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Cisco CEO Robbins: The insinuation that we leaked the layoffs news is 'insulting'

The insinuation that Cisco may have leaked news of layoffs was "insulting" and "irresponsible," CEO Chuck Robbins told CNBC on Thursday.

The enterprise technology company announced on Wednesday it would cut 5,500 jobs, or 7 percent of its global workforce, starting in fiscal year 2017, as it restructures to focus on key priority areas such as security, internet of things, collaboration and cloud services.

Though the layoffs were fewer than the 14,000 some had speculated, the stock tumbled as much as 1 percent in extended trading, after closing more than 1 percent lower in Wednesday's regular session. In early trading Thursday, it was down less than 1 percent.

"Any time we make these decisions, we do not make them lightly," Robbins said in an interview on "Squawk on the Street."

"I think that for the reports to get out ahead of our announcement, frankly, I think, are a little irresponsible. We're talking about people's lives here," he added. "I think there was even an insinuation that we may have leaked that, which is just insulting, frankly. We would never do that before we had an opportunity to speak to our own employees."

Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco.
Pradeep Gaur | Mint | Getty Images
Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco.

The announcement of Wednesday's layoffs follow a round of 6,000 layoffs at Cisco in 2014 and 4,000 announced in 2013, according to career transitioning firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Cisco is far from the only technology company that has shed heads as it mounts an uneasy transition to the cloud.

It comes as tech firms have announced 62,917 job cuts so far in 2016, Challenger said, a 71 percent increase from the first part of last year. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Intel, Dell, and Microsoft are among rivals that have also recently cut jobs, Challenger said.

"The markets are changing faster than anything I've ever seen," Robbins said. "The customer expectations are changing, technology is transitioning faster than ever. ... There are a lot of factors that come in. What our responsibility is is to ensure that we're aligning our expenses against those areas that we believe will drive our growth in the future."

Cisco also posted better-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, thanks to "strong operational discipline" that boosted growth and margins, according to Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer. It came despite geopolitical changes, like currency fluctuations after Britain's vote to leave the European Union, Robbins said.

"We're very proud of what our teams have done in, frankly, a very volatile environment throughout the year," Robbins said. "As we looked at Q1, what we really saw was a weakening of demand in Q4 in our service provider segment around the world as well as in emerging countries. Those two business combined were actually negative this past quarter. But the rest of our business, which is enterprise, commercial, public sector and developed countries, was up 5 percent."

— CNBC's Christine Wang contributed to this report.