2012: The Year Alcatel-Lucent Nearly Died

In these waning days of 2012, there's a chill in the air and snow in the forecast. What better time of year to curl up by the fire and ponder what went wrong with the stocks you picked back in January, and what went right? And should you keep these stocks in your portfolio, or should you go out and find something new?

That's what we aim to do today, as we flip back the calendar and consider the year that was at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU  ) .

A few Foolish facts about Alcatel-Lucent

Year-to-Date Stock Return

(21%)

P/E

2.6

Dividend Yield

None

1-Year Revenue Growth (in most recent quarter)

(7.3%)

1-Year Profit Growth (in most recent quarter)

Unprofitable

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

***

What happened to Alcatel-Lucent this year?
After a volatile up-then-down performance in 2011, Alcatel entered 2012 looking good. Early in the year, ace analyst Deutsche Bank upgraded the shares to buy on the theory that U.S. and China were increasing capital spending in telecom, and that Europe, after bottoming out in the first half of 2012, would improve in the second half of the year.

That was crucial. In the U.S., telecom giants AT&T  (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon  (NYSE: VZ  ) account for about $35 billion worth of the spending on telecom infrastructure in any given year. Alcatel needed them to spend more if it was to thrive. Unfortunately, no sooner had Deutsche laid out its "buy-thesis" than The Wall Street Journal debunked it. According to the Journal, spending at AT&T and Verizon wasn't picking up. It was slowing down.

It got worse. As the year progressed, worries over the rate at which Alcatel burned cash got investors like Bernstein (and not only Bernstein) to thinking the company might even go bankrupt. So in August, Alcatel attempted to allay concerns with a plan to cut costs and right the ship.

Result: The very next quarter, Alcatel burned $386.5 million -- more than in the previous year's Q3.

So where are we now? As 2012 sputters to a close, rivals such as Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) are starting to show strength in their telecom infrastructure business. AT&T is spending again, and Alcatel just got a lifeline tossed to it by bankers Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) and Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS  ) , which offered the company a $2.1 billion loan to tide it over till better times.

And so, as 2012 winds down and 2013 begins, Alcatel has one final chance to save itself. Here's hoping they make the most of it.

Alcatel's fine as a turnaround play for adventurous investors. But The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected a different company as his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock it is in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


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