It's one of those headlines you never expect to write. Online retailer today reported its first-ever profit in the three months ending 31 December, while telecommunications equipment vendor Lucent Technologies, née Bell Labs, posted a loss for the same period.

Lower book prices and cost-cutting measures helped Amazon reach profitability, the company said in a statement.

Exceeding its own forecasts as well as analysts' predictions, Seattle-based recorded earnings in its fourth quarter of £3.5m, or 1 cent per share, compared with a net loss £382m in the same period a year ago. posted record net sales of over one billion dollars for the fourth quarter of 2001. Amazon says this is the company's first-ever billion-dollar quarter.

News wasn't so good for Lucent, however, which is suffering from a continuing slowdown in telecommunications spending.

For its first quarter, ending 31 December 2001, Lucent reported a pro forma operating loss of more than £530m. This is, though, half the loss it made in the same period a year ago.

"We continue to believe that revenues in the first fiscal quarter of 2002 represented the low point for Lucent sales in the current market downturn," Frank D'Amelio, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in a statement.