Why Cisco’s Earnings Report May Matter So Much

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Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is set to report earnings after the closing bell on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. This will be a highly watched report because Cisco is the king of tech equipment in capital spending issues for the global technology picture. Another reason this report matters so much is because the technology sector has been on fire and the stock is up 16.6% year to date.

The networking equipment giant has a lot riding on the dollar’s strength. The recent Brexit news just made its equipment more expensive than local tech providers in Europe, as did more quantitative easing efforts of the European Central Bank. China remains a key issue for Cisco, as does the growth in India and other growth markets. Like so many other companies have to deal with, those growth markets just aren’t growing as fast as they should be.

With its shares at $30.87, Cisco has a consensus analyst price target of $31.42 and a 52-week range of $22.46 to $31.25. The Dow and S&P 500 are at all-time highs, but the reality is that any share price north of $28 has been hard for Cisco to maintain.

Thomson Reuters has consensus earnings estimates of $0.60 in earnings per share and $12.57 billion in revenues for the quarter. This would compare to the posted earnings in the same quarter a year ago of $0.56 per share, but revenue would be down 2% if the estimate is hit.

Cisco has been beating earnings estimates by about 4% on average for the past year. The real trick is always around guidance. Estimates for the coming quarter are $0.60 in earnings per share and $12.5 billion in revenues.

Other issues to consider with Cisco are long-term margin trends. Also its cash balance and buyback efforts are closely followed. CEO Chuck Robbins said last quarter:

We delivered a strong Q3, executing well despite the challenging environment. I’m pleased with our performance today as well as the progress we’re making in transitioning our business to a more software and subscription focus, which we’ll continue to apply across our entire portfolio.

In the May earnings report, Cisco said that its non-GAAP total gross margin and product gross margin were 65.2% and 64.5%, respectively. Those were effectively unchanged compared to the third quarter of fiscal 2015, which the company attributed to continued productivity improvements were offset by pricing and to a lesser extent product mix.

Another issue to watch is the deferred revenue, which is future orders. This deferred revenue was $15.3 billion as of May, a gain of 8% in total. Cisco said at that time that deferred product revenue was up 9%, driven largely by subscription-based and software offerings, and deferred service revenue was up 7%.

Cisco remains the king of stock buybacks. At the May quarter its cash and equivalents totaled $63.5 billion. The domestic cash is more problematic — at just $6.3 billion domiciled in the United States. Cisco repurchased approximately 27 million shares of common stock during the May quarter, at an average price of $24.08 per share for an aggregate purchase price of $649 million.