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Cisco Stock Could Dive by 15% Due to New Threats

Jon C. Ogg

Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) is involved in yet another internal restructuring of sorts, and the company has done what it can to manage its shares higher and higher. In fact, shares were up a sharp 28% year-to-date before Thursday. Now a new wave of networking coverage from Credit Suisse is casting a dark shadow on Cisco, and the implication is that shares could fall some 15%, if the thesis turns out to be accurate.

Credit Suisse initiated new coverage on shares of Cisco with a very unambitious Underperform rating. The firm issued a $21.00 price target, versus a $24.80 closing price on Wednesday.

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Analyst Kulbinder Garcha believes that software-defined networking is going to be a threat to the traditional networking giants. He still thinks that Cisco is a high-quality company, but it also may be the most vulnerable of the old oligarchy. His biggest concern is that software-defined networking will shrink gross margins, even as Cisco tries to increase its services in the revenue mix.

Cisco has traded in a 52-week range of $16.68 to $26.49, and the consensus analyst target price is $26.77, according to Thomson Reuters. Its shares were down 1.2% at $24.48 in early Thursday morning trading. The call also was negative, or at least cautious, on two others.

Juniper Networks Inc. (JNPR) was started as Neutral. Its assigned price target was $20.00, versus a $21.66 close on Wednesday. Juniper shares were down only 0.4% at $21.58, against a 52-week range of $15.62 to $22.98. We would caution that the $20.00 price target is only marginally lower than the consensus price target of $21.32.

Ubiquiti Networks Inc. (UBNT) was given a cautious Neutral rating as well, and it had the least negative bias in Garcha's call. He said:

We believe that Ubiquiti has created a relatively unique business model that can disrupt several markets in the networking space over time. However, we believe shares are fully valued, with strong near-term revenue momentum offset by medium-term competitive risks and possible margin pressure.

His target price of $33.00 was barely under the $33.14 closing price on Wednesday.