Telecom gear maker Alcatel-Lucent stuck to its annual targets after posting in-line sales in the first quarter, helped by booming demand in North America and strong sales of wireless equipment.

The Franco-American company, which competes with market leader Sweden's Ericsson and China's Huawei , also said components shortages caused by the Japanese earthquake would not significantly affect its business this year.

The momentum is clearly continuing, said Chief Executive Ben Verwaayen in a conference call. All businesses contributed to growth, and the Americas were especially strong.

Verwaayen also confirmed the group's annual goals to grow faster than the overall market and reach an operating margin of 5 percent or more.

Alcatel-Lucent's first-quarter revenues were up 15 percent from a year earlier to 3.74 billion euros ($5.23 billion). It posted an adjusted operating profit of 13 million, and negative free cash flow of 213 million..

The results are largely in line with a Reuters poll of 15 analysts, which had forecast revenues of 3.75 billion euro.

Investors have sent Alcatel-Lucent's shares up almost 100 percent since the beginning of the year as they bet that Verwaayen is on the right track to fixing the long-struggling telecom gear maker's problems.

Verwaayen, a Dutchman who formerly led BT Group before taking over Alcatel-Lucent in September 2008, is in the third year of his turnaround plan for the group.

He has trimmed costs from the bloated company, exited money-losing businesses, and focused energy on higher-margin products in optics and IP technologies.

Alcatel-Lucent is also benefitting from a recovery among telecom operators, who after cutting back spending during the global downturn, have started spending again.

Major operators have had to boost spending, especially in wireless networks, to meet skyrocketing data traffic from smartphones and tablet computers.

Market research firms expect anywhere from 1.6-2.5 percent growth in the market this year, with the U.S. and Asia as bright spots.

Verwaayen said on Friday that he expected around 5 percent growth for the market this year.

Alcatel-Lucent has benefited from a wave of spending at North American operators like AT&T and Verizon , who are investing heavily in their networks to offer faster download speeds to Internet users on smartphones and tablets.

Revenues in North America were up 40 percent from a year earlier to 1.56 billion euros. Alcatel-Lucent earns about one third of its revenues in the region.

Alcatel-Lucent's shares were up 3.7 percent to 4.29 euros at Thursday's close.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud and Marie Mawad; Editing by Lionel Laurent)