Updated from 4:40 p.m. EST Making good on a surprising
early morning promise, Cisco ( CSCO) Wednesday reported second-quarter earnings that easily beat Wall Street's expectations. Its shares jumped in after-hours trading, but fell again as traders took profits on the good news. For the current fiscal third quarter, the computer networking gearmaker told analysts on an earnings conference call that despite the traditionally week seasonal sales for the first three months of the year, it expects flat to slightly higher revenue growth, but declined to provide any longer-term forecast. During the second quarter ended Jan. 26, Cisco earned 9 cents a share on a pro forma basis excluding certain costs, down from 18 cents a year earlier. Wall Street had forecast a 5-cent pro forma profit. Revenue hit $4.8 billion, up 8% from first-quarter levels and some $300 million ahead of the analyst consensus. Cisco's ability to deliver strong results in a tech recession pleased a few fans on the earnings call Wednesday. The call saw the return of three "congratulations, good quarter" comments from the sellside analysts -- a cheery sentiment not heard since the late bubble era. "We are focused on the things we can control or influence," CEO John Chambers told analysts on the call. Those things included profits, productivity and market share. Cisco said that it had gross margin improvements and market share gains in what was a very challenging market. In core routing, Cisco says it gained 2 to 3 percentage points of market share, which likely means nearly all those gains came from the 34% hold on the market that rival Juniper holds. In edge routing, Cisco says it continues to hold 80% of that market. The company said it saw no unusually harsh pricing pressures and that was reflected in gross margins, which widened to 57% sequentially from 54% in the prior quarter. And as been the case throughout much of the spending downturn, Cisco was able to conserve and even add to its cash reserves. The company's cash and investments increased by nearly $2 billion to a total of $21 billion in the quarter. Cisco's earnings are always eagerly anticipated in the market, as the company is seen as a bellwether for the health of the entire communications technology industry. Cisco threw Wall Street a bit of a curve ball Wednesday, however, disclosing ahead of the opening bell that it would beat second-quarter financial targets. The company cited the mistaken transmission of an email to employees Tuesday night as prompting the early disclosure. No other mistakes were evident, however.