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Harley-Davidson posts higher-than-expected profit

(Reuters) - Harley-Davidson Inc posted a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday, lifted by strong sales growth outside its core North American market, and its shares rose more than 7 percent.

The Milwaukee-based company reported first-quarter net income of $265.9 million, or $1.21 a share, up from $224.1 million, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.08 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 10.2 percent to $1.73 billion, the company said.

Harley-Davidson said it had shipped 80,682 motorcycles to its independent dealers and distributors worldwide during the quarter, in line with its expectations and up 7.3 percent from a year earlier.

Sales jumped 20.5 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, 8.9 percent in Latin America and 8.2 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company said.

Harley-Davidson said its in-house financial services division's operating income tumbled nearly 12 percent during the quarter as it was forced to set aside more money for credit losses. The company did not elaborate in its earnings release.

In trading before the market opened, Harley-Davidson shares were up 7.3 percent at $72.50.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)