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Google could spend up to $30 billion acquiring foreign companies

Google could spend between $20 and $30 billion buying foreign firms over the next few years

Google could spend as much as $30 billion acquiring foreign firms over the next few years, the company said in a letter released by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. 

In the letter, originally sent in December, the Mountain View tech giant explained that "it is reasonable to forecast that Google needs between $20 to $30 billion of foreign earnings to fund potential acquisitions of foreign targets."

Several analysts said Google's statements come as no surprise. Google is already known for making numerous acquisitions here in the U.S.

Google has "by far been the biggest acquirer of companies among its peers,” said Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, a research firm. "I think this is simply notice being given that they're going to do more of it, and not necessarily just in the U.S.”

The foreign purchases have already begun. In 2013, Google's largest acquisition was its $1-billion purchase of Waze, an Israeli mobile navigation app. 

Half of the company's revenue comes from the U.S. So Google may be interested in purchasing foreign firms as a way to grow the money it makes overseas, said Josh Olson, a technology analyst for Edward Jones.

Google's "incremental growth within the U.S., outside of mobile, might be slowing," Olson said.

Buying foreign firms would also allow Google to keep the money it has stashed overseas from being taxed by the U.S. government, Olson said.

"This cash is essentially sitting idle," Olson said. "We see acquisitions as a better use of that cash."

But it's unclear what companies Google may be targeting.

Over the last year, Google has acquired a start-up specializing in drones, another in artificial intelligence and numerous robotics firms. Its largest recent acquisition was its January $3.2-billion purchase of Nest, a maker of smart appliances, which today announced a recall of its smoke detectors.

Acquisitions are key for Google since most of its money still comes from its search business, Howe said.

“Its revenue stream is a one-trick pony: It's advertising," he said. "At some point, they’ve got to get another revenue stream that makes it profits.”

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