WorldCom Spending Pullback Adds Ballast to Sinking Optical Stocks - TheStreet

Thursday brought more bad news for the reeling optical sector, as another network builder trimmed its spending outlook and optical-equipment stocks continued to plunge.

WorldCom

(WCOM)

told analysts on a third-quarter conference call Thursday morning it will cut back next year on its network expansion efforts. The company expects to spend $9 billion this year, and probably will fall well short of that total next year. WorldCom was off $2.31, or 9.2%, at $22.94, putting it near its 52-week low of $20.19.

The Jackson, Miss.-based phone and Internet service provider said it will offer more detailed guidance on spending and revenue when it unveils its restructuring plans next week. But CFO Scott Sullivan said spending "will be lower" in 2001.

Sullivan didn't provide specifics, but he said spending would probably be less next year in local access equipment, phone and data switches and undersea equipment. He said spending in those three areas had basically peaked this year.

The pullback could mean less business for WorldCom suppliers such as

Alcatel

(ALA)

,

Nortel

(NT)

and

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

. Alcatel sells WorldCom digital cross-connect equipment used in local phone switching offices, says Lisa Pierce, equipment analyst with

Giga Information Group

, an industry research firm. And both Nortel and Cisco sell WorldCom voice and data switches, says Pierce, whose firm consults to most of the telecom industry.

WorldCom is the third of the nation's top equipment spenders to have said in the past two days that it would be pulling back on network equipment spending. Wednesday,

Williams

(WCG) - Get Report

and

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

separately said they were

trimming their heavy-spending ways.

The formerly unfazed optical networking sector is now getting crushed under the growing body of evidence that equipment spending is receding more rapidly than expected. The sector is also being punished by the

disappointing revenue growth at optical networking leader Nortel Tuesday.

Optical switch and transport maker

Ciena

(CIEN) - Get Report

, a big WorldCom supplier, was down 17% around midday Thursday after a 20% selloff Wednesday. Nortel has lost 30% of its market value in two days.

With the top of the buying chain weakening, all eyes will be on

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

this evening when the company reports quarterly earnings. JDS supplies companies like Nortel and Ciena with optical components for the manufacture of network equipment. JDS will need to post stellar earnings and speak glowingly about the future to ward off continued selling. JDS was off $5 at $66, adding to a 25% thrashing Wednesday.