Harley-Davidson 3Q Sales Disappoint Wall Street

Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) revealed on Tuesday a stronger-than-expected 106% improvement in third-quarter profit, however its shares slipped as the company missed Wall Street's sales forecast and the retailer expressed financial cautiousness ahead.

The motorcycle maker posted net income of $183.6 million, or 78 cents a share, compared with $88.83 million, or 40 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. The results were ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of 76 cents.

Revenue for the three months ended in September was $1.23 billion, up 12.8% from $1.09 billion a year ago, narrowly missing the Street’s view of $1.29 billion.

Despite the improved results, Harley-Davidson’s shares were trading down nearly 8% Tuesday morning in a sign investors were largely unimpressed with its global sales performance. Traders also booed the manufacturer for slashing its profit margin forecast, citing exchange rate uncertainty.

While Harley-Davidson experienced some restructuring-related production shortages during the period, the company’s efforts to reorganize and drive growth of its core brand seemed to pay off in U.S. retail sales.

Demand for Harley-Davidson motorcycles led to a 5.1% worldwide retail sales gain during the period to 61,838 units, led by a 5.4% gain in the U.S. International sales of its flagship motorcycles were up 4.4% during the period, with dealers selling some 19,198 units.

"Two years ago we embarked on our strategy to focus solely on the Harley-Davidson brand, provide the flexibility required in today's market and make Harley-Davidson lean, agile and more effective than ever at delivering remarkable products and extraordinary customer experiences,” the company’s chief executive Keith Wandell said in a statement.

“Today, we continue to see the positive results of the course we have charted," he said.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee-based company shipped 8,452 more motorcycles to dealers during the period than it did in 2010 and saw revenue from motorcycle parts and accessories, including from its brand MotorClothes, climb 7.6% to $235.7 million.

The company said it remains on track to ship between 228,000 and 235,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles to dealers and distributors worldwide this year, including 45,500 to 52,500 in the current quarter.

Harley-Davidson lowered cost estimates related to the restructuring of its production operations and now expects all previously announced company-wide turnaround activities to result in just one-time charge of $460 million to $495 million. In 2011, the company predicts to incur some $70 million to $80 million related to its restructuring strategies.

The two-year-old turnaround initiative is slated to start paying off this year, Harley-Davidson said, with the company expecting to realize savings on a cumulative basis in 2011 of $210 million to $230 million and ongoing savings of $205 million to $325 million when the restructuring has been completed.