Cisco Earnings: What to Watch For
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading
Cisco reports its fourth-quarter earnings after markets close Wednesday. The company's had problems, with revenues declining three consecutive quarters. We've also heard reports about big personnel changes, both at the top and for the rank and file. Here's what to watch for.
Cisco's revenue decline will continue. Financial analysts expect Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s revenue will decline again, projecting revenues of $12.14 billion, down 2.2% from last year's $12.42 billion. But the news for investors isn't all bad -- earnings are projected at $0.53, up from $0.52 last year.
Cisco said in its most recent earnings call, in May, that weak carrier business was pulling down revenue, but the sector is improving and future growth will be driven by the cloud, the Internet of Everything (Cisco's term for the Internet of Things), and other new technologies and markets. John Chambers, Cisco's chairman and CEO, said he was confident the company is turning around. (See Cisco Earnings Suffer From Carrier Weakness.)
Probability of continued revenue decline: High. The turnaround is still a work-in-progress. Cisco may well beat analyst expectations, but it won't beat its year-ago-quarter revenues.
Chambers may step down. The 65-year-old Cisco honcho said two years ago that he might step down in two to four years. That means his window of retirement is open. Sources told Light Reading in June that Cisco would announce retirement in July. That obviously didn't happen. (See Is Cisco's Chambers Retiring in the Fall?)
But 451 Research analyst Christian Renaud told us in June that Chambers will likely announce his retirement on an earnings call, and do it one or two quarters in advance if he can. So maybe our sources were right -- just off by a few weeks?
Probability of Chambers announcing retirement: Moderate. He'll likely do it sometime. But it's more likely he'll do it when Cisco has a couple of quarters of increased revenue. He won't want to go out when the company is turning around; he'll want to do it when the turnaround is done.
Cisco may announce layoffs. At the same time we were hearing about Chamber's upcoming retirement, we also heard about a reorganization that may result in 20,000 people changing jobs inside the company. Now, Cisco blogger Brad Reese reports that up to 20% of Cisco employees might be laid off October 1.
Probability of layoffs: Moderate. Cisco has a history of laying people off -- 4,000 people a year ago, plus 900 in October, according to Business Insider. Layoffs obviously help the bottom line in the short term by cutting costs, but layoffs also mean there are fewer hands to take advantage of possible new business. Layoffs without a strategy change are like a medieval doctor bleeding a patient in hopes of making them well again.
Cisco may split the company. This is a crazy idea -- but maybe crazy enough to work: Split Cisco into high-growth and high-yield businesses, suggests RBC Capital Markets' Mark Sue. Both companies would go on a buying spree, with "YieldCo" picking up high-yield companies such as Juniper, Amdocs and Check Point, while "GrowthCo" would buy high-growth small, and nimble technology companies with a focus on new and emerging technologies.
Probability of Cisco splitting up: In the words of the immortal Wayne Campbell: "It might happen. Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt."