In today's world, most companies span several regions and sell across the world. As Foolish colleague Morgan Housel notes, 10 years ago, less than a third of S&P 500 revenue came from outside the United States. Today, more than half of the S&P 500's growth comes from overseas. And that number is growing.

The truth is, investors regularly underestimate how much demand comes from abroad. More importantly, for large, multinational corporations that have already established a presence in their home markets, much of their future growth comes from foreign markets.

With that in mind, today we're looking at French telecom equipment provider Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). We'll examine not only where its sales and earnings come from but also how its sales abroad have changed over time.

Where Alcatel-Lucent's sales were five years ago
Five years ago time, Alcatel Lucent reported 44% of sales to Europe. Its second largest market was Asia at 16% of sales, with the United States coming in third at 14%.

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Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Where Alcatel Lucent's sales are today
Today, Alcatel-Lucent has seen sales shift away from Europe and toward the United States. As of 2010, the United States now contributes 33% of company sales, ahead of Europe's combined 32% of sales.

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Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Here's a look at absolute sales growth in each segment.

Region

5-Year Total Sales Growth

France

16%

Other Western Europe

29%

Rest of Europe

(18%)

Asia Pacific

86%

United States of America

281%

Other Americas

63%

Rest of World

(25%)

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

The best part for Alcatel-Lucent investors is that the company's momentum in the United States is still going strong. Last June, the company stunned rival Tellabs (Nasdaq: TLAB) when it won a major backhaul supply contract with AT&T (NYSE: T). Alcatel will join Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper (Nasdaq: JNPR) as key equipment vendors working with AT&T.

Along with its impressive win at AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent notched a major victory when Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) wireless unit selected the company to provide backhaul solutions for its 4G, or LTE, network. Finally, the company has scored wins with third-place U.S. wireless carrier Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), which selected Alcatel-Lucent on a $5 billion project to improve its network.

Competitor checkup
One last point to check is how Alcatel-Lucent's footprint compares with some of its peers across the broader networking and telecom equipment space.

Company

Geography With Most Sales

Percent of Sales

Alcatel-Lucent United States 33%
Cisco United States and Canada 54%
Ericsson Europe* 27%
Juniper United States 46%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
*Northern Europe and Central Asia, Western and Central Europe, and Mediterranean unit totals combined.

Keep searching
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Eric Bleeker owns shares of Cisco. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of AT&T and shorting Juniper Networks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.