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Who's got the most cash in corporate America? For the first time, 5 tech firms

Who's got the most cash in corporate America? For the first time, 5 tech firms
Apple's bank accounts had more cash than any other U.S. company at the end of 2015: $216 billion, or more than every industry except tech and healthcare. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Climbing profits at tech companies in 2015 -- as revenue and earnings largely fell at other U.S. businesses -- gave the industry the five most-stuffed corporate wallets for the first time since tracking began in 2007.

Oracle Corp. knocked drug maker Pfizer Inc. from the top-five list, joining Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Google-owner Alphabet Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. as the most cash-rich U.S. companies, according to Moody's Investment Service.

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The five tech companies accounted for $504 billion, or 30%, of the $1.68 trillion in cash and marketable securities held by more than 1,000 top firms (excluding banks), the credit rating issuer said in a report Friday.

The tech industry as a whole extended its overall lead, carrying 46% of the U.S. non-bank private sector war-chest, up from 40% at the end of 2014. About half of the tech money is held in overseas accounts.

The technology industry has put billions of dollars into acquisitions, dividends and share buybacks during recent years, but surging cash flows for companies such as Apple are restocking bank accounts faster.

The iPhone maker has held the top spot on Moody's list since 2009 and gained $176 billion in cash -- more than a quarter of the entire jump in corporate cash balances over the last six years. The tech industry accounts for 66% of the increase.

Moody's found that revenue across the 1,000 companies it studied declined 4.1% in 2015 to $10.8 trillion, with cash flow from operations down 0.2% to $1.5 trillion. It expects the numbers to stay flat in 2016.

Also troublesome is rising debt. Companies racked up a 10% increase in debt on average over the last two years, but just a 1% increase in cash. Balances at the end of 2015 would pay for only 93% of the corporate debt coming due over the next five years, the lowest coverage since 2011, Moody's said.

Twitter: @peard33

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