Harley Davidson Shares Aren’t Going to Win Off the Line

Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) said second-quarter earnings fell -91% from a year ago. The manufacture of iconic motorcycles said it earned $19.8 million, or 8 cents a share, versus last year’s profit of $222.8 million, or 95 cents a share.

The results fell short of expectations. Analysts expected the Milwaukee-based company to earn $63.3 million, or $0.25 a share.

Harley said sales of new motorcycles fell by -30% from the same quarter in 2008. It lowered the number of bikes it expects to ship this year, from 273,000 to 228,000.

Shares of the company — despite the lower results — gained +6% in early-morning trading as investors applauded Harley’s aggressive cost-cutting. The company said it would trim its workforce by 1,000.

Harley shares dipped just below $8 in March to set a 52-week low of $7.99. They’ve since recovered from that nadir, and the shares overall have outperformed the S&P 500 so far this year, advancing +9.4%. That was the ride to take.

Are there miles left in Harley shares? It depends on an investor’s time frame. Historically, Harley trades at 12.6 times earnings. Its now at 7.8. That’s a wider valuation decline than the overall market, which is off -7.9 from its five-year average. Assuming the nation recovers and consumers choose to make the 100% discretionary decision to buy a Harley, then shares in the leading motorcycle company likely, given enough time, have the horsepower to return to the $30-$40 range.

Harley isn’t going to win any races off the line. For long-term investors, though, the stock likely will offer a long, pleasant ride. There’s some evidence indicating the likelihood of that scenario. Analysts currently expect a better third-quarter earnings of $27.2 million, or 29 cents a share.