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Harley-Davidson profit skids below Street forecasts

In this Jan. 20, 2012 photo, the Harley-Davidson logo is displayed on a new motorcycle for sale in the show room of Hall's Harley-Davidson Cycles, in Springfield, Ill.

Seth Perlman/SETH PERLMAN/AP

Harley-Davidson Inc. reported fourth-quarter net income slightly below Wall Street estimates, as it shipped fewer motorcycles while phasing in new software control systems at its main U.S. factories.

The company on Tuesday said profit was $70.6-million, or 31 cents per share, compared with $105.7-million, or 46 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had expected the company to earn 32 cents per share in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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Revenue declined 1.5 per cent to $1.01-billion from $1.03-billion a year earlier.

Milwaukee-based Harley said it expects to ship 4.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent more motorcycles in 2013 than it did last year, and looks for gross margin to represent 35.2 per cent to 36.2 per cent of sales. It plans $200-million to $220-million in capital expenditures.

Harley is phasing in a new computer-controlled manufacturing system at its big factories in York, Pennsylvania and Kansas City, which will allow it to produce motorcycles in response to demand, rather than building as much inventory as it has historically carried.

The shift will help both sales and margins by ensuring it has enough inventory of in-demand models and no heavy backup of less-popular bikes.

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