout checks and it does that in consumer products and in health care.
Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) has a market cap north of $153 billion and new consumer product plays that could make a huge dent might continue to raise antitrust issues. It traditionally keeps low levels of cash, listed as just under $5 billion, so if P&G puts on another big dealmaker hat it might not be a cash deal. We do note however, that the recent deal announcement for it to sell its pharmaceuticals unit will bring in another $3 billion and then some in cash.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) is a tough one to call for a real ‘available cash’ despite a $153 billion market cap. You know Warren Buffett makes big investments and you know he has always hinted at a “whale of a deal” out there. He even gave some parameters for a deal recently. The most recent balance sheet has more than$24.5 billion in cash and equivalents alone, but his investment portfolio of long-term investments is listed as over $125 billion which he could access for new stakes or new deals. So as far as what Buffett could tap all said and done, let’s take 20% of the investment portfolio as ‘rotational through time’ and give him another $25 billion to make a round number of $50 billion that Buffett and friends could tap for multiple deals in the coming years.
International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM) has a market cap of $152 billion and listed cash as $12.5 billion after spending $2.4 billion in the last quarter alone for dividends and buybacks. Where IBM would look would by our count be another people-intensive or service-intensive deal, although there are random hardware and storage and systems possibilities that have come up in recent months.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has a market cap of close to $150 billion, but the cash and equivalents is roughly $10 billion. AT&T’s appetite might be diminished because of its size in telecom making antitrust issues come into play if it took a larger step in the land line or in the wireless businesses. There are related areas that could be mini-plays, but after the AT&T-SBC-BellSouth-Cingular deal they may be used up for some time. It could possibly consider a move into pre-paid or no-contract telecom services, but that is just because of recent competitor deals.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has long been a puzzle as to what it would do with all that cash. Its market cap is $148 billion, yet it is now sitting on a mountain of cash of more than $31 billion. Buying back its own stock would be expensive, but integrating an outside company into Apple might not be easy. With 909.16 million shares, Apple could pay out close to a $34.00 per share dividend if it wanted to take the cash balance down to Zero and start all over again.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has a market cap of close to $146 billion, but now it has a cash balance of roughly $19.3 billion. Making a huge deal would be very difficult here, and it has not undertaken any mega-cash deals. If Google chose thr cash dividend route, the company could declare close to a $60.00 dividend and start over on its cash growth game.
Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) has a market cap of close to $137 billion and is sitting on more than $31 billion. Similar to Exxon, it may be difficult for Chevron to just go buy a large oil and gas company or another integrated player in the U.S. because of antitrust issues and deal criticism. Just like Exxon, Chevron might also want to challenge some of the China asset grabs out there while global share prices are suppressed.
Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is worth close to $122 billion in market cap and despite making deals all along the way and despite buying back billions worth of shares, its last quarter ended with close to $35 billion in cash and equivalents. Cisco has been on the expansion path along many fronts, so where it could do a deal would depend on the climate and upon what would give it a leg up for the next generation.
The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) has a market cap of close to $116 billion and had over $14 billion at its beckoning call if it chooses. It has not expressed interest in the Pepsi-bottler challenge of acquisitions and its perceived interest seems to be in smaller premium brands where it can take more market share. With the tax wars heating in a world where Uncle Sam is considering taxing soft drinks, Coke may choose to hoard cash for the moment.
Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) has a market cap of roughly $110 billion and has close to $19 billion cash equivalents before closing a recent deal. It also had close to $6 billion in receivables and inventories. Intel has been somewhat active via its ventures and in acquiring units or bolt-on companies like Wind River recently. Intel has to be careful on any processor-related deals because it already dominates that market, but there are probably dozens of core related technologies in computing and in communications that it would not be under antitrust reviews.
Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) has roughly a $110 billion market cap and over $12.5 billion in cash at the end of last quarter. It is already buying Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion, or about $5.6 billion net of cash on hand and debt and it raised $5 billion in noted earlier last quarter. Considering that Oracle has made dozens and dozens of acquisitions, our take is that Larry Ellison will always maintain that path as long as he is allowed to.
There are other top market caps that are actually larger than many of the ones above, but we feel that the regulatory and fears of ‘systematic risk’ situation or because of instant antitrust issues being assured would instantly bar these companies from making any deals. Let alone the notion that some are still under Uncle Sam’s financial good graces. Among these are Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC). The other issue in analyzing the bank balance sheets is that we are not yet ready to endorse what banking giants claim as assets and liabilities yet. Also excluded from this with its $110 billion market cap is Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) because it is already in a huge deal to acquire Wyeth.
General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is a company that has perpetually been an acquirer and a divesting company. Its market cap is a fraction of its prime at $140 billion now, but because of the recent woes in anything tied to financial stock we think that GE is probably out of the market for any big deals any time soon. Small deals are possible of course and because of the increased offerings and other issues we are just not going to assign a real figure for the otherwise $400+ billion that is stated.
Be advised that there is always a possibility here for discrepancies in these figures. The total number taken from balance sheets after tallying its cash, short-term, and long-term investments sometimes does vary slightly from the figure that a company lists or uses as its its ‘cash’ figure in its quarterly press release or conference call. We have attempted to smooth that data as a result.
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JON C. OGG