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Microsoft's $40 Billion On Hand

CmdrTaco posted more than 11 years ago | from the now-thats-an-eye-opener dept.

Microsoft 965

eMilkshake writes "CNN/Money magazine report here that Microsoft has more liquid reserves than 'Ford, ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart have combined' and 'enough to buy the entire airline industry -- twice. Or all the gold in Fort Knox, four times over. It is enough to buy 23 space shuttles or every major professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey team in America.' This is thanks to (according to WinInfo Update) the fact that 'Microsoft handles its investments with an inhouse software application called--seriously--the Catastrophe Hedging Program 2.5.' I wonder what I would do with $40 billion?"

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965 comments

frost pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469808)

And boy oh boy does it hurt. I mean, seriously...

Re:frost pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469905)

Props to all AC fp'ers...

Re:frost pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469927)

SUCK MY ASS JUICE

It's about tax evasion... (2, Interesting)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469809)

If Microsoft declares a dividend, the shareholders have to pay taxes. If they hold the money in reserve, they only pay taxes when they sell.

Re:It's about tax evasion... (3, Informative)

mikosullivan (320993) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469835)

(IANAL) That was the first thing I thought about. The problem (for MS) is that that's theoretically illegal. You aren't allowed to hold more reserves than you need just so your shareholders can avoid taxes.

That's the theory. I'm sure the MS lawyers have a more profitable reality. Personally I've always thought it was a stupid law: it punishes companies that build themselves a solid shelter for the rainy times.

Re:It's about tax evasion... (2, Interesting)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469917)

Well, it's more likely they've found a loophole. The way I read it (very briefly) Microsoft likely doesn't fall under the category of "Personal Holding Company [irs.gov]", because 50% of the corporation's stock is not held by fewer than 5 individuals. Microsoft also can argue that they're actually going to use all that cash - someday. IAAPTP, but this is not legal or tax advice.

Point of order... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469888)

This story really should have been saved for troll Tuesday.


That being said, my theory is that Bill's white cat really wants a litterbox on Mars.

Re:It's about tax evasion... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469901)

Microsoft is also getting away with not paying any accumulated earnings tax. This tax is designed to tax companies that are accumulating excess earnings and do not pay dividends.

By not paying dividends, Microsoft is able to shift the tax expense to the shareholders at the lower capital gains rate when the shareholders sell stock. Bill Gates and his crew sell a large amount of Microsoft stock each year.

I believe Ralph Nader has already been looking into this.

Go Ralph!!

Re:It's about tax evasion... (5, Informative)

guacamolefoo (577448) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469929)

It's not even close to tax evasion. Ta evasion is illegal. Tax avoidance through compliance with the code and regulations is just being smart.

Companies are pretty much free to retain their earnings for reinvestment. There are some limitations on this general rule, but generally it is kosher (there's an old case - Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. - 204 Mich. 459, 170 N.W. 668 (1919))- in which the Dodge brothers sued Henry Ford for, among other things, retaining too much cash and not paying dividends).

There are also a number of tax cases where C corporations (whose dividends are taxable if distributed to shareholders) have been nagged by the IRS to declare dividends. The theory is that the retention of the cash has no real business purpose and it is being done solely for the avoidance of taxes. This is one way the Service can enforce what is called the "business purpose" doctrine.

Microsoft has answered claims such as you raised before, and it is a non-issue now. Especially in today's world of hyper-leveraged balance sheets collapsing, there is no way that Microsoft's war chest will be questioned by the IRS.

What to do with $40e9? (2, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469813)

I would fund a project to get us to Mars with that much money.

Re:What to do with $40e9? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469874)

I would fund a project to get us to Mars with that much money.

Man, are you ever a fucking loser. For $200 you should buy a gun and blow your fucking virgin nerd brains out all over your star trek action figures.

we already had this story (-1)

winse (39597) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469815)

didn't we already read these exact words? (I'm too lazy to search with the crappy /. engine)

What I could do with... (1)

X-Nc (34250) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469817)

I'd just love to have 40K! Man, that would be the best thing for me at this time.

Re:What I could do with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469884)

you mean 40 k k eh?

Re:What I could do with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469912)

wouldn't that be 40 kkk ?

