Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins is downplaying the impact that new President Donald Trump’s possible moves could have on multinational companies like his.
Asked whether aggressive trade rhetoric from the new president is hurting Cisco in markets like China, Robbins said there were no signs of any impact yet.
“We have not seen any concerns outside the U.S.,” said Robbins, speaking to reporters at the Mobile World Congress on Tuesday in Barcelona. “There’s a lot of interest in seeing how tax policy gets done, how trade negotiations occur etcetera,” he added. “I think that’s going to play out over the next few months.”
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Trump frequently targets what he says are unfair terms of trade with countries like China. But the President’s comments have not yet been translated into any concrete moves to limit trading or impose new tariffs.
Robbins sounded an optimistic note about what trade policies would be enacted in the end.
“They’re very aware that the growth of the global economy and the U.S. economy are very tightly coupled—you can’t separate those two,” he said. “I think the policies and the things that will be rolled out will ultimately enhance the opportunity for the global economy to grow as well as the U.S. economy to grow. I think most people actually share that belief.”
Robbins was also asked about a perhaps more likely proposal to cut the tax rate on U.S. companies returning profits from abroad from the current 35% to 10% or less. Some analysts think the repatriation of possibly more than $1 trillion could lead to a flood of mergers and acquisitions, although a temporary cut in 2004 led mostly to higher stock buybacks, dividends, and executive pay.
Noting that Cisco has done 19 acquisitions since he became CEO almost two years ago, including buying AppDynamics for $4 billion last month, Robbin said the chance to bring back more cash wouldn’t change his approach. Cisco reported this month that $62 billion of its $72 billion of cash was overseas as of the end of January.
“We don’t think it will meaningfully change our strategy even when that does occur,” Robbins said.
Cisco has struggled to adapt as large corporations and telecommunications carriers have bought less of the company’s gear in the shift to cloud computing and simpler networks that rely more on software. Revenue for the past six months fell 3%.
But Robbins said Cisco (CSCO) is primed to compete in the new era, with more products for the software-defined networks. He highlighted a partnership to build an all new mobile phone network in India with carrier Jio that uses Internet-based technologies instead of traditional phone networking gear.
“We will lead the networking industry in software-defined networking,” Robbin said. “The Internet and the traffic that runs on the Internet, I think it’s increasing,” he quipped. “I don’t think that increased traffic load is going to result in the lack of a need for high-performance hardware.”
Wall Street has been gaining faith. After Cisco shares about matched the overall market last year, the stock has shot up 13% so far in 2017, more than double the gain of the S&P 500 Index.