Apple's cash hoard could reach $170 billion by year's end

The iPhone maker's treasure chest may swell by another $35 billion this year assuming it doesn't dole out more cash to its stockholders, says Moody's.

Apple

Apple could end up with $170 billion in cash by the end of 2012 unless it learns to share more with investors.

With around $137 billion in cash as of the end of 2012, Apple is the biggest cash-rich company outside of the banking industry, according to Moody's. As such, it's faced increasing pressure to return more of that money to its investors.

Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn, a major Apple investor, recently filed a lawsuit against Apple over guidelines regarding the issuance of preferred stock. Though Einhorn dropped the suit early this month, Apple still is being called upon to share more cash beyond just its current dividend.

"Unless Apple changes its philosophy towards liquidity/shareholder returns by increasing its $10 billion annual common dividend, or if Apple increases its stock buyback program, we estimate Apple's cash balances could increase by another $35 billion in 2013 and exceed $170 billion," Moody's researchers said yesterday, according to MarketWatch.

Apple said it's been discussing ways to return more money to stockholders, but so far the company has had nothing concrete to offer.

A group of analysts polled by Bloomberg said they believe Apple may up its dividend by as much 56 percent . That bump would offer investors a quarterly dividend of $4.14 per share, a higher yield that that offered by most of the dividend-paying corporations on the S&P 500.

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