Alcatel-Lucent losses mount as new CEO readies latest turnaround plan for early summer

PARIS – Struggling French telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent Friday posted a wider than expected loss for the first quarter as sales nearly stalled and restructuring costs continued to mount.

The Paris-based supplier to operators such as AT&T, Verizon and Orange says it lost 353 million euros ($461.72 million) in the January-March period, compared to a 259 million euros gain a year earlier. Sales were nearly flat at 3.23 billion euros

Analysts surveyed by financial data provider FactSet had forecast a first quarter loss of 265 million euros on sales of 3.2 billion euros

New chief executive Michel Combes said he’s “actively reviewing the group’s businesses and operating model” and plans to unveil his ideas for turning Alcatel-Lucent around in early summer.

Combes took over from former CEO Ben Verwaayen earlier this month. The Frenchman finds himself in a similar predicament to the one that faced his Dutch predecessor when he was brought in to try to save Alcatal-Lucent in 2008.

Verwaayen was ousted after reporting a 2012 loss of 1.37 billion euros. Years of nearly uninterrupted losses and successive rounds of cost-cutting and layoffs are the most noticeable effects of the 2006 merger of France’s Alcatel and Lucent of the United States.

Combes told French news magazine Challenges earlier this month his plan as incoming CEO would be “one month of listening, two months of defining a project, and three years of transformation.”

Alcatel-Lucent shares have fallen about 26 per cent over the last year, and are down 16 per cent just since Verwaayen’s departure was announced in early February.

The company is in the midst of a 1.25 billion euros restructuring program launched last summer to cut 5,000 jobs from the then total of 76,000.