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Updated with comments from Cisco's conference call

SAN JOSE, Calif. (


) -- Tech bellwether


(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

took a profit hit in its fourth-quarter results but met analysts' estimates.

The networking giant earned 19 cents a share on net income of $1.1 billion, down from 33 cents and $2 billion in the same period last year.

Excluding items, Cisco's earnings came in at 31 cents a share on net income of $1.8 billion, compared to 40 cents a share and $2.4 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the company to earn 29 cents a share.

The tech bellwether posted fourth-quarter sales of $8.5 billion, a decrease of 18% on the prior year's quarter, but roughly in line with the $8.52 billion forecast by Wall Street.

For the full fiscal year, Cisco's sales were $36.1 billion, down 8.7% on the prior year, bit in line with analysts' projection. "Cisco delivered very solid quarterly and annual results in a challenging economic environment, as we continued our focus on disciplined execution," said Cisco CEO John Chambers, in a statement. "We are confident in our strategic position in both existing and thirty adjacent markets."

The CEO added that he saw a number of positive economic signs during the quarter, which will be welcome news to investors

eagerly awaiting

a tech rebound.

Speaking during a conference call after market close, Chambers said that the fourth quarter was the first sequential growth in product orders the company experienced during fiscal 2009.

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However, he said that it's still too early to call a recovery. "While this is an important trend, I would like to see this trend continue for several more quarters," he added.

Cisco also released its first-quarter guidance during the conference call, predicting sales down 15% to 17% on the prior year's quarter.

The company, which has embarked on a major cost-cutting initiative in recent months, explained that it exceeded its target of $1.5 billion annual cost savings during the quarter.

"I am pleased with how we managed the business this quarter in what continues to be a difficult economic environment," said Frank Calderoni, the Cisco CFO, during the call. Cisco exited the fourth quarter with $35 billion in cash and investments, up $1.4 billion on the prior quarter, he added.

Cisco also gave a brief update on its recent entry into the server market, explaining that it is starting to see its first orders for the UCS device. "In addition to the current blade models, we will be introducing new rack models," said a Cisco executive. "I think that the next few quarters will be all about execution."

"I think it will be significant, absolutely, this year," added Chambers, in response to an analyst's question about UCS deployments in the Fortune 50. "I think in the second half of the year, we will start to see the volumes come into play."

Shares of Cisco, which competes with


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, rose 48 cents, or 2.17%, to $22.65 in extended trading.