The news leading up to Cisco Systems' (NASDAQ:CSCO) Nov. 13 earnings release wasn't good. Trading volume for that day was nearly twice the average of 37 million shares, the stock price had dropped nearly 3% the week prior-from already depressed levels, and the majority of analysts predicted revenue would come in below the $11.8 billion average estimate.
Analysts and Cisco pundits were kind enough to (grudgingly) suggest fiscal Q1 2013 non-GAAP earnings would improve -- to $0.46 a share -- based primarily on cost-cutting initiatives. Both the revenue and earnings projections would have been improvements over fiscal Q1 of 2012, but that was swept under the rug in favor of sequential comparisons.
The actual results
Revenue increased 5.6%, to a shade under $11.9 billion compared to Cisco's year-ago quarter, an improvement of 1.6% sequentially. The $2.84 billion generated from Cisco's European division was flat compared to last year, and actually a slight improvement compared to fiscal Q4. As I mentioned prior to Cisco's earnings announcement, the naysayers were pointing to the short-term stall of the enterprise market, especially in Europe, as the basis for much of the negativity.
Ready cash and operating cash flow did decrease sequentially, however the $45 billion on the balance sheet in fiscal Q1, and $2.47 billion in operating cash flow, are both improvements from the year-ago period. Also, Cisco announced gross margins of 62.7%, beating Q4 and last year's figure.
Finally, Cisco's non-GAAP earnings of $0.48 a share beat estimates, and the GAAP per-share earnings results? At $0.39 a share, Cisco's earnings ended fiscal Q1 2013 18% higher than last year.
After opening the Nov. 14 trading day up about 8%, questioning the value Cisco represents now that it's erased the year's loss in one fell swoop is legitimate. But here's the thing; even with the recent jump in Cisco's share price, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), and Motorola Solutions (NYSE: MSI) still can't touch it.
All Cisco's competitors are more expensive on a relative earnings basis, none but Ericsson with its 4% dividend yield is in the same ballpark as Cisco's 3.3%, and the size and diversification of business lines are clearly in Cisco's corner.
When are investors going to stop underestimating Cisco -- and CEO John Chambers -- and recognize the fantastic growth and income opportunity it represents? Hopefully, long enough for you to take advantage of what is still one of the best investment options around.