Alcatel-Lucent, S.A. (ALU)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 10, 2012 7:00 am ET


Ben Verwaayen - Chief Executive Officer, Director and Member of Management Committee

Paul J. Tufano - Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President and Member of Management Committee

Unknown Executive -


Sebastien Sztabowicz - Kepler Capital Markets, Research Division

Achal Sultania

Kai Korschelt - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Vincent Maulay - Oddo Securities, Research Division

Zahid S. Hussein - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Francois Meunier - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Anuj Krishan - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Simon M. Leopold - Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc., Research Division

Alexander Peterc - Exane BNP Paribas, Research Division

Odon de Laporte - CA Cheuvreux, Research Division

Eric Beaudet - Natixis S.A., Research Division


Ben Verwaayen

So good morning, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where you are. Thank you for joining us at the full year results and Q4 results 2011. As always, we have here an interesting slide for you to read. I encourage you to do so because a lot of people work very hard to get this right.

2011. What can I say about 2011 other than that I think it has been a year in which we have delivered on many different levels? First of all, after the disappointment of Q3, I think we have delivered a Q4 that was what we said it would and then some.

If you look to the most important elements of the year as such, is that we have doubled our profits between 2010 and 2011, we have made significant improvements on our operational capabilities, on our portfolio, and I think we have made very good progress on our cash flow, thanks to a very good performance in Q4.

If you talk about longer term, most important element is what's the relevance that you have to your customers, and we're going to talk about it in this presentation. And then, of course, how do you look to the future? So we look to the future with, I would say, realism. We look to the future with the knowledge of what we have done in the past 3 years. I promised the market, I promised you that we would be, after 3 years, a normal company. The reality is that we didn't fulfill all elements of that promise, and I apologize for that. But I think we are well underway to make good for those elements of the normality agenda that were not met at the end of 2011.

And you can see the indication in the fourth quarter about the capabilities that we have to improve, and that gives us the confidence to have, I think, a pretty robust year in 2012. Our order portfolio is strong. Our order book is strong. We have a clear sight of the improvements that we made operationally in the latter half of 2011. If you see to our cost improvements, Paul will talk about it, you can see that it built up over the year 2011. We may have been somewhat weaker in the first half, but we're certainly strong in the second half. And if you look to what we are doing strategically, I think important also is to look to what we announced today, a ramp-up patent portfolio.

Let me spend 2 minutes to clarify why this is an innovative approach and why I think it's very important. It's important because the first thing we are not doing is sell our portfolio. That's not what we're doing. It's important to understand that. We have a position in the telecom market for which it is very important that we have the strongest portfolio and patents in the industry, and we will maintain to have that. 29,000 patents that we have is not just an illustration of a strong past. It is, at the same token, a great basis for a great future. That is not at all at stake.

But also in that particular market of patents, innovation takes place, and innovation takes place because people think about value very differently than they may have done in the past. So when we are working together with RPX, we discovered that the ability they have to do syndicate licensing, where basically, you're part of a club, you pay for the usage of it, but you don't own it because we own it, but you have the same protection as if you would buy it, is a very innovative new way of looking to a patent. And it gives us a reach far beyond the classical reach that we would normally have because we don't run a patent syndicate. We don't run the capabilities in-house to go out and reach out of our industry to other industries for some of the patent reach, but they do. And they have a capability that we find extraordinarily interesting, extraordinarily interesting for 2 reasons. First of all, as Paul will everybody -- remind every single time, this is time-limited. This is not forever, so the opportunity to go do something is relatively short term. Second, we have the capability, if necessary, we are not satisfied, to walk away. And third, it is nonexclusive, so it allows us to do what we normally do. It gives us choice, and it gives us an impact that we think is substantial.

And I think innovation in many different ways of an organization is a sign of strength. So some of the comments I read this morning are really, I think, not really -- are really not on the mark. This is about not selling the family silver. This is about getting a creative capability to leverage the assets that you have. And that is what enterprise is all about.

So with that said, let's look to Q4. Q4, of course, as we said by the end of Q3, was a different Q4 than we've seen in the past. It was not people emptying their budgets. It was people making very deliberate decisions where to invest, for what reason. And if you, therefore, look to the various parts of our business, you can see that in, I would say, real life.

But having said that, IP had the strongest second quarter ever. They have done a tremendous job. Overall, over the year, they grow 10% plus. Every quarter, they added 10 to 15 new contracts, and you will see later, they are now in the networks of approximately 90% of the Tier 1 players in the world and expanding.

If you look to our wireless market, it's interesting to note 3 things: first of all, the U.S. was down; and yes, CDMA was down; and no, that had not a substantial serious impact on our margin. Because if you look to where we are today, we have a much broader portfolio than in the past, where we were absolutely dependent on 1 or 2 things. We have now a much broader spectrum, and you can see that in the numbers.

If you look to Wireless, that was tough Q4. It was tough because most markets had a very strong 1, 2 and 3, and in Q4, they hold their guns. If you look to the order book in the U.S., I can tell you the order book is very strong. So that gives you a feel for where that market is going. It is also a market that is going more and more to the next generation, decisively going LTE, decisively going LTE.

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