Apple (NAS: AAPL) has the wrong logo. The partially bitten fruit shouldn't gleam white or silver. It should be green. A deep, dark shade of green for the $97 billion in cash and net investments that existed on its balance sheet as of Dec. 31.
The Mac maker rivals an ATM for its cash-producing prowess, in some cases dwarfing rivals. Consider:
Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) produced $19 billion in adjusted cash flows over the past 12 months.
IBM (NYS: IBM) generated nearly $12 billion over the same period.
Oracle (NAS: ORCL) topped $11 billion.
Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) took in more than $8.5 billion.
All four except for Microsoft badly trailed the $20.9 billion Apple produced, as tracked by S&P Capital IQ.
But it gets better. If you take Apple's net worth -- i.e., total assets minus total liabilities -- and place it on a list of world countries ranked by gross domestic product, you get a perhaps unsurprisingly strong result:
2010 GDP/Net Worth
Sudan + South Sudan
Sources: CIA World Factbook via Wikipedia
Impressive, if creepy, company, wouldn't you say? Apple under Tim Cook has the financial heft of crooked regimes once run by oil-soaked dictators deemed so awful they had to be overthrown.
In another sense the comparison does fit. Cook has long since justified the late Steve Jobs' faith in him as CEO. The Mac maker's fearsome cash generation only hammers home that point while leaving one massively important question unanswered: Can anything, or anyone, stop Apple?
It's a big question, but the world is also a big place and Apple isn't the only American enterprise on a tear right now. The Motley Fool recently released a new report profiling three more U.S. companies set to dominate the global market. It's yours free, but only for a limited time, so take a look today.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and IBM at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
Editor's note: After reviewing reader comments and giving it further consideration, we have revised the headline to this story.
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