Cisco Systems said Monday it will be ‘active’ with acquisitions despite the economic downturn, but its shares were thrashed by downgrades.

“We will be active -- not hope to be -- will be,” Ned Hooper, Cisco’s senior vice president of corporate business development, said in an interview. “We continue to use M&A as a key part of our growth strategy. The downturn for us is a big positive.”

“The pace has slowed a bit as we make sure we do the right deals,” Hooper said. “We expect to be active over the next 12 months.”

Shares of the San Jose, Calif.-based networking gear giant were down this morning as Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski cut her rating on the stock to buy from Neutral, noting that the stock had reached her $18 price target.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse analyst Paul Silverstein also maintain his Neutral rating on the shares, cutting his target to $14, from $15.

“Various checks with industry contacts lead us to believe that CISCO has seen further incremental weakness in its enterprise business,” he said.

He also sees $7.77 billion in revenue and profits of 23 cents a share for the April quarter and expects job cuts by 5 percent to 10 percent.

Recently, Cisco reported it has bought Pure Digital Technologies Inc., the maker of the Flip Video camcorder, for $590 million in stock, and plans to sell servers, opening a new rivalry with longtime partners like Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp.

Cisco has $29.5 billion in cash and investments, had bought 59 companies for more than $13.4 billion between 2002 and 2008, with profit fell 27 percent in its last quarter.

“Bigger companies are saying these are times you gain market share and consolidate your position,” said Sarah Friar, an analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in San Francisco. “It’s the perfect time to sidestep competitors that don’t have the size to make these moves.”

Cisco Shares fall 90 cents to 4.96 percent at $17.26 in the NASDAQ Exchange today.