Suggestions on where to spend the money are many, viable options are few. Apple could buy Adobe. Apple could buy Tesla. Apple could buy a few component suppliers. Or, Apple could begin lobbying various governments around the world to help move legal policy in the company’s favor. How does the last suggestion compare to a certain Apple executive’s recent travels?
Spread. The. Wealth.
There are many ways to describe CEO Tim Cook’s recent travel itinerary which took him from the comfortable confines of Cupertino, California to China and India. Prudent pragmatism comes to mind.
Apple has tens of billions of dollars lying around; a money trove so deep and wide and rich that the company gives money away to undeserving shareholders, tosses out dividend checks hither and yon, and buys back stock because Apple’s creativity seems limited to products, and not much else.
Not long ago Apple was tripped up by a Chinese government agency which prohibited some iTunes sales and iBook sales. That was a shot across the bow; China’s way of saying, “Hey, rich guy. We’ve been slaving for a decade to help you become rich. It’s time to spread the wealth around.”
Tim Cook responded appropriately and dropped a $1-billion investment into China.
Not long ago Apple planned to recycle used iPhones in India because India is not China. Other than a massive population and proximity in Asia, there isn’t much similar between the two countries, but regardless of culture, money talks. Officials in India put a crimp in Apple’s refurbished iPhone plan. After all, China benefits from Apple’s iPhone manufacturing by way of a few hundred thousand employed workers. What does India get? No manufacturing facilities and used iPhones.
See The Seed Money
Following on his successful investment trip to China, Apple’s Cook spent some time in India courting the media and government officials. Did Apple go to Bollywood? No, but Cook managed to taste the local cuisine, play a little Cricket, and drop some cash investments into India’s technology sector.
Some would call such an investment a prudent pragmatism. Others would call it greasing the wheels of commerce. But let’s call it seed money. Apple is planting some seeds in India to help grow its business in India; in this case a few hundred million dollars in an Apple software development project.
India could use the money. Apple needs the business market.
I find the cultural differences and similarities between the two countries– China, and India– worthy of Apple’s attention. In the U.S., about 95-percent of the population speaks English. India is second on the list with over 125-million English speakers; about 10-percent of the country’s total population. China’s English-speaking population lags behind, but not by much.
Apple would do well to devote both stock buyback funds and dividends to greasing the wheels of commerce in both China and India.