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Harley-Davidson records 20% third-quarter profit rise

MILWAUKEE — Harley-Davidson Inc.'s third-quarter profit surged 20 percent, revved up by higher gross margin and brisk sales of its brand-name motorcycles and accessories.

The Milwaukee-based company on Wednesday also projected continued growth in demand for its motorcycles, resulting in a wholesale unit target of 339,000 motorcycles in 2005, a 7 percent increase over the 2004 target.

Harley posted earnings of $229 million, or 77 cents a share, for the third quarter ended Sept. 26, up from $190.1 million, or 62 cents a share, in the third quarter a year earlier.

Third-quarter revenue rose 15 percent to $1.3 billion from $1.13 billion for the 2003 period.

A Thomson First Call survey of Wall Street analysts projected, on average, third-quarter earnings of 75 cents a share on revenue of $1.33 billion.

Third-quarter revenue from Harley-Davidson motorcycles grew 18 percent to $996.6 million. Domestic Harley retail sales slipped 9.8 percent after a record quarter in 2003 driven by events associated with the company's 100th anniversary. International sales fell marginally amid difficult economic and market conditions in certain markets.

Revenue from parts and accessories, general merchandise and financial services outpaced 2003 levels.