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Cisco bullish about long-term growth

Simon Quicke

One of the biggest issues dominating thinking in the channel and beyond is the likelihood of a recession and the force of it should it arrive.

There are plenty of attention-grabbing headlines on the subject, ranging from reports that venture capitalists have cooled towards the IT sector to predictions that profit warnings and administrations are likely to rise. But equally, there are some positive indications from the market too.

Cisco is the first major vendor to talk of its market showing signs of resilience. In its fourth quarter and fiscal year-end figures, Cisco reported a 9.9% increase in revenues to $10.4bn (£5.3bn) for the final fiscal quarter of 2008, ended 26 July, and a 4.4% rise in profits to $2bn. For the full year, Cisco sales and profits grew 13.2% and 9.8% to $39.5bn and $8.1bn respectively.

One of the key developments was a 13% increase in orders from the vendor's large customers.

Fighting talk

In a question and answer document on the corporate website, Cisco CEO John Chambers said that although the market was slowing, the company did not expect its growth plans for the next financial year to be knocked off course.

"If the market does continue to slow, we believe this will not dramatically change our long-term opportunities with our vision of how the industry will evolve and our differentiated strategy. As we head into the next fiscal year, we plan to aggressively invest in new and adjacent markets for the longer term, regardless of how long it takes for the macro environment to rebound," he said.

"We would not be investing aggressively if we believed the current slowdown was going to be long in duration, or if we did not have a high probability of achieving our long-term growth objectives," Chambers added.

That sort of fighting talk puts recent filings from IBM, Intel and Google in a different light. Each of them stressed cautious optimism about the next few months, with expectations of growth for the rest of the year.

Also, GfK's latest barometer last week pointed to continued growth in IT spending, particularly in the consumer markets, as a reason to cast doubt on the doom and gloom.

Anthony Norman, business group director at GfK, said the expected slowdown in the consumer space during the first half of the year had not arrived, although there had been some impact in the enterprise space.

"In the corporate sector many businesses are listening to analysts predictions on the current economic climate and have been careful about their IT spend," he said.

Lucrative business

Although most in the channel are reporting that they are finding business tough, there are enough bright spots for businesses to continue aiming for, including storage, security and networking.

Dan Smith, partner programme manager at hosted desktop specialist Nasstarat, said the current pressure on credit made a pay-per-employee application model more attractive when cash was tight.

"If you have to get hardware on lease, that can be difficult, and with cash being king companies do not want to spend it, but paying per-user-per-month is easier to adopt," he said.

Rising fuel prices, which have sparked higher charges from the distribution sector, along with problems getting credit are having an impact, but if the experience of Cisco can be replicated across other sectors of the industry there is a chance that a growing optimism will lift the IT sector and produce a positive impact on resellers.

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