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Apple preps bond sale effort

New bond plan would let Apple go into debt to pay shareholders and avoid big taxes on its overseas cash.

Apple is readying a bond offering, its first since 1996.

The program, which The Wall Street Journal says could be finalized later today, is designed to help Apple pay for the more than $100 billion it plans to pay shareholders over the next few years.

Apple detailed initial plans for the program in a regulatory filing on Monday, and once again on Tuesday. It's a mix of notes and securities that mature beginning in 2016, and go through 2043, though Apple did not provide prices. Bloomberg suggests the total could go as high as $17 billion.

The bond sale comes on the heels of Apple's plans to double its capital return program, which involves spending an additional $55 billion in dividend payments to investors. Apple also said it would be spending an extra $50 billion in repurchasing company stock along with increasing its quarterly dividend.

The size of that program was relevant, given Apple's cash pile, which the company said had grown to $145 billion last week, though more than $100 billion of that is held outside the U.S. By issuing bonds, Apple will have money to use without getting hit with what's currently a 35 percent corporate tax rate.

The last time Apple issued any sort of debt was in 1996, when its future was quite uncertain. The plan then was for $573 million in notes that could be converted into Apple's stock at a fixed price.

Apple's stock has been on the mend for the past week, closing higher for the past seven days of trading, bringing it back to levels recorded near the end of March. However, at an opening price of $435.11 on Tuesday, it's still a far cry from the high of $705 it reached during midday trading back in September.

Pricing for Apple's bonds is expected on Tuesday after the market closes.