What This $3 Billion Investment Tells Us About Cisco's Future

For the quarter ending April 26, Cisco completed three significant acquisitions, which, taken together, are a great indication of the company's future.

Jul 15, 2014 at 1:00PM
Take The Long View

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is flat Tuesday afternoon following Monday's triple-digit gain, having lost a mere 15 points as of 12:40 p.m. EDT.

The Dow is in the heart of earnings season now, with most companies reporting results for the quarter ending June 30.

But there are some companies that kick convention to the curb and operate outside the typical quarterly calendar. One of those quarterly rebels is Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), which concluded its fiscal third quarter back on April 26. We'll have to wait until next month to see how Cisco fared this spring, but in the meantime there's still plenty to glean from the company's winter quarter.

I've written previously that Cisco may be the most undervalued stock on the Dow. I've even made it a CAPS pick. As part of my initial analysis of the company, I spent a fair amount of time reviewing the company's cash flow statement.

One thing in particular stuck out: Cisco is investing heavily in its future with investments in new companies and technologies that are reshaping the networking landscape. Today, we will review Cisco's three major acquisitions completed so far this fiscal year. Taken together, these acquisitions paint a pretty clear picture of the future for this tech giant.

Three acquisitions, one long-term vision

Cisco Logo

Source: Cisco.

Up first is the company's acquisition of Composite Software. Cisco completed this $160 million acquisition in July of last year. Composite Software developed data virtualization software and services. At its core, the software was able to connect data from all across the network and make it appear as if this disparate data were in the same place. 

Second, we have WhipTail Technologies, the high-tech solid-state memory developer purchased by Cisco in October for $351 million. The company's memory drives are fully scalable and extremely high-performance, allowing users to simplify "data center and virtualized environments." The bottom line is that this memory allows companies to process more data in less time. 

Lastly, and certainly not least, Cisco acquired Sourcefire, also in October of 2013. Sourcefire is a cybersecurity company that Cisco describes as "a leader in intelligent cybersecurity solutions. Sourcefire delivers innovative, highly automated security through continuous awareness, threat detection, and protection across its portfolio, including next-generation intrusion prevention systems, next-generation firewalls, and advanced malware protection."

The price tag for this next-generation security was a cool $2.5 billion.

Fitting these purchases into the big picture plan
So we have a software company that works to seamlessly blend the network's storage, infrastructure, and user experience; a company that produces cutting-edge memory that reduces cost while increasing performance; and a massive investment in improved cyber security.

Cisco itself says its mission is to be the leading enabler of integrated, innovative, scalable, high-value network offerings. In other words, Cisco wants to help companies build the best networks they can. That means speed. That means ease of use. That means security.

It means continuing to do exactly what has made Cisco the $130 billion colossus it is today. And these three acquisitions fully support that long-term strategy.

As an investor, it's critical to know whether company management is allocating the business's resources in an efficient manner. We must assess these management decisions and understand why each acquisition -- or share buyback, or dividend -- makes sense in the context of the company's prospects, the industry's evolution, and the opportunities elsewhere in the markets.

In these three cases, Cisco management seems to be heading in the right direction.

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Jay Jenkins has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems. 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.

A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

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Everything else is details. 

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