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Russo under pressure at Alcatel

14 сентября 2007

Patricia Russo, the US-born chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, is coming under pressure from French board members to bolster her management team after the telecommunications equipment supplier on Thursday issued its third profit warning this year.

It is understood that executives in the Paris-based headquarters of the Franco-American group have become increasingly frustrated by Ms Russo’s absences as she divides her time between France and the US.
One person close to the situation said there was no move to oust Ms Russo but Thursday’s warning of a severe cut in sales expectations had fuelled pressure for changes to the way the management team was organised.
“If you are chief executive, your place is in the headquarters and the headquarters are in Paris,” he said.
Serge Tchuruk, the French non-executive chairman and former boss of Alcatel, is understood to have made his views known to Ms Russo.
She defended her decision to split her time, telling the Financial Times on Thursday it was “crucially important” for her to visit customers. The apparent tension at the top of Alcatel-Lucent is likely further to unsettle investors, who on Thursday saw their shares tumble to their lowest level since the ill-starred €11bn merger was launched nine months ago.
The news, coming just six weeks after Ms Russo had announced a strong recovery in second-half sales despite disappointing interim profit, left Alcatel-Lucent shares down almost 9 per cent to €6.62.
On Thursday, she said a slowdown in capital spending among its wireless customers in North America meant revenue growth this year would be flat or only slightly up, against expectations of an increase in the mid-single digits. The cost-cutting programme, which includes 12,500 job cuts worldwide, would have to be accelerated and new initiatives explored, Ms Russo said.
Analysts said in the past year, the group had moved from a pro forma margin of 5-6 per cent to virtually zero. “Until they can move to a position where they are making higher margins than they did separately, they cannot justify this merger,” one said. Ms Russo denied that management failures had anything to do with the warning. “I believe it is a market issue, not an execution one.”

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