Apple has confirmed plans to sell $17 billion in debt in what amounts to the company's first bond offering in 17 years.

When asked for comment, a representative for Apple did not shed additional light on the timing or specifics of the sale, but Apple's big plans call for $100 billion to be returned to shareholders by the end of 2015.

In order to achieve this objective, Apple is issuing debt to help fund that plan.

Apple has a huge cash stockpile, but much of that cash is overseas. Raising money in the debt market would help Apple avoid the big tax bill that would come from bringing the cash back to the U.S., executives said last week. It also allows the iPhone maker to take advantage of historically low interest rates.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has already begun holding meetings with investors to assess their potential interest. Sources say Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG "were leading the sale of the offering, which was expected to price late Tuesday."

Source: WSJ