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Cisco Catches Fire

Shares soar 8% as growth hits 'on all cylinders.'

Updated from Nov. 8


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soared 8% early Thursday after boosting revenue guidance for the second straight quarter.

For its fiscal first quarter ended last month, the San Jose, Calif., networking-gear company made $1.61 billion, or 26 cents a share, up from the year-ago $1.26 billion, or 20 cents a share. Revenue rose to $8.18 billion from $6.55 billion a year earlier.

Excluding certain items, latest-quarter adjusted earnings were 31 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 29-cent profit on sales of $7.9 billion.

"From a Cisco perspective, from a global and U.S. perspective, the momentum remains strong," CEO John Chambers said on a postclose conference call. He said the latest quarter's 25% year-on-year revenue gain was "the strongest we've seen in years" and that the current quarter's book-to-bill ratio, reflecting the proportion of orders to shipments, is above 1 -- unusual in what is typically a seasonally slow quarter.

"It's a safe assumption that orders grew faster than revenues," Chambers said on the earnings call.

Better yet, Chambers said Cisco expects to see 24%-25% revenue growth for the second quarter, reflecting the contributions of cable networker Scientific Atlanta, acquired this past spring. Wall Street was looking for 21% growth.

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Chambers said organic growth, excluding the effect of recent acquisitions, should be 14%-15% for the second quarter -- at the high end of the company's previous 10%-15% guidance.

To view Robert Martorana's video take on Cisco's results, click here


Asked if most of Cisco's growth was coming mostly from developing markets, Chambers said to the contrary, it was spread evenly.

"The balance was amazingly good everywhere," Chambers said. "All elements of our vision have evolved the way we thought. We are hitting on all cylinders, in all product categories, across all geographies."

Cash flow rose to $2.3 billion in the first quarter from $1.4 billion a year earlier. The company bought back 66 million shares at an average of $22.85 each during the quarter. The $1.5 billion buyback outlay puts Cisco's cash hoard at $19.5 billion, up from $17.8 billion at the end of the fourth quarter.

The news comes as Cisco shareholders have enjoyed a run-up the likes of which they haven't seen since the late days of the telecom-equipment bubble back in 2000.

Investors have sent Cisco up 50% since August, when Chambers raised sales guidance. Shares have hit 52-week highs each day this week, breaking through $25 Wednesday for the first time in two years.

Wednesday's postclose run-up was reminiscent of the scene back on Aug. 8, when Chambers set off a furious rally by boosting Cisco's sales guidance for this quarter. Shares rose modestly at first and then surged more than 10%.

Shares rose $2.11 early Thursday to $27.21.