Bill Gates worth more than Microsoft (1, Interesting)

Mizery De Aria (554294) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469818)

Isn't Bill Gates worth more than that?

Re:Bill Gates worth more than Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469923)

I'd always heard that he has most of his money in Microsoft stock and that he lost a ton of it when the stock went south. He's still really really well-off, but not like before.

I was wrong... (1)

alapalaya (561911) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469819)

Catastrophe (Hedging) Program

I though this was the code name of their last OS! :)

Re:I was wrong... (4, Funny)

AntiNorm (155641) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469968)

Catastrophe (Hedging) Program

I though this was the code name of their last OS! :)


Nope, their last OS was called Catastrophe Generating Program.

Breaking News!!!! Extra Extra!! (4, Funny)

aengblom (123492) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469820)

Breaking News!!!! Extra Extra!!

Microsoft Rich! Really Rich.

Who'd have thunk it..

Re:Breaking News!!!! Extra Extra!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469878)

Susie Plunkit

September 11th (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469824)

enough to buy the entire airline industry -- twice

So that was the motivation... to get a better price!

this oughta prove it.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469825)

We all really HAVE been paying too damn much for Windows. :P~

All the gold in fort Knox. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469830)

You can't have sex with all the gold in Fort Knox, but you can have sex with a mare

$40 Billion = (1)

iamcadaver (104579) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469831)

Four US stealth fighters, or 40 stealth bombers.

Why did I feal it necc. to post this???? I gotta run some neural garbage collection, soon.

Re:$40 Billion = (5, Funny)

srw (38421) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469859)

> Four US stealth fighters, or 40 stealth bombers.

Oh, oh... don't give bill any ideas now...

I'd spend it on... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469832)

Ale and Whores...

What would I buy? (5, Funny)

Lxy (80823) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469833)

Man, if I had that kind of cash sitting around I'd be tempted to buy the DOJ. Oh, wait....

my stupid pipe dream (2)

Vodak (119225) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469838)

Since Microsoft wants the Government to go away and do business as usual maybe Billy BOy should have his company help pay the national debt oh. 30 billion of it off =]

would it be wrong to ask? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469846)

them to pay off my truck?

hint-hint MS?? I do support your products.

D~y

But is it enough to buy my freedom to choose ? (1, Funny)

cOdEgUru (181536) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469847)

Hell No!

Re:But is it enough to buy my freedom to choose ? (2, Funny)

kpansky (577361) | more than 11 years ago | (#3470000)

Actually, I think 40 billion aught to cover the value of _my_ freedom of choice.

I mean it is 40 billion

Shopping Spree (1)

LittleGuy (267282) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469849)

Let's see....

He can buy:

* Twenty B-2 bombers...
* 250 Congressmen...
* Or one outfielder for the Texas Rangers.

Yes, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469850)

can you imagine a beowulf cluster of these?

I just put that out there to show you how LAME it is whenever you say that about new computers, etc. Just stop it, for the sake of the children. Jackass.

If I had $40 Bil (1)

EddydaSquige (552178) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469851)

If I had $40 billion, I would leverage all of holding to force people to use my sub standard products, there by forcing a monopoly on to the world. DAMN, they beat me to it.

And remember, kids... (2)

Snafoo (38566) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469853)

That OEM copy of 'doze 2k you filched from work for your girlfriend's laptop really *hurts* those poor, poor, Redmond urchins that have to spend sweatshop-centuries at industrial keyboards. How could you be so immoral?

LUNIX SUCKS!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469854)

LUNIX SUCKS!!!

Illegal to Have That Much On Hand (4, Interesting)

loggia (309962) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469856)

Did you know that it is illegal for a public company to have that much on hand and not pay dividends to shareholders?

Apparently there is some murkiness to get around this for Microsoft. The reason they don't want to pay dividends are the huge tax implications for those that are own massive amounts of stock (read: Bill Gates, Steve Balmer...)

Re:Illegal to Have That Much On Hand (1)

Jonny Ringo (444580) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469946)

Yeah, and not to mention the mag says they make 1 billion a month on intertest from the pile they have.

So how many... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469857)

So how many senators could they get for that?

Everyone's day comes... (1)

laeraun2 (472996) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469864)

I am sure back in the heyday of IBM they also thought that their enormous cash reserves put them in an enviable position. Enviable yes, but perhaps it will be this envy that drives the next big innovation in operating systems in the same way that the envy of IBM created the IBM clone.

