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Harley-Davidson profit tops Street view

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Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG-N) reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on a 12 percent rise in product sales, citing its success in boosting sales of its motorcycles beyond its core market of baby boomers.

The U.S. motorcycle maker reported net income of $105.7 million US, or 46 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $46.8 million, or 20 cents per share, a year ago.

Profit from continuing operations came to 24 cents per share, 1 cent above analysts' average forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue from motorcycles and related products -- which excludes the company's finance arm -- rose to $1.03 billion, up from $917.1 million a year ago and above the $1.01 billion analysts had expected.

The company plans to ship 240,000 to 245,000 motorcycles in 2012, up 3 to 5 percent from 2011's level. It expects a gross margin of 34.75 percent to 35.75 percent, up from 33.4 percent in 2011, as it cuts costs across the operation.

Improved U.S. consumer confidence helped its sales, said Chief Executive Keith Wandell in a statement.

The weak U.S. economy has hit demand for the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company's motorcycles, and Harley has responded by restructuring its manufacturing base and introducing less-costly bikes aimed at younger riders.

Harley shares have risen about 17 percent over the past year, sharply outpacing the 3 percent rise of the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

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