Apple acquires 24 companies in 18 months; Targeting Irish tax-linked Beats Electronics
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
May 9, 2014 - 4:51 PM

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Apple has bought 24 companies in past 18 months, it was recently disclosed, and more deals are likely on the way, with Tim Cook, the CEO,  describing Apple as "on the prowl" for potential acquisitions that make sense. Cook's comments coincide with news reports that Apple is seeking to bolster its streaming-music business with a proposed $3.2bn deal to acquire Beats Electronics LLC, the high-end headphone maker that recently launched the Beats Music subscription service, according to people familiar with the matter - - Beats Electronics LLC is a privately held US firm and Beats Electronics Holding Limited, an Irish offshore tax avoidance company that is domiciled in Jersey, Channel Islands, is the owner of the international operations.

The Financial Times reports that Apple is closing in on its largest acquisition with the planned $3.2bn purchase of Beats Electronics, the headphone maker and music streaming operator founded by music producer Jimmy Iovine and the hip-hop star Dr Dre.

The FT says that a decade after Steve Jobs transformed the music industry with the iTunes download store and the iPod digital music player, the deal is likely to be seen as an admission that Apple needs to look outside its Cupertino labs to continue making an impact.

While Beats commands a leading position in the premium headphone market, its real value to Apple is in revitalising its “cool” at a time when iTunes has waned in popularity and Samsung’s marketing campaigns have savaged the iPhone’s brand.

The newspaper says that Apple executives have admitted that its brand is in need of a revamp. Internal emails released during its recent patent trial with Samsung showed that its marketing chief Phil Schiller considered changing Apple’s ad agency after the success of its Korean rival’s “next big thing” campaign.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Carlyle Group would be a big winner in Apple Inc's possible acquisition of headphone-maker Beats Electronics.

The private-equity firm paid about $500m for just under 50% of the headphone maker last year.

If Apple follows through on its reported $3bn-plus deal for Beats, Carlyle’s take would be upward of $1.5bn, or about $1bn profit.

Not bad for a seven-month-old investment, and surely support for Carlyle’s growing interest in taking large minority stakes in companies as control investments become more difficult to come by, and more expensive.

Late last month speaking during his company's quarterly earnings conference call, Tim Cook told analysts that Apple is on the lookout for companies with talented employees and "great technology." But a key factor for those acquisitions is that they "fit culturally," the CEO said.

Cook also said that Apple considers whether its acquisitions will make sense and add value for shareholders over the long haul before the company goes through with a purchase.

"We are not in a race to spend the most or acquire the most," he said. "We're in a race to make the best products that enrich people's lives."

Apple has usually acquired smaller companies in strategic deals, never having spent more than $1bn on any acquisition but Cook said that could change, if it were the right deal.

"We don't have a rule that says we can't spend a lot or whatever," Cook said. "We'll spend what we think is a fair price."

HTC of Taiwan, the smartphone maker, bought 50.1% of Beats Electronics in 2011 for $309m and in 2012, it sold back half it stake to the co-founders.

Beats Electronics Holding Limited had revenues of $1724m in 2012 and profit before tax of $8,2m.

It paid the Irish Revenue $537,563 in tax even though its presence in Ireland is only as a mailbox company.

OECD BEPS Project: Ireland should embrace corporate tax reform -- including how Apple and rappers like Dr Dre are able to benefit from Ireland's tax regime.

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