Every year, people keep thinking that the Law of Big Companies has to kick in for Apple. Roughly speaking, that law says that as companies get bigger, their rate of growth inevitably tapers off.
Surely, even the world’s most valuable company can’t keep growing at the blistering pace it has maintained for the past decade. Can it?
That year may yet come. But the annual report that Apple has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reminds us that the fiscal year 2015 that ended Sept. 30 was not that year for Apple.
Instead, the company posted monster growth, even where it was far from perfect (iPad sales continued to slump; iTunes sales continue falling). It rolled out a host of new products — Apple Watch, Apple Pay, Apple Music, a new Apple TV, iPad Pro (available in November) — whose full measure won’t come for at least another year.
But in the meantime, here are some interesting bits and pieces from the filing that underscore Apple’s position as a juggernaut:
- Total R&D expense was $8.1 billion in 2015, up from $6.0 billion in 2014, $4.5 billion in 2013 and $3.4 billion in 2012. Clearly, the company is priming the research pipeline.
- The company grew from 92,600 full-time equivalent employees in Sept. 2014 to 110,000 FTEs in Sept. 2015. (Last year, it said that 46,200 of those employees worked at Apple Stores, but it didn’t break out that number this year.)
- There is always talk about whether Apple is becoming too dependent on iPhone sales. This year, Apple felt obligated to add this warning to its disclosures: “Further, the Company generates a majority of its net sales from a single product and a decline in demand for that product could significantly impact quarterly net sales.”
- Apple is still indirectly in the crosshairs of the European Union’s investigations into the tax breaks Ireland offered Apple. While it’s still unclear just how much Apple could be on the hook for if Ireland is required to demand additional taxes, this year Apple added to its disclosure that the time frame in question is 10 years, and that the amount at stake “could be material.”
- Last year, the amount of office space the company owned or leased in the U.S. increased from 19.7 million square feet to 25.6 million square feet. Guessing that doesn’t yet include Apple Campus II, but that’s not clearly specified. In any case, the company also noted that some of its corporate functions are now located in San Jose.
- Apple has now paid $32.9 billion in dividends over the past three years. The $11.4 billon in dividends last year is more than the annual budgets of 16 U.S. states. And the last three years of dividends could have covered Alabama’s $28.5 billion annual state budget in 2014. Just in case Apple ever decides to secede from the Union.
- Apple has also spent $104 billion buying back stock (out of a total $140 billion it is authorized by its board to spend).
- Apple Watch, which was available less than half of FY 2015 still “accounted for more than 100% of the year-over-year growth in net sales of Other Products.” A little math: Other Products grew from $8.379 billion in 2014 to $10.067 billion in 2015. That means Apple has sold at least $1.688 billion worth of Apple Watches. But as the statement implies, the actual figure is higher in a category that was dragged down by falling iPod sales. If that pace can be maintained, it’s reasonable to think Apple Watch could be at least a $5 billion business in this current fiscal year.
- Average selling price for the iPhone increased by 11 percent during 2015, thanks to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It’s incredible, when you think about it. Almost a decade after the first iPhone, Apple is still getting people to pay MORE to buy their phones.
- This was the first full year that the iPad experienced an annual drop in sales, and it seems that only growth in China iPad sales is preventing the product from a total collapse, at this point.
- The company’s cash overseas grew to $186.9 billion from $137.1 billion.
- As of September 26, 2015, Apple has 463 retail stores.