Analysis of Apple's capital expenditures reveals that the company may have spent $2 billion to prevent Sharp from going under, according to Asymco analyst Horace Dediu.
Overall expenditures in 2012 were $2.3 billion higher than forecasted and the cash payments for capex were $2 billion lower than expenditures meaning that the over-spend was not paid for with cash.
Circumstantial evidence points to the asset being production equipment (or even a whole plant) previously owned by Sharp. Sharp is a key supplier of screens to Apple but is also in financial distress. Sharp has also been the object of an intended investment by Foxconn [Hon Hai]. That deal fell through as Sharp’s finances deteriorated. My guess is that these attempts to shore up Sharp are directed by Apple to ensure both continuity of supply and a balanced supplier base (offsetting Samsung, another supplier.) If Sharp were to enter into some form of bankruptcy, the key plant(s) used in producing screens for Apple might be “up for grabs” by creditors and they might be taken off-line, jeopardizing Apple’s production capacity, irrespective of contractual obligations.
Dediu believes Apple's unprecedented expenditure was to secure this asset and that financing of the deal was through a swap of pre-orders. He suggests that Apple arranged to move a Sharp production line onto its books and pay for it through a pre-payment of components. As of September 29th, 2012 Apple had outstanding commitments and component purchase commitments of $21.1 billion. Dediu notes that this is a major increase from earlier years and could allow for a huge 'slush fund' to cover asset swaps.
A much more detailed analysis can be found at the link below...