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Google CFO Says Keeping Cash for Investment Opportunities

Google CFO Says Keeping Cash for Investment Opportunities
Patrick Pichette, CFO of Google Inc., at the 2012 grand opening of Google Inc.'s office in Toronto, Canada. Photographer: Brett Gunlock/Bloomberg

Google Inc., operator of the world’s largest search engine, wants to keep money on hand in order to be able to invest quickly when needed, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said.

Google, which had $48.1 billion in cash and short-term investments at the end of 2012, wants to retain its “strategic ability to pounce,” Pichette said at a Morgan Stanley conference. He cited the company’s ability to move “on a dime” when it agreed to buy Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. for about $12.5 billion in cash in 2011.

Pichette discussed the question of cash as Apple Inc. is under increasing investor scrutiny over its $137.1 billion in cash and investments, facing pressure to return more to shareholders. Google regularly reviews its use of money with the board to ensure it’s being managed best for shareholders, Pichette said.

“For now we feel very comfortable with our position,” Pichette said. “We don’t have religion about cash and hoarding cash. Google doesn’t have this view that it will keep all its cash for eternity.”

Investors in the search-engine provider have seen better returns than Apple stockholders. While Google has advanced 31 percent in the past year through through yesterday, Apple has declined 15 percent during the same period.

Google rose less than 1 percent to $804.66 at 2:42 p.m. in New York, while Apple was up less than 1 percent to $444.83.

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