Imagine if HPQ instead of laying off 15,000 people employed them (and a few more) to create a new operating system to rival Windows. Sure, they may take a bit of a cost hit (a few billion) to design and market the beauty but someone has to start somewhere.

Re:Everyone's day comes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469937)

And imagine if you had to use RPN to do anything with the OS. I'd love it.

Flexibility (2, Interesting)

Hampo (576776) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469868)

Flexibility! That's what all that liquid cash does. While other companies usually reinvest in themselves, or (god forbid) issue dividends, Microsoft is hoarding.

All that hoarded cash gives them a flexibility that no company, or government for that matter!, has ever had before. If MS decides to go into the satellite business, they can just pay cash and build several satellite factories (or auto factories, or airports, or whatever the they want) and virtually overnight put all telecoms in dire shit by relandscaping an entire economy. Give everyone sat-phones and sat-ernet and charge low wireless rates. That's just an example. They could go into realestate development or anything else.

Scary flexibility. I wonder what they're up to. Don't forget Bill. He's been hoarding cash personally as well. We'll just have to wait and see...

These are good comparisons, but . . . (2)

arnie_apesacrappin (200185) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469876)

"enough to buy the entire airline industry -- twice. Or all the gold in Fort Knox, four times over. It is enough to buy 23 space shuttles or every major professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey team in America"

Could someone tell me how many Libraries of Congress(LoC) that is?

I dont get it (1)

alargeduck (540045) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469879)

Whats the use of holding on to so much money? So much could be done with that $40 billion. Even if Gates spent 75% of it, I doubt he or MS would be in any kind of shortage of cash. So why not sink that money into doing something useful? Donate some to NASA since they seem to be short of money. Or even just sink it into improving their own products. What is the use of having all that money though, if its not going to be used on anything? There is so much that could be done.

Re:I dont get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469951)

Several reasons:
Payout of fines and settlements from the various legal proceedings.
Helping out the balance sheet via investment gains.
The ability to change the direction of the company wholesale. This to me seems to make the most sense. If there is a fundamental change to their business (either from a court ruling or some other issue) they have the ability to switch their methods that their competitors do not.

Taco said large ads were because of demand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469880)

And yet all I see are house ads. Why?

catastrophe (1)

fabiolrs (536338) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469881)

Catastrophe Hedging Program 2.5

now tell me this thing runs on a Unix and Ill be happy for the rest of my day...

(i dont think MS is stupid enough to let their money be managed by a Win32 software)

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469882)

Doesn't matter how many billions they have. They still won't stop a free OS like Linux from gaining in usability and popularity. The decline and fall of Microsoft has begun.

Yeah, but... (5, Funny)

weave (48069) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469883)

Don't think about the billions they have now, think about the billions they are losing because of those greedy poor grade schools who are allegedly not using properly licensed donated PCs.

Oh that brings a scary thought to mind. (4, Funny)

spagma (514837) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469886)

So how long will it be until we see a Microsoft sponsered sporting team? Oh boy, I cant wait to see the Colorado Avalanch taking on the Redmond Blue Screens of Death.

Sounds like a bet on Deflation (2)

evilned (146392) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469887)

That Geforce 3 you bought last year for $400 is now worth $100. Its like that in all of the tech industry. If that sort of thing extends to the rest of the economy, having huge reserves of cash on hand makes a lot of sense. Because of deflation, that sort of liquid reserve effectively grows above and beyond any bank interest. Of course if they are betting wrong, and we end up with inflation, its an incredibly stupid move.

Wait a second.... (0, Offtopic)

iamcadaver (104579) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469895)

How the hell does Congress justify a corporate welfare bailout of the airline industry to the tune of twice the value of the entire industry??

MS Money (0)

Mizery De Aria (554294) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469897)

One of the key roles of corporate management is to wisely reinvest whatever money the business generates to fuel ever-increasing profits.

If they continue reinvesting and they continue making a profit, will they eventually own all the money that exists in the world leaving nothing for others?

they're not completely stupid at microsoft (2, Funny)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469900)

Don't ask me why, but somehow I've got a hunch that Castrophe Hedging 2.5 runs on FreeBSD.

