These are not good days for investors in Cisco (CSCO).
What was once (upon a time) the most valuable stock in the world -- back when the Internet was in its heyday as a buzzword -- has remained stuck around one-fourth of that bubble level since 2002. Currently trading at $18.80, its 14-cent dividend now yields 2.98%. It's the kind of stock that is extracting its value, eating its own seed corn, its days as a growth play long past.
Well, Washington to the rescue. More precisely, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, which has come to the rescue with a super-scary report aimed straight at the two companies making Cisco's life miserable, ZTE and Huawei. The report, which has now been released, is full of scary Cold War-type rhetoric, but a little light on the facts. Basically, they didn't like the way the two companies answered their questions, they fear the fact that these are Chinese companies (thus obviously tied to the evil Chinese Communist Party), and sentence first, trial later.
The report has already drawn a reaction. Cisco severed a long-standing partnership with ZTE. Gartner's vice president of research told Information Week he has yet to find evidence of ongoing security problems, and has in fact found the same flaws in Cisco equipment as in the Chinese stuff.
Hackler suggested that concern about these companies may have more to do with politics than risk, noting that claims about the dominance of Huawei and ZTE are overstated. Cisco, she said, had 74% of the router market in the U.S., while Huawei can claim just 9%.
Even those analysts supporting the report's conclusions admit there is no "smoking gun." This is politics.
Still, the question arises: Should you move money based on politics? Is this even bullish for Cisco, which has increasingly moved its own operations to India?
As a trading event, the reaction so far has been "meh." Cisco is down in early trading. As a political event, part of the run-up to the November election, it may well prove important -- unless the administration can succeed in knocking it down.
Still, I'd be more willing to speculate on Romney over at Intrade.com right now than Cisco on Nasdaq. And I'm not terribly bullish on either.