Lucent predicts profits in 2002

Telecoms equipment vendor Lucent has predicted a return to profitability by the end of 2002.

Telecoms equipment vendor Lucent has predicted a return to profitability by the end of 2002.

Company officials stressed that the company was taking steps to further reduce losses and boost margins.

Lucent reported pro forma revenues of $3.5bn (£2.45bn) for the quarter, compared to $3.8bn for the same quarter a year ago. The figures excluded results from Lucent's fibre-optics business, which was sold during the quarter, as well as the proceeds from the sale. Business restructuring and one-off charges also were not included.

On 14 December 2001, the company adjusted its projected revenue for the quarter downward to between $3.1bn and $3.4bn (£2.4bn). Lucent's pro forma loss for the quarter amounted to $799m (£599m), or $0.23 per share, on the low end of the 14 December projection of between $0.23 and $0.26 per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call predicted Lucent losses of $0.24 a share in a consensus estimate for the quarter.

Lucent reported a loss of $465m (£325m) on revenue of $3.6bn (£2.52bn) for the first quarter. This figure includes, among other things, proceeds from the sale of its fibre-optic business and other one-off charges.

The company said it is continues to make "significant progress" in its restructuring plan, having reduced its workforce by 15,000 jobs during the past quarter. Lucent employed 62,000 workers at the end of 2001, and expects to have somewhat less than 55,000 employees by the end of June.

The company also expects to rid itself of some bad lending practices by cutting back on vendor financing - essentially lending money to other companies to purchase Lucent equipment.

Gross margins for Lucent improved by about 1% over the previous year, though this is still below the level required to achieve profitability.

"We believe margins in the twenties are available to us this quarter," said Frank D'Amelio, Lucent's executive vice-president and chief financial officer. While figures for 2002 were difficult to predict, D'Amelio said that Lucent is aiming for margins of 35% in 2003.

Lucent remains committed to spinning off its Agere Systems optical components business in a public offering this year. To do so, the company must meet its bankers' requirements for overall corporate financial health, D'Amelio said. He added that Lucent must also see a reasonably favourable market before the offering can go ahead.

If Agere is spun off before the end of June, Lucent will receive tax benefits for the sale under an arrangement with the US Internal Revenue Service.

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