Give Us Our Dividends

Technology companies like Microsoft and Cisco are piling up cash. Shouldn't they pay some of it out to shareholders?

For investors, cash is no longer trash--it's toxic. With short-term yields at 1.4% and inflation around 1.6%, the real return on cash is a putrid -0.2%. Holding cash has suddenly become a sure way to lose money. Why, then, has Oracle hoarded $5 billion in cash? How come Cisco--which last week raised its earnings projections--has $7.5 billion stuffed under its mattress? And why has Microsoft piled up a mountain of cash $38.2 billion high? Just how rainy a day is Bill Gates expecting, anyway?

Merrill Lynch tech analyst Steven Milunovich recently suggested that cash-rich firms like Microsoft should begin paying dividends...

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