LM Ericsson is replacing its chief executive as the telecom equipment maker tries to return to profitability after two years of losses.

Kurt Hellstroem, who has been with Ericsson for 18 years -- four as president and CEO -- said Thursday he wanted to take advantage of a clause in his contract allowing him to retire when he turned 60 this year.

The Stockholm-based company named Carl-Henric Svanberg, the CEO for international lock maker Assa Abloy since 1994, to its top position. He will take over April 8, when Ericsson holds its annual shareholder meeting. Hellstroem will stay on until the end of 2003 to help with the transition.

Earlier in the week, Ericsson said its losses in the fourth quarter more than doubled, reporting $968.7 million loss in the final three months of 2002. The company has been cutting costs and jobs. When it started in 2001, the company employed 107,000 worldwide. By the end of 2002, Ericsson employed more than 64,600.