Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU ) is under heavy fire. Shares are exploring fresh all-time lows today after the French-American telecom-equipment maker reported weak second-quarter results.
Sales fell 7% year-over-year to $4.3 billion. The 2011 period's modest net profit turned into a significant net loss in 2012. Both the top and bottom lines missed Wall Street's estimates by a country mile. And management is reacting in full-on panic mode.
By the end of 2013, Alcatel hopes to have reduced annual costs by $1.5 billion by slashing 5,000 jobs, halting contributions to American pension plans until "at least 2016," and treating its patent portfolio as "an independent profit center." Translation of that last point from French to plain American: Call in the attack lawyers.
And if you thought the pension plan funding was put on ice because the pension fund is just so darn healthy, you're sadly mistaken. Alcatel also clarified that its pension deficits nearly doubled over the last quarter to $2.6 billion. If anything, the funds could use a serious cash infusion right about now. But Alcatel simply can't afford it.
If management panics, maybe investors should be nervous as well. Turnarounds bring awesome profits when they work, but those Cinderella stories are sadly few and far between. Sticking close to the telecom-gear industry, Nortel Networks never broke its terminal fever and was eventually sold for parts. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) seems headed for the same deep dark chasm of irrelevance and fiscal destruction. Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) might make it, but only if Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) truly puts its back into supporting the Finnish handset maker. Redmond might not do that.
And I'm afraid that Alcatel-Lucent is heading down the same terrifying path to a big fat zero. The stock used to look cheap, but only if you held out hope for a revival. I don't anymore, so it's time to slap a thumbs-down CAPScall on Alcatel.
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