Cisco on Deck: Don't Expect Any Miracles

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Cisco ( CSCO) reports its first-quarter results after market close on Tuesday amid growing concern about spending headwinds, Europe and fears of the looming fiscal cliff.

Silicon Valley has delivered a largely underwhelming earnings season, as evidenced by disappointing quarterly numbers from heavyweights such as IBM ( IBM) and Intel ( INTC), which lowered its outlook.

Any hopes that Cisco might offer some respite for the tech sector are likely wide of the mark, say analysts, citing concerns that Cisco's recent momentum is slowing. The networking giant reported solid fourth-quarter results in August, boosted by its U.S. enterprise business, but the Dow component may tell a different story this quarter.

"Given the slowdown in IT spending discussed by a plethora of technology companies in recent weeks, we find it hard to believe that Cisco will be able to maintain its encouraging tone around the Enterprise market and the looming 'Fiscal Cliff' is likely to provide incremental weakness for the Company," warned Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets.

Set against this backdrop, White also expects Cisco's forward commentary to turn more cautious.

"Results from industry peers point to a challenging IT spending environment," added Stuart Jeffrey, an analyst at Nomura Equity Research. "Common themes from earnings included: continued weakness in EMEA, soft US enterprise and federal spending, and weakness in hardware investment."

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for Cisco to report revenue of $11.77 billion and earnings of 46 cents a share, up from $11.3 billion and 43 cents a share in the same period last year.

Cisco has beaten Wall Street's earnings forecast for the last six quarters, but there's a question mark over whether this trend will continue.

TheStreet will be live-blogging Cisco's results, starting at 3.45 PM ET:

White expects Cisco to meet his earnings projection of 45 cents a share, while Paul Mansky of Cantor Fitzgerald expects the switch maker to match Wall Street's 46-cent forecast. Nomura's Sherlund believes that tight cost controls should help the company meet its outlook for a profit of 45 to 47 cents a share.

Cisco's guidance, however, will also be under the microscope, as investors weigh the likely duration of IT spending pressure. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for fiscal second-quarter revenue of $12.02 billion and earnings of 47 cents a share.

" Wedo believe FQ2'13 guidance is likely to disappoint and expect 2013 to be a tough year as macro pressures persist (weak enterprise and gov't spending, Europe, etc.)," wrote JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall, in a recent note. "We also believe longer term SDN and competitive risks will keep a lid on Cisco's P/E multiple."

SDN refers to Software-Defined Networking, a set of techniques for managing network traffic flows through software, which is increasingly touted by the likes of Cisco and its networking rival HP ( HPQ).

Hall, who recently downgraded Cisco to neutral, adds that "battered telco equipment names" like Ciena ( CIEN) and smartphone and tablet-focused Qualcomm ( QCOM) look "incrementally better" for 2013.

Topeka Capital Markets' White, however, has a buy rating on the tech giant. "Cisco is trading at just 5.8x (excash) our CY13 EPS estimate, sports a 3.3% dividend yield and trades below the 2009 troughdownturn price-to-tangible book value, providing some downside support," he wrote, in a recent note.

Cisco shares, which are off 7.35% this year, were down 0.59% to $16.75 shortly after midday on Tuesday.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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