Search-giant Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) may have tipped its hand a bit in a letter to regulators, indicating it plans to keep up to $30 billion in cash overseas as a means to expand its ability to acquire foreign companies. It’s been no secret that Google, along with other tech giants like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), regularly takes advantage of tax loopholes by stashing profits in foreign countries, but the company is claiming it will put those assets to use, specifically by consuming foreign businesses to expand its reach.
According to Bloomberg, in a letter to regulators from last December, the company says it plans to put a lot of that money to work. “We continue to expect substantial use of our offshore earnings for acquisitions as our global business has expanded into other product offerings like mobile devices,” Google’s letter said. “It is reasonable to forecast that Google needs between $20 to $30 billion of foreign earnings to fund potential acquisitions of foreign targets and foreign technology rights from U.S. targets in 2013 and beyond.”
Google’s Quarterly Earnings Summary plainly displays that roughly half of the company’s revenues are generated overseas, and that number is increasing. If Google really plans to go on a spending spree overseas, a spree of up to $30 billion nonetheless, that’s a big signal as to where the company sees its future. As technology cascades down from American markets and into Europe, Latin America and Asia, there is a lot of room for growth around the globe.
You wouldn’t be blamed for a sense of doubt that creeps over upon hearing of Google’s plans to buy up foreign firms, as it’s easy to think the company will likely just hang on to the cash instead of going through the costly process of repatriating it. Big business has a long history of tax avoidance, with armies of policy analysts and accounts tracking down every loophole available to keep their employers from ponying up cash to the government. This is what has turned places like Ireland and the Cayman Islands into tax havens, with accounts overflowing with profits businesses would rather not admit to possessing. As regulators and the public have become more aware of these avoidance tactics, there have been calls for big businesses to play fair and pay their share. In the case of Google, its board of directors decided that it wouldn’t be the best course of action. This can have some negative public backlash, but as an overall factor in corporate strategy, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, as businesses tend to look out for their stockholders’ interests.