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Lucent Reports Better-Than-Expected Profit
Reuters
NEW YORK — Lucent Technologies Inc. the world's largest maker of telecommunications equipment on Thursday reported better-than-expected first quarter profits, buoyed by strong demand for data networking equipment and improving foreign sales.

Lucent, which last week agreed to buy data networking company Ascend Communications Inc., also said it was optimistic about its prospects for its fiscal year ending in September. It expects earnings per share for the year to increase about 35 percent on revenue growth of about 19 percent to 20 percent.

In the first quarter ending December 1998, Lucent's profit increased to $2.7 billion or $2.00 a share, compared with $792 million, or 61 cents a share a year ago.

Excluding one-time gains and charges, first quarter profit rose 26 percent to a record $1.414 billion or $1.05 a share. The results beat Wall Street earnings expectations of $1.01 a share, according to First Call, which tracks analysts' estimates.

Lucent, based in Murray Hill, N.J., has topped earnings expectations every quarter since it was spun off from AT&T; Corp. in 1996.

"Lucent begins fiscal 1999 with a solid quarter, with record earnings and margins," said Lucent Chairman Richard McGinn. "As our customers continue to evolve and transform their networks for next-generation broadband communications and we add new customers around the world, Lucent's momentum has never been stronger," he said.

The unit's revenues outside the United States increased a record 67 percent and represented about 42 percent of the group's revenues for the quarter. Within the United States, revenues decreased 19 percent from the year-ago quarter due, in part, to the delay of revenues into the second quarter.

First quarter revenues for systems for communications network operators increased by 3 percent to a record $6.1 billion, driven by sales of switching systems with associated software, and optical and data networking systems.

The current first quarter profits included a $1.3 billion gain due to changes in accounting for its pension and post-retirement benefits, and a $14 million acquisition-related charges. The year-ago quarter included an acquisition-related charge and a gain on the sale of a unit.

Lucent's first quarter quarterly revenue grew only 6 percent to $9.2 billion from $8.7 billion, as some revenue it had expected to record at the end of the first quarter was delayed into the second quarter.

In its business communications unit, revenues increased 2 percent to $1.975 billion. The microelectronics units' revenues increased 6 percent over the year-ago quarter to $821 million, driven by sales of chips for high-speed communications, mass storage and data networking. Lucent's core semiconductor business grew 18 percent.

As a percentage of revenue, gross profit margin for the quarter improved to 52.3 percent from 48.2 percent in the year-ago quarter, reflecting a more favorable mix of products — software, optical and data networking — as well as the improved performance of multi-year contracts.

Selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A;) accounted for 19.3 percent of revenues in the quarter, up from 17.8 percent in the period a year-ago.

With strong customer demand, plus the revenues that were delayed, Lucent said it expects its second quarter revenues to increase about 30 percent from the year-ago quarter, and earnings per share to double from the 14 cents reported a year ago.

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