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Harley-Davidson Refuels

Third-quarter earnings are well ahead of estimates.
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took another step toward putting a harrowing spring behind it Wednesday, reporting a 16% rise in third-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street estimates.

The motorcycle company, whose shares have yet to recover from an April 12 profit warnings that lopped 17% from its market capitalization, earned $265 million, or 96 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $229.0 million, or 77 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts were expecting 90 cents a share in the latest quarter.

Harley said overall revenue rose 10% from a year ago to $1.43 billion in the quarter, matching forecasts. Third-quarter revenue from Harley-Davidson motorcycles was $1.11 billion, up 11.4% from last year, while worldwide wholesale motorcycle shipments totaled 87,585 units, up 8.7%.

The company continues to target 329,000 unit shipments this year. For 2006, the company said shipments could be anywhere from 348,000 to 352,000 motorcycles, given uncertain consumer confidence, increasing fuel prices and rising interest rates.

"Consistent with this more conservative outlook, we are also broadening our long-term guidance on wholesale unit growth to 5% to 9% annually. This will support an annual earnings-per-share growth target in the range of 11% to 17%," the company said.

The current Thomson First Call consensus estimate for Harley's 2005 earnings is $3.32 a share. For 2006, the consensus estimate is about 10% higher at $3.65 a share.

The stock rose $2, or 4.4%, to $47.60 early Wednesday. The price is 14.3 times the 2005 consensus and 13 times the 2006 estimate.