Do Cisco Critics Owe John Chambers An Apology?

The VAR Guy

July 29, 2011

2 Min Read
Do Cisco Critics Owe John Chambers An Apology?

What a difference a day makes. Over the past few months, pundits — including The VAR Guy — have criticized Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers for management missteps that will soon trigger 6,500 layoffs at the networking company. But by July 28, Wall Street was starting to regain faith in Chambers and Cisco. What triggered that overnight change of heart? And what does it mean for fiercely competitive networking industry VARs? The VAR Guy has some insights to share. Right here. Right now.

Let’s start with the latest market perceptions. On July 28, Goldman Sachs upgraded Cisco shares to a Buy rating, and Sterne Agee reiterated a Buy rating, according to Barron’s Tech Trader Daily blog. The growing thesis on Wall Street: Despite competitive claims from Hewlett-Packard and other rivals, Cisco isn’t really losing all that much market share. Instead, Cisco’s struggles are tied to macro economic challenges, Wall Street increasingly believes.

The proof? Juniper’s weak profit projections, which were released on Jul 26. Based on Juniper’s weak showing, investors started to believe that Cisco’s market share and margins were actually holding up better than expected.

In early 2011, Cisco CEO John Chambers maintained that Cisco’s struggles were largely tied to weak government IT spending and economic uncertainty. But by April 5, 2011, Chambers publicly conceded that Cisco had lost its way and lost its focus. The VAR Guy criticized Chambers for (A) taking too long to name a second-in-command and (B) building a corporate organization that was slowed down by too many committees. By mid-July 2011, Cisco confirmed channel changes amid plans for 6,500 layoffs.

In recent months, The VAR Guy and other critics have piled on… wondering if Chambers had lost his magic touch at Cisco. But now, thanks to a financial setback at Juniper, critics are calling a time out and taking a closer look at Cisco. Goldman Sachs and Sterne Agee now seem to be saying that Cisco remains the best-positioned networking company to ride a networking industry rebound (whenever that rebound actually arrives…).

Still, let’s not completely forgive Chambers for his missteps. The Cisco consumer electronics push has failed. And back in the channel, some of Cisco’s closest partners tell The VAR Guy that Cisco has been cutting VIP (Value Incentive Program) perks — which means millions of lost dollars for Cisco partners. Cisco has yet to publicly confirm or deny the alleged VIP program cuts.

All that said, Wall Street’s faith in John Chambers seems to be rising again. At least for the moment…

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