Polaris Industries’ fourth-quarter results met Wall Street expectations Tuesday but the stock fell 13 percent on investor concerns about shipping delays, promotional expenses and the outlook for 2018.
The Medina-based maker of off-road four-wheelers, snowmobiles and motorcycles reported an 18 percent jump in sales, hitting a record $1.43 billion for the last three months of 2017. Analysts had forecast $1.36 billion.
Net income fell by half to $31.5 million, or 49 cents a share. But excluding one-time costs, adjusted earnings rose 25 percent to $1.47 per share, in line with analysts’ expectations.
The wind-down of the Victory Motorcycles brand, integration of Transamerican Auto Parts (TAP) retail chain and the impact of the new federal tax law — a $55 million accounting expense — accounted for the one-time costs.
The quarter’s results included increases in sales promotions and warranty costs due in part to a companywide restructuring, inventory reduction efforts and product recall and repair costs that have followed the company for three years. Polaris officials said the company has worked hard to investigate, re-engineer, retool and improve quality problems that forced recalls of RZR four-wheel vehicles and some other products.
“We returned the company to sustainable profitable growth in 2017,” Chief Executive Scott Wine said in a conference call with analysts. He noted that the long-term plan is to get margins higher and warranty costs lower.
He acknowledged that Polaris’ fourth quarter was “unfortunately” not great.
“With a slower-than-anticipated ramp-up of model 2018 production, subpar snowfall across much of North America and weaker-than-expected RZR [product] demand, our overall north American retail sales were below expectations,” Wine told analysts during a conference call Tuesday.
On the plus side, Wine noted that sales of Polaris’ popular Indian Motorcycles and sales of its Ranger and General side-by-side off-road four-wheelers did “particularly well” during the quarter. Indian product sales were up 17 percent.
Snowmobiles, the company’s original product, experienced a decline, which executives attributed to dealers still working through old inventory and to a lack of snow.
In a research note, UBS equity analyst Robin Farley wrote that Polaris’ gross profit margin, at 26.1 percent, was down from last year and also below her estimate.
She noted that Polaris motorcycle sales fell 2 percent, which was slightly worse than analysts expected. She also noted that the reduction in dealer inventories for off-road vehicles was down just 6 percent, compared with down 12 percent during the third quarter.
Wine told analysts that dealer inventory is approaching optimal levels. Polaris had been trying to reduce bloated inventory levels for several quarters.
Executives noted the company was still working to ensure dealers have the right mix of vehicles as spring approaches, typically a busy time for off-road equipment sales.
Polaris expects a sizable jump in profit during 2018. Profits are expected to reach $6 to $6.20 a share, up from the $4.85 a share it earned for all of 2017. Full 2018 sales are expected to rise 3 percent to 5 percent.
The company’s stock closed Tuesday at $116.40, down $17.84.