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Earnings preview: Faltering US sales to weigh on Harley-Davidson’s Q4 results

Superbike maker Harley-Davidson (HOG) is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results Tuesday before the opening bell. Analysts are looking for earnings of $0.26 per share, which is nearly half of what the company earned a year ago. The improvement in overseas sales in recent months, supported by the company’s revamped product portfolio, points to an earnings beat this time.

The key to sustaining global sales growth and regaining the lost momentum in the US market is to deepen the focus on young customers, by rolling out new models. Sales of heavyweight motorcycles are shrinking across all markets due to the difference in the tastes of older customers and young buyers who usually look for utility, rather than brand value, while making purchases.

While maintaining most of its old models, the company is all set to launch new bikes in the mid-weight and light-weight segments by next year. Also, there are plans to introduce an electric motorcycle this year, which will be the first from Harley-Davidson in that segment.

In addition to ramping up the product line and investing in innovation, the company also bets on the growing popularity of the Harley-Davidson merchandise which is currently available on e-commerce platforms. The promotional initiatives also include the opening of riding schools across the country to attract more people to the brand.

In the third quarter, adjusted earnings of the Wisconsin-based company nearly doubled to a two-year high of $0.78 per share, aided by a decline in expenses. Sales climbed about 15% annually to $1.32 billion, reflecting the growing demand for premium bikes in the international market, which was partially offset by the persistent slump in the local market.

Also see: Harley-Davidson Q3 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

Meanwhile, there is a growing risk from the ongoing trade war, with high tariffs on the import of components putting pressure on margins. Currently, the average rating on the stock is hold, which has been maintained by the analysts for over three months.

Harley-Davidson shares are struggling to recover after plunging to an eight-year low last month, though they started 2019 on a positive note and outperformed the industry in the early weeks. In the last twelve months, the stock lost about 33%.

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