Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) is one of a few large companies in the country with a female CEO, Patricia Russo, and it was just announced that soon she'll be Lucent's chairperson as well. Russo's been chopping ranks and not taking names as she rights this wobbly ship.

Lucent has lost a body-blowing $29 billion since 1999, but the company is finally stemming the spew. In its most recent quarter, it lost a relatively absorbable $389 million. By the end of its fiscal year in September, it expects to post a profit.

Holy mackerel. Did we just utter the word "profit"? We did. But Lucent won't be out of the frying pan yet. Although the company expects to hold $2 billion in cash by fiscal year-end, it has $3.2 billion in long-term debt -- $1 billion of which could be due in August 2004 if bank credit isn't extended.

That, in addition to declining sales, thinned ranks, and Russo's expectation for only 5% to 7% long-term growth in telecom, makes for a long upward haul ahead. To help prepare for the slow recovery, the company is considering a reverse stock split.

The New York Stock Exchange can delist a stock if it doesn't average above $1 a share in price over a 30-day period. A reverse stock split would put the share price around $15 to $25 by decreasing the number of shares outstanding.

Reverse stock splits alone will never save a company. Lucent needs to start earning enough profits to pay down its debt, reinvest in R&D and sales, and fund its underfunded pension fund. In other words, there's still a lot stacked against the company.