Lucent Stock Drops After Downgrades

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Shares of telecommunications equipment maker Lucent Technologies Inc. fell more than 4 percent on Monday after two analysts downgraded the stock.

The Murray Hill, New Jersey-based company's stock fell 35 cents, or 4.17 percent, to close at $8.04 on the New York Stock Exchange, after dropping as low as $7.68 during the session.

Since the beginning of the year -- when Lucent launched a restructuring program to remake itself into a smaller company -- the stock has outperformed its peers in the Standard & Poor's Communications Equipment Index by about 34 percent.

Morgan Stanley and ABN AMRO both downgraded their ratings on Lucent on Monday morning.

"The downgrades are certainly a catalyst to encourage people to take money off the table," said Shawn Campbell, analyst with North Trust Corp.'s asset management arm, which owns Lucent stock.

"We have a plan, we have a new-product portfolio that enables us to serve our customers better and we're in full execution mode," said Lucent spokeswoman Michelle Davidson, who declined to address the stock activity or the analysts' reports.

ABN AMRO's Kenneth Leon in a research note cut his rating on Lucent to "hold" from "add," and cut his fiscal year 2002 estimate to a loss of 53 cents a share from a previous forecast for a loss of 39 cents a share. He also cut the fiscal 2003 estimate to break-even from an 18-cent-a-share profit.

Leon cut his 2002 revenue estimate to $18.3 billion from $21.3 billion, and reduced his 2003 sales forecast to $19.8 billion from $22.5 billion.

He said he is less positive Lucent will boost its revenues in the second quarter of 2002 from the first quarter, as the company has forecast. Leon also remains unsure Lucent can achieve positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by then.

He added that absent stronger revenue growth, he believes Lucent executives are open to looking at a third round of restructuring. Lucent has launched two waves of restructuring since January.

Leon said one risk to the downgrade is the timing of a major optical order from Verizon Communications that he now expects to see in mid to late 2002.

Morgan Stanley analyst Alkesh Shah cut his rating on Lucent to "neutral" from "outperform," saying the company is fairly valued. He said there was little reason for the stock's 47 percent rise from Oct. 1 through last week.

"Although we are encouraged by (Lucent's) new product portfolio and restructuring progress, we believe the recent stock price appreciation is ahead of any improvement in company or industry fundamentals," he said in a research note.

Shah said in the near term, he remains concerned about telephone carrier spending in 2002, risk of greater-than-expected weakness in Asia Pacific, and scarce contract or trail announcements for next-generation products by Lucent. The company also has scant expertise in Internet Protocol and does not provide enough financial detail on its business segments, he added.

Shah said despite the concerns, he has a positive long-term outlook for Lucent given the company's strong ties to the larger telecom providers, its next generation of products and ongoing restructuring.