Microsoft's 40 Billlion ....... (1)

pirhana (577758) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469911)

A firm which has 40 billion is not paying any tax !!!! can you believe it ? You should because that is capitalism and its newest and most sophisticated form called microsoft.

what would I do with $40 Billion (1)

tempestdata (457317) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469914)

The same thing I'd do with $1 million............ two chicks at the same time. ;)

Q & A (5, Funny)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469915)

Q: How are all these liquid assets held? Gold? Deposit accounts?

A: Mostly greenbacks, some gold and other precious metals. It's all held in a gargantuan bin, several city blocks on a side, with a giant dollar sign on the front. Bill likes to swim in it.

Q: The bin, I assume, is heavily secured.

A: Surprisingly, no. MS Security is quite porous, considering the massive resources available to it, and is often compromised by sub-literate ex-cons and bored underachieving teenagers (including, purportedly, Mr. Gates' own nephews.)

Q: Isn't he afraid it might be stolen?

A: Occasionally, as mentioned, thuggish dog-faced brutes will attempt to break into the bin. However, what Bill really worries about is that some practitioner of the dark arts might infiltrate his mansion and steal the first dime he ever earned - the magical powers of which are the only thing that keeps MS successful in spite of the low quality of their primary product.

You forgot about Gizmo Duck (1)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469986)

Fentom Quackshell ( I think that last name is right) will protectit. Blaberingblaberskites!!!!!!

Catastrophe Hedging Program 2.5 (2, Funny)

Schnapple (262314) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469918)

Occasionally when I compile an online COBOL program I get a message saying "an error has occurred" or "a serious error has occured" but you know you're fucked (not really) when "a catastrophic error has occured". I always think it's hilarious when the compilers feel it neccessary to rank the errors - as if some were less in need of fixing than others.

Ergo, I wonder if Catastrophe Hedging Program 2.5 ever has a catastophic error. Better question - does this program share any code with Microsoft Money?

$8 per share (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469922)

Checking CNN.com financial reports
5,415,222, 000
outstanding common shares. The $40 billion is only then $8 per share before taxes. MSFT is currently trading at aroung $50/share.

This ignores preferred shares, outstanding options calls, taxes and other splits including claims from outstanding lawsuits.

what would i do with 40 billion dollars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469925)

Two chicks at once.

'We thought it was a bug at first'... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469932)

'but the Catastrophe Hedging Program 2.5 kept telling us to short MSFT. After a while we determined the recomendation was in fact correct, and have therefore gone with SUNW and IBM.'

Feature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469933)

Is it featuring a bug that doubles my money ?
Where can I buy it ?

-H4NZ0-

What to do with 40 billion (1)

pkplex (535744) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469941)

Id employ a bunch of kiwis to go out and irrigate starving countrys, and teach the peoples how to grow tucker. And then you could grow and eat lots of rock melons ( the ultimate post doobie fruit ) and try and compile as much of the world to a relaxo state as possible :)

Be nice to upgrade my 56k modem connection too ( although the 386 gateway would have to stay :) )

What I would do with $40G.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469942)

....absolutely nothing! B-)

Windows forever (1)

wazzzup (172351) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469944)

Does this mean that if Windows wants to compete with Linux by giving it away for free, it could? I mean really, they could give Windows away for free for like 5 years or something and crush anything else out there. Kinda like they did with Netscape.

Not that I think it would ever happen but it could theoretically.

And yet the industry cowers before the MPAA/RIIA (1)

RonVNX (55322) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469947)

Enough money to crush the DMCA's backers and eject the politicians responsible for it.

I'd call that a worthwhile hedge against bad times.

um. so? (1)

targo (409974) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469949)

Are we out of regular Microsoft-bashing topics now or what? It kind of reminds me some evironmentalist demonstrations in Seattle and Redmond last year. The lamp-posts in the city were full of flyers that invited people to march through MS campus because:
a) Hi-tech industry pollutes the world.
b) It is really immoral to be as rich as billg.
c) MS has driven up the cost of real estate in the region, so poor people can't buy houses any more.
My point is that maybe people should try to find somewhat better arguments than hey, they are rich, therefore evil.

deja vu for sure (1)

winse (39597) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469953)

this [slashdot.org] article and this one [slashdot.org] are the best I could find, but I think there is an even more similair one out there. Notice that the cash estimates aren't all the same. maybe its a poor Katz estimate in that other one...wouldn't be so bad if it was rounded, but $30B vs 40B$ is a lot

New MetaTroll? (3, Troll)

crisco (4669) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469954)

You know that Troll that keeps posting all the math that shows BSD only has like 3 installations worldwide? And that other guy that posts to every other Microsoft story (posting to every one of them is too much) on how all those stock options are a grand pyramid scheme and Microsoft isn't worth so much after all?

