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Cisco's earnings: What to expect

Analysts aren't looking for a big gain. The networking giant is basically holding the fort, and amid economic concerns, another cut in the outlook can't be ruled out.

Cisco's Catalyst 6500 series switches.
Cisco's Catalyst 6500 series switches. Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems will put a rough fiscal year to bed today, and analysts are expecting another weak outlook as the company puts its house in order.

Wall Street is expecting Cisco to report fourth-quarter earnings of 38 cents a share on revenue, of $10.87 billion. Unlike previous fourth quarters, analysts aren't expecting a big gain. Cisco is basically holding the fort and amid economic concerns another cut in the outlook can't be ruled out.

That Cisco outlook is expected to reflect an increasingly rocky economy. Juniper Networks, a key rival of Cisco, has already indicated that economic worries are hampering demand. Cisco CEO John Chambers is likely to give his view of enterprise demand. Wedbush analyst Rohit Chopra said in a research note:

We believe Juniper's recent results and worse-than-expected guidance reinforces the view that the macro environment will continue to be challenging in networking and that a turnaround will take several more quarters to see meaningful results.

Despite those concerns it appears that Cisco is holding its own. Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said:

Our checks into the networking supply chain from components to contract manufacturers to distribution have shown that Cisco's routing (17% of revenue), new products (30%), and services (20%), are seeing steady demand trends and its switch business (30%) appears to have somewhat stabilized helped by a new strategy in its Catalyst 6500 line where it is selling line card upgrades vs. entirely new systems. In terms of geographies, we are picking up better tone in the U.S. and Canada (53%), Emerging Markets (12%), and Asia-Pacific (15%) offset by mixed trends in Europe (20%).

Analysts generally agreed that enterprise demand looked solid.

Jefferies analyst George Notter said:

Looking back through a large number of anecdotes from recent months indicates Enterprise spending was at least decent through Cisco's July quarter. We estimate that Enterprise spending--including Cisco's Enterprise and Commercial classifications--accounts for roughly 60% of sales.

The other wild card for Cisco will be more details on its ongoing restructuring. Analysts said that the restructuring plans will be front and center. "The company hasn't yet addressed much the restructuring that's necessary in our view. We expect that there's significant inertia in the business and believe the outlook for the business can still get worse," said Notter.

Other odds and ends to watch:

• Public sector spending will be weak. Cisco's public sector revenue is roughly 20 percent of total sales and half of that chunk of sales is exposed to Federal IT budgets.

• Competition. If Cisco's business is stabilizing in the enterprise what does that mean for Hewlett-Packard? The threat from HP on the switching front could be over.

• Gross margins. If Cisco's cost controls are under way, then gross margins can rebound, say analysts.

• Growth markets. Collaboration, wireless, and data center are the future growth engines for the company. Analysts will be closely watching growth.

Related stories:

• Cisco cuts 15 percent of its execs amid big layoffs
• Cisco signs over Mexico manufacturing facility to Foxconn
• Cisco aims to defend core switching business, updates Catalyst 6500
• Cisco preps layoffs, aligns with competitive reality
• Cisco Cius and AppHQ: Could this be the business tablet that works?
• Cisco plots SMB telepresence systems, focus on interoperability
• Cisco third quarter better than expected, outlook weak and layoffs loom

This story originally appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines at "Cisco faces down economic headwinds as fourth quarter report looms."