Ciena sees revenue drop, but brighter days ahead

Ciena suffered from a revenue decline during its fiscal first quarter of 2021, but company executives believe the quarter will represent a low point in a year during which they expect to see service provider spending and deployment rebound from 2020’s sluggishness.

Ciena reported revenue of $757.1 million during the first quarter of its fiscal year, a figure sharply down from the $832.9 million it showed for the fiscal first quarter 2020, and from the $828.5 million it reported in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020.

Profit also slid, as Ciena's GAAP net income for the fiscal first quarter 2021 was $55.3 million, compared to $62.3 million a year earlier. 

However, Ciena executives said during this morning’s earnings call that they are starting to see network operators and service providers return to more typical spending and deployment behavior after a year during which many delayed those activities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Saying the first quarter is likely to be a low point for 2021, Ciena CEO and President Gary Smith added, “We’re very confident the second half will be a significant uptick to the first.” 

He noted that North American operators in particular are beginning to “cautiously deploy some of their plans that they hadn’t been deploying earlier. We’re starting to see deployment of wins we had over the last year, even over the last 18 months, which will be good for our gross margins.”

Even during a soft first quarter, Ciena’s gross profit margin of 48% was a bright spot, and larger than the 45% it reported for the same quarter in 2020.

Ciena is not as reliant on sales to big telcos as it once was. Non-telco revenue represented about 39% of total revenue during the first quarter, with just over 20% coming from direct sales to webscale network operators. Ciena’s sales to those webscale firms increased 25% year over year.

RELATED: ADVA, Infinera post Q4 revenue declines

Also, while fellow optical vendors Infinera and ADVA last week acknowledged ongoing challenges that supply chain delays posed for their businesses, Scott McFeely, senior vice president of global products and service for Ciena, said Ciena had not suffered from such challenges. He added that the company expected to have “little or no issue” with supply chain problems in the near future, in part because the company has diversity among its component suppliers and a strong global distribution and supply chain that it has continued to invest in.