Yesterday, I was engaging in the humbling experience of reading through some of the articles I wrote at the peak of the market's pessimism in early March of 2009. I said some things at the time that look rather smart in retrospect, but I also said some things I'd love to take back. One of them was giving Cisco's
On March 5, 2009, when I was talking up the stock, it traded at $14.55. Today it fetches $15.14, which is all of a 4% gain, even though the S&P 500 has rocketed ahead 87% over the same period. That's ugly.
But what if we think about it this way: Today, Cisco's stock is trading at nearly the same level it was at when Mr. Market was at the very depths of his despair.
I think that's pretty interesting.
It's even more interesting when we consider that for the 12 months ending in April, Cisco had 19% more sales, 22% more earnings per share, and 24% more cash and equivalents than it did for the fiscal year ending in July 2009. If you look at the stock's current valuation multiples, across the board they are pretty much unprecedentedly low. And it even pays a dividend now.
The stock market is an expectations engine, and in 2009, economic worries or not, this was still Cisco (said in a booming voice with a distinct edge of smugness). Today it is just Cisco (now said with a smirk and a lack of conviction).
The shine has come off the networking king as it's come up against tough markets -- particularly from public-sector customers -- and tougher competition. Rivals such as Hewlett-Packard
With growth expectations tempered and a more dour view overall on the company, it shouldn't be that surprising that the valuation has fallen on Cisco's shares.
Wait a second there
Rewind a few paragraphs and consider those numbers again. Cisco has $43 billion in cash and equivalents. It's made $7.2 billion in profit over the past 12 months and tallied $10.5 billion in cash from operations. And check this out: If the company continues its net share buybacks at the same rate that it has over the past five years, it will buy back the entire company in less than 13 years.
The growth story at Cisco isn't what it once was, but is this really a company that's being ground down enough that the current valuation is warranted?
I haven't pulled the trigger yet, so obviously I'm not as convinced as it may seem. But what do you think? Take the poll below and then head to the comments section and share your thoughts on Cisco's stock.
The Fool has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Cisco Systems and shorting Juniper Networks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer has no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or Facebook. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.