Lucent, manufacturer mum about possible plant talks

Embattled networking equipment vendor Lucent Technologies Inc. and contract manufacturer Celestica Inc. declined to comment today on reports that they’re negotiating a possible deal for Lucent to sell two of its manufacturing plants to Toronto-based Celestica.

Lucent spokeswoman Michelle Davidson confirmed that the Murray Hill, N.J.-based company is moving forward with plans to divest its plants in Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio, as part of a restructuring program that was detailed in January. But Davidson said she couldn’t discuss whether Celestica was a suitor for the two facilities.

A Celestica spokeswoman also would neither confirm nor deny that the contract manufacturer is interested in buying the two Lucent plants. She said Celestica, which handles production work for companies in the computer and communications industries, “does not comment on rumors or speculation.”

The Oklahoma City plant makes network switching and access products, while the Ohio facility produces wireless networking components. Lucent wants to turn the two plants over to a contract manufacturing firm from which it would continue to source the various devices, as part of a plan for reducing production costs that was announced early last year.

Henry Schacht, who took over last October as Lucent’s interim chairman and chief executive officer, identified the Oklahoma City and Ohio facilities as sell-off candidates in January when spelling out his plan for restructuring the struggling company. Lucent has been wracked by losses, declining sales, management changes and layoffs during the past 10 months.

The company initially said it planned to cut 10,000 workers as part of the restructuring program. Earlier this month, Lucent offered early retirement packages to another 10,000 employees just a day after Schacht disclosed that the networking vendor was speeding up its efforts to cut internal costs. Other steps still in the works include a planned sale of Lucent’s fibre-optic division.