Cisco Systems, the biggest maker of equipment that runs the internet, plans to cut about 7 per cent of its workforce. Rumours circulated on Wednesday that job losses would hit 14,000 as the company, tries to recast itself as a provider of software-based systems and services.
The company will eliminate 5,500 positions from its workforce of more than 73,700, Cisco said on Wednesday. Savings from the job reductions will be invested in newer businesses that Cisco expects to fuel sales growth, such as cloud computing and connected devices.
The company said it will take charges totaling about $700 million associated with the restructuring.
“We need to make some pretty immediate shifts in our portfolio,” Chuck Robbins, Cisco’s chief executive said. “We have rapidly shifting customer expectations. The winners in the future will be the ones that understand those dynamics.”
Robbins, who took over in July 2015, has been working to rekindle growth by shifting Cisco toward software-based networking, security and management products, which customers increasingly prefer because they’re less expensive and more versatile.
Cutting Cisco’s workforce may give Robbins the resources to speed the company’s transition, potentially helping it take advantage of stronger demand in markets such as security, which grew 16 per cent in the fourth quarter, and collaboration, where sales rose 6 per cent.
“We are looking at the areas where we believe growth will come faster,” Robbins said. “It’s not that we’re ignoring one in favor of another, we just want to make sure our investments are commensurate with the growth opportunity.”
Shares of the company declined about 1 per cent in extended trading following the announcement. Earlier they had fallen 1.3 per cent to $30.72, leaving them up 13 per cent this year.
“Cisco is plodding along,” said David Heger, an analyst at Edward Jones “They’re not overall declining. That’s a signal that they’re managing the transition fairly well.”
Underlining Cisco’s struggles to revitalise growth, the company reported fourth-quarter sales on Wednesday that declined 2 per cent from a year earlier in a “challenging macro environment.”
Orders in emerging markets and to service providers slowed, hurting router revenue, Robbins said on. In times of economic uncertainty, companies try to extend the life of existing equipment, he said.
While there was “pause” in ordering in the UK as companies tried to calculate the impact on their business of the country’s decision to leave the European Union, that hasn’t translated into a broader weakening of demand in Europe, Robbins said.
Sales in Cisco’s biggest business unit, switching, increased 2 per cent to $3.8 billion while routing, the second-largest revenue source, fell 6 per cent to $1.9 billion.
The company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa sales region suffered a 3 per cent decline in product orders in the fourth quarter.
The headcount reduction was much less than some analysts had speculated. The company last announced a large round of firings in August 2014, when it eliminated 6,000 positions. Cisco’s workforce is down from the 75,000 it employed in 2013.
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