How Much Do Techs Giants Have Overseas? Billions.

Monday, 10 Dec 2012 | 3:51 PM ET
Sami | Sarkis | Getty Images

We often talk about the staggering amount of cash some of the biggest multinationals are holding, so I want to take a peek at that, courtesy of some of the top names in tech.

Specifically, I spent some time searching the latest SEC filings to see just how much cash some major techs have in overseas bank accounts where it's not subject to U.S. taxes.

Here's a snapshot: Percentage-wise, Microsoft's near the top of the list, with 87 percent of its $66.6 billion outside the U.S. Cisco not far behind at 83 percent of its $45 billion, Oracle at 80 percent of $31.6 billion, Apple at 68 percent of $121.3 billion, and Google at 64 percent of $45.7 billion.

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Why is all that cash over there? It's not necessarily because they're hiding it. A big part of the reason is that they've become global growth stories.

When Microsoft sells product overseas, the proceeds naturally go into an overseas account. The money doesn't come to the U.S. unless Microsoft needs to buy something here.

This is actually a big issue for a company like Cisco, where John Chambers has been very straightforward about saying if the feds let him bring this cash to the U.S. without a big tax bill, he'll hire in the U.S. If not, he'll hire a lot less.

Also, there's the acquisition wrinkle: Cisco used to do nearly all of its big acquisitions in the U.S.

But as domestic targets have gotten more expensive and the proportion of Cisco's cash it's generating outside the U.S. remains steady at about 80 percent, it's harder to buy anything big. Not only does Cisco have to look at the purchase price of its target, it has to add another 30 percent or so to factor in the cost of repatriating the cash.

Chambers said just last week that Cisco has gone too long without a big acquisition. Given the dynamics here, you've got to wonder: Does that mean he's about to make a major overseas buy?

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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

  • Cadie Thompson is a tech reporter for the Enterprise Team for CNBC.com.

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.

  • Jon Fortt is an on-air editor. He covers the companies, start-ups, and trends that are driving innovation in the industry.

  • Lipton is CNBC's technology correspondent, working from CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau.

  • Mark is CNBC's Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bureau Chief covering technology and digital media.