Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Cisco: It's Just a Little Transition, That's All

Air pockets? More like a stalled engine. In reporting quarterly earnings that beat the reduced expectations of analysts, Cisco Systems at first seemed to be getting things back on track.

But its statement contained a new characterization from CEO John Chambers about the circumstances Cisco finds itself in. Gone was talk of temporary air pockets that emerged in November when Cisco’s outlook turned suddenly, and unexpectedly, sour. Now it’s in a “period of transition.”

One that’s far from over, apparently. Having reported the hard numbers, it saved the bad news, in particular its outlook, for the conference call. And it wasn’t pretty. It fell to CFO Frank Calderoni to deliver the bad news. While Cisco forecast revenue to grow at a rate of 4 to 6 percent in the third quarter over the same period in 2010, profits were forecast at 35 to 38 cents a share, well below the consensus of 39 cents. Gross margins for the full year will be in the 62 to 63 percent range, down from 64 percent in 2010.

Chambers noted weaknesses both in Cisco’s switching business, where sales declined by 7 percent, and in sales to government customers, saying he expected that segment to be problematic during the next several quarters. Sales of set-top boxes were also weak. Summing it up, Chambers said: “I think we will look back on this period of time and wish we could have avoided it and yet it will make us stronger in the long run.”

There was good news. Cisco will pay its first dividend this year, somewhere in the range of 1 to 2 percent.

And then there’s Cisco’s cash position, which stands at $40.2 billion, though only $3 billion or so of it is inside the U.S.

Chambers used the subject to once again complain about U.S. tax policy regarding cash held overseas. “We have a tax policy that is just broken,” he said.

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