Harley-Davidson Jumps as Profit Tops Estimates on Sales

Harley-Davidson Inc. rose the most in almost 18 months after reporting first-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as retail sales of motorcycles increased.

The shares rose 6.4 percent to $71.87 at the close in New York time, for the biggest jump since Oct. 23, 2012. The Milwaukee-based company has gained 3.8 percent for the year.

The company, which has sought to introduce lighter-weight Street bikes and win riders from overseas, said the number of motorcycles sold by dealers in international markets increased 11 percent in the first quarter, including a 21 percent jump in the Asia Pacific region. Sales in the U.S., its largest market, advanced 3 percent, according to a statement. Harley-Davidson has focused on “outreach” customers domestically, a group that includes women, young riders, Hispanics and blacks.

“You’re starting to see the effects of five years of continued focus and execution and implementation of our strategy,” Matt Levatich, chief operating officer of Harley-Davidson Motor Co., said in an interview.

First-quarter net income rose 19 percent to $265.9 million, or $1.21 a share, compared with $224.1 million, or 99 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had forecast profit of $1.08, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales for the period, excluding financial-services revenue, were $1.57 billion. Total revenue was $1.73 billion.

Street Bikes

Harley-Davidson said retail motorcycle sales last year to its outreach customers grew at twice the pace of those to its core U.S. customer segment, who it describes as white men over the age of 35.

The new Street bikes, geared for a younger and overseas customer, began selling outside the U.S. this month and will be available in stores in the latter part of the second quarter, John Olin, chief financial officer, said today on a conference call to discuss earnings results.

Harley-Davidson reiterated its forecast for 2014 operating margin of 17.5 percent to 18.5 percent in the motorcycles segment and said it continues to expect capital expenditure of $215 million to $235 million. The company said it still expects to ship 279,000 to 284,000 motorcycles to dealers and distributors worldwide this year, a 7 percent to 9 percent increase from 2013.