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Apple has greatest cash pile among US businesses

A report by debt rating service Moody's noted Apple held the most cash among non-financial companies in the US last year, even as businesses across the board have increased their cash holdings by about 11 percent.

At the end of 2010, Apple was sitting on $60 billion, putting it ahead of second place Microsoft ($41 billion) and third place Cisco (with $40.3 billion), according to a report by Silicon Valley Business Journal

Despite a general increase in capital improvements, mergers and acquisitions and dividend payments, Moody's said businesses' cash stashes continued to grow and their debt-to-cash ratios continue to fall, hitting 3.06 at the end of 2010, the lowest point in the last five years.

Apple doesn't pay dividends to shareholders and has avoided making lavish acquisitions in the style of Microsoft, Google and other large tech firms. This year, Apple's cash pile has swelled above $76 billion on strong sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs, as a sharp increase since 2005 as noted in a report by Asymco.

With more than half of the company's business now occurring outside the US, a large portion of Apple's cash reserves are now held in offshore accounts, mirroring the fact that $600 billion of the $1.24 trillion in cash held by US businesses in general is also sitting overseas.

That fact has prompted plans to offer US companies a "tax holiday" to encourage them to bring their foreign cash reserves back to the US, with the goal of triggering economic activity and creating jobs. Apple has joined a consortium of companies lobbying for the tax holiday.