Marconi workers are facing new uncertainty after BT failed to award the company any work in the roll-out of its new £10 billion telecoms network.
The shock disclosure yesterday wiped more than £400 million from the value of the telecoms equipment firm, which admitted the decision could have an impact on job numbers.
It employs 1,800 workers at its New Century Park facility in Coventry, where it plans to move into a new state-of-theart headquarters campus.
BT awarded contracts instead to eight foreign firms as it embarks on the five-year project to deliver a "21st Century Network" capable of running traditional voice services with the same technology used for the transfer of data.
The telecoms giant said the awards followed two years of discussions with more than 300 potential technology sup-pliers. It said the winners - Fujitsu, Huawei, Alcatel, Cisco, Siemens, Lucent, Ericsson and Ciena - "provided world class responses across a range of different criteria".
Fujitsu's Birmingham-based subsidiary, Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe, will be one of the firms to benefit.
Shigeyuki Unagami, the firm's managing director, said: "With our experience as the largest supplier of access network technology in the UK, we have been able to take a proactive approach, providing intellectual support, as well as offering a highly cost-effective solution for BT's requirements."
At Marconi, which, which generates around a quarter of its business from BT, the result was described as "dis-appointing", with the former GEC company indicating that it may have missed out because of price issues rather than on quality.
The City sent Marconi shares down 40 per cent to levels last seen when it relisted as a newly restructured company in May 2003.
Martin Dobson, of stockbroking firm Hoodless Brennan, said: "Marconi is missing out on a big contract which, with its place in the market, it was expected to get some part of."
Analyst Eiji Aono at Credit Suisse First Boston said: "We believe Marconi is in a weak position and will either have to undertake continued restructurings or look to partner with others in the sector or potentially even put itself up for sale."
The company still has other long-term contracts with BT, but the 21st Century contract was seen as an important tool for underpinning future revenues, as well as an indicator of whether it can compete effectively on the global stage. Some analysts estimate its loss will cost Marconi around £500 million over five years.
Marconi chief executive Mike Parton said: "This is a disappointing outcome from a very competitive tender process. Our products performed extremely well technically, but we have been unable to meet BT's commercial requirements."
A spokesman for Marconi said there was likely to be an impact on jobs at the company, which employs about 10,000 people at its bases.
Marconi completed life-saving £4.7 billion debt restructuring in 2003 and has impressed investors with an improving trend for sales.
The company had earlier been plunged into financial crisis after a costly switch from electronics to telecoms as it paid for firms at peak prices during the tech boom. Shareholders were left with virtually nothing. Shares closed down 184p at 298p.