Harley shutting down Missouri plant amid sales decline

NEW YORK — Harley-Davidson Inc. will close its Kansas City, Missouri, plant as part of a cost-cutting move as it sells fewer of it iconic motorcycles.

The Milwaukee-based company reported a 7.9 per cent drop to 241,498 motorcycle shipments in 2017 and expects the figure to continue dropping. It forecast 231,000 to 236,000 motorcycle shipments in 2018.

“The decision to consolidate our final assembly plants was made after very careful consideration of our manufacturing footprint and the appropriate capacity given the current business environment,” said President and CEO Matt Levatich.

U.S. motorcycle sales peaked at more than 1.1 million in 2005 but then plummeted during the recession. They’ve had trouble coming out of that trough because of demographic shifts. As baby boomers stop riding, there aren’t enough millennials taking up the slack, analysts say.

Specifically, Harley-Davidson said it is consolidating the Kansas City assembly plant into its York, Pennsylvania, facility. The move will mean 800 layoffs at the Kansas City facility, beginning midyear, and it will close by the third quarter of 2019.

The company said it will add up to 450 new positions at the York facility.

It expects to book restructuring and other costs of $170 million to $200 million and capital investment costs of about $75 million over two years. The move is expected to lead to ongoing annual savings of $65 million to $75 million after 2020.

The motorcycle maker reported an 82 per cent slide in fourth-quarter profit to $8.3 million, or 5 cents per share, partly on charge related to the new tax code. Earnings, adjusted for pretax expenses and non-recurring costs, were 54 cents per share.

Revenue rose 12 per cent to $1.05 billion, mainly on pricing as retail sales of motorcycles fell 9.6 per cent worldwide.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 46 cents per share, while nine analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1.01 billion in revenue.

For the year, the company earned $521.8 million, or $3.02 per share. Revenue was reported as $4.92 billion.

Harley-Davidson shares slid 8.1 per cent, or $4.45, to close Tuesday at $50.84. Shares of the company have declined about 12 per cent in the past year.

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