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Aug 13, 2020

Apple joins the tech borrowing boom with second deal this year

Different colored Apple Inc. iPhone 11 smartphones stand on display inside the Regent Street Apple store during a product launch event in London, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Apple's new iPhones with camera enhancements and improved battery life go on sale today.

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Borrowing costs are so cheap right now that not even Apple Inc. could resist, becoming the latest to join a boom in issuance from the world’s biggest technology companies.

Apple, which hadn’t borrowed in dollars more than once in a calendar year since 2017, tapped the investment-grade market for US$5.5 billion in its second trip since May. It was cheap to issue debt then and is even better now, with cash-rich companies like Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. getting in on the action, outdoing each other to set a new floor for yields.

The iPhone maker sold bonds in four parts, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The longest maturity, a 40-year security, will yield 118 basis points above Treasuries, after initially discussing around 135 basis points, the person said, asking not to be identified as the details are private.

That debt will come cheaper for Apple than it did for Amazon, which priced at 130 basis points over Treasuries, but is still slightly more expensive than Google’s spread of 108 basis points. Outside of tech, Visa Inc. and Chevron Corp. set record low rates on new issues earlier this week, but for bonds that mature sooner.

Unlike the rest of the economy, big tech has thrived in the pandemic, with consumers largely still at home and more reliant on their gadgets and connectivity. Even with cash piles near record highs, the companies are borrowing for next to nothing in a credit boom that has favored corporate America’s biggest companies and left the smaller ones behind.

Apple is coming off a blowout quarter that has helped fuel a stock surge that’s putting its market value close to a historic $2 trillion. Now it’s readying a series of bundles that will let customers subscribe to several of the company’s digital services at a lower monthly price, according to people with knowledge of the effort.

Like almost all of Apple’s bond sales, it will use the money to buy back stock and pay dividends, among other general corporate purposes, the person said. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. managed the offering.

Apple also enlisted minority-owned underwriters Blaylock Van LLC, Loop Capital Markets, CastleOak Securities LP, Siebert Williams Shank & Co. LLC and Samuel A. Ramirez & Co. Inc. to help sell the offering, the person said. Google hired 15 diverse firms on its US$10 billion bond sale last week, awarding them a record $4 million in collective fees.