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TheStreet Open House

Cisco Beats but Wall Street Misses

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's no denying that Wall Street has an insatiable appetite for growth. But to that end, I don't believe that there's anything a company can do other than to beat its performance expectations, which is exactly what Cisco (CSCO) has now done for 10 consecutive quarters. But instant gratification is another flaw that plagues investors, many of whom missed, if not blatantly ignored, the good that came out of Cisco's earnings report; this sent the stock tumbling down 10%.

Earlier this week, I told you that Cisco was a buy ahead of earnings. And even with Wednesday's plunge, I'm not backing away from that. Here's why I was right: Cisco beat or reached the upper end of its guidance on pretty much every metric that mattered, including earnings of 52 cents per share on revenue of $12.4 billion.

On an adjusted basis, which removes a patent litigation settlement with TiVo (TIVO) and other items such as stock compensation expense, the network giant posted a net income of $2.8 billion, up 12% year over year. This is while the Street was modeling for 8% growth. Revenue, meanwhile, was up 6% year over year. Some are calling it "in line", but based on some estimates, Cisco actually posted a slight beat -- albeit by $100,000. Not to mention the company generated $4 billion in cash flow.

I get that the margin story was not up to Cisco's usual standards, falling more than 1% year over year. But I wouldn't blow this out of proportion. In fact, the slight decline in margin was expected, especially since the company was facing shrinking corporate enterprise budgets. Do you recall what happened to Aruba Networks (ARUN) in its May quarter? The stock was hit by "hurricane Cisco" -- falling almost 30% following Aruba's third-quarter earnings report.

Cisco was accused by the Street as having caused Aruba's revenue miss by using "aggressive discounting." Why, then, would everyone seem shocked by Cisco's slight decline in margins? It doesn't make sense.

On June 3, I talked about this very issue and mentioned that Cisco was sacrificing its margin to grow revenue, while squeezing rivals out of potential sales. It worked perfectly. But this quarter, Cisco had to "pay the piper."

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