As the owner of 18,000 Cisco shares, I’ve recently taken a closer, vested interest in the company’s remarkable lack of understanding of what Cisco’s owner-investors want from their very well-paid management.
In 2000, Cisco shares reached a peak of about $82 a share. Since then it has been downhill for the share price, notwithstanding the company’s continued growth, diversification and profits. The very much larger Cisco is now selling for around $19 a share — with no intervening stock splits. The first paltry quarterly dividend of 6 cents a share just started in 2010.
The consistent upward trajectory of Cisco’s economic indicators has given loyal shareholders a sustained hope that has gone unrequited. In the past decade, thanks to Chambers’ penchant for stock buybacks, these have totaled $60 billion, leaving shareholders with nothing to show for them but a low and stagnant stock price. Still, Cisco presently has liquid assets of about $45 billion, growing at almost $3 billion a quarter.
In the past year, I and other shareholders have stepped up our demand for an increase in dividends to 50 cents a year plus a $1 special dividend. That is the least Cisco’s officers should do for their shareholders, many of whom trusted Cisco for over a decade and relied on management to reverse the tiny rate of return that they received for their loyalty. To no avail.