Apple’s return to the corporate debt markets was smaller than expected. The company has started marketing bonds worth a total of $12 billion, far short of the $17 billion that had been expected.
In what was at that time the largest corporate bond sale on record, Apple sold $17 billion worth of bonds last year (later surpassed by a $49 billion sale by Verizon last September).
With $151 billion in combined cash and short-term investments, most of it kept outside the U.S., Apple is using the debt to keep its tax bill low while preserving its ability to use cash to pay for an increase in its dividend and its plan to buy back shares. It’s cheaper to borrow than it is to pay the taxes to repatriate the cash.
Last week it boosted its share buyback authorization to $90 billion from $60 billion and raised its dividend by eight percent to $3.29 a share. Apple spends about $11 billion a year on dividend payments, and expects to spend about $130 billion on combined dividends and buybacks by the end of 2015.