Cash holdings by non-financial U.S. corporations are increasingly in the hands of a few usual suspects, with only five tech firms holding a third of it. In total, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Cisco Systems and Oracle are sitting on $504 billion, or 30%, of the $1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015, according to an analysis from Moody’s Investors Service. That’s up from previous years: these five companies held 27% of cash in 2014 and 25% in 2013. (Amazon came in at no. 17 in the rankings with $19.8 billion in cash, and Facebook at 18 with $18.4 billion.)
But nearly three-quarters of that cash is stashed overseas, where it is exempt from U.S. taxes: 72% of total cash held by all non-financial U.S. companies is stockpiled outside the U.S., up from 64% in 2014 and 58% in 2013. To avoid paying taxes, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Alphabet and Oracle have $441 billion saved overseas, or 87% of their total cash holdings. Meanwhile, note Moodys analysts, “the rising cash piles mask a rapid increase in debt.” According to a new report by S&P Global, U.S. non-financial companies are now on the hook for $6.6 trillion in debt, yielding the lowest cash-to-debt ratio in a decade, or just prior to the financial crisis.