They need to get together and come up with some good fuzzy math that shows how Microsoft will burn through that $40 billion in a week and make the DOJ irrelevant. Then we can all go home.

They will pay off their impending loss (2)

Odinson (4523) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469964)

If Enron inspired the congressional employee stock option bill passes, most of that money will go to dealing with the fallout.

They currently report 4-7 billon a year profit.

When they can no longer report employee stock options as income... 17 billion dollar annual loss.

At that rate 40 billion dosn't last very long.

"I wonder what I would do with $40 billion?" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469967)

Buy a damn beowulf cluster of something...

It's official (4, Funny)

Profane Motherfucker (564659) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469969)

I said it before, and now this confirms it, Gates really can make More money than Jesus at a promisekeeper's convention [slashdot.org].

It's a pity that Microsoft doesn't do a little more with their money than sell shit at top dollar. But, perhaps it's a Geffen Good, type thing. No fucking joke: start selling Linux at $99 for an install, and maybe the fucker will skyrocket.

Oh, for the days when huge corporations like Michelin did nice things. Says a French citizen, who grew up in Clermont-Ferrand (home of Michelin): "They subsidized the schools, busses, gave their workers bicycles, and helped fund the hospitals." But that was a long fucking time ago, and now it's all about fucking money. Ye, gods, though. How much fucking money does a place need? That's just irresponsible. Maybe I'm just some fucking yahoo, which is most likely the case, but it seems like one has a fucking obligation to be less of an asshole when one has the money to rule the world.

Their "Catastrophe" plan (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469977)

It seems I remember reading somewhere or some such thing that since they were able, Microsoft has always had enough liquid assets on hand to operate for at least one year with zero profits. In other words, they could freeze raises and new hiring and give their products away for an entire year.

THAT is a scary proposition for potential competitors. If you ask me, given that kind of ability to weather bad times, Linux (or some other such free model) might be the only OS that stands a chance at dethroning them completely.

What Bill is up to (1)

OccSub (572282) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469978)

I know what Bill Gates is doing with 40 billion dollars hoarded up! He's gathering the funds to build his unholy army of cybernetic robo-nerds who will overthrow the US and turn it into Gatesekistan! All he needs now is the technology to prevent these cyber-warriors of doom from blue-screening every ten minutes!

Just think about it. (3, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469982)

Just think about how many copies of Linux that much money could buy.

$40 billion? (5, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469984)

Everyone else has been funny, so I'll bite on the question:

If I had $40 billion in CASH, an infallibility complex, and a slowly-dawning-realization that a) I'm not going to be able to take it with me and b) everyone doesn't love me as much as I think they do I'd sure use that money for something significant.

I don't mean "feeding the poor" significant. They'll forget it tomorrow. I mean like building the first moon base, or a space elevator, mine the first asteroid or some such thing. Be the person that really sparked civilian development in space, and you will be remembered forever (besides doing a good turn for humanity in the really-long-view).

My $0.02, so that leaves room for another 39,999,999,999.98 more good ideas.

Catastrophe Hedging Program Beta (2)

DeadBugs (546475) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469987)

I would like to see what kind of bug list and change log the Catastrophe Hedging Program has. I'm sure people would be fired for a rounding error or misplaced decimal. I could see Bill Gates face while using the program to handle his finances and get a blue screen before he could hit save.

Generating $1bn a month?? (2)

SanLouBlues (245548) | more than 11 years ago | (#3469988)

Haven't they been around more than just 38 months? How long have they been making this much? Seems that either the number is wrong, or they should have more than just $38bn . . .

What to do with that cash ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3469990)

Here's [slagoon.com]
a good answer at Sherman's Lagoon...
Cheers !
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