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Greenberg: Google the Bank?

Friday, 16 Jul 2010 | 5:13 PM ET

If you read Google's earnings release yesterday, you would have seen this under cash:

That the company's cash balance of $30 billion included cash collateral of $2.9 billion that “we received in connection with our securities lending program..."

Did they say securities lending program?

Indeed they did, and — yes — I know that it has nothing to do with search or ad sales.

Say Hello, Google the bank, Google the mutual fund, Google the investment company — or Google whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

With so much cash on its books, Google is actively trading securities. According to a Fortune story in May, it has even has created its own trading floor.

Fortune also said the company was in the process of building a higher-risk, higher-return portfolio for its cash.

While a detailed breakdown of this quarter’s investments isn't out yet, Google did disclose in its earnings release on Thursday that as of December 31:

- Cash pretty much held steady at $10 billion.

- But marketable securities soared by 73 percent to around $19 billion.

Based on the first quarter’s breakdown, that likely includes a big increase in corporate debt securities and agency mortgage-backed securities.

Which gets us back to securities lending: Where does that play into the story?

Good question. I emailed and called Google's IR People. Their response? They pretty much ignored me.

My take: Arrogance aside, Google can do what it wants to do with its cash. Investors either buy into it or they don't. If there was ever any doubt that the company reached Microsoft-like maturity at Silicon Valley speed, this is it.

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