You have to be of a certain age to recognize the Cisco Kid character, but somewhat younger to be familiar with the song that paid homage to the fictional character.
After terrible earnings and poorly received guidance that stunned most everyone, Cisco (CSCO) hasn’t made many friends, but it’s still a friend of mine.
Maybe the problem is all in the name. No, not Cisco, there are worse things in the world than being confused for a food services company. Maybe the problem is in the name John Chambers.
Barely two years ago it was a John Chambers, as head of Standard and Poors’ Sovereign Debt Committee who lowered the debt rating of US Treasury debt. He wasn’t very popular at the time, as many people are put off when they can connect the dots and point fingers at the catalyst for a market wide plunge.
But the John Chambers who is the CEO of Cisco has seen his popularity mirror that of many stocks, in general, as it has gone up and down and up again.
Now it’s down.
Not too long ago John Chambers was said to be on the short list to be the Treasury Secretary in the Bush administration. He was regarded as a model CEO of the new economy and his slow drawl and transparency were welcome alternatives to the obfuscation spun by so many others. His candor during interviews in the immediate moments of earnings being released were always respected.
Then the bottom fell out from Cisco and there were calls for his ouster. Seeing share price in 2011 challenge the lows of 2009 wasn’t the sort of thing that engendered confidence and the calls went out for his head. At that point Treasury Secretary may have been looking pretty good, but that ship had long sailed.
But Chambers was eventually rehabilitated. Rising stock prices, perhaps buoyed by aggressive buybacks, will do that for you. In fact, if you conveniently have data points extend only from the lows in August 2011 to yesterday, Cisco actually out-performed the broader index.
Ironically, John Chambers is somewhat like fictional The Cisco Kid, who actually started his life as a cruel outlaw, but became regarded as being a heroic character. It’s just that Chambers can stay a hero.
Chambers has been there and done that, but now he’s back in that dark place, where people are even poking fun at his drawl and once again saying that his ship has sailed. Perhaps plunges on two successive earnings releases will create that kind of feeling. He certainly may have cut back a bit on his candor, as even his appearance yesterday offered little insight into the disappointment that awaited.
In fact, many asked, given how substantive the alterations in forward guidance were, why Cisco didn’t pre-announce or issue revised guidance weeks ago.
Personally, I don’t see the difference between getting hit with an earnings related surprise earlier, rather than when scheduled. I actually prefer knowing the date and time that i may see my shares subject to evisceration.
I owned Cisco shares and have done so on 5 different occasions this year. My shares had calls written upon them and were due to expire November 22, 2013. Barely a few hours ago they seemed certain to be assigned. Now they are more likely to be seeking rollover opportunity to a future date.
As most everyone has piled on the sell wagon, much as had occurred with Oracle (ORCL), which also had two successive share plunges after disappointing earnings, I believe that for the short term trader and particularly for the covered option trader, this most recent fall in share price is just an entry opportunity.
Yesterday, I did something that I very rarely do. I purchased shares in the after hours. Usually when I do so, in the anticipation that by morning calmer heads will prevail, I’m typically wrong. That was the case with Cisco this morning.
In addition to buying shares in the after hours, another thing that I rarely do is to purchase shares without immediately or very shortly after selling calls on those shares. In essence, both actions were counter to my overall desire to limit risk.
While I’m usually on the wrong side of momentum when entering, I look at these positions as ones to generate both capital gains from shares and option premium income, whereas for the majority of my positions I emphasize premium and dividend income.
In the case with Oracle, opportunity existed after bad news and exaggerated downward price movements. SInce I tend to be short term oriented, I only care about the opportunity and not about structural issues that may have longer term impact.
While earnings represented a risk and shares moved quite a bit more than the implied movement, suggesting that investors were surprised and unprepared, I think the risk is now greatly discounted.
I make no judgment regarding the ability of Cisco, whether under Chambers’ leadership or anyone else to compete in the marketplace and to recapture its glory or restore Chambers to a position of honor.
Instead, Cisco is nothing more than a vehicle. The Cisco Kid had his horse, John Chambers had his buybacks and for some the shares of this beleaguered company are the vehicle of the day.