HOG Gets Slaughtered After Harley Reports Biggest Miss In Ten Years

The stock of America's iconic motorcycle maker, Harley Davidson, is in full-blown slaughter mode this morning, after the company reported dismal earnings, barely breaking even in the last quarter of a year in which HOG got caught up in President Donald Trump’s trade wars.

Harley-Davidson fell over 8% pre-market after the company reported 4Q EPS and revenue that not only missed the lowest Wall Street estimates, but were the biggest miss to consensus since 2009.

GAAP EPS was $0.000 in the fourth quarter, and 17 cents a share on a non-GAAP basis which excluded "incremental tariffs" and restructuring costs (somehow excluding tariffs is now part of non-GAAP), missing analysts’ average estimate for 29 cents (range of 19c to 42c) while revenue was only $955.6 million, far below the consensus estimate $1.05 billion (range $1 billion to $1.10 billion, while 4Q gross margin 27.6% was modestly better than the estimated 27.5%.

Yet while Harley was quick to exclude tariff costs from non-GAAP EPS, it had no problem taking full credit for sharply lower taxes, and reported that for the full-year 2018, Harley's effective tax rate was 22.6 percent compared to 39.6 percent in 2017 (thanks "to the favorable impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.")

To further improve its manufacturing operations and cost structure, in the first quarter of 2018 the company commenced its multi-year manufacturing optimization initiative anchored by the consolidation of its U.S. motorcycle assembly operations into its plant in York, Pa. In the fourth quarter of 2018, costs related to the manufacturing optimization were $19.1 million with full year at $102.4 million. The company expects to incur an additional $50 million to $60 million of operating expense in 2019 which is lower than its most recent expectations. The company now expects total capital investment of approximately $65 million through 2019, a decrease of $10 million from previous expectations, and continues to expect ongoing annual cash savings of $65 million to $75 million after 2020.

The company also reported 4Q motorcycle shipments of 43,489, down 7.9%, which fell well short of the company’s forecast given in Oct. for total shipments of 45,800-50,800. This even though the company said it finished the year with 52,000 more Harley- Davidson riders than one year ago.

Some more highlights courtesy of Bloomberg:

  • U.S. retail sales tumbled 10 percent in the three months ended in December, the eighth consecutive quarterly drop. Harley is struggling to attract younger riders and is looking to offset that by offering cheaper bikes and selling clothing and gear, including on Amazon, to reach new customers.
  • Sales in Europe and Asia also fell, and worldwide deliveries dropped 6.7 percent. CEO Matt Levatich unveiled a turnaround plan in July that calls for 50 percent of revenue to come from outside the U.S. by 2027. He’s introducing as many as five electric models, including lightweight, urban bikes to target growth in Europe and India.
  • Harley said in June it would move some U.S. production overseas to sidestep EU tariffs that jumped to 31 percent from 6 percent, sparking the ire of Trump, who said he’d back a boycott of the company’s bikes.
  • Analysts think demand for Harley’s new electric motorcycle, LiveWire, will be limited because of its $29,799 price tag. Its cheapest bike starts at $8,699.

It wasn't just HOG: shares of peer Polaris Industries also come under pressure today after providing a 2019 adj. EPS forecast of $6.00-$6.25, which trailed street estimate $6.95. The maker of off-road vehicle and Indian motorcycles said the 2019 view includes the combined negative impact from external factors including the annualized impact of tariffs, adverse foreign exchange impact and higher interest rates of about $1.50 per share.

Looking ahead, HOG sees 1Q motorcycle shipments 53,000 to 58,000 and full year motorcycle shipments 217,000 to 222,000, although we expect these numbers to be also revised lower in coming months. Here is the rest of the forecast:

  • Motorcycles segment operating margin as a percent of revenue to be approximately 8.0 to 9.0 percent
  • Financial Services segment operating income to be down year-over-year
  • Effective tax rate of approximately 24.0 to 25.0 percent
  • Capital expenditures of $225 million to $245 million including approximately $20 million to support manufacturing optimization

As a result of another abysmal quarter, Harley shares plunged 8.2% to $33.60 as of 7:06 a.m., extending a drop from a dismal year, which saw the stock plunge 33% in 2018 and touched an eight-year low on Dec. 24.