Alcatel, Lucent shares fall amid mixed signals on satellite deal |

Alcatel, Lucent shares fall amid mixed signals on satellite deal

AP Business Writer

PARIS – Shares in French telecom equipment maker Alcatel SA edged down Tuesday amid conflicting signals over the sale of its satellite businesses to defense electronics company Thales SA – which could be key to Alcatel’s 11.1 billion euros ($13.4 billion) acquisition of U.S. rival Lucent Technologies Inc.The plans were due to be decided at a Thales board meeting, which was still under way after more than three hours. About an hour into the meeting, Alcatel shares closed 2.3 percent lower at 13.07 euros ($15.77) on Euronext Paris.In New York, Lucent shares were down 7 cents, or 2.3 percent, at $3.01 (2.50 euros).Under a deal negotiated over several months, Alcatel would transfer its satellite activities and other security-related businesses to Thales, increasing its stake in that company to about 25 percent from the current 9.5 percent, people close to the negotiations said.The people declined to be identified because the negotiations were confidential.But Alcatel’s satellite talks hit a snag when European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. introduced proposals to include its own Astrium satellite unit in a three-way operation, with reported backing from French President Jacques Chirac.Alcatel’s satellite businesses – both joint ventures between Alcatel and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA – include sensitive military technologies that would have to be placed under independent supervision to win French government approval for the Alcatel-Lucent tie-up.New Jersey-based Lucent has made similar arrangements for its Bell Labs research arm – which does work for the Pentagon – by setting up a subsidiary overseen by three former top U.S. defense and intelligence officials.A hitch in Alcatel’s satellite spin-off could complicate the Lucent deal, announced Sunday, because it would force the Paris-based company to find another solution acceptable to French authorities, analysts say.Chirac last week withheld approval of the Alcatel-Thales plan because it excluded EADS, the same people said, effectively delaying it. Noel Forgeard, the EADS co-chief executive who has made no secret of his desire for a broader tie-up with Thales, advised Chirac when he was prime minister in the 1980s and remains close to the head of state.The French president’s office has declined to comment on widespread press reports of his intervention.Alcatel Chairman and CEO Serge Tchuruk refused to say Monday whether he had given any commitment on a role for EADS in the planned satellite deal.Thales also said in a statement Sunday that its upcoming board meeting would examine “a project aimed at developing Thales and strengthening the existing partnership between Thales and Alcatel.”Soon afterward, however, Thales spokesman Markus Leutert said that “scenarios with EADS” were also on the agenda. “Nothing can be excluded,” Leutert said soon after Tuesday’s meeting began.Vail, Colorado

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