Harley-Davidson stock sputters on third quarter earnings

Antea Gatalica/Medill

By Antea Gatalica

Harley-Davidson Inc. reported a 6.5 percent decline in third quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ forecasts, and said it would slash jobs to pay for stepped-up marketing.

Shares of the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer plummeted 14 percent, or $7.80, to close Tuesday at $48.25.

Net earnings fell to $140.3 million, or 69 cents per diluted share in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, from $150.1 million, or 69 cents in the same quarter a year ago. Analysts had estimated earnings of 78 cents per diluted share.

Revenues increased by less than 1 percent to $1.14 billion from a year ago.

Harley has been hurt by a strong U.S. dollar, which has given a price advantage to overseas motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp.

(Antea Gatalica/Medill)
(Antea Gatalica/Medill)

In a conference call with analysts, CEO Matt Levatich said marketing would receive a 65 percent increase in budget in 2016.

“We have seen an incredible amount of marketing dollars coming into the market, and it’s been diluting our share of voice a bit,” Levatich said.

Chief Financial Officer John Olin said the company will take a $30 million to $35 million charge in the fourth quarter for one-time expenses associated with reorganization costs, including cutting jobs.

The company adjusted full-year shipments down by 11,000 motorcycles. It now expects to ship between 265,000 and 270,000 motorcycles in 2015, approximately flat to down 2 percent from the year-ago period.

Earlier this summer, Harley-Davidson recalled more than 185,000 motorcycles in the U.S. to fix saddlebags that had been falling off several products, increasing the risk of crashes. The recall included 15 models, including the 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic bike.

Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz said that while the brand appears unimpaired, competitive pressures will remain an issue.

“Despite the initiatives to improve consumer connection, we assume most of the rising spending will occur in 2016 and not offer a benefit to profits until 2017,” Katz said.

Photo at top: Harley-Davidson plans to cut jobs to ramp up marketing efforts. (Antea Gatalica/Medill)