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商业 - 科技

思科转型曙光初现

Kevin Kelleher 2011年11月17日

思科公司一直在艰难地寻找自己的第二春。现在,由于主要竞争对手正自顾不暇,思科第一次依稀看到了成功转型的希望。

    很少有公司像思科公司(Cisco)这样,在互联网的发展中居于如此中心的地位。互联网服务提供商、私营公司和公共机构须臾也离不开它的交换机和路由器。这家位于圣何塞的公司俨然已成为网络基础设施的代名词。

    但近几年来,思科公司一直在努力寻找自身发展的第二春。在网络泡沫的高峰期,思科公司一度成为世界上最有价值的公司,市值高达5,000亿美元。然而,在过去10年的大多数时间里,它的股票摇摆在每股15美元到30美元这一区间内。近些年来,思科的发展变得尤为缓慢:过去3年来,其季度收入仅增长了8%,而净利润则下降了44%。令投资者更忧心的是,随着竞争对手在思科赖以成为巨人的核心市场上与其展开正面交锋,这家公司的毛利率一年不如一年。

    思科在发布截至10月29日的财季报告时声称,该公司的毛利率为62.4%。消息传来,分析人士和投资者深感震动。毕竟,这个比率低于上一年的数值(64.3%),甚至不如此前一个季度的水平(62.7%)。但在接下来的两天中,思科的股票不仅没有下挫,反而猛涨8%,创下9个月以来的最高水平。

    这是因为,大多数投资者此前预期的毛利率比这还低——接近61%。如惠普公司(Hewlett-Packard)和瞻博网络(Juniper Networks)这样的竞争对手一直在交换机和低端路由器市场上发动价格战,试图推动销量,以对抗全球经济衰退带来的影响。这种竞争不断蚕食着思科公司的毛利率水平——几年前,这项比率为70%左右,2010年几乎下降到了65%。

    思科公司CEO约翰•钱伯斯曾发誓要遏制这一下滑趋势,并将公司的经营重点从增加收入转为提高毛利率水平。提升毛利率是钱伯斯为提高思科利润而设计的一个为期3年的重组计划的基石。这项计划似乎终于开始奏效了——至少现在看来是这样。

    还有其他一些令人鼓舞的信号。来自交换机的收入(约占总收入的三分之一)虽然无增无减,但订单增加了10%。就公司总体而言,在这个季节性疲软的季度中,订单增加了13%(其中,来自资金紧张的公共部门的订单增加了10%),一举扭转了跌势—— 此前一个季度的订单下降了4%。甚至连欧洲和中东的订单也增长了13%。

    Few companies have been as central to the Internet's development as Cisco. ISPs, private companies and public institutions have relied on its switches and routers so much that the San Jose company's name might as well be synonymous with the Net's infrastructure.

    But for several years, Cisco (CSCO) has been struggling to find a suitable second act. At the dot-com peak, Cisco was briefly the most valuable company in the world, with a market cap of $500 billion. For most of the past 10 years, it's stock has vacillated in a range of $15 and $30 a share. And in recent years, things have slowed even more: Its quarterly revenue has risen only 8% over the past three years, while net profit declined 44%. More worrisome to investors, its gross margins deteriorated year after year as competitors battled Cisco in the core markets that made it a giant.

    So when Cisco, in reporting its earnings for the quarter ended October 29, said that gross margins came in at 62.4%, it caused a stir among analysts and investors. After all, that ratio is below the 64.3% of a year ago and even the 62.7% of the previous quarter. But instead of falling, Cisco's stock rallied 8% over the next two days, reaching its highest level in nine months.

    That's because most investors were bracing for even weaker margins -- something closer to 61%. Competitors like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Juniper Networks (JNPR) have been waging a price war in switches and low-end routers, trying to boost volume in the face of a weak global economy. That has put a steady weight on Cisco's gross margins, which were closer to 65% in 2010 and around 70% several years ago.

    CEO John Chambers had vowed to stem the decline and shift the company's focus from revenue growth to higher gross margins. It was a cornerstone of a three-year restructuring he had engineered to shore up Cisco's profits. And it looks like the restructuring is finally working -- at least for now.

    There were other mildly encouraging signs. Revenue from switches, a third of the total, was flat, but orders increased by 10%. Overall, orders increased 13% in a seasonally weak quarter -- including a 10% increase in orders from the cash-strapped public sector, reversing a 4% decline in the previous quarter. Even orders from the Europe and Middle East rose 13%.

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