Lucent Technologies (NYSE:LU) said that its order backlog grew 16%, in yet another sign of a turnaround at the once-proud telecom equipment maker. The company also produced a profit and free cash flow in the September quarter for the first time in years.

It's a mere paragraph in the Lucent 10-K, filed today:

Our backlog was $2.2 billion and $1.9 billion as of September 30, 2003 and 2002, respectively. Substantially all of the orders included in the September 30, 2003 backlog are scheduled for delivery during fiscal 2004. However, all orders are subject to possible rescheduling by customers. Although we believe that the orders included in the backlog are firm, customers may be able to cancel some orders without penalty, and we may elect to permit cancellation of orders without penalty where management believes that it is in our best interest to do so. In addition, some customers may become unable to pay for or finance their purchases as a result of deterioration in their financial position.

But it packs a wallop.

Any increase in revenues is important for Lucent investors. Sales have declined year over year at an ever-slower rate: 42%, 32%, 33%, and finally 11% for the last four quarters. And Lucent's been cutting expenses faster, too -- at 48%, 40%, 39%, and 39% year over year. Now with GAAP earnings and producing free cash flow, any positive sales developments hasten the day when the company will rake in more cash. Debt, in turn, becomes even less of a risk, and investors may see -- dare we say it? -- returns.

Kudos to anyone who bought when the stock was lower, but isn't it less risky today? Make your voice heard on our Lucent discussion board!