Apple just reported earnings for Q3 2016, and the company soundly beat analyst’s expectations. However, there was one number that we’re not used to seeing.
Apple’s cash on hand actually decreased for the first time in seven quarters. Cash on hand this quarter amounted to $231.5 billion, which is down $1.4 billion from the $233 billion on hand at the end of Q2.
As a refresher, cash on hand consists of actual cash and cash equivalents, as well as short-term and long-term marketable securities — essentially any investment the company can quickly turn into cash.
The decrease in cash on hand tells us that Apple is finally figuring out how to utilize its absurdly large cash stash, something investors have long been complaining about.
So what did they spend it on?
Firstly, the company is spending more on research and development. Apple spent $7.475 billion on R&D over the last 9 months, compared with $5.847 billion on R&D over the first 9 months of 2015. This could be attributed to the company’s development of new products, including a rumored car, something that would certainly require a ton of upfront R&D spend.
Secondly, Apple is finally making big investments. The company invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing (China’s largest car-hailing app) this quarter.
Lastly, Apple is continuing to utilize its cash by returning it to investors. The company issued a $.57 per share dividend, which is 5 cents higher than the year-ago quarter. This brings total dividend payments to $1.61 per share over the last 9 months, compared to $1.46 per share over the first 9 months of 2015. Plus, the company spent $23.7 billion repurchasing stock last quarter, compared to $22 billion during the year-ago quarter.
Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO, explained that this increased cash return is part of the company’s overall capital return program: “We returned over $13 billion to investors through share repurchases and dividends, and we have now completed almost $177 billion of our $250 billion capital return program.”
Since the cash on hand decrease was only about $1.4 billion compared to last quarter, it’s likely that any of these items could have been the cause of the cash decrease. But regardless of the cause, investors are sure to be happy that Apple is finally spending its hard-earned cash.