Why Cisco Systems' $8 Billion Debt Offering Is a Good Move

While debt may scare investors, Cisco's debt issuance is a smart way to unlock shareholder value and cheaply finance growth initiatives, without repatriating foreign-held cash.

Feb 26, 2014 at 12:00PM

Technology giant Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) made waves with one of the largest bond offerings in technology industry history, and its shares fell on the day of the announcement. On the surface, it seems like a company taking on debt is little cause for celebration. After all, debt can become a burdensome anchor on a company's ability to grow.

However, with interest rates still sitting near historic lows, it actually makes perfect sense for cash-rich technology juggernauts to issue debt. That's particularly true since most of big tech's cash is held internationally, which would be subject to repatriation taxes if it's brought back to the U.S. Fellow technology behemoth Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) sold $1 billion worth of 10-year notes just last week. And, Cisco is struggling to gain traction in its key markets for future growth. That's why issuing low-cost debt to fund its strategic growth initiatives is a wise move for Cisco.

Cisco muddling through
Cisco reported an 8% decline in both revenue and adjusted earnings per share in the most recent quarter. The company is still doing fairly well at the enterprise level, indicated by the fact that commercial product orders increased 1% in the second quarter. However, Cisco is seeing severe disruptions internationally, particularly when it comes to the emerging markets. Speculation of economic slowdowns in the emerging economies are gaining traction, since a slew of technology giants are reporting difficult business conditions in under-developed nations.

Cisco's Europe, Middle East, and Africa segment posted a 2% decline in product orders in the second quarter. This performance was actually a bright spot in comparison to Cisco's operations in Asia, where product orders fell 5% in the most recent quarter.

Meanwhile, smaller rivals are stealing Cisco's thunder in the emerging markets. Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) grew revenue by 12% in its most recent quarter, which represented the sixth consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue growth. The major reason for this is that Juniper is thriving in the emerging markets. Its Asia-Pacific region posted an 18% increase in quarterly revenue.

Going forward, concerns abound regarding Cisco's near-term direction. Management expects the fiscal third quarter to be difficult as well. Revenue in the current quarter is projected to decline another 6%-8%, calling management's vision for growth into question.

Financing needed to propel growth
Despite its current struggles, Cisco is committed to the emerging markets. To engineer a turnaround, the company will need to keep spending. Issuing debt will give room for Cisco to execute on its growth priorities, and the current interest rate environment makes now the perfect time to issue debt.

Cisco is selling $8 billion worth of investment-grade bonds with varying maturities between 2014 and 2024. The longest-dated bonds, which mature 10 years from now, yielded 3.6% when priced. That level of yield is only about 90 basis points above the 10-year U.S. Treasury Bond, and only slightly above Cisco's current dividend yield. Google's $1 billion bond issuance carried a yield of 3.37% for its 10-year notes.

The Foolish conclusion
Shares of Cisco declined after the bond sale, but this should be an accretive move to shareholders in the long run. A company gorging on debt is obviously scary, but technology giants like Cisco have a lot of cash on the books. Issuing debt is simply a way to leverage their strong balance sheets without repatriating foreign cash and having to pay a hefty tax bill.

At the end of the most recent quarter, Cisco held $47 billion in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet. That amounts to more than 40% of Cisco's entire market capitalization. It's clear that Cisco isn't getting much credit from the market for its cash hoard, so the debt issuance is a smart way to unlock shareholder value and finance its strategic growth initiatives. Furthermore, it's likely that all that cash on the books is earning little to nothing in interest. That's why Cisco's huge bond sale shouldn't scare investors.

Cisco is struggling with growth, but these companies are growing like crazy
They said it couldn't be done. But David Gardner has proved them wrong time, and time, and time again with stock returns like 926%, 2,239%, and 4,371%. In fact, just recently one of his favorite stocks became a 100-bagger. And he's ready to do it again. You can uncover his scientific approach to crushing the market and his carefully chosen six picks for ultimate growth instantly, because he's making this premium report free for you today. Click here now for access.

Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers