Cisco CEO Comfortable With Estimates

Cisco Systems Inc. Chief Executive John Chambers said on Wednesday he is comfortable with analysts' estimates of first-quarter results for the world's largest maker of Internet networking equipment, boosting its stock and the sector. 

``I am very comfortable with the consensus estimates,'' he said at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York. 

Thirty-one analysts surveyed expect the San Jose, California-based company to earn 2 cents a share in its fiscal first quarter, with a range of a loss of 1 cent to a profit of 3 cents, according to market research firm Thomson Financial/First Call. 

Thirteen analysts, on average, expect the company's revenues to be $4.16 billion, with a range of $4 billion to $4.3 billion, First Call said. 

The company is scheduled to report first-quarter results on Nov. 5. The quarter ends Oct. 31. 

Cisco's stock was up $2.80, or more than 24 percent, at $14.29 in heavy trading on the Nasdaq on Wednesday. Over the past year, it has outperformed the American Stock Exchange Networking index by about 27 percent. 

Chambers' comments helped boost the entire networking sector, as the networking index was up more than 10 percent. 

Individual networking firms strongly boosted by Cisco's news included Juniper Networks Inc., Ciena Corp., both up more than 30 percent, as well as Tellabs Inc., Redback Networks Inc., Extreme Networks Inc. and Foundry Networks Inc. 

Cisco's news also boosted the stock of several communications chip makers, including PMC-Sierra Inc., Broadcom Corp., Lattice Semiconductor Corp. and Applied Micro Circuits Corp. 

Chambers also said customer orders were on target in June, July, August and September. 

``Our orders were remarkably linear in all four months,'' he said. Linearity refers to the smoothness of orders coming in to a company during a month or a quarter. 

Chambers said there was some disruption in orders after the Sept. 11 airplane attacks on the U.S., but business has been good since then. 

Analysts were happy with the signal Cisco's news sent. ''It's the most positive news we've certainly had in this group for some time,'' C.E. Unterberg, Towbin analyst Martin Pyykkonen said. 

``Everybody is getting a bit of a boost here, a lot of these stocks having been knocked down so low,'' he added. ``It's bouncing off a bottom here. Everybody deserves a bit of face-lift today is the message.'' 

With the markets so battered, especially since last month's terror attacks, Cisco's news was seen as a silver lining, said Henry Asher, president of the North Star Group, a New York investment adviser with a small number of Cisco shares. 

``Basically what he said was the bottom hasn't fallen out anymore than it has before,'' Asher said of Chambers. 

Alan Loewenstein, portfolio co-manager of the John Hancock Technology Fund, said he heard in late August Cisco was telling its contract manufacturers to prepare for orders at the end of September. 

While that may have been delayed by the attacks, Chambers comments suggest industry inventories are declining and orders may pick up again, said Loewenstein, whose fund holds about 1.5 million Cisco shares. 

``That's what you need now to really get the market to stabilize is for companies that have lowered the bar to come out and say that business looks like it's OK,'' he said. 

Chambers declined to discuss how orders or results were looking beyond the fiscal first quarter. He said as the next 12 months will be so unpredictable, Cisco planned to reset its budget during the fiscal year and would readjust its goals in January. 

``This is an economic slowdown the likes of which we've never seen before,'' Chambers said. It has occurred not on a country-by-country basis but by industry groups, he said. 

Chambers also repeated comments he made Tuesday in Toronto that Cisco will buy eight to 10 small to medium-sized companies this year.