Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) topped analysts' estimates by a penny a share in its first fiscal quarter Wednesday, returning a profit of $559 m (£338 m) or 34 cents (£0.20) a share, on sales of $2.59 bn (£1.6 bn). Its shares closed up 2 3/16 to 65 9/16 ahead of the earnings report.
First Call consensus expected the network equipment maker to earn 33 cents (£0.20) a share in the quarter. Of course, Cisco always seems to beat the Street number by at least penny a share. The $2.59 bn (£1.6 bn) in sales represents a 38 percent improvement versus the year-ago quarter when it earned $416 m (£252 m) or 26 cents (£0.16) a share, on sales of $1.87 bn (£1.13 bn). "We are pleased to report the 35th-consecutive quarter of revenue and earnings growth," said CEO John Chambers in a prepared release. "We have seen a dramatic increase in the awareness of the Internet's strategic value from business and government leaders worldwide."
Cisco's reputation and performance within the technology industry and on Wall Street has made its shareholders a staggering amount of money in the blink of an eye. The world's leading network equipment maker is already projecting sales of $10 billion this fiscal year. Few if any stocks could match Cisco's stock performance in the past eight years. After its initial public offering in February 1990 at $18 (£11) a share, the stock has split seven times—including five 2-for-1 bonanzas. In August, it split 3-for-2 at 96 5/8.
A legitimate case could be made for Cisco being the most dominant technology company in the world, busily hooking up a global customer base just dying to get online. Its profit margins aren't too shabby either.
Earlier this quarter, its chairman, John Morgridge, said total sales "would grow at a rate of 25-plus-percent." There's no reason to doubt him. In the past fiscal year, Cisco recorded sales of $8.46 bn (£5.13 bn) -- a 31 percent jump from fiscal 1997. Last quarter, it pocketed $491.6 m (£298 m) or 30 cents (£0.18) a share, on sales of $2.38 bn (£1.44 bn).
A comparison of Cisco's stock chart to the S&P 500's performance in the past eight years --most of which included the greatest bull market in history -- confirms this stock's pedigree. People are always looking for that "next IBM" to add to their portfolios and it's been here all along. It just keeps soaring. It should come as no surprise that all 29 brokerage firms following the stock have either "buy" or "strong buy" recommendations and have held those ratings for at least a year.