Channel | Auto Industry News

Harley-Davidson Buoyed by Strong Overseas Sales

Via The Wall Street Journal

A harsh winter didn’t blow Harley-Davidson Inc. off the road.

The Milwaukee-based maker of motorcycles reported a 19% rise in first quarter profit, even though bad weather in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. reduced traffic at dealerships. Retail sales of Harley motorcycles in the home market were up 3% from a year earlier.

Retail sales of the company’s products outside the U.S. jumped 11%. In the Asian-Pacific region, growth was nearly 21%. The company cited strong sales in Japan, where buyers rushed in ahead of a consumption tax increase that took effect April 1. Harley said sales in Europe were helped by mild weather. Sales were strong across most of Europe but weak in Spain, company officials said.

Harley shares jumped 6.7% to $72.02 in recent New York Stock Exchange trading as analysts said the results were well ahead of expectations and new models appeared to be selling well. “We think the new bikes are working for Harley,” said Craig Kennison, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

Net income was $265.9 million, or $1.21 per share, up from $224.1 million, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings of about $1.08 for the latest quarter. Revenue, including motorcycles and financing services, grew 9.9% to $1.73 billion.

Operating income from the Harley-Davidson Financial Services, which finances sales of motorcycles, fell 12% to $63.2 million. The company said it increased provisions for credit losses as the resale value of repossessed motorcycles declined and loan losses ticked up. A Harley spokesman said the loan loss provision rose to $114.5 million as of March 31 from $106.8 million a year earlier.

“We believe the overall loan portfolio is solid,” said Larry Hund, president of the financial services unit. He said between 75% and 80% of new motorcycle loans in the quarter were considered prime or highly qualified borrowers.

Harley’s accounts receivable jumped 25% from a year earlier to $325 million. The company cited higher shipments to overseas dealers, fluctuations in foreign currencies and more generous terms for customers in Brazil.

Harley said its share of the U.S. market for motorcycles with engines of 601 cubic centimeters or greater was 56% in the latest quarter, down slightly from 56.1% a year earlier. The company’s rivals include Japan’s Honda Motor Co. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Inc. as well as Germany’s BMW AG and Polaris Industries Inc., based in Medina, Minn.

Harley officials said U.S. sales were hurt by a temporary halt to production of the company’s Road Glide models, which are being redesigned. Road Glides are popular among many riders who take long trips. The company declined to say how soon new models will be reintroduced. Harley also faces tougher competition from Polaris, which last year reintroduced the Indian brand.

Harley said it should benefit from two new models, the Low Rider and the SuperLow 1200T.

Harley projected capital spending of between $215 million and $235 million this year, up from $208.3 million in 2013.

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