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Managing Editor

Looking up

Jan 31, 20032 mins
AT&TData Center

Upbeat earnings signal slow ascension from depths of telecom abyss

Recent financial results from three telecom equipment giants indicate that the worst is behind us, we’ve seen the bottom and a slow recovery has begun.

Nortel, for example, had a pleasant surprise for us by reporting fourth-quarter and year-end 2002 results that were far better than Wall Street expectations. Instead of the 6-cent-per-share pro forma loss the Street expected, Nortel’s loss was only 1 cent per share, well within reach of profitability.

Lucent, meanwhile, posted a narrower first-quarter loss than expected. Revenue was down 9% sequentially, slightly better than company guidance of a 10% drop. Analysts upgraded their ratings and price targets for Lucent, noting progress in company restructuring and overall industry recovery, which they expect to occur in the second half of this year.

And Juniper blew away expectations for its fourth-quarter and 2002 year-end results with earnings and revenue markedly better than Wall Street estimates. For the period ending Dec. 31, 2002, the company posted revenue of $155.3 million and pro forma earnings of 1 cent per share. Analysts were expecting revenue to come in at $150 million and a loss of 1 cent per share, according to Thomson First Call.

Overall, industry watchers are upbeat by what they see so early this year.

“Several telecom equipment suppliers recently reported modest results this quarter, which bodes well for the industry,” stated UBS Warburg in a bulletin on Nortel’s results. “This has largely been due to pockets of strength in Asia or Europe accompanied by strong cost cutting.”

But analysts say we may not be totally out of the woods. BellSouth and AT&T both announced results last week that underwhelmed the market.

“Recent earnings performance by Bell South and AT&T were not encouraging,” states UBS Warburg. “There remains a risk that capex for the industry could decrease more steeply this year.”

While the investment firm believes that capex for the Baby Bells will begin to stabilize in 2003, perhaps we should just enjoy the promising signals from equipment vendors while we can.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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