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Apple cash pile hits new record of $261.5 billion

  • Apple's new record cash pile is up 13 percent year over year.
  • Apple stashes most of its cash overseas amid steep tax penalties associated with repatriating foreign earnings.
  • Other than high-profile investments in Didi and Beats, it's rare for Apple to make splashy deals.

Apple's cash pile swelled again this quarter, hitting a record $261.5 billion, compared with $256.8 billion last quarter. That's up 13 percent year over year.

To put it in context: If all of that money could be put to work today, it would be enough to buy Oracle outright and still have $54 billion left over. It's also enough to buy Wal-Mart or AT&T outright, based on current market cap.

Other than high-profile investments in Didi and Beats, it's rare for Apple to make splashy deals. Instead, the company often opts to fuel research and development. The company spent $2.94 billion on research and development during the quarter, up from $2.56 billion a year ago and continuing a nine-month upward trend.

Chief financial officer Luca Maestri told analysts that $246 billion of this cash, or 94 percent of the total, was outside the United States.

The company has invested in a wide range of businesses worldwide: A new store in Dubai has been a centerpiece of Apple's new retail strategy, noted on a conference call with analysts, while iPad sales during the quarter saw double-digit increases in key markets such as the U.S., Japan, Germany, France and greater China, CEO Tim Cook said.

But Apple also faces steep tax penalties associated with repatriating foreign earnings. Cook has been a staunch advocate of tax reform — including a measure, proposed by President Donald Trump, to have a one-time cut in repatriation taxes. That could allow Apple to put money to work buying another company or returning earnings to shareholders.

Apple, to be sure, is far from skimping in that arena.

Cook told analysts that Apple is investing $1 billion in advanced manufacturing in the U.S., as CNBC's Jim Cramer first reported, and investing in American resources like education. Apple also declared a 63 cent dividend during the third quarter.

Apple will have "some things to say" later this year about the fact that two-thirds of Apple's total employee base in the U.S. despite only a third of revenues being U.S.-based, according to Cook.

Still, shareholder Ross Gerber of Gerber Kawasaki said he'd be happy with a smart deal from Apple.

"The Beats acquisition was such a great move for them .... it really shows how smart good acquisitions are for Apple," Gerber told CNBC's "Closing Bell." "I think they need to be in other businesses, I think they need to diversify so we're not all out here praying for the iPhone 8 to be something super special, you know."

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