Apple gets paid for products faster than it has to pay for manufacturing
Here's yet another sign of what a great position Apple has put itself in in terms of manufacturing: According to the Wall Street Journal [paywall], the company gets paid by its customers much faster than it is required to pay its suppliers. The difference between the inflow of sales and the outflow of manufacturing capital means that Apple's capital investment is actually negative -- a sort of fiscal antigravity.
Apple is getting paid by customers after 18 days on average, but it has leveraged into a position where it has up to 83 days to pay its suppliers.
That's phenomenal, and it's a result of quite a few different initiatives by the company in the past. First, not only are Apple's products built around high profit and high demand, but Apple has made various company acquisitions and locked down powerful supply deals. This also means that the companies that Apple has teamed up with end up taking on more of the risk than usual, leaving Apple in a very agile and flexible position. According to the WSJ, in 2011 Apple paid to keep only four days of inventory on hand, versus 10 days of inventory held in 2010.
Again, this is of course the product of years of spending on R&D, acquisitions and investments, and Apple's legendary advertising budgets and reputation for quality. But it's obviously a very impressive place for Apple Inc. to perch.