Despite reporting quarterly total revenue declines throughout the year, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) crushed 2017. As CEO Chuck Robbins continues Cisco’s transition away from legacy network switches and routers, total revenue growth was a secondary objective.
There were several core areas that would, or wouldn’t if it didn’t deliver, determine the success of 2017. The good news for shareholders, and growth and income investors who haven’t boarded the Cisco train yet, is the significant progress made last year. There’s little doubt that about this time in 2019, another review of Cisco’s annual performance will warrant even more bullishness.
The writing was on the wall when Robbins took the reins two-and-a-half years ago: In-house networks were already becoming yesterday’s solution. The future, which at the time Cisco had yet to embrace, was about cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), data security, and the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Robbins wasted no time realigning Cisco’s product development and business model to better suit what was coming.
Cisco crushed it in 2017 because it became evident that it was not only delivering the goods, it was gaining momentum where it counts. Last quarter — Cisco’s first for fiscal 2018, announced Nov. 15 — was a microcosm of what investors can expect this year, and beyond.
Cisco began its new fiscal year much as it had ended the prior one: with a total revenue decline. The $12.1 billion in revenue was a 2% decrease compared to a year ago. But in Cisco’s case, total sales hardly tell the story. That said, near-term investors were finally placated last quarter with Cisco’s guidance of 1% to 3% revenue growth in the current period.
Thankfully for shareholders, those with an eye toward the future could see the writing on the wall, which explains Cisco’s 27% jump in share price the past year. Despite its relatively strong stock performance, at just 20 times trailing earnings Cisco and its 3% dividend yield remain a bargain compared to its peer average of 33 times earnings.