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Sales Weakness Lingering at Lucent

The company posts a narrowed per-share loss but warns about the 2003 top line.
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posted a narrowed first-quarter per-share loss on slightly weaker-than-expected sales growth, and executives warned that the top-line anemia will worsen as the year progresses.

The telecommunications equipment maker earned $553 million, or 14 cents a share, compared with a loss of $535 million, or 16 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose 16% sequentially to $2.4 billion, a little short of the 20% growth the company forecast in January (and down 32% from last year). Before items the company lost 8 cents a share, a slightly better-than-expected result.

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The shares had a muted reaction, rising about 1% to $1.70 on the Instinet premarket.

Executives speaking on a conference call backed off their previous estimate for full-year revenue declines of 20%, saying they could actually be as much as 25%. The company said in the release that it is still targeting fiscal 2003 profitability and said its quarterly break-even point will be about $2.4 billion in revenue in the September quarter.

"We continue to work toward a return to profitability in late fiscal 2003 and have seen further operational improvements reflected in a 10-point improvement in gross margin, which includes continued cost and expense reductions," the company said. "We have also continued to focus on our recapitalization efforts, which have reduced our debt and convertible securities by more than $1.6 billion to date."