What Strong Juniper Earnings Likely Mean for Cisco

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Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is rather far behind the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) in size and scale, but investors often try to tie these two companies together when it comes to earnings and changing business trends. After Juniper beat earnings and sees sales coming in above expectations, its shares were trading handily higher on Wednesday morning.

24/7 Wall St. did not just want to see what is driving the networking equipment sales for Juniper. We also wanted to see if this coincides with or alters Cisco’s post-earnings view.

Juniper’s preliminary results for net revenues in its third quarter were $1.2853 billion, or up 3% year over year and 5% higher sequentially. Its non-GAAP operating margin of 24.4% was down from 25.5% a year ago but up from 22.5% sequentially. Non-GAAP net income was $222.0 million, flat from a year ago but up 16% sequentially.

Its non-GAAP diluted earnings per share (EPS) were $0.58. Juniper had some $3.48 billion in cash at the end of September, with net cash flow provided by operations for the third quarter of $245 million. That is lower than in the past, but during the quarter it spent $112 million buying back stock and spent $38 million in dividends.

As far as the outlook for the fourth quarter, revenues were projected to be $1.35 billion (plus or minus $30 million). Its non-GAAP gross margin will be approximately 63% (plus or minus 0.5%) and operating per share will be $0.59 to $0.65. Thomson Reuters had estimates of $0.60 EPS and $1.33 billion in revenues.

Juniper shares were up almost 8% at $25.59 on Wednesday’s opening bell, and the stock was up almost 11% at $26.26 after less than an hour of trading. Its trading volume of 5.0 million shares also was already above the 3.75 million share daily average volume. Juniper’s 52-week range is $21.18 to $32.39, and its market cap is $10 billion. We wanted to go back to what this might mean for Cisco.

When Cisco reported earnings, it also beat on the top and bottom lines. Its earnings guidance was more or less in line with estimates. The key difference here is that Cisco’s restructuring effort was calling for about 7% of its workforce (roughly 5,500 people) to be let go.

Cisco’s cash flow from operations was $3.8 billion for the last quarter. Cisco’s cash and equivalents totaled $65.8 billion at the end of the quarter. Cisco also spent roughly $800 million buying back shares last quarter.

Cisco’s share price on Wednesday was up just 0.8% at $30.60, with a 52-week range of $22.46 to $31.95. For a comparison, Cisco’s market cap of $153 billion is roughly 15 times that of Juniper. Its consensus analyst price target is $33.30 and here is how analysts saw its ratings and targets after earnings.

On a days sales outstanding (DSO) basis, Juniper was at 53 in the third quarter, versus 55 days last quarter and 42 days a year ago. Cisco’s DSO was 42 at the end of last quarter, versus 33 in the prior quarter and 38 a year earlier.

At the end of the day, these companies remain hard to compare. Juniper and Cisco had very different post-earnings reactions, with Juniper’s recovery still being way under its 52-week high, while Cisco remains closer to its high. Both companies are buying back stock, and Cisco remains leaner on its DSO metrics that accounting bugs like to see.

Here is commentary from both Cisco and Juniper to show how the tones compare. They seem more or less to have some of the same themes.

Rami Rahim, Juniper’s CEO, said:

I am pleased to report a solid quarter of revenue growth and operating performance. We are executing well on our strategy, with a product and innovation pipeline that has never been stronger. One of the most important trends happening around us is the shift to the cloud, which is shaping our strategy and plays to Juniper’s core competencies in building high-performance networks. I am optimistic with where we are headed as a company and our ability to continue to innovate, deliver value to our customers and expand our business opportunities.

Ken Miller, Juniper’s CFO, said:

We delivered solid profitability and continued to generate strong cash flow from operations, with meaningful sequential improvements across key performance metrics: earnings per share, operating margin and operating income. We believe our strategy, products and ongoing investments will enable us to drive top-line growth and grow shareholder value for the long-term.

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Back when Cisco reported, CEO Chuck Robbins commented:

We had another strong quarter, wrapping up a great year. I am particularly pleased with our performance in priority areas including security, data center switching, collaboration, services as well as our overall performance, with revenues up 2% in Q4 excluding the SP Video CPE business. We continue to execute well in a challenging macro environment. Despite slowing in our Service Provider business and Emerging Markets after three consecutive quarters of growth, the balance of the business was healthy with 5% order growth. This growth and balance demonstrates the strength of our diverse portfolio. Our product deferred revenue from software and subscriptions grew 33% showing the continued momentum of our business model transformation.