Alcatel-Lucent’s results for Q1 2015 demonstrate strong growth in next-generation revenues and continued improvements in margins and free cash flow, despite a softer spending environment in North America.

Commenting on the results, Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, says: “Our first quarter 2015 results reflect not only strong growth in our next-generation products, but also the diligent efforts we have made to turn Alcatel-Lucent around and build a more resilient organization. Evidence of our progress is shown through the continued improvement in margins and cash flow. Execution of the Shift Plan is and will continue to be our top priority, underlined by our commitment to reach our positive free cash flow target in 2015. These results help pave the way for successful execution of our goals as we prepare for our combination with Nokia.”

Highlights of Q1 2015

* Group revenues, excluding Managed Services and at constant perimeter, increased 12% year-on year, with strong growth coming from next-generation products, which are up 25%. At constant exchange rates, group revenues, excluding Managed Services and at constant perimeter, are down 2% while next-generation revenues are up 9%.

* Gross margin reached 34.6% of revenues in the quarter, expanding 230 bps year-on-year, driven notably by improved profitability across several business lines and a higher-than-usual proportion of software sales in the Access segment.

* Fixed cost savings in the quarter have entirely been reinvested in new marketing and R&D initiatives to accelerate our diversification strategy, essentially in IP Routing and IP Transport. The overall Shift Plan objective of €950-million of fixed cost savings for 2015 is reaffirmed.

* Operating expenses increased 12% year-over-year at actual rates, and were essentially flat at constant rates, as savings were entirely reinvested in marketing and R&D initiatives.

* Adjusted operating income totaled €82-million in the quarter, or 2.5% of revenues, compared to €33-million in Q1 2014, or 1.1% of revenues. Core Networking operating income was €41-million or 2.8% of revenues, compared to €96-million or 7.1% in the year-ago quarter, primarily reflecting reinvestments to promote future growth, a temporary softer spending environment in North America and Japan, and variations in product mix. Access operating income was €67-million or 3.8% of revenues, compared to an operating loss of €37-million of -2.4% of revenues in the year-ago quarter, reflecting continuing strong contribution from Fixed Access and progress in Wireless and Managed Services.

* As reported, the Group showed a net loss (Group share) of €72-million in Q1 2015, or €0.03) per share, compared to €73-million in the year-ago period. The improvement in operating income as well as the lower financial expense reflecting the impact of certain capital gains were offset by a higher income tax expense, given the activation of deferred tax assets in the US in the year-ago quarter.

* Free cash flow was €332-million in the quarter, an improvement of €66-million year-over-year, driven primarily by higher operating cash flow as variations in non-operational cash flow items offset each other.

* At March 31, 2015, the Group had net cash position of €262-million, versus a net cash position of €326-million at December 31, 2014.

* At March 31, 2015, the Group’s overall Pensions and OPEB exposure indicated a deficit of €1,645-million compared to a deficit of €1,350-million at December 31, 2014. This change primarily reflects the decrease in discount rates used for pensions and other post-retirement benefit plans. From an ERISA standpoint, which determines funding requirements in the US, the US pension funds remain in a surplus and we do not expect to make any additional contributions to these plan assets for the foreseeable future.