This photo shows CVO Deluxe Harley-Davidson at the South East Harley-Davidson in Bedford, Ohio.
This photo shows CVO Deluxe Harley-Davidson at the South East Harley-Davidson in Bedford, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

MILWAUKEE - Shares of Harley-Davidson jumped almost 7 percent in premarket trading after the company reported first-quarter earnings that were 18.7 percent higher than a year ago.

The Milwaukee company said motorcycle sales grew 5.8 percent worldwide and efficiency efforts took hold during the quarter. Its earnings topped Wall Street estimates.

That sent shares up nearly 7 percent before the opening bell.

The company posted net income of $265.9 million, up from $224.1 million a year ago.

That's $1.21 per share, compared with 99 cents in the first quarter of 2013. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.07 per share.

Motorcycle and related products revenue rose 11 percent to $1.57 billion. Overall revenue including financial services rose to $1.73 billion from $1.57 billion.

Motorcycle sales grew 3 percent in the U.S. to 35,730 during the quarter despite a long, cold winter, CEO Keith Wandell said in a statement.

But international sales, especially in Asia, helped the first-quarter results. Harley said Asia-Pacific motorcycle sales rose more than 20 percent to 7,178 for the quarter. In the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, sales were up 8 percent to 9,940, while they rose 9 percent in Latin America to 2,558.

The company said demand for its Project Rushmore motorcycles was high during the quarter, and it also started shipping the Harley-Davidson Street 750 and 500 models in selected markets.

"These motorcycles, together with continuous improvement in our operations at every level, underscore the momentum we've established as a customer-led company," Wandell's statement said.

Harley reiterated guidance of growing motorcycle shipments this year, up 7 percent to 9 percent to a range of 279,000 to 284,000. The company expects second-quarter shipments to rise 9 percent to 15 percent to a range of 92,000 to 97,000, up from 84,606 a year earlier.

Harley expects capital spending this year of $215 million to $235 million, the same as it estimated when it reported fourth-quarter earnings.

The company reported provisions for higher credit losses cut operating income for its financial services operation. That income was $63.2 million, down almost 12 percent from a year earlier.

Its shares rose $4.51, or 6.7 percent, to $72.05 in premarket trading about 45 minutes ahead of the market open.