Cisco Systems

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has laid out plans for its second acquisition this month, but that doesn't necessarily mean the networking equipment maker is preparing to go on an all-out buying spree.

This morning, Cisco said it agreed to acquire

Allegro Systems

, a privately held developer of products for virtual private networks. The acquisition will cost Cisco, which previously held a minority stake in Allegro, up to $181 million in stock, and the company will record a charge of no more than a penny a share. Cisco didn't specify when it would take the charge, but the company expects to close the deal in the fiscal first quarter, which ends in October. Allegro, Milpitas, Calif., was founded last August and has 39 employees.

Cisco acquired more than two dozen companies last year. But the company's once-lofty stock price -- Cisco's acquisition currency of choice -- has plunged along with the rest of the telecommunications industry. Last July, shares of Cisco changed hands at $62.81, but now they trade for a little over $19.

Earlier this month, Cisco agreed to

acquire another privately held company,


, for $150 million in stock. The company develops 10-gigabits-per-second silicon technology for metropolitan fiber networks. That deal, which Cisco also expects to close in the first quarter, will again result in a charge of no more than a penny a share.

Jay Ritter, an analyst with Morningstar, said the acquisitions could signal that "things are kind of getting back to their normal mode" for Cisco. "They're looking for additional growth in rapid growth markets to offset some of the ones that have gotten weaker," he said. "This is one they've talked about being attractive."

Ritter said Cisco could benefit from the economic slump by picking up some companies at cheap prices, but he cautioned against getting too excited about the latest takeover. "I don't know if I would read into it too much," he said. "It's pretty much a bite-sized acquisition for Cisco. It's a positive indication that things might be getting back to normal, but it's only one indication."

Other analysts seem inclined to agree.

"They have announced two acquisitions within a short period of time, but I think they probably will take a more measured approach," said Timothy M. Slevin, a research analyst at Parker/Hunter. "They're no longer as compelled by competition to make a series of acquisitions as early in the development cycles as they were last year because of a general reduction in funding for startups." (Slevin's firm has not done underwriting for Cisco.)

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As Cisco has pointed out, the deals could each lower the company's bottom line by around a penny, but both analysts expect Cisco to provide a more stable outlook when it posts quarterly numbers Aug. 7. According to Thomson Financial/First Call, analysts expect Cisco to earn 2 cents a share in the fourth quarter, down from 16 cents in the year-ago period. With the telecom sector producing plenty of bad news lately, investors will be keenly watching Cisco for any sign of an improvement. The equipment makers are on life support, and any guess from Cisco as to when business might pick up would be a positive.

Earlier this week,


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said, excluding charges and one-time items, income for the second quarter was 29 cents a share. Analysts expected the company to earn 18 cents a share. Still, the company said the telecom market remains "turbulent" and added that its photonics unit would be weak for the rest of the year.

On Thursday,

JDS Uniphase


broke the latest

bad news, reporting a steep loss for the fourth quarter and disclosing plans to cut up to two-thirds of its staff. The company also said it expected to fall short of the already drastically reduced projections for the first quarter.

Also this week,



posted a big loss for the third quarter, eliminated its dividend and said it would fire 15,000 to 20,000 additional workers.

Market watchers will find out soon enough if the bar can go any lower.