Caveat Vendor

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The McKinsey Quarterly:

"The telecom sector’s recent problems have been widely discussed, but more bad news is coming to light: some of the industry’s meteoric growth was propelled by financing that equipment providers extended to high-tech and telecom start-ups that are now having difficulty making their payments or, like Winstar Communications, have spectacularly collapsed. Consequently, the earnings of the equipment providers, such as Cisco Systems and Lucent Technologies, are also suffering."

Compare that bad debt with the $5B Microsoft now has in unearned revenue (does it look like I’m pushing MSFT today? Well, I still own 2,700 shares, so I might as well lure you into pumping up the price!). Some manage to defer the booking of real sales while other do the exact opposite. Guess what’s healthier on the long run.
07/26/01 update: Know Your Earnings (how some companies change pension-related figures to boost earnings).
08/08/01 update: according to this article, Cisco has moved about $250 million from vendor financing to provisions for doubtful accounts. At least they still have a lot of cash and no debt, and their deferred revenues increased a lot. I’m starting to wonder if Cisco is not trying to make it look even worse than it is.

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