Apple's $18 billion shopping spree?

January 25, 2008: 11:44 AM ET
Mint CEO Aaron Patzer
Mint CEO Aaron Patzer isn't itching to sell his online budgeting service, but a company like Microsoft would do well to buy it anyway.

No one's said much about it, but there it was, plain as day, in Apple's (AAPL) earnings call this week: Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said the 'A' word.


When an analyst asked what Apple would do with more than $18 billion in cash it's sitting on, Oppenheimer downplayed the possibility of a major stock buyback, and hinted that Apple could go shopping instead. "Our preference," he said, "continues to be to maintain a strong balance sheet in order to preserve our flexibility to make strategic investments and/or acquisitions."

Which is a fine segue to my piece in the latest issue of Fortune, which seeks to tackle the issue of what, exactly, Apple and others should do with their growing stacks of Benjamins. Among my recommendations: Apple should buy a green startup, Microsoft (MSFT) should buy Mint, and Google (GOOG) should buy TiVo (TIVO).

Though Apple normally doesn't buy many companies, I suggest 2008 might be a good time for Jobs & Co. to throw some money around. (Same goes for Microsoft and Google, which do a lot more spending than Apple.)

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