How Cisco Changed Course in 2011

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As we approach the end of 2011, it's a good time to look back at what happened to the stocks that interest you. By knowing what a company accomplished -- as well as the challenges it faced -- you can make a better decision about whether it should have a place in your portfolio. Today, let's look at how well networking giant Cisco (NAS: CSCO) fared during 2011.

Stats on Cisco

(8.80%)
$99.61 billion
$43.27 billion
4.7%
(15.5%)
****

Source: Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS.

What happened to Cisco in 2011?
This year, Cisco entered into the second phase of diworseification-driven restructuring. The company had spent a few years making ill-advised acquisitions and failing to find its place in the consumer electronics market. As my fellow Fool Rich Smith has previously noted, the end goal of the shopping spree was to help drive consumers' need for bandwidth, which would then prompt Internet providers to buy more switches and routers from Cisco.

Unfortunately, the plan didn't work out so well. For one thing, Cisco didn't need to feed consumers' hunger for bandwidth. Digital offerings from companies like Amazon (NAS: AMZN) and Netflix (NAS: NFLX) were already boosting traffic. Other than the Flip video recorder -- which was already popular when Cisco bought it -- Cisco's consumer products flopped. And as we'll see, even rare consumer successes proved fleeting.

What's worse is that while the company flailed around in the consumer electronics market, new competitors like Juniper Networks (NAS: JNPR) , Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) , and F5 Networks (NAS: FFIV) began chipping away at Cisco's core business.

In April, the company came to its senses and announced that it would restructure and refocus on its core businesses. It killed the Flip -- which would have likely died at the hands of smartphones in the near future anyway -- and folded its astronomically priced umi home video conferencing product into its Business TelePresence line.

Over all, the narrowed focus is a good thing for Cisco, but probably won't spark rapid growth for the company. Competition in its core businesses remains fierce and even management only expects earnings to grow about 7% to 9% over the next few years. That'd be a marked improvement from this year, but still a realistic cut from Cisco's past goals of yearly 12%-17% sales growth.

Frankly, with its turnaround still in progress and even lessened growth targets looking optimistic, I have a hard time getting too excited about Cisco -- especially with its somewhat anemic 1.3% annual dividend. Investors might be better off searching for other opportunities in the tech world like, for example, the ones outlined in this special report "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." The report is free, so click here to download it today.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Cisco Systems and Amazon.com. The Fool has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Netflix, and Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Fool contributorPatrick Martinowns shares of Netflix. You can follow him on twitter @TMFpcmart03. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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