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Samsung's cash pile triples in one year, now worth $28.5B after debt

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Samsung's profitable smartphone business has caused the South Korean company's cash to swell to nearly $40 billion, with a net cash position of $28.5 billion when debt is factored in.

Samsung's new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4.

While the sum is still well behind the $145 billion debt-free cash pile Apple had as of the end of the March quarter, it's still an impressive haul that's among the largest in Asia. In fact, Samsung's net cash has nearly tripled over the last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Samsung saw its net profit increase by 42 percent in the March quarter. The company, which makes the popular Galaxy-branded handsets, is Apple's chief rival in the smartphone space.

As Samsung's cash has grown, so too has interest in how the company plans to use the money. Market watchers expect Samsung to make acquisitions, while some shareholders hope the company will boost its dividend.

For years Apple found itself under pressure to formulate a plan for its growing cash pile. With interest and speculation at a fever pitch, the company announced a $100 billion capital reinvestment program during its quarterly earnings conference call last month.

The bulk of that $100 billion will go toward a share buyback program, while the remaining money will cover a 15 percent increase in Apple's quarterly dividend. Because about $100 billion of Apple's $145 billion is held overseas, Apple took on debt in the form of bonds to fund the program — a move that will allow the company to avoid $9.2 billion in taxes that it would pay to repatriate the rest of its cash.

Investors have reacted positively to Apple's cash plans. This week, outspoken critic David Einhorn, chairman of Greenlight Capital, announced he had increased his stake in Apple following the announcement of its capital reinvestment plans.

Apple's cash and cash equivalents are still more than five times greater than Samsung's $28.5 billion after debt, so investors are not yet clamoring for the South Korean electronics maker to devise a plan as loudly as the criticism of Apple eventually became.

For its part, Samsung told the Journal that the company's cash will be used to prioritize "investments sustainable for areas like facilities, R&D, and marketing that will help the company solidify or boost competitiveness."