What Could Apple Buy With Its Quarter Trillion Dollars?

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An Apple Inc logo. Apple reported a surprise fall in iPhone sales for its second quarter Tuesday May 2, 2017. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images/ Newsweek/ Composite

If Apple were a country, it would be the 11th richest in the world—at least by the measure of cash reserves. The latest quarterly results of the iPhone maker revealed it has a cash pile of more than $250 billion, a sum greater than the foreign reserves of Germany and Spain combined.

While comparing a country's foreign reserves with a company's cash hoard is like comparing oranges to, well, apples, the figure inevitably raises questions about what the world's richest company is saving up for.

The most likely answer is it will continue to sit on its stockpile like the corporate incarnation of Scrooge McDuck, but if Apple does decide to go on a spending spree, Newsweek has come up with six ways of how best to do it.

Buy Tesla, Netflix and Uber

The old adage of 'if you can't beat them, join them,' has had a multi-billion-dollar resurgence thanks to Silicon Valley. Facebook's $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, followed by its $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, seems like proof that buying out the competition can sometimes be easier than fighting it.

Apple's widely-rumored plans to develop an autonomous electric car—described by Elon Musk last year as an "open secret" —has already helped it poach several engineers from leading electric car maker Tesla. With Tesla's market cap hovering around $53 bn, Apple could could afford to swallow up its rival with enough left over to buy a number of other high-profile tech companies.

Two potential targets are Netflix and Uber, who have estimated values of $66 billion and $68 billion respectively, with the most likely one being the streaming giant. Apple's head of content, Eddie Cue, dismissed this speculation earlier this year. "If we wanted to do what everybody else is doing, then you're right, we might be better off buying somebody or doing that," Cue said at Recode's Code Media conference in February. "But that's not what we're trying to do."

'Spaceship' Headquarters in Every U.S. State

Employees started moving into Apple's new campus in Cupertino, California, earlier this month, as the company puts the final touches to its 3 million square feet headquarters. Apple Park, nicknamed "the spaceship," can house more than twice the number of people as Apple's existing campus—but it's come at a cost. Construction is estimated to have cost around $5 billion, meaning Apple could afford to build another 50 with what it has in the bank—one for every U.S. state.

The Apple Campus 2 is seen under construction in Cupertino, California in this aerial photo taken January 13, 2017. REUTERS/Noah Berger

Pay Off its European Tax Bill 17 Times Over

Like any wily billionaire, Apple knows how to protect its assets from being taxed—with more than 90 percent of its cash reserves kept overseas. But Apple's accountants were unable to outsmart the European Commission last year, and was ordered to pay €13 billion ($14.5 billion) in back taxes to Ireland.

The ruling followed a three-year investigation into the U.S. company's tax arrangements in Europe, and concluded that tax rulings issued by Ireland since 1991 artificially lowered the tax paid by Apple.

The Commission found that Apple had paid as little as 0.005 percent corporate tax on its annual profits, yet CEO Tim Cook still called the ruling "total political crap." He shouldn't worry too much, as Apple has plenty of money to pay it—and 16 times again after that.

Solve the Global Food Crisis

An Apple advert from 1996 for the Macintosh Powerbook concluded with the line: "The power to save the world." The company was referring to the device's computing power, but two decades later, the company is in a position to actually make a significant contribution to saving the planet—or at least millions of lives of people living on it.

According to United Nations estimates from 2015, it would take $267 billion per year until 2030 to "eliminate hunger immediately."

Jose Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, said at the time: "Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I personally think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger."

apple tax tim cook EU
Apple CEO Tim Cook stands on stage during a Special Event at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium September 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California. He has decried the recent EU ruling that Apple should play Ireland €13bn in back taxes. Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Three iPhone 7s for Every American

A bottom-of-the-range iPhone 7 may cost an American consumer between $650 and $850 off-contract, but it costs Apple less than $220 to actually build it—at least according to device teardown experts from IHS Markit.

At this price, Apple could afford to manufacture more than 1 billion of its flagship smartphones and give one to every seventh person living in the world today. (The iPhone 8 is expected to be launched later this summer, so if Apple did choose this option, it may want to wait a few months.)

Make Every Apple Employee a Multi-Millionaire

Henry Ford, one of the greatest business minds of the 20th Century, apparently reasoned that doubling his workers wages would mean they could afford the products they were making. The truth behind the wage rise was in fact more to do with worker morale, but it is still a lesson Apple could learn from.

Apple executives rank among the richest people in the world, with CEO Tim Cook's net worth estimated at around $785 million. If Apple wanted to, Apple could afford to make all 115,000 of its employees multi-millionaires—with a one-off bonus of $2.17 million.