Harley-Davidson reported a surprise profit in the fourth quarter as strong demand in its home market and higher motorcycle prices padded earnings and shipping delays eased. The shares rose in early trading.
Adjusted profit of 15 cents a share marked a sharp turnaround from a loss in the same period last year and far outpaced Wall Street’s expectation of a 32-cent loss, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue from motorcycles and related products rose to $816 million, the Milwaukee-based company said in a statement Tuesday.
The results were “much better than expected,” Joe Altobello, an analyst with Raymond James, said in a note. Revenue from the motorcycle business was “up sharply on higher shipments and healthy retail.”
Two years into his tenure as chief executive officer, Jochen Zeitz has slashed costs, exited unprofitable markets and tightened inventory to raise motorcycle prices. His turnaround plan, dubbed “Hardwire,” paid off in the quarter as shipments of motorcycles replenished U.S. inventory that had been drained by shipping delays and parts shortages.
Sales last quarter jumped 8% in North America, Harley’s largest market, offsetting declines in the rest of the world. Deliveries fell in the Europe region, Asia and Latin America.
Harley’s shares rose as much as 9.4% to $39.53 in premarket trading in New York. The stock fell 4.2% this year through Monday’s close.
Revenue for the full year rose 32% to $5.3 billion on a more profitable mix of bikes and record income from its financing arm.
In October, the European Union agreed to end a 31% tariff on Harley motorcycles as part of a trade truce negotiated by the U.S. to repair relations following Trump-era spats over steel and aluminum imports.
Zeitz, a branding expert who revived the Puma shoe brand in the late 1990s, served as a Harley board member for years before taking over as CEO. He unveiled his Hardwire turnaround plan a year ago. It calls for investing as much as $250 million annually in part to develop Harley’s electrification technology.
In December, he agreed to a public listing for Harley’s electric motorcycle brand, LiveWire, in a reverse merger to fund the company’s electric ambitions. That deal should close in the first half of this year, Harley said Tuesday.
In 2020, Harley announced it was pulling out of India as part of a broader culling to narrow its global presence to just 50 key markets.
Zeitz has overseen the introduction of successful new models, like last year’s Pan America adventure bike, and recently hired executives from Nike and the fashion industry to grow Harley’s apparel and merchandise business.
Harley expects 5% to 10% revenue growth in its core motorcycle segment and a jump in operating margin to as much as 12% in 2022, the company said.