Networking giant

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Report

authorized the repurchase of up to $5 billion worth of stock, or about 4.1% of its outstanding shares.

The buyback is an expansion of the company's previously announced $35 billion buyback plan, which began in September 2001. To date, Cisco has repurchased 1.8 billion shares with an estimated value of $32.6 billion under that authorization.

At the stock's current $19.91 a share price, the buyback plan would allow the company to repurchase about 251 million shares. Cisco has roughly 6.1 billion shares outstanding.

That wasn't the only news announced by the Cisco board Thursday morning.

The company also said the CEO John Chambers would be consolidating his power at Cisco by adding the title of chairman to his resume. The board said Chambers will become chairman as of the company's annual meeting in November. At that time, John Morgridge, the company's current chairman, will become chairman emeritus.

Last year, Morgridge, a former CEO of the company, announced that he would not seek re-election as chairman.

The company's move to let Chambers serve as both CEO and chairman is at odds with the recent movement in corporate governance circles for the posts to be split between two people. Some shareholder advocates say that allowing one executive to have both jobs gives that person too much corporate power.

But Cisco, unlike other big companies, is governed by a board dominated by corporate outsiders. Of the 12 people on the Cisco board, nine are independent directors.

The move to anoint Chambers as chairman may be reward for the company's phenomenal growth under his stewardship. When Chambers became CEO in 1995, Cisco had a market cap of $9 billion. Today it has a market cap of $121 billion.