Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) forecast slim revenue growth this quarter, a pleasant surprise to investors bracing for a sharp pullback in global technology spending that sent its shares soaring 10 percent.
The world's leader in Internet networking equipment predicted in-line sales growth of 1 to 4 percent this quarter after posting quarterly results on Wedensday that edged past Wall Street's scaled-back expectations.
Analysts took that as an early sign that tough measures to return the Silicon Valley giant to growth -- including layoffs and asset sales -- were taking hold. Some feared Cisco would follow rivals Juniper Networks (JNPR.N) and Brocade (BRCD.O) in slashing results forecasts.
"The guidance was in-line -- which was much better than feared," said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu.
"There were expectations that they would guide down like most of their smaller peers."
Cisco shed about a third of its value in 2011, punished by flagging growth and the loss of market share to aggressive rivals like Juniper.
The erstwhile stock market darling, which depends on government spending for about a fifth of its revenue, said in July it would cut 15 percent of its workforce and sell a set-top box factory in Mexico as part of an effort to slash annual expenses by $1 billion. [ID:nL3E7IJ0JG]
CEO John Chambers, who in April famously said Cisco had lost its way, told analysts he foresaw "gradual improvement" in the business, while warning again of a challenges for global public sector spending in coming quarters.
That came after the company racked up better-than-expected sales, profit and margins in the fiscal fourth quarter.
Shares of Cisco rose as much as 10 percent in extended trade after closing down 2.3 percent on Nasdaq. They later backtracked and were up 8 percent at $14.81.
"They beat a low bar. A lot of it is coming from cost cutting, which we anticipated. In that sense it's a relief," said Joanna Makris of Mizuho Securities USA.
A look at how other technology and telecoms bellwethers have fared this earnings season: r.reuters.com/nuw62s
Cisco has warned since last year that government spending cuts would include network equipment, and that a deal last week to reduce the U.S. federal budget deficit could hurt the San Jose, California company's business more. [ID:nN1E777190]
Investor sentiment also worsened after rivals Juniper Networks Inc and Brocade Communications Systems Inc slashed outlooks in recent weeks as the economic picture darkened, slamming their shares.
Its first-quarter projection translated to revenue of about $10.86 billion to more than $11 billion. Analysts on average had expected revenue of about $10.95 billion in the fiscal first quarter ending October.
They had expected fourth-quarter revenue of $10.97 billion from Cisco, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Gross margins came in at 62.7 percent, dipping from 63.9 percent in the fiscal third quarter but ahead of analysts' projections for under 62 percent.
And net income slid 36.3 percent to $1.2 billion or 22 cents a share, from $1.9 billion or 33 cents a share a year earlier. Excluding certain items, it earned 40 cents share, just above the 38 cents expected on average.
"The real issue is, does he (Chambers) give a chilling outlook or is it just a conservative outlook? Have things grinded to a halt, or is the enterprise still spending?" asked Colin Gillis, BGC Partners analyst.