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Cisco Surges on Earnings Beat, Eyes Growth

This story has been updated from 4:36 PM ET with conference call comments from Cisco CEO John Chambers, additional gross margin, free cash flow and guidance information.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) comfortably beat Wall Street's estimates in its third-quarter results after market close, as the networker eyes a return to growth.

The San Jose-based networking giant reported revenue of $11.5 billion, down from $12.2 billion in the prior year's quarter, but above analysts' forecast of $11.36 billion. Excluding items, Cisco earned 51 cents a share, the same as the prior year's quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were looking for earnings of 48 cents a share.

"I'm pleased with our performance in Q3," said Cisco CEO John Chambers, in a statement. "Our financial results exceeded the guidance we provided last quarter as we demonstrated clear progress on returning to growth."

Cisco shares surged 7.19% to $24.45 in extended trading.

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Third-quarter cash flow from operations was $3.2 billion, up from $2.9 billion in the second quarter and $3.1 billion in the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Cisco exited the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $50.5 billion, up from $47.1 billion at the end of the second quarter.

Speaking during the conference call to discuss the third-quarter results, Chambers highlighted strength in the U.S. and improving conditions on the other side of the Atlantic. "I think that the U.S. is sustainable, especially in commercial and enterprise -  U.S. commercial and enterprises are usually a good indicator of U.S. GDP slowly increasing or decreasing," he said. "That feels good."

The Cisco CEO also pointed to improving conditions on the other side of the Atlantic. "Europe is still a little bit fragile, but we did see some stability in the north," he said. "Even some stability in the south - I think that they are out of this downturn, slowly improving."

Excluding items, Cisco's third-quarter gross margin was 62.7%. The company had forecast a gross margin between 61% and 62%. 

Cisco's free cash flow, crucially important for generating dividends and share repurchases, was $3.2 billion during the quarter, up from $2.6 billion in the company's fiscal second quarter.

For its fiscal fourth quarter, Cisco expects a year-over-year revenue decline of 1% to 3%, which came in better than analysts' estimates. UBS, for example, had forecast a year-over-year dip of 6%.

>>Watch: Cisco CFO: We're Showing Progress on Our Return to Growth

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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