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Google eyes overseas shopping spree

Google is amassing overseas cash to help finance a foreign shopping spree that could cost the internet giant up to 30 billion dollars (£17.8bn).

The potential price tag for Google's expansion plans outside the US have surfaced in documents disclosing the company's response to recent questions raised by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Pressed to provide more details about its plans for its overseas cash, Google revealed that 20-30 billion dollars was earmarked for the acquisition of foreign companies and technology rights held outside the US.

The comoany, based in Mountain View, California, did not specify a timetable for completing the deals or mention any acquisition candidates.

Google nearly pulled off a major acquisition late last year, according to the letter to the SEC. The company said it was in talks to buy a foreign company before abandoning the negotiations shortly before writing the December 20 2013 letter. Although the letter is five months old, the SEC did not release it until today.

Google declined to comment on the letter.

Had the potential deal mentioned in the SEC letter been completed, it would have eclipsed Google's largest foreign acquisition so far - last year's billion-dollar (£595m) purchase of Waze, a digital mapping service based in Israel.

Google has spent about 27 billion dollars (£16bn) buying other companies, primarily in the US, during the past decade. Its biggest acquisition so far has been Motorola Mobility, a mobile phone maker snapped up for 12.4 billion dollars (£7.3bn) two years ago. Google is now in the process of selling Motorola's phone business to Lenovo Group for 2.9 billion dollars (£1.7bn) in a deal that still requires regulatory approval.

Besides buying foreign companies, Google may also spend about four billion dollars (£2.3bn) buying offices and data centres outside the US, according to its explanation to the SEC.

Google's overseas cash totalled 34.5 billion dollars (£20.5bn) through March. Another 25 billion (£14.8bn) is held in the US.

Like many other large technology companies, Google has been criticised for keeping money overseas to avoid paying US taxes. MPs in Britain and France also have lashed out at Google for avoiding taxes in their countries by booking revenue in Ireland, where tax rates are lower.

Google has steadfastly maintained that all of its financial reporting complies with tax laws around the world.

Most of Google's revenue comes from outside the US.

A proposal urging Google to pay its "fair share" of taxes around the world was rejected by more than 90% of the company's shareholders at a meeting last week.

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