Investors will be hoping for a little illumination from Lucent Technologies ( LU) Wednesday morning. The Murray Hill, N.J., telecom equipment giant is scheduled to deliver yet another installment in its familiar saga to balance solid wireless gains with slipping wireline gear sales. Wall Street is eager to see Lucent's fiscal fourth-quarter numbers and even more curious about the company's year-ahead forecast. The stock has been stuck around $3 for the better part of the year as investors await signs that the two businesses, now folded together, can move in unison, and ideally, for the better. Early reports from Lucent's suppliers and manufacturing partners like Celestica ( CLS) seem to indicate another ho-hum performance is in the books. So the real mystery is what's coming around the corner. Among the biggest concerns for Lucent watchers is that there may be some slowdown in wireless infrastructure orders as big customers like Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon ( VZ) and Vodafone ( VOD), review next year's budget. "There is risk of Verizon cutting back on wireless spending in 2005 and 2006," UBS analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos wrote in a recent report. Theodosopoulos has a neutral rating on Lucent. Verizon is waging a two-pronged spending offensive by upgrading its wireless network with evolution data-only, or EV-DO, technology, while pushing its fiber optic cable further out into communities to deliver TV, phone and Net services. Something may have to give, say some observers. The company can fund either third-generation, or 3G, wireless, or it can spend on the fiber-optic triple play -- but not both. "Verizon did not cut EV-DO pricing by 25% because demand was too brisk," says Charter Equity Research analyst Ed Snyder in a preview note. "On the contrary, the value for 3G in general and EV-DO in particular is underwhelming, just as it has been with deployments in Asia and Europe," says Snyder, who also rates Lucent a neutral.
Even though AT&T tried a last-minute bribe of promising 5,000 new U.S. jobs to help gain support for the deal, the Justice Department filed a complaint to fight the combination of the nation's No. 2 and No. 4 wireless carriers.