PARIS — Telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent said Friday that years of cost-cutting helped it make an annual profit in 2011, its first since its trans-Atlantic merger in 2006.
The Paris-based company reported a net profit of €1.1 billion ($1.46 billion) in 2011, compared with a net loss of €334 million in 2010.
Alcatel-Lucent shares rose as much as 23 percent to their highest level in three months as investors applauded the group's return to profit as well as a new plan aimed at turning its patent portfolio into a money-spinner for the high-tech company.
At 1415 GMT Alcatel-Lucent shares were up 13 percent at €1.69 on the Paris stock exchange.
"Overall, this concludes a second year of strong improvement in our results, and leads to the first positive full-year net results for Alcatel-Lucent since the merger," CEO Ben Verwaayen said in a statement.
Sales to telecommunications network operators fell off sharply over the year as carriers cut back spending amid the worsening economic outlook, especially in Europe.
The company forecast further cost-cutting this year to improve on the 3.9 percent adjusted operating margin achieved in 2011, almost double the year-earlier figure but well below the 5 percent level that the company had originally targeted.
Alcatel-Lucent supplies telecommunication carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and France Telecom. It competes with European rivals such as LM Ericsson AB of Sweden and Nokia Siemens Networks of Finland.
With North American headquarters in Murray Hill, New Jersey, it has struggled for years to return to profit. Total losses since its trans-Atlantic tie-up have topped €9 billion.
Sales were down nearly 13 percent in the fourth quarter with double-digit declines in Europe, North America and Asia. For all of 2011 Alcatel-Lucent sales were down 2.1 percent to €15.3 billion.
Sales were particularly weak in the wireless division. The largest of the networking businesses, it saw sales slump by over a fifth in the fouth quarter, which the company blamed on slowing spending by operators, especially in North America.
In a separate statement Friday, Alcatel-Lucent said it was working with RPX Corporation of San Francisco on a plan to license its portfolio of nearly 30,000 patents in areas such as fixed and wireless communications, semiconductors and network security.
RPX buys and licenses patents and helps big companies avoid patent lawsuits. Alcatel-Lucent expects to earn "substantial proceeds" from the arrangement, Verwaayen said.